Friday, September 29, 2006
Bone The Beautiful, Bone The Magnificent
Thursday, September 28, 2006
"And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is becoming the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."--REVELATION 18:2
It must now be the end of days. The ill portents build up around us daily, engulfing the weak and those unwilling to swim ever upward through the rising tide of shit. Every aspect of our self-image is debased; we no longer know who we are; we look upon ourselves through a twisted looking glass that glows in the corner and mocks our few remaining brain cells, taunting us to toss in the towel, surrender the fight and draw the effluent deep into our lungs and just give up. I do not know who, or more likely, what produces X-Factor but I wish a plague upon it. This hideous show that exists to mock the mentally confused, laud the mediocre and push the bounds of what we are urged to believe is reality has been a mystery to me until now. I have never watched it because I didn't care. None of the excrescences that had emerged from previous shows into the mainstream hive-minded consciousness had in any way interested me and I was quite happy to let the whole sorry behemoth drag itself along for as far as its arthritic, creaking format would allow before watching it slowly sink to its knees and buckle under the weight of its own exhausted formula. This has not yet come to pass and judging by the 20 minutes I saw last weekend not by a long way. This fucker's got stamina and is likely to be leveling the last vestiges of culture for quite some time to come.
I knew I wouldn't like it. There were two reasons I could have trotted out before the wretched thing blared out of the television at me. Firstly, people who can't sing hurt my ears and second, I have no schadenfreude gene. I do not generally laugh at the afflicted no matter how grotesque, provided they are not malicious themselves. I don't find what looked in some cases to me like fairly serious personality disorders amusing. The sight of some poor old boy, who claimed to be talented because he was wildly popular at karaoke get trashed by the judges did not raise a chuckle in my cynical old belly because the poor bastard was popular at karaoke because he was terrible but enthusiastic. There was no need to parade him in front of the nation to be prodded like some Victorian freak because he was unaware that his popularity amongst the karaokoise was not due to him having talent but quite the reverse. This level of venal meanness I had expected. What I had not realised, naively I suppose, was the level of blatant manipulation to create a narrative that was apparent.
X-Factor is, if not actually scripted, planned in as much detail as a soap opera and works in precisely the same way. There is the usual company of stereotypical generic characters. We have the plucky middle-aged woman whose early singing career was cut short by tragedy and now wants to achieve the glory denied to her before. We have a litany of woe from other hard lives ameliorated by the possibility of fame. We have the cheery characters who wouldn't harm a fly, are quite pretty and do right by their mothers. And of course we have the pantomime villains. It was here that my real hatred of this show reached a new depth.
Throughout the whole, ghastly proceedings we were occasionally treated to a small vignette giving background information about some of the
And yet we lap it up. We enjoy watching these bile-filled harridans get their come-uppance and we enjoy watching their humiliation; it's their just desserts surely? Isn't it? Debbie has now appeared in the popular press, is top-ranked on Google for searches of "x-factor debbie water" and has appeared on television and highlights of the show. Not bad for a screaming heap of sulk. There were no just-desserts, she was manufactured for the purposes of making five more minutes of ersatz reality, she got and is still getting what she wanted and so did the makers of X-Factor. Thanks a heap. Thank you for filling the tragically not-limited-enough spectrum of terrestrial television with this excrement. Thank you for creating a generation whose only aspiration and belief is that they will and should be famous. Thank you for lining the pockets of the pig-fuckers that make this trash with cash paid for by advertisers who will want to fill my eyes with more of this crap because they believe it is what I want to see on billboards and everywhere else because they think it will encourage me to buy their product. Thank you for taking up an hour of the most prized television slot that exists to mock the afflicted and most of all thank you for ultimately producing a no-hope pop act that will sink like the stainless steel turd it will undoubtedly be the instant it is released into the wild but not before it has clogged the airwaves for a few weeks with its caterwauling death throes.
Come Judgement Day, when the skies fall and the seas boil we may choose to look back at what we've achieved, what we've done and at the long line of Debbies as they link arms, grab the ankles of the last valiant struggling souls, and pull them back into the effluent.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
The Intrepid Fox is Closed
The Singing Handyman
On my way into work yesterday I couldn't help but notice this little van as it rounded Trafalgar Square. It wasn't its retro charm, nor the bubble machine that initially drew my attention, it was the loud, pleasant tenor voice singing golden oldies which emanated from a P.A. system within the vehicle. You can't see it in the photo but there is a microphone stand mounted on the dashboard to enable "The Singing Handyman" to entertain as he drives. The bubble machine clinches the deal that the next leaky cistern that needs attention is going to be fixed by this wonderful man. It really cheered the day along.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Stuck at Work
Boring. It's a sunny Saturday afternoon and I'm sat in the studio. Just so much work to get done for HPatOotP. I have a load of lighting issues to sort out to get our character to work in the lighting that was shot on set and it's proving really hard. Having spent Friday being asked questions by all and sundry I didn't get as much done on my own shots as I should have and so here I am. Boo. I'm off out for drinks this evening to say good riddance to Clarenche who's off to California in a week to work at Pixar. What's that you say? Cheap accomodation if I ever make it to San Francisco? The thought had never crossed my mind...
Right, 198 frames to get sorted and then I can go to the pub. Come on Atrocity, you can do it. I could really use a Turbo boost of some sort to get this done quicker.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
International Talk Like a Pirate Day Be Today
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Do not waste time blocking your ears
Use your wheels, it is what they are forGenius.
Small babies may be placed inside the special cocoons, which should be left if possible, in a shelter
Do not attempt to use your own limbs
If no wheels are available, metal, not organic, limbs should be employed whenever practical.....
I thought I'd be able to resist, but I love my M6 and I think I may well start saving for this bad boy now. Shame on me. I've used the M6 for ten years and it's by far the best camera I've ever used, it just wasn't digital and after Agfa went bust, depriving me of all my favourite chemistry I am reluctant to go back to film and so a digital camera with quality and feel of my old M6 would be my ultimate digital camera dream. Apparently, it's just happened. Expensively, but it has happened.
Hmmm, time to start putting more pennies into the piggy bank.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Some kind soul has taken the time to upload the programme to Google Video, and there is delicious irony in watching a programme using precisely the technology that is being discussed by Adams and his interviewees rather than the antiquated television for which it was originally made. As the programme discusses the concept of links built on searchable terms I can look around the edge of the video window and see how Google has algorithmically linked to other pieces of media which pertain to the same concepts and ideas, almost exactly as these pioneers predicted. Half watching the documentary I can flip desktops to check on my renders, check my email inbox, look to see what state the items I'm watching on eBay are in and make a couple of changes to my calendar, which will then automatically update my calendar at home all with the inevitable links to other places on the web that are deemed relevant.
It is quite amazing that in ten short years we can have come from a situation where these technologies were literally science-fiction to a point where they have become ubiquitous for many of us. The only oversight that the documentary makes is in its underestimation in the power of text and the extent of user-generated content. Most of the examples in the documentary centre on "Professionally generated" content which is then searchable and navigable by everyone. It seems that at that stage the idea that regular users of computers would want to make their own content and then build communities based on the connections that this content allows had not occurred but here we are, ten years down the line, using most of the technology that the great minds of a decade ago had foretold but doing so in the context of a social and creative revolution they had simply not foreseen.
The Sound of Silence
I tried everything, from getting the track timing on the CD to a thousand of a second's accuracy and trying to make the ripped track conform to that to trying to mix them together by ear; neither did any good. Finally I gave up in frustration and just didn't really listen to the album much (except on CD) and sulked. But now all my weird German electro and Verdi's Requiem and all my live albums are restored to me. Joy.
I'm surprised it's taken them this long, I mean Stevie J's of a generation that I'd have thought would have ripped "Dark Side of the Moon" immediately upon getting the iPod out of Apple's R and D department, but perhaps he's had his own special version for ages and only now do we mere mortals get to hear our music as it's supposed to be.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Those of us who weren't around then tend to assume that this is what the world looked like, much as we think of the early parts of the last century as being black and white. Every photograph has the soft yellowish wash of colour where nothing is too bright and nothing plunges into full black. It's warming and comforting in a way, even for someone who has no personal connection to the photograph.
There's also the sense of modernity and glamour about it, which in this day and age where air travel has become ubiquitous and a chore we have lost. I can't imagine anyone taking a photo of an airport terminal in this almost reverential way now, it would be like photographing a supermarket or shopping centre. Everything here looks so clean, so new, so optimistic. The clean lines of the concrete have not yet become stained by years of grime and dirt, dulled by the elements and all of these elegant, forward looking structures service the plane that is the focus of the woman's attention. Once again I can't imagine many people getting too excited about seeing a plane now, we strive to avoid them where at all possible. Perhaps that's not quite true, they are still fearsomely impressive pieces of technical ingenuity and engineering but they are strictly functional now, they are not objects of beauty or wonder anymore.
I am sometimes a little sad how blasé we are these days about technology and photographs like this, which are examples of the ingenuity of the human mind in themselves, can throw a spotlight and reveal a world and an attitude which we've lost for the most part. And that, I think, is worth remembering.
Monday, September 11, 2006
A Plea for the Rational
The presentation is distributed via the fabulous www.itconversations.com, which despite its rather technical URL, is an excellent collection of content from seminars, radio shows etc. which would be of interest to anyone living in this technological age.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Why is this necessary? In short, it isn't; it's merely another example of the conversion of the entire county into a McCountry where you live in your blandly designed, slightly modernish flat, buy your coffee from Starbucks, eat at Bella Pasta, drink at All Bar One and where every street in every town looks identical. And I hate it. There is a petition which anyone may sign on the Intrepid Fox's website. If you'd like to, I'd urge you to sign if only to register protest at this continual erosion of all that's interesting and a bit different.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Book Meme Thing
A book that changed my life -
"The Iliad" by Homer. I never read much fiction as a child and I don't read as much as I should even now. That I would be so captivated by a story written nearly three thousand years ago whose plot consists mostly of sulking interspersed with sporadic bouts of graphic ultraviolence would have seemed unlikely. And yet captivated I was, and to this day I still am. The power of the verse is undimmed and the epic and yet still very human struggles contained within are utterly timeless.
A book I've read more than once -
I tend to read "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K Jerome about once a year, usually at the start of summer. If there is a better "sitting under a tree in a park on a sunny afternoon with a beer" book I have yet to find it. The humour is still fresh over a century after it was written and it stands up to multiple re-readings without ever feeling stale. It is rather whimsical but that's OK with me.
A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island -
If I could have the complete "Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams that would make me very happy. Not only is it beautifully written with a Wodehousian loving care over the choice of every word for maximum comic effect but the permanently out-of-his-depth Arthur Dent would pretty much sum up me on a desert island I would imagine.
A book that made me laugh -
"Molesworth" by Geoffrey Willans with illustrations by Ronald Searle is one of the finest works in the not-quite English language. Written in the first person by Nigel Molesworth, the "Gorilla of 3B", it tells of life at a horrid private school in the 1950s and is written with a lazy 10 year old's eye for speling and grammar, poo err gosh I sa. Chiz chiz. A chiz is a swiz or swindle as any fule kno.
A book that made me cry -
"The Old Man and The Sea" by Ernest Hemingway. It's a very short book and yet the tragedy and humanity that's packed into it fully justifies its winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature. I've read it a couple of times and it's broken my heart every time.
A book I wish I had written -
"Farewell My Lovely" by Raymond Chandler. To be honest I'd like to have written any of the Philip Marlowe stories. Chandler's powers of description and sense of place exceed almost anyone else I can think of. He could write three lines picking out a couple of salient details to describe and you, as the reader, have a complete picture of the scene. It's a freakish ability. His sense of style and dialogue are also unsurpassed. The plots aren't up to much but that's not why you read them (I hope).
A book I wish had never been written -
This is a difficult one. There are many books I haven't enjoyed but that's not the same thing as wishing they had never existed. I can't abide Thomas Hardy and yet there are many who would disagree with me, probably rightly. So to pick something that I wish had never existed suggests a book that has done actual harm. I could be terribly serious and say something like "Mein Kampf" but instead I'd like to take a cheap shot at Dan Brown, who not only seems to think is a great author and scholar, but has also written the same book again and again from what I can gather but I can't because I haven't read any of them. So, because I have to choose something, I wish "Our Man in Havana" by Graham Greene had never been written. A tedious non-story, more catholic guilt than anyone can usefully cope with and an irritating prose style combined to make a book that I chucked against a wall once I'd slogged my way through it. Turgid rubbish.
A book I've been meaning to read -
The list of "classics" I haven't read is embarrassingly lengthy. It is unlikely that I will ever have enough spare time to get through them all and it is almost impossible to single out just one. I've read most of Joseph Conrad's novels but I have yet to read "Nostromo" which has been sitting on my shelf gathering sidelong glances and dust for about two years now. I will do something about it I promise...
I'm currently reading -
"A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K Dick. I've read this one before and though I don't love it as much as "Ubik" I still think it's right up there with the very best writing and is such a powerful examination of what drug-abuse does to the human mind and spirit. The incredibly dark humour helps you get through the bleakness.
My favorite reading -
There used to be a show on children's TV in the UK called "Jackanory". Each week an actor would read a story, usually Roald Dahl or something similar. On several occasions, Tony Robinson did the Greek Myths by actually running around ruins in Greece and half telling, half acting out the stories. It was completely mesmeric and will stay with me till the day I die. I sincerely hope that one day these will be made available on DVD or for download. Pretty please?
Ye Gods and Little Fishes
This bamboozled me somewhat. Tramp Stamps or Arschgeweih (arse antlers) as they're known in Germany are things I associate with blonde, teenage hair-dressers with orange perma-tans and IQs less than their shoe size. They can also be associated with similarly haired and tinted young men who use the word "gnarly" in earnest. But at least they, however ill-advisedly, actually had the nerve to get the tattoo done. This T-shirt seemed to be saying to me, "Hey, I'm edgy too. I've still got it!" whereas what it was actually said was, "I'm desperate and really really want to have sex with a blonde hair-dresser". It is not a good look and it suggests an even worse state of mind. Or perhaps it is post-post-modern, but I doubt it somehow. He was also carrying a copy of the Daily Mail.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Voodoo CSS (slight redesign(slight return))
Monday, September 04, 2006
So, with a bit of assistance from Tommy Dog on the Saturday, the boy wonder slaved away in the kitchen and produced a pretty damn good lasagne. I had a taste when I got home yesterday and I was impressed. More importantly, the four lovely ladies were impressed too. That's what I call cookery getting results.
First up came the coat. We tracked down a really lovely firm in the North of England who hand-make old-fashioned clothing, mostly for grumpy goths judging by their website, but undaunted I took a good look at their catalogue. I settled on a rather lovely black velvet frock coat and duly it arrived. And it is utterly gorgeous, the waisted cut and the pleats down the back are fab so though it was expensive it's going to get worn a lot, and not just for fancy-dress, I assure you.
The shirt, sashes and bandanas came from "Greenwich Village" a boutiquey, hippyish clothing and jewelry shop in Brighton which had more shirts made out of hemp and weirdly patterned shawls than you could shake a stick, or peg-leg at, so all that was needed after that was the fire-arms and some footwear.
Flintlocks and a blunderbuss were obtained from this online joke shop who seem to have the same magic delivery network that Dabs do. Ordered one lunchtime, a box arrived on my desk the very next morning. Brilliant.
The final piece to the puzzle was the boots, and here, I cannot help but feel, I struck gold. Searching online for boots I found www.caboots.com who made the boots for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And it appears that they made a few too many since I was able to obtain a pair of leather boots with massive collars for $100. After an initial mix-up where the pair I'd ordered turned out not be in stock, the lovely people in El Paso sent me an even better pair for the same money. They made the journey from the Lone Star State to London in 5 days. Amazing.
With costumes assembled we were ready for the big night, and suitably attired, and feeling quite pleased with ourselves, Tinseltroos and I headed out in full pirate regalia from her flat, down Tottenham Court Road to the Underground. Our evening was made for us almost immediately when a small child inquired of her mother as we passed, "Mummy, are those real pirates?" We of course relied in the affirmative but didn't get a chance to hear her mother's reply. I was a little disappointed at the comparative lack of attention we got on the tube though I did notice a few smiles and "YAARRGH!" comments as we went on our way. Eventually we arrived, appropriately enough, in Docklands where the party was held.
I was pretty impressed with the standard of costumes, most people had made at least a reasonable effort, though there were the inevitable spoil-sports who came in their boring regular clothes. If you don't have the guts to make a bit of a fool of yourself and dress up, you shouldn't come to a fancy-dress party. And, thinking about it, everyone looks fab dressed as a pirate so what's to worry about?
Our final piece of attention to detail was to steam the labels off two St. Peter's Brewery beer bottles (which have a pleasingly olde-worldy shape to them) and fill them with our drink of choice for the evening, scotch and ginger, which as well as being damn tasty, does not give me hangovers and looks pleasingly grog-like.
We eventually rolled home at around 3 a.m. feeling lightly toasted and ready to board any Spanish Galleon, laden with doubloons, that crossed our path. Grog will do that to you.