Monday, October 30, 2006

Book Lust pt. 2

Hill House, Publishers: Books by Neal Stephenson

Damn you, Matthew Sommerville. Damn your eyes and the £317 Pounds, shillings and ounces that I now want to spend on books.

3D Weather Data Visualization in Second Life - Second Life Insider

3D Weather Data Visualization in Second Life - Second Life Insider

Oh. My. God.

SecondLife mashups are where its at.

Box Box Box Box; Drive Drive Drive Drive; Liiiiiiiiiiift! Liiiiiiiiiiiiift!

Via Rodcorp:

A Rebel in Defense of Tradition - on Steve Reich at 70
"Reich moved back to New York, where he got to know Philip Glass. At one point they had a moving company together; Glass also worked as a plumber while Reich drove a cab." - you wonder what they hummed as they moved boxes.

Mr. Rodcorp has just made me blow coffee out of my nose laughing.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Book Lust

Penguin Designer Classics - Penguin Books Ltd.

A Sam Taylor Wood designed limited edition of F Scott Fitzgerald.

Oh, god, it's so very pretty. And a hundred pounds. But I want it so very much.

It's just outside the upper boundary of could conscionably spend on one lovely, lovely thing that will appreciate in value over time limit. Bugger.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Interesting usability error

Blogmusik | Free Internet virtual ipod for Music Albums playlist Mp3 (BETA VERSION)

Now, I have issues with flash. I really don't mind it being used appropriately, but man, it can go SO badly wrong in really subtle ways.

Here's a good example - Tae in the office just sent me this site. I went to register, and had to type in my email address. So I hit the @ sign, which is shift-' on my keyboard, just up and to the right of the full stop and slash keys.

Except it came out as ".

After a few moments of total confusion, and believing that my fingers were at fault, I thought to try my normal " key - shift-2 in this case.

Lo and behold, an @ sign appears.

The designers must work on macs, and have no idea that they've managed to hard code both mac specific, and presumably regional data into their application (I'm assuming that there are regional european differences in keyboard layout, from a brief and very confusing attempt to use WindowsXP-French Edition - which sadly is not known as Microsoft FenetreXP, boo).

Anyway, flash. Sometimes it sucks donkey balls, to coin a phrase.

Selling my Skin

SLurl: Location-Based Linking in Second Life

Hmn, not quite like that. The anatomical skin I made is finally available for sale; I'm hoping to cut a deal with a big store, but for the meantime, visit my baby parcel of land and help pay for the endless texture uploads it took to make it!

Chinhae 212, 5, 32 will get you there. And sorry about the shouting, there's nothing I can do about it...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Think Global, Act Local

I heart Steven Johnson; he's a good and interesting writer.

His latest book, The Ghost Map, is about the Broad Street cholera outbreak, which is one of my favourite London stories, always retold to friends in the John Snow, or as I walk past the pump.

Anyway; he's launched an interesting fuzzy geolocation service,

Lovely, but it hasn't heard of Clapham, or SW8 3JF.

Come along now, the internet is not just for 'mericans.

The Peckham Experiment

Guardian Unlimited Arts | Arts news | The truth about those iconic buildings: the roofs leak, they're dingy and too hot

I used to live in Peckham; I loved it in that part of town. There's a lovely mix of grass roots art activity, gentrification, proper pubs, african groceries and cheap poundshops that I really liked. And I only saw one shooting in two years, too.

I used Peckham library whilst I lived there. It's an incredible building to look at; an inverted L, with bright panels and real presence, hidden behind a set of older buildings and some open public space with a giant canopy over it; host to the Peckham farmer's market and a variety of Gospel Choir ministries on non market days.

As beautiful as this regenerated area was; as carefully designed, conceptually rigorous, etc etc... it was also anti human.

That sounds odd. But I'll give you a couple of stories to illustrate it.

Back in the days of building new towns, the planners laid out footpaths in Milton Keynes. These were to connect residential areas with shopping areas, and they ran through scenic parkland strips, curving, organic,paths; lovely and human, and leafy, and pastoral; the kind of paths to warm the heart of any urban pedestrian.

Except, of course, the meandering routes were not direct, so people cut across in a straight line to cut their journey times. And the trees screened the paths, so women didn't feel safe. So the layout, for all of its intentions, wasn't good in use.

Then there's Vauxhall Bus Station, by Arup Associates. It's beautiful; a cross between a club flyer logo and a 1950s airstream trailer.

Except that

  • it doesn't provide any shelter from wind, because the glass enclosures are open on two sides;

  • the seats are on the outside of the shelters;

  • the angular plains of the roof mean you get rained on as you walk around the wall to get to the stairs down to the tube;

  • one of the shelter areas has been boarded up for six months because (I assume) a bus drove in to one of the supports and ruined the aluminium cladding which has proved difficult/too expensive too replace (I assume);

  • panes of glass regularly shatter, particularly where the bus maps are mounted on frames drilled through the glass;

  • the roof is so high that it provides no shelter from the rain, which blows in at an angle;

  • the lift doesn't work;

  • the toilets don't work

    • On the plus side, it has an LUL roundel that glows and changes colour.

      And so to Peckham Library; a fantastic but not hugely functional building. The inside was covered with the usual flurry of photocopied a4 community notices that are a feature of any and all libraries; considering this, did the architects not take account of that in their plan? Walking to the entrance is intimidating; yet another windblown, semi sheltered imposing blank space to cross, rather than a lively, human, inhabited pavement. You're not *in* the space as soon as you enter; there are lifts and floors to negotiate, and it feels like visiting an unfriendly office. The furniture was looking tatty (not pleasantly worn, you'll note) when I visited, but most of all, the selection of books was really, really poor.

      Perhaps I was expecting too much; but Putney, Westminster and Battersear/Clapham libraries have been wonderful. Perhaps, then, it's an artefact of the different demographic needs in Peckham. Perhaps its an artefact of the spend on the building negatively impacting on the spend for the contents of the building.

      It makes me sad. Perhaps because I spend a lot of my time thinking about the lived experience within virtual architectures on the web, and making sure the design fits the purpose as much as possible.

      It also makes me want to retrain as an architect, in order to do better.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Accidental Poetry

List of battleships of France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Foudroyante"

I just came across this set of names of French Ironclad battleships.

It is rather poetic.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Skin / NoSkin

Update: The Skins are now available at Chinhae 212, 5, 32 - my little parcel of land.

I've been messing around in Second Life recently; along with half of the rest of the world, it seems. There's a constant stream of wobbly-legged newbies wandering around wondering what there is 'to do'. The last week has been eventful; I made my first thousand Linden Dollars, got randomly shot at in the American Apparel shop, and bought some very pretty shoes. Aaah, shoes.

I've been in for a month or so already, and... it's interesting. It reminds me of the web back in 1996; all flashy banner ads and people making stuff just for the sake of it, because it's fun.

At the moment, I don't want to link my two selves together; my regular old internet identity and my second life. My avatar felt very strongly embodied very quickly; much more so than Kuya, my Warcraft alt. I'm slightly alarmed at the fact that, given control over my appearance, I have given myself a very tall, very thin body; no surprises about the body issues there, then. On the plus side, I can wear heels without the attendant agony, and even walk in them, so swings and roundabouts. I didn't really want to post about SecondLife here, but Alice persuaded me.

The physicality of controlling an avatar is interesting. Ages ago I did a lot of academic research into the way that medical programmes create interesting psychological relationships to the physical body. If you're at all interested in reading ten thousand odd words of impenetrable post modern theorising, I've popped my old dissertation on my site: New Romances of the Body: Television and the Somatics of Technology. Frankly, I can't quite be bothered to go back and read it myself; the essential argument was that representations of the body on screen lead to an odd state where we idealise and fetishise the body, whilst never quite being able to get away from the fact it is little more than a puny bag of fallible flesh.

There is an argument to be made about the popularity of cybersex in Second Life being a reflection of the desire to be physically embodied in the world. By sitting at your computer screen and engaging your virtual self in mutually improvised pornography, you produce real physical effect in your body. (Look, I'm so not going in to detail here. You're grown ups. Use your imagination.) It's more or less the only way to get real physical sensation from a virtual existence.

So, you should have some idea by now that actually I'm a body theory geek. I was lucky enough to study gross anatomy as part of my art degree (yes - with real dead bodies. I'll post my drawings some time); I made a short documentary about art and anatomy that I really must get round to posting on YouTube one day. And now, my first SecondLife build is an Ecorché - a flayed skin, designed to present the gross musculature of the human body. Interestingly, there's no good mention of the Ecorché in its art historical context on Wikipedia; I must get to work.

I'm in discussion at the moment to make the skins available for sale; I'll post again with an SLURL as soon as the deal is finalised. If you're interested in a copy, do leave a comment; I'll get in touch.

The skin was entirely hand drawn in Photoshop, based on my old anatomy sketchbook; i used Chip Midnight's reference PSDs to help with the allignments.

Oh; I made that garden, too, if you're in the market for a bit of Inigo Jones...

(edit: BoingBoinged! Thanks Cory!)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Lilacs out of the Dead Land

My mother and I are planning my father's 80th Birthday party

Mum: What about Music? We need music?
Me: I can sort that, that's fine. What do you want?
Mum: Oh, well, I don't know...
Me: Well, what about Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald...umm, I have some Julie London, and some Doris Day...
Mum: Oh, nobody likes that, do they? Jeannie and Laurence like... what is it...
Me: Elvis?
Mum: Coutry and Western!
Me: Oh, I have some Dolly Parton.
Mum: What about that album that we love? Manos Hadjidakis, he's called. Lilacs out of the Dead Land. It's all in greek on the back... it's on record here, we could put it on the computer? Everyone I've played it to has said how lovely it is.

I love my parents, and actually, I think it's entirely fitting that my Dad's 80th birthday celebrations will take place to a soundtrack of Balalaika Music inspired by a TS Elliot poem.

They made me who I am, and I will never, ever be sorry about that.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Magic Hour

Years ago I read a book; the images that the book created in my head are still with me.

The book in question; called 'Magic Hour' is the biography of Jack Cardiff, a cinematographer, and incidentally the first trained technicolour cameraman in the UK.

He got the job - against stiff competition - because the other camera men went in and talked about physics, and lenses, and technical issues. He went in and talked about Rembrandt.

He worked with Powell and Pressburger, shot the African Queen, produced travel documentaries, and writes eloquently about the time of day as the sun sinks, and the world turns a mysterious shade of dark blue. The hours around twilight do something magical with film; turn it into a place where the world seems somehow unreal, and precise, and sad, all at once.

Images sometimes hit me like that; either the strong mental images from good writing, or glimpsed images in books, on posters, in the street. They catch you, and niggle at you, until you pay them attention, look at them more, let themselves print themselves on you.

A few weeks ago I wandered through a bookshop, and saw a beautiful art book, with a cover that looked like a film still - a woman walking away from a spun-out, steaming car, at twilight. The image hasn't left my head since - it reminds me of William Eggleston, or Cindy Sherman, or... something from a forgotten movie. Something shot by Jack Cardiff.

It turns out it is by a photographer called
Gregory Crewdson; thanks to Dan I've just found out that his work is in an exhibition at the V&A called 'Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour.

And I now know what I'm doing this weekend.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Waiting for Taxis

It's five to one. I'm still at work. I'm really quite tired; with another late one tomorrow. I hope it's worth it.

There's a taxi on the way, but meantime, this.

Amateur astronomer photographs sun with digital camera, for fun.

Notices sunspot

Looks closer.

Realises it's the space station and the shuttle.


iss_shuttle.jpg (JPEG Image, 2850x2850 pixels)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Your Name Deciphered: Kim

The Weekly / Your Name Here / Your Name Deciphered:


Literal meaning

'Christ, get that thing away from me.'


Celebrated as the first word written with the first pencil invented in 1222 AD, the name Kim was originally used by nuns to refer to warriors who died during drill practice, before being pulled from a fire that killed its variants and diminutives.

Famous Kims

1. Kim du Marl-Proms, who discovered Sock 'n' Roll;
2. Inspector Kim Quoits, haunted by an image of the nightmare cupboard;
3. Kim Millington-Ach, co-writer of INDIANA JONES AND THE MECHANICAL PONTIFF;
4. Kim Happenstance, aroused by between nine and fifteen scientific principles; ghost-writer of Thora Hird's anarchist's handbook and autobiography, DOCTOR! THE FORCEPS!;
5. Brigadier-General Kim Dindymene ('The Uncanny'), named in court as holding compromising material concerning the world's most attractive bucket;
6. Kim T O'Lilly Li, who lost a fortune on the self-aware cartoon strip; ghost-writer of Peter Lawford's compelling autobiography, I WAS KILLED IN THE WAR;
7. Kim A Thews ('The Nervous'), indifferent to the Bakelite Diet;
8. 'Terrible' Kim Chinly ('The Thing'), who owes everything to Tramp Drink;
9. Kim H Tidecatcher, MD, fascinated to death by Explode-O, the wonder bang dismantler; ghost-writer of Yootha Joyce's cousin's autobiography, SEE YOU IN HELL;
10. Kim Trabmaw, champion of the right to use thirty-one entirely new ways to kneel.

Typical Kim motto

"Let us emulate the wily Prussian."

And Lo! I am become walking cliche! Phear Me!

Two people more senior than me at work have reccomended the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain to me; within a couple of days of each other, at that.

But anyway, I can't help but think this means that Ukes are now SO OVER, and I hereby declare 2006 to be the autumn of the harmonica quartet.

YouTube - Borrah Minevitch & his Harmonica Rascals - Boxcar Rhapsody

Spring 2007 will of course be the season of the Balalaika.