a maths problem

Right. You can't divide by zero right? That's undefined. There's no answer to the question, "what is some number divided by 0?", because unless the number is 0 itself, you can't get to any other number by multiplying by 0; and if the number is 0, then any number will work, so still no answer.

Consider an equation like y = 4x + 2. That's fine isn't it? There's no divide by 0 in there, nothing undefined.
If we differentiate this, to find the gradient at any point, we get dy/dx = 4. Why? Because simple differentiation means knocking the power of x down by 1, and multiplying by that power.
btw, if you don't know your differentiation, and are wondering what happens to the 2, well 2 is 2x^0, so it becomes 0*2x^(-1) - and no matter how difficult that exponent is, the 0 it is multiplied by ensures we can just forget about it.
so 4x^1 becomes 4*1x0, and as we know, x^0 = 1, all the time, no matter what x is, because x^0 means x/x = 1.

Except when x is 0, right? Because when x = 0, 0^0 is still undefined, because 0/0 is not 1, it is undefined.

A graph of y = 4 should be a straight flat horizontal line, cutting the y axis at 4. And it is, but if y = 4 is the same as y = 4x^0, then SURELY at the exact moment when x = 0 this graph will become instantaneously discontinuous?

In other words, for any value of x, y = 4; but when x = 0, the power of that 0 leaps into an equation it doesn't have anything else to do with and smashes it to pieces.

Can this possibly be correct? Any thoughts, jot them b'low.


Infil: traitor

I've got an idea for a game that I'd like someone to make:

You play an infiltrator, a government spy aiming to work your way into an organised resistance force, gain their trust and work your way up their ranks while supplying information to your fence (that's not the right word for a spy handler, but what is?). The higher up you go, the more difficult it is to remain hidden as you have more eyes on you, you're leaking bigger secrets, and you're decisions inside the organisation have greater impact. You'll need to tow the line to a certain extent; at which point are your colleagues going to realise you're deliberately making a hash of their work? When are they going to realise that crushing defeats they face are due to facts only you could have let slip? How can you dispose of people who suspect you without raising more suspicion?

Perhaps it is an evil empire and a heroic rebellion, like in star wars; perhaps a peaceful democracy and a warmongering insurgency; perhaps not even so black and white. Perhaps you could have the choice of infiltrating the government or the rebellion; perhaps you could even have the choice of playing as a double agent and defrauding your fence. I think there would need to be a cut and run option, where you end the game and reveal how close you were to being caught. There would probably be a dwarf fortress style 'built to spill' mechanic, where it's really just a case of not if but when you are caught. Or gain control of the organisation, and set your mining in secret missions against each other and hope they don't talk to each other in the mean time. You'll have to build up enough trust in them, and under mine their trust in each other, to achieve that sort of victory.

I see the game as being fairly procedurally generated, with freeform and unpredictable gameplay emerging from particular choices you make and randomised NPCs. It could be anything from a text adventure to an open world sandbox city/country. There might be structured missions along the way, which might have their setup affected by the current works you inhabit.

Anyway: thoughts!


Sex golem

Once again, I find myself looking at two cultural artefacts with something in common, looking for a third to transform the coincidence into a pattern.

This time it's sex golems (gola?). 

The Scarecrow by Lal Waterson describes a lot of things: pagan fertility rites, hanged men, the seasons. But undoubtably the chorus is about wanting to sex a scarecrow ("oh, that you'd lay me down and love me"). It's a very deep song with lots of intertwining meanings that I would love to adapt into a 60s style folk-horror film.

Then I was listening to Kate Bush's last work, and came across the track 'misty', about her copping off with a snowman. Bit more direct, but still: woman, facsimile of a man, fornication.

There must be more songs on this topic. Men made out of clay, or body parts, or wires. Maybe someone wrote a song inspired by 'possession', about men made out of... Whatever that was. Possibly if we extend it to men's points of view, we might find many more examples; maybe we could include roxy music's 'in every dream home, a heartache' although a sex doll seems too... I djnt know, default? If only Jason Lytle had included a sex act in granddaddy's 'Jed the humanoid' we'd be away.

Has anyone got anything on this? Any song at all about getting it on, or just wanting to get it on, or just even fancying, someone made out of stuff?


What do troll hunter and the re/animator both fail at?

A couple of years ago I saw year two films, and it struck me soon after that they both left me unsatisfied in for a similar reason. I felt they both cheated.

The Re-animator is a better film; schlocky, humourous, and inventively gorey. Troll Hunter was a disappointment, feeling episodic and inconsequential. 

What they had in common, though, was a disregard for their source material that they visibly hacked up to try to make for a more entertaining film.

I've not read all of HP 'Herbert west: re animator', considered one his poorer works, but I see why it was considered a good property to develop into an 80s horror film, a sort-of parody-tribute of Frankenstein. What's wierd is that to fit in with the Romero zombie fashion, West now lobotomises his zombies, lest they be too clever. Even after he explicitly does this to the first reanimated, all the further Zombies have the tell-tale mark on their heads to explain their shambling stupor.

TH pulls a similar trick; it wants to tell us that trolls are peaceful creatures - so why the need to hunt them? Well, apparently it's because they have troll rabies.

It's annoying because it never delivers on its own setup - instead it fudges it to fit in with the current favourite genre.

Tbh I don't think I've seen any other work pull this unsatisfying just-becausism, a sort of have-your-cake-and-eat-a-different-cake attitude. There must be some, anyone know of any?

Learning about Simon Lord

Last year, I made a mixtape of one of my heroes, Simon Lord.

I was a huge Simian fan, I bought everything they put out. I would make pilgrimage to vinyl exchange on Oldham road to look for a promo copy every time they released a single, as the promos had all the b sides from the different editions on one cd. 

When Simian split up, they had a very clever message on their site that played one of two songs: Simian Mobile Disco's 'boat race', or Garden's 'reason for your smile'. Simian split into these two projects:  Simon Lord did Garden, Jas Shaw did SMD; James Ford was in both.

I tried keeping up with both parties, but was a lot more drawn to Garden's post-psych-folk style and after acquiring the first few SMD singles and compilation appearances, i never got around to buying their debut album.

So my understanding of Simon Lord's career was that he was the folky guitarist of simian, and Jas was the electro genius. I lived the last decade of my life under this illusion, and ignored any evidence to the contrary, like his band The Black Ghosts, who released two albums, or the fact that his Lord Skywave album was so clearly electro. 

My previous mix was done with this mentality; over-emphasising his work with simian and garden, and relating him as predominantly a folky. But in the course of researching it, I found a lot about him I didn't know and investigated further: I bought both BG albums, and discovered Lord had recorded an acoustic version I their entire 2nd album; I trawled beatport for singles and rarities; I even discovered an entire project I had never been aware of, called simply 'Roberts and Lord'. I bought every track I needed to for a follow up mix designed to show off the other side of Lord and correct the bias of the first one.
So this 2nd mix not only portrays Lord as more eclectic - he's had two albums out on different labels, under different names, this year - but I also wanted to highlight another facet of him: his status as a frequent collaborator in all sorts of ways, as a producer, vocalist, or remixer. 

I hope you enjoy them both.

Simon Lord - a balanced retrospective by Dj Gallowslutt on Mixcloud


So I finally picked up the courage to critically examine the Watchmen film. It was... predictably disappointing. It makes me disappointed in those people who like it, or think the changes improved the plot.

I'm not going to rant about it, like I did the hobbit, but just make a couple of observations; firstly, I know why Snyder was accused of being 'in love with the source material', given the number of shots that look like they were lifted straight from the novel. However he seemed to completely miss the point of the book in two ways to my mind: by ramping up the sex and violence but dampening the commentary on it (for instance, the sex scene is heightened and lengthened to a pornographic level, but the 'did the costumes make it good?' dalogue is removed).

Secondly, removing my favourite character arc that highlights the existential angle of the book. It's odd that it's the prison psychiatrist, treating Rorschach, who most makes you empathise with Osterman and his no-frills view of the universe. In the novel, he is deeply involved with rorshach, we see his private life and descent into obsession, and see him come face to face with the meaninglessness of everything. In the film: he spends five minutes with him then walks out in defeat.
Also all the New York street characters were trimmed out, so the ending had no punch.

I'm not going to talk about the ending. 

I'm not. 

It's just... If you don't think a fake giant psychic space squid is a good way to end a story, why are you going to see a superhero film? Tbh, it does make more sense to have multiple assaults on the earth than just New York, so perhaps that particular aspect of the change is an improvement. But maybe Alan Moore (9% of people know his name, as author of watchmen, the most famous comic ever [source: pointless]) meant it like that. Maybe it's not meant I be a clear cut ending.

So instead going to discuss something else: similarities between watchmen and Sirens of Titan. There's been discussions elsewhere on the net (lmgtfy), but there's a few beats that are similar:
The science accident that turns a person into a being of energy that can see all time and space;
The plot to unify earth by faking an alien invasion;
The flat, deterministic, meaninglessness of life.

What I like is that both stories do something the other doesn't do. Not all of Sirens of Titan is in Watchmen, and vice versa. I like the fact that I know both stories, like both stories, and appreciate the differences and similarities between them. None of that stuff reaches the truth of watchmen, which is all about comics. That's really why it's an unfilmable book, because if you were to adapt it to the screen, you should end up with a film about superhero FILMS. Your reference points become completely different. IT'd be like tarnslating a Russian book into English, that was about the Russian Language itself. Do you keep the references Russian but completely lose their meaning? or translocate the references into analagous English ones? Either way, it's not the same book.


another Change

Key changes -


I'm quite anally retentive about key changes. I don't like them for their own sake. If i have two pieces in different keys with similar harmonies, I usually try to align the sections by putting them into the same key.

But I have a part of the 'Kno' album i'm working on that *definitely* works in G#, and then a part that works either in G minor when played in dropped D (on a normal guitar), or D minor when played in dropped A (on my baritone-tuned guitar).

This being a post-prog album, you can take it as a given that I want to use severely down-tuned guitars where possible. But transitioning from G# to Gminor follows the melody of the G# section; while modulating from G# major to D minor is a horrendous leap, both in terms of distance and harmonics. It's a key-change across a tritone, and while metal is all about tritones (the two notes used in 'black sabbath' from the album 'black sabbath' by the band 'black sabbath' are a tritone, which pretty much define the genre), that key-change would be a jarring non-sequitur.

I was fiddling around and realised that the key of the G# section, is actually Eb. It resolves to this very briefly in the middle of what one might call the 'chorus' of this section, in a sequence of simple, in-key major chords. Although the verse plays around in a scale of G# major with an augmented fourth (a 'lydian' scale), this makes sense come the chorus as the resolution shows that it wasn't in G#, it was in Eb all along; but it doesn't show its hand like this very often.

So then I realised that finally resolving the piece to Eb, then falling down to D minor (a semitone below), actually really nicely mirrors the G# major falling onto the G minor below that makes up most of the verse of this section, and this would be a really canny way to make the key change work.

maybe... too neat. Maybe too well worked. We'll see what sounds best in the long run.

With this kind of progress, don't expect this album to be finished any time soon.


The change

The fundamental change in the market of console gaming is that Nintendo and Sega were historically companies that produced arcade amusements, even before computer games; whereas Sony and Microsoft were never the fun guys. And somehow the suits ended up running the show (except Valve).

OK or not OK?

So there's this album i really like:

The mp3 download was free for a while, although since they signed to Season of Mist it how seems to be 10 dollars.
Or you can buy it with some nice postcards for less than that. the digital economy is wierd.

Anyway, I would have quite liked it on vinyl - as I do with all the records I really like. But OK have made it prohibitively expensive; it comes up to 30 quid including postage.

For a double album that you really like, 30 quid isn't too bad. As I said, I only reserve that for records I really enjoy and want to experience the most fully.

This would be one of those records. It's perfect me - from satisfyingly chunky metal, to post-rock that sounds almost exactly like the my song 'the girl in the kid a top'. I love it.

but it's only 47 minutes long, just short enough to fit on a single 12" (Tubular bells track 1 is over 25 minutes long, proving it can be done). Given that the record is continuous from start to finish, splitting it into four sub-12 minute segments isn't going to improve the listening experience.

I'd happily pay 30 quid for a double album I loved, assuming it clocked in over 60 minutes. Other double records I have didn't even cost that much.

So I've only bought the cd, Which at least will be good to put on in the car. which only adds another bloody complication to the 'what format to buy things on' debacle.

There's something else that's been on my mind. You see, no matter what format you buy music on, you still have to have some equipment to play it, whether it's a turntable, cd player, computer, phone, or whatever. I do think vinyl sounds better, having made the comparison. It's not only the sound, but the way that the sound gets into you. The sounds seem to gel better on vinyl, and the music washes over you more. It actually makes it easier to feel the music and not listen to it.

But books are different, because you don't need hardware to run books on; you've got everything you need. I know that sounds obvious, but it's why ebook readers and the like are a harder sell - you don't actually need them to read a book. They need you more than you need them.

Remember that.


This isn't actually a film of the hobbit

We watched the hobbit 2, as everybody is calling it. I've predictably been through a whole run of emotions since then, but the biggest feeling I am left with is that it's simply not a film of the hobbit.

My first direction with this was going to be 'maybe they should have called it 'the expanded hobbit'. After all, all of the major beats of the story are in it, it's just there's a whole raft of other things that have been added to.

The additions come in two categories: Canonical additions, that legitimately fill in the gaps of what everyone else was doing; and padding, which serves no purpose at all.

The padding is the orcs, the legolas and tauriel bits, the politics of Lakeland, the bits from the book that have needlessly expanded, and all that sort of thing. I maybe bias but I thought all of that stuff was rubbish; worst of all when they kept cutting away from SMAUG to some elf putting herbs on some dwarf's leg. The other dwarf had already found the herbs, so I'm guessing the whole song and dance was redundant. Good bedside manner, but it crippled the pacing because our attention was flitting between a cussing great (and beautifully realised) dragon, and some kipple that no-one cares about.

I can tolerate the canon, because I've come to accept that while it's a good idea to film it, it won't have the brand recognition to stand up as a film in its own right. So I'm not averse to seeing bilbo weakening to the ring, or seeing gandalf going after the necromancer of dol goldur.  

I could go on, but my point is best illustrated in the character of Bard. In the book, Bard the bowman is the captain of the guards at laketown, descedent of the lord of Dale - the ruined city next door to Erebor. In the film, Bard the bargeman has the link with his ancestor reinforced to become his main reason of being. The changes to Bard are a microcosm of the whole adaptation, and the changes not just of the events of the story, but of the tone, of the author's voice, and what he was trying to achieve.

Here's what happens in the book: bilbo notices a gap in the SMAUG's armour, comments on it to the dwarves, is overheard by a thrush. The thrush tells Bard* where the weak spot is. Bard finally gets his black arrow out - an arrow he always retrieves - and kills the dragon.

As well as being twee, this story blatantly calls back to a similar sequence of events in the ring cycle**. Plus, SMAUG as a treasure-hoarding tomb-dweller calls to mind an enlarged version of the dragon in Beowulf. Tolkien was working in the mode of north European myths and drawing on these, and those references have been adapted out of the story; Smaug no longer wakes up when he notices a single missing cup from his colossal cache. Smaug no longer has a soft underbelly encrusted with jewels except for a single gap, but rather armored scales all over except for a damaged section. His physiology is different to Tolkien's pictures, which is a shame but I don't mind because the execution was so good. Smaug is now implied to be an agent of sauron, rather than another gollum or even a radagast: someone who has gone native, who has dropped out of the world. Another foil to the bilbo who came on the adventure.

I don't mind Bard's character being beefed up, but his change from a captain of the guards to a bargeman, who just happens to be a ridiculously good shot, is unnecessary. More importantly, the adaptation has changed Bard from a hero in his own right into yet another vengeful grandson. In the film, it was his grandad who failed to kill smaug, who dislodged the scale on his chest, and who left the final black arrow to finish the job with, as if this story needed any more vengeful grandsons***  wielding their Freudian 'father's spear/arrow/sword'. Bard doesn't need to listen to a talking thrush now, as he already knows his grandfather dislodged a scale from SMAUG's underbelly and knows where to aim. We haven't seen the hobbit 3 yet, but it's already been set up to make talking thrushes redundant.

I just want I remind people that this is a children's adventure book, with a very friendly author's voice. That tone has been completely lost. For instance, Beorn is now no longer just a random magical creature in a fantastic world, but 'the last of his kind', after those damn orcs wiped out his people. 

Most of the bits from the book that are in the film are dealt with pacily and punchily; the episode in mirkwood - weeks in the book, minutes in the film - captures how you would expect an adventure film to run. They've been neatly compressed into exciting episodes and I can't wait for the fan edit of the hobbit that cuts it back down into the book form (not that it would be a particularly faithful adaptation, but at least it would be an adaptation) which I reckon would last as little as an hour and a half. On the other hand, others have been bloated horribly, although less so in the hobbit 2.

My point here, which I've been building towards, is that this is not the events of the hobbit, or the tone of the hobbit. The overall message - that you can't step in the same river twice - is in there, but it is watered down, and buried deep under an avalanche of generic fantasy shit. And its abandoned the ancestral roots of the hobbit, that connects it to its source material. It's like one of those buildings that have been knocked down, leaving the fascia, with a new core. It's not the hobbit, there and back again. What it is, and how good it is, I don't know. 

*who can speak thrush because he's a descent of the people of Dale [asif that's an explanation]

**in the Völsungasaga, Seigfreid kills the dragon Fafnir by digging a pit so that he can stab upwards into it's soft and unprotected underbelly. Upon drinking the dragon's blood he levels up and gains the ability to understand the speech of birds, who tip him off at an upcoming betrayal. The same text also inspires Tolkien's cursed ring and a fallen hero's shattered sword reforged by an heir.

***also the time no longer makes sense as 200 years have passed. Perfect for a dwarven grandson like thorin, but not a human (unless Bard is numenorean too)


Bbc 4

What The Actual is going on with bbc4's output these days? Some observations:

Only Connect is moving to BBC2.

They've stopped making original drama as cut backs; An Honourable Woman, which feels totally like it should have been on 4, has been on 2.

Jacques Peratti's adam-curtis-lite 'the men who made us spend' has been airing on Saturday Nights on 2. Intelligent documentary on primetime saturday night? bbc 2. So what's on bbc 4 at the same time? Inspector Montalbanal. This is my main problem. Saturday night on bbc4, and they're showing an Italian detective show that, if it wasn't for the subtitles, would be considered at about the level of Midsommer Murders. They're trying to fill the gap left by The Killing, sure, but 'just being foreign' does not a quality drama make.

So I'm worried. I actually went as far as not watching bbc 2 for quite sometime; now it seems like all the good stuff is on it, while bbc4 turns into totp2 on friday nights. It's being shut down by increments.


Foreshadowing vs characters

A while ago, the Barbara Streisand vehicle 'funny girl 2' was on telly. I didn't get to watch the whole thing, but as I turned on to it, babs was standing on an empty stage, scowling and smoking, before tossing the fag away and bursting into song. The long-suffering and I both commented on how we were surprised that the theatre didn't burst into flames and sirens, police cars, kind of thing.

XKCD: Clumsy foreshadowing
We're both from an age in which (in cinema) the only time people casually throw aside a lit cigarette, is where it will end in a fire. We've had hack foreshadowing shoved into us by hack scriptwriters to such a degree that we pick up clues automatically, and never have these reactions challenged.

Now, not being a literature student, I heard about foreshadowing maybe only a few years ago. A lot of it comes more under the 'Chekhov' section  of tv tropes, eg checkov's gun; a gun above the mantle piece in the opening scene must be fired before the conclusion (whereas foreshadowing proper might more thematic idea). As a scriptwriting tool, it's an invaluable way of thematically tieing up your story, and making it appear to be well-planned. Indeed, one of the reasons I love 'cabin in the woods' so much is because everything is set up and payed off. It's sutch a thoroughly written piece.

But at the other extreme, you've got things like the tedious opening of One Day, where a woman riding a bike is definitely going to get killed, because nobody rides a bike in a film unless they're going to be knocked over. That's not just One Day's fault, but they play it straight and knock her down, as predicted. By the time this came up in the supercut of 'people stepping into the street and getting knocked down', I was laughing out loud at it (and only half way through). The clip is at 5.54.

So back to Barbara Streisand - what purpose did the thrown away cigarette serve? Well as Freud said, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." In this case, it's just pure character. The only purpose of it is because in that style of filmmaking, not every single bloody thing had to have a consequence. Sometimes, it's just someone's character coming through, and that's enough. 

People never bump into a person in the street, or have to repeat what they said because they talked with their mouth full, or get spam calls in these stories (I remember an episode of Seinfeld with a spam call as a throw away joke; it didn't further the plot along, it was just for character and a giggle). It's the same problem with how in virtually any film, if a woman and a man meet, they're going to fall in love, because they have to. You can't just have two attractive members of opposite sexes near each other without love happening, cinema tells us. This is just automatic.

And that's why many films resort to that kind of lazy call-forward-and-back; they're filling in the gaps that should be filled with well-rounded characters. They're trying to build a plot around consequences of actions, without having to create characters that think for themselves. The actions are accidental; the plot is developed by coincidences and conveniences rather than decisions.

(Someone will argue 'what about the coen bros? But their characters do make decisions; it's just that they're decisions don't impact the plot at all, or do so on an unpredictable way, and that's usually the point)

I don't think I'm arguing for Dogme realism, just that characters should be allowed more time to breathe and come to life. I suppose it's a delicate balance, because put not enough pointlessness in a story and you've lost the sense of characters, put too much pointlessness and it looks like you've dropped threads all over the place.

Think about truly character driven works, especially comedies, and they're full of pointless moments that only exist to expose characters. I know i oscillate, and sometimes think that stories are all about ideas, but right now I really respect authors, and actors, who are deep in character.


My god. It's full of incorrect stars.

Look carefully - the angles on these pentagrams have been widened slightly. They are not stellated pentagons, which would be associated with paganism and magic.

A stellated pentagon would only need 5 straight lines, these need 10 as they do not meet on the other side.

Why the change, so consistent across different makes and products? Does the wider, chubbier angle look friendlier? Less vicious? Less angry? Less metal? Less mathematical? Less golden ratio-y?
I can't stop seeing them everywhere now.

I done had a thought

I was at a training day at a university the other day, and I actually felt a thought.

I'll write about the thought in a minute, but the sensation was revelatory. It was a proper, quick-grab-a-notebook moment, totally exciting but also a bit of a grim reminder that my brain used to experience that feeling all the time. 

A day out of work, an opportunity to study and read leisurely, and I'm of having thoughts again. That makes me optimistic about when these nightmare few years are over; but there's still the matter of school, which already leaves me as a husk before I even get home to the children. I'm currently only up writing this now because I think there's a mouse behind the coffee table and I'm waiting quietly to see if i can spot it.

The thought - if you're interested - is a reform to voting procedures. I was reading Manjit Kumar's (brilliant) 'Quantum' (it's a big factual book and I tore through it) , and got to the point where the nazis get in; a little bit uncomfortable, given the recent European results. And I thought - thought - what would be wrong with knowing how people who had been in before you had voted? Not individually, but as a group. Because I'd like to vote ideologically, but I'd just like to know before i did whether or not it would to use my vote tactially.

This has similarities to a run-off voting but without the hassle of marking out your choices. I can see no harm in just knowing what other people have done before you cast your vote.

Of course, the early voters would get to set an agenda, but then it just encourages people to get out and actually vote. Or would it encourage people to wait until the last minute and them block vote? That wouldn't actually be good.

If you vote first, you get to make you ideological vote; assuming the demographic doesn't change over the course of the day, and the ward is a sensible size, then it doesn't matter high individuals vote. A picture is started to be built of the way the voting would be going under our current system; then people can start ditching their ideal choice to keep out someone they don't want, if they need to.

It just seems like that important bit of feedback would actually aid democracy.  


This thing with these mixes

I listen to some music. At my department meal the other night, when asked why I have two wallets, I started 'This is my joint account wallet', and the person next to me jumped in 'and this is his music wallet'.

So, a few years ago, I thought I should start doing mixtapes for general consumption as a sort-of-diary of what I was listening to. As in, rather than writing up a review of every single record I bought and consumed, I could just weave together some tracks from all the various sources I had into some sort of narrative. And you could listen to this and make up your own mind. Show, don't tell, kind of thing.

Then I kept forgetting to keep this updated with the latest ones and stopped writing sleeve notes for them, and like the blog, the frequency has massively fallen off. THey;ve gone more 'thematic' too, but that doesn't mean there isn't a narrative, especially between mixtapes.

I've arranged them into annual playlists too; here's 2014. you can find the others on my mixcloud profile.

I feel at this point, I need to stop using the same artists (who always have a new album out) as much, and we can just take Cult of Luna, Euros Childs, Necro Deathmort, anything starring Scott Hull (pig destroyer/agoraphobic nosebleed &c), anything starring Igorrr, anything staring Davide Tiso (of ephel duath), Drumcorps, 65daysofstatic, and Sparks as read.


I just watched chronicle and now I'm really angry

I'm sorry. I don't mean to make everything a moan. It's just in so frequently disappointed by things. Often everything just seems to get the basics wrong. I was going to call this one 'stupid intelligent films'. I don't know where else to start with chronicle.

I'm just so annoyed at all these films that just get the basics wrong.

It acted like it was the first found footage film ever. The lengths it goes to to establish that this is found footage is ludicrous, every scene at the start had 'oh, so you've got a new camera' as an intro line. It goes so far that I wonder if it's even a comment on found footage films.

To its credit, the protag Andrew says he finds it comforting because it puts a barrier between him and the world (despite the fact that he already seems entirely alone). So it starts out as a dramatic, as well as practical, technique. Like district 9, it wants to do away with the shaky cam stuff, but it does it by bending the rules hilariously far, til the point where they interfere with the plot.

So is this some sort of point about found footage movies in here? With Andrew's line 'I'm trying to put a barrier', is he talking about how FF films actually make cinema less believable, not more? Is it a comment on voyerism and technology, how what we think is bringing us together is not, like all those idiots who watch gigs on a their phone while they record it for the future instead of living in it in the moment. It lets things which would not be remarkable in cinema, like cars levitating, become interesting again, because we see it from first person. So I'm not convinced it's a deliberate comment on found footage. It's just enough to make me wish it was.

The fact that the only female character only existed in order to hold a second camera is jaw-droppingly poor. And she had to suffer the whole 'stalking pays off' thing with Matt, in that she begins to like him simply because he is persistent. and then he seems to leave her, and go travelling, cause, "I love you Bro." It's like the worst of both worlds; we get the shallow love interest, which then doesn't go anywhere. Better to ditch it entirely.

There isn't a story as such, other than the 'damaged underdog ends up misusing power when s/he gets it', which is a good story; I intend to use it myself one day. The treatment is fairly realistic I suppose, of how one can retreat back into one's shell; but against a background of recent disaster-porn scenarios, I can't help wishing there was something to overcome that was successful. I'm so sick of the 'here's an opportunity, let's watch people screw it up' plots, especially in sci-fi. I had hoped it would be like a proper superhero origin story, but an original setting with a fresh angle and a bit of realism. I don't want some depressing story about how you can't escape your upbringing, that once you're ruined, you're ruined forever. I totally accept that this is a preference thing, but it seems a real shame to tell this story as, as Primo Levi said, 'troubles overcome are good to tell'. Wouldn't it be nice if there was something to achieve, rather than social acceptance? And social acceptance could be a byproduct/subplot to the main thing?

Overall, it felt more like The Explorers than Primer, with an ending that felt totally Akira.

Think that sums it up.

9/8 bongo break

Happiness is realising you've finally written something that you can use that 9/8 drum break on.

Frustration is putting your riff with the bongo break and realising its a different arrangement of the beats in 9/8.

Satisfaction is figuring out that you can hack up the beat to fit your arrangement, in fact it just need to start it a few beats late.

This piece was inspired by the excellent music for the Shalom Aleicham documentary, which I was enjoying throughout, and then delighted to read it was credited to John Zorn, who seems to be able to do anything. I ordered the soundtrack, but before it arrived, came up with this tune; fortunately it had mutated far enough away from the source to be its own thing, yet still be klezmatic in a funny time sig enough to be familiar.

See, when you get into time signatures that are... Differenter, it's not just a case of slopping a funky 4/4 beat over the top to make your song funky. You have to start counting in 2s and 3s.

My track you can count as 2-3-2-2, but the sample (of Turkish karsilama tune 'rampi rampi') counts 2-2-2-3. In other words, mine sounds like 5 and then 4; the drum break is 4 and then 5. So putting one over the other made an absolute cacophony halfway through the measure, as the rhythm started it's second part one beat before the melody.

all it took in the end was swapping round the start and the end (which I also understand was the case for the James Brown 'woo yeah' break). In fact I just trimmed the sample down to the end of one measure and the start of the next, no comping required.

And then I was demoing it in nanostudio, I went and put a drum loop that goes 7-7-4 over that as well, which somehow works.

And then, on top of all of that, I keep playing it wrong. I keep putting in an extra 2 half beats in the middle, turning it into 10/8, with a 7-7-6 rhythm that feels great. Perhaps I could incorporate this mutation somehow. Or just discorporate the whole thing.

Btw my references for this work are Kate Bush's Egypt, and Ozric Tentancles. So I'm aiming for that proggy fusion vibe and seeing this track as a trial of ambition for the KNO album. I intend both to be instrumental, very metal but very thought provoking, and enjoyable on all three levels music matters: the head, the heart and the hips.


Tigers in the house

The lady and I were appalled by this program - the contrast of the jolly, madcap tone against the actual horror of what was happening was enough for us to switch off. Here's a few reasons why.

To start off with, the zoo keeper in question (in Australia) was portrayed as someone who had wanted to work with tigers since childhood, a dream now fulfilled. To say this is anything other than selfish and obvious is odd, as illustrated by a variation on this comic: http://explosm.net/comics/3557/
This man doesn't apparently love animals as a rule, just the sexy ones. At least, that's how it's edited. I wouldn't claim to know really.

Then the story kicks off, which is that this tiger is going to give birth and then they're going to take the cubs away for some reason to raise in a house. We were assuming that something dreadful was  going to happen to the mum, or they got rejected, but no - everything was completely fine. 

I can't really work out exactly why the cubs are taken away. It can't just be this zoo keeper's ego - why would a zoo allow that? It's all ostensibly done in the name of conservation, but with the caveat that 'these tigers will never be released into the wild so they better get used to domesticity'. The zoo itself is all hands-on and cutesy, so that explain raising them as house cats rather than wild animals.

So the cubs arrive home at two weeks old, and have to get used to drinking tiger formula milk from a bottle, get used to being toileted by humans, get used to being taken back to the zoo for antibody inhextions, get used to the sound of dogs and being handled by all different humans, being moddled by shipped in straw that smells of mum... Clearly, this is not happening in these tigers' interest, or their mum, who had to be monitored fur anxiety. All this to jolly music and jaunty narration. We switched off.

The morning after, it struck me, terribly, what all this reminded me of: the aboriginal stolen children http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stolen_Generations. I hate how apt the analogy is, down to the location. This is the story of children stolen away from their mum specially to break the cultural link and raise them in a white, 'civilised' home. Children thought of as too rare to risk leaving things to nature. I'm schocked that that exact mindset has not been destroyed, merely moved from 'animals' to animals.

It's not conservation to take an animal from the wild and turn it into a theme park ride, conservation is a breeding program for repopulating the forests. Domestication will destroy the Sumatran tigers as sure as killing them. But, you know, cute tiger cubs chewing on sofas, awww, who gives a fig what the bigger picture is and what the backstory is and what the meaning is.



Back to bloglam

So how have I come back to blogging?

I'm a bit frustrated with the state of things is why. For a start, I dont get out much with two kids, so talking about things I've seen that have provoked thoughts isn't something that happens. And these things don't fit into twitter.

Twitter is to blame for a lot. If I have a quick thought, I can just blast it out, and compressing it is actually a bonus; it pays to be economical with language. It's a good skill to have. But if I have something that can't be forced into a tweet, it suffers or is just scrapped as I don't have time to flesh it out. This is what Chomsky called the 'concision trick' btw, which is quite dangerous; anything worth saying is eliminated and we are left with glib nothings; or a reasonable statement broken over 5 or 6 tweets, which is just appalling. 

But it's not just twitter. Something has changed, and now I barely ever get any phone calls, texts, landline calls, or emails. Almost all communication is going through social networks. They are swallowing not just communication, but the whole internet, which appears to be becoming just links to buzzfeed (and other, disastrously boring, websites).

And then buzzfeed starts publishing fantastic critiques of mainstream media and you don't know which way is up anymore.

Another criticism of facebook, other than the fact that they're evil and their business model is horrid, is that it's so noisy and monotonous. The endless stream of colourless posts is death.

You see, facebook to me is like a busy market, with an endless row of propped up stalls competing for your attention. What i want, to stay in touch with old friends, is not, to be honest, a drip feed of micro thoughts. I want a virtual home. I want to think, "oh, I've not heard from Beth for a whole, how is she doing?" And go to her homepage - that's what I'm looking for, no one has homepages any more - and see the sum of what she's been doing of late, and maybe pop a couple of discussion points down. Her, all in one place. Facebook's not the place to do that, even with your profile page. I'm officially done with it now. It just emailed me to say I hadn't logged in for a while, and I'm watching it squirm, waiting for it to beg me to come back. It can sod off.

I figured something had to change, so I tried to start a forum with Ed. Free chat with like minded people, I invited a bunch of inter-friends to join up, and just crap, without restrictions on message length, without posts disappearing of the bottom of the page to be missed, and without the feeling you're pissing in the wind to people don't care. But it was a failure, and no one took up the offer, which was very disheartening.

Which brings me back here, my old friend. If no one else is reading, at least I can use this to just catalogue my thoughts. If you are, post a comment on my webzone and we'll have a bloody chat.


Working girl ironic?

Is the ending of working girl meant to be ironic? Because it seems like it's up there with Brazil, as an ending dripping with dramatic irony.

I learned that term in a cover lesson I was teaching once; it means the audience are in on something that the characters aren't. 

Both end with the characters very happy with their lot, but as an audience we're aware that they maybe shouldn't be. I think.

I mean, I can't tell if working girl is a knowing ending. The protag is totally happy with her new situation; and maybe it was, at the time and place of release, a catch. But the final camera shot, zooming out of her small (but private) office, seemingly only a floor up from her old open plan office, just underlines how worthless it is, how unremarkable the achievement, how dystopian the world of skyscraper business deals with money and rights changing hands for completely impenetrable reasons and effects. The fact that she simply appears to be in the same building as before (maybe not, but then the ambiguity is telling isn't it?) just adds to the apparent lack of progression.

For its realism, WG should be applauded; the protag doesn't get given an office of surreal proportions on the top floor of a tower. But the realism is pathetically contrasted with the cinematic nature of the ending, and the gulf between her glee and the utterly pedestrian reward creates that ironic sense. 

I can't tell if it's a deliberately mismatched  ending intended to give this sense, if it's just time that's given a sad view of what was considered aspirational in the 80s, or if it's just me that has seen something that's not there. But it really reminded me of Brazil, from the typing pool, through the pointless obsessions of the distracted classes, to the utterly depressing realisation at the end. They'd make a good double bill.


Mark Ronson at TED

I actually hated this talk.

Mark Ronson's argument seems to be 'people have been ripping off earlier art forms forever, and sampling's no different', which doesn't take into account the wide spectrum of derivity; from inspiring new works to blatant theiving.

He mentions the Rolling Stones as a band who copied the blues, and yes, I would agree; and argue they were terrible thieves, greatly in debt to their inspirators, who largely copied without adding anything (I will concede they had some good lyrics).

Just because everybody does it, doesn't make it ok. But it kind of is ok to see 'sampling' as an art form, as long as people get credit where its due.
Just because some people do it well, doesn't legitimise passed-off crap such as Miley Cyrus as equal to Venetian Snares' Drum & Bartok records.

The problem is, that we now live in a world where if you want to rip off a song, you don't even have to play it yourself. What none of the sample-hogs tell you is that by listening to something, working it out, and playing it back, there's a good chance it's changed in the process somehow. Not always, but somehow. Nirvana spent a lot of time ripping off the Pixies; if they'd had samplers, maybe they'd have been even better at ripping them off, and consequently a less good band. That's not to say that all musicians ever have taken the opportunity to modify their 2nd hand content (see above), or that all people with samplers ever have just recycled without changing the source material. I'm just saying you have the potential to where you didn't have as much potential to before.

It just doesn't mean that Jason Nevins should be put on the same pedastal as RUN DMC themselves. That every Nathan Barley with an immac should be considered 'up there' with Stevie Wonder. That Mark Ronson, with his sampler and libary of ted talks, who turned in a slab of turd at the end of that talk that's massively inferior to any of the pieces he sampled, should be held up as spokesperson for a generation; rather than people like Igorrr, Bong-Ra, Drumcorps, and Sickboy, who really are making the genius post-modern music that Ronson clearly thinks he is making.

I think I have to add something here, as someone who has both done a lot of remixes and propped up my songs with samples.

In terms of remixing, I know how good it feels to fiddle with someone else's brilliant song and feel like I'm responsible for more than just adding a crappy drumloop over the whole thing. I also like to think that my remixes are a little bit more work than that. My simplest one is probably the Bobby Mcgee's track 'king of england', which was just stripped down and built up again with no editing or cutting up of wave-forms. It's not too different from the original, but then it's just a remix and credited to them as such.

In terms of production, I think it's just irresponsible to not cite your references these days. We don't live in the old days of trad folk songs, where you wouldn't know who wrote the song you're singing, making up new words for, and improvising over. We have the data now, which is why when I completed In Case of Emergence, I listed all the samples used - showing my hand, I guess, I suppose, so if you really feel like it you can go and check up and see what they sounded like before I started fiddling; also serving as a 'further listening' section, with my influences on show; and yet still acting as a show-off 'ooh look, I'm combining the Amen break with a bit of Moonlight on Vermont' self-flattery. The main point is, if you're putting samples on a record and not saying where they're from, you're not able to show what is your own work and what is other people's. I think there's a huge area for fair use of samples, as long as they're properly referenced and don't actually contribute to the song, which is where I think royalties and co-writing credits might need to come in.

Anyway, it's seductive playing with other people's music and thinking that you're the brilliant one. That's the danger.


My favourite game

My favourite Eurovision game is spotting the backing singers.

The current Eurovision rules stipulate that an act must comprise not more than 6 performers onstage; they must perform all vocals live to an instrumental backing (so all instruments, I'm afraid to say, are mimed). This means that all lead and backing vocals must be performed from somewhere on stage.

So, often you're left wondering, where are the backing vocals coming from? If they're not made part of the show, with an unmic'd guitar put in their hand, they're sometimes dressed in black and carefully positioned at the side of the stage to try to appear as invisible as possible. 

In tomorrow's semi final, try to play along and spot the missing boppers. I think it's getting harder, with the year-on-year increasing spectacle of Eurovision, which is a trend I don't like. I find it quite dishonest, especially in some songs where they do most of the singing. 

Could we start a campaign, "keep euro backing singers in the spotlight"? I think they're inspirational role models who are an integral part of the performance, and it's time to come out of the shadows (aw, I'll just save it for the press release)


That Feeling

That feeling when you go onto Amazon.co.uk and they've got the list of suggestions for you and you think 'ooh, they know me so well' and then you look and you haven't signed in yet and you're just a GENERIC CONSUMER


Pink Girly fairy princesses

Ez has hit an age where she knows she's a girl. This means, at the moment, that everything is about her favourite colour (pink), her favourite animal (butterflies), fairies, and princesses. A lot of this comes down to Disney ("is Alice rescued by a prince?" Was one conversation. Unfortunately, I had to lie to her and say she rescues herself, whereas in wonderland stuff just happens with no real reason), but more than that, it's everywhere.
I spent my youth hating Disney for doing dishonest, bowdlerised versions of fairy tales. To be honest, I now think pretty much any of their versions are superior to the originals - maybe not feminist, but at least not mindlessly cruel.

I don't mind that ez is identifying as a girl; although the current phase is irksome, I know, that as she grows up, her definition of what 'girly' is will become more kickarse. 

What irks me is the lack of provision for her, that I never had to deal with as a child. Some years ago, living with girls, I began to appreciate how all the female-fronted music I had written off - madonna,kylie, even lady-heavy indie bands - had been essential to them as kids. I never had to find my idols with a fine tooth comb, because I had over 90% of everything to choose from, even though I didn't particularly identify as a bloke (hence following such weaklings as Thöm and Jarvis).
I can already see this happening with Ez. Her favourite treefu Tom character is Ariella, the only girl in a line up of 5 heroes, and also American (hence being foreign as well as merely female). In Peter Rabbit, she likes Lilly; the only girl in the main three, and a banal, annoying, pointless character who fails the lampshade test. Her catchphrase is 'I know that for a fact.' Good for you, Lilly.

In octonauts, currently her favourite, there are three male main characters and 2/4 backup characters. Dashi, the computer expert (basically sigourney weaver in galaxy quest) is her favourite, because she's slightly more girly (she has a hair clip) than the engineer Tweak (whose main job is pressing the button to open the sub bay doors. Sigh). In order to compensate for the imbalance, Ez had decided that the medic Peso, a main character, is a girl, just to have someone else on her team.
 Similarly, with andy's dinosaur adventures, she has decided that somewhere on iplayer is 'Hattie's dinosaur adventures' where secondary character - and girl - hattie gets her own show.

Unsurpsingly in toy story, Jessie is her favourite, and she loves pretending to be 'girl slinky'.

I never had to do any of this. I had no idea gender association was strong, i had  no idea role models were so important, because I was catered for. I hate that she is continuously rail-roaded into choosing 'the girl' out of any group of characters, rather than the one who suits her best.

So if you sit around and develop your ensemble cast, and you think 'we'll have a smart one, and a funny one, and a brave one, and a girl', then i hate you.
Seriously, JJ.



I had a trilogy of disappointments recently, and some joys, and they told me about myself.

Disappointment is a strong word, as I enjoyed all three. I read Kate Atkinson's 'human croquet'; I watched half man half biscuit live; and I started watching Buffy from the start.

Human croquet had the same world weary wit and cynicism as other KA books, but perhaps with even more abuse and incest than other works. Half man half biscuit played well, but I can't help thinking they didn't play their best material (especially of the more recent stuff), and the songs weren't developed for live performance at all. Buffy was Buffy.

The thing is about each of these spectacles was that as good as they were, I didn't get anything new out of them. I felt deflated by the mounting lack of... Novelty. Defined as how information-rich something is.

So I was delighted to uncover a new seam of prog metal to explore, to find genuinely decent horror films for streaming to tthe telly, to come across documentaries that both entertain and educate. 

Hmhb's set had another disappointment, that a large section was still the early 80s material referencing Dean Freidman, nerys Hughes, Len ganley, Fred titmus, dickie Daviies... Slebs whose shelf life has been surpassed by the references to them.
I suppose that's a greater satire on them, that their supposed fame is mocked from a far for being so transient. But it seems futile to still be going on about them.

The flood gates were opened by 'Stuart; a life backwards' which I've been meaning to read for years and picked up from a market a year or two ago. Just like Kate Atkinson, it seemed like anybody who can be abused, will be abused. But being a true story, and one that takes me through many worlds I had no idea about the insides of - prison, homeless shelters, care homes, &c. - I felt completely riveted by it.
Now I'm not one of those people who thinks that being 'based on a true story' will make a horror film better. Actually, I hate those, because i can only watch it wondering what actually happened. The fucking awful film The Posessesion is a case in point, but I'm not going to talk about it because it's not worth it. But I love a documentary. They can contain all the emotional truths of a good work of fiction, but you're learning at the same time.
On the other hand, a good work of fiction can do exactly the same thing, and take you through new worlds. But being fictional sets your mind at unease, as you can never be sure how much has been adapted for the sake of the story. Actually te same is true of docs too, but i digress.
Good example here is the film of philomena - a slightly fictionalised adaptation of the true story book, that lifted the lid on something horrible in a more punchy way then a straight doc would. But anyway:

Then I watched Brain Dead, peter jackson's early film that had an almost identical opening to his adaptation of King Kong, except that racist stereotypes of native islanders work better in aloe budget Shlock horror film than a mainstream event movie. 
Brain dead is information rich like the fermenting, festering matter that takes up so much of the screen time. It felt like a practical joke on the viewer, that I was in on, how disgusting it was. And yet interestingly, it shied away from the worst of the potential violence to the zombie baby that turns up half way through. As if to say 'we do have some standards.' I spent a lot going 'oh, god,' and actually turning away from the screen.

It's so different to Audition that the two shouldn't be packed into the same genre, but I'm developing a theory: that anything with horror in it gets labelled horror, just as anything with metal in it is a type of metal. It's never 'metal folk', is it? Or 'metal jazz'. Audition is not really a horror film, it's a drama that descends Into horror. I was amazed, actually, based on what I've heard about it, that I was able to sit through it. The actual violence wasn't that graphic, although what happens is awful. It would have been so much better of I'd had a chance to experience it like I did with Dusk til Dawn - with absolutely no idea of the tonal shifts that were coming. In fact I wish I could experience all films like that (like when I read Rebecca, with no idea of what kid of story it was going to be).

But what struck me about any of these things is that they got me thinking, and try for me talking. They don't provide easy answers and leave gaps for you to fill in. They they make you ask, what would you do? Did they do the right thing? It's the real tradition of tragedy.

Splice is a great example, because the author should be commenting on society but actually it's just about how wierd his own views are. But I've written about that before.

I watched the flat. What starts out as a simple expose peters out towards the end as the paper trail runs out, and as if to underline it petering out, the documenter gets lost in grave yard, unable to find the memorial stone of a lost relative. It implies the past is untouchable, unknowable, and all you can do is move on - a complete but subtley done avant-face from what he seemed to set out to do. 

What I learned, is that I don't feel satisfied by the same old; that I need to be actively challenged by the media I consume, that I need to be educated and affected by it. I mean actually affected, as in changed, and forced to grow. I don't know about all that nietzcschien stuff about self improvement, but I'm not happy unless I'm either being shown up as ignorant. Maybe I'm an info sadist? Is that a thing?