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West Coast Cooler – Music from Guinea’s golden age

September 10th, 2011

I made you a mix tape.

West Coast Cooler by Jim Gleeson

I’m still trying to understand how Soundcloud works so I didn’t expect it to just post this automatically to my Facebook profile, but anyway there you go. And here’s the track listing, with links to where you can buy the albums, mostly from Sterns and/or Amazon. Not sure if you can buy MP3s from Amazon UK from Ireland, though. This compilation just scratches the surface, so if you like it buy some more!

1. Temtemba – Bembeya Jazz National – 10 Years of Success Sterns / Amazon.
2. J.R.D.A. – Keletigui et ses Tambourins – Originally from the ‘Discotheque 71′ compilation, more recently on the all-Keletigui compilation Sterns / Amazon
3. Kouma – “22 Novembre” Band – Sterns / Amazon
4. Makitara – Camayenne Sofa – from ‘Attaque’, fairly rare now and only available from Sterns. These guys were phenomenal, and are well overdue a re-issue.
5. Moi Je Suis Decouragé – Balla et ses Balladins – I got it from ‘Discotheque 70‘ (great cover photo btw), strangely not on the Sterns compilation, but available through Amazon.
6. Nanibali – African Virtuoses – The Classic Guinean Guitar Group – Sterns. These are a bit distinct from the rest of the bands on here, being a family of acoustic guitarists rather than a big-band ‘orchestra’ troupe like most of the rest.
7. Tambourinis Cocktail – Keletigui et ses Tambourins – Sterns / Amazon
8. Wouloukoro – Bembeya Jazz National – 10 Years of Success – Sterns / Amazon. From the same amazing concert as ‘Temtemba’. I think this is the only Bembeya track I’ve heard with a female singer, not sure who it is unfortunately.
9. Solo Quintette – Myryam’s Quintette – Amazon. I love this track, which is from the musicians who made up Miriam Makeba’s backing band during her years in Guinea (info here). Think the sound quality might have suffered from the transfer to Soundcloud though.
10. Bomaro – Camayenne Sofa – La Perceé – CDs of this album are going for £40 on Amazon now, or you can just download the MP3. Camayenne Sofa seem to have been passed over in the recent Guinea revival, unfairly I think.
11. Manta Lokaka – Pivi et les Balladins – A forerunner (or successor, I’m not sure) of Balla et ses Balladins, this is available on the Balla compilation from Sterns, or Amazon.

The story of the authenticité movement in post-independence Guinea, and in particular how the combination of strong government support and fierce competition created an amazingly rich music scene, is fascinating in itself. Graeme Counsel, who has done more than anyone to retell this story, has more details on the Sterns site here.

Looks like we picked the wrong week to advance the merits of nuclear power for Ireland

March 12th, 2011

Nuclear power misunderstood, just wants to be friends, says Irish Times editorial, Friday March 11 (pasted below)

Nuclear power

Fri, Mar 11, 2011

IN THESE days of “revolution” and rethinking of politics, it is perhaps time to revisit another cherished national taboo: nuclear power. A plausible case for doing so was made this week by Prof Philip Walton, NUI Galway emeritus professor of applied physics and an advocate for the group Better Environment with Nuclear Energy (BENE). He urged the new Government to rescind legislation that bans nuclear power.

New Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte takes over from Green predecessor Eamon Ryan with a programme for government that shares the latter’s emphasis on developing renewable sources of power, specifically geothermal, marine and wind energy. This approach has undoubted merits but there are practical limits to what such sources can do to reduce our 90 per cent dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuels. As the UK recommitted itself to nuclear plant building in 2008, Ryan himself acknowledged a need to reopen the debate.

That view is shared by an increasing number of interested parties, including the business and employers representative group Ibec, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Irish Academy of Engineers whose 2009 report warns of the huge lead time involved in the debate. A new plant in Ireland would almost certainly take up to 15 years to plan and construct.

In recent years even within the environmental movement, the argument for nuclear power has gained ground in the face of the climate change challenge of finding low-emission solutions to energy demand, and of the proven safety record of the modern industry in OECD countries. BENE contends that previously “insuperable” challenges such as disposal of radioactive waste have been overcome.

Walton argues that global warming, the increasing insecurity of fossil fuel sources, and vastly improved safety have changed the context of the debate since the late 1970s when thousands marched on Carnsore Point in Co Wexford. Or even more recently when Ireland protested to Britain over the notoriously accident-prone Windscale/Sellafield plant in Cumbria. Politically and environmentally we are in different times, not least because voters are less prone to confuse the debate with that on nuclear weapons.

Today 31 countries operate nuclear power plants and some of those which had decided to stop construction of new facilities – like Britain, Finland and Italy – are pressing ahead again. Ireland is at liberty to adopt a different approach but it is prudent to consider all options.

Irish Times breaking news the same day, but everything might still be okay, officials say

Emergency declared at nuclear plant

Fri, Mar 11, 2011

Thousands of residents were evacuated from an area around a nuclear plant in Japan after a powerful earthquake raised fears of a radiation leak, but local officials said problems with the reactor’s cooling system were not at a critical level.

There were no signs of a radiation leak, but the US air force delivered coolant to the nuclear plant to avert a disaster within the wider disaster of the biggest earthquake on record to hit the country.

Experts said there could be leakage if water levels in the Fukushima reactor – some 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo – fell and the temperature of the nuclear rods rose, but that this danger did not appear to be imminent.

Work has begun on restoring the reactor’s cooling function, Jiji news agency quoted the Trade Ministry as saying.

“Even if fuel rods are exposed, it does not mean they would start melting right away,” said Tomoko Murakami, leader of the nuclear energy group at Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics.

“Even if fuel rods melt and the pressure inside the reactor builds up, radiation would not leak as long as the reactor container functions well.”

Residents that live within a 3 km radius of the plant have been told to evacuate from the area, chief cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference.

“The government is making every effort to restore the cooling system.” Kyodo news agency said 3,000 residents were being evacuated.

But Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned the situation could turn grave.

“This is no laughing matter,” he said. TEPCO confirmed that water levels inside the reactors at its Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant were falling but it was working to maintain water levels to avert the exposure of nuclear fuel rods.

The company has been trying to restore power to its emergency power system so that it could add water inside the reactors, a TEPCO spokesman said.

“There is a falling trend (in water levels) but we have not confirmed an exposure of nuclear fuel rods,” a TEPCO spokesman said.

Reactors shut down due to the earthquake account for 18 per cent of Japan’s nuclear power generating capacity.

Japan’s nuclear power sector produces about 30 per cent of the country’s electricity and has been rocked periodically over the past decade by safety concerns.

Many reactors are located in earthquake-prone zones such as Fukushima and Fukui on the coast. Japan has also told the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that a heightened state of alert was declared at the Fukushima facility.

TEPCO had been operating three out of six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant at the time of the quake, all of which shut down.

The spokesman added that there were no concerns of a water leak for the remaining three reactors at the plant, which had been shut for planned maintenance.

Agencies

Well blow me down, everything isn’t okay

Explosion and radiation leak at Japanese nuclear plant

Sat, Mar 12, 2011

Radiation leaked from a damaged Japanese nuclear reactor north of Tokyo today, the government said, after an explosion blew the roof off the facility in the wake of yesterday’s massive earthquake.

The developments at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant raised fears of a Chernobyl-style disaster as officials worked to contain the leak.

The Japanese plant was damaged by yesterday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which sent a 33ft tsunami ripping through towns and cities across the northeast coast. Japanese media estimate that at least 1,300 people were killed.

Japanese authorities have told the UN’s atomic watchdog they are making preparations to distribute iodine to people living near nuclear power plants affected by the earthquake, the International Atomic Energy Agency said. Iodine can be used to help protect the body from radioactive exposure.

Tokyo Electric Power Co plans to fill the leaking reactor with sea water to cool it down and reduce pressure in the unit, Japan’s top government spokesman said today.

“The nuclear reactor is surrounded by a steel reactor container, which is then surrounded by a concrete building,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. “The concrete building collapsed. We found out that the reactor container inside didn’t explode.

“We’ve confirmed that the reactor container was not damaged. The explosion didn’t occur inside the reactor container. As such there was no large amount of radiation leakage outside,” he said.

“At this point, there has been no major change to the level of radiation leakage outside [from before and after the explosion], so we’d like everyone to respond calmly,” Mr Edano said. “We’ve decided to fill the reactor container with sea water.”

Mr Edano said it would take about five to 10 hours to fill the reactor core with sea water and around 10 days to complete the process.

He said an evacuation radius of 10km from the stricken 40-year-old Daiichi 1 reactor plant in Fukushima prefecture was adequate, but later the boundary was extended to 20km. TV footage showed vapour rising from the plant, 240km north of Tokyo.

Along Japan’s northeast coast, rescue workers searched through the rubble of destroyed buildings, cars and boats, looking for survivors in hardest-hit areas such as the city of Sendai, 300km northeast of Tokyo.

NHK television and Jiji news agency said the outer structure of the reactor building that houses the reactor appeared to have blown off, but nuclear experts said this did not necessarily mean the nuclear reactor had been breached.

Earlier the operator released what it said was a tiny amount of radioactive steam to reduce the pressure and the danger was minimal because tens of thousands of people had already been evacuated from the vicinity.

The international community started to send disaster relief teams today to help Japan, with the United Nations sending a group to help co-ordinate work.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Irish Embassy in Tokyo had no reports as yet of any of an estimated 2,000 Irish people in Japan being injured or in need of assistance as a result of yesterday’s earthquake.

The Embassy has been contacting Irish citizens who previously registered with it in areas most affected by the quake.

It said those with family and friends in Japan may contact the department in Dublin on 01-4180233. They can also leave details on the department’s website at dfa.ie.

The earthquake yesterday was so huge that thousands fled their homes from coastlines around the Pacific Rim, as far away as North and South America, fearful of a tsunami.

Most appeared to have been spared anything more serious than some high waves, unlike Japan’s northeast coastline which was hammered by the huge tsunami that turned houses and ships into floating debris as it surged into cities and villages, sweeping aside everything in its path.

The unfolding natural disaster, which has been followed by dozens of aftershocks, prompted offers of search and rescue help from 50 countries.

In one of the worst-hit residential areas, people buried under rubble could be heard calling out for rescue, Kyodo news agency reported. TV footage showed staff at one hospital waving banners with the words “Food” and “Help” from a rooftop.

In Tokyo, tens of thousands of office workers were stranded overnight after the quake shut down public transport. Many were forced to bed down where they could, with newspapers to lie on and briefcases for pillows.

Kyodo said at least 116,000 people in Tokyo had been unable to return home on Friday evening due to transport disruption.

The northeastern Japanese city of Kesennuma, with a population of 74,000, was hit by widespread fires and one-third of the city was under water. City mayor Shigeo Sugawara said: “A huge number of houses have been washed away.” He said fuel storage tanks had been destroyed, sending oil flowing out which then caught fire.

The airport in coastal city Sendai, home to one million people, was on fire, Japanese media said.

TV footage showed a black torrent of water carrying cars and wrecked homes at high speed across farmland near Sendai, 300km northeast of Tokyo. Ships had been flung onto a harbour wharf, where they lay helplessly.

Kyodo news agency reported that contact had been lost with four trains in the coastal area.

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said the Earth’s axis shifted 25 cm as a result of the quake and the US Geological Survey said the main island of Japan had shifted 2.4 metres.

The earthquake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century. It surpassed the Great Kanto quake of September 1st, 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area.

The 1995 Kobe quake caused $100 billion in damage and was the most expensive natural disaster in history.

Reuters

Dear Madam…

The Wire – the musical

September 3rd, 2010

So far, all we’ve got are a few scenes. Contributions welcomed.

1. A street corner in Baltimore. Young men of various ages run to and fro, taking money from and drugs to buyers who drive up in big SUVs. As they work they sing:

[Chorus]
Pandemic! It’s the stuff that makes your juices flow,
Pandemic! It gives a golden glow to Baltimo’,
When you need a little something to brighten up your day
Just grab a spike and a spoon and a tourniquet
Pandemic!

[Bodie]
Watch out, it’s the fuzz!

Most of them scatter, leaving Bodie sitting nonchalantly on a stoop. Enter Officer McNulty.

[McNulty]
I’m Officer McNulty, how do you do?
If you’re recently deceased I got an appointment with you
I’m the smartest damn cop Homicide ever had
They say Jimmy Be Good, but I just wanna be bad!

[to Bodie]
All you drug dealing mopes, you just make me laugh
Dealing all kinds of dope, it seems like a faff

Don’t you know the risks, you’d be better off retiring
Just get your kicks from Nintendo and drink-driving

Then again, if you did, it wouldn’t be so fun,
And I mightn’t get to run around town with a gun,

Stuck behind a desk, it wouldn’t be the same,
Because you know what they say …

[Both]
The game is the game.

[Bodie]
Officer McNulty, it’s not my fault you see
My course was set from education primary
I’m a victim of poverty plus emotional privation
My peer group and neighbourhood have acute deprivation
We got racism, crime and municipal distress
Gee officer McNulty, no wonder I’m a mess!

2.
Bassoon solo, swish of leather overcoat, a figure flits from stage prop to stage prop, always out of reach of the moving spotlight

[chorus of cornerboys]
pack up your product, let’s move
something here just don’ feel right
the biggest punk on the street’s in town
and i think he might strike tonight

[1st cornerboy]
what was that?

[2nd cornerboy]
just a cat

[3rd cornerboy]
do i hear trouble?

[4th cornerboy]
nah that’s just bubbles

[1st cornerboy]
man i got fear …

The music stops. Omar walks in to the spotlight.

[Omar (basso contralto)]
Omar here.

3.
Stringer is counting money in the backroom of the funeral parlour

[Stringer]
Supply and demand, supply and demand
I like markets where I’m the invisible hand

Business is business, but what a trade to be in!
No need for micro-management or stimulus Keynesian

The customers never stop stuffing product down their gullets
And the velocity of money’s the same as a bullet’s

4.
Prop Joe struts across the stage, twirling a cane, to the sound of ‘smooth jazz’

[Prop Joe]
They call me Proposition Joe
I’m the king of Baltimo’
I squeezed out the Barksdale crew
Easy does it, no to-do!

Their style, it was all just show,
Just not how it’s done, comme il faut
They’re such obvious criminal (I’m more subliminal)
So now I run this town – or didn’t you know?

Even more adventures in mapping

August 22nd, 2010

Stefan Wehrmeyer’s lovely map of nightbus journey times in London.

This has gone extremely viral already but anyway, nuclear explosions 1945-1998. Hard to believe there’s any Arizona desert left.

Stephen Walter’s amazingly detailed London Island.

Using flickr tags to derive subjective neighbourhood boundaries.

Lovely map of London bike hire availability.

More adventures in mapping…

August 21st, 2010

Blaise Aguera y Arcas showing the latest developments at Microsoft around mapping:

Bing Mapping

Must say that with Microsoft buying up Seadragon, they’re taking a lead in GIS.

This all stems from their buyout of Seadragon. Mr. Aguera y Arcas showed this off a couple of years ago:
Photosynth

Microsoft are calling one of the spin-offs of Photosynth “Deep Zoom”: Not a great overview of Deep Zoom

Hitched.co.uk – a UK wedding planning site – have started using it: pretty good use of Deep Zoom

Chop off those germy hands!

August 13th, 2010

Wait a minute, Dettol No Touch Handwash. You’re telling me the very thing I currently use to clean my hands of germs may be exposing me to even more germs *gasp*

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcgpdI_2cko

But wait a minute, just last year weren’t you selling…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8vijCM5_SA&feature=related

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2ceCSb39NA&feature=related

(Funny, I can’t seem to find an English version of the Dettol hazardous liquid soap ad on YouTube. Well I guess that means they were only prepared to sell their hazardous germy soap dispensers to poor countries like Pakistan and… whatever that other country is)

I, for one, will be going down to the cash and carry to load up on some Cleanlinol – it’s next to Godlinol!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UjGwW9FN_4

GigaParis

April 28th, 2010

Yes, it’s a zoomable 26 gigapixel photo of Paris, the biggest image ever stitched apparently. It looks brilliant, and there’s loads of info about how they did it here. You can see right into people’s windows! Unfortunately nobody seems to be doing anything interesting.

Usage patterns at DublinBikes stations

April 28th, 2010

Found this presentation from a recent GIS conference analysing data from the DublinBikes stations. Probably nothing that surprising in the results, but I like the way they got the data by scraping it off the DB website.

Tableau

April 9th, 2010

They’ve just released Tableau Public:

http://www.tableausoftware.com/public/download

“Gangway for footcycle!”

April 4th, 2010

I like the last paragraph of this

To steal from their biggest fan, whom I know personally, “But they’re both so talented, it’s so hard to decide”

Dawn with this sort of thing!

April 4th, 2010

This via the Guardian

Carfull now!

Moonwalk into formula

April 4th, 2010

Moonwalk One, the poetic, beautiful, fascinating film about the first moon landing was broadcast last night on one of the Discovery channels. Lost for 35 years and rediscovered about a year ago, it’s a mix of documentary and a sort of film-poem, both touching and informative.

Discovery decided to show the film with introductory and break segments, featuring an anonymous, young, doctor of space, telling us about times he spoke to a mission commander, or that the astronauts were spacemen, and you can see the moon if you go outside and look up. Banal stuff, especially in contrast to the film it surrounded.

Worse, though, was watching something really great, unlike the normal television documentary, only to have a presenter tell you what’s coming up, what you just saw, and what’s on now. Formula television, drab, pointless, half of its time spent pointing to the other half. In a way, it’s surprising, with more and more channels out there, more and more people making films, more freedom for people on the fringes or without a standard film education to take up their cameras and produce works interesting, works unusual, works defective or even imaginative, that we delve deeper into the world of structurally and formally monotonous television. Teenagers and their love triangles, cops and their murders, spies and their double agents, families and their comedic mishaps. All of them walking side-by-side, stopping, turning to face one another, and continuing their conversation in over-the-shoulder-shot-reverse-shot.

I think there’s a better metaphor for this, something to do with a goose…

April 2nd, 2010

Back in the world of 3D movies, Clash of the Titans came out yesterday in Ireland to minimal fanfare. I’m sure it will make several hundred dollars at the box office, and will make some idiots happy, though not many. It’s a dull movie, badly written and full of erratic, disorganised action. It has an obligatory “in-joke” for the three people still alive who saw the original (nobody laughed), and a great scene with Liam Neeson in which he tells the other gods “Leave us!” only to turn to camera and say “Release the Kraken!”, thus highlighting the ten lines of missing dialogue. This is, of course, about the standard one should expect of such a film, it’s a summer blockbuster, and the studio that made it hopes it will be a “tent-pole” picture. That is, one of their big money efforts which will prop their business up for the year.

Over the last few years a few movies have been dual-releases in regular old flat-o-vision, and glorious 3D.  UpAlice in Wonderland, Avatar are the most recent big movies to open in 3D. Clash joins them, but unfortunately I think it joins them in a nasty sub-group of 3D: the hastily cobbled together conversion. Films like Avatar, were made and released in 3D (that is dual camera rigs, stereoscopic editing and effects, the full bit). …the Titans appears to have been shot on a single camera, intended for a 2D release and then converted by a team of lackeys into a chimera. Not 2D, not really 3D either.

Dropping my polarized glasses to look at the screen, I could see entire scenes with barely a hair of depth. Everything with people in it seemed flat, the titles and a few of the 3D monsters had depth (see also: acting, characters). The same could generally be said of Alice in Wonderland, another converted feature film. And despite my earlier enthusiasm for on-the-fly conversion to a small monitor for home viewing and for providing the content necessary for widespread domestic adoption of 3DTV, I find the result on the large screen frustrating and disappointing.

As any dullard can tell you, spectacle is at the heart of the Hollywood cinema experience. And 3D promises to enhance that with various buzzwordy traits, like “immersion”, “naturalism”, “edge-of-your-seat-thrill-ride-a-minute”, and maybe “diegesis”. The 3D of Avatar was well realised, and enhanced the experience of watching it. The extra half-dimension of Clash of the Titans, does not.

So why do it? Well, all those films that released in 2 and 3D, made more money per screen for the 3D version. Avatar became the most profitable film of all time partly because more people wanted to see it in 3D, and they paid a few extra shekels for the experience. Audiences, that film showed, are willing to pay more for an extra dimension (wait till Jerry Bruckheimer finds out that there are 11 or more). It came out in November, just when CotT was in production (or somewhere near post), some executive called down to the lackey department and demanded a conversion for super-profits. The problem is, if they continue to do conversions like this and Alice in Wonderland, that add little or nothing to the experience, the 3D cash cow will be killed. Audiences will gradually find little to attract them to the 3D screenings. Hopefully, the lesson has been learned this year and more films will be shot specifically for their 3D release, as it offers a lot of filmmaking possibilities that have yet to be explored.

By the way, did I mention that CotT is a terrible film?

Stuff

March 3rd, 2010

  • Fancy re-arranging London’s skyline? You can also add buildings from around the world. Includes further confirmation that the Burj Dubai is rather large.
  • The first cut of Annie Hall was two and a half hours long, had very little Annie Hall in it, and was awful.
  • Pics from the computer museum in Paris.
  • Crazy real-time airplane tracker
  • Cheery map of where cyclists have been killed or seriously injured in London in the last ten years
  • Flickr group for charts relating to the Beatles. I like the one about how their pronunciation grew less Americanised over time.
  • My suggestion would be this chart showing mentions of the Beatles in Parliament through the 1960s. Most of the early mentions are about hair.

What if Woody Allen Boxed a Kangaroo?

February 16th, 2010

If only we knew.

Okay, I couldn’t leave it there. What if Woody Allen had a childrens’ television programme? Hot Dog! If you look at the third video, it also appears to feature Stalin in the cast of thousands. I always wondered what he did after he was finished making the USSR.

There were of course a series of TV panel-game-shows of questionable merit featuring Herr Allen, including I’ve Got a Secret, and the now uncommissionable Password, and a meat version of Through the Keyhole called What’s my Line? . Then movies came along for Woodles, and he had to undergo the trauma of scatalogical promotional interviews, including one for Bananas.

Naturally, many of these links have been culled from a more thorough post to be found on WMFU, which tells of the early career of Mr. Konigsberg, in lengthy, almost obsessive, detail.

What if Tarantino/David Lynch/Wes Anderson/Jean Luc Godard/Werner Herzog directed the Superbowl

February 9th, 2010

The Wes Anderson is my favourite. But more things should be narrated by Werner Herzog!

Movography

January 10th, 2010

Here’s a set of maps from the NY Times, showing Netflix rental habits in various US cities. Note the east-west divide in Washington DC, the popularity of Milk in San Francisco, and Mad Men in Manhattan. It’s an interesting way to look at cultural consumption in relation to social geography, and makes me wonder what else can be learned from mail-order shopping.

What a Brooksian choice of adjective

December 29th, 2009

David Brookes:

Steven Brill’s essay, “The Rubber Room,” in The New Yorker generated a lot of discussion. It’s about the room where New York City schoolteachers who have been dismissed for incompetence sit for years on end and continue to collect their six-figure salaries for doing nothing. The word Dickensian doesn’t fully describe the madness of a system that cannot get rid of bad teachers.

Unless there was a huge number of teachers in a small, poorly heated ‘rubber room’, then the word Dickensian doesn’t even partly describe what he’s talking about. Or am I missing something?

Yes, it’s some maps

December 28th, 2009

So, since wowblog is repository for interesting maps, and other such informative pictures, here’s a link to a blog about Victorian infographics. Enjoy?

That literary cocktail list

October 18th, 2009

  • Tequila Mockingbird
  • A Rum of One’s Own
  • In Cold Bloody Mary
  • Raise High The Jim Beam, Carpenters
  • For Whom the Bellini Tolls
  • The Bourbon of Suburbia
  • Crime and Pimmishment
  • Beerwulf

    And those were the best ones.

Chris Morris visits CERN

October 16th, 2009

And does a podcast about it! And here are pictures of him, looking like one of the off-roaders from the Fast Show.

Unfortunately this visit was before the Large Hadron Collider opened and turned out to be rubbish, or else he would have been all ‘Peter, you’ve lost the boson’.

TV Nerdgasm 1 – Musings on the third dimension

September 19th, 2009

So, I went to IBC last week, and walked about the show floor looking at the various bits of technology, weaving between the suits talking about quarterly turnover and the like. The most notable trend that at the convention was the profusion of 3D related equipment, for the creation, editing, and display of that tricky third dimension. While 3D has been the new thing in movies for a few years, with films on a dual 2D/3D release taking more per screening in the 3D theatres (most of these movies are the animated features which are easily adapted to a 3D release). Studios thought that 3D would be the gimmick to lure people away from their TV and back to the cinema, while consumers thought it was another gimmick that would last as long as the previous 3D craze in the ’50s.

What is different this year is the move towards 3DTV, taking the experience to the home, and in many cases, live. 3D sports broadcasts work well, and seem to be the method of introducing 3D and the consequent equipment upgrades, and wallet-gougings, consumers will have to undergo. Several recent events were shot and broadcast in 3D, including last years Superbowl and some of Sky’s football coverage.

The boring engineering and cables stuff was naturally evolving the capacity to handle two simultaneous HD streams anyway (that is, 3Gbps – watch out for the advert and the heavy number content on the linked page). The problems of shooting 3D have largely been solved, although there are some glitches with jitter and field order in 3D video to be sorted out. And the various problems of creation have generally been solved.

What is an unknown is the rate of consumer adoption. And this will depend on the experience of viewing, and the available content. The viewing experience is still a little bit inconvenient, since glasses need to be worn, and the content is the superbowl, a film about dinosaurs, and a Three Stooges movie. The introduction of lenticular screens, for goggle-less viewing, while still in the early stages (as it suffers from low resolution and limited viewing angles) at just a few years old, will soon take care of the viewing problem.

The content problem lies in the fact that for true 3D all that is shown needs to be shot with that in mind, which discounts about a hundred-years-worth of film and television. Since lots of broadcasters rely on repeats to fill their schedules this is a major problem. If TV is 3D only some of the time, many will decide it’s not worth changing their TV or set-top box. I stumbled upon the stand of a research group from Canada showing a box that converts 2D  to 3D on the fly. They happened to be showing Spiderman, played on a normal DVD player and out through their machine, which showed as a very convincing 3D movie on their lenticular display.

The convergence of these different technologies makes 3D in the home a viable proposition, and increases the likelyhood of widespread adoption by consumers in the next five years or so (or whatever happens to be the standard TV recycling time).

A spectre is haunting America

September 19th, 2009

He has plenty of people to shout down people like these lunatics who claim to believe he’s a psychotic commie-Nazi, but here ya go:

Obama Joker capitalism socialism socialist capitalist

Print out a high-res version and and stick it up in your local creche, why dontcha.

Links

August 25th, 2009

- Completely awesome Steve Jones lecture on whether human evolution has stopped. The stuff on Francis Galton was new to me – apparently he constructed a ‘beauty map’ of Britain which concluded that Aberdeen had the most mingers with the loveliest people in the country being found just outside Harrods. The latter finding might still hold.
- Six-day cycle racing was invented down the road from me in Islington. Possibly the weirdest sport ever, though it did indirectly promote the art of reading a newspaper while on your bike.
- Epic, must-read rant about the strange world of academic journals.

Airports of the gods

August 22nd, 2009

I think I mentioned this when I was back: Prince Charles intervened to block what he saw as an insufficiently traditionalist design for the Chelsea Barracks site in London, so Building magazine asked a few architects to re-imagine some London landmarks along modernist lines in response. George Saumarez Smith didn’t quite play along and instead offered a redesign of Richard Rogers’ Heathrow Terminal 5 as Charles might have preferred it:

There’s something wonderful about that multi-level neo-classical car-park, and as Smith says it would provide ‘a huge boost to the stonemasonry industry’, so personally I’m all for it.

Algeria 1982

August 22nd, 2009

This video of the Germany v Algeria group match from the 1982 World Cup is prompted by the Guardian‘s inclusion of Algeria’s right-back Chaabane Merzekane as one of the great unsung heroes of football. His two 70-yard runs up the pitch are pretty good, but the match as a whole is brilliant, and Algeria’s second goal, a sucker-punch straight after Rumenigge’s equaliser, is amazing, 20 seconds of dream pass-and-move and a team goal up there with Carlos Alberto’s in the 1970 final. Algeria looked like a superb team but went out at the end of the group stage following a fit-up by Germany and Austria somewhat reminiscent of the Ireland / Holland go-slow in the 1990 finals.

The Soylent Effect

August 16th, 2009

So, here is the opening sequence of ‘Soylent Green’, using the Ken Burns effect fully 17 years before ‘The Civil War’. So, it should be called the Soylent effect. It’s a great opening, effective, prescient, and delightfully simple – far better than the film that follows it.

For more interesting credit sequences, though not all the ones I would choose to be in a list of the best, go to Creative Review.

Yes, it’s a graph

August 13th, 2009

This seems like a wowblog kind of thing, and it’s about time I posted about a graph.

Castles in the sand

July 12th, 2009

The Dutch generally have a reputation for pragmatic moderation in architecture and planning, so I was taken aback to learn of the new development of Haverleij, which consists of nine separate but related housing developments in the form of self-contained ‘castles’, moats and all, on the outskirts of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

They’re pretty astonishing to look at, from above (photo from the promotional site)

or from ground level (photo by Michiel van Raaij)

The architect, Sjoerd Soeters, has very deliberately sought to create self-contained areas with distinct identities and which leave the surrounding landscape open. Top marks for ambition and execution I suppose, but I can’t help wondering how it’s going to turn out. There’s something a bit J.G. Ballard about these utopian mini-experiments in urban form, architectural petri-dishes scattered around a golf course. What will they be like to live in, and to grow up in? Will each one develop its own insular identity, with the kids sallying forth at regular intervals to do battle in the surrounding greenery? I wouldn’t be surprised if the residents decided there’s such a thing as too much green space. To me most of the ‘castles’ look too small to develop distinct identities and too separate to develop a joint one. But even if they end up windswept and empty they’d still make for some great ruins.

The Hobo News

July 11th, 2009

This Time story from 1937 describes a court case concerning the sale of a sort of early forerunner of the Big Issue:

It is a peach and saffron tabloid full of hand-me-down line drawings and photographs of celebrated sundowners, sentimental verse, advertisements of rabbits’ feet and “surprise novelties.” personalities and good advice. Founded last winter as a quarterly, the Hobo News was soon converted to a monthly. It is distributed in Manhattan by its editors, elsewhere by itinerants at 5¢ a copy— 10¢ “if we can get it.” Current edition: 50,000 copies.