Monthly Archives: April 2008

Memory Bugs Are Off!

I launched some memory sticks into the wild, using the Geocaching network as a medium. This weekend they’ve both been dropped into new caches by Geocachers. Thanks people.. keep it going! :o)

One of them has gone about 5 miles, towards Stockport. The other is about 25 miles away in Cheshire. Hurray!

Also my geocaches are getting a fair bit of attention, I’ve had about 4 or 5 visits to them over the weekend. Apparently one of them is a bit spartan, so I need to visit it and reload it with some goodies.

WordPress Update

I just upgraded this website to run on WordPress 2.5 – and very swanky it is too! I was quite daunted to start off with, but safe in the knowledge I’d backed up my files & database, I forged ahead anyway. I Googled for “upgrade to wordpress 2.5” or some-such which came up with a few sites scattered around the web. Including, strangely, a link to a Moveable Type article – I seem to have stumbled upon some kind of political debacle between the Moveable Type crew and the WordPress crew. Something I know very little about!

Anyhow, for people that haven’t been enticed by that offer of gossip, the only thing I was going to say was this; there are loads of guides people have posted on how to upgrade around, but the guide on the WordPress codex did the job fine for me. My only heart stopping moment was when I thought that all of my Ultimate Tag Warrior tags had not been imported (and maybe had gone for good). Thankfully there is an Import function built in, and that was sorted quickly.

On first impressions the WordPress 2.5 changes are good, they all seem to make sense. I like it, whether Moveable Type is better or not! I don’t like the Async-Uploader that does not work.

Apart from that still good though.

Silvia Ziranek

I wonder if that is a real name.

Silvia Ziranek did one of the first Tuesday Talks that I attended at the Cornerhouse. Although one of the reasons it has taken until now to write a review is my inherent procrastination the other is that her lecture challenged me, to say the least.

I think of all of the Tuesday Talks, this was probably the least like a lecture, and the most similar to an artwork in its own right. Fortunately (I think) for Ziranek, the way in which she works allowed her to deliver her lecture’s contents by the same means that she performs or delivers some of her work.

Pink Shoes

Poster for a show at the Tate Modern.

She uses complicated puns, references, re-references and strange interconnectedness to explore the complexity and intrigue of whatever subject she might be commenting on or exploring through her work. In the case of this “lecture” she was mainly talking about herself and some of her previous projects. Strangely I think it worked really well like this. It has some parallel which how I want to deliver my 5 minute video presentation for University, I intend on making the video something of interest in its own right, as well as its worth for supplementing my other work. Getting back to the subject…

It would be easy for me to wash over Ziranek’s work as nothing more than a quirky and crazy brand of performance art. I think that was probably the overriding factor in my initial judgement of her. Maybe thats why writing this has taken me 6 months. I needed to arrive at a judgement that was more notable, more interesting, I needed to say something.

Ziranek

Ziranek image from the Cornerhouse Website.

So, what to say? Well I think I was right to think that her work is a quirky and crazy brand of performance art – but then what brand of performance art isn’t crazy – but I was wrong to say it was nothing more. Personally I really appreciate wordplay and the quirks we all live with in our own language (and that others live with in their language). But wordplay was not the essence of Ziranek’s work, it was merely part of the medium with which she delivered it.

The crux of her work, what it means, what its about, the point of it, the reason that it exists, the reason that people appreciate it. I can’t write that down, you will have to experience it. And I think that is the point. If you happen upon Silvia Ziranek at work, or if you deliberately went to see her, there is something for everyone, she touches on things common to all of us, she thrives on using her observational skills and comedic wisdom to engage her audience. She’ll make you smile, shake your head in dismay, question your judgement and possible think that you should walk out.

I had great fun though.

ps Ziranek used a kind of intervention at the start of this lecture, she had placed tiny tubes of paper glue on all of the seats in the room. Caiti has exhausted our glue supply and we’re now using that. Thanks silvia.

Lamination for the Nation

I bought myself a laminator from the ubiquitous ebuyer.com. I’m not completely sure why, but I’m sure it will spurn some sort of creativity, and potentially usefulness!

One thing that it will definitely come in handy for is printing of things for geocaches. They have a tendancy to get wet and ruin. Also I could laminate instructions for Blogcrossing-type things, so that it is a bit more clear what is actually going on.

** I just had a brainwave. Mars bars go far. **

Lamination 1

So far, I’ve laminated some tissues that are soiled with snot and blood (see the photograph). The bodily fluids are due to a cold and a nosebleed (which is because of the cold!). It was Caiti’s idea, our latest collaboration :o)

April Work Plan

I think I’ve managed to recover from my February Plan. I was feeling very down-trodden at that point. Things seem to be just about in-hand. I even managed to do a few things that weren’t on my list, I made a video “Ups & Downs” (or I might call it “The Ups & Downs of Life” – I’m not sure) and I’ve actually managed to do some good music. Track count for album is going up. Also I’ve been experimenting with HDR photography.

Chorlton waterpark in HDR

Chorlton Waterpark in HDR.

Looking back to Febuary’s plan, this has been the progress:

  • Prayer 2.0. I’ve fixed all the major technical problems with Prayer 2.0 and I’ve redeveloped the code so that it is almost “modular”. I’m planning on having various other websites (thenewspam.com, whatiswebtoopointzero.com) which will be part of the Prayer 2.0 system. They will look and feel like separate websites, but will all actually be doing the same thing. I’m playing around with the idea anyway.
  • Photobombing. I applied for funding to travel the UK, and take Photobombing on tour. I failed. On the plus side I think I’ve arrived at the technical solution for Photobombing, after extensive research into different possibilities. I think I can do everything that I need to using WordPress (like this website), Gallery2 (gallery software….) and various other plugins for both systems; a Google Maps plugin for geotagging and WPG2 to integrate the two systems together. Hurrah!
  • Second Life Project. Clicks and Links’ Designer is working on a first prototype!
  • Feedback w/Zimmy. We did a few test runs of running the video feed into a computer, then digitally manipulating the image before projecting it. We were attempting to use a hand-based movement sensitive controller to allow the viewer to change the image just my moving their hands (in free space). The desired result would be lovely-looking fractal-like images. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out, but I think the problem is simply a computer-power one. I need a faster laptop. Other than that it worked great. I’m going to suggest to Zimmy that he applies to have his work projected onto the side of Urbis as part of the Diesel Wall 2008 (crappy advertising, but cool at the same time).
  • Phase Loops. I didn’t take this very far, but I got quite a good effect simply looping several 2 seconds samples of Branka saying “This is my mind” and having them slowly work their way out of phase. I played this to my year group, but lost confidence and skipped out about 2 minutes… silly.
  • MMU Wiki. The Wiki, is no longer a Wiki. But it is up and running! I’ve decided to run a Joomla system, rather than a Wiki. I spent several weeks researching different user-based systems, starting out with Wikis, but ending on more traditional CMS.

So I think all that is just about going okay, though there is still a long way to go. I’d really like to have my collaborations with Branka and Zimmy go further, but I also don’t want to “gatecrash” their projects, as well as being slightly preoccupied with my own things. The MMU site is probably the most daunting and difficult to pull off, and it also has little value to my practise, so I’m going to try and not get too worried about that. Second Life seems to be taking care of itself and as far as my web projects go I just have just do it. Thanks Nike, you corporate horribles.

So my current plans are;

  • Journal. This is my journal, my journal is this! Deadline is 21st April, so I have to make sure its finished off and contains everything it should. In reality I don’t think it will, but still, I can but try. Last year I was marked down because Gary thought that I didn’t have any lecture notes in my Journal. They were there! The problem was that they were actually photographs of my physical lecture notes, and he couldn’t read them. Doh! This year I’ve hardly been to any lectures, so at least that won’t be a problem!
  • Uni Video. We’ve been told to do a 5 minute video, to aid our end-of-year presentations. That is due one week after the Journal, so I must crack on with that. I have a good idea of how I’m going to make it, so once again its just a matter of doing it.
  • Music. Continue my music exploits, as ever. I got news that my record label has just recieved a 20,000 Swiss Franc grant for business development, which can’t be bad!
  • HDR. I’m having loads of fun, and getting good results with HDR, so I’m going to continue that.
  • Lines. My “Ups & Downs” video I think is a good concept, and I want to explore that further. Although both this and HDR imagery are completely outside of my “user-generated” remit, I think fingers in pies and all that.
  • Photobombing. The time is nigh. Almost…. get it all ready then go!
  • Film Concepts. I have at least three good ideas that I want to make a start at filming. They can all be on-going things.
  • Geocaching. Although my Blogcrossings seem to have gone dead, I’ve launched some more using Geocaching (and travel bugs) as a way to make it work. I’m having great fun with it, let the caching continue. I currently have about 15 tupperware boxes around the house, all set and ready to go. Manchester is going to be cache crazy.

Waterpark Trees

Waterpark Trees (again in HDR)
As well as these individual areas of work I’ve come to realise that I need to make my work a little more cohesive. I’m going to develop my mission statement, maybe even individual mission statements for individual projects. Simply put, I need to be able to say where I’m at with each thing, if asked.

Is teen pregnancy funny?

Juno is about a cool and collected, yet geeky, teenager. Juno’s best friend is a decidedly more geeky, but charisma-heavy character called Bleeker (Michael Cera, Arrested Development). At the start of the film Juno quickly finds out that she is pregnant to Bleeker. Initially Juno plans to have an abortion – and with the suitably amusing scene at the abortion clinic out of the way – she quickly realises that an abortion is not for her. She decided that adoption may be the way forward, and quickly finds a couple she likes the sound of in the classified ads.

Juno Film Poster

The tirade of consequences weave an intricate tale. Despite a kind of inevitability that ensues throughout (you almost know the end right from the start) it engages, amuses and ultimately gratifies the soul. I can appreciate a different point of view, some would be marred by the fact that at the core of this is a teenage pregnancy, some would find the use of music and deliberately overworked cosmetics tacky, certainly some peoples sense of humor might not be matched to the comic elements. However for me all of these things were actually spot on.

Before watching Juno I was a little apprehensive; I thought that it may be too serious. I was concerned that the severity of the issues at hand would not be offset enough by the skill of the writing and cinematography. I was wrong, definitely wrong. It works fantastically. The sound track, the writing, the performances; it works. Funnily enough looking back I think it works because of the severity of the issues. Seeing how the dialog and the lead actress work through the issues of teenage pregnancy really brings an amazing warmth to the film and also I feel it actually allows the movie to address the issues but without being nauseatingly depressing.

So, in this case at least, teen pregnancy is funny. This is the best film that I didn’t watch in 2007. Unfortunately that not only means that I didn’t watch many good films last year, but it also means that a high standard has been set for 2008, and I’m finding it increasing difficult to enjoy anything else I watch!

I loved Juno’s Dad’s nick name for her, Junebug.

My HDR Pics

I’ve been researching and experimenting with various ways of taking high dynamic range images, this the result of my research so far. Also serves as an opportunity to test the gallery functionality in this version of WordPress!

There are plenty of glitches still in the pictures, but I’m making some progress.

Geocaching Memory Bugs

I’ve already released USB memory sticks loose into the wild – as it were. I called those BlogCrossing. Each BlogCrossing is a self-contained WordPress blog (like this one) and the idea is that each person that has the memory stick in their possession should make some sort of contribution, in the form of a blog post.

Geocaching!

Geocaching with Caiti and Demelza. We found this Knight travel bug just by the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, I took him to Manchester.

I saw it as the inverse of blogging, rather than being written by an individual and available to the masses this blog is written by many people but can only be read by a single person at one time.

Recently I’ve become more and more enamored with geocaching – via geocaching.com – and I thought combining the traveling memory stick concept with geocaching would work great. For those who don’t know, geocaching is (according to the ever-present Wikipedia):

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called “geocaches” or “caches”) anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little value.

Geocaching websites offer things called Travel Bugs. These are generally metal dog-tags that you can purchase for a small fee. Each one has a unique identification number on it and they can be attached to anything you like. These items can be tracked via geocaching.com.

So the idea is that people take my USB memory sticks from place to place and contribute items of digital media along the way. In the long-run I will create online (and maybe offline) exhibitions of the generated content.

In the short term, I’ve created my own geocaches as starting places for the memory sticks. The memory sticks themselves will be taken away, but the geocaches will remain.

Links to the relevant pages on geocaching.com:

In due course I’ll post any further info about the geocache’d memory sticks here.