Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Electrical Dependence

Happily working away on the computer today, creating the new website design for work, I was suddenly shocked to see the screen go black. I knew straight away that I had lost what I had been working on - which wasn't too much as it happens. The familiar click and whirring sound of hard drives spinning down was followed by the expected murmur heard around the office that the electricity had gone.

I waited for a while, asking around as others were as to what the problem might be, trying to ascertain what small jobs existed that could be done without the need of a well flowing stream of electrons. The list was rather short, so I went to lunch.

Upon my return, I found there still was no power and the remainder of the afternoon I mostly spent sticking mailing labels onto envelopes, while men from the electric company ran up and down, trying to get us reconnected.

Electrical cunning, so ingenious, bends us to its wishes.


Fun with lightning

Monday, May 30, 2005

Playing

"The opposite of play is not seriousness - it is reality" --Sigmund Freud, The Creative Writer and Daydreaming

Yesterday was our final rehearsal until Friday when we play in The Valley. I think we've been a little hurried trying to put everything together, but I imagine we will go alright, at least I hope so. It's nothing really huge anyway, so I guess the main thing is that we have a good time.

After practice I went to Stafford City for a late lunch, then wandered down the bike track, stopping for a second or two on the bridge running over the creek, remembering the times long past, that I used to play in those waters trickling beneath.

Evolving notions of play, a life long task.


Humbuckin'

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Gimme Some Truth

"I don't believe in Beatles; I just believe in me." --John Lennon, God

I'd possessed a certain familiarity with quite a few of the songs from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, but had never before listened to the whole album. My music consumption of late has greatly increased, which I'm sure can be directly attributed to my new iPod. After having lunch at Chermside, I went out and bought John Lennon's Imagine album on CD, and am presently trying to determine if I can detect the difference between the uncompressed wave data played from the CD compared with the 128kb/s AAC compressed audio stream.

It's one of the reasons I wouldn't pay money to download music online, the information lost in compression - besides the fact that you can download pretty much anything you want from p2p networks for free. For music that I really like however, it's always nice to have a tangible and complete copy in my hands. iTunes will begin operations in Australia shortly, but I'll almost certainly be purchasing the music I want to own the old fashioned way.

My ears can't seem to discern anything that would distinguish the CD audio from the compressed copy, yet I know that much of the waveform data - the bits that humans can't perceive - have been taken out. I can't help but wonder though that perhaps, even though the conscious mind may be virtually ignorant of the background change, that what's lost, the information extracted, may somehow still be missed, leaving but a plastic copy and an unfulfilled unconscious, yearning for truth.


Dreaming of revolution

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sunsets

"Sunsets over the beaches from now on. Each day looking for new ways to go on." --Powderfinger, Vulture Street

Monday after filming on my way home, an urge struck me while approaching the top of the hill to stop in at the old fish and chips shop along Stafford Road - not far from the house I grew up in - stirred by and reawakening half-buried memories lingering in the afternoon air. Decided upon visiting the water towers even further up on Sparks Hill, watching the sunset over the mountains to the west.

Yesterday I sat at the end of the day upon the bench in the clearing, just a little way from work, music in my ears, until only the last signs of twilight remained. At which time, a nosy security guard on a motorcycle rode in and asked me what I was doing there, kindy informing me that it was getting dark – as if it may have somehow eluded me. Concerned for my safety you see.

Though much may divide us in our hazy perceptions, as the world turns and sunlight shies away, it is the very same sun that sets on us each day, a stirring goodbye until the next revolution.


Stafford Road sunset

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Using The Force

I almost didn't go along to see Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, that frustrated with the video camera not playing back today's shots I was. It was imperative that the footage be transferred to dvd and after I thought that I may have lost it forever, I could feel my anger almost take hold, drawing me to the dark side. That would be a bad thing; fear, anger, hate, suffering and all that.

My faith in the Star Wars Saga of late has virtually all been destroyed, struck down by the glowing red lightsabers of episodes one & two and reabsorbed into the force, so I wasn't really expecting anything extraordinary from - seemingly over the hill - George Lucas this time around. I'm still half waiting for him to say that it's all been one big practical joke and to bring out the real films.

Surprisingly, its release last week didn't even come to my attention until I read some comments about it on usenet, and then it dawned on me: that was why all those people were dressed up like Jedi, Wednesday night in the city. A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I was one of those people waiting in line at the midnight screenings - never quite made it to costume though.

On the way back from the movie I joked half-heartedly about perhaps "using the force" to get my MiniDV tape working. We arrived home and I hesitantly tried it once more, with the same problem as before, the playback all distorted. I searched my feelings, and knew straight away what had to be done. With a swift gesture of the hand - perhaps striking the side of the camera just a little - it was incredible to see that it had worked, the picture was playing fine.


Padme Skywalker

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Tough Nut To Crack

Where has the time gone? It's nearly Monday all over again. That nasty bump on the head when I misjudged the doorway Saturday morning before sunrise might have done it, warped spacetime just a bit. Also left a rather large cut across my eyebrow.

I've just started reading Steven Hawking's The Universe in a Nutshell, which perhaps will help in answering a few nagging questions concerning relative motion stuck in my still slightly sore head. Perhaps I might also find my way through a wormhole back to Saturday morning and somehow get myself to avoid the whole incident.

Watched Down With Love last night, not wanting to think too deeply; a good old-fashioned romantic comedy, though the twist at the end kind of threw me a bit. Set in the sixties, a time revealed to me only through second hand experience, I wonder what thoughts I might have had, had I lived through that age as a New York magazine writer. The shape of time, problems with the twins paradox, special relativity and faster than light rotation of a distant star as I spin in my office chair.

Knowledge in a constant fight for existence. My head hurts; too many neurones knocked about. Off to dreamland.


Barbara & Catcher

Friday, May 20, 2005

With My Little iPod

In their millions they reside, on belts or in pockets tucked deep inside, with snow white arms extending upwards towards the sky, they deliver the sweet sonic nectar that lets them survive. Just a few years ago, the idea of casually carrying around that much data - over three hundred and forty billion ones and zeroes - was far fetched, though with a rapidly progressive environment, only those able to readily adapt will survive.

On the off chance that my iPod photo 40GB had arrived there already after just being posted Friday, I stopped off at Mum's after work on Monday for a quick visit. Surprised at its speedy delivery, I excitedly unpacked the small, elegant device and was delighted for a short while, even though presently there was nothing for the machine to play.

It's funny how you sometimes only notice certain things when something has forced your attention to it; makes me wonder just how much slips past. Yesterday listening to Magical Mystery Tour while sitting on a bench in Queen Street, I notice a large amount of the passers by connected at the ears to pocket bands and orchestras, playing just for them.

I notice the symbiotic nature in which we exist.


iPod nature

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Eye Spy

The Australian Big Brother has just started again for its fifth season. I've not been watching at all, but it's amazing just how much information about it seems to seep through the gaps from news headlines, the radio and just general discussions with others.

I'd seen My Little Eye there at the video shop before, but the whole reality tv thing kind of turned me off. This time however I thought I might give it a try. I wanted to watch it after midnight, an attempt to get the full effect I suppose. Sometimes I envy those who can get really afraid by a movie. Involuntarily desensitised I guess.

Early primary school days watching my first horror films at a friend's place on sleepovers, my initial fears were those of the unknown, irrational speculation, not wanting to know why others were afraid to watch, yet at the same time wondering why then so many "scary" movies were made.

Genuine fear at times it seems is a starved emotion outside the theatres, the world of bland reality. This primal instinct, no longer needed to ward us from danger, is now fed by other sources.


Something beginning with...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Wine Tasting

"I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity." --Maya, Sideways

The Dawn Theatre along Gympie Road is one of those old-time cinemas that seem to stand defiant in the face of the large multiplexes built up just down the street. Usually run by a friendly elderly gentleman, small screens, dodgy sound, a musty theatre with those old brown chairs, but very reasonably priced.

Sideways is due out on dvd pretty soon, but was still playing at The Dawn Theatre on Tuesdays, so tonight we went there for a change, a little taste test. It was quite a different experience, just the one theatre, black and white portraits of past movie greats on the wall. We bought our drinks and popcorn from the friendly elderly gentleman - who was also the projectionist - and went in.

I think in some strange way, the atmosphere of the old place may have added some inexplicable quality to the film because I found I was enjoying my time there quite a bit more than the regular movie going affair. It was certainly very well written with sharp performances from the whole cast, quite funny in many places, but there was also something very real in the way the overall story was told, very truthful in the way it was shot. I liked it.

I wonder if it would have been the same on any other day.


"Tastes pretty good to me"

Monday, May 16, 2005

Swimmingly

Quite an uneventful weekend for a change, passed by rather swimmingly. Just finished watching Swimfan, by the Australian director John Polson, who recently did Hide and Seek. I didn't mind it for a mild Sunday night distraction, seemed better than it should have been with its typical teen thriller format.

It made me think back to when I was swimming at school, though fortunately for me I guess, there weren't any psychotic, overzealous girls after me. I almost wished I hadn't have given it up, until I remembered the up at dawn training sessions in hypothermic temperatures and the constant pressure to take off those few extra milliseconds of your personal best time.

I was especially good at backstroke, even made it to state finals a few times - breaststroke was another story. At Friday swimming club back in primary school, they grouped and ordered the races according to personal best times, so in backstroke I remember I was always in one of the final races, seeming so short and out of place amongst all the high-schoolers. Then straight after the race I had to quickly run back around to make it to the starting blocks in time for breaststroke.

Watching the swimmers on film, I began to wonder at what point in history did humans begin to learn how to swim. In many animals the ability to stay afloat in water is innate, but not so in humans it seems. I can't imagine never having learnt to swim, as is Madison's experience in Swimfan. Like learning to ride a bicycle, it's something you keep for life.


Swimfan

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Paths of Glory and the Many Faces of War

Feature motion pictures, churned out by the hundreds each year, the behemoth studios, factories of distraction struggling to meet demand, a hunger never satisfied. Whistling and screaming at the stage for more, like an unruly bunch of military men packed into a crowded bar, we are often taken by surprise when the rare song of another reflects with precise honesty, something previously unseen in ourselves.

There was absolutely nothing on at the movies, nothing that really caught my attention at least, so after dinner, I parted with the others, who were seeing a Hollywood horror called Boogeyman... I went home to watch Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory for the first time, leaving me with only the few of his most early films still to see.

His unique style of shooting is immediately recognisable in the many tracking shots and the way he balances light and dark and although the acting and (lack of) accents were at times a little distracting, I thought it was a great film. I liked the contrast between the high-ranking officers in their enormous mansions and the soldiers in the dirty trenches, the way the officers are willing to trade so many lives for military medals and their own personal gain, the way brave men are tried as cowards, really shows the injustices of war.

What really got me though was the weeping girl - the only German shown in the film - forced to sing in front of the French soldiers. She made such an impression on Stanley that he married her.


Our latest acquisition from the enemy

Friday, May 13, 2005

Ode to be a Pigeon or: Miscellaneous Late Night Drivel

Filming interviews for The St Vincent de Paul Society this morning in South Brisbane. A bleak day for it, briskly walking through the steady trickle of raindrops with my recording gear, not knowing exactly where I was headed.

It began to come down a touch heavier and I ducked into just about tiniest coffee shop I'd ever seen, just for a second, to find out at least if I was going in the right direction or not. It felt really crowded in there, even though it was just me and this rather hefty shopkeeper, so I didn't stay for long. There was also a very large black and white painting of a naked woman lying on her back that seemed to crowd the place even more.

I eventually found the right building, not too dampened by the wet. Shooting the interviews between tea and sandwiches, a lot of talk about helping the homeless, people less fortunate and everything and also the cultivation the catholic traditions of the organisation, but certainly not discriminating against others. Just for a second, I perceived a certain unexplainable absurdity in the air, but it soon passed.

By the time shooting was over, the rain had stopped and on the way back, I bought a Coke from the cramped little coffee shop from before - kind of a thanks I guess - and headed across the bridge into the city, passing a few people along the way with cardboard signs and some selling The Big Issue, before shopping for a bit and bumping into a friend who'd just joined a girls only gym.

Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four in King George Square over a late lunch, people hurriedly walking past, going this way and that, I noticed a small group of pigeons sitting serenely on the grass in the afternoon sun, absolutely unaware of the world at large and all the troubles that plague humanity.


King George Square pigeons

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Machine Over Mind

Sitting, defeated a number of times by my computerised chess opponent, I realise just how much practice I need. What comes to mind also is the fact that the number one chess player in the world is actually not human. It's IBM's Deep Blue, the successor to Deep Thought, named incidentally after the computer in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which calculates the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything.

I'm about half way through reading The Matrix and Philosophy, a collection of essays dealing with the various philosophical issues presented in The Matrix. Watching it yet again this afternoon, I'm amazed to see just how many important, historical ideas and age old questions the film re-examines, bringing them to a whole new audience of thinkers.

In The Matrix, as with just about every other science fiction story dealing with intelligent machines, the machines somewhere along the line, turn on their creators. In the real world, computer systems have already surpassed the abilities of our finest chess playing talents. Electronic computers, since their spontaneous biogenesis out of the primordial soup of mechanical adding machines and human ingenuity have evolved, multiplied and migrated around the globe, adapting themselves with each successive upgrade.

In a way, we are already somewhat controlled by these contrived devices. Legions of workers slave day by day in computer factories far far away for very little pay, bringing you the very latest in technology, thus perpetuating the machines' continued existence.

Like human batteries, we supply them with all the power they need to run. Happy playing computer games, though always know when to pull the plug.


Dodge this

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mind Over Machine

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two." --HAL, 2001: A Space Odyssey

My old wooden chess board, the one I learned to play on so long ago, is now hanging up on the wall; the carved wooden pieces, a jumble in their box. It sometimes amazes me, the amount of people I come across who never learned to play. Teaching a human mind to play reasonably well takes a keen interest and a lot of practice. A modern computer however, loaded with the right programming, can play at almost grandmaster level without raising a sweat.

Walking around rather bored at the shops yesterday, I thought for a moment that it might be a good idea to get one of those electronic chessboards so that I wouldn't have to bug someone else every time I wanted to have a game or to practice a bit. I then thought it would perhaps be better to get some kind of portable LCD chess game, so that I could carry it around with me, but didn't even know if they even made such a thing.

About five minutes later, after my mind had wandered onto other things, I walked into Tandy Electronics and there, staring me in the face, was an electronic chessboard with a removable docking unit. The perfect combination. Not all that hard to beat on some of its lower levels, though I seem to just now be facing a challenge.

Watching the first part of the Stanley Kubrick documentary A Life In Pictures, I notice him often portrayed as a chess player, both literally as well as in his personality and the way he shoots his films. A great scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey is when HAL plays chess with Frank, defeating him convincingly. What's interesting is that unlike the brute force approach utilised by today's top chess playing computers, HAL's thought patterns seem almost "human". He even conveys his enjoyment of the game, though it could all just be part of his programming.


"Thankyou for a very enjoyable game"

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Minor Roles and Extras

The story is set down as the night unfolds, written rather hastily and with little plan but to try to have a good time. Down to Her Majesty's on Queen Street for a drink, meeting up with others a bit later, but happy for the time just enjoying the solitude, the anonymity amongst the crowd, the background extras to the story.

It wasn't long until a familiar face came wandering in, another character to the plot. Superficial chatter, disclosure of problems burdened, miscellaneous introductions, a few more drinks and the night's tale continued. Friends met later, who once played rather large roles in school days past, now make only rare and nostalgic appearances, while previous nobodys and stand-ins rise to significance to fill the empty spaces.

Scattered just outside the familiar circle of friends there seems always to be an assortment of minor roles and extras: the people you sit next to at the bus stop, but rarely speak to; the girl who rips your tickets at the movies with a smile; the old man you frequently pass on the street who's always talking to himself.

What part might these people play in the days ahead? What part do you play in the stories these characters set down?


Queen Street Mall twilights

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New Retrospective

Yesterday the new Nintendo DS game Retro Atari Classics finally arrived, shipped in from abroad, though I thought I was buying from an Australian source on eBay. In the end, it was somewhat cheaper than I would have paid in the stores anyway.

A few of the games included on the cartridge I think are a few years before my time; still fun to play though after all those years. I remember playing Asteroids quite a bit when I was very young, on my friend's old Atari 2600 and later, a PC remake of the old Breakout game managed to take up a lot of my time.

It's interesting to look back on what was once state of the art digital entertainment. The blips and beeps, chunky square pixels and simple, elegant gameplay. Makes you wonder how things will be in another twenty to thirty years time.

Back when I had my old Commodore 64, I can remember the painted covers of the games and how they all were so impressive on the box that they made the graphics of the actual game seem just a touch lacking. Only recently have the in-game visuals begun to catch up with the designs on the box.

Oh no, the batteries are running low and I've misplaced my charger around here somewhere. I guess the pixelated lunar landing will have to wait until tomorrow.


Save the world by launching more and more missiles

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Life, the Universe and Everything

I was at QUT for second year arts; a walk to my bus stop in the city with a girl from media studies was where I first heard of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, which she couldn't believe I'd never read before. I've just started reading it again tonight. I'm not sure why its existence had eluded me for so long.

It was a conscious decision, a safeguard to disappointment I guess, not to expect too much from the film, but somewhere in the subconscious I think there is always a small, hidden hope that a movie based on an admired prior source, will surpass its predecessors. This doesn't happen too often, and although I enjoyed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film for a laugh and was impressed with what they were able to fit in to the feature film format, I don't believe it quite happened this time either.

The amount of useless, trivial information stored in the mind is incredible, picked up from various friends along the way to the ultimate bus stop. Human memory unfortunately is quite unreliable, a shaky residence for an idea or thought, one that could be scheduled for destruction without notice at any time. Ideas must be well adapted for survival.

I wonder what answer you would get if you added together all the thoughts and information from every sentient being in the universe - even dolphins and mice - and just let some super-intelligent computer system ponder it all over for a million or so years. Perhaps it's happening already, as we sit here on the brink of panic.


Don't panic

Monday, May 02, 2005

In Search of Slaughter Falls

Listening to the rain trickle down outside, I think about the dried up creek beds we walked up yesterday and how they must now be flowing with rainwater.

Yesterday a few friends gathered at Mount Coot-tha's JC Slaughter Falls picnic area for a barbeque. After we'd eaten, leaving the girls to sit and gossip, Marcus, Phil and myself decided to take a short walk along the bush trail leading to the falls.

Along the way were some rocks by the creek bed with some aboriginal art painted on them, a few handprints and a crude rendition of a snake. After taking some photos, we decided to be a little adventurous, abandoning the trail to follow the rocky creek we imagined would lead to straight to Slaughter Falls, which according to the signpost, was only a few hundred metres away.

A little worn out after climbing and jumping over large creek rocks without coming across anything resembling a waterfall, we thought it might be a good idea to find the track again. Luckily it wasn't too far away. Up and up we hiked as the trail started to become steeper and steeper, until we were all sweating, exhausted and thinking we were definitely not on track to our previous destination any more, but still we didn't want to turn back.

At the top, our track joined up with another that seemed to lead back down the mountain. Following that down for what seemed like forever, we eventually found ourselves at the very same signpost telling us that Slaughter Falls was just ahead. We were much too weary from our walk however and happily resolved that we would see it another day and that it would most likely not be much to look at anyway, all dried up and everything as we imagined it to be.


Mount Coot-tha Fungus

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Through The Motions

The world turns on each living soul; the day unfolds a billion different ways, yet remains one and the same for all.

Last night Natalie threw a party for her twenty-second birthday, although it's not actually her birthday until next week. I guess she just couldn't wait. Friday morning looking for a present, the worst kind of shopping. I found this little, green, furry, mini beanbag that was kind of cute. She seems to like that sort of stuff.

Amidst one revolution so long ago, a random day in three hundred and sixty-five, forever significant each trip around the sun.

Seventeen million share that significance.


Party animals