Last days. Again.

It’s funny isn’t it, how the busiest times seem to jam up at the death of things. It’s busy now, very busy, as we prepare another larger coffin for Severed Heads. How many coffins has this corpse escaped so far? Houdini!

zombie

Yeah, well, OK. But just once more.

Severed Heads is very weary. It shuffles along carrying another heavy load, confused by being alive and dead all at once. Reanimated for as long as some more publicity gets injected, but frankly it starved to death years ago. No one gave a flying fuck until it was buried. Now they keep digging it up.

dogwithbigbone

Look I found the track with old guy’s voice in it!

Weary. Now that’s the word, more spiritual than just plain old tired.

I think this coffin is going to be the big one. There’s going to be a TV crew, outside broadcast van, the contract is 47 pages long, residual rights blah blah names and likenesses blah blah LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of this old cobble of bones. Documentation that this thing has finally carked it and “pity we didn’t go to see them when they were still around?”

Like any dying thing you keep gasping for air, it’s primal. You think that you can drag that few more minutes out of the universe, but you’re already gone. I’ve got a whole album of music I’ve been recording and some drunk midnights almost get to planning some kind of distribution. Thank God that next morning someone will write and ask if they can re-issue 1983 for the 1000th time and remind me why I just record for myself – cut out the middle man.

And frankly, the wonderful people (I really mean that) who are supporting us aren’t the current listening audience. We’re one generation away from people who go to The Opera.

Florentine-Opera-Company

If I go to the op’ra house, in the op’ra season
There’s someone sure to shout at me without the slightest reason
If I go to a concert hall to have a jolly spree
There’s someone in the party who is sure to shout at me
“Where did you get that hat? Where did you get that tile?
Isn’t it a nobby one, and just the proper style?
I should like to have one Just the same as that!”
Where’er I go, they shout “Hello! Where did you get that hat?”

So then, weary but not lazy. Let’s make a great show of it, entertain, play the old bones another round. Always have pride in your work. Do the song with the bloke in it after all it’s going to be on TV as long as that old Rock Arena horror. After that, well Stewart’s got a Tangerine Dream style band he keeps threatening to launch (and I’m mentioning to guilt him into launching) so I’ll ask if I can be Conrad Schnitzel. That sounds fun.

If you’ve got any suggestions for what his band should be called I reckon you tweet him. He’ll hate that. If you don’t tweet leave a suggestion here.

{opmitter}– lost battle / winning the war?

This week I started to wind back the doctorate. People tell me there is no shame in going part time, in fact the research office were very supportive about not trying to work 70+ hours a week. December 2011 was utterly miserable (it included Death, Taxes and a healthy helping of Walls) and I can’t face that level of insanity again. Brutalist U willing, I am back to 16 hours a week on top of my day job.

When visiting the FASS research office I spied two familiar cases sitting on the shelf: my “album of albums”. I think the FASSRO were quite happy to get their shelf space back and I was happy to see that one of the cases was still intact! Nice to have it back again after these years.

Anyway, I’m at a point where shit gets real, So far I’ve talked about still images and that’s not enough. A video work is a moving image and you can’t assign it a single point on a graph. It would rather be a kind of tube extended through the five dimensions. I’ve decided to call that a Twistie, because I can. In my review one of the panel noted that I hadn’t really described how a sequence of abstract scenes would form the equivalent of a story arc. At the time I said that the system couldn’t decide on the relationship between sample points – it takes a human operator to discern a Twistie and drive the replay through it. I still think that’s correct.

However the Twisties don’t have hard edges. When there’s two videos near to the sample point, each is represented proportionally in the result, just as when you tune a radio you can hear two adjacent stations. If you were to lay two videos near each other they can and will overlap and intersect. Very pretty but not quite a ‘retrieval’ as advertised on the tin. That needs to be made clear.

Another big problem presents as I have been asked to create material for demonstrating the device. It needs to be abstract and be able to be performed according to OCEAN. So I need Anxious and Neurotic and so on expressed as videography – which I started to make by using the same colour and form decisions as have been made since the beginning of motion pictures. But my argument has been that these weren’t reliable measures. Am I just disproving myself and maybe elements like hue and brightness really do hold the key? If you are willing to self critique then it can be depressing to spend weeks finding fault in your argument instead of the pleasure of moving along a learning path. I suspected that I’d got myself in a tangle but instinct told me that part of it was sheer bloody tiredness and that the blockage would pass.

Since I started to write this entry something wonderful happened.

I had to give a lecture about game sound, in which I always include a quick rundown of FMOD. In a demo of the new FMOD Studio the demonstrator sets up a whole array of sound cues that are connected to game states – then he creates a ‘fear’ controller. He raises a slider on the MIDI controller and says quite calmly ‘so we can create automation based on fear and…’ my mind did an atomic explosion. YOU WONDERFUL BASTARD YOU JUST SHOWED ME A PARADIGM. I am not going nowhere, there is a light visible ahead of me…

How long has this been sitting in front of me? I’m a fucking idiot. The intention of FMOD is to parallel a branching visual narrative. Because a game is a state machine, the multi-track in FMOD doesn’t represent a single fixed time line. Rather it uses the x axis to hold individual durations that overlap depending on the values called up by the game engine. For example, given the intensity of a battle sequence, mix the sounds in a given way at a given point along x.

First garbled thoughts: untie this from a story arc and limit the controllers to the OCEAN psychological grid that I’m proposing. Replace the sound flows with video clips. The operator places the clips on the multi-track, having previously assigned weights to key frames within them. Automation lines are splines that flow through the control points we’ve identified = maths is relatively easy. Now as we change the OCEAN levels, the clips are replayed in an appropriate mix at states along the multi-track.

Even if that reads clear as mud, it’s something achievable, something that is a relative of a procedure that is already ‘standard practice’ and yet an incremental advance. As I am trying to facilitate an art form that’s the exact place to be. I feel like Baird and his hat box.

New clean digital end of the world.

I just watched Threads. Well that was fucking horrible, thank you very much. I feel like hanging myself. In case you don’t know, and I didn’t, it was a 1984 TV series about the consequences of a nuclear strike on the UK, centered on Sheffield. You can find it on Google’s pirate video service, but don’t. Because you’ll just feel like shit.

They played The Day After on Australian television back in the 80’s but I don’t remember this being shown. The Day After was miserable, but nowhere near the kind of programme that lingers on screaming domestic animals on fire. Although Threads makes it seem like there’s some small civilization after ten years, where I seem to remember the US version implied they were all going to starve a lot faster.

I’ve had a few ‘end of the world’ student videos handed in this year and they’re clinical, clean, very much about digital apocalypse. One has a man left alone in the center of the city, a wonderful feat for a student film to empty out a city of 4 million people – another has a ‘time problem’, with four survivors wandering about surrounded by impossibly frozen people – a great shot as the camera pans up at one point to catch a 747 stuck floating immobile in the air. It’s not the first time freeze movie I’ve seen (and it doesn’t solve the old problem – how the hell do these people breathe if time is frozen?) but it has great charm.

Threads has no charm. I mean, it’s a wonderfully done film, but it’s just dirty, messy, horrible. The government information from the era is so defeated – ‘if you’re outside, lie on the ground’. I guess I should be happy that the kids these days make neat and tidy devastation, although I hope they don’t really believe that it would be like that.

I blame Richard Fenwick.

There are people out there who are proud of their country’s nuclear arsenal. You’d have to be a complete tool. Actually, anyone who thinks war is glorious should go be in one.

I promise the cassettes are coming back. I’ve been busy.

Creepy Children’s Television.

Right now my workplace is being such a shit that come the evening I can’t think of anything much intelligent to say. But that’s why you keep coming here isn’t it? For the stupid?

Isn’t it?

I’ll cheat – Tim sent this link.

I don’t get this actually. Why is this scary? That’s not saying it’s not, but asking – why so? Maybe it’s just loud colour and sound. One commenter said about the Viacom logo that was like it was going to come flying out of the TV. But I’d really be curious if there was a more empathic reason for the distress.

One comparison is with the ‘fortification’ visual distortion in migraines. I’ve had this a few times and it certainly seems like some part of your brain is frying like a TV set on full blast. Harsh geometrical shapes that twist around your peripheral vision and you feel like you’re million kilometres long.

Reminds me of  a ‘true ghost story’ I read on Something Awful which I’m sadly unable to find at the moment – the writer recalls being a small child and turning on the TV set to unexpectedly see the introduction for a TV show called something like ‘R.A.V.E.’, weirdly animated with bright red 90’s style vector graphics and for some reason intensely frightening. There was never such a  show and he thinks it might have been a waking dream. So a hallucinated ‘scary logo’. That could mean scary logos can be designed –  RESEARCH GOLD!

(Oh, and the Muppet story although that’s in a class of it’s own.)

I’ve already said I love TV graphics and my first childhood memory is this guy: Dollar Bill
cartoon_dollar_bill_big

He introduced decimal currency on television in 1965. Which means I can date my first memory to age 3. Perhaps Dollar Bill wasn’t loud enough or the TV being black and white means some resonant frequencies were missing from the psycho-radiation. I can also remember an advertisement for a political party called the DLP. It had animated olive leaves that grew around the logo. Obviously when you are three years old, TV is a lot of brightly moving shapes. I think those two advertisements must have been repeated endlessly in late 1965. “Better a gramme than a damn.”

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Seeing as I don’t get the vibe I have to rely on simulations made by sufferers:

That’s a famous spoof of the ‘worst children’s TV show’ that I think started on 4Chan. It sums up pretty much everything that makes a child run screaming from the TV set and off a cliff. But we’re drifting away from pure TV graphics as scary. One thing that seems to be common to scary logos is they were made on a Scanimate…

… which was a bloody big machine that used magnets to bend and stretch the image on a black and white monitor. Another camera would reshoot that and colour it, you’d have to run the tape again and again to build up the colours. The web site claims there was only 8 machines built. Hell, there were more than one in Australia. We got offered one once from a commercial station in Canberra that was throwing out their 2 inch video gear. No room for it unfortunately. Think of all the kids we could have traumatised.

Theory – the scanimate was actually an experimental mind control device. The evidence is compelling. Please tell everyone you know THE SCANIMATE WAS AN EXPERIMENTAL MIND CONTROL DEVICE.

Television

First of all we are aware of problems with sevcom.com and tomellard.com dropping out and being slow and when Stephen gets a chance he’ll advise me on whether the Chinese Army are attacking or what up. I am moving online sales to an external service and will announce it when it’s ready.

Secondly – Sensible Blog is now running.

Here’s something not sensible enough:

I like television. That is, I never watch television and I don’t like TV shows or the ads or TV culture. I like television, the thing itself. That‘s hard to explain. My poor students are often subjected to my enthusiasm which seems entirely impractical for assignments and their later fame.

The only things I really like watching (apart from videos of mechanical televisions etc.) are idents and test cards, and I’m obviously not the only one. I love motion graphics, how things are designed to occupy space, colour and time. I like abstract video synthesis more than watching people.

But really I like television because it is the machine of my childhood. There are men (usually men) that are thrilled by steam locomotives, by short wave radio, by phone exchanges, tin toys, calculators … whatever mechanical fetish you can think of there will be men (usually men) that collect, debate, and play around with it in a nonsensical useless way. The epitome of this is Hi Fi, which has nothing to do with the enjoyment of recorded music and everything to do with the perfect tone arm lowered onto a pristine half speed mastered slab of vinyl. But also model rail-roads circling around a tiny landscape, shelves of unwatched DVDs arranged alphabetically and arcade machines lined up geometrically in the basement. The activity is always kept away from usefulness, and woeful is the man that gets a job in the thing he loved when it wasn’t a job.

It has to be play, or it doesn’t count.

Now one standard answer to this is ‘sublimation’. That is – man has lusts that are not acceptable to society; he therefore sidetracks the desire into symbolic pursuits, which explains the odd intensity of the activity and its overt uselessness. (Although some men do make good use of their libido in becoming CEO of something or other and dying of heart attack aged 50.) The man who is a dedicated Dwarf level 90 in some online world is no danger to society, unless you forcibly un-dwarf him, suddenly unleashing the hidden lusts kept at bay. ‘Online Addiction’ is a complex business.

(I have gone though some analysis and can pinpoint exactly where and how my own process of sublimation has taken place. I’m quite satisfied that it has validity – but you’ll have to excuse my not providing you with the personal evidence.)

That’s all very well as a recent phenomena, but what did men do before model rail roads? What sublimative technology was available to the first humans? Here is Gronk, carving his stone tip for his spear; does he have time to argue with Klonk about chipping from the bottom up? No, these stone tips were a serious business, life or death, something you would be buried with to survive the afterlife. I guess that lusts were pretty much acted on straight away until people started to settle together in groups and get the food supply stabilised with repositories and so on. A stable food supply meant there was time to wonder how the universe worked – and how to get along with the neighbours. Which gave us magic and religion.

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Magic of course is the key we’ve been looking for. Magic isn’t just about why it rains. Magic is about how you can make it rain or not rain. By rituals you humbly request that nature bend this way or that, if it doesn’t work you didn’t do the ritual right. Magical rituals are interestingly similar to some of the activities of Hi Fi enthusiasts, following an internal logic, with strange repetitive processes that must be followed to avoid failure, odd components that are rare and expensive and so on. The magician believes that there is a perfect knowledge that will bring power over the world. The average enthusiast feels happiest when the steam engine has hit that perfect note, or in my case when designing a high definition playback system. Something however small is under control.

If you can cast spells, that’s fundamentally more interesting than the tedious tasks for which your spells will be used – finding lost animals, some gold coins, smite some enemies etc. The magician is intoxicated by the thing itself. I’m like that with television.

When you go out to a club or a show, you will see there are some people that immediately focus on any available video screen. Or there will be people at a VJ performance that spend the night watching the person operating the mixer and ignoring the screen. I am the former, a type ‘V’. The latter we’ll call type ‘H’, and allow that there are some in-between. These groups are really quite obvious when you run a band that uses video for umpteen years. When you teach video production you will see the students group themselves so that the V’s get the cameras and the H’s are scripting or researching. God help all H teams.

Type ‘V’ watches life through a viewfinder, where it is under control. Even better is to create a world on screen where every colour and form is directly selected. Video production and especially motion graphics satisfies a psychological need for order, it scratches an itch that’s been there since birth (if you believe in nature) or near birth (if you believe in nurture). It probably relates to toilet training.

There’s a PhD topic : Video Synthesis and Toilet Training.

I suspect certain aspects of synthetic video are somehow connected with symptoms of autism – the spinning and blinking and repetition. I can’t claim a causal relationship, and of course some aspects of synthetic video are simply limitations of the machinery – limited sample space, the low contrast of video, colour space etc. It’s just a hunch that type V is based on a complex (which is a very loose term for a structure in the brain).

The psychology of video synthesis is looming as a major issue in my research, a dangerous deviation or the key to the whole thing. I think to understand synthesis (and actually the whole European electronic music tradition) you need to read Freud, Jung, Adler et al. But for now I will keep this in the silly blog away from supervisors with rolled up newspapers. Safer here.

Singing the Blu-Ray Blues

Warning. If you’re not interested in disc authoring then pass on by.

TV around the world is divided up in incompatible regions. America has 30 frames per second (mangled to 29.97 because of the NTSC colour system). Civilised parts of the world use PAL at 25 frames a second. In film they still use 24 frames a second. In these three conflicting systems is a long tale of suffering.

When high definition came about there was some talk of unity but short lived. It’s not a simple matter to replace all the existing broadcast equipment, as well as providing a signal to the majority that still use their old TVs. Also the way lights blink in time with the power supply. TV will long remain PAL or NTSC. But in Blu-Ray discs there’s hope of a world standard.

It makes economic sense to make all Blu-Rays run at 24fps. Most of the media is drawn from film, so an exact match. You can also convert 30fps to 24 easily by a 3:2 weaving. PAL can be slowed down a bit so that the programme is longer, pitch correction will solve the music tuning so long as no one listens too closely.

That also suits animators nicely because a motion needs to be divided up, perhaps several times and 24 can split into 12, 6, 4, 3 and 2. The professional animators with whom I teach are used to these simple numbers and wince when I describe working with 12.5 frames. They’d be quite happy if everything ran at 24fps, and have their students think in film terms. The problem is that 24 can’t be broadcast without speeding it up – maybe that’s why Bugs Bunny is so frantic on local TV.

If you’re shooting video and then animating over the top locally you should use 25fps. Just about every camera is 25fps, and although some high end models are capable of a 24fps ‘film mode’ you can’t rely on it being there. Then you have the problem of televisions that run at 50fps, computer screens that run at 60fps and who knows what the next projector will do.

OK. So making up video for the Brisbane gig in 2005 I thought to use 60fps, matching the speed of the projector on offer. The theory was sound, the practice less so as 60 frames of high resolution animation was taking too long to render. After a while I dropped to 30 with motion blur, better for meeting the deadline. The idea of using an Xbox to replay the video didn’t work out, and the replacement laptop I bought looked absolutely terrible until just before the gig I realised that it was refreshing the screen at 59fps – some issue between Vista and my playback software. All was solved when I switched to 75fps. I think I was in rapture for about half a day until the penny dropped … at 75fps I could have just done the whole thing at 25fps. I’d wasted months, and created media that was no actual standard.

Now I’m rendering again in PAL. This means that all the older clips have had to be time stretched and that’s a complex business of synthesising 5 frames of video out of every 6. In most cases its working OK although there’s some strange tearing that has be repaired by hand.

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Blu-Ray runs at set speeds – 24, 50 or 59.94. At 24 each frame is shown in full. At 50 or 59.94 it depends on the size of the image – at 720 dots each frame is shown for 1/50th of a second (in PAL) called “720p50”. At 1080 dots the image is interlaced into 2 fields each 540 dots tall and that is shown for 1/25th of a second, called “1080i25”. The only speed I can use in PAL is 50, showing each frame twice. Not too odd I guess as the shutter on a film projector shows each of the 24 frames twice. All this fussing does make one nostalgic for DVD.

You’ve got a choice of codecs. Originally Blu-Ray used the same MPEG-2 as DVD, just at a higher rate. With competition from HD-DVD, they added MPEG-4 and with some strong arming from Microsoft they added VC-1 which is SMPTE’s official ‘video codec number one’. If you’re on a Macintosh until recently you only had MPEG-2 as an option, the latest Final Cut Studio has finally cut it so you get MPEG-4 as well. I actually prefer VC-1 but damned if any affordable authoring software will allow this. Although MPEG-4 should look identical to MPEG-2 above a certain rate it always seems to be better. Compression times are hideous; you are looking at 3:1 on a fast machine, meaning you’ll need at least 3 hours to encode an hour show, and at least another hour to burn to disc. Do not leave to last day.

Next problem: when Blu-Ray was battling with HD-DVD the latter had an advantage – machinery that made recordable DVD could be upgraded to make recordable HD-DVD. Blu-Ray needed all new machines, until somebody worked out a way to use an organic dye that makes the process cheaper. It also makes it probable that the disc you burn won’t play in a different Blu-Ray deck. From painful experience – if the surface is blue (Panasonic), you’re probably OK. If it’s brown (Ritek) then you are going to have to check it in the playback machine. A PlayStation3 WILL play a write-once brown disc, but will vomit a rewritable brown disc. Figure that one out.

AVCHD discs.

If you don’t have a Blu-Ray burner you can create a miniature version on a DVD. The DVD uses a fatter red laser so you are not getting the same data rate or duration. But I’ve managed to get around 45mins to an hour of good looking high definition on the cheaper disc. Through marketing and not logic the format is known as AVCHD Disc. That sounds like it’s related to the AVCHD format used on recent video cameras. Sort of, kind of. Yes they are both MPEG-4 streams but it’s not just a matter of copying files from your camera – the structure of the disc needs to be that of a Blu-ray.

And unless the Blu-ray player checks for this format it won’t play. A PlayStation3 will not accept an AVCHD disc as anything but raw files. If the player has the AVCHD logo on the case it may, it probably should, but don’t wager it. This is disappointing when DVD discs are a 16th of the price.

Right now Toast 10 is able to make AVCHD discs that work in many but not all players, SONY DVD Architect does not recognise the format, and Adobe Encore I am still testing. Other people have had good luck with Pinnacle software. You just have hang around the same forums you did when DVD first came out. Hell I was hanging around them when CD came out.

As they say in the magazines – this ain’t ready for prime time.

Night of The Living Dead

Chucked a huge sickie and no one cared. Lay on the floor coughing up blood tuberculously and not even a Get Well Card. The missus just suggested I fetch the groceries on the way back from the hospital. I even tried dragging my gagging carcass up and down the corridors of Kunst Kamp but that just slowed me down enough that I got mugged in the wet photography wing by the shadier members of 1st Year. What kind of a world is this where manipulative seeking of secondary gains by old men is no longer respected?!

It’s a place where bands like Scattered Order and The Dead Travel Fast play live gigs, that’s what it is. Sunday night, two bands that haven’t made a peep in decades decided to reform and perform. There is a story about the BBC television service shutting down over the Second World War. They had a Mickey Mouse cartoon playing which stopped in mid mouse. When the war was over and broadcast resumed the cartoon restarted from the exact spot at which it had left off. It was just like that.

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(Almost as spooky as last weekend with my brother driving my parents around their home suburb with me in the back seat playing the theremin loud out the car windows. Cranking it up. Our mum told us to shut it, but not before the upper north shore of Sydney witnessed an outbreak of geriatric hooligans pumping spooky theremin music.)

Where was I? Oh yes. So when the Dead Travel Fast came on, it was like they had a intermission that lasted 25 years and then did the second half of the set. Probably that’s why the audience looked like they’d spent 25 years drinking at the bar. And it’s as if I resumed the exact same thoughts as I had last time I saw them… ‘I dunno it’s a bit too jazzy for me’. Back then I didn’t know half the music history I do now, but for all of that the years had not changed my tastes. Tastes really do lock in at 16.

Really interesting use of technology the whole night – it had moved onward, but grudgingly. One of the Dead would take a CD out of a pouch and insert it into a player before each track. Why wouldn’t you just burn all the songs to one CD? Maybe that would be GOING TOO FAR. We’re not one of them there computer bands.

When you have that many fogies in the building the need to pee was overwhelming. People’s bladders just ain’t what they used to be. Patrick G from the Systematics was egging me to go piss in the street but I just felt that would more pathos than punk. God, imagine what it would be like at a Fleetwood Mac gig or something. The Bladder Tour 09.

Scattered Order was Mitchell and Michael T for this gig. I think the era they were doing was the Prat Culture LP, so must have had Michael Prod’s drumming on tape. God bless, Mitchell was still playing bits off old detective films four times at semi random over the top of things but back in the old days he’d do it off a cassette and keep rewinding it. This night he had a super contemporary CASIO sampler. Mind you there was still a cassette recorder being rewound somewhere in the wall of noise.

Wall of noise makes it sound bad, it wasn’t at all, it was very manicured noise. Very solid. At one point Mitchell claimed it was a Hawkwind tribute night and that was apparently because I was a fan. Actually yes, Hawkwind is a good comparison, and the various space rock bands up to Chrome. Michael T is not a lead guitarist in the Helios Creed stamp but was making some very fine noise with an ebow guitar and two(!) laptops.

So that was just fine by me.

But what now. Last time, Scattered Order slowly moved into the centre, we all did. How far will this post punk reflux take us? We’re now replaying 1981. Will we move all the way up to 1985? I mean the Models played live with The Reels last year. Thank God I was never as young, thin and pretty as the Models, the before/after would be too much. That’s the thing about videos, you can always remake them. Speaking of which I had best go do that.

p2206605dtOh BTW, finally saw the film In the Realms of the Unreal about the outsider artist Henry Darger. Knew it was going to be great but actually cried over that sad magical bastard. I don’t know why it strikes such a chord but bless Henry Darger, one of the only real artists.

Viva Sonyland!

Here’s a huge bag full of discarded Betamax videotapes. Yay! Let’s see what crazy stuff we can find here.

This looks particularly good:

best

The best or nothing. I want the best. Let’s get the tape out and see what this is…

viva

VIVA SONYLAND! Betamax Demonstration Tape. Two parts here – Inside Betamax and Visiting Sonyland. Each of these sounds more exciting than the other… quick let’s rewind the tape and watch it.

First up a lot of tape rolling and noise. This is really messed up, but eventually we get this guy at a desk.

sonyland1

The soundtrack is all screwed up, the HiFi is turning off and on and I can only get bits. He sounds Dutch or German and really angry about something. This is the Inside Betamax section? Don’t you fools see – Betamax is the superior format. It’s U loading and …

sonyland2

AAAAAAAEEEEEEE. If this is Sonyland I think I am going VHS. What the fuck? This sat on screen for about 20-30 seconds while the German kept babbling. The picture rolled for a while and then it was still sitting there. I was thinking maybe there would be a title but no, just this and the guy yelling.

sonyland3

Probably the same guy kept opening and closing the jaw on this skull. Open. Close. Open. Close. Maybe he was making it say ‘bottle of beer, bottle of beer’, but there was almost nothing on the soundtrack except for thumping sounds that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the skull. That thing doesn’t look human either, the cranium is flat.

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No it’s some other guy in a lab coat. He’s just holding the skull up to the camera, don’t think he’s saying anything. The thumping sound just keeps happening, I think it’s music. Everybody put on your lab coat and pick out your weird shit flat headed skull partner for the next stand-still-looking-at-the-camera.

sonyland5

Great, a staring competition between the guy in the lab coat and somebody that looks like they have been flayed alive. I think the latter is winning. This shot holds for way too long… they are staring at each other and you’re staring at them and you’ll be the first to blink. Return of the first guy on the sound track yelling something that sounds like the titles of Magma records. Seriously. It’s not German it’s something gutteral.

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This face sits on screen and the eye gets inserted into the eye socket from behind. Obviously people in Sonyland are hollow and and have other people that come and insert their eyes when they go out to parties. What would you like? I’ll have a glass of eye thanks!

The tape was really chewed up for while after this, so I fast forwarded and then hit play again. This thing lifts its head and looks at you. It looks like a potato.

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This is not getting any better. I think I’ll eject this one.

A week after you watch this tape you will buy a Betamax recorder and make an even worse copy to hand on…

Mechanical World

Did you know there was once a time when there was no Internet?

I’ll get you a chair, you’ll feel all right in a moment… but truthfully there was such a time and not long ago. No email and you couldn’t Google for things. You looked them up in books.

I was reminded this week when I decided to get my records manufactured in New Zealand by King Manufacturing. There is a web site but it’s owned by a fan. King has no email. You have to fax. What you do is you type out your email on a piece of paper, and then you put the paper into a thing that looks like a printer. Then you type in the phone number for who you want to fax. The machine slowly pulls the paper in and it makes a copy over on another machine where you are faxing. But you still keep your piece of paper. There’s two pieces of paper afterwards. It’s very mysterious.

Mr. King very kindly rang me on a telephone after he got my fax, because he was worried about my records. He doesn’t often get recordings of people running pianos through digital destruction and was concerned that when he cut it it might overload. Also he wondered if he would have time to cut my records as they have to be done one at a time, taking as long the recording lasts! Now I had previously read about this in books and so didn’t say something silly like why don’t you burn several at once but I said that we had a bit less than two months and so he probably would have time.

So then I photocopied the label art and packaged up the masters to go into the mail. That’s like email but instead of right away it takes a week to get where you are sending it, and it costs $50 if you send it International Priority.

Now I am old and so I can remember that this was once how we did everything. But today I was playing lots of old television to my charges at KUNST KAMP and had to explain that in the very early 90’s we had television instead of the Internet, and it only went one way. So when you watched The Home Shopping Network, the line that said RING NOW meant that you would pick up the telephone and dial a number that was on the screen. There would be a person at the other end, and they would take the order.

(Not too many students worried about it because they sit in the lectures with their laptops open, probably viewing their myspace pages. We didn’t have myspace back then either. There’s good and bad in the new ways.)

I say old television… by that I mean 1993. Fifteen years ago seems a little less quaint than the 80’s probably because bad rap music hasn’t changed at all, nor has reality TV, informercials or FOX NEWS gold bar lettering. Culture has slowed in the last decade or so.

Dramatically so in one case – I showed them the 1970’s magazine Radical Software, which touted a ‘Videosphere’ in which all ‘Videographers’ would combine their voices as an alternative to the Mainstream Media. 38 years later, with slight changes to the terminology, those voices prattle away in the Blogosphere, which has gained nothing in the interim except complete ignorance of the past. Next time somebody tells you that web2.0 is a fresh idea – remind them of how far film progressed in 38 years.