Tuesday, 23 March 2010

'Lux Aurumque'

I've spoken before about how the internet is an ultimate forum. No names, no questions asked, you count as much as anyone else and no judgments are made till they see what you can do.

This guy, took it in a direction I wouldn't have thought of.


Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir, performing: "Lux Aurumque"


I've never heard of him before now, but he's done something amazing here. I don't know if he did it all himself or had a tech team, but he does great work.

Something like this has been done with Audio Dramas. You don't need your actors in the same room like the old recording studios that brought you Radio Theater back in the 40's and 50's.

I've heard it done with audio dramas, but never with video. It's an amazing time to be a geek.

What's truly amazing is not the sound, or the method, but the fact that these people would never have met each other, and probably wouldn't notice or care if they passed each other in the street now.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Dear Reggie

Dear Reggie.

You remember how we met? I know you were there, but I don't think I ever told you how we got put in the same room. Maybe you never thought about it, but really, it's one of those bizarre circumstances. I mean think about it, you were in the waiting room of a veterinary Clinic, and I didn't have a pet.

This is where I come in. A few years before this, I had been diagnosed with a chronic illness that made my life one of enforced isolation. It made school impossible, it made work impossible, and as both parents worked, I basically wore a path from my room to the TV to the bathroom and back again and listened to the clock tick until someone got home. I was actually starting to be interested in daytime television. A Bad Sign.

Which brings me to the day we met.

We actually met through my father. My dad, was working on the security systems at University of Sydney. The University campus had a whole bunch of things open to the public. Various computer labs, the Cooking classes let their professional kitchens get hired out, the Veterinary Courses had a working clinic...

In this last, was you.

So then, one day, I got a phonecall out of the blue.  It was my dad, calling from work. "Would you like a cat?"

You poor thing. I know, you're proud and fussy as all like you are, but that was the first thought that came to me at the time. You were the proverbial Kitten who became the Cat. Already full grown, donated to the clinic. Our eyes met through a glass box about the size of a large fish tank in the Vet Clinic waiting room, and a name tag with the words "Free to a good home" taped on the glass.

I don't know who came before me, but cat's aren't known for fear and shyness, so it must have been tough. You were such a (pardon the phrase) fraidy-cat when we first met that one had to wonder what they'd been putting you through for your first eight lives.

I had to admit, I was worried. I was more or less confined to my apartment, and you were... not. A part of me was trying to decide how I'd manage keeping you if you made a fuss about getting outside. I was pretty high maintenance back then.

And amazingly, so were you. We were made for each other that way.

We brought you home and you vanished under a chair for two weeks. The food we left for you was gone in the morning, and we kept filling the bowl again. By week three you dared to come out and sit on the floor in the same room as us. If the TV ever had a sudden noise, or somebody sneezed, there would be a blur of tabby and we wouldn't see you for an hour or two.

It's nice to know that I won you over, sweetie.

And once I did, I suddenly became aware that I wasn't getting you off my bed/lap/chair/blankets with a crowbar.

You have been companion and friend, and for some reason, never showed any interest in the world outside the apartment, which worked for us just fine. Especially for me. It was nice having a fellow heartbeat around. For a lot of life, that cat was the only other heartbeat there was.

I didn't think you'd survive the  next move, interstate. You were so jumpy back then. I was sure you'd hate to fly. I should have known better. You got over the stress of the flight the second you discovered that a ground floor house had more sun. You liked the extra sun during the summer months, I liked the furry foot warmer during the winter.

I read a story once about Dickens' Cat, who would start alerting him if he was up too late. Many a night I'd sit at this computer too long and a pair of paws would come up from the floor and start scratching lightly at my knee, a little furry alarm letting me know it was time to warm up the bed for the more important creatures still awake.

All things good must end however. As you can probably tell from the sappy sentimental prose, that time has come with you, Dear Reggie.

Whatever else I can say, I know we did right by you Reggie. We lose the things we love. That's a fact. That's why we find new things to love. That's survival. And we loved you for a good long time. And we won't forget that feeling.

Or the cat hair. A legacy that will last far longer than anything else you had to your name. You touched us all with the part you played in our lives. Every time I put on any set of clothing, or sit on any flat surface in the house, I know that you'll be touching me still.


The whole family.

We don't know how old she was when we found her. There was no record of that. She was scheduled to be put down if nobody saved her from that box in a clinic, and instead she spent another near decade with us in a family of people who loved her to bits.

RIP. And thank you for the company Reg.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Machine Is Using Us.

I was chatting with a friend of mine a few days ago, about how the Internet and new media and such were supposed to create something of a global information/entertainment renaissance.

She quoted Steve Wozniac. One of the men who helped to start the PC revolution with the founding of Apple. He said: “Our first computers were born not out of greed or ego, but in the revolutionary spirit of helping common people rise above the most powerful institutions.”

She told me that quote and said:

“I want to get that optimism back so badly.  I just don't know how.  If we could somehow have, like, a two-week moratorium on stupid.”

Well, I can't speak to the stupid, but I can speak to the disillusionment.

The fact is, that dream came true. The time of the powerful institutions are over.  What few the stock market crash didn't kill outright, are being starved to death by people's natural ability to find what they want for free.

The Internet is the ultimate forum. No names, no prejudices, no race, no questions asked. You arrive, you speak your piece, you go, other people comment.

The first computers were made as an intellectual exercise. At the time, a guy with a slide rule was faster. Computers were a technology looking for a use.

The first internet was born out of impatience of academics. The internet was made as a forum for colleges to pass around information, then somebody started typing about something else and you couldn't lay phones lines fast enough.

The powerful institutions have now lost their grip through sheer force of volume. And I'm not talking about torrents. I've never used a torrent in my life.

Most of the money from book sales goes not to the authors or the printers but the publishers. Most of the money from Album sales in music stores go, not to the bands, but to the record labels.

Who pays a grand for cable TV when Hulu is there? Nobody cares about High Def that much. Most of my bandwidth is taken up with Audio dramas and short films now. There's nothing good on TV anymore. So when I look for something to entertain me, I go looking for Audio dramas and short films on Youtube. I haven't seen the inside of my local Blockbuster in months. Haven't needed one. My computer and my MP3 player are my personal entertainment unit.


Kindle book sales this past Christmas outpaced actual book sales for the first time. Amazon gets a small fee, the author gets a much higher percentage.

Look at this guy:


My dad raves about this guy. He put it all up for free, and the quality got him noticed. Somebody offered to print. Most of the fans went and bought the hardcopy, because they already knew they'd enjoy it. I have a PDF, and a hardcover version of some of his good stuff which I found in a secondhand store. A whole ebook library plus a hardcover of my favorite. The whole set cost me less than a meal at McDonalds.

I haven't bought a new book in ages. There's a book exchange up the road from my place. I buy a bunch of books second hand and trade them in there for store credit. I trade in more books later to get credit back. An extra five bucks at a swap meet or a garage sale and I boost my credit line. The library and PDF downloads of novels written by people who could never have been published a year ago make up the numbers. I haven't spent more than $20 on books in years. A lot of authors are putting their books up as Ebooks, and are getting widely read and getting money off it, without ever having to sign on with a publisher.

The publishing houses have realized that their day is over.

A lot of rock bands are publishing their music online at a much cheaper rate for a paypal donation, they cut out the record label completely.


I haven't spent money in a record store for almost five years. Why would I need to? The radio puts out the new stuff and most of that I don't like. A few music publishing sites let you buy track by track for a 99c instead of albums as a whole for $30, which works for me because I hardly ever enjoy all the songs on an album.

My MP3 player is filled (not counting audio dramas and podcasts) with indie music from these sites which is made freely available under creative commons. And these indie performers? They put up on their profiles where they live, and all the coffee houses or private clubs that have live music playing check these places too. Most of them contact a performer and arrange a booking. They can do that in faith because they've already heard the music.

Don't get discouraged by the impossible amount of stupid in the world. Smart is there. It just takes a little effort to find. For every great story I read online? There are two hundred that I get a page into and skip. For every great Independent music album I download? There are about twenty albums I listen to and delete because it's so impossibly bad, or at least not my taste.

For every future Pulitzer writer penning blogs now? There are a hundred see-spot-run's. For every future U2? There are 340 bands of teenagers jamming on their guitars in garages until their moms tell them to shut up.

And for every thoughtful, considered opinion piece, there are fifty flames.

The potential has always been there, but it takes a lot of effort to find it.

Monday, 4 January 2010

There's No World, That Compares.

Where else could there be a frenzied swordfight, while only yards away, there’s a ballet?

You’ve crossed swords with this fiend before, there’s none that can match him, except for you, and it’s a duel between knights that will decide the fate of two kingdoms…

The ballerina has her own stakes. People have crossed the globe to see her dance. Her performance is exquisite, bringing the most jaded in the audience to tears…

Something stops the dance. Something interrupts the duel. Dinner’s on the table.

You sheathe your sword. She bows before the audience. You go in. She goes next door.

You can’t really complain when you see the meal laid out before me. It’s a spread that Genghis Khan would have given up the globe for. It’s a feast that an Iron Chef would give his right lung to have prepared. Each dish a work of art, each taste magical, layered with endless subtleties and spices. The main course is some great animal, hunted with such awesome skill and precision. In the jungles outside you can hear the others of it’s kind howling for revenge, daring you to come and face them.

But you cant. The dishes need to be washed.

They are clean, and the window over the sink shows the dimming sky. There’s something there, something coming out of the clouds. Planes. War planes. Here they come! The strike is starting! Sure enough! There’s the SAC alarm. You’ve gotta get to your plane. Thousands of lives are in the balance. Hundreds of planes are massing, a veritable cloud of fighters. You have to get up there! You have to get ready!

But you cant. You’ve got homework to do.

It’s the most tedious thing you have ever done. How you get through it you’ll never know, but you finally drop your pen and sit back in your chair. Your eyes stray to the clock. It’s nighttime.

A grin splits your face. Perfect.

You wander into your room, the very picture of casualness. You reach under your bed and draw out a mask. It fits over your face like a second skin as you go to the window. It’s three stories to the ground, but gravity doesn’t apply to you. It’s meaningless, it doesn’t exist.

Below you the city continues in blissful ignorance of your watchful gaze. If they knew you were there, those three men would never have tried to rob the bank.

If they knew you were so fast they wouldn’t have wasted the effort of trying to shoot you.

If they knew you were so strong they wouldn’t have fought so futilely.

There’s more to do. People need help.

But you cant. It’s bed time.


Whenever I have writers block I look out my bedroom window. There are two kids across the street, and every day their front yard, to them, is a new land. A place of mystery. Kids can see everything in nothing, and I think we lose something when that…that second-sight fades. It’s not a game to them, it’s real.

Everyone I know tells me to get my head out of the clouds and stop daydreaming, but I cant, and for that matter, I don’t want to. I turned on the six o clock news tonight, and the first story: a car bomb that killed 90 people, the second: Iran's Nuclear Program, the third: Bush-fires getting close to homes.

Why can’t I get my head out of the clouds? Because the clouds are preferable. There are no rules, no constraints, no boundaries and most importantly, no consequences. We can fight and never lose, we can live and never feel sad, we can have friends that never betray us, family that never leaves.

My grandmother told me that I spend too much time in fantasy, and then she picked up one of those Victorian-era  romance novels. It’s all a fantasy. It’s all illusion, but where they read the world they want, Imagination is not bound to a page, and always becomes something new. Play it out in your mind, then rewind and adjust ad infinitum until perfect.

In that place, that only dreamers and children can reach, every tragedy is one that gives no pain; every problem has the perfect solution. Those of us who can see the world that way are never bored, and never alone. Dreamers and shapers who can see anything from everything. Those of us who can are the people that become writers, artists, philosophers and poets, and on occasion crazed paranoid schizophrenics, but still…

How does the song put it? “If you want to view paradise simply look around and view it. Anything you want to do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.”

In a world like this where kids are growing up faster, becoming jaded in a world where they have to be to be prepared, I hope that even adults can keep some of that second sight.

Those who have it live in a world with a ten-foot wall around it, and those who don’t only have eight foot ladders.