rashbre central: January 2009

Saturday 31 January 2009

gardening notes

I said I'd look out for signs of Spring and noticed these robust looking shoots pushing through the earth in the garden today.

I don't think they are from the Mars plant which inhabits part of the garden, secretively burrowing underground and then re-appearing unexpectedly with space suckers which, when cut, squirt toxic Martian space juice up to a quarter of a mile.

Friday 30 January 2009

time to use the iPhone pub detector

We are using the iPhone pub detector this evening to select a venue.

It doesn't tell you how good the pub is, but it does tell you where the nearest ones are. It seems like a fun thing to have on a phone, but then I also have the Star Wars light sabre module which glows and makes all kinds of laser beam swooshing sounds when you move the phone around.

My low serial number iPhone is one of the original ones with the aluminium back, but on the whole, around London, I don't notice the lack of 3G because of the pervasive wi-fi.
Another £1.59 well spent was the GPS Motion-X software which lets the phone run as a GPS tracker, similar to a Garmin unit. Of course, the built-in Google maps does that as well- eerily telling me exactly where I am when I think I'm lost, but the Motion-X creates a waypoint database, which is sort of handy for photography for recording where & when. It can run in automatic mode or you can save waypoints at will, as well as exporting them as pins onto Google maps.

But now, off to GPS reference 51.512668,-0.13168 the pub.

View Larger Map

carcam revisited in iMovie

A very quick re-cut of the carcam from before Christmas, just to try out a few of the features of iMovie 09. I usually edit video with Final Cut, but thought it would be interesting to see whether Apple have fixed the strangeness introduced in the last version of iMovie.

My general view is that they have. The initial interface is fairly different from most AV editors, and it took me a while to figure out how to un-hook sound, multi-track and similar. Its all there, as is precision editing, but you have to click around a little bit to find it.

I suspect I'll mainly still use FCP for video, although this package with its transitions and titling is quite good for quick editing and comes with all new Mac systems. Once I'd imported the video and a soundtrack, it was only about ten minutes to bash together this little comp. It took longer to remember the quicktime settings to embed it with scaling.

The ability to publish straight to youtube was an interesting little addition too. It takes all the decisions about compression and frame rates away and just does it. Youtube is policing the DRM rather well though and decided not to let Regina's song through.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Wednesday 28 January 2009

bagging a bug bag for face faceoff

I keep a reusable bag in the car boot for when I'm buying a few groceries or similar. I should estimate I've bought around ten of the bags at different times, but they seem to disappear of their own accord, long before they've worn out. So today I bought yet another one to restock the car. It also gave me an excuse to experiment with Apple's new iPhoto face recognition software.

I noticed that iPhoto lets you access an Aperture library, which is where I keep my photos stored. I grabbed 2-3 folders of maybe 100 pictures with a few consistent faces, taught the names to iPhoto and it then ran through the pictures getting the names mainly right. It missed a few but didn't guess any incorrectly.

Hmm, I thought, maybe it uses shapes and dates. So I then tried it with the ladybird on the shopping bag. I taught it the name and showed it 4 almost identical photos of the ladybird. It didn't have a clue. So it seem that the Face recognition isn't going to be fooled too easily with alien shapes.

My next experiment will be with the new ironic film soundtrack loops available in Garageband.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

coin operated boys

When I've worked in Italy there's a sometimes delays on paper work associated with so called 'bribeville' anti-Mafia legislation.

No comparison with the the British Upper House and recent denials of improprieties by its august members. It's so unfair to call it Erminegate, when the poor unpaid Lords and Ladies are slaving to move new laws of the land into being.

Today we heard there is no connection between fees received and actions affecting the passage of new legislation. I'm sure the posh dining clubbiness of the House is used appropriately, and that its exclusivity wouldn't be used to turn heads or procure inappropriate advantage, let alone to do so for reward.

A shame this pops up just after the Lower House abandoned its attempt to scrap accounting for its expenses. We now have both groups of politicians dealing with their remuneration whilst the country struggles to make ends meet. But its not misconduct in a public office. We've been told.

Monday 26 January 2009

twitter haiku tea break (with cranberries)

I like the idea of using twitter to send haikus.

@amandapalmer suggested it this morning, so I wrote one on the way to the office, as an experiment...

tail lights red, streaming
wintry yellow tarmac glows;
london’s work beckons.

Then, this evening, inspired by the fridge, whilst I waited for the water to filter before I made some tea.

shrill cranberries wait
redly, fiercely, harshly, fat
mesmerizing sharp

Of course, as well as the 5/7/5 = 17 syllables, they are supposed to have some reference to season...

dancing forlornly

Spring's exaltation near goads
happy somersaults

...Then I found the haiku generator...

archly replying
faintly, serene, first gnat smiles
fumbles, anarchic

Its a sure fire way way to cut down on @rashbre twitter followers.

Damien Hirst's Nikon D3 Camera (maybe)

D3 cutaway
I know Nikon announced their new D3x a few weeks ago. It looks as if the origin of the species, the original lower pixel count D3, can now be bought in installments. Its interesting to see how many bits of big glass go into a wideangle zoom. More tokyobling here
banksy meets hirst

Sunday 25 January 2009

surfeit of projects

Palace of Westminster
Usually, I write blog posts in ten minutes as a kind of daily process. Fine theory but the rate of bloggable events doesn't work like that and sometimes there's a backlog and other times nada.

I'll admit, I sometimes have a spare post (like the one about the Animal Collective CD), which is a safe bet for a day when I don't even have ten minutes. My review of Merriweather Post Pavilion was 'hot' about a week ago, but I still haven't flipped it into the flow.

If I ever do those auto post things, there's usually something else that comes along before they make it. So I do still have a smattering of drafts lurking in rashbre central over many months.

And then there's things I really wanted to talk about, like the Barbican American event, that just zip past without even a mention, simply because of time or currency.

Anyway, whats my point? I suppose my usually short posts can carry an idea, but sometimes miss other status information. If I ramble, theres a good chance that people will give up. By about here, I'd guess.

So, today I'll post slightly more because some non-work projects are making progress.

Firstly, the NaNoWriMo (novel) from ages ago is now drifting towards a book like shape. I'm told I get a publisher's draft back any time now and I'm separately talking about a cover design. I take that as a good sign. Even got the ISBN. I'm holding the movie rights over to 2010.

Secondly, the Christina Nott track count is up around 10 at the moment, so we may be able to turn it into a CD. We've actually got a more sophisticated plan for this, however, but it would require quite a bit more spare time work.

Thirdly, we are getting some plans together with Christina, John, Ray the Sax, Neal, Kate, Melanie and others to set up some kind of musical long weekend a little later in the year. To try to bosh out a live-ish album in a weekend. The problem for me is that whilst I can work fairly realistically with samplers and all things electronic, my gee-tar in is still rather cagey. I'll probably resort to what I do with Christina's stuff and semi construct some material in advance if we are serious about this. And bring a banjo.

Fourth, the recent devoted and disgruntled event seemed to go pretty well and has spawned a whole raft of possible sub-activities. I want to stay involved with this too, but suspect that the usual ground rush of 'real work' will pull me around. My trip to Norway this coming week has been canned, so I should make it to London Bloggers Meetup on Tuesday, but shortly after that I think I disappear to Denmark for a few weeks.

Don't panic. I should be back to short posts by tomorrow.

Here's Christina - wind (LA airport mix)

my late brunch somehow shortened the day

P1010004 (1)
Glancing back over the last few weeks of blogging, I noticed how many of the pictures were taken in the evening or night time. It's almost like hibernation since early December.

Then a couple of days ago I noticed the sun (or at least rain) beginning to creep back into the pictures.

A good sign. I shall need to start looking for snowdrops and daffodils now, although its already too dark this evening.

Saturday 24 January 2009

gauging the outcome

emptyModest excitement today as I was handed a car to re-park, when I noticed the petrol tank was completely empty. As a favour I decided to fill it, knowing I'd otherwise be involved in a subsequent rescue operation.

The thing was, it was so empty that it only made it to the end of the road. Luckily the two policeman doing speed camera duties had moved on and didn't see me ignominiously coast to a halt in a side road. I managed to get it to start again and up the next hill, around a roundabout and then it died again as I coasted it into another side turning.

One last attempt, because I could see the petrol station in the distance. Various rrrrr-ing sounds and then it finally started on the last tea-spoon of petrol. Enough to get me to the pump, where it stalled again. I'm told that the petrol gauge dial (thats the other dial next to the speedometer) is not very clear on this car. Strange how quickly I spotted it.

yes we can can

Something optimistic today. Thanks surcie for reminding me of this brilliant Pointer Sisters track, sung here on Soul Train (and a vinyl lurking in the depths of rashbre central). Should be re-released before the pop factories get their hands on it.

Friday 23 January 2009

selling britain by the pound (or dancing with the moonlit knight)

There's still contra indicators to the credit crunch around town. The gaggle of mid afternoon drinkers outside pubs around Leadenhall, the well-heeled City car parks, the shops which were disdainful of January sales.
I guess there's the need for the feelgood factor to move us all along, whether its Slumdog Millionaire or what's been happening in the White House.

Something to counteract the new events unfolding every day. The non nationalised banks being bought up by Arabian interests. The pound at a 24 year low. The remaining London non-freeby paper just sold for £1 to an ex KGB agent billionaire oligarch, for his son to edit.

I'll make do with buying a copy of the Evening Standard for half of its entire company price and accepting the free accompanying umbrella. Although the nearby brolly seller didn't look too pleased, it will shelter me until I get back to where my own car is parked. Хорошего Дня.
My car is parked here too

Thursday 22 January 2009

london parking ticket latency

I narrowly escaped a parking ticket today.

I was driving around Belgrave Square just before I needed to take a conference call, so I stopped in a parking bay. It was approaching the time for the call so I dialled the number before I walked to get the parking ticket from the machine.

It was a typical Westminster 'card only' machine and slightly around the corner from my parking spot. As I was also chairing the phone conference, I had my earphones for the call - we were in the 'pre-main-meeting-room' part of the call waiting for everyone to join.

From the corner of my eye I could see a community warden tapping numbers into his penalty machine whilst looking at my car.

My debit card was still in the ticket issuing machine processing my pin number. I jumped and waved to attract the warden's attention but to no avail. I returned to where he was standing just as he was printing the long penalty ticket, with my paid parking ticket in my hand.

And it was just as my conference call was starting. Fortunately, the meter person was very understanding and could see what had happened. I thanked him as he tapped long strings of cancellation instructions into his device.

After my experience a few weeks ago near Centre Point, I can say that surviving more than about 3 minutes in Central London without appropriate ticketing can be extremely hazardous to the wallet.

Wednesday 21 January 2009


last night to meet friends and swap stories of globetrotting.

We'd picked the venue at the last minute and were led down graceful curved steps into the cocktail bar before heading to the restaurant.

Pre-theatre menus all round whilst we heard the progressively louder tales of adventures in far flung lands.

Needless to say we finished around the time that theatres were chucking out, heading onto packed pavements before making a dash around the corner to the Opera Tavern in time for last orders.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Barack Obama's Inauguration

As Barack finished his speech, the White House web site had already changed.

It appears that much of the world decided to take a peep at the ceremony today and I'm sure there will be gargantuan coverage (starting with my own).

Monday 19 January 2009

close to the wind

sinking shipTwo years ago, one of the well known British Bank's shares were valued at around six quid. Today, Monday, they are worth 11.6p. One fiftieth.

The recent £20 billion of state aid wasn't enough to prevent an estimated £28 billion loss. Their purchase of a foreign bank soaked in sub-prime lending last year didn't help.

And now short selling is allowed again and other banks are taking on further water as playful dealers bet their bonuses on the degree of nationalisation of the banking sector.

Well, it seems we all like a flutter, so now our taxpayers' money is again being used to support the reckless financiers who have sailed their savers' money into every available rock. Despite Gordon's apparent anger at the recent run of events, there still don't seem to be many top cats being truly held to account over their steering of these badly trimmed vessels.

And whose watch is this on? He, too, should be called to account.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Washington DC

Capitol, Washington
There will be plenty of footage from Washington over the next few days and many areas will be blocked to anyone without VIP access or tickets to a relevant event. In my experience, the US services are efficient at managing space in cities and operate one-way valves to let people move away but not to re-enter areas. I've been crowd controlled in a few places, including Times Square with Mel for New Year a few years ago.

Instead of my usual ten minutes, I've spent an enjoyable half hour uploading a few of my pictures from wandering an early morning Washington, where such meanderings are something I enjoy in many big cities if I get a chance.

There are parallels being drawn for Obama with what Lincoln said and did when the America was still in the process of uniting, some mere 87 years after the founding fathers created the new nation and saw off we Brits. Lincoln described it as conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
White House
Lincoln was dealing with the American Civil War and his Gettysburg address was about testing of the durability of a nation conceived and dedicated in such conflicted circumstances.
My own wanderings in D.C. will always take in the Viet Nam Memorial, and the more recently created World War II Memorial which I think opened in around 2004. These symbols of struggle are all within easy walking distance of the White House in the central area close to the Reflecting Pool. My first trip ever was with Steve and we did the tour at around midnight in a helpful taxi. Subsequently I figured the easy grid and oblong nature of much of the main area.
Viet Nam Soldiers
As Obama moves into the White House, it will be interesting to see what commentary he imparts on the past, the struggles and the exceptional energy now dedicated towards the solving some of the current conflicts, challenges and uncertainties towards the future.
Almost Forrest Gump
To précis Lincoln's words: "It is for us, the living, to be dedicated to the unfinished work which others have thus far so nobly advanced."
Stars and Stripes
And, pointedly, that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Obama has the support of most people for change and seems to realize that he holds fates beyond his shores in his early moves.
</bush> <obama>

Saturday 17 January 2009


end of Bush
The process of Bush's departure and Obama's inauguration has started with Barack today boarding the train to Washington, emulating Lincoln's trip when trains were the main mode for longer journeys.
Of course, it also creates a full weekend of news as press track the journey and with the ceremony on Tuesday, I guess there'll be a holiday atmosphere in the USA on Monday before it all kicks off with the full televisual feast. I notice many US companies are arranging television screenings of the event on Tuesday.

Alternatively, a ticket to the VIP yellow area for the event itself can be found for a mere $20,000 (plus P&P).

Barack Obama shares some eloquence of speech with Abe Lincoln, although the period preceding the handover effectivley has kept him quiet whilst Bush finishes his own distinctive round of business, squeezing that last $350 billion of handout to recover from those who were allowed to operate irresponsibly during his time in office.

Obama's 'social pulpit' model is something of a contrast to Bush's 'bully pulpit', and could be instructive towards general social networking.
Back at the ranch, Bush has mumbled his last proper Press call and there's various spoof versions of it flittering around the web.

He looked worn in the conference, presumably exhausted from presiding over so much destruction and financial collapse, but with little real sign of remorse.

It will be interesting to see how the popular history records his time in office. I am sure various implements are already being sharpened.

I suppose with the smoke from warfare, economies collapsing, increasing unemployment and few recent redeeming moments, Obama walks into a role which is hardly loaded in his favour.

I'll play the Hope card here.

One of the few internet photos of rashbre as I made my obama poster today.

There is a lot to do.

Soccer meets burlesque

The Saturday Question: What happens when Soccer meets Burlesque?

A bit of a bun fight, actually. (let Amanda Palmer explain...)

Friday 16 January 2009

now and then

walkmanI once had one of those old fashioned Walkman music players.

It was bright yellow, had "Sports" written on the side and it played those tapes that come in large rectangular cartridges.

It was temperamental if I took it on a plane. The 'Sports' housing was waterproof and it somehow depressurised so that the tape wouldn't play until it had been opened again after landing, like a fresh pot of jam.

I stopped using it ages ago, but then once found it whilst tidying some stuff away. I casually flipped it on and ba-blam, a little blast of an old tune that instantly took me back to the exact beach where I'd last been listening to it. Like the little scene had been caught in another form of pressure bubble. It was one of those moments of quick joy, vivid recollection and was totally unexpected.

That's why I sometimes use old tickets and receipts as bookmarks when I'm reading.

Yesterday, I innocently restarted a book I'd put down for a while. One I'd taken for granted and half thought I'd finished except I couldn't remember the ending.

There was a prominent tell-tale red 'Priority Handling baggage tag' used as bookmarker part way through, which allowed me to pick up the thread, but then 20 minutes later a similar time-capsule from the past fluttered to the ground reminding me of languid times in faraway mountains.

I enjoy 'now', but sometimes a quick excuse for 'then' can be good.

Thursday 15 January 2009

tonto in London Fields

Cambridge Heath
I was talking with an occasional marketeer about poetry earlier this evening.

I'd been drinking tea and he'd been out to a pub with a client.

We both agreed that it was often easier to come up with the bongo ideas at the start of the day before all the other stuff sloshed in for attention, after which it all became rather difficult to remember. He's going to try to write some of it down on the tube.

I may need a new notebook.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

lounge lizard?

Sometimes the gryphons start to creep out of the reptilian cortex, mainly in fairly predictable circumstances.

I was at the airport yesterday and, as usual, put myself into a transcendent state where 'they' cannot irritate me. Many around were less fortunate as the flight schedule collapsed because of the weather.

Fog is bad for flying and by the time one bad aircraft had been thrown into the mix requiring a return to the gate and another one cancelled completely, the schedule was becoming irrecoverable. I do what I usually do in these circumstances and don't follow everyone else, because that will result in a big and usually somewhat tense bundle queue.

Instead I found a helpful person who managed to jig me onto a late flight, so that I returned several hours later than planned, unlike the 150 people from the broken flight who I hear were placed in a hotel, due instead to fly the next day.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Guardian picks up on devoted and disgruntled

P1000938Just spotted the lively thread started by Lyn Gardner from the Guardian related to last weekend's devoted and disgruntled discussions.

I think Lyn has captured the spirit of the event rather well and its great to see some motivated additional comments appearing.


Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
An interesting hotel room this evening; I'm across the way from Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, in a sort of triangular shaped room.

They've had to fit it with a single bed because I don't think a double would squeeze in. I feel like I'm on a ship in an inside cabin. I wonder if that's why the mini bar is free?

Foggy picture from my stroll to buy milk in the nearby 7-11. Harder than it sounds because there are so many types.

Sødmælk frisk leveret fra Arlagarden was my eventual selection - Bjork has even sung a short song about it.


Heathrow and onwards today; luckily I took waterproofing to handle the rain, fog, sleet and snow. More when I'm not posting from a clockwork computer.

Sunday 11 January 2009


P1000941 - Version 2
Devoted and disgruntled continues tomorrow, but I can't make the Monday sessions.

I'm sure I've been the right person at the right time for this and that the right people will be there tomorrow.

I've added some pix to my flickr from event - more than I usually do when I take a camera to something, but for this I'll hand over the main set to Improbable to use on the D&D ning.

Meantime, here's the slideshow of some of what was happening

Saturday 10 January 2009

devoted and disgruntled

Breakfast in Hackney this morning before heading to the York Hall for the first day of Devoted and Disgruntled organised as an Action Space by Improbable. I'd guess that between 160 and 200 people showed up to talk about the future of theatre, driven as a grass-roots generated agenda.

The way it works is that at the beginning there's a big wall of empty space where the agenda for the event is formed. Everyone is encourgaged to contribute ideas to the wall and they are assigned physical spaces to convene groups interested in the topic. Its a very 'in the now' process and has some simple guiding principles as well as the law of two feet - to move along if one session is no longer appropriate.

The workshop-based process works very well and we were soon all in groups talking about a huge variety of topics related to theatre; jobs; recession; funding; audiences; production; fun; politics; venues; fringe; performance types - I just scratch the surface.

There's a power to the confidence in having no initial agenda and the conviction that the right one will emerge. Judging by the motivated debate, it certainly seemed to, and the sessions were given longish time slots but many continued into the erstwhile coffee breaks.
Of course, outside of the more structured aspects, there was plenty of idea and card swapping; I suspect a whole series of new networks are being born during the weekend. I'll be back on Sunday and I know that whoever is there are the right people; whenever it starts is the right time and of course, we all make a difference.

Friday 9 January 2009

East pole

East PoleTonight's venue is across the way from the pole dancing club and Juicy Handbags.

Despite all mod cons, I'm seriously thinking about watching a few episodes of Black Books on my iPhone (no iPhone is complete without all 18 episodes)

Thursday 8 January 2009

black cab sessions

smoke fairies
A bunch of the musicians I sometimes blog about have made it to the great heights of the black cab sessions and I thought a quick reminder would be useful. I see the sessions are mentioned in this week's Time Out too.

The process is simple enough. Get a band, hail a London black cab and ask the band to play in one take whilst on a journey - oh, introduced by the cab driver.

So top of this post its the Smoke Fairies.
amanda palmer
...then Amanda Palmer playing Radiohead's Creep on Ukelele
death cab for cutie
...and to round it off, there would have to be something by Death Cab for Cutie (Geddit!)

There's another forty or more over at the black cab sessions site.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Social Media Jungle

As Mr Ross illustrates above, there's a sudden flurry of interest in 'Social Media Jungle' #smjces and Twitter.

The @rashbre twitter account has been running since February 2007 although in the early days it was like having the only telephone in the village.

Nowadays, it blends some news tickers and general chit chat amongst an entertaining group of people, although self discipline is required to avoid following off along every semi interesting story. I can see that my average posting rate is 1 or 2 posts a day over the last 2 years, but with some increase in recent months.

Because of its speed, there can be a fascination with breaking news stories although realistically a wait of a few hours can often bring a journalism based consolidation. A simple example was yesterday's Apple news. People followed the story in real time but as soon as it finished, Apple loaded their new pages with all of the content directly to their website.

I'm a great believer in 'wide time' (lots of things happening at once) but the compensating 'looking for the long waves' is need to detect any real patterns or stories.

We are also seeing a few of show-biz turning up in these streams now, with Stephen Fry as a fairly long term user and more recently Jonathan Ross (@wossy) appearing along with chit chat about whether his return to television (with Fry) will somehow feature the twitter idea.

Whether these facilities emerge as a sustainable snack-based form of connectedness remains to be seen; I know in my professional world its still relatively uncommon, although I hear that 'www' prefixes were also rare, once upon a time.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

paparazzi enabled

Face and Place recognition
T'internet ground to a halt for a while today whilst various services streamed updates from San Francisco about the new guitar and piano tuition available from GarageBand '09 and similar features.

One function that caught my eye is the new iPhoto software with face recognition technology.

Not just the little squares like those that appear in many compact cameras, but the addition of identification of the individual. Useful for family photo albums, and interesting when linked with the new place recognition and auto-uploads to facebook and flickr.

The uploaded pictures can be auto-tagged with who and where. It could bring a whole new dimension to the Facebookery of late night pub crawls and similar.

wheely silly

icy cool
The icicles by the door this morning were an early sign of how frozen my fingers would be by the time I reached work.

Of course, typing on a keyboard is quite a challenge with iced fingers, but luckily I was testing one of those MacBook Wheels which have dispensed with tiresome keyboards completely.

The next version is also removing the display screen.

The absinthe arrived by airmail