Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I Want An Alien For Christmas

My uni term ended on Friday, and the majority of the class has now travelled home for the holidays/exam stress period. I have been revising the last few days, although with little conviction, but I've now stopped until after Christmas at least. I now realise the benefit of having all exams in May/June - revising at this time of year isn't easy to fit in, especially with the libraries not being open normal hours until a week before my first exam.

Fiona went back down south today for the next week (or less), so I'm likely to have more time on my hands over the festive period. Maybe I should take up a new hobby. I spent a good 20 minutes today correcting someone's graffiti in the QM library for grammatical errors and generally talking crap (someone was trying to assert that The Bible is entirely factual because there are 6 billion copies of it and our dating system is based in part on its content - this reminds me that my homework assignment is to find out when computer system clocks start counting from: 00:00 01/01/1970 UTC for JVM).

Things to look forward to: A few drinks on Christmas Eve, family dinner on Christmas day; family+paternal grandparents dinner on Boxing Day, Fiona's return, some fairly heavy drinking on Hogmanay (for a change!).

Oh, and the LOTR 12 disc set for Christmas - I've shown a fair amount of restraint by not buying any of the separate films yet, since I knew this boxed set would appear eventually (I'm also almost as certain that another boxed set will appear in 6 months time, with "brand new extras", but I'll live with that - it's far too common an occurence to bother with).

"I Dream Of Dynamite" - Deckard, who I saw play acoustic a few months ago, but only recently got a copy of this album. A very fine piece of work it is, and difficult to shift from your conscious stream.
"Through The Ashes Of Empires" - Machine Head, with many thanks to Fiona for getting me this. "Days Turn Blue To Gray" has been on Scuzz for a couple of weeks now and is simply thrashing fantastic.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Kill Vampires to UNKLE!

It's taken a while for me to get round to saying this, but I saw Blade Trinity on Saturday night, and it was just plain awful.

They've managed to include a few decent fight scenes (NOT the five minutes of wrestling they wrote in to justify having Triple H as a bad guy), but there was just far too much about the story that was totally unbelievable. Like keeping a guy alive while he makes bad jokes instead of just killing him - how is anyone supposed to believe that?

But the worst part of the film was that it was interspersed with Apple adverts. Every computer on show was an Apple, so they achieved product placement with this alone and should have stopped. Instead, there is a tool-up scene where the new female Blade groupy is making playlists on her iPod using her iBook (while pressing buttons on her iPod - surely these are disabled while connected to a Mac as they are for a Windows PC), because she likes to listen to music while killing vampires.

This is cringeworthy. This is worse than Will Smith putting on his brand new "Classic 2004 Converse" sneakers at the start of I, Robot. This is so out of place. Everyone - bad and good - is wearing blacks and dark colours, except for these pure white headphones. How is she going to hear stuff going on in the distance with Jurassic 5 in her inner ears?

Apple: The iPod is selling well through word of mouth alone. You don't need to perform this kind of marketing to get it noticed.

Blade Trinity makers: I'd say you could do better, but clearly you can't.

U2: Why are you making iPod adverts, and why is there a limited edition U2 iPod? I would have thought that your new album would be selling very well just now, just like the last 20 did. You don't need to sell out like this.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Instead of doing something productive with my afternoon, I've instead been trying to find MP3s of The*Ga*Ga*s (their choice of name added to their relative obscurity helps show how difficult this has been). Even their official site holds no song clips, and buying their sole release so far seems to be very difficult.

Last week, while suffering from a hideous hangover that turned into a week-long virus, I bought a copy of Metal Hammer for the sole purpose of getting a copy of their single, "Replica", from the cover DVD. A quick search for DVD audio ripping later, and I've found a tool that lets you get up to 5 minutes of audio from a DVD without paying for the privilege. So I know finally have this fantastic song, and the only thing I've yet heard of theirs, on my iPod.

I have tried to make a one-minute clip of the song so I could let you all hear it without annoying copyright holders too much, but my sound editing software seems to dislike the file, so I'll simply say that an mp3 on my website of a song called "Replica" would be quite easy to conceive existing, but of course it doesn't.

Anyway, during my mp3 search I discovered a set of tour dates for The*Ga*Ga*s for next year, including a date in Glasgow. So expect to see me in town for that.

It may seem odd that I'm quite so interested in a band I've heard 3 minutes and 50 seconds from, and it is conceivable that they become some kind of underground one-hit-wonder, with all future songs sounding gash, but I doubt that very seriously. "Replica" is a damn good tune, the song is reminiscent of The Wildhearts' style (never a bad thing), and these kids are just that: kids. They've got years and years to make truly great tunes.

When I was ill last week, I spent a lot of time watching music videos on TV. I've become very good at flicking to the next channel after half a second of hearing whatever crap the current channel is playing. Something decent being played is a welcome break from all the bands following the current trend of screaming half of a song, singing the other half, and basically sounding like everyone else on Scuzz.

This is becoming a bit of a rant, so I'll switch topics: I veered towards talking about copying/downloading music earlier, and just want to state my view on this. Back in the not-too-distant past, when I still used dial-up access to the net, I would download rare tracks by bands I already owned everything else by, and songs I'd recently heard and liked. I'd also get other songs from a new album to see if I would want to buy the album.

In the former case, there is no way for me to purchase songs that are years old and only appeared as b-sides, except through the likes of, and even then the record company sees none of the hideous markup put on such items. Some bands like 3 Colours Red have been smart enough to notice that their fans want to hear their b-sides, and have made them available for free download from their website. In my opinion, many more bands should follow this trend. The purpose of singles is essentially to heighten interest in an album, where the real money is. Once a single has been released, charted then faded from memory and music shop, it is no longer a revenue or publicity source for the band, so its b-sides should become available to the masses.

The Catch 22 in downloading rare tracks is their rarity - few people have copies of "Shandy Bang" on their PCs, and once you found one, you'd need them to stay online for 30 minutes while the file downloaded. Painful.


Welcome back to a very neglected blog. Much time has passed, but I'll be brief.

Flofe (who I may from now on name properly as Fiona, as Google gives this blog as the top hit for her nickname) and I are now together, and very happy to be so. I recently got a new SIM card for my phone, giving me 300 free texts a month. Most of this month's allocation has already been used up, though I can't imagine how ;-)

As I've said before, this blog was never intended to contain personal details, and will probably continue to follow that idea for the most part. Just accept that I will be purposefully vague about such things, while being tediously graphic describing the more mundane. It's how I'm comfortable writing this.

I have recently finished reading "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" by Douglas Adams, and can confirm I will soon be reading much more of Adams' work - a very good book.

Uni is getting a bit better once more. I mentioned previously that my course wasn't as involved as I'd hoped it would be. About two days after that the lecturer changed gear and the course became taxing. So my last module ended with an 10am to 11pm session in the lab (the closest I can get to an all-nighter, despite what many a computing student would tell you is possible in the Glasgow labs) that I enjoyed except for WinZip freezing on me twice, each time requiring a slow system boot - at 10pm such a problem can make violence against your laptop screen seem reasonable.

My latest module, Security and Privacy, also started slowly but turned to programming practices for writing secure code - something that I was very interested in, and probably helped push me towards wanting to buy a book called "Hackers and Painters", which talks about the elegance of programming and how it's an artistic talent. That statement may include some artistic license, but it's self-supporting since I'm an artist!