Tuesday, October 18, 2016

BBC as echo chamber: a review of "HyperNormalisation"

Adam Curtis is a neoconservative documentary film-maker funded exhaustively by the BBC. "HyperNormalisation" (view here) is his latest product, a sprawling collage of thoughts about contemporary political power. It displays his usual hallmarks: a totalising and reductive view of complexity, a disparaging view of artists, a dismissal of women that is essentially sexist, and an ignorance of philosophical thought, stemming from an inherent anti-intellectualism and self-aggrandizement.

His works are heralded without much criticism. This article will act as partial corrective.
Friday, October 14, 2016

Bootstrap 4 column templates

I am building a new website. Each time I do this, the underlying technologies evolve and I play catch-up.

The big problem has always been supporting the variety of software platforms in use. It's a significant challenge creating a unified experience for users of different web browsers on different operating systems. The recent proliferation of hand-held devices has increased the number of software platforms (Android, iOS), the number of rendering engines, and the variety of screen sizes in use.

It is imperative to use a platform built to unify the common technologies of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. All the messy details should be hidden in the implementation, so that a web designer can focus on their structure and content.

In addition, the principle of responsive design holds that one single code-base should suffice for all viewer implementations.

That is why I am using Bootstrap, and specifically the new version 4 release of this platform. (Though this is still in alpha, I don't want to dedicate time to version 3, knowing the structure is imminently to change.)

Though the internal docs are good, there isn't much third party documentation on Bootstrap 4. I've been experimenting with layout and this article is the result.
Sunday, October 09, 2016

New track on Silent Records

I am proud to say I am a part of the new Silent Records. Founded by Kim Cascone (AKA Heavenly Music Corporation) in 1986, this label went on to become the seminal American ambient label. Well, Kim has rebooted Silent and released two giant compilations.
Thursday, October 06, 2016

How to retrieve photo metadata in Python

You'd think it would be easy to retrieve and even edit photo metadata. After all, we are living in the 21st century. But, no, some things prove more difficult than they should. A search for applications turned up quite a few that would display the metadata but none that would easily edit it.

OK, so there's always the programmatic approach. And for that I turn to Python. Let's see what the state of the art holds for us. (Hint: It's a bumpy ride.)

Sunday, October 02, 2016

A video of light itself

Photography is all about the light. Without light an image cannot be captured. And it is often the quality of the light that makes a photo, in the aesthetic as well as the functional sense.

Now, researchers in Spain and at MIT have managed to image light itself. Which means that we can see light in motion. No, not the movement of other things in light. But the process of light moving.

For example, we can watch a video of a mirror forming a reflection. That's exactly what this video shows. Science-fiction has once again caught up with the world we live in. This is more than a bit mind boggling, so I hope to explain.
Sunday, September 25, 2016

Delicious Beef Stew Recipe

finished beef stew

All you have to do to start an argument is to bring up the topic of "traditional" Irish stew. Everyone will think they have the correct version, usually based on what their mother cooked. But of course there is no permanent tradition. A stew is any combination of meat and vegetables cooked in liquid over time, and even in Ireland there are many variations. Some are served with a broth, others are thick. Some made with lamb, others beef.

What follows will be my own version, which is hearty and delicious, the perfect autumnal food. (Even for those, such as I, who would eat red meat rarely.) Before getting on to the recipe I will write a bit about the history of this dish in Ireland.
Monday, September 12, 2016

Proposals for a Zoom F8 Pro

After a series of digital recorders that were targetted at the lower end of the market, Zoom surprised us last year with the excellent F8 recorder. Now they have announced the Zoom F4, an even more cost effective choice, at least for those who only need four microphone inputs. Check out my previous article for the differences between the two models.

But there are quite a lot of users wanting a more capable recorder, something that would sit above the F8 as a flagship model. In an earlier article I listed various firmware improvements for the F8. But further enhancements will require redesigned hardware. Hence this article, which will put forward proposals for a hypothetical Zoom F8 Pro.

Some of these features are already available in professional units from other manufacturers. Including these abilities will allow Zoom to play with the big boys. Certain features I suggest go even beyond that, and might well make the F8 Pro unique; these I have flagged with the word "innovation".
Sunday, September 11, 2016

Zoom F4/F8 feature comparison

With the release announcement this week for the Zoom F4, we can be sure that Zoom is committed to the professional sector of the market. This unit is similar to the Zoom F8, so I thought I would provide a quick overview of the similarities and differences, plus any limitations to look out for.

The first thing is price. While the Zoom F8 retails for $1000, the Zoom F4 is coming in at a ridiculously low $650. This will translate to European and UK pricing in the usual way.

Units are expected in October, though I would say more realistically November. I can also predict that initial stocks will sell out immediately... this is going to be a hit!
Friday, August 26, 2016

Recent and recommended films

I concluded my last article, in which I dissected a list of great 21st century films, by questioning the necessity for lists and "greatness". I think it only appropriate to contradict myself (in part) by presenting something positive to yesterday's negative.

So here are my favourite films of this century. I have "only" 20, not 100, and make no effort to rank them. Instead, it's a simple chronology of greatness and stuff I simply like.

Dancer in the Dark (2000, Lars Von Trier)
Trier makes a lot of depressing films but this one takes the cake... and is a musical to boot. Bjork sells every bathetic scene, but was apparently emotionally abused on set. As you will be by watching this perverse exercise in deconstruction.
Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are films "great" any more?

What is it about films and lists? No two people agree on films, and so a list will be sure to generate controversy, hence traffic and ad revenue. So it is not surprising that BBC has already, a mere 16 years in, decided to list "The 21st Century's 100 Greatest Films". You should read the article before continuing.

The conceit of the article is that "the death of cinema" has been greatly exaggerated and that there are still great films being made today. "Perhaps the fault lies not in our movie stars, but in ourselves. If you can't find masterpieces amid the blockbuster flotsam, you simply aren't looking hard enough" writes the (uncredited) author.

But this is a weak claim. Certainly there are still "good" films still being made. No-one would actually deny that. The question is, are these as good as or better than those made in the past? Do these live up to our criteria for "greatness"? The list provided is supposed to answer in the affirmative but does just the opposite.