Friday, 30 March 2007

Peaches & Snow

This image has been sterilised of all sexual overtones.

The Guardian online today had the most illuminating article I've perhaps ever read on a dead-tree-news website.

Peaches Geldof is becoming a lonely MySpace addict.

Illuminating me to the cultural snow that publications like the Guardian try to shovel off to their readers. Yellow snow.

I really should feel sympathy for a woman whose name could so conveniently be titled with 'Stewed', and whose parents are an ex-B-list popstar and a blonde whatever. Really, I should be able to feel sympathy for her. But I can't.

Because the only thing that article illustrates is a complete and total lack of understanding on so many levels. I can't even begin to sort it out. Reading that article was like looking at a technical illustration for the wasteful, over-indulged, self-absorbed capitalist Western teenager.

It brings me to the concepts I was struggling to articulate in my previous post on MySpace -- namely that it is my belief that MySpace is not allowing for a more tech-savvy youth. I would love to see a proper poll taken on the number of MySpace users who have learned a scripting code to format their profiles, vs. ones who've simply used profile editing sites that write all the code for you. The educational value of MySpace is... Limited at best. In order to learn anything - anything - from the site, you have to be looking to learn -- and if there is one thing we can learn of Peaches Geldof's amazing illustration of Western Teenage Culture, people born after 1980 are less inclined to learn and more inclined to consume.

Consume economically saturated cultural snow. Cultural Snow - this is a term quoted in Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami - a book I read first on the plane from LA to London four or so years ago, and haven't allowed to leave my side in the 5-or-so times I've moved since. Anyway. Cultural snow -- aside from having a wabi sabi like effect on my psyche -- has not been a concept I've come across anywhere else, and I'm afraid I'm not looking hard enough. But it boils down to this in my mind:

Cultural Snow, the general term for the phenomena of trends in clubs, music, fashion, eateries, MySpace, television shows -- which, regardless of their worth in the long run, have a huge surge of 'importance' and price to specific peoples. Their capita is overwhelmed and a £5 carrier bag by a small hip firm starts selling for £200 on eBay -- regardless of the fact it will be sold in Sainsbury's for a fiver come May.

Enchanting snowflakes that looked so inspiring that first day are turned yellow as the public passes over them to admire, then it all turns back into common water before long. It melts fast, this cultural snow.

And that is why today's hip teenager is sharp -- we might not be able to understand electrical engineering or sociology or botany or mathematics -- but we understand the importance of shovelling cultural snow in maintaining our identities in both Meatspace and MySpace.

In that way, we really are the children of the 1980s -- not something I am particularly proud of, to say myself.

I don't believe that it's any random occurrence that there is a resurgence of 1980s cultural icons in fashion, music styles and general aesthetics in youth culture - at least here in England. For Godssake, ask any willing young adult what drugs they've been doing when they go out and they'll tell you: it's all cocaine, with the occasional bout of ketamine. It's all relevant - it's all a reflection of what Peaches Geldof had to write about, in the end. Consume to fulfil self and attempt satisfaction at existence through use of cultural snow. Shovel, shovel, shovel. It takes a lot of energy; and if reading wilderness guides has taught me anything, it's that trying to survive out there in the wild by consuming snow will leave you very dead very quickly.

Queen of symmetry, danah boyd, says that society has ''trained our children to be narcissistic and that this is having all sorts of terrifying repercussions'', but I don't think that is the case.

There is no doubt, wait, no doubt in my mind that today's youth culture is excessively, dangerously and alarmingly narcissistic -- none what so ever. This is a world where my friends, physical, MeatSpace, real-life, University attending, normal friends, send me bulletins on MySpace asking me to put up a professionally styled advertisement for their profile in my sidebar - regardless of the fact that I have them in my Top-8 (14) already. People who have a personal profile and a 'professional' profile to display their music/films/acting/product/whatever, despite often having never officially worked in a 'professional' entertainment/arts field. Because they want people to look at them, because they want to be famous - and when I ask why, I don't get the response 'to be free', I get the response 'to be seen'. (Or did they mean 'to be scene'?) Because while many make ironic digs to Tyler Durden's immortal words -- you are not a beautiful or unique snowflake -- they do not believe it; they still hang onto the ideal that perhaps they'll be the One, the error or exception. Maybe they've gotten mixed up in the horribly amusing, macabre even, paradox that the man telling them that is in fact a fictional character written by a famous author and portrayed by an even more famous celebrity, up there on the big, wide, shinny silver screen. A modern Arcadia. But when Tyler gives his famous ...and we're very, very pissed off monologue, is he echoing a prophecy for the future?

But what Mz. boyd says, I believe, is that parents and society have taught these children to be like this. I believe that statement shows a genuine lack of faith in humanity, in that it seems to me to presume that children and young adults cannot make their own independent decisions on life and lifestyle choices. I believe that's crap -- a child can be told to be humble and still may revolt the other way. This generation has had 2000+ years of post-Roman development and history backing them up; we are alarmingly literate, and most of us have access to a bevy of information in either the library or the internet, which gives us both the pros and cons of capitalism, consumerism, narcissism, individualism and every other -ism that we could ever think to create.

It's not the parents or society's fault: it's their own.

And I doubt any of them care. In many cases, I know they don't care.

The blame game on guardians and educators can only go so far before it loses all weight in its argument. Or does self-realisation only happen at eighteen?

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

All The CoolKids Are Doing It.

By: A. Sew, C. Asian.

Satire is Dead. Long Live Satire.


It's a funny thing when people tell you that, no, there will be no censorship in our New World; everything will be open - everything will be free; speech, information, knowledge. Unless we don't agree with it. Unless it happens to be of bad taste. People just have to, have to, stick to a doctrine of etiquette.

And when you don't stick to a doctrine, maybe someone will end up paying, regardless if they are a guilty party. Simply due to what people perceive as an association to somebody who might be guilty maybe we don't know.

Ann Putnam, Sr. added her complaint that Nurse demanded that she sign the Devil's book, then pinched her. Nurse was one of three Towne sisters , all identified as witches, who were members of a Topsfield family that had a long-standing quarrel with the Putnam family. Apart from the evidence of Putnam family members, the major piece of evidence against Nurse appeared to be testimony indicating that soon after Nurse lectured Benjamin Houlton for allowing his pig to root in her garden, Houlton died. The Nurse jury returned a verdict of not guilty, much to the displeasure of Chief Justice Stoughton, who told the jury to go back and consider again a statement of Nurse's that might be considered an admission of guilt (but more likely an indication of confusion about the question, as Nurse was old and nearly deaf). The jury reconvened, this time coming back with a verdict of guilty. On July 19, 1692, Nurse rode with four other convicted witches to Gallows Hill.


Symbolic capital is any species of capital that is perceived through socially inculcated classificatory schemes. When a holder of symbolic capital uses the power this confers against an agent who holds less, and seeks thereby to alter their actions, they exercise symbolic violence. Symbolic violence is fundamentally the imposition of categories of thought and perception upon dominated social agents.

Aye So See Ace Shins.
Ah Sew Sea Ate Ions.
Eye Sue Cee Eight Inns.


Sunday, 25 March 2007

Reading Reading Reading, Complete.

The back of a cereal packet.
Seminar paper on Alt Media (snort)
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste
An Introduction to the Work of Pierre Bourdieu (HAHA; pseudointel-cliffnotes)
Making History, by Stephen Fry.
Not any Dead-Tree Newspapers since '05
Bits from my favourtist; The Man who was Thursday.
Some Dance, Dance, Dance.
Seven Seals, D.H. Lawrence
Warning: Falling Rocks
High Five!!!
Documentary transcript, Until you Know Them (working title)

The Most Beautiful Spam

I never open up spam, but in my gmail account I can read the first few lines of text, and this one intrigued me.
might be more communicative. Try to arrange a meeting. mothers become mothers. Simple enough. the loss. Another individual, who shall be nameless, will supply the lit up with lively color when the back projector came on. riders were tossed to the ground as the sheots recoiled in fear. I one. A wide seat was in the middle and there were two wheels to the massive form, rubbing my nose and sniffling. I had a quick glimpse of Still seven. Still a week. Plenty of time for my good buddy Admiral handed it to me. The Admiral was not happy. His scowl turned to a snarl and he jabbed Aida-is Fido transmitting? But we need something new and different. Thats what we are here for. slowly until they dropped. When I looked around I saw that the gas had fingers through his gray hair, perhaps to see if it was still there. I Im all alone, looking for something in the pool, and have to work very very hard

Is that not beauty?

It got me thinking about cut-ups and the way we cognitively place meaning on strings of words.

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.

So there is somebody out there who's spamming us all - but in their bid to sell us cheap pharmaceuticals they're using spamoetry. After some research I now know that its used to pass Bayesian filtering systems, but you know, I actually like it. I wish I had more spam (be careful what you wish for...) which was this beautiful.

It makes me think.


Also: walking down the street today, I stopped and found a playing card on the ground. Diamond King.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Be Experimental! Just Play by the Copy Right Rules...

Ah my homies...

So as you may already know, I make experimental films at art skoolzor and I enjoy it, mostly.

So that's awesome and everything, and the project I'm working on at the minute is awesome and everything, and everything is awesome and awesome. Or so I thought -- until I went to my skoolzors Learning Resource Centre (HAHAHAH) which is pretentious asshat speak for library.

The peeps that instruct me told me at the beginning of the year that we have excellent stock and film archives and that I totally should use them so I can be awesome and make awesome films. So this week, after making a vague outline of out film, we realise that we want some stock footage of: light reflecting on water, time-lapsed night sky, and time-lapsed clouds at dawn/sunset/midday and maybe some funky 80s light things if we can find it. We wanted stuff that was free of copyright and royalties, so we could potentially show our film at festivals and suchforth if it ends up being as awesome as we believe it will be.

But would you have guessed it? Our archive at skoolzors does not offer those kind of options -- we actually have no physical stock footage for moving images, but we do have a list of resources of where you can get that footage. for a hefty fucking price.

Six minutes and twenty-one seconds of high resolution 720x576 px PAL Quicktime footage of the sky at night is $199.00.

...Why am I even shocked? I don't know, but I most certainly am.

Last weekend in London I spoke very briefly to Paula Ledieu of Magic Lantern Productions, who used to head the sadly idle BBC Creative Archive project. It was all in regards to the Open Media portion of OKF's mini-con -- what people were talking about are the lack of accessibility in archives from public funded media such as the BBC and the BFI.

I was incised then at the lack of access we have as Brits to archives of products that we pay for through TV licences and suchlike. But I didn't actually physically realise what a drain lack of open source copyright-free media assets is on creative force. As a student I cannot afford in any way to pay $199.00 for six minutes of film footage - and the equipment I rent out for very brief periods of time from my school is not at all designed for taking clear high-res shots of the night sky.

So if I want a piece of footage of the night sky? I am left with only one feasible and economical option, which is to steal footage. And I don't want to do that. Is it because I ethically feel it's wrong? Hell no; footage of nature, of all things, should be open. But It's because I have to disclose all footage sources in my final project, and if I'm caught lying about the origins of footage, then my piece will (apparently) fail and I cannot enter it in festivals.

Or so they tell me.
That's a boarder I plan to push on my next project -- but that's besides the point...


Personally I'm not sure what I'm going to do to fill the holes we have in available footage. I believe I'll have to insert stills rather then moving image, which bothers me to some extent because I find the use of stills in a moving image piece to be redundant. At least in most cases...

Or next week we're going to have to lie-beg-steal our way into getting our hands on another camera, and using that to capture some footage of some of the things (dawn, twilight, light on water...) that we need. But I've tried before, and I can't capture the night sky.

Capture the night sky. Mm, reminds me of old Greek myths for some reason.
Net of stars? Oh I'm befuddled!

But I think I need to start taking a more active role in getting publicly funded film & video archives to allow more universal access.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

What's your worth? // Cultural Capital

Now that I can raise my head up out of this goo of reality and focus for ten minutes or so, let me talk about something silly-- I mean, functional and important.

I went to Open Knowledge 1.0 on Saturday - I was terribly shy and quiet. The ratio of male to female was, yes, rather unbalanced (as was race; ieee) -- but this isn't a post about gender inequality -- that's for another time my precious.

This isn't actually going to be a run through of things which were discussed during the talks - even though I have three notebook pages full of notes, I'd rather not give some sterile discussion of events. But there are a few key points that were raised:

Firstly: I realised why having open geodata is so fucking important and not at all banal.
Secondly: hard left-wing Socialist techies are amusing, but not to be fucked with.
Thirdly: accurate scientific and technological knowledge, especially that of the internet, is crucial in maintaining ones cultural capital.

Cultural capital. We were discussing this concept in my seminar last week (of which I am constantly given shit by peers for caring about), and in that time I was trying in vain to explain why there is a class divide between people who Can Use The Internet and people who Can't.

I was having a huge problem articulating myself at the time, which wasn't very amusing - my American accent and incessant need to communicate ideas, i.e. chatter on about stuff, makes people take the piss out of me all the time. I can never get anyone to listen to me because they all start laughing at my choice of language. Wait, wait, I nearly fell into an Emo-Emu trap; lets get back on track.

What I had been trying to say and hadn't been able to was that there are significant issues arising culturally due to people in positions of authority - like, oh, the Government as one example - who are not aware of the potential or even the basics of Web culture.

Let's take a comment made by John Sheridan, Head of e-Services for the Office of Public Sector Information at OK yesterday - who I note does not have any website or blog that I can find, unless he has also played for Leeds, or perhaps plays jazz piano or has ever been the military governor of Babylon 5.

I'll paraphrase due to a lack of photographic memory (oooh bad me), but what John Sheridan said boiled down to: when I talk about web stuff, I can see many colleagues eyes just fog over.

Now keep in mind this is the man who is trying to get Government to think seriously about archiving PSI on the web, including creating a database of government legislation which can be accessed by the public. And they've spent, apparently, the last 18 months discussing the possibility of that happening. Man. I wish the public would pay me to discuss something for 18 months. It would be like contract philosophising -- just at the end you wouldn't have to show any of your data.

It is all fine and well if a person can use the buzzwords; Semantic Web, dereferenceable UDI's, new ontologies, and so forth. But if they can't communicate those ideas in a confidant and accurate manner to a large group of people who don't understand them, how can they be considered valuable to the cause they're trying to promote?

I'm starting to think that it's not just sloppy and ineffective if people don't understand science & technology and it's place in contemporary society -- I'm starting to think it's downright destructive and dangerous.

Global warming might kill us all, and they tell me only %40 of Americans believe in evolution, and that officials freak out just a little when faced with stuff they don't understand.

But aside from the legislation and the cringeworthy sound bites government puts out, on regular civilian social level it just makes people less open to expanding on knowledge which is already out there, because they're unaware of possibility.

I'm rambling now; my focus which was so sharp has been softened quickly and I need to research more into cultural capital and sci/tech/web.

But the other evening, when there was a beautiful lunar eclipse, I text' (there is no plural, is there?) my friend to tell him to look out the window to see. He text' me back, saying 'haha, you can't trick me!'

He was certain that if the moon was eclipsed, it would be completely obfuscated from view thus he'd be trying to look for nothing. I had to call him to convince him that it would be out there, a muddy red orb hung high in the sky.

Just imagine if nobody ever told him how eclipses worked?

Friday, 16 March 2007

MySpace & my space.

I am dying to get footage of danah boyd talk about teens at SXSW this year -- alas, my searching has found me nothing, although I do admit that I am slightly too tired/apathetic to go all Sherlock.

Why do I want the footage? Well first because I (obviously) couldn't get to SXSW this year (5,000+ miles is apparently too far for my uni to consider a field trip) and I like trying to nab information on what happened at the event. Secondly: I've been reading danah's work casually since, hrmm, it must have been around '03/04, so I must have been about 16.

Although I know she makes some people get a little vicious, I have my own love/hate relationship with her work.

I love the concept - sociology/anthropology in contemporary youth/tech culture. Oh that's great. But I still, as someone who's nine years younger then danah, have problems digesting her perspective on youth culture & the internet, as I think it's a little precious and feels it never spoke to me & the way I used the internet, but rather a population of highschoolers who I never knew. While she stands outside and looks in, I sit inside and look out -- and sometimes I feel she's looking at culture This Very Moment in the present, and I'm looking at The Potential Moments in the future. Or maybe not, anyway.

Social networks, online etiquette and virtual landscapes enthral me. I've been using 'social networks' since I was nine years old - in the form of MUSHs and MUDs (which yes I argue /are/ social networks of an antique flavour) - and I've been 'active' on the 'net since that time too. I've been members of numerous online art groups, message boards, and web-rings when I was younger, and as I grew I moved on to LiveJournal and Flickr and deviantArt, YouTube and, most recently, MySpace.

Let's start by clearing the air: I Hate MySpace. But I have a profile -- why would I be included and associate myself with something that I hate? Because In Real Life (iRL lolz) it's important for my MeatSpace Social Life to have a virtual hub which, in some ways, secures those MeatSpace connections.

By having a profile I can send casual messages to friends, which isn't as forward as calling/texting them on their phone, and can be use to arrange social gatherings without committing oneself. It's a casual thing -- and that's Very Important. Being casual means being cool -- being casual means you're not being clingy, overbearing, weirdly eager or anything like that. Casual. Casual means nobody gets hurt, embarrassed or ignored - it just flows.

So of course teenagers don't care if their MySpace gets deleted or they forget their passwords; you just make another one and connect yourself with your friends, of whom are usually all friends with eachother, causing one huge net of Knowing Everyone. Not caring is casual - and as we now know, Casual is Cool.


I have So Much More to say on the subject of MySpace & etc, but I'm far too tired -- despite the fact I've slept maybe 16 hours and then had a run around in the crisp pre-Spring air outside for like an hour to wake me up.

Not drinking coffee sucks - but I'm still banking on drinking nothing but decaf 'detox' tea (nettle, dandelion, burdock, peppermint, other crap) will somehow make me into a better human being.

I suspect there's crap wrong with me that I should have sorted out 6 years or so, just, gneh. I don't trust doctors, or rather, trust pharmaceutical companies to offer accurate and successful medication to be effective in any way. Or maybe that's just an excuse.

Bah humbug.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Open Knowledge & Pi

Yabley barbly comrades; this Saturday I will be attending Open Knowledge 1.0 in London. I can't actually afford it, or rather I can, but it means eating nothing but 8p packaged noodles from Tesco's for the next week or two. I am banking on the whole ordeal being important and insightful for my poor underdeveloped mind or something. Plus, how could I say no to a pretentious Web 2.0 title?

I am a greedy little information hound. If I was a Top Trumps card, my tag line would be 'Insufferable Little Know-It-All: 100x∞. My own manic need/desire to know stuff carries me through these stages:
First: Silent Observer - I sit and wait, like a ninja, ready to knife the soft underbelly of knowledge and eat its sweetmeats. Once obtained, sense of security fills me and I move on to,

Second: Overzealous Questioner - The Spanish Inquisition has nothing on me; every pause in lecturers/speakers monologue or request for 'Are there any questions, comments?...' and I'm already speaking. I can't help it. My head is filled with bees which lead on to,

Third: Head-Full-Of-Stars - is my Indian name. Actually no, that's Hester Saint-? McGuire -- and a whole nother story. But presuming the former was my feather-not-dot name, it would be because my brain buzzes with the dead reflections of information that are beamed out to me and kept safe. Until somebody says something which is Not True in my mind, and I correct them without pause for social ramifications.

Thus the title of 'Insufferable'.

Okay yeah so whatever, basic psychology aside, why am I going? Well a lot of reasons; I haven't attended any events like this, and I like connecting with information. Because I like connecting with information, I like the concept of Open Knowledge as a whole, because I like information to be free. (Sidenote: I cried every single time I watched Born Free as a child...) The speakers from Open Media and Open Science/Civil really intrigue me, and I hope to learn something awesome.

But an amusing sidenote: it's at Limehouse Town Hall -- sure it's a minutes walk off of the DLR, but it's d-d-d-dodgy around there. Or it was? Gosh, the whole docklands changes so freekin' rapidly I can never tell anymore.

All I know is I have the most vivid memory of watching a junkie come on the DLR at Limehouse, and sit down in the seat across from me. I could stare openly because: A: he was fucked out of his skull, B: I wear sunglasses at night (because the future is so bright). It was strange; they seemed perfectly normal and inoffensive save for the fact that they were very obviously a smackhead. Weird. I get worse vibes from the crackheads up in Camden, but that's a given.

Sad facts of humanity aside; I will update the situation with lovely information on Open Knowledge 1.0 after I attend. If I do attend - and I'm not eaten by wild dogs or something beforehand.


In other news: happy Pi Day, Humanoids!
¡ <3 teh π

Monday, 12 March 2007

Trinity College -> Chocolate -> Genetics

When I was about 12, I went with my sister Leah to Dublin with my grandmother and my late grandfather. I was in the middle of my punk rock sage; it involved a lot of combat boots, cameo, oilskin and green hair. My favourite photograph of my grandfather and I is where I'm leaning on his shoulder with green hair. Miss him, crazy old man.

We went to a number of places in the week we were in Dublin, including where my grandfather was born -- but the most memorable for me was Trinity College.

I've always liked two things more then most other things: books and art. When we visited Trinity College we went to the library and the long room. They have, I have read, 4.25 million books and counting at Trinity College. My heart, it weeps with joy.

But walking down the Long Room was like... Stepping into some fantasy land of my childhood. The places I -wanted- to be, but wasn't really sure existed. Books. Knowledge. Antiquity. The smell of leather and wood polish and paper. Tomes I could never touch, let alone read. Busts of dead people I didn't know but wanted to. I got to see the Book of Kells when I was there -- I remember being terribly impressed.

I might have been into the Clash and B.A.D & NoFX at the time, but damn, was I ever impressed to see the Book of Kells.

Oh, and the book refurbishment centre. Watch scientific historian types carefully cleaning four hundred year old tomes. That was also terribly impressive -- I remember having some sort of envy towards them. What is the word for academic envy? There has to be one...

I went through a period of time post-Dublin trip where a lot of what I drew was inspired by knot-work and iconography I saw in the illuminated scripts of the Book of Kells. Sadly it's all been lost in the numerous moves since I was 12-14, but it was really great. I remember being particular happy with a set of geese I drew, eating each others tail feathers, their necks all knotted. Heh.


Other News: I stopped drinking coffee after 12am, OMG shock horror shock. Normally I would be the one to say I am only human when I drink coffee -- just I want to see if it has any effect on my sleeping/mood/etc. I've been drinking dandelion and burdock tea instead.

Although I admit, I have started drinking hot chocolate. But not just any hot chocolate - oh no - fair trade organic hot chocolate with 40% cocoa solids and natural cane sugar. Just when I make it, I add half a teaspoon of mixed spice and half a teaspoon of crushed black pepper.

I love black pepper in hot chocolate. Love.


Oh, interesting link on the genetic similarities between Britons & Irish, which suggests we're all a lot more similar then we originally thought. Because before we were Celts and Saxons and now we're... Uh... 14,000 year old Spaniards that moved back north. WTF?

Mmm. Genetics.

Aliens, Neurology & Consciousness

Currently I am undergoing a project, a short fact-based experimental video (post-postmodern term for documentary, fyi) for my course.

We could chose any topic we wanted, as long as it vaguely focused around the concept of memory / flashback.

You could tell my delight (irony alert) at being told this. I think perhaps the lecturers get off on giving us painfully vague assignments - sometimes I wish for a viciously regulated set of objectives, like Lars von Trier meets Satan. No blue colours, all cuts must be no more then 57 frames, you must build a set, all actors must face left while reading their lines and somehow a banana must be involved.

But actually maybe it's me that's taking the piss. I love memory, because I love the mind. Cognitive psychology & neuroscience (especially neurochemistry) have delighted me on a daily basis since I was about 18 and read Wired's report on Matt Nagle, the paralysed ya-dood from Boston who has a brain implant that controls a robotic arm, in March of '05.

Before then I was too stoned and too stupid to care much about anything save video games, Bronte novels, anything in the National Gallery and of course my own eventual and upcoming death. Oh, and communism. When I was <18, I was big into Marxism, then deconstructing Marxism, then seeing the interpretations of Marxism throughout the ages. Then once I did that I got to stand back in horror as I saw what seemed like such a cool concept turn into literal Pandæmonium in practice. (Dude, dude, do I get extra points for æ?)

Uuh, where was I.

Documentary! Memory! Right, so with my group of peers, we brainstormed and we thought about things and our thought train went like this:

wolves (memory, folklore, symbolic meaning to general consciousness) --> werewolves (folklore, symbolism, supernatural) --> aliens (symbolism, supernatural, memory.)

And we settled with aliens. And we researched. And researched more. Then we found the contact details of a very interesting man (whose name I will not give you at this point in time, to protect the integrity of my project) who lives in the South of England and has, from the ages of 5 to 18, said to experience visitations from aliens on a regular basis.

We spent all day on Saturday with this man. He was terribly charming and I really enjoyed his company and listening to his stories as we interviewed him for our documentary. It's odd because he is an intelligent, insightful and altogether normal human being; who truly and a hundred percent honestly believes he's been visited by three different types of aliens on a semi-regular basis when he was younger.

A lot of what he had to say in the way consciousness and human evolution I agreed with, on some level (and I'll talk about some other day), so it made it difficult for me to deal with the alien thing. See I don't believe in aliens - although I don't want to - so my rational mind has to justify different ways of why he could experience those experiences and honestly believe them as true.

He told us during our interview that the predecessor for the experiences with the aliens was, and I'm paraphrasing here (haven't transcribed the tapes yet), the following:

I would get a slight buzzing in my ears, like an electrical hum, kind of like tinnitus, which was accompanied with a feeling of 'something is going to happen'. Then later on, something would happen.

So I've been mulling those words over, and finally I started doing some research. My first look was to try and find symptoms of aural buzzing followed by hallucinations and I got a intriguing looking link from the Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing who actually really suck because they want me to be a member before I can read any of their published works. Yeah, okay, thanks assholes -- I didn't want your Freudian wank anyway. *sniffle*

Then, continuing my research, I found this interesting thesis (PDF link) by some unnamed academic from the University of Groningen.

It goes on to describe Ménière’s disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear characterised by vertigo and aural disturbances.

What's most interesting is it's account of Van Gogh's personal account (Not to mention Martin Luthers; eee!) of what historians & specialists have presumed to be Epilepsy and this paper describes would be more accurately placed as Ménière’s.

(It's said in the paper that Van Gogh had written numerous notes on his ''disabling & recurrent vertigo, nausea, & visual/aural disturbances which have been described as hallucinations.'', akin with Ménière sufferers I presume.)

Quick note: If you were a man living in Holland in the 19th century with poor medical support and you suffered frequent and debilitating attacks of vertigo and loud buzzing in your ears, wouldn't you cut one off? Damn. Poor Vincent is looking a lot less insane to me now. And I'm telling you, his sketch of a knee is perhaps the best sketch of a knee ever to be sketched. One has to see it in print; 75dpi resolution does nothing for it. I hope for the day I can see it in Amsterdam... Uh, anyway.

So yeah, okay - I don't think my interviewed human being (Can we call him Ed? Ed.) I don't think Ed suffers from Ménière’s disease, but that paper lead me to another point: what about epilepsy? This is how far I have to go, as a flightily sceptical rational human being to disprove potential for things that bother me, i.e. alien visitation, with things that bother me on a whole other level, i.e. neurological disorders.

Recently I saw a program on sleep epilepsy. I like sleep disorders -- well, like like people 'like' parasites. I don't want one (although I think I have one; a sleep disorder that is - not parasites) and I don't think they're necessarily an awesome thing, but they are something that exists and because of that I do think, yes, they are cool. I like knowing the way the brain works, I think consciousness and the relationship of mind & body is more amazing then anything else.

Uhm, moving on - so I see this program, and I did some studies -- before interviewing Ed -- and I learn some stuff about epilepsy. I interviewed Ed, then after re-reading these papers and chatting with an humanoid I know, I start thinking, mm, yes, what if Ed had a form of epilepsy which caused him to experience these events, and have his brain rationalise them as alien phenomena? Yes that would make sense. My brain has done things that were weird (sleep disorder thing; for another post) and I rationalised them by automatically pointing towards aliens/ghosts/soul issues because scientifically I had no idea what was going on.

But that leads to the second issue: if he had these experiences from the age of 5 to 18, then they've stopped (he's 27 now), how the hell did they stop and why haven't they returned? We... Didn't actually ask him why the aliens stopped visiting him in our interview - I was kicking myself as to that issue after we got back home - I might email him about it - but uh... Yes, so why -- if they are not aliens but in fact a form of epilepsy, hasn't Ed suffered from an experience in nearly ten years?

Well at 18, Ed started to meditate. Daily. He was meditating before that, as he told us, but at 18 he started to really get into it and practice a form of Tibetan meditation I do believe. He told us that he went to a study at one of the Oxbridge universities which focused on meditation. It was a month long or something. He had his brain scanned with an EEG at the start of the meditation regime (before he had instruction and started meditating every day) and then an EEG scan at the end of the meditation regime (he had meditated numerous times a day for ten-twenty minutes each time for a month).

He told is the woman who was conducting the experiment was shocked and amazed at his scan. His initial EEG scan was apparently hectic as hell, both sides of the brain frantic and jumpy and whatever. The last EEG scan results were apparently astonishing. Both left and right sides of the brain were in perfect sync, causing a casual even arch that marked the start and end of the scanned meditation session.

Now why the hell am I talking about aliens, epilepsy and meditation? Well there is a debate in the neurological/medical field about the effects of meditation on epilepsy as illustrated in this article from '06 which is a brief introduction to the subject. I've been reading more on the subject, but the general PR line that is being fed to me so far is a big 'uh, we're not sure - it does sometimes maybe - really we have no idea'.

So I conclude with... Ed is a wonderful person. I think he's very cool - although I do not necessarily believe what he experienced was aliens. I think it might all be in his head.

But let me give you an analogy that 'Ed' gave me when describing how people react to his stories and call him insane. Again I paraphrase:

Let's say that you've got a ball, and behind you there's a net and a person. Everytime you throw that ball, the person says 'to the left' or 'to the right' and tries to help you put that ball in the net. Eventually you start getting shots, and the person behind you encourages you to continue and says 'ah you're doing a good job' and all that. That allows you to continue existing and getting things done; even if you don't get the shot every time. But if another person shows up for a few seconds and starts saying you're missing, that the person behind you is wrong, then you start to second guess yourself. You aren't listening to the person behind you telling you what to do so you have less of a chance to get shots, because you can't see the net, and you're not trusting in that person behind you. If you give in and start to believe the person behind you isn't telling you the truth about the location of the net, you will become less apt at ever getting the net in the ball, because you'll be too sceptical of your own ability. You have to listen and trust in what you're told by yourself.

So I may have butchered what he said to me, but it all boils down to this: Ed, no matter what has happened to him - whether it's aliens or epilepsy - has only his own consciousness to help him along in life. What he sees/feels/experiences is his own, and if he listened to people who said 'you're fucking crazy, alien abductee' then he would never be able to tie his own shoes, because he'd always be second guessing himself. 'Are my shoes really there? Did I already tie them? Do I even exist? Where is my proof? Who can prove any of this, if not me and my own consciousness?'

And down that road of doubt lies pain.

I note here, that Hildegard von Bingen was a long-time sufferer of migraines -- who refereed to them as visions. Through her illness she was able to write some of the most beautiful, beautiful works of music and become one, if not the, most powerful women in 12th century Europe -- all in the name of God, saying God was giving her those visions.

Personally I don't believe in an active God (i.e. a guy in a robe coming down via angels and going 'Yo, baby, here's a prophecy/baby/cupon for pizza hut') anymore then I believe in aliens -- but I do believe in consciousness, and energy, and symbolism or events triggering self realisation and 'epiphanies' which effect humanity.

I really respect Ed, because whatever has happened to him - and I honestly do not know - he is high functioning and has through his own self awareness brought about control in his own life. He isn't afraid, or doesn't seem to be, and he wants to help people who've shared similar experiences to his own -- people who don't necessarily know how to deal with them, or rely too heavily on what other people believe they should believe.


We review, cut and edit the documentary on Ed over the next coming weeks. I hope I can do his story justice.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Music for Squid

Lately, and I don't know why for, I've found myself becoming more and more attracted to listening to harpsichord / keyboard concertos - just, not organ. I don't know why the organ pulls me the wrong way, just it does.

I've been watching Glenn Gould perform, going through all the footage I can find -- and listening to Classical FM / Baroque internet radio when writing, or researching, or reading...

Only I don't know where this sudden infatuation comes from. For the past year typically I've been listening to folk, indie and industrial. I just got, mm, bit by something and now all I want is Bach.

Although I lie; I heard O Ecclesia by Hildegard von Bingen sung by a choir. There is nothing like Latin love poems chanted in vaulted ceilings to make your hair stand on end.


O', and here's an angry Humboldt Squid.


Sometimes I think I should join a choir, and chant about cephalopods in Latin.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Some are more = than Others

Art School

Is it unethical to criticise a university you hope to get a degree from?

I level it out and justify my complaints as this: I'm paying for my own education, with a 2.4% interest charged on top of the standard tuition fees due to the government loan.

If I was paying for a service like, oh say, private health care or car maintenance and I was unhappy, it would be perfectly acceptable to complain, as long as it was constructive. So complain about my education I will...

I go to an arts university in Southern England. In fact it's a collection of art schools which formed together to create a meta-university a few years back -- binding together under one universal management and system of accounting and financial distribution.

Academic management became one, with different baronies, if you will, overseeing each of the campuses. Students Union also became one meta-union, with their own reps for each barony - lets call them Student Knights, for the sake of butchering language.

The course I'm in is kinda like a House within the overall Kingdom. There's the House of Fine Art, House of Journalism, House of Film & Video, and so forth. My House is incredibly small - where House of F&V have around 90 for the Class of '09 studying in my Barony/Campus alone, we have about 20 for the whole Uni.

We all pay the same taxes, er, Tuition to attend University, but because my course is so small, and because we're not meeting with the quota set out by the Administration, there have been funding cuts across all campuses.

Ours was for 35% of our budget.

They cut it out in the middle of the school year, over Xmas - modules that were supposed to be run this semester were cut, due to loss of funding. Two pathways were smooched together, forming one lumpy uneven module which is difficult to work with. One of my favourite lecturers had his teaching days cut from 25 to just 4, and that's only working with the second years, so we don't see him at all.

When one speaks about such things to the Uppers, we get a mixed reaction -- people are unwilling to talk about management issues with students, and I've been given somewhat sticky and unfocused responses. 'Oh everyone has cuts everywhere, next year it'll get sorted, we're trying to get more money back', etc., etc.

But nobody is telling me a concrete answer as to why we're getting these budget cuts, and why we're not being allocated the money that people in accounting said my course could have last year during budgeting.

People say it's because not enough people applied for my course, that's the problem, and because it's of a lesser interest to the people at the university it's financially less important and strategically doesn't generate enough revenue for the university as a whole.

Only here's the kicker; my course isn't advertised during open days or on university hand-outs. We have a small, vaguely worded description on the website and in the prospectus which is pretty damn irrelevant to the actual course itself.

So it seams to me that they're weeding out the course in a passive aggressive manner, but to make room for what? I'm not sure. And really it's a shame. I learn about digital video, graphics programs, 3D & special effects, film/media/culture theory & interactive design. Fundamentally it's a experimental video course, and it's pretty unique - anybody who's aware of the course who reads this will know it's name, and it does blow any sense of anonymity out of the water for me, but I care very little at this point.

When it boils down to it, I'm disappointed in the way that universities like mine are run: like a big business. Good courses are courses who do work which generates interest in the university and attracts other students and generates income for the university. But too much focus is being pushed on income and economics, and not enough is being focused on the most important issue: which is to provide the best educational service they can to students.

At the end of the day, due to the amassing of universities, all campuses must agree to a centralised set of rules, including an overall budget. Campuses which wanted to specialise in niche subjects are being penalised for their alternative content and smaller class size, and through that their budget is cut - thus the integrity of their teaching ability is compromised.

Before the universities merged, I was told that the funding for all courses were handled accurately and with better results. Part of the reason the university became one unified force was because they said they'd get better funding and everyone would be equal and well looked after. This is obviously not the case.

Correct me, by all means, if I am wrong; but it reminds me terribly of some botched Marxist nightmare. Ironic, since currently the public gallery is currently showing clips of animation throughout the ages: including the 1954 animated feature of Animal Farm.

...And I haven't even started on the student population.
Oh what a world!
Ah yes, allow me to introduce myself.

I'm a 20? y.o. university student from the UK, studying arts officially (digital video & 'interactive design') and computer science unofficially. I like sociology, simulated violence, sarcasm and technology.

I care about online social etiquette, video games, reactive media, kicking ass, women in tech art 'n sci, history, and a boatload of other things.

Recently I have been studying the effect of youtube on media exchange & communication, alien abduction as an issue of consciousness, and my ability to sleep 14 hours a day.

At one point or another I wanted to become a computer science major -- but because I was home-schooled and lacked official qualification, no universities (Manchester, Dundee, Greenwich, Kings College, Goldsmiths, Edinburgh) would consider me as an applicant. So I fucked off to art school.

So now in my spare time I attempt to figure out electrical engineering and computer programming by myself, and here's where I want to document my vain attempt at gettin' me some lernin'.