Thursday, 25 August 2011

Banksy - Pulling the Wool Over Your Eyes

Banksy it seems, will always remain an enigma. No one knows his identity, and yet he is one of the most recognised artists in modern Britain, largely through his achievement of taking the reviled art of ‘graffiti’ and making it the now publically acceptable ‘street art’.

What’s the difference? Where do we draw the line?

In the film Exit Through the Gift Shop ‘directed’ by Banksy, what starts out as a film you expect to be about Banksy himself, turns out to be about another artist ‘Mr. Brainwash’ or (‘MBW’ for short) who attempts to follow in his footsteps and become a street artist himself.

Now we all know about Banksy’s pieces provoking thought and turning conceptions on its head - so what about this film? As well as the initial ‘trick’ of having the film be about another artist, the film throws up questions about the nature of ‘art’, the fashions it goes through, herd mentatility and how someone can (as MBW does in the film) go straight into the business end of it - seeing it more as a means to an end rather than the process?

Is the film itself a Banksy ‘piece’? Is MBW even real?

The flipside to Banksy’s shenanigans is presented in the Channel 4 documentary Graffiti Wars in which underground graffiti legend King Robbo talks about his long standing feud with Banksy after the alleged desecration of a 25 year old King Robbo piece – a severe faux pas in the writing scene.

Robbo laments how Banksy’s ideas are stolen from other artists, how his stencils are a too easy a method delivery and how his ‘street art’ is now recognised as 'legitimate' and protected in London whilst all other graffiti is painted over and erased.

This further fuels the debate of what is classed as art and what is not. What makes the leaders of the graffiti scene wallow in obscurity whilst Bansky has become a household name?

This kind of discussion would be better suited elsewhere so we wont be delving into it here, but it seems generally that people cannot agree on an objective answer.

And why should they? After all, it's subjective; some people just seem to feel the answer after looking at a piece as it creates a gut emotion within them.

Perhaps this is why Banksy can so easily continue to pull the wool over our eyes.

23 Aug 2011

Capturing the Emotion - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

(Spoiler Warning! If you don't want to know what happens, stop reading now!)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an awesome movie.

Sure, the technology for this kind of thing has been around for a few years now, but what elevates this beyond other CG heavy flicks is that the special effects are integrated so well on an emotional level.

Of course, watching the revolution of an army of ‘clever’ apes on the screen is great fun, but for me, the crux of the film hinges on the central character Caesar’s emotional state to explain why he acts the way he does and the path that ultimately leads to the apes taking over.

And he does this. Just through his physical acting and facial expressions.

Andy Serkis needs an oscar for this.

For those of you who don't know, Rise was filmed in a similar way to Avatar or the Uncharted games, where actors are mo-capped and facial performances recorded at the same time. So everything you see of Caesar in the film (bar the ridiculous ape stunts of course) is Andy Serkis’ performance – and in my opinion, this blows Gollum out the water.

As well as Lord of the Rings, Serkis played the title role in King Kong and Monkey in the game Enslaved (which you can read about here) which pretty much makes him the go-to guy when you want an ape in your film.

In fact, if you think about it, Rise couldn't be made (well) any other way. Humans acting as apes in prosthetics would be stiff and too rubbery (remember those unmoving lips from the original Planet of the Apes films?), real monkeys would be a nightmare to wrangle not to mention their inability to accurately act the emotions (which as previously mentioned makes this film so great).

The only other option is animated CG – but that alone wouldn't be enough, you need the human in there – the human side of Caesar as he grows in intelligence. The human side so we can relate to his emotional state and be with him on the journey he takes throughout he film.

Which makes the ‘No!!!!’ moment more shocking than ever – the entire audience literally gasped at the cinema where I saw it.

Other things I like about the film include sly nods to the other Apes films, such as news of a rocket going missing in space, the Orangutan character (Dr.Zaius, Dr. Zaius!), Caeser riding a horse, as well as that iconic ‘damn dirty ape!’ line popping up.

So although the action and the spectacle is enjoyable to watch (the police attempt to hold off the advancing apes on the Golden Gate bridge – duh, its only the world’s biggest climbing frame, what did they think was going to happen?), the emotional core and how it was brilliantly realised through motion capture proves to be the most arresting element of this film and allows it to rise above all others to be the best film of the summer.

23 Aug 2011

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Introducing... Debian Blak

When I first listened to Debian Blak's music, it sounded like much of the dubby electronica that I used to listen to back in the day, but the more I listened and the more it started to seep into my subconscious, the more it became apparent to me: the production quality of Debian’s music is sublime.

For one, the sounds are layered so intricately, utilising synths as well as instruments and vocals - all combined together in an irresistible concoction that is presented in an understated way that belies its complex arrangement.

Most electronic/dance music is blighted by its repetitious nature and yet the way Debian layers his sounds and tweaks his samples or messes around with the percussion and vocals using glitching and scratching always keeps things fresh, making it more akin to painting on a canvas – you can hear the elements being introduced in each track gradually, and then you get to witness them blend together, creating a different picture entirely, often in the most unexpected ways.

Perhaps this understated build-up of each track giving way to its devilishly complex arrangement partly accounts for the album’s title A Hint of Menace.

Take, for example, the track Tantalise. Although it starts off with crisp dry beats, by the end of it you feel like you are standing drenched in a warm rainforest.

Anna Stott provides breathy guest vocals on Take Me On evoking a balearic ambience, whilst TISW (Today I Should Win) haunts with piano chords tinged with the slightest shades of sadness.

Every one of the six tracks on the album offers a different listening experience whilst still maintaining a definite Debian Blak stamp of identity - something that is no mean feat in this day and age of copycat cut and paste dance music.

So even if you don't really listen to this kind of music I urge you to go here to listen to or download Debian Blak’s new album for free - something chilled for you to listen to in the cool evenings of these dying embers of summer.

You can listen to any of the tracks and/or download them here. If you like it, spread the word and let your friends know – as I’m sure the uniquely talented Debian Blak is sure to blow up in the near future.

Besides, its free music… and you cant argue with that!

19 Aug 2011

Thursday, 18 August 2011


Nostalgic for the games of yesteryear?

But cant be bothered to dig up that dusty old console, faff around with emulators or just don't have the time and patience to play these old games?

Then there is the perfect solution for you… Longplay!

Youtube is gradually turning into an archive for anything and everything recordable, from music tracks, movie scenes and trailers to famous news footage… the list goes on.

And now there is Longplay – recordings of old games played through from start to finish for the enjoyment of the viewer. Differing from speedruns (where the player attempts to finish the game as fast as possible), Longplay simply plays through these games fairly normally, making it more relatable for anyone who grew up playing said game.

And what a nostalgic trip that can be for some gamers – for me its mainly the SNES era, but there is plenty of old stuff too such as Amiga and arcade game emulations for the older folk.

There is a huge collection here and nearly all video have the original music and sound effects as well as intros and ending – very thorough indeed!

Speaking of music, you also sometimes come across gems like this that you never knew existed (seriously, what rockin’ music!) just by checking out random games.

Due to certain account privileges, this channel can also host more recent and longer games –some videos being many hours long. That's right, hours!

Want to watch a playthrough of Final Fantasy VIII in its entirety? No problem! It’s insane!

Shorter games are not a problem but who has that much time just to sit and watch an RPG from beginning to end? I guess at the end of the day they are just there for reference/posterity’s sake.

For many, I guess it fulfils the need for someone to reminisce of the experience of playing a certain game from their past again without needing the commitment of time and effort to dig them up and play through again.

Alternatively you can go through a game you've never been able to finish before and get to see the final boss beaten and the ending or see what happens in a game that you always wished you played back in the day but never got round to.

Ah nostalgia!

Followed by….

Ooooooaahhhhh… SAVAGE!!

17 Aug 2011

Folding T-shirts The Japanese Way

There’s another way to fold t-shirts?!!

Yes folks there is, although apparently the most efficient way to pack is to roll everything up – but that's another story entirely.

Although this method of folding can be a little confusing at first, it is quick and efficient once mastered so let me outline it here for you.

This was first shown to me by my good friend Tom, but apparently this is how it’s done in Japan. Anyway, onto the instructions:

1. Lay the t-shirt down flat, with the front side up and turn it so that you are looking at it from the side.

2. Imagine a vertical line that cuts the t-shirt across the middle. You want to use the thumb and forefinger of your right hand to grab the t-shirt about three quarters of the way up this line. Lets call this point A.

3. Now with the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, you want to grab a spot parallel to point A at the top end of the t-shirt (so it should be near the collar area but slightly further up). Lets call this point B.

With us so far? Now comes the tricky part…

4. Point B passes over where you are holding point A, all the way over to the bottom end of the t-shirt. We will call this point C. (Note: all three points should be in a straight line).

5. Hold points B and C together and then pull point A through and out from the middle towards you. If done correctly (and with the use of gravity as you hold it out in front of you) the t-shirt should start to resemble a rectangular shape.

6. Lay the shirt down and fold it once in half towards you and you should end up with a perfectly folded t-shirt.

Confused? Well, screw it – just watch this video instead!

As anyone who knows me well can attest, I own a ridiculous and wholly impractical number of t-shirts. I do like to keep them neatly folded so this method has proved very useful to me.

Now, unless you haven’t already been fumbling along in an attempt to follow my inept instructions, go try it out now!

17 Aug 2011

Enslaved - The Epilogue

Before we start… SPOILER WARNING!

If you don't want to know what happens at the end of the PS3/Xbox360 game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West stop reading here.

If you don't plan on playing the game or have already finished it – read on!

So a brief outline of the game – set in a ravaged post apocalyptic world, the story is very loosely based on the Chinese folk tale Journey to the West.

So you have characters such as Tripitaka, Monkey and Pigsy represented in a reinterpreted human form (no Sandy unfortunately though) as they escape slave traders, battle vicious mechs and make their way across the wasteland. So far, pretty standard.

Now the Epilogue scene at the end of the game is where it gets interesting.

Having chased down ‘the slavers’ to their base Pyramid, Monkey and Trip are confronted with the truth – Pyramid is actually rescuing humans from the wasteland and plugging them into an artificial reality where they can live out their days as they did pre-apocalypse. The model for this reality is based on one man’s life experiences and memories (glimpsed as obscure flashbacks throughout Monkey’s journey) embodied here by Andy Serkis.

Although Serkis also plays the character of Monkey brilliantly, it is this performance of his as ‘Pyramid’ that surprised me. Although some have called out the live action footage as being jarring when mixed in with the in-game graphics, I think it works here as to me it represents the ideal, the perfection of memories of the past and how it compares now to the desolate future.

Furthermore, you can really feel the sadness in his voice, not just in terms of an artificial intelligence trying to preserve itself but with a real fondness for humanity that has been lost during the war and the humanity that will be lost if Monkey and Trip decide to destroy Pyramid as they had come here originally intending to do.

It all really boils down to the philosophical argument of whether you would prefer to live out a life of pain and suffering in a ‘true’ existence or be in a false reality where everything was perfectly preserved the way it used to be, an idea which has been explored repeatedly from Descartes to The Matrix.

This opens up more philosophical questions such as the nature of ‘truth’, whether or not Pyramid can be justified in acting for the greater good and with whom the choice ultimately lies.

Although this ‘Epilogue’ scene of Enslaved was a shock ending to the game for some, I consider it to be a bold move on behalf of the game developers. Brilliantly realised by Tameem Antoniades and writer Alex Garland, this downbeat ending leaves things open and makes you think – did they make the right choice? What is going to happen to all those slaves once they are freed? What is to become of Monkey and Trip?

Although well received critically, the game’s underwhelming sales means that a sequel is now unlikely. Besides, Ninja Theory, the Cambridge-based developer is now currently hard at work on developing the reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise.

You can watch the whole ‘Epilogue’ scene below.

17 Aug 2011

Film Roundup - July

Film Roundup time!

So we start this edition of the roundup with Insidious, a horror film from the creators of the original Saw, James Wan and Leigh Whannell. Whilst it does start in sufficiently creepy form with sudden loud scares and a few ‘did you see that?’ moments during the quiet build-up, the last half an hour or so seems fudged due to budget constraints and tying up loose ends. Still, if you like the haunted house movie genre then this is a worthwhile watch.

Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch, with its over the top action scenes and sumptuous visuals – truly breathtaking on the big screen, but the effect is diminished somewhat on home viewing. Although I do like this film (the design and production is fantastic) the story holds up less well on repeat viewing- and the dramatic scenes seem to be put there to bolster the action sequences instead of the other way around as it should be.
Still, you can’t complain when the girls kick so much ass – even if it is all just make believe. Oh and not so much slow-mo next time, Zach!

What is it with Nicholas Cage’s bad hair in movies? Drive Angry is another such example – a film despite a nod to its grindhouse influences fails to fully satisfy. It does have two things going for it however, the insane hotness of Amber Heard and the ever-watchable William Fichtner clearly having more fun than anyone else in this movie.

Other quick stuff – Jason Statham returns in another generic contract killer flick The Mechanic, Colin Firth does a sweary Hugh Grant impression in The King’s Speech, Seth Rogen is a dick that you actually find funny simply for being a dick in The Green Hornet, the enticing combo of Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg unfortunately fall short of the mark in the disappointing Burke and Hare; and finally, Disney’s Tangled impresses in its entirety, with great CG animation whilst retaining its old school Disney charm.

That's it for this roundup – some films I have left out due to me wanting to write separate articles on them. Watch this space!

11 Aug 2011

Film Roundup - An Introduction

So a quick introduction to this section – which would be better to get it out of the way if I decide to make it a regular article.

This isn’t meant to be blanket coverage of recent films that have come out - or necessarily to review films (read Empire magazine for that or visit their website). Rather simply it is just to inform you of what I’ve been watching recently and a quick description of what the film entails. I may even give a recommendation at the end of the article of one film that you should watch out of all the films discussed – even though I hate telling people what they should and shouldn't watch. After all, everyone has different tastes.

Before we start, I would quickly like to mention that the films I mention are by no means exhaustive of what I have watched recently (I will be selective in what I write about) as otherwise I will literally be writing forever.

Also, I wont go too in-depth with each film – if I want to discuss it in more detail I will do so in its own article (for example with Limitless).

Finally, I am averse to ‘hating’ on things and so will not be unduly cussing things out – so if that's what you came here for, you are shit out of luck. It’s all love, baby!

I wont go too much into describing the synopsis of each film (unless the film itself is quite obscure) – but instead just a brief comment on each. You can click the title of each film to link to it on IMDB for more info or to watch trailers etc…

I may also link certain clips from youtube if there is something particularly of interest.

I will also endeavour to not include spoilers, however if I feel there may be one involved it will be clearly marked.

Anyway, on with the roundup – starting in the next post!

11 Aug 2011

Why I Love Films (the short version)

As you can probably guess, I watch a lot of films. And I mean A LOT.
Shockingly so.

I love stories. We all do. We as intelligent humans tell them to each other all the time every day, often without even being aware of it. They come in many shapes and forms, as an anecdote, a piece of advice offered, a journal entry, song lyrics, an excuse – stories are all around us – we ARE stories in ourselves.

But anyway, lets keep this light-hearted as I can ramble on way too long about such topics and the aim in this blog is to keep things short and deliciously sweet.

The reason I love films is, firstly, they have the ability to draw on huge canvases with world-class talent in every aspect involved (direction, acting, writing, cinematography, music) etc… in order to tell their story. Now obviously we are talking in generalities here as not all films are well-made, cohesive and polished products but the point I am getting at is that they have the potential.

This is because there is so much money involved in the movie business these days that the boundaries are constantly being pushed, both technically and artistically. Sure, people can argue at the sheer amount of dross being produced out there, but that's because more films are being made in general and for a wider audience. It's the law of averages.

The second main reason why I love films is to do with their length. Generally ranging from 90mins to 150mins, for me that gives adequate time to be long enough to tell a satisfying story and yet not too long so that you start to lose focus and interest. Long enough to get emotionally invested in the characters but not short enough so you don't feel like you are wasting your time in what is essentially a passive pastime.

I could spend more time comparing the merits of the film format against that of TV or books but really that would be starting to go off topic. Really, this was meant to be an introduction to my film roundup that is coming up to the next article.

So yeah – that was (very briefly) why I love films.

11 Aug 2011

Deadliest Warrior Update

An update on Deadliest Warrior then… didn't think I would be doing that so soon.

So I haven’t been watching it for a while, but recently I’ve started to watch a few episodes again to catch up. Some things have changed, others haven’t. But at the end of the day Deadliest Warrior is still one of the most ridiculous yet entertaining shows out there.

So yeah, pig carcasses are still getting hacked and gel torsos bludgeoned, but in two recent episodes I’ve seen, more modern killers have been pitted against each other – namely in ‘Mafia vs Yakuza’ and ‘Green Beret vs Spetznaz’ – which means the introduction of… guns!

So that switches up the game a bit in itself and seeing the killing power of guns used out there in the world today makes you feel slightly uneasy in a way that watching someone lob a ninja star does not.

Other things that have changed: the computer nerd Max Geiger is starting to come out of his shell a bit since the series started. He is getting a bit more input in contributing his advice and opinions as well as continually cheering and whooping like an adolescent boy when a bomb goes off. Actually, no wait - they all do that.

The fight reconstructions at the end are also getting more elaborate. Now whilst they still have to make sure they cycle through all of their weapons at some point in the fight, now they seem to include more story and setting; for example a Pirate finds a treasure chest of gold and has to protect it from a Knight; or they have scenarios of five-on-five squad brawls (in the episodes where lots of guns are used).

The macho boisterous smack talk continues – although I suspect the producers actively encourage it and edit the show to make it look more scathing. I wonder if a fight has ever broken out on set?

And now it seems all the more personal, as we get actual Mafia and Yakuza descendents and former Green Beret and Spetznaz special forces guys represent their respective sides – so I presume the smack talk for them would be much more personal.

As for the guessing game of who is going to win as each episode goes on? I’ve been mostly right so far but sometime I wonder if American’s bias comes through sometimes.

I’m only half way through the first season and there are three! It’s interesting enough but can I really sit through it all? Find out next time on… The Deadliest Warrior!

7 Aug 2011

Uncharted - Superior Shooting Mechanics

So I just finished playing Uncharted 2. Before that I also did the first Uncharted. Twice.

The reason being that I was collecting all the trophies and finishing the game on ‘hard’. Anyway, after that you still need one more trophy to get the Platinum – in order to do that you need to finish each game on ‘crushing’ difficulty. As in ‘it will result in your crushing defeat’ or ‘so difficult it will crush your soul’.

Sod that. For now.

You see I do want the Plat, but it was pretty stressful at points playing through the game again on ‘hard’ so I’m not going to attempt it anytime soon. What I did want to talk about was the gunplay mechanics in the game.

The shooting mechanics in the game is comprised of a solid cover-based affair, something that becomes more apparent on the ‘hard setting’. Basically, if you are caught out in the open you will get shot up.

So you have constant duck in and out of cover, taking mercenaries out with you little pop shots, but also utilising blind fire, run-and-gun and shooting/grabbing people whilst you are handing off of a ledge – all pretty useful in different situations.

You see, all gun battle in this game have to be thought out tactically. Rush in and you’ll get gunned down by enemies that have flanked you. Stay stuck in one place and they’ll throw a grenade over to where you are hiding.

It’s quite easy to beat regular enemies with up-close hand to hand combat but if you engage an enemy whilst any one else with a gun is around? Chances are you wont make it.

You also have to take into account which particular long range and short range weapon you use, as you can only carry one of each (rather realistically) as well as saving stronger guns to take out guys with body armour or riot shields.

Oh, and don't forget to pick up the best weapons and stock up on ammo when you clear out the area. You’ll need as much help as you can get going into the next intense scenario.

So yeah, I like the shooting mechanics – its fun. Things never play out exactly the same way twice. And boy did I die a lot in that game. So yeah, I wont be playing through those two games any time soon. Well, until the third comes out. Then I might just try and go for those two Plats again.

1 Aug 2011

The Week in Review

So this is supposed to be a recap of the weeks post – mainly to explain, discuss and perhaps elaborate a bit on what has passed.I think writing something absolutely everyday kind of sucks in its rigidity so I’ve decided the best thing to do would be to do five articles – one per weekday – and then use the weekend for the overview (like the one you are reading now) and for uploading them (if I don't do it on that specific day).

As you may have noticed- two things. Firstly, it has taken longer than a week for the last seven posts. So yeah, I was playing catch up for a while. But I think this new ‘five articles a week’ idea is a bit more flexible – not going to be too strict with it – as long as there are at least five things to upload per week that should be ok (not counting the roundup).

Secondly, the date of the post and the date written in the post (at the end of the article) differ. That's because I uploaded all the new articles at once this evening. So yeah, as long as the dates that the articles were written correspond to the five-a-week that should be ok.

That's also indicative of my blogging style. I don't like the straight ‘to blog’ writing at present, I actually prefer writing things out in Word first. But at the same time I don't like to spend too much time editing and re-writing these articles so that will be kept as a minimum.

Links to videos, pics and websites are fine too – at the moment for pics I am using photobucket but I noticed that there is an add picture option to upload images to the blogger directly. Maybe I can investigate that as having to deal with a photobucket account is an extra chore.

As for style and content, there has been only a little variation so far – most noticeably in the Guardian Scheme article, but I’m still finding my feet and once the logistics of regular blogging are all sorted I can start to get a bit fruitier with different styles.

I’ve also gotta come up with a labeling system for my articles. Another thing for the to do list!

So until next time dear reader!

1 Aug 2011

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Overkill of 2012


So I recently watched the film 2012 directed by Roland Emmerich.

Known for his other flicks that incorporate greater and more ridiculous scenes of disaster (from Independence Day through to Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow) this one is certainly up there on the biggest scale. The technical achievement here of both practical effects and CG is truly astounding and has to be mentioned for its achievement.

The amount of time and effort put into the thousands of special effects shots is certainly impressive, but is there such a thing as too much destruction?

Thrilling at first, then overly familiar and then to the point of ad nauseum, destruction goes on and on and on… Toward the end my eyes started to glaze over. My brain seemed confused – on one hand the sheer spectacle leaping around before my eyes was telling me I should be thrilled and excited but the fact that there was just so much of it throughout the film started to render it all a bit impotent.

Sometimes I even felt a bit guilty as I thought of the hours of work that hundreds of people had put in only for me to simply go ‘meh’. Another building topples over – so what?

The other thing that seems counter intuitive is the way in which the main characters always only JUST escape whatever threat is closing in on them. For example, they JUST manage to drive under a falling building or they JUST manage to take off with their plane as the runway collapses. Sure, this makes for exciting cinema but the sheer repetition of this gambit ultimately renders it useless as you know that in any threatening situation the main characters are faced with they are going to - yep you guessed it – only JUST escape it by an inch… AGAIN.

So is there such a thing as too much destruction in a movie? Yeah, sure. And to be honest the only reason I wanted to watch this movie was to see the scene mocked by Dara O’Briain (you can watch it here).

Which, after all, doesn't even happen in exactly the way he describes it. Bloody comedians…
Roland Emmerich himself has stated that he is officially disastered-out after this film and doesn't want to do anything more like this. After watching this film, you will probably feel the same.

1 Aug 2011

The Electro Fighter Mixtapes


In this article, I want to talk briefly about each of the mixtapes I have made so far. The software I used is called Sound Studio and it is only available for Mac, although it is just a fairly simple sound editor so I am pretty sure there are similar things out there for PC users.

I have made other mixtapes and short mixes for use in dance shows previously with this software and so I was pretty used to editing with it but the beat matching and then cross fading and cutting and equalising were further challenges I had to meet.

Anyway, here’s is a short description of each mix to date.

Electro Mix 1 – Dec 2010

As you can see by the imaginative title, at the time I didn't really know how far I could go with this – if anything it was just a test to see if I could actually make a DJed mix using this editing software.

Similarly, the track selection was a little more random and unfocused than later mixes as at the time I only had a very limited number of tracks to choose from. Two tracks from Daft Punk’s TRON soundtrack featured as bookends as well as multiple tracks by Chromeo and Tigersapien. In later mixes I have tried to be more diverse and not repeat artists.

As far as mixing goes it wasn't too bad but as of yet I haven’t uploaded this one to Mixcloud.

Super Electro Fighter II Turbo – Mar 2011

With my second mix, Electro Fighter was born! Combining my love of TRON and Street Fighter, I wanted the cover art to be somehow a crossover of the two – something which became a running theme for the cover of other mixes.

I also had a collection of Street Fighter samples from a previous audio project – some of which I started to use in this mix.

Again, I used a TRON track as an intro. I wanted to use Armoury from the album but then having re-watched the film I found that using a direct sample from the film with its vocals and sound effects was far more fitting.

I found this mix to be far more consistent in terms of mixing and track selection.
This was also the first mix I uploaded to Mixcloud. You can listen to it here.

Super Electro Fighter III Third Strike – May 2011

Continuing the theme here with more great tunes – focussing more this time on tracks with vocals. There was no TRON intro this time, but the influence clearly remains with a cheeky sample tucked away right at the end.

For some reason, during this mix I had some problems with the track formats I used to edit in (.m4a and .aiff) that either led to annoying clicks over the music or sudden dips in volume that occurred at random. Although I really like this mix in terms of song selection and mixing, the sheer amount of going back and fixing things and repeatedly testing different formats and ways of saving as a result of these problems was really frustrating.

We got there in the end though. The mix can be heard here.

Electro Fighter III vs Pop Remixes – The FĂȘte of Two Worlds – June 2011

Whilst looking for tunes to use in various mixes, I came across loads of good remixes of well-known pop/rock songs and thought it would make an interesting mix.

The title comes from another similarly barmy crossover – the Marvel vs Capcom games – the series that originally started as Street Fighter vs X-Men.

Remixes range from tracks that were fairly similar to the original but with a dancey edge to ones that were totally different in their remixed form, which provides a nice variety I think. I even put two totally different remixes of the same track next to each other –Ellie Goulding’s Starry Eyed.

This mix was fun for me. Although it could be a little cheesy and tongue in cheek at times, I genuinely like the tracks used.

Perhaps this one will appeal more to those that aren’t that much into dance music – there are many surprises thrown in there to keep you listening.

This mix can be heard here.

Future mixtapes?

At the time of writing, I am planning two further mixes. Super Electro Fighter IV Tournament Edition – featuring all new tracks; and also another ‘concept’ mix – a mix entirely made up of alternate remixes of previously used tracks in the first three mixes.

The reason for the latter is that I often found myself having to choose between multiple remixes of a particular track, so this will be a chance to go back and use some of those. I also think it will make an interesting listen to those that are familiar with my previous mixes – one for the fans if you will.

I’m sure I’ll write and update when these mixes are ready.

27 July 2011

Making Mixtapes Again

Of the many creative endeavours I occasionally partake in, one is making dance music mixtapes.

Years ago I used to DJ as a hobby – decks, vinyl the whole shebang. Back then not many people used CD mixers, mp3s didn't even exist and pretty much all beat matching and mixing was done by ear. I owned 2 sets of deck, mixers and stacks of vinyl but had to eventually give it up due to the sheer expensive of having to continually purchase new vinyl just to stay up to the minute.

The internet too was not too prolific then either, and so the only way I could hear new music was to stay up to record late night radio shows or listen to a selection of vinyl in a record shop. All in all, it proved too much of a drain in finances and when I ended up going abroad for my second year at uni, my career as a DJ was put on hold indefinitely.

As time went by I dabbled more widely in my musical tastes including hiphop, soul, electronica, rock and metal. I listened to pretty much everything – but the progressive house music that I mainly DJed gradually faded away for me.

In the past couple of years, however, with the growth of iTunes previews, youtube and sites such as Soundcloud, exploring different artists and their music has become easier than ever and most recently I’ve been getting back into Electro music. With that my desire to create mixtapes came back again.

As I also became more proficient in using certain sound editing software, I realised I could create mixes like I used to back then, but this time using mp3s and being more precise and creative with my mixing.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have made four of these mixtapes since December 2010, three of which you can currently listen to now on Mixcloud.

At the risk of sounding like an old man… kids today really don't know how much the internet has changed our lives even in the past decade… grumble grumble…

26 July 2011

Deadliest Warrior


Apart from the odd episode in passing, I’ve never really watched the American channel Spike TV’s show Deadliest Warrior, but having recently finished watching the first season of Game of Thrones, I was in search of something new to sate my bloodlust.

Now this programme is a good watch simply in terms of its sheer ridiculousness. For those of you who don't already know - the basic premise is this: each episode compares two types of warrior plucked from somewhere throughout history and pits them against each other in a hypothetical fight to the death.

Throughout the episode, the various weapons for each side are compared in categories such as long, medium and close range and then the effectiveness of killing and/or maiming of these is measured using “modern scientific techniques”, which more often than not is using the weapon on a dead animal carcass or a ‘gel torso’ standing in for a human body.

So far, so gory – most guys have some kind of morbid curiosity about what type of damage these things really could do. Where the show really becomes ridiculous though, is the sheer amount of bravura macho posturing that goes on during it.

You see, instead of particularly boffin-y scientists or fusty old historians approaching things from a calm and intellectual point of view, each warrior’s side is represented by a modern day fight expert (or at times an actual descendent) or two, who fiercely believe that their warrior is greater than the other and stubbornly do their best try and prove so.

Each episode therefore often descends into a dick-swinging slanging match of the juvenile ‘my sword is bigger than your sword’ type nonsense or, ‘see that? That's your guy’s head’, before smashing a skull with a hammer or something.

At the end of it, when all the data is collected on a laptop and plugged into a specially made computer program made by ‘Slytherin Studios’ (hellooooooo nerds!) the simulation is run to see which of the two competing warriors would win in a one-on-one fight repeated a thousand times.
We all know that staring at the resultant bunch of numbers would make for a dull finale and so instead, they show a reconstruction of such a fight for our viewing pleasure. For example, we see a Samurai strolling through the countryside when ‘bam!’ – he randomly runs into Viking.

Immediately they fight in the most dramatic and drawn out way possible making sure that they utilise the COMPLETE RANGE OF WEAPONS that were studied at during the show.

Laughable though this series is – it cant be denied that its fun to watch. I mean who wouldn't want to see ‘Spartan vs Ninja’, ‘Pirate vs Knight’ or more shockingly, ‘IRA vs Taliban’?
For further enjoyment, place bets at the beginning of the show to see if you can guess the outcome!

25 July 2011

Guardian Scheme

Recently I was in London for the weekend with a few friends and we needed to be put up for the night. A friend of a friend said he had enough space at his and that we could crash there.

Apparently he had loads of room and so we hopped into the car and headed over to the postcode he had given.It was about 1.30am as we got out of the car we found ourselves outside a huge warehouse. A few minutes later Rich, who lived there, came trundling around the corner on his Boris Bike, flashing us a cheeky smile.

“Here it is”, he said gesturing to the building. “Give me a sec to get in and then I can let you in the back”.

Moments later we were in and wandering around. What hit me first was its school like structure with its numbered doors, labelled bathrooms and multiple staircases. His room was fairly spacious and having set our bags down there, Rich took us on a quick tour around.

And there it was – the space that took up the majority of the building – a massive empty hall stretching on and on – so big that our voices echoed.

“I can’t believe you actually live here.” Someone said to Rich, staring in wide-eyed wonder.
It turns out that his accommodation was organised under the Property Guardian Scheme that allowed people to live in buildings such as this for low rent in order to deter squatters and vandals and for basic maintenance of the property. This particular building used to be an archive of some sort but now, as all of the materials had been removed, a vast open space in the middle of the building was all that remained.

Most of the room was empty but here and there were various animal sculptures crafted out of various materials, which only added to the surreal feel of the whole place. They belonged to an artist that lived there - one of around 12 other tenants none of whom we saw for the entire time we were there.

We made our way past the felt elephants and fibreglass crocodiles to a lounge area – and sat down on sofas to relax in conversation for a bit and put on some music from a stack of old community records that were piled and shelved in one corner.

“Lets go up to the roof”, someone suggested.

“Sure”, said Rich and we followed him up a flight of stairs.

There, on the floor above, was another massive open hall exactly like the one on the floor below – causing us to wig out all over again. We found out that there was yet another similar room in the basement level. What was someone to do with all this space? Having lived in modest accommodation for most of my life this was very exciting for me.

At the top of the stairs we exited to an outer walkway and then came to a metal ladder affixed to the side of the building. Rich had gone back to get something and so my companions and myself proceeded to climb the ladder and went up on to the roof. The London night sky lay before us, clear and twinkling. It was exhilarating.

Somewhere in a different part of the roof a hatch opened and Rich climbed out and joined us. We sat at the edge of the building for a little while, not too close edge - as there was just a sheer drop and looking down would result in that funny feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Before settling down for the evening, we checked out the basement room and ended up turning the lights out and playing with a glow in-the-dark Frisbee. Come on, you know you would too.

24 July 2011

Limitless Techniques


Neil Burger’s Limitless is an interestingly made film for me, particularly through the varieties of techniques it employs to convey information and ideas to the viewer.

Briefly, the story centres around this deadbeat guy who comes into possession of a miracle pill that lets him access the full capability of his brain and thus achieve things in life he never thought were possible.

During the film, the effect this pill has on Eddie (played by Bradley Cooper) can be easily shown in terms of the results it produces; for instance the money, women, popularity, career and general lifestyle successes he accrues.

However, what is harder to show on film is the way in which the pill works and the effects it has on his Eddie as it kicks in. How can you convey these abstract ideas in a way that makes sense to the viewer? One obvious way in which this issue was tackled was through the use of Eddie’s narration. At times, he directly describes what is going on, but beyond this lies the more interesting stuff.

For a start – cinematography and lighting: Eddie’s regular life is presented in drab and cold green, blues and greys, but when he takes a pill his world is literally illuminated – bright, sunny and clear: a better place to be.

When he first experiences the pill’s effects, he sees another image of himself walking where he was moments before, to imply a heightened sense of self awareness- manifested directly here as an out-of-body experience.

This is also shown through time slowing down, sounds being amplified and certain details in the environment being zoomed in on- none of which are presented as being literal but help to get across the idea of Eddie experiencing a heightened sense whilst on the drug.

More outlandish effects used in some scenes include: letters of the alphabet falling around him as he types away furiously on his novel, the ceiling tiles flicking through stock market information and the various fighting techniques he had seen on TV in the past flashing through his consciousness as he employs them almost instinctively for the first time during a brawl in the subway.

My personal favourite though, is the ‘zoom through multiple shots’ sequence that is used twice in the movie, most noticeably during the opening credits. The camera zooms through shot after shot of bustling New York City giving the illusion of one long seamless take. With so many sounds, sights, lights, people – all with their own incredible minutiae of detail, seemingly going on forever. Drug or no drug - even in just one night and one city, the possibilities presented here are truly limitless.

21 July 2011

This... is... BLOG!


This… is… BLOG!

Okay, now read that again, but this time imagine the person saying it is King Leonidas, AKA Gerald Butler, AKA Geraaaarrd Butler (if you are American), in the film 300 and he is just about to boot that guy down the well.

Okay, ready? Go!

This… is… BLOG!

Boom! ‘aaargh’ – slow motion falling… you know the rest.

Anyway, the point here is to illustrate my own personal war cry to… er… myself. You see, I’ve always wanted to write - but as with any skill you can never really grow and develop without practice.

So this is my practice - this blog. A place for my personal manifesto of writing 300 words a day to take shape in. Documented proof that it’s happening. Originally, I wanted to start on the first day of 2011 or the next day after my birthday (you see my skills of procrastination at work here…) but to hell with it – 20th July is a good a day to start as any!

Okay, any questions? You in the back - reading the computer screen!

‘What will I write about?’

Well, anything and everything, really. It can be an informational, an opinion piece, a review, a work of fiction, whatever I feel like at the time. However, as well as writing a variety of pieces, I also endeavour to explore different writing styles - so don't think I’ve lost the plot if I decide to switch it up again.

On a side note – whatever I write about or in whatever style, I will try not to delve too much in to personal matters as: a) This is not a diary and reading a recounted tale of how you missed your bus and had to wait in the rain and blah blah blah is a cop out, not to mention MEGA BORING to you the reader; and b) I am sick to death of people pouring out details of their personal life all over the internet, crying out for attention and then moaning about the creeps and trolls who inevitably gather having invaded their privacy.

So, each entry will be at least 300 words long and should be labelled with what kind of piece it is. There may be an odd pic or two in there to as we all know how monkeys and babies like to point at pictures and coo.

So let the writing commence! Let the words fly worth – so many that they blot out the sun! If that happens… Then we will type in the dark! Hohoho… aaaaaand cut!

20 July 2011