Can I kick it?

Can I kick it?

… Well, if you really want to.

 

I apologise in advance.  This is the second tech/game head post in much less time than I would have liked.  But what can I say…  I need more material.  Um… no.  I mean, it is something that has come to my attention recently.  Yeah, that sounds better.

If you (or your kids/friends) don’t play a lot of computer games, you may not have heard of ‘Kickstarter’.  (Although it is a system being used in several branches of the entertainment industry now).

Essentially it is a bit of a piss take.  Or a method of supporting talented people that don’t have industry backing to achieve their potential.  Unfortunately, it is roulette to find out which is which.

Ok, explanation time.  Kickstarter is a method for innovative people with a crackin’ idea to obtain financial backing from the public.  They don’t have to jump through the industry hoops to get the funding.  And don’t have to sign away the homestead just to get the backing to float their dream.  The idea is floated on the interweb.  And us, the public, can choose to wack them a bit of cash to support their dream.  And lots of little contributions can (and already have, in many cases) completely fund the development process to achieve the innovators goal, and bring us something pretty damn funky, that we otherwise would not have access to…  And more importantly, for me, big business didn’t even get a look in.  The little guy supported the other little guy.  And suddenly the second little guy has a working business model and can go head to head with the bigger players on a certain level.

So why should you bother?  Times are hard.  Why should you fork out your hard earned?

Yeah.  I thought that.

What do I get?

But isn’t that a little mercenary?  If you see an idea that you think is pretty cool, could you not spare a couple of quid/bucks/rupiah to help someone who could be like you, or your next door neighbour to achieve their dream?  It is very little to you.  But a few hundred people feeling the same could provide the lacking funds to bring us the next innovation that we can’t live without.

But seriously?  What do I get?

Ok.  In most of the cases of the kickstarters that I have seen, if you chip in early on, you get the end product when it is finished.  You also get to play with it at each of the stages of it's development.  And to have some input into what works and what doesn't during the development process.  Ok, this is more of a software (games) thing.  It's not so easy for you to play with the test version of a vaccuum cleaner that will challenge Hoover or Dyson for the market leading brand name.  But nearly all of the kickstarters I have seen…  they will reward those that had faith in them, once their dream is achieved.

I know right?  What a fantastic idea!  The little guy gets financial help from hundreds of other little guys, as long as s/he comes up with something interesting.  (Not the 'we get something for it' bit.  The 'we give a little, they get to achieve their dream' bit).

But sadly, in this day and age, if someone comes up with a cracking idea involving altruism…  some cunt will come up with a plan to exploit it.  Welcome to the games industry.

 

Ok, that comment may be a bit harsh.  But as soon as someone spots ‘free cash’, the twat badgers emerge from their dens.  Loads of talentless wannabes throw their amateur renditions into the pot.  I applaud their ambition.  Bit every other bugger took the time to learn their trade before trying to get paid to do it.  But as you can wack up a kickstarter for your hobby project, why bother to get good at it first?  People may be gullible enough to give you cash for your inability.

Also, there are groups/companies that are funding their projects though kickstarter schemes and then completely failing to deliver (to the proposed schedule).  Overly ambitious project planning I can understand and, to a certain level, forgive.  But then (after the kickstarter period) is complete, charging a full release price for ‘early access’ to a product that is WAY behind the development schedule and completely failing to deliver the experience that their ‘envisioneering’ has promoted is just WRONG!  The building industry cannot get away with two out of four walls, a couple of windows and a stack of lumber and tiles that will one day be a roof, and saying 'Thanks for your funding.  Here is some of a house.  Tell you what… give us some more money, move in, and then tell us how you think we can improve your living experience'.

Releasing stuff before it is actually working, charging people for ‘early access’, and using them as unpaid alpha testers is, in my humble opinion, immoral and completely wrong.

Ok,  (back to the kickstarters) they pay less for the game and still get the full version upon release…  but the companies are still charging people to do the shit that they should be paying for.

Hell, if someone offered you a half price bar of soap… saying that “it’s not quite a finished product yet.  Try it, and when we have got it right…  You get a free bar!”…  And then it kinda burns and doesn’t really get you clean, you’d be a pissed.  Especially when, upon you getting a bit miffed about it being really crap soap, they said “Well, we did tell you it wasn’t ready yet.  But when it is, you still get a free bar.”

So, yeah.  Kickstarters are a really bloody good idea.  But an idea that is being abused.  But don’t let this put you off.  Just give it careful thought and consideration before you actually give them your cash.

Yes, you may be getting stuff earlier and cheaper than if you waited until it was a finished product (and when it is, you get yours free).  But they have to finish it before you get anything worthwhile…  And finished and neatly packaged toxic waste is still just a box of toxic waste.  Just sayin'.

Everything is awry as usual – Whisper sweet nothing in my ear

Everything is awry as usual – Whisper sweet nothing in my ear

This time I am going to talk about something a little strange, but not that new to me.

The short back story would be that I live alone in an apartment and tend to hear noises from my neighbors now and again. This will at times make me a bit jumpy and a light sleeper. For that I have turned to simple “white noise” generation via the internet. YouTube has been a great provider in a variety of monotone sounds that will drown out shuffling feet and farting neighbors… have I mentioned how easy it is to hear them at night. I can pick the centimeter of where they are pulling clothes out of their bedroom closets. Even though it is stone brick walls, it’s very noisy.

The point of using such noise to drown out other abstractions has proved to work very well and with a sleep timer program on a computer, it needs a standing ovation. Never before has it been so simple to sleep… just strap in and program your computer, put on some earphones, don’t lie on your sides or the plugs will stab you, find the right volume, fall asleep, wake up because your snoring is surprising you, turn off the computer, pull out the plugs, go pee because you are awake, find a comfortable position, go to sleep without the noise inhibitor. It is just as easy as programming in basic with 200 meter safety distance and a hand-grenade. (Probably the same result too!)

After this varied success, due to me sometimes being so tired I just pull the plugs out and fall asleep in seconds. I sought the internet for something I might be able to use without headphones. The reason I use the phones is that it isolates the noise quite well.
For a while I found various ten hour noises that could do the trick, but started optimizing my search to a half hour/one hour clip, since I rarely woke up after starting a noise drowning session. It was about that time I ran into ASMR and what a load of weirdness that has become.

What is ASMR you ask… well this is a short explanation from wiki (a good source for randomness and dodgy science xoD )

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli. The nature and classification of the ASMR phenomenon is controversial.

Well how did we get smarter by that heap of threatening words? Never have I seen more fighting talk in my life and no one to punch… too bad. Since I don’t punch people it might be a good thing… might be… I don’t know!

ASMR is a pseudo scientific treatment for people with headaches and easy erections. It is a bunch of people whispering into microphones and acting out role play for the sake of the listener. This concept is a bit like telling people that drinking water can cure cancer. If you believe it hard enough, it might work on the basis of something unexplained… in another universe, behind a burning star, inside a dark hole, half way around your momma! Boom! Got you!

Seldom have I been more pleased with a momma joke. Back to the sweet, sweet nothing in my ears.

I as a curious man used sparse time to listen to some of these strange and though intriguing videos about either a mundane every day event role played by someone with only a faint idea of what they were talking about when they were talking “shop”.

Others just made noises with various items or made noises themselves to spark a sense or a memory or a feeling or a subconscious twitch that would make the listener like that sound punched into their skull like a inappropriate hipthruster with a running start. For nearly every person there is something in their life they have done or have heard that would “trigger” them and getting it served slowly and awkwardly sensual through a stranger on YouTube just feels… weird. Is it the thought of it being made or the thought of feeling something that makes it strange?

I have talked with various people about the vanilla concept of white noise for sleep and the mere thought of explaining that I would like to have strangers pretend to treat me through role play and whispering on the internet just screams Arkham Asylum. Being nuts for no obvious reason seem to be a good trade there. :op

Of many strange quirks I have gotten in my search for peace of mind, this is ranking highly on the scale… and there is even a new level… multi-layered incoherent whispering. In the large variety of strangeness you can find incoherent whispering and random noises if you are getting excited by psychotic horror game ambiance… perv.
Now you can get several layers of sound and whispering at the same time overloading your paranoia gauge until you try to use a cat as a sword to fend off your dishes, which you stacked in the shape of the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters II. Some things are meant to be and some things are meant to not be… or something likes that.

Has the world gone awry as usual… or is it just me? And if it is me… is it okay, to be awry?

The spirit of Euromaidan – Дух Euromaidan

The spirit of Euromaidan – Дух Euromaidan

There aren’t a lot of revolutions anymore, and certainly none in my neck of the woods. I was old enough to realise the importance of the fall of the Wall. I remember watching every bit of news we could get on the telly, and checking the teletext every morning to see if there was anything new and exciting. I’d grown up with the Cold War and Reagan and Maggie, I remember the end of the Falklands War, and Berlin and Rumania were a long way from home.

I’ve walked many a mile for freedom fighters in other countries – for the Basque, Palestinians, Zapatistas and Kurdistan. I’ve protested for gay rights and freedom of speech and against racism and female oppression. But it’s never been personal.

maidan5I fell for Kyiv the first time I was there, and the second time she welcomed me as a second home. Ukraine is a beautiful country and Ukrainians are a marvellous people – their will to sacrifice themselves so others may live is truly remarkable, seen both in the Chernobyl disaster and in Euromaidan.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti is the heart of Kyiv, a pulsating, vibrant and enveloping place where Kyivians gather to protest or rejoice. I have fond memories from the Independence Day celebrations last year, of all the happy people dressed in their finest, wearing and waving the blue and yellow of their flag, of the amazing fireworks display and multimedia show on one of the magnificent buildings.

Then Yanuk decided to trash the talks with the EU, and what started as a small, uninteresting protest – just a handful of students who were sick and tired and wanted to be Europeans – turned ugly when Yanuk set the police on them. On December 1st, Euromaidan in its present form began. Ukrainians came to Maidan to protect the students, to protect each other, to protest the increasingly vicious laws that Yanuk was bringing into force and all the official funds that were siphoned off – by the billions – into the pockets of his family and friends. Their protection was in peace, in numbers and solidarity, not from violence, and that has been the slogan for Euromaidan all along – freedom without violence.

Having followed, breathed, tweeted and cried for Euromaidan from November 22nd to February 22nd, I thought that the end of the revolution would leave me sated. Instead I wanted more – I needed to be there – having feared that I would never again walk those beautiful streets for so long. Unfortunately, my financial status as such is so bad that I had no chance of going there until autumn at the earliest.

That is, until my friend PM’ed me and said: I need to go there and help sweep the roads, will you come with me and be my guide? How could I refuse such a request! Eight days later we were flying high, waiting for the descent to Boryspil. Walking out the gates we were met by Andrej, ever helpful and pleased to see us again. Driving in to Kyiv I was elated with joy – soon I would see my wonderful Maidan again!

Maidan and Khreshchatyk, the parade street that runs through her, are still protected by barricades. There is no trust with the politicians in the interim government and the barricades will stay in place at least until the elections on May 25th. My first glimpse from the car was a blow to the gut. I was grateful I was in the front seat and could hide my silent tears. Watching it on a screen is one thing, but seeing it in person – completely different.

maidan1Our flat was a five minute walk from Maidan. Walking through the first, flimsy barricades and onto the square was heart-breaking. The sickening smell of acrid smoke was heavy on the senses. A barricade of tires, woodwork, kiosks and rubble was straight ahead, to our right were several memorials with an abundance of flowers and lights, and to our left the burnt-out remains of the once stately Trade Unions building.

That’s when the pain and horror truly hit me. How can anyone order a building – a temporary hospital as such, with seriously injured people – to be torched in that way? I could hear their anguished screams in my mind, the horrible smell in my nose seemed to be of scorched flesh, and I almost thought I could see smoke billowing out of the windows.

maidan3

 

We walked through the barricades and into a war zone, into a bubble, an alternate universe. There are tents everywhere – for rest, for sleep, for meals. Army kitchens are abundant and volunteers keep people fed and warm throughout the day. Food is free for those who need it, and is paid for by donations from near and far. I could see the fires that caused the smoke and realised that the smell was not of burning humans, but of warmth and support and comfort.

Further on, banners with pictures and names of many of those who gave their lives. Flowers and flags blackened by smoke everywhere. And thousands of people, some dressed in army drabs, some in mourning, others dressed as if it were a normal day. For them, it probably was, for us, it was intense. The feeling of safety – within the barricades, within the walls of the bubble – was great. We walked and walked and walked, past millions of flowers and thousands of candles and hundred of photos, toys, bibles, pieces of clothing and shoes. We stood in front of the stage and listened to a priest say some words. There was the Christmas tree with all her banners and flags, there was Berehynia still protecting her hearth, there was the statue of Kyiv’s founding Brothers and Sister with their sooty flags.

There are no words to describe my emotions that evening. I was on a rollercoaster that went from tears to laughter within seconds. The next day was the same – meeting up with Ukrainian friends from Lviv and Kyiv, wandering inside and outside the bubble, the war zone that was beginning to feel like a theme park from Les Mis – except the AK47s are real, the past and present threats to democracy are real, the loss of lives is real. Kids wandering around with fan-tailed pigeons for photo ops were the same as on Independence Day, but these were wearing drab hoodies instead of summer colours. Minnie Mouse was in her finest, but the demolished water cannon was as much of an attraction.

maidan2Gradually I felt less guilt, less sorrow, less pain. I became a part of Maidan, as it had become a part of me in the previous four months. I spoke with strangers who weren’t strangers, because there is a connection between all who are there. We watched planks being moved onto Maidan in the morning that during the day became an enormous construction to house a guest book and a place of contemplation. One day we were part of an international flag parade with dozens of flags from nations all over the world. Walking on to Maidan with my Ukrainian flag and my two friends carrying a Norwegian flag each was amazing, the applause was overwhelming.

And the people. Even in the most battle worn of faces, the ones who had stayed since the beginning, there was hope and friendship. Their gratitude for our visiting seemed greater than ours for what they have done. The burly, scary guy with the enormous baseball bat guarding the entrance to Instytutska who wanted us to take his photo. The young English teacher/translator from Eastern Ukraine who was sad that foreigners thought he was a Banderista just because he was a patriot. Some Ukrainians feared that Putin would bomb their city and others thought Crimea would end up as Transnistria.

All good things must end, as did this weekend. We only spent 65 hours in Kyiv this time, but the emotions will always be there. Humbleness, for a people who stayed put even when the bullets were flying, who kept singing and praying and hoping for a better future. Pride, that I have played a part in this revolution. Respect, for all those who sacrificed themselves so that Ukraine may once again be free. Happiness, that I was allowed to be present and feel the warmth and love of Maidan. Sadness, that so much pain and suffering was wreaked on so many people both physically and mentally. And hope – that Ukrainians will get their freedom and democracy.

All I know for certain is that Euromaidan has changed me. To the better, I hope. I look forward to celebrating Independence Day on Maidan this year. I will be waving my Ukrainian flag(s) and singing Держа́вний гі́мн Украї́ни (Ukraine has not yet perished), I have no idea what words I am singing but I can copy the sounds quite well at the moment. And when someone yells Slava Ukraini! I will reply (Pavlovsk as I am) Heroyem slava! as we all do, on Maidan.

maidan4Interesting how a country I knew nothing about (two years ago) now has my internationalistic heart in a vice. I didn’t even realise I was a nationalist until recently. Nationalism – love of a nation – is never bad, as long as it is used for good. I wish all the best for Ukraine, and I look forward to visiting her again, and again, and again. I feel blessed to have the spirit of Euromaidan in my heart, body and soul. If my actions and deeds have changed even just one person’s view of the revolution and Ukraine, I have done my job.

Слава Україні!

Produx #2: Shelter

Produx #2: Shelter

As promised I will start using this as more of a development blog of my current projects, while I try to get a foothold and my hands on some spare time again. I guess I have to explain a few things here, though.

Some time ago I was on vacation and gathering dust on the lawn enjoying a gorgeous view of the sea, and I thought to myself something along the lines that I wish that a bit of music could encapsulate that feeling. Mulling this over I eventually came to the conclusion that what 8-bit music had in advantage over symphonic and philharmonic music that exists solely to build up walls of amazing sound to overwhelm the listener is atmosphere. Simplicity was the key back in the era when you could only play the three tunes of a chord at once, no more. And it made for some atmospherical music, too.

So being tired of the usual comercial and industrialised music that is pumped through the radio I encouraged myself to write a piece of music that would at least attempt to embody the essence of something that is ultimately beautiful and good in this world through simple melodies and one day, and I am not saying it is today, I might get good at it and make something is would be considered good by the general public. Someday. Maybe?

And that led to the Summerland Project, named solely for the funny abbreviation SLaP. And while I do not want to dive into the six previous themes I hold with varying regard and esteem, I will here present the development blog containing my thoughts and ideas I tried to put into the seventh installment on my YouTube SLaP playlist: Shelter.

The video has recently gone online on YouTube and you can watch it just below here. I strongly encourage you, if you watch the animation, to watch it in 1080p.

The animation was programmed in statistical software R because I do not have any fancy animation software, nor the means or desire to acquire and learn how to use such software. I am here to make the music and the animation is just something to keep your eyes occupied.

The feeling I attempted to capture was that of the safety and comfort being inside or at least underneath a surface sheltering you from a storm or rain. The offset emotion and inspiration came from me snuggled up with a blanket and hot cocoa about a month ago looking out at the spring rain pouring down relentlessly. And to some degree I think this is what the feeling of nostalgia boils down to as well; being in your comfort zone while observing change or unfavourable conditions as a spectator rather than a participant or subject to the 'rain/storm/change'.

And this inspired the piano in the piece. It does not play a tune, but rather sticks to it never changed basic rhythm, while playing simple chords, but I forced the bass of the piano chords to be the some tone throughout the changing chords, because while this comfort of being a spectator or being nostalgic is just that: comfort forced upon a basis that is subject to changes/storm/rain. It is human nature, but it is also something we choose to force unto ourselves.

This does not in any way make nostalgia inherently good or bad, but the extremes of embracing nothing but nostalgia is bordering on closed-mindedness and never allowing yourself to enjoy nostalgic elements is bordering on denial of the past and some sort of self-mutalism by the means of forcing yourself outside your comfort zone.

And on that note the chord structure for this piece was adapted while it is a simple F major that basically plays F, B, D minor and C pretty much all the way through, I am not at all happy with swing rhythms, or jazz for that matter, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and using plenty of sus4 chords, added dominant sevenths and added nineth to get that happy jazz feel to it with plenty of – frankly cheesy – pitch bends to make it more catchy.

Finally on the cartoonish 'droplet' sound effect; Why is it there? Because no matter how much you believe that you are outside the reach of the storm/rain/change outside and just looking at it, in someway you will always be affected by it nonetheless and while it might only be a slight effect, it will still be there.

I do not feel like including here a detailed explanation on how the animation was done, but suffice to say that it was completely automated and programmed by me to be both visually appealing yet maintaining a degree of randomness, because, at the end of the day, if you really think about it, this world and the things that happen in it… can be really random :)