In which I co-write a musical…

Date: Mon 23 March 2015:   Event: My first ever full-length musical !

TICKETS AVAILABLE!

I’m super-excited to call myself a London Theatre Impresario! A date, a venue, a show, tickets on sale!

Scary as I’m currently only about 70% of the way through writing every single note of the upcoming musical adventure that will be held in conjunction with the inimitable Hack Circus in exactly one month’s time.

We’ve written a story to go with some expert talks and some rather spiffing tunes as well even if I say so myself. Leila happens to be a genius librettist in my opinion and I’m hoping my tunes and orchestration will do those fantastic lyrics justice. She and I have hatched a musical monster of a night out… What a nerve-wracking but satisfying experience this is!

TERRIFYING REALITY:

  • I need to finish building the scores and orchestration
  • we need to finalise the order of songs and talks and audience interactive bits
  • I’ll have to learn and sing pretty much all the songs on the night
  • Leila and I have to pre-record some short bits of audio to give on-stage a break
  • I’m trying to build a home-made instrument that may or may not work on the night
  • Eek I need to do all the audio show control while performing (Ableton I’m looking at you)
    and;
  • people are actually buying tickets so it has to be good because we have a paying audience.

ONE NIGHT ONLY

Talking of which, if you’re in London that evening AND want to be the first to see this quite peculiar and creative take on the musical genre. From the HC site:

We will be travelling in a unique sound-powered tunnelling vessel, currently under development. Please bear in mind: we really don’t know what we will find. We need a strong healthy team. It might be worth getting down to the gym now if you can.

Bring a torch. This is very important. We are expecting it to be dark.

We will be guided on our journey by three experts: monster afictionado sci-fi author Chris Farnell, historian and volcano enthusiast Ralph Harrington and shark-mad comics legend Steve White – but who knows who (or what) else we might encounter?

From: Hack Circus

TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE!

OK, I’m intrigued, tell me more:

hackcircus.com/underworlds/ 

(link for mobile users: http://www.hackcircus.com/underworlds )

DID I MENTION TICKETS ARE ON SALE?

Yes!! I’m ready and can’t think of a better way to spend a Monday night!

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!

(link for mobile users: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hack-circus-underworlds-tickets-15756232315?aff=es2&rank=1 )

^^This link goes to the EventBrite Ticket Page if you’d like to buy a ticket or two.

**For some reason, none of my links work. Head over to hackcircus dot com forward slash underworlds. Oh the humanity…

you can't see how crowded it is in this pic....

Niche Tech at CES 2012

you can't see how crowded it is in this pic....

Innovations at CES Unveiled 2012

A mere 3 hours after my plane landed, I squeezed into 2012’s CES Unveiled Exhibition : the show before the Show, as it were. In fact, the word ‘squeezed’ might be too understated; the place was utterly rammed with jetlagged journos hungry for good food and good stories.

A chap got his wristwatch caught in my rucksack! Cue awkward but funny unentangling

The CES Unveiled Zoo

This year’s theme focused more on household tech rather than ‘bling’ toys.  A cleverly designed flat plug which gives wall outlets USB charging facility prompted me to wonder why it wasn’t done before. Another retailer a few metres away had a slightly different, cleverly designed flat plug which did the same thing.

If the Unveiled show was the precursor to CES 2012 proper, then niche-tech i.e. ‘doing one thing well’ looks to be next on our consumer tech lust list. Take Qooq, for example – a recipe-centric tablet. (More info on Qooq from Cnet)

actually, the spicy ahi tuna sushi was lovely.

Qooq Recipe Tablet with plates

It plays movies and music, like a lot of the other tablets on the market. But its makers have stuffed the tablet full of High Definition video of ‘gourmet chefs cooking stuff’, and made it more rugged, i.e. ‘kitchen-friendly’. $399 gets you around 3,000 chef-demonstrated recipes, sitting atop a Linux-based OS. The tablet’s been around since 2009, and already sold over 15,000 units in its native France. Further recipes can be streamed from the internet (for a subscription, of course).

Bodymedia's FIT kit.

Heart-rate monitors, pedometers and other body-sensing kit has been around for a while. For a TV feature a few years back   for the BBC, I wore a then-new device from Bodymedia that measured calorie burn-rate. At the time, I had to download my device manually every few days. But the 2012 reboot uses the owner’s smartphone to update results in real time on the web. And, like the designer USB wall plug, competitors aren’t far behind, with another company showing a similar device.

Zensorium's Tinke

Another sensor, Tinke, comes from Zensorium – plugged into an iPhone, it takes your pulse and measures oxygen saturation and respiration levels. Fitness console games have proved there is a market in this area – and the makers are keen to ‘upsell’ the lifestyle aspect of tech like this. Of course it tracks your progress, and gives you the option to compare your score with other users.

Bikn's Tag

Treehouse Labs, a wireless sensor company, showed Bikn (pronounced ‘Beacon’).  Remember those old keyrings you had to whistle to find? The modern version uses an app and custom-made iPhone case to trace tagged precious items to within 30 metres or so – a  small but significant move toward the inevitable ‘Internet of Things’ that everyone keeps talking about.

What do I think these devices have in common?

Most of these devices focus on just one thing, and base it on something else’s power. The USB Charger uses existing wall sockets, the cooking tablet plugs into the net, the body-sensing and tagging devices tap into the processing power of a smartphone. Each product stands a chance of being successful in the market place because it fulfils a specific need that our ‘do everything’ smartphones can’t quite manage yet. Specialist add-on gadgetry is emerging.

The Origin of the iPad – kinda

Everything stems from something before it – after all, you couldn’t have Oasis without the Beatles, you couldn’t have the Beatles without Elvis, and you couldn’t have Elvis without … you get the idea.

Hidden Room at the Beeb

Click to Go to the BBC site: Analogue Computing, Polaroid's Back, Cockney Singing

RSS readers / can’t see the link? click http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/8710938.stm to go to the Beeb’s Site:

This is the piece I did for BBC Click all about analogue tech, and it was such a pleasure to do.

Some interesting behind-the-scenes stuff

  • The computer behind Kevin Murrell in the picture is an old analogue machine from the 1970s, it’s modelling a damped mass, i.e. adjusting the suspension on a wheel so it bounces properly. The oscilloscope shows the trace on screen.
  • The Analogue Computing Room is one of many fascinating places within the National Museum of Computing – there’s a working 2nd world war Colussus machine there, and a bunch of old kit including the beloved ZX spectrum – a lot of the stuff is hands on – you can touch and play with it!
  • The room was quite small, so the camera is right up against one wall, and Kevin is sitting down next to the machine – the camera’s tilted to get that shot.
  • The Polaroid brand has gone through some very interesting times and the name is now licensed out. After an FBI raid, the owner of the holding company will now have to do time in prision.
  • The Impossible Project sells reverse-engineered film for the old cameras. There are some lovely videos on their site and a tour of their factory
  • Adrian Tuddenham from Poppy Records has been given very strange artefacts to play in his time, including magnetized wire and paper. If he doesn’t have a player, he’ll make one. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of microphone technology.
  • The band in the piece are very charming, and called The Men That Would Not Be Blamed for Nothing – they describe their music, roughly, as “Victorian Cockney Grindcore”.
  • Andy Heintz, one of the band members, has 4 cats, the non-ginger cat is called “Ginger”.
  • Andrew O’Neill, another band member, is a stand up comedian and charming telly crasher, smiling in the background and remaining in shot throughout another person’s  interview in the green room of a New Zealand TV show. He also hosts Jack the Ripper walks.
  • To find out more about the Steampunk movement, you can build your own stuff, pop over to  http://steampunkworkshop.com/ .

Righty ho, back to work – my next piece is all about Fitness, and I’ll tell you all about it when I get my breath back …

Analogue Days

I was asked by BBC Technology to help with their Tech Know segment about making a wax cylinder.

And if you ever wondered what would happen if you put together cockney grindcore band “The Men That Would Not Be Blamed For Nothing“, genius sound recordist Adrian Tuddenham from Poppy Records and of course BBC Tech’s Jason Palmer and multiskilled producer Andrew Webb

… you end up with around 4 minutes of enjoyable mayhem.

From BBC's Tech Know series

RSS Readers/ Can’t see the link? Watch the video by clicking here.

The Wax Cylinder is how audio was recorded before iPods, before MP3s, before CDs and even before Vinyl.

What does the future hold for audiophiles? Do you think the new cloud-based music model will be the next big thing? I’d love your thoughts on the future of audio consumption…

Why do we Blog?

A two-fold post for you this time:

Part 1: More about the Blogging feature on BBC Click

Part 2: Why do we Blog?

Part 1.

This week was busy – the latest episode of Click Bits -the little 3 minute tech newscast – is now online… Click on the pic if you want to watch it.

(RSS Readers/can’t click on the pic to view? link here: Http://bit.ly/clickbits006 )

    …and my blogging piece on BBC Click is on this week’s show.

    Ah, the "Hello World" post - do you remember yours?

    Thank you very much Judith Lewis Mike Robinson , Marko Saric, Clare English and Andy Bargery for their cameos.   They each gave me about 20 seconds’ worth of blog tips on video, which I integrated into the piece.

    I took a few 3 second shots of some blogs at the beginning of the package

    They are listed here:

    Below are a few more blogs I’ve enjoyed reading in recent times:

    You’ll be able to read the whole transcript of the blogging feature here.

    • _

    part 2.

    Making the segment got me to thinking about when I first started blogging, so I went back and read my “Hello World” post i.e. the first post I ever wrote, which was about 90 posts ago.

    (If you absolutely have to, you can read it here. <cringe>)

    Then I wondered: What makes us blog? What drives us to leave a mark of our mundane existence on the internet? Who do we imagine writing to when we’re typing?

    So, of course, I came up with a thoroughly empirical theory.

    As a human, I normally spend a lot of time thinking, but my mouth blurts any given thought out after little (if any) moderation from my addled, overworked, overclocked brain.  I’m assuming that other humans experience this too.*

    If that is the case (and if we have the desire to do so) then writing could give us the freedom and time to craft a sentence, play with the words, and get a sense of perspective we can rarely access “in the moment”. We can proof-read our thoughts in type, then adjust that thought until it “makes sense” – to us, the authors, as much as any reader. This crafting of ideas into concrete might even result in learning something about ourselves we didn’t know until we saw it on the page.  Or of course, it could be nothing of the sort. We could just want to post pictures of cats because we love cat pictures.

    Incidentally, the above paragraph took 35 minutes to write, and included moving the sentences around, working out what I wanted to say – then making it sound nice to read in my head. I’m now doubting whether or not it’s a self-indulgent paragraph of pointlessness, and now I’m thinking it’s dinner time soon, and I should probably turn the computer off and deal with this later.

    Indeed, none of the above musings touch on the obvious love of story that permeates our very existence – mythology, fairy tales and even documentaries – but that is most definitely another post all on its own.

    So,  please leave your comments: Bloggers, Why do you blog? Readers, what do you read?  I’d be honoured if you left your thoughts below.

    *to paraphrase the great Douglas Adams, and probably a few others, the worst assumptions are the ones you don’t know you’re making.

    More ClickBits

    They say work expands to fit the time available – and in this case, the 3 minute tech round up on the BBC’s website takes the better part of a day to make.

    This post is really to chronicle the 3rd and 4th episodes so I can remember where I put them on the internet…  Click on the picture to get re-directed to the BBC’s site.

    Clickbits Episode 4  – can’t see the link? click here: http://bit.ly/clickbits004

    The really bonkers one to do was Episode 3 which I pushed down from Las Vegas during an evening where every other technology person there was also trying to send video.   Once the video was sent back to the UK,  Zoe and Gary put the pictures together on the other end.

    It was very strange sending down raw material and seeing a put-together programme emerge at the end of it.

    Clickbits Episode 3  – can’t see the link? click here: http://bit.ly/clickbits003

    These links were filmed next to the Intel touch-wall, which was a giant interactive cube pulling pictures down from flickr. It was being run on what looked like a normal laptop – which surprised me – the graphics card in there must have been rather tasty.

    If you want to see some pictures from CES 2010 , pop over to my flickr site here for a look round some of the weird and wonderful gadgets on display here.

    Click Bits!

    2 minutes of fame :-)

    Pilot show Click Bits - Episode 2!

    (RSS/Can’t see the link? here you go: http://bit.ly/clickbits002 )

    This is what I’ve been up to the last month, as well as doing quite a bit for bbc click recently… including working with the marvellous Maggie Philbin on our futurology piece. She’s done such a brilliant post here about our visit to Kingswood Warren that I don’t need to add anything…

    OK, I will add that we both turned up on the ShiftRunStop podcast last week.

    Here are some behind-the-scenes pics of the birthing of ClickBits.

    My bag with script in - and an impressive amount of useless stuff

    – yes I did eat that twirl. And I didn’t bother taking pics of the usual tv stuff including filming pieces to camera, script wrangling and finding pictures to fit. Unless you want me to next time?

    Also the madness of only having a finite amount of time to do an infinite amount of work is the sort of thing is familiar to techies everywhere. Editors, I’m thinking of YOU when I type this.

    tape of episode 1 ! yes, tape! Click on this if you want to see episode 1, but episode 2 is better 🙂 Click on the top pic for that.

    The grown-up edit suite was double booked for our first episode, but it didn’t stop us – we squeezed into a small office and crowded around a desk and computer meant for 1 person.  Final Cut Pro, in case you were wondering. And yes, we ate a LOT of choccy in  a room so cramped all our knees were touching.

    on its way into the BBC system?

    This was our 2nd attempt to ingest 3 mins of video into the BBC, we were thwarted by technology many times! It’s always worse when a BIG machine borks – I always (illogically, irrationally and incorrectly) expect computers with 4 screens to be, I don’t know, cleverer.

    Ingest point

    Humans 3, Machines 2

    Finally, the wondrous Zoe (who is producing this with me and is the illustrious @zsk on twitter) came across this hidden terminal and executed some kind of Harry Potter spell that meant the machines had to obey her – and they did.

    As I’m off to CES Las Vegas 2010 next week, Zoe and I will be attempting to make the 3rd Click bits episode a few thousand miles apart… we’ll be using yousendit and psychic powers to make that work, but if anyone can do it, it will be the 2 most stubborn people at the Beeb – us!