Strike action on June 30th

I have posted this 3 times using my other internet alter-ego- but it keeps being deleted… Time for a bit of redeye action for this infrequent but angry blogger… I have been censored on my favorite social network (again) so it looks like the government is worried about this Thursday. I am pretty sure I will be so busy moving house on this day that I will be unable to make any of it, but for those that can- here is the info for Leeds…

Picket lines
30th June, 6:30am – 10am
There will be picket lines all over the city – outside schools, colleges, universities and government buildings like job centres and courts. Loads of people will be visiting these picket lines to show their support, feel free to join in. If you’re not sure where to go then head Leeds Met Student Union on Woodhouse Lane from 7am, where there’ll be information about activity across the city.

Demonstration
30th June, 11:30am outside Leeds Met Student Union on Woodhouse Lane
Route yet to be announced, but it will be marching through town down to the rally at City Square. The demonstration will raise awareness about the stikes and be an opportunity to take the anti-cuts message out onto the streets.

Rally
30th June, 12pm at City Square
Hosted by the striking unions, the rally will have anti-cuts speakers from across the movement.

http://www.j30strike.org/ is a website for the movement which has additional information for folk across the country.

Anyone who uses the health service, anyone who has children in school, anyone who has been affected by the recession and the greed of the rich should be there to support our public sector workers… basically everyone who can be there, should be there. Lets show these bastards what we’re made of!

The Century of the Self

We’re big fans of Adam Curtis here at Red Eye. He is quite possibly one of the most important documentary filmmakers of our time. He uses historical news footage, interviews and a powerful narrative to draw lateral connections and reveal hidden trajectories in our recent past – trajectories that have shaped our present world and the way we think about it. His new series All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, recently aired on the BBC, and is well worth watching, giving as it does, a unique angle on how computers have changed the way we think about the world. More on this soon…

The Century of the Self is now a cult classic, and probably the best introduction to his work. It was originally a four part documentary, but is included here as one file… I hope this doesn’t put people off watching it in full, as it is a work that really needs watching in it’s entirety. It draws a huge arc across the 20th century starting with Freud and how psychoanalysis began to be used by advertisers and the propaganda machine to control the population, the illusion of democracy, the rise of consumerism and individualism and the death of socialism. It is our history in the raw perfectly told. Essential viewing for all.

On Zen & The Ego

A Lotus Mandala

Being an “atheist”, can one also be spiritual? What does spiritual mean? Believing in Spirits? What is a spirit? A zest? A power force? An energy? Something undefinable that just is?

From my perspective there are two sides of us. There is the ego; the analytical voice inside your head, that is constantly chattering away, trying to make sense of “things”. But what is a “thing”? A thing is a concept, an idea, a construct of the ego. In reality, there are no single things, but one single thing; everything. A single thing which is everything and everyone. A single energy which flows and manifests itself in various guises, but which is essentially, all one and the same.

The ego, the thinking mind tries to grasp this as a concept, but the limitations of language, measuring, defining, make it impossible to grasp or to possess with/by thoughts alone. Like a scientist in a lab inspecting something through a microscope we only see a tiny detail at any one time, the thinking mind, the ego, works in a linear way, in a micro sense rather than a macro. To experience the macro level of all things, you must stop thinking, ignore the ego and see it for what it is, simply another manifestation of the single energy. You must see it as another sound just like the rustling of the leaves or the birds singing. The point is to experience the energy that not only surrounds you, but is you. You are a part of it all. What you see is what you are.

I am no Zen master. If I were I would not be using words in this fashion to try to define the undefinable. The whole point of Zen, is to show one the limitations of thinking, language, measuring, analysing. How can you describe the macro in micro terms? You’d be here forever. The many manifestations of this single energy force are infinite; this leads to this leads to this leads to this, and so on, forever. Our egos are all specialists specialising in a particular field, a particular micro at any one time. Everything is simply a part, a component, a happening, of the single expanding mandala or fractal, and as we know, a fractal is an infinite complexity.

There is only the now. The Now is infinity. Trying to capture that with the finite mind/ego is futile. The past is merely a memory, the future an expectation. There has only ever been “now”.

I’m not saying that there is no place for the ego. The ego after all is as much a part of all this as anything else. You can’t have the macro without the micro, just as you can’t have white without black or cold without hot, smooth without rough, something without nothing, they are all sides to the same coin. They cannot exist separately without one-another. You can’t have a front without a back. What I am saying is that there is a time for the ego and a time for the non-ego. Also, it is good to see the ego for what it is, once you realise that you are not only your ego, but everything else, when you truly see this it comes as a great relief.

Alan Watts is the person I have to thank for putting what I felt at my core, a fundamental truth into words and “thoughts”. He really did have a talent for defining the undefinable. To me he speaks/spoke an ultimate logic.

I’ll leave you with some words from my personal guru and favourite entertainer, Alan Watts.

Strangeloop – ‘Fields’. Out on Brainfeeder 25/07/11

The most recent EP to reach me from Flying Lotus’ essential label Brainfeeder is the epic and beautiful ‘Fields’ by LA based VJ and producer Strangeloop. With an ongoing preoccupation with astral projection, mystical states of consciousness and the trappings of human perception, you can be sure that anything coming from Strangeloop will be deep and questioning, and ‘Fields’ does not disappoint.

Essentially it is a series of detailed sprawling loops and delicate sounds, with minimal beats and gentle bass, which builds up a hypnotic and authentic soundscape. Knowing that the writing of this EP was influenced directly by an experience during an altered state of consciousness gives this EP real depth  – the first movement symbolising birth and constellation, the second death and dissolution, and the third a transcendental union of both. Unfortunately I have no clips to play from the EP, but here’s a Strangeloop track from earlier this year which will at least pass as a good introduction to his music:

And here’s another track which is possibly a better indication of the meditative feel of ‘Fields’:


He’s an interesting and awe-inspiring creative character: making electronic music since the age of 14; drawing, painting, VJing, and the cross-pollination of it all. His avant-sci-fi project “2010: (or) How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Singularity” helped to make him known in the UK electronic music scene with the support of Mary Anne Hobbes. Here’s the edited version of the film and mix he did for her show, which is well worth watching:

There are a load more videos of his live VJing performances and short films / visuals here which I would thoroughly recommend checking out.

‘Fields’ will also take the form of an interactive online AV experience once released, so keep checking back at Brainfeeder to get involved however you can!

Links:

Strangeloop TV
Strangeloop on Vimeo  
Strangeloop on Soundcloud 

MisinforMation Review

MisinforMation DVD
The first time I watched this DVD I was pretty stoned. One of my favourite pastimes is to put on a film, one with great pictures and no dialogue such as Koyaanisqatsi, or some old Buster Keaton movies, skin up a large one, and provide my own soundtrack to the visuals out of my sizable collection of electronic music. As the psychotropic compound hits the cannabinoid receptors in the back of my brain and takes hold, pictures and sounds become one, rhythm becomes serendipitous, and my senses and imagination work together to re-contextualise this information in any way they see fit.
Intracellular signal transduction pathways are activated! I drift off into my own reverie, the images become blurred, the sound becomes muffled, and I pass out on my bean-bag, fully satisfied by this waking dream. With MisinforMation it feels like the Baron Mordant has done much the same thing, except he has managed to stay conscious long enough to write some original music, bespoke for the occasion.

I decided to watch the DVD again, this time with a clear head. The box doesn’t give you much information to be misguided by, though I’ve now worked out that the DVD is a collaboration between the BFI and Mordant Music, edited and re-scored by the latter, using the former’s access to the archives of the Central Office of Information – the UK government’s marketing and communications agency, and producer of public information films.

MisinforMation Screenshot 1
Pressing play you are greeted with a stark looking menu with the cryptic option to view “Spools” or to “Spore All” – I chose the latter. You are flung head-first into a Hitchcockian nightmare-vision of invading magpies, which quickly reveals itself to be a crime prevention commercial, extolling the virtues of Neighbourhood Watch. The sound is synthetic and ominous, the mood disquieting. This sets the tone if not the main themes of MisinforMation from the outset, a work that is as interested in the mechanics and language of film, as it is with the content. Indeed, the frequent use of test cards, countdowns and grainy damaged reels, conveys a love for the textural quality of the medium, and how that can effect the mood and feel of the images, as much as the themes and narratives displayed therein.

The Baron Mordant’s score emphasises this devil in the ambiguous detail. It is his music which becomes the constant thread, tying disparate pieces together. As many of the visual sources are from the 1970s and 80s, the nods to Vangelis and Eno seem highly appropriate – but it isn’t another retro pastiche. The sounds are pulled apart and elongated to form textures and drones. While at times it is Hauntological in the manner of Ghost Box or Boards of Canada, often the synths and effects are more akin to Autechre or Merzbow, noise and ambience are intense and lift the images to another plane. All works well until the Baron attempts a song – a somewhat naive blip on an otherwise flawless electronic score.

All the short films collated here are highly watchable, and interesting historical objects in their own right – but in MisinforMation they are re-purposed, obfuscated and altered – the new interpretation provided by sound alone. They are shown in a new light and this has a big impact on their semantic purpose. This is the main concept behind the project – that with only slight deviations from the original context, the meaning can be completely transformed. Sometimes this works better than others.

MisinforMation Screenshot 4

MisinforMation Screenshot 5

MisinforMation Screenshot 2

MisinforMation Screenshot 3

MisinforMation Screenshot 6

MisinforMation Screenshot 7

A Dark Social Template is particularly effective.  The new soundtrack casts a bleak re-imagining of our past’s visions for the future, playing on our informed position of knowing exactly how certain ideas would end up failing. The concrete mazes and dungeons of 1960s new builds are underscored by itchy, nervous, analogue bleeps and tones, highlighting the inhumanity of such places – while the original film, blissfully unaware of their future failure, tries to persuade poor sods to up-sticks and move there. Animated sections in the film are rendered surreal, with human behaviour made to look alien and viral, cities emerge like infected wounds on the earth’s skin. A beat-less disco makes the revelers look like absurd maniacs and re-interprets an OAP’s conga-line as some bizarre satanic ritual. The only part of this piece that didn’t capture my imagination was watching the presenters talking without the original audio. It was as if I had turned the sound down on my own TV, and this made it feel a bit amateurish when compared with the perfect wedding of music to picture in the other scenes. This is executed better, later on, by replacing the original voice with another – a much more interesting use of such footage, and more befitting of the title.

Attenuated Shadows is another highlight. This short film about solvent abuse would have been profoundly disturbing without the new score, but the music here goes really well indeed – mournful chords and woozy soundscapes add melancholy to the shock value. The footage looks very real, and yet we’re told at the end of the documentary that the children depicted doing glue, did not inhale. This seems hard to believe – were the COI covering their arses for fear of being labeled exploitative? Was the original misinforming us, or has Mordant Music’s emotive scoring misinformed us into believing the illusion? Maybe we’ll never know. This is MISinformation after all.

Urban nightmares are then replaced by grainy pictures of Stone Henge and picture-book illustrations of early man. Ridyll was the weakest section for me. It didn’t feel as though it had been re-purposed as much as the others, and it did drag a little. However, it does benefit from being an interlude, and in contrast with the other more intense offerings, it paints a quaint picture of Britain’s ancient history. And the music is pretty good too, featuring a Moog wig-out in the style of Bo Hansson.

Elsewhere on the DVD we see the famous AIDS advert (from the 80s) in reverse, a suburban domestic version of Tron where nature fights back, a documentary on Ink Jet technology repurposed to reveal something dark in our nature, strange footage of nematode worms in a lab, and many other more abstract pieces, where music and visual mesh perfectly with no apparent agenda or message to be conveyed. The last film is pure audio-visual pleasure, as beautiful images of the sea and coastline are immaculately scored – the sound and picture relationship here is more precise than anywhere else in the work, with beautiful rhythmic editing and a sense of humour to boot.

In conclusion then, I simply can’t recommend this DVD enough – it is a work of art with very few aspects in need of criticism. It is both thought-provoking, emotive and intelligently complied. What I would say though, is that it is best viewed instinctively, on psychotropics, so your own imagination becomes part of the work, and you get lost in the minutae and subtle inter-relationships that jump-start old memories and lateral ideas. You get lost in it happily. Watched in a sober, more linear fashion, you end up trying to second-guess the creator’s motivations, and I don’t think you get quite as much out of it that way.

Best served with 3.5 grams of “Blue Cheese”.

You can buy the DVD from Boomkat

New track by Naffdogg

This is my new one, inspired by George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Game_of_Thrones

Saturn’s Hexagon

Above is a short clip from a documentary I saw on the planet Saturn, well the US version anyway.

Obviously Saturn’s most famous and predominant feature, its rings, are very fascinating. What they comprise of, pondering their possible origins (moon collisions!), how long they’ll last, etc., etc. All really interesting stuff, but the thing which most intrigued me in the documentary I saw the other night–so much so that I felt compelled to share it here–was a feature of the planet I hadn’t been aware of prior to watching the film.

In 1979 scientists, via Voyager, discovered a perfect, stationary hexagon the size of four Earths on Saturn’s north pole. Then in 2006 the Cassini-Huygens craft, using superior imaging technology, confirmed it was still there. It’s origins, what exactly the hexagon is, how it’s formed, remain somewhat of a mystery apparently. However, I’m sure I’m not going too far out on a limb by subscribing to one theory I’ve encountered; that it’s maybe got something to do with Saturn’s rotational forces around the axis, and how that effects/reacts with the planet’s storm/weather patterns with regards particular angles and velocities of jet streams. I’ve posted the video of the Oxford university experiment I’m referring to at the bottom of this post, along with the info pertaining to it. There are major gaps in the experimenters’ fledgling theory, like what produces the jet streams with the exact angular velocity required to create the astonishing effect? and why only the north pole? Has it also something to do with the convergence of magnetic fields at the polar region? Theoretical conundrums aside (well, included actually. The mystery of it all, the hidden workings behind it, is perhaps the main attraction), aesthetically speaking, the perfect, six-sided giant polygon of Saturn, and its miniature re-recreated counterpart in the lab experiment, are a treat for the eyes and the mind.

Physicists Ana Claudia Barbosa Aguiar and Peter Read of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom performed the experiment depicted in this video. Using a 30-liter cylinder of water placed on a slowly rotating table they created an artificial “jet stream” by employing a much smaller and much faster rotating ring inside the main cylinder. By introducing fluorescent dye into the artificial “jet stream” they discovered that stable eddies formed and became stronger over time eventually forming stable regular polygonal shapes with each eddy located at a vertex. Also, in varying the rate of rotation of the large cylinder with respect to the small ring, they discovered that the larger the relative difference in rotation rates the less sides the resulting polygon had.

The experimenters postulate that a similar process is occurring on Saturn where the cylinder would be analogous to Saturn’s rotation and the “jet stream” would be analogous to an actual jet stream with an angular velocity greater than that of the planet’s rotation. It is still unknown what exactly would generate such a jet stream and especially one at just the right angular velocity to produce a hexagon.