Sunday, December 30, 2012

Facebook review of the year

For posterity - here is my Facebook review of 2012, comprising mainly Rachel, bees, cats and escaping the cheese.

Video of the week - Professor Elemental: Fighting Trousers

I'm not sure about the chap-hop micro-phenomenon as a whole - I feel a whole 'nother post coming on about it for the New Year - but this track from Professor Elemental is a rather excellent, very English battle rhyme with some rather marvellous cosplay in the video.

Also: first citation of Peter Duncan in rap? 



Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hear Magpiemoth read Christmastery and more!

You can hear me read Christmastery - my seasonal poem for 2012 - alongside other Christmas treats on the Bibby Factors Christmas compilation.

Many thanks to Adam Ings, who compiles a set of Christmas tracks every year and then makes them available on Soundcloud

Other than my own contribution, my other three favourite tracks are:

Drivin' Home For Christmas (In My Van) by Nathan's Belly - A sweary Baby Bird take on the Chris Rea ... er ... classic.
Rock 'n' Roll Santa by Lindsey Dupler & Adam Ings (feat Viola) - Exactly what it says on the (shortbread) tin
Cheryl The Mince Pie by Ruth Baker If Peaches did a Christmas record it would probaby sound like this.
 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gin & Flamingoes present Christmastery - final version

For the second year running, I've been working on a spoken word piece for the Bibby Factors Christmas compilation. Here's a final version with contributions from @Rae102011

Any resemblance to a certain best-seller is entirely intentional.

“It is time” he says “It is time” says he
As the clock strikes twelve on Christmas eve
“Sign this contract and enter my dark yet glamourous world of X-M-A-S”
“And holy crap!” thinks she for the twenty-fourth time
That night; struck dumb by his ridiculous handsomeness (insert four repetitive paragraphs here)
She signs in golden, glittery ink, and that's that.

“Now”, he says, “Now” says he
“Here are the Rules you must follow for me.
Be of good cheer from dusk till dawn
Have a Santa Stop sign on your lawn
Never refuse a mince pie
Obey Christmas laws with a twinkle in your eye.”

“Behold my room of special toys.
For nice AND naughty girls and boys.
Come my love! It would seem rather timid,
To make the Dr Who Christmas Special your hard limit.
And there may be times you cannot go out
Until you've partaken of the Christmas sprout.”

Though the millionaire toy-maker acted so grim
- in his red woolly jumper with festive trim -
Oh my, our heroine was drawn to him
Isn't he Byronic, dontcha think?
With his glower and power and Christmas kink?

She had realised deep in her medulla oblongata
That these festive fetishes were his desiderata
Her inner goddess saw it as a good sign
That his favourite tune was Mistletoe and Wine
As Foucault The Red Nosed Reindeer played
They danced until the Eve became Christmas Day

But as Yule went on she regretted her decision
His baubled palace seemed more like a prison
She realised her character was badly drawn
And had fallen from fanfic into supermarket porn
And he: more arsey than Darcy; from that voice
Issued endless demands that denied her Christmas choice.

On and on he went, sternly.
Every festive detail spelt out, eternally
“Stuff. The. Turkey.
It's in the contract.
Watch. The. Queens. Speech.
It's in the contract.
Lose. To. Me. At. Scrabble.
It's in the contract.
Deck.The.Halls.
It's in the contract.
Drink. The. Sherry
It's in the contract.
Morecambe. And. Wise.
It's in the contract
Flambe. The. Figgy. Pudding.
It's in the contract.
Pull. The. Cracker.
It's in the contract.
Read. The. Joke
It's in the contract.
Laugh. (Ha. Ha. Ha).
It's in the contract.
Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.”

With chains of tinsel and of paper
She bound him with the product of her own labour
So that when he woke upon Boxing Day
She fixed him with a smile and a spoon to say

“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.
“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.”

Friday, December 21, 2012

Video of the week - Japan: Life In Tokyo (extended disco mix)

I like to think of this song - this aesthetic - as the point at which New Romantic was born.  And I - unironically, you understand - love the dandy look David Sylvain's rocking here. I think it's great that he and the rest of the band can be presenting a very different masculine image than the usual.


The CAPSLOCK King

The Capslock King is shouting again 
With love, with joy, with mild exasperation 
At the life he leads 
Strange the lack of punctuation 
As he reports, exhorts, confuddles the meaning of LOL 
Exhales for pause 
THEN HOLLERS

NB - Some people I know do status updates in caps ironically, as an intentional stylistic tic. Relax, this is not about you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Using Storify: Local Goverment 'n' Cuts musing

I have just discovered I can embed a sequence of tweets into a blog post using Storify and some Java embed code. Seriously people, this is awesome.





Monday, December 17, 2012

Providing precious Hobbit quoteses for Friends of the Earth

Earlier this year I got asked to provide a quote for Friends of the Earth about the significance of The Hobbit to the environmental movement, following an enquiry by the Readers' Digest. i didn't think it got used, but apparently so! 

I'm recycling it here to mark the release of the first Hobbit film.

***

While The Hobbit lacks the anti-industrial overtones of parts of The Lord of the Rings, what shines through in the travels of Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves is Tolkien’s affinity with the British landscape.

His world is full of creatures that cherish nature – from the Hobbits’ enjoyment of the Shire and the elves’ connection to their woodland home, to Bilbo’s adventures through awe-inspiring landscapes.

If The Hobbit is about one thing, you could argue that it’s about ordinary people like hobbits rising to protect a way of living in harmony with nature – small wonder that Tolkien struck a chord amid the ‘back to the land’ sentiments of the 1960’s and 1970’s, that saw the birth of the environmental movement.

Books like The Hobbit certainly played their part in inspiring me to take environmental action – it’s everyday heroism like Bilbo’s that we encounter in people finding their voice for the first time by supporting wind-farms or opposing airport expansion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yesterday's dilemma, starker terms

Campaigners, activists, attend!

Chris Maloney was consistently the most popular X-Factor contestant for the first seven weeks of the live show, as voted for by the public. He couldn't half belt them out, launching crushing orbital rods of cruise-liner balladry right every Saturday night.

Technically allright, musically not my thing at all. Alright, I wanted to go easy on him, so let's just say I thought he was terrible and move on.

Sorry, no, I can't move on. His music is exactly the sort of emotionless melange of schmalz I dislike intensely and it was on prime-time television. All of this makes me inclined to thumb my nose at mainstream culture and in my darker moments discard it utterly.

He wasn't the kind of act the X-Factor has a good track record of launching either. What the poor chap was doing in front of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the first place is anyone's guess.

And still, despite all of this, the public voted for him.

.

So... 

We not have to persuade people who like this man and voted for his laser-eyed power ballads (watch the whole of the video and you'll know what I mean) to support our campaigns. Actually, that's not enough, we have to empathize with them too.

[sound of gauntlet being thrown down]

Monday, December 10, 2012

The X-Factor has a socratic question for you. campaigners!

Do you know how much mention there was of The X Factor final on my Twitter stream last night? A couple of posts from Caitlin Moran, the Times journalist with a deep and irreverent interest in pop culture, but that's it.

I follow nearly 300 people and organisations on Twitter. My feed is full of users with a pronounced environmentalist and political slant, but not exclusively so. And the majority of these accounts aren't 'corporate users' - i.e. they come with the rider that all comments and views are the tweeters' own.

So why so little mention of the X Factor? Two theories on this one

Primus, you all have fantastically good taste in music and TV and don't tend to the Notes on Camp approach to popular culture espoused by the Guardian Liveblog on the X-Factor and Strictly.

Maybe you were watching that nice BBC programme on Rome - as several members of my newsfeed were - maybe you weren't watching TV at all.

You have resisted the lure of Cowellian mass culture. Congratulations.



photo courtesy Alison Martin of SimonCowellOnline.com.

Secundus, you tend to focus your communications on work-related issues and are (justifiably) wary of showing Tweeterdom a human face. In other words, you don't like to admit to the world what you watch on a Saturday or Sunday night.

I want to come back to the second point in a future post, but the first, this resignation from mass culture, is the thing that concerns me as an activist and organiser.

Even in a bad season, the X-Factor final pulled in 9.5 million viewers (as against Strictly's 12.5 million), not counting watch-agains.

That's in a population (as of 2011 census) of just over 63 million. So around a third of the population were watching either programme live.

Were you?

Don't worry, I'm not going to make you feel bad for not watching it. You may regard The X-Factor as exploitative, as the bin ends of our culture and our corporate music industry. You may have conceived a passionate dislike for Gary Barlow. You may ask 'Who is Olly Murs?' And you'd be justified on all counts.

But my question to anyone serious about change is simply this: how can we bring people together and make things better if we can't at least empathise with the mass culture that they endorse and participate in?

Another example: I live in a town where a large 24-hour Tesco has just opened next to a small but thriving high street. Many of us know the environmental, social and economic arguments against the big supermarkets well enough I won't rehearse them here. But on Twitter (I search by the hashtag for my town), the consensus seemed to be that this was the most exciting thing that had happened here since the mines closed.

Again, we might tear our hair out at this, but isn't this dumbfoundedness telling? It doesn't mean we're wrong, just that we're not on the same page as many other people yet. And they have may have things to tell us about their lives we can learn from before engaging mouth, brain or well-crafted petition.

I have no solutions to offer in this post, but I'd be really interested in hearing your reflections.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Video of the week - A Forest Of Stars - Gatherer Of The Pure

Got Victorian Waitsian gothic metal? Got amazing shadow-puppet theatre video? Yes on both counts

Warning: video is not that gory, but contains several puppet murders, so NSFW.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gin & Flamingoes presents Christmastery - draft of spoken word piece

For the second year running, I'm working on a spoken word piece for the Bibby Factors Christmas compilation. Here's a good if not yet finalized draft with contributions from @Rae102011

Any resemblance to a certain best-seller is entirely intentional.

And yes, the ending in particular still needs some work.

Christmastery

“It is time” he says “It is time” says he
As the clock strikes twelve on Christmas eve
“Sign this contract and enter my dark yet glamourous world of X-M-A-S”
“And holy crap!” thinks she for the twenty-fourth time
That night; struck dumb by his ridiculous handsomeness .
She signs in golden, glittery ink, and that's that.

“Now”, he says, “Now” says he
“Here are the Rules you must follow for me.
Be of good cheer from dusk till dawn
Have a Santa Stop sign on your lawn
Never refuse a mince pie
Obey Christmas laws with a twinkle in your eye.”

“Behold my room of special toys.
For nice AND naughty girls and boys.
“Come my love! It would seem rather timid,
To make the Dr Who Christmas Special your hard limit.”

(she realised deep in her medulla oblongata
That these festive fetishes were his desiderata)

“There may be times you cannot go out
Until you've partaken of the Christmas sprout.
Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.
Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.”

Though the millionaire toy-maker acted so grim
Oh my, our heroine was drawn to him
Isn't he Byronic, dontcha think?
With his glower and power and Christmas kink?

Her inner goddess saw it as a good sign
That his fiscal Cliff was Mistletoe and Wine
As Foucault The Red Nosed Reindeer played – a composition of his own design -
They danced until the Eve became Christmas Day

And on and on he went, sternly.
Every festive detail spelt out, eternally
“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.
Watch. The. Queens. Speech.
It's in the contract.
Lose. To. Me. At. Scrabble.
It's in the contract.
Deck.The.Halls.
It's in the contract.
Drink. The. Sherry
It's in the contract.
Want. The. Figgy. Pudding.
It's in the contract.
Pull. The. Cracker.
It's in the contract.
Read. The. Joke
It's in the contract.
Laugh. (Ha. Ha. Ha).
It's in the contract.”

Bind him as he sleeps
With chains of tinsel and paper
So that when he wakes upon Boxing Day
Greeted him with a spoon, and a smile and say

“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.
“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.”

Monday, December 3, 2012

Video of the week: Hexvessel - Sacred Marriage

Hexvessel is the folk-rock project of a British chap living in Finland calling himself Kvhost (he's from a black/experimental metal background) and his local collaborators.


I have no idea why everything seems to be coming up spiritual folk for me at the moment, musically speaking, but let's roll with it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why Pinterest is great for event follow-up

I haven't quite gotten into the sharing side of Pinterest - a friend describes this aspect of it as being like Tumblr without the porn.

But being able to great your own pictorial noticeboards and link libraries is great for following up on events. I hate the endless bullet point notes that training sessions generate and what's worse is I don't think anyone actually reads them.

For example, here's the follow-up pinboard I did to a small outreach session on The Bee Cause in Daventry back in November using Pinterest.




There - isn't that much nicer? And if you insist on notes as well, type them up, copy/paste them into a paint program, save them as a JPG and upload them. Sorted. :-)

Oh, and if anyone wants me to come and do a talk about our Bees campaign, have antennae, will travel, so just call on me...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fabric mosaic photos - from Sack Sales on New Street

Photograph of readymade fabric art 'found' in a new school pop-up jumble sale (or Sack Sale, hipsters) on New Street now on Flickr.

Untitled


If you want to check it out for yourself it's next to Cafe Rouge near the top end of the street. There's also a more traditional vintage clothing boutique on the ground floor.

A black flower blossoms


Friday, November 30, 2012

Snippets from the first 10,000 words - Part 4

Festival was Al's idea back in, ah... 2025. We would have stayed just another local gang of AR artful dodgets with a local reputation, a manifesto, and a video-channel, but it was Festival which took it first national, then European, then global.

It was the Field of Dreams approach – he approached the Council about giving him the use of a couple of blocks of practically derelict streets in Digbeth for a “street festival and augmented reality happening.” He claimed he had speakers – Bruce Sterling, Josh Fielden, Ommiah Hanssen, who hadn't accepted yet, some of them didn't even know they'd been invited yet. But that was Al – he always acted as if he had everything or nothing to lose.

He had the backing of the half of the city's artist community who thought he was the new Warhol – the other half hated him, naturally – but I think what must have swung it was the support of the AR-techs and Fab-Labbers up at the University, who jumped at the chance to test out their kit just down the road. They were respected, they made money for the city, in collaboration with them we wrote 3 or 4 of the core apps that underpin what we understand as augmented reality today.

So, we got a green light and off we punks went went. 

***

Inviting the gamers and cosplayers? It was a no-brainer. The artists gamed, the gamers were customising their look with AR and carrying on their games in real life, and the cosplayers coded for a day job and were using the new tech to spruce up their look. After all, to use the classic example, it's hard to rock a Chun-Li look when you're a 6'5 bloke from Bournville. We'd been known to turn up to gigs and parties en masse as characters from our favourite Final Fantasies, so, y'know, this was our scene. Clo and Jake especially, they could go even to the most purist back-to-nature LARPers you can possibly think of and say, “Trust us, this is going to be awesome.”

[...]

So, come June 2025, I was relieved – Steampunk Messiah was I – to discover that we'd got 5,000 people (at least twice our target) to a weekend of phantasmagorical events. We got old Man Sterling and, ah, Neil Stephenson as the marquee speaker on Sunday night and as many chin-stroking workshops about data and Derrida as the theorists could wish for. For the rest of us, there was Lovecraftian suspence gaming, Lankhmarian inn-character inns for mass-participation, and, and the artists had just outdone themselves with the immersive spaces.

 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Snippets from the first 10,000 words Pt 3

Shit. Dan tried to remember which data laws or shared reality conventions he might have might technically infringed in the past month or so, but through the throbbing headache he could only access not so much a memory palace, more a memory hovel. Then, he looked them over more closely and relaxed. These two – a rangy Sikh bloke and a smaller bearded ferret of a man - had standard police issue tablets and visors, which meant they were hip to the flow of crime data. Conceptual art-crime, not so much.

***

As a rule, the rank and file police didn't know what to make of Festival. As with any display of public enjoyment and unorthodoxy, they were torn between wanting to do some good old fashioned repression and taking a low profile approach to policing the event out of sheer incomprehension as much as anything else.

Typically, the end result was somewhere in between the two – on the one hand a couple of outrageous arrests of augmented LARPers or cosplayers for illegal weaponry (“but it's rubber officer! And half of it doesn't even exist in this reality”), on the other hand enjoying having their photo taken with steampunk Sherlocks or slave Leias.

AR-masked taser-happy drones assaulting superficially innocent citizens were decidely out of their pay grade.

***
 
We're making enquries with anyone who was involved in the Malloy circle, Mr May. Thankfully, for an apparently subversive movement you were awfully keen on publicising who your artpunks were.”

I hate that term. Cyberpunk; Steampunk; Seapunk; Artpunk; ah Great Dismal, so much to answer for. Anyway, we were inspired in so many ways by the Surrealists, who were the most tribal, most self-publicising moth- ah group you could possibly imagine. Issue 12 of La Revolution Surrealiste had photographs of all their members on the front cover like a rogues gallery. We did exactly the same when we wrote our first manifesto. Artpunk was a name the media gave us”

***
Do you … have any ideas who is doing this?”

Well, in the modern police force, Mr May, we have two main approaches. One, we send in the forensics and data-gathering teams to the crime scenes to search and scan everything with a fine tooth comb. We cross-reference the information we have – drone vendors, drone users, witness statements – and we hope the algorithms turn up three bananas.”

And the second?”

Why, Mr May, while we wait for the backroom boys and girls to live out their Grissom fantasies, we turn up in the wrong places and the wrong times and ask difficult questions in an effort to find out what's going on. And that” he added almost as an afterthought, “is where you come in.”


***
Morris pointed to the two of them. “You Virgil, me Dante. Right now my best guess is that only another artist would threaten at least nine other artists. It's not our only line of enquiry, but it's the one I'm going to look into, with your help.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Video of the week: Dordeduh - Dojana

Romanian black-folk-pagan metal act in surprisingly mellow mood on a hillside. Fabulous.



Monday, November 26, 2012

Snippets from the first 10,000 words Pt 2

The critics accused the Malloy circle of making a Romantic cult of augmented reality and they were right, up to a point. We were Futurists too, but it was the bunny slopes of Romanticism which got people paying attention.

'Romantic' was a name that each of us inner circlers at that time would have borne with pride. To understand that, you have to remember what we were kicking against in our everyday life. A city which had been designed and desecrated by successive generations of incompetents – ugly as sin, as cheap as a cheap thing, as user-friendly as a Latin smartphone, with its fingers in its ears to the future. It needed more than beauty, however you define beauty, but beauty was a startt.

When Alasdair suggested that the city skyline should incorporate mountain views from Caspar David Friedrich paintings, he was getting Shocked of Sutton's attention to make a point. Not that the city's Great and Good had no sense of humour – that would be shooting fish in a barrel. But that Birmingham needed to think big in a new way, away from corporate dumbassery or peak oil rabbit-in-the-stream fatalism that once prevailed in these parts.

As a blank canvass for beauty, with a surface reality of crumbling post-war infrastructure and latter-day quick-up quick-down cowboy-jobs overlaying neglected Victorian strata, the city needed us. Who wouldn't want to make this more beautiful. And, lest we forget, more meaningful.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Snippets from the first 10,000 words Pt 1

Caveat: all this is first draft, and doesn't mean I'm satisfied with it as it stands yadayadayada traditional anxiety.
  
A square mile of assembled pirates, ninjas, pirate-ninjas, steampunk gentlefolk, elves (always with the elves), dwarves, halflings, furries, otaku, otherkin, cosplayers, spacemen, Kryptonians, Trekkers, true black metallers, Vikings, eloi, elohim, sidhe, Earthseed, Black country folk and other costumed strangenesses.

***

Flanagans has adopted a Waitsian veneer – trouble's braids are part of the dresscode, you can play pool with midgets at all hours until the notional rain stops, and all the barmaids were augmented prison tattoos.

***

Wearing AR-visored sunglasses at night, he looked like a Reid brother trying to impersonate the Rat Pack.

***

“And why is Bigtrak's precocious nephew buying me drinks?” he asked, as the barman concluded a extensive round of stirring, shaking and mixing to deposit a dubious off-yellow concoction in front of him. “There are,” he added, “easier ways of getting my attention.”

“No there aren't, Danny.” the doggy drone demurred.

“That's right”, Danny agreed cheerfully, taking a large swallow of his cocktail with evident satisfaction.

***


I've been tasered
A 'non-lethal' weapon for use by the monopoly of force brigade against the fractious First World proletariat
Iii'vve beeen tassserrred
Illegal, of course, but an easy concealed carry for the street for when the knife lacks that je-ne-sais-crackle of a thousand volts pumped through the nervous system
Bottle lightning charge
Shoot-to-stun weapon with absolutely no side-effects. Nooo sirree.
I'vve beeeeen tasssserrrreeeeddd
Grinning paramilitary salespeople talk out of the side of their mouths about exceptional cases and collateral damage
Tasssssssssssssssssssssssssrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

***

I'm not blogging because I'm writing

I'm doing the bunny slopes version of NaNoWriMo, having ground out 10,000 words in 20 days, with the aim of completing a full 50,000 word first draft by the end of 2012.

As per October's posts, the story is about augmented reality, and what it means to have ever more sophisticated technological means of escapism at a time of social disorder (and potential collapse) in the near future. What if techno-escapism + human organisation = paradigm shift social evolution? With a cast of steampunks, cosplaying zombies, elf cults, performance artists and policemen.

All of this means I need to ration all  my writing energies for the story, so any actual writing here will be concise to say the least and probably consist of extracts from the work in progress.

I will pick up the (mainly) metal threads from earlier this year and start posting videos of things that interest me here, though, now that I am fully wired for sound and vision at home again after 6 months techno-fast after my laptop speakers blew.

Also - photos - I can do that!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eurosceptic zombies attack!


Best party conference stunt which wasn't ours - "Euro zombies attack at Conservative Party conference. Conservative Way Forward surprises everyone with a campaign against unaffordable bail-outs to the eurozone [and hence "zombie"] economies"

As you can see, all efforts to turn undead proved fruitless. But then we know from experience that free marketeers are resistant to turning. 

You can also see some bees buzzing around in the background from us on the clip.

Why I like it? It was spectacular; geeky; fun; totally overshadowing anything else that was going on; it was videoed for easy dissemination; it demonstrated the power of theatre; it got an issue on the agenda for Conference delegates.

Questions: Whether it actually changed anyone's mind, and whether it was a bit too outre for your typical Conservative delegate? 

Geek criticism: strictly speaking the walking dead should have been demanding brains, not shrieking. 

What if this were real? David "two brains" Willetts would be a man in zombie demand. Chris "armed response" Grayling would be practicing his head-shots. The Umbrella Corporation would be sponsoring fringe events at Tory Party Conference.

But I think we can safely assume that no right-thinking, home-is-my-castle Conservative wants zombies on their lawn. The mad gardening skills of Middle England would see 'em off.




Monday, October 8, 2012

Augmented reality videos and notes


"Sight" – short film by Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo


As good a fictional illustration of far-flung augmented reality as any - the supplementing of what you see by data or visual effect and the potential for the 'gamification' of everyday life. Their take on the 'creep' factor of AR is less about the potential for the de facto alteration of reality, more the availability of your personal information to other individuals (although presumably we'd get a lot more sophisticated about privacy too)

And here's a 3D public digital sculpture tour in Brighton using AR

 

 ...and something similar with a dinosaur exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada


Digital street art: Interesting less for the practice (woo! we can virtually doodle on buildings! thank you vodka corporation!) and more for the principle of decoration/transformation of the real.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A writing idea - Thresholds

One of the standout points from the Doctorow/Stross collaboration Rapture of the Nerds is that the Internet, and therefore the post-singularity Cloud, is not an aesthetically pleasing place to be.

Think about it - what proportion of websites are genuinely well designed, let alone works of art? Think of the distractions of adverts, pop ups, animations? Have MMORPG's, or Second Life, contributed any more than beautifully drawn kitsch?

Augmented reality - adding visuals (but also data and sound) through a phone, tablet, or some time soon just glasses - provides more artistically interesting possibilities.

While at the moment, the augmented reality (AR) industry seem to be talking about everyday overlays, displaying useful data when you need it, its the artistic applications that leap out at me.

What if you could create a space (or spaces) which were a combination of AR, real-life art installation and performance space? The vision of one or more collaborators? Artists, programmers, dramaturges, pyschologists all coming together to create a space which offered a singular vision or cracked mirror to supplement or ... perhaps ultimately replace 'real' life?

The visions of the interwar surrealism made a reality? Life as cabaret? Quasi deranged theme-parking? Perhaps.

Link it to gaming (whether MMO or LARP) and you have the potential for a second tier of collaboration through alternative personae. Living the steampunk dream 24-7, anyone?

At the moment I'm calling these spaces 'thresholds', as the participant passes from a subliminal space (beyond the point at which all these AR cues are invisible) into a superliminal space where the imaginary is manifest.

Will I get any writing out of this? Will it do for my NaNoWriMo attempt? Only one way to find out...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Swanmaiden's Blues Part 4

Note: this was an attempt at writing a modern fantasy short story I made several attempts at in 2010 and 2011. It took forever, I revised every sentence three or four times. I gave up in resignation. It's overwritten and cheaply melodramatic.

But looking back at it now, it's not all-together terrible, so I'm going to post it as is as a spur to myself in the run-up to National Novel Writing Month. Any constructive criticism gratefully accepted.

Thanks for reading. :-)

**************************** 

The Swan plays vulture as she creeps around the ground floor, hands wrapped around a knife and a flashlight. Coyly, the sweep of the torch picks out familiar objects, trappings of power from another time: a richly ornamented samovar; a Muscovites and Mongols chess set.He'd not outgrown his boyar's trappings entirely, it seemed.

He had taught her to play with those pieces, placing the board near the bars. A little kill-or-be-killed simulacrum of civilisation. In expansive moods, he even promised her freedom, if she won. 

The Swan took a shuddering breath and steps away from the cabinet. She compels herself to walk through the house to where the feelings of longing and dread were strongest. and found herself before the cellar stairs.

Here, the Swan hesitates. 

Long ago ascending another staircase, limping her way upwards from the menagerie. A lonely white mnemosyne with a red blossom at her hip. Rags pressed to her side for the scarlet thread otherwise left behind. 
Why go back? Because that time we left half of ourselves behind.

She descends in a sudden dash like a woman going back into a burning building.

Haphazardly, the flashlight illumes sections in sequence – the alchemist's laboratory, the books of long ages past, a liberality of antiquian junk.

And in one corner, a tattered, part-plucked web of feathers and cloth.

The Swan opens her mouth soundlessly. She outstretches her arm several times but then returns it to her side.

Years, so many years, of focus and restraint unspooling in seconds.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Swanmaiden's Blues Pt 3

Note: this was an attempt at writing a modern fantasy short story I made several attempts at in 2010 and 2011. It took forever, I revised every sentence three or four times. I gave up in resignation. It's overwritten and cheaply melodramatic. I think part 3 is where I start to get confused with my tenses.

But looking back at it now, it's not all-together terrible, so I'm going to post it as is as a spur to myself in the run-up to National Novel Writing Month. Any constructive criticism gratefully accepted.

Thanks for reading. :-)


*******************

The Swan's remembered it in reluctant dreaming in so many ways, she doesn't know how she was captured any more. But she remembers him.

An occultist still shedding his nobleman's skin. A hostage-taker; menagerie-keeper;
A chicken-necked ancient lost in an expensive suit on the obituary page.

Around three, after completing her shift the Swan heads out west to where the gated communities by the river bloom like algae. She doesn't ask herself what she's doing.

The Swan smokes her way steadily through the remaining cigarettes until she reaches the townhouse belonging to the man the obituaries had called a private investor; philologist; philanthropist. The house, a three-story cream Georgian affair, behind six-foot railings, locks and cameras, reveals nothing.

The website said that he'd died unexpectedly but peacefully, but only one out of the two was remotely believable. To think the old bastard had been in London for the last six years and she hadn't even known.

Had he known about her?

Right then,” the Swan mutters under her breath. She watches the sweep of the cameras and – just at the right moment – runs from the shadows, jumps onto the roof of the Merc  on the road outside. Muddy brown footprints on black metallic finish. The Swan jumps again, high and forward. An hollow-boned impossible arc.

Heh. Gasping from too many cigarettes and with a bloody graze on her leg from a metal thorn, but over the fence. Since the Swan's wings were taken from her, she can bend the rules only a little, but life on the run has taught her to be creative with what she's got.

Close up, the house radiates a steel-to-skin malignity. The angry courage which drove her here like a saint, has vanished. It takes three times through before the Swan's voice is steady enough to quietly sing the alarm and the wires in the walls to sleep. Her hands tremble as she pries open a back window.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Swanmaiden's Blues Pt 2


Note: this was an attempt at writing a modern fantasy short story I made several attempts at in 2010 and 2011. It took forever, I revised every sentence three or four times. I gave up in resignation. It's overwritten and cheaply melodramatic.

But looking back at it now, it's not all-together terrible, so I'm going to post it as is as a spur to myself in the run-up to National Novel Writing Month. Any constructive criticism gratefully accepted.

Thanks for reading. :-)

*************************

Lying on the grass, her head propped on her hands, the Swan watches the herons fish. She follows the fluent signs of sun and trees on the the water, listens to the glitches and hiccups of song-birds in the branches above.

The Swan learns forward to observe her shadow in the river. It flickers and shudders with the flow. Contemplating the disquiet of the water, she does not notice the other shadows appearing over the stream.

A man's voice, repeating the Swan's alias several times, calling her back to another century. A tentative hand on her shoulder. The Swan pulls away in readiness. She could drive her elbow back as hard as she can, kick in him in the knees as he hits the floor, then...

Yet the Swan takes the human option. She turns and talks.

Since the Swan has a job, ipso facto, she has a manager. This is Sig – a red-headed six foot three of Scots-Scando genes, ripped jeans and several too many Krispy Kremes. The tiny alley, with its high walls and pinhole camera view of the night, gives him no choice but to loom, but his face is kindly and his hands are open.

Am I back on already?” she asks with a slight tremolo in her voice.

That depends.” Worn out by shouting over the music inside, the reply is softly spoken. “Do you need more time?”

He looks at her as if trying to understand. Sig's been doing a lot of that recently, the Swan realises. She tries to decide if sympathy is the first or the last thing she needs right now.

Control. Always control.

It's been a bad day.” she forces out at last.

Do you want to call it a night? Make it up another time?”

No!” The Swan responds with such force that it takes her by surprise. She takes a deep breath, and repeats for emphasis. “No. It's nothing that work can't take my mind off”

He looks sceptical, but after a long measured look says nothing but “Okay. Back in five, then?”

The Swan nods in mute agreement and he returns inside, ducking his head to fit under the doorframe as he vanishes. She watches him as he goes, aware that something – something new - is wrong.

Wherever the Swan's been, down the years, there's always someone with enough of a sense for the Other to spot that there's something not quite right about her. Even in London, where Uncanny Valley pretty much has its own tube station, stand still long enough and they will single you out.

This time it was Sig. When they first met, the Swan had written him off as someone with no more up top than an encyclopediac knowledge of thrash metal and Zone One chinese takeaways. But she found herself, against her usual policy, telling him as much as she had thought he could cope with, when he finally asked after a year and more than a couple of rounds of after-hours tequila.

Sounds like a case of PTSD,” he'd told the Swan as they'd staggered through Soho to catch the first trains home. “A lot of boys coming back from the sandpit with crazy memories. Handle with care. Don't push their buttons. Give them time to get over it.”

Time!” cackled the Swan through harsh peals of laughter echoing across the dawn-smeared streets of Soho. “Time ...to … get ...over it” she gasped, refusing to be drawn on exactly what was so bitterly funny.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Swanmaiden's Blues Pt 1

Note: this was an attempt at writing a modern fantasy short story I made several attempts at in 2010 and 2011. It took forever, I revised every sentence three or four times. I gave up in resignation. It's overwritten and cheaply melodramatic.

But looking back at it now, it's not all-together terrible, so I'm going to post it as is as a spur to myself in the run-up to National Novel Writing Month. Any constructive criticism gratefully accepted.

Thanks for reading. :-)

The Swan works in the Lounge, a small distressed black-box bar on Berwick Street where they play their music so glass-rattlingly loud she has to lip-read the customers' orders. That's fine with her. The Swan isn't one for small talk, and the volume and defiance of early twenty-first century rock 'n roll innoculates her against her own private pain.

Others would disappear from view, but she believes in hiding in plain sight. So the Swan fits in, like she's done before; she adds a few piercings and more black to her wardrobe; dyes her hair a deep orange-red; listens to the right music; learns the difference between true and false metal. She wears an Angel Dust or Great Annihilator T-shirt when she wants to make a private joke.

She takes a grim pride in her excellence as a bartender - she's done this job in a hundred different places – a marketable skill for the frequently mobile. Most evenings, the Swan can catch the rythym of the work, a simple 4/4 beat which takes you from punter to punter … and repeat until cigarette break and closing time. Or Judgement Day, for all she cares sometimes.

At the bar, that fools gold crucible, surrounded by warm bodies and cold noise, the Swan can reach for a place where she can forget herself.

But then there's a night like tonight, when she can't reach it. Much too much on her mind to reduce interaction to transaction. All the Swan can do is focus on getting through to the end of her shift in one piece.

Snatching a break around eleven, she escapes from the Lounge out back. The night air saps barheat, offering barearm goosebumps in exchange. Propped against the wall, the Swan sparks a cigarette and closes her eyes, though she knows what waits in the scarlet and lightning-flash memory world behind them.