r _Web.log

Archives: 2009-04

English public information films of the 1970s

The best thing about YouTube is that it has encouraged an entire planet of VHS-hoarders to dig out and digitise terabytes' worth of apparently pointless historical video. And so it is that we are able to peer into the recent past at the trove of hilarity that is the 1970s English public information film. Most are furnished with a tone of utter condescension at their hapless, idiotic and utterly infantile public. We deserve it.

Fool for a father
"It's hard, having a fool for a father."

Electricy Hazards
"This man was safe. Until now."

Fatal Floor
"You might as well set a man-trap."

Old Fridges Can Kill
"Take off the door! Or smash the lock!"

Lonely Water
"I am the spirit of dark and lonely water..."

Rabies Outbreak
"Foxes will be destroyed."

Unashamedly inspired by this post by Robert Popper.


openlab fish The fifth edition of OpenLab is taking place this Saturday night in the fine surrounds of Dalston's Café Oto. I'll be presenting a quick howto on integrating SuperCollider and Processing for generative audio-visual works as part of the free daytime workshops, and performing with AtomSwarm during the evening. Entry for the night-time events is Ł5 to cover running costs.

glitch 20090421

A couple of nice recent glitches. The first is from a crashed version of Conway's Life, written in OpenGL shader language as an experiment in accelerating CA-based simulations via GPU functionality; the second occurred at the start of a YouTube clip.

life glitch

youtube glitch


K http://you-talking-to-me.com/

...is the latest creation by the harlequins of netart at J0D1: a terminally collapsed play on the concept of a web ring. Particularly baffling is the absence of any other references to the site on the web... distribution solely via their delicious feed? Shouldn't be surprising, somehow...

Grown your own logotype


Grow Your Own Logotype (Java applet) is a new Processing-based creation from Mitchell Whitelaw, applying his earlier Limits To Growth work to typographical structures. It's a brilliant way to generatively create rough surfaces and edges, based on the Eden model of bacterial growth by accumulation on boundaries. Mitchell has also rendered some nice images of cube growth in 3D space using the same model.

Signals From The Cosmos

K http://www.signalsfromthecosmos.com/

Signals From The Cosmos is a new monthly residency at 93 Feet East that I am beginning this week (as Ad Hoc), alongside Scott Urlaubshits. Guests this month are the West End Boys, formerly of La Supercool Discotheque. We'll be playing (and I quote) cosmic disco, mutant house, future acid, radiophonic techno and low slung dubbed out grooves.

We're aesthetically angling it somewhere in the retro-futurist continuum somewhere between 1950s American comics and the cold-war Soviet space race. Here's the first flyer of the series...

If you're socially disposed, send a transmission to our Facebook group or MySpace profile.

I'll also be debuting a series of experimental live video pieces to accompany the night. The first is a live video kaleidoscope, created in a few fun minutes playing with Apple's Quartz Composer.

Norman McLaren's pioneering geometric animations

Norman McLaren was a Scottish animator who, from the early 1930s, produced a huge amount of pioneering film works. Drawing directly onto film stock and making use of new multilayering and colour techniques, he produced some fantastically stylised animations, drawing in abstract and surrealist influences.

Check out this animation of ghosts and ghouls having a party when the clock strikes midnight, soundtracked by Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre. Watch out for the charming Pacman/Galaga-esque visual cast list!

Spook Sport (1940)

He also produced a number of education films and advertisements, for the British General Post Office and National Film Board of Canada amongst others. The Obedient Flame (1939) was a promotional short for British Gas, extolling the virtues of gas power for housewives, and has that wonderful mannered delivery and diagrammatics that never fails to provide amusement.

Still from The Obedient Flame Still from The Obedient Flame

He also experimented extensively with the opto-acoustic techniques used by László Moholy-Nagy and others: drawing onto film and translating the results into sound, using a sound-on-film techniques and a Moviola device to synchronise both tracks. Pen Point Percussion (1951) is a brilliant documentary about the technique with several sound examples. Dots (1940) is a film produced using these visual and sonic methods together.

Dots (1940)

via Tom

chiptune.com: A web-based Amiga Workbench emulator

K http://www.chiptune.com/

chiptune.com is a stunning, fully-functional web-based emulation of the classic Amiga Workbench OS. It's entirely written in Javascript by Christophe Résigné, as part of the new Chrome Experiments showcase of dynamic web apps intended for Google's Chrome browser. Despite this, it also works happily in Firefox and Safari, which is just as well given Chrome's continued lack of OS X support.

I was particularly happy to discover it even includes this old friend...

Chiptune failure

Lovelace on creativity: An addendum

Just been reading through parts of the PhD thesis of Rob Saunders, one of the previous members of the stem cell modelling research group, on "Curious Design Agents and Artificial Creativity". Lots of interesting ideas, which follow on nicely from a talk I recently saw by Alex McLean on mapping creative exploration to geometric spaces (cf Peter Gärdenfors).

The introduction aptly reins back something that I overstated in my recent piece on Jane Prophet: Ada Lovelace's views on computational creativity. She in fact stated that:

“The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do [only] whatever we know how to order it to perform” (emphasis added by Boden, 1990)

As Rob comments, therefore, the credit for the creative products of the machine should remain with its engineer, rather than construing the machine itself as having creativity. His paper goes on to investigate such notions of synthetic creativity. It also brings to the fore Turing's ideas about machines exhibiting "surprising" behaviour courtesy, in the paper that introduces the Turing test, anticipating Cariani's emergence-relative-to-a-model.

Interesting, and relevant after a morning spent encountering some highly surprising behaviour from some swarms driven by Perlin noise (below).

Incidentally, Leafcutter John -- who we are off to see play tonight as part of Polar Bear -- has also been doing some brilliant things with Processing and particle systems. On the "unexpected" tip, check out his awesome moth wings...