Sunday 25th May 2008
18.33 - 18.39
Halfway along Grafton Street, near the clock outside Barratts: map
The Grand Central Freeze:
(I've always wanted a megaphone, and jaysus, is this thing loud. That's a "tequila belt" I'm wearing, complete with shot glasses--possibly one of the coolest and most destructive Christmas presents I've ever got [thanks Eva!]. Accompanied by Jack Daniels, and a pound of chocolates, Santa is ready!)
Awesome weekend in Brighton with the local Burning Man folks who put together a fairly impromptu beach BBQ party for those of us (40 at the party!) who aren't at the festival proper. We even burnt a man! This is the traditional end of festival ceremony that has been the centre piece of the event since its inception in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco. A couple of guys brought quite a decent sound system that was built into a stage coffin, complete with ornate handles and slightly demonic flashing lights...
That's one really impressive aspect to the Burning Man folks - when someone says "let's do an event" it always happens, and invariably with flair. Any event that requires total self-provision for a week in a desert environment tends to attract people who Get Stuff Done. Not having to worry about whether someone is going to flake or not when organising events is a real treat. Just do it!
The surgeons reconstruct my right subtalar joint on Tuesday afternoon, and what better way to usher in the start of a painful healing process than a party!
That's right, Monday evening, 30th May please do drop by my bed in the ward, chat, have a drink, hang out with folks, and taunt me with scalpels (lord knows I deserve it). Drop by any time after 7pm; stay as little or as long as you like. They honestly don't mind people drinking...
Full info on the events listing, 2005-05-30 // Pre-op "party" at St Thomas' Hospital
I've rustled up a Kettlebell meet-up this coming Friday 11th March, 13:00 onwards. There'll be a bunch of cool people there goofing about. We'll do some KB demos, have lunch, compare toys & notes, and maybe even run a few challenges... Details at this Events mailing list post
Tonight I attended a packed lecture hall for the inaugural, and as it turned out engaging and super-smoothly executed, Wireless London event that featured talks from Armin Medosch and Usman Haque. Both were great; interesting and provocative...
In particular Usman's Sky Ear project was just fantastic - send up little radio frequency sensors with powerful LEDs, some communication circuitry, and phones all inside hundreds of helium balloons. The sensors detect both natural- and human-created signals and visualize them with the LEDs. An extra twist is created by the ability to be able to SMS/text the device which in the process of receiving the message affects the surrounding ether and thus the visualization! The scale of the creation was just awesome and looked wonderful.
Definitely recommended, looking forward to the next one.
Continuing what seems to be a run of good fortune meeting cool people, I was lucky enough to be sitting next to an architect who did an intriguing project on the 'flirtatious city' examing how configurations of architecture are and are not conducive to urban intimacy in its broad sense. Gotta love intending to go to Rome and experiment wearing high-heels on a Vespa to see how that effects passage through the urban landscape... Someone has to investigate this stuff.
The 10km Run London event this weekend, which has been essentially co-opted by Nike, is bound to see a lot of protests owing to their ongoing use of sweatshop labour and well-documented disregard for employee health. Calls for action are popping up for meetings at the finish line.
SweatLondon is taking a different tack - rebelling against the "bunch of lefty morons" and organising a "counter protest", to "support Nike in their hour of need"...
Possibly the most exciting news of the day, a Santacon event happening in Paris! The very idea of attending two santacons, internationally, in one year arose a couple of weeks back on the uksantacon mailing list but I scarcely allowed myself to consider it, merely posting support for the date of Dec 18th, so exciting was it!
My new heroine, Susie Hollands, has taken the lead and posted as close to something official as it probably needed... the original message copied below (including the explanation why it can't be called "santacon"...)
Bonjour UK Santas -
here in paris we are often in need of a little good cheer and ho ho ho.
i think it's time for the first ever Paris Santa....(we can't called it "con" because that means "cunt" in French)......the first ever Paris Santarchy.
As a proud veteran of 2001/2 Santacon's in London, I found the "experiment" intruiging - to see the response of the weary Oxford Street shoppers to our ensemble was unforgettable. Now. Try and imagine the effect on the denizens of Paris, not normally known for their joviality and sense of humour.....but, could they surprise us?
You are invited to hop on eurostar for Saturday 18th December and more than welcome to join us for a romp round the City of Light.
Kick off from Gare du Nord, Eurostar Terminal around midday.
You know the requirements: red togs, beards, tangerines and of course naughty and nice stickers. Plus Hip Flasks.
Just imagine Santa; La Tour Eiffel, Centre Pompidou, Sacre Coeur, Galeries Lafayette,La Moulin Rouge............
Please let me know if you are interested - i want to know numbers.
A bientot - La Parisienne Santa .
Right after Pillow fighting I sprinted over to the Dana Centre (part of the Science Museum) for a debate about viral marketing, pros and cons, insights into media spending, different approaches of marketing, and so on. I got to speak too :)
There was essentially no discussion of trust, corporate social responsibilty (surprising since that is a buzzword..), how campaigns could generate a net benefit to society. There is enormous opportunity here to break how people perceive companies and corporate communications.
Thanks to Pete last night for some great ideas which I fed into the talk
A bunch of folks decamped to a nearby pub and continued the chat... Obvious people were making new friends both at the event and pub. Overall thoroughly enjoyable!
This early evening what seemed like several hundred folks gathered in front of St Paul's Cathedral for the first London Pillow Fight Club. I showed up a little after the posted 17:40 kickoff and it was in full, literally, swing. A core of probably a hundred or so battlers were beating the stuffing out of each other...'s pillows, and quite obviously enjoying themselves. Quite a sight!
Especially amusing was that the London Mayor's two Roll Royces were there with the usual police escort. Around about 18:00 they drove off and had to drive, very slowly, right through the middle of the pillowfighters. Much laughter, and the moment the back of the car had made it through the middle another frenzied skirmish broke out, hilarious to watch.
What I love about these sorts of events is that a critical mass and density of people arrive in one spot joined loosely by an idea. This spontaneous community forms out of an event, becoming a pretext for meeting others, gathering new friends, and reconnecting with old. Something similar happened with the otherwise totally bizarre David Blaine: the spectacle of him hanging starving near Tower Bridge drew crowds round the clock. Many would then just stay there having had their fill so to speak of hungry Blaine. Why stay? Cos there's a bunch of people there which they are connected with. That tiny bit of connection is enough. Isn't that saying something?
Had a discussion on a list recently about talking to strangers and how 'hard' it is and how it's not the done thing. I think this is bullshit. We have a deep and abiding need to connect with others. Anything that taps into this is a given success, and yet it's attempted far less frequently than it could be. Seeing this sort of event happen is really heartening. Iit makes the extraordinary a little more ordinary: that we can meet one another and have fun doing it.
A German couple asked me as I was leaving for the Dana Centre, "Why are they doing this? What's it for?" To which I replied simply, "It's for fun!"
[I have a little movie and a landscape shot I'll post after I've processed them when deadlines over.]
Last Wednesday's Dorkbot, its return after way, way too long was a real treat. The evening went from self-modifying music software being edited by its author and itself in real-time, to an oil-painting of a stereogram (a celebration of functionlessness aka "being shit"), progressing from a clock made from a Mark's & Spencer's prawn sandwich(!), into the possibility of using other people's wireless networks to communicate without their knowing, and finally quite possibly the coolest ever wiki.
Saul Albert (one of the Dorkbot London co-dork-founders-organisers) wrote up a nice review of it that I've posted below with his kind permission.
Saul sez (my comments interpersed):
Well, Alex Mclean started by doing something he said he'd never do : talkthrough a website (!) but it *was* a very interesting on: toplap.org - the Temporary Organisation for the Propagation of Live Algorythmic Programming. He introduced us to the idea of 'grades' - equivalent to grades you get when learning the piano but insisting instead that in order to attain Toplap grade 2 you have to be able to make nice music with the system bleep. Then he gave a very engaging example of how LAP works - writing several little sound making scripts from scratch and explaining as he went along how he was doing it. My favorite bit was when PaulM demonstrated the new and wonderfully expanded possibilities for heckling (heckling?! helping! - Paul) this kind of performance by shouting,
'You've missed a parenthesis on the end!'
And (more in keeping with tradition) throwing a half full bottle of white lightning cider at the stage. (er, this is a joke - Paul)
Alex mentioned that he'd written an article about this that has links to source code: http://www.perl.com/lpt/a/2004/08/31/livecode.html
Rory Macbeth talked wonderfully about his evil nauseating magic eye paintings - and how they're a bit like abstract art with a little hidden trick or reward for people who know 'what it means' but really because it's done in a kind of 60's splash painting style the magic eye bit doens't work so it's actually a kind of nauseating representational painting of a magic eye painting, but then he plugged the bloody thing in and it started vibrating - emulating how magic eye paintings do that shimmering thing when you try focus on them, which made the whole thing really quite impossibly stupid. I wanted to buy this painting from rory but he won't take any money and said if I wanted it I was probably stupid enough to deserve it.
Then what can I say, James Larsson demonstrated his prawn sandwich based clock, an expanded version of the too-compressed presentation he made at notcon (but I will link to that cos there's a video: http://www.ejhp.net/notcon/NotCon-Hardware-high.mov. Interestingly, the clock was extremely accurate (well, within an hour and a half) which is very impressive considering that we only gave James three days notice - which in these terrible days of over-processed preservative-filled-food, wasn't really enough to rot a Marks and Spencer's prawn sandwich to the point of complete deadliness when it becomes unstable enough to produce interesting changes in the conductivity and electrical resistance of the bread, mayo and prawns.
Paul: This presentation really was as engaging and funny as any I've seen at dorkbot. James simply IS a mad scientist and was kind enough to give me the technical low-down. The system worked by measuring the decrease over time in the conductivity of the bread versus the change in capacitance of the prawn as it decayed. The mayo's resistance (IIRC?) was tracked too. A BBC Micro with its built-in 4-channel 12bit ADC provided the logging. The resulting three-variable plot was collated into an enormous array which provided a list of "events" both in absolute value changes and variables relative to one another, as I understood it. So the clock was event driven and would move about 40-60mins each event. (I also had a fascinating pub-chat and lift home with James during which time we talked a bunch of other esoteric stuff -- fantastic!)
Then Jeremy Ruston presented the wonderful TiddlyWiki and gave a very useful breakdown of how wikis work, and how tiny bits of microcontent (tiddlers) can help to merge the facility of blogs to organise and produce microcontent with the non-linear and collaborative way that wikis structure things. Rory Macbeth who continually apologised for not knowing about or being able to do anything with computers (which is not true - I know Rory and he has magic computer fingers that can destroy hardware, corrupt files and crash otherwise stable software for no reason within seconds of him sitting down to check his email) said that he understood TiddlyWiki and would consider using it.
Then Matt Westervelt got up and presented this very cheeky hack: Other People's Networks - a (fictional, but possible) hack to take advantage of the noise of 802.11x spectrum usage in big cities by using Other People's Networks to move network traffic between people who want to route between each other's networks - but can't see each other, because Other People are in the way, or at least, Other People's Networks are visible to both. I didn't get any pictures of Matt's presentation - which is a pity. Did anyone else? That's it!
Paul: I got the technical low-down on this one too. Quite honestly, I barely understood it but here goes anyway: the idea is to use the increasing number of open routers not to leech their HTTP access but, by hacking your own wifi driver at Layer 2, associate to multiple networks and employ some kind of multicast shenanigans that will be relayed 'under the radar' by the Other People's Networks. Neat idea; as yet unimplemented.
next dorkbot: wednesday 20th October 2004, state51, then the third wednesday of every month.
Back at the end of July, I took a last minute decision to blow off Festival of Peace and meet up with Eva & Emily at the UK Urban Games (it was Emily's idea; I'd totally forgotten about it). The galling £15 entry for the last few hours turned out to be worth it for the excellent company, BMX flatland, FMX, and B-Boy (breakdance) finals, not to mention slamming hard on my ass trying out an Indoboard (like a physio's balance board but wildly overpriced, sketchier, and intended for skate/snowboarders: of which I'm neither :-).
I've now finally got around to mixing the video of the flatland finals, and putting it online!
Rather than take pics I shot some video on my little camera of the flatland finals. After six years of procrastinating over learning a movie editing suite I was chatting with the Legg early this morning and started playing with Windows Moviemaker. Man, what a sweet piece of free software! Within maybe a half hour I'd gone from total n00b to this 2 minute mix:
It's too bad I only had a 64MB card in my camera (since rectified) as there was a ton of even more sick moves later.
It was quite strange having not been in the scene for nearly ten years to come back and recognise riders from the early/mid nineties still riding. As strange as that, I can remember my last proper flatland bike before it was stolen in great detail: every part, nut, bolt, cable, feel of the grips, how its weight moved, my trainers on the tyres, the indescrible sensation of balancing a roll. It must be quite a mix of emotions for a real athlete to give up after so long. I still occasionally have flatland dreams to this day, busting moves I was at the time years of practice away from ever pulling.
(By real I mean as in someone more skilled and dedicated than me, rather than the sport: BMX flatland is one of the most physically technically complex sports in existence, up there with dance, gymnastics, ice skating. Those moves in that video are done by finalists, each with 5+years of obsessive practice.)
It happened, it was the best ever. Reports arriving here.
The third ever, and possibly last, Circle Line Party is happening this Friday.
From the Space Hijackers....
Cancel your sister's birthday party, cancel your mum and dad's wedding anniversary, forget that romantic meal with your loved one.
Click below to find out when and where to meet and catch the train:
Click below for the official invite:
Watch the flyer!
EXACT DETAILS WILL BE GIVEN ON FRIDAY MORNING
More details here, (check here again on Friday)
The last two Circle Line Parties have been fantastic, members of the public enjoyed it so much they stayed onboard for extra laps!
The plan is simple, everyone brings entertainment, music, instruments, sound systems, decorations and food and drink to share. We sneak onto the trains and only party when we are in the tunnels, when we are in the stations we are silent. The general public are made to feel very very welcome, they are given sweets and drinks. We fill up the trains from the back carriages and leave the front one empty, if the train is packed out, we wait and fill another train too.
The doors close, we hit a tunnel, we party, the doors open we flip back to bored commuter mode.
See you Friday night...
But as Darren and I sat chatting with Will the Judge, the possibility of being involved in a phone-facilitated drenchfest in such good weather was too much to pass up, and off we headed to Argos to score weapons...
Naturally we picked the biggest, most manly equipment. The Triple Aggressor. 1.7litres of super-soaking capacity. Pump action. Water grenade. Detachable mini "handbag" pistol. Designed by NASA scientists.
Elite Water Warriors
Since I'm lusting after Sony Ericsson's as-yet-unreleased S700 I haven't quite made it to the land of MMS yet. So tagging along with Darren we joined the fray. Within seconds we were assigned a target over MMS. Game on.
Now, the game had about half a dozen of us playing over quite a large area: within triangle of Gt Eastern St, Old St, and Shoreditch High St. This resulted in a fair bit of wandering around in the hopes of finding a target. The second game saw the area much reduced which made it somewhat more fun. It could've been even smaller -- fragfest!
After chancing on a cache of players Darren swooped in for his kill but in the excitement was taken out shortly after by his assassin. A tactic learnt.
After plenty of wandering about, some quite tactical moves, and a bit of luck I ended up being the last of two: Ray and I finished off with a duel at 10 paces.
This turned into a hilariously pitched battle around a loaded skip. As far as I was concerned it was an excuse to saturate a couple of well-dressed pedestrians. "Whoops." After Ray's confirmed kill (of me) everyone pretty much soused everyone else.
The (Very) Damp Assassins
The Arsenal. And beer. Note just how ridiculously big the Triple Aggressor is. Muhaha!
Thoughts on game strategy
The MMS target assignation was a novel twist to the game. Playing outdoors in an urban area with almost no car traffic, plenty of little back alleys, and twisty paths was really good fun. Like hashing it's a great way to learn about an area too. Congrats to the team for coming up with such an excellent venue.
Since your assigned target isn't your assassin (you don't know who is after you) it made for some entertaining interactions with other players, "are they after me? Is this a bluff?" and plenty of "arms"-length circling around each other.
However, the basic rules of "shoot your target, MMS soaked opponent to Judge, receive another target, repeat 'til one survivor" actually reduces (in a game theoretic way) to "every person for themself", i.e. "kill 'em all", a deathmatch. So the actual assigned target is not really that important as you have to zap everyone ultimately anyway. The MMS of the squirted opponent back to the Judge is still worthwhile and makes for a spectator sport at HQ (or online if it went that far). Apart from one time, I didn't go after anyone not specifically assigned as it was more fun to share hints about who'd been where, who was after who, etc. Tactically though, not so good.
Mobile phones, mobile players?
Quite a few of us, faced with exploring the backstreets of Hoxton for long periods without sighting a target, thought about playing on a bike, skates, or a skateboard. At first I didn't like the skateboard idea but compared to the other two you could unload off your vehicle for agile close combat pretty damn fast. Interesting to see how wheels in whatever form might pan out.
* Team deathmatch, half against half. I imagine this wouldn't make any use of MMS at all.
* Capture the flag, ditto and probably have to be refereed. Would have some cooperation though.
* The same format we played but have multiple targets assigned, and first to nail all of them. (Since people would be assigned more than once, shot players would have to be able to rejoin so they could get nailed by their other assassins ;-). Having multiple targets increases the chances of stumbling on an assigned target, and doesn't reduce to a deathmatch (so MMS necessary).
Anyway, enough analysis. A great afternoon! Looking forward to the next one...
(Interested? Join the Damp Assassins mailing list.)
Sunday: Large indoor/outdoor "peace party" at London's only lighthouse near the Millennium Dome Festival of Peace.
Saturday: Now this sounds like a laugh: grab your MMS phone, uber-water pistol, and hunt down your "enemies" in London's Hoxton.
Unfortunately I have injured my knee but more crippling, for this, I don't have an MMS phone any more now that Urban Tapestries snagged the P800 back.
After a phone call with Stephen S in the UK we decided to go ahead with Mobile Clubbing NYC 1 with barely 36hrs left. The time: 6:18pm; the date: 23rd June; the place: Grand Central Station. (In hindsight, 6:23 would've been a better time, ah well.)
With the beyond-the-call gracious help of Carolyn T we created some flyers in Word for a party at Boulevard later that night. On the day, I got a call from Barry/Circle who had the idea to flyer Union Sq where all the cool kids hang out. I can tell you, at midday after a raging, weird, abusive night before I was so not up for that, especially since I'd have to recreate the flyer, get it photocopied, cut up, and handed out to strangers the whole afternoon. It is something of a breakthrough for me not to have blown that off. It was a lot of work albeit rewarding and out of my comfort zone.
One notable feature of the flyering was meeting Gary Younge: none other than the NYC correspondent for The Guardian UK national paper who has previously reported on the Flash Mobbing scene in NYC. How synchronous!?
Barry & I made our way to GCS after the flyering (and an audio interview for Good News Broadcast; not online yet). We had no idea how many people would show up. I kind of didn't care at that point, I was so ready to dance. I'd snagged one of Joe's glittery red dance tops which I changed into on the platform at 42nd.
Arriving at GCS it became obvious who was MCing: those wearing personal stereos, looking amused and conspiratorial, and above all frequently clock-watching. The main concourse has at its centre a beautiful information booth and four-sided clock, perfect for spot-on MC timing.
At 6:18 on the dot pretty much everyone, a dozen or so of us, mostly NYC Burning Man folks jumped into action and somewhat dispersed. We danced, were stared at, were giggled at, and I even was engaged by a middle-aged woman in some swingdance. This was hilarious - she was so into it. I'm dying to upload the pics I have for this one alone; there is an expression of pure delight on this woman's entire physique.
There was a growing crowd of amused commuters, all looked quite entertained. We weren't moving around in the space so much so it turned into a bit of a show.
About 15mins in, for reasons only known to himself one of the folks (who was not dancing/without stereo) decided to sit down right there in the middle of the concourse. Unfortunately this, combined with our growing audience, seemed enough of an excuse for the cops who previously had just stood by and not interfered to break it up. They were very cool and courteous about it so we gradually eased off, debriefed, and dived back into the transit system.
Lessons learnt: 1. Get the thing organized earlier! Altho' it was fun I basically blew off my remaining two afternoons doing MC-related stuff. And coupled with having phone numbers of two gorgeous women...
2. Have MC'ers move around the space so that a crowd simply cannot form or at least would be much harder to. Had we been more dispersed I think it may've continued longer since the cops would've stayed out of it. (The one I spoke to said he saw it quite early on and didn't interrupt as there was no obvious threat, but stepped in when the crowd formed.)
3. For when it's over, pre-arrange a nearby venue and way of getting there so we can disperse afterwards. Post-MC we hung around for ages and some momentum was lost which, combined with a distant(ish) venue, meant we didn't get to hang out. Nearby is key I think as at least half the discussion was about how to get there (bus v. subway v. ...)
Overall a fantastic experience, it's amazing what context can do for allowing ourselves to do something completely bizarre. Lots of fun!
If you have any pics please do send them along (mine are stuck in my camera pending a flashcard reader/USB cable). I didn't get email addressses of attendees (doh) so drop me a line if you'd like to hear about the next one, or even be there for organizing another!
(PS for non-Americans: 6:23 would've worked better as 6/23 is the US way of writing 23rd June.)
Having missed the 10th Mobile Clubbing event owing to being in NYC this week the logical, and fun, thing to do is hold an MC event in New York City! So, Wednesday 6:18pm, Grand Central station, Mobile Clubbing comes to America...
Mobile Clubbing: showing up at a train station at a specific time and dancing, alone, but morphically connected to the other mobile clubbers in the vicinity, tunes provided by your own walkman and 'phones. Surreal stuff. And sure enough, it had to happen - in its ninth outing the mobile clubbing posse (as previously pimped on the Events mailing list) made it into The Independent which Mike Cupcake has scanned as a JPEG. Nice one, folks!
Next ones slated for 18th June, 1st and 22nd July.
Wow, that absolutely rocked. It's been fun chatting with all folks who live & stayed over here, getting calls & texts with all the funny stories (some of which are best kept ... mmm, yes).
Highlights for me:
Fab! Pix up as soon as... If you've got any ones you like do send 'em over.
Look forward to the next one!
Last week at the first ever No 5 BBQ, conversation led onto Chris's description of the almost uncontrolled hilarity and silliness of the Bad Joke Bar at Burning Man a few years back (at which he was one of the original bartenders, no less!). Inspired, we decided more or less on the spot to hold, right here at No 5, The Bad Joke Bar Party!
Thanks to Courtney for the excellent duck concept & photography!
This evening Sainsbury's provided us with a positively absurd amount of party booze, snacks, and balloons. (Bizarrely, the bill was almost exactly the same as it was last time we had a party: £172 v. £173.)
After Suraya's sterling efforts clearing out the mank from the fridge (almost all mine, cheers luv) and restacking the goodies a massive balloon blowing session ensued. Oh, and the duck was named: Kingsley.
The party hasn't happened and it's already been really quite entertaining.
PS Got any bad jokes?