Friday, March 24, 2006


Wow. One of the most astounding things I’ve seen for sometime. I don’t know how to begin... it’s all over the place, like a crazed music video it dashes from scene to scene in a melange of images and ideas and, certainly to begin with, scant disregard for any kind of coherent narrative. But the energy carries it through, and the incredible visual style.

The only thing I’ve seen before that I can directly compare in look is Sky Captain, which features a similar combination of CG, people and spectacular lighting. That employed a pleasing future-retro noir look, clean-cut heroes in airships partaking in a Boys’ Own adventure with dark undertones. In Casshern the tone is much blacker, the plot much deeper; Sky Captain meets Blade Runner and Brazil crossed with a bunch of anime (bringing to my mind Guyver, Akira and Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky) and a dash of steam-punk styling for good measure. Post-future retro if you like.

Most surprising is the way the film builds. A jumble of scenes flash across the screen, snatches of story-line, dreams, visions, and who knows what. The palette changes frequently, the music throbs in and out, sometimes dialogue is not required at all. But somehow this all comes together. Plot strands start to resolve themselves (mostly – I sense a lot of backstory left out of the source manga here) in your head while the energy of the visuals creates a real visceral rush, the final half-hour becomes an incredibly powerful anti-war statement without preaching and, most unusually, without flinching from the moral/philosophic ambiguities this stance raises.

Brilliant madness.

More info on imdb, (yes! watch the trailer in japanese).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

oh isaac!

surely the stupid story of the week, Isaac Hayes quits south park when it lampoons scientology:

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends, and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," Mr Hayes said in a statement. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."

and the retort:
"This has nothing to do with intolerance and bigotry and everything to do with the fact that Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist and that we recently featured Scientology in an episode of South Park," said Matt Stone, who created the series with Trey Parker. "In 10 years and more than 150 episodes Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show. To bring the civil rights struggle into this is just a non sequitur. Of course, we will release Isaac from his contract and we wish him well."

(from the guardian).

honestly, scientologists do themselves no favours.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Originally uploaded by monkeyinfez.

Got my first roll shot on my vintage camera developed, and i'm very very pleased with them. I haven't ever seriously shot on film, i didn't know if the camera was in full working order and i wasn't 100% sure on how to use it... but it's all turned out fine. beautiful.

The camera is a Zeiss Ikon Nettar from 1950ish that my brother got me for christmas. It's a fine piece of kit, finished in black and silver with a leather bellows section. It uses 120 roll film, generally known as 'medium format', which gives large negatives and very detailed images. My only problem now is that I'd like to be able to replicate the slightly heavy handed and careless film handling (that led to the bleached areas in some of the shots) without totally ruining the films... this is a difficult (un)skill to practise!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

norwich union magazine

i read an article yesterday about new regulations that are coming in about recycling electronics. sure, they should have been introduced years ago, but it's still a positive step, particularly with the rapid turnover of TVs and computers these days. it was with this rare feeling of hope for the environment that i arrived home to find norwich union magazine.

wrapped in plastic. thick. glossy. a picture of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on the cover. logos and adverts. utter shit.

this is what we need to combat. think of the incredible waste here: paper and ink; electricity for printing and production; lives spent writing these trite articles or, more likely, culling them from other glossies; office equipment bought and used; more lives spent producing, planning, administering, organising, booking, delivering; fuel for distribution; packaging for shipping... it soon spirals beyond control.

all this so that a few thousand people on some stupid mailing list can get a magazine that they don't want, don't need and don't even intend to look at. all so i can chuck it straight in the recycling and the process can repeat.

utter utter shit people. please stop.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

more on the non-story

just found these couple of bits on the newnight pages:

viewer comments

newsnight response

glad to see it's not just me thinking that this was complete tosh.


Scare-mongering time again. What is it about the internet and technology stories that cause news programmes to fall over themselves? Newsnight on Friday presented one of the most convoluted and unfounded arguments I’ve seen recently, transformed into yet another “peer-to-peer networking/the internet is evil and helps terrorism” nebulous non-story… at least I think that was the message of the piece, beyond a engendering a vague sense of concern it was hard to tell what the point was supposed to be.

The argument went something like this:
1) Broadband user is downloading files using Bit Torrent which, apparently, now accounts for something around 30% of internet traffic.
2) User finds that his ISP is decreasing his bandwidth during peak times due to his ‘excessive’ use of his connection for Bit Torrent.
3) User resorts to encryption of Bit Torrent data so that ISP can’t scan the data packets and consequently restrict B.T. use.
4) Amount of encrypted traffic on the internet rises substantially due to the large amount of traffic from B.T.
5) Government agencies that ‘track’ (read ‘eavesdrop on’) internet traffic suddenly find that a) there’s a lot of encrypted data that’s hard for them to read and b) not much of it is of use to them.
6) Terrorists (+paedophiles +hackers etc etc, add your own hated groups here) get an easier ride as their encrypted data is well hidden amongst all the other encrypted traffic now on the net.

Phew! How’s that for a stretch of the imagination? Let’s take those points in reverse order then.

5 & 6
Here the assumption is that lots of people start encoding their data and this restricts monitoring agencies’ ability to pick out important data by checking to see if it is encrypted.

First point, they shouldn’t be reading this stuff anyway. This monitoring is conceptually no different from a ‘traditional’ wiretap or mail-scan, but as digital technology makes the process easier, automated and less invasive it seems that it’s now ok and rights of privacy can go jump. The fact that you may not care whether your email is scanned or not is neither here nor there, the point is it shouldn’t be.

Secondly, anyone trying to transmit something that is sensitive (and both terrorists and governments fall into this category) will use good encryption, and good encryption is unbreakable. A good example of this is the PGP, coded by Phil Zimmermann, which uses large encryption keys based on prime numbers. How long does it take to crack an encrypted message? On average: longer than the lifetime of the universe. Hence being able to intercept the messages seems rather a moot point (although there is the chance you might be able to gain information on the location the data was sent from, but there are again ways to conceal this).

As a vague analogy if all of this is unclear think of posting a letter. Here you have a ‘poorly’ encrypted system, a note concealed in an envelope. If someone wanted to read your message they’d be able to carefully steam open the letter, read the message, then re-seal it and send it on its way. A postcard would represent an unencrypted message, which could be easily read without any effort. A letter sealed with a traditional wax seal would represent ‘good’ encryption, there is no obvious way to get to the contents without destroying the seal and revealing that you’ve read the message (not quite the same as data encryption, but if we regard this point as rendering the message unreadable the analogy stands).

Now imagine that the government insisted that you only write postcards to people so that it could easily monitor everyone. There’d be a huge outcry, yet this is much the same as the final points in the above argument. Sending a letter without a seal would make it more difficult for you to be monitored, but not impossible. A letter with a seal, our unbreakable code, might be hidden by all the regular letters, but this will make no difference to someone agency’s ability to crack the code. Naturally the postmark will be found to be a forgery.

1 – 4
Oh my, there’s a whole other grab-bag of issues hidden up here, another glossing-over by the Newsnight report of the real concerns that should be raised here.

The obvious issue is again one of privacy, the ISP has no inherent right to scan the data you transmit and receive. Yet by looking for Bit Torrent data they are doing this, although it may be by recognition of the form of the data rather than by fully scanning the content.

Another issue is that of customer rights. If you pay an ISP for a 2mb internet connection and they restrict this connection during peak times then you’re not getting what you’re paying for. The ISP spokesperson in the report suggested that if they didn’t restrict bandwidth used by Bit Torrent then their servers would be overloaded and ‘other customers’ wouldn’t be able to access the internet. If this is the case then surely they’re selling a product they can’t support, presumably on the assumption that most people can be sold a 2mb connection but for average web-browsing only a fraction of that will be used. Thus they can save money by assuming average use, rather than maximal use. Some providers do stipulate ‘fair-use’ in their contract, but this is again a nonsense which just means that if you fully utilise what you’re paying for they can kick you off the service if they like. In this latter case, however, it is at least contractually clear what you’re getting and any limit is usually imposed in terms of a data-limit (e.g. 5Gb per month) rather than the ISP actively scanning data and preventing only services it doesn’t approve of.

The biggest issue I see is the fact that this grab-bag of points has been mutated into a bone fide news report. What is the conclusion? That whoever put this together didn’t understand anything about the issues and ideas raised. That whoever put this together didn’t have a conclusion to make. That whoever put this together just wanted a trendy, ‘whoa downloading is helping terror’ story, citizens stay at home and do nothing for your own safety. That whoever put this together was sowing the seeds for the music industry, the film industry, all the peer-to-peer cases in court… on this last I say conspiracy theorists of the world unite! Or, more aptly, journalists of the world please try and pay a little more attention to the technology stories before regurgitating a load of utter crap.

“Today, electronic mail is gradually replacing conventional paper mail, and is soon to be the norm for everyone, not the novelty it is today. Unlike paper mail, E-mail messages are just too easy to intercept and scan for interesting keywords. This can be done easily, routinely, automatically, and undetectably on a grand scale. This is analogous to driftnet fishing -- making a quantitative and qualitative Orwellian difference to the health of democracy.”
- Phil Zimmermann, speaking to the US senate subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space