Saturday, 13 July 2013

Bigger On The Inside

The Daily Mail makes me ashamed to be British. The fact that it is so popular in my country makes me feel somehow associated with it, and that makes me feel dirty. And not in a fun way. But not for the obvious reasons. The bigotry, the quack pseudoscience, the gossipy approach to ‘news’ and the shameless right wing propaganda all irk me, but in a harmless-old-fart sort of way. In the same way that most people’s grannies are a little bit racist, I don’t really care that the Daily Mail is a bit shit. I generally assumed that the people who are affected by it are the people who are dumb enough to read it, that they inflict it upon themselves, that if they really choose to believe that divorce causes cancer then that’s up to them. They’re most likely the same people who will choose how many lottery tickets to buy based on the horoscopes in the back of gossip magazines. Generally, I’ve been happy to let them go ignorantly on and to wait patiently for natural selection to take its course. As long as I don’t read it, I reasoned, it won’t get to me. And, on the odd occasion I want to vent about the stupidity of the world with a big fat facepalm, I accept total responsibility for looking at anything written by Samantha Brick.

What I actually did on my birthday.
But there is one thing that does disgust me – the personal attacks. In general, I think it’s despicable that a respected newspaper would be so childish about anything, but there a particular one that gets to me on a personal level. This one. (As much as I loathe publicising this drivel, I think it's only fair you know where I'm coming from.)

Earlier on this year, my trusty Google machine informed me that Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra would be playing at the Camden Roundhouse on my 20th birthday. With no celebrations yet planned, I lost my proverbial shit. I was then promptly and politely informed that, with very good and somewhat heartbreaking reason, that part of the tour had been postponed. Instead, I got drunk with my friends on my birthday and ate pizza and watched films and suppressed the little fangirl that had come prancing out of me when she had seen the chance to party with Amanda Fucking Palmer.

The show was rescheduled for July 12th. In what I hoped was very much the AFP spirit (and on the back of some kind person offering me cupcakes), I decided I would take biscuits. For anyone unfamiliar with Amanda Palmer, she has a huge Twitter following and she makes a genuine effort to make her followers feel like they are part of a community. This tweet from just before the show, for instance, encouraging her fans to talk to each other is a perfect example. I promised her that I would speak to all of the strangers – and what better ice breaker than an offer of biscuits?

So I arrived with a carrier bag full of biscuits and walked from the box office to the end of the queue and offered them out to everyone waiting. It was indeed a great ice breaker. My friend and I got talking to loads of cool people. Random compliments flew. People standing near each other started chatting after discovering a shared passion for ginger nuts. A girl from France was delighted that she had got a chance to try a chocolate Digestive. Some people were genuinely hungry. Some people just really fancied a custard cream. Some people hugged us. More promised to find us inside and hug us there. Some did.

AFP with her loving fans.

From the start, the night was incredible. Having both attended and staffed such performances, I expected to have to punch my way to the stage and stand in an awkward crush for an hour and a half before the warm up act kicked off. 

But, of course, AFP does things her own way. A better way.

Ten minutes after the time the doors were officially opened, an astonished ring stood on the floor of the Roundhouse around the first warm up act, who were already playing when we arrived. They were fantastic. They were energetic and colourful and exciting – just like everything else. And one of them gave me a hug. I suspect that more of them would have, but I only asked one of them before I went off to tell a fantastically dressed man that I loved his face.

Over the next hour, I was introduced to some incredible musicians. AFP appeared on the balcony and, without microphone or amplification, accompanied the entire audience singing ‘Creep’ on her ukulele. She came onstage to introduce us to each one of her warm up acts – that is, her special guests. She told us where she had found them and why she wanted us to hear them. They were all incredible.

When at last Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra took their places, the crowd as one screamed and clapped and stamped and jumped. In the first song, AFP waded out into the audience, letting us all paw at her, stroke her, touch her, hug her, dance with her as she cut through us. Mad rushes to brush her with fingertips swept the smaller people – myself included – along in her wake. Propelled away from my friends, I ended up right at the front. For a moment, I was face to face with her while she waited for two security guys to haul her back onto stage. The whole time she had been tugged at, she had not missed a single note. Her voice was perfect the whole time. She had no problem cutting through people when she wanted to get back to the stage. She was powerful; in those moments, she was flawless.

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.

She told us stories about being at Glastonbury, about meeting Liam Gallagher from Oasis, about being exposed to English swear words. The music was amazing. The gorgeous Chad Raines threw himself to the front of the stage, leaning over the audience so that we could reach to stroke his sweaty back while he riffed – even dripping with hours of exertion, he had the fluffiest curly hair (I know, I touched it). He and the delicious Jherek Bischoff danced together as they performed, hugging and sharing guitars and creating a miniature show within the show of their adorable bromance. AFP had her special guests back on to perform, to duet with her, to dance with the band.

She sent her band off for a break and performed for us with just a ukulele. She performed a new song about being strong when all the world is going to shit around you. It was perhaps the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard written for the ukulele. About half way through, tears started to stream down her face. She did not miss a note; she did not stumble over a single syllable. She just kept singing and playing perfectly through until the end as tears dripped onto her chest. Seeing her cry broke my heat. I managed to hold my own until the end of the song, when I thought I would be safe. 

But then she played ‘The Bed Song’, another beautifully sad, sadly beautiful song. 

And I broke down. I bit my knuckles until a woman in front of me hugged me. The people behind me found my friend and dragged her to the front so that she could hug me too. I wanted to hug Amanda Palmer. I think we all did.

She just got on with the performance.

Towards the end, AFP played us a brand new song, exclusive to the night, one that she said maybe she would never play again, one that we should upload and share. It was a gift. It was a direct response to the judgmental article about her Glastonbury performance in the Daily Mail – that had not even tried to critique her music or her performance – that she had finished writing only an hour before the show had begun. It was bright, bouncy and funny. She proudly and properly used one of the new British swear words she had learnt. Half way through, she flung off her kimono and finished the song completely, comfortably nude. It was fantastic and I adored it – I have already described it on more than one occasion as my favourite thing that has ever happened. 

And meant it.

(Enjoy that video while it lasts; YouTube will take it down for the nudity sooner or later. Dicks.)

But at the same time I hate that it had to happen. I hate that someone had to make AFP feel so objectified, so bad about one little accident, to make it seem like it eclipsed all the effort she had put into putting on an incredible show. It is horrible for anyone to say such a thing about anyone, but to do it in a public and respected forum and to try to pass it off as ‘news’. And about someone who does no one any harm ever, who spreads only joy. It was hurtful and unnecessary. “Boob glimpsed briefly” is not news. It is definitely not a review.

And if people think it is, then maybe someone needs to start reviewing the reviewers.

I don’t mind if the Daily Mail and its writers and readers don’t like AFP. That’s totally up to them. In fact, if AFP were the kind of performer that the Daily Mail approved of, I probably wouldn’t care for her all that much. Simply put, I don’t trust them to have particularly good taste. 

But they don’t need to be dicks about it. They’re supposed to be professionals. And I have never known a professional anything to fail more monumentally.

Fangirl though I may be, I am under no illusions that Amanda Palmer is perfect. She's human. But I do think that she is a wonderful role model and a great person to look up to. I wish I had her wit and energy, her bravery and creativity, her perseverance and dedication. I wish I could connect with people the way she does, could make people feel special like she does. I wish I had her strength, her courage, her joy. I wish I could pull a Neil Gaiman (but frankly, she has earned him – and he her). Through her music, her writing, her talks and, I think most importantly, her behaviour, she has taught me a hell of a lot about life and what it is to be a good person. She has taught me that the most important thing to be is myself. She has taught me that if you don't like the way things are done, you can go out and do them your own, better way, and if you're on the right track then you'll get the support you need. She makes me want to work harder at everything I do. She makes me think it can be worthwhile to do what I love.

She makes me want to buy biscuits for total strangers just to see them smile – and she makes me actually do it, too.

I love you, too.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Endless Benefits of the Oculus Rift

Every week it seems there is some new and awesome development with the Oculus Rift and the VR technology on which is it based. I have read about the gadgets being made to go alongside it to complete the virtual reaity experience – the treadmill-style stand pad, for instance, designed to keep players in one place to stop them from wrecking their houses. I have heard a lot about the games being made for it. Mostly exploratory games designed to make the most of the totally immersive technology, there is also set to be a huge market for games featuring a lot of shock and gore. This is not all that surprising. A California based firm called Sinful Robot is dedicated to creating “reality adult encounters”, which is only odd because this kind of thing usually comes from Japan.

And then I found something that can only be described as noble.

A psychologist called Albert “Skip” Rizzo has been working on the VR technology developed by Oculus to treat people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. His work utilises reality-based exposure to ease patients based into a state of health. He is also working with VR applications for things such a physical rehabilitation, the improvement of motor function and various programmes designed to help children suffering from all manner of problems spanning pain following operations to autism.

In 2010, he was presented with the American Psychological Association's Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Treatment of Trauma.

And with good reason.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Finally I Like Google Glass.

When I first read about Google Glass I thought it would be a bit shit. It is essentially a basic computer that you wear on your face, with the ability to connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone and use your GPS and FaceBook and things. It's a cool concept, but I didn't think I'd ever want one. Really, FaceBook pisses me off enough as it is. I don't need it literally on my face at all times. I really don't.

However, the more I read about Google Glass, the less shit it seems. App developers worldwide are looking at ways that they can make it useful. There are apps designed that will identify people for you, so that you can look at them and the database will tell you who they are, for example. That's a little bit stalkery, but useful for, say, people who have a lot of contacts and aren't too great at remembering names. There are apps being designed that will allow you to take photos by winking, which is kind of adorable and will probably result in many hilarious misunderstandings.

There are already gaming apps about. One that caught my attention was StarFinder, where the goal is to find the constellations in the night sky. Doesn't that sound just lovely? The Glass technology is also already capable of supporting multiplayer gaming, even though no apps have been developed for that yet. But it'll probably be pretty cool when they are, putting the reality into virtual reality.

And it annoys me that I'm starting to get excited about Google Glass. Because I already have glasses.

I don't like going to see 3D films because it's annoying as fuck to have to wear two pairs of glasses, even for just a couple of hours. I would definitely not like to be perpetually wearing two pairs of glasses, no matter what the benefits of Google Glass. So I finally start to like it and I can't even use it because I would have to sacrifice sight itself in order to do so.

And then I came across this, in which it is explained that Google Glass can be altered to fit snugly onto your glasses, and you will look like less of a prick than people just wearing the Glass headset.


I'm officially smitten.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Why would you pick on Disney?

When I was about fifteen, I overheard one of my classmates announce to her friends that, although she loved Disney films when she little and they never had any negative effects on her, she would never let her kids watch them. Ever. She hated it, she said, when her parents let her little brother watch them. Because of all the subliminal dick messages.

Face was firmly planted in palm for much of the remaining day.

Disney has had some unwanted publicity regarding penises, mostly from the kind of fundie nutbags that also have a problem with Harry Potter and Pokémon because they encourage devil worship or some other bullshit. Apparently, the priest in The Little Mermaid has bellends for knees and Aladdin thinks that good teenagers take off their clothes (the actual line is “Good kitty, just take off and go”).
Frankly, this kid deserves a better parent.

I never cared enough to do more than Google for thirty seconds and then shrug half-heartedly. I am still not all that bothered.

But soon I will have a goddaughter, so I have started thinking about responsibility. A little bit. Not an awful lot. But enough. Admittedly, I will be the kind of godmother who purposely teaches her that ‘clitoris’ is a good word to ask daddy to define at the dinner table. But I also want to be the kind of godmother who introduces her to things that she can fall in love with and keep hold of forever. I’m thinking Pokémon and Harry Potter. I’m thinking Adam Ant and Amanda Palmer.

I’m also thinking Disney.

Excuse for a moment that I do not think that Disney peppers its films with dicks.  I actually think that the people who see dicks in Disney films are very sexually frustrated (most of them were teenagers) or in denial about something (a lot of them were fundies) or both. Certainly, they are reminiscent of that do-gooding douche from Donnie Darko who turned out to be into kiddie porn. Or this bitch; she seems like the kind of scumbag who wouldn’t let her poor girl watch Disney films.

Suppose for a moment that it does say ‘SEX’ right here in Simba’s dust.

Well … so the fuck what?

At least it was subtle. That doesn’t even look that much like ‘sex’.

And who is even thinking about sex during such a heart-rending moment in the film?

Kids’ shows get away with a hell of a lot more than most people ever notice. Definitely more than kids ever do. More than I ever did, and I was quite an observant and vulgar-minded child.
Penelope Pitstop had a vibrator in her car.

Frankly, I don’t care that I saw those things. I will happily show them to my goddaughter. And when she asks why I think it so much funnier than she does, I will answer her honestly. Dick jokes are hilarious, no matter what age you are. The countless hours of my childhood that I spent watching The Young Ones and Blackadder with my dad is testament to that.

Fuck. If I’m going to worry about what will be a bad influence on a child, I am going to worry about pretty much every other thing in the world before I get anywhere near Disney. I am going to worry about bitchy magazines that make women feel perpetually fat and ugly. I am going to worry about the fact that we live in a society in which Samantha Brick is allowed to voice her hideous little opinion on a nationwide forum. I am going to worry about the fact that people exist who give a fuck about Katie Shitting Price. I am going to worry about people who think it is appropriate to dress babies in shirts that read “Daddy’s Little Porn Star”. I am going to worry that Rihanna is considered a fucking role model.

I have written a list of things I will buy for my goddaughter. At the top of the list is Aladdin on DVD, partly because the list is in alphabetical order, but mostly because that film is fucking ace. Dicks or no.

And I just can’t deny her this pretty face!

No one this cute would corrupt anyone, surely?

Monday, 13 May 2013

If I Needed Proof to Suspect We Were Living in a Video Game ... Mothafuckin' Pain Rays.

I am beginning to think that the Americans are the bad guys.

Alright, I'm not. They might be a bit slow sometimes, but they're not evil.

But they do have the kinds of weapons you would expect of Darth Vader and his dark side ilk. Over the past few decades, for instance, the US military has spent $120 million developing a pain ray.

And the fucker works.

Every aspect of the pain ray - officially titled the Active Denial - feels like it has stepped right out of some shithot sci fi. The key bit of hardware required to make it work is even called a 'gyrotron', which amplifies microwaves by rotating a ring of electrons held in place by cryogenically cooled superconducting magnets. The electrons and the microwaves resonate, and the resulting waves are passed to an antenna, which shoots the beam at the target.

That just sounds cool, doesn't it? In fact, it sounds so cool that I'm not entirely convinced it wasn't mashed together out of sciencey-sounding works by the writers of Futurama.

Actually, since the late 1980s, the Air Force Research Laboratory has been working with military contractor Raytheon Company to develop this beast of a machine.

The Active Denial target pain receptors called thermal nociceptors, which are less than 0.4mm beneath the skin. In a matter of seconds, the target feels as if the surface of their skin is being roasted. The sensation begins with a tingly warmth which rapidly becomes excruciating, a fiery torture encompassing the whole body until either the beam is switched off or you get the hell out of its way.

And then you feel fine again.

The intensity of the pain is such that the body's natural instinct will be to flee. Once said body is out of the line of fire, it just goes away. The pain subsides and you feel better. There are no measurable side effects yet seen, and research done on this gun has been exemplary in its depth and thoroughness. In more than 11,000 tests, less than ten people received any injuries from the Active Denial at all. Six of the injuries were blisters, none larger than a pea; the worst of the injuries were small burns, none more dangerous than a bad sun burn, easily dealt with and free of complications.

The Active Denial has been designed for use in prisons, war zones and riot situations. It causes less damage than current methods of subduing those who get violent, such as batons and tasers. Those currently in use have to be carted around on the back of huge trucks, but the developers have managed to scale them down to the size of a large rifle. They are working on making them more portable still, but the authorities are reluctant to use them.

All the research suggests that this thing is safe. Various experts support it. Its flawless performance is almost what makes it so scary that something with go terribly wrong. But, as far as non-lethal weaponry goes, this is some of the most advanced technology going.

And it is kind of mind-blowing.

It's a motherfucking pain ray.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Shi-min Fang; a science writer’s hero.

Alright, so I’m not a science writer, and I’m not even an aspiring science writer because I already know that I would get far too fangirly around all those physicists with their big, sexy brains to do it with any degree of serious professionalism. But I do like science and writing, and I respect more than anyone else the people who take risks to get the truth out there into the public sphere, especially when the risks are so high.

Shi-min Fang is a Chinese science writer who has risked far more than just libel cases (which are bothersome enough as it is) to expose the straight-up lies of some people in China. He has recently won the Maddox prize – which is typically awarded to people who promote science despite perhaps facing difficult or hostility in so doing – for exposing scientific misconduct in China.

Since 2000, Shi-min Fang has been exposing fraudulent ‘scientists’ who took advantage of China’s celebration of any science and technology to publicize nonsensical, pseudoscientific articles, flog fake medicines and carry out dangerous medical procedures without clinical trials. He has made it his business as a science writer to root out those who are fakers and expose them, despite whatever threats they offer him, using his website New Threads to make this information accessible to the Chinese general public.

Many have fought his allegations, no matter how truthful they were. He has been sued more than ten times and, due to the inefficiency and bias of the Chinese court, has even wrongly lost once, as well as being assaulted with pepper spray. In 2010 hired thugs attacked Shi-min Fang with a hammer with the intention of his murder when he challenged the efficacy of a surgical procedure developed by their boss as well as the heavily padded CV he used to persuade people of his worth. Shi-min Fang is responsible for opening up a forum for criticism and debate in a society that was otherwise devoid of such freedoms.

Despite all the dangers he has faced, he maintains that it was all worth it because of the good he has done for the scientific community and the general public in China. His one concern, he admits, is the danger faced by his wife and children.

Frankly, that takes balls. And he deserves that prize, and the £2000 that comes with it, and so much more.

And he is not the only one who does. He is one of many people who risk so much just to make the world a little bit more honest. Here is hoping that one day we won’t need people like Shi-min Fang. But until then, let’s just be glad they’re around.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Apparently, I Blogged Too Soon.

A couple of days ago I wrote this about what I've been doing recently, going into great detail about Tiny People Fabulous, the short film group I started with some friends. I wrote about how exciting it all was for me despite the sheer amount of delays we've suffered and how happy I am to finally have a film up. I had to regretfully admit that the first film we shot was still not edited, despite us filming it all in one magnificently catastrophic afternoon before Christmas.

Well, we edited it the next day and it has been live on YouTube for just over 24 hours now!

Needless to say, I am deliriously happy.

This film is already not our best and it will probably remain one of the sillier, clumsier films we have in our modest portfolio, but that isn't a problem for us.

"I'm Not SpongeBob" was the first film we actually did. It required one location and one actor and so it was generally quite a simple film to make. We were still getting used to being in that sort of environment and we did not really know what we were doing, and then a load of really annoying things happened that could so easily have screwed the whole thing over.

But we did it anyway.

Harry on set, wondering what
on Earth he got himself into.
And I, for one, will always cherish it as the film that properly kicked off Tiny People Fabulous. It was the first time that we, as a group, stopped dicking around and actually started doing something productive - and that felt pretty special.

I am supremely grateful to everyone who was involved in this film, and I'm not just saying that because I didn't really do a lot apart from fill a bath (with kettles; typically, my boiler decided to stop working on the day) and buy a pizza (I take care of the people in my films, dammit!).

Not really knowing what we were doing for this one, we all jumped into it with the sort of optimistic attitude that so easily could have seen us make some monumental cock-ups. We were very lucky to have some great people involved to get us through it.

A massive thanks most certainly needs to go to the star of this film, Harry Deacon. Having known us for all of about two weeks, he agreed to get next to naked and spend the afternoon in a lukewarm bath while we filmed him being pelted him with sponges. That is possibly the definition of dedication to a commitment and he deserves a hell of a lot of credit for it. Not to mention the fact that at least one person (who shall remain nameless) has admitted to watching it a few times just to look at him topless a bit more.

Then we have our very patient director, Amy, and cameraman, Lee, who put up with me, Tim and Rianna behaving like children for most of the shoot. It took us hours to get the bath shots finished because a lot of them were spoilt by us being silly. Loads of times, Rianna threw the sponges too hard or too softly or at the wall over Harry's shoulder. Then there were all the times that we talked over it or laughed at something or generally behaved like idiots where the camera could either see or hear us.

I held up my camera and said "Look like we're seriously
shooting a film". This was what they did.
The three of us then went to buy pizza, and Amy, Lee and Harry managed to get the rest of the film finished in thirty minutes, including a very dramatic toilet shot that still has me in fits of laughter every time I see it.

For fuck's sake,
Rianna was hiding in
the kitchen with the
intention of scaring me
while I took this.
Making this film gave all of TPF the confidence to go on, even though we didn't get it finished until the other day. At the end of the shoot, we felt great about having actually done it and, even though it took us some time to get around to editing it because of Christmas and essays and VO recordings, without it we might have let everything peter out into nothing instead of coming as far as we have - and will.

After all that, I don't think that our first attempt turned out all that badly. I think it's actually pretty good. And funny. Whether or not you agree is a matter of opinion, but that's all right. We're not trying to please everyone; we're trying to just be us and to have fun creating something we can call our own. And we are. Hopefully it will be entertaining. If not, we'll just try harder next time.

"I'm Not SpongeBob" seems to have been received well by the people who have seen it so far. I am happy with the responses we've got, at least. It has been described as being "very you" (meaning me), which I take only as a compliment.

Shaky and silly as this film most certainly is, I don't care. I love it anyway. It was a first attempt. And not a bad one at that.

Here it is!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

So I Finally Feel Productive!

Generally, I spend most of my time procrastinating and / or nerding out, for that is the typical behaviour of the dorky student. But I have been doing things recently that are making me feel productive for longer than it takes to do them, which is the downfall of any work done towards my degree.

For the past few months, I have been putting a lot of effort into something that started out with a bunch of silly jokes - as do most of the things I do. But this, unusually, has got me excited in a way that the feeling has persisted since last October and it is still making me delirious happy.

Last year, as part of my degree, I did a module studying Short Film (and I got a first in it, which is a bit irrelevant, but made me super happy). Tim, a friend from the course, and I decided that it would be fun to make the films that we had written and had planned to write, rather than having just a bunch of short film scripts gathering digital dust once we had finished the semester. We also figured that this would be a good way of building up a creative portfolio before graduating from university, not only for us but for anyone else who wanted to get involved - other writers, directors, actors, editors, crew... We bounced the idea around some of the people on our course and they seemed to like it.

Then, one day, Tim and I showed up for a seminar that had been cancelled. Neither of us has received the email informing us of this, sent little more than an hour before the start of class while we were in different lessons. In a bit of a first-world-problem bitch fit (in which we bemoaned how much we were paying to be at university and still getting stood up), we decided that we did not need our teacher and were perfectly capable of writing and making short films by ourselves.

We were sort of right.

In that afternoon, we came up with a name, half a dozen potential script ideas, an email address, a Twitter account, a Facebook Members' Group and a Facebook Like page. In short, Tiny People Fabulous was born!

Terry the Toucan, the mascot
of Tiny People Fabulous
Over the next few weeks, the two of us met regularly to expand on this. We messaged people on our course asking if anyone else wanted to get their films made. We left link to our Facebook Members' Group on the message boards of various local and uni-based drama groups. We turned some of our script ideas into actual scripts.

As the weeks went on, people started noticing us and asked if they could get involved. There was a massive (but inevitable) imbalance in the favour of young actresses, so we spent an afternoon emailing anyone who looked valuable asking if they would like to get involved. Some of them did.

We started filming what was going to be our first short film shortly before Christmas of 2012. We had loads of issues from the beginning, but we had expected that we would and we approached them with the kind of optimism and eagerness typical of such newbies as us.

On set of the first film we shot!
On the day of shooting, for instance, the heating went out in my house, so we had to fill a bath with water from the kettle. It took more than an hour. It was hilarious.

Somehow, miraculously, we got the whole of the film shot in one afternoon.

Then we had to delay the voice-over recording, which meant that the editing was also delayed, and we could not get the film finished by the deadline we had set for ourselves. We had hoped that we would be able to have at least one done before the end of the year. 

We did not.

We have since been told that that deadline was wildly over-ambitious and that there was no way we could have done it without cutting some serious corners. So we chose to see our first fuck-up as a learning curve rather than a failure. This film is still not out, sadly, but it is very nearly finished, so it should be very soon!

We took a break over Christmas while everyone went home from university. I used the time I had free to get some scripts written and to do as much admin stuff as I could so that we could get right into creating when we got off our holidays. We began shooting another film (sadly also not yet edited) upon our return to London in January, which we had hoped to release before the end of the month to suit its theme.

One setback that has plagued us is our own silliness.
I had to put Tim and Rianna in the naughty corner to stop them
disturbing the process.
Again, we have been advised that this was somewhat ambitious of us, and again we decided to learn from this.

We did not.

Around the end of January 2013, we planned and shot a film designed to be released by Valentines' Day. Needless to say, it was not.

Kim, director of "Pulled"
We had all of the filming done well within our chosen deadline, but we had the same issues with editing as we did with the other films. We had very few editors and even less available technology, and we are still now sorting out putting it together. But being sorted out it is, and come together it will! It was an amazing experience making this film. Our director, Kim, was incredible and had such amazing and specific ideas - she knew what she wanted, and what she wanted was original and cool. She did great things with the script and made it very personal and very unique. We were lucky enough to be working with some devoted actors who pushed themselves to do new things for the sake of our art.

Dressing our beautiful leading lady
on the set of "Pulled"

For all of our films so far (excepting some uncomfortable friction with a temperamental director), I have worked with some incredible people, mostly students at university with me but not exclusively. Everyone has been gloriously dedicated and enthusiastic about everything; their attitude has made every process feel so much more exciting.

Working on a creative project personal to us with no other reason than that we wanted to was - and is - amazing. I have had so much fun with Tiny People Fabulous despite the setbacks that pretty much all of our projects so far have suffered. Keeping optimistic has been essential, but I think it is beginning to pay off.

Admittedly, our first film is short and silly - and so our most of the others we have planned for the future - but it is our silly film and it suits us perfectly! Tiny People Fabulous was born in silly circumstances (the first three or four film ideas we had were based purely on dick jokes of some description) and it would not have made sense to us to do any of it without a sense of fun.

Our first uploaded film, "Get Out Of My Room", is a great way, I think, of introducing Tiny People Fabulous to the world. Being based loosely on real life, it lets you all see what you're getting in for when you get into us - and unashamedly so.

We shot it in one absurd but efficient afternoon, edited it over the next few days and actually had the whole thing complete in about a week or so. It all went incredibly smooth and went pretty much how we had hoped the others would. It was a far simpler film to put together (with only one location and nothing as fancy even as voice-overs), and having both editors and technology freeing up right around the time we needed them certainly did not hurt the process.

Our modest editing crew

We are very pleased with how it turned out and supremely grateful to everyone involved in making it, as well as everyone who has watched it already and offered us some feedback.

I am so looking forward to the next few weeks and the release of the rest of our films already in progress. I cannot wait to start shooting again because I have already had so much fun and worked with some incredible people. I can only see good things happening for Tiny People Fabulous.

On set of our very late January production.

In the meantime, I can only offer a thousand of my most heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed even slightly to everything we have achieved so far and to offer this to the rest of the world...


Tim and I on set. We're definitely not messing around.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Love Story, Via YouTube

We're all vaguely aware that the fairytale/Hollywood presentations of love are a bit twisted; there's always a happily ever after and you can always sort of see it coming, no matter how long and annoying the story leading up to it might be. No one above the age of about twelve really expects that that is the way love actually is. It is generally taken for granted that the whole world isn't quite as romantic as pop culture would like.

I happen to be really into my comedy musicians. As in, beyond what is ordinarily considered healthy. And I have noticed that comedians tend to know a hell of a lot more about love than songwriters. Instead of arguing about this, I am going to take a handful of chosen songs and let you decide for yourself whether or not you agree. (This is also my way of pressuring my friends into listening to more of my silly music, but they don't need to know that.)

So. You see someone, and they make you feel like this...
(Song starts at 1.10)

And they probably make you feel a bit like this too...

And you're terribly afraid that this might happen...

But eventually you pluck up the courage to say something like this...

And if you're lucky, you get this...

Although it'd be a shame to end up like this...
(Song starts at 1.23)

And (if you're anything like me) there may be a bit of this...

But, ultimately, it's going to work out okay, because...

See what I mean? They know their stuff. And frankly half of these are more romantic than most of the bog-standard love songs floating around...

That was too easy. I apologise. I don't regret it though.

Incidentally (haha; it's a pun), I personally think that these are two of the loveliest love songs ever written and they were both written by comedians:

"Incidentally" by Scott Edgar.

"I Think I Like You" by Paul McDermott.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Future of Gaming is Oculus Rift!

Given the advances of gaming technology in recent years, there is little left preventing us really getting into the virtual world of our games.

Now Oculus VR has developed a virtual reality headset which is said to have the potential to hugely shift gaming as we know it a step closer to that ideal, which is especially impressive as it began life as a project on Kickstarter. It managed to raise nearly two and a half million US dollars and has been doing some pretty awesome shit with it.

Specifically, this awesome shit:

The Oculus Rift got loads of attention at its CES debut this year and was said by to "easily surpass every other virtual reality headset". It is designed to make the player feel like they are actually in the virtual world, rather than looking at a flat screen or even a 3D screen. This will mean that gameplay changes will be necessary to implement the "head-tracking" technology, but that sounds nothing less than amazing and definitely not much of a sacrifice.

The technology works by providing a separate image for each eye, in the same way that eyes work in real life. The visuals that this creates have already been described as being "extremely fluid and natural" (TechRadar) and update at a pace of 60 frames per second. However, it does have the potential to cause unpleasant nausea in people who suffer from motion sickness. Oculus VR's representatives say that this is common among first-timers, but that most players get used to it.
Testing the developer kit

At the moment, a developer kit is being built so that the prototypes can be tested. For the time being, it has relatively low resolution (720p rather than 1080p) but, according to the Oculus VR website, apparently still "delivers a compelling, immersive 3D VR experience". The resolution will be improved in time for the launch of the finished product. The current prototypes work only on PC, but there are plans to expand it to mkae it compatible with Xbox, Playstation and Wii consoles in the future.

Sadly, we have missed out on being developers and the Oculus VR website advises against ordering a developer kit (unless you're a really hardcore gamer and want one just for its value as a piece of gaming history), which will be shipped out to testers in April 2013, but the consumer version is promised to "improve on almost every aspect of the developer kit".

In November 2012, it was announced that DOOM 3 BFG Edition and Hawken would be the first official Oculus-ready games. The developers hope that the technology will become popular and get integrated into other new titles and maybe have new games designed specifically for it. There is even talk, in the distant future, of improving the gear so that it can be used for other activities like watching films, although for now it is specifically for gaming.

Something that pleased me about the headset is that it is said to be surprisingly beneficial for the eyes; I have to wear glasses and I put it down to reading by moonlight and letting my eyes relax in front of close screen for many hours longer than is healthy. The Oculus Rift is designed to allow the eyes to focus as they would normally, converged in the distance at all times and able to relax without causing eye strain.

For now, Oculus VR is being somewhat vague about when the Rift will be launched to the consumer market and how much it will cost, but the website is adamant that they are "working tirelessly to make it available as soon as possible" and that it will "deliver the highest quality virtual reality experience at a price everyone can afford".

I personally think that, once this is commercially available and if it is even half as good as it is expected to be, I will retreat for a while from society and resurface some exhausting weeks later greatly dissatisfied by reality.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Finally, A Break for the Bacon-Loving Vegetarian!

A little while ago I came across this lovely story. Featuring bacon at its centre, it inevitably caught the attention of nerds (such as myself) from across the world.

Probably the chickeniest
McNugget ever made...
Basically, some clever Dutch bunnies have developed a way of growing bacon, and other kinds of meat (but mostly importantly bacon), from stem cells. This means that a burger can be grown in a lab. It means that there is no need for a chicken to live, suffer and die horribly just to end up as whatever sliver of a McNugget actually is chicken.

Although still in its early stages, this innovation has the potential to remove the need to farm animals for food from modern civilisation because meat - and all it's lovely, protein-y, meaty goodness - can go from stem cell to plate without the bother of raising and harming any animals.

Accepting for the time being that stem cells are all very well and good (which they are), this could mean massive benefits to the world. It would mean less animal cruelty on farms and it would mean that there is a more efficient way to feed the starving millions in third world countries who are in desperate need of more nutritious food.

Plus, it would mean that pigs could be bred for cuddling instead of eating...

It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!!!!

And now I sort of understand why you would avoid eating them...

But I do have a question for those who choose not to indulge in the general loveliness of bacon.

Look at that. How can you resist?

The point is, if you have up until now, do you still have to?

I am genuinely curious about this, but I am not really close enough to any vegetarians or vegans to demand that they read articles and offer opinions purely for my benefit. So, Intenet; it is up to you.

Excusing those people who choose not to eat meat for medical reasons, and focussing instead on those who choose to avoid meat because they think that eating the flesh of a once-living thing is immoral, would this meat be alright to eat? Would you consider trying genetically-engineered, no-animals-harmed, test-tube-to-frying-pan bacon?