Category Archives: Arts & Literature

eventually

“Good afternoon, madam. How may I help   you?”
“Good afternoon. I’d like a FrintArms HandCannon, please.”
“A–? Oh, now, that’s an awfully big gun for such a lovely lady. I mean, not  everybody thinks ladies should carry  guns at all, though I say they have a  right to. But I think… I might…  Let’s have a look down here. I might  have just the thing for you. Yes, here  we are! Look at that, isn’t it neat?  Now that is a FrintArms product as  well, but it’s what’s called a laser —  a light-pistol some people call them.  Very small, as you see; fits easily  into a pocket or bag; won’t spoil the  line of a jacket; and you won’t feel  you’re lugging half a tonne of iron  around with you. We do a range of  matching accessories, including — if I  may say so — a rather saucy garter  holster. Wish I got to do the fitting  for that! Ha — just my little joke.  And there’s *even*… here we are —  this special presentation pack: gun,  charged battery, charging unit, beautiful glider-hide shoulder holster with adjustable fitting and contrast  stitching, and a discount on your next  battery. Full instructions, of course,  and a voucher for free lessons at your  local gun club or range. Or there’s the  *special* presentation pack; it has all  the other one’s got but with *two*  charged batteries and a night-sight,  too. Here, feel that — don’t worry,  it’s a dummy battery — isn’t it neat?  Feel how light it is? Smooth, see? No  bits to stick out and catch on your  clothes, *and* beautifully balanced.  And of course the beauty of a laser is,  there’s no recoil. Because it’s  shooting light, you see? Beautiful gun,  beautiful gun; my wife has one. Really.  That’s not a line, she really has. Now,  I can do you that one — with a battery  and a free charge — for ninety-five;  or the presentation pack on a special  offer for one-nineteen; or this, the  special presentation pack, for  one-forty-nine.”
“I’ll take the special.”
“Sound choice, madam, *sound* choice. Now, do–?”
“And a HandCannon, with the eighty-mill silencer, five GP clips, three six-five AP/wire-flechettes clips, two bipropellant HE clips, and a Special Projectile Pack if you have one — the one with the embedding rounds, not the signalers. I assume the night-sight on this toy is compatible?”
“Aah… yes, And how does madam wish to pay?”
She slapped her credit card on the counter. “Eventually.”
– Iain M. Banks, “Against a Dark Background”

i’ve got a bad feeling about this

Last week saw the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and along with it came discussions about the best way to watch the film and what we can expect from future re-releases. Michael Kaminski wrote the exhaustively researched and illuminating book The Secret History of Star Wars, so he knows damn near everything there is to know about the film stock used to shoot the film. George Lucas famously said that the original film “doesn’t exist” anymore, but is that accurate?

How exactly does Star Wars exist now? What are the challenges and possibilities involved in re-releasing a perfected original cut? How do the bootlegs stack up? Let’s find out.

We asked Kaminksi about the master copy of the original Star Wars. What does it look like now? “The term ‘master copy’ is slightly vague, because there are various kinds of print masters of different generations,” he told Ars. The original negative is conformed to the 1997 Special Edition, meaning the physical copy has been cut and edited with CGI “improvements.” With sections of the film being too damaged to work with, parts of that print were taken from other sources. “You never throw away your original negative, so I must assume that any pieces or shots that were removed are in storage somewhere at Lucasfilm or Fox,” he explained.

the idiot box

i’ve seen a lot of bad television growing up in the 80’s with state run television. and since there was only one channel which was on, we watched anything that it showed. anything in english was a bonus. luckily, i was too young to care what i saw and was only allowed an hour or two in the evening during dinner. but i caught up pretty quick. going through this website brought back a lot of fond memories of really bad shows. there’s some great art work there and i went through each and every single image. easily take you a half hour to go through them all but well worth it. i sincerely admire all the artists who have the vision to put together this sort of stuff and grateful that they would share it online for us. i think my favourite image is of danger mouse showed below. click on through for some wonderful memories.

dm

the science of sound

acoustics is the study and science of sound. unfortunately it is a dying science these days with the explosion of digital media. more and more people are readily accepting shitty quality of sound to enjoy their listening. how people enjoy music using their cellphones as a music player is beyond me. ipods and other players are just as much to blame as digital audio files are compressed into such a small file that all good quality audio is sucked right out of it. an audio cd for example has an average track of five minutes which uncompressed goes anywhere from 50 to 100 MB. an mp3 of the same track would be an average of 5 mb. there’s something wrong with that picture.

now it seems like things are getting worse, as people seem to think that the decompression of the audio on the fly (and the “noise” that comes with it) is part of the actual track and they seem to prefer the screechy scratchy sounds in mp3’s.

personally, i don’t feel audiophiles have much to be worried about as vinyl and cd’s aren’t gonna disappear anywhere in the near future, but they are definitely getting harder to find and unfortune as it is, we pay more for shitty sounding music and less for good sounding music.

“Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford, tests his incoming students each year by having them listen to a variety of recordings which use different formats from MP3 to ones of much higher quality, and he reports that each year the preference for music in MP3 format rises. Berger says that young people seemed to prefer ‘sizzle sounds’ that MP3s bring to music because it is a sound they are familiar with. ‘The music examples included both orchestral, jazz and rock music. When I first did this I was expecting to hear preferences for uncompressed audio and expecting to see MP3 (at 128, 160 and 192 bit rates) well below other methods (including a proprietary wavelet-based approach and AAC),’ writes Berger. ‘To my surprise, in the rock examples the MP3 at 128 was preferred. I repeated the experiment over 6 years and found the preference for MP3 — particularly in music with high energy (cymbal crashes, brass hits, etc) rising over time.’ Dale Dougherty writes that the context of the music changes our perception of the sound, particularly when it’s so obviously and immediately shared by others. ‘All that sizzle is a cultural artifact and a tie that binds us. It’s mostly invisible to us but it is something future generations looking back might find curious because these preferences won’t be obvious to them.”

parker, cross, waterman…

the slow and inevitable doom of the art of handwriting is sure to come about. the bbc describes it. i remember the days of three lined pages to teach hand writing and urdu calligraphy. i highly doubt that this will be the case in even ten or fifteen years from now, much less a century from now.

“When your great-great-grandchildren find that letter of yours in the attic, they’ll have to take it to a specialist, an old guy at the library who would decipher the strange symbols for them,” says Ms Florey, author of the newly-published Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting.

She argues that children – if not this generation then one soon to come – may grow up using only a crude form of printing for the rare occasions in life they need to communicate by pen.

The way handwriting is taught has undoubtedly changed. At Ms Florey’s school in 1950s America, a nun beat time with a stick as the class copied letters from the blackboard. It was not a place for individuals. There was a right way to form letters and very many wrong ways.