Saturday, April 26, 2008

Perfect comment on life in London

 Graffiti artist Banksy pulls off most audacious stunt to date - despite being watched by CCTV | the Daily Mail

According to statistics the average Londoner is watched by at least 300 CCTV cameras a day.  Britain has 4.2 million CCTV cameras which is 20 percent of the cameras globally.  Both of these numbers are frightening. 

The really scary part is how easily you get used to it walking around London.  No matter where you go, you can look up to find at least one camera pointed at you.  They even have mobile units driving around the city.  That blew my mind when I first saw them.  Sadly that's the direction Britain wants to go with its society.  The States are not far behind either, but a mass proliferation of CCTV has yet to be a nationwide thing.

I understand the reasons for having these systems in place especially in this day and age, but as with any government related initiative there's huge potential for abuse and excess.  Using the fear against the citizenry allows them to overextend their reach eroding our expectations of privacy.  These cameras will never go away, I'm not as naive to believe that.  We do need to closely watch why and where they are being deployed.  Pushing back when security is no longer the objective.

Reading that article reminds me of some posters I saw underneath an overpass while walking to the BBC.

Weird Posters 001

Weird Posters 002

1984 is here, slipping in quietly while no one was looking.



Another good article about CCTV

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Web 2.0 meet 1980's

Muxtape - GabuYafa

My latest time wasting Internet toy.  This mix is all about driving fast on a sunny day with the windows down and the music blaring. 

For those not familiar with this site here are a couple of links:

Easily Share your Mixtapes with Muxtape

Make the Most of Muxtape: A Field Guide to Playlists

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Super Geek Anime Fan Service

Creativity is an interesting thing. Sometimes you end up with something that pushes boundaries, reinvents a genre, or just makes people think. In a few rare instances something is created that so encapsulates a mind set that you can't think of anything that would top it.

Back in 2006 a video came out called Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 by Paul Robertson (alternate link in case Wikipedia gets bitchy). Originally shown at an Australian film festival it soon spread like wildfire across the Internet. It distilled the essence of a side scrolling fighting game with an old school flair so perfectly that it immediately became a cult hit. Anyone I showed this to was not only floored by the over the top nature, but amazed by how complex it was. It felt as if the creator had channeled the secret desires of various subcultures into a visual explosion of pure Id.

Fast forward 2 years to Paul's latest video Kings of Power 4 Billion %. This film could easily be considered Paul's magnum opus. The following equation should give you a good idea of what's in it:

Geek + Anime(Fan Service + Otaku + Ultra Violence) + Video Games(Side Scroller + Run and Gun + Fighting Game) + Electronica = AWESOME

With a seizure inducing array of effects, music reminiscent of 70's cheesy sci-fi and more references than you can shake a stick at this 13 minute story keeps a frantic pace. Now in color (as opposed to the B&W Pirate Baby) it tells the tale of global invasion and the team of heroes destined to defend the world. It's cliched to say, but words alone cannot describe it. You really must see this to believe it.

All flavors of geek will enjoy something different in it. Those not partaking of the geekdom might enjoy it as well or find it utterly unwatchable. Of course only an extreme level of obsession could produce this, but no matter what your opinion the raw creativity displayed in this work is undeniable.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


My girl did something really wonderful, she helped someone achieve their dream.  This all started last week while surfing a model networking site.  She came across an ad requesting a model for a show.  Upon further review she saw that it was for a makeup artist entering a contest to win a scholarship to the local Aveda Institute.  His portfolio wasn't as extensive as other makeup artists, but his talent was undeniable especially since he is also a female impersonator.  The transformation in his pictures was nothing short of stunning.  She corresponded with him via email, moved to a phone conversation and then agreed to help.

Over the weekend Ron swung by our place to chat with her and fit her for a dress he was making.  Even though Aveda is a hair and makeup school, he was going all out and styling her from head to toe.  Just seeing the initial scribbling's of the pattern were enough to excite her about the show.  They discussed music for the walk, shoes and all the other little details needed to complete the experience.  Once done he raced off to start his work.

Yesterday (Tues) was the day.  He picked her up early and then whisked her away to be his Barbie girl.  I was at a Microsoft event for most of the day preventing me from enjoying any behind the scenes fun, but made it to the show early so I could snag a good seat.  I gave her a quick ring to let her know I was there and she let me know that his mom was also in the audience.  I found her quickly, introduced myself and we chatted while waiting for it to start. 

There were 8 finalists each with their own model (some were family, some were friends).  They started by putting a "before" pic of the model up on a LCD screen with the name of the contestant, the music kicked on and the fully styled model popped on stage from behind a curtain.  Some of them had choreographed routines, others just made one lap of the runway.  They were all very creative with wildly divergent styles.  One did a 50's number, another went for punk/alt, there was a wedding themed one, a couple of bland ones and a Hindu goddess/belly dancer motif entry. 

My girl's was straight up haute couture fashion.  She was the only professional model there and it showed.  I freely admit to being biased, but she rocked the hell out of that runway, music thumping ("Let Me Think About It" Ida Corr vs Fedde Le Grand), fishnets, sweet shoes and a phenomenal dress.  When the judges were doing their Q&A with Ron they all gushed about how beautiful the dress was and how great the model looked.  One judge asked if she could have him make her a dress. Even though there wasn't any scoring, it was all 10's from what I could see.

The models and contestants made one last pass and then the judges went to deliberate.  It didn't take them long to decide.  Even the MC who had been putting these shows together for the past 4 years was surprised as to how quickly they came back.  They kept the suspense building with their obligatory "this was a hard decision, everyone's a winner" speech, but in the end they chose our guy =)

The moment his name was announced I shot up applauding and hollering like a mad man.  Ra jumped up and down like she had been the winner, hugging Ron who was dumbfounded.  Working on something so diligently you always want to succeed, but having it actually happen can still be shocking.  The poor boy was almost rendered mute, making his acceptance speech rather short.  The MC said her final words, thanking all that participated then the crowd slowly dispersed.  Ron's parents (dad made it a little later, but still before Ron's part) congratulated him along with a stream of Aveda people who had been watching the show. 

Now he will look forward to starting school in May.  The value of the scholarship is pegged at seventeen thousand dollars making this truly an opportunity of a lifetime for him.  Some of the Aveda folks asked Ra about her involvement and she admitted to only having met him the week before thru the model site.  The dropped jaws littered the floor.  They couldn't believe that happenstance led Ron to the model that would help him win.  One of the girl's told her "You were put in his path for a reason".

Thinking back to that comment it is incredible the way life works sometimes.  Ra was able to help someone achieve a lifelong dream just by being her good hearted self and lending her talents for a couple of hours.  It was truly an amazing experience helping bring that kind of joy to one person's life.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

And behind today's showcase is... A NEW CAR!!!

I finally bit the bullet and bought a new car.  Since coming back to the States we've been doing the rental thing.  In my infinite wisdom I thought it was a good idea to sell our car (NOT!) before going to the UK, something along the lines of having more cash to start our new life, no need for a car in London, blah blah blah.  I will freely admit that it was a stupid fucking mistake. Anyways...

In our attempt to minimize cost we looked at the budget/small car range: Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, etc.  After a couple of test drives we settled on the Nissan Versa HB.  Out of all the cars it was the most fun to drive and gave the most bang for your buck. 

Buying a car these days is just painful.  Since I already knew what I wanted, I called dealerships in the area to compare pricing.  5 long hours later...  It was ridiculous some of the tactics I experienced.  1 dealership didn't call me back, 2 dealerships refused to give me prices over the phone, and another tried to pull a bait and switch in order to get me down to their lot.  Out of the 6 I called, only 2 were nice.  One of the two nice ones was the place I originally test drove it at and thankfully ended up having the best pricing.

So on Monday I get to pick up my shiny new wagon.  It will look something like this -

Nissan Versa HB

Beep! Beep!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Rick Rolls

For as long as I've been surfing the Net I'm still surprised by some of the things that gain popularity.  One such thing is the Rick Roll.  The concept behind it is simple.  Post or share a link with others that's supposed to be related to a topic being discussed.  When the others go to click the link they are instead directed to a video of Rick Astley's music video for his song "Never Gonna Give You Up". 

Sending out false links is nothing new, but this particular one has reached insane levels of popularity.  This past April Fool's day was saturated with Rick Rolls.   I soon realized I had been Rick Rolled via the TV with the Family Guy episode "Meet the Quagmires".  Of all the recent Internet meme's this one has exploded off the Net and into the real world.

What led me to write a post was this latest Rick Roll.  Creative, funny and unexpected I think this is one of the best ones out there.

Old Friends, Good Times

My last night in London was not what I had originally planned.  My girl had left a couple of nights earlier, leaving me in an empty hotel room waiting to go home.  "Low key" was the theme as my project wrapped up and I was going to have everything ready for my 11:30 am flight the next day.  This did not happen.

In one of those "small world" moments, I found out that my friend Jorge from middle school whom I haven't seen in around 10 years was in London for business as well.  Friday night was the only night he had free and the last night I was there, so we decided to meet up.  Someone had recommended he hit one restaurant above all others while in London.  Thankfully their suggestion was Wagamama, one of my favorite places to eat in the UK (why is Boston their only US location!?!?)  Sitting down to piping hot plates of Chicken Chilli Men, Wagamama Ramen and a large hot sake we began to catch up a decade's worth of life.

With my constant traveling while growing up and also professionally, it's difficult to keep friends for any long period of time.  The few I have history with I try my damndest to keep in touch.  Most periods of my life can be defined by the one or two good friends I had.  In middle school it was Jorge and Ben.  We were the three musketeers back then, but as growing up has a tendency of doing, everything changed when we hit high school.  We all went to separate places, found new friends and generally did a poor job of keeping in contact, which is to be expected at that age.  Throw in a change of geographic location and you have a recipe for lost ties.  Through the magic of the Internet and social networking sites, we've found each other 10 years later and as grown ass men. 

It was good seeing my buddy.  It gave me a sense of history that I rarely have.  Finding someone who knows me from an earlier time is difficult, but when I do it lets me look at a snapshot of who I was at one point.  Leading a gypsy lifestyle is exciting, but when it comes to roots its as they say "a rolling stone gathers no moss". 

The dinner was great (as per usual) and we migrated to a local pub.  We chatted some more, had our mandatory pints of Guinness and would have called it a night if it weren't for that last round.  As senor Jorge went to make beer into water, I ordered what was supposed to be our last drinks of the night.  At this point most of the patrons are quite sloshed, so I had to squeeze through drunken bastards to make it to the bar.  Once there I bump into an unusually friendly group.  One small Asian man with flamboyant tendencies and his two what appeared to be Indian lady friends.  We made the "ordering drinks" small talk.. how's your night going, yada yada yada, ok I got my beer bye.

I meandered to an unoccupied wall, leaned back and waited for Jorge to return.  When he did, alcohol was distributed and we began to enjoy our "last drink" of the night.  Many comments were exchanged regarding the soused clientele, jokes were enjoyed, things were wrapping up nicely.  Then the friendly group walks by on their way out.  As they do, mister flamboyant comes up to give me a high five like we're old drinking buddies.  He was amusing to say the least, so I accepted the high five and we all begin to chat.  Seems my earlier assessment wasn't entirely true.  Yes the little Asian dude was Asian and flamboyant but his compatriots were not Indian (dark skin and features tend to steer me that way).  One was from Australia (with a thick Crocodile Dundee accent) and the other was from Belize (fluent in Spanish).  They were headed to a nearby club, were on the guest list and wanted to know if we would join them.  They seemed cool so Jorge and I decided to tag along.  We chatted some more as we walked while the little dude acted like a hyperactive gerbil on speed, jumping from place to place, swinging on light posts and being as light in the loafers as he could.  We get to the club and find out their coolness wasn't as far reaching as they let on.  They were indeed on the guest list, but had no +1's to share.  The bouncer then told us there was a 20 quid cover charge.  We said "yeah right" and skeedadled.

What sucked was that we were originally winding down to go back to our hotels, then got all wound up again about hitting a club with false promises of free entry.  Taking matters into our own hands, we jump into a black cab demanding he take us to the nearest hot spot.  That's how we landed at Tiger Tiger.  The term "meat market" was specifically coined for places like this.  Banging music, massive bars, slammed with people.  We upgrade our Guinness' for Jack & Coke (me) and Gin & Seltzer (him).  The place was huge with three floors and lots of side rooms.  As an impartial observer it was an amazing example of human interaction, but for someone who has to navigate it for prey I can only imagine the obscene amounts of bullshit that need to be endured.

We navigated the labyrinth, swimming between music genres.  Some places sporting a good vibe and others reeking of desperation.  Thankfully due to England's smoking ban all reeking was metaphorical and not actual.  I thoroughly enjoy going out without the tobacco ass smell afterwards.  Eventually we get bored and hungry, making our exit into the busy streets of London.  Our immediate goal was to find a Kebab shop.  Many passersby were queried for their knowledge of local food vendors.  Many passersby were stinking drunk.  We changed tactics hitting up rickshaw drivers with slightly more success.  Since neither of us knew London very well there was a lot of wandering involved in our quest.  As time passed another immediate need became apparent, a toilet.  Every place we went to involved a ridiculous cover.  Finally we find a punk bar (no joke) and shuffle in for much needed relief.  Piercings, tattoos, liberty spikes, mohawks and great music filled this little hallway of a club.  Jorge scouted out the facilities while I acquired our next round.  Out of all the places we had been to that night, I found the freaks to be the most friendly.  Which is especially surprising if you take into account the fact that we were both dressed in business casual with long black coats which is about as square as you can be in one of these joints.  Bladders were quickly emptied and then refilled.  We say our goodbyes continuing the search for kebabs.  Through dumb luck we stumble upon a fine vendor of grilled meats.  Late night drinking munchies in the States are usually Denny's, IHOP, Waffle House, the occasional Jack in the Box or 24 hour Taco Bell, but in the UK it's the kebab shop.  There really is nothing else available, but thankfully they tend to be really really good.

We order our pita wrapped morsels, scarfing them down in record time.  At this point we realize not only is it much later than expected (2am-ish), but that we're not as young as we used to be.  The wave of tired hits us both squarely in the face.  Taxi's were hailed, directions mumbled and our festivities came to an end. 

All in all it was a great night with an old friend.  Moments like those don't happen often for me.  Hopefully we'll meet up again (possibly in the States) for another night of merriment.  If the stars are in alignment, sacrifices made and the groundhog hasn't see his shadow maybe Ben will make it out to join us too.  A three musketeers reunion would be a great thing indeed.