Saturday, July 24, 2004

If any blue men with no faces or legs float up to me, I'm ready to knock 'em down. Posted by Hello

My friend Scott took me to a shooting range for my first experience with guns. I've never been a fan of guns, but I think people should be allowed to own them for sporting purposes and self-defense, as long as they make sure their kids can't get to them, and they're prepared to be held responsible for whatever that gun is used for. Semi-automatic and fully automatics seem to have no redeeming use outside of the military: nobody should need one (or more) of those and I agree with Australia's ban on those types of weapons.

Getting off the soapbox now, it was pretty amazing to fire a Magnum .357. It's such a simple device - Scott showed me an automatic pistol in pieces and there were surprisingly few components. You drop six bullets into the chambers, snap it closed, rotate the chambers till it locks...and you're ready. I wondered if the other shooters had ever thought..."what if I just turned around and shot all these people ?" Or maybe that was just me...a weird thought to have, but then I've never held a gun before.

They all seemed to be having a good time - the serious rifle guy next to me was aiming at tiny targets at the furthest extension of the range, about 50 feet, and getting a nice cluster of bullet holes. A tall, balding guy with buck teeth and a tight black tshirt, jeans and big boots fit the stereotype of the gun-totin' redneck perfectly, and was smiling as he fired the loudest damned gun I've ever heard, and picked up the spent shells afterwards. It was a .50 calibre Desert Eagle, I found out later, and Scott said he was surprised the range allowed that size weapon to be fired. Picking up the shells was common practice - you can refill them and fire them again two or three times before they start to warp and become unsafe to fire.

So...I was *really* nervous as Scott showed me how to load and clear the gun. It was heard to hear him because of the earplugs we wore, and every few seconds someone would fire and make me more didn't know when one of the .50 cals would be fired, and you'd feel the air bump against your skin, and resonate in your chest. After a while you get used to it though. Scott loads the gun for me, tells me to keep it pointed downrange always, and I pick it up.

My hands are a bit shaky and I'm sweating a little because the range isn't airconditioned. It's fairly heavy, and cold. I cock it and aim at the blue man target, 15 feet away. I pull the trigger and BLAM ! It kicks back hard and a neat circle appears in the guts of Mr Blue. Wow...I fired a gun :) ! I do this about 87 more times at different ranges...I think all that video game time paid off. The gun cocks easily and each set of six shots goes by too quickly. I get into the rhythm of loading up, firing, and clearing the chamber, and I find my aim tends to be low and quite erratic. But, and this is the important part, I didn't get any power thrills from hefting and firing such a powerful gun. No red mists over the eyes, no visions of soldiering against evil enemies, no defending myself against hideous hordes. It was just an exercise in aiming and firing; a game.

Both of Scott's automatic pistols have problems, so we finish up and leave. I enjoyed the experience, but I'm probably not going to do it again - it's expensive, my hands hurt a little bit for a couple of days afterwards, and I'd rather play my games on the computer. Deanne and another lady at work each took one of my target sheets and stuck them on their office doors as a warning to others :)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

everything and nothing
An excellent essay by a man urging his fellow citizens to stop living in the past, open their eyes, and turn the Arab world towards democracy.

I moved the computer out of the laundry and into the office last night...maybe I'll start using it more often instead of the old laptop which isn't good for much more than web-browsing and light development. But I gotta promise Deanne that I won't vanish into the office for hours at a time :)

I had a great experience over the weekend while watching Acoustic Remedy playing at Paddy Mac's . I asked Jason if he knew "Blues Run the Game", a fairly obscure Simon and Garfunkel tune. He said he didn't, but plucked out the first few notes and lyrics and I sang along with him to help jog his memory. The guy sitting next to us turned in surprise and as I stopped singing he said "Hey, don't stop !" which was nice :) I've been told I have a nice voice and with the computer upstairs I may bring the ol' guitar out, get a new microphone (Shure SM57) and see if can record something nice.

More to report later, including my experience firing a Magnum .357 at a gun range !
My friend Chris Duffy was a groomsman at my wedding and is a very funny guy with a very interesting history. He sent me this observation about the USA being admitted to the ranks of cricket playing nations.

I wish I were making this up.

The ICC has admitted the US to the ranks of international cricket. While I am not a fan, apart from the concept of having a game where there can be a difference of hundreds and hundreds of points and still call it a draw, there is something nicely formal about cricket that I can only see this being to the detriment of.

I quite like the idea that the ICC will only allow the US to play if henceforward all coloured maps of the world show the US in pink. :-) Are there persons in the US who aspire to being as good as a Pakistani or West Indian? How will sports commentators cope with the prospect that an innings is when everyone on your team goes in till everyone is out? ("Thats gotta hurt Bob.")

I wonder if the ICC is just making allocation in case India glass hardens Pakistan, or global warming sinks the West Indies. Possibly New Zealand and Australia are planning unification. Surely the ICC is privy to some esoteric information along these lines, its the only thing that makes sense.

The US playing in a world series where other countries are invited? It's just not cricket.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

the music, man
Well, this has just been the coolest couple of days...a film maker called Curt Stewart (imdb entry) (no site yet, but maybe soon) has used a piece of music I recorded in his film, "The Wedge" ! The piece he chose is called "A Good Beginning" and it's available on my music page (scroll down about half way). I released that music under a Creative Commons license which allows me to very easily tell the world how much control I want to have over my music - in this case, not much :) If you have anything you want to give to the world without letting others make money off it, use this license to do it. Curt has released his movie under the same type of license.

Here's the information Curt gave me.

The movie was created for the StockStock 2004 film festival ( The festival worked like this: every entrant received a tape of stock footage from Everyone got the exact same footage. We then had to create a movie without adding any additional footage, but we could add music, dialogue, digital effects, etc.

My movie is about a young boy that reflects on his relationship with his best friend. I know it sounds kind of sappy but it turned out funny and bittersweet.

I wanted to use some cool music and, after searching and I found three great songs by three different artists - one from Florida USA [actually I'm Australian, but live in the USA - Brian], one from Germany and one from Sweden. The internet has made this movie a truly global project!

I'm releasing the project under a Creative Commons license.

The screenings so far:
Aug. 1 Seattle, WA USA: StockStock 2004 screening
Aug. 18 Los Angeles, CA USA: Filmmaker's Alliance DGA Awards Event

About me: I'm a CG lighting artist and I work on animated feature films in Glendale, CA USA. Digital filmmaking is my hobby. I have a modest entry on
Go me :) And go Curt too ;) !

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Damn. DAMN ! I'm so annoyed; all I wanted to do was plug my guitar in and have the laptop record some lame-ass playing. Was that so much to ask? Apparently so.

Here's 90 minutes of my life I won't get back:

1) Spend 30 minutes finding the 1/4" to 1/8" adapter that I *swear* I used to have. (It turned up in the closet, not the "Big Box O' Adapters" that all geeks are required to own.)

2) Wonder why this doesn't work right away....develop ominous feeling of Impending Doom

3) After much cursing and downloading, find that the sound input on the laptop is microphone ONLY - this laptop doesn't "do" line-in. There goes the guitar idea.

4) Plug my two microphones in, yelling "HELLO !" into them, trying to get the audio meter to acknowledge my existence. Immediately follow with "Shut up, Patch !" as the dog thinks I'm greeting a pizza guy, which means he has to bark in order to make Mr Pizza-man drop the food and run away. This gets old quickly.

5) Curse laptop for remaining totally uninterested in my voice unless I twitch the microphone cord by a fraction of a millimeter, which triggers a storm of static and a 100% signal overload situation.

6) Throw microphone in the bin.

7) Curse Microsoft for designing the crappiest volume/record source interface EVER devised by sentient life. Why, pray tell, is the microphone's +20db gain checkbox on the Playback screen? And why do I need to go Options->Properties->Recording->OK to get to the screen that allows me to choose a recording source and volume ? Can't I see playback and record at the same time, or is that too much to expect ? Apparently so. I need to be protected from having two choices at once.

8) Give up on the whole thing, put my beloved guitars away and go do a puzzle in utter silence to calm down.

If you want to hear some music I managed to record 10 years ago, click the "Brian's Music" link on the right. It will not escape my notice that NO computers were involved in recording those tracks :)

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Pretty blue lights falling Posted by Hello

We went into sultry downtown West Palm Beach for the holiday fireworks display, called "4th on Flagler". It was a very pretty show with a stunning and LOUD finale! A constant stream of loud bangs, much louder than normal fireworks, exploded in gold down low while high up, the gold trails got bigger and bigger. After a few seconds it got even LOUDER, then finished with the biggest firework I've ever seen...very good show :) The coolest new firework was one which blows up in gold, goes DARK for a few seconds, then relights in gold. It's very trippy to see the second colour appear from nowhere :) It was generally agreed that last year's show was better, but it was worth the trip down all the same.

I really enjoy living in America, despite the backwards, corporation-centered attitude of it's leadership. I think the essential goodness of the majority of the American people is reflected in the general optimisim and progressive, liberal spirit that you see in the culture, especially the movies and television. A good example occurred the other day when I watched a debate about gay marriage on TV. The interviewer quoted a poll that showed around 60% of people were opposed to it, a figure I'd heard before and had had trouble understanding how so many could be opposed.

"That opposition is a mile wide and two inches deep." she replied.

I hadn't thought of it that way before - it always disturbed me that so many people were against this basic human right; to express a commitment to another person and have that respected and legally recognized. It rang true to me that very few of those 60% would hang on to that opposition with any real vigor: I see it as a "I'd rather they didn't, but if the court says its OK, then I'm OK with it" kind of sentiment. The lady of TV was certain it was only a matter of time before it was federally recognized and I agreed with her.

David Brin wrote a good speech which, among other things, pointed out that western society, especially American society is brainwashed into a most suprising condition: permanent rebellion. We are taught by a large fraction of the films and TV programs that we authority is not to be trusted, we should try new things for ourselves and always look for a better way. Governments may come and go, but this message keeps coming, relentlessly. I'm glad it does, because it keeps the public pre-disposed to think in what I consider the Right Way: Never settle for today's answer - look for a better way.

Hmmm...I do ramble a bit, don't I ?

Monday, July 05, 2004

happy 4th of july
And a big welcome back to all the Curly Oxide fans out there...the ways of Google are mysterious and random - I'm the #1 result on the "Curly Oxide" search again! Go me! The links to Mr. Oxide are further down the page, but really you're better off going back to google and trying some of the other hits: I'm just someone who heard the show on the radio, like you did.

But if any of you intelligent and discerning public radio listeners need help answering email, which seems to consist of a thousand people asking the same few questions, My Program Can Help ! We're still building the full website for it, but you can try the first version now. It's all explained in the help file and readme.txt and it's only a wafer-thin download, so please try it.

On to the main point of this blog, which is to let my friends and family know what Deanne and I do to occupy our time - we went to the fourth of july celebrations downtown last night and watched the fireworks. It was hot, humid and uncomfortable, but the sparkly lights were very cool. I took some pictures, which I'll post later on. I also just finished reading Larry Lessig's "The Future of Ideas" and have downloaded his next book, Free Culture, which you can also read for free - he'll explain why.

I'm reliably informed that today is a day of cleaning and Putting Stuff wife's predictions in this area tend to come true.

Friday, July 02, 2004

fickle google
It seems my brief brush with the heady heights of High Google Ranking are over...not only am I no longer the #1 result for the search "curly oxide"; I ain't even in the list any more. My 15 minutes of fame lasted from Jul 01 2004 2:46:54 pm until Jul 02 2004 3:36:23 am and approximately 50 people came to this blog looking for information about Curly Oxide, the Hasidic Glam Rock star, who also burned briefly and brightly :) You can click the "Sitemeter" link on the right under the links to have a look through the logs...the data will be there for a little while longer. Here's an interesting statistic you might note: only two of those visitors used a search engine other than Google. It's a powerful and effective tool and it's clearly the first place most people go when they think of searching the web.

Did you notice that the companies which dominate various aspects of web life have made up names ? Think about it...auctions are "eBay", books are "Amazon", searching was "Yahoo" and now "Google". Those people who paid millions of dollars for "" and "" were wasting their money :) It's better to make a quality web site and teach the surfing public a totally new word that will come to "mean" [auctions|buying books|searching].