A book of faces you say?

Yeah.  That.

Yeah. That.

I got rid of my facebook account recently.  Committing social-network suicide wasn’t so hard, merely a case of logging onto my account via my phone’s browser, heading to the relevant page and hitting the appropriate button.  I didn’t need to brace myself, nor am I having intense withdrawal symptoms from being without the big blue leviathan.

I joined facebook less than a year ago with the same idea as every other hapless individual; meet / get friends, talk to friends, hear what they have to say and have some fun in the process.  I’m no stranger to social networking and I quickly grew fond of facebook.  I enjoyed its subtle shades of blue, its clean lines and its neat, well thought out site plan.  It looked great and was a joy to use; far superior to Myspace, Orkut, Bebo or Friendster – sites that I grew infuriated with and ended up cancelling my account or abandoning early on.  I continued the seemingly endless task of finding people to befriend and adding them to the ever expanding list of people I knew in one way or another.  The rate at which I checked my profile increased steadily and at the height of my usage I even wrote a small script for my mobile phone to refresh my facebook’s home screen once a minute so I didn’t have to do it manually.

Ridiculous.

The more I used facebook, the more I realised what was going on.  The time i spent sending emails or holding conversations on peoples’ walls could have actually been spent with the person in real life (which I shall call RL from now on).  It could have easily been a quick phone call to catch up or even a meeting for lunch, anything other than what it was – a faceless meeting of text and impersonal, often forced, chit-chat.  I think back to the times where I would spend a good hour or two trawling through photographs of friends, then the photographs of their friends and so on until it got to the point where I was looking at photographs of people I didn’t even know doing things with more people I didn’t know.  Instead of giving people up to the minute updates on what I was doing or posting links to people who didn’t even care I could have spent the time emailing my friends in RL and arranging real meetings and having real conversation.

Toward the end of my relationship my wall steadily became a place where people exchanged bitchy or snide comments.  The groups I’d joined previously bared no meaning on anything in my life – mindless free-for-all forums where anyone could and often did say whatever they wanted, their mindless, poorly thought out and badly worded opinion bandied about the Internet like a cheap whore.  Of the 85 or so people in my friends list, I could only name around 10 to 15 people who I could honestly say I spoke to on a regular basis.  The endless stream of information on the home page just disintegrated into a place for people to bitch and moan at each other about all their differences.  Friends of mine would snipe at one another through their status updates and their friends would join in and their friends would join in and so on and so on until the endless clusterfuck of human society and modern civilisation had well and truly raped its way through the nooks, crannies and crevices of the Internet onto my screen.

I do not want a representation of the thing I despise so viciously splayed across my monitor.

Facebook is caustic.  It is faceless and by its very design is crafted to lull the user into a pit where an almost permanent connection to your ‘friends’ is required.  The need for streamed information is all well and good, but facebook latches onto the addict in all of us, with some even going so far as to use it as a means to organise or at least publish their entire lives.  Facebook relieves the user of face-to-face interaction to the point where people feel more comfortable behind their monitor or above their mobile phone, poking away at their ‘friends’.  This ‘grooming’ of the user  has become yet another one of the millions of influences that drives people in subway cars to avoid eye-contact at all costs.  It soothes the facebooker with its subtle blue tones, clean lines and squircles, making you feel safe and like you’re taking part in something that just feels natural and oh-so-easy.

I understand that I have a somewhat addictive personality and people who know me well would tell you that I pick up things and cling to them rather easily, but I don’t think this is entirely my fault.  At the beginning I found it rather hard to be left out of something so popular.  The need to follow the crowd is a strong one in a society so driven by the media and a constant message that there’s nothing more important than being #1.  I would imagine that if all the people were taken and lined up in rank of coolness, the guy (or girl) at #1 would almost certainly have an active facebook account.  When someone asked me if I had a facebook page within 10 minutes of knowing me, I pretty much realised on the spot that this is something that’s not going to go away.  It’s normal, much like having a mobile phone or an iPod, but this makes me wonder what life after facebook is going to be like.

One final thought.  A friend of mine once said;

For every friend you have on facebook, that’s minus one friend in real life.  You have 86 friends.  That means you have negative 86 friends.  Your life sucks.

Ready my ship, Captain!

It didn't stop you, though.  Did it?  You thieving bastard.

It didn't stop you, though. Did it? You thieving bastard.

The Internet is rife with piracy and it’s not going to change.  The RIAA, the PRS and all the Internet policing just don’t have enough pull to rid the Internet of torrents, p2p, Newsgroups, Limewire and all the millions of MSN file transfers that must happen daily.  We live in a society where music is in abundance and even the most obscure works can be found with by a persistent Googler with even basic knowledge of where to find what on the Internet.

In saying this, the aquisition of music through markets such as bleep.com, beatport, iTunes and Amazon is far simpler than trudging through twenty pages of Rapidsearch.  In less than 20 seconds I can open iTunes, find the track I’ve been humming all day, buy it and have it sent to my computer at blazing speed through my ultra-fast broadband connection.  All this for 70p?  Excellent!  The quality is good, the tracks are properly labeled and organised to keep even the most anal of music hoarders happy and the layout of the iTunes store is so wonderfully presented that it almost makes searching for new music effortless, even fun.

This isn’t to say that the pirate community doesn’t take care of it’s own.  There are, to my mind, several hundred private torrent trackers, sites and seed servers who take pride in the content they present to their userbase.  Torrent sites such as http://www.torrentech.org have very strict rules with it comes to uploading and presenting content for the community.

When creating torrents, I’ll always make sure that the auality is at the very least 192 CBR mp3 at 44,100 khz and in true stereo.  If it’s an ultra special release or something I hold very dearly, I’ll almost always sacrifice my upload bandwidth and distribute the FLAC release.  The album art is always contained, the MP3 tags are always complete and there’s no playlist information.  Ever.  M3u files are the work of satan, as I’m sure every iTunes user will agree.

The pirate community should be making these standards necessary across the board, not just on a few private trackers.  There are written and globally understood rules and regulations on good behaviour and practice for p2p participants and torrent downloaders.  Seed what you reap was the motto I was told right from the very beginning.  “As long as your download ratio is 1:1, you’re alright” said the wise man who first introduced me to the world of piracy, and I’ve applied this practice into every aspect of my online activities.

So if I’m so careful when I’m distributing content, why can’t everyone else take the same level of care?  Surely we want to be showing corporations that the quality of our free content is on par with or better than the music they release, not making laughable rips of excellent music.  Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it needs to be sub-standard in every aspect.  Cheap and cheerful isn’t what we’re looking for here, and if you’ve already gone through the hassle of making and uploading your torrent to a tracker, you might as well make the extra effort to make sure it’s a torrent you can be proud of.  This will grow the community and force record companies and music corporate enteties to re-write their copyright standards.

PROTIPS

  1. Encode your music properly – anything over 160 CBR is always welcome.
  2. Sort your ID3 tags.  It’s a pain in the arse having to go through every track in a discography download and fix everything yourself.
  3. M3u files – Don’t include them.  We’ll make them ourselves in Winamp later should we need them.
  4. Don’t password protect your RAR files.  It’s just stupid.
  5. Include album art.  It’s like the cherry on top.
  6. Use a respectable tracker.  There are plenty of them around and it means that people like me don’t have to trawl for an hour’s worth of Google to find that Autechre EP released in 1992 where only 250 of them were ever made.
  7. Seed your own torrents for at least a week after the first upload – it’s the done thing and it means that more and more will be encouraged to seed.

Oh, and for those of you who would like it confirmed, yes – I download illegally.

I have always maintained that I would never be surprised by what the Americans have to say.  For me, I’ve always seen them as so undisputedly ridiculous that they could come out with any kind of manufactured nonsense and it would just be something else that could only happen in America, and I was OK with this for the most part.

That stopped today.

Fuck you, America.  You’re the worst run, worst portrayed, most ignorant, biggoted, self-righteous, egotistical shambles of a nation and I hope you, along with your arrogance burn to the ground in a firey torrent of your own hatred.

I apologise for resorting to four letter expletives, but at this moment I find myself at a massive loss for words.

Jesper Kyd is excellent.

This is an excellent piece of music.  To anyone who thinks that Electronic music can’t convey emotion and that words are needed, I fie you to not feel a staunch sense of urgency, fear and suspense in this piece.

Props to this man for producing such excellent music.

You work my shift and I’ll teach you how to fight a dog.

I am like this most days.  Sorry.

I am like this most days. Sorry.

Today is Monday and I am officially on Holiday.  I kept it quiet from the rest of my workmates until the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week’s shift.  The usual comments of ‘bastard’ and ‘lucky sod’ were bandied back and forth, but I cared not.  I was met with questions asking me where I was going, to which I replied “Nowhere”, which then begs the question;

“What are you going to do?”

STUMPED!  I was too busy looking forward to having no work commitments that I’ve completely forgotten to make a list of things to do.  So here I am, compiling a list of things I am going to do with my week

1.  Listen to lots of Ravi Shankar.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but the wily idea has just slipped my mind.  I was reminded of this when I last booted up Spotify and searched for ‘Hang music’.  I was given a list of tracks that matched, but there were four that caught my eye instantly.  From the album Hang Drum Music by someone calling themselves Bhanu, this album appears to be made up of four tracks ranging from just just under eleven minutes to just over twenty minutes.  Some of you left-wingers might feel the need to dismiss it as nonsense hippy music, but I care not.  After the 35 minute walk home and the 8 hour slog at the office, this seems to do a remarkable trick.  So yes, in listening to the music of the Hang I have re-discovered my love for all instruments ethnic and hopefully, this should be reflected in my listening habits ofver the course of the next week.

2.  Walk at least once a day for an hour.  I have been walking to and from work for the past week and I must say that it’s rather enjoyable.  Granted, the fact that Scotland has finally seen some pleasant weather has made this task even more wonderful, but not only am I benefitting by having more time to listen to more music, but my waistline seems to be shrinking as a result.

3.  Play old videogames.  I have some truly excellent videogames!  To name some examples, I have the entire Tomb Raider franchise, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Black, Abe’s Odysee and Abe’s Exoddus, Myst, Riven and Uru, the entire Sierra point-and-click back catalog and several hundred SNES, Sega, PS1 and Dreamcast ROMS.  Ah, the memories.  The nostalgia.  The countless hours of clicking randomly on screens just to make King Graham walk to and pick up the tiniest two pixel by two pixel wide object in the far left of the screen.  I also have Hitman 2, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Katamari Damacy somewhere.

4.  Read a long and complicated book.  I have read War and Peace, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Crime and Punishment.  I am yet to go to Amazon and find something long and complicated to borrow from the library.  if any of you wonderful people have any suggestions, leave and comment and I’ll follow them up.

5.  Fix µTorrent.  Every time I boot µTorrent to download something, it seems to kill my connection.  This has been ever since I set up my static IP and did things with DNS and Subnet Masks.  Pretty basic port-forwarding stuff, but even after reverting back to original settings my connection seems to hang and come back intermittently, only to have the probelm eventually solved by either resetting the Router or restarting the computer, which tells me something in Windows is going wrong.  My connection is just fine, so long as I don’t boot µTorrent which is frightfully annoying, I can tell you.

6.  Clean up my computer.  FOr too long have I been scattering files about my various Hard Drives.  The time has come to grasp my Computer by the HDMI out and take back what was rightfully mine.  I would be ashamed to show any visitor the My Documents folder on this machine and as long as they don’t find the Downloads folder, I’ll be happy!  Not what i have anything didgy in there or anything, it’s just a bit of a mess is all.  I may not be the most house-proud of people, but computer-proud?  Almost certainly.  It shall be a task, but when the final defragging’s complete I’ll sigh a sigh of deep satisfaction and delight in my tidy, organised and efficient computer.

I will probably think of more things as time goes by, but I don’t want to overload myself on the first day.  I think the points I have here are more than enough to be starting with.  Anything else will be remembered and the chances are I’ll do it there and then.  Failing that, someone I know may just suggest something and I’ll go “YES” and I’ll be off doing things in places with people and stuff.

Kthx.

No, Mr. Dacre! I expect you to die!

rofls

Now that someone who has been described as ‘otherwise healthy’ has been taken by the absolute atrocity that is the H1N1 swine influenza virus, the Internet and tabloid medias are awash with the reflected panic of the masses.  Talks of localised epidemics and swine flu’s “return in more deadly form” have been reported in the Daily Mail, the Scottish Sun and the Mirror.  I noticed that the broadsheet coverage of the story seemed to be quite insignifagact when compared to the Mirror’s 140pt bold, white text.

Apparently there have been 362 reported cases of swine flu in the UK, with 15 deaths; London is “days away from an epidemic with the West Midlands not far behind” according to the Daily Mail.  It strikes me as strange that something that poses relatively little threat to the Human Race as a whole has had such massive news coverage.  Sure, the AIDS epidemic in Africa is years old now, but even still the death toll is ever rising.  When millions of people continue to live on the poverty line and with millions of other people starving in the world, the swine flu panic seems an odd focal point.

The H1N1 virus is nothing more than a new strain of influenza, an illness that already claims somewhere around 36,000 deaths per year.  The Human Race has many flaws; one of them being our immune systems.  As powerful as they are, they still remain completely useless against new and unknown illnesses.  Such a point could be used to bolster Darwin’s theory of Evolution by applying the ‘survival of the fittest’ logic to Humans as a species.

Letting the virus play itself out would be the way that uninterrupted nature would have taken its course.  Those beings with the strongest immune systems would have recovered from the illness and lived to reproduce with others who have also survived the virus, and so their offspring would have resistance to H1N1.  The only example I can think of where such a path is actually being allowed to take its course is in certain parts of Africa where there are reports of sex workers who have built up an immunity to Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and subsequently, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

A report in The Times today confirmed that the swine flu vaccine has been ‘rushed through safety checks’ and that as many as 20 million people could be innoculated this year and the Government has already placed an order for 130 million doses.  This is excellent news for all of us and even less of a reason for the masses, and therefore the print media, to worry about something that will be under control before the new year.  So this brings me back to my original point.

Why does Paul Dacre (a man the Guardian described as “the most dangerous man in britain”) and the rest of his hellish consort feel the need to keep scaring the public into what is, essentially, something rather minor?  Sure, this isn’t minor to the loved ones of those who have been affected by the virus, but this is all part of Natural Selection.  The predator has struck and has killed 15 people in Britain so far.  Fifteen people of sixty million.  We saw it with Bird Flu, SARS, MRSA and we’re getting it all over again with H1N1.  It really is about time that people recognise the trends and then question them instead of resorting to blind panic the moment apreviously unknown illness rears it’s ugly head.  Selling papers may be important to those in the business, but for the rest of us it just impliments a sense of unease, tension and unnecessary worry among the populus and there’s no need for it.

A message to the powers that be:  You already have us by the the scruff of the neck when it comes to education, the economy, unemployment, tax, poor education standards, restrictive rights, pollution, advertising, visual media, print media, debt and poverty.  Do you really think we need anything else to worry about?

Paul Dacre

This ain’t no grapevine.

So.  I went and decided to make myself a wordpress blog.  Granted, it’s not the kind I eventually hope to band about the Internet.  No.  At some point this year I shall endeavour to stop being lazy and program, host and be responsible for every aspect of my own webpage without the help of WordPress or any other type of CMS for that matter.  I have decided that there are no themes I enjoy looking at and, therefore, no themes that anyone else will enjoy looking at.  This;

1.  Saddens and distresses me to the point where I feel like either / or:
1a.  Giving up altogether,
1b.  Opening photoshop and just bally well getting on with it.

2.  Makes me think that not very many people care about wordpress themes and, as a result of boring things to look at, the text will become the most important thing to look at.

Point two is almost certainly not invalid.  Web 2.0 has taken the Internet and made it something pretty to look at as opposed to being what it actually is; a research tool, a means of communication and a multimedia platform.  Websites such as http://www.jamisonmckay.com are a perfect example of the sort of nonsense I am against.  Badly designed, laid out and intrusive Flash has been taken and forced into the mouths of the consumer as a viable example of what the Internet should look like.  It’s not that I’m against animation and interaction – on the contrary.  However when it’s done badly my goat gains levitation, and I want to throw things at my monitor.

And so, I have gone for the whitest (careful…), most boring theme I could find that comprises of two colums and has support for Widgets.  I don’t know what I’ll use them for, but that’s only because I haven’t bothered to find out what they can do yet.  As a result of my intention to research said widgets, the more of these widgets you see, the more useful they will become.

Enough of this nonsense.

I need tea.

NOTE:  MAD props to http://www.qwantz.com and Ryan north.  I hope you don’t mind, but I edited the first two panels for completely non-profit purposes.  I do apologise if I made you angry…