Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It’s been an odd sort of day. I was up and about early after yet another restless night of strange dreams. I walked the dog, made a cup of tea and pottered around until everybody else was awake. It felt like a day of anticipation – the brooding atmosphere threatening a storm – so I found things to occupy myself.

The good was an hour or so tinkering with Electroplankton. It’s not a game, rather it is a strange cross between a musical toy and an exquisite piece of conceptual art from the designer Toshi Iwai. There are ten sets of the titular creatures that you can play with to create sounds in a variety of different ways. They respond to input from the stylus and sound from the microphone, and with a little experimentation it is possible to produce some oddly affecting music that sounds reminiscent of the serial minimalism of Phillip Glass crossed with some aquatic balearic beats. It sounds particularly good through headphones, and I plan on hooking it up to our Altec speakers at some point to see what it is like at a respectable volume.

The Minimo browser – a cut down version of mozilla for windows mobile platforms – was more disappointing than bad. It has a lot of promise, but as it stands it is just too slow to be usable on my iPaq. The full screen mode seemed to cause problems with the toolbars and tabs disappearing, and the SRS rendering which is supposed to use a different interpretation of CSS to adapt a web page for a small screen didn’t seem to do much more than Pocket IE does with its single column view. Apparently, it runs better when installed into main memory, but at a hefty 10Mb that’s an awful lot of space to sacrifice. Other programs seem to run fine from my 1Gb SD card, so why not this one? I’ll keep an eye on it though, and I’d certainly give the next release another try.

After an ill advised afternoon nap in a muggy and oppressive atmosphere that left me feeling more drained and disorientated than refreshed it was time to finish watching the end of Capote that we started earlier in the week. I don’t really know why, but I had always imagined Truman Capote as a hard-bitten, cynical and detached observer of American life. Instead, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a stunning Oscar winning performance shows him as an effete and brittle New York intellectual whose growing obsession with a brutal and sordid multiple murder in a Kansas farmhouse and one of the men accused of the crime, in the interests of writing a ground breaking book, leads to his ultimate ruination. I’ve had ‘In Cold Blood’ on the bookshelf for a while now, and this film has inspired me to read it but what exactly was the price of this particular piece of art? Is it possible for a writer to be detached from the object of their work, or does the act of observing change both the observer and and the observed? What does it say about human nature – is the difference between a psychopath and a brilliant artist really that narrow? Thought provoking and not a little depressing, but well worth watching I would say.

I hope this storm breaks soon …

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