Crazy Enormous Moth

Once again I have been neglecting my blogging duties, so… Look what I just saw on Hamilton Park Avenue:

Just sitting there in broad daylight. At first I thought it was dead and its wings were torn, but then I looked closer and realized that’s what they’re meant to look like. Just gorgeous.

My life as a series of literary obsessions

I recently realised that I could divide my whole life into neat chapters according to which author I was obsessed with at the time. I have a bit of a tendency, after discovering an author who has particularly moved me, to then gorge myself on everything they’ve ever written. So here’s my life, laid out as the aforementioned series of literary obsessions. As with all obsessions, it’s slightly embarrassing; the teenage years particularly.

It’s a long one, so I’m sticking it below the cut.

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Pedalboard2 released

Get it here (Windows-only, for now).

It does pretty much everything I need from the basic app, though I haven’t added in any of the visual output stuff I’d like it to have ultimately (i.e. visuals which are manipulated by the audio signal, and triggered at particular points along the timeline; I think I’ll probably give the pedalboard an OSC output and have the visuals running as a separate, hard-coded app, specific to a particular live show).

As far as the band is concerned, me finishing the pedalboard software has sadly coincided with Craig having to attend a bunch of conferences and stuff for work, so after all that effort, we are now on hiatus for the next few months. I’ll try to keep the blog updated at least; I’ve got an idea for a post about books and writers, and I’ve got a holiday coming up in July when I plan on doing some Giant Bears stuff, some of which I might share here.

Feeling guilty about not posting

Oops. It’s been rather a long time since my last post, so I thought I’d post a wee update about what we’re currently up to.

Firstly, we’ve been (fairly leisurely) putting together a proper band website. It’s going to be running on google app engine (like my own site) and will have various cool things like a recipes database, gig listings, etc. It’s mostly done, but there’s some niggly things still to tidy up (which obviously wind up taking longer than everything else…), and we’ve both been pretty lazy about finishing it off.

Secondly, the plan is to start thinking about getting some gigs once the website’s done, so we’ll be booking a practice room and hopefully looking for other people to help out. Given that everything we’ve recorded relies so heavily on non-realtime laptop editing, I’m still not sure how to get it working in a live situation without sounding like boring pub rock, but on the extremely unlikely chance you’ve been reading since the blog started, you might remember this (embarrassingly boastful) post. Shortly after that post I ran into trouble getting my usb soundcard to work with the netbook, and the software got shelved.

Since then, however, I’ve replaced my main laptop, and I figure it’ll be up to the task of some realtime audio manipulation, so I’ve restarted work on the pedalboard2 software. There’s various bits and pieces still to do, but it’s actually at the state where I could feasibly use it live. Here’s a screenshot:

To begin with, the plan is to use the File Player there to play a backing track taken from whichever song we’re playing, with my guitar going through various effects beside it in a textural role, and Craig’s guitar separately playing the more straightforward parts. Then as we add more people, the backing track can get reduced until we’re not using it at all.

Anyway, once I’ve smoothed some of the rough edges off, you’ll be able to download it from my website.

Giant Bears: Finding our Way Home

A Giant Bears video made from the footage I shot during the West Highland Way trip:

Zen Running

I just spent 40 minutes completing the Gall Blaster level on Bit.Trip Runner…

Note: this is not the Gall Blaster level. I took a screenshot of the wrong level...

…yet not once did I get frustrated, or want to give up. Despite my many clumsy failures, all the times I crashed into walls or fell down holes, I never got fed up of trying. And when I eventually completed it, I didn’t just reach the finish line in one piece. I 100%-ed it. I got all the gold bars, hit all the crosses, and I bounced across the finish line like a rainbow powered pogo stick. I don’t know of any other game where I would be willing to spend so much time on a single level only to not just beat it, but get a perfect score out of it (on the first complete try).

It’s the music, of course. Bit.Trip Runner is easily the best music game I’ve ever played. Everything about the game is informed by music. Every obstacle, every pickup and jumppad, is quantised to the music. Even without the feedback of hitting the crosses, or falling down a pit, you know when you’re doing well because every button press is in time with the music. And brilliantly, this extends to the design of the levels too. Every level is full of repeating patterns – bounce up these steps, hit the jump-pad, duck under the pipe, then do it again – structured like a great piece of music.

But the key thing, the whole reason that I’m willing to spend 40 minutes on a single level in this game, is that the music never stops. When you hit an obstacle and get zapped back to the start of the level, the music doesn’t pause or break. It carries on, barely even acknowledging anything’s happened. This is a game which makes you feel incredible when you complete a level – bouncing across the finish line with your rainbow cape trailing behind you – yet completing the level is almost beside the point. For a game as hard as this, it’s remarkably easy to fall into a zen state where failures just don’t matter. It’s the experience that counts, not the outcome.

Loads of pictures


In keeping with my vague tradition of posting tons of pictures here, you can see my abortive trip up the West Highland Way with my brother here.