Mules, road trips and skyscrapers

Andrew Booker 2008-05-01 20:51:25

The debut Aimless Mules gig at The Plough a couple of weeks ago was an excellent evening. Loved it.

On stage in the picture from the left are Chas Fernyhough (gtr), moi, vocalist Chris Wild (who I last gigged with in a band called the Prophets of Bliss in 1996), Nick Regan (Vigier bass containing two 9V batteries) and an atypically upstanding Improvizone regular Mike Bearpark, playing through one of the heaviest guitar amps ever to be lined with lead and forklifted off the assembly bench. That's two gigs I've done with Mike this year where he's been standing up. There will be a couple more Improvizone gigs at the Plough soon. Mike will be able to sit down again.

The Lost Little Horses (see what I did there?) have been rehearsing the songs on and off for years, and although big gaps between rehearsals can be counterproductive, with the help of a secret online song-versions repository, and the combined wit of five relatively intelligent gentlemen, I thought we had a deep-rooted familiarity and confidence in what we were playing. I even sang backing vocals. It always happens. Thanks to the Tunnel Vision guys for having us. More pictures of the gig on FaceSpace.

About those Plough Improvizone gigs. To hell with the monthly thing, it's gone sporadic. I wanted to make some proper progress with visuals before playing at the Plough again. As you can see from the picture above, they have a projection screen, and I don't want to do another gig without making use of it. For the next gig I'm thinking the room could be almost in darkness, lit mainly by the back projection, with each member of the band having a little low-voltage desk lamp type thing so they can see which buttons to press and strings to twang.

A few weekends ago I went shopping. Fascinating. No, wait... come back! I tried out the webcam in the car, from South Woodford to Bicester in the early afternoon, Bicester to Fulham in the evening, and then Fulham back to NE London. I used the laptop to take one 800x600 frame a second from the webcam and save them as bitmaps. All in, I took 12,319 pictures, a total of 16.5MB. This was a good test of the setup. Normally when you sit in the car either driving or staring out of the window, you think you're having a smooth ride. But try reading a book, or pointing a video camera out the window, and you're immediately aware of every bump and every dip in the road. Yet, despite four hours of bouncing around on the back seat, the laptop saved every file flawlessly, each within a few tens of milliseconds.

Predictably, not every second of visual capture was pure gold. The traffic in London was not funny, and much of it at a standstill. This does not make for good time lapsing, because you have to use too long an interval between frames to see actual motion. Suppose you use one frame every ten seconds. The cars may all be stopped at the red lights, but the pedestrians have come an gone in that time. All you see is flickering.

The stretches on the motorway were better, particularly coming back into London in the early evening because the light was better, until the traffic got bad towards Acton. Even so I think there is plenty I can use. The best place I could put the webcam was hanging upside-down from the passenger sun visor. So in my expanding sprawl of C++ code I have had to rotate the images 180 degress. Luckily this is easy with bitmaps.

Last week I was somewhere else entirely, the Jumeirah Beach area of Dubai, for sun, sea and shisha pipes. And amateur Nokia N95 video-making too, because the area around the Dubai Marina is a huge building site of semi-skyscrapers. You may be wondering exactly whose idea of a holiday that is, and why we didn't go into town and go shopping for gold and handbags like everyone else.

Much of the new shopping in Dubai is made up of the global brands we all know and... shop at... in our own countries. I don't care if stuff is cheaper in Dubai. Any saving I make on my quanties of shopping are going to be squashed by the air fare and the hotel bill. I went there to sunbathe and eat tabouleh and grilled chicken, not to fill my suitcase. Yes, there are the old souks in the town centre. Those will still be there next time. Meanwhile the Marina is in a strangely cool state of flux. Wandering around deserted walkways amongst spanking-new gleaming towers, every one slightly different from the last, was genuinely fun. Walk ten paces and you have a completely new perspective. I guess it was like Canary Wharf in the 80s. Times fifty. The scale of what they are doing there is boggling to those of us who live in streets of two-story houses. In semi jest I kept saying, It'll be nice when it's finished. But when we got to the east end of the Marina that is finished, somehow the fun was gone. The little palm trees and cafe tables and expensive yachts... somehow they tamed, homogenised and generally spoiled the sleek harsh edges of the naked buildings. It won't be the same when it's finished. And it won't be as good.

That was last week. Now I need to find a good way of organising all these pictures for editing. I must have over 20,000 frames by now, some of which I want and some I don't. Some can be processed for fun, some are precious as they are. Unlike the time lapse stuff I've been doing, the Dubai skyscaper videos need slowing down I reckon. Inspecting the jumpy mp4 sources on my phone, one idea I had is inserting one morphed frame between every two originals, where the morphed frame is an average of the original one before and after it. I don't know if how this will work out, but I have a feeling it might be good.

Gig: Aimless Mules at the Plough, E17 on 17 April 2008 << | >> Gigs begin again