Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Things that made me go 'grrrrrr'

There is a current frenzy of activity around fingerprinting. School kids having to give prints to take a book out of the library or sign in, consumers having to give prints to hire a car, police carrying mobile devices to check prints remotely...

It's a shame they're so easy to fool isn't it?

Beau Bo D’Or provides his usual high standard of commentary on the issue. As an aside it's good to see Beau Bo D'Or's images being published by both the Guardian and Channel 4 in regular spots. Top notch.

So, fingerprinting frenzy. Police trying to target criminals before they're criminals. Evidence that the new secure passports are easily cracked. Reports from the information commissioner that we're adopting uncomfortably high levels of surveillance... surely it can't really be that bad. I mean, the people in authority who have access to this data won't abuse it will they? People given power must be responsible, level headed and able to keep things in perspective?

Bah. Sometimes I just want to run away to the hills and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Then I remember that it's only a wee bit of the world that drives me crazy, and that I should stop being so overly dramatic.

The annual reports from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada are a fine example of someone talking sense on these issues, and contain a nice response to the "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" brigade.
The truth is that we all do have something to hide, not because it's criminal or even shameful, but simply because it's private. We carefully calibrate what we reveal about ourselves to others. Most of us are only willing to have a few things known about us by a stranger, more by an acquaintance, and the most by a very close friend or a romantic partner. The right not to be known against our will - indeed, the right to be anonymous except when we choose to identify ourselves - is at the very core of human dignity, autonomy and freedom.
Quite right.

There's some upbeat news on the release the music front too. A "well placed Government source" has told the BBC that the Gowers report won't be supporting an extension to the copyright term of musical recordings. Although, as the BPI kindly point out, the Government can ignore this report, and that of the Institute for Public Policy Research that came to the same conclusion, but frankly that would just be wrong. And silly.

Neil McCormack, a music journalist quoted in the BBC article commented
"You can make a record in 1955 and have been getting royalties .... Suddenly they're gone."

So, someone records a song in 1955. The law states that they can receive income from it for 50 years before the recording enters the public domain. They get income from it for 50 years. Income stops after 50 years*. Apologies if this seems harsh but surely that's only "suddenly" a problem if they're an idiot?

Fran Nevrkla, chief executive of rights societies the PPL and the VPL, is quoted in a Guardian article as saying
"I sincerely hope this government ... will not duck this critical issue by conveniently hiding behind academics and other 'thinkers'"
Oh my! I love that. Pesky thinkers eh?

Thinkers are obviously trouble though. For example someone with an obvious tendency towards thought pointed out that Fran, in his role at the PPL** earned £487,000 last year, over 0.6% of all performance income in the UK. Not bad eh? The FT has a great column about the impact of the proposed extension; breaking the deal and on a related note Suw Charman of ORG has started an e-petition up at the number 10 petition site to request the right to private copy. Worth putting your name to if you want to be able to turn your music CDs into MP3s without breaking the law. I'm interested to see how the petition site goes, and pleased with the number of people signing up to scrap ID cards anyhow.

Oh dear. I've rambled on far too long. Have a look at this superb collection of souvenir photos while I disappear and stop reading articles about things that make me explode.

* As an aside, if they composed the song they retain those rights for life plus 70 years; the 50 years is for recordings.

** a music industry organisation collecting performance royalties in the UK

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Gillian McKeith's illegal products

Please excuse my schadenfreude but I couldn't resist a post about Gillian McKeith's illegal products. Sexy illegal products at that. No, not a coprophilic bedroom kit, but her horny goat weed complex and wild pink yam complex.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the government agency responsible for ensuring that medicines work and are acceptably safe, has ordered the removal of the two products that promised wonders for all in the bedroom.

MHRA Press Release.

Some animated and musical context for this post.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Blame Canada (and España)

I had a couple of late nights last week getting our latest Greenpeace animation finished; it deals with bottom trawling and needs action now as there are currently talks on sustainable fisheries at the United Nations. Greenpeace are calling for a moratorium on bottom trawling (dragging) along with a massive number of scientists.

Quite right too.

The result of my "oh-my-the-deadline-is-close" speed animating* is Blame Canada, a spoof cartoon with a cheap bottom gag, flappy dancing and some mild cursing, bleeped for your convenience.

Good to see this one being covered in the mainstream news**, lets hope lots of people take action. You can embed the animation into your own web site if you'd like to help spread the word (code here).

There are too many wonderful creatures in the sea to risk losing them.

* And the fine illustrations and soundtrack produced by DogHorse and Booglie of course. And the initial script ideas by Greenpeace. As the animator I have to do my bit last so I always feel the deadlines loom most for me but obviously it's a team effort!

** Update: Oooh, it's been shown on MTV LIVE as well. Splendid.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Horny beasts and other beauties

We ran away to the hills for a few days. In traditional Scottish fashion we had rain, sleet, wind and sunshine; not always at the same time.

It was great.

If you're in the area I recommend the Sea Life Sanctuary near Oban. In a beautiful setting on the shore of Loch Creran it has seals, otters and tons of interesting fish and sea creatures. They do great work helping sick seals back to health and releasing them into the wild and had the most fantastic japanese spider crab and serpulid worm reefs.

Not to mention the otters. Lovely lovely otters.

The creatures at the sea life centre could only be challenged in loveliness by the Highland Cattle in Glen Nevis. They really are spectacularly photogenic beasts and came up to talk to us just as the sun hit the mountainside behind which was nice.

The photo with the rainbow is definitely one of my favourites.

The two photos on the right are of the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge. A stunning setting looking out over the great Glen it was the location of Commando training during world war two.

Last week I was talking to a man who trained there during the war (he pulled aside his big coat to show his regimental jacket and medals underneath). He looked across the valley and said "I can't look at it without shivering. It was hard." It was very moving, looking out at the statue and the view and listening to someone talk about it from first hand experience. I don't think I'll look at it in quite the same way again.

And on that I will leave, with the promise of videos to come sometime soon to supplement the photos.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Release the Music

The Open Right Group have just launched a new campaign aimed at preventing the extension of copyright terms on music recordings.

In the UK there is a 50 years period where a sound recording is protected and after that it becomes part of the public domain - part of our common cultural heritage which anyone may use or exploit.

That's not so bad is it? How many other people get paid so long for a single piece of work? Most of us are paid for the time we spend on something, not every time it's used. 50 years seems like a fairly good deal to me, but for the Cliff Richards of this world it's not enough.

Ah yes.


A cynic could suggest that donating his Barbados villa year after year for the Blair's holiday has paid off. Cliff had his first hit in 1958 so in a couple of years its time is up. Unless the law is changed someone could sample it or mash it into something new or, perish the thought, I could take it and make an animation for it.

As well as stopping work entering the public domain the proposed legal changes could mean that over 40 years worth of music currently in the public domain will be returned to the organisations owning the rights.

The release the music website has more information and a petition you can sign or you can always contact your MP to talk to them directly about it.

In the interests of honesty I'll admit I have my own interests here. I like making musical animations and locking the music away restricts what I can do. I'm lucky as I have friends who makes great music and let me play with it, but I have been trawling some public domain archives recently and making use here and there, and I'd rather this wasn't taken away.

That said, I promise that even if this change is rejected and Cliff's songs start becoming public domain over the next few years I won't animate them.

I do have my standards.

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 03, 2006


On matters of taste and decency

I have been thinking about manners, and good taste, and bad taste and where the limits of expression should be. This is, in part, because I've been reading Jane Austen and manners are such a critical part of her world. It is, in part, because I spend time at b3ta and it's flung up numerous issues of good taste in terms of the book they've released and the pulling of an image challenge after Virgin got offended.

Trust me, comparisons between the world of Jane Austen and the world of b3ta are not to be taken lightly.

Some thoughts...
1. I still love Jane Austen, and am apparently more sympathetic towards her heroines now than when I was an angry teen.
2. I'm sorry, b3ta is great but jokes that are sick for the sake of being sick just don't do it for me. It seems rather dull.
3. Surely Virgin can't be that stupid? They've had more publicity as a result of pulling the challenge than they would have got from leaving it up, and they've even given prizes out. I am suspicious.
4. I found it strangely annoying to have a place I post described as one where "design types let off steam and post offensive animations and pictures". Change "offensive" for "funny" and I'm happier. Being funny often leads to being considered offensive in someones eyes, but it's not offensiveness for the sake of it. See 2.
5. There should be no limits to expression. Freedom of speech has to mean freedom to offend. If the thought is there in somebody's head we may as well hear it; better that than it be shoved underground. If I say one person can be silenced I acknowledge than one day it could be me. And I like making noise too much.
6. I can still find things to be offensive twaddle and say that. That's part of the point.
7. The name Jeffrey is, for me, forever associated with Rainbow*.
8. I have had a drop of wine, it's Friday, and life isn't so bad.
9. I'd like everyone reading this to have a good weekend.

I forgot the links as I was writing so have them here.
News about b3ta and Virgin. The Inquirer | The Register | The Guardian | VNUnet
The works of Jane Austen
Someone else with doubts about the bad taste thing

*This isn't a comment on b3ta or Jane Austen. Just something that popped into my head whilst catching up on Jonny's blog this evening.

Labels: , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?