Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Travelling Dreams and Sleep Paralysis

Travelling Dreams

Dream 1 - Rural Life: I dreamt I had gone to visit Valerie, my friend who had recently returned from Kazakhstan, who had somehow moved to Korea instead. I don't know why I was in Korea. Valerie lived in a rural suburb in a big house. The floor was sandy inside the house, and outside, there was a donkey on the road and a covered cart with a mountain of giant white radishes on top. Val told me that she was moving out and if I was interested I could live there - it was an hour's commute to Seoul and perhaps I could take over the rental. She told me the rent in a foreign currency's number, and i took some time to calculate it in my head into something I understood. For some reason I simply understood it to be £200 per month which was very low so I said "why not!", rationalising that I had reached a point in my life where I would love to live far away from the city so i could produce my own work in peace. However, when Valerie called her landlord, he said that he had other plans to build walls within the large space to make many rooms which he would rent out individually. Valerie said, "Oh no! I know i should never have mentioned that idea to him! Now he's going to split up the space!" As the news broke, I also realised that for a moment there I had actually convinced myself out of living within a city. Imagine not being in a city, but in a place far away from civilisation?

Dream 2 - Airport Life: I dreamt I was stuck in a big airport, about to fly to London. There was a big concert inside for a thai skincare brand. They were using music to sell skincare products. I was stuck and I couldn't find my way to the gates. I called up the concierge and told them of my difficulties in finding my gate, and that I was almost late for my flight. At this point, I realised that I didn't know where I was going to stay in London. "Oh well! Its alright if my flight is delayed so I can go sort that out!" I thought to myself. But then the airport called me back and said "THE PLANE WILL WAIT FOR YOU! WE'RE SENDING SOMEONE TO PICK UP YOU NOW!" Their impeccable service would mean that I would get to London on time after all, but I still didn't know where I would stay when I got there...  [I often get dreams of this nature; where I have begun to travel somewhere far but have been delayed, and then when the delay suddenly lifts and I can go on my way, I also suddenly realise that I have forgotten something very important that I should have tended to earlier...]


Sleep Paralysis

I have been getting sleep paralysis and other peculiar disruptions of sleep. For me, these attacks seem to have increased over the last two years. I guess this is partially because I am quite a workaholic and I also have a habit of sleeping in a supine position. What happens is that I seem to have woken up but then I cannot move. Sometimes I can hear the sounds around me as well, sometimes its all woven in together - when I wake up I'm in the position that I fell asleep in but I can't move. My hand might be outstretched with my glasses at my finger tips. At first its terrifying, as if you've been horribly paralysed, but after a number of attacks, I've found that wiggling my fingers and being patient and persistent in throwing myself out of this state eventually gets me out of it. Recently I watched Lost Highways - the part where the strange man comes up to Fred and tells him "Call your house. Ask me how I got inside" - I feel like this piece of dialogue from the film perfectly captures how I feel about the sleep paralysis. It is both surreal as well as uncanny.


Temporal Displacement

I had a dream in which I was transported back to the year 2009. I was suddenly back at home, living at home in Singapore, and I was talking to S____ on the phone. I did not know how I had gotten to the past. It was horrible, because I felt as if I would have to relive all these intervening years again with the prior knowledge of what had come before. I knew that anything I said to S____ now was horrible because I knew what was going to happen eventually. I wondered if it would be insane to call P_____ if I had not yet met him at this point. It was utterly horrible. I tried to do all the things that they often say to do in order to test for lucid dreaming, like looking for marks on your hands or features on your body such as the small mole on my wrist. I pinched myself very hard and it felt so real. Worst of all, I didnt know if knowing the future would also affect the future from the past. In the end I began to dial M____'s number to ask him what time or date it was at his side because I thought maybe he might have the most accurate clock. Fortunately, while waiting for the call to connect, I woke up in the future or rather the present day.


Effie is Changing the Fabric of Reality

Phone Conversation a few moments ago - unknown number dials me up:
"It's me."
"What do you mean, its me."
"Don't you remember me?"
"No, who is this?"
"Do I know you?"
"Can you give me a clue?"
"I'm bad at this guessing game, who are you?"
"Who is this? My voice has changed? What? Who is this?"
"But I'm not Effie."
"My name is Debbie."
"Have you always had this phone number?"
"Yes, since the first day. I'm sorry this isn't Effie."
"Oh. Ohhhh. OH…. I'm so sorry."
"It's okay."
"No wonder you don't sound like Effie. For a moment there I thought Effie had changed since the last time I had seen her. It would be even more horrible if even her voice had changed and she had forgotten me completely."

Coin Mechanisms

Thoughts on simple ways to build a coin mechanism:

While talking with a friend a few days ago I thought about switches and mechanisms and googled for coin mechanisms. This site underthepier has a great guide to how to make coin mechanisms on your own, and it seems like the best methods are as follows:

  • inductive sensor (triggered when metal is close)
  • opto switch (triggered when light beam is broken)
  • torque switch (triggered when a tiny lever arm is depressed by a small weight)

I also recalled that i once had a device with a "wind" detector. It was a electric candle which would "go out in the wind", but it did not actually measure airflow. I took it apart one day and realised it was a microphone inside with an amplifier! When the wind blew, it blew against the tiny mic which was amplified. When another sensor detected the sound waves, this triggered the off switch.

I don't know what are the local brands for coin acceptors. I suppose the toy capsule dispensers ought to have this sorted though! The ones that are popular here are the Gashapon (ガシャポン) machines, called so because of the "gasha" noise they make when you turn the lever and the "pon" when the capsule is ejected. I wonder if there is a cheaper localised version of this tikam tikam machine that one can buy and repurpose....

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Curbside Markings - Penhas Road


Spotted on Penhas Road while walking from Kallang to Little India! It should be easy to figure out the meaning behind this set of bright red spray paint lines and dots which I found on a curb along Penhas Road - which also seems to have been newly re-tarred. When this road is re-tarred or fixed some time in the future, I wonder if the curb markings will outlive these current road markings and carpark lots measurements?









Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Yangtze Scribbler - Spotted again

Today while walking home from Arab Street, I walked through the route by the muslim cemetery along Victoria Lane. I saw a electrical box from across the road, next to the cemetery. These boxes are everywhere, but for some reason, I can't explain, but I was attracted to look behind this particular box.


I don't know why, but it was facing the cemetery and such a peaceful scene, that I imagined that it was the spot I'd imagine you'd hide a secret message, so I took a peek....


For some reason my odd hunch had been absolutely right. I was shocked. The back of this box was covered in a huge symbol by the Yangtze Scribbler. Completely... unreal. I think all the hair stood up on the back of my neck.



Flickr Set: More images of the Yangtze Scribbler

Hangeul - Korean Alphabet Chart


안녕하세요! I'm taking up korean and french lessons in preparation for artist residencies in Seoul and Paris later this year. After a chance encounter with a "Korean Festival" in my area, tomorrow I start a weekly class at Ganada Language School!

I have written the alphabet out here for my own reference here. I realised that there was a distant relationship between korean and chinese, and since I have no english-korean maps, but a lot of chinese-korean maps (they seem to give these ones out a lot more than the english-korean ones!), I actually find it interesting to look at the different place names and to see the hanja and its meaning in chinese. I have heard that educated korean people do know the root origins of their words although its alphabetised, so Korean Toponymy is well and alive (and not forgotten in the transition of writing scripts).

There always comes that time of year where I go crazy about learning a new language and download a bazillion iOs apps which promise instant learning and immersion and sounds and pictorials. Like in the case of russian and japanese where I needed to learn a new alphabet, korean also has its own alphabet which one needs to get to grips with before writing. A lot of the children teaching apps are useful for the short term, but so far the most useful was this odd, unassuming application with no explanation, but a very smart interface.

Its called Korean Ltrs, and you tap on a part of the word, and it blinks and reads out the sound of that alphabet. You tap it again, and it reads the entire word. It also features some rather contemporary examples such as this...


Creating a Flash app with a PHP script to upload webcam images to Wordpress

This month's challenge is to build a flash application that is able to take a photo, upload it, and insert it into a wordpress post so that posts can be easily edited later. (AND ALL WITHIN ONE OR TWO WEEKS!) I am building this for a museum exhibition that has just opened and it is going to be a kiosk with a large touchscreen that will be moved around from venue to venue, collecting photos of people's pockets and stuff, and then digitally archiving them, while allowing one to also tag it collaboratively after that.

I am not a PHP developer although I understand PHP sufficiently well in order to make it do what I need to do, so if anyone more technically inclined can tell me if this is an efficient way to proceed with this, I would be glad to hear if there are other ways to do this!

1. Uploading Image to server

I used php's mktime to generate a unique number for each photo's filename. Each photo was encoded using JPGEncoder in flash, and then using urlLoader I sent it to my php file, which saved it onto my server with a filename derived from the mktime number.

After that, the posts were pushed to wordpress with the help of Incutio XML-RPC Library for PHP. You can post to wordpress with a php script with the help of xml-rpc. The following examples are my own mashup of bits and pieces found online, the most instructive guide being this entry: WordPress XMLRPC – Posting Content From Outside WordPress Admin Panel

 $img = $_GET["img"];
 $filename = "images/booth_" . mktime(). ".jpg";
 file_put_contents($filename, $jpg);
$client->debug = true; //Set it to false in Production Environment 
$title='Pocket No. '.mktime(); // $title variable will insert your blog title 
$body='<img src="'.$filename.'">'; // $body will insert your blog content (article content)
$category="pocket"; // Comma seperated pre existing categories. Ensure that these categories exists in your blog.
$keywords="keyword1, keyword2, keyword3"; // Comma Seperated keywords
$customfields=array('key'=>'Author-bio', 'value'=>'Author Bio Here'); // Insert your custom values like this in Key, Value format
    $title = htmlentities($title,ENT_NOQUOTES,$encoding);
    $keywords = htmlentities($keywords,ENT_NOQUOTES,$encoding);
    $content = array(
        'mt_allow_comments'=>0,  // 1 to allow comments
        'mt_allow_pings'=>0,  // 1 to allow trackbacks
  'custom_fields' =>  array($customfields)
// Create the client object
$client = new IXR_Client('');
$username = "admin"; 
$password = "password"; 
$params = array(0,$username,$password,$content,true); // Last parameter 'true' means post immediately, to save as draft set it as 'false'
// Run a query for PHP
if (!$client->query('metaWeblog.newPost', $params)) {
    die('Something went wrong - '.$client->getErrorCode().' : '.$client->getErrorMessage());
    echo "Article Posted Successfully";
} else{
 echo "Encoded JPEG information not received.";

2. Retrieving images to put into gallery

This php script will retrieve the last 10 entries in your wordpress and help format them into an xml sheet that you can use in flash to display wordpress entries and images in a flash gallery.

// Echo the header (XML)
header("Content-Type: application/xml;charset=ISO-8859-1");
echo '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>' . "\r\n";
echo "<GALLERY>\r\n"; 

// Prepare the XML file
$client->debug = true; // Set it to false in Production Environment
// Create the client object
$client = new IXR_Client('');
$username = "admin"; 
$password = "password"; 
$params = array(0,$username,$password,10); // Last Parameter tells how many posts to fetch
// Run a query To Read Posts From Wordpress
if (!$client->query('metaWeblog.getRecentPosts', $params)) {
    die('Something went wrong - '.$client->getErrorCode().' : '.$client->getErrorMessage());
$myresponse = $client->getResponse();
$i=0; ?>

//foreach ($myresponse as $key => $value)
foreach ($myresponse as $res)
   //$times = new IXR_Date(); ?>
     <image id ='<?php echo $i+1; ?>' postid='<?php echo $res['postid']; ?>' title='<?php echo $res['title']; ?>' keywords='<?php echo $res['mt_keywords']; ?>'/>
<?php $i++; } } ?>
<?php echo "</GALLERY>"; ?>

The resulting XML file will look like this:
Screen shot 2012-03-21 at PM 08

3. Tagging images in gallery

PHP: Creating automatic XML Sheet from ALL images within a folder

If you need to create an XML sheet from all the photos within one folder, this is a script you can use to create one! It will include any image with a image-related file extension. This is my script which I have customised for my own needs based on notes and tutorials found online.

// Set which extensions should be approved in the XML file
$extensions = array
  'jpg', 'JPG',
  'png', 'PNG',
  'gif', 'GIF',
  'bmp', 'BMP'
// Echo the header (XML)
header("Content-Type: application/xml;charset=ISO-8859-1");
// Prepare the XML file
echo '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>' . "\r\n";
echo "<GALLERY>\r\n";
// Get the files from the current directory
if (file_exists ("./"))
  if (is_dir ("./"))
    $dh = opendir ("./") or die (" Directory Open failed !");
    // Prepare the images array
    $imgs = array();
    while ($file = readdir ($dh))
      // Only get the files ending with the correct extension
      if ( in_array( substr($file, -3), $extensions ) )
        array_push($imgs, $file);
  Closedir ($dh);
  // Sort the array
  foreach ($imgs as $img)
    // Return all images in XML format
    echo ('   <image FULL="/images/' . $img . '" THUMB="/images/' . $img . '" />');
    echo "\r\n";
echo "</GALLERY>";


there is an interesting article here that argues for OOP in PHP. i admit even in flash sometimes when doing something quick dirty for example i would use global code instead instead of encapsulation. but i guess i find the analogies arguing in favour of OOP rather interesting.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ruins in Reverse

Today! Super Sunday Solo Brunching! I had breakfast at a cafe next to Pulau Saigon Bridge along the Singapore River and read Leon van Schaik's Spatial Intelligence: New Futures for Architecture, which led me to look up Robert Smithson's A Tour of The Monuments of Passaic New Jersey (1967) when I got home later.

Walked around the site of what would have been Pulau Saigon and I can safely say that the thing that has replaced that once-excavated site is a condominium called River Place. While standing there I saw only expatriates walking in and out.






The latter essay by Robert Smithson is truly most fascinating, using the phrase "ruins in reverse" to describe strikingly banal features of suburban structures, which he also chooses to describe in his essay on passaic the "monuments" on his tour.

Had a think, I guess the run-down appearance of old places is not part of the "past" or "memories" that one has for the place; it technically belongs to its future, because its "ruined" or "dilapidated" appearance is formed through the passage of time.

Thus, even construction of generic urban buildings can be seen as the physical manifestation of the "future anterior" - in some respect, like the “catastrophe” of the punctum as described by Roland Barthes. The essay ends off with this:

I should now like to prove the irreversibility of eternity by using a jejeune experiment for proving entropy. Picture in your mind’s eye the sand box divided in half with black sand on one side and white sand on the other. We take a child and have him run hundreds of times clockwise in the box until the sand gets mixed and begins to turn grey; after that we have him run anti-clockwise, but the result will not be the restoration of the original division but a greater degree of greyness and an increase of entropy.

Of course, if we filmed such an experiment we could prove the reversibility of eternity by showing the film backwards, but then sooner or later the film itself would crumble or get lost and enter the state of irreversibility. Somehow this suggests that the cinema offers an illusive or temporary escape from physical dissolution. The false immortality of the film gives the viewer an illusion of control over eternity but "the superstars" are fading.


"Excavation in Progress" opposite my house. I wonder what they will find down there.

McDonalds East Coast at Marine Cove - TUTUP FOREVER

Macdonalds East Coast (Marine Cove)

Macdonalds East Coast (Marine Cove)

Tonight at midnight, McDonalds at Marine Cove closes down forever to make way for National Parks "redevelopment plans". National Parks Board has yet to disclose specifically what these redevelopment plans are, besides stating that they will be "developing the area as a recreational green lung and providing easy access to the beach".

There is some talk that NPark's statement of "providing easy access to the beach" is their diplomatic way of saying that they will be flattening this well-loved hangout spot into a carpark. If there is any truth to that I would be very very disappointed... so I hope it is not true. Aren't they supposed to be the National Parks Board, not the National Parking Lots Board?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Modern Ritual of Scattering Ashes: BBC4's "Feed me to the Wind


BBC4 - Feed me to the Wind

The modern ritual of ash scattering is the subject matter of Amanda Mitchison's BBC4 radio documentary "Feed me to the wind", which takes a candid look at the bathos-filled ritual of ash scattering. It is interesting to note that in the UK most people are cremated rather than buried - I kinda thought there would be more space there, but seems the space for the living, let alone the dead, is limited everywhere.

Some useful facts one might take away from this program are (1) that cremated human remains are nutrientless and almost toxic for plants (so they should be mixed in and not dumped in great concentrations over a beloved shrub or plant) and (2) cat litter is a pretty close analogue to the texture of human remains.

The story of the family that was trying to scatter their mother's ashes when the wind blew back and all of it got on their unfortunate pooch is utterly priceless.

At the end of the documentary, the search for the "definitive" ritual is brought to a surprisingly sensible conclusion - she asks people to describe how they want to be interred when they have passed on and reminds everyone that it should be the individual's prerogative to decide on their own farewell rituals. The stories, methods and rituals are numerous and all quite different; some more practical than others, but still, all the responses were lovely in their own ways.

I guess this documentary fascinates me because it is intrinsically about dust; about the physical quality of our existence, that persists even when it has been reduced and whittled down into dust. There was an Hindu guru who spoke of water as a great medium for scattering ashes because water flows and one finds it easier to let go without a singular physical spot upon which one might centralize one's grief... So here lies one whose name was writ in water...

Exploration and Science - BBC4's "Scott's Legacy"


BBC4: Scott's Legacy

I was convinced this was going to be a boring series from the looks of the title which seemed to be a revival of interest in some other explorer on the 100th anniversary of his demise, but this turned out far better than I expected!

One might know of their ill-fated journey from the oft-used and quintessentially English quip "I am just going outside and may be some time". These were the documented last words of one of Scott's party, who voluntarily left the tent and walked to his death in the cold.

The documentary suggests that in the absence of the glory of being the "first" to reach the south pole, it apparently looks like Robert Falcon Scott's expedition had calculated its potential legacy - and decided to gun for the science. Apparently no explorer worth his salt was allowed to avoid doing the science thing. While exploring new lands, the pioneers were also expected to be measuring, recording observations, conducting studies and experiments. This was the norm. I wonder, why shouldn't it still be the norm? Why do we specialize and slowly lose our ability to see the big picture? Why can't we be explorers and also scientists and also capable of poetry and art?

For Scott and Shackleton's competitor, Amundsen, he had abandoned this scientific pursuit in lieu of greater speed, and Scott, knowing he was beat, decided to plod on with the scientific studies of fossilised plants and rocks. Unfortunately, Scott's team froze to death while crossing the Ross ice shelf. But on the centennial of his ill-fated demise, the English have taken it upon themselves and their nationalist fervor to console themselves with their fossils and rocks saying "HEY! WE'VE GOT SCIENCE!"

Love it. I just wish I could sail.

Also, from Edward Wilson’s diary: "After lunch we all geologised until supper, and I was very late turning in, examining the moraine after supper." - I love the use of the verb "geologised".

OH! And the extract of R. F. Scott's Diary on the British Library website actually comprises of ALL of his diary entries written right before they froze to death. MEANING, that this was indeed the book that travelled with him all the way there and was to survive him by giving us an account of the Antarctic - including the last page - "it seems a pity but I do not think I can write more. for god's sake look after our people..." (See pages 164 and 165 of the document...)


Oates' photo of Scott's team at the South Pole. (from wikimedia commons)

The Format of Music - From Gothic Metal to Glitch and Beyond

Its the Obligatory Music Post!

While growing up as a child, some of the first few albums I got in my life were that of Traditional Irish music. This fluke occurred because the first CD that I "randomly" picked out at CD-Rama was an Enya CD called "The Celts". From there it was a slippery slope down into buttons, bows, irish reels, Riverdance, Michael Flatley, and even wanting to learn to play the tin whistle and the violin and the bodhran. I drew celtic knots into everything in my free-time. I learnt the words to many irish songs and could sing "A Song For Ireland"! If you had asked me, I think I would even have said that I wished that I was Irish at that point (although at that point I had never lived in any place other than Singapore before).

Enya - The Celts

Clannad - Siúil A Rún

Riverdance - Countess Cathleen

The music seemed to match my childhood interest in fantasy novels. My early reading habit was spurred on by science fiction and fantasy novels - historical fantasy or epic volumes of "high fantasy". When we were around 12, me and some friends around me had a small book club called "SFantasy" (SF and Fantasy, apparently). We read authors such as Raymond E Feist, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffery, A. A. Attanasio, Melanie Rawn, Robert Silverberg, etc etc - and joined the hordes of bookish kids who were trapped in the cycle of acquiring and reading tediously long series of books, such as The Riftwar Saga, Death Gate Cycle, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, etc...

David Arkenstone - The Messenger
(I even had the maps from Arkenstone's "Quest from the Dream Warrior"
and "Return of the Guardians" pasted on my wall...)

Eventually, as I grew into my teens, this interest in Irish Music and Fantasy novels began to coalesce in an interest in gothic metal and literature. Firstly, perhaps because that's how a moody teenager's musical taste changes over time, and secondly because I was actually still reading the lyrics to songs, and it seemed to me that you didn't find this sort of articulate, fantastic, and ridiculously convoluted storyline in other music.

Some of my old favourites:

On Thorns I lay - Crystal Tears

Tristania - Heretique

Theatre of Tragedy - Venus

Within Temptations - The Other Half of Me

Arcturus - Chaos Path
(watch out for the techno breakdown at the end)

They really take the performance of music to whole new level - music is performance and should be treated as such! Dressing up! Painting your face in pallid colours, inventing personas and creating lives for these characters! Inventing rituals to enact on stage! And as anachronistic as it might be (to speak like you were a English character from the 19th century), I find that it is still essentially an attempt to write new stories inbetween the gaps!

Soundwise - I love it too. I think they also understand that sound is also about contrasts. Although it is more or less a normal "format" today, at that point when I first encountered this music, I felt that this particular kind of music where they contrast female soprano with male growling was the perfect marriage of contrasts, as well as the great effect of contrasting classical music with modern rock or metal instrumentation.

Similarly, I enjoy some noise music but I feel strongly that without the contrast with silence (ie: the intentional absence of sound), noise is boring. So a really brutal or punishing track does not make it for me. It is not the extremities that interest me so much as the amount of distance between the "softest" parts and "hardest/loudest" parts.

alva noto + ryuichi sakamoto - Berlin

I would say that any approach which plays with contrasts and introduces unexpected sounds to any original given "format" in an intelligent fashion is more interesting to me than a consistent sound throughout a track. The same can be said of albums. I am more excited when an artist produces an album that sounds like a completely different artist on every single track - or even like a completely different band within the same track.

Video of Magma
(singing in their made-up language)

Monday, 12 March 2012

The BBC Shipping Forecast - Zone map

This is the map of the Shipping Forecast. I don't even live in the UK but often I do listen to the Shipping Forecast because I will tune in to listen to them play "Sailing By" before they do the Shipping Forecast.

Why do I listen to BBC so much? Because Singapore radio is utter bullshit that's why. All of Singapore's radio is completely void of informative or educational programming and I despise it. I mean, look at BBC 4; where else can I tune in and accidentally discover a half-hour special analysing TS Eliot's The Wasteland for seemingly no reason at all. Granted, maybe not everyone wants to listen to that, but I myself enjoy the constant, passive absorption of information.

Somedays, I will even listen to Farming Today, although I haven't a single clue about farming. You name it, I've listened to it all. I'm Sorry I'll Read that Again, On The Hour, And Now In Colour, Navy Lark, Dad's Army, Men from the Ministry, Hancock's Half Hour, Old Harry's Game, Milton Jones, Forty Nights in the Wildebeest, All Gas and Gaiters, Flywheel, Just a Minute, Desert Island Discs, Big Fun Show, Adam and Joe, The Now Show, Hudson and Pepperdine, The Seventh Hour, The Museum of Everything, Woman's Hour, that thing with Laurie Anderson innit, Mistajam on 1XTRA, Documentaries about food in fukushima, farmers sanding the teeth of alpacas with anglegrinders, stories on internet accessibility for blind people, the formation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, long debates about Ofsted or Ofcom, whatever happened to terry nutkins's missing fingers, etc. Anything: I will give it a listen. Yes I am now so full of English pub trivia now, just you wait and see.

But, after years of not understanding what the words meant on the shipping forecast (but becoming strangely familiar with the words "forth tyne dogger") - today I have finally looked at the Weather map issued by the Met Office, which is on the BBC website. Now I finally know what they mean by "squally showers over Viking North Utsire South Utsire Forties Cromarty Forth Tyne Dogger..."


UK shipping forecast zones (Another map from Wikimedia Commons)

List of zones:

North Utsire
South Utsire
German Bight
Irish Sea
Fair Isle
Southeast Iceland

Sunday, 11 March 2012

What can you do with a Kinect in one day: The $100 Exhibition

TODAY! My goal is to spend one day making up something using kinect in time for an impromptu exhibition/show organised by Kathleen and Kent this evening. Given the timeline, it will probably just be some experiment or sketch.

EQUIPMENT: I have a kinect from my project last year, a nyko zoom lens which i picked up from Gamers Hub the last week (S$40), and i just updated my trusty old Macbook Pro's OS to 10.6. Sherwin has a projector, and we improvised some temporary setup with the furniture, a big white cloth for a projection screen, and lots of duct tape...

Installing the Nyko Zoom Lens for XBOX 360 Kinect

Since it was a small space, I thought I would try the Nyko Zoom lens to see if it would help for installations in tiny spaces. When installing it over the Kinect you will hear a loud click when the lens snaps into place. I took a before and after screenshot so you can see the different in view.

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at AM 10

Without Nyko Zoom Lens on (as seen via flkinect demo example)

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at AM 11

With Nyko Zoom Lens on (as seen via flkinect demo example)


According to the documentation, this is what the nyko zoom can do.

I noticed that the corners are not visible with the zoom but i have always had problems with those areas (esp for blob detection) so maybe i won't really miss those spots. Another thing is that some people on the internet seem to be complaining that removing the zoom device will scratch the kinect's plastic body. That seems a bit unfair since the product actually does come with a BIG BRIGHT YELLOW INSTRUCTION SHEET warning you to apply the protective sticker so you can prevent this from happening. I had no issue with clipping and unclipping the zoom lens to be honest so the possibility of scratching the kinect is a non-issue to me.

My verdict is that the zoom lens can provide the comfort of knowing you could reduce the range if you really had to, but i find that the data returned is actually more "noisy" so I wouldn't use it for an installation that is returning "blob" data.

as3kinect server

Installation is a breeze. Why did I panic or struggle the last time around? I suppose its all about pretending that you know what is going on and then slowly figuring it out along the way.

Download the OpenKinect wrapper v0.9c for Mac OSX. Install it and then open up terminal and run as3-server as follows:

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at AM 11

When you see "### Wait client" its ready.

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at AM 11

Screenshot of the demo package on the as3kinect site.

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at PM 01

my housemate tries the blob detection - success!

as3-server Isochronous Transfer Errors

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at PM 01

And then, of course it had to happen. I spoke too soon. On my Macbook Pro (OSX 10.6), it keeps dropping the packets - something that i never experienced with openkinect on Windows 7 (via Parallels). Not sure what to do about this. Playing with depth settings cause it to completely stop communicating... At this point I didn't feel confident that this would stand up to the rigours of being used in an installation so I scrapped this.


Tried downloading tuiokinect. TUIO is a popular protocol used for blob detection, fidicual detection, and gestures and it works brilliantly with many things such as Flash, Processing, Java, etc. I wonder why I hadn't looked at this earlier!

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at PM 02

You can use udp-flashlc-bridge to send TUIO messages to Flash.

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at PM 02

DISCOVERED THAT IT WORKS OUT OF THE BOX WITH OTHER TUIO CLIENT APPLICATIONS! Now, this is a winner. Opened up my \\ application which was from my solo show in 2010 which also used TUIO, and the blob detection works immediately. The people working on TUIO are doing something right here, it is seriously awesome.

Screen shot 2012-03-10 at PM 02

Here, the gestures demo shows what it can do. After tweaking depth, I can use it to move squares around, rotate them, and make them larger or smaller.

I was going to build a tesla coil simulation and had scraped together something on the flash side, but it was impossible for me to mash it together with tuiokinect within the amount of time so I ended up just projecting this gestures demo which seemed to entertain people quite a bit, if not at least induce them to exercise for a few minutes by trying to push a square from one end of the screen to the other.

CALIBRATION: I ended up using flkinect inbetween to adjust tilt and other motor functions. If the kinect is accidentally disconnected, this will cause TUIOkinect and flash to crash! This happened when people tripped over the cabling which had to be run across the room. I also found myself constantly recalibrating it in TUIOkinect when people approached it from a different angle!

LOGISTICS: The next issue I think is if you want to build kinect things then projector cables need to be a lot longer because the computer and kinect have to sit in the front of the room and the projector needs to be high enough so that people's heads do not get in the way. We were forced to use a slightly awkward or should i say "cosy" arrangement of equipment because of cable length, and in my previous installation at MBS ArtScience Museum, a few dozen metres of VGA cables were used to connect the projector in the front of the room, with a cable that ran all the way up the wall to the ceiling of the exhibition hall across the entire space to the back and to a large metal projector rig hanging a good few metres from the ceiling.

PROOF-OF-CONCEPT: I guess the point of this is that a few years ago I wouldn't have imagined that it would be possible for me to even control or put together something like this on my own but this basic demo can be easily put together by someone with no formal technical background within one afternoon. If I can put this together in one day, then clearly, if given sufficient time and motivation, anyone could build something like right out of the interface in minority report, or something like microsoft surface - entirely from scratch, powered by a few smart opensource sockets and libraries. The next question would then be: but why would you want to do that....?"

Thanks to Kathleen and Kent for putting together the show, the other artists for bringing their works, and Sherwin for so graciously having us invade his place until the wee hours of the morning (including that remarkably focused artist talk that inexplicably went on until 3am). Photos I took at The $100 Exhibition can be seen here.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

flkinect - simple socket server for kinect and as3 flash


flkinect is a Cocoa application by Koji Kimura that allows communication between Flash and Kinect. thought i'd check it out, and realised that it makes it incredibly easy to control some of the simpler functions of the Kinect. i tried it today and it worked instantly. INSTANTLY! WITH ONE CLICK! (Being of the perverse nature, I was almost disappointed it wasn't harder, or that I didn't have to understand more in order to make it work!)

Screen shot 2012-03-07 at AM 10

Screen shot 2012-03-07 at AM 10

Not sure why I hadn't tried this earlier - I supposed I was set on using Windows as I knew that the computer on-site would be Windows, so I never looked back. Another drawback is that i suspect that one will still need to use something like OpenKinect to access the more useful features in kinect. But to get the kinect and flash to basically just communicate in Mac OSX is clearly an absolute breeze, unlike my experience trying to install it for windows...

PS3 Eye Camera

Around four of these cameras have passed through my hands thus far, so I'm getting pretty familiar with this camera, which is popular in use for in multitouch tables because of its good resolution, high framerate, great performance in low light, and affordablity. As a webcam, this is probably as good as it gets. I recently went back to the Sony Singapore website to check its retail price and saw that it stated that its retail price is S$39.90.

Screen shot 2012-03-07 at PM 02

Folks, don't believe the Sony website - its cheap, but not THAT cheap... I think they swapped in the SGD without converting the price from USD to SGD.

Looking back at my digital receipts in 2009, I realise that I first bought this camera on ebay for around USD$45 (approximately S$57). I consider this reasonably affordable in any case and I would still consider the PS3 Eye as a cheap camera.

If buying the PS3 Eye from a physical store in Singapore, the current price at Sim Lim can vary quite greatly. Most of the shopowners on the 2nd and 3rd floor were shocked when I showed them the site on my phone and insisted that the retail price as listed on Sony Singapore's official website was $39.90, and they insisted that this camera had a cost price of around $50-55 (depending on who I spoke to). I was quoted as much as $60+. My final recommendation would be to go to "Gamers Hub" on the 5th floor, where they were very friendly and the PS3 Eye camera was going at a very reasonable $49. (Although, at present I have probably cleaned out their entire stock of this camera...)

- 4 channel audio input: 16 bits/channel, 48kHz, SNR 90db
- 56º (red dot for closeup) or 75º (blue dot for long-shot framing) Field of View zoom lens
- 2.1 F-stop, <1% distortion, fixed focus (25cm to infinity at 75º FOV)
- 640 x 480 at 60 frames/second
- 320 x 240 at 120 frames/second
- USB 2.0 high-speed data transfer
- Uncompressed video or optional JPEG compression

Installing Macam as camera driver for PS3 Eye (Mac OSX)

Macam is an application and quicktime driver that allows you to use "webcams" such as the PS3 eye with computers on Mac OSX. Installation is pretty simple, you just have to download the latest Macam from its sourceforge page - the last updated version was Version 0.9.2 (2008) and that is the one i've been using all along even for my previous project.


Make sure that you install the quicktime component in before running macam - you MUST drag that component into the bookmark on the right. The macam application may work on its own before you drag-and-drop the component in, but believe me, you will really need this component to make it visible to other programs!

Plug in the PS3 Eye. When you open up macam you should see this blank screen with the words beneath it saying that it has been connected to your camera.

Screen shot 2012-03-07 at PM 01

When you press the blue play button on the top left, you will see the webcam image. You can press play and toggle the image with the pause button. The other buttons allow you to save a photo or a video from within the macam application.

Screen shot 2012-03-07 at PM 01

You can read more on macam in my previous project blog on building a tangible touch table with the ps3 eye. Installing macam will make your USB webcam (in this case, the PS3 Eye) available to reactivision.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Phoneme and Vowel Detection

Homer Dudley made the first electronic voice synthesizer... in the 1930s!

I accidentally came across a flash extension called Smartmouth that does an analysis of an audio track and tries to match it to the animation mouth, arranging it automatically for you on the timeline. You can edit it later and clean it up as well. This again got me thinking that it must be possible, it must be possible! I realised that the keyword I needed to find information I needed might look more like: real-time phoneme recognition, vowel detection, temporal patterns

This unearthed other blogs out there with people who had also the same problem creating a Software Voice Vowel Detection in ActionScript 3.0 with the help of SoundMixer.computeSpectrum

At first I was thinking maybe the solution is like how the above blog tackles it. Like getting the .readFloat value via the SoundMixer and finding out if there is a way to get the number and just match it to the sound.

Perhaps that can be possible with just vowel sounds. But I guess a more complete approach would be to think of this as a temporal pattern. We have speech sounds that are these signals that are recurrent during the entire temporal signal sequence. These sounds can be summarised into patterns and our goal is not to just pick at the "value" of the sounds coming out, but to actually detect these patterns of phonemes and words and sounds put all together. Conceptually, the difference between the two approaches is that the readfloat value would be akin to taking a eyedropper to sample the colour of a pixel, when actually it is not just one pixel but an entire image full of many many pixels!

(The visual metaphor is not fully appropriate either, since I know that images are quite different from sound as well in that colour channels aren't the same as sound channels, but the image came naturally to my head! I suppose this is another concept I have yet to wrap my head around - the way sound and colour channels aren't to be added up, multiplied, or thought of in the same way!)

But practically speaking, with my limited programming ability, the idea of picking out the readfloat value on its own might not seem like the most meaningful approach but coming up with something that can compute all the patterns is even more complicated!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Jan-Feb 2012: Responses / Field Recordings / Explorations



I wrote a response to Open House: Occupy Tiong Bahru, on the issue of heritage tours and authenticity: Documentations - Occupy Tiong Bahru


I've uploaded a few old recordings from last year. I resolve to archive more of them as I have a few dozen unlabelled recordings now and pinpointing what they were is pretty difficult now as I have bootlegged many gigs as well but I cannot recall what they were. I am afraid that it is nigh impossible to retrospectively label improvisational jams!


NUS Museum: Sherd Gallery


I revisited the Sherd Gallery at the NUS Museum. I was previously unaware that it had been named the Sherd Gallery (unfortunately due to a less than obvious placement of its wall text), but I learnt that the large trench on the floor represented the archaeologist's trench, and the items were all found in Fort Canning and were arranged by chronological order. The rest of the items in the glass cabinets were less easy to identify as they did not all have labels. On the side there was also a cabinet full of what I presume to be even more sherds, stored away in reused food containers. Familiar, old disposable food containers from years ago - I hadn't seen the Meadow Lea container for some time now but it was the very kind of container my mother had frequently reused in her own kitchen. We had tubs like these, reused to store food. I can't help but think about the pottery in their original uses as food containers, but now, reduced to sherds and the sherds themselves being stored in what previously used to be food containers for us. Imagine us moving on from this point on and what might happen to this container full of broken bits of containers. Would at any time our interest and value of these containers be forgotten, so that we might lose them only to find them back and store these containers (containing bits of other containers) in other containers? In the level above, there is also the very well conceived "Camping and Tramping" exhibition - an excellent exhibition about the role of the Museum in colonial malaya. I might go so far as to say that it has been one of the best shows I have ever seen - it looks unassuming and wordy at first glance but the material is astonishingly brilliant in the context of how we think of museums here, and this business of analysing, labeling, and discussing artifacts and cultures. Inspiring stuff.

Taman Jurong: Diamond Block


A friend brought us to see a peculiar looking block in Taman Jurong. Shaped like a diamond, its an old HDB block of 2+1 room flats which is now run as a private estate, and mostly rented out to what appears to be foreigners. I went there at night, where it exuded a strange kind of atmosphere, as if it were some sort of walled city, looking inwards on itself. We stopped and had a drink with "Charlie Brown" and some other very friendly denizens of the block.

Little India: Hole in the Wall


I found a hole in the wall of a building around my neighbourhood. They were either removing the door, or putting a door in. I can't really be sure. People do the strangest modifications around here. There were also workmen raising the pavements by more than half a metre outside my house but halfway through the job they suddenly abandoned it, rendering the pavements along Jalan Besar completely unusable. They have not returned to complete the construction work since for over a month now.