Globalise Resistance

To many people, globalisation spells the end of freedom. These people don’t exist in the eyes of governments, corporations, huge companies or bankers. These people don’t even reside solely in the countries used by aforementioned controllers as slave labour. Some live in developed countries, feeling choked by the constant consumerism and the endless struggle to dress the best, own the best stuff or in general be the best. They obviously haven’t ever joined the army – I doubt it’s ever crossed their mind. Then there are the Others. The Others that are forced to work making clothes for Primark, Nike and Topshop for 18 hours a day (on a short shift) earning 10p every 2 hours. These people clearly get the lesser end of the deal, and they certainly can’t understand what makes their lives so much less important than those half the world away willing to turn a blind eye to all of this. There are some of these “more important” people, however, who open their eyes to how their fellow human beings are treated in the name of fashion and trends. These people realise what’s gone wrong, and think in what is described as a “leftist” way when they try to do something about it. These people, in my opinion at least, simply think in an empathetic way, and actually try to take into account all sides of the story before judging. That’s not to say they’re not biased, of course they are, but the bias with them exists in a way which can only be productive.

In a nutshell, that’s the alternative. The people who choose to or have no choice but to think differently to how you are taught/expected to think. Myself, I’m not quite there, I like to think of myself as somwhere in the grey zone between, an area that is all but inevitable to appear. I don’t support capitalism entirely, but I do like the relative freedom it provides. I would expect others think of me as swayed towards the alternative, but that opens up the whole can of worms about opinions and what the “normal” really is. That, however, is a part of life that no-one can ever fully understand, least of all explain. So I’ll metaphorically drop it and leave it alone, never to touch it again. Probably.

You may be wondering why I’ve gone to all of the trouble to attempt to explain this. Or what benefit it has to you reading this. Well, think of it as an introduction to what I’m about to do. (This post was originally written many moons ago, and was left gathering virtual dust in my drafts box. Seeing as my last published post is on roughly the same topic, I figured now is a good a time as any to share this) I’m going to offer you some digital alternatives to the mainstream, that you may or may not find helpful/useful. The reason for all of this? They’re alternatives that I support/use, and if I convince/convert at least one of you I’ll consider myself a success.

iTunes: You’ve heard of it if you own an iPod, iPhone or iPad. That program that syncs all of your music/videos/games for your mobile benefit. Have you ever noticed though, how restrictive it is? No support for high quality FLAC or open source OGG files, it’s overly simple to use that means it misses out on important customisation features. It doesn’t even like Windows that much, and if you have more than 40GB of music in your collection you’ll really notice how slow it gets when you try and start it up. So much so that I don’t even have it on my PC any more. But I can still sync my iPod. Why is that? Well, I use a program called;
foobar2000 (f2K): Already at a bonus because of it’s interesting name, this program really is the dog’s bollocks of music librarians. Super support for almost any type of music file, super low system resource usage, unbeliveably customisable (to the point where you can rebuild its layout from scratch), and not bad sound quality too, it has to be the best library organiser I’ve ever used. It also has some handy mp3 maintenance tools to let you fix broken files that won’t play or be recognised by another media player. And, it supports iPod. Yes, it will let you sync music (even in non-iPod formats) to the iPod/iPhone in just as simple a fashion as iTunes. Just plug in your iPod, select music to sync, and press Add. It really is just that simple.

My F2K layout. Yours won't look anything like this because it's so customisable

Music: On the topic of your music library, what’s in it? Is it reminiscent of the UK top 40 charts of weeks gone by? I’m not going to ridicule that. It’s not my personal taste as you may have gathered from knowing me or from perusing my previous posts, and I try not to be as elitist as other metalheads. However, if you’re looking for broader sonic horizons, consider some of the albums you can see in the various desktop screenshots scattered around my blog page, and also as the titles of quite a few of my blog posts. (I’ll add that the above screenshot is current as of now, when I’m editing this for publish. This post was also created before I started the metal album title thing, so googling “Globalise Resistance” won’t provide you with a new metal album to listen to, rather links to the homepage of the anti-capitalist organisation of the same name.) I don’t need to tell you that there is a huge Smörgåsbord of metal albums to sample – puns aside, I used that term because Sweden is a rather good place to start in your quest for metal, if you’re interested in looking. Sweden is also where my (and I use this word sparingly) favourite band come from. If there is one band I’ll ever implore you to listen to, it’s the Diablo Swing Orchestra. The band are an acquired taste for sure, but I can only marvel at the compositional genius that goes on in their music, seamlessly blending countless different styles of music together into small pieces of musical brilliance. YouTube has many of their works uploaded for your convenience, so try it out!

I’ve already realised that this has become more of an essay than a blog post, the first one so far to exceed one thousand words, so I might return with more alternative music/videos/programs in another edition at a later date. I might not, the next one may also end up in the drafts bin for a couple of months.
People not profit.

Rust in Peace

This afternoon has been spent doing maintenance on the computer systems the cavern comes from, for a fair amount of the day. It’s changed so much from the boring generic Windows 7 layout into something shiny, faster and more sleek. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the initiative to take a screenshot before, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it didn’t look like this a couple of hours earlier. My computer is rather unorthodox (in that it is an actual desktop computer, for those who’ve only seen them in school and have never used anything other than a laptop at home) and that it has two screens which the mouse cursor can happily float between at will. The two screens are different sizes and so require separate wallpapers and are subsequently split into two screenshots, found below.

the right, larger screen

The right, larger screen

The left, smaller screen

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice is the seemingly large amount of non-wallpaper clutter and a lack of desktop icons. (By the way, the pictures do “click to enlarge” if you’d like to inspect them in greater detail) I like to call the layout Windows 7.5, as it is trying to mimic what Microsoft have said Windows 8 is going to look like when released.

Starting off with the top image, you’ll see it’s filled with loads of orange squares. All of them do something when you roll the mouse over and do something else when you click on them – except the binary clock, which is just a clock. That’s an extremely geeky way of telling the time, but I can tell you that it says the time is 20:51, which should (hopefully) be the time shown in the taskbar on the second image. Nearly all of the tiles contain a description and an icon, and these simply launch the program or folder they describe when clicked on. Rolling over the office icon turns it into a list of Microsoft Office programs to launch with a click. There’s a handy quote at the bottom of the interactive part of the screen, and the multi-function part on the right. This is found below the huge letters saying the day and date, but leaves you guessing at the rest. In the screenshot my chosen RSS feeds are shown. RSS is basically a condensed blog directory for sites you want to stay updated with. (It’s available at the top of this page, if you’re interested 😀 ) The small white squares underneath the text are options to switch to other (sometimes) useful things like a world clock, the weather, system information and the time for those who can’t read binary clocks (I’ll explain them at the end). And that’s pretty much it, a dashboard for all things useful on my PC. The Pirate Bay’s ship is in there casually too.

On the second image, you’ll see the screen is mostly dominated by the melancholic box robot trudging in the rain. But also notice the little black worm in the lower right corner which adds a month to the date with a friendly salutation, and also serves as a time keeper. On the left is a music widget which plugs into my media player of choice, foobar2000 (or F2K for short). I use F2K because it supports iPod which means I don’t have to have iTunes installed (which is a piece of software designed by Satan himself). The widget includes the generic pause/play/skip buttons too for added convenience.

So there you have it: a summary of a couple of hours work this afternoon. If you’d like links to the wallpapers used or Rainmeter (the program used to generate these widgets) then I find Google helps a great deal. I may be willing to help direct you if asked though, I try.

NERDFACTZ2 – Binary Clocks: The aforementioned alternative timepiece is quite an interesting way of telling the time once you know how to use it, and it keeps your brain ticking over too, which is always a plus. Binary clocks are essentially a 4×4  grid (most simply, but they can get more complicated), where the 4 columns represent HH:MM and the 4 rows represent binary numbers 1 (the bottom row), 2, 4 and 8(the top row). See this picture below shamelessly stolen from wikipedia.

Numbers? What numbers!

This picture includes seconds too (for a 6×4 grid), but the idea doesn’t change. For every illuminated light in a column, you add it’s corresponding number to the total for that column’s digit. In this picture, for example, only the light at 1 is lit up in the first column, so 1 is thevalue for HH:MM. In the second column, no lights are lit up so the value for HH:MM is 0. For the third column, the lights at 1 and 2 are lit up, so the value for HH:MM is 3 (2+1). And finally for the fourth column, the lights at 4,2 and 1 are lit up so the value for HH:Mis 7 (4+2+1). Hence, 10:37. I’ll admit, it’s alot more work than necessary to tell the time, but I did find it quite interesting to learn about earlier today.

A Matter of Life and Death

Few words can describe the untold awesomeness of the 5th August 2011. I will, however, try my best to convey the experience.

The O2 Arena. 6pm. 20,000 metalheads are converging as part of what can only be described as a pilgrimage. Tonight is the penultimate show on Iron Maiden’s Final Frontier 2010/11 tour . Yeah, it’s that long. Having travelled around the globe stopping at literally every inhabited continent playing hundreds of shows in hundreds of cities, Iron Maiden are playing their final two shows in their home town. Less than 10 miles away is (no longer) the Leytonstone pub where the band originally met back in the mid-70’s. Brief history aside, the support begins with the venue only half full. Despite all of the empty seats, Dragonforce put up an impressive show with plenty of leaping, diving and exactly the sort of guitar solos you expect from the power metal heroes. They’re keen to assert this title, playing theatrical orchestra music before and after their set for the added hint of epic. Epic music is not in short supply throughout their set, with one particular solo through Operation Ground and Pound leaving many (including myself) sat in awe. Unfortunately the sound isn’t the best, with plenty of bass but lacking somewhat in the treble. This seems to have little effect on everyone’s opinion, with the band recieving a rapturous reception after every song in the relatively short set. At the end there is a short break for beer and food before the main show begins.

With the stage in complete darkness the familiar opening of Satellite 15…The Final Frontier plays accompanied with a video featuring Iron Maiden mascots and artwork reminiscent of The Final Frontier’s cover art. Breaking into the main section of the eight minute song, the band burst onto the stage met with an eruption of cheering, applause and horns raised high. This continues throughout the song and well into El Dorado, the track which follows on the album also. With every solo the crowd take the time to absorb the musical genius being blasted at them. Bruce Dickinson (the lead singer, of course) takes the time halfway through the set to have a chat with the fans, the only response being thunderous cheering and general metalhead madness.

There is, however something deeper in what he has to say and this is thought-provoking at the very least. He notes many of the tour locations, including how they were unable to play in Japan because of the Earthquake/Tsunami and takes the opportunity to wish the japanese well. He mentions his gig in Jakarta, Indonesia where he played to 30,000 islamic metalheads in a country where Metal music was banned until very recently. Elaborating on this, the show in Belfast was talked about in which the whole Protestant/Catholic divide is still apparent. Bruce responds to this by saying “This is a safe house. This is a our house. This is Maiden’s house”. Perhaps the most poignant quote of the night, reminding everyone that Iron Maiden is not simply an awesome Heavy Metal band, it is a religion unto its own to so many, uniting people of all nationalities and religions. Two people from the opposite ends of the earth may meet having never known eachother, but if they are wearing Iron Maiden shirts they will become almost instant friends.  Maiden fans have a reputation for being the friendliest but also the most vaired of any band, and this is clearly evident this evening. When introducing a hit from 1979, he asks “How many of you weren’t born in 1979?” to which at least half of the arena respond with the now standard gutteral roar accompanied by horns thrust to the roof. Fans of all ages are here, sporting Maiden shirts from all over the world and also from many of the tours the band have embarked upon over the years. These days, the youngest member of the band is 52 and the oldest is 58, but they still have a surprising amount of energy, being able to leap over the various set pieces on stage in much the same way someone half their age would be able to. Perhaps the most impressive feat comes from Nicko McBrain (the fifty-eight year old drummer) at the end of the show who flings his drum covers into the standing crowd but also frisbees one way up into the fourth floor seating area, a distance of well over 50ft.

As you’d expect, the band get a hero’s departure at the end of the show, with fans showing their appreciation for the six people who have done more for international relations than any diplomat will ever hope to achieve. As the pilgrims leave to the sound of Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life many are still left dazed in awe at what they have just witnessed. This is metal. This is the single most important musical genre to ever sound on the planet. Why do I say that? Well, it’s the only genre that has devoted followers in every country in the world, no exceptions. Walk up to someone in the most remote corner of the planet and you’d be surprised how many have heard of a metal band. Whether it’s the thirteen year old boy sitting on the roof of an Indian train with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son in his backpack, or the man in Botswana who goes to the only electricity source in the village with his friends and a CD player just to listen to Master of Puppets once a week, you’ll find metal everywhere. The music’s pretty unbeatable too, if I don’t mind saying.

Up the Irons! Join the Metalhood!