Media you may have missed in the first half of 2021

Parallel film, woman looks into mirror repeated into infinity

A few times a year I mention some films and shows you may have missed. The list came pretty useful during the Covid19 pandemic, when friends said there was little on. As usual I’m looking at the stuff which gets missed in the mass media.

Movies

Together

Together
I mentioned liking locked down a while ago, this is the BBC equivalent with less nonsense at the end. Its good and worth watching.

Wrath of man
This came out of nowhere but I found it a good watch. Not the best of Guy Richie but its a good heist and good to see Jason Statham in a serious role.

Horizon line

Horizon line

I shared this with a friend who flies light planes, I don’t think she was impressed but the drama is high and there is a feeling it can’t get any worst throughout. It does…

Cruella
Emma stone makes this so so Disney movie actually good. To be fair I am not a Disney fan but this and Soul were actually good.

Stowaway

Stowaway

Stowaway seemed to come with little press, even with a good cast. It could be seen as another gravity and it wouldn’t be far off but its got depth and humanity.

Plan B
Classic teenage hi-jinks but with 2 women in an American state where the morning after-pill isn’t easily available. Fun tale with unexpected conclusions.

 Long Weekend (2021)

Long weekend

This film is a romantic comedy/drama but with a level of depth which of course is revealed at the end. Its a surprise and impactful.

Parallel

A mirror, the multiverse, greed and betrayal. What more do you need to check it out? Surprising film out of nowhere.

Searching

Searching

This is a little older but I missed it first time around. Its a good film capitalising on modern technology as an advantage and disadvantage. Well crafted and nicely put together.

A storybook ending

I’m pretty sure most people have never come across this one but its 18mins of clever crafted storytelling layered nicely on top of its self. You want more but you don’t need more.

TV

Loki

Loki

Ok I know a lot of people are watching Loki but its worth mentioning if you missed it so far. Its really good, funny and clever. Likewise  The Falcon and the winter soldier I didn’t really pay attention to the Falcon and the winter soldier. I am so glad I did check it out as the last episode genuinely left me with a tear in my eye. Its worth watching seeing what happened on social media after Euro 2020.

Time

I heard people grumble that Time was too harsh? I think its not but I did think its got links to the grittiest prison drama I have ever seen, OZ. Prison is no walk in the park and its important to remember that.

Russian doll
Russian doll

Recommended to me from friends, after talking about time looping films and TV. This one is a good and smart one with a strange ending.

Love, death and robots

The little known Love, Death and Robots was great in season 1. Season 2 takes the same impact with some great storylines you would expect in Black Mirror.

Startup

Startup

I missed this first time round but its good and clever. I watched all 3 seasons over a period of time and enjoyed it a lot. Shame it ended too soon as it was going somewhere. But its worth viewing for the tech drama.

Calls

Based on the French original. Its hard to describe this show. Its like nothing else on TV, mainly visualisation and voice overs. If I say Einstein-Rosen bridge you might get the general drift.

The irregulars

The irregulars

This new take on Sherlock Holmes is actually seems a bit strange but the story is quite intriguing. The show didn’t make it to season 2 which is a shame as it had the right amount of mystery and drama.

Soulmates

This is very much like black mirror but instead of each episode being completely different concepts, this is the same concept throughout. What if an algorithm could tell your one soulmate? The rest is drama like you can’t imagine.

Sexy beasts, another fad dating show, yawn…

I heard Netflix had commissioned the dating show, Sexy beasts (Remember it was a BBC Three show in 2014)

Sexy Beasts is a new dating show where real-life singles sport elaborate makeup and prosthetics to put true blind-date chemistry to the test.

There seems to be a bit of stir about this one, although lets be honest its another fad dating show. Will it go beyond a couple of seasons? I very much doubt it. Its certainly not a first dates, which just keeps going and going.

People need to remember just like dating services/apps, everything is very fickle. Anything new gets attention and is seen as innovative. Well I guess they couldn’t strip any more clothes off people. Sex has been done, doing it in the dark had mixed success, trying to turn dating into a soap has had mixed sucess and attempted to go large has had zero success. Bring on the next fad, tons of make up and masks to hide their true looks.

Yawn!

This is the Islington Wharf update you have been waiting for

Double rainbow in Islington Wharf

For many years I have written about the problems at Islington Wharf. Part of the reason for writing about these flats is to force some change in my way, while others try other things. A lot of people don’t like its all out there for all to read but frankly its been out there for over a decade. The most important thing is to get the latent defects fixed to the comfort of all the people like myself who bought or are renting. Its been way too long!

Following on from this large post and the last post. Things have changed again…

The temporary aircon solution

…This time for last time hopefully

Waterside places came to the Islington Wharf committee with a proposal after the last one with Laing O’Rourke which was awful didn’t pass. It took some time but after the meeting in April, we were all ecstatic. The next day a email was to everybody

In short all the work which was planned with Laing O’Rourke would go ahead but with Morgan Sindall Construction. They will not use the garden as their workers yard instead use part of the old central retail park and phase 4 space, which is next door. They will do all the latent defect work in 18months instead of 2 years and the best part is they are going to replace all the glass, not stick a film to the outside. The cost of this all to the residents? Zero! Yes no cost. Lets be frank Islington Wharf has a ton of glass, so this is no cheap operation but was always needed. It would likely be easier if done years ago because now phase 2 & 3 makes access much more tricky.

Islington Wharf
Imagine replacing all that glass

Now you can see why we were ecstatic! This is a massive win and I find myself very fortune I am in the position where this is a option when so many flat owners are having to pay to replace their cladding.

The next part is to get agreement from all the flat owners they will allow access. As you can imagine with support from the committee and mailshots, emails, fb, etc. We have pretty much everybody in agreement. Although some haven’t replied back, likely forcing Waterside places to consider legal action to gain access.

Heat check while working
28c while working away with two fans and window wide open

This is most likely the last summer of heat (hopefully), which would be great as I’m experiencing 28c heat while working at home and its 24c outside.

Once things get going, I’ll start updating the older blogs as I do get the occasional press attention, which was the point of writing.

Update (Monday 14th June)

I was prompted to wrote this blog just after being interviewed by the Times journalist Emanuele. I had meant to write it for a long while but being interviewed pushed me to do, mainly to set the record straight and give a fair update of where we are now. I see the article went live in the Sunday Times thanks to a friend’s mum.

Although not quite what I said, its mainly there and glad the last part was included about the developer (Waterside places) agreeing to fix the latent defects.

What is adaptive/perceptive podcasting?

I recently did a video for the EBU about Adaptive Podcasting (use to be called Perceptive Podcast). I say I did but it was all done by our BBC R&D video powerhouse Vicky. I did plan to get to work in Kdenlive or openshot but it would have been pretty tricky to emulate the BBC R&D house style.

I recorded the video, once another colleague sent me a decent microphone (and G&B dark Chocolates), wrote a rough script and said the words. I also decided I wanted to change my lightening to something closer to how I have my living room lights to encourage a level of relaxation. Vicky took the different videos and audio, edited it all together and created this lovely package all before the deadline of what the EBU wanted. If you want more you might like to check out the Bristol Watershed talk I gave with Penny and James.

Wished I had shaved and was a little more aware of the wide view of my GoPro, lessoned learned. Hopefully the video will get an update in the near future but the video should serve as a good taster for my Mozilla Festival workshop in March.

Enjoy!

The Australia Facebook wake-up call

There is so much I want to say about Facebook removing Australian news media from their platform, but I’d rather let things shake out a little because I’m sure it will change everyday in the next week. Similar to not really talking about the Gamestop news last week.

However I mainly agree with Prof Zuboff about Facebook. As soon as it doesn’t suit there business model they will forcefully remove it from their platform. This is wakeup call for all not just the Australian government.

This has been super clear for years and having just finished Adam Curtis’ Can’t get you out of my head. Its once again clear, this is a important point for democracy and freedom.

Unfortunately I think its clear where I think this will go…

Worth watching: Death to 2020

Death to 2020

Death to 2020 was hysterical on so many levels, this missed out on my list of things you missed out on by a day or two.

I think of it like Screenwipe (if you haven’t seen the antiviral wipe, I highly recommend it) with black mirror budget and mockery running through it all.

Although very much around America and part of the UK, there is key issues are there. , , , #vote2020, #RuthBaderGinsburg, , , , , etc, etc.

Good work and something to laugh at while we head into 2021.

Films you may have missed during the later part of 2020

Matrix on the big screen
Watching the matrix on the big screen during lock down

Following on from my previous post about films to watch during covid19 and again during mid 2020. Some of us have been consuming a lot of media. Its never been a better time to own a full home cinema.

Having just gone through my trakt year in review and its almost 2021, it might be worth another blog post for the locked in. Believe it or not there has been some good stuff to watch on the small screens in our living rooms.

Films

Just mercy

Just Mercy

This is a genre which always gets me, court room dramas. I didn’t think that much about the trial of the chicago 7 especially after watching Small Axe’s Mangrove and this film. Its powerful and emotional, it deserves a lot of respect and perfect timing with the on going anti-racism protests. Don’t miss this film!

Parallel

As the name suggests its a film about parallel universes. This film comes across off as a lower budget movie but the concept is neat and it has legs. It surprises in different ways and within the serious plot points still has elements of comedy. It reminds me very much of the film Time lapse.

Run

This took me by surprise. Not usually into horror but this is clearly more on the thriller side. I can’t even start to explain how messed up this film is on so many levels. As the film develops you get a real sense of the subtitle, you can’t escape a mothers love!

The honest thief

Nice easy going action film which isn’t too stressful but has its moments of action too. Liam Neeson is wooden than his usual roles in Taken, but still has edge. Nice plot and the actors do carry the film well. Good quality hollywood action.

12 Hour Shift

This film is a bit of dark humour and comes across as serious. Its a simple film about staff in a hospital but the things which happen are, lets say intriguing and there reactions are hilariously dark. Been a while since I seen a dark comedy like it

The Secrets We Keep

I wasn’t quite sure where this one was going but its a thriller which strikes where it hurts. Partly revenge film but its not for the faith hearted. Not an amazing film but strong and worth watching.

Love and Monsters

Another fun hollywood film which I would say is similar in notion to Zombieland but less adult. Its a fun teen flick with some enjoyable moments. Light relief from the pandemic.

Follow Me

I’m a bit of a sucker for these escape room type films and this one has all the right ingredients to keep you guessing. Part of you wants bad things to happen as this youtuber is just the wrong side of arrogant. If you don’t like follow me, try escape room.

Opening Act

A film about stand up comedy with stand up comedians. Light entertainment again but with the strength of everyday life as a comedian. Heckling, trying out jokes, fighting for spots, its all there in the film.

Black Box

Psychological thrillers, some hate them and sometimes they are awful. This one is good, not great but challenging. Its great to see Mamoudou moving into the prime time. Its a good film but be prepared for a small mind screw.

Boss level

A fun film which reminds me of a three way between Shoot’em up, Groundhog day and Scott Pilgrim vs the world. Light entertainment but good entertainment on these dark nights.

TV

A Teacher

A interesting story about a student and a teacher. The emotional side is treated well and respectful over the episodes. Usually these type of things are rushed and A teacher doesn’t do that. The topics are adult and dealt with in that way.

Small Axe

There is so much to say abut Small Axe, the director worked on these 5 almost feature length episodes showcasing different aspects of Black British culture in London. Each episode is unique with for example episode 2 having a completely different tempo and feel from episode 1. Each one is worth while watching alone, together they marked a excellent series.

The Queens Gambit

The Queens Gambit

Such a beautiful and short TV show. Most people have seen or heard of it but honestly watch it on a big screen at the highest resolution you can. You will notice every short is just beautiful. The story is great too.

Industry

This was recommended to me and its quite a interesting series, looking at new graduates aiming to permanently join a investment bank. What I like is its not too stereotypical. Yes theres drugs in the bathrooms, yes the women get a much rougher experience than the men. But each character has more depth than you first imagine.

The Flight Attendant

A fun comedy drama with Kaley (known for the big bang theory) with a bit of a edge. The story unfolds slowly but the comedy elements keeps the flow. There is a message about alcoholism there but its not clear cut and well produced. Worth watching but don’t expect something deep and meaningful or even light entertainment. Look forward to second series?

Sneakerheads

Following the flight attendant, something actually light and fun comedy. If you are a sneakerhead or take your trainers a little more serious than most people… this short series is for you. Funny and entertaining, some light relief.

Ted Lasso

Another fun TV series but with a heart. I’m really not a football fan, so I was expecting this to be a bore. When I first came across it, I thought this is going to be a joke which will get old. But it surprised me as the characters backstory holds up well and keeps you interested. Like the flight attendant sure there will be a second series.

It started with a subscription and a email…

I started subscribing to the Dyslexic Advantage, as I have gotten much benefit from the book and decided it would be good to digest much more.

After looking at their premium section, which has a lot of media I started thinking there is maybe too much and they are adding more to it all the time. I started thinking if they have RSS, I could subscribe and get updated media without having to go to the site to check.

Looking at their RSS it was the generic one for the blog no matter which page I went to. There was a note at the end of the podcast section saying if you have troubles or would like it another way ask.

So I did and got into a discussion with Dr. Fernette Eide and Dr. Brock Eide the researchers and writers of the dyslexic advantage. I talked about the advantage of RSS and explained you can have http authentication on RSS to keep their premium content secure.

They were using some other system which was costing them a bit and there was extra step of uploading content to the other system from their dropbox drive, which they nicely shared with me.

Dropbox drive I thought… sure I saw a service which will take a directory of files and generate a RSS feed? I remembered it was called Justcast.com

I set up a account and tried out Justcast for myself and was impressed with how easy it was to get up and running. The one thing which seemed to be missing was authentication on RSS feeds. So I ping them a support request.

Josh from Justcast wrote back pretty quickly… They were on it!

Thanks so much for your suggestion and interest on JustCast, and you know what, we are actually going to work on implementing this Authentication to the feed feature in July. I will definitely keep you in the loop on our development progress.

Following that email we went back and forth and he showed me what it would look like. Then a day ago (29th June) a email

Adding authentication to the feed feature went live. You will able to find the config under the Settings > Advanced. Please give it a try.

I did and it worked exactly how I specified previously. https://user:password@www.justcast.com/mypodcast/blah/index.rss

Perfect…  and the Justcast team have so many features, check out their blog. If I was creating podcasts not on archive.org. This would be my number one option now.

In the meanwhile I was equally impressed to see the dyslexic advantage team had taken my advice, converted their whole premium content to Justcast and were asking me to test the RSS feed.

Dyslexic advantage rss podcast with justcast

It worked perfectly, no need to have access to the dropbox anymore. I was able to subscribe to the RSS feed (theres a button called subscribe which gives you the full RSS feed link). I was able to add it the feed to my complex setup.

I was impressed with both sides and everything seems so much easier for all now. It reminded me how important it is to take advantage of those opportunities.

Justcast got a new client, dyslexic advantage cut their costs and time to upload and share new premium content. I got my RSS feed(s) with a automated drip of new content as they come.

Another nice unexpected thing came out of the whole thing. The dyslexic advantage team wanted to know my story and may turn it into a recording…!

#covid19 has affected the way I see TV & Films

 Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Where’s your social distancing guys?

It didn’t take long for the impact of Covid-19 to totally affect the way I see films and TVs. I can’t help but think every time a character touches another character or even comes within a couple of meters.

Where’s your physical distancing!!!

Government says stay in doors, how I make it work

Working from home
Me on my Dell XPS with that hinge camera

As the UK tonight goes into police lockdown, I reflect on staying in my flat.

I have been working at home since last week Tuesday, a few days after most of my colleagues at BBC R&D. Like most of the country/world who could work from home, we work from home in the middle of Covid-19 pandemic.

For a lot of people working from home is very challenging, for a number of reasons including having kids, job which requires access to specialist equipment, trying to separate work and personal life for a long time. Theres also the mental, social and physical health sides of this all.

So I thought I’d share how I’m managing with staying at home most of the time. Of course take from it what you think is useful.

Work wise

I now switched to my natural working time of 1030-11am till 7pm. I do get up and do all the things I usually do when going to work including getting dressed, having breakfast, playing podcasts, etc. Where usually I am in a rush for the door, I now relax playing a few podcasts in a row and across my flat.

Physically working I switch between using my standing desk in my bedroom and the sofa in the living room. I also have my dinner table but haven’t used that yet.

I take breaks when ever I want rather than a lunch break as such. It makes sense to me but I’m sure others will disagree

I’m using my Dell XPS 13 to the maximum memory wise (if I could add another 16gig to it I would, but it tops out at 16gig). Because of that I have to keep opening and closing the virtual windows 10 machine to check email. This is actually quite good because I’m answering emails then closing it while I do other things like writing gdocs, a lot of zoom calls.

Media beyond the news

Talking about media, I am currently playing podcasts as theres lots of podcasters recording from their homes, just like the mainstream media. At some point I will start listening to some of the audiobooks I have saved.

Been watching a lot of films and may start watching more TV shows but generally its audio in the morning and videos in the evening.

I have also ignoring most of the news media because I hate that news cycle and there is so much good stuff out there. For example Mydata just upload their videos, the Singularity University did a summit about Covid19, There was a activitypub conference with videos on peertube. This is just in the last few weeks.

I had also planned to do some training by watching and listening from Linkedin learning and other sources.

I’m very happy I opted for the 1gig bit hyperoptic fibre link, its paid for its self massively over the years and being able to share my media with friends is fantastic. I’m also considering using my icecast server to maybe put up a live web broadcast every weekend as its been a while since I did a mix.

The Manchester futurists which I’m a part of are considering podcasting while events are not allowed. So look out for those. I did float the idea of techgrumps again but no dice yet.

I’m also considering getting more into gaming as I’m not much of a gamer, but do have a Xbox 360 and Playstation one classic. I actually do have a steam account but never used it so theres something I might explore. I’m also looking for a good gaming site for casual gaming which can be played together with my partner or friends, but is respectful of my data? Any ideas do drop a comment…

Staying in shape

I’m lucky to have a communal garden so can sit outside with minimal risk to myself and others. Its also where I’m going to start doing the diabolo now its getting warmer (thankfully). I have been outside a few times, mainly to get food, post letters and go riding in the pennies on the scooter. I am planning to do some more serious walking for shopping and exercise.

Been wondering if now is a good time to order those Rollerblades to go with my skateboard?

Staying connected

I don’t live with my partner but we are talking everyday. Its good and we find new and good ways to do things together over the phone and videochat.

I have always been in regular contact with my parents but also connecting with my sister more. Been thinking about the massive family I have and I should reach out to them more too.

I’m also making a very conscious decision to everyday get in touch with people I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Think about it, everybody is at home and likely will be very happy to hear from an old friend. Its not like they are out or on holiday. So far its been great and I expect it brings delight to others too.

Keeping my mind in gear

I have a large task list of things to do, not only because of covid-19 but generally. So I can slowly work my way through that while at home. Some of it is computer based, some internet based, some hardware and some physical DIY type things. Been thinking I should physically take up the art of motorcycle maintenance with my scooter.

Taking a look at the list, there is always something I could be doing and I ordered that raspberry pi 4 before this became a pandemic.

I’m taking time out to practice self-care, relax and sleep longer than usual which is helping a lot with my mental health. I’m avoiding the news cycle as mentioned previously but also avoiding lots of the facebook nonsense as I don’t need to use it now volleyball is off for the foreseeable future.

Moi? Pocket’s top 5% reader?

pocket badge
Ian, you read a ton this year and made it into our top 5% of readers. That’s an impressive amount of knowledge gained.

Well this is quite a surprise I got when Pocket sent me a email saying I was in the top 5% of readers for last year.

Its not because I haven’t consumed lots of written word content but because I have mainly been listening to pocket while on the go (although I can’t quite do driving the bike and listening to pocket or podcasts). Pockets text to speech is pretty sweet as its cloud based not on the device like wallabag. This of course has good (better voice) and bad points (when out of wifi/4g, privacy considerations, etc).

Talking of wallabag, I tend to run pocket from wallabag with a nifty IFTTT recipe. I’m not the only one it seems.

The 2010s: When the Media Lost Their Gatekeepers

Reason’s video post is spot on and charts how the 2010’s started with such promise but ended on such a low. However there are options on the horizon if we can get our heads around decentralised and distributed technologies.

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s work best explains how the world changed in the 2010s—and what we can expect in the decade ahead.

I’m doing what I can to fore-fill that mental shift in the 2020’s by focusing on trust, transparency, accountability, data ethics, etc.

Computational photography is just the start

Tree scene with sunlight
Far Cry 5 / A Run in the Park

I found it interesting  to read how Virtual Photography: taking photos in videogames could be imaging’s next evolution. A while ago I mentioned how computational photography was pretty stunning a while ago when using my Google Pixel 2’s night sight mode.

Theres a project BBC R&D have been working on for a while, which fits directly into the frame of computational media. We have named it REB or Render Engine Broadcasting. Like OBM, Object based media theres a lot of computational use in the production of media, but I think theres a ton of more interesting research questions aimed at the user/client/audience side.

Its clear computational media is going to be a big trend in the next few years (if not now?). You may have heard about deepfakes in the news and thats just one end of the scale. Have a look through this flickr group. Its worth remembering HDR (high dynamic range) is a early/accepted type of computational. I expect in game/virtual photography is next, hence why I’ve shown in game photography to make the point of where we go next.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice / Up There

Its clear like every picture we see has been photoshopped, all media we will have to assume has been modified, computed or even completely generated. computational capture and machine vision/learning really is something which we have to grapple with.  Media literacy and tools to more easily identify computational media are what is missing. But the computational genie is out of the bottle and can’t be put back.

Theres also many good things about computational media too, beyond the sheer consumption.

While I cannot deny that my real world photography experience aids my virtual photography through the use of compositional techniques, directional lighting, depth of field, etc. there is nothing that you cannot learn through experience. In fact, virtual photography has also helped to develop my photography skills outside of games by enabling me to explore styles of imagery that I would not normally have engaged with. Naturally, my interest in detail still comes through but in the virtual world I have not only found a liking for portraiture that I simply don’t have with real humans, but can also conveniently experiment with otherwise impractical situations (where else can you photograph a superhero evading a rocket propelled grenade?) or capture profound emotions rarely exhibited openly in the real world!

Virtual photography has begun to uncover a huge wealth of artistic talent as people capture images of the games they love, in the way they interpret them; how you do it really is up to you.

Its a new type of media, with new sensibility and a new type of craft…

Of course its not all perfect.

https://twitter.com/iainthomson/status/1165755171923587072

Plex’s future, without its server?

halt and catch fire

Plex recently announced they were making major changes and that we should be excited about Desktop AF. What wasn’t said was the media server is being killed?

Years back, the most common Plex implementation was to attach a home theater PC (HTPC) to a TV to stream media. With the proliferation of cheap streaming devices like the Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire TV, almost no one bothers with HTPCs anymore. Thus, Plex is retiring the TV interface with the launch of its new desktop app. This will, no doubt, upset some Plex fans nonetheless.

dates

Upset? Absolutely and its now in direct competition with Kodi too.

I’m now in the market for a alternative to Plex. Originally I was looking at Emby a long while ago but frankly I don’t want to switch to another freemium product.

Jellyfin and Triton look good but its early days.

Jellyfin is a personal media server. The Jellyfin project was started as a result of Emby’s decision to take their code closed-source, as well as various philosophical differences with the core developers. Jellyfin seeks to be the free software alternative to Emby and Plex to provide media management and streaming from a dedicated server to end-user devices.

TRITON is a media pipeline that aims to go one step further than services like Jellyfin and Plex provide. Media is fetched from a magnitude of supported protocols (HTTP, S3-compatible, Usenet, etc), converted into multiple different quality levels, and then uploaded to a S3-compatible storage provider. This enables cheap storage and ensures that buffering is never a problem.

Lots more research is needed, including a look at what others are doing with the Plex announcement. Although I did find Ampache and Airsonic which could be useful for my mixcloud issues. Imagine if they were federated too?

Climate disaster is just around the corner

I have nothing but respect for the people who are taking part in the Extinction Rebellion, its about time! I had hoped Al Gore’s inconvenient truth would be the start of this? But it wasn’t. You can blame the media, trump, etc but the fact is we are running out of time.

Extinction Rebellion - Rebel for life
Its unbelievable and downright scary to hear mainly older peoples views on “kids” truanting from school and blocking London. I understand the worry about legal and illegal protest, however each and everyone of them understand how much of a knife edge humanity is on.

I was listening to Episode 127 of TeamHuman “All Hands On Deck” Extinction Rebellion with Gail Bradbrook and Clare Farrell. Although I thought they were interesting its their pulling people together which is most important. Always reminded of Eric Nehrlich’s find the others post.

I found this cartoon quite powerful by the way.