Tuesday, October 10, 2006 

look ma, i'm on tv!

So in the classic old Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, little Mike Teevee exclaims something along those lines to his mother when he excitedly transports (and shrinks) himself on what appeared to be a television screen. The past couple days have been exactly this: meeting Willy Wonka and then ending up on TV. But not quite.

Yesterday morning, we were treated to a "circuit bending" workshop led by Ben Goldstone, a savvy and somewhat crazed English man whose passion is making sound in unconventional ways. He is pictured at left with his prized Furby (before Caitlin skinned it), showing us how he can make these seemingly benign toys lose their minds. Between the mad scientist look, British accent, and his enthusiasm for his work, there were times when I swore I was watching Willy Wonka reincarnated. Our workshop was focused around taking those annoying little kids toys that make sounds when you press buttons, unveiling the circuit boards, and then connecting them in unintented ways to make new sounds, eventually played throug amplifiers we built. I fought withh glued plastic for a few minutes to open my talking telephone before prodding the circuit boards contained inside to make some slightly less annoying (and more cool!) sounds. Overall, a very neat workshop, although I would have benefitted from some more specific instruction after being handed a car stereo speaker, board with a bunch of wires, some cords, and a photocopied sheet of paper full of symbols that might well have been hieroglypics to use to build an amplifier. I was even more lost when it came time to build an oscillator, so I just went back to making noises with my toy phone.

Today, after heading over to the Tate Modern to meet with Stuart Comer, the curator of film (and a Carleton grad... these people are all over the place!), we trekked out to Newham to visit the borough's CCTV control centre. We met with two of the directors, who took us on a tour of their surprisingly small facilities where they monitor all of their surveillance cameras scattered throughout the borough. I was surprised that during our entire tour, one of the employees was focused in on a lady sitting on a bench who was drinking and had concealed something in one of her bags. However, the whole time we were there, all she was doing was eating fried chicken. Way to keep the public safe, guys. There could have been something more significant happening on one of the other 500 cameras, but we will never know (unless they end up needing to look something up in one of their recordings, which they store for 31 days). Regardless of the comfort that comes from knowing I'm probably just on one of the many tiny screens that's not actually being watched by anybody, it still freaks me out a little bit to see how the cameras can be controlled to swivel and zoom in to very close shots of me if somebody wanted to. To complete the slight freak out, we walked into one of the last rooms of the tour, and BAM! there we are, standing at a bus stop an hour before. The camera panned in and out, and none of us had any consciousness that we were being watched. If you look really closely at the picture on the right, maybe you can see me... towards the middle of the group, wearing pink. So yes, it's not a close-up at all, but just the fact that it could be is enough to creep me out a bit.

After another brilliant meal at Shikara (65 Great Titchfield St... anybody in London needs to eat at this place), I returned to ISH to dig in on project work. There is always so much to do and so little time.