Touchable Art

October 29, 2010
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I’ve always believed that making video games is harder than making art. With art you’re allowed to be deliberately awkward, but if you take that approach with games then the player simply loads up another game. They are a brutal audience.

However, I think I’ve been wrong all this time. David Cross, a Wellington artist, kindly informed me that art has to draw people in, just the same as video games do. However, most art still has very strict “do not touch” signs on it, which I loathe when it comes to sculptures – if I can’t touch a sculpture then it’s only half the experience it should be.

But David’s work demands you touch it; he creates big interactive installations using the same construction methods as bouncy castles! Enjoy his work here.

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The Best Toy Never Made

October 25, 2010
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If you’re going to learn how to use a piece of software you really need a project in mind. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the project is, as I will demonstrate.

Here you find the first ever thing I made in Flash, except for the tutorials that I followed to learn the basics. Always follow the tutorials, there’s really not point flailing around on your own just out of ‘self taught’ principle and pride.

I already had an idea for a ball that would make different sounds depending on which part of it hit the wall, or floor, or friend’s head. My basic thinking was simple – I wanted to create a toy that would drive parents crazy.

I didn’t ever get around to making a prototype of the Beat Ball, despite accruing a store of little electronic devices that I could butcher and plunder for their switches and buzzers, so I don’t really know whether it was a good idea or not.

Still, it helped me to learn Flash, which has proven to be an awesome ally over the years.

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I Can’t Believe I Agree With McDonald’s

October 21, 2010

Down under, in these parts, McDonald’s is currently running an ad where a guy stands around holding a cack burger in one hand and does manly stuff with the other hand, although one obvious scenario is omitted. This is not a comment on the terrible hours some folk have to work without food or toilet breaks. No, it is a jovial love letter to the beautiful design of the humble sandwich. Legend has it that Lord Sandwich invented his eponymous snack when his troops didn’t have any plates, or something like that. I can’t really remember the story, if only for the fact that it seems to be too good a tale to be true; I find it hard to imagine that one man can be credited with inventing the obvious action of ramming stuff between two bits of bread. Although, everything has to be invented at some point, there was once a time before the Spork, so perhaps it is true.

John Montagu - 4th Earl of Sandwich and hero to all packed lunchers...

Regardless of the verisimilitude of this creation story (Sandwich Preacher: “And the Lord took up ham that had fallen on the floor, and bread that was just sliced and lo, he place’d the ham betwixt the bread and spread on the Branston, spicing us with life”) there is no doubting that the sandwich is a true triumph of convenience food design, engineering and consumption.

Unfortunately, like all good design, it can be undone.

I shall not speak of the open sandwich, for it speaks for itself.

However, even the closed sandwich can be hobbled by man’s inability to leave something good and pure, well alone. I have a big mouth, I can bite clean across a club sandwich without much trouble. However, I recently came across some burgers that bugger with the sandwich formula through a process of sheer gluttony.

The Heart Attack Grill (HAG for short) sells burgers in several sizes, see if you can work out the formula for their naming convention. The Single Bypass Burger looks like it can be held with one hand, as a good sandwich should be. I think those with big hands could possibly get a grip of a… can you guess what it will be called… Double Bypass Burger, although I think it would be messy, which is a slap in the face to the functionality of this awesome snack. After that the whole idea of convenience seems to be booted out of the building, down the street and into a large corporation, where it learns how to move slowly and wreck things. The Tipple Bypass Burger is tall, but the… what could it be… Quadruple, that’s right, Bypass Burger has scaffolding, constructed by grease drenched Doozers from Fraggle Rock (looking like John Wayne in a miniature remake of Hellfighters), to keep it together.

A Quadruple Heart Bypass Burger - If you need a stick to hold it together then it's fundamentally broken!

I should be angered by such ridiculous bathing in the questionable pleasures of heart disease, but really, it’s just the damage to the reputation of the sandwich that narks me. That and the fact that I have found myself coming out in favour of a McDonald’s cack burger. Dum dum dum dum dum… Not Lovin’ It.

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It Could Have Been So Easy

October 20, 2010
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One thing I should have mentioned in my last post is how sad I find it that Freddie Mercury is no longer with us. It’s not just sad because he died fairly young – 45 seems younger and younger to me as the years roll by. Nor because he was a unique talent, both as a song writer and performer. And it’s not even because of that truly embarrassing moment where David Bowie crashed to his knees and said the lord’s prayer at the tribute concert, which could have been averted with a lack of Mercury’s demise.

Hero Wanted: Must have courage, a pure heart and talent for not failing...

No, I find it sad because both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics would have been the best ever, if he was still alive. The organisers would simply have to get Queen perform for 3 hours for both the opening and closing ceremonies and the job would be done. No one would debate the quality, it would be a known fact that the best ever show on earth had just been put on, every Olympic city thereafter would feel humbled and it would be quite cheap.

As it is, they’ll probably roll out Coldplay, who might also be cheap, except for the hidden cost to Britain’s dignity.

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Commonwealth Closing Ceremony

October 17, 2010
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Watching the closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi on Friday, I was reminded of an idea that I sent along to the organising committee for the London Olympic Games…


The closing ceremony from Delhi...


Hello There,

I’m sure you have your opening and closing ceremonies completely planned at this stage but I’ve had an idea for a kind of prop that would fit completely with the London theme and offer a whole new way of projecting imagery into the stadium.

The image of men in bowler hats carrying umbrellas is a very recognisable one and dancing with umbrellas was something touched on in the London segment of the Beijing Olympics. However, what if the umbrellas were white and viewed more as mobile projector screens? There are now small digital projectors that could be attached to the handle of white fabric umbrellas, so that they shine an image onto the fabric section of the umbrella. With thin material the image would shine through to the other side, much like any other back projected screen. All the power and data systems for the projector could be stored in a small pack on the operator’s back, still leaving them very free to move around the stadium floor, wheeling and dancing around with their umbrella/mobile cinema screen shining brightly to the crowd.

By using a digital projector anything could be shone on the umbrella/screen, from block colour (of any colour) to short movies that tie in with specific sports.

Now imagine a stadium full of people carrying such things, each could be a small element in a much larger mosaic. In this form a choreographed troupe would be able to move around the stadium, moving from position to position as the image on the umbrella changes. However, if you were to build more sophisticated devices then you could include some kind of tracking system (either inertial or GPS) which would make the projector show the correct element for the location that the operator has in the stadium, making each umbrella a window on a larger picture. This approach would have the great benefit that no one could ever be out of position and spoil the whole effect.

I hope what I have written makes some sense without any illustrations.


Jon Brown.

They wrote back to me with the usual “we thank you for your interest” type email, which is fair enough really, I simply needed to get the idea off my chest, although I still think it would look mighty splendid.


Pileus Umbrella Projector...


Searching the internets, the only thing I have come across that’s similar is an umbrella with a projector and PC attached. The PC’s display is projected to the underside of the umbrella, rather than being intended to show through. The idea being you can use the whole thing as a piece of portable computing when it’s chucking it down. I suspect the iPhone has stolen its thunder – see what I did there!

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Adventures With My Parents!

October 14, 2010
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Over the years I have spent a lot of time scribbling down the adventures I have had with my parents. Who reads it? Me! Actually, I don’t, because I know what I wrote. So I have started a blog so I have somewhere to type up all these scribblings, and my parents can read them at last. It’s also there on the increasingly full sidebar. 2010, year of the blog.

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You Won’t Be Making This…

October 13, 2010
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A couple of days ago I received an email from Wellington’s Victoria University, asking me to be their next Professor of Gameplay. Sadly, I am only joking (you have no idea how much I’d like to be a Professor, honestly, if you have the power to make this happen then I’ll give you a great deal on my salary), in fact they were asking if it was all right to use this picture of me.

I hate seeing me in profile, although it would make it easier to shave my sideburns if I had side mounted eyes...

What I am describing to the students at this point is the fact that they won’t be making Mario Galaxy, or anything like it, in their semester long course. In fact, a huge portion of my talk was geared towards persuading these enthusiastic students that they must seriously reign in their ambitions, if they were to make a game worth playing, in the short space of time they had.

It was in this talk that I first mentioned the Hinterland of Fail, although I should have called it the bane of my life.

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October 12, 2010

Once in a while I get it into my head to go for a run. I then spend way more timing writing about the experience than I actually did running. Read all about it at The Ugly Shoes Diary.

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Less Awe, More Iteration

October 8, 2010
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Finally, I have put a link for the Blue Lei blog in the side bar. You can’t beat a bit of housekeeping. I have also just added a new post there.

Find out what a cathedral has to do with education by clicking on the picture...

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Big Fix?

October 6, 2010
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I have a car, but I only get to use it very occasionally. This is not because it’s a rare, vintage beast like a Bugatti Atlantic, that I only drive at weekends. Nor is it because I am too busy to dally with such trivial things as automobiles, except under very special “have to pop to the shops for some cat food before the cat goes crazy and scratches at my face all night” errands. And it’s certainly not because I am so green that I ration my CO2 like it’s the war, and it’s not CO2 but sugar.

That's my car about 6 weeks ago, near the start of a 300k tow-a-thon...

Nope, it’s because it’s busted. Over the past three months it’s been in and out (mostly in) of the garage. Each time the symptom of the fault is the same (what causes the fault? as yet we do not know), but it normally has to be back with me for a few days before the fault returns. However, the car excelled itself this afternoon. The garage called me to come and get my steel steed so I could drive it around for a bit to see if it would fail again. It failed all right, the engine point blankly refused to start-up, which is what it likes to do these days, at the garage itself. Me and the mechanics, we all share the same face of misery, only Hitler is laughing at this one.

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