More Creative-Commons image goodness

When I create blog posts I always like to have an image on the page just to break up the text flow and make the place look that little bit more interesting.

Unfortunately, I’m not much of an artist (or an artist at all if the truth be told) so I’m dependent on other people’s work. I could just do what an unfortunate number of other online folk do and just copy-and-paste from wherever I find it. Instead, I make use of the Creative Commons Search engine. It searches for all sorts of media that have been clearly licenced with any of the Creative Commons licences. You can choose which site to focus on (I find flickr the most useful) and you might be surprised just how much “stuff” is out there to use.

I usually manage to find images that I like but which don’t always fit the purpose for which I am searching. I bookmark them or something with the aim of coming back to them but you know where those sorts of aims end up. So instead, like I have done once before I’ll just share some of my favourites here, some with intelligent comments and some without.

Most of these images are licenced under a Share-Alike Attribution licence and I have hyperlinked back to the image’s flickr page as my method of attribution. Thanks to all the talented artists and photographers who do such interesting work and like to share.

This image reminds me of going for walks with my children. They can’t manage to go anywhere in the bush without picking up a stick. At least this woman has managed not to turn it into a pretend light-sabre.

Wow! Real life mermaid.

I’ve never made it to any sort of SF or fantasy or gaming con. And definitely never dressed up for the occasion. But I want to.

Bob the Skull online!

No idea why I saved this one. Probably looking for gargoyles of some sort.

A black-winged angel. What else is there to say?

Is this a jester? A demon? What? Another one I could tag with a big bag of don’t know… Ok, it’s a jester, the flickr page says so!

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Poetical Playlist

I sat down this morning to put some of my recent happenings into writing. For some strange reason, I thought that it was a good idea to write a poem.

Unfortunately, I’m not much of a poet. I don’t consider myself a particularly good prose write either, but I reckon I can write better paragraphs than stanzas (you can see some previous efforts here and here).

I started off with just a list of single words. It made an interesting list, but I couldn’t get very far with making lines out of each of the words. I was sitting in front of my computer at the time and I realised that I had many songs that matched up with each of the words on my list. So I did some searching and came up with a list of appropriate songs to match the story of my life this year. Now, some of the songs aren’t necessarily a great match but their titles are. Don’t read too much into any of them but I was hoping that it might read out (ie spoken) reasonably well.

I’ve linked to a last.fm page for each of the songs if you are interested in who they are by or what they might sound like, so feel free to click onwards if you feel the need.

So without any further introductory nonsense, here’s my first ever poetical playlist:

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Eclectic Hottest 100

For years I used to get upset at the awful repetition you would get listening to commercial radio. In my early 20s I spent a bit of time listening to Triple J (that’s a public “alternative” radio station for those outside of Australia) and realised that even public radio has the same problem. Awful repetition, just different music being repeated.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the music well enough. It’s just that once you listened for a week or two you would find yourself listening to much the same songs every day. No different to my current forced radio listening (the radio on at work). Classic Rock 24/7. Nice in moderation.

Here’s what a friend of mine tweeted after the recent Triple J Hottest 100 was announced:

As usual the JJJ Hottest 100 was about as narrow-minded as any commercial radio countdown, which is fine… just don’t pretend it’s better.

That pretty much sums it up. The Triple J listening crowd do tend to see themselves as quite the alternatives, but that’s really just a matter of perspective. And I’m sure similar stations all over the world have much the same attitude. “Triple J” music is a particular sort of music and its listeners don’t have all that much to differentiate them from each other.

Do we all really just listen to a limited playlist like every radio station ever? Here’s a little test…

Last.fm user Anthony Liekens has created a couple of very useful scripts for our desired purpose. They take your top artists from your last.fm user profile and add in all the similar artists to each of them. The more unique artists you get in the total, the more eclectic your musical taste.

Try out the Eclectic Test and if you are truly awesome, the Super Eclectic Test.

If you get a pass result on either of them, give yourself a clap. And then consider coming and joining the Better Hottest 100 group on last.fm. I’ve got this idea that if we get enough truly eclectic listeners joining in, at the end of the year we can create our own chart that would show Triple J and its listeners was alternative really means.

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I like… Webcomics

I was going to pick just one, but I can’t really stretch a whole post out of why I like a single webcomic, so I’ll speak generally and then give you a list.

I’ve followed certain webcomics for probably about 10 years now. In the early days that involved remembering which sites to go to and checking them every day. Needless to say, I didn’t follow too many back them.

At one point, I followed a set of instructions for writing a script for downloading all your favourite strips for offline reading (this was before always on broadband internet was common). It worked really well too. I even managed to write an offline ‘home page’ in HTML that displayed them all for me in one big page, one after the other. It also left me with a great archive of all the strips if I ever wanted to revisit them.

I never did.

Nowadays we have RSS feeds for most of them and it is a simple matter of plugging in a feed address into Google Reader or your reader of choice and away you go. Every time the strip gets updated, there it is. Webcomics have never been more accessible.

There is something about webcomics (as opposed to the normal paper-based strips) that appeals to me. First of all, I don’t buy the paper that often and the one that I do (the Weekend Australian) doesn’t have a funnies page (it’s far too high-brow for that). But as well as that, there are particular themes that run through many of them. Computers and the internet for one (for obvious reasons), geek culture in general is another. They make me feel right at home.

When I went to compile my list I noticed how small it has got. I have sometimes had as many as twenty or more, but I do cull them occasionally (like I do with all my RSS feeds) and I haven’t replaced them with anything new.

Just on the culling process, I have found that I don’t really like the larger strips with convoluted stories. Those strips that are essentially short stories in picture form. I like to just have a quick look, have a giggle then go on to the next one. For the same reason, when I read a paper with funnies I tend to skip over Phantom or Modesty Blaise and the like. If I want to read a graphic novel, I’ll go buy one from the newsagent.

Here I have my list of comics that are currently in my Google Reader:

  • Darths and Droids: A screen-capture strip made in homage to the great DM of the Rings (and if Shamus happens to read this: please, please, please put the old strips of Chainmail Bikini up somewhere). The artist is taking screen shots of the Star Wars films and making a comic strip story based on the premise that they are characters in a roleplaying game. Plenty of D&D and Star Wars in jokes. A bigger strip, but not too many words for my attention span.
  • Order of the Stick: D&D in jokes galore. OOTS is starting to try my patience with too-long strips, but I have had far too many laughs from them in the past to give up just yet.
  • PvP: or Player vs Player. The life of the team at a (computer) gaming magazine. Crude and sometimes potty-mouthed but without a doubt my favourite strip. Characters are well-defined and lovable (especially Skull the flatulent troll). I sometimes miss the computer-game references but there is plenty of D&D love in there too and most of the jokes are PvP-jokes anyway. Good work @pvponline!
  • Dilbert: Dilbert is required reading. It has its own line in the geek code for goodness sake!
  • Doghouse: as in “In the doghouse”. I’ve only just starting following Doghouse, but anything that makes jokes about the differences between men and women is good value in my book.
  • UserFriendly: The first version of The IT Crowd, only Canadian. An oldie but a goodie, but currently only running repeats.
  • OK, they are not really webcomics but you can get Calvin and Hobbes and Zits via RSS, so I do.
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What do I like in my music?

If you have ever visited my last.fm page you might wonder random landscape you had stepped in to.

Eclectic. Yes, you could say that. Even just looking at my top 6 you’ll see The Beatles, Iron Maiden and Jethro Tull. Who listens to all that?

So to cast off the rumour that my taste in music is actually no taste at all, I thought I would throw together a list of the things I look for in my music. A tick next to any one of them will get the music a listen. Two or more and I’ve probably found a new favourite.

So without any further ado and in no particular order (except perhaps #1).

  1. A beat that your head can bang along to. Self-inflicted whiplash? Yes, please.
  2. Unusual instruments. Think flute and mandolin (thank you Jethro Tull), operatic vocals in metal music, harpsichord, accordion (button for your Sharon Shannon, piano for Al Yankovic).
  3. Unusual voices. Ian Anderson, Kristin Hersh, Kasey Chambers, Mark Knopfler.
  4. Powerful voices. Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale.
  5. Lyrics that tell a story. Mythical themes and folklore for an extra point.
  6. Creative blending of genres within an album (or even a song). Tull (again), Queen.
  7. Folk music (Irish and English and their descendants mostly) and anything that blends it with. Flogging Molly for Irish folk and The Currency for Aussie Folk.
  8. Sadness. Depressing stories and melancholy music. An offering for my inner emo if you like. I have a special playlist on my iTunes I just call “Melancholy”.
  9. Surprises in lyrics or music. Things that you hear that you really wouldn’t expect. Like when Ozzy Osborne sings “They should realize before they criticize that God is the only way to love”.
  10. A bass line you can feel. Steve Harris is the master.
  11. A certain amount of obscurity. No one else has heard of this band? Gimme.
  12. Nostalgia. Some songs just remind me of a particular time in my life and will always be favourites, even if they aren’t very good (hello, Duran Duran old friend).
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