Monthly Archives: July 2013

iOS App Review 2 – addLib U

Howdy folks, welcome back to the 2nd part of my iOS App Review…this time we’ll be looking at addLib U.  Although the premise is the same, i.e that of generating random graphic designs to be used in conjunction with user loaded images, WOW Inc., the developers, have given this one the feel of actually creating a graphic booklet.

This App gives you the option to load up to 4 different images.  Once loaded, upon the press of a button, addLib U will generate a series of 10 random graphic design images. There’s a whole lotta fun to be had here!  Within each image, you have the option of customizing the text, which is subdivided into “Main” and “Sub”…but which are essentially merely indicative of where they fall within the generated image. The “Main” section itself has a Randomise button, which churns out errrr…random words. The “Sub” button is really for you to input a date, however you can also use it to write subtext to go with the main body of your image.

Here’s the App Store blurb:


And here are some of the images the App generated at random, after I input 4 images from my iPad.  They look so professional, don’t they?  addLib U offers more variety than addLib S, and a bit more flexibility in inputting text. I’d still like to see more features in it, the same as for addLib S.

IMG_3803 IMG_3802 IMG_3804 IMG_3805 IMG_3806

iOS App Review 1 – addLib S

The iOS Apps addLib S and addLib U are the creations of WOW Inc.  These brainiacs created not just one but two apps that pay homage to Swiss Graphic Design, and Mid-Century Graphic Design.  Here’s the blurb about addLib S, taken from the App Store itself:

addLib S screenshot

Essentially, how it works is this:

1) capture an image on camera, or choose an image from your photo library

2) press the circular arrow button to generate a graphic image incorporating your photo

3) press the save button to save to a number of sites, including your photo library, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or Mail

Three graphic designs will be generated at random, utilising your chosen image.  If you touch an image, it will reduce in size and give you the option to Customize the image.  You can then choose to add Text to the image, either randomly generated letters or numbers, or you can input your own text. Or, the Text function can be disabled, handy if you just want “empty” graphic design images to work on in other Apps. Also, the centre focus of your image can be adjusted.

If the three designs that have been generated for you aren’t to your satisfaction, simply click on the arrow button again to generate a different graphic.

Images save at 1920 x 2568 pixels on the iPad.  The App is for iPhone, but is compatible with the iPad too, via a 2x button that expands the viewing panel on the iPad for ease of use.

Here are some images to demonstrate the beauty of this little App.  There are not many features you can tweak in addLib S, but I just love the idea of the random generator. I’m sure you’ll agree the results are most satisfying!

Here’s what I would love to see on this App:

1) the ability to tweak the templates more, maybe even move around the shapes

2) how about giving users a variety of Fonts to choose from

3) some sliders to customize the colourways, perhaps

4) the ability to change the size of the shapes, fonts and maybe zoom in/out on the original image

5) different blend modes, or alpha aspect of the templates, for example, the ability for users to make the template fade into the background, or bring it to the fore.

6) some borders to add to the completed images

Apart from its obvious limitations, addLib S is a mighty fine app, and one I can spend hours playing with and generating new material for the Visuals and Posters I love creating.

Next up…my review of addLib U!

Original image from Samsung Galaxy S4
Original image from Samsung Galaxy S4
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Blowing the Myth out of the Water

I was at the SupaNova “geek” convention in June recently, here in Perth.  I’d decided to bring the kid there, as he’s a big fan of Zombie movies and the series The Walking Dead, and also Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Futurama, The Simpsons, not to mention the cartoon series Adventure Time.

At the celebrity signing tables, as we’d got there early enough, there wasn’t much of a queue yet, unless you wanted David Hasselhoff’s signature, or that of Karl Urban (who played Bones in the latest Star Trek movies). The kid and I had a chat with Lauren Tom, who voices the character Amy in the cartoon series Futurama.  I got to meet one of my childhood favourite actresses, the original Lois Lane from Superman, Margot Kidder, looking older than I remembered, but still as refined and charming as ever.  We then got to Manu Intiraymi, who I’d thought was such a cute guy when he played Icheb, the ex-Borg on Star Trek Voyager alongside Jeri Ryan, who played Seven Of Nine.  Of all the things I loved about Star Trek Voyager, (one  being the fact that a woman captained the ship – Kate Mulgrew, who reminds me so much of Katherine Hepburn, down to the husky voice), the Icheb-Seven Of Nine ex-Borg angle was my favourite.

And here was Manu himself in the flesh, sans Borg accoutrements, looking just a little older but still as handsome as I remembered.  There wasn’t a queue for Manu’s table yet, so we were able to chat for a good 20 minutes about Star Trek Voyager and Manu’s acting career after Voyager, then I noticed he had a large folder open on the table with art prints displayed in it.  I asked if he was the artist, and he said yes, in collaboration with his girlfriend Lauren Hayley.  So we had an enjoyable discussion about all things Art.

On our way home that afternoon, while on the train, I sent this image to Manu’s email, as a souvenir of his visit to Perth, Western Australia.  It was one of the images I’d shown him earlier at SupaNova, and I’d mentioned that I’d created it the night before, when I was contemplating doing a design for a T-shirt contest.  Manu had asked me how I did it, and when I showed him my workflow/steps and the Apps I’d used, he said it was lovely but wasn’t it “cheating”, as it looked so simple and easily achievable, and had taken hardly any time to create.


But was it cheating? I pondered upon this on the train going home that afternoon.  It certainly looks easy enough to do, and doesn’t take much time.  It doesn’t involve costly paints, brushes, canvasses etc.  You don’t need a studio, easel or even anything else other than where you are right now and what you have in your hand.  The initial layout may be expensive if you are buying your mobile phone straight out, but if it’s spread over a number of months or years by subscription, then you’ll hardly feel the pinch.  Many professional photographers spend tens of thousands of dollars on DSLRs, filters, telescopic lenses etc before they even start taking a single photo.  My first iPhone, an iPhone 3, cost me 200 GPB, my iPhone 4 was AUD$600, my first Samsung Galaxy S3 was AUD$620 and my current Samsung Galaxy S4 cost AUD$650.  Between the four of them, over the last 3 years since I started doing mobile photography, I have taken over 60,000 photos.  Yes, you read that right.

So, how do I select images to process, from so many different takes and angles?  Many photographers use the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Ratio religiously; I bear that in mind when I frame a subject in my S4’s viewfinder, but for me it’s the whole picture and the colours I see that I try to capture, rather than a perfectly proportioned image.  I have on my external hard drive folder upon folder of images that I promise myself to return to for future projects, yet never seem to have the time to, as more exciting projects beckon to me.

After selecting an image,  the next question is, what do I want to do with it, and how do I set about doing it?  I know some mobile photography artists (also known as iPhoneographers or Androidographers in the mobile photography art world) who have settled on a particular style or technique or subject and use it again and again, until it becomes their trademark.  Not so I. When I begin, I don’t set out to achieve any particular effect; rather, I run the image through this App or that, until I get a look that I think could work.  Then I run that image through another App or two or three or more, and tweak the contrast/saturation/hue/brightness/warmth/size  etc etc, until I am satisfied with the end result. I enjoy the element of chance and randomness that some Apps and filters allow, and sometimes but not always, I can’t decide between two end results, so I keep both.  My style is as eclectic as my subjects, and I use a digital signature to mark all my images as mine.

It may all sound easy, but I assure you, it takes a lot of groundwork and time finding and testing out Apps that I can use for processing images, and filing them on my mobile phone screen accordingly for ease of future reference.  (I will dedicate a future post or two to show you the Apps I use, both on iOS and Android).  These Apps then become my mis-en-place, much like a chef’s store of essential herbs and spices close at hand to his/her workstation.  It is my job to learn how to use these Apps, understand their user interfaces, strengths and limitations.  Then, and only then, am I able to utilise them effectively for processing images.

Mobile photography Art may be “cheating”, in the sense that the elements are pre-fabricated and readily available, subject to creative user tweaking and modification.  But let me give you an analogy, by way of Music.  In the old days, composers would score for an entire orchestra, laboriously writing out individual parts for strings, brass, woodwind and percussion.  If they were lucky enough to have an entire orchestra to hand, they could test out how their music would sound if this instrument did This, instead of That, and Here instead of There, or Now instead of Later.  Those lacking said orchestra would have to contend with playing out the parts on a piano and imagining the timbres of the individual instruments.  Beethoven, of course, when he became profoundly deaf, was such a master that he was able to “hear” the individual strands of his music purely in his head.  Fast forward to the 20th century and the advent of electronic music.  Ahh…now the penny drops.  Suddenly, everyone is a musician, anyone with a mind to can now create music at the touch of a button, the push of a slider, the tweak of a knob.  Is it “cheating”?  Yes, of course it is, in the traditional sense.  Bach, Beethoven and Brahms may be turning in their graves, but maybe not…consider the possibility that if they were alive right now, those three greats could well be jammin’ and jivin’ with the best of them, and utilising the tools available to them.  And creating divine electronic music.

I think it’s not WHAT you use, it’s HOW you use it.  It’s only cheating if you’re following a set formula without deviation, like painting a Van Gogh by numbers and then claiming it is an original.  Or transposing a Chopin Prelude up a 3rd and saying it’s an original (one of my classmates in LaSalle Music College in Singapore actually did that in Composition class, back in 1990; I mean, did he honestly think he could get away with it??).

In my next posts I will let you in on the iOS and Android Apps that I use in creating my mobile photography art and design.

Walter, Wendy, Bob and Edgar

My dear hubby Geoff and I agree to disagree on this one.  He is convinced that his hero and idol, Edgar Froese, is the Father of Electronic Music. Geoff happens to be Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream’s Number One Fan, ever since his eldest brother Leonard brought him to his first Tangerine Dream concert when he was a kid growing up in Ireland.  Geoff is so well known among the members of TD that they fondly call him “Taximan”.  (Geoff drove a taxi in Ireland, and his handle on the TD Forum was Taximan).

As for myself, having grown up living the tenets of Classical Music, my hero and idol of the electronic music era was Walter Carlos (born 14 Nov 1939). Walter was a child prodigy, who won awards for electronic music even in his teens, and who later helped Robert “Bob” Moog develop and fine-tune his Moog synthesizer in the 1960s. Geoff likes to say that Edgar Froese (born 6 June 1944) was the first to use the Moog, however I maintain that even if Tangerine Dream played a big part in making the Moog a household name through their use of the synthesizer in their concerts worldwide, the Moog itself would not have evolved to become the instrument TD used, if not for the work of Walter Carlos in helping Bob Moog develop it.

That is not to say, however, that Walter Carlos is the Father of Electronic Music.  The History of electronic music goes back further than Carlos or Froese.  The premise of electronic music goes back to the 1800s, as far as Thomas Edison and the light bulb.  In the early 1900s there were numerous attempts at capturing “electronic” music such as the Theremin and the Ondes Martenot.  The advent of tape in the 1940s brought with it a whole new dimension to music in the form of Tape Music. Then came “Musique Concrete”, which was an attempt at capturing natural and industrial sounds and shaping them into structured blocks of “music”.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Japanese were experimenting with their own type of electronic music and making technological advances in the field of recording.  In 1951 Sony introduced the first magnetic tape recorder.  In the 50s and 60s came heavyweights Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Milton Babbitt, Edgar Varese, and a plethora of other pioneering 20th century musicians…and after that, and only then, came modular synthesizer music, Walter Carlos, Edgar Froese and Moog. And the rest! (This post is not an exposition on the history of electronic music, for that you’ll need a degree!)

And so we come full circle.  Walter Carlos composed the hit album “Switched-On Bach” in 1968, using the Moog synthesizer.  “Switched-On Bach” stayed at the top of the charts for over 2 years, and won 3 Grammys in 1969.  The success of “Switched-on Bach” prompted the invention of a slew of other synthesizers and revolutionised the music of the 1970s and early 1980s.  Proceeds from sales of the album meant Walter Carlos was able to afford a gender reassignment in 1972, to become Wendy Carlos.  Wendy Carlos composed the music for Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Shining” and Disney’s original “Tron”.  Edgar Froese formed Tangerine Dream in 1967 and was an early adopter of all things electronic; the group is still active to this day and very prolific in producing albums from their own “Eastgate Studios”.

Walter/Wendy is to Classical Music what Edgar is to Krautrock.  Neither is the Father of Electronic Music.

For more information on Walter/Wendy Carlos, here is the Wikipedia link:

For more information on Electronic Music, click here:

For more information on Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream, click this link:

For more information on Bob Moog and the Moog synthesizer, here is the link:

I like to think of the field of Music as a giant multi-coloured ribbon, the various colours denoting different types of Music and different periods of Time.  These colours sometimes intermingle, come together for a brief time and then pull away. Sometimes the mixing of colours produces a different colour altogether, which then either carries on and gains saturation, or trails off and fades away.  The entire Ribbon is constantly rippling and furling and unfurling, carried by the winds of Change.  And all composers and musicians, past, present and future, belong to this great big Ribbon.  I like to think that hubby Geoff, as the contemporary electronic musician ElectroCelt, is part of this great Ribbon of Time, and will one day have his place in history acknowledged by the world.

iPhoneography and Me

My first iPhone was the iPhone 3. I remember wanting to get one on contract while living in Ireland, but as I had no credit file I was denied a contract by all the Irish mobile phone  providers. Undaunted, I went to my local mobile phone shops to enquire if they had any pre-loved iPhones for sale. I thought I’d struck it lucky when in Longford I was shown an iPhone 3G, unlocked, for €200. I asked the boy behind the counter to hold it for me while I went to get cash out of an ATM. He must have changed his mind (maybe he realised he was letting it go too cheaply?), as hardly had I gone round the corner when he rang me to say the owner of the mobile phone had just told him to take it off the market.

So, back to the drawing board. You know the saying how if you can’t get something, it just makes you even more determined to get it? Well, I got it bad all right. I started looking on eBay, and a week later I got lucky and snagged an iPhone 3 for €250. This was in July 2010.

Now, when I bought my iPhone, my intention was to use it as a mobile phone, and for listening to Music and surfing the internet. iPhoneography was not even in my lexicon in July 2010.

It was only in December that year, when I had emigrated to Australia, and, not having a job and too much time on my hands, that I started playing with the camera and Apps. One of my Facebook friends was forever posting up her Instagram photos, and I was fascinated by the grunge look and light leak effects, so I got into my “Total Immersion” Mode and started searching for Lomographic Apps. One thing led to another, and soon enough, I discovered Photo Editing Suites.

The photo editing suite I cut my teeth on was Iris Photo Suite. It was also the App that taught me how to layer and blend composite images, something of a trademark of mine these days. Of course, this was swiftly followed by hundreds (yes, I do mean hundreds) of other Apps for editing photos. I would spend days testing out new Apps, ditching the crappy ones (memory space is always premium real estate on any iPhone) and arranging the good ones into folders. I must have over 30 different folders – labelled “Editors”, “Paint effects”, “Grunge”, “Textures”, “Light effects”, “Space”, etc. I even had a folder for what I call “One Trick Ponies”, you know the ones I mean…where it’s only got one effect or filter that’s cool and the rest are meh, but you have to keep it, just in case.

In March 2011 I came across an iPhone 4 in my local Cash Convertors. It was AUD$600, unlocked. I raided my piggy bank and bought it, and, not wanting to part with my beloved iPhone 3 (which held many sentimental memories for me), gave the 3 to my son.

As the iPhone 4 was much slicker than the 3, my creative work gathered momentum and soon I had gathered a large portfolio of works. My first Big Project was called “Dalienutopia – a celebration of the weird and wonderful wetlands of Western Australia”. This became a Blurb book, my first. At about this time, around April 2011, I discovered several online sites dedicated to iPhoneography. In June 2011, Roger Gilbert and Matt Cooper, founders of the online community and forum Mobitog invited me to become a Moderator on their site.

Mobitog was (and still is) a fun place to meet fellow iPhone artists, to show off images and enter into discussions about all things iPhoneography. I introduced Mobitog’s first ever Challenge, the long-running “Where In The World – Subject to Interpretation”, and hosted several other weekly Challenges, until June 2012 when I decided it was time to move on to concentrate on doing my own thing.

In November 2012 I decided to cross the Great Divide and bought a Samsung Galaxy S3 (shock horror!) on eBay. I didn’t want an iPhone 4S or 5, tempting though they were. I wanted a mobile phone that could do more than just access tens of thousands of Apps. After all, I still had my iPhone 4 and my iPad 2 for that. And now, with my Android mobile phone I find I really have the best of both worlds. I don’t know of many “crossover” mobile photography artists…certainly there are many photographers out there who alternate between, or use both DSLRs and the iPhone, however users seem to be fully pro-Apple/anti-Android or vice versa. Never straddling the fence or drawing on the best of both iOS and Android Apps like I am.

A month ago I snagged myself (on eBay again) a new Samsung Galaxy S4. Nothing wrong with my beloved S3, it was the 13MP camera on the S4 that spoke sweet nothings in my ears and promised me better things to come. By buying an S4 in June, scarcely 3 months after its launch, I thus became an early adopter.

I was never completely happy with being labelled an “iPhoneographer”, so early on in 2011 I started calling myself an “iPhone Artist”. Now I am even harder to pigeonhole, but I think “Mobile Photography Artist” is a close approximation. Or, as I’ve recently found a natural flair for mobile graphic design, make that “AlyZen Moonshadow Mobile Photography Art & Design”. And still I am evolving.

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From one extreme to another – a lesson in Recycling

I live in the affluent West, where people change their cars on a yearly basis, to take advantage of Tax returns at the end of the financial year.  Similarly, other consumer goods are discarded, thrifted, pawned or just thrown away in the name of the End of Financial Year Sales (EOFY).  Oftentimes, it doesn’t even take an EOFY party to make these people replace their still-good items with new ones; sometimes it’s just the wrong colour, or it’s last year’s shape, or it simply has a few scratches and bumps on it.  It’s a real shame and a real waste.

I used to live in the United Kingdom, where thrifted items are donated to Charity Shops and one can buy perfectly serviceable clothes, household items, bedlinen, books, magazines, electrical items, toys, shoes, etc etc for a fraction of the price to buy new.  Now I live in Australia, where there are similar shops dedicated to charities such as the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society etc.  However, over here they’ve evolved into businesses hiring employees, who aren’t simply volunteers anymore, so the prices are higher. Still, it’s cheaper than buying new from the retail shops, and sometimes a lovely vintage piece flies in under the radar. I once bought 2 metres of a beautiful red and green Sari cloth, still in its Indian newspaper wrapping, for the princely sum of $10. And a circular Batik tablecloth from Indonesia, with matching placemats, all for $4. My winter jumpers and cardigans are from the Sally Army.  Unlike some people I know, I have no qualms about buying and wearing second-hand clothes, especially if there’s nothing wrong with them. My motto is Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.

Cash Converters are franchised pawn brokers who take in unwanted goods and then sell them on to other people.  You can bring in anything you don’t want or no longer require, as long as it’s not broken.  It must of course have a resale value, otherwise you’re better off just throwing it away.  Electrical goods, computers, DVDs, PlayStation/XBox/Wii, bicycles, lawnmowers, portable air-conditioning units, gym equipment, cameras, fishing rods are very popular items at Cash Converters. Our local one in Rockingham is always full of unwanted electrical guitars, amplifiers, drum sets, sometimes the odd trumpet, clarinet, flute, cello, violin etc. We live in such a throwaway society.

Geoff likes to browse Cash Converters’ music section, and we ooh and ahh over the glossy finishes and designs of various guitars.  I think it’s a crying shame that perfectly serviceable items such as electric guitars would end up at Cash Converters just because their previous owners had moved on to a newer, swisher model. I wish I was a millionnaire philanthropist, as what I’d do then is this: I’d buy up all those instruments and ship them to poor countries such as South America, India, Cambodia, Africa etc, where I’d set up Youth Recreation Centres and hire musicians who could teach teens and young adults how to play these instruments. And I’d give away these instruments to the teens and young adults, so they can learn how to play music, and socialise with like-minded people, and have a common goal in life.  So they have a chance to better their lives and not suffer like their parents and forebears before them.  I’d arrange for these young musicians to travel the world giving concerts, where a portion of the proceeds would go back to the charity, in order to keep the system self-sufficient.  If I ever struck the Lottery, I’d do this in a flash, and that’s a promise.

A dear friend on Facebook, Catherine Restivo, shared a video of the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra project today.  I was so moved by the video that I’m posting it here so you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about.  Essentially, these young men and women of Cateura, Paraguay, live on the site of a massive landfill, where their parents and grandparents work sorting and sifting through the detritus of humankind. Then someone realised that amongst the general rubbish were hidden gems in the shape of battered and broken musical instruments, and that these parts could be salvaged and put together again to create recycled violins, cellos, etc.  If a genuine part wasn’t available, why then use that old oil drum instead, or that old fork could be used to hold the strings, a gnocchi maker makes a nifty violin peg, water pipes can be bent and beaten into trumpets, spoons and buttons can be used as keys etc.  The idea caught on like wildfire, and the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra was born. Favio Chavez is the creative mind and the Orchestra Director, and Nicolas “Cola” Gomez is the garbage picker-cum-musical instrument maker extraordinaire. Both men, along with the Kickstarter group, are working extremely hard to make the Landfill Harmonic Project a worldwide success, with a film in the innings.

Here is the link to the Landfillharmonic’s Kickstarter Project. The site tells you how it all started, who the key players are, it shows images of the actual instruments made, and the kids playing them.  These guys don’t need any millionnaire philanthropist to help them get started, they’re already well on their way to a bigger, brighter future than the slums of that landfill.  Let’s give them that extra push they need! I want to see them on their World Tour, and I want to watch their Film!  It’s all Sweet Music to my ears.

On Aleatoric Music and Art

Everyone has a childhood hero.  Mine came in the form of a dead 20th century avant-garde composer called JOHN CAGE.  The actor John Hurt (he of the “OMG there’s an Alien baby exploding from his chest!” fame) bears a passing resemblance to John Cage, I wish someone would hurry up and make a movie about Cage (no, not the actor Nicolas, who’s actually not a Cage at all but a Coppola, the nephew of Francis Ford and cousin to Sofia – there, some useful trivia for you).  It would be such an interesting film, and of great historical value too, as John Cage is considered by many to be the most influential composer of the 20th century.

One of John Cage’s favourite methods of composition was to integrate an element of Chance into his Music.  This was done by rolling dice, the use of the Chinese I-Ching, or even something as random as turning the dials on a transistor radio and picking up sporadic words or static. No matter, Cage maintained that Everything was Music, if we but choose to hear it that way. Now, personally I am not a fan of Kate Bush or Bjork, preferring to listen to the sound of cats caterwauling in the rain.  There are certain musicians whose sounds simply grate on my nerves and I cannot bring myself to listen to more than 30 seconds of their music before wanting to pierce my ear-drums with satay skewers. But, even though I may not like their art, their points of view are valid, and their styles and personal message equally so, and as the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, to each his own, ad infinitum. EVERYTHING IS MUSIC.

The point I’m trying to get at is that my past has come full circle to bite me in the backside.  Cage’s Music of Chance has infiltrated my world of Art.  Recently, I stumbled upon an iOS App called “Set Paint Go”, which is another paint and sketch App amongst thousands of other paint and sketch Apps available on the iTunes Store.  What sets “Set Paint Go” apart from its competitors, in my opinion, is its very nifty Random function…where you can simply let it run on its own accord, or set certain parameters (like colour scheme, brush size, brush type, directions, etc) and create your own Abstract Art. It does have a tendency to crash after a few runs, however, but when that happens I simply uninstall and re-install it.  I have not found another App on iOS or Android like it.  The simple beauty of this App is that it lets me create Random, or Aleatoric Art, much in keeping with the Aleatoric Music of John Cage.

For a definition of Aleatoricism, read this

Here are a few examples of Aleatoric Art I have created using “Set Paint Go” on my iPad.  (I thought I’d press home the obvious by using the App “Ransom Notes” to write the word “ABSTRACT” on the image. A bit of overkill, perhaps.





On being ElectroCelt’s other half, and the other half of ElectroCelt

Fast forward a few years, a divorce, a few failed relationships, and one beautiful boy child later…

It is June 2009, in the Republic of Ireland.  (I know, I know…a rolling stone gathers no moss…when I moved to Ireland it was my 20th move in 40 years).  Have you heard of the internet dating website “Plenty of Fish”?  Well, there sure was plenty of fish in the sea, however the fish weren’t all that good a catch.  As I’m sure the men would have said of me, what with being a single parent with a 6 year-old in tow. Enough to cramp any full-blooded man’s style.  So, after a few flops by way of internet dating, I decided what the heck, let’s just look for a friend to talk Music to, instead of trying to find a new life partner.

So, I searched under the keyword “Music” in “Common Interests” and this person Electrocelt appeared at the top of the list.  Now, I was heading out the door to go across the Irish border to Enniskillen for shopping with the kid, but I took 10 minutes to drop Geoff a line inviting him to check out my profile and to connect to talk Music.  His profile had read like he was very busy in his studio creating music, and I wasn’t hopeful of getting a response.  However, when I got home that evening, having survived the border patrols (only joking, there are NO border patrols between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland anymore), there was, sitting in my e-mailbox, a reply from ElectroCelt.  I’d read that he’d produced his debut CD album “Digital Fields”, and I’d asked where I could procure a copy.  He mentioned Amazon, but it was the American site and wouldn’t allow me to purchase an MP3 version of his album.  So, he suggested that we meet up instead so he could pass me a physical copy of the CD.

We met at the Landmark Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim, Republic of Ireland, on 25th June 2009. He handed me his CD, and we started talking about Music.  Before we knew it, the sun had set and it was dinnertime.  Geoff suggested having dinner, so we ended up having Chinese, and the conversation just flowed.  By the time we left to claim our respective cars from the Landmark’s carpark, the time felt right for a first kiss.  Which felt so right, we had another.  It was truly an eventful day for us.  And for the rest of the world too, as that was the day Michael Jackson died.

The rest, as they say, is history.

My first foray into the world of electronic music was as a part of ElectroCelt’s gig for the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival, which bore the strange acronym DEAF.  (The Irish have a really quirky sense of humour, for example, one of the most popular real estate websites is called!)  DEAF was in October 2010.  The gig was a sell-out, ElectroCelt was part of an all-night line-up of various electronic music groups…some of which were most definitely NOT electronic music groups.  We did have another, independent, gig in June 2010, however that was not very well-attended, because apparently the entire population of Dublin had decided to attend a Westlife concert instead just down the road!  No matter, we had fun anyway, and Geoff’s mother Teckla was most proud of her talented son.

ElectroCelt’s 2nd Album (“Strange Elements”, which is very aptly named, as it is also the “lost” album, more of which later if I have the time, but if I forget, please remind me!) was created in 2010-2011 at ElectroCelt’s new Irish HQ, my rented old renovated farmhouse near Carrick-on-Shannon. I was able to put to good use my knowledge and experience of Classical Music, with some Jazzy twists and some Baroque Fugue work thrown in, and help Geoff work on that album. I was also privileged enough to have Geoff’s many synthesisers and software programmes to play with. I never really got the hang of making music using digital means, though I got good at editing later and indeed, helped Geoff reconstruct the track “Sonic Eye Vision” from the ground up. My one and only claim to actually creating a sequence was when I programmed the “Delko Sequence” that would form the spinal cord of the track “Sub Zero Limits” – I got really inspired by a scene from the series CSI Miami, where the character Delko goes scuba-diving for evidence beneath the sea.  (It’s a bit strange now, watching that scene on DVD, as actually, it bears little resemblance to the sequence I programmed!?!)

So anyway, the album “Strange Elements” was finished, and it was July 2011, and Geoff had to get to Australia before August 2010, otherwise his Resident Return Visa would lapse and he would effectively lose his Permanent Residency status. Why Australia?  Well, because the Celtic Tiger was dead, and there were no jobs going anywhere in Ireland and everyone was on the dole…whereas in Australia at least Geoff’s trade (boilermaker/fabricator) would be in great demand in the Mining Services Industry.  Before Geoff left, though, in his last 2 weeks in Ireland, we embarked on a “mini honeymoon” of a series of day trips to various tourist sites (those we could get to and back within the day).  And then it was time for Geoff to go to Australia, while I waited back in Ireland for my Prospective Spouse Visa to be approved, so the kid and I could join him there and start our new life together.

In October 2011, I finally got my Visa.  I packed the house up, got Scruffy dog to the airport (where he’d be flown to Australia and be quarantined for a month, poor sod), and the day after that, the kid and I made our way to Dublin where we’d spend one night at a hotel, and catch the plane bound for London, then Perth, Western Australia the next day.  That was the year of the Big Flood, the Big Fire and the Big Freeze…it was touch and go whether we’d make the flights, as the temperatures were down to Minus 10 degrees and the plane’s engines were frozen and had to be thawed out.  We barely made the connecting flight at London Heathrow. In fact, another couple and I had to argue our way, in true Airport style, to get on our plane.  I mean, come on, it wasn’t our fault our plane got delayed.  And our connecting flight was sitting right there on the tarmac, having its engines defrosted, so why couldn’t we get on that friggin plane.  We demanded to speak to a Supervisor, who came, saw our frustrated faces, and waved us onto the plane, thank goodness for that!

And that was how the kid and I made our grand entrance to hot, sweltering Western Australia 12 hours later.  Minus our luggage.  In just the clothes we stood up in.

From Beanie Babies c.1990s to Hello Kitty and Minions 2013 – a lesson in Economics

Back in the 1990s, half a lifetime ago, I used to work in the City of London.  This was the time when Ty Beanie Babies were all the rage.  First, you could get them as part of your McDonald’s Happy Meal, where they would bring out one mini plush toy a week, which would be snapped up and sold out before the end of the week.  Mind you, these were the miniature versions of the Beanie Babies.  This was how I learned to use the word “Tush Tag”; the tush tags of the minis bore the McDonald’s logo.

The Beanie Babies themselves came in 2 sizes, small as in 7 inches or so, in a matte fabric, and a larger version in a plush material.  At this time, I was heavily involved in making and selling artist Teddy Bears (the correct term for a teddy bear collector or fan is “arctophile”), so you could say I came to the world of Beanie Babies by way of their Teddy Bear figures. In actual fact, Beanie Babies came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from aardvarks to zebus.  OK, I may have made the part up about zebus (does anyone even know what a zebu is these days?), but you get my drift.

Ty Warner, the owner of Ty Inc., prided himself on not having to rely on marketing and advertising his products.  They literally sold themselves, by word of mouth.  Stores around the world, when they realised the demand for the toys, made up all sorts of marketing ploys to generate more and more sales.  One week, you could buy a limited edition Beanie Baby; the next, you could only buy that if you first of all bought 3 other Beanie Babies.  How clever is that!  Some stores even had “Lucky Draws” where buyers of other Beanie Babies could put their names in a box, and one lucky winner walked away with the coveted Limited Edition toy.  It wasn’t unknown for fights to break out amongst women shoppers desperate to get their hands on that elusive toy for their kids (or for themselves, for that matter).  Some University students were reported to have written their final theses in Sales & Marketing about the company Ty Inc.

When Ty announced that they were retiring the Beanie Babies range, it proved what economists had been banging on about…when supplies go down, demand goes up exponentially.  Sales of all Ty products shot through the roof, the company made gazillions.  The actual “retirement” of the range wasn’t felt much, however, as there were still loads of the company’s plush toys on the market.  Still, lots of buyers started snapping up all types of Ty toys, believing them to be the ones due to be retired.

Fast forward 20 years, and to Singapore.  McDonald’s introduced the popular Japanese figure “Hello Kitty” to its Happy Meals.  Normally staid and conservative Singaporeans went mad, queuing up round the block to buy Happy Meals just so they could get their hands on a Hello Kitty.  When the McDonald’s stores ran out of Hello Kitty figures, arguments and fights broke out.  There are several YouTube videos showing irate Singaporean adults arguing with McDonalds staff when told the Hello Kitty figures had sold out.  Singaporeans even went to the extent of doing McDonald’s crawls (sort of like a Pub crawl, only without the alcohol), going from one outlet to another in search of the elusive little kitty.  In neighbouring Malaysia, where the same phenomenon was happening, supermarket trolleys were laid out at McDonald outlets, for customers to deposit their unwanted Happy Meals after they had extracted the Hello Kitty.  I can only hope the uneaten meals were given to the poor and homeless afterwards, instead of being thrown away.

Hardly had the Hello Kitty dust settled, when the Minions made their grand entrance.  Those of you who watched Despicable Me in 2011, and its sequel this year, would know the Minions as the amicable slaves of the ex-villain Gru.  They look like giant yellow capsule pills in denim overalls.  Some of them have one eye, others two, and they wear industrial goggles, as their job for Gru is to engineer and manufacture machines and gadgets for his various villainous schemes.  There are thousands of them.  They have their own language, which sounds like gobbledy-gook, with the odd English word thrown in (“banana”, “potato” and the inexplicable un-PG “underwear”?!).  Anyhow, the same thing is happening to the Minions in Singapore that happened with Hello Kitty.

The kid and I were just in our local McDonald’s this morning, last week we got a yellow “Stuart” Minion who claps his hands or grabs things placed between them, and lights up when you press a button on his back.  Today we got the purple “Babbler” Minion.  In DM2 Gru’s Minions get kidnapped and turned into violent, voracious purple killing machines by way of an experimental serum.  The purple “Babbler” does exactly what it says on the packet – it babbles a mad phrase in Minion language.

Out of curiosity, I checked on eBay as to how Minions were doing.  Here is a screenshot showing completed listings on $30 plus p&p for a purple Minion?  No way!!  I’m soooo having a Minion party of my own!

You could say I’ve now got some Minions of my own…will keep you posted as to how much I make on eBay, hope my economic hunch works out.

Purple Babbler Minion on eBay
Purple Babbler Minion on eBay

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Creating YouTube Videos for ElectroCelt (among other things)

Here is the direct link to my Wix webpage, where I have posted all my YouTube videos that I created for ElectroCelt. I had a lot of fun making these videos using only my iPhone 4 and the App iMovie.!videos/ck0q

Perhaps the best way to describe ElectroCelt’s music is to encourage you to listen to it, and you can also follow him on sites such as ReverbNation and SoundCloud.

I also collaborated with another electronic musician, Brian Vassallo, to create a YouTube video for his music. You can find out more about Brian on his website

If anyone following my humble blog knows of a musician requiring videos of mobile photography art (iPhoneography and Androidography, I’m not discriminatory LOL) to be choreographed with their music and published on YouTube or elsewhere, do pass them my details and get them to contact me, please. I would dearly like to create more music videos! I am privileged to have a feel for Music, due to my background in Music, and also for Photography, and I consider my videos to be a dance choreograph between Music and Images.