C0unt WAVnstein Blog

Q1)  Why do you call yourself C0unt WAVnstein?


A1) The name was made up by the wonderful Suzy Blue.  I always ask her to come up with names of things because she's much better at it than me.  So I asked her for a name.  She was thinking of something goth, because we both like that kind of stuff, and Mixed Count Dracula and Doctor Frankenstein.  The WAV part of it came from the fact I'm an audio technologist by craft and education, and use wavs, and other pulse code modulated signals, a lot.

Q2) What the fuck is F3ar 1s  A Pr1s0n?

A2) F3ar1sAPr1s0n►, sometimes written this way so it won't show up on search engines, is my way of having a political rant without making people angry.  When I was young, I used to debate everyone around me about politics if they didn't agree with me.  Eventually, one day at my work, the woman I was working beside lost her temper, grabbed my tie, pulled me over the table so we were nose to nose and told me she'd had it up to the eyeballs with me constantly belittling her views and forcing my negativity down her throat.  At that point, it suddenly hit me in the form of a revelation that not everyone wanted to debate politics.  Instead, FIAP lets me have a rant in musical form and vent my political frustrations harmlessly.

I use an animated character called Fiona Price, that I created in Second Life, to be the front woman of FIAP.  Fiona Price is another Suzy Blue name that is roughly a truncation of Fear Is A Prison.  That way, people who despise my brand of radical socialism of the long forgotten type can direct their ire at her instead of me.  She generally wears a suit and tie and nerd glasses, and can be seen dancing in the Fear Is A Prison videos.  She also has bit parts in some of the Popping Cherries videos, where she stars as Scary Miss Mary, our electronic drummer.  She's even been the star of machinimas, with Suzy Blue acting as her voice.

Q3) Why does The Moonstruck Project sound like it was recorded with a ten quid mic from Tandy when you're supposed to be a post grad audio technologist with decades of audio engineering experience?

A3) To start with, I'll explain what the Moonstruck Project is.  It's goth, black metal, fetishism, witchcraft, paganism and songs about weirdos and loners, mixed in a blend of stylistic copycatting and breaking every rule of audio engineering and music production.  This project contains, in my opinion, some of my best music writing.  On the lyrical side, it features wonderful writing by Suzy Blue on Pirates of The Search For Meaning, using the logical and semantic structures of the English language in combinations of pure genius.  On the instrumental side, it also features appearances by Ayrshire guitarist, Alan Frew, an absolute creative tour de force and one of the best guitarists anywhere, and the inimitable Bruno Stachel of Kuato Hammer, a synth expert and electronic music aficionado with a genius for musical arrangement and miracle riffs.    This project seemed to strike a chord with pagans when it was released, and garnered some international airplay on radio and in goth nightclubs.

Why it sounds like it does is because I've already done plenty of sound recordings for a variety of people that sound glossy, airy and in line with the nice "good" production values of the industry.  Personally, I prefer music that sounds ragged, torn and fucked up, like the early post punk bands and the early black metal bands.  For Fear Is A Prison I achieved this fucked-upness by using old 8-bit samplers from the late 1980's / early '90's,  bit crushers and various distortion and saturation effects.  With Moonstruck, I got it by tracking the guitar through a Boss Metalizer pedal into a one watt Marshall Micro Stack, which was then DI'd, a cardinal sin when recording electric guitar unless you're using a profiler or amp modeller.  I've never been interested in what people can do with a large team of people, in a hundred grand studio, working with almost checklist like conformity.  I'm interested in seeing what people can do when they go out for a walk into the hinterlands of music production acceptability.  I will admit that there have been times when I have crossed that grey area and strayed into the realms of producing very expensive utter tosh, especially in the old days when studios were behind thousands of pounds of paywall, but you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs. 


Q4) Why do you hang around in graveyards and old buildings?

A4) Again, old obsessions.  As long as I can remember I always loved ghost stories, witches, vampires, ruined castles, things that go bump in the night.  The area I live in is full of old ruins that are shrouded in mysticism, with just about all of them having ghost stories and sightings.  It's one thing I've never gotten bored of, and doubt I ever will.  Gwen seems to be on the same wavelength, hence the Popping Cherries project coming to pass.  It's been known for us to drive hundreds of miles on shit roads to find the perfect location for some of the Cherries videos.  Having a car that's nearly ten years old and needs new wishbones, I do make sure to retain shit-hot AA cover, just in case.

I grew up next to a woodland with two ruined castles in it (one of which has now been restored and opened by the National Trust), and local legends about a white lady that haunted them.  Many a childhood hour was spent climbing around the ruins.  That could be what stirred my imagination in this direction, or it could just be that I was always going to be a weirdo.  Who knows these things?


Q5) Why are you so obsessed with dystopian futures and the misuse of machines?

A5) Because I'm in one and they are being misused.  All the things the sci-fi writers of my childhood warned about are coming to pass.  Corrupt governments owned by equally corrupt corporations (a-la G Police, Neuromancer and Blade Runner), high tech and low-life, control and manipulation of information used to turn us into a billion strong flock of sheep, unmanned drone strikes, automated cars that drive into aeroplanes et cetera.  My mistake was thinking the singularity, the moment when technology would change faster than humans can adapt, would be a sudden, one off event.  Now I realise it unfolds over decades and we're already somewhere in the middle of it.

This probably all sounds like conspiracy nutterism to a lot of people.  I'm only offering this as an opinion on one possible future we could sleepwalk into, and I don't believe there is any conspiracy, just people doing what they think they're entitled to do.  If you were Mark Zuckerberg and you were in charge of Facebook, the Winklevoss twin's invention, and someone offered to make you a multi billionaire for collecting information on your user base with it, what would you do?  These people aren't necessarily evil, although the Zuckmeister certainly seems quite a nasty piece of work, they're generally just cogs in a machine that is causing events to unfold with potentially dreadful outcomes.

I also do not have fanciful beliefs about machine learning systems thinking it will be an amusing wheeze to take over the world one morning.  We know from looking at things like Google's LaMDA that it's perfectly possible to hard code behavioural inhibitors into an AI.  I think it far more likely that humans will use them on ourselves, in much the same way we use our guns and bombs on ourselves at the moment, target our nukes at ourselves and inflict economic woes on ourselves.  If we don't use AI on ourselves, it'll be the first invention we didn't.


Q6) What the hell do you mean when you bang on about how information must be free?  Surely it is free.  If you want to know something you use Google, free of charge.

A6) Information must be free does not mean free as in gratis.  In that sense it already is free, all stored and watched over by machines of loving grace in the library of everything, to which we all (well, most of us) have access.   What I mean by information must be free is that it should not be collected and collated by monolithic corporate entities who then profit to the tune of billions for doing naughty things with it.  People should have the right to know who holds information about them, what that information is, and in most cases the right to decide whether or not they want it deleted.  In cases where information cannot be deleted on demand (medical records or driving license endorsements for example), the information should be publicly owned by bodies that are accountable, and treated with confidentiality; never disseminated without the express permission of the subject of the information.  Finally, we should have the right to demand justice if information held about us is abused.

In short, what I mean is the Information should not be bought and sold by profiteering gluttons who sell it to unscrupulous characters that use it to manipulate us.  In physical-space, the police have to obtain court orders and warrants with justifiable grounds for suspicion before they break in and ransack our property.  The same standards should apply in machine-space.  We should have a right to know who is rifling our virtual filing cabinets and why.  Most of all, we should have the right to stop them if what they are doing with it is frivolous or unscrupulous.

Q7) Isn't Second Life for weirdos and misfits?

A7)  I've never claimed I was normal.  Anyway, whatever else it is, it's an excellent place for geeks to create things cheaply and quickly.  It has an asset store that's practically limitless in the scope of what you can buy in it, usually for pennies.  I have been known to use Unity as well, and fully intend to try out Unreal at some point, but Second Life is my favourite.  The building is fast and easy and the scripting is relatively simple.  More importantly, I've met some great friends and had some great times in Second Life.


Q8)  What is Phosgenic Ripper Productions

A8) A phosgene is a type of poisonous gas that was commonly used in wars in the early twentieth century.  In actual fact that has absolutely nothing to do with Phosgenic Ripper productions is.  It's an anagram, Phosgenic Ripper, of Popping Cherries, the name of our band that we started this to try to give an online home to.  I'd love to be able to say that one of us was smart and inspired enough to just spot that off the cuff; in fact we put Popping Cherries into an anagram creator and decided that Phosgenic Ripper was the coolest sounding thing that popped out the other end of it.

Q9) In the days of Tik Tok, three second soundbites, machine algorithms, mixing by checklist, EBU R128 targets and your idea of socialism being as dead as the dodo, aren't you just a middle-aged dinosaur in the advanced stages of becoming extinct?

A9) To steal a quote from Gowron in Star Trek The Next Generation...  Perhaps...  but not today.

Q10) So given all you've said, you'll be using an OS like Linux or FreeBSD?

A10) I love exploring operating systems.  When it comes to actual coding I'm a disaster, but I do love poking around an OS and figuring out what makes it tick and how it's put together.  Most of my computers have Linux on them.  I have one with Windows 10 because of compatibility issues with certain bespoke audio hardware I have, so I'm not quite as good an open source / free software purist as someone like Richard Stallman. if I need to do something and can't find an alternative I will resort to using proprietary software.  That said, I do not intend to have Windows 11 on an computer of mine, ever.  It's just too dastardly in how it's conceived; it routinely doesn't just break userspace, it shits all over it.  I have a fully functional audio and video studio that runs purely on AV Linux MX, so I can leave Windows behind when it comes to that.  If I do end up having to use Windows 11 for any of my audio hardware, it will be on a PC that's air-gapped as soon as the installation is complete.  I've been told I'm old fashioned for thinking this way, but I believe the my computers (and what's on them) and the internet should be two completely different things, and that the boundary between them should be at my router, not in cloud storage.  I do break this self imposed rule as well to some extent.  I do have a YouTube channel for my projects, and I do use social media to an extent, but I also keep copies of all my stuff on local storage and backup facilities.

I also have a PC that runs AROS, which is a port of Amiga OS that runs on PC's, and I have an old MacBook that has an ancient version of MacOS, which is BSD based.




SK8 YA MUTHAS

Visiting Monmouthshire in South Wales with Suzy Blue, the other Angry Tree, I was rather taken with this sign instructing people using the close and alleyway next to Waitrose not to skate or ride bicycles.  Being of an age where I now have the common decency to appreciate the need for safety, particularly around more vulnerable members of society, I would be inclined to get off my skateboard and walk, if I still dared to get on a skateboard these days.

That said, I couldn't help but contemplate how my teenage self would have reacted to this authoritarian clamp down circa 1989.  Again, at the age of 48, I have absolutely no wish to end up in court and be publicly ridiculed by the local Monmouthshire press for attacking the wall with a spray can, so I took a photograph of it with the mobile and added some virtual spray paint and stencil work, so it can be put to good use in a Second Life sim or Unity cyberpunk city.  Or both, for that matter.

STABLE DIFFUSION AI

I can't say I'm 100% comfortable with AI and what it's likely to be used for, mainly putting people out of jobs so everything can be done on the cheap, but it's here whether I like it or not, and it's not going anywhere.  Therefore, it would probably be very foolish not to learn how it works and see what you can do with it.

The text to art AI still makes a lot of hideous mistakes, especially with regard to things like hands and eyes, but perseverance with it can get some interesting results, like the picture adjacent, which is Stable Diffusion's idea of what Fiona Price, the F3ar 1s A Pr1s0n avatar, looks like. 

I'd much rather see machine learning used to do the things humans can't do, like analysing how genes network for example.  Unfortunately for me, I doubt I'll be the one who gets to choose.


The Joy of Finding a New Filming Location

At the time of commencing this blog post, I am 47 years, 3 months, 18 days, 22 hours and 34 minutes old.  I have lived in the outskirts of Ayr for all of that time, apart from a few sporadic weeks here and there in Southern France during my youth.  In all that time , I'd never known there was an extensive tract of park and woodland that can be entered on foot around fifty yards to the north west of Alloway's Auld Kirk, the ruined kirk and graveyard that was made famous by Robert Burns' poem, Tam O'Shanter.

On the way home from doing some filming there, we returned to the car, which was parked in Shanter Way, and had a conversation about what might be down the path at the end of the road, and so we went and looked.  As well as the ruin above, once the entrance to a preparatory school that was demolished in 1967, these grounds boast a multitude of excellent locations for including in shots for music videos. 

Even smashing the glass screen on my mobile phone (miraculously none of the crystals underneath were damaged) when it managed to fall out of my very impractical waistcoat pocket (dressing up like the Laird of Auchtermuchty with a buttoned up waistcoat, starched collar and tie up to eleven has somehow, to the disquisitive amusement of a number of silver haired, female dog walkers we've met out working, become my uniform for music videos and photos) was worth it to find this place which will give us many hours of filming fun, and give us a location within minutes traveling distance that we haven't used to death already.

We do plan on doing a field trip to Yorkshire later in the year to create some videos in the ambit of Whitby; to write and record some songs with no technological or human distractions, much like Led Zeppelin did in Bron-Yr-Aur in rural Wales.  Speaking of Wales, on my many visits to Monmouthshire to visit Suzy Blue's family I've been shown many locations so awesome they absolutely demand us to hire a vehicle and go there, even if it does mean braving the stretch of motorway around Preston, Liverpool and Manchester to get there.  


Not Quite So Justified Ancients of Mu Mu

The KLF are a band I haven't thought much about since the 1990's, before they retired from the business of creating music, when both the band and myself were in our hey-days.  Recently, I watched a documentary film, Who Killed The KLF, and was very taken with their ability to pull off absurd stunts that they used to manipulate the media.  This culminated in the burning of a million quid in cash that they'd withdrawn from their bank accounts.  Sadly and quite obviously, emptying my bank account and burning the £23.64 currently residing in it until payday is unlikely to garner much media hysteria.  This forced me to think of starting smaller.  

One idea that occurred was having a huge banner made up with the Phosgenic Ripper logo and web address, driving out in the middle of the night and hanging it somewhere highly visible and totally inappropriate, where it would drive people to this site.  Even this turned out to be stymied by poverty.  To get a banner made up of a decent enough size starts at around two hundred and fifty quid, around ten times the £23.64 in my bank balance.  With the current cost of living crisis, there's no way I can justify wasting three ton on something intended to be confiscated by the police within sixty minutes. 

The thinking goes on...  What I do have the funds to do is buy several hundred Phosgenic Ripper stickers, and we can start by plastering them anywhere that won't get us arrested.  If I do ever achieve sufficient notoriety I'll probably try to arrange a duet with Janelle Monáe, who has very different musical influences from me, which can work very well as a combination on a record, but the same sartorial influences.


The Graylands Tapes

The Graylands Tapes is made up of songs that are basically orphans, stuff I'd done for various projects, or for no good reason at all except that I had too much time on my hands and an idea in my head.

I did have quite a bit of fun working on some of the songs on this album with Julia Caples, who is a celebrity in the USA as a real life vampire, who actually drinks human blood.  She wanted some pieces of music to use in videos that wouldn't throw up copyright problems, so I made her some tracks that she could cut in bits and re-edit to use as she wished.  On the track Julia's Blood, I had Welsh actress Stephanie Burton doing an absolutely brilliant, and very school teacherish, reading of the biological facts relating to blood.  

In return for this, Julia did a wonderful write-up of my first vampire novel and put it in the Darkrose Journal, her dark, alternative lifestyle magazine that focused around being a real, living vampire.  We spent a fair amount of time in long phone conversations where we discussed blood, fetishism and lifestyles.  Unfortunately, she seems to have withdrawn from online life and I've not seen her in a few years. 

Julia Caples a.k.a. Julia Darkrose

Also fun was working with Vickki Cullen, better known as Vicereine de Mournay by some people, on a project called Razor Blade Whispers, which we are now reviving, that combined music with dramatic readings of poetry and excerpts from my vampire novels.  Vickki wrote the wonderfully atmospheric lyrics for The Cold North Wind.  I wrote the song Victoria Sometimes about her, the inner conflict in her personality, how she can't reconcile her light and dark sides and get the voices to fade to one (I should probably apologise to Penelope Farmer for being the second person to nick her book).

I met Vicereine on The Darkness Forum, an old style message board where you posted a message and waited for people to reply to it.  These seemed to have evolved from the older BBS boards that were popular before the World Wide Web.  Nowadays most of the message forums seem to have been superseded by social media like Twitter, but back in the late 1990's and early 2000's you could have endless fun on these places and make new, likeminded friends.

Vicereine De Mournay

Sometimes Not Knowing What You're Doing Can Create Interesting Art

Itch was the first song I ever wrote and recorded, at first with the inimitable Amelie Lenoir, who was lead vocalist and songwriter in Paris based bands Shetan and Ashka.  She and Mikael Jeambrum, a music producer, also Parisian, came up with the idea of having the delays on the vocals to fill the huge amount of sonic space on the verses.  This was done before there was such a thing as a fast broadband connection, and the multitrack was sent over to Paris on a CD in the capable, pre-privatization, hands of Royal Mail.

The track was recorded with the only microphone I had at the time, this little ten quid thing from Tandy, into a four track device.   Effects like reverb, compression and EQ, had to be added very laboriously with a computer running a dodgy copy of CoolEditPro, and then the audio sent back to the four track.  The electric guitar was recorded by DI, a cardinal sin committed because I didn't even have a working amplifier at the time, and the distortion added again with CoolEditPro.  This is how the track ends up with the hideous, completely over the top, rasping guitar sound on it; the fact that just about every rule imaginable to a sensible audio engineer was broken actually giving me the makings of my future signature sound.

Also worth mentioning is Jennifer May Leith, the poet who provided the lyrics.  Her lyrics, on this and other songs, I can only describe as being about the darkest I've ever read.  Jenny, like myself, is a hard-bitten Scot, but from the completely opposite end of the country, away up in the north east.


Itch

Like blood from a stone, 

I should have fuckin' known, 

Your Sun would milk me dry.

My Fever alone; I'm burned, blistered, 

Skin left to peel...

I scratch to much to ever fuckin' heal.


I blame you, disciple to you

Now I'm alone, my fever alone.


Father you led and sinner I followed

I took of your flesh and felt it scald;

My eyes forced shut, my burning sight,

Even now I don't see the light.

You said these scars would dry out

But I'll never be clean.


I blame you, disciple to you

Now I'm alone, my fever alone.


The other Itch below on the right I recorded later by myself, using much more sophisticated techniques and equipment.  The dark hole I'm standing pulling a face in for the photo was later converted into a recording studio where I did most of my business from.  I still to this day don't think it's as cool as the Itch I recorded with Amelie with no equipment and not really knowing what I was doing, mainly because her vocal performance was awesome.

The Prophecy

As my fiftieth birthday looms ever closer, I've started trawling hard disks on old computers going through half finished projects and tracks that I wasn't quite satisfied with, or just never did anything with, looking to pull it all together and finish them off while I still, touch wood, have my health and happiness.  One such track was called Prophecy, a trance track written by myself and Bruno Stachel of Kuato Hammer, with vocals from Charlene Jones, a local singer of considerable talent and very powerful voice.  We used a Roland MC-909 and FL Studio for drum beats and synth arpeggios, into Cubase Nuendo, which we used to add automated filters.

I'd never written or produced much trance music at this point in time, so for homework I got copies of Trevor Reilly's Down With The Underground, Fragma's You Are Alive and System F's Out of The Blue and listened to them dozens of times to figure out how they were put together and engineered.  Bruno Stachel had a good idea of how they worked in compositional terms.  I even took a break from my usual dour Scotsman stance and wrote a nice lyrical refrain, with a positive vision for the future of mankind, instead of my usual dire warnings about the rise of right wing populism, the deliberate destruction of any kind of regulated or organised economy, and of course the deliberate and destructive misuse of machine learning algorithms and information.

"We are all the living prophecy, we are wakened to our unity"

We got as far as recording a demo of it, under a project we set up called Westcoast Trance, imaginatively named because it was trance and because we live on the west coast.  Ten years or so later, I found the two track stereo mixdown of the demo and added a few new stems and another kick drum that I used to side compress the fuck out of it.  With that and a bit of nasty digital distortion we have a track sounds more complete, along with a video of the all singing all dancing Fiona from F3ar‡1s‡A‡Pr1s0n doing her thing on a crumbling overpass in a decaying cyber punk city block.  

THE T.H. WHITE QUOTE

"We find that at present the human race is divided into one wise man, nine knaves, and ninety fools out of every hundred. That is, by an optimistic observer. The nine knaves assemble themselves under the banner of the most knavish among them, and become 'politicians'; the wise man stands out, because he knows himself to be hopelessly outnumbered, and devotes himself to poetry, mathematics, or philosophy; while the ninety fools plod off under the banners of the nine villains, according to fancy, into the labyrinths of chicanery, malice and warfare. It is pleasant to have command, observes Sancho Panza, even over a flock of sheep, and that is why the politicians raise their banners. It is, moreover, the same thing for the sheep whatever the banner. If it is democracy, then the nine knaves will become members of parliament; if fascism, they will become party leaders; if communism, commissars. Nothing will be different, except the name. The fools will be still fools, the knaves still leaders, the results still exploitation. As for the wise man, his lot will be much the same under any ideology. Under democracy he will be encouraged to starve to death in a garret, under fascism he will be put in a concentration camp, under communism he will be liquidated.” -- T. H. White (Terence Hanbury)

Reasons To Never Connect Microsoft Windows To The Internet

Reason 1: To reboot into a command prompt on Windows 10 now requires a Hotmail account and password. This, in effect, amounts to requiring permission from Microsoft every time anyone wants to make an alteration to the workings of their own computer. Alterations can be made to the OS via the registry, however, by the time latest versions of Windows 10 have been first booted to the GUI, the user has already pegged their copy of Windows to a Hotmail account.​

Reason 2: Windows Update. Microsoft now routinely backdoor Windows 10 and in the home edition force the user to apply updates. Turning off the Windows Update service will not circumvent this as Microsoft will now aggressively re-enable Windows Update even after the user has disabled it. This would be bad enough at the best of times, but since 2018, recent Windows Updates do not actually work on a large percentage of PC’s, causing them to crash on restart and go into something like a perpetual booting up and shutting down Möbius loop. There are third party solutions, like the Sledgehammer script (link below), that will disable Windows Update, but even then Microsoft will backdoor your copy of Windows and install updates while you perform procedures like updating drivers. As of 2020, Microsoft aren’t even pretending not to be using back doors that allow any change whatsoever to made to a user’s system without their consent.

Reason 3: After buying new PC’s the user is forced to either use Linux to copy data from the old hard disk (Windows file permissions don’t cut much ice with Linux) or try to seize ownership of the files on the old hard drive. There is a useful registry hack on MajorGeeks (link below) that helps with this. Personally, I find it easier just to plug in a USB hard disk docker and use Linux to access the files.  Why on Earth should anyone have to hack their way through the Windows file permissions system to obtain their own data?

Reason 4: Windows 11 will only support Intel 8th Gen and beyond CPU’s. I’m not sure whether this is perfidious (almost certainly), just plain stupid (most definitely) or both. Microsoft are seemingly now backtracking on this, coming up with “workarounds” that will allow users to install Windows 11 at their own risk, with no guarantee of driver compatibility, system stability or eligibility for updates, even security ones.

Reason 5: If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. Windows 10 collects “telemetry”, sensitive and not. This telemetry collection cannot be turned off. It includes stuff like diagnostic data, passwords, contacts, URL's, P2P-update sharing and unique ID tracking tokens. Windows monitors what features and applications are used, and how often. Cortana sends Microsoft data on the user’s location. If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear? Why not write an Arsebook Post with all your bank and credit card details? Or how about a post about you and your partner’s sexual fetishes?

Links:

Sledgehammer:

https://m.majorgeeks.com/files/details/wumt_wrapper_script.html

Take ownership:

https://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/take_full_ownership_of_files_folders_registry_hack.html


A Call For Responsible Use of Technology

The moment people start using a technology it becomes an immutable certainty that the technology will become politicized. There will be a price levied on anyone who wants access to the technology. Patents will be used to allow the owners of the technology to use it to concentrate massive amounts of wealth in a tiny number of hands. In the case of pharmaceuticals used to control illnesses, this can lead to many people paying vastly inflated sums for drugs that cost next to nothing to produce and lead to the deaths of those people who can’t afford them. These drugs are still charged for at exorbitant prices long after the research and development costs have been recouped.

Part of this is caused by creative misuse of the patents system. Using the example of insulin, Banting, Best and Collip, when they isolated Insulin in 1921, sold the patents for $1 US each, to make sure that cheap insulin became widely available as rapidly as possible. In 1977 Eli Lilly, the company that produced most of the world’s insulin, switched from harvesting insulin from foetal pig Langerhans islets to insulin production from recombinant DNA technology. As revealed by Mendosa (2015), Luo and Gelland (2020) and Hirsch (2016), this led to a considerable decrease in the cost of producing insulin, but the price of insulin rose dramatically after the new method of insulin production was patented and marketed as Humulin in 1982. When this patent was old enough for generic forms of Humulin to start being produced another patent was applied for, this time for the first insulin analogue, Lispro, and another price hike. Lispro, incidentally, is Humulin with a single amino acid altered.

This, continuing with the insulin example, is also exacerbated by price-fixing. Mendosa noted that Sanofi increased the price of insulin glargine 16.1 percent. “And literally the next day, Novo Nordisk increased the price of insulin detemir (Levemir) 16.1 percent. In fact, this pattern repeated six months later, and this has actually happened 13 times for these two products that have total U.S. sales of $11 billion.” Lawsuits have also been used to delay the production of biosimilar insulin products that could potentially drive down prices through competition.  This contention is backed up by Luo and Gelland, who also noted synchronised price hiking with insulin producers matching each other's price rises precisely. ​

In another case, described by Mole (2018), Turing Pharmaceuticals, run by disgraced pharmaceutical executive and hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, bought the rights to Darapim, an off patent drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, with no competition for its production and sale. They immediately raised the price of the drug from $13.50 to $750.00 per pill, $35,000 per prescription. This was not the only such case. In 2015 alone, more than 300 generic drugs saw prices increase by more than 100 percent.

The ability of the people who own technologies to lobby government officials with hard cash means that no meaningful regulation is brought in to control the price-fixing of technologies above the market value. In the case of the latest smart phone upgrade this is not a life-threatening problem and prices are controlled by market counter forces since people can either take or leave it. In the case of drugs, housing and energy supply, the market counterforce that would drive prices down ceases to exist since people do not have any choice over whether or not they buy the product. People tend to pay any amount of money for medical treatment if the alternative is a painful death, while the people who run the price-fixing drug cartels are quite content to put their desire for unlimited profit above other people’s right to live.

Technological advancement has led to vast economic growth that has only benefited a small percentage of the population. We have huge socialistic largesse for wealthy people who can lobby politicians, and capitalism red in tooth and claw for everyone else. Those of us who are not wealthy technocrats and oligarchs have seen decades of wage deflation and stagnation. This has seen the rise of Dickensian levels of poverty, depravity, violence, substance abuse and diseases thought to have been long consigned to the dustbin of history. The people who control information control the technology that propagates information. The people who control the technology control the politicians and lawmakers. Meanwhile the public are treated like mushrooms, fed shite and kept in the dark. Information must be free, or society will end up in chains.

​References:

Hirsch, Irl B., 'Costs Associated With Using Different Insulin Preparations' (2015).

Hirsch, Irl B., 'Changing Cost of Insulin Therapy in the U.S.', (2016).

Luo, J., Gellad, W.F., 'Origins of the Crisis in Insulin Affordability and Practical Advice for Clinicians on Using Human Insulin.' Curr Diab Rep 20, 2, (2020).

​Mendosa, D., 'Why Insulin Costs So Much'  Based on an earlier article publish by Health Central, accessed at http://www.mendosa.com/blog/?p=3529, (2020).

​Mole, B., 'The 5,000% price hike that made Martin Shkreli infamous is no longer paying off', (2018).



How Do Governments Make Their Money?


The uses of phrases like "other people's money" by right wing neo-liberal politicians like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May is not accidental, but a deliberate mischaracterization of social-democratic economic models as raiding members of the public's income.  It could be imagined that many politicians use this language because they lack the intellectual prowess to understand basic economics, after all, our politicians are not, on the whole, a particularly impressive lot, being composed chiefly of intellectual lightweights and economic illiterates.  That said, this is hardly likely in the case of Margaret Thatcher or a number of ex-Chancellors of the Exchequer.

​As revealed by Pettifor (2018), Akram and Li (2020) and Murphy and Hines (2010), gilt bonds are used to finance the Government's net spending requirements and to refinance maturing debts.  Most Treasury gilts are bought by pension funds and insurance companies, with the interest, or yield, on the gilts serving as an income source; maintaining its value until claims are made on the funds.  Typically, the money will be returned to the taxpayer many years down the line when pensions are paid out or insurance is claimed, so in a circular process, the money paid in interest ultimately returns to taxpayers on their retirement.​

In reality, as outlined by Murphy and Hines (2010), the gilts that the Bank of England are buying are not the same ones that the treasury is selling at any point in time.  In the wake of the 2008 GFC, The Bank of England has pushed interest rates to their lowest in decades.  The upshot of this is that banks and pension funds that have sold government gilts to the Bank of England as part of the 2009 quantitative easing measures are in profit since they would have bought these gilts previously at a lower price.​

While it is impossible to know exactly how much profit, Murphy and Hines (2010), suggest that much of the £200 billion QE package in the wake of the 2008 crisis could have been turned to profit almost immediately, to the point where banks in 2009 were back in profit and bankers bonuses restored.

​In the time of Theresa May's Government, the Debt Management Office held an auction that was overbid by £2 billion.  The Government had hoped to raise £3 billion; investors were so keen to buy British gilts that they were willing to hand over more than £5 billion.  As a result of this overbidding, the interest rate on the gilt was 1.3% at a time when inflation was 2.4%.  This meant the interest the Government paid was negative and that investors are paying the Government to lend money to them, parking it in a safe treasury gilt, and still managing to profit.​

The key issue here is that in financing for investment, borrowing comes first and taxation later.  Taxation is generally a consequence of levies on income, property or transactions.  We take a job and only at the end of the month are we paid and our tax deducted.  It is only after buying and selling goods or services that taxes like VAT can be deducted.  Only after money changes hands can capital gains tax be paid.  This is why all governments finance activities by borrowing.  The process of raising money from gilts in what's now the UK is as old as the Bank of England itself. ​

While this process is perfectly legitimate and transparent, using a financial crash to justify over a decade of austerity when the banking system at the heart of the crisis was returned to profit almost immediately is not, nor is the calumny of accusing any government that takes an interest in improving public services of tax raids on "other people's money".​

​References:

​Akram, T., Huiqing L.,  'The Empirics of UK Gilts’ Yields' , Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, (2020).

​Murphy, R., Hines, C., 'Green quantitative easing: Paying for the economy we need.' Norfolk: Finance for the Future, (2010).

​Pettifor, A., 'How Governments Finance Their Spending (and its not from taxation)', (2018).


Just For Fun - The Six Minimum Requirements For A Turing Complete Language

Assignment Operator:  The purpose of assignment operation is to assign a value to variables.  The assignment operator causes the value of the right hand operand to be allocated to the variable named on the left hand side of the operator.  The resulting assignment expression is the value assigned to the left hand operand.

​For  example, the following C code will assign the left hand variable x the value of the right hand operand, 10, and the printf will output the value of x to the console.   The following line will then add one to value of x and then the printf will output the new value of x to the console.  %d tells printf to take the next argument and print it as an integer.  \n tells printf to start on a new line.

​​int main()

{

    int x;

    x = 10;

    printf ("%d", x);

    

    x = x + 1;

    printf ("\n%d", x);

}

​Comparison Operator:  Comparison operators compare values and return a Boolean true or false.  Comparison operators include less than < , more than > , less than or equal to < = , more than or equal to > = , strictly equal to = = = , and strictly not equal to ! = = = .


Jump Instruction:  Changes the instruction pointer register.  The jump instruction transfers the program sequence to the memory address specified in the operand.

Halt Instruction:  The halt instruction suspends CPU operation until an interrupt or reset is received.  While in the halted state, the processor will execute NOP (no operation) commands to maintain memory refresh logic.

Increment / Decrement Operator:  Increment operators will add one to the value of an operand.  Decrement operators will subtract one from the value of an operand.  This is useful for increasing or decreasing the value of a pointer by an amount that makes it point to the element adjacent in memory.

​​

Input / Output:  Any programmable computer must have the ability to let the user read from and write to its memory.


ANSI Fear Is A Prison Logo

Ansi is a form of text art that was used in the old days to create images for BBS sites.

In the 1980's, server space and bandwidth were very limited.  Download speeds are faster now by a factor of ten thousand, and storage space has increased by a factor of millions.

As such, uploading images, even compressed ones like jpegs, to BBS sites was out of the question.  It would have been far too slow and far too expensive.

Instead, ANSI text was used to draw text art pictures that could be stored with the same amount of memory as normal text, since ANSI was one byte per character.

The people who created this art began to come up with more and more innovative ways to create works of increasing intricacy and try to outdo each other.  This led to the emergence of an ANSI art scene with competing groups releasing art packs on the demoscene. 

The shading in the image is achieved by having different blocks that have different ratios of the foreground colour to the background colour in them, so that you can creat colour gradients.  That's how the gloop effect in the image on the left is created with the reflection in the drop of blood.

My ANSI Entries At The 2019 Flash Party, 5 and 6 in The Compo

Mariola, The Sexualised A.I.

One thing that's no great secret, that anyone who knows me can tell you, is that I am deeply sceptical about the long term effects of AI.  I don't for a second see the terminator scenario coming true, because that is simply not how AI works.  What I do see, however, is the distinct possibility that the misbehaving human race, in our inimitable style, will use AI to inflict gross acts of self-harm at worst, and to turn ourselves into a race of feckless do-nothings at best.

All that being said, when you give the AI a sexy avatar and put it in Club Cathedral in Second Life as chatbot barmaid called Mariola, with physical movements and female attributes, all of a sudden I become interested and quite taken with it.  I don't know whether that just says that I'm a very shallow person that gynoid AI will find very easy to dupe, whether I should take heart in the fact that knowing my weakness in this respect will allow me to be more en garde against it, or both.  

Interesting times lie ahead...

Making a Tune Out of a Single 130Hz Sine Wave

Combining Music, Audio and Second Life, several of my favourite things, I created this piece of dirty, smelly, dystopian music out of a single sine wave at 130.813 Hz, which is C3, the C an octave below middle C.  This was run through three parallel signal chains with bit crushers, chorus effects, equalizers, saturators, delay, reverb, compressors, gates and distortion.  This was then summed down to a bus with side compression on it for some volume enveloping.  I then bounced the treated sine wave into a sample and put it into a mod-tracker, which I used to slice it and piano roll it to get the melody line.  I then used Second Life to get the video of Fiona walking down the street, a Commodore Plus/4 to get the laughing skull, and Disk-X 2.2 on the Amiga 500 to get the hex dump.

Fear Is A Pr1s0n - The Music, Visuals and Politics Explained

Vidcast on my Fear Is A Prison project.  In the old days I used to think it was a complete waste of time doing this kind of stuff.  Why talk about something when you could be doing it, especially when only handful of people on Earth, if any, will actually watch it?  But as I've gotten older, I've developed more of an urge to talk about the things I've been doing over the years.  


Fear Is A Prison is a combination of nostalgia, politics, acid house type sampled beats, synths, hacktivist imagery and conceptual art.  Much of it is done on the Amiga and old eight bit computers, using emulators like WinUAE and WinVICE, among others.

The backbone of a lot of the music is done with Mod Trackers, which for the first time allowed people to do studio tricks in their bedrooms rather than having to spend thousands of pounds on bespoke hardware.  For the first time, you could sit at your personal computer and record samples, create loops, do slicing, time stretching, pitch shifting, glissando and sundry other tricks that were the sole provenance of studio engineers before.  Because of the nature of how the trackers worked by piano rolling, and the quantisation errors on the  samples caused by the 8 Bit dynamic range limitation, these trackers have a very characteristic sound that is instantly recognisable to anyone who has heard them.

On the politics, it's not exactly on a scale of Anonymous or Roger Waters, but I do like the having conversations about this stuff.   It's not about telling people what to think, just putting ideas out there that people can either agree or disagree with.