Category Archives: Projects

Rock Family Tree Auto-generation

I’ve been fascinated by Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees for a long time. I created a tree in that style for my friends and associates over on the Coiled Spring site, seen below.
Flange Circus Family Tree
I describe the process for manually creating the diagram over on that site, so check it out if you’re curious. I had other ideas after that, so read on.

I’ve been playing around with the tools I used to create this diagram. Graphviz especially. It’s a very powerful tool for automatically laying out diagrams. You provide it with a text input file defining the nodes (boxes) and how they are connected with edges (lines or arrows). The file doesn’t include any positioning information; Graphviz arranges the diagram itself, aligning nodes, routing edges, and making a nice neat diagram. There are various options for influencing how the diagram is arranged, but overall it is automatic, and very smart.

You can write the input file by hand, but for complex diagrams with many nodes and edges, it makes more sense to generate it using another tool. There are many examples with tens or even hundreds of nodes, generated by software analysing computer networks, chemical reactions, mathematics, and so on. You can see some crazy examples in the gallery here.

This lead me to think about the possibility of writing a program to generate a Rock Family Tree from data held in files or a database – and that coincided with an idea that had been rattling around in my head for a while. Why stop at the family tree? Why not generate the actual music and artists as well?

And thus Seeded Tunes was born.

Top Trump Horror Cards – Update And Concession

Back in August 2017, I started to try and find the original images used by the artist or artists who created the Top Trump Horror Cards as “inspiration”. I asked people on Twitter about it, and got a few good tips. The results can be seen here.

Included in the tips people sent was a link to the excellent blog Hypnogoria, where I found that someone else had the same idea as me, and made a much better job of it, in their series Tomb of the Trumps. I hereby tip my hat, congratulate, and concede to Mr Jim Moon of Darlington!

Let’s compare notes. Jim got the Man-Eating Plant and The Ghoul. He also spotted that The Freak was a combination of The Reptile (which I spotted) and a magazine cover with Christopher Lee for the hands. These artists are sneaky!

I like to think the still I chose of Christopher Lee as Dracula is closer than the one Jim found, and the still of Lon Chaney Jr from ‘London After Midnight’ is also closer. We have to find our victories where we can! I’m also glad he couldn’t find a match for The Risen Dead. I wish someone could though…

I must congratulate Jim on spotting that Maggot was a still from 60’s show ‘Lost In Space’. How could I have missed Jonathan Harris’s terrified eyes?

Actually, calling Hypnogoria a “blog” is understating things. More accurate would be MEDIA EMPIRE, with podcasts, books, and spoken-word collections. Support the creator, Jim Moon, on Patreon!


Top Trump Horror Cards – Help Me Find The Original Images!

I was clearing out some stuff from my keepsake memory box, and I came across my Top Trumps Horror Cards. Top Trumps was a big thing when I was a kid, and between my brother and I we had several packs. A paraphrased summary of the instructions from the  Wikipedia page:

Each pack of cards is based on a theme, such as cars, aircraft, boats, dinosaurs, or characters from a popular film or television series. Each card in the pack shows a list of numerical data about the item. For example, in a pack based on cars, each card shows a different model of car, and the stats and data may include its engine size, its weight, its length, and its top speed.

All the cards are dealt among the players. There must be at least two players, and at least one card for each player. The starting player selects a category from their topmost card and reads out its value. Each other player then reads out the value of the same category from their cards. The best/highest value wins the “trick”, and the winner takes all the cards of the trick and places them at the bottom of his or her pile. The winner then looks at their new topmost card, and chooses the category for the next round.

In the event of a draw the cards are placed in the center and a new category is chosen from the next card by the same person as in the previous round. The winner of that round obtains all of the cards in the center as well as the top card from each player. Players are eliminated when they lose their last card, and the winner is the player who obtains the whole pack.

The game lent itself more to things like cars, bikes, tanks and so on, because they had actual statistics you could play the game with. I remember playing the game on rainy caravan holidays in the UK.

“Cylinders: 6.”

“Cylinders: 8!”

“Grr, you win this round, Simon, but I’ll be back!” (this is honestly how it went)

I had the ‘Prehistoric Creatures’ pack, which stretched the concept a bit more, because the stats were things like how long ago the creature had existed, or how big it was. This made it interesting because the Diplodocus was very big and not that old (only 100 million years or something), whereas the Giant Dragonfly was really old (400 million?), and “only” two feet long.

However, the Horror Cards really took it to the next level… down. The statistics used were as follows:

  • Physical strength
  • Fear factor
  • Killing power
  • Horror rating

These values were scattered through the various creatures seemingly at random. Dracula at least got the 100 Horror rating, and King King got the 100 in strength. Other than that it was a crapshoot.

The artwork was hit and miss as well. Some of the cards featured scribbly stuff that wouldn’t be out of place in some dodgy D&D bedroom effort. Others featured pictures that were clearly copied from movie stills or promotional artwork – and that’s where I need your help. I’ve been able to identify some of the more obvious source images, but there are many I can’t find, and I need you fans of horror and schlocky monster movies to take a look and find the source images for the cards.

Check out the cards here, and see if you can find the missing source images!


If I Had My Document Way… Official Templates

If I Had My Document Way

…official templates would not be created by the unqualified.

That sounds snobby, but if you end up using a template that looks all right, but has all the problems I’ve talked about in these posts, then it becomes a problem for everyone. Don’t delegate it to anyone who has the time.

Give it to someone who has the knowledge and the experience to create something that is correctly set up and will hopefully prevent many of the issues we see.


7 Days 7 Songs Part 2 – Day 3 – LFO – ‘Tied Up’

Part of the whole ‘7 Days 7 Songs’ thing

Today’s pop pick: LFO – ‘Tied Up’.

Heard a remix on a magazine cover mixtape, tracked down the original. Should have bought the whole album then, which I have since done. The change in tone from the big beefy beaty beginning and the floating midsection gets me right there.

Big beat (ugh, remember that?), reverbed pulses, extra-crunchy acid, and a breathtakingly peaceful middle section (taken from another track on the album, and stretched to full track length in the remix by Spiritualized (Electric Mainline).

do you love me to(o)?

7 Days 7 Songs Part 2 – Day 2 – John S Hall & Kramer – ‘My Personal Life’

Part of the whole ‘7 Days 7 Songs’ thing

Today’s pop pick: John S Hall & Kramer – ‘My Personal Life’.

Robin got me onto this album. It accompanied me on car rides to Wimbledon a lot. Everybody says, “Oh, detachable penis”, but I hadn’t heard that.

CD-skipping sitar, Hall’s nasal NYC poetry, the word ‘pain’, almost a redemption at the end?

and besides, you don’t really wanna talk to me anyway

7 Days 7 Songs Part 2 – Day 1 – Cabaret Voltaire – ‘Warm’

Part of the whole ‘7 Days 7 Songs’ thing

Today’s pop pick: Cabaret Voltaire – ‘Warm’.

Manchester, 1991. New house, new roommates, new opportunities for creepily checking out other people’s stuff. What’s this cassette? Oo I like this.

Some Bizarre, 1985. DRUMS. ORCHESTRA HITS. Stuttering media samples, Neville Brody artwork, penetrating main synth lines. Hello.

I’ll tell you when, when, when, when, when…

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 7 – Parts and Labor – ‘Satellites’

Today’s pop pick: Parts and Labor – ‘Satellites’. Today’s nomination: Dr James Kneale

Couldn’t really do this without nominating a BBO partner-in-crime, could I? This track was one of the first I grabbed on the advice of the fellas, back when I was living alone in San Diego.

It starts with what sounds like a ZX Spectrum loading, then comes the guitars, then the synths, then the vocals with some nice harmonies. Then it keeps building, and the key goes up and up and up, and the synth returns, and the whole thing grinds away and fades. The lyrics are poetic and surreal, and remind me of Haruki Murakami (probably because of the “wind up bird” thing). A trip.

We roll our eyes back up into our heads

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 6 – The Wonder Stuff – ‘On The Ropes’

Today’s pop pick: The Wonder Stuff – ‘On The Ropes’. Today’s nomination: Emma-Jane Berridge.

The Wonder Stuff are a funny lot. I liked their first album when I heard it years later. ‘Hup’ passed me by. I was a student when that bloody cow song came out, and while I joined in and danced and puked Newkie Brown at the time, I could stand to never hear it again. After that it was all quirky time signatures, fiddles and plaid suits, no thank you very much.

So then this came out, and I missed it at first. It took an old friend putting it on a mixtape and sending it to me in Switzerland when I was there to learn a shitty SCADA package for me to notice it, and it became a firm favorite. It’s a rollicking good tune, and the lyrics grabbed me – a little bit “tortured artist”, but that’s OK. It hit the spot at the right time.

Part of the 7 Days 7 Songs project

7 Days 7 Songs – Day 5 – Roots Manuva – ‘Witness (1 Hope)’

Today’s pop pick: Roots Manuva – ‘Witness (1 Hope)’. Today I nominate Alex Schmidt-Arkin.

I don’t listen to much hip-hop, and certainly not much UK hip-hop – it’s just not for me, really. But this is fantastic, both in the instrumentation and lyrics. Roots grew up in Streatham in South London, and is seen triumphantly returning to his primary school in the video above. I lived in Streatham for a while, so while I can’t say I understand his background or experiences, I do have that tiny connection.

I “discovered” this by accident. I don’t know how it got on my iPod, but I was on the elliptical at the gym in San Francisco, and this song came on and was the perfect speed and style. When I got home, I looked it up, and was charmed to see Roots exercising in the same way, before winning all the sports day activities he had failed at when he was a schoolboy, claiming the trophy, and roaring off in his Ferrari. I like the sound of it, and the lyrics blending Jamaican patois (“Let go me ting, duppy, let go me hand“) and London geezer (“Breakneck speed we drown ten pints of bitter“). Good one.

Part of the 7 Days 7 Songs project