Hackybeanpouffe: the rules

Yay, I have found an exercise that I can be bothered to get off the sofa for (and you can play it right next to the sofa so WIN!). Not just discovered but invented; I came up with the concept, Pete Ashton then refined the techniques involved in this brand new sport.

It is called Hackybeanpouffe.

I’ll just let that sink in for a second.

Hackybeanpouffe is a cross between hackysack and volleyball, but played with a giant bean-bag type cushion. You get three hits before you must pass it back. It should be played with an imaginary net, preferably to its theme tune (see below).

Although surprisingly aerobic due to the effort involved in manipulating beans mid-air, Hackybeanpouffe can be dangerous – the dust, the dust mites, the heavy aerobic breathing; all of these may contribute to sneezing, stuffiness, red itchy eyes, and possibly an asthma attack.

So Hackybeanpouffe: aerobic but allergenic.

Witness the birth of Hackybeanpouffe on YouTube – and note its theme music Cafe Vixen, by Glatze/Ms Hypnotique, which you can buy for a snip (EP £2.99) from Glatze:

My name is Fiona & I’m a sticker addict

Fuelled by Kanye West‘s ridiculously wrong Tweet about hating stickers on laptops, I was impelled to blog not just my laptop stickers but also my stickered up old guitar, my songbook, my diaries and any other stuff I could lay my sticky little hands on.

So tonight, I blogged over on Tourist Vs Traveller about pimping travel diaries, only to realise that you can’t embed slideshows in WordPress.com. So, because I made one, and because I have an urgent need to share my sticker love, here is it below.

And for the full sticker addiction, you can view all 39 pics here as a Flickr set called, yup, Stickers.

The joy of Creative Commons

…is better parties, social occasions, family life and harmony. Possibly.

Yes, the Creative Commons licensing of your content has the direct side-effect of shareability, clarity and time efficiency of not chasing copyright permissions. But it also has the real-world, real-time impact of more people (hopefully) attending what is a truly lovely family event in Birmingham this weekend. And here’s why – in a 24-hour timeline:

Saturday 12.00: Yesterday, I took photographs at a family day out at this weekend’s Traditional Edwardian Fete at Winterbourne House and Garden, and as is my habit, set them uploading to my Flickr photo account, during the making of dinner. Here’s the set of 60 and also in slideshow format:

Saturday 22.00: After adding a few captions and tags and the like, at midnight I posted the link to the family on Facebook, and then also posted to Twitter.

My tweet about the fete

Sunday 10.00: This morning, I discovered that Nick Booth from my Twitterstream had blogged about my day and posted some of my photos on the Birmingham Conservation Trust charity website.

Birmingham Conservation Trust post

No need to contact me first; the pics were released under Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence.

Creative Commons license

My 50 best Flickr photos 2010

Ooh, just realised I can create a slideshow on Flickr. So while waiting for today’s Traditional Edwardian Fete photo set to upload to my favourite photo-sharing platform, here are my top 50 photos (imo). It’s a personal pick since joining Flickr in September 2008. And if you don’t fancy the slideshow, feel free to browse through the 50 Favourites set on site, photo by gloriously random photo. 😉

For those who need a reason to scoot through, there are pics here from:

  • The desert where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed
  • The murder of crows in my local park
  • A haunted furnace in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Light-painting with an illuminated gyroscope
  • 24-hour Scalextric
  • Rice representations of human populations
  • Birmingham Flickrmeets
  • And neon No Farting sign in a pork ribs shack

And who should open the show but, natch, the lovely Pete Ashton, who was the one who pointed out how easy it is to do a Flickr slideshow. Full circle.

A night of personal improv-ment

Whose Line Is It Anyway
Whose Line Is It Anyway - screenshot by Skitzitilby/Flickr

After a week of unusual nights out– featuring trampolining, Balkan and Israeli folk dancing and ukulele to name three – tonight had the potential to be the weirdest yet.

The Box of Frogs theatre impro workshop is held in Moseley, Birmingham’s arty, crusty and eclectic postcode, every Tuesday evening. For just a fiver, you can revisit your inner child for two hours of pretend, singing, mirroring, general making things up on the spot and playing games called things like ‘Zip Zap Boing’.

Now let me just say, I am not the dramatic type and hate being put on the spot. I used to be very shy and hid behind my mother’s skirts when people came to the house. I also hated acting at school and found it false, stressful and humiliating. As an adult I can hardly breathe when speaking in public. Oh and being a ginger, I blush to the roots.

And yet… I admire people who can perform naturally, who can wing it at a talk or who can give a confident or charming presentation. And there is something (megalomania?) within me that drives me towards taking the lead. I also seem to have an occasional exhibitionist streak and have sung/played on stage (for Gordon Brown) in what now seems like another lifetime.

Finding an improv session in Birmingham was part of my SXSW Interactive follow-up, after feeling particularly inspired by the fun, games and confidence-building at a session called Improv Lessons for Freelancers.

Box of Frogs featured seven players and was fascinating, supportive and not at all embarrassing. This was unexpected considering that tonight I have had to perform a contemporary dance about dog walking, sing in fluent nonsense and play a bank manager so obsessed with a potential loan customer’s spectacles that she just had to touch them and get them for herself.

Because the great thing about improv is that nothing you do is wrong! For once, the brain can take a day off from fretting about getting it right.

Which was a particularly good thing – because I spent the first 10 minutes in the church next door doing vocal exercises with the local choir.

Now that’s what I call improv!

Domestic fireworks when the lights go out

lightpainting_loresNovember 5, 2009: The local Bonfire Night shows were few, far and in-between; the Coop fresh out of sparklers. And besides, it was raining. 

In creative frustration, we came up with the idea of photographing indoor fireworks – Pete suggested throwing some bicarbonate of soda onto the gas ring, or salt, or pepper. I suggested a safer option: domestic prettiness in the form of standby lights, digital clockfaces, blinking answer machine light, candles, pilot light, torches etc. In the modern home, it’s amazing what you find when you turn off the lights.

That’s when I discover my old Powerball – the world’s fastest hand-held gyroscope. 

So with a whirring gyroscope in one hand, I switch off the lights and press the shutterbutton on the camera, which is placed on a tripod in front of a mirror. Then it’s 10 seconds of lightpainting, then 8, 6, finally settling on 4 seconds for optimum alien prettiness.

The full set are all on my Flickr page – I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. The shapes are the main thing so I’ve played with the colour balance in Photoshop. The gyroscope ones sort of remind me of the Aliens set.

Here are Pete’s photos, with some cool multiple exposure shots.

So, all in all, a hardworking but pretty nice Bonfire Night.

Why I am moving back to Brum…

Birmingham New Street station
Birmingham New St Station here I come

It looks like I’ve reached that moment in a blogger’s life when you log into your poor neglected blog(s), make apologies to folks for the lack of posting, explain why and then make a new promise to report back a bit more often in future.

Except… as Neil Gaiman once said (not sure who actually coined this): ‘Never apologise, never explain.’

Sooo, suffice it to say, that I have spent the last year in transition in many, many ways. One of the biggest changes has been going permanent on digital ‘stuff’ from a 20-year background in print journalism. How did this happen?

Well, in February 2008, I started a blog in my spare time (What to wear where), a good idea but ill-carried out by me while I got to grips with Web 2.0 changes.

Then I started Subs’ Standards in August 2008 – all about sub-editing and its changing nature in the digital world – and started to get the hang of things a bit more, thanks in the main to Pete Ashton‘s free social media surgeries. I’m well overdue to post on that blog, too, as I’m now only very occasionally subbing, and it’s digital subbing at that – which is quite a different type of ‘quality control’ beast.

Anyways… updating my digital chops late into the night after a hard day in print was exhausting – and salary-free. I did it for three months almost solidly but it got me into Seven Squared‘s digital team, which was in need of a web editor, back in January 2009. And now I’m busier than ever, corporate blogging for clients and producing a variety of digital work from ezines to SEO features.

Going to SXSWi back in March 2009 also gave me a load of context for working purely online, as well as a whole load of new ideas for playing with online content plus a contact book full of innerestin’ webby types from all over the world. I recommend it for anyone working online and trying to get their head around the bigger picture. (And yes, before you ask, it’s also a big festival with lots of bands and parties in the rather cool uni city of Austin, Texas.)

Unfortunately, working long hours in Seven’s digital bunker means I have little time to ‘rawk SXSW’ and so change has come again.

From October, I’ll be living and working in Birmingham, with my blog mentor Pete Ashton, as it happens. Turns out romance can blossom in the blurry gaps between online and offline.

I’ll still be corporate blogging for Seven Squared’s digital team, I hope, and maybe writing an SEO feature or two. And before I leave London I’ll also be joining a great new event (and site) for brand managers and those who represent a brand online, courtesy of Jo Geary – and maybe even guest-blogging on there if she’ll let me.

But for now I just want to say that I’m looking forward to the next era – to meet new people in Brum, and give myself some headspace to decide which projects to start/play with/experiment with in the West Mids, which seems to be something of a hot bed of  ‘social media’ goings-on, if the SXSW rival WXWM, the new FAILcamp and other such events are anything to go by.

I’ll also be looking for blogging or other content creation work, probably in the commercial sector, or quality control work for corporate clients. If you think you might want something like this, please do get in touch.

So, life has switched and instead of working in London and visiting Brum at weekends, I’ll be working and thinking  in Birmingham instead and visiting London for work days here and there, and sociables at the weekends. So if you’re in either vicinity, find me online (@fionacullinan if you’re on Twitter) and come say hi.

As they say, change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.

PS. (I’m a serial PS blogger.) Apologies if you get this 10 times in your feed, my WordPress preview appears to have karked it.

While you were sleeping: the 4am Project

An auto-level adjusted green palm on the Southend seafront.
An auto-level adjusted green palm on the Southend seafront.
Bollards at 4am.
Bollards at 4am.

A bench in Southend at 4am

A bench in Southend at 4am

At 4am on the 4th of the 4th – on Saturday just gone – my phone alarm rang, I hauled myself out of a rather snug hotel bed on Essex’s east coast and walked out into the night with a rather expensive Canon 30D around my neck. Why? Well, here’s the ‘six honest serving men’ of the 4am Project.

What: A photographic project started by my Flickrmeet friend Karen Strunks, which began in Birmingham and went worldwide in the last few weeks, thanks to the 4am project website and Twitter, and attention from The Guardian, BBC Midlands Today and other media. The idea was to create a global snapshot of the world at this unearthly hour of the morning.

Why: Because wherever you are looks and feels very different at 4 in the morning. But like many successful internet things, it had that ‘never been done’, ‘you’re doing what?!’, ‘why the hell not’ lure – and all while ‘the normal people’ were sleeping, too. In November in Birmingham, there was also 11/11/11 event – 11 hours on the 11th of the 11th travelling around the circular number 11 bus route and creating multimedia content – though I’m not sure if this was a direct inspiration.

When: 4am (natch). But the main event was 4am on 04.04.09. Karen has hinted that there may be more events to come. I thought I’d nip out for five minutes then run back to bed but was out for an hour and a half in the end.

How: With cameras of all ilks from mobile phone cameras to TTVs, compacts to SLRs; tripods and other stabilising gear; and with family, friends, Twitter contacts, or solo. My 4/4/4 experience was solo and with a Canon 30D, experimenting with the bulb setting and veering onto the ‘M’ manual setting for the first time. Later there was some post-prod work in Photoshop – ranging from a quick resize to full scale colour warping manipulation fun.

Where: Many many countries took part: see the map – but I was on a trip away at Thorpe Bay near Southend so I went on a solo shoot along the seafront – which was both exhilarating and coldly adrenalising. If I sat still, I turned to stone and drivers didn’t clock me. Like being invisible. I also snapped some indoor activity at the Roslin Hotel – at 4am a wedding guest chatting up a girl at the long-since-closed bar, at 5am the doorman vacuuming away the wedding disco debris with a perpetually happy Henry vacuum cleaner.

Who: Karen Strunks is the photographer behind the project. She started taking 4am photos a while ago and, with this amazing initiative, has taken it to the next level. She gave the project passion, professionalism and a sense of community that I found really inspiring.

Check out the results: View my Thorpe Bay Esplanade shots on my Flickr. Or, see all the 4am pictures here – over 1300 photos uploaded at last count.