Local robo-journalism

A classic example of how not to do robo-journalism… wrong categories, no evidence of human curation (other than the appaling header graphic), several jobs are actually out of the area and on others the deadlines have passed.

Project Apollo Archive

Over 8,000 hi-res Moon Landing photos made by the NASA astronauts have been added to Flickr, at the Project Apollo Archive albums.


Furnace Journal

Furnace Journal from the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage (IIICH), University of Birmingham. Issue Two is out now, on “Cultural Heritage in a Digital Age”.

What is might cost to get a short graphic novel made?

A new edition of the What do Comic Creators Earn? table, this week.


So it seems like £130 per page for line-art + colouring would get art from a mid-range artist. I’m assuming that the writer is the one commissioning the artist directly and can do things like…

* the finished script
* provide the artist with rough indications of possible page layouts and desired viewpoints for certain key scenes.
* do picture research to clearly show the artist what’s needed, re: world creation and mood.
* offer the artist some basic reference sheets or detailed descriptions on how characters should look.
* use Photoshop + good comic-book fonts to letter the comic pages to a pro standard, once they’re complete.

A shortish 69 page (68 pages, plus opening splash page) graphic novel could thus be done for about £9,000, and distributed digitally to save printing costs. If one were charging $4.45 per download and making $3.80 profit on each copy after ecommerce deductions, one would have to sell about 3,500 copies to more or less get one’s money back. If one were factoring in some of one’s own time, and the total cost was thus £10,000, then one would be aiming to sell at least 4,000 digital copies.

Seems to me that would be a fairly cost-effective way of getting one’s ‘movie pitch’/script out into the world, in a form that’s sufficiently compelling it might actually create a fan-base and be picked up by a studio.

It also seems a very feasible way for a town or place to market and re-enchant their place, re: small arts grants — six local writers each write a ten-page comic-book ‘short story’ script set locally, perhaps re-inventing / refreshing local folklore/legend and other forms of local distinctiveness. £10,000 then makes an attractive graphic novel -sized anthology of those stories, helped along by a little extra voluntary effort on the ecommerce packaging and marketing side.

One could equally well devise a way for the stories to centre around a certain path — a long-distance footpath for instance. The England Coast Path (complete 2020) and the Welsh Coast Path, for instance, might have a programme where each of the 120 notable coastal settlements on the route each had a £12k grant to each produce such a work. That would need a £1.4m grant, but that’s the sort of money that the Arts Council dishes out to talent support programmes in theatre, dance etc on a regular basis, and the amount is surely not beyond the reach of being funded via the Lotteries. One would, of course, have to guard against ‘family friendly’ timidity and committee-itis at the local level — which, at its most extreme, might skew the book into being turned into a de facto unimaginative tourism promo for the local Tourist Board. Or steer it into being some naff way to promote youth literacy, the sort of thing that most youth run a mile from.

New Phyllis Nicklin exhibition in Birmingham

A new Phyllis Nicklin photography exhibition has opened in Birmingham, containing previously unseen pictures of the city in the 1950s and 60s.

terrace-demolition-aston-bham-1960sDemolition of terrace homes, Aston, presumably 1960s.

bromford-estate-tame-valley-1968-phyllis-nicklinBromford Estate tower blocks, 1968.

Reddit Enhancement Suite

Useful. There’s an equivalent of Facebook’s F.B. Purity filtering browser add-on, but for Reddit. Reddit Enhancement Suite.

Inside the Spode factory

Inside the Spode factory, Stoke-on-Trent, 26th September 2015:







Course in the sight reading of Spanish?

Why are there no adult courses in “sight reading of Spanish” and other similar-to-English written languages? Not in speaking the language, not in writing it, but just in being able to sight read it — to the level where one doesn’t need to puzzle over the surreal Google-isms of Google Translate.

Such a course would also be a fairly ‘quick win’ for middle-school kids, without all the painful sturm and drang of trying to speak the language. Think of all the cool unstranslated graphic novels they’d be able to read. Such short school courses might run:

Age 10: Learn to read the Latin in the Harry Potter books.
Age 11: Learn to read a really cool Spanish sci-fi graphic novel.
Age 13: Learn to read a really cool French graphic novel by Moebius.
Age 14: Learn to read a really cool Italian WWII graphic novel.
Age 15: Learn the basics of reading a really cool Japanese graphic novel.

Garden of Cosmic Speculation

“The Garden of Cosmic Speculation” is an amazing garden landscape in the hills at Crawick, Scotland (about thirty-five miles north of Carlisle/Gretna Green). It appears that it’s now maturing nicely. Somehow I totally missed news of the official opening of this, back in July. (Video).


The TV Tax

Oh dear, the government seems to be headed blindly towards a new form of Poll Tax. Compulsory TV Licence payments for all households, if they have TV or not. Not having a TV, and not having had one for the last 20 years, I certainly won’t be paying a tax to support BBC TV. All I enjoy from the BBC at present is Radio 4’s In Our Time, and if Melvyn Bragg pops off then maybe not even that, plus their 5-day online weather forecast.

Getting past the WordPress.com roadblocks

s0.wp.com, s1.wp.com and s2.wp.com are such pains in the neck on free WordPress.com sites. Often they’re unreachable and thus totally prevent the main blog from loading. Is there no way to create a local cache of the common design graphics and styles that these sub-sites host for WordPress.com? Perhaps via a browser addon?

Findit in Brum… or not

Why does Birmingham City Council keep its current procurement opportunities list behind a sign-up wall? It seems that Brummies can see lists of Awarded Contracts and notices of Forthcoming Contracts. But live and currently-offered contracts are available only via the membership group Findit, and the public are blocked from them by a password box. Should this public data about spending public money not be openly available to the public, without any registration? Since it also serves as a handy guide for citizens on what the Council is planning on doing in the near future.

Point, click, die, replay…

The Telegraph newspaper asks what became of the videogames production powerhouse that until recently used to thrive in the Leamington Spa / Warwick / Coventry triangle? Matters were perhaps not helped by the utter neglect of (and even attacks on) the sector under the Labour government, back in the day.

Search across all national and local newspapers in the UK

A handy new Google CSE search engine for all national and local newspapers in the UK. Though setting up RSS keyword alerts for Google News is probably a lot less work, if you’re regularly tracking a set of topics.

BBC: stormy outlook

Looks like I won’t be enjoying the elegant design of the BBC’s per-day / 5-day weather forecast for much longer. The BBC is set to swop the Met Office data feed for either a Dutch or a New Zealand weather company, according to The Economist. Oh well. What’ll be needed then, come the Autumn, is an open source clone that looks as much as possible like this…


…and that runs from the Met Office feeds.

Extreme Land Rovers

A survey of some of the most extreme types of Land Rover to come out of Birmingham.



To accompany my JURN search tool I’ve made a quick way to search across all the world’s repositories. Repositories are the special Web servers that universities, museums and archives etc, use to house all their digital goodies — such as online collections, full-text papers and book chapters, and similar Open Access treats. The new search tool GRAFT is in a rough sort of beta testing. It works as a searchable sub-set of Google. The search modifier intitle:keyword is somewhat useful, though keep in mind that the Googlebot still hasn’t mastered the art of picking out an an article title and having it form the wording of a clickable Web link. Warning: it’s BIG, and so you need to be a specific as possible in your search.

L.S. Lowry and Arthur Berry: observers of urban life

The major show L.S. Lowry and Arthur Berry: observers of urban life premieres at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, until 10th January 2015 (£5).



Edward Robert Hughes

Enchanted Dreams: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of Edward Robert Hughes is a major show in Birmingham city centre’s Gas Hall, from 17th October 2015 (£7).

hughes_hollow_c1895Picture: Edward Robert Hughes, “Oh, what’s that in the hollow, so pale, I quake to follow?”.

Fifty-three Stages of the Eastern Sea Road

The prints of Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stages of the Tōkaidō [Eastern Sea Road]” (1832, pub. 1833) are on show in Wolverhampton until 21st November 2015.