Norkfolk Nog is amazing

I made a premium kit called Woodeforde's Norfolk Nog back at the start of November and stuck it in a pressure barrel with 100g extra dark malt. It's the beer I've been setting aside for Xmas Day.

I just moved it from its little hidey hole behind the couch into the serving position, a very cool corner of the kitchen.

In the interests of science I had a taste and it's my finest homebrew yet. Thick, rich and sweet, but not cloyingly so. Dark, slightly toffee hints and a light hopping make it a well rounded winter beer. I'm really looking forward to Xmas Eve when we crack it for real!

Play: The Madness of George Dubya

I saw this play last night in Camden, London. It supposedly finishes on 8th February but I certainly hope it goes longer.

Think a musical update of Dr Strangelove. I was expecting a fairly amateurish production but was instead blown away by the highly entertaining, snappy acting and script. The musical numbers are a real treat.

If you're in London or can get there before 8th February, go and see it! Satire isn't dead.

I was going to recommend this play to people at work, but I guess I have to be a bit careful. Many of my workmates are Israeli and I'm not sure how well they would see the funny side of lyrics like "Yasmina the Cleaner (a very nice girl) ... she goes ga-ga for hezbollah".

Visions of Tokyo

I've just discovered an incredible site that uses Flash in a way that actually enhances the information. Amazing, really. Mid-Tokyo Maps presents a range of different views of the city of Tokyo, looking at raw data to analyse what makes up this metropolis. It has really interesting presentations of urban planning and lifestyle data.

Most impressed and would love to see similar views of data for cities I know well like Sydney or London.

Vote early, vote often

Well I got to vote in my first British election today. I wasn't enrolled for any of the previous ones. Yes, pommies, we colonials are allowed vote in your elections, but you can't vote in ours when you live there. Sucky huh? I say no taxation without representation!

Anyway, I really dislike the first-past-the-post way they run these elections. You can only select a single candidate to support, which means if they're not one of the top two your vote is worthless. How annoying. In Australia you order the candidates in preferential order and your vote keeps getting transferred until it gets to a candidate where it counts for something. That way you can still put the Tories (called "Liberals" in Australia, just to match the whole water-down-plughole backwardness) last but give the Greens your first vote. Actually you'd probably want to put One Notion last, if only for having a site that could have come straight from 1994.

So I ended up voting for Sarah Teather of the Liberal Democrats as a tactical vote. Blair really needs a kick in the plums, and losing a safe seat like Brent East is probably the only wakeup call the spin-driven idiots at Labour central office understand.

Sarah seems like your average school-debater-come-politician wet chardonnay leftie, and though undoubtledy lovely she just doesn't seem to have the fire in the belly I want in a politician. The whiny electoral advertisements coming through the door have been pretty tedious. No, Sarah, I don't think our lousy street sweeping service in Brent is a big enough issue for central government to be worrying about. The Lib Dems have great policies and are set to become the opposition in this country, but do they have to be so damn dull and sensible? Why not point out how Blair lied to the country?

So, all in all, a rather unsatisfying brush with democracy, but I hope Sarah wins.

The music industry as we know it is over

Something big is coming to the music industry. The smart ones have already worked it out, and it scares the crap out of them. The really smart ones are getting ready.

Weird music

When I was young, my parents owned a radio station in Bega. It was great for us kids because all we had to do to listen to music was head down to the station and hang about in the record library. We could take a few records home and tape them too if we wanted.

I discovered some pretty incredible music for a country radio station. Kraftwerk, Devo, Run DMC and more poppy stuff like Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Culture Club.

This is probably how I got into weird music--by having the opportunity to listen to anything I wanted without having to pay for the privelege. When my parents sold the station, I had to buy music and much of the new music I discovered was coming from radio. I went through a pretty dire patch of crap music.

Later in life I was dragged to a rave by some friends. It changed my life. Once again I discovered that weird, pulsing, electronic sound I'd glimpsed in my youth.

Now the problem became how to find the music. Fortunately, the record stores selling this style of music anticipated the need to listen and had banks of headphones to listen before you buy.

Still, there's only so much time you want to spend standing in a record shop trying every weird and wonderful piece of music you can lay your hands looking for "the one".

You don't own music

The thing that's about to completely change the music industry isn't really a technology. It's a mindset. Sure it's driven by stuff like mp3, cable internet access and the like, but it's really a mindset.

In the very near future, the concept of owning a piece of music is going to disappear. Buying a piece of vinyl, magnetic tape or CD as the storage medium of music is going to disappear.

Why bother buying a record when you have every piece of music every made available through a high speed network connection? Particularly when all you pay for that connection is a flat monthly fee?

Now consider the changes that brings to the way we listen to music. Instead of being generally restricted to just the music we "own", we're free to explore the entire cornucopia that is music. Occasionally I feel like listening to schmaltzy classical music, but I don't own any Strauss CDs. I'd love to give everything Laibach have ever made at least one run through, but I'm not sure I'd want to pay big money for it.

The empire strikes back?

Now the smart ones amongst you have just started thinking about where this leaves record companies. The role of the record company, outside marketing, is as a venture capitalist of music.

Record companies put up the bucks to get the physical pieces of music made and distributed. Without that barrier to entry, who needs a record company? Well the Spice Girls and Brittney Spears, certainly need them. But artists creating funky music for the love of it? Established artists like Prince or Public Enemy? I don't think so.

The smart ones, and I think Sony are there about now, saw this coming a long way off. The way they're hoping to reintermediate themselves is to be the network software or hardware supplier for this new form of music distribution. Witness how Sony Music has supported SDMA and bagged out mp3 while Sony Electronics has produced a portable mp3 player. Some of them get it.

Of course the dumb ones aren't going to like it one bit. They'll go out kicking and screaming: lobbying governments to prosecute people making mp3 players and make copyright laws even more favourable to them, telling people they're harming artists by getting their music directly from them and so on. Should be fun to watch!

Your thoughts?

So where do you think it's headed? How are we going to do this?