Entries in london (3)

Saturday
Nov192011

William Elliott Whitmore - Windmill, Brixton

Photo by Pieter Morlion

There are many great things about living in Brixton and one of those is being just a stone throw from the Windmill where on Thursday evening William Elliott Whitmore took to the stage. A rare opportunity to see William play in such an intimate venue the gig sold out weeks in advance, however being both slim and very lucky I was allowed to squeeze in!

At the Windmill it's been a fine year for artists of the folk-punk/alt-country genre with Austin Lucas, Digger Barnes, Two Cow Garage, Crazy Arm, Frontier Ruckus and Franz Nicolay to name just a few who with tattooed arms and shots of whiskey have taken the stage in recent months.

Support on the evening came from London based, and Windmill regular JD Smith. I arrived a little too late to catch his set but based on previous times I've heard him play he's well worth checking out if you get the chance.

William's act is a minimalist one accompanied with just his banjo and kick-drum, and there was a sense the evening would be a long one as he invited folk to make room for others saying "there's plenty of room up here on the stage, just don't touch me or touch my shit!". And a long one it was, for the £10 entry you certainly got value for money with a set which topped the two hour mark.

With seven albums to his name there were plenty of songs to play and it seemed as though William would have been happy playing through all of them. Taking numerous requests from the audience William was willing to play whatever the eager and informed crowd wanted to hear, and the frequent stops between songs for banter, a steady flow of whiskey being passed forward from the back of the room and the lights down low it only added to the intimacy of the event.

Although a great banjoist it's William's voice that really sets him apart. His deep, throaty vocals are often described as 'the voice that Tom Waits has been after for years' and something of a mix between Solomon Burke and Captain Beefheart with plenty of whiskey and cigarette abuse thrown in for good measure. A blend of gospel, blues, folk and country it's a sound that wouldn't be out of place in the 1930s but fits equally well in 2011. And lyrics of solid Americana pedigree speaking of drinking, loving and losing, the devil and darkness, as well as reflections of life growing up on his grandparents farm in Keokuk, Iowa you were left entertained, informed and feeling as though as long as people kept making music like that then everything was going to be alright.

If you get a chance to see William live you should, and if you don't then you should at least give him a listen!

Friday
Apr222011

CSS: a programmable language?

Yesterday I attended the London Web meetup organised by Nathan O'Hanlon. The evening before a long bank holiday weekend and with a number of other web related things happening in town there was a good turn out to hear Peter Gasston talk, The CSS3 Of Tomorrow.

Peter began his talk comparing most CSS3 presentations to the story of Superman as portrayed in many comics – they all start off with the origin, where CSS came from, the basic features, some of the "new" stuff that has really been around for years. The stuff you already know. Peter promised his talk would be different and in All Star Superman comic style it'd fly past the things we already know about (stuff even I'm familiar with) and then dive into the truly new stuff.

True to his word Peter flew through the syntax of border-radius, box and text shadow, backgrounds and borders, selectors, opacity, web fonts and media queries. In this section there were a few nuggets of information that I took away – in particular hearing about using hsla (hue, saturation, lightness, alpha/opacity) to provide a greater level of flexibility in defining colours.

p { color: hsla(240, 100%, 50%, 0.5) } /* semi-transparent solid blue */
p { color: hsla(30, 100%, 50%, 0.1) } /* very transparent solid orange */

Also mentioned was the ability to target web pages being viewed on iOS4 and utilising the higher resolution display. Using the media query (webkit-pixel-ratio:2) you're able to call a separate set of CSS rules which contain higher resolution images specifically for that device.

Next Peter moved onto some of the newer things such as linear and radial gradients making reference to Lea Verou's CSS3 patterns. Before covering transitions, transformations (2D and 3D) as well as animations. Some great examples where shown, many have been doing the rounds on the internet but in case you've missed them take a look at:

So far the talk was pretty good. It had clarified a few things I'd been uncertain of, introduced some new concepts and provided some great reference material to take away.

Before going into the final section of the upcoming CSS3 features Peter gave a short intermission where he described some of the practises he uses when writing CSS. There were some useful tips around performance such as listing your mobile specific CSS first and using media queries to ensure that the heavier stuff isn't loaded when it's not being used. Peter also spoke highly of Modernizr to help detect browser support for CSS features.

To close the talk Peter described some of the new features coming into the CSS3 specification as well as some which are in the very early stages of being worked on right now. There was a strong focus on layout with things like being able to define multiple columns, flexible box layouts, grid positioning and template layouts. Something being lead on by Adobe is CSS Regions. This if successful will allow you to have flows of content around a page, these flows could be in simple column layouts or extremely complicated shape layouts. There are some examples of what can be done here.

Finally Peter talked about the ability to declare variables and mixins in CSS. The simple example that Peter gave was being able to declare a colour at the start of the CSS which could then be referenced throughout making it easy to change the colour in a single place without having to trawl through all the CSS:

@var $myColor #f00;
h1 {color: $myColor;}

The introduction of things like variables, mixins, animations and transformations raised the question, is CSS becoming a programmable language? The answered seemed to be yes and this left another question, where do you draw the line between what should be done in CSS and when should you use JavaScript?

Sunday
Apr102011

Rosettas for Japan, a latte art throwdown

This evening Notes Music Coffee held a charity Latte Art Throw Down in aid of the Japanese Red Cross Society.  Over the course of the evening some of London's top barista's went head to head producing a wonderful array of hearts, swans and rosettas all looking far too good to be drunk.

In a hotly contested competition there was a strong sense of pride at stake amongst the clearly close knit London coffee elite.  However, of the course of 4 rounds Sang Ho Park (aka KoreanBarista) held his nerve and demonstrated flawless technique and was duly award the top prize.

It was an excellent evening hosted by Fabio Ferreira and Robert Robinson raising in excess of £500.  I throughly enjoyed being there and look forward to the next event.