Rockstar Programmer or Poet

I’ve learned a few programming languages in my time. Sometimes for a particular project but also occasionally just for fun. So I was interested to find out that someone I knew had invented a programming language where the code looks like song lyrics; it’s called Rockstar.
What are song lyrics but a form of poetry and I like writing poetry so how could I resist. The best way to learn any language is of course to write a program in it, so I chose a simple example and had a go.

It was a fascinating experiment. Choosing a simple enough program to write made me aware of how many things I take for granted in most languages, things like bitwise operations or string manipulation. Writing this* into Rockstar led to a detailed study of the syntax. I made some guesses as to how things should work where the documentation wasn’t clear. I’ve followed some of the official example code and sometimes not. Using null as equal to zero and then incrementing it felt so wrong I just had to find another way.
Despite all this I found getting a ‘working’ Rockstar program is the easy part. Rewriting it to be sufficiently poetic took some time, including developing some of my own coding conventions which just shows how poetic code really is.

I’ll also admit to cheating slightly; the language as specified doesn’t have a random number function and I wanted one. So (based on C’s rand function) I’ve assumed a function that returns a random integer between zero and whatever maximum is available. I figure gambling is fairly rock star so that is an acceptable extension (I hope).
Because that function isn’t defined in my program I’ve added a way of showing that too. I hope I’ve also used comments in an interesting way.

Bring on Chance (my own invention)

Time takes my life and my tears
While my life is as strong as my tears
Put my life without my tears into my life

Give back my life

Simply takes a smile and a wave
Put a wave without a smile into the world
Build it up
Put Time taking Chance, the world into your life
Give back your life with a smile

Dreaming takes my hopes and my fears and my smiles and my tears
Shout my hopes
Whisper my fears
Shout my smiles
Whisper my tears

The sunshine was frightening
The shade was my compatriot
Your hopes were everything
My idea was wilder (no more than this)
Dreaming taking “I am thinking of a number between”, the sunshine, “and”, the shade
Put Simply taking the sunshine, the shade into my heart
While my idea is stronger than your hopes
Say “Take a guess.”
Listen to your dream
Build your hopes up
If your dream is smaller than my heart
Whisper “Your guess is too low.”
Take it to the top

If your dream is bigger than my heart
Whisper “Your guess is too high.”
Take it to the top

If my heart is your dream
Break it down

(and breathe)

If my heart is your dream
Dreaming taking “Good job!”, “You guessed my number in “, your hopes, ” guesses!”

If my heart ain’t your dream
Say “Nope. The number I was thinking of was ”
Whisper my heart
(no more)

*Obviously working out what this program actually does is left as an exercise for the reader

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The Six Million Dollar Bear

If you have a long loved teddy bear, you know that they get a little bit grubby and tired looking in time. It’s a simple result of being loved.

James has a bear, a travelling companion, who had sat patiently on his dashboard for many years and he had indeed got a little grubby looking. So while James was thoroughly cleaning the inside of his car he decided to give Paddington Ormsville IV, for that is this bear’s name, a clean as well. He decided that he would give Paddington a little run through the washing machine. Prudently, thank heavens, putting him in the garment bag for gentler washing.

Some time later he was horrified to discover that the washing machine had taken its toll on the poor creature, leaving him largely devoid of stuffing, as it had escaped through numerous rents in the overworn fur.

This might have been the end of his story, but I was not prepared to let a faithful friend go so easily.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him

I started by putting his stuffing back in place and sewing up the many tears in his body. His front, which had been in the sun, had weakened considerably and there was little structural integrity left so the sewing could not be too elegant. His back and limbs were largely intact thankfully.

His feet were soled with felt, one of which had also weakened and developed holes, so I decided to give him a jaunty blue sole.

This emergency surgery completed, he needed a little more support before he would be ready to safely sit up on a dashboard again, so I decided a little waistcoat-come-romper-suit would help protect his delicate tummy. I liked his blue paw so much, I decided to continue with the blue theme, so I spent some time creating a paper pattern for a waistcoat that would go round him and used it to cut his outfit from some more of the felt. Once sewed together I gave it a little edging in dark blue and added a sparkly button before sewing him into his new outfit.

Thus attired, he is ready to resume his travels.

Better, stronger, faster

From Telephones To Tudors

I recently discovered that there’s a national collection of telephone kiosks. I was far too excited by this news and was determined to go and see them.
They live at Avoncroft as part of a collection of historic buildings.
On arriving I was even more excited to find that the telephones actually worked and we could call between them. They were connected via a small exchange which, of course, we could also see working.
Having played there we set off to explore the rest of the museum, finding such gems as a prefab house, a corrugated chapel and a fibreglass spire. We also encountered some re-enactors, some of whom were doing Elizabethan dancing to a surprisingly recognisable tune.

Come and Sing – The Creation

It’s been a while since I did any ‘proper’ singing, so I was both delighted at the thought of another “Come and Sing” day and nervous as to whether I’d be up to the task. This was yet again with The Bach Choir but the time the piece was The Creation by Haydn.

Before the day I did my usual preparation, making sure that I had the score and working through it. I was pleased to discover that there was no splitting the choir into eight (as those parts are always tricky) but less pleased with Haydn’s definition of an alto. Really, there are some notes that should be left to the sopranos, did he not read the memo? He also throws in some fairly tricky fugal sections with several different variants of the same phrase.

On the day I put my worries aside determined to just do my best. I picked a good seat with a clear view of the conductor (once again the wonderful David Hill) and a Bach Chorister next to me (arrive early for these things, it pays off). The vocal warm up was fun and a real work out for the brain as well as the voice in places.

Then we settled down to work through the piece. We rehearsed chorus by chorus. David picking apart things into tiny details in places, simple things like breathing early (so you don’t come in late) or working to get the sound smooth and flowing. It was wonderful to work on making it sound beautiful. I felt an incredible sense of focus, with no other thoughts than the music (a musical ‘deep hack mode’ if you like).

And then rehearsals over, we were ready to perform for our select audience who, sitting at the front, were the centre of attention. They even got a round of applause. Once we started singing though, I was focused on the music, the conductor and not fluffing too many bits. Without soloists, so doing only the choruses, the time rushed by. So much so that we were treated to an impromptu duet of the opening with Philip Scriven on the organ and David Hill on the piano. Then it was time for us to sing the last chorus and our day was over.

Well, almost over, as it turned out there was a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ to sing to David in celebration of his upcoming ‘big’ birthday. Then it really was time to go home.

Yet again, an amazing, enjoyable, educational day.

 

The Verse Of Sergeant Cadwallader

The Unexpected GuestSo tonight we open in Chesham with “The Unexpected Guest” by Agatha Christie.

I am playing a dreamy poetical Welsh police sergeant who is, naturally, investigating a mysterious murder. Aside from reading poetry (not the first time I’ve done that in a play recently) I am also caught writing it, but the audience is delivered no more than a couplet of this (fine?) poem.
I was given a challenge (by James of course) to finish the poem and I have done so in a way I think my character would have created it.

Of course, if you want to know who the murderer actually is…well you’ll have to see the show because I am certainly not going to tell you.

November Mists

Tis misty in November
But seldom in December,
The fogs that fill the valleys soon disperse.
After the mists of midnight
They fade away in sunlight
Only to be replaced with something worse.

The deeds of men inspected
Too dark to be reflected
Are revealed to us when the fog has gone.
We seek the true solution
To give people resolution
And let the injured parties lives move on.

© Sergeant Cadwallader (CMB)

Me, The Stage Manager?

Already CalmI’d never expected to ever be a stage manager. When you work on shows with someone who is an experienced and awesome stage manager then it’s a job that is definitely not available. Plus I’m actually quite happy just moving chairs and tables, making pictures crooked or cleaning blood* off the set and leaving the responsibilities to somebody else.

But when James couldn’t go to the Loxwood Joust this year, and it was suggested that I could stand in for him as stage manager, looking after a few artists on a little stage in the middle of  a woodland, I found myself saying “Yes”. After all, I know the festival already, know my way about a stage and best of all I could get advice and instructions direct from the expert.

So nervously I set off on a Friday night with a new tent, a clock and a clipboard with the running order and detailed instructions attached. My instructions said I needed to acquire a broom and inspecting my domain on arrival I could see that I did, as the stewards were laying out straw bales in the woodland and using the stage as (sorry) a staging post. Still, it was getting dark, so I put my worries aside (mostly) and went to the bar for some mead.

Early the next morning I hung up my clock backstage with a copy of the running order and went in search of the broom. That found, I made a start by sweeping the copious amounts of straw off the stage. Feeling I had now claimed my territory, I settled in to do my job. By midday I had met everyone performing on my stage that weekend and the sound guy (who had the harder job), made a “No Entry” sign and told countless (not many, I just wasn’t counting them) people not to come backstage and, most importantly, got the first act on stage successfully. With some surprise, I realised I actually could do this and somehow my earlier nerves had evaporated. Perhaps I was just too busy keeping track of the time.

Still like all theatre jobs, it evolved over the four days of the festival until I was also plugging in microphones, laying out tambourines and hunting for the juggler’s balls**. All this in a (surprising) glow of calm confidence, and no, it wasn’t just the result of the mead.

Next year I have no doubt James will be back to reclaim his stage and of course he’ll do an even better job than I did, but for once I have been the stage manager and I loved every second.

*Fake obviously. Unless someone really upset the SM…

**Crystal balls. He threw them off stage when he’d finished juggling with them. What did you think I meant?

Goodbye

GoodbyeThis poem was written for a very special lady. I had felt the need to write something anyway but when I learned that she too used to write poetry then it seemed even more important to put something into words.

When someone dies, the funeral is a chance to say goodbye. When it is the funeral of somebody you have never had the chance to meet, then goodbye becomes something more.

Goodbye

Today I have to say goodbye,
A life so precious has gone by.
I’ll meet folk they used to know,
Today goodbye means Hello.

I’m travelling to a far off city
Unknown to me, but quaint and pretty.
This is the place that they called home,
Today goodbye means Hello.

I’m learning now about their life
Poetess and devoted wife,
Friends who miss her kindness shown,
Today goodbye means Hello.

A lady I never got to meet
But who has shaped one close to me,
And so for their loss I will cry,
Today Hello must mean Goodbye.

© CMB

The Humber Bridge

I’d never seen the Humber bridge before. It’s an amazing structure. The main span is 1410 metres. The towers are 155 metres tall and they are 36mm further apart at the top than the bottom to allow for the curvature of the Earth (at least that’s what the information boards around the area tell you).

We stopped for a look on our way into Hull.

We saw it again on Sunday when we returned for a second photo-shoot with Spencer Tunick, and before we went home we managed to find time for a walk across it too.Humber Bridge