In partial fulfilment of the MBA Program at Cass Business School, I was required to write a paper on a topic of my choosing called a Business Mastery Project. Given my technical background and an affinity for the topic, I decided to choose Bitcoin, the crypto-currency and consensus network which has been the source of much scandal and debate but also has the potential to be an incredible force for good and a truly disruptive technology in a space which has long been dominated by inefficient and expensive incumbents. I publish my paper here for anybody interested. The paper is published under the MIT license, you can download it here: Craig Gibbons - Cass Business School MBA BMP - Bitcoin
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Last night my good mate Frame and I went to go see Evita for President at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. The alter ego of Pieter Dirk Uys has been a household name, in South Africa anyway, for more than two decades and her (his) political satire is well known. This was my first live viewing of Uys in action and it was, for me, a most wonderful experience. Uys takes the stage in unassuming attire, a black undershirt and loose pants and commences his performance. Only 5 seconds in and the audience is already captivated, spellbound even, as Uys reels off line after line of well timed, current, relevant and down right funny material. He shifts effortlessly through a series of character sketches representative of South Africa old and new, punctuating each transition with a story about unfaltering optimism, joy and progress in the new South Africa. Uys is quite simply nothing short of a national treasure. Evita for President shows at the Tricycle Theatre through 1st September 2007. Highly recommended.
From the famed author of Less Than Zero, American Psycho, Glamorama and The Rules of Attraction comes this latest work, Lunar Park. I haven’t read anything by Ellis in a while and when I noticed this attractively covered hardback in the window of a Books etc. in passing one day, I purchased it immediately, excited at the prospect of getting into the mind of Ellis once again, despite how fraught with horror (if you’ve read American Psycho you know what I mean) that pursuit might be. So, some days later, on a routine tube journey to work, the reading began. 30 minutes later I had already begun to form an opinion of this book, but decided to keep and open mind and reserve judgement until the end. Having finished Lunar Park yesterday, I feel I am qualified to offer an opinion. Without mincing words too much, this latest offering from Ellis is, in short, total unadulterated rubbish. It reads, at very best, like a first horror novel attempt from a 1st year university creative writing student, on meth. When embarking upon the reading of a new novel, I expect, not unreasonably I think, to be completely transported from the brightly coloured surroundings of whatever tube train I happen to be in, to an entirely alternate reality, in which only the characters and story matter, but from the very outset, Lunar Park fails to dissolve any amount of reality and worse, for the first 30 pages, spills forth narcissism in a way only an acclaimed writer on an alcohol and drug fuelled ego trip can. As if that isn’t bad enough, the story deteriorates, if that is possible, into a tangle of incongruous plot points, none of which seem to do any more than allude to the authors’ former creative glory. It is, amongst my best list of anti-superlatives, uninspiring, unentertaining and worst of all, unimportant. To quote from the book “Why Bret?”
Ever since I first saw American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000), I have been a devout, card carrying, badge bearing, Christian Bale fan. It was only some time later that I found out he was the kid in the golf shoes in Steven Spielberg’s epic wartime drama, Empire of the Sun (1987). Strangely, J.G. Ballard, the author of the book Empire of the Sun, would later become one of my all time favourite author’s. One can never really be absolutely sure about kid actors, but almost two decades on, there can be no doubt Christian Bale is as prodigious a talent now as he was back then, possibly even more so. He has also not made the mistake of completely selling out and doing big budget Hollywood block busters only. His movie wrap sheet reads like an eclectic schizophrenics DVD collection, at times furrowing the brow slightly to such titles as Reign of Fire and then raising it again in admiration at A Midsummer Night's Dream and Lauren Canyon. More recently he took on the much beleaguered Batman saga and lifted it from the cinematic depths in which it was placed by Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones, to heights previously unknown by the comic-book hero.
Really though, this post is about The Machinist, which I had the pleasure of viewing this past weekend. In short, it may well be Bale’s finest performance ever. He is a true actor with an obvious dedication to the craft. Looking back to Batman and American Psycho, Bale is a man of incredible physical stature. Forget Brad’s abs, Bale’s got it all going on, yet I watched in horror and then admiration as the extent to which Bale had transformed his body for the role became apparent. I had heard he lost a lot of weight for the role, but the extent to which only became apparent a scene or two into the movie when he removes his shirt and all that remains is a grotesque emaciated shadow of a man. He quite literally compares to holocaust concentration camp prisoners. The effect is at once striking and disturbing, to the point that concentrating on the actual story is challenging, yet it is a masterpiece of a story, in a Fight Club kind of way. This for me is Bale’s finest role and a cinematic classic, see it!
J. G. Ballard continues to impress and inspire me the more I read of his works. He truly is, as one of his critics commented, "a national treasure" and a brilliant mind. While away on holiday in Canada, I had some 18 hours of flight time to fill with the vivid imagery so characteristic of Ballard novels and had in preparation procured from Amazon (where else) four of his earlier works and resolved to read them all by the time the 767 touched down at Heathrow on the return leg. As it turns out, I only managed to get through two of those books and start another before I needed a Ballard break. It's not that I was getting bored; it's more that upon reflection I discovered one should not as hastily move on from the completion of a Ballard novel to the next. One needs time to reflect, time to internalise and time to dissect and understand in entirety what was just read. I found in The Atrocity Exhibition a special attraction, firstly because of its intriguing name and then later because of it's content. Another of the other four novels I bought was 'Crash', perhaps one of Ballard's most famous works. Later, a movie of the same name would be written and directed by David Cronenberg (Crash, 1996). The movie left much to be desired, but The Atrocity Exhibition is credited as being Ballard’s main inspiration for Crash and the influence is clearly evident. The book is however not so much a novel as a collection of notes, thoughts and ideas. It reads like a sketch book retrieved from the criminally insane ward at a mental asylum, at times making profound points and at other times giving the reader no more than a conundrum of confusion to deal with. It is undoubtedly a literary experience which will stain the gray matter for a long time to come, though not recommended for light Sunday morning reading.
For ages I’ve been meaning to share the odd pearl with the good readers of CodeProject.com but never seemed to find the time or perhaps more truthfully, code good enough, to post on the site. Finally though, I have posted my first article on CodeProject.com entitled "A useful UrlBuilder class". So far the readers are liking what they're seeing and that’s not only flattering but also quite encouraging. If I can find the time to write a whole article and make it look all pretty, there might be more articles to come. Hmmm, I have just the one in mind! You can find my article at the following Url: http://www.codeproject.com/aspnet/UrlBuilder.asp
UPDATE 06/12/2005: I wrote another article for CodeProject.com on August 24th, but didn't updated this post. You can find the new article at the following Url: http://www.codeproject.com/aspnet/EncodedUrlBuilder.asp
I should have blogged this weeks ago, but you know how it goes... endless boozing, parties and day time television, who has time, really? Episode III was unleashed upon the word and the box office on May 19th this year, 10 of us made the pilgrimage to the ODEON on Leicester Square on the 21st to see what all the fuss was about. After much waiting and the total flops of Episode I and II, it's quite surprising Star Wars fans got all pent up about this, the final instalment in the Star Wars anthology, or perhaps we can call it the second trilogy by virtue of the fact that the making of episodes I, II and III in no way rival the cinematic genius and mastery of the craft which made the first three Lucas movies the ubiquitously definitive masterpieces they are. Everybody you speak to has a take on this, ranging from the “why bother” disappointed indifferent to the “I’m there dude” optimistic Vader costume wearing, light sabre brandishing hard-core die-hards. I myself fall somewhere between these two factions, still willing to give Lucas another chance while maintaining a healthy degree of scepticism characteristic of a child disappointed about not getting a G.I Joe last Christmas on the eve of this years most holy night. Hope I’m not showing my age there. What is the action man of choice these days anyways? But I digress, fortunately, for the latter group, Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, is a massive success and a large measure of vindication for the much beleaguered Lucas. Then again, just about anything would have been an improvement on Episode’s I and II but perhaps that’s a little unfair, let’s take this in context. Revenge of the Sith is more like the old movies in that the special effects are pure perfection, the acting is, for a change, up to the standards we’ve come to expect from blockbusters of this league with even Hayden Christensen living up to the standards set by his compatriots Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman, who are as ever worthy of their roles even given the facile nature of their characters. One of these days, a DVD trilogy box set will come out with Episodes I, II and III (and no doubt a special “never seen before footage” disk) and I’ll have to buy it and the only reasons that will happen is because Ja-Ja Binks makes only a 3 second appearance in this episode and all the loose ends are nicely tied up as we see the death of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of Lord Vader. In short, Episode III rocks, if you haven’t already, see it!
Last Friday, Laura and I went with friends Christa and Marty to London's famous Old Vic Theatre for a performance of National Anthems (by Dennis McIntyre) starring Kevin Spacey as Ben Cook. I did a bit of reading and discovered this play is something of an old favourite for Spacey. He first played the part of Ben Cook 17 years ago and has actually owned the rights to the play ever since. Going to the theatre in london is a real treat, not only do you get to see the best productions the world of theatre has to offer, but often you get to see some of the finest screen actors along the way. National Anthems stars, in addition to the eminent Spacey, such well known screen actors as Steven Weber (the reader may recall a TV series called "Wings") and Mary Stuart Masterson (of "Fried Green Tomatoes" fame) in the roles of Arthur and Leslie Reed. Theatre can often be unpredictable and uninspiring, but we were fortunate enough to go on a night when Spacey and indeed the other cast members were at their best. The play is truly an eclectic piece, altogether disturbing in parts and then at once raucously amusing. The audience is see-sawed as Spacey's character embarks on an exhausting tale both physically and emotionally. Spacey gives it as much energy as a third year drama student on final examination practical and much to his credit, pulls off a truly brilliant performance which only increases in orders of magnitude as the story unfolds. The play ended to deafening roars from the crowd who remained on their feet well into the fourth, well deserved, encore. National Anthems shows at the Old Vic Theatre until the 23rd of April 2005.
This past Saturday, my lurvely girlfriend Laura took me to see George Bizet's Carmen at the Royal Albert Hall. I'd never been to the opera before, but Laura's a bit of a veteran and suggested the classic Carmen might be a good, light and more importantly, conscious beginning to my operatic patronage career. Carmen, I imagine, is something akin to Les Miserables in terms accessibility to new comers and this production in particular was even more so thanks to the dialog being in English. The venue could not possibly have been more grand or apt and to make the experience even more enjoyable, Laura booked us a pair of Grand Tier seats, which yielded a very good vantage point of both the stage and orchestra... oh, and at least one passed out old guy. The producer had the good sense to place the stage directly in the middle of the hall, making for 360 degree viewing and creating a sense of space not vaguely approachable otherwise. Good use of lighting and props further enchanted the scene and made for a believable Spanish setting in which this tale of love, betrayal and ultimately death, is played out with charming realism. More information about Carmen and other upcoming events can be found on the Royal Albert Hall website.
Some time ago I attempted to read 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' (by the same author) and found it the most boring and tedious of reads in the way Salman Rushdie is boring and tedious. Sure, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a literary genius and his writing style (subject of course to that of the translator) is unquestionably lyrically precise and imaginative but any writer can wax lyrical about anything for 300 pages and not manage for an instant to gain and hold the attention of the reader. Love in the Time of Cholera is just such a read. I decided to give Mr. Marquez another try after this book was vehemently recommended by two of my most respected friends and I resolved to read it to completion before passing judgement. Having this day completed the book, I can safely say it was agony most of the way through. The book leads the reader through a 60 year duration storyline of love and love making in the time of, erm, cholera. It holds ones attention only fleetingly at certain points when it appears things might finally get going. Perhaps I am a ruffian, perhaps I know nothing about writing, perhaps this book is as quaint and charming as it presumes to be, then again perhaps not. More likely, perhaps it's just not everybody's cuppa and I know at least for my own part, this is probably the last Gabriel Garcia Marquez book I will manage the patience to complete. Love in the Time of Cholera can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk, should you feel the urge to find out for yourself what the fuss, or lack thereof, is all about.