I’m Not Saying Ben Brandall Should Kill Himself

Errare humanum est; it is true we all make mistakes and, from time to time, such mistakes can lead to disastrous events. I am reminded of the architect, John Weeks, who built Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, in the 1960’s. Upon completion, the building was considered so ugly by everyone, including the Queen, that John, wracked with guilt and shame, threw himself from the roof of the six floor maternity unit to his demise.

The above story is not true. It is, in fact, urban myth. John Weeks did, indeed, build the hospital and everyone did think it was ugly, but John did not carry out the legendary, almost poetically, suggested justice upon himself.…   [continue reading]

Neural Network Art: From AI Nightmares to Alien Volcanoes

As we’ve seen from many Twitter bots, software is more than capable of creating captivating art.

But art created by neural networks moves past basic random patterns, using millions of source images, and AIs so advanced they can create surreal landscapes from scratch, paint portraits of dog-men and model alien volcanoes on planets we can’t closely observe.

In this post, I’m going to explain how neural networks — software designed to emulate the human brain — generate images, and speculate what that could mean for the future of art and entertainment.

…   [continue reading]

Viral Videos and Hyperreality: How Attention is Manufactured On a Massive Scale

Viral videos are a strange cultural phenomenon.

They’re your classic fail compilations, your controversial quotes clipped out of interviews, your Cat Falls in Bath, Disembowels Owner (MUST WATCH!!)s. Or — more interestingly — a document of some tiny, insignificant moment that was never ready to be scrutinized by millions.

Videos go viral by chance: they happen to be picked up in the right place at the right time, someone will get it up on the front page of reddit for a few hours, and it’ll blow up. Millions of views overnight, coverage from every major news outlet on the planet, and some drugged seven-year old babbling nonsense in the back of his dad’s car is suddenly world famous.…   [continue reading]

The Yellow Brick Road of Internet Hysteria

Communities have a habit of obsessing over breadcrumb trails.  It’s an impulse within us that goes back far further than the internet.  However, with the advent of social media, this hysteria has been easier to track.  It’s impressive just how quickly these self-proclaimed “detectives” can get to work.  You can always count on teams of basement dwellers to decode any stray ARG.  As I’ve recently stated, this can be a great way of engaging a fan community.  That’s all just marketing though, in essence.  Deep in each of these explorers’ hearts must be a wish that something more hides in the folds of mystery.…   [continue reading]

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: How a Failed 70s Obscurity Was Brought Back to Life

Comics intimidate me.

There’s nothing like almost a full century of universe-building to make you feel like you’re at the center of some huge, complex web of references and in-jokes designed to keep the insiders in and the outsiders out.

When I saw the first issue of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, I’d not heard of either character before and imagined that there’d not be any references to miss. As if I needed more proof that the world of comic books has a high barrier to entry for a pedantic completionist like me, I was wrong.

After reading #1, I realized it was full of allusions to past releases that I had no idea existed.…   [continue reading]

Farewell Hilary Shaw

On Tuesday 20th December, at 5:30 pm GMT I stood up and stretched, working out a crick in my back which had settled after 9 hours in the same chair.

The work call had just ended, with my next post set up and scheduled, ready to go the next day automatically.

On a whim, I decided to check my Twitter, expecting some kind of backlash at the Rogue One review that went live the day before.

“@Ben__Mulholland Hi Ben Mulholland”

This message from Gabriele Palmer seemed a little odd, mainly because I had (and still have) a paltry amount of followers – I’m not important enough to make spam worthwhile or to inspire any real interest in striking up a conversation out of the blue.…   [continue reading]

Living Through Lenses

I’ve worn glasses since I was four years old. I’ve watched TV from birth.

Some of my fondest memories come from getting up before the sunrise to watch the gradually improving sequence of cartoons that were broadcast from 5am onwards. The Tweenies, The Hoobs, Arthur. All watched from the carpet, 2 feet away from the screen.

Having older parents, I was late getting new technology. So, the first computer we had in the house was a square clunky Windows laptop my dad got given for remote work. I remember, on the days where he was out on a sales call and I was home sick from school, trying to find my way around the labyrinthine internet on a connection that was only fast enough to transmit emails at the speed of physical mail.…   [continue reading]

The Art and Nonsense Poetry of Obscure Twitter Bots

Art and curation left in the hands of scripts and algorithms is fascinating, and nowhere more accessible than when on Twitter. There are a handful of bots that tweet varied and interesting art. Art that makes you wonder how useful humans are anyway, other than for coding thousands of these things.

Some bots on this list drip out material from a database, while some procedurally generate art, or mash up existing material in new ways.

My obsession with machine curated/created art has led me to hunt for more and more Twitter bots, and I’ve found and followed some great ones so far.…   [continue reading]

Twat with a Laptop: A Tale of Hometown Alienation

“What the fuck is that twat with a laptop doing?”

Ah, Grimsby charm, you’ve got to love it. Bet it’s some idiot in a beany and shoes far too high-grade for the sweatshop turtleneck he’s draped across a frame sorely lacking sustenance other than the outrage of the internet.

Except it wasn’t. He was talking about me.

And in that moment I felt homeless.

Now, I’m not trying to spin a “woe is me, I don’t belong anywhere” story. I grew up in a town (and family) of little sympathy for people who whine and moan about how bad they’ve got it.…   [continue reading]

Hearing Damage: A Personal Aside

Secret Cave has been a quiet dwelling since the turn of New Year.  Indeed, only seven days into it, time taken off in this period is somewhat natural and understandable.  It’s been the case for the two Bens after all, both of whom have had swathes of personal and professional flotsam to attend to.  As a freer agent however, I would usually have posted a couple of things up by now.  Truth is, something terrifying has reared its head; something I didn’t expect until at least my fifties.  For the past week, I have been suffering immense hearing damage.

I’m going to try and use this as a jumping off point for talking about a few things.  …   [continue reading]