Monday, 31 January 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For

America. It's an odd country. It has lots of good things, and many bad. One of those good things is their Constitution. Something England doesn't bother to have. As part of the Constitution they have a first amendment that states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

A wholy admirable sentiment. Try as I might I can't imagine a situation in which I would describe this as "going too far" in any manner.

Some American students can. 1 in 3 of them.
Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

Which, if I understand correctly, means that a significant number of Amercian students want less rights.

They deserve them.

Thursday, 27 January 2005

Bits And Bobs

Over at Making Light Teresa maintains that "My readers are the best thing about this weblog. If you’re not reading the comments, you’re missing half the fun." It's true and her recent post on an Onion piece is a case in point. The comments start off as "Ha ha, I thought that was funny, too" and quickly evolve in to a discussion of whether it's duck or duct tape. The answer, of course, is it's Gaffa Tape, any musician knows that.

Also after reading those comments, you'll never forget what "apocope" means. I now need a good reason to bring it up in conversation.

Speaking of comments, I got my first comment in ages -- since the great Making Light spike, in fact -- from Chris over at Splinters, perhaps I should be horrible to people more often[1]. I'll answer it soon, but I need to think a little more clearly than I am doing today. I keep wanting to defend The Incredibles partly on box-office performance and I don't want to get into that.

Box-office is a lousy way to review movies and I don't really get what it means to a movie as a work unless the movie was created simply to make money. David Poland's Hot Blog does this quite a lot, and I guess that's his right, but I don't know how reading, for an example, "Closer added about 30% more screens and will see a gross increase this weekend of about 15%" tells me anything about Closer as a movie. What it does tell me is that the idea that accountancy has replaced creativity in Hollywood sometimes applies to critics, too.

So, anyway, this being a bit of a round-up, I'm going to mention my referrer logs, feel free to skip to the footnote.

No really hilarious ones recently, though a Google for '"pubs to avoid" in Newcastle" (oddly, I don't show up on this anymore) made me smile. An AOL search for "PASSIVE AGRESSIVE VIOLENT BEHAVIOR" made me realise that, perhaps, I should spell-check the cut-n-pasted stuff, and the Google for "age effection of solving a puzzle" made me realise I should spell-check my own stuff, too.

I do get links from other Blogs, too, but most of them are from that "Go To Next Blog" button at the top of Blogger pages. I got one recently that seemed to be a blog solely set-up to provide links to a dog company's website. Frown-worthy behaviour at the very least.

By far the most links I've had recently are for "Samarost Walkthrough" (which again I don't show up on any more, is Google purging its Blog links?). Now, there are some hard games on the 'Net. I've been stuck on quite a few. Samarost is not one of them. Just click things and, eventually, you'll click them in the right order, also if you've clicked something once it doesn't mean you can't click it again.

[1] Splinters is a great site, though. It will always have a special place in my heart for being the first place, that I read, to point out how "Arts & Letters Daily" had slipped from "must read" artices to "this agrees with my politics" ones. Now that was a rant worth preserving.

All White "Pride"

Every so often something happens that is so mind-blowingly dumb that you just have to stand and gawk open-mouthed at it. All the time realising that no joke you can make about it is ever going to be funnier than the incident itself. It seems that in football if these occurences have nothing to do with Sepp Blatter, then they involve the FA:
The Football Association have apologised for a "regrettable oversight" after a DVD which claimed to feature the greatest post-war England internationals did not include a single black player.

The DVD, entitled 'The Pride of the Nation', has been included in a welcome pack for newcomers to the 'englandfans' official members' club.

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Penguin Pick Up

Chris over at Splinters, fresh from ranting about The Incredibles[1], spots the flaw in the John Sutherland's article about the massive Penguin warehouse cock-up:
People are unlikely to buy direct from publisher websites because most of the time, people don't know, or care, who the publisher is. The reason why Amazon continues to thrive is because it has built itself into the consciousness of Net users as the first place to go and look for just about anything. That's especially true of books, and Jeff Bezos's first great idea was to stock a far greater breadth of more obscure books than any sane advisor thought wise - the result was that he attracted a huge audience looking for hard to find books.

Penguin, though, might actually be one of the few publishers for who this might work especially with their huge Classics range, but other than that I would image that few people buy books based on who published them.

That said, I did buy mostly Picador books for a time. I'm sure this says some thing very bad about me.

[1] Chris is so proud of his rant, he's made it a feature of the Spike main site, which is like being proud to show off the scar you got from shooting yourself in the foot. He mentions his referrer logs showing up links from Animation Nation, but doesn't link to the discussion in particular. It's here. You can't help but agree with this:
Anyone who thinks Shrek and Shark's Tale had intelligent scripts and knows enough about daytime American sitcoms to use them as good comparisons doesn't hold much credibility with me than any other armchair critic.

Darth Tater

OK, so I've resisted temptation to link to this for long enough...

Yes, I will be buying one at the soonest opportunity.

Drumming Effects Intelligence

Acccording to research done at the University of Toronto, drumming can make you smarter. Apparently hitting things is good for you and drumming can stimulate brain activity. Drummers apparently "do tend to score better on IQ tests, and have fewer discipline problems".

Only, I imagine, if the school is full of bass players...

Is Bugs Bunny a Twansvestite?

Here's the proof.

Link via Boing Boing.

Thursday, 20 January 2005

English like it's spoke

Harpers have an article about how the English don't always quite say what they mean. It's mostly to do with communications in Europe and the the was alledgely found found by a journalist for The Economist in 2004 on an office wall in the European Court of Justice. The list has such gems as:
What they say: By the way/Incidentally . . .
What is understood: This is not very important.
What they mean: The primary purpose of our discussion is ...

What they say: With the greatest respect . . .
What is understood: He is listening to me.
What they mean: I think you are wrong, or a fool.

Well, anyway, I'm sure I've been guilty of most if not all of these. If guilty's the right word. Mostly it shows that the British can be disdainfully cruel if they can get away with it while still keeping an air of quiet dignity. I can't see anything wrong with that...

The Economist, by the way, have their own article on this, which manages to find other sides the story by looking at how other countries use their native languages in subtly confusing ways:
No less obvious is the fact that ideas about plain speaking do not travel easily across the Channel. As the Brits see things, a Frenchman who says “je serai clair”(which literally means “I will be clear”) should be understood as meaning: “I will be rude”. Also evident is the Anglo-Saxons' contempt for spectacular gestures à la française. The phrase “Il faut la visibilité Européenne”(“We need European visibility”) is rendered as: “The EU must indulge in some pointless, annoying and, with luck, damaging international grand-standing.” The British also suggest that the sentence “Il faut trouver une solution pragmatique” (literal translation: “We must find a pragmatic solution”) should be understood as meaning: “Warning: I am about to propose a highly complex, theoretical, legalistic and unworkable way forward.”

In Praise of Plagiarism. Perhaps.

Somewhat appropriately I can't remember where I found this link. Anyway, it's an article called Something Borrowed by Malcolm Gladwell.
True, copying could go too far. There were times when one artist was simply replicating the work of another, and to let that pass inhibited true creativity. But it was equally dangerous to be overly vigilant in policing creative expression, because if Led Zeppelin hadn’t been free to mine the blues for inspiration we wouldn’t have got “Whole Lotta Love,” and if Kurt Cobain couldn’t listen to “More Than a Feeling” and pick out and transform the part he really liked we wouldn’t have “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—and, in the evolution of rock, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a real step forward from “More Than a Feeling.”

I always find copyright to be one of those contentious issues that never gets resolved satisfactorily. On the one hand I do want musicians to profit from their original work and on the other I don't want medicine companies using their privileged position to exploit the sick. Gladwell seems happy to take each issue on a case-by-case basis, but that's as open to inconsistency as any position.

Monday, 17 January 2005

Self Indulgence

TBogg links to a new web craze (possibly). You have to hit shuffle on your iPod and list your top ten. I don't have an iPod, but I tried it in WinAmp and got:
Blackstreet feat. Slash & ODB - Fix (Remix)
Tom Waits - The Part You Throw Away
Was (Not Was) - Tell Me That I'm Dreaming
Warren Zevon - Macgillycuddy's Reeks
Various Artists - Reach Out, I'll Be There - Four Tops (The)
Garbage - Medication
Zalatnay Sarolta and Generál Group (Generál együttes) - Come Alone (Gyere egyedül)
Beck - Lost Cause
Lewis Taylor - Never Be My Woman
Mark Lanegan Band - Come to Me (feat. PJ Harvey)

Slow Learner

Bush Admits Misgivings About Famed Phrases
"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean," Bush said Thursday. "'Bring 'em on' is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. And those words had an unintended consequence. It kind of, some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn't the case."

Via the mighty Sisyphus Shrugged.

Friday, 14 January 2005

Get Your Stickers Off

And that's a fact! Those stickers telling people evolution is a theory, and that all sides of the argument should be considered, are illegal.

Of course it was a Clintion appointed judge who decided this. I'm sure they'll just give it a couple of years and try again...

Thursday, 13 January 2005

More Thomson

Berkeleyan’s Wendy Edelstein interviews David Thomson -- I've met him, you know -- about the evolution of film, and the future of the movie-going experience.
Heat is a puzzle. It asks a very big question: On the one hand, I think Heat is extraordinarily well-made. Michael Mann makes movies as well as anyone in America. Heat is very exciting in a plastic, sensual way, but on the other hand, I think it’s ridiculous. The basic premise that we live in a society where the cops and criminals are alike is nonsense. Anyone who has had their house broken into or has been robbed on the street knows what criminal violence is and that it’s loathsome. The danger here is that movies can be so compelling and entrancing that they can lead you to believe in things that you don’t believe and that are really not so.

Link via Bookslut go there for more linky goodness now!
ETA: From Greencine:
David Thomson is guest curating and introducing a series of films based on his new book, The Whole Equation at the Pacific Film Archive, running today through January 30. In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Kimberley Chun chats with him and finds him "less intimidating and more down-to-earth than one imagines." Nonetheless, on a neighboring page, Max Goldberg remains skeptical of Thomson's most recent direction: "Questioning the limits of cinematic form is valid enough, but [David] Thomson can do it to the point of being reductive. With distributors, multiplexes, DVD manufacturers, and Blockbuster stores already limiting what most people can see, do we really need one of the nation's preeminent film thinkers playing the same game?"

The Chun interview is worth reading if only for the last question and answer:
BG: Do you have any guilty pleasures?

DT: I never feel guilty about pleasure.

Wednesday, 12 January 2005

So There I Was Watching Football In The Pub and Screaming: "Press X!"

Wired has noticed that sometimes when you play games for a while it takes sometime to stop thinking like the game forces you to. However, if this happens...
"I was driving down Venice Boulevard," recalled her husband, Dan Kitchens, "and Kozy reached over and grabbed the steering wheel and for a moment was trying to yank it to the right.... (Then) she let go, but kept staring out her window, and then looked back at me kind of stunned and said, 'Sorry. I thought we could pick up that mailbox we just passed.'"

... your girlfriend is pschotic. Feel free to dump her. There's a huge difference between thing "That's a bit like playing GTA" and pulling someone out of their car and riving off with it. Though the husband does try and get his own back:
"The weird thing was that last night in my half-sleep, half-awake haze, I thought I was playing Katamari Damacy, too, and I kept trying to roll Kozy up in my ball," said Dan Kitchens. "I think I got this just from watching Kozy play the game for hours."

Which seems to me that he was slyly trying to initiate some cheeky bum sex[1] and got caught out and had to come up with a story. Now that it's Wired interviewing him he's sticking to it.

Still, it is kind of true. I've been playing Pro Evoloution Soccer 4 a lot recently and when I'm watching footy on the TV I do want to start pressing buttons. The worst I had for this was when I'd played the 2 Buffy games for the X-Box and then got a new season of BtvS on DVD. It was more of a slight twitch, and the occassional thought of "nice combo I wonder how you do that?", than anything. Annoying, though.

I should note that this does not mean that I think playing violent games makes you violent. It does, however, make you think that if you do get violent you'd now exactly where to run to to pick up the shotgun, and to use that in combination with a decent longer range weapon.

[1] Thanks to The Law of The Playground for that expression. Find this and more, including strangely accurate descriptions of your major childhood trauma by people who couldn't possibly know you, at the link.

Words of the Year

Slate has an article about Linguistic Society of America. They had a convention to choose the words of the year. For example:
The Most Outrageous category is tricky; we never agree whether it's the word itself that's outrageous (typically for having some vulgar element, as in 2003's winner, cliterati, for "prominent feminists") or the concept (as with 2002's neuticles, "false testicles for neutered pets"). This year the strongest contender was santorum, defined (and heavily promoted) by sex writer Dan Savage—in a campaign to besmirch the name of right-wing Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum—as "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." We dismissed one potential problem—that newspapers wouldn't print the term if it won—on the grounds that we shouldn't censor ourselves. And indeed, in the afternoon's voting, santorum did win, but many newspapers simply skipped this category in their coverage. So much for academic freedom.

The most outrageous thing for me, however, is that they managed to get through a whole article on linguists without once using the word "cunning".

Tuesday, 11 January 2005

Don't Believe Half Of What You See...

...And none of what you hear.

You probably know radio programmes can and do edit ums and ahs and pauses from their reports. Here, though, is a report on it that shows how pervasive it is and how subtle the changes can be.

I don't think the meaning of anything is changed, and I think the professionalism of radio broadcasters would prevent them from doing that. The page linked to above, though, links to a fascinating audio report on the issues this kind of invisible editting can raise.

Furry Cup

Pictures of a furry cup, with leather trim. Safe for work.

Link via Boing Boing.

Monday, 10 January 2005

Brain Bendingly Wrong, But Fun

In Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, the words Salvatore used depended on where and when he'd heard them, so he spoke a garbled tongue of all the languages of Europe at once.

The Internet, never wanting to be left out, now has a musical version of this. It's call Let Them Sing It For You.

Link via the recently resurrected TMFTML.

B-but he's worked with Colin Farrell...

Samuel Jackson speaks his mind about rappers as actors:
"Hollywood people tend to think that because one is successful in one aspect of entertainment they can bring them into this particular world and make a success out of them.

"They ask people like me to be in a film with those people that they are kind of headlining and your name ends up behind them.

"If you do that, it sanctions the fact that these people come into this world and you think they are worthy of you sharing your time on screen with them. I don't particularly think that."

Damn right!

I think Sam's pissed off because it wasn't till his 11th movie that he got to play "Criminal" and that was after his rivetting performances as "Bum" and "Gang Member No. 2".

Of course, his is about to appear in xXx: State of the Union with Ice Cube, but O'Shea's paid his dues having appeared in 20 movies already. Interestingly Cube's first movie, Boyz N The Hood, is arguably his best (well you can argue about it; Three Kings is actually the best, Boyz is second, though).

I know what he's getting at though. Does anyone really want to see that guy from that song about Polaroids play Jimi Hendrix[1], or would you rather him have a go at "Third Bloke on the Left Wearing a Bandana" in half a dozen movies first to see if he has the chops?

[1] André 3000 -- Andre Benjamin -- from Outkast, and the song is Hey Ya!. And, yes, he does want to do Jimi. Thankfully Jimi's family don't want anyone to make a movie out of the man's life.

Wednesday, 5 January 2005

I'm a Skeptic, but, then, Aries' Are Like That

Lucy Mangan in the Graun gets off to a flying start:
Are you a woman who believes in astrology?

Then let me back you into a corner - and beat some sense into you

And that's just the headline and sub-headline. It goes on to say:
"You're a fatuous insult to the species. You should be stripped and burned at the stake of commonsense. I will stoke the fires with Jonathan Cainer horoscopes ripped untimely from the Daily Mail, and as the flames lick ever higher, I will suck the smell of grilled moron greedily down into my lungs."

All of which kind of makes up for the Decca Aitkenhead article that blames English liberals for their slavemaster ancestors of 400 years ago buggering Jamaicans in to their current homophobia. Really.


My hip factor (yeah, like I have any) may never recover, but I'm glad about this:
Was (Not Was) is together again
Dan DeLuca: For the uninitiated, what was - and is - Was (Not Was)?

Don Was: What Sun Ra is to Duke Ellington, we wanted to be to the traditional soul revue. That was the original idea.

David Was:
I used to call us the heterosexual Village People. We didn't have the Indian or the fireman, but we looked like this odd pastiche of the homeless, pimps and criminals.

Monday, 3 January 2005

Skip Skip Skipping Along

So, anyway I'd finally had enough. My Return of the King DVD was skipping and stuttering and after 2 years of this with my Samsung DVD player I had been pushed to the edge.

Most times I wouldn't notice. Often the only problem was the layer change, but about 1 in 4 of my DVDs had noticable skipping issues. So, last week I invested in a new Philips DVD player.

I took a couple of DVDs to Media Markt with me to make sure the new player wouldn't have the same problems: Pandora's Box because my player doesn't like the second layer of this one and refuses to play the end, Bound because it has what looks like a physical fault that stopped some early scenes from playing and Finding Nemo, because the branching on that can cause problems.

They all checked out. Even Bound, which I was convinced wouldn't play on anything. But there I was in my local Media Markt watching hot lesbo action in the name of research.

What this means is that some DVD's of mine will have to come in for some critical re-evaluation, especially those that I didn't like so much at the time. What made me realise this was watching Infernal Affairs again over he weekend. This disc did skip but, until I watched it again, I didn't notice how much and I didn't realise how it had affected my enjoyment of the movie because, damn!, it's good.

My initial disappointment, partly, was that, being a Hong Kong movie, I expected a more John Woo type experience. Guns are rarely fired, however, and, when they are, it's not balletic in anyway.

The box compares the movie to Heat but the film it most reminds me of is Manhunter. It's a movie where the story is propelled by meetings, formal or otherwise, and tense moments are created by little more than countdowns on computer screens or tense little glances. There is action, but only that necessary to further the plot. The story, a spy in the Triads vs a spy on the Police force, works it's way through as many permutations of spy and counter-spy as it can, showing the dilemma both characters face by being a good man in a bad world and vice versa. Great tense stuff.