Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Meta-post: Searching

I've just become a member of Technorati, mostly because I was thinking of using tags on my posts so I can become known by tens of more people. Tags are a bit ungainly in Blogger at the moment, though, so expect that to be intermittent.

One useful upshot, though, is that they provide an easy method for searching this site. If you look over to the right you'll see there's a little search-form there. It seems to work just fine, so if you really need to find that post about "vampire scrotums" or that hapland2 walkthrough, that's the place to go.

Monday, 30 May 2005

Mr Bad Example

So I kinda had my first public solo performance yesterday. Me, a guitar and a handful of indifferent people (and one or two who actually listened) down at the Irish Pub (neé Kennedy's). As I said to a friend I'm not really ready for public consuption, yet. But I have a stupid tendency to do the things that I talked myself into doing when I was drunk.

I really don't know how it went. I thought I sung OK, I realise my guitar playing, after only 8 months, isn't much more than strumming along more in hope than expectation but I did a version of Warren Zevon's Boom Boom Mancini that had a bit of a riff (and some quick-ish, for me, chord changes) and I thought the rhythm held up.

It was all a bit "campfire", to be honest, and that's all I can be at the moment. At least I didn't do "House of the Rising Sun".

I was quite happy that, apart from some initial nerves, once I got into it I didn't get all self-concious and, apart from a couple of egregious, song stopping mistakes, I did cover myself when less serious errors happened. So I guess I learned a lot, it was a fun experience and, when my playing's better, I'll probably do it again. You know, once everyone's recovered from the experience.

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

Too Much Johnson

Johnson 's all over the 'Net recently, well The Guardian, anyway. It seems that book of Steven Johnson's that I mentioned earlier has got people all over wondering if computer games aren't too bad after all, or at least better that watching Charlies Angels...

The Guardian article linked to above says:
The bestselling games, Johnson points out, are usually the most complex. Gamers are not would-be zombies after all, but are looking for a challenge. Parents and teachers need to recognise the strengths of popular culture and what it is teaching our children, but also recognise what it does not teach. We need to fill the gaps, he says, particularly in verbal and emotional intelligence and social skills. Although he observes that given the chance, children will play video games in groups, and interact with each other as much as with the game.

This leads to what Bobbie Johnson (see what I mean about "too much"?) over at the Graun calls "Gaming's dirty little secret" and that's this: While playing games you spend an awful lot of time doing things that aren't really fun.

I finally noticed this a while ago. I think I was playing Secret Weapons Over Normandy and I realised that although I couldn't shoot down all the planes today, if I shoot down a few now and then sleep on it I'll be able to shoot more tomorrow. Repeating until I could grind all the way through a level. Actually this was quite fun, to be honest, but then I realised that I'd pretty much have to do the same thing with the next game. My reactions might be a little quicker, sure, and if the controls were the same, then I'd probably have an advantage on the earlier levels, but the things is that each new game does require an element of unlearning and relearning.

This is quite a useful skill, too, though. I've been teaching myself guitar recently and I realised early on that I wasn't going to be playing like Robert Johnson (hey! I kept the theme going) just yet, and I'd likely have to beat a few end-of-level bosses before getting to him (reading music, scales, that sort of thing), but if I could put 40 hours into, say, KOTOR, surely I could do at least that with the old guitar. Plus I'd have a real-world skill at the end of it. It's working so far (not that I'm any good, or anything, but I'm going to keep going until I am).

All About The Beat

Takeshi Kitano. You either love him or hate him. You either think, for an example, Brother is a stylish melding of Yakuza and Mafia movies given the odd twist and strange pacing, or it's possibly one of the worst movies ever made. I have a soft spot for it, I think it's missing some of the normal Kitano depth, which it's replaced by lots more talking than you would expect, but on the whole it's an interesting branching out for the director.

His movies do take a while to get used to. The ones I've seen — Violent Cop, Boiling Point, Sonatine, Hana Bi, Brother, Zatoichi — tend to feel very still and calm (slow, if you really want to use that word) right up until the moment insane violence breaks out. Then it goes back to being still and calm again.

Anyway, the guy who runs this site really loves the Takeshi. This, I think, is a good thing. He's got very thorough reviews of the Takeshi movies avalible on DVD and some lovely desktop images. It's quite the labour of love.

Kitano's own site is here.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Snobs Out

Some guys from Vanity Fair, David Kamp and Steven Daly to be exact, have written a book, The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, that attempts to prick the pomposity of Rock snobs everywhere. Nerve have an interview with them, and they come across likable and fairly witty:
What's the most overused word in the rock snob's vocabulary?
There is this compulsion to describe guitar solos as "coruscating." The word "plangent" is confusing to people, because they take it as onomatopoeia. They think it means soft and chiming, but it means loud and resounding. Also, "seminal," as in the seminal band, the seminal song, which basically means any rocker who was in on a trend too early to make money.
Steven: With the book out and exposing these kinds of things, the snobs are going to be so self-conscious about using these terms, no one will be able to use them after a while. We'll have to leave them out when we update it.

They have a website, too.

I don't know, though. I'm not particularly a Rock Snob, but this whole thing just seems a bunch of over written snark collected in to a list and put out to annoy some people who must have made them feel very small indeed at some hipster party. Getting your own back on people by slagging them off to your mates is childish enough as it is. Stretching it to book length seems just, well, very sad indeed.

The entries on their site all seem well-informed (or researched; if the writers aren't recoverinbg ex-rock snobs then they must have had to read through and listen to loads of material that they really hated) but often pointlessly nasty:
Flaming Lips, the. Late-blooming Oklahoma-based rock group, around long enough to have opened for the SEMINAL ’80s hardcore and punk-pop bands Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, and the Butthole Surfers, but now at the vanguard of a widescreen-psychedelia movement that also includes Mercury Rev and the Polyphonic Spree. Gradually sloughing off their scuzz-rock origins, the Lips won minor recognition for their hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” in 1994, before hitting the Snob mother lode with their melodious quasi-concept albums The Soft Bulletin (1999) and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002), which have turned their front man, the adorable, prematurely gray Wayne Coyne, into the Justin Timberlake of the Volvo-owning set.

Maybe I'm being deliberately obtuse, but that last bit makes no sense at all.

Still it might be worth flicking through to get some recommendations. If they hate it, it should be worth tracking down.

Monday, 23 May 2005

The Perils Of Ego Surfing

A Google Image Search for Paul Herzberg. It's nice to have Mr. Giles there, though, for some reason.

I was briefly top of the normal search, too, but this actor/writer guy keeps on taking over. You know, I work hard to write a couple of Blog posts a week — not too hard to be honest — and I'm still only the 9th ranked site, and what does he do? Gets linked to loads times because he once showed his backside in Lifes and Loves Of A She-Devil.

Talkin' Loud, Saying Nothing

PJ O'Rourke once claimed that Americans "walk taller, talk louder, spit further [and] fuck longer" than anybody else. It seems he's wrong about one of those. Frankly, they can keep the others.

And, well, those poor Dutch women... Hey, Inge, if you need some longer lovin', you know where I'm at.

Friday, 20 May 2005

Those Bastards!

Apparently you should avoid buying the second least expensive wine in a restaurant because it's the one with the highest mark-up. The reasoning goes like this:
Restaurant owners will often price the wine they buy cheapest at wholesale as the second cheapest wine on the menu. Why? Because people generally don't order the cheapest wine and thus often turn to the second cheapest. Price that one higher, and you get a bigger marginal profit. Presto -- restauranteur as microeconomist!

Because, as you know, wine doesn't have a big enough mark-up as it is.

Although I do think a food column should know that it's "restaurateur".

Via Kottke, by way of Saucy.

Hapland 2

The sequel to the infuriating but clever and cute Hapland has been released. It's called Hapland 2 (or Hapland2) and the walkthrough for this is quite complex, so I've linked to one someone else has done.

If you just want hints, here's a couple:

Acid rain + cannonball = flaming cannonball
If you turn it on, the staircase will move
Homicidal work mates are distracted by butterflys

Via, as always with these things, the incomparable Jay Is Games

Thursday, 19 May 2005

Put Doodah on The ThingThing and Then Hur-Hur With The Hmm-Hmm

Every other blogger seems to be discussing the bizarre sex life of prominent Americans — especially those prominent Americans who want less prominent Americans to cut that sort of thing out. I've been feeling left out (who wouldn't? It's like all they do is rut over there, even the mules aren't safe) mostly because all the funny lines have been taken by people who have got to the stories first.

The article entitled It's All About the Butt Sex (yes my hits are a bit down this month, why do you ask?) over at World O'Crap proves my point. World's one of the best bloggers out there and he's covered that particular story —something about a booklet called The Little Black Book that has explicit descriptions of the aforementioned butt sex and other activities that homosexuals might partake in, which could fall in to the hands of children—with his usually insight. I do think that he missed one point, though and it's this: the Boston Herald describes the Little Black Book as including "graphic instructions on how to safely perform gay sex acts". Surely the point here is that if the booklet is doing it's job, and doing it well, then the instructions should be graphic. Anything less than graphic could probably leave you confused at a vital moment and that would be no good at all.

You almost get the feeling that the people complaining are actually worried about that word "safely". If they can make so that people think that those acts are somehow unsafe then it more more step towards a fully god-fearing, straight America. They'd rather have people mis-informed, unsafe and, I suppose the train of thought goes, more like them than informed, safe and being who they want to be.
ETA:For those of you who are curious as to exactly how explicit the guide is, —you know who you are— the people who want it banned have some pictures of the booklet's content on their site. The pics are not safe for work as, well, most works tend to frown upon greyscale images of penises (penii?), but should be safe for your mind and outlook if read elsewhere.

Headline Watch

Surprisingly, there aren't many Sith Hits The Fans and only slightly more Sith Hits The Fan search results.

The rights to This Sith Hit's Shit are available on eBay, according to the recently revamped Tachyon TV...

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

List Of Voices

Boing Boing link to a list of the top 100 hundred movie voices. As these lists are meant to do, this one provides plenty of room for argument. Orson Welles comes in second after Clint Eastwood, and you can just about see why. But James Mason in at 46? Come on, one of the genuinely great voices under Mr. T? How did that happen. Then it strikes you. Any list of the top movie voices that doesn't have Frank Welker in it really, really doesn't know what the fuck it's talking about.

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Follow-up From Nowhere

I recently became proud owner of the Herzog/Kinski box-set on DVD. I was telling somebody about it and I remembered this great quote about Kinski and ego, except I had no idea how it went.

Apparently it was from Cintra Wilson on Salon and it went like this:
If ego is what makes men miserable, then he was surely one of the most miserable men of all time.

I'm not sure that's even remotely true in any kind of general sense; it does seem to fit Kinski well enough, though.

But No-one Wants To Shake My Hand

Nobody told me it was International Masturbation Month.

Luckily I've been doing my bit, anyway.

Friday, 13 May 2005

Sense Of Proportion

I'm sure many of my regular readers are net savvy and don't actually require me to give definition of Godwin's Law, but, just in case you've never got in to a flame war on the Internet, it goes like this:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Baring this in mind see if you can spot which Manchester United fan in Football365s Mailbox is over-reacting somewhat to the news that his team's shares have changed hands.

Yep, that's right, K Clarke just compared Malcom Glazer to Hitler.

Thursday, 12 May 2005

That's It Fer The Book Learnin'

Speaking of computer games, Steven Berlin Johnson has a new book out called Everything Bad Is Good for You where he makes the case that playing games can be good for your brain. He even compares it favourably to books, imagining what the outcry would be if games had been invented before books:
Reading books chronically understimulates the senses. Unlike the longstanding tradition of gameplaying—which engages the child in a vivid, three-dimensional world filled with moving images and musical sound-scapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements—books are simply a barren string of words on the page....
Books are also tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him or herself in a quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children....
But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can’t control their narratives in any fashion—you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you.... This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they’re powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it’s a submissive one.

He also makes the point that, despite fears that television is dumbing down, the average TV drama is more complex than ever before. He gives The Simpsons as an example, saying that the the viewer has to do a certain amount of "filling in" with each episode. That is, the viewer has to have a fairly broad view of popular culture, politics and current events in order to get all the jokes. The assumption here, I guess, is that because some clever, creative people have put in all those things the onus is on us to understand all their references, you know, rather than just laughing every time Homer says "D'Oh".

He Most Resembles A Dog

In his book Something Like An Autobiography Akira Kurosawa tells the following story:

Long ago the Japanese novelist Shiga Noya presented an essay written by his grandchild as one of the most remarkable prose pieces of his time. He had it published in a literary magazine. It was entitled “My Dog” and ran as follows: "My dog resembles a bear; he also resembles a badger; he also resembles a fox…." It proceeded to enumerate the dog’s special characteristics, comparing each one to yet another animal, developing into a full list of the animal kingdom. However, the essay closed with, "But since he’s a dog, he most resembles a dog." I remember bursting out laughing when I read this essay, but it makes a serious point. Cinema resembles so many other arts. If cinema has very literary characteristics, it also has theatrical qualities, a philosophical side, attributes of painting and sculpture and music elements. But cinema is, in the final analysis, cinema.

I had cause to remember this the other day when I was teaching a lesson that touched on web design and one slide said "A website is not a brochure". Well, it's not, but in some ways it does resemble one. As Kurosawa says the story does have a serious point and by changing one or two of his words you could make the point about the Internet or computer games. As they both resemble a lot of things but in the end they are something different and have to be treated as such.

For The Love Of Joss

Teresa over at Making Light calls this an "Epochal Geekshift". And it's hard to disagree.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Woke Up This Mornin' I Was Downloading An MP3

No Rock N Roll Fun bring news of a MP3 Blog listing on the Monkeyfilter Wikipedia. This, essentially, means more free downloadable music than you can shake a stick at broken down into the sections: Eclectic; Soul/Funk/R&B; Hiphop/Reggae-ton; Jazz; Blues/Folk/Oldtimey; Rock/J(apanese)-Pop/Pop/Indy; Electric/DJ/Mash-Up; Minimal/Experimental; Video Game; Exotica/Obscure; World. So there should be something to float yer boat there.

I've already been checking out Soul Sides for quite a while and have been introduced to a wide range of soul, funk and hip hop that I would have never found out about on my own.

So, thanks to the list I'm now checking out some pre-war blues on Honey, Where You Been So Long. Great stuff!

Monday, 9 May 2005

A Modest Persecution

Fred over at Slacktivist quotes a whole rant by Merlin Missy, who I'd not heard of before, about how Christians in America are persecuted. The whole thing is scary and hilarious by turns and it's tempting to quote whole, but I'll just quote this bit:
Teenagers who tell their parents they're interested in Christianity, or believe they might be Chrisrians, are told they're "going through a (rebellious) phase" and are often sent to counselling to "fix" them. The first response people often make when they hear someone's family member is a Christian is to say "I'm so sorry." Christian clubs at colleges don't advertise their meetings because atheists regularly show up and hand out copies of "On the Origen of Species."

But you should go over to Fred's site and read the whole thing. Then you should check out some of his masterful page-by-page takedowns of Left Behind and his many, thoughtful posts on being a Christian and trying to understand what the Bible is saying to you. Then bookmark the place and check it out regularly.

One For Steve

You rememeber that really scary-looking plastic humunculus Tory in a vague female form that won Putney? It turns out she's from Rotherham. The linked to Guardian article is all but unreadable once you get to the the bit that says "[she] resembles, dare one say it, Margaret Thatcher, except that she retains her provincial accent and is (some might say) is a bit of a looker."

Some might say it, few would mean it.


So, did ya miss me?

Well, I guess not, but I have been away for a week. My refferal stats look almost exactly the same as if I was providing fresh content every day, but I'll try not to get too upset by that...

While I was in England I went to watch the Testimonial game for Lucas Radebe, it was a lot of fun and it was nice to see Elland Road full. The game went on for a bit once it was obvious the players had lost interest, but, despite that, it was entertaining and it was good to see some many great past and present players (and Chris "unbelieveable" Kamara). Lucas was a great player and is a good man, even The Guardian agrees and they stopped liking Leeds at the exact moment that they didn't have to anymore.