Thursday, 30 June 2005

It's Been A While

I've not linked to an interview with, or article by, David Thomson for a bit. So it's a good job that a great new interview is on the 'Net. If only for the bit where he says he'd like to review video games:
Thomson: Well, I think it's a great moment for critics to talk about the medium as a whole rather than individual films. I think there's a lot going on in the world of screens--which is a much larger world than just movies per se and it's very interesting. I mean, at the moment I would almost rather review some video games than movies--not only because more people are looking at them and because my children are looking at them, which are good reasons, but because I think they're almost more interesting.

I reckon some magazine should take him up on this. I'd sure like to read what he'd have to say.

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

It Didn't. Well Not Often.

Suck. It's described over at as "the first great website". I don't know about that. I do know it was the first website I had to read every day. I remember being annoyed and impatient if that day's content wasn't up yet and I remember numerous conversations starting "I was reading in Suck... no it's not a porn site, but it's worth checking out anyway..."

I don't think anybody ever did go and check it out like I said. Things were different then, now everybody is down on the latest website and even the most computer-illiterate will tell you about some great online community if you let them. Suck wasn't interactive though, no comments. They did have a post-bag but that always seemed to be overtaken by regulars and people who seemed more in on the joke than you. But, then, sat in a small office outside a small town in some small country everyone seems more in on the joke than you, at least I was reading Suck.

Damn! Nostalgia for past websites already...

Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Someone Comes To Toon, No-one Leaves Toon

At exactly the moment when it was too late to change the title to my last post about Newcastle United's problems, I realised that I should have snocloned Cory Doctrow's new novel Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town. Luckily, it turns out that Craig "lovely hair" Bellamy has decided he's going nowhere.
"Whether I train with the kids is not up to me, but if that's what I am told to do then that's what I'll do," he said. "All I can do is act in a professional and respectful manner and see what happens after that."

It's a bit late for that "professional and respectful manner" I'd have thought unless the definition of it has expanded to include sending insulting text messages to your colleagues.

How Wrong Can You Be?

It's been a long while since the idea of Glastonbury or even the event itself has got me interested, never mind excited. And this year is no exception. The Guardian seem happy enough, though, and they're certainly filling space with it.

Anyway, Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream seems to have got the wrong end of the stick entirely, annoucing from the stage "We're a punk rock band and you're a bunch of fucking hippies" which is so wrong in its wrongness that it's really hard to know where to start. Let's just say any crowd which has been seen "justifiably bowled over by Coldplay" isn't going to be a bunch of hippies, fucking or not.

Especially when, in the review of Coldplay, you get this priceless bit: "During Speed Of Sound, Martin taunts "Crazy Frog, where are you now?"" The classy thing, to my mind, would be to not draw attention to that at all...

The Guardian On The Web

Recently the Guardian had an interview with web design self-publicist Jakob Nielsen. Naturally someone parodied the interview.

Personally, I don't quite get why Jakob is famous as a usability, er, expert: I guess he talked loudest and most and is a Doctor. He also looks geeky and sort of respectable at the same time, which can't hurt.

His own website, though, is ugly and unreadable. It must minimally meets some criteria and does no more. To be fair the content is good and in some cases, like Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design, excellent, considered stuff despite his occasional lapse into being merely opinionated.

By the way is it only me or does "The Guardian On The Web" sound like the title for a fun bit of pulp SF?

Thursday, 23 June 2005

Evolution. Is There Anything It Can't Do?

So asks Doug over at Carl Zimmer's The Loom. Well, not so much ask, but rants on that very theme.
Isn't it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for evolution? The brain shrinks in some form of pygmy homo erectus. Thats evolution! Ancient genes survive millions of years unchanged. That's evolution?! Women have orgasms. That's evolution! Although not all women have orgasms and they still manage to reproduce hmm luckily with the right spin...That's evolution! We live in a civil society with people working for cooperative goals. That's evolution! Unfortunately some people murder and rape. Just an unfortunate side-effect, but that's evolution.

What gets Doug is that there seems to be some sort of circuler reasoning going on here. Evolution explains everything and everything confirms evolution. Mr Zimmer takes this idea and runs with it explaining very clearly how this isn't quite the case, but that it's odd that evolutions success at explaining a great many things is being held against it. He concludes:
If a scientific theory can explain an aspect of the natural world, withstand scrutiny, and lead to important new insights into how the world works, we really shouldn't hold its success against it. No one's asking for evolution hymns—certainly no more than they're asking for gravity hymns or hymns to the periodic table of the elements.

But go and read the whole thing Zimmer explains it all with quite beautiful clarity.

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Drink Around The World Tee

My T-Shirt Design For An Irish Pub Promotion Posted by Hello

Eamon at the Irish Pub wants to do a promotion where you get a free T-shirt if you drink one each from all the beers from different countries, listed on the shirt, that he stocks. This is my design, and it looks like it's going to be made...

Oh, I should add that the world map is the large map from the original Civilisation, I did this for fairly geek-oriented reasons, but also because, being a game, it has more land mass so the continents take up more space. Sometimes it's better to be iconic than accurate, I feel. I did, though, have to airbrush more colour onto the deserts and ice-caps to give it a little more contrast.

Don't Drink, Don't Play Games Of Chance (Including Raffles). What Do You Do?

It seems that the sales of religious books, in America, are booming. I'm sure there are plentiful reasons for. I can think of a few snarky ones right off the top of my head, including the strange need Americans seem to have for ostentatious displays of piety, despite, you know, the Bible mentioning that that sort of thing is wrong:
And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

-- Matthew 6:5-6

But it's not for me to tell people which sections of the Bible to pick and choose when they create their own personal interpretation of it (you know it's amazing how many miss these bits entirely, but that's for another day).

The religious books article has this to say about the boom, anyway:
[W]hile not all Christians were Bush voters, there was a common denominator linking politics and reading habits.

"The kind of things that make George Bush reassuring also make them find Christian fiction reassuring," she said.

I'm not sure how "fiction" was emphasized in that quote, but for the sake of all involved I'm hoping an eyebrow was so arched the speaker got cramp of the forehead, or it may be that this was said before the latest approval ratings were published...

"My first thought was Christian girls just want to have fun too, so why not do a variant of chick lit," Golan said.

Guidelines for authors are strict: "The stories may not include alcohol consumption by Christian characters, dancing, card playing, gambling or games of chance (including raffles), explicit scatological terms, hero and heroine remaining overnight together alone, Halloween celebrations or magic or the mention of intimate body parts."

You know if they ban DVDs and the Blues that's my whole private and social life gone in one paragraph, especially the "explicit scatological terms", because having an Austrian shelf-toilet means I barely talk about anything else. Who is really going to be reading this? I mean there's fiction and then there's fiction. According Wikipedia one of these is:
Fiction is the term used to describe works of the imagination. This is in contrast to non-fiction, which makes factual claims about reality. A large part of the appeal of fiction is its ability to evoke the entire spectrum of human emotions: to distract our minds, to give us hope in times of despair, to make us laugh, or to let us experience empathy without attachment.

Which is as good a description as any and the guidelines above are just a complete denial of reality. That kind of vindicates the second quote, doesn't it?

Well, yeah...

Women's brains switch off during sex. Apparently this is actual scientific research...
There was no mention of whether the results may have been affected by the fact the couples were being watched by a bunch of geeks in white coats while at least one partner had their head connected to a machine that goes bing.

Monday, 20 June 2005

Dog With Two Dicks

Really! Safe for work, by the way. Kind of cute and scary at the same time, as it's got six legs, too. Oh, and googling the above phrase is quite the education...

Trophies? Newcastle?

The Guardian takes a look at transfers to and from Newcastle United.

Scott Parker arrives apparently under the impression that Newcastle is a "massive, massive club" and that they will help his "driving ambition to win trophies". You do rather hope he checked the record books before he said that — or, you know, watched them self-destruct last season — but it may be that Parker thinks he can be the special factor that will end Toon's half-century as nearly men.

Lee Bowyer is on his way out of St. James. Eventually. Birmingham City fans don't want him, that's for sure. They see him as "unworthy as a person to wear the club's colours". And, as a Leeds fan, I find it very hard to disagree, especially if you make that "the club's" in to "any club's". Bowyer's main problem, of course, is that, despite being a fairly talented player, he is a highly objectionable person; we have the court cases and the video evidence to prove it. Though the punch up between him and Dyer was the most watchable thing that's been on Sky since Angel ended its run, even if its wrong to say it. Bowyer will no doubt eventually be sold to a club who need a decent mid-fielder and whose fans aren't quite so picky. Which is a pity.

Friday, 17 June 2005

The Things You Learn

Saucy link to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the hidden dangers of non-stick pans. Apparently if you heat them too much they'll kill your parrot. Really. It's something called Teflon toxicosis.

The fun bit, though, is this:
DuPont scientists point out that birds can die from many different types of fumes, including those produced by burning onions or butter.

I think I've got me a science experiment for the weekend...

Thursday, 16 June 2005

The Choice Is Simple

Wear a white band or listen to one...

Ba dum dum tish!

Football Commentary

The Disapointing Harry Kewell has recently taken Gary Lineker to court because Gary said, in print, that Disappointing's transfer from Leeds to Liverpool looked a bit dodgy from where he sat and cast an ill light on English football. Apparently, Disapointing was humiliated by this accusation. Anyone who saw his recent non-performance for Liverpool in the Champions League final — and his miraculous healing powers when whatever he'd snapped mysteriously unsnapped moments before he dashed to get his mitts on the trophy — will realise that Disappointing is a man who would be hard to humiliate.

Anyway, that's all for the court to decide. What caught my eye was this comment in the Media Guardian:
And as words broadcast on television are as susceptible to a libel action as those published in the newspapers, we may even get to a stage where commentators on a live game refrain from criticism for fear of a claim.

Stuck out here in Austria I only ever watch football live (Vorwärts Steyr just got promoted by the way, I vaguely remember being there) or on Sky. It may be that BBC coverage of football games is full of vitriol for the players, and their performance in general, along with the occasional near-the-knuckle anecdote about a certain players nocturnal activities. Or it could be the same bland platitudes, repeated catchphrases ("you've got to test the goalkeeper from there...") and vomit-inducing sycophancy that you get on Sky Sports.

Then again, I do sometimes wonder if Andy Gray is talking some kind of footballer's polari, because as far as I can tell "there didn't seem to be much in that", for example, seems to translate almost directly to "have you seen what that cheating little bastard just got away with", "I've seen them given" maps to "that's one for the end-of-year nasty tackles compilation" and "I tell yer wha', tha's the value of puttin' a man on the post!" is roughly "I have photographic proof that that player's a bottom..."

Football and football punditry is, essentially, a very fickle boy's club that brooks no criticism from the inside, on pain of permanent expulsion; it's simply not possible for commentators to get any blander. Although when Alan Shearer finally retires as a player I'll no doubt be proved wrong.

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Who Likes Short Shorts Part 3: The Return Of Short Shorts

Although it's not like my posts have been all that verbose recently, here's a few things I've seen recently that I liked but didn't have the time or energy to put put a full post for:

  • The Mercury Theatre on the Air Orson Welles, et al, on the Radio, now in MP3

  • James Howard Kunstler goes to LA. He doesn't like it: "I gave my spiel about the global oil problem and the unlikelihood that 'alternative energy' would even fractionally replace it, and quite a few of the Googlers became incensed. 'Yo, Dude, you're so, like, wrong! We've got, like, technology!'"

  • Meg White or Megbot? This isn't quite kooky enough, but I kinda liked it.

  • A Guide For The Un-Initated To Buying Guinness In An Irish Pub. Because just buying something else in the meantime and watching what the locals do really takes too long...

  • The inevitable Darth Tater follow-up: SpudTrooper If I ever get a Darth Tater, I'm going to want two of these.

  • Design Is Kinky I have no idea what this site is for, though it sure is pretty, but...

  • ... My current desktop background is from the March of The Penguins site. First desktop on the right on the "downloads" page.


No, That's Not Awkward

The International Herald Tribune has an article about the pros and cons of cafés offering Wi-Fi, either for free or for a fee. It's worth looking at simply because it shows that once people are given a reason to ignore each other they can take it to extreme lengths:
The café filled up with laptop users each weekend, often one person to a table for four. Some would sit for eight hours purchasing a single drink, or nothing at all.

Even worse, when lingerers were confronted, they were bellicose. "We get yelled at by people who feel it's their right" to use Victrola's Wi-Fi without buying anything, Strongin said. Tony Konecny, the shop's head roaster, added, "It's rarely a pleasant interaction."

But the worst bit is this:
Canvas Gallery is a bar, art gallery, music venue and coffee shop that has tried several methods to throttle free Wi-Fi usage after it created some awkward situations, like laptop users' listening to music on headphones while sitting in front of a band that was performing.

No, that's not awkward, that's rude.

Monday, 13 June 2005


Beware the teenage girl at the drugstore counter holding a fistful of cosmetics: She just might be the nymphomaniacal, self-esteem-challenged hostess of a rainbow party, those now-infamous group gatherings in which girls, each wearing a different shade of lipstick, give guys blowjobs, leaving a multicolored party favor on their respective penises.

Thanks for the heads-up Nerve. I guess I have my reputation as an evil, lecherous hump to keep, so if you need me I'll be hovering around the lipstick section at the local chemist.

Via Bookslut

Friday, 10 June 2005

The Dastardly Art of Disappointment

World O'Crap link to an article called The Loving Art of Spanking. My kind of article, I thought. Not that I find the idea of spanking anything other than hilarious and the sort of mild kink that even the most wholesome can enjoy.

Really, though, before rushing off in the hope of finding something that would give me 10 minutes of bad jokes and wise-cracks down the Irish Pub, I should have read WoC a bit more carefully. Especially the bit where they say it "still gives us nightmares". This should have been a clue, really.

Because, instead of being the mildly kinky kind of spanking, it's the discussing the optimium dimensions of the rod you don't spare your child from kind. Really.
The rod of correction in Proverbs is not some high-tech torture device. It is simply a stick, a piece of wood. My grandmother from North Carolina called it a switch. (The first time I heard her threaten its use on me, I thought she was planning some kind of electrocution, though I did think that a bit out of proportion to my offense.) A Hebrew father would take a small branch from a tree, one that was solid enough to inflict pain upon application to the hind regions, yet yielding enough not to inflict real injury. I have used a dowel rod purchased at the hardware store, about 5/16th of an inch by 18-24 inches, seems about the right balance of heft and flexibility.

So, excuse me, but I have to go and shower for several hours.

Escher: The Photoshop Years

Worth1000 recently had a competition to use an Escher image in a photoshop. The results are extraordinary (though the apple peel face thing gets overused, but that's not a huge problem).

Via Boing Boing.

Thursday, 9 June 2005

Logo Trends

Robot Wisdom links to to a place called Graphic Design USA and their round up of trends in corporate logos over the last year. Colourful and strangely fascinating.

Strangely, the article is titled "’s Third Annual Visual Trends Report" and if you go to that site they have the previous couple of years reports, too.

Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Rhythm and Bullshit?

The Slow Decline of R&B.
Hip-hop may have sold out, but at least it has sold out on its own terms. R&B, on the other hand, has sold out on somebody else's, on a pop-chart paper chase.

Via the very on form PopLicks.

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Stop Cock

In keeping with my policy of at least one knob gag per week and because everyone else is linking to it and because it's hilarious. Here's Volvo's risque ad from the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardis Gras program book. "We're Just As Excited As You", indeed. Though I don't think anyone has actually ever been sexually aroused by the thought of a Volvo — wrong vowels for a start — and its that that makes the ad wrong, not where it appeared.

The link above is safe for work, by the way, unless your place of work has a problem with uptight, humourless Americans or erect hand brakes.

Scary And Numbing

A site called Hollywood Bitchslap have put together a Bottom 100 Director's List (Or, Who We Don't Want Directing X-Men 3). Now, I've mentioned before that lists are lazy, easy ways to fill space, and this is no exception, but, damn!, it's fascinating in that "please make it stop" way.

The really scary thing about this is that the genius that is Uwe Boll is only in 23rd place and you don't feel the need to quibble.

Dolphin Spongers

They learn it from their mothers, apparently.
"Teaching requires close observation by the pupil," Kruetzen said. "Offspring spend up to four years before they are weaned, so they would have ample time to observe their mum doing it -- if she is a sponger."

Friday, 3 June 2005

That's Gotta Hurt!

Whitest white guy ever, pops up at Pop Matters to criticise Hip-Hop politics.

O-Dub over at Poplicks writes a cruel annihilation of the article then realises it's better to build than destroy. What he writes instead makes you wonder what kind of a slapping the original was. Damn!
What I find most lacking in Rubenstein's discussion of Public Enemy (who became his strawmen in this essay), it's that he misses the point. P.E. didn't become the most important rap group in the late 1980s because of their politics. They did it because of their style and attitude. If all it took to sell units on the street was to have a good speech, Farrakhan would be sporting platinum plaques on his mosque walls. P.E. electrified critics, fans, etc. because their sound and image was unlike anything else out there. Politics were part of their performance, not the other way around. Anyone who's ever listened to a Public Enemy album should be able to pick up on this straight away. Suggesting that Bob Dylan was sophisticated while P.E. were simplistic and dogmatic is nothing more than typical white noise supremacy.

Update: In a sort of hilarious counter-point Muriel Gray in The Guardian calls Bob Geldof a genius for getting a bunch of irrelevant white guys (and Youssou N'Dour) together to play their hits and lecture the youth of today on what it's like to have a political conscience. She defends their motives mostly on the grounds that they're all millionaires and/or haven't had in a hit in a while. May be the idea is if you get someone this clueless to talk up the event, the event itself won't seem too bad. Fortunately I don't think it works that way. I mean nothing, but nothing, is going to make the idea of Sting and Madonna doing Imagine as a duet seem anything less than woefully misguided and an affront to right thinking people the world over.

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Irony In Human Events

It's been quite the week for eyebrow raising quotes. Somewhere on the 'Net Orson Scott Card, a Mormon, is having a go at Star Wars fans for believing in a religion someone made up.

Now comes a list of the world's most evil books by a publication called Human Events. They describe themselves as "The National Conservative Weekly" and they have Ann Coulter writing for them so they're probably somewhere to the far right in terms of politics. The list shows this; Marx gets a beating twice and comes first for the Communist Manifesto. What they say about Das Kapital seems a little odd, though:
[He] portray[s] capitalism as an ugly phase in the development of human society in which capitalists inevitably and amorally exploit labor by paying the cheapest possible wages to earn the greatest possible profits.

Maybe it's me, but Marx probably protrays it that way because that's what it is or, at least, was when he was writing. The difference between then and now, of course, is not that capitalism has put aside its self-interestedness and become more benign, but that governments have placed limits on that self-interestedness and demanded some accountability to society. However, in this era of out-sourcing jobs to poorer countries, I don't think you can quibble too much with the definition.

You can quibble with this, though:
He could not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over envy and seek to emulate.

Or you can just laugh loudly and start thinking of counter-examples and that "free" and "affluent" have to have spectacularly loose definitions in order for the statement to be true. You might also wonder who envies and might want to emulate America at this moment in History.

Two places above Das Kapital, you may notice, is The Kinsey Report. This is evil because:
The reports were designed to give a scientific gloss to the normalization of promiscuity and deviancy. "Kinsey’s initial report, released in 1948... stunned the nation by saying that American men were so sexually wild that 95% of them could be accused of some kind of sexual offense under 1940s laws," the Washington Times reported last year.

As far as I can tell they mean it's a bad thing when someone tries to accurately describe an aspect of society. It suggests that, for the compilers, a book that exposes a comforting lie as a sham is evil. It's no surprise when you see Darwin is in the also rans. The whole list, apart from the few books that they couldn't ignore, seems anti-thought. Anything the forces you to look at reality and to make you notice that that reality comes up wanting is, almost by definition, evil. The description of Beyond Good & Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche manages to neatly show this, as well as an inability of the compilers to recognise themselves:
"Life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the strange and weaker, suppression, severity, imposition of one’s own forms, incorporation and, at the least and mildest, exploitation," he wrote. The Nazis loved Nietzsche.

Nazis may have loved him, but currently the greatest embodiment of his ideas, as stated above, seems to me to be the Bush administration...