Wednesday, 30 November 2005

When Analogies Attack

Richard Conniff looks at how we compare ourselves to animals and sees how we get it wrong.
You don't want to be an 800-pound gorilla. No such animal has ever existed. The average big daddy silverback tops out at about half that weight. And gorillas are not predators, but vegans, with an almost unlimited appetite for fruit and bamboo shoots. I once worked on a TV documentary about lowland gorillas; on an average day the dramatic episodes consisted of the alpha male passing gas, picking his nose and yawning. Then he did the same things, the other way around. Over and over. This is probably not the image a hard-charging executive wants to present to the public.

Phrases You Seldom Hear

"I bet it'd be great to be in Doncaster tonight!"

Said by me after watching Donny Rovers comprehensively thrash Aston Villa 3-0 to go through to the Quarter finals of the League Cup.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Serenity: A Review

So, I finally got to see Serenity. They had the OV on at the Megaplex in Linz on Monday. Serenity, as I'm sure you all know, is Joss Whedon's movie based on the pre-maturely cancelled TV show Firefly. Also, I'm sure the regular readers of this site know I'm a Joss fan verging on fanboy. I've got all of Buffy and Angel on DVD and I know which lines he wrote in the X-Men and, of course, I have watched Firefly five or six times on DVD.

That said...

Serenity, eh? Just an overblown two-parter really. You could tell Joss only directed for TV before because of the way he kept cutting to Kaylee (Jewel Staite) for reaction shots.

Nah, just kidding. It was good, bordering on great and, without hesistation, about twice as good as all the good bits from the recent Star Wars movies put together. It had the dark version of Captain Mal Reynolds, played to great effect by Nathan Fillion, last seen in the Pilot episode of Firefly (and, briefly, in War Stories), some fine work by the rest of the cast (though not enough Kaylee, in my opinion, even if she had lost a little too much weight) and it had Joss's almost-trademarkable witty dialog.

It also had Joss's hackiest ever plot. Two of the fun things about previous entries in the Whedon oeuvre was that he, and his other writers, invariably found ways of confounding your expectations of the way the plot should go and the seemingly effortless way that he would give viewers, to paraphrase Joss himself, what they needed rather than what they wanted. Here it seemed that he had a big checklist of "beats" that he had to hit and he hit them with a crisp regularity. The beats included a long loving ship flyby (OK, I loved that bit), a fight over a big spinning thing (didn't Galaxy Quest kill this off?), the big device that reveals everything (They Live and countless others), shock death of a beloved character (twice, perhaps two and a half times, Simon even got a deathbed speech), robot sex doll (Buffy, repeatedly), an unstoppable Boba Fett-like character (Objects in Space, OK so ripping off your own finest moment is not necessarily a bad thing seeing as that episode never got aired) and the Big Inspirational speech (didn't he get tired of these after Season 7 Buffy) all made an appearence.

Still, it had Mal as an occasionally nasty, opinionated, curmudgoenly, bad tempered, out-of-his-depth rogue (but, you know, loyal, lovable and honourable) and if that was the only twist on the usual space opera that Whedon thought he could get away with on his first movie then maybe it's enough. The slightly warmed-over feeling of the plot was more than compensated for by the characters, anyway. Though there wasn't time to dwell on more than Mal and River, the cast as a whole seemed to have an ingrained knowledge of their characters and how they would deal with things and none of them sounded a false note. They each had their moment to shine and that was all you could expect with such a large ensemble.

So, yes, I enjoyed it. I laughed, I may have cried, I wandered round the Megaplex looking for Serenity posters to steal. Here's to a sequel.

Fred's Roll

Really I could steal all of Slackivist's links from the last few days and just add a little comment of my own, but it's probably best you go over there yourselves and check out all the goodness.

I will point out, though, his link to a retelling of the story of Jonah which does indeed work so much better if you read the original first. And his link to a post to a fellow calling himself Neddie Jingo who has taken some photos of ludicrous American houses and made suitably snarky comments about them — it's much better than my description makes it sound honest. Though, really, nothing quite tops my favourite ever photo of all that's wrong with modern planning...

Fred, of course, is so good he doesn't actually need to link to other people, so while you're there read his stuff, too.

Monday, 28 November 2005

Kinky? Why The Hell Not?

Sticking with the Grauniad, they have a nice overview of the Kinky Friedman campaign for Governor of Texas.
Occasionally, Kinky suffers a spectacular smash. In 1986 he ran for justice of the peace in Kerrville, near Echo Hill, and lost badly. 'I couldn't decide whether to kill myself or get a haircut,' he remembers. 'There must be a place in politics for a man of my talents.' Maybe he should run for mayor of Austin? And then - eureka ! - what about governor of Texas? 'That might be therapeutic. When I meet a potential voter,' he says, 'I'm good for precisely three minutes of superficial charm.' He was certainly looking for a new distraction, and jokes now that 'by the time you've written your 17th mystery novel, if you ain't crazy there's something wrong with you. If you happen to be your own main character, it tends to be even worse.'

Martin Rowson Gets E-mails

So, there I was skimming through the headlines on the RSS feed of the Guardian looking for news that the UK had descended in to fiery anarchy over the weekend. What with all the drunken violence that was expected over the new extended drinking weekend and everything. I found nothing. I was slightly disappointed, but I did find an article about the e-mail Martin Rowson gets from right-wing nut-jobs every time he has a cartoon that is critical of Bush published on the Guardian website. I particularly liked this bit:
Otherwise, for 48 hours, nothing. Then, on the Wednesday, they started pouring in: foul-mouthed, abusive, often obscene and frequently threatening. I got about 600 emails altogether, but I also managed to track down the neo-con website which had issued a call to arms to its subscribers to deluge me with this stuff. I don't know why they waited two days. Maybe they were busy cleaning their guns or praying or something.

And his summary made me laugh:
Not that I want to censor cyberspace. I just want my correspondents to have to go to the trouble of finding a bottle of green ink and a stamp before they remind me what an asshole I am.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 2

When reviewing a DVD of the best of Beavis and Butt-head a reviewer can say the following:
It's impossible to imagine a post-9/11 Beavis and Butt-Head. Not because the show was devoid of political content but because the world it so ruthlessly satirized, a suburban cocoon of mindless consumption and complacent self-regard, abruptly ceased to exist at the beginning of this millennium.

Seemingly blind to the fact that the existance of the very thing the she is reviewing would suggest that that's wishful thinking at best and a big fat lie in any case. I'm desperately trying to find signs that it's a joke...


It's not news that I got spam today. Or that most of it was offering to my todger significantly bigger. What did amuse me though is that I got one entitled "Did you know 67% of women are not happy with you". I didn't know that. But, I figured, since that meant 33% were OK with me I'd take my chances. It's certainly better odds than I'd expected.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Not Quite Follow Ups

In an almost follow up to one of my old rants the Accidental Hedonist sees a list of Ten Commandments for restaurant goers:

  1. Honor your reservation

  2. Don't hog your table

  3. If you don't like where you're seated, speak up!

  4. Bring your kids, but keep them in line

  5. Put your cellphone on vibrate

  6. If the food isn't to your liking, say so, politely and immediately

  7. Life's too short to drink bad wine

  8. Communicate dietary restrictions carefully and early

  9. Don't even think about leaving a penny tip to show your scorn for a disappointing experience

  10. Spread the good cheer

And responds in kind with a list of rules that restaurants should honour (Kate expands on these a bit at the site itself, the list here is to give you a flavour, as it were):

  1. Honor the reservation.

  2. Respect the Table - If the customers don't wish to interact with the wait staff, they shouldn't be forced to do so.

  3. Make no presumptions about your customers.

  4. Thou shall not upsell.

  5. Play your piped music at a point where it doesn't dominate a conversation.

  6. Don't play off of your customer's supposed ignorance of wine.

  7. Ensure that your staff keeps personal conversations in the back of the house, away from the customers.

  8. Thou shalt have clean restrooms.

  9. The patron has a right to respectfully question any aspect of service.

  10. Hot food should be served hot.

As I say it touches on some of the things I was ranting about, but with more class.

Also as another etiquette post I made, this time about jam sessions, came to me when I read a post on Usenet ( about Blues Jam Rules, the original poster was a bit of a, well, let's just say a bridge-dweller and leave it at that, so I'll reproduce the list here:

  1. Make sure everyone is more interested in the hardware (amps/guitars/
    mics) than the music.

  2. Don't let anyone play who:

    1. can read a chord chart

    2. play a proper tune

    3. has any taste

    4. has ever done a proper gig.

  3. Make sure there are lots and lots of over-amplified harmonica

  4. Ban anyone caught suggesting anything that isn't an absolutely standard three chord 12 bar or "Hey Joe" in E.

  5. Have a queue for the bedroom Strat strummers who want to do "Red House" or "Crossroads".

  6. Find drummers and bass players who don't get bored too easily or are

  7. Make sure all lead singers are complete amateur novices (and it's even better if they do a bit of appalling grating harmonica nonsense).

  8. Make sure none of the "tunes" are too short. Ten or fifteen minutes per song is normal in order to instill true tedium. Any shorter and it might start becoming entertaining.

  9. Make sure all the players only listen to themselves. You get the proper Blues jam cacophony then.

  10. Turn all the back line up to ten to start with. This will save the Strat strummers having to do it themselves during their stint.

Dunno, it made me smile... Mostly because I don't have a Strat, I have a Tele.

The ATM Fraud That Dared Not Speak It Name

Through Boing Boing, who linked to an article about how difficult it is to shoot off a padlock that they found linked to on his site, I happened upon the author Charlie Stross' Blog (well, he calls it a diary, but the url says blog, who am I to trust?) where he links to an article in The Register. If you've got this far you're probably curious as to what that article is about, well, it's this:
[T]he UK banking system could have collapsed in the early 1990s, but for the forbearance of a junior barrister who also happened to be an expert in computer law - and who discovered that at that time the computing department of one of the banks issuing ATM cards had "gone rogue", cracking PINs and taking money from customers' accounts with abandon.

Go. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

"Angry, angry young man."

No, not Sideshow Raheem, but Aaron McGruder creator of the Boondocks and now producer of The Boondocks tv show. The Onion AV club get an interview with him:
AVC: So what are you feeling angriest about these days?
AM: I'm actually kind of angriest about the fact that everybody keeps saying how angry I am.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Great Moments In Scientific Research

According to The Guardian scientists have ascertained that:
[Y]oung men as a group [...] when aroused, they (1) become sexually attracted to things otherwise offputting; (2) grow more willing to engage in morally questionable behaviour that might lead to sex; and (3) are more likely to have unprotected sex.

Thanks For The Info

"WHEN A BULL whale comes at you with an erect penis, it’s nine feet long," said Gregory Colbert, aiming a fork at his Caesar salad. "It’s like a torpedo. And you’d better get out of the way, fast."

From the "Advice on taking wildlife pictures: don't become the hors d'oeuvres" in the Times.

Location, Location, Location

A quick note to mention that my brother's site is no longer The Hanks one, apparently that's going to get a do-over and they are going to have a smoother web-presence, as I understand it.

Anyway my bro now resides at Ten-Bob Dylan. Check it out, as they say, and perhaps encourage him to post a bit more often...

Thursday, 17 November 2005

Because Saying "Blog" Wasn't Awkward Enough

We now have "Splogs". Spam Blogs whose only reason to exist is to generate ad revenue and push my hit counter into the low double digits...

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Speaking of Games

The BBC has a couple of crackers at the moment.

The Seven Noble Kinsmen and Death in Sakkara. Old school point and click adventures with the occassional arcadey bit, well, Sakkara is. I'm not so sure about Kinsman as I've not had long enough to go through it, but in both cases they are well-made with great porduction values and compelling, if, perhaps, a little hackneyed, stories.

I first found these through Jay Is Games, of course.

Happy Games Only

UK Resistance are launching a campaign to bring the joy and fun back into gaming. It's called the Blue Sky In Games Campaign and it has some advice to developers on how they can improve their games

  • Change everything that's grey into blue.
  • From now on, everyone wears red shoes.
  • Make everything happen at midday or sunset.
  • Replace gun textures with banana textures.
  • Turn all cars into pink convertibles that wobble and only do 15mph.
  • If you get 100 of anything, a little tune plays.
  • Instead of saying "crew" say "your buddies".
  • Instead of saying "hood" say "zone".
  • Make the female characters something other than prostitutes.
  • Make the black characters something other than drug dealers.

You know, none of that seems like a bad idea at all. Though I guess it could all get a bit samey after a while. However, the last four suggestions should be taken up immediately.

Monday, 14 November 2005

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword...

...But shooting someone will really get their attention.
Bolivian writer Edgar Ra-miro Reynaga on Wednesday shot and wounded a street vendor in downtown La Paz after accusing him of selling an illegally printed copy of his book, police said.

Via Bookslut.

Friday, 11 November 2005

Defending Imperial Nudity

Paul Krugman recasts Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Suit" as if it happened today.
Fox News repeatedly played up possible finds of imperial clothing, then buried reports discrediting these stories. Months after the naked procession, a poll found that many of those getting most of their news from Fox believed that the emperor had in fact been clothed.

Imperial officials eventually admitted that they couldn't find any evidence that the suit ever existed, or that there had even been an effort to produce a suit. They insisted, however, that they had found evidence of wardrobe-manufacturing-and-distribution-related program activities.

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Odd Moments In Advertising Part 1

I know what this is supposed to be. It's a rip-off of the Shining being used to show the "horror" of petrol prices. Driving past billboards with it on, though, you get a wierd subliminal image that it's about something else entirely... Or maybe it's just that I think everything is about anonymous blow-jobs.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Lesbian Cheerleader Bust Up Follow Up

For those of you who cannot read the phrase "Lesbian Cheerleader" enough times. Susie Bright has a long thoughtful article on the recent Lesbian Cheerleader incident.
Most of the web comments came from horny men who couldn't believe they'd found the mother lode, the actual article of the lesbian cheerleader. They had no concerns about the girls' career... one man said, "if they make a video where they fist each other's mayonnaise jars like there's no tomorrow, they'll be set." He apparently has no idea how little porn models are paid, regardless of their ephemeral fame.

"Mayonnaise jars"?!?

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Economists Proved Right!

From Accidental Hedonist comes news of research showing that the price of seafood changes with its availability. They said that they were happy with their findings and are now moving on to the vexatious problem of exactly where bears take a shit.

Actually, it's interesting in that they've used the price of fish to take a guess at that particular fish's abundance, working backwards, I guess. Though they then do go on to denigrate the very people who helped them:
“All this comes from a few crazy people who collected menu cards, but it’s a remarkable resource,” Dr Holm said.

Monday, 7 November 2005

A Thought So Scary You Have To Laugh At It

Slacktivist has an intriguing post on how low Bush's approval rating can concievably go. Based on the premise that he'd have to go round to some Americans' homes and light a cigar with the Declaration of Independence while shooting their dog before they'd admit that, maybe, he wasn't all he's cracked up to be, and they won't be sharing that drink with him after all.

Anyway, Slacktivist borrows this dialogue from the Kung Fu Monkey site:
John: You realize this leads to there being over 30 million crazy people in the US?

Tyrone: Does that seem wrong?

John: ... a bit low, actually.

Probably explains my confusion in the last post, anyway...

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 1

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders were arrested after a bar dispute that broke out early Sunday after patrons complained the women were having sex in a bathroom stall, a police arrest report said.

So let me get this straight. Someone complained that two cheerleaders were getting it on in the lav? Were the complaints that their video tape had run out? There wasn't a decent place to a real good view? As Bill Hicks once said, after finding out the lesbian sex scenes had been cut from Basic Instinct because they turned the test audience off, "Boy, is my thumb not on the pulse of America".


A site called theatre VOICE are making a big deal over a new CD called Essential Shakespeare. They currently have samples. The actors featured include Sir Larry, Sir Ian and, er, some other people.

Friday, 4 November 2005

Sensible Advice

Via Fark comes a number of flu related tips from MSN, including this:
During flu season, never let anyone lick your keyboard.

Outside of flu season keyboard licking must be fine, I guess.

But I Digress

Some say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (some say that it was Einstein who first said it still others Benjamin Franklin[1], but plenty are saying it without caring too much about that).

Anyway, that form of insanity can be pretty funny, too.

[1] Footnote to a parenthetical comment, I really know how to structure my posts, huh? What I wanted to add, though, was that there must be some theory about how Einstein and Churchill said everything that Wilde didn't, it almost always turns out to be someone elses bon mot, but because those three are known for saying quotable things they tend to get attributed eventually. Apparently it's called the "Rule of the Lesser Attribution" which says "acclaim and reputation tend to be allocated to people unevenly". Curiously, I found this because I was reminded, in writing this, of something called Stigler's law of eponymy which states that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer, Planck's Constant, for example, wasn't actually found by Planck.

Peyote. It's Good For You.

Sort of. I'm not sure if the Guardian's headline to the piece, Peyote Not Harmful to American Indians, is a hedging of bets, but it seems that the occasional hallucinogen isn't bad for you and, in fact, can be beneficial. Bill Hicks would be so happy.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

A Cheap Laugh Is Still A Laugh

Today Fametracker posted an article on Notes from the Esquire Editorial Meeting At Which Jessica Biel Was Named "Sexiest Woman Alive". I probably laughed way too loudly at this bit:

2: What about Elizabethtown? That's a big deal movie. Cameron Crowe directing. And it stars that hot, willowy, dewy-lipped blonde.

3: Orlando Bloom?

2: No, the other one. Kirsten Dunst.

Free Books

I didn't notice this before, but Chris Mitchell of Spike Magazine has a great online resource in his blog Free New Books.

Recent finds have included Douglas Adams's Meaning of Liff, the complete works of George Orwell and a whole mess of Sci Fi. I'm trying to avoid finishing this post with "check it out", but, er check it out...

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

An Unplayhouse?

James Howard Kunstler finds a rather Kafkaesque note.

Boondocks Animated

Need I say much more? Oh, ok:
Huey Freeman has a dream. The 10-year-old hero of Boondocks—a new animated series based on the popular comic strip—fantasizes about walking into a ritzy white man's garden party and inciting a riot by speaking truth to power. Stuff like "Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government lied about 9-11." Huey's reverie is interrupted by his own granddad, who slaps him awake shouting, "How many times I told you, you better not even dream of telling white folks the truth. . . . I'm gonna go find a white man and lie to him right now!"

Nine Bob Note

50 Cent shows how real and down with people he is.
"What KANYE WEST was saying, I don't know where that came from."

Update: The ever perceptive Steve Gilliard has a good look at this and the history of it. Seems Fiddy has nothing to offer but thuggery and cynicism.

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

So, it was a long weekend, what with Monday off and Tuesday being bank-holiday. But worry not. The knob gags interspersed with curiously naive social comment will continue as soon as I get through that massive backlog of other peoples blogs.