Wednesday, 20 December 2006

The Palm and How To Grease It

The Economist has a cute little article about corruption that covers the whole thing without taking it too seriously. Personally I'd like a longer article on the language of bribery:
A second type of euphemism dresses up a dodgy payment as a friendly favour done by the bribe-payer. There is plenty of creative scope. Nigerian policemen are known to ask for “a little something for the weekend”. A North African term is “un petit cadeau”, a little gift. Mexican traffic police will suggest that you buy them a refresco, a soft drink, as will Angolan and Mozambican petty officials, who call it a gazoso in Portuguese. A businessman in Iraq told Reuters that although corruption there is quite overt, officials still insist on being given a “good coffee”.

Double meaning can help soothe the awkwardness of bribe-paying. Baksheesh, originally a Persian word now found in many countries of the Middle East, can mean “tip”, “alms” and “bribe”. Swahili-speakers can take advantage of another ambiguous term. In Kenya a machine-gun-wielding guard suggested to a terrified Canadian aid worker: “Perhaps you would like to discuss this over tea?” The young Canadian was relieved: the difficulty could be resolved with some chai, which means both “tea” and “bribe”.

The acceptability of bribes seems also to revolve around whether you can gain anything by the bribery:
Rich Westerners may not think of their societies as plagued by corruption. But the definition of bribery clearly differs from person to person. A New Yorker might pity the third-world businessman who must pay bribes just to keep his shop open. But the same New Yorker would not think twice about slipping the maître d' $50 to sneak into a nice restaurant without a reservation. Poor people the world over are most infuriated by the casual corruption of the elites rather than by the underpaid, “tip”-seeking soldier or functionary.

The conclusion, though, is not supported by the graph shown:
Among the many factors that determine the level of corruption in a country, one stands out. Whether it takes the shape of an American congressman dispensing a $2 trillion budget or a horde of petty officials administering a Bible-sized rulebook, where there is a lot of government, there is a lot of bribery. Corruption thus offers yet another confirmation of the dictum attributed to Thomas Jefferson that "the government is best which governs least."

Actually, the article, and the graph supporting it, seem to show the exact opposite.

(Via The Morning News)

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

It's A Parody, Right?

Ahhh, Comment Is Free, it should really be subtitled "Thought is Less". Seth Freedman illustrates this point with this fascinating insight:
The only thing that separates having sex with a prostitute from rape is a cash transaction.

It's a comment only a stockbroker could make.

Monday, 18 December 2006

Mumbling Through The Middle Eight

No Rock'N'Roll Fun link to a story on how reading lyrics can be difficult so a little literacy can go a long way to avoiding embarrassment at the Karaoke.

XRRF get all the good jokes, but I did like how the government official involved is reffered to as the "Skills minister" as it makes him sound like some kind of hip hop playa. He's got skills to pass the bills!

Mongrel Nation

Apparently Eddie Izzard did a documentary for the Discovery Channel, called Mongrel Nation, a few years ago on how Englishness is a bit of a patchwork of other cultures. You kind find it on YouTube and those kind people over at Making Light have linked to all the bits of it to make it easy for you to find it all.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden wonders if this is a revelation to the English, being American she's aware of how lots of things there have histories in other countries, and I'd say not. We cannot avoid the fact that England's history is one of invasions and those invasions (both of and by) almost always leave their mark on our culture, I feel that many English people are aware of this tapestry even if they are not aware of the extent of it.

UPDATE: Teresa asks in the comments "Why do you think he thought it was worth doing?"

Well, first let me expand on the original point. Here's a view from my Mother's dining room window:

That is Conisbrough Castle, it's a fine example of a Norman keep, it also gets a mention in Ivanhoe. The name Conisbroughis thought to be derived from the name Kyningesburg which is enough like Königsberg to probably be understood in German. Conisbrough is five miles from Doncaster a name with Roman connotations. It is surrounded by many places that have "-by" endings as their name, Denaby and Conanby are right next door, "By" being an old Scandinavian name for village.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that to the even remotely curious there's plenty around to suggest the mongrel nature of England. Even by looking at just a very small part of it. It shouldn't be a revelation to find out that the English are the sum of very many parts.

That said, just because something isn't totally relevatory doesn't mean it isn't fascinating and being aware of the big picture doesn't mean that the details won't surprise you, so there are plenty of reasons for the program to exist. In my eyes it is well worth doing.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Shouldn't This Work Both Ways?

As reported in the Times the British Medical Journal is suggesting that clothes made in larger sizes should carry a tag with an obesity helpline number.


I suggest that clothes in really tiny sizes come with a free sandwich.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Good Taste In Rings

Via The Morning News comes Regret The Error's "Crunks ’06: The Year in Media Errors and Corrections". The title of this post coming from The Sun's famous non-apology to Ashley Cole which they give "Apology of the Year" to.

It's a very long post, as posts go, but it is worth reading all of it, if only to get to "Most Unfortunate Ad/Edit Placement" which shows a German newspaper that managed to put an article on the history of Auschwitz right next to an advert for a gas company...

The Poor Design Of Everyday Objects

Via Robot Wisdom comes a post on badly designed objects. The initial example is a CD case mostly because they break too easily and when they do break they tend to harm the thing they were supposed to protect.

Personally I have a small antipathy toward pans that have two small handles rather than one big long one, which makes draining pasta either awkward or an experience in burning, steaming or scalding. I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason why you can't get long handled pans in Austria and, no doubt, it'll be due to some notion of safety.

Not related, I'll claim, but Robotwisdom also points to a question overheard in New York:
Female student: I have a question -- what is the plural for 'clitoris'?
Professor: That is a great question.

The answer is given as the title of the post.

Bruce Schneier Doesn't Know What The Deal Is With Monkeys

Actually this piece is a serious look at password usage, but it is lightened up by the last line of the following:
Common Passwords: The top 20 passwords are (in order):

password1, abc123, myspace1, password, blink182, qwerty1, fuckyou, 123abc, baseball1, football1, 123456, soccer, monkey1, liverpool1, princess1, jordan23, slipknot1, superman1, iloveyou1 and monkey.

For those who don't know, Blink 182 is a band. Presumably lots of people use the band's name because it has numbers in its name, and therefore it seems like a good password. The band Slipknot doesn't have any numbers in its name, which explains the 1. The password "jordan23" refers to basketball player Michael Jordan and his number. And, of course, "myspace" and "myspace1" are easy-to-remember passwords for a MySpace account. I don't know what the deal is with monkeys.

Perhaps Ron Gilbert should tell him.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Great Idea

Much like the Star Wars inspirational posters a whiles back the Battlestar Galacticsimpsons which is being linked to all over everywhere and back (well, Making Light and Boing Boing), is a fantastic idea that suffers slightly when you actually see it. To be fair the images capture the Simpsons style excellently —Boomer, Tigh and Dualla, in particular come out very well — but Starbuck is so ugly it sort of stops you in your tracks:

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Play With Kaylee


They do point out the good the about setting an MMORPG in the Firefly universe:
The universe of Firefly and its spinoff film, Serenity, featured everything from Old West-style towns to futuristic urban environments, gritty spaceships and pastoral retreats -- freedom fighters, oppressive government agents, smugglers, outlaws, mercenaries, trader, townsfolk, futuristic geishas and a race of corrupted humans known as the Reavers.

The bad thing, for me anyway, is that it is an MMORPG.

Another Zombie At The Corporate Gangbang

Apparently as part of an effort to keep Cliff Richard in the manner to which he has been accustomed there was an ad in the FT featuring the afore-mentioned Cliff, Pete and Bono. As well as one or two, at least, dead musicians.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Another Whore At The Corporate Gangbang

Peter Gabriel has joined Cliff Richard and U2 in calling for an extension of copyright on sound recordings from 50 years to 95 years. I would have credited Gabriel with more sense, but it seems that the record company has got to him.

Of course, I'm not quite sure why anybody would give a fuck about what U2, an Irish band who pay their taxes in Holland, have to say about British copyright issues.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Casino Royale: A Couple of Things

According to Kung Fu Monkey the standard review is "liked Craig, movie's thirty minutes too long". True enough, I guess, I felt the boating scenes late on did go on a bit, but I figured the reason was to show everybody happy, that they had felt safe and secure for while so that when they have to bring Bond down again you feel it a little more. There was probably a bit too much poker, but I didn't mind that so much. The action sequences had to be longer this time around just to see Bond get bashed around and hurt. So, while it did go on a bit, it's difficult to say what they could have taken out.

I liked how they sprinkled all the bits of Bond lore about even if it was quite obvious and I liked that the music got more Bond-like the more the film went on.

Although this is meant as a reboot I can see how they could go back to the old Bond formula -- I don't think that this was as radical a departure as you might have been led to believe -- straight after this so it'll be interesting to see what they'll do with the next movie. I would like a bit more of the "cold blooded hitman" to be honest.

Still this is probably the first Bond movie I've seen in the cinema since Goldeneye and it left me curious to see more. And if that faint praise is a little damning then I will add that it was a very good Bond movie that hints that there may be a great one soon.

Me 'n' Muddy 'n' McLeod has pictures up of the Blues Bakery Jam Session's 4th Birthday Jam. Obviously it has one or two pics of me:

Speaking of the blues, and I should really give this a separate post, if you get the chance to see Doug McLeod, as I did at the Unta da Lind'n recently, then you should take it. He's absolutely spellbinding on stage, he's got a great voice for blues and storytelling and his guitar playing is superb, and a really top bloke if you get the chance to chat to him.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

All Tom Waits All The Time

Tom Waits doing Day After Tomorrow from Real Gone on The Daily Show.

So That's It!

Making Light link to an article by someone called Bruce Baugh who explains why I don't read any fan newsgroups anymore[1] and why I have the Behind the Sofa crowd filed under "Humour". By humour, of course, I mean comparing the last paragraph of this with this.

[1] made me fear for every season of Angel until I actually got to watch the episodes and it turned out that all of them had been over-analysed to the point where no show could possibly survive. Some fans get a kick out of that I suppose, they're twats.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 11

I find their seeming obsession with penguins quite cute. Sometimes, though, it achieves a certain oddness that is quite unexplainable. Take for instance Micheal Medved's review of Happy Feet. There's much about it that's either wrong or muddle-headed, apparently, but the thing that got me was this:
As in so many other recent films, there’s a subtext that appears to plead for endorsement of gay identity. Mumbles (the voice of Elijah Wood) displeases his parents and the leaders of his community because he’s born different, and makes an impassioned plea that he can’t possibly change – and they should accept him as he is.

I haven't seen the movie so it may be wall-to-wall hot man-on-man love action, but surely gays are not the only people who might want other people to accept them for who they are. To use your own homophobia as a rod to beat those asking for acceptance of our differences is totally perverse.

I'm sure there are plenty of kids, or whoever, out their who would like reassurance that whatever marks them out as different is something that will be accepted by right thinking people. They really don't need that reassurance warped by someone else's guilt trip.

Predicting the Future With The Wire

Slate has an interview with David Simon co-writer of The Wire. He comes across as thoughtful and commited to his show. There's an odd bit where he points out that The Wire can sometimes be prophetic:
In Season 2, we said if someone didn't fix the grain pier [a shipping facility on the Baltimore harbor], someone would come along and turn it into condos. At the time it was sitting idle. By the time we were working on Season 3, they had sold it, and now there are condos over there. The bar where we had the stevedores hang out is being remodeled for a yuppie fern joint. We discussed how police officers can juke stats to make it look like crime disappears, and that was a huge issue in the recent election. The same games are always being played.

Another answer shows that some Baltimoreans aren't quite sure whether the show is a documentary or not:
I know that in West Baltimore, Omar can't get to the set, because we have people going nuts. Or Stringer Bell or Prop Joe. The show has an allegiance in that community. That's its own answer—not that it's popular, but that it's credible. I was just on 92Q, the hip-hop station. The call came in with someone who said, why did you kill Stringer Bell when the real Stringer Bell is still alive? And I said, oh, you mean Mr. Reed? I explained that Reed was not the real Stringer, but that we mix and match stories.

Simon also has an interesting take on regular cop shows:
On shows where the arrest matters, where it's about good and evil, punishing crime, the poor and the rich, the suspect exists to exalt the good guys, to make the Sipowiczs and the Pembletons and the Joe Fridays that much more moral, that much more righteous, that much more intellectualized. It's to validate their point of view and the point of view of society. So, you end up with same stilted picture of the underclass. Either they're the salt of earth looking for a break, and not at all responsible, or they're venal and evil and need to be punished. That's a good precedent for creating an alienated America.

The Probable And The Improbable

It seems that every so often a magazine prints an article about how we worry about stuff that has a low probability of happening (getting avian flu, in the example below) as a oppossed to things that might happen (getting common flu). This time it's Time and it is, as usual, worth reading:

Shadowed by peril as we are, you would think we'd get pretty good at distinguishing the risks likeliest to do us in from the ones that are statistical long shots. But you would be wrong. We agonize over avian flu, which to date has killed precisely no one in the U.S., but have to be cajoled into getting vaccinated for the common flu, which contributes to the deaths of 36,000 Americans each year. We wring our hands over the mad cow pathogen that might be (but almost certainly isn't) in our hamburger and worry far less about the cholesterol that contributes to the heart disease that kills 700,000 of us annually.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Blowin' In The Wind Part 5

So, the essential problem was that we only actually had just over an hour in Stansted on the way back and the check-in desks close 45 minutes before the plane takes-off. So on landing we would have some 20-25 minutes to get from our plane to the next one. We did try and mitigate this in all sorts of ways including checking in over the Internet. Apparently, though Ryanair impose a limit of 8 on anyone wanting to check in that way. Quite why no-one could figure, but I'm sure Ryanair have their reasons.

The short time in Stansted was one of the reasons we were only carrying hand luggage, too. As at least two of the party had to check their baggage last time this was getting to be all too moot a point.

The check-in desk people in Derry were very helpful and it turned out we could get priority tickets so we could sit at the front of the plane for an extra two quid. Sorted!

I checked in and got myself a sausage roll (another thing you can't get anywhere other than the UK and Ireland) and carried on reading in the café. Eamon came over with good news. The flight was leaving early. I looked out the window. The gusts of wind were quite dramatic across the long grass and every so often the Bird Control Vehicle drove out to scare the birds. At some point I looked up from my reading material to see a Ryanair plane bank very steeply from the runway and fly off.

"You ought to have seen that" said one of the group. "The plane was coming in like this", he held out a splayed hand and twisted it violently back and forth, "then about a hundred yards from landing the pilot bottled it and flew off. He's probably going to land somewhere else."

He was wrong about the last part. Eventually the plane did land at Derry, and we were let on first, not that it mattered much anymore. The pilot let us know that we were going to sit where we were until the wind had dropped a good bit. This took sometime. Disconcertingly the gusts of wind on the stood plane felt a lot like bad turbulance. The take-off was quick. The pilot must have just hit full-throttle and pulled the plane off the ground the moment that he could. It should probably be noted that for two of our group it was the first time they'd flown anywhere. They ought to be re-assured it'll probably not be that rough again.

By the time the plane in Derry took off our connecting plane had already left Stansted. The next plane to Salzburg was at 6:30. Not too bad just a whole night in the airport until we can check in at 4:30 and get a breakfast in the Wetherspoons. Oh yeah, and another 70 Euros for the flight. Oh and it was a Sunday so the O'Neills decided that it could close at 10:30. So that was at least 6 hours with very little to do except experience first hand how cold and uncomfortable Stansted floor tiles are when you are trying to sleep. And they are cold. And uncomfortable. Tiredness though is it's own blanket and I got a few minutes and the odd hour here and there, at least. One of our number, bored and restless, decided that he would whistle to pass the time. I'm not a morning person really, and for some reason whistling goes through me, so someone whistling first thing in the morning wasn't putting me in a particularly pleasant mood. The whistler was told as much. I think he started talking instead. Still, that was better than whistling.

4:30 came around and that was pretty much it. We all sat silently in different groups waiting for the gate number to shown. One bloke used the time to get his last couple of pints of cider in, I had a breakfast bloomer and a coke. The flight and drive home were pretty uneventful.

All the food and Guiness was great, I'd met a lot of nice, friendly people, and the group as a whole remained surprisingly cheerful. So the whole thing wasn't a total bust, but I couldn't help feeling we'd spent the whole weekend being fucked by the weather.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Blowin' In The Wind Part 4

Since Leeds had lost 3-0 to Southampton earlier that day, and I found "dirty" Leeds oddly old fashioned, I wasn't particularly inclined to argue. Besides Leeds had stopped Preston from getting to the play-offs for promotion last year so I could afford to be a magnanimous.

Still, I didn't want to be around that lot for anymore that necessary so three of us went off to find a chippy. Fish and chips is an odd thing to miss when your abroad, but I do. It's one of my must-do things when I go home. That and get a curry and drink as much decent bitter as is, well, decent. And see friends and family, of course. We went to the Nevenny Grill. I can't remember what the fish was, but it was good, the chips, though, were a little on the thin side and the marrowfat peas weren't really mushy. You can't have everything I guess, but I enjoyed it.

Nevenny Street is also home to the U Drop Inn, which I didn't go into, but it seems to me that it's pub name in search of the right pun. I guess the owner wanted to distinguish his establishment from all the Dew Drop Inns to be found around the world. That said, there does seem to be plenty of U Drop Inns.

Anyway, back to Bonners which was filling up by now. As well a developing a small ever-changing band of people outside each door enjoying a quick fag. The Austrians, who at the age of thirteen are given a cellphone and a packet of Memphis and are told to go out and enjoy themselves, took a while to get used to this. As I'd stopped smoking some 18-or-so months previously I just tried to sympathise with their tales of how cold it was getting outside. I did have a cigar at one point so I did get to go outside with everybody else and meet some new people. We had a good story about how we'd come all the way from Austria to watch a game that had been cancelled so much sympathy was garnered.

Soon enough it was time to get the taxi back to Harkins Bar.

It had been mentioned several times that I sing and, though I wouldn't say that I could play guitar, strum a few chords. Probably too many Guinnesses into the evening a guitar appeared. It was badly out of tune and I usually use a little electronic tuner so I enlisted the help of an Austrian bass player to try and get the thing to play a listenable sound after about half an hour and no joy (terrible, I know) the regulars were, if not demanding entertainment exactly then at least getting a little more vocally curious as to where entertainmant was.

Abandoning the guitar I tried to do Mr Bad Example and then Hallelujah unaccompanied which I think got applause more for trying than anything and then tried to ignore how badly the guitar was tuned to do a well received Dead, Drunk & Naked. I don't know but the punters seemed to enjoy it.

One of our group then got in to a louder and louder argument over whether he came from the place with the kangaroos or was it the place where Hitler was born.

It was time to go home.

Monday, 27 November 2006

Blowin' In The Wind Part 3

Luckily the ground was just too water-logged to really let the snow settle and the snow stopped just as it looked like it was going to get fiercer.

We got the bus into Ballybofey. As always, anywhere, there were roadworks and the delicatest of out number lasted all of about five minutes before needing to be let off the bus. He made is excuses and we left him to it. The countryside between Brockagh and Ballybofey was as picturesque as you'd expect, all little valleys and dales with quaint little houses dotted about. The sort of wind and rain swept countryside that justifies a whiskey after walking through it.

Ballybofey is, in essence, the street you can see on the first page of it's website. More bars than you'd think and a couple of bookshops, it's not entirely devoid of character. It takes about five minutes to clump up and down before you reckon you've ssen it all and head for the designated bar. In this case Bonners Corner Bar. Some of the group had decided to go and do a little more shopping. One in particular wanted to buy a tweed suit. That the shop, Murphy's & Co., was a namesake for the buyer was a particular bonus.

About halfway through the Guardian quick crossword the rumours started. I half heard them at first and paid them no mind, but as the group got back to full-size the question was being asked: "Has the game been cancelled?".

It had. Apparently, although it rains all the time in Ireland and the Finn Harps ground is next to the river, the pitch had become unexpectedly waterlogged and the game had been put off for a day. A day we didn't have.

What we did have was Guinness in front of us and a curious inclination to not feel let down by the news. We moved on to Harley's Cheers Bar.

Harley's is the main sponsor for Finn Harps this year (there is a rotational system among the shops and bars in Ballybofey for sponsorship that was explained to me a few Guinnesses too late) and there was a possibility that they had a few replica shirts on offer. They didn't have one that fit me but most of the group was satisfied.

What Harley's did have was a big, gobby lass from Preston with a small party around her of the sort of Prestonians who hang around with big gobby lasses. One of them, seeing the top I was wearing, said something about "dirty Leeds".

Interlude: Irony

Cynically releasing your cynical "best of" cash-in just before Christmas only to be beaten to the top of the charts by the new Westlife album. I doubt there's too much grumbling in the Houses of Oasis and U2 —it's not like either needed the money— but a little schadenfreude never hurt anybody.

Friday, 24 November 2006

Blowin' In The Wind Part 2

Actually, it didn't turn out too badly. Although 4 hours is a long time to spend in an O'Neills where there's nothing to do except drink and read the newspaper nobody went overboard. One member of the group did disappear for a good while, but seeing as he'd been getting steadily grumpier for no reason anyone else could discern, then this was probably for the best.

Is there a good reason for having you shoes scanned or is Stansted still indulging in the worst kind of security theatre? I know that I certainly felt a hell of a lot safer knowing that everyone's Hush Puppies had been individually scanned for the good of the nation.

Past security in Stansted there's a Wetherspoons which meant that whatever else happened this trip, then at least I'd drunk a couple of pints of proper bitter (Theakstons OP and Bombadier).

The flight to Derry was mostly uneventful. The landing was just a little rough, but the weather seemed to be taking a turn for the worse, so this was almost expected.

Derry Airport did turn out to be a Nissen hut by a runway. Not quite Coventry Airport standards (all the facilities are in one building), but nicely simple.

After getting to Eamons house and enjoying a very good meal provided by our hosts the few who were still awake and willing were carted off to Harkins Bar, a cosy little locals pub seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They do a very fine pint of Guinness and, apparently, it's occassionally visited by stars of all stripes. Thankfully Mick Hucknall wasn't there that night.

Next morning, a fuse had blown leaving us without electricity for a few hours. Still, breakfast was managed —a great full Irish, though with only a few slices of toast. After that a couple of us were still feeling a little delicate, but worse yet it had started to snow. The reports from Austria were that it was 19 degrees and glorious sunshine, in our little corner of Ireland the snow looked like it was starting to settling.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Interlude: Old Drinking Game

A while ago I proposed a drinking game based around an article in the Guardian by Mick Hucknall -- every time you feel the need to mutter "twat" while reading it take a drink. He's had a new article printed, this time about copyright, and the rules remain the same. You'll be too tight to mention by the end of if.

Blowin' In The Wind

So, Ireland, then...

It all seemed like such a daft but doable idea at the time: Eamon wanted to go and watch the last Finn Harps match of the season and if anyone wanted to come along, they could.

Nine others, including me, said it might be fun. So arrangements were made, flights were booked and money handed over.

I think the original idea, by the way, was that the Harps might have been in contention for promotion from League 2, as it was, they were in contention for fifth place rather than sixth. Nobody cared much about this, but perhaps it was a premonition.

The journey to Ireland was almost entirely without incident. Everyone turned up on-time and there were no roadworks or other delays —no shipwrecks and nobody drownded, nothing to laugh at at all— and we were in Stansted before we knew it. The couple of breakfast beers in Salzburg Airport helped here, as I think I read about two lines of my book before dropping off.

At Salzburg I had noted how one or two of our fellow travellers had a funny idea about hand luggage, and exactly what was needed for a weekend of Guinness drinking, but the Airport staff had been quite accomodating and not too inclined to fuss if one or two of the group had packed for a month in the Antarctic. Apparently a laptop computer is an absolute essential for both an Antarctic expedition and a weekend on the piss in Ireland. Who knew?

I also noted that Harmony from Angel was in this month's Playboy and it would go very well with my Cordelia edition...

The staff at Stansted were not so accomodating. The whole idea of just hand luggage was that we could breeze through the airport and leave the time that would normally be used waiting for your luggage to turn up for the more important things. Like drinking. Stansted employees were deaf to our alcoholism. Still, it wasn't too bad, only a couple of us needed to check in our bags and Derry airport, we just knew, was going to be a Nissen hut by the side of a runway. That just left 5 hours in Stansted and not much else to to besides drink Guinness and eat as many things containing bacon as possible. It was all so easy...

More later.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Brings A Tear To The Eye

This has been across the 'Net and back -- I've been in Ireland over the weekend is my excuse, about which more later -- , but just in case you haven't seen it, there's that weird bank person doing a parody of U2's One and David Cross doing a faithful cover of it over at WFMU.

At least, I think it's faithful cover, I tried to listen to the corporate bloke but I couldn't last more than about 30 seconds before cringing in embarassment for him and having to make it stop.

Dictionary Updates

It seems the Guardian is giving David Thomson space every couple of weeks to update his Biographical Dictionary of Film. So far he's done Will Ferrell and Christopher Nolan.

I get the sense that with both of them he has slightly less to say than write, not that he doesn't fill up the column well, but one of the delights of the BDF was that Thomson could sum up careers in a few careful sentences. Here, though, he may have had to write more about Nolan and Ferrell than you feel they are worth.

Still, it's a column to keep your eye on.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Tom Tom Club

Tom Robinson listens to Tom Waits' new album and finds it hard work. He also steals Ten-Bob Dylan's headline.

I think, though, Tom has it wrong. Orphans seems to be an album made up of things from Tom's vault, songs he probably spent much time crafting but didn't have an album to give them a home on. I don't think it's meant to be listened all in one go, or even an album at a time. It seems to be made to put your mp3 player and lost in the shuffle, the occassional Waits track that you've never heard before showing up and giving you pause to listen. That's how I'm going to do it anyway....

Monday, 13 November 2006

Outlining All My Chins Was Humbling

A while ago somewhere I followed a link that gave you a tutorial on how to turn a picture of someone into a pop-art style pic.

Having no time what-so-ever, but being a narcissist I tried on a photo of me. I didn't work out great, so I tried again with a something I had on my hard-drive of Eamon from the Irish pub...

That worked a bit better, but it's not something I'm showing the Internet until I've tried again. So I went back to my favourite subject, me! And tried again, I think this one worked out just fine:

Thursday, 9 November 2006

That's Brand Awareness

The Guardian in saying goodbye to an American senator, Rick Santorum, -- "that accident has now been corrected" -- end the article with the words "Santorum has been flushed away". It's a pity FailedPenalty in the comments felt that he had to include the link that explained why this was so sly.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 10

Actually, I completely understand Fox News running this headline: No Matter the Results, the Election Will Change Little. I just don't understand why anybody would give any credence to anything Fox News ever said.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Of Course, No-one Saw This Coming

Health drive puts pupils off school meals. That's right. Kids don't want healthy eating and they certainly don't want Jamie Oliver ramming it down their throat.

Friday, 3 November 2006

Texting As Spelling Reform

Over at Comment Is Free Simon Jenkins has decided that illiterate teenagers are leading the way to streamlining the English language, or something...
It is plain silly to regard doughnut as "better" than donut. The same goes for alternatives to night, through, colour and wholesome. When the great Noah Webster invented American spelling after independence, he left British English immured in bigotry. He chided "even well-bred people and scholars for surrendering their right of private judgment to literary governors". To Americans, spelling reform was the sovereignty of common sense. For that reason the British treated it as foreign, vulgar and, worst of all, American.

And, well, it gets sillier:
Spelling is the last fig leaf of empire, the last bastion of nanny (or Lynne Truss) knows best. It is stuck in the tramlines of the past, and nobody thinks straight on the subject.

Before going totally bonkers:
Can texting finally spur revolution? Young people have evolved both a new script and a cost-effective reason for using it. They are breaking free of spelling dogma and expanding the alphabet with emoticons.

Emoticons are curse on the internet. If you can't imply "tone of voice" with your writing adding random punctuation at the end of a sentence rarely helps. In my experience it often used some thing like this "You wanker :-)" as if smiling about being openly insulting somehow makes it OK. Far from clarifying a text they tend to obfuscate it, making the text harder to read and adding information about the authors intent that is at best weaselly.

Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

The Grauniad works itself up into a righteous snit over a handful of goods that have no real reason to exist in a recent article entitled Small crimes against the planet. Unexpectedly it's quite funny:
Fairtrade one cup coffee filters
The coffee may "guarantee farmers in developing countries fair terms", but the design means that you throw away a plastic filter for every single cup you make, plus two lids per box. If you don't have a more efficient way to make coffee than this, get one.

Monday, 30 October 2006

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 9

Via Lawyers, Guns & Money (yes I read a site that's named for a Zevon song, odd, huh?), comes yet another article on Battlestar Galactica. Wait! Come back. It also looks at how right-wingers have managed to completely misinterpret Star Trek, too:
Last year, a Star Trek rerun inspired Minnesota Star-Tribune columnist and warblogger James Lileks to concoct a plan that would eliminate any liberals who opposed abusing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. "It’s time to institute Disintegration Chambers in our major American cities," wrote Lileks, referring to a Star Trek episode that featured two tribes who preferred to fight wars by disintegrating their own people rather than sending them into live combat. Even though the episode was actually an allegory about the perverse methods governments use to shield their people from the brutal costs of war, Lileks took quite a fancy to the idea of forced disintegration, especially for his ideological foes.

Anyway, back to BSG:
"The more I watch the new Battlestar Galactica series, the more the Cylons seem like Muslims," wrote "Michael," the author of the Battlestar Galactica Blog, back in March. "They believe they are killing humans for their god. This is very much like the Muslim concept of jihad, which instructs Muslims to spread their religion through war."

So, a technologically more advanced society overwhelms another with a pre-emptive airstrike in order to spread the word of one god, right, and the overwhelmed guys are the Americans. I'm not sure that that works.

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Jim Crace and, in the comments, Charlie Stross both have books on Amazon with that they have no knowledge of writing. Jim's, and you can search for it on Amazon, is called Useless America, which is a pretty decent title, he should write it immediately before someone steals it. Still, Jim seems to be selling a couple of copies every day without having done anything (Charlie's a little more coy with his numbers).

Monday, 23 October 2006


House of Mirth is a great film. It's 2 hours of almost unrelenting meanness where you are somewhat relieved when the heroine finally kills herself. It's a film where glances and silences say more than the dialogue which is often used to obscure the truth. It's the film Age of Innocence hopes it will be when it grows up.

Its director, Terence Davies — who also made the critically acclaimed (meaning I haven't seen it though I've heard it is very good) Distant Voices, Still Lives —, can't find work for love nor money. As he tells the Guardian in a long, sad, bitter interview:
"There's a man there called Robert Jones [former head of the Film Council's Premiere Fund] who made us jump through all sorts of hoops, and we actually did everything he wanted, and he turned round after four months and said, 'It won't travel'." He pauses for effect. "And that was somebody who had just put money into Sex Lives of the Potato Men! The way in which we were treated was absolutely shocking. If I can misquote Shaw, 'Those who can, do, and those who can't become Robert Jones.' " His voice is deep, theatrical, camp, hints of Liverpudlian with a touch of Noël Coward.
"You're up against people who know nothing, who have done a media degree or, worst of all, have done the Robert McKee lectures."

Why is that worst of all? "Because they've done a great deal of damage. Who can turn round and say it's good to have a climax on page six? Who said so? Robert McKee, and his theories are based on Casablanca, which was being written as it was being shot. So you're up against that level of philistinism. It beggars belief."
Actually, he says, there is one sure way to get a film made in Britain today. "Now you'll get money to make a film if you're a television comedian because people think lots of people will go. A Cock and Bull Story, a postmodernist comedy! What's that when it's at home? Is it funny or is it not? When I've seen Steve Coogan on television he's about as funny as tertiary syphilis." Davies is enjoying the rant, getting carried away with his flow. "I think, why are people putting money into him? But unfortunately we are awash with people who are third-rate - Ricky Gervais, Peter Kay, not a scrap of talent between them. None of them."

He Just Smiled And Gave Me A Vegemite Sandwich

I find Marmite to be the superior product in most ways and simply becuase it's not so sweet, but this news gives me little pleasure:

US bans Vegemite
THE United States has slapped a ban on Vegemite, outraging Australian expatriates there.

The bizarre crackdown was prompted because Vegemite contains folate, which in the US can be added only to breads and cereals.
Expatriates say that enforcement of the ban has been stepped up recently and is ruining lifelong traditions of having Vegemite on toast for breakfast.

Via Boing Boing.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Great Lost Moments In Advertising

The Observer got together Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton, Paul Morley, Anthony Genn and Antony Hegarty and asked them questions about the relevance of music, creativity and advertising. By far the best bit comes early on when Nick Cave is asked if he ever gets offered money to use his songs for selling stuff:
Often. There's a song called 'Red Right Hand', and a sanitary napkin company back in New Zealand wanted to use it, which was tempting ... but that was the closest I've ever come.

PS: Expecting blogging to be very light again this week. I've still got loads to do.

Bonus: Another pic from my gig:

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Go There. Now!

Ten-Bob Dylan's latest band Little Baby Cheeses has a Myspace thing goin' on with all manner of downloady goodness. Check it out!

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

All TV All The Time

So, there's a trailer for the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood on YouTube. And the BBC has a mysterious site up (password "221006" apparently, not sure if that's the only one). It's all looking good.

Is it just me, though, or is the logo for Torchwood a giant cock?

Thursday, 5 October 2006

They Were Only Satellites

Billy Bragg has a new book out, The Progressive Patriot. It seems to be about how an old lefty can still love his country without getting all misty eyed about cricket and warm beer.

The Observer interviewed him about this — and, yes, it's taken me until now to notice — making the odd ploy of sending an Irish man to ask an Englishman about his Englishness:
I tell him that his efforts to reclaim the flag of St George didn't quite win me over, given that it has different connotations for those of us raised in Northern Ireland. 'That's why it's important we reclaim it,' he replies, 'which I think we have. When the St George flag is waved in Trafalgar Square when we win the Ashes, it means one thing: this is who we are. This is our team and this is what they look like. One is a Sikh, one is a Muslim. It's interesting that Peter Hitchens hates the idea that the 11 young men in the football team represent England, but could you ever come up with 11 young men who look more like us?'

The book looks interesting while the interview seems bland except for the inteviewers slight peevishness:
There is less autobiography than I expected, too; no mention, for instance, of his stint in the army as a young man, an experience that must surely have afforded him an insight into an extreme version of British patriotism. 'It didn't really seem relevant that I was in the army for a bit,' he says, unconvincingly, when I mention this. 'The autobiographical things I put in there were selected purely to serve the book's argument.'

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Grumpy Gamers

I recently stumbled across a couple of articles Keep Playing, It Might Get Better (via Tea Leaves) and The Mythical 40-Hour Gamer (via mumblemumble) which seem to be saying pretty much the same thing: Games these days are too long, and the stories are rubbish. Actually this sounds like the joke where the punchline is "the food here is terrible" "yes and such small portions", though there slightly more to it.

Andrew Smale doesn't seem to believe any of it is worthwhile:
Role playing games inherently have more hours of gameplay embedded within them - by the time a roleplayer has finished his latest adventure the FPS gamer has perhaps finished two. As a result player involvement goes much deeper - so deep that the resentment towards its lack of quality is enough to keep trudging through its poorly constructed game world or slipshod storytelling.

Clive Thompson seems to be operating under the assumption that however much gameplay a game might have he should finish it before the next must-have game comes out, though it seems to me that 40 hours is perfectly doable depending on how you spread out those hours. If you give up and then go on the the next distracting shiny thing, then, it seems to me, that this isn't a problem with the game.

Some games do seem to make progress unreasonably difficult though. This weekend I went back to playing Mercenaries to see if could get past the second boss level to get to the second half of the game. After a fairly frustrating hour or so I manged to sneak past everybody and rain down destruction on all the right things (and one wrong thing, but the bonus for not killing the boss wasn't balanced by the need to just move on). The game is now fun again as it has returned to its more sandbox styled central gameplay.

Also, there are plenty of great 10 hour games. Prince of Persia, Beyond Good and Evil and Psychonauts are three games with great story-telling, wonderfully realised worlds and fun characters. They all took around 8-12 hours to polish off and, while they all had their moments of frustration, I generally felt satisfied at the end of them. The myth of the 40 hour gamer is surely that a game must be 40 hours long.

One recent game that had an interesting compromise on this was The Godfather. The main story missions could be done within a few hours (more if you padded them out by taking down one family and doing all the hits) and then you could extend this by collecting everything and taking over the whole of New York. So you have a 10 hour core with an extra 30 hours gameplay for those who feel the need to accomplish everything. I find it fun, too, for short bursts of random violence. It's not a perfect game and it can feel repetitive in the long run, so as an experiment in appealing to two types of gamer it does fall somewhat short of truly satisfying either, especially with the problem that the story missions never become particularly testing.

In the end it may be we just have to accept there are some games we will never finish.

Friday, 29 September 2006

Finding Inspiration In The Oddest of Places

The Morning News link to an ad agency site that has a page dedicated to the bad cover letters that they've received. It's mostly cringe-worthy:
"Strong writing abilities. Able to analysis data and problem solve."

And sometimes funny:
"I am seeking a new position as i have recently been laid."

But somewhere in there I found the perfect name for my first solo album:
"I am getting to my goal, slowly but surly."

Slowy But Surly, the new album by Shinbone available only in my fevered imagination.

Pics From The Gig

Here's a couple of pictures taken during my recent first gig down at the Irish Pub, I should have even more soon. I'll have to put them on Flickr or something, but till then:

I manfully try and keep at least one member of the audience distracted while the band agree on what instruments to play.

There's no picture where what I'm doing totally matches my T-Shirt, but this is quite close and I think it's got a lot of energy...

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Smoking Pot Is Safe Says Ad

At least according to this article in Slate. What made me laugh was the link to an earlier Slate article saying:
Finally, an admission that using pot isn't necessarily calamitous. It's possible we're seeing this about-face only because previous scare-tactic ads were recently proved to increase drug use.


I know what they mean. Not the drugs thing, but there have been a few recent road safety ads that were entertaining for quite the wrong reasons. There's that that looks like it's done on a camera-phone where Wham! some kid just gets taken out by passing traffic, it's like the "Bus Hit" from Final Destination or something. Then there was the speeding in urban areas (or possible drunk driving, I'm not entirely sure) one where the car comes off the road, flys over a fence and Boom! some random kid, who was just standing in the garden, splashed all over the grass.

I'm sure my enjoyment of those two are some kind of damning indictment of me or my taste or the deading effect of watching too many violent images on TV, but, damn, they do give you a jolt. Of course it would be a tragedy if it happen to any child in real life, but then so would any violence you see on TV.

We'll Just Carry On Referring To Them As Convicts Then

Apparently Cricket is trying to crack down on racism, Australia Cricket, though, are still fine with calling the English "Poms"

However, while backing the new clampdown on racism, Cricket Australia have admitted that they will not stop using the term "pom" having taken advice from the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.

The commission has ruled that "pom was not hurtful when used in isolation, although using the word with others could be deemed racist, offensive or humiliating".

The English, of course, are hesistent to mention this lest "whingeing" gets added to the front of it.

Monday, 25 September 2006

Really Should Get Out More

I rented Munich and Final Destination 2 on DVD over the weekend (2 because I'd watched 3 the previous week and found it surprisingly enjoyable in a totally mindless way and was curious about the series).

About half way thorough Munich it occured to me that they both had the same plot. Horrible tragedy happens in which some parties escape, those survivors spend the rest of the movie being killed in a range of inventive ways and being paranoid about it.

It made it very difficult to take Munich seriously after that, even after I'd watched Spielberg's introduction where he made it very clear that it's a serious movie indeed.

A Guide To Not Getting Your Freak On

In response to yet another school banning dancing, which as George Bernard Shaw had it is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music, when said dancing involves anything remotely sexual, Junichi has a set of rules to follow for everyone who wants to boogie on down without scaring the old folks, here's a couple:
1. Do not shake your body down to the ground, shake your booty, shake your rump, shake your thang, shake your bon bon, shake your moneymaker, or shake it like a saltshaker.
5. Step back if you are dancing kinda close and you feel a little poke coming through.
7. Do not use your lovely lady lumps to mix your milk with another person's cocoa puff or in any way create a milky, milky, cocoa puff-like substance.

Wise words indeed.


Bill Clinton defends his record on terror. Vigorously.

A transcript for those without immediate access to the video.

Friday, 22 September 2006

He's Always There To Help Us Out Of The Little Jams Too!

Yes, it must be Tom Waits Day or something, anyway, The House Next Door Take a close look at the credit sequence for The Wire, which features various different artists doing Tom's Way Down In The Hole, including Tom himself.
It is no surprise, then, that The Wire's opening credits are not an ordinary credits sequence, but a series of four short films that distill each season's themes, goals, and motifs. On most TV dramas the credits sequence is little more than a contractual pecking order with flashy graphics and catchy music -- examples of what job-hunting production houses would call a "sizzle reel." Even the credit sequences on HBO's other programming, which are always evocative and given a full minute to breathe, usually seem detached from the shows themselves, to the point where they work as stand-alone mood pieces. But The Wire's four credits sequences don't fit any of these descriptors; the images are taken out of context from the season's individual episodes and arranged in a pattern that only makes sense if you watch the show closely. The content changes significantly from season to season, yet each credits sequence adheres to the same basic editing rhythms and visual schemes. The theme music is always Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole," but each season it's performed by a different artist from a different genre. Working in concert, the audio and the visuals create a 90-second mini-narrative that alludes to each season's victims and assailants, its legal and political strategies, its criminal schemes, its surveillance devices, and its instruments of death. The entire assemblage is scored to a mournful biblical cautionary tale about the necessity and difficulty of resisting temptation and sin.

By the way, the title of this post is a reference to the Big Time version of WDitH, what I didn't realise until recently is that it's the punchline to a story that was cut out of the CD:
Part of original verse deleted: "Have mercy… People, when I was on my way to this speech tonight, we pulled down in Dallas/ Texas. The lord loooves Dallas/ Texas. Well people, I mean to tell you the lord was working his wonders with his paint brush. All the many hues of his pallet. The almond, the many violets and the vermilion. And I was seated in Clipper Class. People I love Clipper Class! But I was seated next to and elderly Indian gentleman who was having some trouble with the tiny foil top that locks in the freshness on his strawberry preserves container. A problem we've all experienced from time to time… People I want you to know that he busted that top, till I thought he would die. And you know what I did!? You know what I did!? Well I tell you what I did! People I snatched the container from his hand, I tore open the foil top and I spread his preserves out on his toast for him! (applause)."

It's also interesting to read the debunking of the "Pregnant without intercourse" story in the notes at the bottom of that page. Dry and utterly humourless, but interesting never-the-less.

Free Tom Waits

Tom's releasing an album called Orphans soon. It's off-cuts and B-sides and stuff he found in his closet or something like that. Sounds interesting, it's spread over 3 CDs called Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards respectively.
At the center of this record is my voice. I try my best to chug, stomp, weep, whisper, moan, wheeze, scat, blurt, rage, whine, and seduce. With my voice, I can sound like a girl, the boogieman, a Theremin, a cherry bomb, a clown, a doctor, a murderer…I can be tribal. Ironic. Or disturbed. My voice is really my instrument.

His record label, Anti, have made "Bottom Of The World" from the Brawlers CD available to download, which is jolly good of them.

Via the newly redesigned Glorious Noise who have plenty of links to other free Mp3s.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Something Fun

Over at Bad Science, Ben Goldacre has a couple of fun videos. First is the famous "Powers of Ten" video as recently parodied by The Simpsons. The second video on the page is some strange donkey like walking machine that's quite hypnotic.

As a bonus, that diet coke and mentos thing that was going around a while a go.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

From A Certain Point Of View

Weaselling more than Ob-Wan Kenobi in Empire Strikes Back the BBC ask and try to answer "How infallible is the Pope?"
According to the Roman Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome IS infallible - but only in specific cases. The current furore over remarks made by the pontiff about Islam does not fall into this category.

What intrigues me most about this, though is this bit:
It wasn't until the 19th Century that moves were made for a formal acknowledgement that the Pope was faultless. In 1870, the First Vatican Council proclaimed that the Pope was infallible

Why did they not notice up to that point? Was it something that never needed pointing out in the past and in 1870 they just decided that the public needed a reminder? Maybe they were just checking the records and noticed that every time the pontiff pontificated in a certain manner, well praise be, he was right everytime. Those other times though, not so divinely inspired.

Monday, 18 September 2006

So, You're Probably Wondering, How Was It?

Great. Really really good.

Markus had a proper PA and everything and knew how to set it up so that wasn't remotely a problem. I did mess up the recording equipment (not sure what happened except I didn't record anything) but as that was the worst thing that happened I was only slightly put out by it.

The cold remained, but I sang over it.

There were probably between 20 and 30 people. Not too many, but it filled the Irish Pub's Barroom without being over packed. Just right, really. I knew most people, but a few strangers were there and they stayed till the end.

My voice mostly held, I wasn't entirely happy with all of my singing — though any criticism I got wasn't about that, so perhaps I'm being over-critical, I'll be developing Diva-ish tendencies as soon as I can — and it was half way through Canned Heat that I realised smoke dries out your throat. The band were occassionally a bit messy but for the most part they out-did themselves and I just had to concentrate on being in time.

I think people were pleasantly surprised, shocked in a few cases, it was a good energetic gig and I was called an all-round entertainer more than once, though I was also called "that twat from Donny" so there you go...

In many ways it was the perfect first gig. Nothing went too wrong, the right number of appreciative people turned up and I felt we'd done more than enough while showing that there was plenty of room for improvement. Here's to the next, this time sans cold.

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Cut Out & Keep Guide To Cheap Drugs Around England

Thanks to The Independent:


Cheapest cannabis resin (£30 an ounce) and second cheapest amphetamine (£8 a gram) although this has risen from £2 the previous year


Cheapest heroin in UK: one fifth of a gram just £5. Low price attributed to town's role as major drugs transit hub for the North-east


UK's cheapest ketamine, an animal anaesthetic (£10 per gram). Heroin £50 a gram, more expensive than average


Ecstasy pills as cheap as 75p each when bought in bulk. Ketamine £20 a gram. Viagra and GHB popular among clubbers


Below-average price for cocaine (£40 a gram) and crack (£10 a rock). Substantial rise in use of steroids among young men


Drug users buying two £10 bags of heroin get a free rock of crack, which encourages 'speedballing'. Heroin purity very low (average 25 per cent)


Crack at £10 a rock is half the price of two years ago. Standard herbal cannabis is cheaper too. Rise of 'speedballing' is a worrying trend


One of eight cities reporting rise in 'speedballing', in which heroin and crack cocaine are injected using the same syringe


Khat, a stimulant with effects like amphetamine, is increasingly popular. Misuse of anabolic steroids is becoming mainstream


Price of heroin dropped by half since 2005 (now £50 a gram). Methadone and Subutex, heroin substitutes, available cheaply


Most expensive cocaine in UK (£55 per gram), but the cheapest ecstasy (£1 a pill)


Rising number of people suffering cocaine-related mental health problems. Skunk cannabis most expensive in UK (£140 an ounce)


LSD still popular, along with magic mushrooms, crystal meth and MDMA. Home-grown cannabis increasingly available


Misuse of anabolic steroids becoming mainstream, with drug services seeing big rise in number of young Asian men seeking help for misuse


Cheapest cannabis, cocaine and crack in UK. Average heroin prices are also among the lowest in the country at £10 per 0.3g bag


Heroin price fell from £60 to £40 a gram this year, attributed to Liverpool dealers. UK's cheapest herbal cannabis (£90 an ounce)


Growing presence of steroids. Club bouncers using an opiate painkiller, Nubain, mixed with cocaine, to create improvised 'speedball'


Most expensive herbal cannabis in the UK. Cocaine among the most expensive with one gram selling for an average price of £47.50


Since Monday I've had a bad head cold. I can't quite work out if this is my body getting my excuses in early for me or just very bad luck. It's annoying.

On the bright side Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy is even more fun than the first game, if a little frustrating with the puzzles sometimes — there's a bit in freeplay where you are a spaceship and you have to light 7 lights by flying over them that must have taken me about 50 trys. There's moments of greatness, though, in the details. If you're playing as Lando you can't slap Princess Leia, instead you kiss her hand while Chewbacca yawns and at the climactic moment of The Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader whips out a polaroid of him and Padme and points to it then Luke, which is much funnier than I've made it sound when it happens to you. Oh, and Chewie ripping the arms off stormtroopers almost never gets old.

Monday, 11 September 2006

Quick Note and a Quickie

I'm very busy at the moment and I've got that gig thing all planned up and everything so posting will be light to non-existant for the next week. Sorry about that. I'll try and get back to my three or four posts per week swing of things as soon as possible.

Via Making Light comes Japanese Surf Versions of Classical Themes .

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Knob Gags To Return Shortly

They first came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they for the ravers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a raver. Then they came for the smokers, and I didn't speak up because I'd just quit. They they came for the Pay-Per-View Porn, and I didn't speak up because I had my own stash. Then they came for the fatties and I found it difficult to hide under anything and when I ran away they easily caught up....

(with all apologies, of course)

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 8

Although, I admit, this will probably turn up in England sooner or later if it hasn't already, Parmesan with its own disposable grater.
The selling point of Grate-it-fresh is that a consumer can grate their own cheese, straight out of the package. The idea is that it's the act of grating the cheese that affects the quality of the product. As Adam the Intern wrote in that e-mail, "It's kind of like bringing that authentic Italian restaurant feeling home to the family."

There's probably some kind of genius going on here. It's the logical step between cheese and pre-packaged grated cheese, possibly for those only vaguely aware of the relationship between the two.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

So, Wait, You're Saying What Now?

I'm a bit flaky as where the link to 14 Points of fascism in Project for the Old American Century came from. It's central idea is pretty simple. In studies of fascist states there are 14 characteristics that are always present. These are, stated briefly:
1) Powerful and continuing nationalism
2) Disdain for the recognition of humanrights
3) Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
4) Supremacy of the military
5) Rampant sexism
6) Controlled mass media
7) Obsession with national security
8) Religion and government are intertwined
9) Corporate power is protected
10) Labor power is suppressed
11) Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
12) Obsession with crime and punishment
13) Rampant cronyism and corruption
14) Fraudulent elections

I think you can probably see where they are going with this. And they do. With links upon links to support their argument. The fact you can quite easily do the same for the UK is obvious, but a point worth making.

Fraking Universal!

Not content with hinting at extras you don't get on Deadwood Season 2, Universal have gone a step further and only put half the extras on the new Battlestar Galatica. That is, they've added the Ron Moore podcasts for the episodes they'd already done that for for the American market, but apparently couldn't be arsed to finish off the rest of the DVDs just for Europe. Apparently a later American release will be full featured, but, yet again, region 2 consumers are treated like second class citizens...

You can, however, download Ron's podcasts from the usual place.

Friday, 1 September 2006

First (Mini) Gig

So, I had to abandon Shinbone for the moment because the other band members didn't think it meant anything, which was the point but I don't mind I my just keep the name for when I get around to finishing of "Three Quid & Jesus". Eamon at the Irish Pub, though, offered me a corner of the pub on a Thursday evening so we had to come up with a name, Markus suggested the Blues Berries, a name that has all of those B Sharps qualities of being a bad pun that gets a little more annoying everytime you hear it, so I agreed. In part, but not the greater part, because it fit a poster idea I had using my South Park character. After a bit of fiddling here's what I came up with (click it for a larger version):

Which probably doesn't need that shadow on the letters but it creates some space. Overall I think it's rather cute.

Here are some close ups:



Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Short Shorts: 6

Sometimes you can't find a link for love nor money, but today The Morning News, in particular had loads, you should probably go there, read the Prince thing and then check out the Headlines bit. I particularly liked:

  • Never hug a Swiss cow, hikers told. "Do not scare the animals or look them directly in the eye. Do not wave sticks. Give a precise blow to the muzzle of the cow in the event of absolute need," it advises. Good advice in so many situations.

  • The lost art of film editing They don't make 'em like they used to. Films don't have time to just stand and stare anymore.

  • Top 20 Gayest Video Game Characters Apparently this is all over the net at the mo' and with good reason. It's hilarious. The gayest character I've played is probably Willow in Buffy: Chaos Strikes back...
  • OK that's enough TMN. Jay Is Games has just announced the winner in its Casual Gameplay Competition so if you feel you're not skiving off enough it's worth checking out that and the high quality non-winning entrants.

  • Why Kinky Is Wrong seems to be saying Kinky Friedman is sometimes reactionary while appearing to be progressive. A swift read of any of his books would probably proof enough. But isn't it part of his charm? (via Making Light)

  • A Random Number Survey Testing how random humans really are.

  • Why are sex words our worst swearwords?It's listed in our highest security class of obscenity, along with three synonyms for penis, two for vagina, two slang terms for oral sex, two variants on animal waste products and one expression that employs the F-word in an oedipal context.


So I'm halfway through the second season of Battlestar Galactica and it occurs to me that the producers missed a trick. If they'd somehow found a way to give Lucy Lawless and Michelle Forbes a scene together, I do believe my latent fanboydom might have exploded all over my TV.

Xena and Ensign Ro. Together at last. Mmmmmm....

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

The Teacher Prince

The Morning News have a cute article on lessons to be learnt from Purple Rain:
1. Shaming and hazing is hot courtship
2. For a man to succeed, his woman must not. She really just wants a boyfriend and isn’t that talented anyway, so it’s cool
3. It’s OK to abuse a woman if you write redemptive music afterwards

On one level you do wonder if gently ribbing a 22 year old movie is almost the definition of "too little, too late", but then the nostalgia kicks in.

The lessons I learnt from Purple Rain were:

  • I'll never be that skinny

  • I'll never ride a bike that big or purple

  • Guitars sure are phallic

(Though according to Edward Tufte, via Robot Wisdom, perhaps I shouldn't bullet that list)

Dead Deadwood

Matt Zoller Seitz reviews the last proper episode of Deadwood and you can't help but feel a little sad.
The closing shot of last night's Deadwood episode was never meant as a series-ender. But that's what it was, and for a number of reasons, it was both appropriate and troubling: Ian McShane's Al Swearengen kneeling on the floor of his office, cleaning up a bloodstain.

Still there's the end of the Sopranos to look forward to. Battlestar Galactica is going strong. And The Wire is doing interesting things. I hear The Shield is getting better all the time, too, but Sony in their wisdom have decide that no-one in England wants to watch more than the first two seasons

OK, it may just be me, but doesn't it seem wierd that three of the best series currently showing are a Western, an SF drama and a Gangster story -- the other two I mentioned are cop shows, but there have always been good cop shows. It seems that the old genres are getting a fresh start or maybe it's just that they have good producers who want good stories and real human interactions and that the setting is just a backdrop for those stories.

Friday, 25 August 2006

Quick! Someone Arrest Christopher Brookmyre

Chris over at Splinters has a link to a story about someone on a flight from Luton to Berlin getting a book, freely available at Waterstones, confiscated because it may or may not have had a mention of al-Qaida in it.

Let the book burning begin...

Speaking of air travel I'm not sure where to start with Ryanair. Not content with simply making as much money as they can from their customers, it seems even people who don't fly with them will be making for a contribution to their profits.

David Tennant Does Not Wear Ladies Underwear

He claims.
"They were Calvin Kleins, I swear to you! I'm staring at them right now. Okay, granted they have a little red border around the top, but I can promise you they are neither lacy nor womanly. They are MAN PANTS."

Fooled Again

The Guardian had a headline today Thatcher says sorry but forgiveness seems a distant prospect. My first thought was "too little, too late" and my second was "what's this doing in the football section?".

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Your Daddy Kills Animals

Until your daddy learns that it’s not “fun” to kill,
keep your doggies and kitties away from him.
He’s so hooked on killing defenseless animals
that they could be next!

From those lovable people at PETA comes a comic designed to help children help their father to stop fishing. There's much to enjoy here. I like, in particular, how Daddy has a skull and crossbones on his cap.

Does anyone else feel a strong need for Sushi now or is it just me?

Via Making Light.

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Preparing Kids For Adulthood

The Guardian[1] takes a swift look at some truly terrible TV.
The fact that Heil Honey I'm Home, an ill-judged sitcom that pitched Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun moving in next door to a Jewish couple, failed to make the top 10 should serve warning of the horrors that lurk within a new list of the worst TV shows of all time.

They end, though, with this:
Thomas the Tank Engine was best, or worst, placed children's show, portraying "a workplace riven by class envy where bitching, brown-nosing and backstabbing are the norm".

So is it a bad show for showing kids what their working life is going to be like? Was that supposed to be some big secret like the true identity of Santa Claus? Were we all supposed to pretend in front of the kids that work was a happy fun place to be where everyone just got a long? Sorry I must have missed the memo.

[1] Actually it's a Radio Times story, the Guardian is just reporting on an article in the Radio Times about a program on TV. I found it through Mediawatch on Football365 who make pretty much the same joke I do. That, in a nutshell, is how most blogging works.

Monday, 21 August 2006

It Gets Earlier Every Year

So, the Premiership Football season, or "the season" as Richard Keys has it, and already I find Andy Gray and the aforementioned Keys tedious beyond belief.

Partly this can be attributed to the fact that my team, Leeds United, are still in the Championship and neither Keys nor Gray are able to understand that football outside of the Premiership actually exists. Keys in particular getting out the slogan "the season starts here" after I'd already seen Leeds play on the TV (and Vorwärts Steyr at Vorwärts Stadion, but they can be forgiven their ignorance of the lower levels of Austrian football).

Gray, who once seemed a passionate pundit if a little overloaded with catchphrases, has turned in to being merely a shill for the Premiership and Sky's coverage of it. Being one of the old boys he can't quite bring himself to criticise any footballer, but on catching something even slightly amiss with a linesman's decision he'll bring all of Sky's IT deparment's expertise to bear on the problem with electronic recreations that must have conspiracy theorists the worldover drooling with delight.

That, in the face of all that, Keys is an even shriller corporate shill must be an achievement worthy of some kind of prize.

It's not that I particularly despise either of them, it's just that I'm sure it took much longer for my tolerance of the pair to dissappear last season.

Friday, 18 August 2006

What Would Bill Hicks Do?

The Guardian takes a look at why Bill Hicks is still as popular today, perhaps moreso, as when he died.

Apparently there's a Edinburgh Fringe show, Bill Hicks: Slight Return, in which Hicks is brought back to life in 2006 by writer and actor Chas Early. The main question here being why don't they just hire Denis Leary and be done with it.

As someone who has probably started too many sentences with "It's just like that Bill Hicks bit..." this looks all good to me. Though they do bring up whether Bill would like all the dead Bill worship:
Given this provocateur persona, wouldn't Hicks have been dismayed by the cult that now surrounds him? Early's play asks that very question. "And I think he'd say, 'What is it with dead comedians? Haven't you got enough live ones to go around? Why isn't anyone moving the story on?' I think he would be annoyed."

Early also points out that Hicks could be prickly:
"It's become easy to turn him into a saint," says Early, despite there being "elements of his comedy that were difficult and in many cases unappealing". Some audiences inevitably felt hectored by Hicks's vehemence, and the fainthearted struggled with the more lurid sexual content.

Though, for me, that is part of the appeal. There's a video of Bill losing it with a heckler or two at a show in Chicago that's difficult and almost scary to watch. It's also very funny, rude and possibly the most visceral stand-up you'll ever see. You do get a sense that there's something like that in him in the available CDs and DVDs, too. That some nights he'll just push an audience to see how far they'll let him go and also to see how far he could go and still keep most of them with him.

One problem I do have with Hicks is not really a problem with him as such. The superficial message of his comedy is "do drugs and watch for UFOs and the world will be a better place", which is, no doubt, a large part of his appeal to a certain section of his audience. I don't think he believed anything so simple and would probably be derisive of those who looked for answers in his comedy. He seriously believed we should all just get along, but I doubt he had any concrete ideas on how to make that happen.

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

London Changing

A while ago I blogged about a gallery The Morning News was hosting called Changing New York which featured pairs of photos taken in the same place but separated by decades.

At the time Ten-Bob Dylan asked if there was a London equivalent. I couldn't find one. And I haven't quite yet, but this is picture of early fifties London and its 2006 twin make a single compelling example.

Via Making Light.

Monday, 14 August 2006

Uninstall Condition

I've recommended The Daily WTF before. It's incredibly geeky, but occasionally it looks up from the depths of the code-face to take a glance at the user interface. They have a regular update called The Pop-Up Potpurri. This week someone submitted a pop-up that would have me uninstalling the software immediately afterwards:

I do get where that is coming from. In a past project a certain search string would send the user to a page that contained a dictionary of swearing that I'd written to help some Dutch students, it also took some side-swipes at Lotus Notes. And there have been times when being told that something goes wrong with a project when a user tries to do something it clearly wasn't designed to do, then I really want to tell the user "don't do that then". It is entirely possible that the developers are trying to be cute or funny. It's not working.

Friday, 11 August 2006

Star Trek Inspirational Posters

(Via Fark)

Not helped by the fact that the first poster isn't funny and the hit rate of funny to just plain bad is very low, this collection of Star Trek Inspirational posters can occasionally hit the spot. I liked this one:

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Don't DO That!

Imagine my surprise when I saw this headline in The Grauniad today:

'No plans' for Thatcher state funeral

I'll not list all my conflicting emotions about this, but then it turned out she's not actually dead yet. Talk about a letdown.

The article concludes:

One of the few former prime ministers to receive a state funeral was Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington and a hero of the Battle of Waterloo. He died in 1852, after many years in the cabinet and a brief stint as PM. In 1965, Winston Churchill was also afforded a state funeral to honour his leadership during the second world war.

I'm not sure if anyone should be judged solely by their greatest enemies, but I make that Napolean, Hitler, Arthur Scargill... Or countries defeated: France, Germany, England.

Monday, 7 August 2006

Einstein: Ladies Man and Poet?

Via Making Light comes an article on Science and poetry and how there is poetry in Science even if poets don't quite believe that. And if they do believe it it's because someone once had a go at explaining quantum mechanics to them.
Here’s a handy guide: if a person tries to explain away an unusual claim in terms of quantum mechanics, he or she is almost certainly bullshitting you unless the subject being discussed is a) colder than anything you will ever encounter, b) faster than anything you will ever ride, or c) too small to be resolved using a light microscope.

It concludes:
The world has had enough poetry that scorns measurement and verification. The world has had enough quantum mystics. There is a difference between knowing what you’re talking about and making shit up on the fly, and Schroedinger’s cat has nothing to say about that second one.

It's worth reading the whole thing as I haven't really given a full taste of it's flavour here, speaking of which the off-hand insult to British food is quite uncalled for.

Friday, 4 August 2006

CD Trashing. It's The New Book Burning

Via Music Filter comes a story about an American church destroying "mountains of rap CDs, DVDs and other paraphernalia affiliated with the hip-hop culture, claiming it is a bad influence on their children."

A church member, Steve Kelly, said:
"It's a culture of hypnosis, brainwashing kids into mimicking degrading values"

And I agreed with him until I realised he was talking about hip-hop:
" It's all about, you know, selling drugs, getting money, cheating on your girl."

Topics that wholesome groups like The Beatles, say, or The Eagles would never address, of course.