Wednesday, 31 May 2006

A Flower?!

Not Narcissus, but this very site turned in to a graph. You can do the same to any site here. The following information may be useful.

What do the colors mean?
blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
black: the HTML tag, the root node
gray: all other tags

Via The Morning News.

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Analysing Media Numbers The Guardian Way

"Where have the viewers gone?" asks the Guardian in an article entitled Doctor Who loses momentum. A good question, except about half way down the article it says:
Last year's series then settled down to average 7.9 million viewers and a 39% share across its first seven episodes.

The current series has a similar average after seven episodes - 7.7 million viewers and a 38% share - making it one of BBC1's most successful dramas of the year so far.

So, er, 200,000 viewers have been shed on average. Russell T Davies must be shitting himself...

And obviously last year ITV didn't realise that Doctor Who would return so triumphantly. This year it looks like they've been trying to schedule event TV against it:
Doctor Who has also faced stiffer competition from ITV1 in the past couple of weeks, with The Prince's Trust 30th anniversary concert and Soccer Aid scheduled against it.

Before that, ITV1 had put movie repeats against Doctor Who, with disappointing results.

Which suggests to me, and I'm not the Guardian's media analyst so I could be completely mis-interpreting this, that Doctor Who has kept relatively steady while ITV have clawed back a few viewers.

It hardly justifies the title or the lead paragraph, does it.

Cracking Made Easy

Grumpy Gamer links to a list of the top 10 most common passwords, he links there because "monkey" is number 8. It's an interesting list in its own right, though. And if you use any of these then you should change it immediately. The list, in reverse order, is:


Monday, 29 May 2006

They Help The Author Make Lots Of Money

3 Quarks Daily point us to an article in Scientific American by Michael Shermer called "SCAM Sham" that asks the simple question "If you need to pay for someone's help, why is it called "self-help"?"
Do these programs work? No one knows. According to Sa­lerno, no scientific evidence indicates that any of the countless SHAM techniques--from fire walking to 12-stepping--works better than doing something else or even doing nothing. The law of large numbers means that given the millions of people who have tried SHAMs, inevitably some will improve. As with alternative-medicine nostrums, the body naturally heals itself and whatever the patient was doing to help gets the credit.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

It's Got To Be Better Than The Da Vinci Code

BBC News website readers voted for Lesbian Vampire Killers as the film in Cannes they wanted to know more about.

Who doesn't?
Two young men decide to escape their problems and head to Wales for a weekend in a small village.

They arrive to find a coach-load of Swedish females and a cursed hamlet under the spell of vampires of a specific sexual persuasion.

Unfortunately so far it's only a poster.

Speaking of that other movie, I did go and see it. It's exactly what you expect it to be. Only longer. It's an hour of waiting for Ian McKellan followed by an okay(ish) romp followed by wishing they'd bring Ian back some how. Also the movie would be half as long if every one didn't ponderously intone all their dialogue so that those in the cheap seats could follow the plot.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

There Are No Stupid Questions

Are the critics able to stop a turkey in its tracks? may just be the stupidest question I've heard in a while, however.

It's not even remotely the right question to be asking. Critics may have some influence on a movies Box Office, but, as the article points out, some movies — the big summer movies that no critic wants to take to their bosom— are going to make what they're going to make and critics can neither help nor hinder them. The Guardian article even uses Kingdom of Heaven as an example of a flop, to which Ridley Scott had already replied, in the Guardian no less, "$225m isn't bad, I guess."

Bad reviews are always fun to read, though, and I imagine they are fun to write. You can just imagine AO Scott, or not as I have no idea what Scott looks like, getting himself in to a right old lather when he writes:

Thus we have had a flood of think pieces on everything from Jesus and Mary Magdalene's prenuptial agreement to the secret recipes of Opus Dei, and vexed, urgent questions have been raised: Is Christianity a conspiracy? Is "The Da Vinci Code" a dangerous, anti-Christian hoax? What's up with Tom Hanks's hair?

It's not just me right? I read the 1-star reviews and the 5-star reviews because that's where the goodies are. What I want, though, is the reviewer to write-up a movie I might not have heard of if not for them. Elsewhere, I might have access to a very good arthouse cinema, the Showroom in Sheffield is one I've been to quite a bit, but often I don't, so I like being told about films that I don't particularly have access to but might be interested in if they ever come to DVD.

Not Coming To A Theater Near You is a good example of a site that gets this right, they champion movies, often obscure but not always, of many different types and quietly pass over those that aren't so good. They seem passionate about movies as a whole and tend to be good at pointing out what made the experience good for them. I don't think "Not Coming" are under any illusions that anything they say will make a great deal of difference to a movie's bottom line, but they probably feel that if they've made one person watch "Shoot The Piano Player", say, this month then they've done their job.

To be honest, Philip French has done his bit for championing the great and the obscure and there are many films that I have seen because he gave them good reviews in The Guardian. Reading him moan that he hasn't done enough to stop the latest blockbuster juggernaut, though, gives me pause to wonder whether it was all just about his ego rather than a filmgoers enjoyment.

Monday, 22 May 2006

It's Crazy, But It Just Might Work

My Old Kentucky blog contend that the road to indie success is a simple one, governed by two simple rules:
Rule #1: Put a hot girl on keyboard or bass.
Rule #2: Cover Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart

The first one is pretty obvious. The second one MOKB felt the need to provide proof for. Either a thing of beauty or very scary indeed.

So, That's That Then

Leeds United are still in the Championship, while Watford, who thoroughly desevered their victory by, you know, actually turning up and fighting for it, are Premiership bound.

Of course, Leeds should have had a penalty in the first half unless the rules now allow the goalkeeper to rugby tackle a striker.

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Speaking of Revolting

She had no intention of falling under his spell, but her body ached irresistibly for the touch of his cruel lips.
'John,' she gasped, as she melted in his manly arms. 'John...'
'Aye, lass,' whispered John. 'When tha'rt willin'!'
'Get thee skates on,' he urged. She shuddered with delight as his throbbing parliamentary mace sprang loose.

From Chase me, ladies, I'm in the cavalry via alicublog

A Tipping Point

Via 3 Quarks Daily comes an article entitled "MY MALCOLM GLADWELL PROBLEM, AND YOURS" (all caps just like that) by Lee Siegel. Gladwell is one of those people you keep hearing about as he's spent a lot of words on a relativly simple theory, as I understand it, and it's a theory he uses his odd hair to promote. Seigel describes it thus:

In The Tipping Point, Gladwell turned a banal business-concept--that moment when an idea, trend or style of conduct "tips" into a craze--virtually into an explanation of how history unfolds and society works.

Neat, huh? I've been meaning to read The Tipping Point at some, er, point, but I've been put off by this article. My tipping point? Here:
In Blink, he argued that the artist's creative intuition is something everybody possesses, something that can be used for practical purposes in any situation. (The Power of Positive Blinking.) One of the book's central dramas is the role intuition played, according to Gladwell, in the battle between (successful) Pepsi and (failed) New Coke. Businessmen, Gladwell wants to tell us, have the instinct of poets. That was a thrill.

Just to repeat that Gladwell wants us to believe "Businessmen have the instinct of poets". What a revolting idea.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Reasons I Don't Understand America Part 7

That's the point of his proposal to send the National Guard to our border with Mexico. This represents Bush's final, desperate descent into Clintonian sleight of hand.

Rich Lowry, Editor, National Review
I think you can probably recast the above as "Bush's new plan is stupid, but, hey!, he's not Clinton, right?".

I take all that back about "Comment is Free" needing editors. Someone who apparently is an editor has surpassed all of them in scribbling possibly the most idiotic thing I've ever read.

They Should Use That On The Poster: 2

TBogg points his readers to this MSNBC article and claims to have got no further than the subheading:
Spokesman says film is 68th movie since 1960 to feature evil albino

He should have at least have had a peek at the "Cinematic bad hair days" link a little lower, though. It's a light-hearted look at some of the bad hairstyles sported by movie stars since the 70's and may possibly have you losing your grip on your will to live as you read it. Not because the "dos" are bad, but that this list exists in the first place, and it took two people to create it.

Anyway I suppose this means I've done my bit for the The Da Vinci Code advertising department this week. Feel free to blush for me.

Just When I Thought I was Out....

... They pull me back in.

Monday, 15 May 2006

Give Him His Own Tech Show

OK, so this clip is all over the Net now. It's of a cabby who has been mistaken for a tech expert and is interviewed for his opinions on the issues surrounding music downloads. Apart from a thick french accent his answers are probably not a great deal different from the expert they were going to get on anyway. The other thing that makes this worth watching for is that, despite a moment near the beginning where it seems he realises that he's not supposed to be there, the cabby does remarkably well in fielding the questions.

Reputations have been made with less.

Craig Is Bond

And he's got a spiffy new trailer to prove it.

Friday, 12 May 2006

A Theory Of Prostitution

John Allen Paulos looks at a recent paper on the Economics of prostitution and tiptoes carefully through some of its conclusions:
Like any statistical model, this one ignores the diversity of real people and the complexities of love and pleasure, changing social mores, et cetera. Still, once all its equations have been solved, a simple fact remains: Most women enter prostitution for the money.

This being so, legalizing it, regulating it (strictly enforcing laws against pimping, child prostitution, public nuisance and so forth) and improving the economic prospects for women seem to me a greatly preferable approach to it than moralistic denunciation.

He heroically avoids that old "why go out for hamburger when you've got steak at home" line even when some places scream out for it:
Wives and prostitutes are competing "commodities" (in the reductionist view of economists, that is), but wives are distinctly superior in that they can produce children that are socially recognized as coming from the father.

Thus, if men have more money, they tend to buy the superior good and, at least when wives and prostitutes come from the same pool of women, tend to buy (rent) the cheaper good less frequently.

Via 3 Quarks Daily.

Thursday, 11 May 2006

How The Computer Games Press Works

From Kotaku via Robot Wisdom:
He could show them finger puppets hitting each other with wooden dowels and call it God of War II, and he'd still get a nice blurb the next day. ("While all the art assets for GoW II aren't totally finished, everything we saw at David's demo suggests it's on track to be a contender for BEST GAME OF E3 2006.")

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Bless You!

Schadenfreude! A word that has it's own little ritual explanation to go with it:
It means joy at someone else's misfortune. Only the Germans would have a word for that.

Jason Feifer over at The Morning News makes the point, at length, that although only the Germans do have a word for it we could all do with one anyway. The notion of schadenfreude being pretty universal.

Bonus: While at TMN check out the links to Profile of Popbitch, the email newsletter we can’t seem to unsubscribe from and Sixty-four versions of “Stairway to Heaven”.

Monday, 8 May 2006

Just Thinking Aloud

Why isn't there a tech blog, or tech blog contributor, called "Wry Coder". And come to think of it "Ten-Bob Dylan and the Wry Coder" should be the name of a Brookmyre-esque tome about music and geeks.

Kids Entertainment Not Theatre

For me, one of the highlights of Orson Welles' F For Fake, among the many treasures of that underrated movie, is Orson himself rumbling his way through Kipling's Conundrum of the Workshops. Imagine, if you will, Orson chewing this up:
When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden's green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, "It's pretty, but is it Art ?"

I was brought to mind of this today because of Michael Billington's post on the Guardian's Culture Vulture blog about a big mechanichal elephant that was marauding around London over the weekend. Billington harumphs:
What it does do is appeal to the mood of infantilism that seems to be taking over a lot of entertainment: we seem to have an unstoppable urge to become little children - gazing with open mouths, dilated pupils and dropping jaws at whatever is put in front of us.

As a commentor on the post puts it: "So let me get this right. You are complaining that a family event appealed to kids?" He is you know.

Actually, It Explains A Lot

Patrick Nielsen Hayden calls the following a "plausible unified-field-theory of stupidity", I think I know what he means:
Since power means being able to conform the world to your ideas, while learning consists of conforming your ideas to the world, power is the ability not to learn from your mistakes.

Friday, 5 May 2006

Aww. Really?

Steve Gilliard over at the News Blog, in response to some wingnut silliness, has posted his no murder pledge. He has 15 points that he means to adhere to. There are a couple that must be really tempting, though:
8. Hitchhikers are not deer, you cannot hunt, gut and make jerky of them

14. Even though your wife left you, barging into her parents home, killing everyone inside and driving away is an overreaction.

15. Just because you own a high powered rifle, doesn't mean you can climb to a roof and start picking people off

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Programmer Humour/Horror

I could just be terribly slow, but I've only now discovered The Daily WTF. It's a forum with a daily discussion of some programming horror or other. It is, by turns, hilarious and scary. The bulk of people who come here probably won't understand a great deal of it. Although I'm sure one or two of you, if you haven't seen it before, will probably spend an inordinate amount of time reading it, laughing, trying to remember if you've done anything like that and then forwarding links to people who will cringe along with you. If you find the following amusing and yet eerily familar, it's from a story about dissappearing web pages, then the Daily WTF should be in your RSS Feed:
After quite a bit of research (and scrambling around to find a non-corrupt backup), Josh found the problem. A user copied and pasted some content from one page to another, including an "edit" hyperlink to edit the content on the page. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue, since an outside user would need to enter a name and password. But, the CMS authentication subsystem didn't take into account the sophisticated hacking techniques of Google's spider. Whoops.

As it turns out, Google's spider doesn't use cookies, which means that it can easily bypass a check for the "isLoggedOn" cookie to be "false". It also doesn't pay attention to Javascript, which would normally prompt and redirect users who are not logged on. It does, however, follow every hyperlink on every page it finds, including those with "Delete Page" in the title. Whoops.

After all was said and done, Josh was able to restore a fairly older version of the site from backups. He brought up the root cause -- that security could be beaten by disabiling cookies and javascript -- but management didn't quite see what was wrong with that. Instead, they told the client to NEVER copy paste content from other pages.

Remember How I Was All Excited By Lego Star Wars?

No? Well I was anyway and it turned out to be possibly the most fun thing I played on the X-Box.

Well, Lego Star Wars II looks to bring even more of the fun. Just check out the trailer at the previous link. And try not to grin like an idiot when you do...

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

All The Non-News Fit To Print

Hollywood's Take on the Internet Often Favors Fun Over Facts

Because they are scrupulously fucking accurate in everything else...

What The Apprentice Says About The Guardian

Ah, Comment is Free what would I do without you?

Today Jonathan Freedland has an article entitled "What The Apprentice says about Blair's Britain: only profit matters", and you can see his point. Up to a point anyway. Any "reality" show (and I'm sure you don't need those scare quotes, but it's worth emphasising just how fake these programs really are) should roughly reflect the demographic it hopes to attract. They do this so that we all have someone to root for. It's almost stunningly obvious, then, that, by dint of design, it will reflect something of Britain today.

Also by design, the team that makes the most money wins. There has to be some measurement, and money is probably less arbitrary than most of the other ways that you could use determine who is winning. I'm not sure that this means that we can expand this point any further for The Apprentice than we can for, say, Bulls Eye. Freedland can insist that this makes all of Britain money grubbing scoundrels but it really doesn't hold up after a moment's thought.

Most egregious, however, is this:
A truism of our age declares that this is the era when deference has been banished, yet The Apprentice shows that's not quite right. For the contestants, even when exhausted and hurling abuse at each other, only ever refer to their taskmaster and would-be boss one way: he is Sir Alan. Never "Sugar" or even "Alan Sugar", but Sir Alan.

Again, he's gone from the particular, "Alan Sugar likes to be called Sir Alan", to the general, "We all call him Sir Alan because we all secretly love deference to titles". Quite a leap, I'm sure you'll agree.

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

It's All, Like, Meta

In a sort of follow up to a post on Ten-Bob Dylan's blog, Billy Bragg turns up on today's The Guardian's news podcast. If you can stomach the unpleasant views of people in the pub next door to Billy's concert then it's worth a listen.