Thursday, 20 December 2007

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

So, I'm off on holiday until the 2nd of January.

I'll be back in the New Year with reports of further gigs, links and ramblings about binge drinking and whatever. This year has been a bit up and down, but it's ending pretty well. Gigs-wise anyway. Hopefully, the 'Berries can build on their fan base and start playing further and further away. Also Steyr Cricket Club should finally start training in January and I'm oddly looking forward to that.

See you all soon.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Vanilla Pudding News

Over on The BluesBerries MySpace page I've changed the live version of Vanilla Pudding From the Doherty's DownUnder gig one to the Café Adabei one.

I feel it's just a little sharper and, well, my singing's not quite so wobbly.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Faggot Out, Arse Fine

BBC Radio 1 has decided to dub the "faggot" out of The Pogues' Fairytale of New York. Apparently they wish to avoid causing offence.

I'm offended that they think someone could find this offensive. I find it offensive that a song that's been enjoyed in its entirety for 20 years should suddenly be so affronted. Still, if it keeps "faggot" out of the mouthes of children then it's all worth it.

I could have done without the scary picture of MacGowan though.

Monday, 17 December 2007

British Level Irony

From the Daily Express:
An area which was one of the first to model itself as a "safety town" is the most dangerous in the country for accidents, it was revealed.

Slough in Berkshire, which is ringed by traffic lights and speed cameras, topped a most-accident table compiled by Endsleigh Insurance Services.

This being an article in the Express the readers immediately spring to blame, and I quote, "Foreign bloody Johnnies" and their poor understanding of the highway code. I hope at least one of them is being ironic, but it's so hard to tell these days.

Tasteful

IKE 'BEATS' TINA TO DEATH - New York Post headline.

New Poster, Song, Gig Review

This is the poster for the BluesBerries next gig:



We had a very good gig on Saturday at Cafe Adabei in Weyer. You can read a little about it over at the BluesBerries mySpace page and listen to another song, Vanilla Pudding, from our last gig.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Fun & Games With The Mighty Boosh

Quests, minigames and show info. The BBC have set up a Flash thingy to advertise the return of the Boosh. Fun stuff.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

This Really Should Be A Caption Competition

Well, it had to happen. After all those pics of me looking suave or sorta cool I get a pic like this:



I'm obviously surprised by the size of Eamon's pump.

Speaking Of Errors in the Press

Time have an article be Richard Corliss titled Do Film Critics Know Anything? In it he sees to be moaning that when critics give awards to movies they don't just give the awards to films he's heard of, or to those with the biggest box-office.
And it all starts here, with critics fighting over which hardly seen movie they want to call the best of the year.

I'm sure Mr Corliss isn't really that big of an idiot, but he really does seem to be arguing that popular automatically means good. He also seems to be saying that because he hasn't heard of a movie it can't possibly any good. I'm sure there's a latin term for this, but it seems to me that this is an argument from ignorance. Because he can't bring himself to enjoy something with subtitles, he just can't imagine why someone else would.

Streets Of Shame

Regret The Error has just poublished on its site Crunks 2007: The Year in Media Errors and Corrections. A fun whisk through a year's worth of corrections and clarifications from newspapers around the world. Many edge toward hilarity:
In an article in Monday’s newspaper, there may have been a misperception about why a Woodstock man is going to Afghanistan on a voluntary mission. Kevin DeClark is going to Afghanistan to gain life experience to become a police officer when he returns, not to shoot guns and blow things up.

And several are scary, including this correction in the Observer:
We should clarify that the stir-fried morning glory recipe featured in Observer Food Monthly last week uses an edible morning glory Ipomoea aquatica, found in south east Asia and also known as water spinach. This should not to be confused with the UK Ipomoea, also known as morning glory, which is poisonous.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Blonde Moment

Via Robot Wisdom comes a fascinating map of the density, as it were, of blondes in Europe.

Inevitably the Scandinavians have the most per head, but what struck me immediately is something picked up in the notes:
The southern border of the fairer-haired part of Great Britain seems to correspond quite well with the southern border of the Danelaw, which was ruled and settled by the Danish in the early Middle Ages.

Monday, 10 December 2007

The BluesBerries Live!

I've added a new song from the Doherty's Downunder gig to the Myspace page. It's called "My Baby Done Left" and it's a song with lyrics by me and music by Markus.

It's a 12-bar blues with a bouncy surf-y groove and a particularly good guitar solo from Markus. As well as a tiny bit of craziness from myself. It's not quite our live sound as the guitars are a bit low in the mix, but it's a fine document of what I remember as a great evening. So, please, go and listen and, if moved to do so, let me know what you think.

Ads Glamourise Whatever They Are Advertising

Really, though, it's what they are there for, just like it's impossible to make an anti-war film that can't be misinterpreted by some pro-war faction or other, ads that tell you something is bad tend to make that thing look good, at least for some people. I've mentioned before that I enjoy a couple of drink driving ads just because of the sudden and visceral violence of them. The BBC have noticed something similar with those "drink responsibly" ads:
Some anti-drinking advertising campaigns may backfire by inadvertently glamorising the habit, say researchers.
The study, led by the University of Bath, said focusing on idiotic behaviour carried out when drunk may be "catastrophically misconceived".

As these reports tend to be, it's a study in obviousness and misplaced shock. They've discovered that embarrassing behaviour, rather than providing later mortification, is in fact a rich source of pub-friendly anecdotes. Turning the tales from examples of your own uselessness in to fables of your ability to laugh at yourself and have a good time. Or, as the BBC have it:
Frank Soodeen, of the charity Alcohol Concern, said: "Binge drinking is often treated as nothing more than a source of amusing anecdotes."

Who knew? Well, just about anybody who's ever talked to a group of lads (or lasses, indeed) in a pub after a night out.

Friday, 7 December 2007

An Almost Meta-post - A Short List of Lists

The Morning News recently linked to a couple of top tens. Both of them made me smile.

First came ten bathroom placards for the uncommonly stupid. There actually some good advice here. The first pic might need a little punctuation, but it's definately on message, where as the poster that states "If at first you don't succeed... Keep flushing!" ought to be made in to one of those motivational posters.

The second list was 10 Most Bizarre Scientific Papers, now these things are either silly or prurient, and this list manages a bit of both — "Rectal Foreign Bodies: Case Reports and a Comprehensive Review of the World's Literature", indeed. It also has a few gems in it. The infographic for "Pressures Produced When Penguins Poo -- Calculations on Avian Defecation" alone makes it worth linking to.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

It Explains Many Things

Americans believe in pretty much everything claim some Aussies. OK, they're backed up by a survey from Harris Online and everything seems to be gods, ghosts and the paranormal, with less belief going round for "Darwin's theory of evolution".

That last one's pretty loaded, though, isn't it? How did the questioning go?

"Hey, do you believe in God?"
"Yep"
"Angels?"
"Yep"
"Miracles?"
"Every day is a miracle"
"Darwin's theory of evolution?"
"Evolution is well established, but I have problems with certain aspects of Darwin's theory in particular."
"So you don't believe Darwin's theory?"
"Well Darwin got a couple of things wrong."
"That's no to Darwin, then"

Triumph of Wil

After what seems like ages, several months anyway, Wil Wheaton has reviewed another Star Trek: TNG episode. This time it's Datalore:
And Picard, the captain who recognized Wesley's intellect and promoted him to acting ensign, responds with three words that follow me to this day: "Shut up, Wesley!"

Trekkies around the country gasp in delight as an episode that was veering into 'The Last Outpost' territory suddenly has redeeming value. Basement printing presses, silk screens, and button-makers go into over drive as entrepreneurial fans do what they do best. The convention market is flooded with the resulting merchandise, and children are still attending college today from the sales.

You can feel his pain.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Prior Promise of Future Delights

Apparently the Doherty's gig was recorded for posterity and just to embarrass me with how bad my banter was.

Actually, I've heard some of it and, though self-praise is no praise, I was happily surprised with how relaxed my between song patter was. And quite a lot of the singing stands up, too.

Now I'm just trying to decide which tracks to put on Myspace, so keep an eye on here and there.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Everything Gives You Cancer

When you're a woman, anyways, according to research published in the Torygraph:
Research has shown that acrylamide [the suspected cancer causing agent] is found in cooked foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, coffee and also meat and potatoes which had been fried, baked, roasted, grilled or barbecued.

"Best just nibble on a raw carrot, really" nobody insensitively added.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

But Seriously...

I should check in with the Vinyl Word more often, but, somehow, remembering it after a few weeks away isn't too bad. There's plenty of content built up for one.

If any doubt remained it has evaporated now, but Joe Queenan really, really, really hates Phil Collins.

Literally

Christ on a Bike!

Via Making Light.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

More About Me

So the pics from the gig at the Gallery section of Doherty's Pub are a little blurry, but I do like this one from the gallery for the next day:

Monday, 26 November 2007

The BluesBerries Gig

It went really well. I'd expected about 20-30 to turn up and, all told, probably somewhere over fifty made it.

The first set was pretty controlled and I was in fine voice. We finished the set with Dead, Drunk & Naked to great applause, I was genuinely touched. The crowd was good to us all night. With the possible exception that a few of my jokes were only appreciated by those whose English could stretch to them, ah well...

Second set was a bit more raucous, I think. We had a guest harmonica player for the encore, Hoochie Coochie Man, which went down a storm. We also had a request to reprise Crazy About Automobiles, which we did. It's a good number and the band have a lot of fun playing it, so to get asked to do it again was an honour.

All in all, I had a great time and I hope we won some new fans.

Roll on the Weyer gig!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Anika's Odyssey

If, like me, you're in need of a little cheering up today and McClaren being sacked just seems too little too late then you could to worse than give Anika's Odyssey try.

It's a simple point and click game in the Samarost vein. It's a little easier than that game, but it's a whole lot cuter. The artwork in it and the animations are positivly lovely. Blushing mountains have never been so artfully rendered.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Filler: Beat It

Jermaine Dupri, an R&B producer, struggles to pinpoint what's wrong with downloading music:
We let the consumer have too much of what they want, too soon, and we hurt ourselves. Back in the day when people were excited about a record coming out we'd put out a single to get the ball going and if we sold a lot of singles that was an indication we'd sell a lot of albums. But we'd cut the single off a few weeks before the album came out to get people to wait and let the excitement build.

Now, I'm still a little old school when it comes to music. I like buying CDs. I like going to music stores and just browsing. Then again, I like my albums to have as little filler as possible, none at all being the platonic ideal.

Dupri, on the other hand, seems to suggest that filler is somehow a right and that allowing fans, consumers if you must, to cherry pick the good stuff off the albums means he's missing out on some royalties. He doesn't see this as a message to up his game, no, he sees it as a reason to go whining to the press.

I have some sympathy. Giving the consumer just what they what does seem to be a way of stifling creativity, but, then, bands who innovate tend to have fans who'll buy the whole album because of that, I doubt that the non-single Kriss Kross album tracks are anything other than bland R&B filler. Like any other consumer I've bought plenty of albums that have the single and a bunch of other stuff on (I sometimes refer to this as the 4 Non-blondes 1 Decent Track phenomenon not that I've held any bitterness for this length of time), thanks to iTunes and so on we don't have to put up with that anymore if we don't want to and, really, it's about time.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Cheap Beer and Exploding Bladders

I may have mentioned once or twice before the British media's problem with binge drinking. Well, it seems that "Beer sales plunge as Britons stay at home". That's right, pubs are selling 14m fewer pints a day than in 1979. This is because more people are drinking wine and that whole, vile alchopop thing, but guess what the proposed solution to help Britain's brewing industry is?

Yep, make beer cheaper to make it more attractive to those who've forsaken it...

Of course, binge drinking gets a mention:

"It is no coincidence that Britain has the highest level of excise duty in the EU and sales in the on-trade are falling, and yet binge-drinking is on the increase as supermarkets cynically exploit the consumer by offering cut-price booze to drink at home," he said.


When I'm back in England I often feel cynically exploited by the fact I can get three bottles of Black Sheep for four quid. It's a damaging destructive relationship but I can't help going back for more.

But not too much more, as a new report says binge drinking has increased to such an extent that cases of 'exploding bladders' are on the rise in the UK. Well, actually "we don't know the exact numbers, it's important to remember that ruptured bladders are rare - these are the first documented cases in women in the world." So that's a rise of infinity per cent then...

Myths Misfire

John Allen Paulos, author of A Mathematician Read The Newspaper among many other fine maths related books, has a column at ABC News. This month he looks at how cognitive biases colour our view of the issues and can affect policy choices. It makes you question your assumptions, which is always a good thing. He brings up a scary study by University of Michigan psychologist Norbert Schwarz:

Schwarz copied a flier put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intended to combat various myths about the flu vaccine. It listed a number of common beliefs about the vaccine and indicated whether they were true or false. He then asked volunteers to read the flier. Some of them were old, some young, but shortly thereafter he found that many of the older people mistakenly remembered almost of a third of the false statements as being true, and after a few days young and old alike misclassified 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Even worse was that people now attributed these false beliefs to the CDC itself! In an effort to dispel misconceptions about the vaccine, the CDC had inadvertently lent its prestige to them. In many cases, truth and elucidation can actually strengthen misconceptions and make them more psychologically available.


You know, actually, that explains a lot.

Via 3QD.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Judging Book Covers

My Favorite Book Covers of 2007 from The Book Design Review. I went to mock, but there's some really good covers there, even if the cover for The Little Girl and the Cigarette is astonishingly literal. I voted for Words Without Borders.

This is also very literal, but I thought that it also managed to show a lot of information in a witty and eye-catching way.

I'm not sure if I ever bought a book solely for its cover, but I do know I once used to prefer Picador because the spines were always white and they looked good together on a shelf. This was also a benefit with the Penguin classics range all having silver spines. As always, I'm sure this says something very bad about me...

Friday, 16 November 2007

Massed Memories Of Media Manipulation

Photography lost its innocence many years ago. In as early as the 1930s, shortly after the first commercially available camera was introduced, Stalin had his enemies "air-brushed" out of photographs. With the advent of high-resolution digital cameras, powerful personal computers and sophisticated photo-editing software, the manipulation of digital images is becoming more common. Here, I have collected some examples of digital tampering in the media, politics, and the law.


Digital Tampering in the Media, Politics and Law. Just because Photoshop makes it easy doesn't mean photo-tampering doesn't have a long and rich history. From Lincoln through Stalin all the way to Brad and Angelina.

Via Boing Boing.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Lego and The Architect

Via Snark Market.
Architects from China, Japan and Thailand amongst others were given kits of white LEGO building blocks and told to have just fun. The results, from Asiatic temples to futuristic towers to sustainable old-and-new city plans are currently touring Asia.

There's some really interesting ideas here. It's hard to pick one that stands out, they are all great. The image below, though, I liked because it has a touch of Star Trek about it along with something oddly organic and, well, it's just fun.

The Cruelty of Co-workers

Coding Horror lists a number of pranks to play on your co-workers with their computer, including this classic:
Replacing the desktop with a screenshot of the desktop, and hiding all the visible items on it.

I think the message is to lock your computer any time that you are away from your desk, but, as is the way of these things, seems to be more like a list of things you can to to annoy your fellow workers.

Much fun.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

BluesBerries Update

So, Doherty's Irish Pub is opening up a downstairs section, Doherty's Downunder no less. Being one of the last bands to play at the old place, it's an honour to be the first to play there. It'll be on Friday 23, November and will probably start around 8. I whipped up this poster to promote the gig:



We should also be doing 2 gigs in Decemeber. One is in Weyer at the Café Adabei and that will be on the 15th. The other should be a New Years Eve concert in Losenstein. I'm excited about all of these.

To mark the occasion, I've updated all the songs on our Myspace page to the most recent mix and I've swapped in Diddy Wah Diddy for Sugar Babe. Making some new song goodness.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Son of The Return of Short Shorts

I managed a main post today, but there was loads of other stuff. Obviously I found a lot of these at places listed on my sidebar (and in the Feeds I Read post). You don't have to check those out, but there's plenty there.

Dogs Must Be Carried

I suppose it takes a special kind of literalist to misunderstand the title of this post, presumably the sort who gets all het up about "8 items or less", but over at the Language Log they have some fun examples of autantonyms, a class of chants and signs that can mean two opposite things, along with a little analysis.

My favourite is probably "We put the fast in breakfast!", which I hope was intentional, but suspect wasn't.

Via The Morning News.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Overweight Feeling Great

So, the research is in. Being a little "overweight" is better for you, in the long run, than being thin.

A startling new study by medical researchers in the United States has caused consternation among public health professionals by suggesting that, contrary to conventional wisdom, being overweight might actually be beneficial for health.

The study, published yesterday in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association, runs counter to almost all other advice to consumers by saying that carrying a little extra flab – though not too much – might help people to live longer.


I'm sure dietitian's and others with vested interests will be rushing to the media to explain why this report should be taken with a pinch of salt (be careful of your blood pressure however), and nebulous reasons why losing that extra few pounds will make you happier. They, of course, have just been pulling numbers out of thin air for quite some time now, which is why it's good to finally have some hard facts to look at.

It is worth pointing out that the obese are still buggered.

But, surely, the point is this: We've been sold an unhealthy body image by people claiming authority where their authority seems to built on nothing but speculation. Science suggests that, well, they've been wrong all this time.

So, thin people, go, eat a sandwich. It's officially good for you...

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

I've simply got to, that's the whole thing.

If I would get the chance to ask Hollywood producers why they have this urge to remake almost every movie made within the last sixty years that ever made a profit, that (slightly altered) quote from "High Noon" could very well be the reply, as Hollywood's unwillingness to produce anything new and original hits another dubious milestone with announcing the plans to remake the aforementioned classic western "High Noon".

Most examples of the latest Hollywood remake-craze range from the utterly pointless ("The Omen", "Psycho", "Flight of the Phoenix", "Poseidon") to the self-destructively bad ("The Haunting", "Alfie", "The Pink Panther", "Last Holiday"), yet the powers residing in Tinseltown can't seem to get enough of butchering yet another piece of their own past.

The announcement to give "High Noon" the remake-treatment does not bode well for movie classics at all and the writer of this blog entry shudders at the thought of some Hollywood producer looking for profit having a go at such classics like "Citizen Kane", "Casablanca" or "Gone with the Wind".

I am not entirely sure what the motivations behind the current wave of remakes are, but I suspect it is a mixture of laziness, lack of ideas and the cost/risk factor that comes with big-budget productions.

Maybe the time has come for us, the audience, to collectively shun these remakes and by doing so sending the message out to the suits working in Hollywood, that it is about time for them to tighten their slack attitudes, rid themselves of their pot-bellies and get their lazy arses out of their comfortable chairs and do something original and new again. This movie fan would certainly appreciate a little less remaking and a little more originality.

Free Sam & Max

For those who like it old school. Sam & Max: Season 1: Abe Lincoln Must Die is now available for free.

It's part 4, which is a bit odd, but it's allegedly the best bit so if you miss point & click adventures at all, then go and check it out... I've not had chance to play it yet, but I did finally get the Culture Shock demo working (moving to XP may have slowed down my computer for most things, but there was exactly one benefit), and if this keeps up the promise of that, then fun will be had by all.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Timothy Taylor's Personal Trainer

In a refreshing change from the norm there's been a report, via The Telegraph of all places, that a quick beer after sport is good for you.
Spanish researchers say beer can help someone who is dehydrated retain liquid better than water.

Prof Manuel Garzon, of Granada University, also claimed the bubbles in beer help to quench the thirst and that its carbohydrate content can help to replace lost calories.

So, those three pints I had after walking up to Eccles Pike (not to mention Shining Tor) were actually the right thing to have. Possibly.

Back! Regular Posting To Resume Soon

So I've walked all over Whaley Bridge parish and environs in the last week and now I'm refreshed and ready to contiune whatever it was I was getting on with before I left. You know blogging, blues and bowling.

Soon, anyway. A bit busy catching up on work things at the moment...

For those who are not so busy and have the energy there's a new version of Dwarf Fortress out. I know that of all the people I spoke to personally about the early versions I was probably the only one that gave it any time. This version looks set to be even more complicated, but I would urge people to give it a second look and, also, look around the wiki devoted to it to get you started.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Holidays

I'm on holiday next week so expect postings to be non-existant. There's plenty of entertainment to be had from the links on the right, however.

I'll be back before you notice I'm gone.

Hmmmm...

I'm not sure you can read anything into the report that, since it's downgrading as a drug, cannabis use has gone down.

If you were of a particular bent you might argue that it suggests that if you treat people like adults then they tend to act all adult-like.

Or, though maybe not mutually exclusively, you could argue that the less "criminal" a drug is the less lustre it has for certain people.

One might also note that decriminalising the weed has not sent the youth of Britain spiraling into reefer madness. Far, it seems, from it.

It's probably nothing to do with any kind of legislation, I mean, the youth of Britain spend some much time binge drinking it's a wonder they find time to do any drugs at all.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

More Government Propaganda From The Guardian

Stuart Jeffries is sent to Liverpool to sneer at drinkers having, mostly it seems, a good time. And sneer he does:

Enticements to drink are at every corner. If I ordered two salads at the pub outside the Tate, I could have a bottle of Pinot Grigio Blush for only £4.95. Of course, I would have to ask the barman to pour the wine down the sink if I was to truly enjoy my salads, but still.
...

"Lads," says a small boy, trying to lure us into a bar on Concert Square. "Bud's £1.50 a pint, yeah?" I'm getting old: even the booze jockeys seem pre-pubescent.
...
The Raz's barmaid offers a bottle of Special Brew for only £1.80. If I had only plumped for that I, too, might be playing air guitar to Bryan Adams' Summer of 69 like the circle of friends to my right. I catch the eye of one of them as his hand slides up the imaginary fretboard. Oh dear. I opt for a soft drink instead.

There should be a drinking game that goes with this article: everytime Jeffries comes across as an insufferable snob, take a swig, you'd probably pass ot before the end.

He sort of lets the cat out of the bag early on. He's there on one of Liverpool's busiest drinking days; the local Derby, Everton vs Liverpool, is on and a couple of other events are swelling the coffers of landlords all over the city. A taxi driver tells him that last week the place was dead. He's gone to Liverpool with one thing in mind and stacked the deck to make sure he gets a full-house. He goes to busy pubs looking for drunkards and, lo and behold, easily spots the guy who's had ten pints. Investigative journalism at its finest.

He also, though, let this little gem out:
[L]ast weekend's papers reported that the 20-year-old Department of Health limits had no firm scientific basis, but were rather, according to Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party who produced the guidelines, "really plucked out of the air".

That's right. All those warnings about binge drinking and middle-class wine consumption aren't based anything remotely scientific, they're guesses. And, as I've repeatedly stated, guesses that make it easy to ignore the advice being offered. And, despite my disdain for the way the message is presented, it is fair advice; drinking less is the healthier option, drinking to excess regularly is doing nobody but the breweries any good, drunks can be dangerous and unpredictable.

Anyway, I'll give the last word to one of the patronised:
I interview a swaying but beautiful woman in a nightclub queue who is dressed in a low-cut, short-skirted parody of a nurse's costume. We're getting on until I suggest that alcohol-fuelled narcissistic display is one of Liverpool's chronic diseases. She takes it personally. "Don't fucking judge me," she snaps. "This is the best party city in Britain, probably the world. I love it here and I wouldn't live anywhere else. So if you don't like the way I dress or the way I drink, you can fuck right off to wherever it is you come from."

Quick Shout Outs

Doherty's Bar. The website is, finally, up and there are all sorts of embarrasing pictures there.

Also, Pirata Rossa, a local band doing that ska thing rather well.

See, it's not just about me.

Friday, 19 October 2007

DVD Round Up

So, I'd been enjoying a Buñuel week on DVD (well, except for Tristana which I didn't enjoy so much, The Milky Way, though, I enjoyed immensely for a road movie about catholic heresy) and I need to watch something blow up so I visited my local DVD store and tried to catch up on some more mainstream fare. I don't really want to review these, there's plenty of places out there for that, and I'm not planning on making this a regular feature, it's just that a few things struck me and I wanted to share:


  • Ghost Rider I actually quite enjoyed this. Nic Cage was likeably goofy and the action was reasonably well-staged. I don't quite get why the reviews for this were uniformly rotten. As a popcorn movie, it does the job just fine.

  • Gridiron Gang The Rock teaches football to a bunch of young prisoners. It's obvious and emotionally manipulative. I cried all the way through and cheered at the end, just I was supposed to. And there's nothing wrong with that.

  • The Prestige I got the "twist" fairly early on in this (and it's all but signposted with flashing neon) and it then annoyed me that the film thought it was being so clever about it. Probably a decent movie but I just wanted it to end.

  • 300 Fun. There was some argle bargle about the politics of this when it first came out, as I remember. No questions are really asked about the Spartan lifestyle and their war-loving ways so I guess that is tacit approval of something. The film is such a Boys Own fantasy of men sticking things in each other (and occasionally women, too), however, that any political message it may have is confused at best. Armoured rhinos, though, cool or what?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Taking Tacos To Tijuana

Via The Accidental Hedonist comes a report that Taco Bell are trying to set up shop in Mexico, selling itself as an "American" fast-food place.

They're trying to present themselves as authentically inauthentic giving their "tacos" a made up name and creating a new slogan meaning "It's Something Else".

"It's like bringing ice to the Arctic," said pop culture historian Carlos Monsivais. "Taco Bell wants to take advantage of the perception that if something comes from the U.S., it tastes better, that a country that has been Americanized is willing to Americanize food that is central to its cuisine.

"It is an absurd idea, and given that it's so absurd, it may just be successful in upper-class areas," Monsivais added.

One thing that struck me this article was the comment from the Yum spokesman that was so comically empty of meaning while being precisely verbose that it verged on parody:
"What we are bringing to Mexico is not Mexican food, it's our exciting quick-service restaurant brand," said Rob Poetsch, a spokesman for Yum Brands. "We feel the timing is right, and we've done quite a bit of consumer research to validate that this goes beyond product. It's about value and convenience – that's the universal appeal."

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

One For The Ladies


The BluesBerries All Dressed Up and Raring To Go!

Harmful Middle Class Drinking

According to the Guardian, the middle-aged, middle class like a drink too. Of course this gets a respectable appellation: "habitual wine-drinker". You know, nothing as sordid as "binge drinker".

The habitual-wine drinker is endangering his health by drinking between 22 and 50 units of alcohol per week, which, assuming 8 units per bottle works, out at somewhere between 2 and 7 bottles per week. Or a glass while cooking, a glass or two with dinner and a couple more while watching TV or whatever. The sort of innocuous drinking that only the strictly teetotal, headline seeking doctors and maybe your mother would comment upon.

There are, of course, other problems with drinking, but if we look at the health problems purely in terms of related deaths then National Statistics Online say that there are roughly 8,000 alcohol related deaths each year across all age groups. Over double the number of fatalities in road accidents, but way, way behind the 106,000 attributed to smoking. Shockingly it's pretty similar to the number of deaths, 5,000 to 20,000 depending, caused by hospital-acquired infections. Physician, clean thyself, or at least pay the cleaners a decent wage.

Monday, 15 October 2007

This Week! 100% Less Me!

OK, so blues week is over and, well, the feedback I got, if not the hits, was overwhelmingly positive, though not without some good advice on what to improve. But it's over now and what do I get on my first day back to normal blogging? A gift from the Independent:

Legalise all drugs: chief constable demands end to 'immoral laws'


The article makes an number of good points, but it essential boils down to a Bill Hicks quote "there's a war going on... and people on drugs are winning it", the difference this time being that it's the Chief Constable of North Wales saying it (it's not reported whether he went on to do Bill's "Suck Your Own Dick Bit"). The Indy helpfully gets all the good bits ordered into a bullet-pointed list at the end, which can be shortened further to:


  • Prohibition isn't working

  • More & more people are taking drugs

  • Classification is made to look silly by not looking at alcohol & tobacco

  • "If policy on drugs is in the future to be pragmatic not moralistic, driven by ethics not dogma" then "Such a strategy leads inevitably to the legalisation and regulation of all drugs."

  • British drugs policy arises from from "a wholly outdated and thoroughly repugnant moralistic stance."

  • However, until we get what's needed I'll do as I'm told.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Sugar Babe

Sugar Babe by Mance Lipscomb. A simple song about a woman beating pimp. Ironic when you learn that Mance is short of emancipation.

Stream it here:

Or download it here.

It's all over now.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Rollin' & Tumblin'

First recorded by Hambone Willie Newbern this song has since been covered or adapted by Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Cream, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Bob Dylan.

So of course we had to have a crack at it.

Newbern, by the way, is yet another blues player whose history isn't all that clear. It seems he was popular around Tennessee and that he recorded six existing tracks, one of which was "Roll and Tumble Blues", in Atlanta in 1929. According to the All Music Guide he was "by all reports an extremely ill-tempered man, Newbern's behavior eventually led him to prison, where a brutal beating is said to have brought his life to an end around 1947."

Our version harks back to some of the earlier versions, trying to avoid Muddy's influence. I was never quite happy with the way I'd been singing this in practice so this time I tried a lower, growly style and, although it's not quite perfected yet, it fits this song quite well. Obviously, though, this had to be one of the last recordings of that particular session...

Stream away, stream away!

Download it here.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Good News Everyone! Now With Trailer!

Yes, the trailer for the new Futurama DVD, Bender's Big Score, is on YouTube.

Woohoo!

That'll Never Happen No More By The BluesBerries

More of a ragtimey feel on this one. And, yes, a little ragged at the edges, but it's a different sound to my voice and the guitar playing is rather lovely.

Apparently it was written by Blind Blake who was, indeed, "The King Of Ragtime Guitar". He's a somewhat mysterious figure. To quote wikipedia:
Very little is known about his life. His birthplace was listed as Jacksonville, Florida by Paramount Records but even that is in dispute. Nothing is known of his death. Even his name is not certain.


Searching for the lyrics to this song on the internet, I discovered that a folk singer by the name of Dave Van Ronk had added a third verse. Since I like the song but felt it didn't go on long enough I incorporated that in to our version.

So, stream away, and let me know what you think...


Download it here.

I'm also putting these on a fairly spare myspace page here.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Criminal Mastermind

Just to break up the mp3 posts (yes, there will be more this week), Mediawatch over at Football365 was alerted to a story of alleged murder in Ireland. The murder itself is sad and disturbing, the alleged gunman, though, was not the most powerful shotgun in the rack:
Sgt O'Riordan said that when Crowe was interview he asked gardaí what evidence they had against him. They told him he had been identified at the scene. Crowe replied "that's bullshit. Nobody saw me. I had a balaclava and gloves."

99 Secrets Blues By The BluesBerries

So, we've recorded some stuff! And some of it was good enough to share. And that's what I'm going to do.

This first track is called 99 Secrets Blues. I took a text I'd found on the Internet called "99 Secrets" and I took the attitude, if not the exact words, of the piece to form a blues around with Markus providing the music.

The original was 99 lines mostly on failing relationships of which the following is representative:
once she told him a story about a white knight, and a princess that didn't need saving. am i the knight? he asked her. no, she answered. you're the person i'm telling the story to.


The third line in the "99 Secrets" is:
stay, he asked her, not meaning forever.


This forms the basis of my first verse:
When I said you could stay, I never meant forever
When I said you could stay, I never meant forever
And now it's no secret that we can't be together


Anyway, enough waffle from me, here it is:


Or, if you want to download it,you can click here.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Film Classics

In The Guardian Joe Queenan concisely explains the use of Classical music in movies:

As a rule, film score classical music is used as a shorthand: Handel indicates that the snobs have arrived, Mahler that someone is about to die, but not before pouting about it, and Wagner is a sure sign that big trouble's a-brewing. This cultural semaphore system was established in the silent-film era, when no monster worth his salt would dream of making his entrance without the accompaniment of Bach's Toccatta and Fugue in D or something equally theatrical by Liszt. The tradition continues today: Vivaldi's ludicrously overplayed Four Seasons invariably indicates that the stuffed shirts are having brunch; Beethoven's Ode to Joy announces that Armageddon may be just around the corner; and anytime an aria by Verdi, Bellini or Puccini is heard, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone is going to get raped, stabbed, blinded, buried alive or impaled.

It Sounded Like A Train

A Fark member asked fellow members to take his image of a Santa Fe railroad boxcar (with Super Shock Control) and edit it in any manner they felt fit, so long as the edges fit together.

For something collaborative and open to messing about and, well, on Fark, I think it turned out rather well...

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Slow Week I Guess

So when not passing on simple movie gossip, it seems this week I shall be just lazily copy links from The Morning News (still, good news about Serenity 2, eh?). This time it's a quirky series of photos from the perspective of someone's tongue.

It seems to me, though, that there's at least one missing...

And, speaking of photos, I suppose I should pass this on:



I feel that not explaining it is the best course of action.

Serenity, Though, Not So Much...

Alan Tudyk remains hopeful:
"They had to put [the new DVD] out because they’ve been selling out of the other one and so Universal’s like 'So, let’s do another one'. And now... there’s now a chance there’s going to be another movie".

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Deadwood Deader Than Ever

Ian McShane says they're dismantling the sets, so no movies:

"Everything has to come to an end, babe"

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The Economics of Screwing Over The Poor To Keep Your SUV Running

The summary of this article, How Biofuels Could Starve The Poor, says it all. The rest is detail:
Thanks to high oil prices and hefty subsidies, corn-based ethanol is now all the rage in the United States. But it takes so much supply to keep ethanol production going that the price of corn -- and those of other food staples -- is shooting up around the world.

Via TMN, again.

Von Neumann In Las Vegas

Tim Harford wrote an article, The Poker Machine, about applying game theory to poker, and those who have succeeded in doing so, for the Financial Times Magazine last May. I've only just discovered it, though, via The Morning News.

It's quite informal, there's no maths in it at all, but it seems game theory has come up with any number of interesting strategies. Even strategies for when the strategies don't work:
Howard Lederer, broad-shouldered and standing well over six feet, is nicknamed "The Professor" for his studied game and demeanour. When I buttonholed him at the Rio, he told me there were too many bad players around for game theory to be the main asset of a professional. "Pure game theory only comes into play against another great pro in a very pure situation. Basically, it's the psychology of the game. You need to have a feel for the game theory, but psychology trumps game theory: dominating people at their moments of weakness in the tournament, getting to them."

If Lederer is correct, the flood of new players is undermining the usefulness of game theory. Game theory tells you how to avoid losing to perfect play, not how to beat the weak players - known as the fish. The more fish enter the game, the less relevant game theory becomes. The poker legacy of von Neumann may therefore rest with an unusual new breed of players.

Monday, 1 October 2007

How To Find A Decent Drummer

You could just get in touch with Ten-Bob Dylan, but The Morning News manage to find almost new ways of telling any number of hoary old drummer jokes. I still found it funny...
In rock and roll, no one except other drummers can tell the difference between an excellent drummer and a terrible one. It’s a fact. The greatest rock band in history, the Beatles, had a drummer who couldn’t tap out the Frasier theme on a Pringles lid. At the height of their popularity, Def Leppard’s drummer lost one of his arms in a car accident and nobody even noticed. The White Stripes’ drummer is a nine-year-old girl.

Friday, 28 September 2007

BluesBerries News

We've recorded some things and got a photographer to try and make us look pretty, so actual gigs might be forthcoming in the future.

The band recently got bigger by two members; Markus, a harmonica play, and Walter, a bass player. I've finally got round to doing their "berry face". I've put them all in one pic and it looks like this:

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Diners Rights Through Dining Right

Over at the Accidental Hedonist Kate Hopkins looks at a suggestion for a diner's bill of rights and suggests that the restaurateurs get something similar.

Both seem to boil down to "act with politeness and propriety and try not to annoy anyone". Really that should go without saying. These things do seem to come up semi-regularly, though, whether its diners wanting to set some kind of minimum standard of service or waiters describing how terrible customers can be. It seems even something as potentially pleasurable as eating out can quickly turn hellishly adversarial.

Then again certain establishments pride themselves on treating their customers with something like haughty disdain and, well, the customers do seem to like it that way. Being, as it can be, all part of the game.

Going back to the list linked to above, though, two items stand out. First:
Diners deserve to hear the list of specials with the price included. Don't make us ask.

Huh? I can't see this a important enough to even mention, never mind call a right. I'd expect the specials to be roughly the same price as the standard main courses and that the price might need to be mentioned if this was not the case, but otherwise this seems like churlish penny-pinching.

And from the other side:
A restaurant has the right to expect that a person who makes a reservation, will be on time for that reservation, and not show up twenty minutes early or twenty minutes late and still expect to be seated.

If I turn up early I'd expect to be seated at the bar and if I'm late I'd expect the restaurant to simply assume that I had my good reasons and try and show some class about it. So, while, in general this seems a decent rule of thumb it also seems to be a little restrictive, though if the restaurant does make it a clear rule that if you are 20 minutes late they will give your table away, then that is their rule to make and the customers to respect. Of course it wouldn't predispose me to try to eat there again.

Cheeses Need You

This image was left on my Myspace page, and I thought I'd pass it on:



Tickets are available from the band members who you can contact through their myspace page.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Digital Game Canon

Apparently a Digital Game Canon is not something that would be useful in a round of "Capture The Flag", but an actual list of games from around the world recognised to be the most important in digital game culture. The list, just ten games for now, is actually pretty solid containing, as it does, a collection of games that every film critic should play through before opining on video games' worth in comparison to movies:

  • Spacewar! (MIT, 1962)

  • Star Raiders (Atari, 1979)

  • Zork I: The Great Underground Empire (Infocom, 1980; PDP-11 version)

  • Tetris (Alexey Pajitnov, 1985)

  • Sim City (Maxis, 1989)

  • Super Mario Brothers 3 (Nintendo, 1990)

  • Civilisation I/II (MicroProse, 1991-1996)

  • DOOM (id, 1993)

  • Sensible World of Soccer (Sensible, 1994)

  • Warcraft I/II/III (Blizzard, 1994-2003)



I only found out about this Canon today because I belatedly discovered that Gamasutra is running a series charting the history of each and every one of them. So far they've covered Spacewar, Zork, Civilization and, most recently, Star Raiders. Great stuff.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Great Headlines Of Our Times

Disturbing youth trend: Drinking to get drunk via Fark.

I can't quite figure out how this is disturbing, a trend or, for that matter, news. But I suppose the Telegraph does have to demonise teenagers as much as possible.

One thing that struck me, and here it is oddly in agreement with a Guardian article among their many on drinking culture, was the digression into how great the Italians are at drinking:
On a recent visit to Rome we saw our friend's 11- and 13-year-old boys drinking wine from a very small glass as they tackled their pasta.

Although they had only a few drops to drink, the act had tremendous symbolic significance. The gradual socialising of children into the grown-up world of alcohol consumption can really work.

Italian teenagers hanging out in bars on a Saturday like their drink. But the idea that it is cool to get drunk for its own sake is alien to their way of life.


What rose-tinted bollocks. The Italians are quite capable of getting drunk and rowdy to match any Englishman. Just look at any of the recent reports of unpleasantness at Italian football matches and you'll notice quite a wide difference between them and fanciful ideas of preteen wine sippers in select Roman dining establishments.

As far back as 1990 Italy was out supping England. That they've slipped down in the rankings since is odd, but they still drink more than double the amount of wine per head as the average Englishman (who drink 5 times as much beer, but there you go).

I'm sure the writer is well-travelled and believes himself to be a traveller rather than a tourist but I very much doubt he's been in any bars where the majority of Italian youths go. He'd probably find them deplorably tacky and blank all memory of them, in any case, lest his Fellini dreams of Rome be shattered by the grimness of reality.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Writer's Rooms

The Guardian has pictures of a number of different writers' rooms and the writers own description of that room.

I'm sure the rooms say something about the writers, although they all seem more similar than different (lots of books, plenty of light, a single often simple table, a chair of varying degrees of comfort and lots of little trinkets). The exceptions being AL Kennedy and Jonathan Safran Foer though in both cases there's a sense that they might be trying just a little too hard...

Via Snarkmarket.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Emoticons at 25

It's alledged that the Emoticon —the seemingly random bit of text that looks like a face on its side eg. :-)— is 25 today (or roundabouts). Professor Scott Fahlman is even owning up to the idea, although I feel that this is one of those things that was just in the air at the time. If not Fahlman, it would have been somebody else.

As you can probably tell, I don't like them. I do get how they are useful in conveying something about tone of voice, but it seems that once you start using them they become line noise, random little observers of your own inability to express something without recourse to winking (or whatever) at your reader. I also think that the have a tendency to obfuscate where you expect them to clarify, in that when I've seen them used it tends to be along the lines of "You wanker :-)". Is the writer happy that the reader is a wanker or are they hoping that smiling while calling someone a wanker somehow makes it all alright.

Then they start to become the whole message:

:-(

Possibly expressing that the writer is so overcome by sadness that three keystrokes is about all they can manage.

No doubt there's an article somewhere on the Guardian website by some trendy, wannabe intellectual iconclast about how freeing they are and how they've changed language along with those texting abbreviations (FYI if you say "LOL" out loud to me I will PYITF).

Emoticons are, at best, lazy. There's rarely any real need to use them and if you do please stop and ask yourself why.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Much as it took a Frenchman to tell us "Hell is other people", in a recent study an American tells us that taste isn't important in beer...

NB: Yes I'm hitting that old stereotype again, despite, as Vince pointed out last time I used this for a cheap laugh, America having any number of fine microbreweries making a whole range of different and tasty beers. It's not their fault that Bud and the like give US beer a bad name.

Hoshi Saga 1 & 2

Until Jay at Jay Is Games pointed out that Hoshi Saga 2 had recently been released, I didn't even know there was a Hoshi Saga 1.

Well now I do. And you do too. Each saga is a collection of mini games, all beautifully designed, that range for the simple to the maddening. Some puzzles simply require clicking, others waiting, and some require a specific movement of the mouse. All with the aim of uncovering a star. The fun is in finding out the proper mechanism.

No puzzle should take more than a few minutes at the very most (often it is a matter of seconds once you know what to do &mdash with the exception, for me, of the one with the thistly things flying about seemingly at random, I was on the verge of throwing things) and the game saves your progress so you can come back to it at any time.

An elegant pair of time-wasters that are well worth playing.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Steyr Cricket Club

Or whatever the eventual name is. Here's a team photo in the meantime:



There was a game at the weekend, we lost yet again, but Uli (bottom row centre) got our first half century and the performance throughout the team was much improved. I even managed a couple (well four) of runs this time...

Friday, 14 September 2007

Short Shorts: Friday Quickie Edition 2

I've blogger-block or something, but here's a few things I saw this week that interested me:

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Dig Doug

Doug MacLeod was on at the Unta Da Lind'n this past saturday and was, if anything, even better than the last time. Utterly mesmerising.

If you are remotely interested in the blues, acoustic or not, or just great story-telling then you should go and see him any chance you can.

More about Dig Dug here, by the way.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Zatoichi: More Real Than You'd Think

The key paragraph here is probably:
But what the attacker did not know [...] was that his victim was a world-class blind judo wrestler.

Via Fark

That Took Genius

Russian Football skipper, Andrei Arshavin, has noticed a weakness in the England team: the goalkeeper. And he aims to exploit this weakness.

"Robinson, putting it mildly, is not the strongest representative of his profession - this is our chance!

"We will have to try and disturb Robinson. "


Now I might not be the most tactically minded of people, but this essentially is saying that if our players keep hitting the ball toward goal, then one might just go in. That seems tactically sound to me.

Of course having watched England on any number of occasions, this does seem like advice that not everyone is aware of. It does though make me wonder what happens when Russia play a team with a good goalkeeper. Do they not go anywhere near the goal for fear of looking bad, or what?

Always Remember...

... Unless it might upset the young 'uns.

Although you can just about understand it:

"We don't want our kids thinking about that. We want them to move on," said Beth Johnston, principal at East Layton Elementary in Davis County, whose oldest student was just 6 on Sept. 11, 2001. "It might be age-appropriate for older students to acknowledge and talk about it, but for our younger kids, we don't want them to dwell on violence."


Try as I might, though, I can't see this this would excuse not observing Remembrance Day... "Yes the sacrifice made by members of the armed forces during both World Wars was truly great, but we wouldn't want to scare the kiddywinks would we..."

Monday, 10 September 2007

Indy and the KOCS!?

Apparently so.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It's almost as if George Lucas was trying to beat "Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace" in the stakes for the movie with the most unwieldy title.

Somewhere, right now, Frank Darabont is weeping silently to himself.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Short Shorts: Friday Quickie Edition

There's probably a lot more I could say about the following, but it's Friday and I'm off shopping...

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Playing Computer Games Increases Your Vocabulary

Kotaku, influneced by this conversation on Something Awful, reckons that they've learnt any number of words playing computer games, including:
Stuff like reticulating (Simcity 2000), trireme (Civ), trebuchet (Age of Kings) and taciturn (FFVI). Two stand out for me: apothecary, which I picked up from Quest for Glory II, and ziggurat, which I learned from Alex Kidd.

I'm not exactly sure if I've picked up anything, names of weapons and armour —greaves and cuirass I picked up from Dungeon Master on the Atari ST— aside, but I do remember from a long time ago getting a quiz question right (What was the capital of ancient Egypt?) because I'd been playing Civ a lot that week (Memphis, by the way).

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Cheeses Live

A stonking slice of Hidden Threat recorded at Heckmondwike Crown Of Lights Festival really showcasing just how tight the band are live. Go here and experience Little Baby Cheeses goodness. Don't forget to download it too!

It looks like a video may be available soon, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

For Joe

Who's probably seen this already, but, as I always tend to excuse myself, it made me smile...

Monday, 3 September 2007

Tipping Point

Jack Arnott on the Guardian Food Blog gets slightly wound up about tipping. I must admit that, like him, I'm never entirely sure of the protocol. One good thing about Austria is that when they tell you how much your meal is, €15,60 or somesuch, you can just round up and add a bit and say "17" and it's taken care of. They get the change that you really didn't want all that much.

The article also links to an list, in PDF format, of the various International differences to the "10%" rule of thumb. Oddly fascinating.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Referral Madness

I think Google is starting to warm up to me, or something. I guess I've got a fairly large site now, so I'm bound to get the occassional specific search term. These last couple of days have been oddly rich, though:

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Joined Up Government

David Cameron, a Leader of the Tories, has decided that if he came to power he'd ban violent videogames. Well, in his usual manner he's a bit wishy washy about it, but this is what he says:
"We are never going to deal with crime unless we look at the broader context and say, 'Yes, tough laws, strong action on the police, but also action to strengthen our society'.

"And that includes, I think, video games and things like that where we do need to think of the context in which people are growing up."

It seems to me that you don't fight crime by turning the previously law-abiding into criminals.

And, well, studies show... Studies seems to show whatever the person making them wants them to show. Wired Blogs had a recent report on one study that seemed to show common sense, but then again I am biased:
You've got to basically read your own kid. If you have a quite hyper kid they will come down after playing a bit, but for the rest of kids, the vast majority, it makes no difference at all in their general aggression rate.

Monday, 27 August 2007

A Stylistic Reality Check

According to Wired there's no longer any need to capitalise internet, web or net, much as there's no need to capitalise radio or television. Makes sense to me.

I'll still stubbornly keep the hyphen in my e-mail, though.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Games That Make You Go Grr!

Gamasutra has a list of 20 Difficult Games. The writer, John Harris, looks what can be learnt about games design from these games, and why they are so hard and yet compelling. It starts with Defender and contains much that is, to me and quite possibly deservedly, obscure. Still, damn!, if it doesn't make me want to dig out Rogue and give it another go. Of Defender, Harris says:
When I read bloggers talk about bullet patterns and end bosses, I can only sympathize so much, because I know Defender was ultra hard in a completely organic and random way long before this new-fangled kind of shooter, and yet also required far more than memorization and reflexes. Defender and Stargate are a particularly awesome kind of hard, a fun-while-it-lasts hard, where most players aren't expected to survive long but can get better with practice. Anyone can make an arbitrarily hard game, but to make it so hard yet compelling enough to try again and again, only genius can create this.

And, you know, he's right.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

On Hammers And Nails Redux

On Hammers And Nails is one of my best linked to posts (in that I get a hit on it every so often), and that's fortunate because it's one of my favourites. It's about a phrase—well, two phrases I've come to think— that I get tempted to use every so often. The two main variants are:
  • To a child with a hammer everything looks like a nail.

  • If the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail.

The first variant is easy to understand in that it says that if you give a hammer to someone very young they will go around trying that hammer out on everything until there's very little left to hammer. As I said, before there's a slightly gleefully destructive bent to it.

I've never seen a particularly fluid version of the second variant, though. I've tried to rewrite it as "When the only tool you've got is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail" which I think gets as close to what I think the phrase means without being overly pedantic about it. It's saying that if you have only one problem solving tool that you try to solve all your problems with that tool, that sometimes you have to think outside of the toolbox.

The other variants (and they maybe more widespread than mine, it's just that I think the above two are the only ones that make much sense) are mostly of the form "He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail" which gets someway to expressing both ideas above before falling between the two of them. Sometimes altering the saying garbles its meaning totally.

This kind of leads me on to another rant. We all know the Sean Connery story by now, I get a couple of people at this site a month looking for it. Again, there are variants. The year changes, mostly 1963 or 1964, it's not particularly important—I use 1964 by preference—1976 and 1989 feel wrong for all sorts of reasons but they're out there. And the order of the first two sentences are negotiable "1963. Petula Clark" or "Petula Clark. 1964", you know, whatever. The anecdote, though, is built on the old Comedy rule of three. It's a three part list that builds to its punchline, which is why 'Petula Clark, up the arse, 1964' annoys me enough that I felt the need to mention it. The bloke telling the story claims to have got "the desired laughter", but I doubt it. It's just wrong.

The Trouble With Moore

Micheal Moore. For me he's a troublesome figure. While on the one hand he it's a given good that he gets people to question such things as 9/11, the media and the American health industry, on the other hand his need to be at least half to story, his more obvious manipulations and the feeling that he's often grandstanding for effect rather than the truth mean that the thing that often gets questioned, although perhaps not literally, is Moore himself.

Fresh off of a documentary on Conrad Black, two film-makers, Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine, decided that Moore, being closer to their own politics, would make a fascinating subject in his own right. A recent article in the Guardian suggests that they may have been more right than they imagined:

As they pursue their interview [with Moore], they go over a series of charges against Moore, some about his character and work habits, others about his attitude towards documentary film ethics. The result is an occasionally disturbing portrait, though at times rather scattered. At times, former co-workers and journalists appear to suggest that Moore is egomaniacal and self- aggrandising; others make charges far more serious, contending that Moore often injects his non-fiction films with decidedly fictionalised segments.

The closer, though, is damning indeed:
Given Melnyk and Caine's filmography, it prompts an obligatory question: who was easier to deal with as a subject, Black or Moore? "Actually, Conrad Black was really quite gracious and polite. He was much easier to deal with than Michael Moore."

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Redesign (Slight Return)

I've taken out the graphics at the top and streamlined some of the CSS. If you were wondering what was different. I think it's a little neater and, though the graphics weren't large, the page should load just that little bit quicker.

As is the way of these things, this probably looks marginally better in Firefox, but it's OK in IE too.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The Drugs (Policy) Don't Work

David Rowntree, Blur's drummer so it says, has an interesting article about drugs in the Guardian. The Graun has recently been a bit of a mouthpiece for Government propaganda when it come to drugs, laying the ground, one imagines, for when Gordon Brown attempts to re-re-classify cannabis and what not. This article, though seems to be firmly honest:
Though the headline figure is that 35% of the population have tried drugs, fewer than 10% have done so in the last year, and only about 0.6% become dependant. Most users seem to suffer no long-term ill effects, and since they are predominately young men, the risks involved might be part of the attraction. There is no evidence that legislative change makes any difference, but it does carry considerable political risk. More liberal laws open up the government to accusations of being soft on crime; more draconian laws risk accusations of pandering to the right, ignoring evidence and wasting time and money. Unless attitudes change, the best government may be able to do is present an honest message that drug taking is dangerous and not recommended. But if people decide to do it anyway, it should outline the risks and be clear about what to do if things go wrong.

Essentially, this boils down to "Drugs maybe fun, but they are bad for you so be aware of the risks", which feels like good advice to me and probably covers any number of endevours.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Free Games As Linked To On Wiki

The previously mentioned FreeCol (a Colonization clone that seems to be steadily improving) has recently been upgraded to version 0.7.1 fixing some bugs and adding a couple of features. It's fun and frustrating in equal measure, but distinctly playable.

I mention this because I got a hit for it in my referrer list (along with Googles for "Petula Clark Connery Arse" and "Best Looking Scrotum") and that lead me to a page on Wikipedia with a list of open source games:

Open source games are computer games assembled out of, and are themselves, open-source software and open content. For freely available games without or with a partial public license.


Essentially, then the are free. There's versions of Civilization, SimCity and Chess. And an update of Master of Orion that looks better than the offically released MoO III.

Also linked on that page is another page offering a list of commercial games released as freeware. So, more free games that you once had to pay for. It's all, as they used to say, good.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

New Levels Of Unreality

The Guardian has a short article about how the TV industry has been rocked, rocked I say, by the scandal that "hit talent show The X Factor" has indulged in a sharp practice or two. You can just picture on those innocent London media types crying themselves to sleep at night, their traquil existence defiled by the knowledge that "reality" TV is as packaged, edited and re-shot as anything else on TV.

Anyway, most hurt of all is Simon Cowell who blurts "It's raw and we don't censor. It's not a sanitised, make-believe show." Now, it's one thing to con your consumers, but when your self-delusion reaches such levels, then perhaps it would be wise to consider spending a little more time with your family.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Bugger Me!

More adventures in the Metatextual. This time it seems that Joseph R. Gannascoli, who played the gay mobster Vito in The Sopranos, is marketing a line of pool cues.

Apparently they are "A Cue to Die For."

Given how Vito dies in The Sopranos, beaten to death and sodomised with a pool cue since you ask, this has got GLAAD, The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, all up in arms.

It seems to me that playing pool was a frequent pastime at the Bada Bing and it's that that Gannascoli is trying to allude to and not Vito's unfortunate demise.Any offense caused is surely unintentional since, well, Gannascoli already has cigars and a cookbook that use the "To Die For" branding, and neither of those items were found in the arse of a fictional dead gangster.

Via The House Next Door

Cheeses Update

The Little Baby Cheeses have a ripe new video on their myspace page. It's of them at The Castle Club performing one of their own songs, No One's Listening. It's a good, tight, performance with Matt providing an exceptionally good guitar solo. No One's Listening is quite a slow song for the Cheeses but it has a certain serpentine grace that keeps it from being cloying. Go! Check it out now!

Monday, 13 August 2007

A Different Simpsons Character Creator

This one accepts headshots of you and tries to fit your image to a Simpsons type. So, I tried again with me as a subject at Simpsonize Me. I'm not entirely sure the result is any better my first try:

But then again, this was the photo it started with:

Friday, 10 August 2007

Love, Factually

Via Vince Keenan, a bizarre story of true love.

The real-life person that Omar from The Wire is based on is getting married to the inspiration for another character in a different series.

It's post-modern or meta-textual, or something....

Picture To Get Many Dr Who Fans Behind The Sofa


Via SFX, who in keeping with the "Rants" from this months issue and what seems to be the perceived Internet wisdom, go the snarky route.

I didn't find Tate that annoying during the Xmas special. I'm pretty sure that as an actress she's capable of more than just one note or else, well, Russell T Davies wouldn't hire her.