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.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Lies, Damn Lies And Binge Drinking Reports

Yahoo has a news report claiming that adult binge drinkers tend to drink beer, because it's cheap, while young bingers drink harder stuff, apparently because it's easier to nick from their parents' cabinets.

I've looked at binge drinking reports before and, well, sneered at the definitions. This one is no different. First there's the preposterous definition of binge:
A binge drinker was defined as someone who had five or more alcoholic drinks on at least one occasion in the last 30 days.

I've described five drinks before as a "prelude to a binge" not a binge in and of itself, more a pre-binge warm-up. The other day I drank 13 different drinks just to win a T-Shirt and followed that up with a couple of rum and cokes. Now, that was a binge. Being of a scientific background, I realise that anecdotes and personal experience are not evidence and that my friends probably tend towards being drinkers (what with meeting them in pubs and what have you), but that definition covers just about everyone I know over the age of fifteen. Which brings me to my next point:
About 15 percent of U.S. adults fit that profile, and most are men, according to federal statistics

Ok, so they had prohibition and there's that whole "dry county" thing and, well, outside of big cities I don't think Americans have much of a pub culture to speak of, but really... Actually, this compares somewhat to the people of East Dorset (9% bingers) in my previous post on this about whom I said "They either have no clue what they're drinking or the survey actually shows that people in East Dorset are the biggest set of liars in England".

The funny thing is that without the first definition the second stat feels about right, and that would suggest a problem. Binge drinking can have serious effects on a person's health (and bank balance) but scare stories with laughably arbitrary figures probably aren't helping anyone except publicity seeking Doctors.

I'm not sure if this exaggeration is needed. There's that thing F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you", which feels true and would suggest that stopping at five drinks is an option only for those that have no option. That if someone has had a "binge" of five drinks in the last month chances are that they'll have had a real binge of much more in that same month.

Then again, it could just be me...

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Transformers: A Review

I'm probably just the right age, at 36, to be a fan of the original Transformers and to carry my fanboyish obsession over to the new movie and, thus, be bitterly disappointed by it. The original toys and cartoons, however, passed me by. That didn't stop me from being disappointed by the movie though.

In many ways there's nothing particularly wrong with it. If you don't think at all about anything and go along with the chases and the fighting then it's a loud, frenetic, popcorn movie with a slight fetish for big shiny things (and if they go "Boom!" all the better).

It's Micheal Bay directing a movie based on a line of toys from Hasbro. I'm not sure you should expect anything more (or less) than what there is.

And yet...

Less is more, as they say, and more is less. Also, for completists, less is less and more is more. There seemed to be about half a dozen too many robots who looked like each other and I didn't care for; some even died and I'm not entirely sure which, or whose side they were on. There were about three too many action scenes, many too many unfunny comedy scenes (although John Turturro going ballistically over the top was horribly watchable like many of the pile-ups in the film) and there were so many "in-jokes" that at times you felt you were watching the DVD-extra gag reel.

Peter Cullen rewarded the fans' faith in him with a good voice performance as Prime, not that he had much to do past exposition. Shia LaBeouf, however, should probably be renamed Shia LaJambon. And its a good job that I'd seen Anthony Anderson in The Shield because his Jar Jar Binks role here was almost unforgivable.

Then there's the plot holes....

But no. It may mark a new nadir for the "mindless" part of mindless fun, but it did, mostly, manage the "fun" part, especially compared to recent more po-faced blockbusters. Not great, not particularly good but it passed the time.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Return Of Short Shorts : The Catch-Up

You know why it's here.