Thursday, 20 March 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

The BluesBerries rocking the house at DohStock last Sunday. More photos at Doherty's Bar.

Notice this time I wore the cream jacket so I didn't blend in with the curtains. That sort of stagecraft is something I'm learning all the time...

Here's a better look at the ensemble:

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Corrupting Influence of The Web

Perhaps it's the sites I read. Maybe it's because I know such phrases as "security theatre" and "movie-plot threat", but when I read the headline in today's Guardian UK is a safer place than a year ago, says security minister. My initial though is "how did they measure that?". Instead of "much less terrorism than the government wants you to believe" has GBP2.5 billion spent to have that read "much, much less terrorism than the government wants you to believe"?

The spokesman went on to state the obvious but in a way that implied your life might very well be at risk:
"Issues that were once local, national or regional are now global. Whereas 20 years ago the terrorism threat came from the IRA, and the nuclear threat came from the Soviet Union, now we face a loose affiliation of terror groups and networks spanning the globe and we also see how failed states such as Afghanistan and regional tensions such as those in the Middle East affect our national security."

I think you possibly have to say "loose affiliation of terror groups and networks spanning the globe" in a deep throaty rumble as if you were that guy who does all the movie trailers. In fact if you preface the whole quote with "In a world where", I think you have the pitch for Alias.

Car Badges

Neatorama recently (well a month ago, it's been one of those months for me) posted an article on the Evolution of Car Logos. It sounds sort of odd, but it's an enjoyable and insightful read.

Monday, 17 March 2008

I'll Call It A Win

A while back I mentioned on here that Paul Krugman had written an interesting paper called "The Theory of Interstellar Trade". I lamented at the time that according to my Google skills no-one had put it on the Internet.

Well, now someone has, Krugman himself. I'm sure he wasn't influenced by me in any way, but just in case. Thanks Paul.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Simply Everyone's Linking To ...

Blender's List of the 20 Biggest Record Company Screw Ups of All Time. And why not? As schadenfreude goes this is about as guilt-free freude as it gets. Except maybe the Stax and Motown stories.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Doing My Bit For The Wall-E Advertising Campaign

I don't know, but it sure does look like a lot of fun.

It does seem like I'm getting all my film news from Film Drunk recently. Perhaps you should too.

Speaking of movies, I was sure that Vince Keenan had reviewed Shade at some point (a friend lent it me over the weekend, I'd never heard of it before) as it is Sylvester Stallone does Nine Queens in many ways. Particularly in the ways that Get Carter was Sly does Get Carter. Not a bad movie, but lacking in charm or wit or rapid-fire dialogue or something. I kept wondering what David Mamet might have done with scenes and if I'd feel any sympathy for the character played by Stuart Townsend if he wasn't played by Stuart Townsend. Nine Queens made me smile at the end, this just made me think "what a bunch of smug gits".

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

New Study: People Turn More Liberal With Age

I have one or two problems with this article, "Busting Myth, People Turn More Liberal With Age". The main one being that, although being aware that anecdote is not evidence, large sections of my family seem to personally disprove it.

The other is that they haven't tracked people over time, just made some measurements and extrapolated from that. This would seem to suggest that the conclusion should be more like "Older people more liberal nowadays". Or as John Allen Paulos points out do we believe the statistics that tell us:
since half the people in the U.S. are men and half are women, the average American adult has one ovary and one testicle, or the average resident of Dade County, Florida is born Hispanic and dies Jewish.

It does assert in the article that they've corrected for this type of error, but it just seems simpler to conclude that older people today, who were in their teens and twenties in the sixties, are more liberal than the older people of the sixties.

And Today It's Omar (Michael Kenneth Williams)

Careful, though. There be spoilers. There were the same particular spoilers in yesterdays interview, to be honest. Then again I think most people were expecting the event referred to if not the particulars. Anyway...
Omar's very popular with the youth. It's cool to love Omar. I love Omar, nobody love Omar more than me, but make no mistake: I pray to God nobody wants to be this dude, because I had to get inside of his mind, and it's a dark, dark vortex.

Friday, 7 March 2008

The Wire Writers On Drugs

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.

Read more in Time Magazine.

Hallelujah. A Life of a Song

Over at Michael Barthel has an interesting post entitled "It Doesn't Matter Which You Heard": the Curious Cultural Journey of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"
and it looks at why people can cry in movies and TV any more with out Jeff Buckley (covering John Cale covering Leonard Cohen) getting all breathy over them.

I like Hallelujah a lot. I have since I first heard Cale sing it on "I'm Your Fan" and part of me still considers this the definitive version, no matter what Buckley fans might claim. I've always enjoyed the rather sour humour of it, "the only thing I 've learnt from love is how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya" is both marvellous and vaguely silly, and Buckley going all light and sexy always seemed to me to be a fundamental misunderstanding even though he brings out some of the beauty of the song.

Anyway it's hard to resist an article that has graphs in it like this:

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Hard to Believe

Wow! The Guardian has an article on binge drinking that seems to be talking sense (or, I admit, roughly aligns with my own prejudices).
This is top-to-bottom nonsense. Binge drinking has a medical definition: it starts at four units in a session for a woman, or five units in a session for a man. It isn't "ending up in A&E". It's half a bottle of wine watching Scrubs. And everybody in the government knows this, they just insist upon vagueness so as not to be pulled up on what has actually happened.

There's also an excellent point on boozed up kids turning city centers in to no-go areas at midnight:
A lot was made on the Today programme of the plight of the sober, who after 11pm can no longer go into city centres, which are full of maniacs. But why would a sober person want to perambulate through Nottingham at midnight anyway? This is like complaining that discos are full of single people trying to get off with each other, leaving married people practically barred from nightclubs.

Here's the thing. This article is actually looking at what the Government says rather than just repeating it. Somebody on the paper has finally gone "four units? I can drink that before the spagetti's al dente, that's not a binge". I can see how this will be the exception that proves the rule, though. The glimmer of hope is that this does seem to tie in to an idea that we've been Nannied to much by our state and that if the government would treat us a bit more like responsible adults capable of making their own decisions, well, then, maybe we'd start acting that way.
Now, I think the time for paternalistic government, protecting its blessed charges, has passed. I don't think more stringent controls on drinkers make sense - the factors motivating drunkenness, or rather militating against a mature, long-term attitude to consumption and wellbeing, are vast and global and complicated.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Fragile Earth

The Guardian has a slideshow of 9 pairs of photos showing how quickly the earth can change. The image below shows 30 years of development in Bolivia:

From dense rain forest to a major agricultural area.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Star Wars vs. Saul Bass

If Saul Bass did the credits for Star Wars. This was apparently done as a school project.

If I had to say anything bad, it would be that it's a little crudely done for Bass, but the energy and the humour more than make up for that. Great stuff!

That Explains So Much

You Know What's Stupid? Everything I Don't Understand
Will you look at all this stuff I have neither the intellect nor the maturity level to process? What a load of crap. It's in my face every day, doing lots of things I don't have an immediate desire to do and saying things I can't identify with at this stage in my life. How lame is that? I mean, what kind of pathetic loser would actually enjoy something that's so incredibly not among my personal preferences? Not me, that's for sure.

At the very least it explains that Guardian (Comment is Free, Thought Less) article below.

Who Guards The Guardian?

I grew up with the Graun. I used to read it most days as my parents had it delivered. These days, being in Austria, I check various Grauniad rss-feeds for my daily news intake. As a Liberal paper expressing the viewpoints of its readership it really shouldn't be too surprising to, every now and then, find articles expressing the exactly the sort of middle-class Liberal, London-centric, small-minded-ness that gets them derided in the tabloids. I don't even much care for Birmingham, but the heading and sub-heading for the article on the other side of this link, turned my stomach slightly:
Brum: Britain's number one?
Birmingham is to join Delice, a European food network. Are there not better qualified places?

I assume that Delice did some research. They didn't just pick Birmingham out of a hat. Perhaps Birmingham might have bid most and earliest, though that would suggest a city trying to enhance its image and therefore worthy of some encouragement, rather than outright sneering.

The cheek, really, of Delice not coming cap-in-hand to London first, if not for London's sake, but so that London-based journalists can spare Delice the embarrassment of choosing Birmingham when they could have suggested Ludlow, Cambridge or, in a few years when the requisite top chef has made his mark, Nottingham.

Update: Rebecca Seal, the author of the original post has now commented:
I'm not bashing Birmingham at all - I'm sure it's a brilliant place to live (and eat).

And yet the article starts with the question above and ends with:
Which towns have a proper food culture that's worth shouting about?

I'm sure the condescension wasn't entirely intended, but the whole article suggests Birmingham is neither qualified nor has a proper food culture. I don't know enough about Birmingham to really comment about that, but I'd be unwilling to just dismiss it out of hand. It's obvious that, as she hasn't done a lick of research, Ms Seal doesn't know enough either.

I suppose that's why the proper part of the Guardian has qualifed sub-editors.

It isn't just about Birmingham. I'm sure if the city in question were Sheffield or Leeds or wherever the same comment would be made. It's telling that in Ms Seal's later comment she adds:

However, while I'm not pleading penury, the Observer's budget definitely doesn't extend to sending me, or any of us, off to eat all over the country

It really should, shouldn't it?

Bad Science On Placebos

As Ben Goldacre of The Guardian points out, one of the most interesting thing about placebos is that they work. The effect can also effect the potency of some drugs that should work on a purely chemical level:

[A] study by Daniel Moerman looked at 117 studies of ulcer drugs from 1975 to 1994 and found that the drugs may interact in a way you might not expect: culturally, rather than pharmacodynamically.

Cimetidine was one of the first anti-ulcer drugs on the market, and it is still in use today. In 1975, when it was brand new, it eradicated 80% of ulcers, on average, in various different trials. But as time passed the success rate of cimetidine - this very same drug - deteriorated to just 50%.

This deterioration seems to have occurred particularly after the introduction of ranitidine, a competing and supposedly superior drug.