31.12.04

Good Luck Charm

Yesterday I went to the supermarket to pick up some groceries, as you do. However, I got stuck behind a Japanese girl in the queue, as the store was fairly busy due to the New Year weekend. In the UK, life pretty much stops from Christmas Eve until January 2nd. I don't know why. I guess we figure it's a waste of time to go back to work in the middle of the two events. Anyhoo, I was there long enough to note what she was wearing (cute white anklewarmers with large brown buttons, grey trainers with red laces, white tights, a wool pink-and-white plaid skirt and a perfectly puffy white fake-fur edged Elle Winter jacket), and that she was buying a hell of a lot of white chocolate. Her bag was also disgustingly cute, and of a pink plaid variety.

But anyway, to my point. Out of the whole of chavvy South Bristol, in a place where most of my washed up ex-schoolchums work (not that this description is fair, I'm equally as washed up), I got stuck behind someone I consider a fashion icon. I consider that a good luck charm for the upcoming year.

And now I won't post until after midnight, thus beginning the year with some kind of non-conflict positivity.

"Dear 2004, I hate you, now please fuck off."

Heather Powazek Champ sums up the year perfectly. This year has sucked giant monkey balls: mixing undeniably great things (my visits to Canada and successful weightloss for example) with absolutely horrendous things (George W. Bush re-election, my financial/health problems). I'm getting in my negative sentiments before the clock ticks over to 2005 in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

2005 should be the penultimate year of success for the underdog. Because we've all been working hard to get to that place, haven't we?

[From Dooce and Jason Kottke]

29.12.04

Microsoft is going to get PWND in 2005.

RUMOUR : Apple is set to announce a Mac under a $500 (US) pricetag.

[From Andy Baio and other places]

Question Religion at all available times.

Scarlett Johansson (you know her, she's the blonde with the nice boobies and the fetish for older men that's basically the hottest thing since sliced bread on the movie circuit right now) has spoken out about celebrities thanking their chosen deity in their acceptance speeches:

"Some people can be so goofy, especially the ones that say, 'I'd like to thank our Lord Jesus up above!' I'm like, 'For the love of God, keep your mouth shut. That's why the world is so f***ed up - because God is focusing solely on your career.'"

And then it continues...

Derren Brown is planning a Channel Four special that attempts to convince high standing American religious leaders (fundamentalists? One can only hope so.) that he is the second coming of Christ. The show will be titled "Messiah" and is bound to be embroiled in controversy and scandal from the second it hits mainstream press. Having seen his shows before, I can say that he uses extremely complex psychological techniques in order to manipulate people into doing exactly as he wishes, and I have the utmost admiration and respect for his intelligence and skills. If he can convince the convincers, it should be very interesting. However, I have my doubts as to whether this show will make it to air. Questioning religion is never a popular form of behaviour when done seriously.

"We so often take for granted the information we receive from writers, preachers and public speakers and we are encouraged to make life decisions on what they tell us - but what if we are relying on false information? Messiah is a documentary-style show where I go to America and get to meet those influential people behind certain belief-systems. Two targets are new-age beliefs and mainstream Christianity."

"Can I get those people who are responsible for the beliefs of hundreds of thousands of people, to endorse me as being the real thing?"

He added, "I am not knocking people's genuine beliefs. The agenda of this show is only to raise questions. People are not mocked or made to look stupid. But there will be people out there who, like me, are already very sceptical of the belief systems I question and I'd be delighted if the show nudged some people into a more questioning frame of mind."
If he gets a Satanist in on the act, I will be sold. But he won't. Why? Well, that's for me to know and you to find out...

[From Digital Spy]

How to Fix Mom's Computer

Gina Trapini at Scribbling.net has come up with an excellent memorandum of her escapades cleaning her mother's computer free of icky stuff last weekend. A must if you're not up to scratch with your computer security, or if you want to know how to help your own idiot relatives.

Tsunami Affects.

It's absolutely impossible to talk about this. It's so huge, that like when I see the Rocky Mountains with the naked eye, my brain cannot begin to understand the sheer scale of death that has piled up over the past four-five days. It's horrific. More horrific than anything I've seen before. (Yes, that includes 9-11. That was only so horrific because it happened to American's on live TV.) At this point, over 77,000 people have been confirmed dead. 26 of those are British citizens. Estimates for the total dead have risen to well over 100,00 people and despite the mass relief that is being sent to the affected countries, disease is mostly likely to kill even more of those that have been left homeless and stranded.

I wish I could do something, but I can't. I can't even donate money, because there is none to spare in my life right now. Not one penny. I can only hope that this never, ever happens again.

26.12.04

Recently UnderReported.

24.12.04

Scrawl on the Wall

[Seeking to improve my writing and blogging skills, I decided to pick a news piece from my local news page on BBC News, and see what happened. This is what happened.]

"A group set up to combat graffiti in Bristol has been nominated for two national environmental awards. The Bristol Graffiti Partnership is one of four groups shortlisted for the ENCAMS People and Places awards. The partnership is made up of representatives from the police, the city council and other local groups. It discourages graffiti through education and campaigns, and carries out targeted graffiti removal around the city.

The group will find out if it has won the awards, for best partnership working and best local environmental initiative, at a ceremony in Birmingham on 22 February. Bristol city councillor Matthew Symonds said: "To be the only body of its kind in the South West to get this far is a tremendous achievement. "It demonstrates that the partnership is beginning to have a real impact, but there is still much to be done. ENCAMS (Environmental Campaigns) is the charity which runs the Keep Britain Tidy programme."
[From here]

Exactly when did we decide, as a society and a city, that graffiti is still something to be discouraged as an art form, and removed as an apparent scourge of society? Exactly when did we decide to stop educating ourselves in respects to graffiti as an artform?

Bristol has many many "listed" buildings of historical value - the city dates well back into Saxon times, and quite a few buildings escaped damage from the Blitz, so we have 17th century churches and original architecture that is stunning to experience on a day to day basis. I can understand why there is such vigilance when it comes to protecting buildings. But not all buildings. Most graffiti of worth can be found in urban areas in the south of the city and areas like St. Pauls and Easton, where the buildings are cheap, ugly and of absolutely no aesthetic worth whatsoever. I spent 5 years walking through the one way system in Bower Ashton: tiled, beige, dirty, stinking tunnels beneath commuting traffic. The graffiti that appeared in those areas improved it. But no matter how amazing it was to look at, no matter the artistic value and the cost and effort that went to put it there in the first place...it was always removed.

Fact : the most famous mainstream graffiti artist in the UK is Banksy. He's designed album covers for Blur. I grew up with his stencil designs in my eyeline. He's not the only artist that's out there - the infamous Louis the Baron populates the Ashton/Southville areas with his tag and the appropriate year added on the end. And the other no-name artists who deface mainstream ads (mostly seen in the Redcliffe Hill area, before the billboards were torn down and replaced by building works) to criticise the capitalistic bent of advertising. And the rest of them.

"When I first moved to Bristol I was struck by the intelligence and artistry of its street graffiti. I was also struck by its content. At first I tried to shoot pictures of what I saw including its context, but over the course of time it became evident that this was not the way forward. It was what the graffiti said that was so striking, both literally and figuratively, not where it was situated. It was the emotional truth reflected in it, that was so attractive; and just as in life, it was necessary to ignore some of the jumble in order to concentrate, heighten and define its essence. "
[From here]

If you've lived anywhere near the rough edge of Bristol, you know graffiti like it's your best friend. You don't hate it, you laugh at it, or think about it. It's never made my day worse. It's part of this city : a city with an awful violent streak, a city with intense history, a city with culture and balance, a city with two urban ghettos, a city with just 400,000 people. Removing graffiti is like removing an admittance that we have an edge in the first place.

And then you move onto the idea that graffiti as an artform should be discouraged. Perhaps this article is a little unclear in that respects, but it certainly sounds like they are pissing on the idea that a) spray paint is not an acceptable form of art material and b) anything that is created on the street can't possibly be of any worth. Don't pick me apart for this, that's just how I'm interpreting it. Perhaps they are standing in schools telling kids that graffiti is great, just don't do it on buildings, but I really doubt they are. As a culture, us Westerners are incapable of balance. Only Canadians can achieve that, and unfortunately, that's why I barely bother to read their news (much love to Canadians though).

For some kids on estates and in shitty circumstances, the urban scene is important for them keeping their stuff together, giving them something to focus on. This can lead to counterproductive aspirations : like drugs and violence and gang activity, but just because the scene involves that, it doesn't mean to say that if you graffiti, you're someone who's heading for jail. So why is the art perceived in such a negative manner? Perhaps it's because it's an underground culture, where a certain selection of people have alternate identities, their own methods of expressing themselves, their own rules and their own patches of ground to exert it all out on. Kind of like the internet: within society, but without it. We fear what we do not know, and we perceive things to be dangerous and damaging when they can be harnessed and analysed and understood with far more ease than is necessary.

Regardless, I find it saddening that there would be such an organisation that would be so nihilistic when it comes to graffiti art. As a Bristolian, I am not proud that we are so intent on "removing" art from our buildings, especially when we are so culturally diverse and so embracing of creativity. We have Indians, Africans, Somalians, musicians, Pakistanis, Muslims, Buddhists, whites, blacks, Christian, poets, Jamaicans, Chinese, Japanese people. Why can't we have graffiti artists too?

23.12.04

My Top Ten of Everything in 2004

#1. [GOSSIP] Livejournal community Oh No They Didnt!

In a sea of celebrity gossip sites, one collective place to rest your weary limbs and trust that all and any necessary information will be found, well, that kind of place is special. From Mary-Kate Olsen's self-harm scars to America's Next Top Model spoilers to general Lindsay Lohan obsessions, this is the only true place that I can rely on when things get trashy.

#2. [MUSIC] Gwen Stefani : Love, Angel, Music, Baby.

OK, so how many of you remember 1998 when No Doubt hit the UK with "Don't Speak"? Gwen Stefani pre-weight loss, pre-nose job...and shock horror, pre-Gavin Rossdale? It was all about the ska, the voice and the songs. But as we all know, bands break up or the respective members wander away to their various solo projects. I'm not sure whether No Doubt have officially split, but to tell you the truth, I don't care. I got bored with them a long time ago. This is Gwen's first solo album; produced, written and dueted with from Pharrel Williams to that guy from Outkast to Linda Perry (that chick behind most successful pop-tunes-with-a-rock-bent). If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I'd say that you have to hear this because...well, because there's a song about Japanese fashion, there's a song about 1950's sex in the back seat of a car, and there's a song about how we're really not quite over racism yet. And it's electronic and rap and ska and pop all piled into a blender and made to go really really fast.

I cheated, but it's a really great album. Hooray for non-cynicism and brightly coloured clothes.

#3. [OBITUARY] Marlon Brando, 1924 -2004.

#4. [LIVE MUSIC] The Faint @the Commodore, Vancouver, BC with TV on the Radio supporting.

There were pseudo-indie jock assholes trying to push me out of the way and generally pissing me off whilst screaming like effected tweens, Beep Beep cancelled, and I forgot to charge the batteries in the digital camera. But The Faint are awesome live, absolutely flawless to the point where I was wondering whether they were playing to a recording. The screen at the back had some of the most amazing amateurish animation I've ever seen - a man being bitten by a snake, Marilyn Monroe (thus confirming the fagginess around me): hyperacid surrealism to an electronic beat. They played three songs as an encore. If you didn't see them on that tour, catch them again, just in case they break up and you miss them forever.

#5. [BOOK] Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite.

I confess, I read for the boy sex and the sheer linguistic pleasures. But this year marked something important for PZB - although she's written outside the genre, this was her first big book outside of the vampire genre (a genre that continues to haunt her, quite literally, as it unwittingly appealed to the worst kind of audience - depressed, angsty, gothy teens). It's kinda hard to get taken seriously by a mainstream audience when your core audience is also reading Harry Potter and lurking behind an ominously closed bedroom door. But PZB is much better than her audience dictates. She writes New Orleans as if Anne Rice was never around to cast the cliche. She writes as though sex she discovered yesterday: that kind of hot sexiness that I can only remember having when I was younger. She writes as though she knows what it's like to be a word, and only have one meaning, and so each word that she presses down means double that of any other bogstandard writer out there. I am passionately in love with her, and I wish she kinda wasn't so hot, or that I had a cock, because I'd totally steal her away if I could.

Anyhoo, the plot summary basically boils down to two chefs in the heavy restaurant culture of aforementioned New Orleans. They're sick of their jobs, they're sick of their lives, and one of the few things they do have, is each other. Bouncing from the strength of their relationship, the book follows them as they invent a concept for their own restaurant, and then follow through with it. Add the scorned local celebrity chef, a building with a testy history and general rivalry based conflict...and I swear, you won't put this down. Buy it. Read it. Love it.

#6. [BLOG] The Blue Sloth.

Philip is a housewife...sorry. I mean stay at home father, sculpter, writer and general sex bomb. Ironically, his popularity boom came after I noted how hot he was, and how much I liked reading what he had to say. Maybe this will help his wintertime blues. But charity case aside, this guy is great. There is nothing he can't do. He builds stuff, he ferries his kids from Point A to Point B, he posts topless pictures, he has relatively interesting opinions, he's not preaching religion, he takes great pictures, and he's an excellent writer. Too bad he's married, eh?

#7. [TECH] Firefox : the browser.

This year was not Microsoft's year. With rising cases of Linux installation and increasing vulnerabilities, you knew something was going to rise up and fill the void. Enter Firefox, complete with a sexy logo and a strong assembled fanbase. Not to mention responsible developing team, tonnes of accessories and an ethical approach to the internet. I chose a safer internet when I downloaded and installed Firefox. You should too.

#8. [MUSIC] William Shatner : Has Been.

This album is a shocker. Before "Has Been" was released, Shatner's music was a complete joke. After? He's a popculture legend. This album is so much more than the leaked tracks though - there are songs about the queer little relationship ticks (snoring, leopardskin print leggings, chewing gum) that drive us all mad ("Ideal Woman"), about an absent father painfully trying to reconnect with his daughter("That's Me Trying"), about how he's not some hero ("Real"). There are sections where I actually want to cry, just with the empathy pains of how it must be to be growing older, to be losing things, to be fixing things that might not be able to be fixed. Ben Folds did a magnificient job. William Shatner has made the album of his life. Both should be extremely proud.

#9. [BLOG] Joe. My. God.

I must have written a million reviews for this guy. I found him a long time ago, when he was only getting one or two comments on his stories. I feel unfair branding him as being nothing but a gay blogger, so I don't. He is gay, he does write about things that affect him as a gay man. But he writes about much more : about sexual awakening, and losing friends, and damaging people when he didn't quite mean to, and about strange people that he meets along the way. He's had a few problems with Blogger recently, but he seems to be back on track. I don't know who would have been here if I hadn't come across his writing, but I am very glad that I did.

#10. [TECH] Phex.

Myself and my Techmonkey needed a p2p that was both OpenSource and multi-platformed. I mention this not because I have used this p2p program a great deal this year, although I have - for checking out transcribed books when I couldn't afford bus fare to the library, but because this year was one of the revolutions in music sharing. Bit torrents are being closed down as we speak. The iPod is now overhyped, overbranded, overindulged. Everyone has an mp3 player. Legal mp3 downloading is now available through many sources (predominantly through the iTunes store). Napster sold out, went legal. The authorities are seeking out those that illegally download copywritten music, and scaring the shit out of the rest of us. What was once an expression of the freedom of the internet, is now somehow tainted and dirty, stuffed full of lies as to how downloading is killing music sales : when in fact, it's the shitty music that is killing music.

So there's Phex. Peer to peer software. Works on all Operating Systems. It's free. It's moral. It's just down to you to use it as you wish. And have a great New Year.

They're getting younger and younger these days.

Dylan Verdi. 11 years old. Makes movies. Listens to J-Pop, David Bowie and Placebo. Reviews "To Kill a Mockingbird". Wants a spinning chair like her mom. This is not a Livejournal.

I repeat.

THIS IS NOT A LIVEJOURNAL.

[Via Andy Baio]

21.12.04

So...they're getting engaged now.

Congratulations to Debbie (and Alex) of the smitten.com, who, after a gajillion years of rebuffing the "so when are you getting engaged?" questions, have finally, actually, done it. No talking about the wedding for 30 days, apparently.

You're Going To Get What You Deserve.

"'Nothing surprises me about business people any more,' says Bichlbaum wearily. 'It's fascinating how gullible they are, and quite fantastic in a way. That's why theatre and film work, after all, and it's certainly why politics and corporate power works. People will believe anything if it is told by someone in authority. The Republicans rely on, and exploit, that passivity more than most, but so do all political parties. We see ourselves as a kind of indignant but mischievous opposition to all that.'"
[From "Affirmative Action", a profile of The Yes Men by Sean O'Hagan for The Guardian]

20.12.04

Overheard.

I'm a terrible terrible eavesdropper. If you're anywhere near me, I'm noting your clothes (brand name, colours, style, statement, social pigeonhole and how they are worn), your bag, the expression on your face, your body language...so god help you if you're with someone and having a conversation. I was the kid that read the register over the teacher's shoulder in class, and I am the person who catches little things that other people don't notice. I'm also an awful hoarder, but that's another story for another day.

Via Metafilter, my bookmarks folder and my friend Fred, here are some interesting links to blogs/sites that record other people's conversations:

- the immortal Bash.org.
- Computer Stupidities.
- Quotations by Mike D'Agosta.
- What people say on the Tube (or the London Underground, if you're foreign).
- Overheard in San Francisco.
- Overheard in New York.

Defaced?

Have the two celebrity plastic surgery sites, Awful and Good Plastic Surgery, been hacked? I'm getting a "This Site is Defaced!!!" message, with the message:


"NeverEverNoSanity WebWorm generation 8"

where the server details are usually placed.

*Update*

Their forums also bring up the same message.

*Update*

GossipList is down too. As is Pretty and Fine.

It looks like the PHP vulnerability is fucking up my access to celebrity gossip. Damn you to hell.

*1:35am*

Looks like only Gossiplist is unpatched now. What a rollercoaster.

19.12.04

That's not the Shape of my Brain.

Philip told me that it's impossible to tell my state of mind from my blogs. I told him that it's because I don't like talking about myself. It's easy to be caught out when you talk about yourself. Tonight I feel like being caught out.

Tonight, I have both the inclination to write, and the inclination to sit here staring at various screens doing nothing. My life is complete undecided and insecure, and I dislike that. I have an incomplete book that I will not discuss because I do not feel it's good enough...yet. There is very little money, but don't let that bother you because it's not like I can eat much food anyway. I miss the sea air, the obnoxious transit trains and the single eye SeaBus flicker of North Vancouver. I have no idea who I am, who I was, or who I want to be. I am chewing gum, peppermint flavour. The last movie I saw at the cinema was "Closer" starring Natalie Portman, who I have loved since I first saw her in a movie. By loved, I mean I want to buy her flowers, take her out to dinner and fuck her. And call her the next day. I have too many things to do. I don't sleep well until past 3am.

I hear good writing stems from discomfort.

16.12.04

I am Cosmic.

Bruce Sterling posted an amazing picture on his blog earlier today, just before he left Geneva. I wonder whether he realises that it's everything a woman thinks inside her head in order to try and make herself better...

Few Canadian Police Officers?

"Canada has far fewer police officers per person than the United States, England and other countries, Statistics Canada says.

There are roughly 188 officers for every 100,000 Canadians, according to Police Personnel and Expenditures 2004, a report released by the federal agency on Thursday. That's about 20 per cent less than in the United States and Australia and 25 per cent less than in England and Wales, the study says.

Canada had slightly fewer than 60,000 police officers as of June 15, 2004, the report found.
Saskatchewan had the highest ratio, with 202 officers for every 100,000 people. Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island had the fewest police per capita. Among the cities, Regina and Thunder Bay, Ont., had the most officers per person, while Ottawa, Abbotsford, B.C., and London, Ont., had the fewest.

The report also found that women are slowly crossing the thin blue line. In 2004, one in six police officers were female. That's slightly more than in 2003 and adds up to nearly 10,000 nationwide.

Canadians paid $8.3 billion for policing services in 2003, an average of $263 per person."

That's because you don't need them, you utter asses. I've seen more police officers on the beat in BC than I've seen in my collective life in the UK. They carry guns. They turn up when you need them. They turn up when you don't. They patrol the streets. They take keep an eye on the crowds at parades. They take care of you.

Surely now there should be a report into why and how Canada stays so peaceful with so little police force?

[From CBC News]

Firefox ad in the NY Times.

It looks a little something like this. Pretty, eh? I do feel like there could have been more information put on the ad, but then it is only an advertisement and is only meant to brand the logo into people's brains, causing them to wake in the middle of the night with the need to frantically google for said branded logo. So hopefully, it's done it's job.

Note that instead of the original 1 page ad, they've had to expand it to a full two pages because of the number of donations. Very impressive.

[From Slashdot]

15.12.04

Gallstones and You (or Me).

Do you know if you're at risk for developing gallstones? I didn't, until recently, when I began experiencing severe pain in my mid-chest/heart and shoulder areas, pain that is often explained to men as being similar to giving birth, and is usually thought to be a heart attack when first experienced.

"Those who are most likely to develop gallstones are:

* Women between 20 and 60 years of age. They are twice as
likely to develop gallstones than men.

* Men and women over age 60.

* Pregnant women or women who have used birth control pills or estrogen
replacement therapy.

* Native Americans. They have the highest prevalence of gallstones in
the United States. A majority of Native American men have gallstones
by age 60. Among the Pima Indians of Arizona, 70 percent of women
have gallstones by age 30.

* Mexican-American men and women of all ages.

* Men and women who are overweight."

* People who go on "crash" diets or who lose a lot of weight quickly."
I'm an ex-grossly overweight (well, still moderately overweight) female in her 20's who lost a lot of weight extremely quickly (3 stone in 6 months). I had no idea this kind of thing could, or would happen, and if I'd known the extent of the pain involved, I would have talked to my doctor a lot sooner. I saw three doctors before being diagnosed, and I'm hoping to get it sorted out as soon as I possibly can. It is not pleasant.

More on gallstones, from Wikipedia.

Are you still not using Firefox?

Here are some interesting user reviews for those still not down with the latest internet changes.

Download Firefox Here.

DS vs PSP

Every geek knows how the DS feels. Incompatibility issues strike everywhere.

[From Andy Baio]

14.12.04

Annoyed Blogger Here.

This guy has, for some reason, put me on a 'weekly update' list, despite the fact that I am a left wing, bisexual, pro-gay, pro-drug, anti-Republican, pro-freedom, pro-equality kinda person and he is a right wing asshole with mostly anti-gay content on his "blog". Despite the emails that he sends having "email me and I'll remove you immediately" footnote, he has failed to live up to that standard, and this week, I have had to send another request to be removed.

Suffice to say I am annoyed. I don't want to read right-wing mumbo-jumbo, certainly that which contains titles such as "Diet pill link to Homosexuality?". I expose my email address because I want people to contact me if they so desire, not to be spammed by a mail out that I didn't ask to join (or was asked if I wanted to join). This is indeed bad blogging, and I hope no one else indulges in this kind of behaviour.

*Update*

He's removed me with apologies. Thank the lord.

BNP Leader Arrested

From BBC News:

"The leader of the British National Party has been arrested as part of a police inquiry following the screening of a BBC documentary. A party spokesman said Nick Griffin was arrested on Tuesday morning on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed they had arrested a 45-year-old man from outside their area. BNP founding chairman John Tyndall was arrested on Sunday on the same charge.

In July, the BBC documentary Secret Agent featured covertly-filmed footage of BNP activists.

Mr Griffin is the twelfth man to be arrested following the documentary. Nine men from West Yorkshire and another man from Leicester have been arrested and freed on bail. Seven of the men had been held variously in connection with suspected racially aggravated public order offences, conspiracy to commit criminal damage and possession of a firearm. Two men, both from Keighley, were arrested in September on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage. A 24-year-old man from Leicester was detained on Monday on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred.

A BNP spokesperson said Mr Tyndall, from Brighton, was arrested following a speech he made in Burnley, Lancashire, and was released on police bail."

It's been a long time coming. You have no idea how happy I am that they have found a way to arrest these racist pigs. Hooray for the BBC. Unfortunately, this won't end any of the racist "political" organisations in the UK. Like the KKK, they will be around for a few decades yet.

12.12.04

GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!

AOL "creates" it's own browser. That is, bases it on Internet Explorer (instead of functional secure technology) in order for it to let subscribers who have the software (*hack* *spit*) at home access the services at work where they are unable to install the usual AOL package. Which of course, assumes that they will be able to install the browser on their work computers in the first place. This is demented and dysfunctional, and is just adding a whole new sector of shitty internet browsing to the next internet generation.

The part I most enjoyed however :

"...AOL engineers are working to add such features as tabbed browsing, letting users open new Web pages without cluttering the screen with new windows. Unlike tabbed browsing in the Opera and Firefox browsers, AOL's will display a mini-version of the Web page, or thumbnail, as users scroll over a tab."
That's basically the equivalent of borrowing a neighbour's dog, letting it shit on your carpet, stealing some really nice wrapping paper, wrapping it up and scribbling a crayon on said paper in order to make it "pretty". What is the point of displaying a mini version of the webpage when you scroll over the tab? That's going to be incredibly annoying (at least as annoying as pop ups), and it would be far easier to just open the bloody tab.

The worst thing about this, is that people are going to download it. You know they will. And we're all going to have a whole new set of trojans/worms on the loose. Woo-hoo.

John Peel on his love for Grindcore.

Loud and Proud:

"I'd trekked to Putney to see the Stupids. Punk, let me remind you, had happened nine years earlier and had evolved into art rock sub-genres every bit as beastly as the muck that it had, in theory, swept aside. What was needed, my BBC Radio 1 producer, John Walters, and I felt, was a return to rousing vulgarity. What we were looking for was a band that, metaphorically at least, lit their farts on stage. The Stupids were that band.

They were funny, fast, loud, clever/stupid and they took the piss out of Walters and myself. They also came from East Anglia, where I still live and where the deer discussed above died. They were shit hot and local. How could you not love them? They also told me - warned might be a better word - of another local phenomenon, Extreme Noise Terror.

ENT, with Mick Harris on drums and blue-haired Dean Jones on vocals, played from time to time at the Caribbean Centre in Ipswich, so I took Sheila, my wife, and our son, William, to see them play. That 's the way to bring up your kids.

ENT were amazing. So were their fans. Any track more than 20 seconds long was greeted with derisive cries of 'too long, too slow' or 'fucking prog-rockers' from the faithful, most of whom looked as though they had but recently risen from shallow graves alongside the A12, the arterial road that runs from London to Ipswich. The only disappointment for Sheila, William and me was that the band weren't loud enough. We wanted to leave the show with blood trickling from our ears."

M$ - all your bases will shortly belong to Firefox.


11.12.04

Because I'm back in the UK and grieving...

...I bring you nothing but an amusing Bash.org quote :

"#423445

AIM is like the ugly chick who gives SUCH good head, and works sooooooo well. MSN is like the typical hot blonde. Gorgeous, but you can't communicate with her. Yahoo! is the creepy guy whacking off in the corner that no one likes, and Trillian is the average looking bisexual male."

3.12.04

How not to create a blogging site.

Microsoft don't really seem to get blogging, do they? Or anything really relating to free speech and the internet. Already people are fucking around with the curse filters because they won't allow "certain words" to be used as the titles of the blogs.

And at the bottom of every blog :

"For materials you post or otherwise provide to Microsoft related to the MSN Web Sites (a "Submission"), you grant Microsoft permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSN Web Sites, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. Microsoft will not pay you for your Submission."

Oh yeh Bill. You've got yourself a real winner there. Not only do Blogger have better templates/site layout, no restrictions on content and are run by your arch nemesis Google, but people are going to do their damndest to discredit you in any way because of your general reputation on the internet.

I wonder what will happen if I google "Boycott MSN Spaces"...because that is what I recommend doing.

[via ZDNet UK]

2.12.04

Microsoft Blogs launch.

MSN Spaces - could this be the new Livejournal?

Nah.

Looks shit.

(That's about as intelligent as I can get about a lazy, buggy 2-years-too-late blogging site)

What are American troops using in Iraq?

In my Popbitch mailout today, there's a rather disturbing allegation made :

"Al-Jazeera is reporting that US troops are using
napalm in Fallujah."
Now, I'm not going to be fooled by a popgossip mailout, so I did a Google News search. And lo and behold, there were some recent hits. Whilst the relevant Al Jazeera article is now yet another 404, there are a few other hits within the last 72 hours. Several less mainstream news sources (but worthy enough to be used in Google News) are reporting that US troops are indeed enabling napalm in their fight to topple Fallujah.

From The Experiment:
"Residents in Fallujah reported that innocent civilians have been killed by napalm attacks, a poisonous cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel which makes the human body melt. Since the U.S. offensive started in Fallujah earlier this month, there have been reports of “melted” bodies which many believe is caused by napalm.

"Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah," 35-year-old Fallujah resident, Abu Hammad said. "They used everything -- tanks, artillery, infantry, and poisonous gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground." Hammad was living in the Julan district of Fallujah which witnessed some of the heaviest attacks.

Other residents of that area also said that banned weapons were used. Abu Sabah, said; “They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud… then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them." He said that pieces of these strange bombs explode into large fires that burn the skin even when water is thrown on the burns.

Phosphorous arms and the napalm gas are known to have such effects. "People suffered so much from these," Abu Sabah said."

From The Free Internet Press (originally from the Sunday Mirror - not the most trustworthy of sources) :

"US troops are secretly using outlawed napalm gas to wipe out remaining insurgents in and around Fallujah.

News that President George W. Bush has sanctioned the use of napalm, a deadly cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel banned by the United Nations in 1980, will stun governments around the world.

And last night Tony Blair was dragged into the row as furious Labour MPs demanded he face the Commons over it. Reports claim that innocent civilians have died in napalm attacks, which turn victims into human fireballs as the gel bonds flames to flesh.

Outraged critics have also demanded that Mr Blair threatens to withdraw British troops from Iraq unless the US abandons one of the world's most reviled weapons. Halifax Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "I am calling on Mr Blair to make an emergency statement to the Commons to explain why this is happening. It begs the question: 'Did we know about this hideous weapon's use in Iraq?'"

Since the American assault on Fallujah there have been reports of "melted" corpses, which appeared to have napalm injuries.

Last August the US was forced to admit using the gas in Iraq.

A 1980 UN convention banned the use of napalm against civilians - after pictures of a naked girl victim fleeing in Vietnam shocked the world. America, which didn't ratify the treaty, is the only country in the world still using the weapon."

And in the Wikipedia article linked to above to define napalm, there is also a reference to it being used in the war against Iraq (which is by no means over when you are still fighting the rebels) :

"The use of napalm and other incendiaries against civilian populations was banned by a United Nations convention in 1980. The United States did not sign the agreement, but claimed to have destroyed its arsenal in 2001.

The United States has reportedly been using napalm in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In August 2003, the Pentagon stopped denying the charge, admitting it did use "Mark 77 firebombs".

"We napalmed both those [bridge] approaches," said Colonel James Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11. 'Unfortunately there were people there ... you could see them in the cockpit video. They were Iraqi soldiers. It's no great way to die. The generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect.'"

However, a few sources are reporting the use of white phosphorus, which has similar "melting" effects to napalm.

From The Socialist Worker, earlier this year (a soldiers experience):

"The fighter jets were right on time and made their grand appearance with a series of massive air strikes. Between the pernicious bombs and fierce artillery, the sky seemed as though it were on fire for several minutes at a time. First, you would see a blaze of light in the horizon, like lightning hitting a dynamite warehouse, and then hear the massive explosion that would turn your stomach, rattle your eyeballs and compress itself deep within your lungs. Although these massive bombs were being dropped no further than five kilometers away, it felt like it was happening right in front of your face.

At first, it was impossible not to flinch with each unexpected boom, but after scores of intense explosions, your senses became aware and complacent towards them.

At times, the jets would scream menacingly low over the city and open fire with smaller missiles meant for extreme accuracy. This is what Top Gun, in all its glory and silver screen acclaim, seemed to be lacking in the movie’s high budget sound effects.

These air-deployed missiles make a banshee-like squeal, sort of like a bottle rocket fueled with plutonium, and then suddenly would become inaudible. Seconds later, the colossal explosion would rip the sky open and hammer devastatingly into the ground, sending flames and debris pummeling into the air.

And as always, the artillery--some rounds were high explosive, some were illumination rounds, some were reported as being white phosphorus (the modern-day napalm).

Occasionally, on the outskirts of the isolated impact area, you could hear tanks firing machine guns and blazing their cannons. It was amazing that anything could survive this deadly onslaught. Suddenly, a transmission came over the radio approving the request for “bunker-busters.” Apparently, there were a handful of insurgent compounds that were impenetrable by artillery. At the time, I was unaware when these bunker-busters were deployed, but I was told later that the incredibly massive explosions were a direct result of these “final solution”-type missiles. I continued to watch the final assault on Falluja throughout the night from atop my humvee."

and from Axis of Logic:

"The media have reported use of white phosphorous, napalm, depleted uranium rounds, giant bunker busters and even poison gas. Based on the U.S. claim that mosques were a center of resistance, over 60 mosques were directly targeted. The destruction is horrendous."
So what's going on? Is it inflammatory comments from the Middle East designed to spread hatred for the Bush Administration? Or is this really another Vietnam? Have we been taken for fools again? We all knew that this war had no justification, we waited, protested, and it was proved. We all know they've used questionable means to kill the "enemy" in past guerrilla wars that not only affect the people they kill, but their own troops. In a war of propaganda and censorship, I'm more likely to believe the underground rumours than the official statements, not only because they hang around the internet zones: the only place where free speech truly exists, but also because we've been lied to repeatedly for no good reason.

The thing is, we aren't going to know for a long long time. It all feels so useless. Did it feel like that back in the days of protesting the Vietnam war? This generation might not be the first generation to be ignored by an abusive violent selection of Western governments, but it most definitely feels like the first for a long time to be so helpless in stopping what is occuring around us. Meanwhile, the death count rises.

29.11.04

Slashdot Interview : Penny Arcade guys.

Tycho and Gabe answer questions from the Slashdot trolls.

My highlight :

"Bonus Question: What advice would you give to geeks looking to in some way ensare geek grrls?

Gabriel suggests the most important thing is that you simply be yourself, unless you are poor. Then, try to be someone who is richer and better looking, because you are kind of ugly. I am only only speaking for myself, but I have had good success with traps."

26.11.04

I toured EA Games.

Full Story Here. I would have posted it here, but it's more relevant on that blog.

24.11.04

Minish Cap

Eurogamer reviews the next Legend of Zelda release :


"Du-du-da-DA! It all comes down to that. Every time you encounter that symbolic fanfare, you've just found something worth cheering. You hear it a lot. And the journey to each salute is deliberately meandering and reliant on your constant adjustment to circumstances. That's the magic of the Zelda series; each game carries you along on a wave of minor victories and the creeping desire to make sure you've pulled back every curtain. The Minish Cap is no different. It strikes exactly the right balance between all the essential elements of a Zelda adventure, introducing a few suitably diverse new fundamentals in the process and bedding them in successfully, and it looks, sounds and handles exactly as you'd presume from what is slightly surprisingly the Game Boy Advance's first "proper" single player Zelda game."



"Other new elements, some borrowed from other Zelda games like The Wind Waker, and a number of old favourites, continue to present themselves over the course of the game, subtly widening the criteria in your search for puzzle solutions and allowing you to make more of the lands you've already explored. Apart from your swords - for which you'll gradually accumulate more attacking techniques over the course of the game - and your trusty shield, there are bombs, bottles, boomerangs and the like to rediscover, and there are welcome additions like an item that allows you to climb certain cliff faces, one that sucks objects toward Link like a vacuum cleaner, and when you encounter spinning vortexes you can even use your Minish Cap as a makeshift parachute to help guide you beyond a geographical impasse."

Internet Explorer is losing ground.

Originally reported on Slashdot, BBC News reports the news from Dutch site OneStat that Microsoft browser Internet explorer is gradually losing it's grip on the internet:

"'It seems that people are switching from Microsoft's Internet Explorer to Mozilla's new Firefox browser,' said Niels Brinkman, co-founder of Amsterdam-based OneStat.com.
Mozilla browsers - including Firefox 1.0 - now have 7.4% of the market share, the figures suggest. Mozilla said that more than five million have downloaded the free software since its official release.

Supporters of the open-source software in the US managed to raise $250,000 (£133,000) to advertise the release of Firefox 1.0 in The New York Times, and support the Mozilla Foundation.

The figures echo similar research from net analyst WebSideStory which suggested that IE had 92.9% of users in October compared to 95.5% in June. Microsoft IE has dominated the browser market for some time after taking the crown from Netscape, and its share of users has always stayed at around the 95% mark.

Firefox is attractive to many because it is open-source. That means people are free to adapt the software's core code to create other innovative features, like add-ons or extensions to the program.

Fewer security holes have also been discovered so far in Firefox than in IE. Paul Randle, Microsoft Windows Client product manager, responded to the figures: 'We certainly respect that some customers will choose alternative browsers and that choosing a browser is about more than a handful of features. Microsoft continues to make significant investments in IE, including Service Pack 2 with advanced security technologies, and continues to encourage a vibrant ecosystem of third party add-ons for Internet Explorer.'

Firefox wants to capture 10% of the market by the end of 2005. Other browser software, like Opera and Apple's Safari, are also challenging Microsoft's grip on the browser market. Opera is set to release its version 7.60 by the end of the year."

If you haven't switched browsers yet, it's never too late to do so, and most importantly, it's free. If you don't like the look of Firefox and the separate mail client Thunderbird, you can download the integrated browser/email package here. If you still don't like it, try Opera. It's a little tricky to get used to different software at first, but I can guarantee that it's worth it.

Do your part to make the internet a better place.

23.11.04

Definition of a Meme.

"A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another."

"Memes can be considered the unit of cultural evolution. Ideas can evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Some ideas survive better than others; ideas can mutate through, for example, misunderstandings; and two ideas can recombine to produce a new idea involving elements of each parent idea."

[From Dictionary.com]

Goings On.

I'm busy setting up my most-used bookmarks on the Mac because the connection doesn't seem to be feeding right between the cable modem and my own laptop. It's remarkable how easy it is these days. Grab a copy of Firefox 1.0 and start bookmarking. One of the tools I have found most useful for this kind of temporary placeholding, is the Sage extension - an RSS feed tool that just allows you to bookmark, haul up the sidebar and refresh to see if any of your usual information loaded sites have new content. I recommend it for all those with Firefox/Mozilla browsers who haven't approached the whole RSS revolution yet.

It's sexy. Like Gwen Stefani's new album. Of which I also recommend. Aren't I hip?

Novel Martial Law

"[I had thought to mention Alan Moore's use of this account (which I first encountered as a teenager, reading Fort) in From Hell, and now I see from a post that Neal Stephenson has evidently used it as well. I would have liked to have gotten him permanently out of the way shortly after reading Snow Crash, of course, but I could already see that I would need him one day to help battle Bruce Sterling. Literature is a long game.]"
I am absolutely titillated by the psuedo-wars between the small band of my favorite sci-fi/cyberpunk writers. To quote Andy Baio : yeh, I'm a geek.

[From William Gibson's blog]

19.11.04

Young Artists Portray Abusive Lives.

"In one room, the young artists have recreated a crack house, a shocking space littered with filth, debris and dilapidated furniture, where one figure lies comatose on a mattress while another sits hunched in a chair, smoking crack. The child abuse display looks like any young girl's room, decorated with dolls, teddy bears and books. It is left to the written material on the walls to reveal the sordid truth. The schoolroom installation features rows of old-fashioned wooden desks. When the top surfaces of the desks are closed, all seems normal. When opened, sculptures and drawings reveal the children's pain at seeing their parents involved in crime, alcoholism, prostitution, drugs and the break up of relationships."

Full Story in The Guardian Online.

16.11.04

Help George Clooney!

He has a blog, but no one is reading it.* Oh geez, I wonder why? Could it be because it's a yet another mindless repetitive anti-Bush Administration blog? Could it be because stars just don't realise that secretly, we don't give a shit about their opinions, we just want to know who they fuck, what they wear and where they go on vacation?

"A writer who helped me set up my blog earlier this year is now helping George Clooney with his new blog. Apparently George has had very little traffic until recently, probably because: a) no one knew it existed and b) no one knew it was George's blog.

(Editorial aside: notice how this provides a little insight into the celebrity mindset. I created a blog, so of course people will come, because, well, I'm a star.)

Finally George figured out if he salted a few comments around on other blogs, it would increase his traffic.

Still not much business. So then he got the idea to post links on porno blogs. Apparently that has helped some, as my writer friend reports George's hits are up something like ten-fold. Help poor George so he can stay away from those skanky porn sites."
[From Fly On The Wall]

(*could be fake)

15.11.04

Gwen Stefani at the American Music Awards.




NY Times Interview : JT LeRoy

"For a while, many in the literary world doubted that J T LeRoy actually existed. He avoided public appearances, and when a book editor from New York showed up at his squat in the Mission District of San Francisco with a bag of groceries as an enticement, Mr. LeRoy refused to see her. (His fellow squatters took the groceries.) At literary events Mr. LeRoy let others read his work, and rumors began that J T LeRoy was a pseudonym for a more established writer, perhaps Dennis Cooper. To this day, Mr. LeRoy said, public appearances terrify him.

"I puke," he said."

"Mr. LeRoy's writing takes its power from the juxtaposition of dainty language and a childlike perspective with a world of shocking callousness and rank sexual exploitation of children. Perhaps because his books seem transparently autobiographical, many readers — some of them well known — have reached out to Mr. LeRoy to offer support. After an e-mail exchange with Mr. LeRoy, he said, Madonna sent him a box of books on cabala.

"I was feeling hopeless, and she was really good at pointing out that if someone is in a rip current, the instinct is to pull the opposite way, but you need to just go along," he said."

"Mr. LeRoy said that he had always felt ambivalent about getting attention. He said he longed for the maternal affection he was deprived of growing up, and the attention he did receive — from johns in truck stops and on the streets — was often violent and never sincere. In his worst moments, Mr. LeRoy said, the conflicting emotions drove him to sadomasochistic sex and self-mutilation.

"For a long time I tried to get people to hit me, because for my mom, it was better if she hit me than if she ignored me," he said. "When you don't have self-esteem, you'll do anything to please another person." Mr. LeRoy's mother, whose first name was Sarah, is dead, said Ira Silverberg, Mr. LeRoy's agent. When Mr. LeRoy was asked directly about his family, he shut down and did not answer.

He said he struggled daily with a sense of inadequacy because of his past."


[Full Interview here - you may need BugmeNot.]


14.11.04

ODB is dead.

Goddamnit.

"Rap artist ODB (Ol' Dirty Bastard), one of the most colourful characters in the world of hip-hop, has died aged 35. ODB, real name Russell Jones, collapsed and died at the Manhattan recording studio in New York on Saturday. A spokesman for his record company, Gabe Tesoriero, said the rapper, who had complained of chest pains, was dead by the time paramedics reached him. ODB - whose most famous song was Got Your Money - had recently finished a prison sentence for drug possession."

[From BBC News]

12.11.04

Shaw Cable censoring connections?

I've been having a few problems with using the cable connection on this laptop recently (whereas it works perfectly fine with the Mac), and I think I've stumbled across the reason :

" When customers of Canada's Shaw Cable high-speed Internet service noticed that their filesharing activity had slowed down dramatically, they didn't know what to make of it. Calling the ISP didn't help: Shaw's tech support people swore that they were delivering all the packets they received from their customers, just as you'd expect. After all, who'd want an ISP that picked and chose which of your communications got through -- imagine if the phone company or the post office just silently threw away some of your messages based on secret criteria!

So the Shaw customers went to DSL Reports, a community site for posting about DSL and other high-speed providers, and they found that they were not alone and not imagining things. Lots of Shaw customers were getting really crummy performance out of their Internet connections.

Then someone claiming to be a Shaw insider posted an explanation: Shaw had secretly installed a packet-filter on its network that was using hidden rules to silently discard some of its customers' packets. And they'd instructed their tech people to lie about it when customers called in and asked.

It might have been a fake, but not long after, DSL Reports got a letter from Shaw's lawyers telling them that this was confidential info from a Shaw employee and that they'd be sued if they didn't take it offline, so it looks like its true (says DSL Reports, "Needless to say, we've never bent over for an ISP upset at bad publicity, or forked over anyones identity, and we're not about to start.")"


From Boing Boing (which also links to the forum where it all kicked off via Andy Baio.

I've also noticed issues with their digital cable TV software fucking up more than usual - the screen freezing up like the cheap Freeview boxes you can get in the UK - and at one point, the software died for about 30 minutes, and didn't reassert itself properly for the rest of the day. I am not happy. If I was the one paying the bills in this place, I'd be severely reconsidering my choice of cable provider.


Bombshell

The Sunday Times interviews Gwen Stefani.


"Gwen Stefani arrives at the shoot dressed as the second half of her trademark contradiction: MGM starlet meets punk. She’s wearing her own label, Lamb — va-va-voom sweater, jeans that look sewn on — with a bare face and wet hair. It’s hard to square this with the photographs that are regularly splashed across the fashion press: she always looks too perfect to be real."

9.11.04

Brittany Murphy got hot again.

Thank FUCK. She's dyed her hair back to brown, and she's once more stepping on Liv Tyler gorgeousness ground.



Wow.

[From Fuggin' it Up]

Sterling Revised.

So maybe I caught Bruce Sterling on a bad blogging week. Recently, he's posted pictures of another favorite writer of mine; and a crazy Pumpkin-esque lamp (however, he's still not completely learned how to friggin' resize images - techie writer my fat arse). It almost makes it bearable. But hear my pleas Wired; for the love of god give him a new blog template. It's fugly. And in the world of blogging, where we agonise over minute template details, it's just not acceptable.

Also : does the fact that this makes me drool, make me a geek?

Firefox = 1.0

It's gone live! It's 1.0!

Download here or die.

8.11.04

Life Update

Last week was a strange, strange week. Kerry not only lost, but conceded. Bush is in for another 4 years. The internet exploded with RAGE! and is only really calming down about now, most likely from statistics/debating overkill.

And everything internet-wise went a little quiet as I went on an expedition and an internet meet up. I'm somewhat planning to post pictures in the appropriate place today, as I've ignored the net since Thursday afternoon.

I want an mp3 player. And a digital camera. And more RAM. And a better graphics card. And a job to pay for all of them. But mostly the mp3 player. I think this is quite sexy :



mmmm

3.11.04

John Kerry Concedes.

www.johnkerry.com carries his final words.

This is depressing.

Anonymous Outsider.

Sometimes other people can say it much better than I ever could :

"Boy, what a difference a day makes. Remember all that promise yesterday morning -- the bustling at the polls; It felt like what we imagine a Howard Dean Meet-up might have been like. We're sure at least somebody hooked up with all that wise-cracking and bonding; or at least got some phone numbers.

But, since last night, we have learned that a good many of Americans are so ditch-dirt stupid, that they will vote for their jobs to be outsourced, a new career as a Wal-Mart clerk for six dollars an hour and their children to be blown apart by IOD's for the next ten years, in a war they don’t believe in, just to make sure a small minority of people are barred from loving each other in their own way. We learned that women, the sick, and Gays will take it in the ass for a long time to come. We learned that a candidate of Jewish extraction can be so ineffectual, as to lose the most Jewish votes of any Democratic candidate in history. We learned that people lie to exit polls, so they can look nice, and get tax cuts at the same time. We learned that Bob Shrum has no business advising a candidate. We learned that John Edwards was a useless choice as a running mate. We learned that there is no "cell phone" vote and faced with the choice of "Vote or Die," some would obviously rather die. We learned that Ralph Nader should get a cap in his ass, and his body buried in Idaho. And most of all, we learned that Larry King has no business doing election coverage. God save America, she's lost control. See you at JFK."

[From here]

We did our best.

Another four more years it is.

2.11.04

D-Day.

It's the day we've all been waiting for. It's the penultimate day where Americans decide whether they've listened, and thought, and educated themselves about the world.

It's the US Election.

I'm utterly sick, having some kind of acid reflux issue with my stomach, so I'll just post a bunch of interesting links and be done with blogging for today. Needless to say, I hope that all and everyone is voting for John Kerry. The world doesn't need another 4 more years.

Good luck to America, but even more luck is required for everyone out here in the rest of the world. Canadian coverage is remarkably laid back, they've seen Presidents come and go, but as a British person I am extremely nervous. We need every vote for Kerry to save the world. Every single American with voting rights is important, be it black, white, Hispanic, Asian or any other colour. This is not about colour, this is about doing your best to make the world a better place. Bush has let us all down, and it extends way beyond the borders.

May the next blog I write be a message of congratulations to President Kerry.

31.10.04

Team America!

Last night I went to see Team America : World Police at a late night showing, in a theatre with about 20 or so Canadians. Whilst it was absolutely hilarious, it's one of those films that has great soundbites, is incredibly relevant but not something I'd want to see again. I found myself getting a little bored with the relentless cheesy storyline, even though it was supposed to be just that. The Kim Il Jong puppet was fantastic. But that was all really. I'd recommend only seeing it if you can get it in before Tuesday. After the US Election it will pretty much become redundant.

29.10.04

Jetlag Me Out Of Here.

With limited internet access, nine hours of flying from continent to continent, I'm a little behind, and a little tired on top of that. I've eaten sushi, egg rolls, noodles and Cheez Whiz on Triscuits.

It's raining in Vancouver.

24.10.04

Help me avoid a heart attack.

Next time some of you eminent science fiction writers decide to comment on my blog after I slam your own crappy looking one, feel free to send me a warning. I have tendencies to freak out and fall off my IKEA matt grey rotating chair when that happens.

And Mr. Sterling, it's not like I don't RSS your ass or anything.

23.10.04

Some Quintessentially British Meals.

  • Heinz baked beans in tomato sauce on toast. It has to be Heinz and there has to be at least two pieces of buttered toast. Often, you can substitute the baked beans for spaghetti-in-tomato-sauce.
  • Fishfinger sandwiches. Unless there is a nuclear war occurring, the fishfingers must be accompanied by Heinz tomato ketchup. Usually around three fishfingers to each sandwich, with the sandwich cut through the middle of the fishfingers in order to avoid slippage.
  • Pot Noodles - completely vegan friendly (I believe) with soy as a substitute for meat, Pot Noodles come in a wide variety of flavours. The default option is Beef and Tomato, and all pots come with a small plastic sachet of flavouring that you can choose to add to the food. It's a common choice for teens and students as all it requires is a working kettle and 2 minutes of waiting. I like to eat them when it's not quite cooked properly.
  • Ham and chips - pretty straightforward, it's a large pile of chips with sliced ham. I particularly enjoy wrapping large chips with ham and guzzling it down as a weird wrap style ensemble.

Censorship? NINTENDO censorship?


"Nintendo of America's policy of strict video game "censorship" has become one of the company's most infamous tactics. While often overlooked back in the day, the rise of ROMS, especially Japanese ROMs, have exposed many gamers to numerous examples of Nintendo censorship in practice. References to smoking or sex may have been removed from the Japanese version of a game prior to its release in the United States. Other games with potentially offensive content may have not been released at all. Although Nintendo's censorship practices have been often condemned as inconsistent, or at worst hypocritical, they actually stem from a document that outlines the rules in explicit detail. I was able to track down a copy of Nintendo 's content guidelines at my local library, and have typed it up."
Nintendo Censorship.

22.10.04

Bad Publicity...

...is sometimes just bad publicity.

Windows Errors in the most likely places.

Also...



Yum.

[Via Google Blogoscoped.]

Turner Prize Shortlist Announced.

Yup, it's that time of the year again. I find it hard to believe that this is the controversial prize shortlist, as opposed to the Booker Prize whose winner always inevitably ends up being some piece of turgid crap (DBC Pierre can suck my great big cock - Vernon Little was utterly shite and I don't even have the heart to donate it to the library, although I think I might end up doing so in order to relieve my bookshelf). Modern Art gets a raw deal, especially in comparison to such "traditional" art like the novel (may the collective literary world gag on that word forever and ever, amen): most people, when thinking of installation pieces or the Saatchi collection are sadly ignorant and tend to think of the pieces as being "just another pile of garbage" - as if somehow the artistic world is out to con the average layman into believing that any old crap can be turned into art.

Fact is kids, it's extraordinary creativity that's going on there. Art is so much more than something you can frame. Architecture is art - they design, mould and create buildings, not only for people to use, but to compliment (or, in some cases, ruin) the surrounding city landscape. Likewise with installation art. It's just no one these days takes the time to look at what artists are producing, and genuinely think about what it's pushing into your mind.

I was pretty impressed with last years competition, and I completely agreed with the final decision as to the winner. What made me laugh the most, was that 99% of the media focused on Grayson Perry's choice to dress up as a tranvestite-doll rather than his actual work, which just bowled me over - something akin to the kind of art a fledgling frustrated alt. kid would make, but with the eye of an adult. Gross, obscene, provocative and thoroughly, thoroughly offensive. I come across a lot of people who believe that those aspects disqualify an object or a piece from being "genuine"...an attitude I've never understood. Art is art - you can either take it or leave it. Most of the time those that turn their nose up are usually just disguising their inability to understand with a cynical snotty attitude.

Anyway, this year is focusing on filmed pieces, rather than the traditional sculpted/installation artworks that usually grace the Tate Modern - something done, no doubt, in order to try and escape the denigrating label of "pointless art" that has been attached to the prize. So I hereby voice my support for Langlands & Bell with their very apt House of Osama Bin Laden, something commissioned by the Imperial War Museum. I'm favouring it a little more than the others just because of the historical aspect; Bin Laden still hasn't been caught, he's still out there somewhere, and yet he's already this great mystical icon already. The minimalism that these two have documented flies right in the face of what the great leaders want us to believe - that great evil comes in Saddam Hussein packages, full of excess and greed. Irony of ironies...the house looks more like the buildings Christ travelled through and slept in, than the overblown buildings of terrorism that propoganda builds in our minds.

It's almost soothing.

[Partly via Metafilter]

21.10.04

Sterling Silver

Bruce Sterling is akin to some kind of cool newfound biological Dad in my literary-geek world (where William Gibson is the cool unmarried Uncle). Teamed with Wired Magazine and given a blog, well, it would be a match made in heaven, right?

Wrong.

There are so many things wrong with this, I don't know where to start. Could it be the fact that no one has taught him how to resize images to fit the screen? Could it be the horrendous font? Or the 1993 style colour/graphic scheme? Or that he seems to write his posts in poetry form? Now, don't get me wrong, I like this guy. I mean, I've just got done reading the whole of The Hacker Crackdown, and I'm working my way to reading some of his books. He's destined for deity status in my brain.

But please. Please. For the love of god, someone point him towards Blogger. Someone give him a cup of tea and teach him how to resize images. Someone tell him that he's got a fanbase that need more than what he's doing. Because it's painful. It's really really painful.

Neal Stephenson versus Slashdot

Slashdot interviews Neal Stephenson.

" The first time was a year or two after SNOW CRASH came out. I was doing a reading/signing at White Dwarf Books in Vancouver. Gibson stopped by to say hello and extended his hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson's Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had been incorporated into Gibson's arms. Remembering this in the nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades and swing at his head. He deflected the blow with a force blast that sprained my wrist. The falling table knocked over a space heater and set fire to the store. Everyone else fled. Gibson and I dueled among blazing stacks of books for a while. Slowly I gained the upper hand, for, on defense, his Praying Mantis style was no match for my Flying Cloud technique. But I lost him behind a cloud of smoke. Then I had to get out of the place. The streets were crowded with his black-suited minions and I had to turn into a swarm of locusts and fly back to Seattle. "

Chinese Revolutions

The BBC News Online recently wrote a three part article that deconstructed how China is not evoliving as thoroughly (but most definitely as Westernly) as people may think. I fear that some people may not care enough, or just simply overlooked the trio, so here are links to each one :

"Many people are getting richer. But last year the number of people living in extreme poverty (defined as those with annual incomes of less than $77) actually rose, to just over 3% of the population - although admittedly this is the first officially recorded increase in 25 years of economic reforms. Similarly, road-building and other big infrastructure programmes look impressive from a distance. But when you see some rural roads close-up, you come across an awful lot of cracks and pot-holes. Contracts for both building and mending the roads tend to be in the hands of local officials who have close links to construction companies - one of many reasons why China's unique combination of communism and capitalism does not always leave everyone with a fair chance. "Concepts we borrow from the West don't always fit in when applied to Chinese reality," said Cao Haili, a journalist working for Caijing magazine, noted for its exposes of the darker side of China's economic reforms."
"Far away in the booming western city of Chongqing, the new Japanese-style management methods used by Yin Mingshan in his motorbike factories have made him a millionaire several times over. Although he said China was "raising its cultural level" by learning from abroad, he believed the country's dramatic growth had been fuelled not just by hard work and low wages but also by a strong sense of nationalism. "For 100 years we suffered in poverty as Western countries pressured and invaded us. Now there's been an explosion of growth as people use their power and intelligence to build a new strong China," he said. Mr Yin started by copying foreign motorbikes, but he and others like him are now innovators. Already this year his company has applied for 700 patents, he said

"The official aim is to achieve a "well-to-do society" by 2020, with a per capita income of five times the present one of about US$1,000. "That's a sensible goal," according to Steven Xu, a mainland-born and based economic consultant. "We're not talking about a standard of living comparable to the West, but if we continue to pursue the current reforms we will have a massive middle class, with more accountability and a more open and tolerant civil society. "If China can succeed in this," he said, "it would be a shining example for other developing countries and a tremendous contribution to mankind."
"The endless grey factories and tower blocks of China's development zones are soaking up the biggest rural migration in human history. The plan is to move as many as 400 million people to the cities in the next 25 years, people who will need new roads, housing and other infrastructure on a truly massive scale. Such is China's economic frenzy that a country which was once almost self-sufficient now imports not only grain but also huge quantities of other resources. It is the world's largest consumer of copper, aluminium and cement and the second biggest importer of oil. While this appetite sparks fears about the long-term effects on the world's raw materials, China's own natural resources - its air, land and water - are already suffering badly."

More at the In depth : Changing China section of BBC News Online.

19.10.04

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

~ Siegfried Sassoon

18.10.04

Michael Jackson Trial.

Jackson Abuse Charges Still Stand.

His laywers have tried every trick in the book to wiggle MJ out of having to go to trial - making the family out to look like gold-diggers by rooting out every skeleton in their closet, turning up to hearings with the whole Jackson family in tow, trying to get the DA removed because of "bias" and alledging that the evidence was gathered illegally.

They forget that because of the MJ's behaviour last time, the state of California changed the laws in order to stop this from happening. No amount of money or expensive legal defence is going to get him out of this. The judge has stated that there is enough evidence to "warrant the charges". That is, there is enough evidence to support the accusation of child molestation. All 10 of them.

Think about what we know. Now think about the gag order and the potential things we are not allowed to know. How can anyone still be standing behind this man? I get the feeling that the Jackson family aren't aware of a lot of what is going to come out in this courtcase. This could quite feasibly be the biggest celebrity court case in modern history - even bigger than OJ. But it's been a long time coming really; we've been waiting at least 10 years to find out whether this man is really a child abuser.

Killing Time.

What is it about the week before a special event? The air seems clearer, the sky seems bluer, and somehow everything is slightly more enhanced...like a peyote trip in Disneyland...or something of that ilk anyway. The household chores are all (slowly) being ticked off, I have a hair and doctor's appointment on Wednesday, and a Documents folder to back up on Sunday. I've ditched my usual compulsive habits, leaving myself sitting around on the couch, or wandering around my bedroom looking for something to do. I'm updating my blogs more often. I've cleaned out the junk from the last trip out of my suitcase. I'm waiting on next Wednesday morning like I used to wait on my birthday.

16.10.04

OH MY GOD!!!!!!

He's back!

William Gibson's blogging again.

You have no idea how happy I am. Especially being that I'm back in his town soon.

15.10.04

StatCounter

I'm testing out statcounter as a way of tracking all those folks that come through this way. The site is nice and straightforward, as is the code that you have to insert into the sidebar. Should be interesting...

14.10.04

FindFoward Discontinued.

Ho hum, the Findforward service has been discontinued. Thanks to Philipp for providing it in the first place, as it was a great service and I didn't have a single problem with it for the two months or so that it was in use. I'll continue to keep the button/link on my blog for the time being, as I hope that it will return sometime in the future.

Japan and suicide.

"Japanese police have found the bodies of nine people who apparently committed suicide after meeting via special suicide sites on the internet. A police spokesman said seven young people were found in a van in the Saitama mountains to the west of Tokyo. Minutes later, two women were found dead in a car south of Tokyo, in another apparent suicide pact. Japan has recently seen a wave of internet-linked suicides, as people seek companions to die with. More than 34,000 Japanese took their own lives in 2003, according to the National Police Agency - an increase of more than 7% from the previous year. Economic difficulties and an increasing sense of isolation among Japanese youth are believed to be contributing to the rise."
From BBC News.

William Gibson's My Own Private Tokyo is a great source for some idea of what Japanese culture is like:

"The Bubble's gone, successive economic plans sputter and wobble to the same halt, one political scandal follows another ... Is that the future? Yes. Part of it, and not necessarily ours, but definitely yes. The Japanese love "futuristic" things precisely because they've been living in the future for such a very long time now. History, that other form of speculative fiction, explains why. The Japanese, you see, have been repeatedly drop-kicked, ever further down the timeline, by serial national traumata of quite unthinkable weirdness, by 150 years of deep, almost constant, change. The 20th century, for Japan, was like a ride on a rocket sled, with successive bundles of fuel igniting spontaneously, one after another. They have had one strange ride, the Japanese, and we tend to forget that."

Japan has risen through the last fifty years faster than anyone else. The new generations, now younger than me, are still trapped between a futuristic world of gadgets, sleek technology, world travel...and their heritage. Politeness, respect, family dependancies. You only have to take a look at the news reports and the independant films that are making their way out from the tiny island, to know what's going on. Battle Royale features a class of abusive, violent children and a governmental institution who decides to "punish" these children by sending them to an island to kill each other. It's a frantic, controlled, violent, clean country to live in : as polite as it is horrific.

In the Have your Say section of BBC News, two Japanese individuals (one male, the other female) say the following -

"In 70s we were not rich but we had dreams. If we studied and worked hard, we could buy TV sets, cars and so on. We've never imagined that our companies go bankrupt or we get fired for a recession. We are pessimistic and vulnerable. Once we lost a life model, we have a difficulty finding new one. Now adults in Japan are struggling to find new dreams or purposes to live. We have to change or we can't show a brighter future where young people will want to live.

Akira Tsutsumi, Nara, Japan"
"The Japanese culture is one of the most unique and stressful in the world. Being different is considered a crime, and being assertive means you are trying to show off. On the other hand, agreeing with others even when it is the complete opposite of your personal opinion, and respecting your seniors to such a degree that respect is no longer respect but merely a way to fit in with other members of society put such a burden on the people of Japan without them knowing it. I am Japanese and have spent more than 10 years living abroad both during childhood and adulthood. Therefore, I can never act like a "pure" Japanese due to how unique the culture is. The people of Japan have to realize how such a stressful system of society is affecting its people, and how it is the reason why suicide rate is so abnormally high.

Rika Kinoshita
"

There has been no psychological revolution in Japan. People, from my perspective, are living with a pre-WWII mind in a world that exists 50 years in the future. On the flipside, they are fueling the world with some of the most inventive technological, cinematic and cultural creations. People sleep in subways, buy food from vending machines, carry the latest cellphones, earn enough money to retire in the Western world by the time they are in their 30's. Flaws in personality are not tolerated : perfection is demanded at all times. Violence in the younger sections of society is becoming more and more of a problem - I've heard stories of children as young as nine years old killing each other. It's by no means a country with the highest suicide or violence statistics...but it saddens me that such an important and wonderful country is suffering from such a negative social behaviour.