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.

13.10.04

Explanation.

I've not been of the best of health recently, and by recently, I mean the last month or so. I've been suffering from rather extreme chest and back pain, usually late at night, for no apparent reason. The first time it happened I went to see a doctor who offered no clear explanation, and since then, it's happened randomly another three times. It's probably not as bad as Philip who seems to have an extra-terrestrial being in his stomach, but it's enough to put me off kilter, and to hinder my interaction with people. And it's rather awful pain, severe enough to override painkillers.

I do think that there's something in the air though, as everyone else seems to have slowed down a pace. It feels like the world begins again in November. To pass the time however, I've re-opened my Vancouver blog, submitted poetry to the Dogwood Journal (although I retain very little hope of it being accepted), and have been entertaining myself on my favorite forum. Which is why I get the occasional twatty little comment like the one that just arrived in my inbox - some people just don't like being flamed. Anyway, things should be getting back to normal sometime soon, as I fly out to Canada on the 27th. I plan to post pictures at least every other day, which should be somewhat interesting. How about everyone else?

12.10.04

Read My Lips



I got this t-shirt when I was about 14, and it's only recently begun to fit me (great weightloss, now standing at 41lbs). It was bought from an American import vintage store - the only one in Bristol. I didn't really think it meant anything more than a provocative pro-gay message (I was reprezenting from a young age y'all) and I bought the guy one because, well frankly, look at them. They're hot! And the girl one was fugly. Is there something more to this? A friend of mine says that it's something to do with George Bush the first - is it all about him not recognising AIDS? Anyone feel like helping a sista out? Answers are needed. If it is a t-shirt from the 80's, then I'm going to take it off and keep it in a glass box. And no, I'm not selling it. ;)

10.10.04

Is Bush Wired?

Well, it looks like it.

Even though I was passed this link around the beginning of the week (Wednesday-ish), my procrastination only leads me to blog about this now. Yes, feel free to kick me in the ass, but if more of the people that passed by actually commented, I might be more motivated.

IsBushWired? seems to have got a lot of traffic extremely quickly - most likely because of how close the US elections are, and the coverage given to the debates. But it's also a damn good question-asking blog. I've exchanged a couple of emails with one of the two guys who run it, as I wanted to get my partner's opinion to them (he's a broadcasting industry veteran), and it turns out that one of them is also in the same field - thus adding to the weight of their questions. If people who work in the broadcasting industry seem to think that they can see equipment that they work with every single day, on a man who is supposed to be debating from his brain, not from an earpiece...then is there anyone of greater weight out there that could cancel out their opinions? No one is likely to believe the PR aides that surround the Whitehouse Goon, regardless of how vehemently they deny these claims.

And what then? Will this discourage hardline Bush supporters? I doubt it. To me, it feels like everyone that intends to vote has made up their mind whether it's Kerry or Bush or Nader that they're casting their minor amount of power towards. This may or may not push a few "undecided's" over towards the Kerry camp, especially now that the big time news organisations have picked up the story. I think that this may perform a minor, but important role in providing an example of how the internet community is particularly adept at exchanging potentially important information and adding another chunk (albeit a small chunk - not that many people are involved in the net to the extent that a lot of us are) to the history books - even if the information is torn apart to reveal nothing of real truth.

I think that a lot of people around these parts are raising the bar for future generations in terms of how we process political leaders, information and the world around us. Blogger also seems to be the main platform for such voices - you can set up a blog within seconds, and get hundreds of hits each week just from random browsers. It only really pushes me to think...what the HELL is going to happen next?

Oops.

I forgot to watch the second Bush/Kerry debate on Friday night, and by the looks of the transcript, I missed absolute hilarity. My favorite part -

"BUSH: That answer almost made me want to scowl."
He's such a fucking jackass. The whole debate is littered with sour immature remarks from our Leader in Chief. If you vote for him, you're voting for a fool.


7.10.04

A vertible POT of goodness.

5.10.04

Access: Denied!

With the news that Mark Chapman has been denied parole until at least 2006, take the time to read Yoko Ono's heartbreaking letter to the New York Division of Parole board (originally written in 2000) protesting the release of the man who shot her husband.

Mmm...technology...

  • Kotaku opens. A gaming blog courtesy of the guys behind Defamer.

Gregor Schneider : a review

Adrian Searle is unsettled by "Die Familie Schneider".

3.10.04

Items in my brain.

Music : William Shatner/Henry Rollins' "I can't get behind that!". Gwen Stefani's leaked "What you waiting for?", Leonard Cohen, "California Dreaming" & "An Englishman in New York". Trent Reznor covering Black Sabbath's "Supernaught". Pete Doherty & Babyshambles. The Faint.

Books : Idoru (for the fifth time), Bill Clinton's autobiography (page 58), Douglas Coupland, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling. Endless circle of technology-dysfunction infused middle aged guys.

Fashion : my houndstooth coat, punk rawk shoelaces, boatnecked black sweaters with 3/4 length sleeves, pink scarves, fitted shirts, big old brown leather belt, plain blue jeans, vintage t-shirts, emo-girl bleached out hair.

Software : Firefox 1.0PR extensions, Linux/Mandrake partitioning.

Food : homemade sushi, Spicy Mexican chicken breast, big baked potatoes, salad, fresh vegetable pizzas, Breakaway chocolate bars, cheese and broccoli pasta, beans on toast, cups of tea and Diet Coke.

Games : The Sims (original, I need more RAM for 2) and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

2.10.04

Advice

I've been obsessively reading Poppy Z. Brite's Livejournal for well over a year, and she gives the best advice for would-be professional writers I've ever read on the net. Today's reads as thus :


"OK, I hate this shit (though not quite as much as Caitlin does), but all of us are subjected to it sooner or later.

An outline is a detailed (5-10 pages) summary of a novel's plot, major characters, and, for lack of a better word, themes (e.g. "an affectionate satire of the New Orleans restaurant world").

A synopsis is a shorter (1-2 pages) boildown of the book's absolute essential elements. Important but secondary characters may go by the wayside if they aren't integral to the linear structure of the book. (To give you an idea of how radical this can be: When I synopsized Lost Souls for a potential filmmaker, I omitted the character Christian.)

As for a cover letter, you just list your publication credits, any blurbs, education or work history ONLY IF RELEVANT (when shopping Liquor, I always mentioned being married to a chef because publicity departments love that kind of stuff). Since you're young, you might try to work in your age; agents and publishers like young writers they can discover. Do NOT tell them how great your book is. DO thank them in advance for their time."
God bless you Poppy, I'm more knowledgeable because of you. And for future reference, I'll throw that at anyone who asks me.

Crazy, Sexy rockstars (and war).

"To imagine their impact now, one would have to think of a Chelsea boutique selling an exquisite shirt printed with the face of Ian Huntley, over a caption taken from either the conviction of Gary Glitter or some academic treatise on civil disobedience. In 1975, to sell a T-shirt printed with the legend "Cambridge Rapist" - referencing an ongoing crime - was off the scale of acceptability."


1.10.04

Indecision 2004

Last night's debate rocked my socks. Kerry kicked so much ass that I didn't yell at the TV once. For those who missed it, here's a transcript, and for those who can't be arsed, BBC News Online pulls out the main arguments from both candidates. Oddly enough, both candidates are claiming victory although as the diagram clearly shows (and intelligent logic dictates) Kerry kicked ass, despite the oversimplifications that both men made (Kerry's were far less important than Bush's).

Still, Connie Rice says it wasn't a real debate, so who cares.

As a finisher, Jason Kottke's pulled something amazing together and produced an all important Voter's Information Guide for the November elections. Please read it, especially if you have the power to vote in the aforementioned elections. And finally, if you still aren't sure who to vote for, check out who you should be voting for in an online quiz. Mine was 60% for John Kerry, 15% for George W. Bush.

I can't wait for this all to be over.

Garbage Dump

  • Following on from the success of the Spread Firefox campaign, a sister site Defending the Fox has sprung up, in which people are contributing to a large list of existing websites that don't work correctly in the browser. Contact information is also provided, and people are encouraged to email the offending sites and ask them to change the availabilty of their site.
  • Up to date pictures of active volcano Mount St. Helens (refreshed every 5 minutes - if unavailable, just refresh, as it seems to be under heavy traffic).