30.12.05

Wikipedia Fundraiser 2005

Wikipedia has been holding a fundraiser since the middle of December, but for some reason I didn't notice until a few days ago (work evidently kept me busier than I thought!). It finishes in a week or so, and I just threw a bit of cash their way, so ask yourself - is there any reason you shouldn't do the same? ;)

Gross Heater

Gross Heat

Perpetuation

From BBC News:

An Asian officer has complained that using the name "Black Museum" for the Metropolitan Police's famous archive of crime artefacts is racist. Pc Zahid Malik, from Nottinghamshire Police, said the use of the word black in an article in the police magazine The Sharp End was questionable.

In his letter, the constable said: "In a piece on the Met's Crime Museum you use the term `Black Museum' for this `notorious police museum' and `the man in black' to accompany a picture of the curator. We live in times where language/images and motives can easily be misinterpreted and misunderstood.

I question the negative use of the word `black' in these contexts." He added: "I feel we all have an important responsibility to ensure that the language and terminology we use is in a sensitive and appropriate manner."

Two things!

Number one: this is the first time I have heard a complaint about the use of the word "black" in this way from an actual person with a face. I always thought it was a modern myth created by people with a racist itch to scratch.

Number two: PC Malik, I understand your point, but the existing social structure is not here to cater to the demands of any particular group of people at the expense of others. Stop perpetuating the endless circle of oversensitivity to variations in culture and skin colour - you're only feeding the disenfranchised racists of this country what they need to cement themselves in modern society*. No one who actually lives on a day to day basis as a Briton logically connects the colour black and it's negative symbolism with the generalised term for a racial group - and you know that, you utter twat. But it's made the news now, so I hope you enjoy your can of worms. Gah!

*NB - racist cunts (like the person behind the first comment below), I was actually referring to yourselves here. You are the scum of the earth, and at no point am I supporting any kind of BS you spew - I actually have an education and a frontal lobe. My vagina has also been soiled by an "ethnic", so I'm evidently a lost cause when it comes to maintaining your White Britain.

29.12.05

The Snow, It Came

snow

28.12.05

My 2005: Me

The first half of this year was pretty much consumed by misery related to being ill (gallbladder disease), having surgery and the end of a long term relationship. But as things usually do when you least expect it, they took a swing upwards at the end of July and I've been gaining lost ground ever since - I've been working a job I don't hate, I have enough money to either save for future travel or to buy the things I want and I have enough time in the day to not be completely stressed out (ie: be really lazy and get nothing done). For now. I'm just about content with that. In reflection, I always end up thinking I could do more - so utilising my free time and being less static a person is something that I want to work on during 2006.

My 2005: Internet

Tagging exploded as an organisation tool - fronted by services like social bookmarking site del.icio.us and Technorati.

Both Google and Yahoo expanded as companies this year: Yahoo acquiring a handful of young and awesome websites - primarily flickr and at the end of the year, del.icio.us itself; Google developing it's brand by releasing everything from Google Maps to Google Video. More telling about Google this year however, was they also managed to fail en mass for the first time - their RSS feed reader, for example, is basically crap.

Firefox stopped escalating as such and became an established brand, product and rival to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, with a little backing from... well, practically everyone - despite the occasional attempts at making it seem unstable in the mainstream media.

Something Awful thumbed their nose at Ebaum's World and unwittingly aided a kid with his killing spree. VOIP began to edge from the geek world to the mainstream after Google launched it's own Instant Messaging service. The Robot Co-op launched 43 People and 43 Places, acquired All Consuming and generally made me happy by providing lots of places to list things on the internet. Tim Berners-Lee started blogging. William Gibson made the odd appearance, but has been working on his new book (whee!). Jason Kottke went professional. And everyone and their mother got a book deal. Gmail is still in beta, but has made some nice leaps and strides since last year, despite the whole trademark fiasco. And Ajax is kind of cool too!

27.12.05

My 2005: Deaths

Pat Morita, the Japanese-American linchpin of the Karate Kid movies (as well as dozens of others), passed away at the end of November, causing bigger shockwaves than anyone could have expected. Hunter S. Thompson shot himself, the curmudgeonly bastard, and his ashes were shot into the sky as fireworks from a cannon. Richard Whiteley, host of infamous Channel 4 gameshow Countdown, died a few days after undergoing heart surgery (after suffering from pneumonia).

My 2005: Articles

My 2005: Moments

Kanye West said what we were all thinking to George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina done fucked NOLA up. Britney Spears gave birth to baby boy. Kate Moss was knocked off her pedestal when the Daily Mirror bought and published pictures of her snorting cocaine. Three London Tube trains (plus one bus) were attacked by suicide bombers, and a second attempt occurred two weeks later, but thankfully failed. Oh, and Michael Jackson was found innocent. Again.

My 2005: TV/Film

The first season of Lost came to the UK, and despite the character's unnervingly perfect hair, it's a complete page turner. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation season six hit American TV and then the torrent sites in September. The new series of Doctor Who really surprised me - I watched the first episode out of curiosity and ended up really enjoying the whole thing, as it had the right amount of irony, geekery and humour to keep me watching.

I'm not one of those people that tend to go out to the cinema very often, so most of the films that I caught this year were of my own seeking. I would have to say that some of the best that I saw were Danny the Dog (Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Danny Devito, my own review here), Antitrust (Ryan Phillipe, my own review here) 2046 (Tony Leung, director Wong Kar Wai) and Secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader). Oh, and I finally saw Hero, bully for me. [more]

My 2005: Music

I am actually the world's laziest music listener (I'm beginning to wonder if I actually did anything this year). Nine Inch Nails released a new album, two videos and toured extensively (I saw them a paltry four times) - beginning in clubs, and moving onto arena's in the second half of the year. Goldfrapp released Supernature and Kanye West put out Late Registration - albums that made me want to not only listen but dig around their respective back catalogues. Madonna did not, and thus made me so bitter and twisted that I won't bother linking to that piece of tat. Various remixes of Bloc Party's "Helicopter" were pretty cool (it's a very hyperactive, shouty song), but I have yet to get hold of a copy of their album yet - I would never have known they were a London band if I didn't read a interview or two with them this year. [more]

My 2005: Books

I can't say that I read as many books as I wanted to this year as a lot of my attention seemed to go elsewhere whenever I tried to get words off a page and into my brain. Nevertheless, I absolutely tore into the writing career of Ryu Murakami and read all his books within reach in the space of a few months (my review of Almost Transparent Blue). I found a bashed up copy of Patrick White's The Vivisector in a secondhand book shop, and immediately loved him (who can resist a childhood-to-death portrait of an artist?). Junko Mizuno skidded back into my landscape, and I added Cinderalla and Hell Babies to my collection. And last but not least, I acquired and devoured Art Spiegelman's The Complete Maus, a worthy read if any during a year such as this. [more]

25.12.05

Christmashood

christmashood

24.12.05

Karate Kid (1984)

Channel 4 just finished it's annual Christmas airing of The Karate Kid, a month to the day after Pat Morita passed away. After choking back the tears at the ending (c'mon, who doesn't love the character of Mr. Miyagi?), it struck me that Ralph Macchio, the kid that played Daniel-san, has evaded my "whatever happened to that dude?" radar. As it turns out, he's still acting, and he's managed to not end up looking like a weirdo. It's hard to believe that I'm as old as that movie, and that it's managed to have such a profound impact on my generation - seems like only yesterday that I was sat on a scratchy living room carpet, watching it for the first time with my dad.

Wax on, wax off.

Link Dump 24/12/05

  • - Cute Overload. Puppies and kittens and bunnies, oh my! The internet counteracts the overwhelming presence of Ogrish (NSFW) with fluff!

23.12.05

defaced (close up)

defaced (close up)

20.12.05

Box

box (large)My lovely new camera was awaiting me when I got home from work today, a little smaller than expected, but this is a good thing, as I have rather small hands. This was the very first picture I took with it. Not very exciting now, but just you wait until I drag the cat out from wherever the hell it's hiding. Then you'll see a true exercise of my basic human right to take thousands of nonsensical pictures and put them on the internet.

19.12.05

No Time for TV

From Why there is still life in the old TV commercial by Patrick Barwise:

"It is all over for television advertising, apparently. Sky+ viewers are spooling through the ads at breakneck speed, advertisers are piling into the internet, and practically all the under-35s are so busy with their Xboxes, PSPs, iPods and blogs, they don't have any time left to watch TV."

Accuracy is delightful, isn't it? I watch precisely 4 hours of television a week, at the most (CSI, Lost and two hours for miscellaneous wind-down TV - and starting next week, one of those hours will be used to watch the new series of Doctor Who). I spend at least 8 hours a day on the internet, 30 minutes listening to music on my Creative Zen Micro and an hour and a half using my Gameboy Advance SP. The current advertising debate I'm interested in, is not product placement related, but how many websites are sacrificing content for advertising, and whether it's "right" to block these images.

TV stopped being relevent as soon as I discovered there was a media-centric world out there that I could contribute and control, and this is exactly how it's going to be for the generations that follow mine. "Interactive" television is a nice try, but rather pisspoor don't you think? At some point, TV is going to have to start pulling it's socks up. By that, I don't mean change it's entire output techniques, just change it's quality. The incessant rotation of predictable drama and reality television wore thin a long time ago.

Bleurgh

It's not just me, is it? Everyone in the world has this disgusting December cold, because I can't seem to move two yards without bumping into someone else on my internet travels who is talking/moaning/crying about how awful they feel. At some point, I'm going to develop a logical theory that demonstrates how the internet spreads minor illnesses. For now, I'm just going to chug Beecham's.

16.12.05

Coming Soon



I finally got around to buying myself a decent digital camera last night. Here is everything you need to know about a Nikon Coolpix 5200. I'll be putting my Flickr account to proper use as soon as it arrives.

It really sucks to work in a call center sometimes...

But this is pretty funny. I would have given up at the five minute mark. Pretty funny though - the girl trying to sell the credit card to him is really earning her money.

Just a reminder to everyone using the "Why are you calling me at this time in the evening/on the weekend" line - you might be at home at 8:30pm on a Friday, but the person calling you is stuck in a poorly air-conditioned room, in a bad chair, hoping to make enough commission to pay the rent at the end of the month at the exact same time of day. If you have any semblence of decency, just be nice and say "No Thank You". You'll only get bugged if the company has a poor call management system, and if that happens, yelling at the minimum wager isn't really going to achieve much except maybe make her cry.

14.12.05

Link Dump 14/12/05

  • - Russia Today, the newly launched state funded 24 hour news channel, got hacked (BmN).

13.12.05

My 10 essential Firefox extensions

Spending a lot of time on the internet = spending a lot of time using Firefox = burning through a lot of Firefox extensions in order to find the awesome ones.

As a direct result of all of this I'd like to call this Wired article a wee bit ill-researched. When there are so many extensions out there that are ingenious, and Wired has such a large geeky Firefox using audience, why did that article run so short? I couldn't sum up the wondrous world of Firefox extensions and completely bypass so many of the useful ones. There are exactly ten Firefox extensions I can't live without (and trust me, this was hard to narrow down):

1. Sage just plain saves you time. Bookmark RSS feeds into your specially designated folder, open Sage into a sidebar, refresh the feeds and you're ready to go. They even have some awesome stylesheet options! If you're not using RSS feeds by now, then you're massively behind the times, and this is the best way to dive in.

2. Bugmenot. We all hate site registration. It's basically there to take your details so some marketing geek in a bad tie can collect your gender, age and location and demonstrate to his superiors that they are hitting the right number of visitors. Mostly, it's just a pain in the ass to do when all you want is to read that article about that fire in Paris or those Japanese jeans. Bugmenot is a database that, when you rightclick on the login form, gives you a temporary login/password to access the site with. Sure, you could just use the site, but a right click with autofill is much easier.

3. Tab X is one of those extensions that when I don't have it, I absently click on the corner of tabs and wonder why the hell they aren't closing. This is actually a built-in feature of the Opera browser, so I'm expecting Mozilla to adopt it by Firefox 2.0 at the very least.

4. Download Manager Tweak. Browsers and downloads aren't really the best mix, and when they do move along smoothly, the box is always there, hovering in the background like an expectant bloody dog. DMT allows you to put the window where you want it to be - tab, sidebar or window - as well as customise exactly what you see in the window. A seemingly small function... until it's not there.

5. Adblock is surely the most appreciated extension out there right now because, let's face it, there are things out there on this internet that are designed to purposely cause seizures and then brand their products on the insides of the damaged brains. Adblock, when teamed with an awesome blacklist hides all those bastard banner ads that certain people decide to add to their site when they want to make a little bit of cash on the side. It's caused a large debate about whether or not it's ethical to make money from adverts on the internet, as well as whether it's actually ethical to block them on purpose. I like it because essentially, it feels like someone's whitewashed this place free of moneymaking ugly flashing crap. Be careful what you block though - this extension can cause image loading problems on certain websites.

6. Flashblock means that all those crappy modern "professionally designed" websites don't load unless I allow them to. When used correctly, Flash is a beautiful thing... like a butterfly in a concrete jungle - but there are a hell of a lot of people using it as a design crutch because they don't want to learn standards compliant code. I don't want to spend two minutes of my time staring at a loading page just to see your panties/tampax/hip hop music. It's only useful for two things: cartoons/movies and photography sites. It's not acceptable for anything else. And this rant is why I use Flashblock.

7. Gmail Notifier links up to your Gmail account (everyone and their mother has a Gmail account these days) and notifies you as to when you have mail. Because I've had a Gmail account for well over a year and a half (and I don't like non-web based email), I pretty much rely on this extension.

8. R.I.P.'s motto is thus: IF YOUR SITE IS SHIT, I WILL DELETE THE SHIT UNTIL THERE IS NO MORE SHIT. To begin with, Adblock has a tendency to hide rather than delete banner ads - which often leaves columns of blank space. With RIP, you can delete the blank space (or anything else on a page you find distasteful) with two gestures. A simple right click over the section you dislike brings up a flashing red border (customisable), and if you accidentally delete too much of the site, there's a nifty undo feature. If you want to undo everything you've RIPped, you can just go straight into the options and clear it all in one fell swoop. This extension must be how a good colonic feels.

9. Session Saver. You know when Firefox crashes and you lose absolutely everything you've been doing? Yeh, it happens a lot to me too. Yeh, I let out a low groan of inner pain too. SS saves and restores your last browser activity when you manage to get the browser up and running. Especially helpful when you've gone through profile borking hell.

10. Open Book. One of the problems with the basic bookmarking system of Firefox, is that it doesn't allow you a visible, searchable tree of your bookmark system when you click ctrl+d. It's fiddly, it wastes time, and it annoys the shit out of me. Open Book removes all this, and gives you the option to control exactly what happens when you want to bookmark a link (a la Bookmark Manager).

The key to these extensions being necessary, I think, is that they provide a service that makes internet browsing more convenient and less annoying. Overall, you save time and stress. I do love my Firefox extensions.

10.12.05

Link Dump 10/12/05

  • - The My Space Generation is a pretty accurate portrayal of what's happening in terms of casual users of the internet (by "casual users" I mean people that are using the internet, as opposed to adding content and therefore building it).
  • - The other day I went looking for the age of the ancient mouse I use with my laptop (I really should get around to buying a new one, but I'm planning the purchase of a new desktop computer sometime soon, so there's no real point). A Google search of the serial number turned up this archive page of mice, complete with pictures and historical details. Mine is the IBM "Fat" PS/2 Mouse Uni-color (circa 1992), which has outlasted every other mouse I have encountered in the last four years or so. Neat-O.

On Yahoo!

Not six months ago I was having a discussion with someone that basically amounted to me discarding Yahoo! as a company that I had no interest in because I didn't find any worth in what they had to offer. Now that they've bought up del.icio.us and their possession of Flickr is pretty non-intrusive (as well as a host of my current favorite webloggers being Yahoo! employees), I guess I should revise that statement. They seem like they know what's going on when it comes to internet culture, and you can't really dislike a company that is in touch with/wants to improve the sites that make the people of the internet happy.

The only thing that makes me uncomfortable is the merging of the Yahoo! account with the sites they collect - but that's mostly down to the fact that I have a slightly shitty Yahoo! ID and it's too late to revise it. Not their fault.

So while 2005 undoubtedly belonged to Google, I'm guessing 2006 will be the year of Yahoo! breaking forth as the hip revitalised internet brand.

8.12.05

Death March

On Monday the UK enters the death march to Christmas: the final two working weeks of December that are inevitably filled with blinking neon crap, rain and either over or under-consumption of consumer products. I wouldn't be so cynical this time around if work wasn't absolutely killing me. I'm the kind of person that likes to be busy, so attempting to squeeze blood from a stone for 5 hours a day is pretty painful. The only silver lining in this cloud is that this is a temporary state for us all, and as soon as the New Year rolls around, we're going to be rushed off our feet. Providing I live to see January, that is. Onwards and Upwards Men!

6.12.05

Filmfour on Freeview?

OMG (bugmenot) DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE.

*ahem*

5.12.05

Link Dump 05/12/05

  • - ILOVEFAKE is an awesome little 'zine crossing over the fashion/art/design borders. This month's edition is entirely in black and white.

3.12.05

Link Dump 03/12/05

  • - An interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, the daddy of Nintendo, where he kind of implies an interest in moving gaming away from the TV and onto a custom sized screen.

2.12.05

Impressions of Vienna Update

In case you're new around these parts or you're just not keeping up, I'm continuing with my project of translating my Grandmother's diary, albeit slowly. The most recent piece is entitled Damned Be The Jazz. I'll hopefully get a few more parts online over the weekend. Enjoy!

Which is right next to the "Godzilla attack" buzzer

(00:49:13) Brock: I have a friend that bought the game "Republic: The Revolution," which looks awfully fun in theory.
(00:49:22) Brock: But it might be shit execution. Don't know yet.
(00:50:08) Natali: I would go the Civ 2 route.
(00:50:16) Natali: Republic I think, is bad.
(00:50:28) Brock: Know anyone who's given it a shot?
(00:51:00) Natali: Not that I recall, but it sets off a "cheap clone" warning buzzer in my brain.
(00:51:06) Natali: It's right next to the "fake tits" buzzer.

1.12.05

Weather

Ah, it's that time of the year when I can sit in silence at my desk in the middle of the night and hear the rain battering the outside of the house through the walls. It also managed to hail today (for the first time that I can remember this year). This winter is going to be damn crazy.

30.11.05

Milksugar

Milksugar is an online shop based in Germany that sells a variety of bags (and some purses) in styles ranging from cute to demented to somewhere between the two. Kind of expensive but unique enough to warrant the price, I came across them on eBay and, needing a waterproof courier bag to carry things to and from work, I couldn't stop myself reaching for my newly stuffed Paypal account. Having only purchased from them on Monday, I'm still waiting for the bag to arrive, but the person dealing with the sales is super professional - when I accidentally made two orders (instead of one collective order comprising of two items), they immediately refunded my money, instead of profiting from my idiocy.

27.11.05

Link Dump 27/11/05

  • - You can now download Civilisation 2 for free on Abandonia.com. Having decided to squeeze every piece of space on my hard drive to it's maximum capability, I recently installed the free copy of GTA 2 on my Windows partition. Looks like I'm going to have to do some more reshuffling. Or buy a new computer. Either way.

You are a DRUNKEN HOBO

If you are a disheveled old man, sitting on the sidewalk,
slumped against a building, wearing a banana peel on your head
and you holding back your head as whiskey pours down from inside your cell phone...

You are a DRUNKEN HOBO

Over the last week or so, I've been getting the same three pieces of spam hitting my inbox. They are sent maybe three, four times a day, and are (in the same order), advertising a dating site ("Thousands of New Single Ladies"), mobile phone ringtones and the new RAZR phone.

Now, despite the pretty amusing "what does your cellphone say about you?" part (see above quote), what I don't understand is why this message is tacked onto the bottom of each email:

This newsletter is a commercial message sent in accordance with US legal guidlines. If you would like to not receive newsletters from
Lead-Gen Rev Partners
506 W. 19th Street #241
Houston,TX 77008
Phone Number 1(866) 596-5253

As if that makes one iota of a difference. Whether or not a) it's illegal in the US, or b) I can contact them to take me off their list; it's still unsolicited email being used for commercial means. What makes it worse is that it's managing to evade Gmail's spam filters. Annoying.

26.11.05

Firefox Profiles Suck

My Firefox profile has decided to bork yet again this time taking me back to my original default profile. While it's not as horrendous as last time, it's still pretty damn annoying. I had a whole bunch of links ready to be posted, and now they are gone. Yes, I could just mess around in the Profile Manager but funnily enough, I can't access it in Linux right now (alas, I am not 1337 enough).

Here's a request: Firefox developers, can you either create an extension or add a section to Options/Preferences that allows direct, simple access to the Profile Manager? Because this whole rigoramole is really starting to get on my tits. I shouldn't have to crawl through commandline every time I want to restore or switch my profiles.

25.11.05

Spotted (San Diego)

One man on the Atlanta-San Diego flight wearing a grey t-shirt, holding a copy of Ann Coulter's Please Spank Me Daddy (or whatever the fuck it's called) and an issue of Muscle Magazine in one hand.

Some girl on the internal train between Atlanta concourses saying "haYUm".

Bears! Flamingoes! Mongoose! Polar bears! Baby Panda on the Panda Cam! Meerkats! Lemurs! Giraffes! Tapirs! All at San Diego Zoo.

New monotone identi-kit suburbs being built in the area around Atlanta airport.

A group of kids listening to Sean Paul underneath streetlight outside of Mira Mesa high school causing 0% trouble.

Sumo wrestling on the TV at Mitsuwa Marketplace while eating sushi.

Snow!



Well, they said it would happen.

24.11.05

Happy Thanksgiving!

Having just flown in from America, I feel like I should partake in this festivity by listing a few things I am thankful for:

  • - Delta Airways bumping me to business class after flight delays caused me to miss my flight back to the UK. 18+ hours in Atlanta airport is something that I never, ever want to have to deal with again.
  • - all my friends, especially those that have helped me in difficult times and/or believed that I am a capable person.
  • - my health. This year, I suffered pain of a velocity I could never have imagined before. Halfway through the year, the NHS came through for me, and took away the pain. They might be a pile of administrative shit, but at the end of the day the doctors and nurses stuck their necks out for me, and for that, I am grateful.
  • - the internet.

23.11.05

Public Announcement

I'm back from San Diego, and boy! are my arms tired. It took altogether too long to return to the UK, and I've got a helluvalotta backlog to get through. Weblog maintenance shall resume ASAP.

15.11.05

Frenzy

"just got back from the Grove... we happened to be in Barnes & Noble when Nicole Richie showed up to sign "her" book. Jesus freakin christ: that girl is the skinniest thing I. Have. Ever. Seen. Seriously, she's gone way past a size 0 into negative digits. Her body is so tiny and her head/hair so big that I cannot comprehend how she walks upright.

Also, the place was packed with paparazzi and teenage girls, and the second she appeared it was like being in the monkey house at the zoo -- the high-pitched shrieking of the girls = chimps in heat, while the low bellowing of the paparazzi = gorillas battling for dominance. Weirdest celebrity experience I've ever witnessed in LA by far."

- posted by Metafilter member Scody in the discussion thread about Nicole Richie's debut novel.

14.11.05

Taurine

My secret to getting through five hour shifts in front of a computer/calling faceless customer after faceless customer, is to drink supermarket brand Red Bull, which isn't actually called Red Bull, but Blue Bolt (Asda market it as "Blue Charge", but they're obviously made by the same people). It's cheaper, more energising and has a slightly better taste than the brand name version.

The other day I was reading some Metafilter thread, and a link to the Wikipedia page for Taurine came up, in which I discovered that Taurine is not like caffeine, and is actually good for you - helps with digestion and the metabolism (and is actually essential when it comes to a cat's diet). I'd actually wondered if I was putting something damaging into my body. So there you go, I learned something new.

13.11.05

Mmm... tags

If you scroll down to the foot of my blog (less of a trip now that I'm only allowing 6 posts per page) you'll see that I've implemented the brand spanking new delicious tag roll in order to make use of the empty space. Emptiness is just space waiting to be filled, and it's oddly comforting to complete that task; and yes, I know exactly how anal that sounds.

(PS - still waiting for Blogger to give me tags. Come on Blogger, you know it makes sense.)

12.11.05

On Death

Why are people constantly proclaiming the death of creative formats? The novel, the sitcom, the LBD, and the almighty rock and roll being the most favored targets. Between all the rotting carcasses is there room to get anything done? What we need is a giant burning pyre to burn all the journalists and "social commentators" that stake these tombstones, because that's about as much use as I have for them.

10.11.05

Link Dump 10/11/05

  • - The Sense Chair is a chair that uses light/vibrations/sound to alert people when they're sitting in an uncomfortable position. I wonder whether they could develop this into chairs for ill/elderly people that could read their biological output and alert nurses/caregivers as to when something dangerous is about to happen?
  • - Ebaums World Sucks by the Something Awful goons. (PS - did you know that within the SA goonery there contains a sizeable amount of NIN fans? They've even had a hair thread!)

Spotted (recently)

A motorbike at the Parson St. crossroads with the word "G-Unit" paintsprayed on the petrol tank... the Enterprise pub being boarded up with silver metal slabs after the drugs bust a few weeks ago... giant puddles and endless rain and piles of shed autumnal leaves soaking into the pavements...

8.11.05

1 week to go

With just around one week until I make my shotgun visit to San Diego, I'm... howdoyousay... listless? I've organised the tickets, the travel insurance and the time off - so it feels as if I have a dramatic lack of things to busy myself with now. Over at #ets, we've set up a Quake server and are helping time to pass by shooting each other in the faces. But you can only do that so many times before work rolls around again with it's endless hours of phonecalls that aren't even decent enough to provide me with entertaining conversations that I can repeat here. I can see myself repacking my bag at least three times before next Wednesday arrives.

6.11.05

Link Dump 06/11/05

  • - Jack Thompson vs Gamers. A week after everyone stops caring, Wired rounds up what went on between Penny Arcade and the nutjob.
  • - Powergen's call centre is crap. The sad fact about working in a call centre is that it takes many weeks before you learn exactly how to do your job, and by then you've already gone through hundreds, if not thousands of calls and about half as many mistakes. The scale of this disaster suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong with their low-level management.
  • - Drop it like a FOB: an Indian parody of Snoop Dogg/Pharrell Williams' "Drop it Like it's Hot", which actually makes me say "teehee" on the internet. Teehee.
  • - The Livejournal Top 40. My all time favorite LJ community is standing at #7, and I've been a member for well over a year now. Could be two.

2.11.05

Confessions of a Leaked Album

Madonna's new album leaked today, and the record company lawyers are busy shutting down all the sites that host it. As well they should, because as we all know, downloading pretty much kills any artist that releases an album.

Wait.

I mean, any artist that releases a dreary, rehashed, lyrically dull, monotonous piece of crap like Confessions of a Dancefloor. This album will do well with her niche crowd and gay club kids (presuming they are different people) - add the million $$$ promotional scams and yeh sure, it will hit the charts, but who fucking cares? It's about as listenable and groundbreaking as Michael Jackson's last impotent release.

1.11.05

Link Dump 01/11/05

  • - Google are sending programmers over to help out OpenOffice. FYI - 80MB downloads are nothing these days, but if they could get it down to 30MB's and quicker loading time (basically: less lag, less clutter), it would make my life a lot easier.
  • - Infosthetics: Public Storyboard. It reminds me of the Lucky Dragon store multi-monitors (in Gibson's Bridge Trilogy) that broadcast live pictures from other stores across the country. Most of the pictures just ended up being mildly indecent.
  • - The Pony Project is a New York exhibition dedicated to the pervasive childhood icon of My Little Pony. The premise is simple: women in various areas of creative art (fashion, photography, comic books) are given their own 18 inch MLP and are asked to customise it. Sponsored by Hasbro (the company that owns the MLP brand), half the profits go to charity and the rest pay the artists.

31.10.05

Saddam, is that you?

What the Dickens is going on with Mel Gibson? I know he's insane, you know he's insane, but are we sure that we caught the right guy out in Iraq?

PS - The Passion of the Christ was the worst movie I saw last year. And I also happened to catch Gigli. Why this man is allowed to continue to make overblown, overbudgeted movies is beyond me.

Movie Money

I bumrushed my bank account today in order to buy necessaries* for my trip and decided to exchange some of my pounds for $$$ on my way.**

Is it me, or are American bank notes implausibly real? Handling them is like putting one step into a childhood spent watching 80's movies, a teenagedom watching 90's angst dramas, and 00's watching primetime dramas.

Of course, I probably just watch too much TV. Either way, it's weeeird. I guess I'm really going now.

*Basically a train ticket that will get me to Gatwick Airport as late in the night as possible. I'll be there from 1am. Ugh.
**Incidentally, did you know that high street travel agencies now only sell travel insurance as package deals with tickets? Way to drive more business to the supermarket by-services! I'm not best pleased, as my brand new debit card has yet to appear through my letterbox and I was hoping to be able to buy it with cash.

29.10.05

Levelling Up

"One shot shows what, at first glance, might be mistaken for a virtual room from within a game. With newspapers as wallpaper, posters of fantasy figures, and scruffy bedding, it is in fact a room in a net cafe in Tianjin, China. It is used by employees who work for a dollar a day levelling up player's characters. Up to 30 will work for 16 hours, using the room to sleep in shifts."

I'm not sure whether I want to scream "cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater!" or applaud them for coming up with such an ingenious idea.

[From BBC News]

Link Dump 30/10/05

  • - Cargoes by John Masefield was not the first poem I ever read, but it's one of the first that I can remember. I was actually taught this at primary school - around age 9 or so, and the teacher made us dictionary all the words that we couldn't understand. Which were a lot. I wonder why he chose it - perhaps it was part of the Local History syllabus? I should look into that.
  • - Fanbrella! I'd think about buying one of these, because it has rained persistantly for the last three weeks or so, but it would probably get stolen.

Holiday!


So, posts have been sparse in the past few days because I've been rapidly planning an unexpected trip to San Diego to visit Fred, who is perhaps one of my oldest online friends. We've been conversing via IM for at least four years, and up until now, haven't had the chance to meet. We were planning something in the middle of next year, but this month's paycheck + a visit to Expedia that upturned an extremely affordable ticket suddenly made it all possible. I fly out on the 17th, and I get back on the 22nd (UK time). Very random, kind of nervewracking, and it's going to involve a lot of sleeping/hanging around in airport time, but 100% worth it.

27.10.05

IRC log

tweetan > error connecting to cancer
kleptonin > what the chemotherapy
tweetan > chemotherapy: failed.
kleptonin > get well soon!

[From dockadens]

24.10.05

Link Dump 25/10/05

Happiness is...

... dancing down the road in the pouring rain, with a broken umbrella and a soaked trenchcoat, singing along to Goldfrapp's "Strict Machine" after finding out that my month's bonus has crossed the £200 boundary.

22.10.05

Kicking!

"Punk guy: My Slayer button fell off my jacket when I was kicking that dude in the face, so I stopped and picked it up. Then I finished kicking."

I've said this a million times before, but I love Overheard in New York.

21.10.05

Alison

"She could be anyone. A tiny figure standing at the edge of the dressing room, lingering in the doorway as though getting ready for an easy escape. Blonde curls tamed, pulled back off her face. The black uniform - tight but unrevealing top, skinny jeans, ballet pumps - adding to her anonymity. Inside the hot, airless room, there is easy laughter, warm wine and a discarded pair of white platform boots. Only the eyes give a hint of who she is, framed by fake lashes and still sparkling with glitter.

Alison Goldfrapp is never recognised off stage."

- "A Siren Sings" by Amy Raphael

Contemporary Art

From 'If contemporary art is all a fraud, why do people keep on looking? Why do I keep going back to it?' by Adrian Searle.


"Some things provoke you and go on provoking. Every time you return to them they are different, because you have changed and so has the world. Sometimes one arrives too early or too late, and things fail to make any purchase on the imagination. Sometimes one falls for the wrong things, infatuated. There are so many new artists making so much art in so many different ways now, that no one can possibly make sense of it all. Because there is more art being made, there is ever more mediocrity. You must go with your instincts and keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out."

The way that I see contemporary art is this: when the world began, art followed; and the perspective and use of the world was very two dimensional. We used the immediate resources around our caves, and then learned to roam and hunt in order to create a wide, varied and more stable lifestyle. And thus with creativity and communication: letters begat words, ashes begat sketches, and so on. Three hundred years ago, we wrote in the language that was used at the time, and we sculpted and painted with the tools and resources that were available to hand.

Contemporary art is just a continuation of this creative evolution. Yes, we have the same tools and resources that people had three hundred years ago, but we also have a completely different society, with different motivations, perspectives and a greater sophistication of available resources to hand. I see no point in approaching art in the same way that religious dogma creeps around these days: why apply an irrelevant judgement on a culture that has long outgrown it?

Modern life in it's grand scheme, revolves around buying things and fucking things and remembering things and blowing things up. What you'll find with contemporary art is a reflection of this hammerhead existence, and very often the recognition of the objects or moments that we either ignore or take for granted or insist on keeping behind closed doors. Many people are just too busy with their own modern life to recognise the value of a lot of decent modern art. It's down to you as to whether you think that's a shame or not.

20.10.05

Link Dump 20/10/05

  • - Oprah's returning to UK TV! I have seen practically every American chat show in existence and Oprah is so obviously the Queen of them all. I hope they put her into the 11am-12pm slot, currently inhabited by godawful 1997 reruns of Judge Judy. If they do, I shall be there. (bugmenot)
  • - Chris Pirillo's Ten Suggestions for Google's Blogspot. I'm normally one for discussing Google/Blogger issues, but other people have been getting there first re: blogspot spam, so I've not felt the need. I agree with most, if not all, of what Pirillo suggests.

18.10.05

Fight the Power

Everyone on the internet watches as Penny Arcade kick Jack Thompson's ass with the speed and grace of something really awesomely graceful and fast. And then continue as they rightfully drive a stake after stake into the uninformed, maladjusted, destructive old cretin's reputation, all while continuing to churn out charity donations, games commentary and their weekly webcomics. It's so good, I feel the need to quote it:

"Jack was on CNN tonight to talk about Midway’s new football game... this is why Jack is scary. Because he has no fucking clue what he’s talking about yet they put him on CNN to talk as though he was an expert. This is a quote from him:

'The NFL wouldn't allow it's name to be used, so that tells you something.'

He doesn’t understand that EA purchased the rights to NFL games and that Midway’s new game is a direct response to that. Like I said before the time for ignoring this coot is over. He can’t be allowed to pull this kind of shit anymore."
As they have continually proved, pro-action is fucking cool and if you really mean it, you'll get somewhere. Let that be a lesson to us all.

Link Dump 18/10/05

  • - Free Nintendo DS WiFi for all!... in McDonalds! This Slashdot comment summarises 50% of my view. The other half involves the keywords "stupid", "encouragement" and "obesity".
  • - A poetic pro-smoking piece, originally from essays and testimonials on tobacco-information websites run by the Chinese government.
  • - Mangina. Completely NSFW, and an all-Flash site (hatehatehate), but sometimes great art springs from buttcracks. Check out the paintings.
  • - The Deflated. French vandals that target the gross banality of SUV's in France via deflating the vehicle's tyres and smearing mud across the paintwork. Completely harmless, very annoying, and lots of fun for everyone not involved.

17.10.05

Flu?

I'm finding it really hard to even raise an eyebrow in response to the issue of Avian flu. I guess, what with no chance of getting our own natural disaster that wipes out thousands of people, the UK had to find something to get in a flap about (excuse the pun). These days, I just find it difficult to believe anything so hysterical coming from a British authoritative position - especially when those people seem to be looking to gain public dependency through instilling high levels of fear.

15.10.05

My Grandmother's Vienna Diary

My Doings and Impressions of Vienna is something I have been meaning to do for a couple of years in some way or another. At least ten years ago, the diary that my grandmother kept while she travelled in Vienna came into the household, and about five years ago, I managed to sit down and read it all.

It's fascinating, not just because she is my grandmother and we are somehow so unbelievably alike, but also because she was living in Hitler's regime during the months before WWII broke out. I found it sad that she had a reason for typing the diary up, and never ended up completing the task.

For now, I've typed up the parts that she managed to type up, but I'm hoping to get the rest transcribed as soon as I possibly can. Sometimes, things aren't meant to sit unread, collecting dust on shelves.

13.10.05

Link Dump 13/10/05

  • - 3D city browsing. Looks kind of like how the internet was first visualised during 1980's cinema.
  • - This rant sums up exactly how I feel about the American political crusades aganst sex and violence in gaming. When you've pretended to blast someone to pieces in several films that are very often marketed directly to children (unlike the games, which are explicitly marketed to adults), you've really got no place taking the moral high ground.
  • - Paradise Lost: The Movie. I would pick either Terry Gilliam or Lars Von Trier to direct this, a preferably non-literal translation with Johnny Depp as Satan. Of course, expressing this means that someone really crappy (I hear Lucas isn't busy) is going to get it, and it will be over processed, drenched in CGI, badly acted and the ambiguous view of Satan completely obliterated.
  • - ID cards to cost £30. "Revealing the £30 cost, Mr Clarke said: "No-one who wants to protect their identity need pay more." Darn right I won't need to! I won't be paying for the fucking thing in the first place. Forking over facial scans, fingerprints or any other biometric date to the last people in the world that I trust with such unique personal data != protecting my identity.

11.10.05

How much?

They did not just estimate the licence fee to eventually cost £180 in eight years time (bugmenot). That is ridiculous. I wouldn't pay that much to fund the deliciously wonderful Channel Four. The BBC provides some... nice... services, but until they pull their socks up and stop broadcasting tacky boring crap for the majority of the time that they have available, there is no way that anyone is going to coerced into that kind of price ticket. Their internet services (with the exception of the BBC News ) are equally as one dimensional. Isn't it time the Great British Public revolted?

10.10.05

Google supports OpenOffice

"Google and Sun Microsystems have joined forces to challenge the dominance of Microsoft's Office software. Google aims to "explore opportunities to promote" Sun's OpenOffice software. Those downloading Sun's Java program will be offered Google's toolbar." [from]
My first reaction to this was "awesome", but then I wondered whether this isn't a snarky kick-to-the-balls from Google to Microsoft. Supporting something just because it's Not-Microsoft is a risky move to make. Lucky that I know from firsthand experience that OpenOffice is a damn good product, huh? We're moving into the age where no home users really needs to pay for basic software. Let's leave that to the major businesses.

My Day

I woke up to discover my Firefox profile had borked. I barely get enough time for lunch. I don't even dare go near my scales for fear of finding an unmentionable number. Restoring Firefox extensions and themes gives me a migraine. At work, I do not do well (let's just leave it at that). I get home and completely miss the first UK airing of The Daily Show. Restoring RSS feeds and re-bookmarking feedless weblogs gives me a migraine and makes me want to shoot myself in the face. And now I have about two hours before I have to go to bed again.

I need a day off. Like, now.

9.10.05

No Change

"Singer Michael Jackson has been seen in public for the first time since being cleared of child abuse charges in June. The star attended the Billy Elliot musical on Saturday in London's West End and was besieged by fans on Friday at a recording studio in the city."

I thought that he had been advised to stop putting himself in high profile situations involving young teenage boys? Obviously his staff changes haven't been implemented yet.

[From BBC News]

8.10.05

Fashion Alert

Apparently Linkin Park have now replaced Marilyn Manson hoodies as the default fashion choice for Bristolian youngsters. I'm not sure what that indicates really. Just thought I'd let everyone know.

7.10.05

Busy

This week has mostly involved odd scheduling, the sound of my alarm waking me up (I usually wake myself up half an hour or so before it goes off), lots of energy drinks, not really using my RSS feed to it's maximum capability, multi-tasking (usually writing things while watching TV/making calls at work) and meals that take less than 10 minutes to prepare.

I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to be cramming the internet into this mix, and it's something that hurts me a little deep inside. I'm not keeping up with the fastflow of media, or my friends, or my own writing. I'd like to amend that somehow - ideally with a time management piece of social software. But I'm not sure whether there's anything out there that could help me. I'll google around later.

(However, I'm totally not ready for Mormolyke's insane "sleep three hours, get up, go to practice, get home, sleep one hour, study" methods. Yet.)

5.10.05

Link Dump 05/10/05

  • - More on More4, that new Channel 4 digital spin off. Documentaries, documentaries, documentaries. Brilliant.
  • - The Crystal Maze was one of my favorite television programmes back when I was ~10 years old. Pretty sure it created the foundations for my love of the cyberpunk/sci fi genre.
  • - Tokyo Subway Maps on the PSP. Finally, a use for them! I heard that they were gaming consoles, but obviously that was just a malicious rumour.

3.10.05

Foresight

"The technology used in the Jetsons is nearly on target with current trends. Workers sit behind screens and punch buttons and complain about long days (2 hours, 3 days per week). The Jetsons foresaw the future of microtechnology, and so little things are always flying around, but the show did not foresee the microchip, so it was unclear to the makers of the show exactly what would cause things to zip here and there. We often see little machines with tailpipes and tiny clean gas fumes coming out.


The cars fly, which of course hasn't happened, but flight has become routine for the middle class. Travel is fast (but not magical, as in Star Trek). Food is fast. Construction is fast. Robots do most tasks that people once did, and so everyone is struggling to find exercise outlets. And yet people are not in a rush. The point of speed is to create more time for leisure. What a world!"

I've actually been turning this idea over in my head for about a year. When I was younger, I used to watch this show all the time, and (with my limited view of the world) laugh at the idea of someone being able to earn a living from pressing buttons all day. Things were obviously very different ten years ago - a very very short space of time, considering.

I often think about how different life will be for the children born post-2000. They will never know a world without such embedded technology.

[Excerpt taken from The Attempted Militarization of the Jetson's by Jeffrey Tucker]

1.10.05

Almost Transparent Blue (review)

What do you do when there's nothing better to do?

Almost Transparent Blue (1976) is Ryu Murakami's first book- and it has no plot, no structure, no real point except to document a nineteen year old kid's descent through a steady route of sex, drugs, the occasional Doors album and the pervasive feeling of pointlessness.

["Trouble? Hey, that's good, coming from you! Listen, you just don't just show your butts in front of other people, maybe you don't know it, but you shouldn't act like dogs."]

Life isn't hateful, it's just there to be lived; much like drugs are there to be taken, and people are there to be fucked. Considering a million and one writers have approached this whole destructive fucking/getting high nihilistic attitude in the last thirty years, this book is supposed to be a droll read - regardless of whether it was one of the first to emerge from the makeshift genre. But it's not. The prose, even in English translation, is fucking sublime - much like William Gibson, a few sentences are enough for me to chew on all night, like a big ol' piece of gristly meat.

["That school building floating in the darkness was like the golden exit at the end of a long cave"]

These aren't the kids that are reacting to society, but the result of a society that has expanded so fast that it has created cracks for those left behind to fall into. They're stopgapping between school and work, ignoring social convention that equates success with how fast you kill yourself in a 9 to 5. They're wasting time, losing themselves, losing their minds (quite literally in places), losing their sense of self... and if you can't identify with that for a second, then you've never truly lived.

What Murakami achieves with this book, is the tearing away of your eyes from the Japanese cliché - the growth, the technology, the business, the order, the efficiency, the intelligence - and shows the other outcomes to the post-WWII society: that some people aren't functioning, that it's not all flawless expanse, that hey! Japanese kids take drugs and fuck themselves stupid too. That the Japanese have feeling and emotion and something else beneath their surface besides that which you expect.

["I know, I've really known for a long time, finally I understand, it's been the bird. I've lived til now so I could understand this."]

And as obvious as that might sound, it still seems - thirty years after this book's conception - that the aimless disordered tiny existences these characters have are still a new side of the Japanese to the Western World.

Perhaps in it's homeland it's a simple portrayal of wasted muddled youth - just another Catcher in the Rye. But in the foreign world it seems to be a telescopic eye into lives that someone'been very successful at hiding.

Link Dump 01/10/05

  • - Meebo.com is a fluid little in-browser IM site that... well, let's you IM from your browser. Compatible with everything from Yahoo to Jabber screennames.The interface is like a desktop internalised to your browser. Seriously gorgeous.
  • - Channel 4's new digital channel More 4 launches on October 10th. I've been watching the adverts run for the last week or so - ladies and gentlemen of the United States of America, we are getting the motherfucking Daily Show. I am not shitting you - Jon Stewart is featured in the trailers.
  • - Indie Tits! Birds. Internet humour. Music snobbery. Oh glory.

30.9.05

Wasps?

My life is currently symbolised by the five dead wasps discovered on the hallway linoleum this morning. Five. Think about that for a while.

29.9.05

Bought it!

28.9.05

So, in my absence...

... the Aaron Carter Situation has escalated a little. If you're not hip to the little drama that is occuring over there, here's a short line of events:

  • - I link to this picture of Aaron Carter (younger brother of Nick Carter - some shite boy band member from the 90's that is trying to resurrect his pointless career following allegations that he beat ex-girlfriend Paris Hilton black and blue) after reading the Holy Moly mailout.
  • - Aaron Carter fans start flocking, after that post is ranked reasonable high in the MSN Image Search.
  • - they start to comment. I haven't had a third of that number of comments on any other post on my blog. Ever.
  • - they get a little abusive, so I delete a few.
But here's where it gets fun. While I was away, this comment gets posted, reading:
"Hey all...thank you to some for calling me a skank whore..and thank you to some who said i WAS pretty..that is me, amanda. We have been best friends for three years and 2 years ago, we met up at a party to hang out when we were going out around that time and his friend took that picture of us with his cell phone when we wernt looking..if you dont want to believe its me, fine..dont, but i was just as suprised as all of you are right now when i saw this picture come up on google images when i was simply searching for a picture of aaron to show my friend in guitar class..if anybody has any comments or wants a picture of me to prove that it IS me in that picture, you can email me at westsidegrl133@aol.com

and yes, it was good..it was great,,hes a great kisser, girls !! lol take it from me..
x0 all.. PLEASE do not publish this anywhere elce..i hoped for it to simply be a personal pic, but i guess it got out and now its on google..

Amanda."
No way of knowing if this is really her, but quite frankly, I don't quite think she's grasped the concept of privacy and the internet. She didn't even think to send me an email asking me to take down the link (not that I could even if I wanted to - which I don't - as Blogger doesn't let me edit past 300 posts). I'd email her... but I'm not quite sure what gems of wisdom would fall from her mouth to be honest.

Let this be a lesson to y'all. If you make it available, someone will probably find it and use it for evil.

Out!

Apologies for the absence! Apparently my bill paying skillz are not 1337. Back to regular posting later this evening.

24.9.05

Out?

"Thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday demanding that British Prime Minister Tony Blair withdraw British troops from Iraq.

Three streams of marchers carrying banners, chanting and blowing horns converged on Hyde Park to hear anti-war speeches.

Police said 10,000 people took part in the demonstration -- far fewer than the 100,000 the organizers had hoped to attract -- and that it had passed without incident.

Protesters carried banners with slogans such as "Blair Liar", "Bush world No. 1 terrorist", "No war, no nukes" and "Blair's taking liberties, troops home now"."

Haven't these people heard of a political vacuum? I've been against this war since it's conception, but if we pull out now it's as good as throwing the Iraqi people to the dogs. Their subsceptibility to warlords and crooked Islam and all kinds of human rights violations is at an all time high - something that military withdrawal will only exacerbate.

I know that it sucks right now, but really... leaving is not the answer. We have a responsibility to clean up the mess that we've made, and not abandon a vulnerable nation to a potential leader that will make Saddam Hussein look like bloody Ghandi. I think the people that are marching against occupation are either ill-educated, or far too blinkered by their own self-importance to see the reality of the situation.

[From Reuters]

22.9.05

Quote 22/09/05 (#2)

"What impressed me the most was the concept behind the video, in which they present everything from the perspective of the TV. This means you never see any game images, but just from the movements of the players and the sound effects, you immediately understand the type of game they’re currently enjoying. It’s amazing to see how little blips and blops have become such a regular (and easily understandable) part of our vocabulary."

~ Jean Snow on the Revolution controller teaser video released by Nintendo last week.

Link Dump 22/09/05

  • - Mean Girls by Jess Cartner-Morley. That is one unfortunate picture of Heidi, and they reveal that there will be a crunk style track on the new album (released October 10th). Can't wait.
  • - When I eventually get paid this month, I will be buying a 6GB Creative Zen Micro. I'm not deciding on a colour, because I'm going to buy it from a physical store instead of online, and I'm not sure what they'll have in stock (I'm secretly hoping for powder blue though).
  • - The fact that the London bombers staged a practice run the week before it happened both terrifies and fascinates me.

21.9.05

Quote 22/09/05

"the road to hell is paved with bootleg software"

~ Andy Baio re: this Steve Jobs quote.

Skeleton in the Woods

"The skeleton of Richard Sumner - 47 when he went missing three years ago - was found in a remote area of Clocaenog Forest, Denbighshire, in April 2005.... [he was] at one time a scenic artist for opera productions at Glyndebourne, [and] had suffered from schizophrenia since 1984... he had attempted to take his life [...] before and [...] had taken four days to free himself. His skeleton was found by a woman who had become lost while walking her dog.

The handcuffs attached to one arm indicated that Mr Sumner had attached himself to the tree and thrown the key to a point where he could not retrieve it.

Home Office pathologist Brian Rogers said the position of the handcuffs and marks found on the tree indicated that Mr Sumner had probably changed his mind, but could not reach the key: "It's possible he took an overdose of tablets. It's possible he took poison."
[From BBC News]

20.9.05

Belfast Riot

19.9.05

Spotted 19/09/05

Four great big yellow juggernauts with the words "WORLD'S GREATEST MOSCOW STATE CIRCUS" emblazoned on the sides - one of them towing a dirty looking caravan.

A little girl standing up in her darkened bedroom window, feet on the windowsill, calling out quietly to a black and white moggie who paced across the car in the driveway, meowing loudly.

Boy racers in a thumping blue car.

18.9.05

CSI Season Six

Season Six of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation premiers on US television this coming Thursday. The last season ended on a particular high - CSI Nick Stokes being abducted, buried underground in a box (with a handgun)... the whole experience broadcast live to the lab on a webcam (not to mention Quentin Tarantino directing the whole shennanighan and the presence of a suicide bombing scene that meant it was delayed for a week in the UK). Nick got out alive, and I didn't really like the way it was directed, but all in all a good end to a solid season.

Safe to say, I am stupidly excited that a new season is about to begin. It's genuinely one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life (and I've watched a crapload of television in my short life) - a tumultuous mix of great characterisation, easy-to-understand science, drama and the celebration of all that is geeky - and perhaps the only television series that I have felt the need to go out and purchase in shiny expensive boxset form.

It almost seems custom designed for people just like me (zing! Saying that makes me feel like a sucker) - they play the music I listen to, they reference the cultural oddities I'm interested in, they flesh out characters I can identify with (and therefore give a shit about), and alongside all that, they make me think. I know that a lot of purists point and moan that it's not accurate, but it's TV, I don't necessarily care about it being 100% real. I care about it being engrossing and unpredictable with talent working hard in front and behind the cameras.

With the internet the way it is these days, the 6 month delay between US and UK broadcasting isn't really an issue - I'll torrent the suckers, watch them as repeats on terrestrial television next year, and then buy the boxsets when they are released. Now it's just a matter of sitting on my hands until Thursday night.

[The picture above, and other stills from Season Six can be found here. No spoilers in them, I promise.]

17.9.05

Kim Stanley Robinson

"I think the US is in a terrible state of denial. Worse than that, we seem to be caught in a kind of Gotterdammerung response: we'd rather have the world go down in flames than change our lifestyle or admit we're wrong. Even here in California, 50% of cars on the freeway are SUVs, and they're political statements: they say, we're going to take the rest of the world down with us because we don't give a damn."
~ KSR on America and the enviroment, part of an interview conducted by Sarah Crown.

16.9.05

Revolution Controller

Ooh. This morning's revelation of the new Nintendo Revolution controller gave everyone something to talk about today. I'm not quite sure whether I like it yet (I'm still unsure about the design of the console as a whole - this just re-inforces the cable modem look), but I have a few thoughts:

- unless they release one of their own or work in the old Gamecube controllers, the first third party piece of hardware to be released will no doubt be a "normal" controller.

- I don't like that it is so narrow. Back in the day, I used to play a lot of the interactive games on the cable TV system we had, via a remote control not dissimilar to the one in the picture. It didn't do any favours for my wrists.

- I'm guessing that the first party games to be released have been built around the way this controller works. I'm especially looking forward to seeing how the swordplay/mini-games in the Zelda titles work, as this could potentially mean that there's less hack-slash-hack-slash and more fluid, free movement to achieve.

It's going to take a good solid game to get me to buy this console with the way it looks though. It seems to be more Western-TV-ised, which isn't at all why I like Nintendo - I'd love to hear what the Japanese think of the design. But I do place a lot of faith and trust in the company, as they have pretty much defined the direction of the console-based gaming world. So it's still a case of watching the details unravel for me right now.

14.9.05

Danny the Dog (review)

Luc Besson is, in my opinion, one of the finest men to be involved in movies - period. You only have to look at the legion of films he has either written or produced to know exactly how talented and therefore important, this man is in the cinematic world. A great majority of my favorite films have his name stamped all over them - frm Leon (which actually makes my imaginary top ten of all-time favorite films) to Nil By Mouth to The Fifth Element and Kiss of the Dragon.

So when I heard about the film that would become Danny the Dog (aka Unleashed), I was pretty excited. Not only was it a new English speaking Besson movie, but it had Jet Li once again in the leading role (a la Kiss of the Dragon), and Massive Attack on board for the soundtrack. Oh, and Morgan Freeman, who is pretty much a legend in himself.

Danny the Dog is a story of a young man (Jet Li) who has lived his life under the command of a classic Cockney gangsta (played by the perfectly casted Bob Hoskins) trained in martial arts and only martial arts, in order to serve as a guard dog on a leash. When his collar is kept on, he's as docile as a lamb. When it's off, he beats men to death. He has no life outside of his cage, which is nothing more than a hole in the ground, a teddy bear and an alphabet book. One trip to a basement filled with pianos triggers something in his memory, cracking open his world, and he escapes to the sanctuary of blind piano tuner Sam (Freeman) and his young step-daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon). But of course, that's only the beginning of his problems.

I got hold of a copy the other night, and settled down to watch it, accompanied by pink chocolate sprinkled donuts. Unfortunately I had read a lazy review beforehand (that I don't care to google and therefore link) that trashed the script and the acting and generally made out this film as the big disappointment of Besson's career. Safe to say, whoever it was, was completely fucking wrong.

The film is aesthetically perfect - from the white of Hoskins' suit, to the enchanced-texture tones of the visual landscape, to the braces on the daughter's teeth to the permanent little-boy look on Li's face. Structurally, it's very similar to Leon in that there is no straightforward bad to good to happy ending - Besson's projects always inject the tragedy of success to the movie screen. No matter who wins, someone always loses, and that fact is not covered up via the demonisation/glorification of characters. You do feel for all characters concerned, and even if you're relieved that X character dies, there is also regret for the loss of life and the flaws that they exemplified.

Because the successes of this movie are heroic and beautiful (example: Danny is sent to fight to the death in a sunken concrete pit. He refuses to do anything besides defend himself, and everything is thrown at him, including a woman and various weapons. The lack of colour and the baying crowd, along with his defiant survival is stunning to watch), it leaves certain parts lacking. I sincerely wish there could have been more time devoted to the background of Danny's training, and why Sam is so violently overprotective of Victoria. There are simplified answers to these questions in the movie, but it's such a mouthful of a film, I needed more of everything to chew on. But as it stands, there are 100 minutes on the reel and that's a lot of movie-time. I guess I'm just a little greedy, eh?

Overall rating - 4/5.