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.


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.


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.


IRC log

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

[From dockadens]


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.



"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.



"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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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]


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.



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.)


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.



"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]


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.