Oy Vey, Baby!

September 5th, 2012

David Hepworth would like to see a proper David Bowie exhibition:

I'd like to see his childhood bedroom recreated, displays of Bromley town centre through the years, old school books, cheap guitars, bassdrum pedals, a chronology of his haircuts, marked-up tape boxes, old contracts, personal letters, sketches, false starts, crossings-out, studio logs, mixing consoles, bits of kit, clipping from FAB 208, preposterous film scripts, storyboards for videos, things thrown on stage by fans and, most of all, a royalty statement for Tin Machine.

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September 5th, 2012

I wonder how many science fiction writers have drafted stories where this phenomenon is a deeply meaningful, possibly even elegiac, symbol of … something or other…

While the $5.50 nylon flags are still waving on the windless orb, they are not flags of the United States of America anymore. All Moon and material experts have no doubt about it: the flags are now completely white. If you leave a flag on Earth for 43 years, it would be almost completely faded. On the Moon, with no atmospheric protection whatsoever, that process happens a lot faster. The stars and stripes disappeared from our Moon flags quite some time ago.

Alternatively, this is just another attempt by NASA to drum up support for another series of moonshots:

Mr President, we can't let the next passing alien invasion fleet think we've surrendered. We must go back and plant a pristine flag at Tranquility, oh, every decade or so.

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

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Pretty pictures

September 2nd, 2012

It's been a while…

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September 2nd, 2012

One of Ken MacLeod's story stories is being adapted as a student graduation film, Scattered:

When there is no history, it's hard to face the truth about the past

Scattered is the graduation project of MetFilm School students Joshua Bregman (writer-director) and Victoria Naumova (producer). We are both big fans of science-fiction genre and it's been our on-going dream to shoot a sci-fi film.

The Story

After a 15 year wait, Conal is going to meet his father for the first time. His father Keith is the world's most notorious criminal, convicted of a crime which changed history itself. Convinced of his father's innocence, Conal needs Keith's help to set the record straight. But his quest for justice takes an unexpected turn and Conal soon finds himself confronted with the unimaginable.

This atmospheric film is the first ever screen-adaptation of the work of award-winning sci-fi author Ken MacLeod. Scattered examines society's relationship with its past through a son's relationship with his father, and challenges our established ideas of destruction and terrorism through a crime that is as surprising as it is all-consuming. As all great sci-fi should, Scattered offers a vision of the future that illuminates the present. [...]

It's a crowdfunded project, so I've thrown a few quid their way. Who knows, a decade from now these folks might be gearing up to shoot the Fall Revolution series, and it all started here.

[Via The Early Days of a Better Nation]

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Twenty things about 'Fire Walk With Me'

September 1st, 2012

Alex Pappademas lists Twenty things about David Lynch's 'Fire Walk With Me' on its 20th anniversary:

Does it work if you haven't seen the TV show? As Lynch might put it, gosh, no. (It's a prequel, but it bends time and space to wrap up a few stray plot threads from the series – if you're working your way through the show on DVD, treat the movie like a coda or you'll be lost.) But that's what's fascinating about it – in some ways, Lynch's most uncompromising and unrelenting movie is the one he made while beating the dead ghost-horse of a canceled soap opera. Let us now appreciate the most underappreciated David Lynch movie that doesn't involve sandworms and Sting in metal bikini briefs. [...]

For all that I loved the TV series1 I've not seen Fire Walk With Me since watching it in the cinema 20 years ago. I didn't much like it, but I can't remember why. If nothing else, Alex Pappademas has persuaded me that when I eventually get round to a re-watch of the TV show I'm going to have to cap it with the prequel.

  1. Yes, both seasons. The second season may have taken some strange detours, but I was already hooked by then.

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Not Topol

August 31st, 2012

The Osmonds 1974 – Fiddler On The Roof Medley.

You know, Fiddler On the Roof used to be my favourite film musical. Now, I don't know if I'll be able to watch it again without getting flashbacks of this … performance.

[Via MetaFilter]

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August 30th, 2012

Last.fm are trying to figure out what mood you're in based on various characteristics of the music you listen to:

As a first taster we've put together a visualization of your musical mood over the past 120 days, based on automatically computed machine tags for the tracks which you've scrobbled during that time. While individual tags are still far from perfectly accurate, we think that when taken together over all your listening week by week they still paint an interesting picture – one that stands a chance of reflecting real changes in your musical life.

My results over the last 120 days suggest that I was at my saddest over most of July. I can't say that I remember being noticeably less happy than I was before and since then, but that probably doesn't prove much. I may simply have failed to notice that I was sad.1


One last point. If it was Facebook doing this, wouldn't we think it a bit creepy for them to be trying to figure out our moods? Is it OK for Last.fm to do this because people who use their service tend to like having their music habit dissected, summarised and analysed anyway?

  1. Come to think of it, given the weather we had in July perhaps I wasn't so much sad as I was soggy and sick of being rained on!

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Long exposure firework pictures

August 30th, 2012

Fireworks as you probably haven't seen them before.

I'm no photographer so I can't judge how clever this effect is; I can but admire the results.


[Via MetaFilter]

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Usenet no more

August 28th, 2012

Usenet at 32:

Usenet is 32 years old. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it's a near-dead, cobweb-covered discussion forum platform, but actually it's more popular today than ever before, and it's thriving as an alternative to Bittorrent. [...]

It's interesting to read about some of the clever ways people are using Usenet to distribute other people's content nowadays, but it's a damned shame that Usenet as a discussion forum stagnated.

Web-based discussions are all very well, but as far as I can see even now there's nothing out there that comes close to the flexibility of a good Usenet client that allowed you to follow a series of discussion groups and use scoring and filtering to show you the threads you'd most likely be interested in and block content from known trolls and idiots.

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Water Light Graffiti

August 26th, 2012

Water Light Graffiti by Antonin Fourneau.

[Via Flowing Data]

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August 26th, 2012

Upon watching the trailer for Branded, I had four thoughts:

  1. Leelee Sobieski looks distractingly like Helen Hunt.1
  2. I wish the trailer didn't sound so much like Michael Bay's Transformers movies in places.2
  3. There had better be a scene where the main character gets into a prolonged fistfight when he tries to get another character to put on the glasses.3
  4. After watching the trailer a couple of times, I have absolutely no clue whether this is going to be amazing or abysmal.4
  1. I mean, she always has but for some reason it really struck me watching this.
  2. You'll know it when you hear it.
  3. Context.
  4. Or amazing and abysmal.

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Two Girs, One Pair Of Scissors.

August 25th, 2012

Two Little Girls Explain The Worst Haircut Ever. Cute beyond belief.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Not Exactly RoboCop

August 24th, 2012

West Midlands police have had a few problems with a system designed to pinpoint firearms as they're being used:

Police have admitted that gunfire sensors put up in parts of Birmingham have not been as accurate as hoped.

The Shotspotter Gunshot Location System was introduced where there was a high number of firearm incidents in 2010.

Police said of the 1,618 alerts from the system since November, only two were confirmed gunfire incidents. It also missed four confirmed shootings.


At the time they were put up, West Midlands Police said the devices had about an 85% accuracy rate and could detect a gunshot within 25m (82ft).

The best part is why the system performed so poorly:1


Ch Supt Burgess said the system learnt to detect the sound of gunfire after installation.

Part of the reason Shotspotter had "struggled to work", unlike in the US, was due to the small number of gunshots being fired, he added.

So, not all bad news then.

[Via The Yorkshire Ranter]

  1. Other than "Because someone took the statistics in the company's PowerPoint presentation as gospel.", I mean.

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As solid as granite

August 23rd, 2012

Michael Kinsley has some fun, imagining the day Paul Ryan brings the Senate to order for the first time:

Paul Ryan laughed. He stood naked on top of the vice president's desk in the Senate chamber, scanning the crowd of sniveling politicians below him.

He flexed his muscles, the result of hours spent in the House gymnasium. Look at these pathetic specimens, he thought. Not one of them could do a one-armed pushup if his life depended on it. Not one was worthy of so much as co-sponsoring one of Ryan's bills. Every single one of them had been elected by appealing to the average citizen in his (or her — Ryan snorted at the thought) district. It occurred to him, and not for the first time, that of all the men and women in this room, only he, Paul Ryan, had been selected for his current office by the president himself. [...]

[Via Memex 1.1]

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Uninstalling Windows 8

August 23rd, 2012

This withering review of Windows 8 may or may not turn out to be representative of how the average desktop or laptop PC user is going to feel when they sit down in front of their new or upgraded computer, but it does suggest that Microsoft had better have Windows 8.1 prepped and ready to go very soon after the launch of Windows 8:

The Calendar is unworkable

I've given up entirely on the calendar, because it's terrible. Changing to a week or day view requires a right click to make the control interface appear. I can't work out how to edit an appointment, nor can I work out how to delete an appointment. There's no way to show events from just one calendar. I think it may well be easier to alter my own birthday than to edit when it's currently set for in the Windows 8 calendar. I really want to be making this up.

There's a lot more where that came from.

Remember when Windows 95 came out, and every serious national newspaper1 devoted acres of space2 to the launch of the product that was going to change the face of computing? I wonder what they're going to do for Windows 8, what with it being the most radical shift in how Windows users work since 1995.

[Via Daring Fireball]

  1. In the UK at least – I don't remember how far they went overboard in the USA.
  2. Whole supplements in some cases, and Microsoft even paid for that day's entire run of the Times.

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Cuddles After Dark

August 22nd, 2012

Charlie Stross trying to make James Nicoll cry:

Three o'clock in the morning. The rain had subsided to a gentle trickle: Cuddles hunkered down on her haunches and oozed through the cat-flap to take up position in the shrubs at the left of the yard. The damp soil smelled of worms and bugs and night creepers, which in better circumstances she would take delight in pursuing: but tonight was different.

Tonight, her human mistress Alice lay abed, skin bone-white against the pillow, barely breathing, the two marks on her neck livid and pulsing with every heartbeat. This could not be permitted! For two nights now, Cuddles had smelled the intruder's clammy undeadness on her adored human's hands in the morning: the death-smell of clay and graveyard soil. Another predator, alien and unbreathing, was stealing into the home and battening on Alice's blood. This could not be! So weakened, Alice could barely perform her duties: for two mornings in a row it had taken Cuddles more than an hour of shouting to wake her so that she could operate the machine that opens tins.

The intruder thinks he can take my food ape, thought Cuddles, flexing her claws. Boy, has he got a nasty surprise coming …

From "Cuddles After Dark" by Daisy Chick, book #1 of "Cats versus Vampires" (18 more to follow).

The thing is, I'd happily read this if it was written by Charlie Stross instead of Daisy Chick.

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

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Pogoing away from the power lines

August 20th, 2012

Advice from How to Spot a Psychopath, a.k.a. The Ministry of Safer Walks:

A reader writes:

I have heard on the [construction worksite] that if a power line falls, or someone drives a crane into power lines [...] you should move away from the danger site by taking tiny little steps, or even jumps with your feet together. [...]

Is the pogo away from the power line thing just another way to make people look stupid? Doesn't the electricity get grounded into the… ground?


Oddly enough, this is actually good advice. It may not be necessary in a particular situation, but better to look a bit of a dick and survive than stride away in manly fashion and die. [...]

The details as to why hopping it is silly-looking but safe are fascinating.

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Ms. Attribution

August 20th, 2012

Ms. Attribution has all sorts of fun melding history and pop culture:

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu (544-496 BCE)

Or possibly Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley. I'm always getting them mixed up.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Making mischief

August 19th, 2012

David Hepworth on why the Olympic experience probably won't improve the national character:

I came across this extract from a speech made in the House of Lords by the late Lord Longford:

I asked Sir William Beveridge to come to lunch. I was meeting with Evelyn Waugh, an old friend and famous writer. They did not get on at all well. Evelyn Waugh said to him at the end, "How do you get your main pleasure in life, Sir William?" He paused and said, "I get mine trying to leave the world a better place than I found it". Evelyn Waugh said, "I get mine spreading alarm and despondency" – this was in the height of the war – "and I get more satisfaction than you do".

Beveridge invented the welfare state. Waugh wrote some great books. I like to think of Longford sitting there listening to the pair of them, admiring the mischief of the latter almost as much as nobility of the former. That's the national character. And if it isn't, it ought to be.

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Paris In Motion (Part I)

August 16th, 2012

Paris In Motion (Part I):

[Via feeling listless]

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