Katharine Hepburn

July 2nd, 2003

I know it's a couple of days late, but I want to point out a couple of glowing tributes to Katharine Hepburn published in the Guardian earlier this week. Film critic David Thomson provides a considered overview of the career and the life, whereas novelist Zadie Smith gives us the devoted fan's perspective.

Thomson sums it up best:

The mere wondering about who could take her place is enough to establish her rarity, and our final removal from the golden age of Hollywood. Golly, is she really gone?

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Bruce Almighty

July 2nd, 2003

I've just got back from seeing Jim Carrey playing God in Bruce Almighty: not exactly a revelatory experience. It wasn't terrible, but nor was it terribly good. Billed as Carrey's return to all-out comedy after his attempts at more dramatic roles failed to impress, Bruce Almighty reminded me of nothing more than one of Robin Williams' early 90s efforts: far too reliant on giving the star a chance to let rip with their familiar schtick, and with a horribly sickly core of sentiment to ensure a crowd-pleasing ending. Carrey mugs like crazy, Morgan Freeman is exactly as impressive as you'd expect a deity to be, and Jennifer Aniston does her best in a nothing role as Carrey's girlfriend, but the funniest moments – Post-ItTM note prayers, newsreading in tongues and an exceptionally well housetrained dog – don't depend upon him. The script doesn't help, being in two minds about whether it's a relationship drama with extra funny bits or a wild comedy with a couple of semi-serious subplots bolted on.

Humour is of course very subjective, so it's entirely possible that there are people out there who will find Bruce Almighty a real return to form for its star. (After all, the TV adverts remind us that the film had "Jim Carrey's biggest ever US opening weekend", though it's worth remembering that opening weekend figures are as much a product of hype as quality.) All I can say is that I found it nowhere near as funny as The Mask or Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, or even Liar, Liar.

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Connery 'has worst film accent'

June 30th, 2003

Is Sir Sean Connery really the man with the worst film accent? It depends which you think is worse: being such a big star that you don't even try to adopt the accent of your character, as Connery does in just about every role he plays nowadays, or trying but missing by a mile as with runner-up Dick Van Dyke's woeful cockney accent in Mary Poppins.

I think Van Dyke would take the prize if it was my call.

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Puppies!

June 30th, 2003

Oliver and Hugo have been dethroned: there's now officially a new cutest puppy in town.

[Via JillMatrix.com]

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"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers"

June 30th, 2003

Steven Frazier planned to build and sell decoders allowing people to access premium satellite TV channels they hadn't paid for. Then the FBI caught him red-handed, before he could start supplying the 5,000 customers he'd lined up with their decoders.

As you'd expect, Frazier ended up in court. You'd probably not be utterly amazed to hear that, having been found guilty, Frazier was handed a five year jail sentence. What you might not expect is that Frazier was also ordered to pay restitution in the sum of US$180 million. Yes, that's right: One Hundred And Eighty Million Dollars!

I do hope a similar formula will be applied when the various Enron and Worldcom senior executives end up being sentenced.

[Via Techdirt]

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Famous First Words

June 30th, 2003

How many Famous First Words from books can you identify?

I managed 10 out of 13. Much better than I'd expected, especially since I somehow contrived to get number 3 wrong! I mean, how could I have failed to spot that author's … distinctive … style?

[Via dust from a distant sun]

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Agent Smith Takes Tokyo

June 29th, 2003

Agent Smith is taking over Tokyo.

My favourite picture is towards the foot of the page, where it appears that Neo, Trinity, Niobe and Morpheus are being chased through Tokyo by the every single participant in the Burly Brawl. Fly, Neo, fly…

[Via Boing Boing]

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Easycinema in trouble

June 29th, 2003

Comfortably winning the coveted 'Least Surprising Business Story of the Year' award, Easycinema has announced that its no-frills cinema at Milton Keynes may be forced to close because it can't persuade the major distributors to let it show first-run films in return for a flat fee.

Goodness knows whether the inevitable complaints to the consumer protection bodies in London and Brussels will come to anything – and even if they do it'll probably be years down the line, long after Easycinema has closed – but it's safe to say that something needs to be done to inject some genuine competition and innovation into the film distribution system. If you removed all identifying logos from the three multiplexes within reasonable distance of where I'm typing this post then you'd be hard-pressed to tell they were operated by different companies based on the mix of films on offer, the facilities available or ticket prices.

At the moment only one of the chains offers an internet-based credit card booking service, and right now that's pretty much the only reason I have for preferring the Odeon round the corner from my office to the Warner multiplex a fifteen minute walk away or the UCI Cinema which I pass on the bus ride home every weekday. I don't necessarily think that Stelios Haji-Ioannou's venture is right to insist that the distributors should be obliged to adjust their pricing to suit his business model, but at least he's trying something different.

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Don Swaim author interviews

June 28th, 2003

Radio journalist Don Swaim was host of Book Beat, a long-running book show on CBS Radio. Wired for Books hosts a collection of RealAudio versions of Swaim's interviews with authors as diverse as Douglas Adams, Elmore Leonard, Peter Straub, Joseph Heller and Richard M Nixon (Yes, that Richard M Nixon!)

Typically the interviews run to some 20-30 minutes, and judging by the two interviews with Douglas Adams I listened to this afternoon they're conducted in a fairly relaxed, breezy style and give the authors the chance to relax and meander a little. I'm definitely going back tomorrow to check out some of the other interviews.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Last Orders

June 27th, 2003

Simon Hoggart remembers the late Denis Thatcher, and reminds us that there's a human side to even the most high-profile political life:

[…]

He once said: "For 40 years I have been married to one of the greatest women the world has ever produced. All I could give – small as it may be – was love and loyalty."

Now that support has gone. She is succumbing to what used to be known as senility, and is nowadays usually called Alzheimer's. Her short-term memory is fading rapidly. Friends find her decline almost too painful to watch.

Denis would have been there to the end; Nancy to her Ronald Reagan. It is almost impossible for us to realise how distraught and bereft she now will be.

That's truly sad.

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Infrared Zoo

June 27th, 2003

The Infrared Zoo Gallery is host to a collection of fascinating images of wildlife as we don't normally see it.

The details infrared brings out are fascinating. See the changes in temperature in different parts of a collared lizard's body as its metabolism speeds up, or watch as the back of an eagle which has just landed cools down after being heated by the sun.

(I must note that the picture of a scorpion gave me a huge Predator flashback.)

Great stuff. I wish we'd had this sort of resource when I was a kid.

[Via The Internet Scout Report Volume 9, Number 25]

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The Trouble With Carrie

June 26th, 2003

Stephanie Zacharek thinks Sarah Jessica Parker has spoiled Sex and the City by transforming her character into a glamourpuss. (NB: Salon article – non-subscribers are required to watch a 15-second ad)

It's a pity that Zacharek spends the last section of the article exploring the implications of Parker's refusal to do on-screen nudity, because that's the least of the show's problems. Indeed, in some ways the relatively prim image of Carrie which has developed over the last season or two can work in the show's favour: the aftermath of the incident when Carrie walked in on Samantha orally pleasuring a delivery boy was one of season 5's highlights.

Sex and the City doesn't need more skin. As Zacharek concludes, before going off on a tangent about Parker's status as a producer, what the show mostly needs is less Carrie Bradshaw and more of her friends. In particular, we need more Miranda: for my money, Cynthia Nixon's character is vastly more interesting and sympathetic (and sexy) than Parker's Carrie. And Miranda has better taste in clothes.

Not a tremendously original thesis, I'll grant you, but it had to be said.

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What's wrong with the Incu-droids?

June 26th, 2003

Matthew Baldwin watched Logan's Run for the first time the other day:

I learned some astounding facts about the future.

  • We will live in a domed city, which, judging from the opening shot of this film, will be seven inches high and surrounded by Hi-Ho Train Model trees.
  • […]

  • Apparently the whole "Death with Dignity" movement will have collapsed by 2274, since shuffling off the mortal coil in Logan's Run entails the wearing of Stupidest Costume Ever, flying into the air, and exploding.

$DEITY knows, nobody could claim Logan's Run as any sort of unappreciated gem. However, it wasn't a total write-off. For a heterosexual boy of a certain age, no film which features Jenny Agutter taking her clothes off could ever be considered a total write-off.

Sad? Perhaps. True? Definitely…

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"There is one catch you should be aware of…"

June 26th, 2003

From Craigslist:

$500 / 0br – Large Manhattan Room (one catch)

Reply to: anon-12388299@craigslist.org

Date: Fri Jun 13 11:35:52 2003

I have a large 15×10 room in a relatively large East Village apartment for rent. The apartment has one full bath and a half bath which is in my room. There is a large common area. It's a great space. There is one catch you should be aware of. […]

Just one catch .. but it's a doozy!

[Via dutchbint.org]

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Iron this!

June 25th, 2003

I'm fairly sure the hilarious image featured in this post is a Photoshop job. Mostly because I hadn't heard of any feminist protesters at a PGA tournament rioting and tearing a passing chauvinist limb from limb…

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"Free your mind and your ass will follow"

June 25th, 2003

Patrick Farley has been watching The Animatrix:

Story 3: The Second Renaissance, Part 2: Dude — they were borrowing imagery from the Book of Revelation. Not just the Horsemen and the trumpets; there was also the fact that the Machine's homeland was on the area which is today Iraq, and which in the Apocalypse is the place from which the Angels of Death arise from the River Euphrates to sweep out and kill one-quarter of humanity. Also: we see the Sun Woman, except she's in a glowing gear, not the sun. Also, the blotting out of the sky — that's one of the Trumpets of Tribulation and also one of the Bowls of Tribulation. Etc.

Also: I dug that scene where the robots take over the United Nations. That fucking ruled. Every child under the age of 5 in America should watch that scene, just like every child under the age of 5 should watch humans get hunted by monkeys in the original Planet of the Apes movie. (And of course, that excellent scene where the demolished Statue of Liberty appears on the beach. ALL American children should see that. It will give them a properly warped attitude towards icons of authority.)

Farley notes that seeing Final Flight of the Osiris had reminded him of his hope that Square Studios might one day have produced an animated HBO series based on Delta Thrives. That would have been something to see.

If you're wondering who Patrick Farley is, what this Delta Thrives thing is, and how come he's so knowledgeable about the signs of the Apocalypse, you really should visit Electric Sheep Comix and check out Delta Thrives and Apocamon. While you're there, take a look at The Spiders (no relation to Vernor Vinge's spiders) and Saturnalia and … pretty much everything he's published.

[Animatrix review via Electrolite]

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Vinge's Spiders

June 25th, 2003

If you've ever read Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky you'll definitely want to see a drawing in Vinge's own hand of one of the inhabitants of Arachna. If you haven't read the novel, you'll have no idea of what makes this such a fascinating image. (If you haven't read Deepness and there's the slightest prospect that you might do so – and if you like science fiction then you definitely should give it a try – then do not look at the drawing, which constitutes a major spoiler.)

[Via rec.arts.sf.written]

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BBC RSS feeds

June 25th, 2003

The BBC have released official RSS feeds for all 68 of their news indexes. Matt Jones put the word out, and Dave Winer has published a full list.

Six months ago this wouldn't have mattered to me one bit, but my move to OS X has opened my eyes to how handy RSS feeds can be. On my PC I used Feedreader, which was a decent enough program except that once I went offline it would stop checking for refreshed feeds completely until I manually closed down and restarted the program. Since the whole point of a desktop RSS aggregator is that it does all the work and just brings stories to my attention as they appear, this was less than satisfactory. NetNewsWire running under OS X has shown me just how useful RSS feeds can really be. It's not perfect – most notably, it doesn't allow me to set refresh intervals for individual subscriptions – but it's pretty damn usable and very stable.

Which, getting back to the point I started out with, is why I'm so happy to see the BBC expend on their initial limited release of feeds last year. An RSS aggregator with a good selection of newsfeeds comes about as close as anything I've seen so far to the ideal of the personalised newspaper we were all promised as part of the communications revolution, so the ability to read BBC News Online (and The Guardian) as RSS feeds is highly gratifying.

Oddly enough, I find reading weblogs via RSS feeds deeply unsatisfying. There are a couple of factors at work here. First, I find it much more comfortable to read weblog entries in context. I like seeing an individual's entries for a day or week in sequence, rubbing up against one another the way the writer intended them. Second, it seems a shame to miss out on some of the spiffy site designs people with some actual design talent come up with. (And yes, I do realise that nobody reading this site's RSS feed would be missing much design-wise.) The third factor is that RSS feeds, while common, are by no means universal: I'd be somewhat more attracted to using an RSS reader for weblog reading if it would completely cut out my daily journey through the Weblogs section of my bookmarks. If I'm going to go through that folder anyway, I might as well see my favourite sites in all their glory.

[Pointer to Matt Jones' announcement via Something ~ better than nothing]

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Panther

June 24th, 2003

I've been reading up on the various announcements Steve Jobs made yesterday. Not that most of them will affect me until Panther is released, but it's nice to know what's coming. I really, really want to see Exposé: the little Quicktime demo on the Apple site makes it look very slick indeed, and if it's as speedy as the demo makes it seem then it'll be a huge step forward. At the moment I use CodeTek's VirtualDesktop to keep my desk in some sort of order, but it's occasionally a bit slow to move open application windows around when I switch desktops, and there are too many applications which need special handling to be entirely satisfactory. Having a good window management tool built into the OS will be a boon, assuming that it doesn't break too many pre-Panther apps.

For a more succinct verdict on the WWDC announcements, see John Gruber's Very Brief Comments Regarding Certain of Today's WWDC Announcements:

[…]

iChat and iSight

Everyone is saying: Video conferencing.

Everyone is thinking: Amateur porno!

[…]

His comment on the newly metallic Finder windows (which I'm not going to quote – go and read it for yourself) is just about what I'd have expected. Even as a Mac newbie I can't say I'm wild about the spread of the damned metallic finish to pretty well every piece of software Apple release these days. I want to see the revised Finder in action before I decide whether it's really the half-hearted clone of the Windows Explorer it looks like.

Oh yes, and what happened to the Piles everyone was hoping for?

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Revisionists Forever

June 24th, 2003

Note to all politicians: "revisionist historians" are a good thing.

[Via rc3.org]

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