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]



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.


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Diana, Princess of Mutants

June 24th, 2003

The late Princess Diana is going to show up in a Marvel comic. Alive. As a mutant.

Next up: a spin-off in which William and Harry form a masked crime-fighting duo?

[Via The Sideshow]

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Pirates Ahoy!

June 24th, 2003

If the trailer is anything to go by, Pirates of the Caribbean is going to be a fun ride.

That said, that's an awfully big "if", especially with reference to a Jerry Bruckheimer production. As Jon Hansen points out in the comments thread at Making Light: "Not that it doesn't look cool, but the sad fact is that almost any Hollywood movie can be edited down into an entertaining three-minute trailer." Well, maybe. At least Pirates of the Caribbean could manage three minutes of excitement: the trailer for 2 Fast 2 Furious couldn't rise to the level of "entertaining" for 3 seconds, never mind 3 minutes…

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June 23rd, 2003

Shamanix offers an array of abstract wallpaper images in a variety of resolutions. Top-class eye candy.

[Via I Love Everything – see entry for Wednesday 11 June 2003]

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About page done right

June 23rd, 2003

Now that's how you do an About page. A clever idea, very nicely executed. (Try clicking on some of the handwritten entries.)

[Via rebecca's pocket]

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June 23rd, 2003

Watchblog is a rather neat attempt to provide links and coverage on US politics from several different perspectives at once. Lumping everyone who doesn't post as a Democrat or a Republican into a single "Third Party" column is a tad simplistic, but there's no denying that the site's design does a good job of presenting differing views simultaneously. I wonder what'll happen if the various editors posting to each of the three sites start reacting to one another's posts, rather than treat each column as a separate weblog that happens to be presented alongside several others. Come to that, as the presidential campaign hots up will the three columns gradually converge on the same topics every day?

In any case, this is an interesting experiment. It'd be fascinating to see a UK version of this pop up in the run-up to the next general election. Trouble is, it's trickier to organise something like Watchblog where your electoral calendar is at the mercy of the Prime Minister and there's no formal contest for the position of Prime Ministerial nominee.


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What a feeling!

June 21st, 2003

Prompted by the news that Jennifer Lopez has starred in a pop video inspired by Flashdance, film critic Armond White is appalled.

Flashdance should go down in history as the single film that destroyed modern cinema. (Snobs like to cite Star Wars or Jaws, but as Robert Towne judiciously pointed out in A Decade Under the Influence, "A very talented filmmaker had made a very good film; it's just that Hollywood followed the lessons of Jaws to a fault.") Flashdance influenced more than marketing; it changed movie content into non-content. Before its release, movie stories stayed true to social and psychological details; a recognizable or empathetic character made a movie an edifying experience. But Flashdance decimated such storytelling. The ludicrous plot about a female welder named Alex (Jennifer Beals) who longs to be a ballet dancer had about one-tenth the credibility of a regular movie. This was stretched thin when Alex practiced her avocation by moonlighting as an almost-stripper in a dingy Pittsburgh bar that featured Las Vegas-style production values. Alex didn't study, she danced pop while dreaming of ballet – an immediate fabrication of normal, real-life work ethic. That was Flashdance's contribution to the Reagan/80s go-for-it ethos, an odd combination of class snobbery and populism. It was "hot" because it looked easy; it looked easy because it was a lie. And that's because it was, essentially, an advert.

Actually, "appalled" isn't the half of it: White goes all the way from "appalled" to "disgusted" to in the space of about four paragraphs. Then he starts in on the video itself.


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Colourful Nature

June 21st, 2003

I came across a couple of really striking photos today. The Maelifell volcano in southern Iceland is a surprising splash of green among the glaciers. Meanwhile, in a much warmer clime, we see this otherworldly image of trees at sunrise in a flooded landscape.

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The Old Bailey Online

June 21st, 2003

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey is a fascinating collection of texts concerning criminal trials at London's central criminal court. So far there are details of some 20,000 trials held between 1724 and 1759, but the plan is to eventually include trials up to 1834. As well as records of individual cases, there are essays on the legal system and tons of background information.

This is a tremendous resource for educational purposes, or for anyone wanting a glimpse into a very different age:

Thomas Smout , offences against the king: seditious words, 07 Dec 1715.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Ref: t17151207-9

Original Text:

Thomas Smout , of the Parish of St. Mary Hill, was indicted for a Misdeameanor, in speaking traiterous and devilish Words of His most excellent Majesty King GEORGE, viz. G – d d – n King G – e; I'll fight for another Man as soon as for him, on the 25th of November last. An Evidence depos'd, that going with a Friend to a Neighbour's House, to drink a Mug of Ale, he there found the Prisoner, and two more Soldiers who made a great Disturbance, and affronted all Companies; insomuch, that he desired them to be quiet and peaceable, and behave themselves like King George's Subjects to all such as lov'd him, since they wore his Cloth; upon which the Prisoner replied in the abovesaid Expression, and drew his Bayonet with great Passion, as with an Intent to murder him; but that was prevented. Other Evidence confirm'd their rude Behaviour; and depos'd, they were much in Drink. The Prisoner denied the Fact, and call'd the other two Soldiers to his Reputation, who gave him a quite contrary Character; but that not being credited, the Jury found him guilty.

[Via The Internet Scout Project]

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Tempting Fate?

June 19th, 2003

Is Frane Selak really the World's Unluckiest Man? If you can survive a train crash, an aircraft crash, a bus crash, two cars with exploding fuel tanks, being hit by a bus and yet another car crash over the course of your 74 years then you might reasonably consider yourself pretty fortunate.

I have a horrible feeling that Selak's winning £600,000 in the Croatian national lottery might not be a sign that his luck is changing after all. He's using some of his winnings to buy a speedboat!

[Via MetaFilter]



June 18th, 2003

It seems to be phonecam week. Following up Monday's post about a ban on digital cameras in Swiss public baths and beaches, there have been proposals to enact a similar ban in Australia (first mentioned by Kris in the comments on Monday's post), there's talk of banning mobile phones from Australian courtrooms, and today there's a horrifying story about the possibility that a woman's rape in a pub toilet in Brighton might have been filmed by onlookers with camera phones.

As Kris suggested in her comment, one reason there's more of a reaction to the notion of camera-enabled phones than to film cameras seems to be that with a film camera there's a prospect of apprehending the person taking the pictures before they can develop them, let alone distribute them. With a mobile phone, the pictures could be halfway around the world before the subject even realises what's happened. And as Claire Swire and Bradley Chait will attest, once information is out there it's hellish tricky to take it back.

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Summer SF Movie Stuff

June 18th, 2003

A couple of snippets about two of this summer's slightly less highly anticipated SF films:

First of all, Nick Nunziata gives Ang Lee's The Hulk a pretty positive review. For a start, he's noticed just how unlikely a proposition a Hulk film was:

Keep in mind, The Hulk is not a slam dunk of a character to make a film about. He's recognizable and entrenched in pop culture, but his story doesn't have the same range as Spider-Man, Batman, or even Daredevil. He's not going to trade quips with his enemies, or even talk for the most part at all. He's a brutish, green collection of uncontrolled impulse. Great for big action set pieces in a King Kong/Mighty Joe Young kind of way, but not doing the viewer any favors in the "delivering a well-rounded story" department.


While it's not wholly successful in delivering everything in a tidy enough package to satisfy the needs of the film, it's a brave and more robust film than we should have ever expected from a property (let's face it) as limiting as The Hulk.

I was thoroughly unimpressed by the SFX work in the last Hulk trailer I saw, but I think Nunziata has persuaded me to give The Hulk a chance.

Second up, Dark Horizons has an interview with Claire Danes, who found herself stepping into her role in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines at pretty much no notice at all. It's odd to read about T3 as a "comeback"movie for Danes, particularly since it's such an uncharacteristic choice of film for her. It seems more like a detour than a comeback.T3 will certainly be her highest-profile role since Romeo + Juliet, but it does have the advantage that if it flops it's unlikely she'll catch anything like as much flak as Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jonathon Mostow will, whereas if it succeeds she'll at least have increased her profile a bit. As long as she doesn't find herself stuck in blockbuster-girlfriend-role-hell (which seems unlikely considering the variety of future projects she mentions in the interview) she'll be fine. I certainly hope her "comeback" is deemed a success, because she's far too good an actress to be remembered solely for My So-Called Life, terrific as that show was.

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Harrison Ford's Fame Audit

June 17th, 2003

Fametracker's Fame Audit gets to the root of the problem with Harrison Ford's career over the last decade or so: the poor guy just wants to retire:

Ironically, Ford's secrets aren't so hard to unravel. He certainly hasn't been the kind of depth-plumbing actor whose technique needs to be unfolded and decoded like a cryptic treasure map. The publicity for Hollywood Homicide describes Ford's character as "weary but tenacious," though the description could well fit Ford's whole onscreen persona. Sure, he's charming; yes, he's rugged. But has there been a modern actor who does weariness so well?

Ford has made a brilliant career of playing reluctant knights in ill-fitting armour. Forget saving the damsel; Han Solo and Indiana Jones looked like they barely wanted to get out of bed. They had to be talked into every good deed. Every action, every punch, every thrust into hyperspace or swing across a chasm seem preceded with a huff and a weary "Oh, all right."


In his more recent roles, though, the self-deprecating oafishness of Indy and Han Solo has been replaced by an impatient humourlessness. The best moment in Hollywood Homicide is when Ford's character bellows at this poor little girl, then steals her pink bicycle. All of Ford's characters these days seem so damned inconvenienced by their film's plots. What? You think I killed my wife? What? I have to dodge the cops and find the one-armed man myself? What? There are terrorists aboard Air Force One — and I have to kick their asses? Can't you see I'm the President? Aren't there other people who can do that for me? What? Now I have to pretend to be in love with Anne Heche?

Geez, he really does have to do everything. Who can blame him for being a little P.O.ed?

So instead of saying that Harrison Ford doesn't make good movies anymore, it's better to say that no one's making good movies for Harrison Ford.

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Don't Panic!

June 17th, 2003

The feature film of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to The Galaxy appears to be going ahead under new management, after years of languishing while various American directors dithered over casting and numerous scripts were written and rewritten. I've been reading articles announcing this film's imminent production for so long now that I just don't care that much any more. I'll believe it when I see it opening at my local multiplex…

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June 17th, 2003

Best. Headline. Ever.

[Via Bookslut – see entry for 17 June 2003]

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