The Horror...

UK readers, head to the Listen Again page for 28 Acts in 28 Minutes, go to about 14:45, and listen to James’s “Papa Christmas” routine. Great stuff. (This offer expires in a few days, so Act Now!)

Speaking of Africa, one of the BA inflight movies on the way back from Japan was Shooting Dogs, starring John Hurt as a priest caught up in the Rwandan massacre. Talk about a cheery flick to send you off to sleep. Your meal choices today are chicken, fish, and a river of blood and pain.

Read More · 30 June 2006 · · Film

KF on The Future of Peer Review in Electronic Scholarly Publishing.

30 June 2006 · Net Culture

Japanese Vending Machines

A Photo-Essay in Seven Parts

Well, it’s as long as an essay. Has references and everything. Links, anyway.

28 June 2006 · · Travel

Shell creatures.

Flying creatures.

Strange creature.

[MeFi, WNP, Boing.]

27 June 2006 · Weblog


I’m almost at the point where I can start posting some Japan galleries. First I have to write something profound to go with them (your millennia-old culture in fifteen hundred words or less!), but the photos themselves are almost there. Warning: digital camera + multiple-gig storage device + Sensory Overload Land = pile of photos it takes weeks to sort through.

Read More · 23 June 2006 · Travel

A Short Post About the Divine Comedy

Listened to the new album a couple of times so far, and it’s a corker. Victory for the Comic Muse (not to be confused with 1990’s out-of-print Fanfare for the Comic Muse; or, more likely, to be confused with it often) harks back to the classic Divine Comedy sound even more than Absent Friends did, with Nyman-esque strings, sampled guest appearances by 1920s toffs, and lyrics about faded Englishwomen “of a certain age” falling apart on the Cote d’Azure.

An early review said this was one for the fans but won’t win them any new ones. On the contrary, I think any DC album would win them new fans; it just depends which one you happen to pick up first (mine was Fin de Siècle). Victory for the Comic Muse is no exception: all the best aspects of Hannon’s work are here. Your man’s muse is still strong.

20 June 2006 · · Music

Jane must never see this. [Via Mefi, meme-trackers!]

16 June 2006 · · Weblog


Ed posted about these Mentos and Diet Coke videos on 3 June after spotting them at Mefi. My timestamps on the downloaded files are 12.07 and 12.13 p.m. GMT the next day.

Read More · 16 June 2006 · · Whatever


The whole of the world understands
That this leader has blood on his hands.
His butcherly reign
Is completely insane,
Yet we cavil and meet his demands.

Read More · 15 June 2006 · · Politics

Those crazy kids are exploiting the properties of high-frequency sounds that they can hear but adults no longer can. [Via Ed and Mefi.] I can hear it—h’ray!—which means if I put on Sgt. Pepper’s I should still be able to hear the “Inner Groove”; I figured it would have gone by now. More-finely-tuned tests here.

Read More · 13 June 2006 · · Weblog

Jaron Lanier on the hive-mind:

The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we’re devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots. ... The collective is good at solving problems which demand results that can be evaluated by uncontroversial performance parameters, but bad when taste and judgment matter.

And some responses.

13 June 2006 · Net Culture

Eyes Open Under the Iron Sea

After listening to relatively little new music this year, the summer is shaping up to be big, with new releases on their way from The Divine Comedy, Nouvelle Vague, Thom Yorke and Muse. The first contenders for dominance of yours truly’s temporal lobe are 2004 heavyweights Snow Patrol and Keane, both of whose new albums I picked up as soon as they came out.

Read More · 13 June 2006 · · Music

Dyer For People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Read It

I’ve just finished one of those books one reads from time to time that says, “Yes, this is how it’s done—write one like this, you lazy bastard”: Geoff Dyer’s Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It. I’d recommend it to anyone (especially anyone over the age of thirty), even if it does make my own bits and pieces seem futile. For some of the ideas in my off-stage, will-he-ever-finish-it travel book, Dyer comes perilously close to stealing my thunder, taking it down to Thor’s House of Thunder Repairs, and re-conditioning it as extra-decibel, off-the-Richter-scale thunder that makes my original thunder sound like an underpowered sneeze. Fortunately he and I haven’t been to exactly the same places; unfortunately (for me as writer, but fortunately for me as reader), Dyer captures some of the universals of travel and early middle-age so well that it seems redundant to write on the same themes. He’s that good.

Read More · 12 June 2006 · Books

Quote Unquote

I always meant to post these. For my first few years of email use, way back in the paleolithic era, I was one of those people whose signatures sported amusing quotations, jokes, and other snippets. It was a way of saying a bit about yourself, your likes and dislikes and your sense of humour, in the days before we had websites to do all of that. Sometime around the end of 1998 this must have started seeming a bit naff, because I stopped doing it. (I also used to mail around stories and links to my circle of friends, and stopped doing that around the same time.)

Fortunately, we now have blogs to hold all that guff, where our circle of friends can safely ignore it. (Last November one of my old friends—old, old, since-Grade-5 old—said he never looked at my site these days, because I seemed to be writing for other people. I was sorry to hear that. I just write about whatever’s on my mind at any one moment, in the hope that different bits of it will appeal to different people because all of it appeals to at least one person. That makes me the “other people”, I guess. But the same guy he knew for all those years is still in there somewhere. Maybe if I waxed a bit more nostalgic a bit more often I wouldn’t seem so “other”, but I don’t want to seem like an old man trapped in the past when I’m barely halfway there. Onward, ever onward.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, about to dredge up some stuff from the past. Here they are, then: all my email sigs from 1994 to 1998, in order of appearance. Yes, I kept the whole lot in a text file, because I knew that one day I’d be looking for an extra post to pad out my six-year-old weblog. Also, because I liked them.

Read More · 11 June 2006 · · Whatever

Utter, Utter B’Stard

Went along to see Rik Mayall’s revival of The New Statesman, The Blair B’Stard Project, on Friday night. I didn’t go expecting greatness, and it wasn’t, but it was perfectly fine entertainment, and worth it just to see Mayall in the flesh, mugging his heart out. The highlight was a prolonged burst of nuclear-scale swearing at the opening of the second act, which is hardly the stuff of timeless theatre, but this was Rik Mayall. If you figure that half the ticket price is for the show itself and half for the experience of seeing in the flesh one of the comic legends of the past twenty-five years, then it represents excellent value.

Read More · 11 June 2006 · Comedy

The Group Mind

Now and then I get an email out of the blue that reminds me that I wrote a book about tradition. Most recently it was someone doing a final project on the subject, asking for my feelings on the question “Will our family traditions affect the morals of teens as they become older or do these traditions get forgotten?”

Read More · 11 June 2006 · Books

A behind-the-scenes look at the One Laptop per Child Project. Good debate in the comments, too, and in the comments on a previous thread.

Read More · 10 June 2006 · · Weblog

Hieronymus Bosch figurines. I’m tempted by the fish, the egg, and the bird. Why don’t they give these away with cereal? (“New Honey Hieronymuses: they’re a hell of a breakfast!”)

6 June 2006 · · Weblog

The Subtle Knife

Thanks to the miracle of Boot Camp, I’m writing from the last virtual environment I expected to see on this monitor: Windows XP. My home iMac is pre-Intel, but this Mac Mini now has a 6-gig Windows partition on it. Installing it was seamless once I had the right disk, and switching between the two on restart couldn’t be simpler. Mac OS X can even write files to and from the Windows partition.

I won’t be spending much time here, mind you. It’s 100% Windows, right down to control-X/V instead of apple-X/V for cut and paste, and 100% Windows means actually having to worry about viruses again. But it’s good being able to use a few Windows-only tools, like the USB cable for my mobile, without having to find someone with a PC who doesn’t mind me borrowing it. For the first time since 2000, I can easily compare how web pages look in Mac and Windows; I’ve already nailed a couple of CSS bugs that were bugging me. Most importantly, I’ll be able to answer Windows questions for our students without having to phone a friend.

Now get me back to OS X, quick. Man, these fonts are ugly.

6 June 2006 · · Net Culture

Beastly Numbers


The number to phone in a fix?
999, here in Britain. Don’t mix
Up your up and your down,
Or the upright will frown:
You’ll be calling the Beast, 666.

Read More · 6 June 2006 · · Whatever

Melbourne Marks

When I went out to Melbourne last month I wondered how it would look after the war on graffiti I’d been reading about online. Can’t say I noticed much difference, really, particularly on the long train ride to Eltham for my friends’ wedding. Tags everywhere—but here and there was something more interesting.

4 June 2006 · Travel

Fears of Tiers

Ben Werdmuller points out the threats posed by a tiered Internet, and is rightly aghast. It’s hardly surprising that telcos are looking for ways to undo the net as we know it, when their century-long dominance of communications is about to be challenged by power companies; ubiquitous alternatives to landlines + VOIP = no more old-style phones. But that very competition might (fingers crossed) be enough to keep the threat at bay. If not, watch out for denial of service attacks on tiered ISPs and the resulting government crackdowns on “cyber-terrorists”. Where are you when we need you, Hiro Protagonist?

Read More · 3 June 2006 · · Net Culture

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