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Home > Weblog w/e 16.12.2000

Saturday 16 December 2000, 23:45 GMT
Jenny Offill writes in Feed about artificial stupidity and what happened when she let feral machines loose in her home.
James Bond is a Time Lord. [Via Metafilter]
Paulina Borsook's book, Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech, attracted a fair bit of criticism when it was released in the States. Borsook's Mother Jones article on Cisco makes a convincing case for her thesis that those who have been enriched by the "New Economy" should think a bit harder about whether there's perhaps a connection between their ability to enjoy their wealth and the efforts of government to provide a peaceful, stable society in which they can carry on their business. Looks like a trip to Amazon may be in order. [Via Guardian Weblog]
Ten Passed Technologies. In the rush to embrace the new, we shouldn't forget that earlier, sometimes more elegant, technologies had their advantages. Technical superiority isn't everything: ask the designers of the Commodore Amiga, or Microsoft for that matter. [Via Robot Wisdom Web Log]
Friday 15 December 2000, 23:25 GMT
The Daily Mirror says "Hi" to President-Elect George Walker Bush. [Via Metafilter]
The FA Premier League proves that when it comes to fan web sites it's even more idiotic than the major film studios are.
BT goes to court to prove that it owns the intellectual property rights to the idea of the hyperlink. Hopefully if they win (fat chance!) Ted Nelson will promptly sue and take them for every penny.
BBC News Online reports on an email hoax that has got way, way out of hand. The BBC story is a bit coy about the specific content of the email: The Register has no such qualms. Not what I'd call a sacking offence.
Thursday 14 December 2000, 23:15 GMT
The Register reveals that the Bill Gates murder site I mentioned the other day is one of the first elements in a Blair Witch-style publicity campaign for an indie film which will appear next year. How dull.
Oh yuck! [Via Metafilter]
Yikes! That is so not a good look for you, Michael.[Via Metafilter]
Stormy weather... [Via Rebecca's Pocket]
Wednesday 13 December 2000, 22:15 GMT
A terrific quote:
"Computer games don't affect kids. I mean, if Pac Man affected us as kids, we'd all sit around in a darkened room, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive music."
[Via the null device]
Sarah Kendzior has written a fascinating piece for Salon about an attempt by various media fan sites to band together in order to defend themselves against cease-and-desist letters threatening webmasters with dire legal consequences if they fail to remove copyrighted material. The theory behind Fandom.com was that the well-funded company behind the site would fund their resistance to the major media companies' lawyers. In return, the company's backers would be able to make money as a result of all the traffic that would arrive at their site in search of quality fan sites. It all sounded too good to be true, and sure enough Fandom.com now stands accused of being just another profit-hungry corporate monolith after it threatened non-affiliated sites over copyright issues and tried to bully the owner of the fandom.tv domain into surrendering it on the basis that he was infringing their trademark, even though according to the article Fandom.com's attempt to register the trademark is "dead" and "abandoned".

Of course, if major media companies would just understand that fan sites are essentially adverts for their shows, run by people who spend their own free time telling anyone who passes by what's worth watching, none of this would be necessary. But that would be too simple.
The Register has an updated list of offensive words, courtesy of the Broadcasting Standards Commission. The most notable change over the last two years is that two racial epithets are now considered rather more offensive. Is this a sign that attitudes are changing in a positive way?
Welcome to Dave's Web of Lies:
The Lie of Last Sunday
So many children have been born with twelve fingers since the Chernobyl nuclear accident that the governments of Ukraine and Belarus plan to duodecimalize their currencies.
[Via NetSurfer Digest Vol 6 Issue 41]
Tuesday 12 December 2000, 23:20 GMT
The Viridian Blog. Good stuff. [Via the null device]
Both sides of a dot.com disaster: the workers versus the bosses.
Which pop star does Eminem think is a bad influence on his daughter? When your shock at the idea that Eminem has the gall to describe another artist as a bad influence has faded a little, get over to NYLPM and let Ally reveal the shocking truth.
Bill Gates was murdered in December 1999, it says here. I have no idea what the point of this site is. [Via Memepool]
I forgot to mention yesterday how much I'm loving the run of episodes leading up to the finale of Farscape season 2 on BBC2. I don't wish to give away any spoilers, since BBC2 is showing the season's closing story arc a few weeks before the Sci Fi Channel in the States (it's just like the glory days of Babylon 5's middle seasons) but I will note that I'm very impressed that BBC2 let us see a "Scorpgasm" at 6.30pm on a weekday. Kinky!

Seriously, Farscape has rapidly become my second-favourite genre show presently on British TV. It isn't all that far behind the wonder that is Buffy, and in truth it may just be the three-and-a-bit seasons of history I have with the Scooby Gang that's giving them the edge over Crichton, Aeryn et al. Throw in a repeat run for Lexx season 2 starting on Channel 5 this evening/shortly after midnight tomorrow morning and these are pretty good times for those SF/F/H fans who lack access to cable or satellite channels. Now if Channel 4 would just hurry up and start that uncut repeat run of Angel season 1 and BBC2 would finally run the remaining episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I'd be in heaven. (And by the way, what the hell are Channel 4 playing at putting Angel on in a timeslot that finishes after midnight when they can find space to run a repeat of Cracker at 10pm?)
Talking of Buffy, I'm indebted to Tom for bringing All Things Philosophical on Buffy the Vampire Slayer to my attention. [Via tom@plasticbag.org]
Since today's entries seem to have veered slap bang into genre territory, I should mention that the latest edition of The 11th Hour is up now. My favourite pieces were a review of Lois M Bujold's A Civil Campaign, wherein Ms Bujold has some fun as Miles Vorkosigan goes a-wooing the way he'd go into battle and discovers once again that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and a survey of the sad state of strong women in this year's crop of genre films. (I'm not entirely sure that the latter problem is really all the fault of The Goddess Jennifer Love Hewitt, mind you. But then, it's just possible that I may be biased.)
Monday 11 December 2000, 23:55 GMT
The Independent Television Commission received more than 80 complaints about Angel on Channel 4. The gist of the complaints was that the show was too dark for a 6pm broadcast. All together now: "No shit, Sherlock..."

What astonishes me is that Channel 4 ever thought that Angel would work at 6pm. Hadn't they watched the show before scheduling it? Would they have tried to broadcast their own modern day vampire series, Ultraviolet, at 6pm? I just hope that the show doesn't lose so many viewers in its new, post-11pm timeslot that Channel 4 decide that it isn't worth buying future seasons. (But then, that might give BBC2 a chance to snap up terrestrial rights to future seasons, allowing them to put on a double-bill that would slay the opposition: Buffy and Angel could take Tony Soprano any day.) [Via tom@plasticbag.org]
Microsoft Announces Office 10 Will Cure Cancer.
[Microsoft] denied that the cancer curing feature was included because earlier versions of Office actually caused cancer as Linux advocates had suggested. He said, "Those accusations are completely groundless, although we would suggest not pressing CTRL-C too many times unless you really have to."
Julie Burchill sticks the boot in to John Lennon. See also her demolition of Madonna a couple of months ago: laying into sacred cows is what she does best. [Via the null device]
Out of Breath. Another one bites the dust.
Writing in the New York Times (free registration required), Jennifer Egan has produced an insightful, balanced article illustrating the potential benefits and the pitfalls of life online for gay and lesbian teens. Her article probably won't change anybody's mind on such a hot-button topic - there's plenty of material to support the "the internet is a dangerous place" argument alongside the reams of testimony to the positive effect of online relationships - but reading it one fact stood out above all else for me: Egan illustrates time and again the unarguable fact that the internet offers gay teens living in a social environment where they are under pressure to hide their sexuality at least a chance to break their isolation by communicating with others who are going through the same thing elsewhere. I can't possibly imagine what it must be like to feel that isolated and nor can I imagine the damage such an experience could do to one's self-esteem, particularly in the teenage years, but I can see that in such extreme circumstances anything that allows people to feel less alone has to be accounted a Good Thing. [Via kottke.org]
Sunday 10 December 2000, 22:45 GMT
Students of Linguistics at the University of Münster have been researching the way that lovers communicate using email, on the basis that email is a much less formal form of written communication and reflects the more casual mode of communication we use in speech. Sadly, their research also revealed that there can be some communications breakdowns when you and your love aren't face to face:
"hello, hello... didn't you say i should get undressed?! i've been standing here stark naked for two hours in front of my computer and nothing is happening!!!"
[Via Techdirt]
BBC News Online reports on the unwired state of our legislature. The article makes some good points - I'm especially pleased that it plugs the new Fax Your MP web site which was developed as part of Stand's anti-RIP campaign - but I'm sceptical of the cost savings cited as a justification for introducing email access to all MPs. It was claimed that answering an email is somewhere between 10 and 20 times cheaper than answering a letter by snail mail. Since it seems to me that much of the cost of answering a letter will be the cost of the staff time it takes to locate the information required to answer the question, consider what action should be taken by the parties involved and formulate a suitable reply I don't see how receiving the original query and responding to it by email is going to be so much cheaper.

I think that the arguments in favour of the Houses of Parliament (not the Government!) making arrangements to ensure that all MPs have at least an email address in a consistent format (ie <firstname.lastname@parliament.org.uk> or somesuch, rather than the jumble of ISPs and email address formats they use at the moment) should be framed on the basis of promoting access to our elected representatives rather than on the grounds of what may turn out to be entirely theoretical cost savings. At the moment every MP is expected to manage their own internet access, since they're effectively treated as self-employed small businesspeople: better by far that they get an email account and a little web space when they take up place at Westminster and allow the House to arrange the provision of internet access, optionally forwarding emails to an MP's real email account if he or she already has one.

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