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Saturday 6 January 2001, 23:55 GMT
How cool do you think it would be to have a 1:6 scale action figure of yourself! Personalised action figures: an idea whose time has come? [Via Honeyguide]
Jon Carroll ponders the perils of punditry. He may be commenting on the US scene, but the British punditocracy isn't far behind: they're just more polite, partly because we haven't had an equivalent of the Bush-Gore tied result in a while.
TechnicalVirgin.com: alternatives to absitinence. [Via NTK]
Dark Horizons reports that Chow Yun-Fat is being lined up to star in a film of Larry Niven's Ringworld (presumably as Louis Wu, though the article doesn't specify this).

I can't see a film of Ringworld being much good, mainly because half of the pleasure of the novel lies in seeing Larry Niven bring together several of the elements that had made his earlier "Known Space" stories a success: a standalone Ringworld film would inevitably drop much of the backstory and turn into a travelogue. I'd rather someone would devote the ludicrous sums of money it would take to do Ringworld properly at feature length to a "Known Space" TV miniseries, where some of the short stories that preceded Ringworld could be adapted without being cut short for time.
Pamie has enormous fun bitching about this year's Grammy nominations.
Evil Science University:
If our profession relied on regular state and private colleges we'd have died out long ago - replaced by barbers and dental assistants. Luckily, we can look to the beloved halls of Evil Science University to ensure that the flow of new generations of evil scientists is never interrupted.
[Via Memepool]
Mark Holcomb wonders whether a brutally realistic portrayal of prison like HBO's Oz makes the slightest difference to society's view of the prison system. Is it just a "bloody soap opera?"
Thursday 4 January 2001, 23:45 GMT
Alex Abramovich wonders about the effects of a decade in which blatant product placement in films went from a noteworthy aberration to a commonplace element of mainstream Hollywood product.
The Register reports that a a compromise has been suggested which may allow CPRM to be implemented but not activated except with the user's explicit permission. This sounds workable, but you have to wonder whether the default will be to supply media with CPRM turned on or off.

I think the real key to this problem lies in the attitude of suppliers of end-user software, most obviously Microsoft. If they don't want to deal with the complications required to cope with a system like CPRM (which potentially screws up all sorts of system software), it'll be dead in the water.
The monolith has now taken to disappearing and reappearing around Seattle. This one could run and run... [Via Metafilter]
The Revenge of the Sacrificial Sheep. [Via Pigs & Fishes]
Ben Kingsley comes over all pretentious in an interview with The Guardian.
It's official: "Britney Spears" was the most searched-for phrase on the internet in 2000. I suspect that "Britney Spears naked" came a close second, but as most of the search engines censor rude words from their Top 10 lists it's not possible to know for sure. [Via Metafilter]
Wednesday 3 January 2001, 23:45 GMT
I saw Unbreakable this evening. It's very difficult to express just why I enjoyed it so much without giving away vital facts that would spoil the film for viewers, so I'll just say that Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson, Robin Wright and Spencer Treat Clarke are uniformly excellent in their respective roles and writer/director M Night Shyamalan has proved that The Sixth Sense was no fluke. I think a pre-order of the DVD is in order.
"Criminal organizations appear to be using the proceeds of IP-infringing products to facilitate a variety of enterprises, including guns, drugs, pornography and even terrorism. Invariably, when there is intellectual property crime, there is tax evasion and money laundering."(Emphasis added.)

So says Janet Reno. Apparently all you Napster users out there are funding terrorism when you download your favourite MP3s. I'm no fan of the proposition that ripping off copyrighted material is OK just because tools like Napster make it convenient to do so, but this sort of hysterical overreaction makes it difficult to line up alongside the forces opposing intellectual property theft either. [Via Politech]
A Clarke-style monolith appears in Seattle as 2001 dawns. It should be black really, but let that pass for now. The question is, will Cassini find another one in orbit around Saturn?

Note to nit-pickers who are jumping up and down and shouting "It was Jupiter, not Saturn!" In the novel of 2001: A Space Odyssey, written concurrently with the screenplay, the monolith was on Iapetus, one of Saturn's satellites. However, meeting the special effects challenge of depicting Saturn entailed figuring out how to "do" a generic gas giant first, then adding rings. They got the planet itself right, and decided to use Jupiter instead rather than spend even longer adding rings. (This was before Jupiter's ring system had been observed.) [Via Metafilter]
France 1 - Yahoo Auctions 0. Bad news. [Via Metafilter]
Tuesday 2 January 2001, 22:15 GMT
Caffeinated jam? I think I'll pass, thanks all the same, but according to a slightly over-enthusiastic bunch of brand/marketing experts from ad agency BBDO that's what the leading-edge snack consumers of today want. How do they know? They went one step beyond focus groups and put a bunch of hip young twentysomethings together for a weekend in a loft, monitored by cameras every single minute.

Mind you, the last line of the story suggests a different, rather more plausible explanation of some of the bizarre suggestions the group came up with...
Y2K is back! [Via Metafilter]
Stephen King may have given up on e-books, but that isn't stopping his fellow horror writer Douglas Clegg. He's releasing his novella Purity as a free e-book, and suggests only that readers who like his work "tip" him by buying one of his novels in paperback or hardback.

It'll be interesting to see whether this approach pays off for authors like Clegg, who's by no means an obscure figure within the horror genre even if he isn't a Peter Straub or Stephen King. While Stephen King found it more profitable to turn his attention to another of his big-money books contracts, it's quite possible that lower-profile authors - the mid-list writers who can't support themselves by writing alone - will find the pay-off from offering their work for download worthwhile. [Via Wired News]
The first online mass murder.
Monday 1 January 2001, 22:45 GMT
The Observer has some thoughts about how we can all improve Britain in the new year...
... whereas Mikhail Gorbachev has some suggestions for Dubya about how the United States can best deal with a rapidly changing world. [Via Metafilter]
I re-watched Aliens on DVD this afternoon, inspired by a thread about what the Marines did wrong in rec.arts.sf.written. Some of the scenes included in the Special Edition DVD added little to the film - most obviously the ones where Newt's parents disover the derelict spaceship - but it's still one seriously frightening film which demonstrates exactly why James Cameron was once the best action director in the world. It's also a useful reminder of just why Sigourney Weaver's bravura performance as Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley was the template for every worthwhile kick-ass SF film heroine in the last decade and a half.
Sunday 31 December 2000, 21:00 GMT
"In 3,000 years, they will be sacrificing virgins on it." Jon Carroll talks to Stewart Brand about the Long Now Foundation.
Eric Schlosser writes for The Atlantic Monthly on the science behind the food flavouring industry. To sum up in one sentence:
The basic science behind the scent of your shaving cream is the same as that governing the flavor of your TV dinner.
As the 20th century finally draws to a close, we frequently read claims that in the last hundred years western society has seen enormous advances in terms of economic prosperity, or that the information revolution is changing our lives. Phillip J. Longman agrees, but he isn't so sure that this is a post-war phenomenon: if there was a revolution in the living standards of ordinary citizens - and he agrees that there was - he says it took place between 1900 and 1950, and that since then we've been marking time. [Via the null device]

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