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Saturday 20 January 2001, 23:30 GMT
Rather than go to the official NBC site for The West Wing which I linked to on Thursday, British viewers who like the show should try British-based site Wings of Desire instead. Unfortunately the form for signing up to the UK WingNuts mailing list doesn't seem to generate any response from Topica - the request to topica.com just times out - but that'll no doubt be fixed before long.
Two more tales of over-zealous companies protecting their "intellectual property" by trampling common sense underfoot. First, CMGI, the owners of the AltaVista search engine, are threatening to take action against pretty much everyone who indexes the web. As The Register points out, AltaVista don't really want to close Google, Yahoo!, Lycos et al down, of course: they just want their payoff for allowing their competitors to stay in business.

If you think that's a silly idea, consider this. For many years now software engineers have used the term "bake-off" to refer to the stage in the development of an application where groups of engineers come together to test how well their new software works with the various network protocols it might encounter. Now, Salon reports that Pillsbury have issued cease-and-desist letters to all sorts of IT companies, including Sun Microsystems, demanding that they stop using the terminology.
Memo to Noel Gallagher: if you're going to issue a press release saying that you've lied in a statement you've submitted to a court, at least do it after the court has given you the quickie divorce you want.
Polly Toynbee has no time for those who would eulogise the late Auberon Waugh. [Via Arts & Letters Daily]
David Mamet's 2001: A Space Odyssey. [Via linkmachinego]
Feng Shui for websites? Ghu help us all... [Via BlogJam]
Feed has a thoughtful piece on the unlikely links between James Cameron's Titanic and the future leadership of China.
Salon has a fascinating article on the internet's hindbrain: text-based multi-user applications like MUDs and Usenet which shape the behaviour of the sexier, more "developed" web-based apps that are so much more visible nowadays.
Jon Carroll on modern man's lamentable risk management skills.
Friday 19 January 2001, 23:55 GMT
Not your everyday Trading Standards complaint. [Via Viama's Weblog]
A British counterpart to The Onion?
Hague [...] claims that a political process based on sensationalist debates and endorsements from celebrities is necessary to 'drag Britain kicking and screaming into the 21st century.'
[Via As Above]
Thursday 18 January 2001, 23:50 GMT
The Register have found some screenshots from a recent beta version of "Whistler," aka Microsoft Windows 2001 (though we don't know whether that's what it'll be called by the time it reaches shrinkwrap).

The so-called "revolutionary" user interface looks pretty ordinary if these pictures are anything to go by: plenty of pretty graphics but hardly a revolution in usability. Of course, the real benefit of Whistler is supposed to be its much-improved stability compared to the Windows 95/98/ME line, so hopefully the slight sprucing-up of the user interface will be the least of our worries next year.
As if to prove just why we need Whistler, The Register also reports that Microsoft have started running ads for Windows 2000 which essentially say that we should buy it because Windows 95/98/ME/NT is crap. Now they tell us...
On the night when Channel 4 launched E4, the channel which some wag on uk.media.tv.er memorably dubbed "Channel 4's evil twin" because of the way it'll delay terrestrial broadcasts of ER (and plenty of other imported shows, no doubt) , Channel 4 threw terrestrial viewers a bone by giving us the terrestrial premiere of The West Wing. It's almost never fair to judge a show on the basis of just one episode, but so far it looks like it's going to be a worthwhile but somewhat preachy show. I just wonder how far the British public will connect with a drama that revolves around an alien political system in which the chief executive is both revered and relatively powerless. (Of course, Prime Minister Jim Hacker was pretty ineffective too, but that's an entirely different type of powerlessness.)

Still, a politics junkie like me can't possibly fail to get something out of the show, so I'll be watching next week - not least to see whether Rob Lowe's character can possibly embarrass himself more than he did this week. The scene with the schoolteacher was a delight.
If you're at all interested in the history of the very first generation of space computer games then you really should check out Space Games Of Fame. [Via a posting by the site's owner to alt.folklore.computers]
Wednesday 17 January 2001, 21:15 GMT
Hidden Agendas: The Films and Writing of John Pilger. An excellent online resource dedicated to the work of one of the more persistent left-wing journalists and documentarists of the last thirty years. [Via Haddock Directory]
Speaking as someone who once thought -for a few months, about a decade ago -about running a half-marathon, I find the idea of a Million Mile Ultra Run (with 1000, 10,000, and 100,000 Mile Fun Runs - emphasis added!) completely astonishing. Anyone who fancies making the attempt has until 31.12.2096 to finish. If you don't mind, I'll just revert to my preferred role of spectator and settle for applauding the winner... [Via Memepool]
While I was pottering around Memepool finding that last link, I came across a link to what's probably the single best site around dedicated to San Francisco's late, great Faith No More. There's a FAQ, a band history (yes, Courtney Love was once their lead singer), a discography and much, much more. I'm listening to their masterpiece, Angel Dust, as I type this.

How many heavy metal bands could do convincing covers of The Commodores' Easy and John Barry's theme from Midnight Cowboy, and then smoothly shift gear and give us tracks like Epic or A Small Victory?
Don't mention the R-word. Naomi "No Logo" Klein takes a look at the role of "magic" in creating, and now deflating, the dot.com boom. [Via linkmachinego]
Tuesday 16 January 2001, 22:15 GMT
Not only is Google handy as a way of doing covert research about potential partners, it's also turning into a pretty decent backup strategy. [Via Techdirt]
Send an email around the world, see where it lands. Then spend the next decade getting replies long after the class that started the project has graduated... [Via Metafilter]
Another lovely piece of wallpaper, courtesy of Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Despite owning Britain's second-largest mobile phone service, British Telecom don't want you to use mobile phones. The Register thinks they're crazy, but looks forward to the "mobiles give you cancer" ad poster.
If you love your child, you will read this Hissyfit now! [Via Bad Hair Days]
The history of the internet business as told by its T-shirts. I particularly liked "Zilog Inside." [Via Misnomer]
The FBI saves the internet from destruction by teenage hackers. Yeah, right! For some reason, The Register is a mite sceptical.
Monday 15 January 2001, 23:55 GMT
What do you get when you combine a sewing machine and a GameBoy? [Via Metafilter]
The good news is that it looks as if a film of Arthur C Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama is actually going to happen. The even better news is that there are no current plans to film the novel's (much less satisfactory) sequels. The bad news is threefold:
  1. Moebius is slated to illustrate the film: his designs were perfect for The Fifth Element but his style doesn't really match my vision of Clarke's world.
  2. David Fincher is slated to direct. I don't want a workmanlike director like Peter (2010) Hyams on the project, but I don't see Fincher's tricksy, paranoid style meshing well with Clarke's story.
  3. They're thinking of turning the whole thing into a CGI film. This suggests that spectacle will take precedence over the emotional impact of the story of Rama's visit to the solar system.
All in all, I'm torn. The involvment of big names like Morgan Freeman and David Fincher gives the film a chance of being made, but I just can't see the director of Alien3 and The Game making a decent fist of a Clarke story. [Via Dark Horizons]
It looks as if the prospect of CPRM being used to restrict our ability to use our hard disks as we please is receding. Perhaps sanity has broken out.
Plastic has gone online: an attempt to expand upon the Metafilter/Slashdot model of a pool of collaborators contributing stories and commenting on them. The IronMinds Weblog suggests that there may be a backlash against such a blatant attempt to borrow a model used to successfully by noncommercial sites, but I'm not so sure.

When I read commercial weblogs like the Guardian Weblog, which concentrate on articles published at other commercial sites, I feel as if I'm getting a very useful but quite different experience to that which I get from personal weblogs like, well, most of those listed in my Weblogs Worth Watching column. Judging by my first visit today, Plastic is good at bringing me the cream of the sites run by its editors and the big commercial news sites, but it's no substitute for Metafilter or Memepool. [Link to Plastic via Windowseat Weblog]
One good story I did find at Plastic: apparently women are noisier than men in hotel rooms, but men are more likely to get locked out of their room while wearing very few clothes.
Sunday 14 January 2001, 22:15 GMT
If these were available in the UK (without the WebTV bit, anyway) I might never be seen outside the house again. [Via Metafilter]
Headline of the year (to date):
"Neon Urine Does Not Always Signal Antifreeze Ingestion."
[Via IronMinds Weblog]
The US media are preparing to say goodbye to the most colourful, thoroughly human President since LBJ. Charles Taylor thinks Clinton took his compatriots' political virginity, and Conan O'Brien says Bill was like Wile E Coyote. [Conan O'Brien article via PopPolitics]
SatireWire on how the prophets of the New Economy are looking forward to the New Recession:
"If all goes well, I will lose my job more quickly and at less expense to the company than was ever thought possible," she said.
Temptation Island is the latest attempt by a US network to sex up the whole reality TV concept: take a few established couples, then send them to a tropical resort and see how many of them can stay faithful as the network throws bimbos at them. The New York Times thinks the whole idea is pretty tacky, but in Salon Carina Chocano makes the whole thing sound enormously entertaining:
"In the good old days nobles and gentlemen settled disputes about women with glove-slaps to the face and duels, addressing each other as "Sir" all the while. The 21st century reality-TV version of this process involves the manager of an Athlete's Foot shop dropping a Deadhead bracelet in front of a masseur on a Caribbean beach in an attempt to stop him from having on-camera monkey sex with his girlfriend.

And some people say our culture has devolved."
Now that scientists have started seriously mapping the genome, Mark Pesce looks at the attempt to define a way for the data to be made available in a standardised format. GEML, (Gene Expression Markup Language) is a Document Type Description, or DTD - just like HTML - which aims to allow machines to parse genomic data and researchers to share that data with others even if they use significantly different computer systems.

Pesce draws the obvious parallels with early Web, but I have a feeling that the desire of all those biotech companies to protect their proprietary "rights" to those segments they've patented will stamp out a culture of openness pretty early on.
It could just be that those of us who aren't much good first thing in the morning are born that way, according to the latest research. This is the sort of genetic research I hope gets as wide an audience as possible. In fact, I may just have to forward the news to my boss immediately... [Via the null device]
How would you like a virtual Pamela Anderson on your PDA? [Via Metafilter]

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