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Home > Weblog w/e 10.3.2001


Saturday 10 March 2001, 23:50 GMT
Not only is Sandman author Neil Gaiman finishing up another novel, but he's blogging as he goes. Cool. [Via Metafilter]
Oh ... My ... God! Divine Interventions indeed. [Via pancakelizard]
A truly unique web page design [Via fulstow.com]
Professor Mitchell Stephens is taking a trip around the world in order to seek out the symptoms of globalisation. Wichita, home of Pizza Hut, isn't the most obvious starting place, but it does offer some insights into the extent to which even life in the Midwest has been touched by global culture. On a related topic, the Guardian had a fascinating article about the trend for British and American companies to outsource their customer support call centre work to India and the lengths their Indian subcontractors will go to in order to ensure that customers never realise they're talking to someone on the other side of the globe. [Guardian article via linkmachinego]
What happens if you put a sand tracing pendulum in the middle of an earthquake? Would you believe art? [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
The Register savages Kevin Warwick. Again.
Harlan Ellison is madder than hell, and he's not gonna take any crap about how "information wants to be free."

Trouble is, he's pursuing the wrong targets. Ellison shouldn't hold ISPs and firms providing news posting services responsible for their subscribers' actions. Better to sue the posters for damages, and ask ISPs to remove any posts which he can demonstrate are in breach of copyright.
John Fitzpatrick demolishes the arguments for revising the law on double jeopardy in Spiked. Good, thoughtful stuff: exactly what you'd hope for from the nearest UK equivalent to Salon.
Scope: a very nice freeware wrapper for the rendering packages at the heart of Internet Explorer and Mozilla. It's still in beta, so there are some rough edges, but provided that you avoind the known bugs and feature limitations it's already a pretty decent lightweight web browser. Web site designers will particularly like the ability to display a page rendered by MSHTML and Gecko side-by-side in the one browser. [Via Frownland]
No links, but I have to mention two of the highlights of my evening's TV viewing: John Cleese being witty on Parkinson and Bruce Campbell's "Groovy" turn in Evil Dead II. Sheer class.
Friday 9 March 2001, 23:55 GMT
After quietly running in test mode for a few months, Spiked officially launched yesterday. It appears to be a long-overdue attempt to produce a UK equivalent of Salon, albeit one that pays a lot less attention to the entertainment media. There are a fair number of worthwhile articles on the site, so I hope Spiked thrives.
Tom@plasticbag.org: "Willow?! Noooooooooooooooooo!"
john@thebeard.org: "Oh yeah..."
Freaky Trigger applies a little science in order to test Charlotte Raven's contention that 80s pop music was superior to that enjoyed by modern audiences. I'd forgotten how many big hits Shakin' Stevens had in 1981: a lousy memory can be a blessing sometimes.
Coming up: Prince vs Tom Jones & The Art Of Noise?
The Online Journalism Review surveys the woeful state of British politicians' internet presence.
The Register paints a bleak, but believable, picture of the death of the open PC. (And possibly also of Linux, at least for use on cheap, mass-market hardware.)
The latest wheeze for distributing DeCSS involves pasting just seven lines of Perl code into your .sig file. Go on, give the RIAA a coronary...
MacSlash interviews Jeffrey Zeldman about the Browser Upgrade Campaign. Well worth reading. [Via Metafilter]
What went wrong with The X Files? I gave up on the show about three seasons ago when BBC1 stopped showing episodes in order, but it was already clear that the show was stretching viewer credibility, not least because Scully remained a convinced sceptic despite all she'd seen week after week. Nothing I've heard about the show since has suggested that I should give it another chance. Perhaps this account (in three parts) of how tyro producer Chris Carter ended up running one of the TV shows that defined the 1990s holds the key to the mystery. [Via Windowseat Weblog]
Wednesday 7 March 2001, 23:40 GMT
Take BBspot's Yahoo Category Quiz and try to figure out which categories are real and which are fake. I got 7/10 and was advised to "get a life."
Hard statistical evidence that the internet isn't a particularly unsafe place to use credit cards. It's about time...
MP3 judo. Aimster turns the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act against the very same recording industry that lobbied for the passage of that particular straitjacket in the first place. How ironic (assuming they can get a court to back them when the inevitable legal challenge appears). [Via rc3.org]
As more people put their diaries and journals amd writings online as a matter of course, David Coursey ponders what can be done to preserve that facet of their lives once they're gone.

It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure that it's all that great a problem, or at any rate not one which requires some new business to take care of it. What's to stop the family or friends of the deceased from putting up the site's content in a corner of their own web presence, or taking over the existing domain and continuing to pay the bills, or even just storing the files that make up the deceased's web site offline while keeping an index online and making the files themselves available to interested parties? [Via NewsTrolls]
Tuesday 6 March 2001, 23:55 GMT
I always assumed that Sealand would be closed down by the Inland Revenue, but if - and admittedly it's a big if - Matt Goyer's plans come to fruition the RIAA might be forced to fund a first strike the fort. [ZDNet article via NewsTrolls]
New Zealand's Jedi attempt to secure official status as a religion. Well, sort of...
Wired News looks at a genuinely useful application for virtual reality: distracting burns victims during their long, painful recovery.
Running Linux applications under Windows: a neat hack, or another step on the road to world domination?
Monday 5 March 2001, 23:50 GMT
Sharon Waxman surveys the prospects for up and coming film actresses and finds that the perennial problems of a lack of good leading roles and the tyranny of youth and beauty still hold sway. There's little doubt that there's a lack of good roles for actresses in mainstream Hollywood product nowadays, but I think that Waxman over-eggs her pudding when she claims that Hilary Swank's post-Oscar career has suffered as a result of her breakthrough role not fitting the glamorous type Hollywood prefers in young actresses. First of all, it's hardly unusual for up-and-coming actors to have an uneven career early on, especially if their breakathrough film is a small indie piece. Secondly, it's not even been a year since she won her Oscar: how many films has she done since then?

I think Waxman is right to note that the lack of meaty leading roles for young women is a huge part of the problem, but another is that actresses seem to get less chances to break through than their male counterparts, and when they are in a hit they aren't necessarily seen as the reason for that success. This is at least partly because they spend so much time playing the male lead's romantic interest. Given that many film actresses are desperate to escape from TV work, it's ironic that a lot of good roles for women are now in TV dramas like Buffy or NYPD Blue or ER or The West Wing. Claire Danes has yet to find a big screen role as well-written as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, and Neve Campbell hasn't surpassed her performance as Julia Salinger in Party of Five. [Via PopPolitics]
Talking of TV, there are a couple of spin-offs of established SF shows coming up that face a tough job living up to their forebears' reputation. The Lone Gunmen is a very unlikely X Files spin-off indeed, but if it's played just right I can imagine it being quite fun. By way of a contrast, the casting information obtained by TrekToday about the fifth Star Trek series suggests that they're trying to slavishly imitate the formula for the original series casting-wise, and that sounds like a very bad idea indeed. [Lone Gunmen story via rc3.org, Trek V story via Metafilter]
ICANN is making soothing noises about the forthcoming reorganisation of the registry for the .org domain. I'm reassured to read Vint Cerf assuring us that no decisions have been taken and that ICANN is mindful of the problems it'll face if it causes .org domain holders the world over to relinquish their domains, but the situation will still bear careful scrutiny once a new registrar has been selected. Watch this space...
Sunday 4 March 2001, 22:30 GMT
Bruce Cringely remembers the late Claude Shannon, without whom computing might have been very different, and wonders whether the industry is doing enough to remember the real pioneers, rather than the guys who made a packet out of the commercial applications of those giants of the mid-century.
In America some Christian families are trying counter the influence of a society that opposes everything they hold dear by doing their best to insulate their kids from that society completely. Margaret Talbot spent some time with the Scheibners, who exemplify the trend. A relevant quote from her New York Times article (free registration required):
Family identity is extremely important to the Scheibners -- they have their own sayings, code words, even a family song. The turning outward that most parents expect of their children and accept, with varying degrees of wistfulness, was to them an intolerable betrayal. "We didn't want to lose our children to other people's ideas and ideologies," Megan will say, or, "We wanted our children's hearts, and we really feel we have them."
The question is, how long can (or should) parents expect to "have" their children's hearts? The Scheibners' children are aged between 20 months and 12 years old, and you have to wonder how easy it'll be to maintain control over them once they enter their teens. [Via PopPolitics]
Allchin Says Seattle Quake Caused by Open Source.
Now that Napster awaits only confirmation of its death sentence, the music industry is looking to deal with the various peer-to-peer file-sharing systems which are looking to fill the gap Napster will leave. One of their strategies is to use special software to scan the files people make available to other users from their hard drives and then where they detect copyrighted material to log the IP address and demand that the ISPs reveal details of the users' names.

The aim appears to be to get ISPs to police their users on behalf of the RIAA, a role which ISPs don't particularly want to take on. I'm sympathetic to the RIAA's desire to stop people stealing copyrighted material, but I think that eventually they're going to have to offer something like Napster (albeit with better copyright protection) themselves, and I can imagine this method turning into a huge PR own goal for them. If an ISP with plenty of peer-to-peer file sharing going on were to hand over the details then the RIAA would have to consider suing potentially hundreds of ordinary people - ie potential customers - in one go and that would bring the whole issue to a head. It's much easier from a PR viewpoint for the RIAA to take on corporate bodies than it is a bunch of private citizens.

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