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Saturday 4 August 2001, 23:25 BST
Carol Vorderman was invited to appear in the Brass Eye Special but she says she declined because "I don't get involved in anything unless I know what I am talking about, I can't see the point." That's a creditable attitude, albeit one that forces me to wonder why the hell she keeps turning up on programmes about what a cesspool the internet is. I suppose a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Vorderman also loses several million brownie points for relating the following anecdote:
Ms Vorderman also disclosed that several years ago Countdown producers had unwittingly recorded an episode with a convicted sex offender.

The victim contacted Channel 4 after reading in her local paper that he was to appear on the programme.

She said: "The bosses refused to broadcast it and quite rightly so. That programme should not have been shown.
Assuming that said sex offender wasn't breaking the terms laid down upon their release, why shouldn't they appear on a TV quiz? I could understand not wanting them to become childrens' TV presenters, but am I missing something here?
The Taliban are reported to be making tentative moves towards restoring some sort of relations with the west. James Norton thinks that given Afghanistan's history and the size of the problems facing the country's government the west shouldn't reject the idea out of hand.
Bob Cringely thinks that Windows XP's deficiencies as a networked operating system are intentional, designed to further Microsoft's cause by persuading the world that TCP/IP is insufficiently secure and should be replaced by a proprietary product.

I think this is a conspiracy theory too far. For one thing, Microsoft may own the desktop market but there's still sufficient competition in the server sector for them to face considerable resistance in persuading everyone to switch to, say, "TCP/MS." For another, IPv6 addresses many of his concerns, and is not a proprietary MS product.

I'd say that although Cringely is right that Windows XP isn't as secure as it should be out of the box, the increased use of broadband/always-on connections is going to be a much bigger factor in ensuring that everyone gets to learn about firewalls, the use of appropriate file permissions and the advantages of IPv6 over the next few years.
The story of Wellhung and Sweetheart. A very funny story., but not, I suggest, something you'll be wanting to read at work. [Via Grayblog]
Friday 3 August 2001, 22:25 BST
MacHomer. A one man version of Macbeth, only with Shakespeare's characters "played" by the characters from The Simpsons. It sounds just crazy enough to work... [Via MetaFilter]
Oops. That's one editor who can forget about a knighthood. [Via Nick Jordan]
New Law Protects Free Speech.
Washington DC - The Free Speech Protection Act [FSPA] ensures free speech by encrypting the first amendment and only allowing properly licensed corporations and individuals to use it.  Funding to develop the encryption is being generated by auctions of these free speech licenses. Use of free speech without a license would be punishable by heavy fines and 5-10 years in federal prison.
Jeff Goldblum has a new woman in his life. Can I be the first to say, "Yikes!" [Via web-goddess.co.uk]
When I linked to WorldWall yesterday I'd mostly looked at their digital art and the Chinese propaganda posters. Today Michele pointed out a hugely impressive image I missed: check out The Tallest Iceberg We Climbed. [Via a fire inside]
Thursday 2 August 2001, 23:55 BST
It's a dog's life.
The Bioluminescent Bay. Spectacular pictures of a bay teeming with micro-organisms on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Sadly, the bay is under threat from development and pollution. [Via stickybuffalo]
Japanese researchers plan to turn nurses into a cross between Robocop and the Mobile Infantry from Heinlein's Starship Troopers (the original novel, that is, not the Paul Verhoeven film). [Via Honeyguide]
James Lileks has his doubts about Madonna's position as Queen of Pop. [Via scrubbles.net]
WorldWall. Some seriously arty wallpaper here. [Via stickybuffalo]
Wednesday 1 August 2001, 23:10 BST
Hypocrisy writ large. Look at what the very tabloids complaining about the Brass Eye Special put on the same page as their reports on Chris Morris' "degeneracy": pictures of 11 and 13 year-olds in bikinis and an article drooling over the fact that 15 year-old Charlotte Church "looks chest swell." [Via As Above]
Poul Anderson, Rest In Peace.
John Cusack for President.
He made the tough decisions in Grosse Pointe Blank.
He couldn't be bought in Eight Men Out.
He's cooler than John Malkovich.
And we like his politics so far.
The MetaFilter thread this idea spawned is equally thought-provoking. Daria for President? How about Christopher Walken? [Via MetaFilter]
Scorpions mistreated by mad woman. [Via plasticbag.org]
If you're reading this at work, stop it right now. Didn't you know you're costing the economy US$2,000 per second! Allegedly. Talk about thinking of a number and doubling it... [Via Techdirt]
In memory of John Walters: Andy Kershaw recalls Life with the Hinge and Bracket of Radio 1. [Via wherever you are]
Melissa has moved pie in the sky to a new domain, and while she's at it she's implemented a spiffy redesign. Update your bookmarks and go take a look.
Tuesday 31 July 2001, 23:55 BST
Further to my comments on American Gods the other day, here are a couple of articles about Neil Gaiman and the resurgence of interest in fantasy. [Via linkmachinego]
It seems the US Air Force has finally solved the problem of making a National Missile Defence System work. All they have to do is persuade all those rogue states to fit their ballistic missiles with beacons transmitting their location to the US missiles.
Amanda Fazzone wonders just how "feminist" current US TV characters are, prompted by a survey by the National Organisation of Women which attempts to rank shows according to their feminist content. I think she misreads Buffy, a show where the female characters are a great deal more than eye candy, but she's quite right about the general trend for young, pretty female characters in shows like Dawson's Creek to be marketed on the basis of their sex appeal above all. (Not that Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan and Charisma Carpenter haven't done their share of sexy magazine photo shoots, but nobody who watched more than a couple of episodes of Buffy or Angel could think their characters were simply eye candy. Especially Gellar, who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Claire Danes when it comes to creating a rounded, real teenage female character on a mainstream TV show.)

For me, Fazzone's most interesting comment comes halfway through the article, where Fazzone notes that a few years ago the situation was much better, with shows like My So-Called Life and Party of Five featuring rounded female characters who dealt with realistic concerns and didn't just rely on being pretty to get their way. The question is, what changed? Is it just that it's easier and cheaper to recruit hot actresses than it is to write shows that depict real women (or men)?

There are some interesting comments on the methodology used by NOW in the survey in this discussion thread on Plastic. [Via PopPolitics]
Tolkien fans harassed by police in Kazakstan. First they came for the Tolkien fans, then they came for the Trekkies... [Via MetaFilter]
Monday 30 July 2001, 22:25 BST
Did you watch the Brass Eye special last Thursday? Are you appalled at the hysterical, media-driven knee-jerk reaction it's provoked? Don't let the idiots dominate the debate: contact Channel 4 and express your support, or put your amusement on the record. [Via qwertyuiop]
The Jet Powered Beer Cooler. Impressive. Dangerous, it's true, but still very impressive...
Noreena Hertz wonders how far she really agrees with the agenda of the G8 protesters. [Via Arts & Letters Daily]
Chips. They're ace. How to find a real chip shop. [Via Hypster]
Terrific anti-smoking infographic.
Today's double dose of eye candy comes courtesy of Astronomy Picture of the Day and LazyGecko.net.
Sunday 29 July 2001, 23:00 BST
George Lucas is worried that surgeons are going to tarnish the value of the Star Wars™ franchise by using laser-guided scalpels called "light sabers." LucasFilm's lawsuit is quoted as stating that:
"Any deficiencies or faults in the quality of the defendant's goods are likely to reflect negatively upon, tarnish and seriously injure the reputation which Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed under its Light Saber mark," the suit says. "This confusion is likely to result in loss of revenues to Lucasfilm and damage to its reputation."
Because of course a hospital patient launching a malpractice suit a decade from now is bound to wonder why a Jedi couldn't figure out which leg to amputate. [Via a fire inside]
Gentlemen. Gather round. Now you too can have multiple orgasms. All you need to do is wire your genitalia up to your stereo! [Via dutchbint]
I must not think bad thoughts. Paul Ford has been thinking about Genoa. [Via Jejune.net]
"Easy to Enjoy, Impossible to Imitate." Pondering President Bush's ham-fisted declaration of June as Black Music Month, Jimmy Dean Smith questions whether Dubya ever furtively listened to rock music as a teenager the way most of the early Baby Boomers did, and asks what this says about Bush's claims to represent his generation.
The City of Laverkin, Utah, has declared itself a UN-Free Zone. I suppose this is the right wing equivalent of all those Labour-dominated towns and cities in the early 80s that declared themselves nuclear-free zones. [Via Pigs & Fishes]
Pervasive branding comes right back and bites Nike on the ass. [Via Plastic]
January Magazine has a pretty fair review of Neil Gaiman's excellent new novel, American Gods. Prior to this I'd only read Gaiman's Sandman series of graphic novels and Good Omens, his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, so it was interesting to see what he was capable of at novel length.

I'm not particularly a fan of fantasy, but I really enjoyed American Gods. It shares a "gods only have power to the extent that people believe in them" theme with some of the story threads in the Sandman stories (most obviously the stories which involved Bast), but here Gaiman takes that germ of an idea in a very different direction. Highly recommended.
The release of Tim Burton's new version of Planet Of The Apes has renewed interest in the original, and in particular the famous twist at the end, which differs greatly from that found in Pierre Boulle's original novel. The question is, who came up with that ending? This article suggests that Rod Serling was responsible, backing this up by tracking the evolution of the script. Mind you, even without the evidence they've found it always seemed obvious to me that Serling had a hand in it: the ending just screamed "Twilight Zone."

I gather than Tim Burton's film has a different surprise ending, but so far I've managed to avoid spoilers and I hope to stay that way until I've seen for myself. I have a theory as to how Burton could end his film in a different way whilst still echoing the original, but I won't spell it out here in case I'm right and I inadvertently spoil anyone's enjoyment of the film. [Via Lots of Co]
Yesterday, Kristin Thomas wrote to God. Today, God writes to us.
But why now? Well, it's been almost 2000 years since my last mission statement from a quartet of ghost writers (no pun intended), and the one before that was written fuck knows when. Seeing as Michael Owen and Britney Spears have both had countless biographies while still in their teens, I think it's only right for someone who's been kicking around since time began to give you all a quick update.

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