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Saturday 8 June 2002, 20:50 BST
Over at Q Daily News, Jason Levine has noticed that the web site advertising the Mini Cooper in the USA features a rather unusual disclaimer.
A Fleeting Eclipse. A striking picture of a solar eclipse.
Yes and No: a Dyseducational Road Movie by Bruno Bozzetto.

(NB/- Flash required.)

[Via MetaFilter]
Friday 7 June 2002, 22:50 BST
First, a couple of Buffy-related snippets.

Dark Horizons quoted some comments from Sarah Michelle Gellar about the prospects for a Buffy feature film to finish off the show. Basically, Gellar isn't persuaded that they should do a feature and I think she's right. Assuming that Joss & Co know the end is coming at the end of a season (say, season 7, when the contracts of Gellar and most of the show's principals expire), they have all the time they need to work their way up to a fitting climax for the show. What could a two-hour feature film really do that a two- or three-episode mini-arc couldn't? Introduce some new characters? I think not. Throw more money at the SFX budget? Buffy does quite nicely without lots of flashy SFX, thank you very much. Unfortunately the writers used up the storyline I'd have liked to see them use to close the show permanently at the end of season 5, but I have faith that Joss will end the show well as long as he's given the time to plan it.

Meanwhile, Anthony Stewart Head (aka Rupert Giles), is interviewed by Melissa J Perenson for Science Fiction Weekly about what he's been up to lately. The interview contains some spoilers for BBC viewers, but I suspect most Buffy fans who read the relevant newsgroups or occasionally cast an eye over any magazine which takes an interest in genre programmes will already know about every development alluded to during the interview. The one slightly worrying comment comes towards the end, when Head suggests that preparations for Ripper are not particularly advanced and may be affected by Joss Whedon's work on Firefly.
No need to send in the Marines. I commented on Wednesday that the Motion Picture Association of America would be unhappy that video-on-demand pioneers Film88.com had set up shop in Iran. It turns out that the MPAA's legal shock troops were able to open up a second front in the Netherlands and outflank their foe.

[Via Techdirt]
Talking of the Content Wars, did you know that Humming Is Theft?
Support from Washington was quick and emphatic. Industry friend and free-thinker Senator Fritz Lolling made the following statement: "Anyone who hums and does not pay is a no-good-thieving, commie, kiddie-porn-loving, drunk-driving, smoke-in-no-smoking section, rat bastard."

The movement has also won widespread support from several of the lesser-known stars of yesterday. At a local Burger King, ex-super star Vanilla Ice was despondent over the lack of money from those who hum his songs.

"Why shouldn't I get more money? I want it. I want it. I want it. Do you think I like eating cat food every day? Everyone else gets paid for work they did 15 years ago, why not musicians?" said a confused VI.
[Via Boing Boing]
Thursday 6 June 2002, 23:15 BST
I did say I wasn't going to watch Big Brother 3, but after reading this transcript of a conversation between Jade and Spencer I may just have to start watching, just to see if Jade is really even more stupid than Helen was last year. Amazing stuff:
Spencer: "You know you see those people in Venice standing on the back of gondolas, pushing it around?"

Jade: "They don't do that on the Thames though, do they?"

Spencer: "No. I don't work on the Thames. I work in Cambridge."

Jade: "Is there not the Thames there?"

Spencer: "No!"

Jade: "Is there a river called the Cambridge river?"

Spencer: "Yeah, it's called the Cam."

Jade: "Really? You swear? I only thought there was the Thames. I thought that was the main one in London."

Spencer: "It is. I don't live in London."

Jade: "I'm confused. I thought Cambridge was in London. I knew Birmingham weren't in London."
Granted, it's possible that Jade was a little drunk (it being her birthday and all), but even so this is like a car crash, and right now I'm fighting the urge to slow down and gawp.
South Park Studio allows you to turn yourself into a South Park character. Wonderful.

[Via A Small Victory]
"You can't come shopping with me, you're too cruel." Heard In Passing...
The Palm Evolutionary Tree. I'd love to see something like this for the Windows CE/Pocket PC range and (especially) the Psion/Symbian family.

[Via Boing Boing]
Wednesday 5 June 2002, 23:15 BST
Now Iran really has joined the Axis of Evil. At any rate, that's what the Motion Picture Association of America will say. I give it a week before an MPAA spokesperson is pointing out that the revenue from Film88.com could be supporting terrorists and asking when the marines are going in.

[Via Techdirt]
Like a god, roboticist Mark W. Tilden looks down on his creations... Terrific picture.
Days of the Nü. Joey Sweeney blames Glenn Frey for nü metal.

(More accurately, Sweeney spends several paragraphs explaining precisely how lame Limp Bizkit et al are, but decides to take a swipe at 80s rock for no very good reason.)
David Coursey thinks Sony and Nintendo need to learn from the fates of Lotus and WordPerfect Corporation.

The problem is, the challenge Microsoft's Xbox poses to the Playstation 2 and GameCube is utterly different in character to that which Excel and Word posed for Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect. Coursey suggests that WordPerfect and 1-2-3 lost market share to Excel and Word because the market leading spreadsheet and word processor didn't work well together. There's something to that, though as I remember it there were really two other very important factors in the rise of Excel and Word. First, Lotus and WordPerfect both expended a lot of effort in developing new versions of their software for OS/2, which Microsoft were then claiming was the business operating system of the future. When Microsoft pulled out of OS/2 development, their rivals had to change gear and turn their attention to developing for Windows 3 (which Microsoft and IBM had been telling everyone was going to be for lightweight PCs only, with OS/2 as the serious business OS). Oddly enough, Microsoft just happened to have new versions of Excel and Word for Windows 3 ready to go long before their rivals. The second factor was that Microsoft gained significant market share in the wake of the introduction of Windows 3 because they quickly put out Microsoft Office, which was a real bargain compared to the total price of any stand-alone word processor/spreadsheet/presentation graphics combo. Back in 1992-3, packages like Word or Excel or WordPerfect or 1-2-3 cost about £495 each, whereas Microsoft Office gave you Word, Excel and PowerPoint for roughly the same amount. Unless you really had to have the market-leading Windows spreadsheet (Borland's Quattro Pro), word processor (a tie between MS Word for Windows 2 and Lotus Ami Pro, with early versions of WordPerfect for Windows a long way behind) and presentation graphics packages (Lotus Freelance or Harvard Graphics), buying Microsoft Office made a lot of sense.

However, these historical quibbles aren't what bugs me most about Coursey's article. The real problem is that even if he's right about why Lotus and WordPerfect Corporation went into decline, this teaches Sony and Nintendo next to nothing of any use in repelling the challenge of the Xbox. It might have been possible for Lotus and WordPerfect to work on ensuring that their respective programs could read one another's latest file formats, or to arrange bundling deals, but there isn't anything similar Sony and Nintendo can do to fight off the Xbox. It's not practical for them to make their consoles play one another's games. It's unlikely many people would be willing to buy a GameCube/Playstation 2 bundle even if the two companies could produce one at a competitive price. The rules of the game console wars haven't changed just because Microsoft have joined the fray: if you have the latest hardware and developers can produce good games and make a profit, you're in with a chance. If you don't manage to cultivate a decent user base before the next new console comes out, you're in trouble. This is nothing like the MS Office/WordPerfect/1-2-3 situation. Coursey's suggested strategy ("work together, guys") makes no sense whatsoever.

[Via Robot Wisdom]
Tuesday 4 June 2002, 22:25 BST
2002: The Year Science Fiction Died. Gary Westfahl remembers some of the greats who have passed on this year, and says the passing of the generation of SF fans that grew up with the pulps is the start of a shift in the focus towards fannish interests in the history of media SF (ie tie-ins with TV shows and films) and the generation of writers which appeared in the 1960s and thereafter.

I think Westfahl is right that there's less interest in the history of pre-war SF nowadays. One cause of this is that the history of the genre is so much longer now, and naturally many modern fans will be more interested in the SF that drew them into the genre. It may well be that if information about the writers of the 1920s and 1930s hasn't been found by now it never will be. The good news is that - particularly in the US - there are a lot of universities with collections of SF-related research materials. Furthermore, the internet permits what information can be found to be shared and collaborative projects to operate in a truly science-fictional manner. Hopefully, the Internet Speculative Fiction Database and the Contento Index are the precursors to many similar collaborative efforts to document the basic facts of the genre's history.
Talking of remembering fiction, Neal Gabler argues that films are inherently more memorable that television series. (NB/- New York Times article: free registration required)

I agree with Gabler that films, by virtue of their having to compact their narrative into a couple of hours or so, can be instantly recognisable in a way that individual episodes of a TV series can't. But then, what do you expect when you compare a single film lasting 120 minutes with, say, five seasons of 22 hour-long episodes of a long-running TV show? I'd argue that the other side of this trade-off is that a good dramatic series can easily weave a much more satisfying story arc than a film which has just two hours to introduce the characters, move the storyline along to a satisfactory conclusion and arrange a satisfactory climax. I guarantee the story arc of, say, the first season of The Sopranos couldn't possibly have had as much impact if it had to be compressed into just two or three hours.

It may well be that if you play me five minutes of Hill Street Blues I won't be able to spot where in the storyline that scene fits right away, but I guarantee you that I know Mick Belker, Frank Furillo, Lucy Bates, JD LaRue, Neil Washington, Phil Esterhaus & co a lot better than I do the characters from most feature films. And when a season-long story arc involving characters you've grown to know over a dozen or more hours comes to a satisfying climax the results can be very memorable indeed. See, for example, Buffy seasons 2, 3 & 5, the last episode of This Life, or the final episode of My So-Called Life.

[Via MetaFilter]
Cory Doctorow very kindly posted excerpts from Howard Rheingold's talk at the Reboot conference.
"Innovation is the unexpected combination of things: microprocessors and CRTs, newspapers and telephones. The Internet is place where we're no longer 'consumers,' we're participants. The very best innovations are ones that are platforms for other innovations. The press thought the PC was a toy until some Boston hackers created the spreadsheet."

"Technology isn't just hardware, nor software: it's the way people use it -- it's the things they create. Without this, you've got appliances, not revolutions."
Preach on, brother!
Bad Dad, Bad Dad. James Lileks on parenting.
Anyone for a Star Wars Wedding?
When the minister asked: "If anyone objects, speak now…",  Duel of the Fates struck up and Darth Vader strode forward in protest... After the honor guard and several jedi pulled their weapons on him and the groom threw a warning glance, the sith lord stepped back and the ceremony resumed among amused chuckles and nods from our guests.
I'd hate to actually attend a wedding like that - what outfit would I wear? - but full marks to the bride and groom for having the wedding they wanted.

[Via web-goddess]
Monday 3 June 2002, 20:40 BST
The Social Issues Research Centre presents a Guide to Flirting.
Another problem is that in some rather Puritanical cultures, such as Britain and North America, flirting has acquired a bad name. Some of us have become so worried about causing offence or sending the wrong signals that we are in danger of losing our natural talent for playful, harmless flirtation.

So, to save the human race from extinction, and preserve the foundations of civilisation, Martini commissioned Kate Fox at the Social Issues Research Centre to review and analyse all the scientific research material on interaction between the sexes, and produce a definitive guide to the art and etiquette of enjoyable flirting.
[Via the null device]
It looks as if those of us old enough to have been vaccinated against smallpox before the disease was eradicated in the wild some thirty years ago may no longer have any immunity.
Shy Kids. I want one.

[Via orbyn.com]
The Business Software Alliance have taken their campaign against illegal copying of software to a new level in Egypt.
In February, the Business Software Alliance, the group that represents Microsoft, Adobe, and other software makers concerned about piracy, signed up another unusual partner -- the grand muftis at Al Azhar in Cairo. The highest religious authority in Sunni Islam, Sheikh Ibrahim Atta Allah, issued a fatwa, or edict, against piracy. "Piracy is the worst type of theft and is prohibited by Islam," Atta Allah declared.
I'm not sure what the British equivalent would be. I'm guessing that asking George Carey to condemn software piracy probably wouldn't have an enormous effect...

[Via Techdirt]
The Five Most Profitable Companies in the Star Wars Galaxy by Lore Fitzgerald Sjöberg.
Saul Gorn's Compendium Of Rarely Used Cliches.
This book fills a much-needed gap.

I can't stand people who look down on people who look down on people.

Be brief, no matter how long it takes.

It is no illusion that wide ties make the face look wider.
[Via Bifurcated Rivets]
Sunday 2 June 2002, 23:45 BST
The Guardian is unimpressed with Killing Me Softly. And this is from the newspaper Sean French and Nicci Gerard, the authors of the source novel, worked for, so you'd expect them to at least try to be kind.

[Via Feeling Listless]
The Indo-Pakistani Dead Pool: Exploiting The Coming Nuclear Holocaust For Fun And Profit! Sick. Funny. Make that funny and sick.

[Via Charlie's Diary]
Spiderman as you've never seen him before. My eyes, my eyes!

NB/- definitely not work-safe. Or child-safe. Or a good idea in any way whatsoever. I can only assume this guy lost a bet.

[Via Blogatelle]

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