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Home > Weblog w/e 14.9.2002

Saturday 14 September 2002, 23:50 BST
Alias made its debut on Channel 4 this evening. The first episode spent so much time introducing the characters and laying down markers for future plot developments that the actual storyline for the episode was a bit thin and the characters rather sketchily drawn, but that's only to be expected. I had heard that the timeslot was less than ideal. I can certainly believe that the torture scene was cut to ribbons, but I felt that the basics of the story remained intact. At any rate, the editing was a good deal less intrusive than, say, Channel 4's editing of the 6pm run of the first season of Angel.

Even if the show was edited a bit, there was still plenty to like: Jennifer Garner's performance as Sydney, solid supporting performances by Ron Rifkin and Victor Garber, and most of all a plot which didn't let mere logic get in the way of telling a rattling good yarn. It'll be interesting to see how the writers flesh out some of the supporting characters in weeks to come. Will Sydney end up with her own little Scooby Gang of civilians, or will she spend the remained of the series hiding the truth about her part-time job from her friends? Will it turn out that one or more of them already knows, and is in fact an agent keeping an eye (goodness knows on whose behalf!) on Sydney?

A promising start, to be sure, and certainly enough to have me tuning in for the next few weeks. I gather there's lots more fun in store.
Friday 13 September 2002, 23:55 BST
Says Who? Says God.
And it came to pass that God visited the earth, and He did behold a series of billboard ads attributing to Him utterances of such banality that they would never pass His lips in a billion years. And it came to pass that God in His wrath considered a libel suit, but in the end opted simply to mount a cantankerous, self-contradictory ad campaign of His own....

I never said, "Thou shalt not think."
   - God
There's much more good T-shirt slogan fodder where that came from.

[Via Boing Boing]
The Nerdslut Guide To Post-Film Sex Probability. Essential reading for geeks everywhere, as are If Girls Came With Resumes... and Cartoon Nerdsluts.

(I must point out that for some bizarre reason the latter list omitted both Daria Morgendorffer and her best friend Jane Lane. Inconceivable!)

[Via my 2p]
Thursday 12 September 2002, 22:50 BST
Atmospheric Optics sounds like a rather dry subject for a web site, but take a look. A fine mixture of factual information and beautiful images: well worth a look.

[Via MetaFilter]
A couple of links which I held over from yesterday, because I felt that the day should be a time for remembering, not pontificating:

Avedon Carol explains why, for her, the events of 11th September 2001 didn't "change everything."

Simon Schama is worried at the lack of debate about the direction in which President Bush is taking the country:
If the calculated mass murder of 3,000 innocent civilians, from 80 countries, many of them Muslims, just ordinary working people going about their business on a sunny September morning, was not an act of absolute evil, then I have no idea what is. The more serious problem with presidential rhetoric was that the Manichean struggle between good and evil, freedom and terror, was not just the beginning but apparently also the end of any sustained attempt to articulate just what, in this particular life-and-death struggle, was truly at stake.


Apparently, the dead are owed another war. But they are not. What they are owed is a good, stand-up, bruising row over the fate of America; just who determines it and for what end?
Who'd have thought it? Stacy turns out to be a closet (Groucho) Marxist.
Hamlet, why don't you try to think of me as your father?

OK, bury yourself six feet underground, and I'll give it a shot.
If Hackers Ruled The World.

[Via Boing Boing]
Wednesday 11 September 2002, 23:20 BST
Dichotomy: It Was a Matter of Time and Place.

[Via A Small Victory]
Tuesday 10 September 2002, 23:10 BST
I saw The Bourne Identity this evening. All in all a pretty good effort.

Doug "Go" Liman isn't the first director you'd think of to helm a high-tech spy thriller, but he did an efficient job of keeping a fairly improbable plot moving along at a good clip. Matt Damon carried off the lead role pretty convincingly, particularly in the action scenes, and Franka Potente was very appealing as his character's romantic interest. Oh yes, and the Mini proved once again - see The Italian Job for still more evidence - that if you want to escape a bunch of policemen in a busy European city there's no better car for weaving between pedestrians and other road traffic.

The crop of trailers which preceded tonight's film didn't exactly promise an outstanding autumn at the cinema. The teaser for Die Another Day spliced together a bunch of highly kinetic action scenes yet still somehow managed to look utterly routine. Red Dragon looks like the least necessary remake in a long time. One Hour Photo looks to be a rip-off of the Francis Dollaryhde plot from Red Dragon. Every time I see the trailer for The Road to Perdition I think how miscast Tom Hanks is and how sentimental the story sounds. It's just as well The Two Towers is on the way.
Was Hitler Human? That's the question posed by John Cusack's new film. As you'd expect, merely posing the question has caused quite a stink.

The answer, sadly, if of course that yes he was entirely human. Which is what makes what he did, and what he persuaded/coerced/permitted so many others to do, so scary.
As AOL releases Netscape 7, aka "Mozilla with all the nicest features taken out or obliterated by AOL logos", Farhad Manjoo wonders whether Mozilla is about to spawn a new generation of programmers wanting to surprise us all with just what a web browser can do.

As a Mozilla user, I'm really pleased that it's so easy for users to add to the base functionality of the browser. However, I do worry a bit at one element of the case in favour of Mozilla becoming the heart of a new generation of user interfaces (including, potentially, an entire user interface to your PC itself). One of the developers of just such a replacement shell comments:
"What I think is going to happen is that all these people who've been making Web sites for all this time are going to get bored with it. The guys who are running advanced sites -- they don't know Java. They know Javascript and style sheets, and that's all you need for Mozilla. So they're going to start programming in Mozilla, because it's simple. They'll be writing little programs for Mozilla and you're going to go to somebody's page and download this program. It will just be part of the Web page."
Consider the technical qualities of the average computer enthusiast's web page: the colour schemes, the positioning of the controls, the usability, the typography, the graphics. (And before anyone says it, I will: I'm well aware that this page is as poor an example of proper design as any.) Then ask yourself if you really want this person designing your computer's user interface.

Yes, I know that in practice the less useful attempts at extending/adapting the Mozilla user interface will wither and die, leaving a few shining examples to prosper. But I can't help thinking that there's going to be some carnage on the way, and that some things are hard to do because they're hard to do properly, not because of the ease of use of the tools available to the programmer.
Monday 9 September 2002, 23:50 BST
Exploring Sultan Baybars' Qur'an. An exquisite online presentation of one of the British Library's more impressive volumes. (Shockwave required.)

[Via pop-up toaster]
The Dreamweaver. Neil Gaiman interviewed in the Sunday Herald.
'Being the kind of writer who makes up stories containing different kinds of beliefs, I wind up believing in absolutely anything while I'm writing it.

'Often these things are mutually exclusive. Do I believe in life after death? Absolutely. Do I believe that death is the end? Absolutely. I believe in ghosts, because I need them for my fiction.

'It all goes into the same head and comes out in a muddle that makes me capable of believing a million different contradictory things as and when I need them.'
[Via I Love Everything]
Ars Technica reviews Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar.

Reading reviews like this always makes me think seriously about making my next computer a Mac. Apple have clearly done a far better job of making a Unix-derived personal computer with a nice GUI that works properly out of the box than any of the current Linux vendors, and it sounds as if they're making a serious attempt at resolving the speed issues that dogged the first release of OS X.

But then I start looking at prices. The hardware's nice, but it's fairly expensive, even before I consider the cost of any third party software I might require. Then there's that whole learning curve in general - I have used a Mac before, but the last time I had regular access to one was in 1995 - and more specifically, the difficulties of trying to drive OS X from the keyboard. One thing Microsoft (or rather, IBM, when they were working with Microsoft to implement IBM's Common User Access interface on OS/2) got right in Windows was the emphasis on the need to make keyboard shortcuts for menu items, dialog boxes and pretty much every other user element available in just about every program.

I suspect that when I finally scrape together the cash to purchase a replacement for my current PC I'll end up going to Wintel route again, simply because I can get started at a much lower price point and get up to speed with a Windows-based PC much faster than I could learning OS X from scratch.

[Via the null device]
Sunday 8 September 2002, 21:10 BST
Harlan Ellison is rarely praised for his "heroic modesty, but it seems appropriate in this instance. I have a feeling that before the week is out we'll all be wishing that a few more pundits had displayed similar qualities.

(For the avoidance of doubt, and because the question of how to commemorate the events of last September 11th is a very sensitive subject, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not for a second suggesting that everyone should "just get over it," or that there should be no commemmoration of the tragedy, or that there should be a blackout on reporting of the various ceremonies of remembrance. I'm simply dreading the wave of punditry and politicking that's about to break over us in the week to come, and which threatens to overshadow entirely proper attempts to remember the tragedy itself. One day September 11th may come to be seen as a festival of remembrance, as Armistice Day eventually did, but not for some years to come.)

[Via Electrolite]
Newsday columnist Noel Holston is "In a London 'Flog' Over Brit TV" following a recent sojourn in London.

One factor Holston may not have taken into account is that at least some of his TV viewing took place over the August Bank Holiday weekend when there happened to be a Test Match on Channel 4. The net effect was that the TV schedules were even less cohesive than is normally the case late in the summer season, as all the stations wait to introduce their autumn season of shows that'll take us up to the Xmas break. Not the best time to gauge the quality of the British TV schedules.

[Via I Love Everything]
Guardian journalist Sam Wollaston says Sorry, Iceland after mistakenly identifying a tourist spot as a polluted wasteland in an earlier article. Rather than merely print a retraction, he went over to see for himself just how nice and non-polluted the Blue Lagoon really is.

This could easily get out of hand. You can picture the journalists this weekend, trying to decide whether they'll slag off Rome or Paris or Barcelona or maybe Sydney in their next piece, just so they can go over there and repair the damage they're about to do.

[Via David Brake's Blog]
Over at I Must..., Patti relates the hilarious story of "My Boy Jake."

As she rightly notes, "Timing is everything..."

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