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Saturday 21 September 2002, 23:50 BST
Jeanette Winterson's assignment was to comment on the role of women in the James Bond films. She concluded that 007 is the biggest girl of all.
Bond makes love like a girl. Whaaaat?? Watch it for yourself. He flirts, he likes kissing necks and shoulders, he sometimes keeps his pyjamas on, he holds hands, he banters in bed, and he makes breakfast. Bond loves pleasure and beauty and softness, and he doesn't just take these things; he offers them. His legendary prowess in bed gives us a clue, because of course, only girls can really keep it up all night long.
[Via Bookslut]
Secure. Panic goes to panic's heaven.

A very striking piece of artwork.
Academic Anthony Townsend has been charged by the South Korean government with the task of designing the century's first digital city. Working with a blank slate is an interesting project, but it seems to me that what's more interesting is the question of how the sort of position-based and wireless technologies Townsend is thinking about will affect existing cities. Are they doomed to be bypassed by digital suburbs, or will it turn out that it's sufficient to retrofit communities and office complexes with wireless technologies? And to what extent does all this effort focus on the use of cities as places to work and shop? Townsend notes:
Vindigo, which is an entertainment guide, is another good example of how technology is changing the way people perceive cities. Go to the East Village on a Friday night and you will see people using it to figure out where to go. That raises all kinds of questions, like who chooses what goes into Vindigo. If Vindigo only has information about retail, what if you need to find a police station, or hospital, or a community center? The same issues you think about when you are designing a physical city carry over to the information city.
[Via Techdirt]
Friday 20 September 2002, 23:40 BST
Life as a Bush speechwriter.
"OK, Mr. President," Michael replies. "Now go up there and make it look like you know what all the words mean."
The Very Worst College Application Essays.
One score minus three years ago, and nine months, my father and mother, deciding to form a more perfect union, had sex, and that's about how it all got started with me . . . . .
[Via Off On A Tangent]
Google Answers tackles the questions you really want answered. I mean, hasn't everyone found themselves pondering questions like "Will a battery up your anus kill you?"

[Via blogjam]
Thursday 19 September 2002, 23:55 BST
I finally found the time this morning to finish Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds. It's one of the very best novels I've read in a long time, a funny, beautifully written and touching romp around an ancient China that never was. Coincidentally, this very day I spotted that Martin Wisse had posted a link to this site devoted to Barry Hughart's "Master Li" novels. The site includes an interview with Hughart in which he explains why he only wrote three novels featuring Master Li and Number Ten Ox. Damned incompetent publishers.

[Via Wisse Words]
I saw Signs this evening. I'm still in two minds about the film. Compared to Unbreakable, Signs felt much shorter even though the two films' running times were in fact comparable. (Not that I didn't enjoy Unbreakable, you understand, but somehow the gradual unfolding of that film's mysteries felt much more leisurely than it really was.) Mel Gibson gave an effective central performance as a priest still getting over the death of his wife and the loss of his faith, and Shyamalan coaxed some excellent performances from his child actors.

My major reservation about Signs is that somehow the plot seemed too narrowly focused for a feature film. Without saying anything to spoil the film for readers who haven't seen it, it's difficult to explain precisely what I mean. Let's just say that I'd have found the plot more satisfying in a novella.
Wednesday 18 September 2002, 23:00 BST
I had a day off work today, and spent some of my time catching up with Usenet in general, and rec.arts.sf.written in particular.

Two little gems particularly stood out. Sea Wasp treated the newsgroup to a look at the results if 'Doc' Smith's Lensman universe collided with Lois M Bujold's A Civil Campaign. If Sea Wasp ever expanded this to novel length, I'd most assuredly be logging on at Amazon pronto.

Also relating to Lois Bujold's best-known series, we have George William Herbert's rather wonderful filk Freezerburn, to the tune of Alanis Morissette's You Learn.
Star Trek: The Next Conflagration. George W Bush is Captain James T Kirk.

[Via Amygdala]
Terrific quote on wireless security.
Writing a book on wireless security is like writing a book on safe skydiving - if you want the safety and security, just don't do it.
[Via Risks Digest Volume 22, Issue 23]
Kids Say the Funniest Things.

[Via alt.humor.best-of-usenet]
As the nights draw in the TV schedules have been shifting into winter mode. Futurama season 3 started on Channel 4 this evening and was well up to the usual standard. Scrapheap Challenge returned last Sunday (albeit with Lisa Rogers - why? - as Robert Llewellyn's co-presenter) and promises to provide as much geekish amusement as ever. Throw in the fourth and final season of Farscape, starting next Monday, and you have sufficient geek entertainment to keep me off the streets until next March or so. (And that's before you consider the various DVDs which I've pre-ordered: Babylon 5 season 1, Buffy season 5, the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and My So-Called Life. If I suddenly stop blogging six weeks or so from now it'll be because I've had a bunch of deliveries from Amazon UK, Blackstar and Another Universe and I'm no longer motivated to move from my armchair other than to go to work.

Moving away from the geek TV, the other new drama on my to-watch list is Channel 4's serialisation of White Teeth, which began last night. I haven't read the novel - yes, I'm the one - so I didn't have any clear idea of what to expect. I found the first episode reasonably enjoyable, and I'll certainly tune in again next week to see how things develop, but thus far I'm not blown away. Perhaps it'll grow on me now that they've introduced a number of major characters and can spend the remaining episodes doing interesting things with them.
Tuesday 17 September 2002, 23:30 BST
easyLaughs. Richard Bloomfield encounters an air steward who clearly enjoys his work:
"Welcome aboard this Boeing 747-300. Our flight to Belfast today should take around 30 minutes. As it is such a short flight, the seat belt signs will only be switched off for a few moments, so we suggest you take this opportunity to stretch your legs, nip to the toilet, or perhaps find somebody more attractive to sit next to."
BBC News Online has a fascinating article about the lengths mobile phone networks go to in hiding the increasing number of masts they need to provide the level of coverage their users demand.

Some companies actually go to the trouble to design fake chimneys in which they can hide their masts - complete with fake bird crap. Amazing.

[Via Techdirt]
Monday 16 September 2002, 21:25 BST
A genuine piece of internet/BBS history. The very first suggestion that ":-)" should be used to to denote a joke in electronic conversations. Actually, the entire thread is worth a read: despite the passage of time, the tone is not terribly different to that of many a Usenet thread nowadays. (Except that in those idyllic pre-Canter & Siegel days there wasn't any spam getting in the way.)

[Via Boing Boing]
The Queen of Quinkdom. Margaret Atwood reviews Ursula K Le Guin's latest collection and reflects on her contribution to literature.

It's a shame that Atwood's survey of the genre's history falls prey to the usual tendency of literary critics to divide the field into literary SF and the worthless trash about spaceships, as if the last thirty to forty years of post-Campbell, post-New Wave SF never happened. Granted, Atwood does bemoan the fact that the term "science fiction" has developed a "sluttish reputation," but I have the impression that her concern is rooted in a concern that Le Guin's reputation will be tainted by association, rather than because the bulk of written SF ceased to deserve said reputation a generation ago. Not to mention that the more pulpish end of the genre can be every bit as satisfying in its way as a meditative, leisurely character study. It's all about what you're in the mood for.

I think Atwood is unduly impressed by Le Guin's having created two rather different fictional universes in which to set the majority of her stories. This is by no means as uncommon as she seems to believe, though admittedly the tendency of older writers to try to shoehorn all their disparate works together into a single "universe" - see, for example, Asimov's attempts to reconcile his Robot and Foundation universes, or the horrible later efforts of Robert Heinlein - can make it seem as if SF writers generally build one big universe. It's not even all that unusual for a writer to create one universe in which to set SF stories and another for fantasy. The first example that springs to mind is Larry Niven, who set many of his traditional SF stories in "Known Space" and his fantasy stories in a universe where "The Magic Goes Away."

For all my quibbles, it's a worthwhile essay. Le Guin is one of the major figures in the genre, and deserves all the plaudits going.
A New Life, Soaked in Flammable Liquid. Don's 1st Experience with UT Class of 2006. Scary.

[Via alt.humor.best-of-usenet]
Adrian Hon thinks College Girls is giving an unfair impression of life in Oxbridge.

I'm not convinced that he should worry. I felt that last night's episode about the elections for the Oxford Union was very clearly a picture of a little clique who take the time to notice this politicking. Look at the opening, with the then-current President of the Oxford Union reciting a litany of cliches about competition and ambition and the importance of his post and how so many people would do whatever it took to get the job. How could anyone take the gameplaying and electioneering that followed seriously?

I was glad of the link to a page giving synopses of the remaining episodes, particularly because it revealed that we'll be seeing Afshan, the Asian girl who was so lost in the first episode again. It looks as if she was only taking a trip home at the end of the first episode, rather than dropping out as I'd assumed. Furthermore, the ambitious Lucy from last night's programme will be back before the series is out, which should be fun.
NASA's Earth Observatory is home to a stunning array of satellite images. Among the highlights: Egmont National Park, New Zealand, Thunderstorms over Brazil, and An Astronaut's View of Jewel-toned Lakes.

[Via Jejune.net]
Sunday 15 September 2002, 23:10 BST
It turns out that the pilot episode of Alias wasn't so much edited as butchered. I'd much prefer that Channel 4 had actually scheduled the show properly in the first place, but I still think the cuts didn't mutilate the story too badly.

Most of the cuts - even removing the use of the torture scenes as a framing device for the first two-thirds of the story - amount in the end to a reduction in the amount of violence on screen. From this account, it would appear that only one scene, the argument between Sydney and Danny, was a significant loss, in that it revealed that Danny was a lot more upset about Syd's real part-time job than it appeared in the broadcast version.

Don't misunderstand me: I'd much rather have seen the uncut version of the episode, and if Alias ever turns up on DVD or video I'll probably rent the pilot to see it for myself. But compared to the cuts in, say, Angel, which rendered several scenes at best confusing and at worst incomprehensible, this was fairly sensitive editing.
Won't somebody please Think of the children? Sheer genius.
Welcome to Thinkofthechildren.co.uk

Who are we?

We are concerned parents, many of whom have children of our own and who want the law changed to protect them. Every day in Britain happy, popular children who do well at school are being murdered by evil paedophile scum. Well enough's enough! Its time the law got tough on child murderers.
You simply must read the postings to the associated petition.

[Via NTK]
How do the courts cope when those involved may not understand the proceedings? Not very well, judging by this disturbing report.
A senior social worker with the charity, Mencap, said he had never known of a successful prosecution for rape or indecent assault where the victim was someone with learning disabilities.
Horrendous as this tale sounds, I don't necessarily think the answer is to change the rules about how witnesses are treated.

The adversarial system in the English courts only works if both sides are on the ball, and where the judge makes sure that proceedings are conducted in an even-handed manner. I can't help wondering why exactly the barristers presenting the prosecution case let this happen to the same defendant twice. Was it really beyond the wit of the prosecution to ensure that the jury was clear on what exactly "down below" meant in the mind of the witness? Did the judge have no choice but to accept that there was no case to answer despite (presumably) earlier statements to the contrary?

[Via Spot Light]
Once again, it looks as if the UN needs to send independent election observers to Florida.
The King Cheetah. Could it be any cuter?
Channel 4's College Girls is a little gem of a documentary series. The first film, which followed two freshers at St Hilda's college, was spoiled only by the decision to spend too little time on the Asian medical student who apparently dropped out and too much on the young socialist who led the protest against tuition fees.

This evening's programme was equally absorbing, delving into the world of student politics within the Oxford Union as we watched the ferociously ambitious Lucy Aitken, a pretty blonde who was running for the post of Librarian and appeared to be on a mission to hug and/or kiss every student with a vote before polling day. I suspect a lot of viewers cheered when Lucy and her supporters got their comeuppance at the end, but I think the programme suffered because it focused too much on Lucy's campaign. It was easy to assume that Lucy's collection of spin doctors and fixers were the bad guys, but if we'd seen exactly the same activities going on elsewhere it would have put Lucy's campaign in perspective. For one thing, I'd have liked to know whether Lucy's obsession with party-going in order to be seen was par for the course or a novel tactic.

It was suggested early on by Lucy that her opponents would try to "get her" on a technicality, and that was how it turned out. It would have been good to know whether Lucy's fate had been sealed by her party-organising activities long before polling day, with everyone knowing she'd crossed a line and just waiting for a formal complaint to be lodged once the votes were counted.

One last question: why didn't they show us the moment when someone pointed out to the intensely image-conscious Lucy that she had an extremely obvious lipstick mark on her chest throughout her evening dancing with the husband of the Austrian ambassador?

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