Saturday, December 06, 2003

To the red planet

BBC News has an interesting mini-site on 'The Race To Mars' collecting information on the various missions heading there at the moment, including a diary from one of the Beagle 2 engineers.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Bored?

If you've got some time to kill, see how long you can hold the button for. I suspect that no one reading this will break the record, but who knows? (thanks to Lena for the link)

It explains a lot

I'm trying to find one part of Pandagon's Twenty Most Annoying Conservatives of 2003 to quote, so you'll go and read it. But, being a wishy-washy liberal, I don't want to elevate one part of it above all the others in case they get discouraged by not being praised. But I do like the description of Ann Coulter as 'the insane, alternate-reality version of Eddie Izzard, from a universe where biting, clever stand-up is replaced with blood-red anger'.

Homer's conjecture

I'm wondering if, one day, it will be discovered that all philosophical, ethical, moral and other questions can be answered with reference to The Simpsons. I've just noticed this Homer Simpson quote (on interesting new blog Topical Fish):
Suppose the god we've chosen isn't the real one. Every time we go to church we're just making him madder and madder
Which is, in rather simpler format than that usually used by philosophers, one of the objections to Pascal's Wager, and also, I should think but I haven't really tried it, a good way to wind up any religious zealot who tries to waste my time. After all most of them, with a few exceptions like the Unitarians, believe that their god gets rather upset if he's not worshipped in exactly the right way (because one of the side effects of omnipotence is a crippling lack of self-esteem leaving you requiring constant affirmation, it seems) so it's fun to ask them if they're sure they're worshipping the right god in the right way. OK, it's not normally enough to cause a severe crisis of faith there and then, especially when asked by a heathen like me, but it's just planting seeds...who knows whether they might take root?

The slightly smaller read

On the subject of charts, I've just noticed that the BBC's Big Read website now contains a listing of the books that came didn't make it into the original top 100, so you can now see 101-150 and 151-200. It's interesting to see what came close to getting in there, but missed out by a few votes - I wonder what the difference in actual votes was?

There aren't too many surprises in there - well, not until you get to number 172 and find it's They Used To Play On Grass by Terry Venables and Gordon Williams. Was there a campaign to get votes for it, or does the literary career of El Tel have more fans than we might expect?

Anyway, if one of your favourites was missing from the Top 100 you can now see how close it came to making it. Fans of Jerome K Jerome must be rather annoyed that Three Men In A Boat was only a few votes away from squeezing into the final selection, but had to settle for 101st place.

Top tens

Just been watching the Top Ten Sci Fi on Channel 4 - I don't remember seeing it whenever it was first on (2001?) so it was quite interesting just to see what they included and it was a strange mix of the obvious and obscure. The final rankings were, shoudl you be interested:

10) Space: 1999
9) Buck Rogers In The 25th Century
8) The Tomorrow People
7) Sapphire and Steel
6) Blake's 7
5) Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy
4) Thunderbirds
3) Red Dwarf
2) Doctor Who
1) Star Trek

Part of me wonders if it was just compiled by sending someone down to the TV section of the nearest Virgin Megastore and getting them to note down the names of the first ten SF TV series they saw, then someone in the office ranking them based on that. I can understand Farscape not making the list as it was probably still quite new when the programme was made (and C4 probably wouldn't want to plug a series that was on BBC) but you'd have thought someone at Channel 4 might have remembered Babylon 5. Or maybe that's the secret - Top Ten TV is actually produced by the C4 scheduling department and thus it was being constantly moved around the Top 10 until it was finally placed where no one could find it.

Anyway, just for a bit of linkage I went looking for Sapphire and Steel websites, and discovered that even though the web is full of strange people asserting crazier and crazier things, there doesn't appear to be a website where someone proclaims that they can understand and explain it. It seems that people can believe that we're all being manipulated by giant lizards, but they can't believe there's a logical explanation for Sapphire and Steel or how it came to be broadcast on ITV at primetime in the early 80s. It's quite saddening to think that a channel could go from broadcasting one of the most cerebral and downright unsettlingly scary - hearing songs from the First World War still reminds me of Adventure Two, and don't get me started on photographs - TV shows ever to being the home of TV's Craziest Holiday Airport Mother In Law Showdowns With Baddiel and Skinner From Hell, hosted by Steve Penk.

But, for S&S stuff, try here which has some interesting articles on PJ Hammond, its writer. Or if you like your strangeness in the form of crossovers, then here's Sapphire and Steel meeting The Man From UNCLE.

And one final thought from watching the programme tonight - Avon's 'Have you betrayed...me?' from the final episode of Blake's 7 is straight from the Shatner School Of The Not Really That Dramatic, But It'll Do In Place Of Any Actual Acting, School Of Drama, isn't it?

Thursday, December 04, 2003

This will not last long...

Via the new edition of Popbitch, take a look at what Amazon customers are recommending people buy either as well as or instead of Michael Jackson's new album.

In case of Amazon sanitising the suggestions following the publicity it's got, I've saved a copy of it which you can see by clicking here.

Fight the power of the Mouse

Now, I don't want to come over all Josh Marshall-like here, but I have a source within the Evil Magic Kingdom who doesn't want to be identified, but would like to make a suggestion.

In case you haven't heard recently, there's a bit of a feud going on at high levels of the Disney corporation which has come into the public eye over the last week with the resignation of Roy Disney from his family company, citing his complaints with Michael Eisner's reign over the company, and stating that 'the Company has lost its focus, its creative energy, and its heritage.'

As I said, my source works somewhere within the Empire of the Mouse and says that this letter reflects many of the concerns of the company's employees. From what I've heard from this source and others, this is rather common amongst members of Team Rodent all of whom feel that the company has lost it's way and needs to be reminded of that fact, repeatedly. As my source says;'The only way to send a message these people can understand is to deprive them of money in the name of protesting corporate greed.'

In other words, it's time for a boycott to support Roy Disney or, in the words of my source - a Roycott where customers boycott going to Disney properties until Michael Eisner leaves and the company takes note of the points made by Roy Disney.

I've no idea how successful this will be, or just how angry Disney employees are - but remember, these are people who already refer to their place of employment as 'Mouseschwitz' or 'Duckau', so for them to be talking of boycotts is quite a big step. I'll try and get some more information from my source (any names you want to suggest to refer to them by will be gratefully appreciated - I considered 'Duck Throat', but maybe not...) and also see if I can get more information about life within the House of Mouse.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

12%

I only have 3 of the 25 Albums That Should Not Have Been Recorded - feel free to guess which three as I'm not telling. (found via John H)

And unsurprisingly, an album described as:
A concept album about a shape shifting toy that looks like a cross between an armadillo and a tank that battles a half scorpion/half lion toy for the fate of planet Earth
was made in the 1970s.

Google never lies...honest

(via Atrios) Go to Google, type in 'miserable failure' (without the quotes) and see what you get as the number 1 result. (Update: Or, as I've just realised (it's late, don't expect logical thought from me...) go to the main Google page, type in 'miserable failure' then click on the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button.)

Note: if this post makes no sense, you either haven't got the joke, or Google have noticed and 'corrected' their algorithms (or whatever it is that drives Google's search results) so miserable failure no longer refers to what it used to.

Next: Santorum.

Antebellum Island

You know that whole 'life imitates art' thing? How long will it be before some TV exec makes a bid to The Onion to buy the rights for this programme?

Personally, I'd have gone for The Man In The High Castle In The Outback, but I've always been a Philip K Dick fan. But would the British version of Antebellum Island be Pavane Island? Or just I'm An Alien Space Bat...Get Me Out Of Here!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Oh dear

There's a Simpsons 'Treehouse of Horror' episode that's based on the story of the monkey's paw. In it, Homer wishes for world peace and thus all weapons disappear, allowing Klang and Kodos to conquer Earth with rather little in the way of weaponry, shouting 'Ha! Your massive intellects are no match for our puny weapons!'

That quote came to mind when reading a report of Wolves' latest embarassment and finding this line:
But it was a disappointing night for Dave Jones' side who found themselves outclassed by their young, inexperienced opponents.
Those who wish to see the Premiership record for most goals in a match broken might wish to note that Wolves will be meeting the 'proper' Arsenal side at Highbury on Boxing Day. I will probably be looking the other way.

Idle thoughts

Standing in line at the Post Office the other day, waiting to renew the tax disc for my car, I found myself pondering on whether there could be easier ways to pay it. I'd just thought 'aha! Why not bring in a Direct Debit scheme for it?' when I realised that the need to show an MOT certificate and proof of insurance would be obstacles to that. So, I thought I'd put it out to the great minds amongst my readership to see if any of you could think of a way round the problem.

I know it's not one of life's most pressing issues, but think of all those people in queues at the Post Office whose lives you might be improving slightly.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Bring me the head of John the Baptist

I've just been watching this film about Jesus on BBC - maybe someone who believes in it all would have a different perspective, but I just found it rather amusing in the 'so bad it's good' sense. It made me think that maybe Islam has a point with the 'no representation of Mohammed' rule - aside from all the graven image stuff, it means you don't get played by an actor (Jeremy Sisto) best known for being bipolar on Six Feet Under.

That said, I did once hear of a Saudi (I think) film about the life of Mohammed that lasts three hours, but he doesn't appear in. Part of me wants to see it, just to see if it is filled with dialogue like this:

'Is Mohammed here?'
'No, you just missed him, but let me tell you what he's been doing recently'

Of course, part of the humour come from hearing people saying things like 'Oh Jesus, where are you?' and the like, but there's also the use of modern language in the dialogue that gives it what Bill Hicks called the 'Deuteronomy 90210' effect which means we get great conversation such as this:

'I don't believe it.'
'What's your name?'
'Thomas.'

Still, I will endeavour to watch the second part of it tomorrow afternoon (1.30pm, BBC Two) if only because it features Gary Oldman as Pontius Pilate. Part of me's wondering if it may be that ultimate rarity - a film where Gary Oldman isn't playing a nutter.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

My take on the Euro 2004 draw is now up on A Fistful Of Euros.

I was thinking that it's interesting that, despite the years of Anglo-French rivalry, France aren't seen as one of England's big rivalries in international football. I suspect it's probably because they've not met each other that often in competitive matches. In my lifetime I can only remember two meetings between the two - in the 1982 World Cup (a game that's mostly remembered for Bryan Robson's first minute goal) and the European Championships in 1992 (a game that's mostly remembered for ... er, not much really). For teams to have a sustained rivalry there has to be a history of meetings between the two of them, and while England have met Argentina and Germany regularly, or in important games, there isn't that history of big clashes between England and France to create that rivalry.

Plus, there isn't any real tradition of big matches between English and French club sides in European competition (the only big one I can think of is PSG beating Liverpool in a Cup Winners Cup semi-final) and indeed in recent years the presence of French players and coaches in English football has created much more of an appreciation for French football in England. However, maybe all that'll change in June.

Kensington and Chelsea Conservatives against bad things

On trains (or not, as the case may be)

I didn't make it to last night's UK Webloggers bash. Tim Ireland did, though, and seems to have had a rather interesting experience getting home afterwards. Now, what's that about private companies treating their customers better?