Saturday, December 20, 2003


There's really nothing to this picture - just a smudged white circular blob, hidden at the side of a black space - but it's strange to think that for the next six days it's the most important picture in the history of the British space programme. Hopefully, though, it'll be forgotten about by the end of the week when we start getting pictures from the surface of Mars.

One strange film in the middle of the night

One of the 'advantages' of working night shifts is getting to see the strange things TV channels will use to fill their screens at 3am, when no one's watching. I can only presume that they imagine there are a large number of insomniac kids at the moment - getting their practice in for the night before Christmas, one assumes - and hence, the kids films that were on a couple of channels tonight.

But, despite the fact that The Buttercream Gang was a truly awful film, it did help me to discover that while, according to some analyses of film structure and cult studies, the Scientologists have taken over Hollywood, the Mormons are fighting back with their own active cinematic culture.

Reasons to visit New Zealand #894

Sometimes I forget why I want to visit New Zealand, but then I read articles like this one (found via James) and remember why. I mean, how can you think anything bad about a country where the discovery of a student who doesn't drink is a news item?

Friday, December 19, 2003

There's no 'research' in blogging

Just reading this article by James Crabtree about blogging, and for someone who's supposed to know what he's talking about, he talks a lot of rubbish:
Two bloggers in particular have astonishing influence: the journalist Andrew Sullivan, with his eponymous site; and a formerly obscure Tennessee law professor called Glenn Reynolds, who runs InstaPundit. There are no equivalents on the left; indeed, there are precious few left-wing blogs at all.
I can only assume I must have been hallucinating when I read Atrios, Kos, Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, the Timberites... After all, none of these have done anything important, like bring about Trent Lott's resignation.

His Dark Materials: The first review?

Yesterday, Chris Lightfoot became the first blogger I know of to post a 'review' of the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials and today he provides this review from The Economist which echoes his praise for it. (Warning: If you haven't read, or are still in the middle of reading, the books then don't read this review as it starts with a whopping great spoiler, telling you how it all ends)

It's interesting that The Economist has got this review given that the national have extended previews and delayed press night, but I assume it's probably because of the vagaries of magazine publishing schedules - if press night had been held when it was originally planned, then most of the papers would be coming out with their reviews around this time as well. A quick search of Google News doesn't bring up any other reviews, anyway.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Out of darkness cometh...

There are rumours that Jack Hayward may have found success in his quest to find a new owner for Wolves. The club have called a press conference tomorrow, and rumours in Wolverhampton are that it's to announce a new owner.

Now rumours, especially in football, are often wrong - if they were always right, Dennis Bergkamp would be playing for Wolves right now - and it could be that it's just the club announcing a new Assistant Manager, to fill the position that's been vacant for the last six months. However, if a new owner (or owners) has been found, it'll be interesting to see who's stepped forward to meet with Hayward's approval, and if they fulfill all the conditions he set when he offered the club to a new Chairman.

Update: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. He's merely handed the club over to his son Rick.


Chris Lightfoot has been to see the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials and while he's 'not the sort of person to write a review' it sounds as though Nicholas Hytner and the National Theatre have pulled off what was once believed impossible. Given that they're still in previews because of the problems that have been encountered, and have pushed back the first press review to accomodate more previews, a positive 'review' like Chris' has to be a good sign, I think.

As for the proposed film adaptation, I do share Chris' concerns that it could be 'unremittingly literal' but there are some good signs. First, New Line are producing it, and as Lord Of The Rings has shown, they're willing take the risk of giving a director the cash and then letting him go and make the film(s) he wants. From what I've heard of the production of LOTR they were a lot more hands-off than other film companies would be. Second, Tom Stoppard's writing the script and I believe he's a good enough writer to not be afraid to learn from the way the NT have done it. Finally, I heard a rumour that Sam Mendes is interested in directing it which, again, I think is a hopeful sign that it may get a director who won't be tied to a literal adaptation.

Curbing the cameras

A warning for any MPs thinking of becoming photobloggers - democracy works best when people aren't taking pictures of it, it seems.

Things other people find

One scholar of elvish languages, Helge Fauskanger (web site Ardalambion,) has said that “Somewhere there may be a sealed envelope containing a piece of paper with the Elvish designations of the genitals, furtively set down by Tolkien behind locked doors.” but that they haven’t been uncovered.
What Tolkien Officially Said About Elf Sex, as found by John H

Free trips to Australia

Does this count as a working holiday? (via Bloggerheads)

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Flow my tears, Mr Affleck said

I got the link to this interesting Wired article on film adaptations of Philip K Dick stories from a mailing list (thanks Molly, if you're reading!) and it's definitely worth a read if you're into Dick or just SF movies in general. Some interesting little facts in there - I haven't read Paycheck, the story that's inspired the film the article centres on, but it sounds like it could be an interesting film. Then again, it stars Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman so it could well suck like an Electrolux.

What did sound like an interesting film is the description of Paul Verhoeven's original plan to adapt Minority Report:
Gary Goldman, the screenwriter who'd reworked Total Recall for Verhoeven, brought it to the director, who decided it would make a great sequel. This was a story in which Dick's obsession with alternate realities dovetailed with a fascination with fate: If we can see into the future, does that mean the future is set? That humans have no capacity for free will? Verhoeven envisioned Total Recall II: The Minority Report as a whiz-bang, action-packed, "theological-philosophical challenge" to the Calvinist concept of predestination. But Carolco went bankrupt before he could make it.
If Dick was right in some of his books (such as Now Wait For Last Year), there's an alternate universe where Carolco didn't go bankrupt and we got that film. Instead, it did go bankrupt and Verhoeven made Showgirls instead. The triumph of Palmer Eldritch, no doubt.

I wish to complain about there being nothing to complain about

BBC News lists the 12 programmes that generated the most complaints to the ITC during its existence. Actually, it ceases to exist on the 28th December, when it's subsumed into Ofcom, but I suspect another programme won't beat these into the top 12 during that time, unless this year's Queen's Speech is a radical departure from the norm.

I suspect that the complaints for the top 3 programmes - the film The Last Temptation of Christ, Brass Eye's paedophile special and an episode of Spitting Image from 1992 featuring God - all have something in common: a lot, probably a majority, of the complaints will have come from people who haven't watched the programme but just know that they would have been offended by it if they had. (Of course, when this position is adopted by a member of the government, it's ahrd to complain about ordinary mortals who do it) Perhaps one of Ofcom's bold new directions could be to introduce a new system whereby people who complain about a programme should have to answer questions about its content first, just to prove they've watched it and aren't just calling because the Daily Mail has told them how bad it was.

Interestingly, the fourth place in the table goes to a Champions League advert which 'featured a boy misbehaving at a dinner table so he could be sent to his room and watch coverage on his television.' 223 people had nothing better to do with their lives than complain about this.

Douglas Adams was right again!

Via The Great Communicator, I've discovered that 0.5% of the world's male population is a direct descendent of one man who lived 700 years ago, and may well have been Genghis Khan.

Readers of Hitchhiker's will remember that Mr Prosser was a direct descendent of Genghis Khan, thus proving yet again that Douglas Adams was ahead of his time.

'Freedom of expression doesn't make it alright'

The Guardian has a pretty disturbing report about the Redwatch site used by the various knuckle-draggers on the far right to identify 'targets' (mostly anti-fascist and anti-racist) campaigners and pass on information about where they live. It's a salutary reminder that just because the majority of these people are stupid, it only takes one of them with a brain size that approaches the human norm to create a website.

Over on Harry's Place, DotComrade asks 'I wonder how long before a BNP blogger emerges (they may already have?' I can remember a BNP member (one of their regional organisers, IIRC) commenting on British Spin a few months ago, but he disappeared after a while. One could argue that it would be a good thing if there already was a BNP blogger out there somewhere - that no one's heard of him or her indicates that they've been deprived of the oxygen of linking publicity and they're just typing away to themselves a few neanderthal mates.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

What not to read

Kieran Healy gives us the top ten books he hasn't read this year:
John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Freedom, 1937-1946 by Robert Skidelsky. Skidelsky has been writing his magesterial biography of Keynes for many years, so much so that he is now Lord Skidelsky. I have been not reading it for almost as long, though without being elevated to the peerage. This superb three-volume study will likely be displaced by an abridged one-volume edition due out soon, which will be shorter and therefore easier to not read.

Monday, December 15, 2003


I've got a new post on A Fistful of Euros about Max Hastings' 'Why I am no longer a European' article in today's Guardian.

Sponsored by Rennie

Mark Lawson has a good suggestion for Channel 4's Christmas schedule:
I'd rather hoped that Channel 4's seasonal spin might be Derren Brown eating six slices of turkey, one of them impregnated with salmonella
One day, I worry that a TV executive desperate for ideas will happen to listen to the song You're Gone by Del Amitri and we'll soon find ourselves watching Pro-Celebrity Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitation. And probabl with 'Esther Rantzen playing the one who's drowned' too - she seems to be willing to do anything right now.

Meanwhile, in the future

I'm sure I've heard this before:
In the second century of flight, private companies will ferry tourists into space, personal flying machines will roam digital skyways and executive jets will make supersonic speed around the globe, aviation experts and scientists say.

The next generation of airborne adventurers will carry colonists to the moon and to Mars, double-decker jetliners on Earth will load 1,000 passengers and small aircraft will depart and arrive on neighborhood runways with little or no help from their pilot-passengers.
And all our food will come in the form of pills, and everyone will wear jumpsuits while playing chess in three dimensions...

You could probably have published the same article with just a few minor changes to dates and anniversaries sometime in the 1970s. I can remember when I was younger seeing a pensions or savings advert in one of the sunday papers featuring people in 1999 going on holiday in space, telling the reader 'you never know what you'll have to save for' or the like. Maybe they can bring that one out again with the date changed to 2020-something.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Ask a silly question

You can find serious coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein all over the web, so forgive me for lowering the tone somewhat.

Did anyone else, on seeing the footage of Saddam being examined by the doctor after his capture, notice his resemblance to Jungly Barry?