Seldo.Weblog: June 2005
Life is very hectic at the moment for reasons I can't blog about. Sorry everybody!
Dammit, I can't blog at the moment. My brain is too fried. So here's my entry in Dom's orgasm-drawing competition (the rules specify you can only draw in MS Paint). Clicky for big, if you really need to see it in its pixellated glory.
Went to see Derren Brown at the Cambridge theatre. He was quite funny and entertaining, but I found most of his manipulation and trickery too obviously trickery -- there were too many ways he could have been cheating if you didn't take what he was saying at face value. And the fact that he revealed he had many cameras in the roof didn't really help his claims that he wasn't looking.
Also, at about 7pm today I suddenly went quite severely cross-eyed and was pretty much unable to see anything for about half an hour. It slowly cleared up. I think it was a muscle spasm in my eyes, but if I suddenly die of a stroke tomorrow let's not all pretend like there were no warning signs, ok? I have a headache from hell at the moment, which always follows eye trouble for me.
This week is going to be hell, I can tell.
My latest excursion in a regular series of theatre outings with A was to Shakespeare's As You Like It at the Wyndham. It was excellently done: the language, so often a problem with Shakespeare, was so flowingly spoken and meaningfully expressed that there was no problem at all. It helped my enjoyment that the costumes were all set in the 1920s (my favourite period) and that various portions were set to music, ranging from cheerful folk songs to 1950s big-band crooning. Totally unsubtle sexual innuendo and the occasional burst of slapstick completed the picture of theatre as I love it most: unpretentious, slightly silly, a little bit dirty, and entirely fun.
I had hayfever yesterday, or so I thought, because everybody was complaining about their hayfever and I was all sniffly and stopped up. However, today everyone else was fine but I was still sniffly and sneezy, suggesting that perhaps I just happened to catch a cold on the same day as a ridiculously high pollen count.
Is there any reliable way of telling them apart?
Today's excursion in a(nother) packed week was dinner, coffee and excellent conversation with I, who definitely doesn't read this blog and would be annoyed to find out I'd blogged about it. He gets to write stuff with Matt Lucas, which makes him among the coolest people I know, frankly.
It's Miss-Shapes again tonight. Yay!
Following up on yesterday's post: apparently, the medication you take for hayfever depresses the immune system. Thus, if what you have is not in fact hayfever but a cold, then taking hayfever medication is the worst possible thing you can do.
Thus, I've had quite a bad cold. Ah well. I live and learn, and frequently injure myself in the process.
As if listening to your piss-poor proto-punk wasn't punishing enough.
Now we have to see your smug, hedge-haired head popping up all over the place telling us we don't care quite as much as you do about the world's ills and people's freedoms - how about people's freedom to legally sell things on Ebay? Eh? Not so happy then are you?
What you've actually done is turn a serious issue into something which dog-shit thick plebs can pretend they care about by watching Keane and Joss Stone with a hundred thousand other wristband-wearing irretrievable cunts before going home to do fuck all about it except bang on about how they were "part of shitting history."
We knew they were poor already, and we were ignoring it. We will know they are poor after the concert, and we still won't do anything about it. The whole concert and those fucking awful wristbands are just a huge sop to the guilty consciences of the affulent British public. People are going to have a great day out, see a great concert, spend a fortune on bottled water and t-shirts and commemorative bloody photo books, and somehow feel that just by being there they are making life somehow less wretched for millions of people who are starving to death or dying of HIV and other entirely preventable diseases.
Well you're not. Live 8 is just Bob bloody Geldoff lapping up the attention he craves and justifying it by telling people he's using channelling their attention to a good cause. He's not doing that, he's just channelling it into building up his own reputation and the hype for his meaningless concert.
By all means, feel free to make poverty history. But don't think that buying a smug little wrist band is going to achieve that.
So Saturday night was the final evening of the latest series of Doctor Who.
First off, I have a confession to make: I never really watched Doctor Who before. I saw a few episodes, I knew what a Dalek was, but television in Trinidad didn't really understand the concept of schedules and seasons when I was growing up, so seeing the same show at the same time two weeks in a row was considered pretty good going, and two-parters were basically the kiss of death because you knew you'd never see the second part. So although I knew it was a show with a lot of geek cred, I didn't know why. But now I do.
Doctor Who is often described as science fiction. But it's not really. Science plays a cursory and frequently ignored role (the show's main premise, time travel, is probably impossible, and it all goes downhill from there as far as plausability goes). What Doctor Who really is, I submit, is a comic book.
Comic books are all about cool powers that are introduced without explanation, then hastily back-filled with pseudoscience explanations. They are all about sudden danger, cliffhanger endings, star-crossed romances, mysterious villains and the big reveal at the end. They love beautiful set-piece exterior shots, then ignore the backgrounds while the plot unfolds until the big fight scene, when suddenly everything leaps from partial outlines and shadows into full-colour glory. And that's exactly what an episode -- every episode -- of this season's Doctor has been like.
The other characteristic that is the hallmark of the comic book is an obsession with history and continuity. Comic book fans love knowing the back-story: X-men is full of long-running sub-plots like Rogue and Gambit, Wolverine and Jean Grey, and Professor Xavier's mysterious past and surprisingly numerous offspring. These plots are told and retold hundreds of times in new incarnations, with the details different, the venues different, the costumes and ages different. But they keep coming back. Villains thought long-dead return, reborn or as their children. Old rivals team up in commmon cause, old friends defect and become mortal enemies, but the whole cast is always there. Every character has a back-story as long as your arm, a mysterious past that can be stretched out (in the case of Wolverine) into an entire series of books of its own. Sound like any series you know?
Doctor Who himself repeatedly dies and is reborn, with a different character, a different costume. His arch-nemeses, the Daleks, are endlessly defeated in vast and complicated plots, only to return by million-to-one chances, only hundreds of times more powerful than before (it's a rule in comic books that every bad guy is at least twice as dangerous as his previous incarnation until their ascendancy is a world-shattering event, at which point they are "finally defeated", to come back with much-reduced powers the next time around. Cf: Daleks, Magneto, Doom, Bane, etc.). New characters are rarely introduced for a single show (as is the rule in Star Trek) but instead are introduced, then explored and developed: Captain Jack Harkness and the Slitheen both came back, just from this series, and I have no doubt we will see them both again plus many more old favourites (Cybermen being among the most strongly rumoured).
And as for that final episode? Well, if that wasn't the Phoenix then I don't know anything about comic books. She absorbed a cosmic force, she spewed fire and she defeated all enemies in a massive and nearly all-consuming burst of power. She might as well have worn spandex it was so obvious. But for all that, it was wonderful: the reason the Phoenix subplot has been retold so many times in X-men is that it's a wonderful story, a beautiful and exciting one to tell, and with a lot of potential (a Doctor's Companion who is occasionally more powerful than the Doctor is certainly a very different take on the mythology).
I love comic books, and I love Doctor Who. And I can't wait for more.
A deep, dark, angry comic book. Everything a Batman movie should be. Not as pretty as Tim Burton's dark fantasies, but a damn sight more believable and a hell of a lot of fun. And it goes without saying that Joel Schumacher's foul abortions are already a fading memory. Go see! Four stars out of five!
On a completely different note, congratulations to Jamie and Davinder on their results today, and good luck to Mikey! (And if you've got your results and not told me yet, then why not?)
It's not very scientific, it must be said:
|You Are a Pundit Blogger!|
Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read. Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few.
Miss-Shapes tonight, whee!
Other things of note: today at work we had a 15-minute IRC conversation which consisted of shouting other people's names at random. And a 10-minute argument about who was sitting closest to whom, which involved drawing diagrams and using Pythagoras' theorem. It's that kind of office, and it was that kind of day.
If you hang around geeks a lot, and heard the phrase "software patents" uttered in their presence, you'll have already experienced the barrage of invective that tends to result. What you may not have heard -- or may not have understood -- is why software patents are such a bad thing. Richard Stallman is writing about this issue in the Guardian today. But I think his case could be made more clearly:
Software patents are not the same as copyright. Copyright takes a work of art and says that you cannot copy it without the author's permission. You also cannot make a derivative work based on that art without the author's permission. Whether or not you're a fan of copyright (I am, although I have some reservations), the definition where copyright begins and ends is relatively clear-cut. George Lucas can sue you if your story is about X-Wings piloted by wookies, but he cannot sue you if your story is about spaceships piloted by big hairy apes.
With software patents, that's no longer true. Lucas could sue you for a story about apes piloting spaceships. He could sue you if your story featured swords that glow. He could even sue you if your story featured spaceships that travel faster than light, assuming one of the hundreds of authors who wrote about this before him hadn't patented it already.
Copyrights prevent you using somebody else's idea and work. Patents prevent you from using a similar idea, even if all the work is your own.
All of human invention, in fact all human culture, is about creating new ideas based on combinations of older ideas, since long before Newton claimed his work was merely standing on the shoulders of giants. This fundamental principle of the process of invention is explicitly blocked by software patents, which allow you to prevent other people writing software which has, for example, a progress bar, or an "add bookmark" button. Patents are no less than an attack on the fundamental principles of social and technological development.
So if patents are so horrible, why did we ever come up with them in the first place? The original purpose of patents certainly had a noble goal:
A patent is a bargain between the State and an inventor. In return for the inventor describing the invention to the public – for the advancement of science and technology – the State rewards the inventor with a limited monopoly that will prevent unauthorised commercial use of the invention.
Patents were supposed to be extremely technical documents that explained exactly how an invention worked, to the point where you could build one of your own. They were supposed to describe extremely technical things, like the gear mechanism on a combine harvester, or the design of circuits on a microchip -- stuff that you couldn't gather just by using the device or seeing it in action. The idea was that after the monopoly was up, everybody would be able to make these formerly-patented devices for free. They were supposed to promote technical advancement, not hold it back.
Needless to say, this is not true of software patents. Amazon has a patent on buying items with a single mouse-click: do we need a patent application to tell us how that works? Instead, software patents are used as a big stick by companies with lots of lawyers to scare other companies out of competing with them, by essentially patenting every aspect of their business model until it's impossible to be in the same business as them without breaking the law. It's a truly perverse abuse of the law.
Software patents do no good, and do lots of harm. They don't currently exist in the EU. Make sure that stays the case.
- Q: I'm attempting to log into my server, but the site keeps taking me back to the front page and asking me to log in again. It doesn't say I've got my password wrong, in fact I know it's right. So why is this?
A: You probably have browser cookies turned off.
- Q: I have two SQL statements with one condition each. They both work. I'm trying to combine the two, but the results are totally wrong. What am I doing wrong?
A: You should be joining your conditions with a logical AND, not an OR, otherwise your answer is the union of the two sets, instead of the intersection, which is the answer you want.
- Q: You know, when you're in Bosnia, and you step on a mine, and your legs go flying away, what's the word for that?
A: I think the phrase you're looking for is "blown off".
Three for three. I was on a roll.
Fun, lots of fun. Brad is sexy, Angelina is unbelievably hot, and the whole movie hints strongly of S&M foreplay of the kind that Ms. Jolie is famous for hinting at, which makes it feel deliciously naughty to watch. There are a plethora of excellent one-liners. Manages to avoid both action movie cliches and romantic comedy cliches despite very clearly being both.
Two thumbs up, for fun in the absence of serious cinematic integrity.
Therefore I went to Miss-Shapes. Okay night; Sandra played Push It by Salt'n'Pepa again (such an out of place song!) but also Goldfrapp, so I guess she's forgiven. There was a cute guy in a white shirt who could really dance. It was good enough to stay past last tube but I left by 1.30.
Why am I bothering to write all of this? Ah well.