Presenting…The Most Disturbing Picture On The Internet!

currently playing: Longpigs — On and On

It Wasn't Always Like Links

Part of my pessimism about the chart last week stemmed from Radio 1’s constant tinkering with the Top 40 Chart Show. You would have thought that it would be quite easy: you start the show at 40, and the play all the songs until you get to 1. That’s not good enough for Radio 1, it seems, as they want it to be an all-round entertainment show. Gah. The latest version of this debuted yesterday, with new DJs JK and Joel (imagine Chris Moyles, but even less appealing. I know, I didn’t think it was possible either). I didn’t have the heart to subject myself to the show, but one William Swygart did, and he reports back in Stylus magazine. The short version: it was so bad, he’s terminating his two-year-old Top 40 column with immediate effect.

(by the way: Stereophonics at #1, Annie at #50. RAGE.)

Lots of cute icons!

Notepad Invaders!

A blog that points to good free fonts on the web.

DIY Lazer Tag. The Internet is a glorious thing sometimes.

currently playing: Kylie Minogue – Made Of Glass

Oh My God

Part 1 of 12??? Somebody needs to upload that to a torrent server, and quickly…

currently playing: Electronic — Getting Away With It

Music Musings

I was in HMV yesterday, and I saw that Warners/R.E.M. have rereleased all their post-Document albums with an extra DVD. The DVD has a DVD-Audio mix of the album, lyrics (horror!), plus documentaries about the making of the record. How annoying is that? I imagine that most people who are going to be interested in that sort of thing are probably likely to be R.E.M. fans in the first place, so there’s a good chance that they already have all the albums. If they sold a separate DVD set with the documentaries on, that’d be fine (and if they do, let me know, because I can’t find it), but otherwise, it just smacks of Warners ripping fans off. Shock, eh?

(what’s worse is that the DVDs themselves are a missed opportunity. Shouldn’t they include the music videos for the singles from each album? Oh, but that’d cut into the sales of the video DVD, and we can’t have that, can we?)

In other news, it looks as if the new Annie single, Heartbeat is going to flop this week. It’s #50 in the mid-week chart, which is depressing when you consider that you can sell about five hundred copies and get a Top 40 hit these days. I have a feeling that Anniemal is going to end up as one of the lost pop albums of this decade. I think the singles chart isn’t long for this world, even with the merging with the download figures. Did you know that Moby and R.E.M. had singles out this week? Do they? Elvis’ ghost stalks the chart, with embarrassingly low Top 5 sales every week, as the record company scrambles to outrun the public domain. Will EMI do the same when The Beatles’ recordings become public property?

The singles market is doomed. But what will replace it? Record companies make most of their money from albums, yes, but that’s mainly for established acts. Where will the next generation of pop come from?

currently playing: Annie – Heartbeat

Education In Texas!

I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a good thing that children in Iraq are no longer taught from textbooks that proclaim Saddam is a great leader. Meanwhile, in that great state of Texas, a new health textbook has been approved for the eastern part of the state. Shall we look at some of the changes between the old edition and the new edition? Why, yes, let’s.

The sex hormones your body produces may make you interested in romantic relationships with others. Friendships and dating relationships help you prepare for adult relationships.

Seems reasonable enough. But no! It needed to be corrected!

The sex hormones your body produces may make you interested in romantic relationships with the opposite sex. Friendships and dating relationships help you prepare for stable marital commitment.

bangs head on the table. But wait, it gets worse:

If you discuss the issue of homosexuality in class, discuss it respectfully. Be aware that someone in your class may be homosexual or related to someone who is homosexual, or have a friend who is homosexual.

If you discuss the issue of homosexuality in class, be aware that Texas law rejects homosexual marriage. Students can therefore maintain that homosexuality and heterosexuality are not moral equivalents, without being charged with “hate speech”.

Aside from making me want to cover all of Texas with deadly VX gas (I know what you’re thinking: “Glass or plastic?!” I hear you cry. Well, glass is probably more biodegradable), does the paragraph even make any sort of logical sense? Because Texas rejects gay marriage, you can say anything you like?

Surveys indicate that 3 to 10 percent of the population is gay. Opinions vary on why some people are straight, some are bisexual, and others are gay.

The idea that as many as three people in a class of thirty could be gay was obviously too controversial for a Texan class, so it was replaced with:

No one knows for sure why homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals as a group are more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use, and suicide.

Well, if that’s true (which I suspect isn’t, to be honest), how about this for a stab in the dark: Because scum like you want to trample on their rights, harass them, assault them, and ideally, you’d like to see them wiped off the face of the planet? I know I’d certainly depressed if the ruling Government thought I was immoral and something to be stamped out.

And, if you’ll excuse me for stooping to clichéd comparisons, it reminds me too much of this question from a 1930s German textbook:

A modern bomber can carry 1,800 incendiaries. How long is the path along which it can distribute those bombs if it drops a bomb every second at a speed of 250 kilometres and hour? How far apart are the craters?

Texas: You useless, cretinous morons.

currently playing: Camera Obscura – Books Written For Girls

We apologise for the interruption of this show

Yes, the web server fell over AGAIN. Sigh. Does anybody know any of a reasonably priced webhost that offers a 100Mb package plus Perl/CGI suport? I think I’ll be moving as soon as I can afford it…

currently playing: Rainer Maria – Ears Ring

WARNING: Contains Techy Gubbins

I guess it’s that time again, you know, the one where I speak out on an issue that’s currently raging in the blogosphere. Exciting stuff, I know.

The issue of the moment is, of course, the Google Toolbar, an application that sits in your web browser and provides a helpful interface to some of Google’s facilities. The fuss is all about a button called “AutoLink”, which, when you press it, changes un-hyperlinked addresses, Federal Express tracking numbers, and ISBNs into hyperlinks that to Google Maps, the FedEx tracking page, or Amazon, depending on what it finds. So, for example, if I was to write 531 Carmicahel, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 here, then pressing “AutoLink” would change the text to a link which would show exactly where that is.

(Incidentally, if you’re currently living in 531: I’m sorry for the junk mail that you get in my name. But I would like to point out that it wasn’t me who signed you up for the NRA leaflets. Or the Elizabeth Dole updates. Oh, and I wish I could say how to make the room appear bigger. I don’t think it can be done. Go next door and gaze in envy at 532, who is paying the same money as you, but appears to have a much bigger room! (It’s actually only an inch wider, but it means you can get the bed against the window, which changes the whole appearance of the room))

Anyway, reaction on the web to this new feature has been slightly perplexing. You might have thought, as I did, “well, that’s a cool trick,” and promptly forgot about it. I think most people did, but there’s a vocal group of people objecting to AutoLink. Their complaints range from wanting Google to open the APIs involved so third parties can add their own links and change where the current annotations go to (sensible, and Google has already added different options so you can go to MapQuest instead of Google Maps, for example), to a bunch of people screaming that Google has now become evil and that this is the end of the web as we know it.

I really can’t see the problem. Dave Winer’s essay against the Toolbar goes all over the place, making incorrect statements about how it works (AutoLink-added links change the cursor when hovered over, thus they are different from normal links), and spending most of its time worrying about what AutoLink could do, instead of what it does. This seems to be a common theme amongst those argument against AutoLink; I’ve read tens of weblogs that all talk about how it automatically changes web pages, but it does no such thing. It sits, patiently, doing nothing until the user clicks on the button. Only then does it look out for items it can link, and if something is already linked, it does not change that like. So it’s not going to rewrite your Amazon Associates Code and give Google all the money you were making from sales.

There’s also an argument that says that Google is violating the copyright of the web author when AutoLink is used. Tosh. It’s no different from buying a book, underlining passages, and writing notes in the margin. Plus, copyright infringement is mainly concerned with redistribution, and that doesn’t happen here - it’s just a page on a user’s computer, which she could change herself is she wanted to, or write a browser plug-in that did the same thing. Would that be unacceptable to the anti-AutoLink camp? Is Bloglines bad because it takes RSS feeds and republishes them without the author’s consent (hey, I wasn’t asked. I’m cool with it, though)?

How do I feel about AutoLink? I think it’s great. I love the idea of having an option to find more information about what I’m reading (it’s similar to the BBC News Wiki idea, in a way, or the Accessible Odeon pages), and as a web author, I don’t mind if people want to do things like this to my work. It improves their web experience, and I’m all for that.

currently playing: Delays – Lost In A Melody

How Does It Feel To Link Me Like You Do?

Sad news from Cuba. Looks like the state is recentralising, possibly to consolidate power for Castro’s successor?

World Jump Day! The science behind it is highly suspect, but it’s an excuse to jump up and down, so who cares?

Customized iPod shuffles!

What the Oscar Presenters and Performers got in their prize bags (warning: may make you wonder just why these people, who are probably quite rich in the first place, need all this stuff).

The history of Vimto!

A bizarre Japanese Flash game.

Origami Apple Macs and iPods!

currently playing: ABC – Show Me

Oscars 2005: FCC PTC GO!

But first: Channel 4’s 100 Greatest series. I mean, really. Now, it’s not a innovative format, but it could be good. Perhaps if they chucked out the ‘annoying comedian of the moment’ linking clips, beat the graphic scriptwriters over the head with a grammar guide explaining the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’, and dropped the sneery tone that all the talking heads seem to have (“Oh, it was crap, wasn’t it? Mind you, I did spend every afternoon watching it” – there’s no need to be ashamed of your childhood), it could be a fun programme. Say, chop the list of featured shows to 50, get rid of the Internet voting aspect, and actually talk about the programmes themselves instead of bringing up the Captain Pugwash myths yet again. In tonight’s 100 Greatest Cartoons, there was some lovely moments, including seeing footage from David Jason’s voice recording sessions on Danger Mouse, and what I think may have been the first broadcast on British television of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opening sequence. Yet, instead of attention being called to these things, it felt that they were just thrown in because Channel 4 could get the rights cheaply, and they’d extend the running of the show by a few minutes. In the end, it just becomes another couple of hours dedicated to laughing at the past. Which sucks.

(And no, I wasn’t just annoyed that Transformers was dismissed in thirty seconds. The cartoon series wasn’t all that good, at least in the writing, but it could have stood to have a little more discussion about say, that it was one of the first major toy-tie-in cartoons, that it still runs to this day in a modified form, and hell, considering the tone of the show, you would have thought that as the film features characters swearing, it would have been a easy choice to have a stand-up comedian saying “they SWORE? In a kid’s film? WOW!”)

Anyway! The Oscars 2005! The organisers have revealed themselves to be big Youssou Ndour and Neneh Cherry fans, as tonight’s telecast is on a seven-second delay (I’m so sorry). The PTC has the FCC on speeddial, just waiting for Chris Rock to come on-stage, and celebrating that it may soon become cheaper to start a nuclear incident rather than show parts of the body on broadcast television. Yay progress!

To be honest, I’m not sure about tonight’s ceremony. For a start, I haven’t seen most of the nominated films, so I don’t really know what I want to win (except for Best Animated Picture - if Shrek 2 beats The Incredibles, then there really is no justice in this universe). It’d be nice for Kate Winslet to pick up an award, but there’s no chance of her doing so. The films that are going to win tonight are Million Dollar Baby, The Aviator, and Ray. We know this because they won all the other awards, and the same people vote for the Oscars as the SAG awards. Plus, the changes to the format are irksome. It sounds nice to say that some people will not be given their Oscars on the stage to speed up proceedings, but what this means is that the winners of Best Make-Up, Set Design, and other backroom categories won’t have their moment, because the organisers wouldn’t dare to do the same for the Best Actor award, would they? And I liked those speeches by the winners of the smaller awards; they’re always more personal than the winners of the big categories. So boo to that.

(And what’s the deal with having Beyonce sing three of the nominated songs? Why can’t Minnie Driver sing her song? It just doesn’t make sense)

And every year, I forget that there’s the annoying “Countdown” bit beforehand. Look! people walking inside! How exciting!

And already, I miss the BBC. Adverts are also quite annoying.

I think I can hear the PTC dialling already. But indeed, the “imagine you work at the Gap, and your till is $90 trillion short” routine was funny.

Best Art Direction! And the first change - all the nominees are on stage. What happens to the losers? Oh they just get to clap while the winners get their Oscar. The losers have disappeared. Dropped through a trap door, I guess.

Okay, starting here: The Give Renee Zellweger A Chip Foundation! Because she looks terrible. Empire Records, dear! You looked absolutely fine before - and scary with losing all that weight. And, as predicted, the Supporting Actor award is in the old format, because you can’t mess with the stars, can you?

Eh? Why were they playing the Star Trek theme when heading out to a break?

Robin Williams thinks he’s hosting. But no worries, because The Incredibles won Best Animated Feature! Aww, Brad looks very awkward. But sweet.

Best Make-Up! Cate Blanchett is at the back of the hall, where all the nominees are sitting together, and the winners get to go to a small microphone to deliver their speech, because they’re not good enough for the stage (Lemony Snicket won by the way).

Beyonce’s first song of the evening is in French. And would probably sound better if the original singer was doing it…

Okay, that may be the funniest Oscar segment in a long time

Scarlett Johansson: This year’s Science/Tech awards, or “We send a beautiful girl to mock the geeks” Party.


Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett.

Oh, and Best Documentary: Fahrenheit 911 was ineligible because it was shown on TV during 2004. No clips from the documentaries this time, just the winner: Born Into Brothels (hurrah! As Super-Size Me irritates me a lot: surely it’s not rocket science to think that eating junk food exclusively for a month is incredibly bad?)

Mmm, Kirsten Dunst…oh, and The Aviator wins Best Editing.


it’s always fun when they let drunk actors in for the British bits…

Best Adapted screenplay! Sideways get its consolation prize for being popular with the critics.

Best Visual Effects, and boy does Zhang Zyi look uncomfortable up there. Spidey 2!

Having people dedicate shows to “The Troops” is odd. You wouldn’t get Stephen Fry giving a shout-out to the British Army during the BAFTA telecast, would you?

Al Pacino looks like he’s spent the past week living on the street. Giving Sidney Lumet the Lifetime Oscar. Pauline Kael is rolling in her grave. Morgan Freeman is not going to let go of his Oscar. For Anyone. (and hey, Kael may have hated him, but I like Serpico and Network!)

Oh, how much money would we give to have Jay-Z be behind the Phantom mask?

“Comedy Superstar Jeremy Irons!”

Best short: Wasp. PTC reaching for that speed dial. If they understand British…

Best Animated Short: Ryan

Best Cinematography (presented by the lovely Kate Winslet): The Aviator, meaning that Passion of The Christ isn’t getting anything tonight.

It’s a good thing that nobody actually watches the inbetween bits. So far, nasty works about the Daily Mail, and a very drunk Will from Will and Grace.

Best Sound Mixing: Ray

Best Sound Editing: The Incredibles!

Best Documentary Short (Natalie Portman’s dress is ugly): Mighty Times: The Children’s March

I guess Rock isn’t too enamoured with the changes either. Anyway: Best! Original! Score! Finding Neverland!

Martin Scoresce gets to hold an Oscar. “Yes, Marty, you can hold it. BUT YOU’RE NEVER GETTING ONE!”

Josh from the West Wing ducks. Yo-Yo Ma plays the Death List.

Puffy? What’s he doing there? Please, no more Beyonce. Please.

Prince is going to speak! Prince! Prince! Although it seems he doesn’t really want to do it…Best Song: The Motorcycle Diaries! Someone tell Collin!

Sean Penn has a sense of humour failure live on stage. It. Was. A. Joke. Annnnd best actress goes to: Hilary Swank. Boooooo. I expect a reissue of The Next Karate Kid soon, people.

Incidentally, where did they find the woman Oscar presenters for tonight? They appear to be seven feet tall!


Best Foreign Picture: The Sea Inside

Best Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind! Yay! Charlie Kaufman!

The women from Desperate Housewives have been drinking. Quite considerably. They look as if they’re going to jump Jamie Theakston at any moment.

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx

Johnny Depp is wearing a Gonzo fist tie-clip, which is pretty cool.

Best Director: Clint Eastwood. The Academy: making Marty cry. Every. Single. Time. Although he did laugh. I guess they want him to be like Kubrick…

Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby. Boo again.

So, the Curse of Marty strikes once more. Boo and hiss, even if The Aviator wasn’t his best film.

Right, off to bed.

currently playing: Oscars 2005

London Part Two: Bring Your Raincoats 45s

The Windmill is tiny. It’s just a pub really, A small bar section, a few tables, and a little stage. Probably about enough room for fifty people. A cozy venue.

The concert was organised by a London-based magazine, Unpeeled. This had something of an unfortunate side-effect: everybody seems to know each other. Now, going to a concert by yourself is bad enough. Seeing that practically everybody else knows each other - a whole new layer of soul-destruction. Also, the bar doesn’t use Coca-Cola to mix vodka and coke, which I find unforgivable (especially when they have bottles RIGHT BEHIND THEM!).

But, after about ten minutes of wishing the ground would swallow me whole, I headed to the stage section, and waited for the bands to come out on stage.

First up, Strange Idols. They were the only English group of the evening, and sadly, they weren’t up to much, sounding exactly like any random indie band from Sarah Records (i.e. quite twee, a bit jangly, lots of ‘ooh oohs”). But they were pleasant enough, and didn’t stay too long, so I can’t complain too much.

Sweden then makes an appearance in the form of Speedmarket Avenue, proving that every indie band sounds better when a trumpet is involved. Actually, they weren’t bad at all, and the female singer had a lot of fun with the two drunk guys that were in front of me (and to the side, when the alcohol proved too much for them).

Whenever I talk about Saturday Looks Good To Me, I always say that they’re “thift store Motown”. And I don’t mean this in a derogatory way at all. After all, what is a thrift store but a chance to take old things, repackage them, combine them with other things, and make something new, exciting, and unique. That’s how I feel about this band.

Fred Thomas, (the Kevin Rowland of the group) is wearing a Factory t-shirt. That’s a quick way to my heart. Betty Barnes is dressed in a short yellow dress straight from the 1960s, with red leather go-go boots and a ladder in her tights (and that probably tells you how close I am to the band). They start playing Lift Me Up, and the first two rows of the audience go nuts. I find myself dancing with the girl singer of Speedmarket Avenue, which is a plus point for small gigs, I think (okay, so it was more alongside, but hey, let me have my moment). They mostly play songs from the recent two albums, which is fine by me, because I don’t have the first yet. Meet Me By The Water is an transcendent live as it is on record, melting hearts in the first five rows even as the first chords begin to play, then launching into a storming version of Underwater Heart straight afterwards. I want them to play Ultimate Stars, and they do, complete with the Be My Baby drumbeat (when you have something as perfect as that, you might as well use it), and there’s fun boy-girl interplay during The Girl’s Distracted (eye-covering! Mock slaps!).

It’s so much fun. The band plays really well, and they’re loving the crowd’s excited reactions to them. We get dance moves during Ulitmate Stars! Fred delivers an odd version of Dialtone, telling us that some people think the world will end in 2010 (silly Fred, everybody knows it’s 2012), and alters the lyrics to celebrate being in Britain; there’s something charming about the way American’s say “pint”, as if it’s some quaint word from a Shakespeare play. They even swap singers with SpeedMarket Avenue at one point. It’s a shindig. Or a hootenanny. I can never remember the difference.

It ends with a song that I don’t know, but the band says that we should have “a dance party, because that’s what we’re here for”. So we do. I’ve saved the pint of the other singer of SpeedMarket Avenue, am back dancing with them, and a girl is sweeping a XL-1 digital camera across the audience. Meanwhile, on stage, Betty is sticking her microphone into a saxophone and dancing around. It finally comes to an end; they apologise, so that they’ve had a wonderful night, perhaps the best of the tour, but there’s a curfew and they have to stop. But the bar lets them have one more song: Until The World Stops Spinning, with more Be My Baby steals and more dancing from all concerned.

The embarrassing bit of the evening: they’re coming off stage, and I go up to Fred. I first discovered this band two years ago, just before I went to Washington D.C. for a week. While I was away, they played Chapel Hill. And just before I went back this October, they played again. I had been in email contact with him as well; I bought a tour CD, and asked if they were touring Europe soon (that was a year ago). So I went up to him last night, introduced myself, and said how glad I was that they’d made it over. It came out more like “IwasinChapelHillandmissedyoutwicegoodtoseeyouinEurope!” He said that he was glad I finally got to see them, and didn’t run away screaming from the mad fan in front of him. So hurrah!

EDIT: The last-but-one song was most likely Girl of Mine, which, having heard it again tonight, makes me realise why I walked down Brixton last night thinking that I had just seen the American equivalent of Dexy’s Midnight Runners…

currently playing: Saturday Looks Good To Me — Meet Me By The Water