Aug 4, 2003 · 3 minute read
Phil had forgotten the number for railway enquiries, so we had to walk through Piccadilly Gardens to see if the number was in the tram station. We didn't get very far.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Matt, one of my friends from my time at Manchester, and one of the people I didn't expect to see this weekend, considering he works in London:
Strangely, by the time this chance reunion occurred on Saturday afternoon, Phil and I were ready for just about anything. We had seen sheep and a cow in Albert Square, watched a a silver clad man in stilts chase after girls, waved at a gondola containing two men dressed up in 1920s Oxford clothes, watched a street show fronted by Japanese Yakuza pranksters, and puzzled over a man and a woman having a pillow fight in a transparent tent.
It was a weekend of weirdness. For instance, did you know that Selfridges sells chocolate-coated scorpions and ant encased in peppermint? Before you ask, I didn't try them; I know I should be open to new things, but there are limits. Phil also took me to a bunch of shops and cafés that I'd never seen before, but had been around while I was living there, which made me feel pretty dumb. On the other hand, I introduced him to the delights of Vinyl Exchange.
The centre of Manchester has been in constant flux since the IRA bomb in 1996. While I was at university there, the bomb site was cleared, and new buildings began to spring up; now there's a host of shops, seating areas, and a huge IMAX-screen cinema to be found where rubble once stood. Having finished with clearing up the bomb site, the city now seems to be revamping the 1960s-style Arndale Centre and expanding the Northern Quarter (the trendy part of the city). Here's some pictures:
Aside from Matt and Phil, I met up with some other friends as well; we bumped into Will Rizk on our way back from surveying the remains of the Haçienda (okay, there are no remains, so we looked at the new housing development), and we had a nice tea at Will and Rosie's house on Saturday. At this point, I am obliged to give out this public notice: Don't let Phil near your wedding presents. That is all.
I saw three films over the weekend: Buffalo Soldiers, T3, and Legally Blonde 2. The last one was not my idea. Buffalo Soldiers was quite funny, and came complete with GIANT TANK scenes, although quite a few of the scenes suffered from some really bad dubbing (and that the projector was out of focus for the trailers and the first few minutes of the film). But a GIANT TANK more than makes up for that. T3 was better than I thought it was going to be, but I'm still trying to scrub the horror of Legally Blonde 2 out of my mind. Oy.
Interesting Manchester fact I learnt over the days I was there: apparently, there's gunfire in Moss Side every night. But, according to the police, they're really bad shots. So, don't be a random passer-by near Maine Road…
After that boost to the Manchester tourist industry, I think I'll just leave you with a few more pictures; it really is quite a nice place, honest.
Aug 3, 2003 · 1 minute read
Back home. More later…
Jul 30, 2003 · 2 minute read
I'm sure I've used this title before. But hey, it's a great title, even if I've never been on such a train. I came close one Monday, on an 8:14 (I make it a point to leave at insane times. To make things worse, I was up all night watching the Oscars, so didn't get any sleep until later that night).
As I mentioned before, updates for the rest of the week will probably be sporadic, so I'll leave you with the return of Ian's Dodgy MP3 Discoveries!
- Hangedup - New Blue Monday
Included because it's funny. Hangedup are labelmates of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, so you would expect lots of post-apocalyptic instrumentals. What you don't expect is a cover of Blue Monday where the drum track is played by a viola. See? Even post-rockers can have a sense of humour.
Life Without Buildings - The Leanover
At first I thought this was a band from the early 1980s, but further research on the Interweb told me that they're much more recent than that (they split up a year ago). A punkier Altered Images. No! Come back! Altered Images were cool! Bah.
ESG - You're No Good
Remember all those stories about how only forty people turned up to a Sex Pistols gig, but all those present went off and formed bands of their own (last seen on 24 Hour Party People, where we discover that John Lydon is responsible for Simply Red)? Well, ESG are a similar case; about ten people bought their original single (released on Factory Records, fact fans!), but these people were members of The Clash, Public Enemy, New Order, the Beastie Boys, and Public Image Ltd. They seem to have been written out of music history somewhat (heck, I didn't even know they existed until last Sunday!), so have a listen to this, the A-side from their debut single.
Panjabi MC - Mundian To Bach Ke
Ah, the UNC memories…
Boo Radleys - It's Lulu
Okay, so not a recent discovery by any means, but it's one of my favourite records from the Britpop era, and you should all listen to it.
Jul 29, 2003 · 2 minute read
The Doctor is in.
Now with extra titanium. Good to see he's back on his feet.
We might be in need of his skills soon, as the Primary contest starts getting interesting. The Dean campaign continues to impress; this weekend it wiped the Vice President's fund-raising attempt off the map, by simply issuing a challenge to the Internet community. And a new poll out today shows that Dean is now tying for the lead in the Democratic nomination race. Of course, the same survey shows that only 66% of people questioned want someone who'll stand up for what they believe in, and 30% would vote for lying scum, as long as he would beat Bush. Sigh. One of these days, somebody should try and run for both nominations, just to see how many votes they can pick up…
Finishing off the US Primary talk for today, the neoconservative-leaning Weekly Standard handicaps the current Democrat contenders, and seems to be quite positive about Dean's chances. It's rumoured he's the candidate that the Bush team would like to face, as Dean is a loud critic of both the Iraq war and the recent tax cuts, and they'd dearly like to peg the Demoncrats as peacenik hippies who want to tax America to the hilt. (The typo was unintentional, but I thought it was amusing, so I left it in)
I really hope there's a department in the Pentagon that's dedicated to making up insane ideas in order to distract people from news they'd rather didn't get a wide airing (e.g. the increasing casualty figures in Iraq). Because, I'd like to think that DARPA didn't get all the way to announcing their terrorism futures scheme without somebody saying "Dude! You're planning to make a terrorist stock exchange? Are you nuts!!?!?"
Jul 28, 2003 · 2 minute read
About three years after all the cool people decided that Slashdot wasn't the in-place to be anymore and went off to Kuro5hin
, it's finally happened to me. Today's thread
about Nat Friedman's Dashboard
project shows the sorry state that the site now finds itself in; a few years back, this would have been a 100-reply thread full of people discussing the ideas behind the application, congratulating Nat and the others for getting so much done in so little time, and perhaps a little informed speculation about how this compared to the rumoured design of Microsoft Longhorn
. Today, however, it's a 250 comment monstrosity. Hardly anybody talks about the project, and when they do, it's only to complain that Emacs
has a feature like this already (well, yes, it does. As Nat explains
, it also sucks at it, but who cares, huh? We don't want to improve things, do we?).
It's just so negative. Why can't we be positive for a change? Dashboard looks like a wonderful application, full of interesting promise (in fact, it seems only a few steps away from the Apple Knowledge Navigator adverts from a decade ago, which is pretty cool). It uses the openness of Free Software to work with current software, unlike the Longhorn approach which is going to need a complete rewrite of applications and the filesystem, and it works today. We should be celebrating this stolen march over the competition, rather than shouting it down simply because it happens to use Mono.
On the bright side, if I cut down on the Slashdot-reading, I'll be able to get more work done. Hurrah!
Hmm, apparently, the new A Silver Mt. Zion album has leaked onto the Internet, so I'm now going to try and hunt down a copy for my train trip on Thursday…
Jul 27, 2003 · 1 minute read
I'm going to be in Manchester from Thursday, so there won't be too many postings this week. To make up for that, I promise to take lots of pictures while I'm away, so you can see the sunny climes of the North. Or the BBC Manchester building.
Today, I'm very disappointed in the British record-buying public. Daniel Beddingfield at Number One? Replacing Beyonce? You poor fools.
Jul 24, 2003 · 1 minute read
My brain feels like it wants to float into the sky again, so no entry tonight. Instead, just imagine an entry that ranted about the House of Representatives passing a bill that overturns the recent FCC deregulation, by a margin of 400 to 21
. Public opinion seems to have been a determining factor in this decision; both left and right-wing groups joined forces in the attempt to rollback the new ownership limits. It's a victory for the consumer.
Except, of course, that The White House has promised to veto the bill. Hohoho.
Right, going to bed now.
Jul 23, 2003 · 1 minute read
The RIAA continues in its absurd attempt to put college America behind bars
. Meanwhile, a competitor to iTunes launches
. Amazingly, it manages to completely misjudge what makes iTunes
great; Buymusic doesn't offer consistent pricing (prices range from 79¢ to $1.79 per track), or a consistent usage scheme (some tracks can be burnt to disc, some can't, some can only be burnt a number of times, and oh, you can't use an iPod with the service, as it's based around Microsoft's WMA technology). It'll be interesting to see how well it performs: Apple sold 275,000 songs in its first 18 hours. Buymusic has a bigger selection of tracks (300,000 vs. 200,000), plus as it's PC only, it should have a potential audience of 95% of the consumer computer market, opposed to iTunes's 5%. So it should be much more successful, shouldn't it? Hmm…
(Incidentally, CDBaby now has a contract with Apple, so the independent music artist now has a way to profit from iTunes without having to be signed to a major label. Seems to be a Factory-type arrangement: the label receives 9% of the profit from any music sold, and the artist retains all rights)