May 26, 2003 · 1 minute read
Bah. Anyway, just to make this clear — I don't want anybody to think that I thought the UK was unfairly treated in Eurovision; it was an abysmal performance, and we deserved what we got.
The Ireland thing: I promise I didn't lift it from Father Ted. However, a brief search through the Internet reveals nothing apart from references to reports that RTE wanted the rules changed so that all the countries shared in the staging costs rather than the winner having to bear all the burden, which might be seen as evidence that they were struggling a little. Mind you, I also found several messages from Irish USENET posters complaining that RTE was using the contest as an excuse to get more funding from the Government. So, er, yes, "throwing" it was a bit strong: "extremely pleased to lose" probably describes it better.
This has been a Bank Holiday Corrections Update.
May 25, 2003 · 1 minute read
May 24, 2003 · 3 minute read
For the benefit of any Americans who may be reading, I give you: The Eurovision Song Contest
. The idea, supposedly, is to celebrate the music of Europe by inviting countries to select a band and a song to perform at a massive gala festival, whereupon the countries vote for the one they feel was the best (each country gives points in ascending scale from 1-12). The winner then gets to host the festival next year. Simple, yes?
Well, not exactly. I don't know how it's viewed on the Continent, but in Britain, the Contest is seen as a great opportunity to laugh at the awful music that the rest of Europe makes. We always vote for an abysmal song, and sit back with a smug look on our faces. Meanwhile, all the poor countries of Europe live in fear of actually winning the contest, as the cost of staging the event is rather expensive (many people believe that Ireland once deliberately threw the contest a few years back because they had won three times in a row, and the state broadcaster simply couldn't afford a fourth win). Every year, the UK commentary is provided by a radio DJ called Terry Wogan, who supplies a withering and sarcastic voice to the proceedings, mocking everything from dress sense to the performances. The night has become a popular kitsch event, where we laugh at the silly Europeans.
And then there's the voting. It's supposed to be based solely on the musical merit of the performances, but as you can imagine, this never occurs. Countries which neighbour each other always tend to give the other the top marks, all the Eastern European countries remember to include Russia, and Greece never gives any points to Turkey. It's as entertaining as the music section.
This year will be remembered as a classic Eurovision Night; long-standing enmities were cast aside as the countries in Europe finally united. Unfortunately, the one thing they can agree on is that they aren't particularly happy with the UK. For the first time in the history of the Contest, Britain received no votes, nul points. That'll teach us to side with the Americans.
The eventual winner was Turkey, thus shocking the world by illustrating that combining "teenage" and "lesbians" isn't a guaranteed way of obtaining success after all. The Russian Mafia is said to be returning to the drawing board for next year's contest. Meanwhile, we'll moan a bit for the next few days about how we got no votes, it's all rubbish anyway, and isn't it all political, forgetting of course, that's entirely why we watch the thing in the first place…
May 23, 2003 · 2 minute read
The jacket is designed for women only. Its small size and narrow armholes are intended to prevent men from using it as an offensive weapon. Whiton conceded that women could use it offensively, and that it would be hard for police to arrest anyone wearing one.
It's not a jetpack, but it's a start. Extra hardcore points for the idea of field testing the jacket in Boston. Oh, and for making the sparks visible in the jacket itself, thus giving it a proper 21st century look.
The comic industry in Japan is facing serious problems; apparently manga is not quite as popular with children as it used to be. This is interesting, as the American industry is looking to Japan to rescue it from a serious depression at the moment. While the Japanese market is still vastly bigger than anything in the West, news like this suggests that they don't have all the answers.
Back to the Texan Democrats, I'm afraid. Remember last week, when I mentioned that the Department of Homeland Security was used to locate these "legislative terrorists"? Well, other people noticed, and it appears that Tom Ridge (head of the DHS) is investigating "potentially criminal" use of his agency in respect to the Democrat exodus. Could we possibly be seeing another Senate Majority Leader fall before the year is out?
May 22, 2003 · 3 minute read
If you haven't seen The Matrix: Reloaded yet, you'll probably want to skip today's entry.
Today, I finally discovered the problem I have with The Matrix; it's more interesting to discuss the ideas and concepts it talks about than actually spending two-and-a-half hours sitting in a cinema and watching the film. I love talking about the symbolism, the works it derives from, but I have no desire to see Reloaded ever again.
The freeway scenes are amazing; the end of that section has one of the greatest special effects shots that I've ever seen. But everything else seemed fairly limp: an overlong dance scene at the start which, despite the best efforts of the Wachowski brothers, ends up looking like the Ewok party scene from Return of The Jedi, several scenes where the film grinds to a complete halt while new characters deliver all-important expositional dialogue (with! comedy! evil! French! accents!), and some suspect CGI effects.
And then there's the fight scenes. All of which last about five minutes too long. The vaunted million-Smiths vs. Neo just goes on and on; after about three minutes you begin to get bored, because although it looks fairly impressive, nothing is actually happening — they're just swirling about. Instead of ending it there, the fight continues with Smith reinforcements. The CGI work starts to become obvious at this point (the repeated use of certain effect shots doesn't help either), spoiling the scene further. And then, after what seems like ten minutes, the fight…just ends. After such a long scene, I expect there to be consequences more than "ooh, look what the fuzzy elf guy can do now!"
That's not to say that the film was a total disaster; two twists towards the end made things more interesting, whilst at the same time throwing light on certain plot points from the first film, and I liked Persephone's throwaway line of "it's only a game" (which could be an Invisibles reference, but I'm most likely projecting). I also love the way the entire film is drenched in symbolism, from the pomegranate desert in front of Merovingian and Persephone, to the shattered dreams of Morpheus at the end of the film.
Let's hope that in the next film, the Wachowski brothers rein in some of the excess. Yes, I know that sounds silly considering it's a Hollywood blockbuster, but by excess I mean extending the action scenes to the point where they become irritating.
Feel free to post long, point-by-point annihilations of my review in the comment section. As I said, I enjoy talking about it…
May 21, 2003 · 1 minute read
Everybody says that the new Matrix film is awful, so I'm probably going to enjoy it tomorrow. I'm just contrary like that…
May 20, 2003 · 1 minute read
It's possible that I wasn't in the right mood, but the new Spiritualized album is really dull. In the oh-has-an-hour-passed-doesn't-this-track-sound-
I've updated the site a little today; shamed by Matt's fancy new comment system, I finally got around to changing the comment template so that it doesn't look like I spent five minutes changing the original one supplied with MovableType. The design seems to break on long hyperlinks, but I'm not sure if there's anything I can do to fix that.
Back to the cynical news links, I suppose. Nice move, Admiral. Calling it Terrorist Information Awareness is a fantastic idea. Those Senators don't want to be seen voting against defeating terror, do they?
Meanwhile, thousands of people are dying in the Congo, while 750 UN troops look on, powerless to do anything. Oh, and Indonesia has parachuted troops into the Aceh province, bringing the area under martial law. Expect war to break out in the next few days.
Let's finish with something that doesn't involve crushing despair, shall we? Hundreds of Albert Einstein's papers have been placed on-line as part of a joint project between CalTech and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Yay for digital archiving!
May 18, 2003 · 1 minute read
Today, I have been mostly blowing up my MP3 player.
Quote of the Day (from Panorama, talking to Richard Perle): "Don't you worry that you're scaring the hell out of the rest of the world?"
May 17, 2003 · 1 minute read
Walking into HMV and not recognising any of the bands that they're promoting is not a good sign. But! But! Mark and Lard should be back on Monday, so the re-education process shall begin shortly.
Double-decker buses! Closed shop fronts! Brief periods of sunshine followed by drizzling rain! Workmen tearing up the main street yet again, meaning that the only access to half the shops is via wooden ramps! But, hey, at least it's not Cambridge…