The Onward March of Globalisation

We’re part of the Wal-Mart family now!

Meanwhile, back in the US, the Department of Defense continues in its relentless attempt to bring down the British Government. Back in February and March, we were told not to listen to those dirty hippies who kept on saying that the West's interest in Iraq was mainly based on all that lovely oil its sitting on. No, it was about the weapons of mass destruction (and then it became freeing the Iraqi people, but that's another story) that the regime was hiding.

It seems that now, after having got their way, they're talking more openly about why we attacked Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz is the Deputy Secretary of Defense, known as one of the leading hawks in the Bush Administration. His comments from a conference in Singapore at the weekend, on why North Korea is being treated differently than Iraq:

Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.
That sound you hear is Tony Blair's quiet sobbing, as our trusted ally happily tears his arguments to shreds.

The US media may not pay too much attention to Wolfowitz's comments (I'm not there, so let me know if I'm wrong), but I guarantee that this'll be all over the British newspapers tomorrow. The Press is beginning to smell blood.

EDIT: This story is wrong. See the June 5th entry for an explanation.

currently playing: Tori Amos - Precious Things

"I could set the building on fire"

Behold the majesty of the Red Swingline Stapler!

Having problems today. I made a list of all the stories I'm currently working on. It comes to a grand total of nine, all in various forms of completion (two have most of the plot fleshed out and two-thirds of a script, while one is little more than a sentence). All I have to do is pick one, and see it through to the end.

Obviously, this is where the problems start.

Every time I sit down to work on something, my thoughts automatically shift to one of the other ideas. I think that it might be a better idea to do the New York story, or a way of fixing a fatal flaw in the road-trip script suddenly comes to me. And shouldn't I work on the other thing before my memories become unreliable?

This goes on for a while, and I end up writing very little at all. It's most annoying.

On a brighter note, I hope to be hearing about the Top Secret thing in the next few days, and it appears that my final paycheque from Chapel Hill will be in the capable hands of the Royal Mail by next week. Yay for extra cash (mind you, by the time it arrives the current exchange rate will make it worth £5)!

currently playing: Zwan - Lyric (congratulations to whoever gave Billy Corgan the Happy Pills)

(The History of The Smiley)

I’m fascinated by the history of computing. I love knowing about the people who created the protocols and applications that we use today, the squabbles and lawsuits, the claims and counter-claims. Who invented the Windows, Icons, Menu, Pointer system that we all use today? Who owns UNIX anyway, and why is that important? Why did the man who created the mathematical language of how all computers work commit suicide? Just how did Bill Gates get where he is today?

But all of this is insignificant compared to the momentous event that occurred on the 19th of September, 1982. For it was then that three ASCII characters were combined to form the smiley, and text communication was transformed forever. I love the idea that, five hundred years in the future, data archeologists might be able to trace the origin of the Western smiley (Asia actually uses a different set of smilies — look here for some examples) to the exact date and time of a post on a long defunct CMU bulletin board.

I'll go and take off my geek hat now.

currently playing: New Order- Temptation (Live At 2002 Big Day Out) (and complete with excellent shouty bits)


Just as expected.

We now return you to your local AOLTimeFOXVerizonHearstClearChannel programme.

currently playing: The Clash - Every Little Bit Hurts

Look! Now With Added Recipes!

Just to show that it’s not all doom and gloom, and that sometimes the big companies don’t get everything their way: the Austin branch of the EFF has managed to defeat the Texan version of the Super-DMCA Bill, sending the MPAA back home. A small victory which doesn’t help the residents of, say, Florida or Michigan, but it’s a start.

"We have 200 couches where you can sleep tight"

Interpol must have a big house. Must be expensive, considering NYC estate prices.

It's just occurred to me that despite spending a year in America, I neglected to pass on the secret of the KitKat straws to the New World. This is obviously a tragedy which must be rectified at the earliest opportunity. Like now:

KitKat Straws.

What You'll Need:

A KitKat (chunky works best, but in a pinch the old 4-blocks are good)

Tea/Coffee/Hot Chocolate

Instructions: Take the KitKat and bite both ends off. Place one end in the cup, and suck the drink through the other end. Delicious goodness. But don't suck for too long, or else the KitKat will melt and fall into your drink. This Is A Bad Thing.

What? Why is everybody looking at me like that?

currently playing: Kenickie - Hooray For Everything

The Worst Books Ever!

Sir Ian McKellen: Actor

The Book of Leviticus

It's full of old legal nonsense that some people still take seriously.

John Peel: DJ and radio presenter

Managing my Life: My autobiography by Alex Ferguson

I'm a Liverpool supporter.

currently playing: Radiohead - There There

Why I Hate Disney Today

Finding Nemo is out this weekend in America. The UK release date? October. Grr. By that time, they’ll have already released the DVD. I suppose it could be worse; it’s coming out on Boxing Day in Iceland. I know, I know, it’s timed to coincide with the October half-term, but couldn’t they put it out in the summer? Just this once?

Well, that was May. Rather quick, wasn't it?

currently playing: Godspeed You Black Emperor - BBF3

FCC And You

On June 2nd, the FCC is expected to relax the American laws restricting companies from owning too much of the media. The current regulations state that that no company can own more than 35% of the US television market. After Monday, that will rise to 45% under the proposed new rules. TV Stations will also no longer be barred from owning newspapers in their local markets.

The legacy of the 1996 radio deregulation, which resulted in Clear Channel owning 1,200 of America's radio stations (now becoming increasingly centralised and providing less local programming) has given rise to serious opposition to the suggested changes. Internet campaigns, members of Congress, the National Rifle Association, and even some media barons have all expressed their concerns.

The FCC believes that the Internet will prevent America from becoming a media monoculture, so consolidation of TV and print channels shouldn't have too much of an impact. Leaving aside a recent study that indicates that as much as half of the population of the USA is not interested in going online, this idea is flawed. The companies that own the Internet connections, for example RoadRunner, are intimately connected with the media empires (RoadRunner is part of AOL/TimeWarner). How is the Internet supposed to be the saviour of the media when the media empires own the communications links, as well as the TV stations and newspapers? How can new companies emerge when the Baby Bells aren't forced to share the fibre connections?

This is the point where we British can get smug, and say "well, that'd never happen here." Possibly not to the same extent, no, but worrying developments are just over the horizon. The Government is currently pursuing a new Communications Bill which would relax foreign ownership and overall percentage restrictions from the UK. ClearChannel has already expressed an interest about buying several UK radio stations after the Bill becomes law. I give you Lowry Mays, head of Clear Channel:

If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn't be someone from our company. We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers' products.

Not exactly Reithian, is it?

currently playing: Idlewild - Live In A Hiding Place

This Really Is A One-Line Entry

Honest. Busy, busy, busy.

currently playing: Kenickie - Stay In The Sun

Sky Is Blue

Typical. Britain finally decides that, after a month of solid rain, it might be an idea to have some sunny weather, and I’ve been stuck in the house working on Top Secret Project #1. Happily, it seems to be going well, so I might be able to move outside tomorrow.

While I was away, my family finally caved and bought a Sky satellite dish. My sister controls the TV with an iron fist, hopping through the fifty or so music channels with deft efficiency, only pausing for the Bhangra station and the inevitable Justin Timberlake music videos. Everybody else has now gone to bed, so I've just had a quick look around. For all those who think of Britain as the last bastion of quality TV programming, I give you FriendlyTV. The current programme? Three girls getting drunk and responding to text messages being sent to them by people who also seem to have had a few. It's not exactly Edge of Darkness. So what am I doing watching it? Er, that's a very good point; let's move on.

Okay, RaptureTV seems to be exactly the same, except instead the girls have been replaced by a rave soundtrack. Skipping through the Movies and Sport sections (we only have Sky Prole), and into the news channels. Which blend into one after a while. Except for FOX News, of course. I can only watch it for about five minutes before I want to start throwing things. Today, it was a smug, self-satisfied item on Amnesty International's annual report. I have no objections with them criticising Amnesty; what I have a problem with is their attempt to discredit the report by effectively saying "Saddam's gone. Isn't the world better? Surely you don't support Saddam's Evil Regime, do you? I bet you liked Hitler." If the report has flaws, tell us about them. In a non-hysterical manner, preferably.

Cartoons! Excellent. The world is better for the existence of the Cartoon Network (Roadrunner marathons!). But I'm trying to discover new things, so I'll press on.

Oh. Approximately 175,324 teleshopping channels. Most of which seem to run American infomercials.

Actually, I think I'll go to bed and read a book.

currently playing: The Sundays - Wild Horses