The British Museum Is Falling Down

There was an interesting report on Newsnight last night which got me thinking about the differences between the Internet and ‘real life’. The current director of the British Museum, Robert Anderson, is standing down, and the report by Julian Spalding labasted the Museum for not organising the Museum in a more interesting (to him, anyway) fashion. One of his examples was that the Tribute Penny, was buried in a glass case with many other coins, and should be given a section all to itself. Anderson pointed out that the Penny was part of a much larger display explaing howthe idea of money, and how it has developed through the ages.

Who's right? They both are.

How do you group things like the Penny, Vietnamese art, ancient writings, and all the myraid of items at the Museum? There's just so many ways of doing it, all providing perfectly fine classifications, but which may appeal to some people more than others. For a more mundane example, think of all the different ways you can organise your music collection (I have the honour of being called a freak by Jo Whiley about the order of my CDs, so I speak with some authority). You could do it alphabetically, by title or by artist. There's a chronological option, either by release date or purchase date, thus providing snapshots of music of the time or the music you were listening to respectively. You could group by the movement that a band belongs to (Britpop, post-rock, pop, and so on), or simply by the colour of the album. Each classification provides a slightly different view of your music collection, which also seems to alter your reaction to your collection (an album that may have been swamped in the alphabet classification may stand out when albums are organised by year, for example).

The problem is that changing these classifications is normally a tough job. Computers, however, allow us to change our view of things on a whim. The Internet Movie Database is a great example of this. Looking at the entry at My Fair Lady, we get reams of information about the film, but it has links which make us look at the film differently. With one click, we can see how it releates to Audrey Hepburns's career. Another click shows us that is part of the latter part of George Cukor's directorial life, whilst yet another click takes us to a list of films released in 1964. Completely different ways of looking at the film, which would require major physical upheavals in the real world, but extremely simple given a computer and a hypertext system.

Erm, yes. No, I don't get out much. Why do you ask?

currently playing: Le Tigre - Eau D'Bedroom Dancing

Interesting Times

When was the last time that the publication of a single comic changed evrything? Was it ten years ago, when Youngblood #1 signalled the speculator boom? Fifteen years ago, when Watchmen #1 cast a mature and accomplished look at superheroes? Forty years since Stan Lee's Fantastic Four announced the Marvel Age? Showcase #4? Detective Comics #27? Action Comics #1?

Shonen Jump #1 is being published in November. In Japan, it has a readership of 3.4 million every week. It will be in every Suncoast store in the USA. It is being published on a returnable basis. It's cheap, crammed full of exciting, energetic manga, and it has the possibility to change everything.

With a price tag of $4.95 for 240 pages, the Marvel/DC newsstand selection will be slaughtered. Children will go for the value, rather than spending $2.25 on a (admittedly very lovely) 22-page New X-Men. pamphlet. Retailers, especially in the more traditional outlets (bookstores, newsagents) will prefer the higher profit margin that Jump will provide, and the fact that Viz will be making the comic returnable just adds to the appeal.

Shonen Jump will feature series such as Cartoon Network's popular Dragonball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh, meaning that advertisers will be more plentiful than other publishers whose audience often skews the wrong side of thirty.

Viz Communications could own the US comic industry within two years.

Fasten your seatbelts. The Japanese are coming.

currently playing: Nathaniel Merriweather - Sex (I'm a)


I really do wish I didn’t turn bright red every time I talked to someone. It’s rather annoying.

Audrey Hepburn's accent in The Unforgiven is a work of Dick Van Dyke proportions.

currently playing: Beck - Nobody's Fault But My Own

Less than two weeks to go...

The movie marathon continues apace. Latest update:

  • The Young Wives' Tale - A typical British farce, not something that often appears in Audrey Hepburn filmographies. It's not very good at all, to be honest; Hepburn only has about five minutes of screentime in the whole film, and her character is almost completely superfluous to the plot. Not worth seeking out.

  • The audio commentary of Scream 3 helped me to broaden my dislike of the film beyond 'Kevin Williamson didn't write it'. They only had Neve Campbell for 20 days of filming, and knowing this it becomes clear that Neve's character, the focus for the previous films, has only three real scenes in the entire film, and the rest has to be carried by the comedy-relief haracters of Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox), and Dewy (David Arquette), which doesn't quite work. That the script was still being written as they were shooting didn't help matters either.

  • The Secret People - an interesting, if confused 1952 film about terrorism. The moral is smashed into the audience with all the sublety of a jackhammer, and the last fifteen minutes seem to come out of nowhere in particular, but it has a nice style and some interesting scenes. You can get a DVD copy from Amazon Japan (Region 2). Again, be warned - Hepburn isn't really a major character in the film, although she's more integral to the plot than in The Young Wives' Tale.

  • Sabrina. I think I love the film a little more every time I watch it. A perfect fairytale, and possibly the least cyncial film Billy Wilder ever made.

  • Love In The Afternoon - Whilst I like the central conceit here (international playboy made jealous by imaginary tales of a 19 year old cello student), the fact that Gary Cooper looks like he's three days away from being Hepburn's grandfather completely kills the film for me. If Wilder's original plan of getting Cary Grant to play the male lead had succeeded, I think I would have liked the film quite a bit more than I did.

  • In The Mood For Love - Despite the fact that my copy was taped on a dodgy video recorder from ITVDigital's interesting interpretation of high-quality digital video (somewhat akin to watching an out-of-focus projector through clingfilm), the film is simply beautiful, infused with a quiet sadness, with an ending that would not be allowed in Western cinema today. Find a copy (Criterion have a lovely DVD available) today. Wong Kar Wei has done some work with DJ Shadow - have a look here for the wonderful video for 'Six Days'.

In response to our lamentations on Lauren's current TV projects, Simon Tyers sends Flossie and myself to this link, where she defends Mary Poppins's honour and makes the case for seven-year old alcoholics. That's much more like it.
currently playing: Kenickie - Hooray For Everything

Surprisingly sturdy

They may look flimsy, but after having one bounce on my foot, I can assure you that Visors are quite solid.

Does anybody else sometimes have difficulty reading certain Region 2 DVDs in a Panasonic SR-8585 DVD-ROM drive? My copies of My Fair Lady, Butch Cassidy, and certain West Wing discs don't like playing, and cause the drive to make weird clicking noises.

Floss talks about the gradual decline of Lauren Laverne. I have to agree with everything he's saying - I made a concerted effort to listen to her Saturday show on Xfm, but it's horrible. Nothing like her stand-in performances on the Evening Session a few years back. It's going to get worse before it gets better as well, seeing as she starts the new Channel 5 Pop! programme this week. Someone needs to lock her in a recording studio...

Not that anybody cares about my opinion, but I'd like to join in the growing chorus of approval on Mozilla's tabbed browsing features. Contary to mpt's complaining, I find them intuitive and extremely helpful in organising my browsing sessions. Last night, for example, I had two Mozilla windows, one reading a Slashdot discussion about good books for Computer Scientists and the links I followed from that article, and the other viewing some updated weblogs. If I was letting the window manager handle things, I would have had over twenty windows on-screen. This would create a hideous and hard-to-navigate clutter on my desktop - the tabs make it a breeze.

currently playing: Patti Smith - Gloria

Oh yes...

Carrboro. October 22nd. Sleater-Kinney.

currently playing: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Henry Lee

Broadcasting live from Oxford University Parks

Except, of course, that my Visor doesn’t have any wireless capabilities, so I’ll be back home when it comes to uploading this entry. It’s the thought that counts.

Bruce Perens isn’t going through with his planned breaking of the DMCA today. I understand why HP don’t want him to do it, but the words of Lessig keep coming back. Most of us are quite content to sit and whine about the latest RIAA/MPAA controversy on Slashdot, but we don’t do anything about it. If we don’t do something soon, we’ll wake to find that they’ve won without us putting up any sort of fight.

Two weeks left until the Great America Experiment begins. The Computer Science Department has sent their itinerary for the first week including a mammoth Thursday session lasting from 1:30pm to 9pm. Ouch.

Reasons to love technology: being able to read Robert Moses’s writings in The Atlantic on urban sprawl, writing this blog entry, and playing Tetris, all whilst being stuck in traffic on a bus.

My friend Garry is going to the World Frisbee Championships in Hawaii next week. Until today, I didn’t even know such a thing even existed…

currently playing: Sleater-Kinney - One Beat

Brother, can you spare a dime?

The question inevitably arises whether a similar cycle of speculation and collapse to that of October 1929 could occur...
The time to worry will be when important people begin to explain that it cannot happen because conditions are fundamentally sound.

J.K. Galbraith, writing about the 1929 crash.

Our economy is fundamentally strong. This economy has the foundation for growth so that people who want to find work can find work, so entrepreneurs can flourish.

President Bush, speaking last week.

currently playing: Charlie’s Angels - It’s Never Gonna Happen To Me

I just can't help it...

I’m upgrading to GNOME 2. Obviously, I really like shiny new things. Watch this space for the inevitable failure and teeth-gnashing.
Update: I’ve been reading the Ximian mailing list, and it looks like a very bad idea. So I’ll wait some more.

currently playing: DJ Shadow - Six Days

Does anybody know how to use Bonobo?

Apart from those lovely guys at Ximian, does anybody have a clue as to how it works? Last night, after coding up a Perl XML-RPC server to display the current song being played by Xmms (yes, I’m getting back into geek mode ready for university), I suddenly had the great idea of embedding the GtkHtml editor into my simple Python blogging tool, just like how Evolution uses it for reading/writing mail. I’ll just look up a few examples of Bonobo usage in Python, and I’ll get a HTML editor for no effort.

You can stop laughing now.

After three hours, a conversation on, and extensive trawling through Google, I managed to find an example that created a GtkHTML editor window. And did nothing else. The core Bonobo documentation is terse to the point of being unreadable, and the scant few developer articles online focus on extremely light-weight controls, rather than talking about things that are actually useful. I eventually gave up and went to bed. It shouldn’t really be that hard. Ideally, it should be extremely easy to write GNOME applications in a high-level language like Python (incidentally, I’m singling out GNOME mainly because it’s what I’m most familiar with - KDE might be better), which can access all areas of the desktop environment, from simple buttons to the more complex features such as html widgets and Bonobo components. For all the knocking that Visual Basic receives, it allows almost complete access to the Windows system, and has reams of fantastic documentation. I know that the GNOME Project doesn’t have the same sort of resources, but it would be nice for them not to treat non-C programmers as third-class citizens. Maybe GNOME 2 will change all this. I hope it does.

I found LIDN on my travels. It’s a start (although for some reason the Bonobo link goes to a CVS book - which seemed to sum up my experience of the last 24 hours quite well), although still heavily C-orientated. Again, it’s frustrating, as GNOME 2 sounds like it’s got some wonderful features (e.g. the Gnome-VFS system, which allows transparent writing to WebDAV systems), but I don’t want to have to go through all the wheel-rebuilding that C involves just to write a simple program…

Okay, rant over.

currently playing: Saint Ettienne - Kiss And Make Up