Archive for September 2004
I’m leaving now, but leaving slowly, because I have a diamond tiara up my pipe.
– Lorraine (Minnie Driver), Will & Grace
I’ve started logging website referrals again, and it’s looking very different from the last time. There are many referrals from the MPC Forums and mpc1000.com, a site belonging to a developer working on a program editor, now with a link to my MPC1000 FAQ on the front page. I’m also seeing search engines returning results from searches for “MPC1000″ and “MIDI”, “tutorial”, “FAQ”. There are also some Rush-related searches, mostly finding my review of Peart’s Ghost Rider.
Then there are the odd ones…
- I have no idea what is going on at http://ime.nu/stereoroid.com/ . The Japanese text reads something like “here’s a useful link”, but I can see no reason for it.
- Ditto for: http://www.poppville.com/homepage.html . I think the webmaster just likes the rotating logo.
- OK, I did include the Kanji for “sushi” back in March, which Google found, that’s understandable.
- Palladino vs Entwistle: the former joined The Who’s tour after the latter died back in June 2002. (Over two years ago? Sheesh.) It’s not like they’re competing, folks.
- What is “Grant’s Topographic Memory”? Whatever it is, bits of it are found here, as are “Southern California Tsunamis” and a “pretty Indian girl”.
- Then there’s the man – must be a man – who Googled* for “huge breasted Germans” and wound up in my August 2004 blog, when I saw Germans in Dubai, then breast reduction surgery on Channel 4. That’s what I get for dividing this blog into month-sized chunks, I suppose.
* Yes, I know – Verbing a Noun is a typical Americanism, but it suits Google.
Now it’s after midnight – I should retire, I suppose. Night Night.
I’m browsing a few Usenet messages, and someone on alt.fan.pratchett made the mistake of asking for a quick definition of Newton’s law of gravitation. It didn’t take too long for the discussion to hit the following level:
According to Newton, bigger things suck more, but if you’re sucked by something, you blow as much as they suck, and if nobody sucks you, you just go on doing what you were doing before.
– Ori Pessach
OK, I give up… my head is still spinning a little from the Japanese class earlier this evening, after all. We have 先生 telling us this is a difficult section, and she’s not kidding. Getting a verb from the “dictionary” form to the commonly-used forms is a tricky multi-stage process, with added complications such as the way you use two or more verbs in a sentence means mixing the forms up in a particular way. She tells us it will be easier after we get over this hill, which may mean more to her than to us, since she’ll be about nine months pregnant by the end of this course, the silly mare…
After my communication experiments, last night, I went to see Collateral, the latest movie from Michael Mann, the director behind Heat, one of my favourite films. It marks Mann’s return to Los Angeles, the city that played a leading role in Heat and does so here, too. It also features a performance from Tom Cruise that will appeal to those, like me, who are not particular fans of his.
He plays Vincent, a hitman with a list of targets in LA, who rents a cab for the night, saying he needs to make some real estate deals. Things do not go to plan, however: he botches the first job, letting the victim fall three stories on to the cab, damaging it, forcing him to take Max (Jamie Foxx), the driver, hostage to keep him quiet. He underestimates Max, however, even ironically encouraging him to take charge of the situation and his life, a strategy that backfires in a most spectacular fashion. You get the impression that he’d spoken this way before, but this time Max was listening and paying attention.
The direction is inspiring, the most impressive set piece being a shootout in a nightclub, in which we see Vincent’s in his element, and it’s not a pretty sight. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his character is drawn in shades of grey, down to the steely hair and the expensive suit that eventually comes apart at the seams. Max, meanwhile, has had enough, and flips things over in no uncertain terms.
Mann doesn’t go in search of LA, merely lets it show itself to the camera, and finds it through many unusual camera angles and textures; close-ups, top-down aerial shots, monochromatic scenes with the downtown area a background rainbow blur. It’s all shot on digital cameras with much use of “practical” light from fluorescents and sodium street lights, a palette of colour I’m not used to seeing on the big screen, but one I recognise in spirit from the times I’ve spent in various cities around the world, up way past my bedtime.
Someone on Henry St., Dublin’s main shopping street, has unsecured wireless internet access. OK…
1/2 hour later: this is ridiculous. I’m sat on a bench next to the Liffey, in the heart of Dublin, with free internet access. I can’t even tell whose bandwidth I’ve been poaching, since all three access points I’ve connected to had SSIDs of “Wireless”, “SMC”, “Apple” – the latter two being wireless equipment makers – but nothing that indicates the current owner.
In the unlikely event that an administrator logs this page’s FTP upload and reads this: you’re an idiot who needn’t bother moaning at me, just secure your bloody network. If you don’t know how, contact me and I’ll enlighten you without charging my usual consultancy fee, which you probably can’t afford anyway.
Last night I went to the agreed bar for the leaving bash, but no-one was there, so I went home. It was only when I was nearly home, curry in hand, when I figured that the gang probably got settled in the local pub near our offices. Being literal-minded, I assumed they would have actually done what they said they were going to do, and I was even an hour late, which cut them some slack on the timing. It seems that, after five years in Ireland, I still have not learned my lesson. Good!
This afternoon I’m checking out a film I may or may not have seen many years ago: Robin and Marian, with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. Maltin’s Movie Guide says “arid, uninvolving film strips beloved characters of their magic”. Huh? These characters are only “magic” if you buy into the Disney version of events.
The Robin Hood story is fiction on a historical timeline: the Disney film is set in c. 1194, ending when King Richard I (Lionheart) returned from a Crusade to find his traitorous brother John trying to usurp the throne, a plot thwarted with Robin’s help. Robin and Marian starts with the death of Richard in a skirmish in 1199, leaving the throne to John, while Robin returns to Sherwood forest to look for Marian.
The gap between the two events is stretched to 16 years in the latter story, with Robin, Marian, and all the supporting characters much older, but only Marian any wiser. On neither historical occasion was Robin Hood actually involved, of course: the legend is based on accounts of thieves in two separate locations (Sherwood Forest near Nottingham, and Barnsdale in Yorkshire). That was over two hundred years later, if I understand my sources correctly.
The way Robin and Marian ends is justly celebrated, the only part I remembered. The legends have little to say about the way Robin or Marian died, so I can’t begrudge the writer the chance to bring the story to a satisfying emotional conclusion.
Another Friday evening, another leaving bash to go to. This is for a guy who’s been here for seven years, was in the team I used to be in before I was promoted, and was still there, until today. His departure is being regarded as serious but inevitable, considering that his current position will be outsourced to Bangalore, and a colleague of his has just been promoted. Unlike other departees, he kept his leaving email short and polite, then sent another “thank you” note to my boss that included some nice words about the help I had been giving. To be fair, I had been helping him more because he was pestering me more, but I didn’t mind because he actually understands the way to do it. (If you want the right answer… ask the right question!)
The newspapers are full of stories about the singer formally known as Cat Stevens, known as Yusuf Islam since he converted to Islam in 1977. He was flying to the USA with his daughter when the US authorities realized he was on board, diverted the plane to Bangor, Maine, escorted him off and sent him back to London later. He had been refused entry to Israel a few years ago, for allegedly giving money to Hamas, even though he has repeatedly advocated peaceful resolution of problems. In a slightly ironic twist, members of Marillion were on the same plane, and were interviewed about the incident: I expect we’ll be hearing about this in a song, some time in the future. “It’s A Wild World”, eh?
I’ve been learning about XML over the last few weeks, and today I started investigating the possibility of making this site XML-compliant. It turns out that the HTML-Kit program I’ve been using is well-suited to this, and I was soon able to get most of the pages shifted to Strict XHTML (XML-compliant HTML). Only the Blog sections need more work now, because the internal name tags I used don’t follow the specification, I will need to change them manually; a job for an afternoon, but not a problem, they will just be different, nothing will be lost in the change. I did have to remove some non-compliant formatting, however, such as <font> tags and some Table settings that Strict XHTML expects you to put in Stylesheets instead, nothing serious.
I have to vent, since another attack of Gear Avarice Syndrome (G.A.S.) is in full effect, the first this year. The subject this time is the Alesis Micron synthesiser, the new small version of the successful Ion that came out last year. I played the Ion a few times in the shops, including last week in London, so I know what the Micron will sound like, since it has the same “engine” and the sounds are compatible.I was concerned about what they would leave out of the Ion in the process of shrinking it down to less than half the size, but I now have a PDF copy of the manual, reading about the features they have added, the crafty way they are getting the same functions out of fewer knobs. OK, it won’t be as friendly as the Ion, which had a knob for every major function and more real-time control knobs, but leaving those off cuts a couple of hundred pounds off the price. Still, I won’t rush in to it, I don’t see how the demand will allow for any major discounts, this year anyway.
Today’s word of the day, courtesy of alt.fan.pratchett: Aibohphobia, the fear of palindromes.
Japanese lessons started again today, the “intermediate” course. I don’t think we’re doing well as a group, but 先生 (sensei) seems to be satisfied. We’ve just started with the -te verb forms, the most useful and common, but also the most complex and bizarre. It didn’t help that one of the verbs that came up in the lesson is apparently not a verb but a “phrase”, according to 先生, though my dictionary says otherwise. The verb in question is いけます (ikemasen), meaning “forbidden” or “not permitted”, but I thought it came from 行ける (ikeru) meaning “travel” or “be good at”, so ikemasen means “can’t go” or “is a bad thing” the way I read it. So it is a verb, just not commonly used as one today. Me think too much.
After a great day wandering around London, I took a breather in one of my favourite haunts: the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. I went there a fair number of times when I lived down the road in Earl’s Court. That sounds strange now I write it down, but it is a park genuinely conducive to innocent time-passing.
If I had had a camera back then, I might have joined the other artists who find much to appreciate there. I did take some of the auditory environment home, especially some of the ambient stillness from this Garden, that ended up on my own tape compositions in spirit at least.
This morning I stumbled upon the Borough Market, near the Globe Theatre in Southwark, and survived with my wallet and my dignity intact, mostly. This Market is all about Food; after resisting the myriad cheeses on offer, I regretfully declined some home-brewed cider and perry, before scarfing down an ostrich-burger that had been dragged backwards through the garden. A nice lady asked me if I was Nicholas Cage, before selling me bags of rice crackers and cheese-roasted cashew nuts. (I love cheese, and adore cashews, so resistance was … irrelevant.)
In short, I think my relationship with London is back on track after some troubled times, particularly the visit I described in Feb 2003 during which the air of paranoia was obvious and I had my bag searched at a DLR station. Compared to Dublin, with the strong Euro, prices don’t look as insane as they did before, either.
This evening I hit the Tokyo Diner off Charing Cross Rd. for カツ丼や漬物や麒麟一番。 (Katsudon is breaded pork with rice, Tsukemono is a side order of pickled vegetables, and the beer was Kirin Ichiban, which I think I like, actually.) Excellent, and great value – I’ll be back, for sure. Then a lazy trek back to the hotel and a quiet evening with TV, magazines, and cashews. I found wide-open wireless net access in Shaftesbury Avenue last night, I’ll try it again tomorrow so I can upload this latest update. Tomorrow it’s PC shopping: as before, I’ve done my homework, I’ll only bite if I see what I want at a very good price – good enough to justify the stress of schlepping it all back to Dublin.
One more thing I must note, however: I had been hearing about something called “Plastic Surgery Live”, and thought it was a joke, someone’s imagination of the worst possible “Reality TV” show. I was horrified to learn, during this trip, that it is real, I had just missed it since I don’t get the UK’s Channel Five at home. It’s on as I type this, and it seems that the “live” tag only applies to studio chat and a minor procedure or two, but they aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to showing the actual procedures or the parts involved. I won’t be getting penis enlargement any time soon – the operation looks like a nightmare, and the issue has never arisen, anyway. (Um…)
If anything, the show looks like an extended argument against cosmetic surgery, with an American surgeon in the studio looking at photos sent in by viewers and more often saying “lose weight”, “see a dermatologist”, “get counselling” and so on, than “surgery would help”. Want Britney Spears’ nose? It will cost you a lot of money and the experience of having a surgeon hack away at your schnozz with a rasp while high on Ketamine. (You, not the surgeon, would be on the drugs, we trust.)
On the bus back to London; the Rush Stalker Tour is already officially over, since the organisers are not with us, they’re heading back north to Yorkshire.
A worthwhile trip overall, plenty of good music and time to think. Now I have two days in London, with the prospect of movies and PC shopping. The city may still be in an uproar after yesterday’s shocking scenes surrounding the Parliament vote on fox-hunting. I don’t plan to go anywhere near Whitehall, of course.
I made what I think is a major breakthrough in the story I’m working on: I can use some of my recent experiences in Dubai to close a glaring hole in the plot, and use Dubai’s unusually critical position to give things an edge. By position I mean more than the physical, but also the political situation. The UAE has many of the hallmarks of a democracy, but is actually a monarchy, where I can get the characters to make major changes “because the Sheikh says so”. This gives my main character a diplomatic challenge to tackle.