April 2008 Archives

Music journalists, please know about music, part 2

Says the All Music Guide about Paul Simon's album "Surprise":

Simon was shifting toward this direction on You're the One, but he pushes even harder here, largely abandoning familiar song structures -- only two cuts here have something resembling a conventional chorus, and one of those is "Father and Daughter," originally released on the Wild Thornberrys soundtrack and the only track not treated by Eno -- for elliptical, winding songs that demand attention.

The first track (How can you live in the north-east) has a chorus. So does the third, Outrageous. And the fifth, Wartime prayers, the sixth, Beautiful, and the eighth, Another Galaxy. Arguably track 10, "That's me", is made up of choruses and middle eights with no actual verses, but I think I've got enough tracks with actual choruses already that I don't need to belabour the point.

Is it too much to ask for music journalists to know anything about music?

Update: the reviewer appears to have sock-puppetted in the comments.

Gin, Television and Social Surplus

Unfairly tantalising extracts from Clay Shirky's latest talk:

I was recently reminded of some reading I did in college, way back in the last century, by a British historian arguing that the critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin.

The transformation from rural to urban life was so sudden, and so wrenching, that the only thing society could do to manage was to drink itself into a stupor for a generation.


It wasn't until people started thinking of this as a vast civic surplus, one they could design for rather than just dissipate, that we started to get what we think of now as an industrial society.

If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom.


[Wikipedia is probably the result of, roughly, 100 million hours of human thought.] And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television.

Read the whole thing. Via Andrew Ducker.

Not getting it

Quoth the BBC:

The Office star Mackenzie Crook has denied his new comedy about deaths on the London Underground is insensitive.

"When I read the premise I thought this might be a touchy subject," he told BBC News. "But it soon became obvious that wasn't what the film is about."

Three and Out, released in the UK on 25 April, tells of a Tube driver who looks for a suicidal person to jump under his train so he can collect compensation.

Drivers' union Aslef has criticised the film for its "insulting" storyline.

Crook, who said he was "very proud" of the British-made movie, said he was "disappointed" people had been "jumping to conclusions".

Brilliantly, the BBC journo remains oblivious of the last quotation.

The Queen's own English, base knave, dost thou speak it?

Pulp Fiction, as Shakespeare might have written it. Truly excellent. There's some more in the comments as well.

See also the same scene, as animated typography.

How the French think about food

Matthew Yglesias writes about the Paris Greens' proposals for 2008, notably the idea that there should be a means-tested credit card-type thing that lets you buy €40 per month of fresh fruit and vegetables.

One thing that the comments on the post ignore is that this is actually a very safe proposal for French politicians to make.

The fact that French has a word like malbouffe, and that Paris schools have websites that include the lunchtime menu for the forthcoming weeks so parents can plan their menus around it, should tell you that the French take food seriously.

I mean, there are laws that require anyone who wants to call themselves a "Boulanger" to prove that they're not just reheating frozen dough manufactured in a factory. More than that: these laws are bipartisan. Nobody objected to them, that I can recall. Although passed by a right-wing government, no left-wing government would repeal them.

Also, the French invented owned the smart card (and proceeded to demand patent royalties, which is why every other nation apart from Japan waited until the patent lapsed before introducing the technology). So talking about a smart card as a delivery mechanism is in many ways a sop to French patriotism.

One of the things I like about this proposal, incidentally, is the fact that the €40 per month grant does not carry over - so if the project flops, it doesn't cost City Hall that much, but if it does take off, local greengrocers might end up having end-of-month sales on fresh produce to mop up those extra subsidies.

Microsoft have even less taste than we thought

There is an internal Microsoft motivational sales video that has made its way to YouTube. It is thoroughly mindless and horrible. I almost read the YouTube comments to cleanse my mental palate. It was that bad.

Science is awesome

In recent days, we've had Alzheimer's cured by cunning use of existing anti-inflammatory meds, type 2 diabetes cured by routing around bits of the upper intestine, and now we get to make new antibiotics out of alligator blood.

See also Penny Arcade.


OK, so it probably would have been difficult to integrate Pliny the Elder into the Pompeii story. Fair enough. And, from what I can tell, the science is pretty close to accurate, unlike, say, the Christmas episode. So far, the new Doctor Who series is perilously close to good.

Random Doctor Who comments

The historical episodes haven't been tremendous so far, so I don't have many hopes for the Pompeii episode.

I have even fewer, having seen the IMDB listing for next week's episode.

Crucially, the cast list does not mention Pliny the Elder. Who was there at the time, died in the eruption, and is a major historical figure. I hope this is just the Internet being inaccurate, rather than the bottom of the pecking order of Doctor Who scribes being "OK, you can do the historical episode".

Charlton Heston is dead

Glad I'm not the only one who had the thought: "So, does that mean that we can take his gun now?"

How you know you have too many cardboard boxes in your house

When you empty another cardboard box, you add it to the pile in a sort of reverse-Jenga style.

If the pile maintains its overall appearance and behaviour, you have succeeded. If it doesn't, and (say) collapses in a spectacular manner, It Is Time To Take The Recycling Out.

(Glasgow only recycles a limited amount of things; you can recycle junk mail, and paper, and magazines, but not envelopes, and although the council will recycle glass, you have to take your glass to the council yourself, you can't chuck it in your blue bin. Savignac-les-Eglises recycles pretty much everything; they also ask you to take your glass to somewhere else, but Savignac is as rural as you get, i.e. you need a car to do anything, so it makes sense for them to ask you to move your heavy and bulky stuff as part of a trip you'd make anyway.)

On a vaguely related note, my company sells a range of servers, named after various types of metal (UK servers: Bronze, Silver, Gold; US servers: Copper, Iron and Steel). I was thinking today that a really badly-advised set of names for really cheap servers would be Paper, Card, Papier Maché ;-).

As it happens, Cleodhna and I had a very enjoyable brainstorming session a few months ago, when the company was looking for names, trying to find a reasonable set of four (as it was at the time) names that had an obvious progression. We came up with a few semi-decent ones, but also a few really, really bad ones. I think my favourite theme was the swearword one: Piss, Shit, Fuck, Cunt. Work's internal IRC channel kept itself amused for all of 15 minutes with that one; unfortunately (?) I kept no transcripts.

Edit: Spammers got interested in this post for some bizarre reason, so I've disabled comments.