Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Putting the 'Joy' back in 'Joystick'

This is perverse! I never thought I'd say this but thank God I've moved to the Xbox 'S' controller..

How to convert Atari joystick into a vibrator

Homemade Sex Toys has posted a guide to converting a classic Atari 2600 joystick into, well, a joystick. From the HOWTO:
There's something about an Atari 2600 that makes you feel warm and tingly all over. If you want to bring those feelings to the ultimate climax, follow these instructions to make a vibrator out of your Atari controller.

We found a small, inexpensive and self-contained bullet vibrator that fit perfectly inside the case and whose switch happened to be very compatible with the button on the Atari 2600 controller. With a little wire, solder, and basic materials, you can build one of these units yourself and put even more joy in your joystick.

Here's the link.

Freaky Picture

10 Hi-Def Television Myths

The world of high-definition television can be confusing but if you're ready to make the leap, this article can help.

Plasma TV sets start out bright and beautiful, but burn out to an early death. Every single high-definition television program looks equally crisp and gorgeous. The higher resolution of a 1080p high-def set means that your shows and DVDs will always look better than on a more ordinary 720p set.

Are these gospel truths about HDTV? Nope. Just a sampling of the many popular factoids, half-truths, and myths that can make choosing and enjoying a high-def television set complicated and confusing--and in some cases, needlessly expensive.

To help dispel these myths, we consulted an A-team of HDTV experts. The challenge: Identify and debunk troublesome, costly, and all-too-prevalent misconceptions about high-definition TV--from the basics of broadcasting to the arcane secrets of hardware. We lay out the facts you'll need to have at your disposal in order to make the right decisions. Armed with this information, you'll know just what to expect when you take the HDTV plunge.

"An HD set is all you need to get high-def programs."
In our dreams! To experience the vibrant images and the Dolby 5.1 sound of true high-definition TV, you need several things--and an HD-ready set (a display that can accept HD-format input and display it at a minimum of 720 lines of progressive-scan or noninterlaced video) is just one of them.

First, a show needs to be shot in high definition, and that may not be the case, even when a show claims that it is. Bjorn Dybdahl, owner of Bjorn's, a high-end audio-video store in San Antonio, Texas, says that he's seen many high-def sports broadcasts shown partly in standard definition because the producer is using some non-HD cameras in its coverage. And although TNT's digital channel presents Law & Order reruns in high definition, early episodes weren't shot in HD; as a result, in those episodes, you see a 4:3 standard-def show that is stretched and scaled up to high-def size. It doesn't look great.

Second, the program must be transmitted in high def by a station that you can receive either over the air or from your cable or satellite provider. ("Shown in high definition where available" doesn't mean it's available to you.)

Third, you need an HD receiver to process the signal. A set that has a built-in ATSC digital tuner can display over-the-air HD broadcasts with nothing more than a good antenna. ATSC, which stands for Advanced Television Standards Committee, is the group that defined the 18 formats of the coming digital TV system, only 6 of which are considered high definition. (And by the way, there is no such thing as an HD antenna--there are just antennas.) If your HDTV set comes with picture-in-picture, you won't get high-def-picture-in-high-def-picture unless your set comes with two ATSC tuners.

An HD-ready set lacks such a tuner, so you'll need either a set-top box with a tuner, or an HD box from your cable or satellite service. Regardless of the box you get, you need to make sure that you're feeding its digital output into your HD-ready set. "A lot of people will get an HD-ready set [and] an HD cable box, but they will use the analog feed from the HD box," says Jeff Cove, Panasonic's vice president for technology and alliances.

Finally, you must tune your HDTV set to a high-definition channel showing actual HD content. Picking up the analog transmission from your local affiliate on your high-def cable box won't result in delivery of a show in HD.

"The bigger your HDTV set, the better it will look."
Bigger isn't better if you are seated so close to the set that you can see every pixel or line of resolution. Generally, you don't want to sit closer to a 720p HDTV than twice the length of the screen diagonal.

On the other hand, if you sit too far away from a high-resolution TV, its special benefits may disappear. "For an awful lot of viewing, what limits the resolution is the human eye," says Larry Web-er, president-elect of the Society for Information Display, a group of display industry pros. At a distance of 10 feet from the screen, the eye can't detect pixels smaller than 1 millimeter; so if you look at a 37-inch set from that far away, you won't notice significant difference between a high-definition image and a standard-def image.

Content also affects perceived image quality. Digital TVs are fixed-pixel displays--the screen resolution is hard-wired, so content has to be scaled, or adjusted, to fit the screen resolution. Not surprisingly, most television content is most attractive when displayed at its native resolution. That's why today's DVD movies, which reproduce the original film at 480 lines of progressive-scan video, may look better on an Enhanced Definition TV than on an HDTV: EDTV has the same screen resolution (480p) that DVDs have, while HDTV must scale the number of lines to 720p or 1080p (depending on the set), usually via software interpolation.

Conversely, to display HD programming, an EDTV has to eliminate lines of content (once again, usually by software interpolation), and on larger sets the resulting quality loss may be quite obvious.

"The higher the screen resolution, the better the image quality of an HDTV."
Most HDTV sets today are 720p displays, but a few vendors are beginning to offer 1080p sets--either LCDs or rear-projection micro-display (LCD, LCoS, DLP) models. As yet, no 1080p plasmas are available (though some have been announced in very large sizes). These sets will clearly do the best job of handling 1080p content--when it arrives. But today's HDTV shows are shown in either 720p or 1080i format: nobody broadcasts in 1080p because of bandwidth issues. Movies may someday be available in 1080p on optical media, but Hollywood hasn't settled on the next-generation hardware standard (Blu-ray or HD-DVD), much less chosen a content format.

Lack of 1080p content is one reason some vendors are holding off on introducing 1080p sets. But those that are selling 1080p sets point out that some HDTV is broadcast in 1080i, and that such content arguably looks better on a 1080p set because less scaling is involved. (On the other hand, 720p content has to be scaled up for a 1080p set.) Here again, though, the capabilities of the human eye come into play: You'll probably notice the superior resolution of 1080p only if you sit very close to the set--or have an extremely large set.

"You have to relinquish the fluid motion of a CRT screen when you move up to HDTV."

Not at all. You can purchase a high-definition CRT set--and you'll save a lot of money if you do, because they cost less than LCD and plasma-screen televisions of similar size. But in doing so you'll lose the sleek flat-panel chic of a plasma or LCD set. If you want that slim profile, however, be aware that LCDs have trouble rendering fluid motion, as a result of their somewhat pedestrian response times. Plasma and DLP screens aren't susceptible to this technological weakness.

"Burn-in will wreck your plasma HDTV within a year."
The plasma display has advanced since the days when most of us saw plasmas only at airports, where constantly switched-on screens showing formatted flight information suffered from burn-in--ghost images that linger on screen despite no longer being transmitted.

Today, vendors rate the life expectancy of high-quality plasma TVs at 60,000 hours. That works out to more than 20 years of use if you watch 8 hours a day, 365 days a year; it's also about the same lifetime claimed for LCDs and CRTs (the latter are similarly prone to burn-in because, like plasma TVs, they depend on phosphor-based displays).

What changed? Phosphors and gas mixtures in the new plasma panels greatly reduce the risk of burn-in, and some sets use burn-in prevention software. "If you're not worried about burn-in for your CRT, you shouldn't worry about it for your plasma TV," says the Society for Information Display's Larry Weber.

"Bright LCDs look beautiful everywhere, and they use much less power than plasma or CRT sets do."
It's true that LCDs are bright, which makes them a good choice if you watch TV in a brightly lit room. But if you're inclined to turn down the lights for your rendezvous with Entourage or Medium, you probably don't want the brightest set on the block, and plasmas and CRTs offer superior color capabilities without introducing the response-time (and associated motion artifacting) issues that have long plagued LCDs.

As for power consumption, a study by Japan's Green Purchasing Network--an organization dedicated to promoting environmentally friendly purchasing by consumers, business, and government--concluded that the power consumption of similar-size plasma, CRT, and traditional LCD displays in real-world viewing situations is practically the same. However, the coming generation of LCDs that use LED backlighting, while expected to deliver significantly better color, will consume roughly twice as much power as traditional LCDs of the same size.

"These pricey TVs look so great out of the box that it's a waste to pay a small fortune to have a professional calibrate your set."
That's a double-whammy myth. It's well known in the TV business that vendors usually ship sets turned to their highest possible brightness level, since brightness draws customers on the showroom floor. At home, however, many people watch TV under low lighting conditions in which an overly bright set can look jarring. In addition, the TV may arrive with less-than-accurate color settings. Consequently, almost any set will benefit from calibration. A professional calibrator has tools that can access settings most of us can't reach--and shouldn't, since we wouldn't know what to do with them. But the pros do charge a few hundred dollars for their services, and you can achieve reasonably good results on your own with software such as the $40 DVD Essentials.

"All true HDTV programming looks equally great."
This claim gets us to a dirty little secret of HD broadcasting: All HDTV programs are compressed--some to a greater extent than others.

The FCC allots each TV station sufficient airwave spectrum to broadcast a little over 19 megabits per second of data, but stations aren't required to devote their share to a single high-def program. They may compress an HD show enough to leave room for one or two standard-def broadcasts as well--a practice known as multicasting.

The ATSC standard includes support for MPEG2 video encoding, but it says nothing about compression levels. Broadcasting an uncompressed MPEG2 video would require 885 mbps (for 720p content) or 995 mbps (for 1080i content). A station that broadcasts a single HD program can devote only 18 mbps to it, HDTV consultant Peter Putman says; and to get that, broadcasters have to use a compression ratio of 49:1 for 720p and 55:1 for 1080i.

If a station uses its bandwidth to broadcast both an HD show and a standard-def show, the HD program has to fit into 13 or 14 mbps. And a station sending out two standard-definition channels along with an HD channel must compress the HD signal to roughly 13.5 mbps, which entails compression ratios in the vicinity of 66:1. Such high compression produces artifacts that might not be noticeable on a small CRT, but can be quite obvious on a big fixed-pixel display. These include mosquito noise, an effect in which small dots seem to surround a person's head; and macroblock errors, similar to what a fast-moving video game looks like on a PC with too little graphics power.

You can get a hint of how much a station compresses its video by learning whether it multicasts. But generally speaking, satellite and cable carriers compress HD programs more than over-the-air broadcasters do. Though they have a lot more bandwidth at their disposal than terrestrial stations, these pay-TV carriers need it for sending out the dozens of channels their subscribers expect (not to mention extras like Internet access). Dish Network has said that, because of bandwidth constraints, it will gradually move all of its customers to equipment that supports MPEG4 encoding, which is more efficient than MPEG2. But sometimes it's out of the carriers' hands, too. Pay-TV content providers such as Discovery, ESPN, and HBO also compress their programs before beaming them to the cable and satellite services.

"Standard-definition TV is unwatchable on HDTV."
Well...this is a case of hyperbole, not of outright fabrication. True, standard-def programming will never look as good as HD programming on an HDTV because of the scaling issues mentioned previously. But vendors are toiling to better the SD experience on their HD sets, and the success of these efforts varies between vendors and sets. So if you're expecting to watch standard-definition TV on an HD set, make sure that you do your own taste tests.

"I'll have to toss all my current analog sets when the digital conversion kicks in."
Though this is not strictly an HDTV issue, it is a common misconception about the digital transition, which Congress seems bent on completing by 2008. At that point your old sets won't be able to snag over-the-air broadcasts without help, but you should still be able to use them by buying inexpensive digital-to-analog converters. And cable or satellite boxes will still work because the service provider will take care of the conversion. Of course, you won't be able to experience HDTV on an analog set.

These may not be the only myths you'll encounter in your quest for the perfect HDTV--and you can't trust everything you hear (or see) in a showroom. So careful research is essential before you pay for what's likely to be the most expensive TV set you've ever bought. And that is the gospel truth.

Epic 2014

Now, I'm aware I'm behind the times and that most of you will probably have already seen this intriguing 8-minute film about the future of news distribution, imagined through the projected strategies of Google and Microsoft. It culminates in the year 2014 with the launch of Epic, a program so powerful that it prompts the New York Times to sue Google for some sort of journalistic infringement (a case that the time loses and causes the media giant to go "offline").

It's bold, scary and very intelligent and I recommend you watch it as well as the updated version entitled Epic 2015. Oh, and by the way: the name on the ID is "Winston Smith". Nice 1984 reference.

Thanks to Rania Al Malky for drawing my attention to this.

4am headache

After all this surfing, what do you expect?

Richard Marchand is other-worldly

The weird and wonderful world of Richard Marchand.
Genius like this scares me.

This is the funniest shit I've seen on the web in a LONG time.

What the hell is Zombo Com about?

Virtual Bubble Wrap

Go wild here.

Why do they move when they really don't?

Click on the picture to really see the movement.

Ever been scared by the Internet?

Well, sites like this freak me out. A lot. Maybe it's how creepy the imagery is or how random the variables that appear are. Mostly, I think it's the lack of any explanation, whatsoever as to what this is supposed to be. There's also a second after I close the window (a brief second, maybe, but that's more than enough to scare the shit out of you) when I worry that the site will stay on my computer.

Or worse, move to my living room.

What's the largest living thing in the world?

Did you say the blue whale? Good guess but no cigar. After all, the average blue whale measures about 75-80 feet long (23-24.5 meters) and weighs about 110 tons (99,800 kilograms). The blue whale is the largest living animal on earth. But there is another living thing that's bigger. Much, much bigger. It stretches 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) across and covers an area larger than 1,600 football fields. Most of it is hidden underground.

It's..... a fungus. Yes, a fungus with the scientific name Armillaria ostoyae . Known more commonly as the honey mushroom, this giant fungus was found in the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon.

Fungi straddle the realms of microbiology and macrobiology. Some fungi, such as the yeast used in baking bread and the fungus that causes athlete's foot, are microscopic. Other fungal species can grow into very large, multicellular mats or form the large, visible structures we commonly call mushrooms. The enormous Armillaria, which kills tall trees by infecting their roots, is related to the microscopic mycorrhizae symbiotic fungi that live on the roots of most plants help them absorb nutrients?

The bulk of the Armillaria fungus is made up of what's called the mycelium. The mycelium is a tangled mass of long strings of cell-like units joined together. These strings are called hyphae. The cells in fungal hyphae are similar to, but not quite like the cells that make up our bodies. The hyphae cells contain nuclei, like ours. But unlike our cells, the hyphae cells usually are not completely walled off from each other. They may be separated by a cross-walls called septa, but usually the septa have holes in them allowing the cell fluid, or cytoplasm, of neighboring cells to mingle. In some fungal species the hyphae contain no septa; they appear as long, continuous cells with multiple nuclei.

Most of the visible part of Armillaria is its golden mushrooms. Mushrooms are big masses of hyphae. They are reproductive structures. They contain spores, which are like seeds. When released, they germinate and produce hyphae.

Landscape Differences

Go to this website and try and find 3 differences between the two pictures. I found all three and despite the detail in the picture, it didn't take that long.

Amazon's 25 Sexiest Book covers

Right here.

People posing with dying animals

Why does this feel so disturbing to me? Anyone else feel the same?

Custom M&Ms

Nadine, remember I gave you the scoop over six months ago:)

Custom M&Ms: just don't mention the war, your hometown, or nouns

M&Ms will print you custom candies with two (short) lines of text -- a cool idea, but too bad they let the lawyers at it. The terms prohibit your using the names of places and events on your custom, personal-use candies, and a clearly embarrassed marketing department has come up with several hilariously bad workarounds, like substituting "Thar she blows" for "Mr St Helens" and "Marry a Doctor" for "Johns Hopkins."

Custom printed M&M'S Candies are for personal use only. No business names, product names, celebrity names, specific sports teams, major events, landmarks, names of schools or institutions. You're smart...use your creativity and work around these specifics.

Here's the link.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Enya makes up her own language

Alright, here are my three witty preludes to this piece; I couldn't make up my mind which was the funniest, so maybe you guys can vote on it.

1. If you tried to do that at your work, you'd be institutionalized.
2. What's Loxian for "Enya, you're a big-nosed freak"?
3. I thought all her albums were in a made-up language...

Enya sings in a tongue from a 'distant planet'
Jan Battles

SOMETIMES words are not enough — well, English ones anyway. Enya, the reclusive Irish artist, has invented a new language after deciding that English was too “obtrusive” for her lyrics.

The Dalkey-based singer also rejected Gaelic and Latin, both of which she used on previous records. So a quarter of the songs on Amarantine, her new album, are in a tongue called Loxian, which she devised with her lyricist Roma Ryan.

Ryan didn’t simply make up words to match the sounds being made by Enya, but developed a new alphabet of arrows, lines and curves as well as a cultural and historical back-story about the race who speak it.

Enya and Ryan describe the invented tongue as “a futuristic language from a distant planet”. The Loxians, they tell us, live in space and are looking out at the stars wondering if there is anyone else out there or if they are alone in the universe.

Terry Dolan, professor of English at University College Dublin, said: “It’s a very eclectic language. It seems to choose elements at random. It brings in a whole wealth of different language forms such as Anglo-Saxon, Hindu, Welsh and, I think, Siberian Yupik as well.

“It is very mixum-gatherum linguistically — it seems to have no form of grammar or word order which has very limited comprehensibility.”

The script resembles several existing languages, he reckons. “They’ve drawn on Tolkien, on Runic language and there are elements of Pitman shorthand as well. A lot of thought has gone into it.”

A lot of money may yet be made from it. The language’s script features beside its English translation on the sleeve notes of Amarantine, the Grammy winner’s sixth album which was released last week, and already fans are trying to decipher it. One wrote on a website last week: “I certainly hope Enya, Nicky and Roma (Ryan) continue with creating songs in Loxian. The language has completely intrigued me. Heck, I’m willing to pick up “Loxian for Dummies” if the book even existed.”

Which is probably what the trio is hoping for. Ryan is now set to publish a book called Water Shows the Hidden Heart in which she will chart the development of the new language and explain the story behind the three Loxian songs on Amarantine.

Enya told BBC Radio 4 last week that Loxian was created specially for the album. “I always feel when the melody sounds right with whatever language, I feel fine,” she said. “We spend a lot of time looking for the right language for the melody I have written. English can be a little bit obtrusive.”

Roma came up with the language after Enya struggled on one of the songs, Water Shows the Hidden Heart. “I tried it in English, in Gaelic and Latin and then she came in with the fictional language,” said Enya. “The main influence would be from the sounds I sing.” In Loxian the title of the song is pronounced Syoombrraya.

Two of the other 12 tracks are also performed in Loxian. Less than a Pearl becomes Heah Viiya in Loxian while Ea Hymm Llay Hey is The River Sings. One of the songs features in radio advertisements promoting the album. Another song on the album, Sumiregusa, is in Japanese.

The impetus for the new language came from Enya and Roma’s work on songs for the first film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. May it Be, the theme tune, and Aniron, a love song, both featured Elvish, languages invented by author JRR Tolkien. “I suppose it goes back to working on Lord of the Rings, which was a fantastic project,” said Enya.

The singer has often stated that her act would not exist without her longtime collaborators husband and wife team, Nicky and Roma Ryan. Enya sings, writes and plays all the music, Roma composes the lyrics while Nicky produces and arranges the tracks.

The arrangement has proved hugely successful: Enya has amassed an estimated fortune of €100m and sold 65m albums worldwide. The singer’s last album released five years ago sold 13m copies worldwide and is her best seller.

Dave Fanning, the 2FM DJ, said: “There is this whole mystery that surrounds Enya. It’s an amazing marketing device so if she has invented a new language, fair play to her. ”

Each of Enya’s albums has outsold the previous one: Watermark, the 1988 album sold 8m copies. Three years later Shepherd Moons had sales of 10m and earned Enya her first Grammy. She took another music industry Oscar for 1995’s The Memory of Trees.

The Phallic Symbol Awards

The only condition for "entry" (ahem) is that it be a real logo for a legitimate company. Glad to see there's no "shortage" of eligibles...ok, ok, enough with the double entendre. Here's the site.

I used to have a crush on Betty Boo

I know what you're thinking...which one is Betty Boo?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Many Mothers

Thanks to Sherien for helping me find this.

My grandmother was ashamed enough to conceal the lump in her breast until about eighteen months after she first became aware of it. It was only after my dad had commented that she always looked worried these days, that she gently and reluctantly hinted that all was not well.

"How long has this been there?" asked my dad, wearily. He was caught between concern for his aging mother and exasperation at her temerity.

"A while" she conceded. "A year".

"Why didn't you say anything before?"

"Your father has a lot on his mind. I didn't want to worry him. So do you what with your son going to college...and your sisters, Nadia and Nabila are both having problems with their husbands..."

"Ya Mama bass...right time...when is it ever a right time?" snapped my dad, perhaps more severely than he intended to. My grandmother was looking away with a sort of detached sense of martyrdom, as if satisfied with what she perceived to be her ability to spare her family the burden of her sickness. This was a classic feature of older Egyptian women: a determination to be seen, not heard, a desire to provide solution and an almost manic obsession with maintaining peace and tranquility within her family, at all costs. My grandfather, as far as I could tell, had always encouraged this. His famous saying to her was 'If you can't be part of the solution, then go make dinner'.

My dad understood all this and his frustration was of someone who knew that his mother's irrational concealment of her cancer was part of a bigger cancer in our society. The mother was supposed to bear, to nurture, to comfort but never complain. And if she did, well then she was more trouble than she was worth and it was time to find wives number two through four. With that kind of threat hanging over her head, my grandmother would have concealed ten lumps for ten years. It reaffirmed her success as a wife who never complained.

She died two years later of that same cancer. At the funeral, I remember thinking that death was a good way to start over again for all the rest of us. Maybe with less women as misguided as my grandmother, people like my mother, my girlfriend and my imaginary sister would stand a chance.

When my dad was seven, he got sick with something so serious that he was in bed for seven months. When I was 22, I managed to catch Typhoid and was in bed for four months. My dad's illness was pretty serious and yet no one could remember what it was because, I suspect, nobody knew what it was. I'm sure a doctor was called but I also seem to recall a story my dad told me where he mentioned that the town barber was also responsible for curing all ailments in the village, from warts to sexual dysfunction to cancer. So if they called the barber, I'm sure my dad spent the seven months in bed with a very trendy cut but I doubt he got a lot of information about why he was in bed.

After six months of illness, my grandmother decided drastic measures were needed. She arranged for a red hot poker to be used to brand my dad's head, while three of his sisters held him down. My dad related this story with little emotion and didn't give too many details but I could tell he was making the point that I was lucky to be living in enlightened times.

He still has the mark to this day, hidden beneath a thick head of hair. As far as I can tell, he never bore my grandmother any malice about it, though I have to say he has precious little proof it didn't work. I mean, a month later, he was on his feet.

When I got typhoid, I dreamt that my dad was considering using the hot poker method on me. As a result, I kept my swiss army knife under my pillow for the duration of my illness.

I never got along with my mother and from an early age, I thought I had her figured out. Despite this arrogance, my mother still managed to shock me twice during her life. And she always did it by revealing how a number of things I absolutely hated about our society had somehow gotten to her first and were, in part, responsible for certain aspects of her nature which I considered hateful.

We were watching a show on TV about female circumcision. I turned to my mother and asked her 'How can anyone do this?', all the time watching her closely, baiting her into giving me a retort consistent with her traditionalist views, the ones that I thrived on rejecting. I imagined she would say something as clueless as 'Well, do you want our women to become whores?' and I thought I was certain that if my imaginary sister were real, she would have circumcised her too.

Her answer caught me off guard but what really surprised me was the tenderness and desperation of her delivery.

"Well, I was circumcised when I was six". I looked at her, shocked and numb to the world. Her eyes were weary and filled with longing and for the first time, in years, I connected with a humanity I thought my mother had never possessed. I thought I hated her for being obtuse and for bringing gloom to my growing heart. I realised I hated myself for never being able to help her beyond the confines of what she knew.

The second time she shocked me, she told me that when she was a little girl, she had gotten a part to sing and dance on a varieties show in the late 1950s. She was very excited and ran home to tell her mother. Times being what they were, my grandmother thrashed her to within an inch of her life. When my grandfather came home and was told about the events of the day, he thrashed her to within...an even closer distance than an inch of her life. Her musical aspirations probably died that day.

I don't know if I was shocked by how brutal my grandparents were (they of the easy smiles, the constant candy and the never-say-no-to-Mo approach), the fact that my mother ever had aspirations, never mind musical ones...or the fact she had ever been a little girl. The problem with the iconic figures in your life, the ones who end up defining who you are, is that you never think they're as human as you are.

I always wish I had a sister but I was equally glad I never had one. My stated reason for being glad I didn't have one was noble: a girl would have found it hard to endure life under the kind of regime my parents installed. Parochial, chauvinist and and repressive, she probably would have ended up running away or perhaps killing herself. But that's not the whole truth about why I was glad I didn't have a sister.

Having a sister would have forced me into making a decision about how liberal I would have been with her. It was alright to talk about being liberal, to advocate the right of women to enjoy all that a man could enjoy and to encourage women to explore their own individuality and sexuality. But when it was your own sister, how true to your words would you be?

I know the answer to that question with 99% certainty. I would have been true to my word, no doubt in my mind. So that isn't the core of my fear. My fear arises from a certain knowledge that if....when I support her rights to explore her life, openly and without shame, I would be ostracized from my family, even more than I am now. I would be alone with her, cut off from society and shunned by all those who subscribed to the view that women carried the badge of honour and shame.

Just by believing the things I believe, I am shunned by many people. But this isolation is, to a certain extent, negotiated by me, on many of my own terms. Were I to have a sister, I would be abandoned with no hope of reprieve.

I would have been true. I know that. But my fear of that is true as well.

It was shocking to me how, after two years of dating, I began to realise that my girlfriend was very similar to my mother. Both were needy, both were unstable and both could not bear my stare to go anywhere else, even for a few short minutes. They were tortured souls who wanted more than they could give. Their hearts were pure which made me hate them even more, because I couldn't blame their actions on a black heart.

One time, I was sitting in a car with my girlfriend and she had been quiet for some time. For a few weeks now, she'd been depressed at the slow drudgery of daily life. She also didn't work, so there was nothing else to distract her from the length of the day. She would cry for hours and be silent for hours, smoke continuously and drift into her thoughts in the middle of a conversation. I had failed with all my attempts to revive her. At the same time, I resented my role as her sole reviver. Why should I help her when she wasn't helping herself.

In situations like this, I revert to the ridiculous. She turned to me, in the car, and asked me softly:

"Can we stop by the bakery so I can get some coffee?"

"Bibbly, grill savan tack gwerro-derro alazondo" I said without missing a beat. Gibberish, intended to make her laugh. Instead, she looked at me for a second, her eyes widened and the she burst into tears.

Later she would tell me she thought she had lost the ability to understand language and she believed she had gone insane. At the time, I put my arms around her and told her it was okay, I was here and that nothing bad would happen to her, as long as I was here. Later, I would revel in the impact I had had on her. I had failed to breakthrough her depression before, with the usual armoury of compassion, concern, affection and attention. As it turns out, all I needed was to scare the living shit out of her. It worked too, because her outpour of emotion relieved a lot of tension for her and enabled her to find her bearings. The next day, he depression had lifted and she went back to being her.

I always resented my role as her reviver. I wondered when would it be my turn to be revived.

The Bat Bombers

Paul Saffo is quoted in this excellent BBC Radio 4 piece about a batty idea during World War II to attach explosives to one million bats and have them dive-bomb Japanese cities. (The story of Project X-Ray is also documented in Jack Couffer's book "Bat Bomb: World War II's Other Secret Weapon.") From the BBC site:

Peter Day tells the story of one of the most extraordinary projects of the Second World War, through the eyes of Jack Couffer, who was conscripted into what came to be called Project X-Ray in 1942 while he was still at school. The whole scheme was dreamt up by a dentist from Pennsylvania, Lytle S Adams.

The programme treks deep in to the wonders of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, where every evening, hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from deep in the caves to forage for insects over the surrounding countryside.

This awesome sight was the inspiration for Dr Adam's project. Adams happened to be a friend of President Franklin Roosevelt's wife Eleanor. Adams wrote to the President suggesting that bringing the war with Japan to an early halt was exactly what bats had been created to do.

Intrigued, Roosevelt sent him a letter which became the passport to getting the military to support the amazing plan. "This man is not a nut" wrote the President, and so Project X-Ray started rolling.

Friday, November 25, 2005

George Best 1946-2005


Chris DiClerico gives this hilarious account of a new kind of Thanksgiving bird that is taking over tables throughout America.

"What the fuck is turducken, you ask. Well I'll tell you. Turducken is a little known poultry configuration used in fat white-people feasts in a way not that much unlike the traditional Hawaiian roast pig. Turducken is a turkey stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck. It is roasted in the oven through the night for 10 - 13 hours. People regularly pay hundreds of dollars for a butcher to prepare this freak of nature. My friend Jon and his Dad have mastered the preparation WITHOUT (typo correction) the use of a butcher however. Over the years they have also continued to step up the feast to what can only be referred to as pure decadence.

The turkey is deboned from the inside by carefully cutting around the ribcage from the open end. All non-edible pieces are removed. The legs and wings are left on. The same is done for the other birds except the legs and wings are removed. The duck is stuffed with stuffing, then packed around the outside with stuffing and jammed into the chicken, which is also packed around with stuffing. These birds are then stuffed into the turkey and the whole mess is carefully strung together to survive its cooking. The beast is cooked for 10 or so hours through the night, where my friend and his father set their alarm for every 3 hours through the night so they can baste the bird(s). This is how the turducken WAS prepared when they first prepared it.

Two years ago they decided turkey, chicken, and duck fit didn't pose enough of a challenge. They added cornish game hen to mix. Last year they added a huge pot of chili as a side dish, along with the traditional broccoli and cheese casserole, mashed potatoes, corn, and an insane portobello mushroom gravy made with the drippings of all the birds. Another friend decided to bring not one, but two, dry rubbed London broils which we grilled to perfection (4 minutes each side) shortly before the meal began.

This year the meal was stepped up to a place where no one could ever had imagined. Dubbed the Turduckduckenenishish, We were treated to a 27 pound turkey stuffed with 2 chickens stuffed with 2 ducks stuffed with 2 cornish game hens. You did read that correctly, and it IS possible. All the wings of all the birds are placed around the stuffed turkey. They look a little like supporting mini-wings because, God knows, this monster could never fly without them. The whole thing cooked for 13 hours. Mike, the guy who brings the London broils marinated one in hot coffee and then packed the outside with brown sugar. The other was prepared with his traditional dry rub consisting of a complex assortment of secret ingredients. These cooked to perfection on the grill outside."

One word: JESUS!!!!!


Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Hide on the promenade
Etch a postcard
How I dearly wish I was not here
In the seaside town
That they forgot to bomb
Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Trudging back over pebbles and sand
And a strange dust lands on your hands
And on your face
On your face
On your face
On your face

Everyday is like Sunday
Win yourself a cheap tray
Share some greased tea with me
Everyday is silent and grey

Horror Revival

That old favourite, the horror movie, is back - with a vengeance. But what's driving films such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Flightplan to the top of the box office is a very modern fear: America's global war on terror (or guilt-Mo)

By Tom Shone

In an article entitled Gory Gory Hallelujah, the New York Times relates the public's love of horror movies "to the national frame of mind. Hollywood, always quick to reflect or stimulate mass appetite" is simply "satiating the bloodlust of non-combatant Americans". This article actually appeared in 1935, as storms clouds gathered over Europe, and Bride of Frankenstein, The Raven, Mark of the Vampire and Werewolf of London rampaged through cinemas. But with America now entering the fourth year of its war on terror, and the public monitoring its fear levels by colour chart every morning on CNN, the national mood appears to have hit Hollywood in the only way it could: by becoming big business again.

Halloween came early in the US this year. After a lacklustre summer, in which most blockbusters limped home with bloodied knees, the autumn found a few survivors eyeing each other nervously. After a year of big-budget duds such as Stealth and xXx: State of the Union, Sony scored an unlikely hit with The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a horror-movie-cum-courtroom-drama that reaped over $30m (£17.2m) in its first week. In early October, it happened again: two major directors, Cameron Crowe and Tony Scott, took a tumble with their respective films, Elizabethtown and Domino, while a remake of John Carpenter's The Fog beat them to the no 1 spot. By November the pattern had become a trend, with the horror sequel Saw II making short work of The Legend of Zorro to take $31.7m (£18.2m) over the Halloween weekend.

The horror movie is emerging as one of the year's unlikeliest success stories. Over the past few months, seven horror films finished first at the US box office (Hide & Seek, Bogeyman, Saw II, The Ring Two, The Amityville Horror, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Fog), prompting Variety magazine to see "a glut in the horror market the likes of which hasn't been seen since the heyday of Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger". With TV networks churning out supernatural series such as Invasion, The Night Stalker and Lost, the studios are leaping back on the bandwagon with remakes planned for The Evil Dead, The Wicker Man and Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes.

Dan Meyer, the president of Lions Gate International (which released the two Saw movies), argues: "Horror is just in tune with the zeitgeist. There's an appetite for this right now." He points out that, thanks to its low overheads, high profit margins and loyal fanbase of young men, horror has always been a reliable Hollywood staple. Lions Gate acquired the original Saw for $2m, and watched it reap more than $100m worldwide, making it the most profitable horror release since The Blair Witch Project. With this year's sequel, they reported that audiences were comprised equally of men and women.

The notion that horror is not simply the preserve of pasty-looking young men was confirmed by the impressive results for Red Eye, Wes Craven's shocker about a young woman on an aeroplane with a terrorist. This was followed by Flightplan, another such thriller starring Jodie Foster. Together they have formed a mini-genre of movies plugging into the public's newfound fear of flying and distrust of their fellow passengers. "I like to address the fears of my culture," said Craven. "I believe it's good to face the enemy, for the enemy is fear."

The echoes of September 11 2001 are not too hard to catch in the year's other releases. Craven wasn't the only horror maestro returning to the director's chair; the summer also saw the release of George A Romero's fourth zombie film, Land of the Dead, in which a US city comes under attack. Its tallest building is destroyed and terrified citizens stampede as their leader abandons them. Soldiers patrol ruined streets, while executives and hucksters promote war as a business opportunity and fear as a marketing tool.

The original script, said Romero, was more about social ills and homelessness, and was finished a few days before 9/11. "Everyone wanted to make lollipop movies," he said. "I couldn't get a deal. So we put it back on the shelf and sometime after the invasion of Iraq we took it back down and tried to put more emphasis on the new-normal, post-9/11 era. The idea of living with terrorism, of setting up a synthetic sense of comfort."

Whether you take Land of the Dead as a stinging attack on the somnambulism of the Bush administration or just another movie about zombies tucking into brains is, of course, central to the double-edged attraction of the genre. Because it is so cheap to produce, and plugs into such base fears, horror has an uncanny knack of hitting the cultural jugular. When the first wave of zombie movies hit in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, one reviewer of White Zombie (1932) joked that the advantage of zombies is "they don't mind about overtime".

You can understand an epoch's deepest preoccupations from a cursory study of its horror movies. The 30s zombie movies offered "a nightmare vision of the breadline", in the words of horror-film historian David Skal. In the aftermath of the second world war, the Frankenstein pictures shaped up as a cultural dumping ground for the processed images of men blown to pieces, and the shell-shocked fantasy of stitching them back together again. In the age of the atomic bomb and the death camp, cinema's images of terror grew larger and more mechanised, culminating in the Godzilla pictures. And the sexual revolution spawned by the pill and women's rights resulted in films such as Rosemary's Baby and Demon Seed, in which women's bodies were violated by demonic outside forces.

Surveying the classic horror films of the 1970s, from The Exorcist and The Omen to Carrie and Alien, the biggest single fear of the baby-boom generation would appear to have been, simply, parenthood. After the teen revolution instigated by Lucas and Spielberg, the focus switched back to the teenagers: it was the physical transformations of adolescence, augmented by fear of Aids, that lay behind the carnage wrought by the slasher fits of the 1980s - Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street. The masked psycho killers of these films reached their most sophisticated embodiment in Hannibal Lecter - but the figure of the serial killer, looming increasingly large in US culture, also sounded a death knell of sorts for the Freddies and Jasons of this world. America's bogeymen no longer smacked of the supernatural, but hailed from your neighbour's backyard, within the reach of criminal psychology, forensics and the FBI. The studios went through a phase where they didn't want to call a film a horror movie; everything was a "psychological thriller" or a "suspense movie".

Which is why America's war on terror may be the single biggest boost for the horror genre since Haley Joel Osment claimed to see dead people. Once again, America finds itself facing a nebulous, wraithlike enemy that scatters and regroups whenever you strike it, growing a new head every time it is lopped off. Throw in a gnawing sense of self-indictment, and you have the fertile shadowy ground in which horror likes to grow.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the will to overcome it"

Pam Anderson is a robot

That's the only explanation..

Personals preference

If you didn't believe me earlier, when I said that the problem is that we, the people, have become highly specific in our needs and demands, check out this personals ad from Craig's list, below. A Chinese chick looking for a Haitian cat???

CHINESE woman seeking HAITIAN man - 26

Reply to: pers-113380707@craigslist.org
Date: 2005-11-23, 8:05PM EST

Yes, I am a Chinese woman seeking a Haitian man preferably 5'10"+, fit, with a kinky afro or dreadlocks.

I am 5'7", 150 lbs., intelligent, artistic, sarcastic, likes to talk about politics, poetry, current events and seek the same. I love music, and love going to live shows.

Not looking for anyone serious. Just to sit and have a conversation, and if it leads to something more then we'll take it from there...

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE REPLY WITH A PICTURE. I will NOT reply back if you do not send a picture.

'His hours are numbered'

Manchester United legend is close to death

George Best's health has taken a severe turn for the worse and he is "coming to the end of the long road of his ill health," according to the doctor treating him.
Professor Roger Williams said Best, who is on a ventilator in the intensive care unit at the private Cromwell Hospital in west London, could die at any time. "He's still alive," he told reporters, "he's still having standard medical care and treatment, but I have to tell you that his hours are numbered now."

Prof Williams said that the internal bleeding Best suffered overnight had now affected his lungs. "There is really no return from that situation. It is really not possible to recover from that episode during the night.
"I would be very surprised if he survives another 24 hours."

Clearly upset, Prof Williams, who has been overseeing Best's treatment, added: "It's the final stage of this illness and I am afraid he could die at any time over the next 24 hours."

Best's son Calum, 24, his father Dickie, 87, and other family members were at his bedside, but he was no longer conscious or aware of what was happening.

Best, 59, has spent years battling alcoholism and underwent a liver transplant in 2002. But he ignored pleas to stay off the booze after the operation and was admitted to hospital on October 1 this year suffering from a flu-like infection.

His health deteriorated rapidly when he developed a kidney infection but he then rallied and his condition was thought to be improving until the early hours of Friday, when he developed a lung infection and was put back on a ventilator in intensive care.

As a footballer, Best helped United to the First Division in 1965 and 1967, and the European Cup in 1968. He was also crowned European and English footballer of the year for his sublime talent.

Describing his own lifestyle, he once said: "I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars - the rest I just squandered."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turkey Shoot

Fun, mindless fun. Nail those gobblers here.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


'Dick Cheney attended a Celine Dion concert, while visiting Toronto this weekend. Immediately afterwards, the Vice President is said to have changed his mind about the use of torture'
-Conan O'Brien

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An 1844 manual about the evils of...

...masturbation. If you've seen my picture on this very blog, you won't need this manual.

Choke your chicken (or not) here.

'The Death of Irony'

Shortly after September 11, irony was pronounced dead.

The "death of irony" discourse is said to have originated with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, shortly after the attacks. "There is going to be a seismic change. I think it's the end of the age of irony."

Cultural observers, including the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Phil Kloer, reported the demise of a popular culture that was "drenched in irony and cynicism" and that had become "a playground for postmodern hipsters," in which the "appropriate response to anything is the jaded, all-purpose 'whatever.'"

James Pinkerton of Newsday proclaimed a victory of "sincerity, patriotism, and earnestness" and a new realization that "there's more to life than nothing, that some things really matter."

People of a less political bent might argue that the death of irony actually occured on April 5, 1994 with the suicide of Kurt Cobain. Ramblefish (clearly, the decision to employ my blog name in referring to myself, is a case of transparent and quite pathetic irony) would argue that irony today is not so much dead, as dormant and somewhat dull. It's been transported from being an 'in-vogue' concept, trumpeted to some degree in every movie and song to a tired, repetitive and predictable device used by studio executives trying to evoke an emotional connection with the masses. That irony is being used in this way can be said, in itself, to be ironic...something that proves that irony lives on. Kinda. Sorta.

What's happened to it (in my opinion) is that people have stopped being so demonstrative about it. Irony is no longer a proof of intelligence or individuality. It's no longer a closed club for the supposedly 'with it' crowd. It's no longer seen as a novelty so it's been restored to it's proper place, within the human psyche: a single, isolated, unplanned, wry occurence that very few people will notice. I think it belongs there and the less people try and drag it back into the limelight, the better we all are for it. Some people still try and manufacture irony on a small scale (the home, the neighborhood, the workplace) and I think that's ok. Just don't try and embrace it as a defining view of the world. It isn't.

An example of irony on a small scale is the Wunderman/ Y&R Inc. employee library, located on the 13th floor of our building on Madison Avenue, here in New York. Employees are encouraged to bring in favorite books and leave them for others to pick up. In a fit of ironic pique (perhaps, because people feel work tells them what to do, a little too much, a little too often), they rebelled and contrived to bring in books that couldn't possibly be on anyone's list:

-A trek through the Andes (1948)
-Passion of a prairie woman (1972)
-The introductory guide to Calculus (1937!)

To my mind, the intention here was to befuddle 'the man'. His instructions were obeyed and yet also defied, a symbolic small victory for the little man. Soon, employees were trying to outdo each other with the oddest second hand book titles they could find. The state of our 13th floor library is a joke.

Then again, maybe these books are just older books that people felt they could spare. Maybe no irony was intended at all. The fact that I don't know is kind of ironic, considering I spent the past 40 minutes writing this junk, wouldn't you say?

'Egyptian politicians all look the same'

10 weighty words

A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.

The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.

A vindication of God's goodness in the face of the world's evil.

a) An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
b) Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.

A release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit.

The belief that only material phenomena are objects of exact knowledge. Usually refers to a person's belief in a superior being. From the Greek 'a' meaning 'without' and 'gnoss' meaning 'knowledge'

A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

A form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed: “A totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul.”

A government ruled by or subject to religious authority.

Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

"The defining experience of modernity, is existential doubt"
-J. Adler

VR Water Bottle

My brother, Waleed, is a virtual reality photographer and he got me interested in this stuff. This is a cool piece of VR photography by Thomas Mottl, depicting a room from the perspective of a water bottle. Check it here.