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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

February 28, 2005

Jef Raskin Dead

Quite a big story really (see Macworld UK). He was the "I'm not bitter" (much) person who originated the Macintosh project at Apple, only to have it wrested off him by Steve Jobs. It was probably Raskin's idea to name it after a variety of apple. Steve Jobs would never be so whimsical.

In a final ironic twist of fate, he died of pancreatic cancer, a year or so after Steve Jobs recovered from his own cancer of the pancreas.


If things are quiet round here, by the way, there's often plenty going on over at the roadrage blog or guitarGAS.

February 25, 2005

History in the Making

Fantastic headline on BBC NEWS: "Pope breathing without assistance".

For centuries, this was the best you could say about any pontiff.

Hattie Carrol

This is an enjoyable read, from the Guardian a "what happened next" article about The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol:
"Listening to The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll today, you can hear Dylan shouting against exactly this blindness. The song he wrote took a one-column, under-the-rug story and played it as big as it deserved to be.

It's often a surprising thing, how beautiful the melody of an early Dylan song can be. As we all know, he felt unfairly labelled as a "protest singer" - because there is so much more to a "protest song" than mere protest. As the article says, nobody would have really known anything about Carroll or Zantzinger without this song, which documents history (albeit not strictly accurately, but that's why it's poetry) with a sublime and memorable melody.

I've probably said it before, but if you ever wanted to learn anything about record production, about how to produce great sound on disk, you should listen to some early Bob Dylan albums, when it was just a voice and an acoustic guitar, a harpmonica. They sound so clear and fresh and beautiful.

February 24, 2005

Glottal Stops and 'ostalgia

Peckham, on a wet saturday afternoon... The dog and duck, down the high street... Auntie Beryl... Next door's budgie... Catching the last bus home...

If... you're drinking Bacardi.

*Sigh.* Although cinema audiences were said to hate this Bacardi ad, featuring floppy haired blokes with rolled-up jacket sleeves, impossibly attractive women and exotic locations, I always loved it. I've seen one on-line person claim it was shown for about 6 months in the early 1990s, but I can assure the chap that it was in fact shown for years and years, probably 10 or more, and was only cancelled some time in the early 90s when Bacardi sought to update their image.

I hate the Bacardi ads of today, they're rubbish.

I spent some time in the USA in the summer of 1992, an unhappy time, and seeing my first film in the UK once I got back (A League of Their Own at the Savoy flea-pit in Snottingham) was a cathartic experience. As the familiar naff soprano sax music rang out (da da da-da daa da da...) and Nicholas Ball (who played Hazell in TV's Hazell) spoke those immortal words, a tear or two came into my eyes. Because I didn't want to be in the Caribbean with a bunch of exiles from Miami Vice, I wanted to be in rainy old Blighty, eating fish and chips and catching the next-to-last bus home.

I got over it though.

20-20 Hindsight

From the Guardian: Barcelona 2 - 1 Chelsea.

Ah. Does anyone remember that Mr Beckham turned his nose up when offered the chance to play for Barcelona? Because he thought he'd look better in the all-white Madrid kit, probably. Mind you, Barca would probably be rubbish if he had gone there.

Bye Bye Blighty

I've been wondering about this sort of thing for a while (from the Guardian):
"No local people, a bunch of Breton nationalists seeking media attention for their cause, and a Brit dressed as a chicken staging a counter demonstration. 'Was the demo an aberration?' I ask him. 'That's a posh way of saying bullshit,' he says, before buffing himself another lager. 'I've seen more anger at Mothercare.'

What with all the furore being stirred up by desperate politicians about immigrants and asylum seekers in the UK, how long before the French, Spanish, Portugese, and Italians etc., start to really complain about the influx of Brits - especially those who don't make an effort to learn the language?

But I do like the idea of the counter-demonstration featuring the man dressed as a chicken. More people should do this. A chicken is suitable for most occasions, I think.

My daughter the artist

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
I love CJ's pictures. She always puts in a lot of detail, and she notices things. I suspect that Bob's wok-belly is based on my own, mind you. She's got very neat and small handwriting, too, which is unusual for her age.

She's writing a lot of stories at the moment, and illustrating them, too. She's working on a book. Last night she asked how to spell "coconut" and "yeow!" (which is the noise you make when a tiger bites you on the arse).

February 23, 2005

The Ballad of Charles and Yoko

Christ, you know it ain't easy. I empathise with Charlie, because my mother didn't come to my wedding either (we didn't invite her, mind).

But it's interesting, innit? The parallels with John and Yoko in 1969? She's older than him, everyone hates her, they're both divorced, they have trouble finding a venue. "Peter Brown called to say, you can make it okay, you can get married in Gibraltar near Spain...."

I bet Camilla's singing voice is better than Yoko's, though.

February 22, 2005

Next Week...

Monday: Technology Comes to Bert's Rescue
Tuesday: Brian has a blast from the past
Wednesday: Robert enjoys a taste of freedom
Thursday: Brian counts his blessings
Friday: Bruno gets caught in the act.

Where have all the flowers gone?

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
We were looking at photo albums the other day; both my sister's family and mine are veteran snappers, with shelves and shelves of photo albums. I still like to print my favourite photos, which is why I recently bought a Hi-Ti dye-sub printer - because the results are more like a lab print, and more likely to last than an inkjet print. Inkjet manufacturers claim 100-year life-spans for some of their prints, whereas Hi-ti only claim 50...

But you know what? I'm more inclined to believe that a dye-sub print, with its protective coating layer, is going to be more resistant to handling than an inkjet print. And, somehow, a 50-year lifetime is more believable than a 100 year lifetime, as claimed by a technology that didn't even exist when I was a child.

All photos, silver halide, inkjet, dye-sub, are subject to ageing. Who hasn't got older colour prints that are now faded and yellow? Looking through old photos, you'll find varying qualties, from pristine and sharp like this one from the 1950s, which I think may have been taken with a medium-format camera and seems as good as the day it was printed; to the faded and damaged, like this one, which was rescued, as best I could manage, in Photoshop.

On the one hand, then, digital tools can help us preserve the past, by scanning faded prints and doubling them up with layers etc in Photoshop. On the other hand, as this article in The Register indicates, we should all be worried about obsolete file formats, storage media, etc.

The only safe way to preserve text is to carve it in stone and leave it in a cave. With a photo, you should definitely hedge your bets. Digital photos are more immediately disposable, because you can take so many, but always back up your files onto the best-quality storage media you can get - and keep it in a cool, dark place.

And print the best ones. Get a good printer, buy the best ink and media (or get a dye-sub) and print your best prints - then put them under glass or in an album (or a box with a lid) and look after them.

Flickr is wonderful, but though you'd hope it will still be there in 5, 10 years, there's a chance it won't be - the best backup is a quality hard copy which is kept dry and out of the sun.

February 21, 2005

Save the Shire

Si was talking about counties, and I came across the the Association of British Counties and their campaign to promote and preserve traditional county names. I'm strangely in favour of this; there's something deeply wrong about politicians coming along every now and then and renaming things because it suits some administrative purpose.

The map on the site is fab, and there's hours of fun to be had.

iWork and iLife Impressions

I've upgraded my system to the latest version of iLife, and also installed the new iWork package, consisting of Pages and Keynote.

Here's a quick summary of the worth-it-ness of iLife '05:
  • iTunes - Bof. Far as I can tell, the only recent changes to iTunes have been to do with breaking the various software hacks people have been using to de-restrict content. There's nothing to get excited about here

  • iMovie - Likewise and ditto. Unless you're planning on getting an HDV camcorder soon, there's not much to write home about in this version. I'm particularly appalled at the instant movie feature. Given that the brilliance of iMovie has always been about the way it empowered you to edit your own footage and make your own little movies, the idea of letting the computer/software take over just makes me think of Microsoft.

  • GarageBand - it's okay. I wouldn't recommend it for a guitarist, but if you're an adequate keyboard player and you don't want to get into anything with a learning curve, GarageBand suffices. I still tend to think anything put together entirely from loops and virtual instruments wasn't worth bothering with in the first place - like making a fruit cake without sugar and fat. Pro Tools LE is still the best package for guitarists and beginners.

  • iDVD - A few new themes, and the chance that it won't work for six months is what you expect from an iDVD upgrade. DO NOT buy iLife '05 if iDVD is your main reason. In any event, preserve your previous, working version in a folder called "old iDVD" before you install the new one. The new themes, by the way, are quite busy as themes go. I'm not keen on interminable DVD menus, they make me want to kill myself.

  • iPhoto - Good things: being able to import RAW camera shots, and the movies you shoot with your digicam. More advanced editing tools are there, but I don't like the way they're implemented, and I'll continue to use Photoshop. For most people, Photoshop Elements will suffice, and gives you many more options, with better performance. iPhoto now pauses to save any changes you make, and displays thumbnails of other images in the Edit view, which I don't think is welcome. New interface is a step backwards.

Overall, I'd say more misses than hits, this time around. If iLife '04 is still doing it for you, stick with it. You need new hardware to get the most out of this version, so wait until you buy a new Mac. We're still a long way from the glory that was iMovie 2, and whereas iPhoto 4 performed miles better than previous versions, new version adds feature bloat and slows down again.

As for iWork, Keynote does nothing for me, because I feel inclined to murder anyone who tries to foist a presentation on me. If you're a teacher looking to introduce some element of IT to your lessons, using a multimedia projector and laptop, whatever, Keynote is preferable to PowerPoint. It integrates nicely with iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes, so you can drag content in very easily.

Pages looks good, and does give you the option of starting with a blank page. The templates supplied look fantastic, but you're probably wisest not to use them. It will export to HTML, which I haven't explored fully, but unless it collects resources like images in a folder with your HTML page, it's probably not worth trying (get a cut-down version of Softpress Freeway instead).

Actually, I think the lack of a modern "Claris HomePage" is a real missed opportunity in this pages thing. To go into a mode that will enable you to whack together a simple web page, maybe with some helpful templates, so you could do your own thing with your .mac account - that would be quite useful for some people.

As a basic word processor, Pages works about as well as TextEdit, but it does go further in allowing you to produce DTP documents with illustrations and photos. It will NOT import AppleWorks clippings, far as I can tell. The weakest parts of AppleWorks have been jettisoned, and it's now a quite powerful DTP tool, certainly enough for most home users' needs.

Off Topic

Si has published something about Pete Doherty over at roadrageblog. Off topic, but you might find it interesting.

February 18, 2005

Something for the Weekend...

Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 26 - Fool on the Hill has just been put up.

Wrote this episode in Apple's new word processor/publishing tool, Pages. Of which more next week.

Hard to love...

I was in two minds about posting this, but what the hell. There's something else about Flickr I feel needs to be aired, brought out in the open, examined in all its glory.

Just as there are some people whose photos you love, those you add as Contacts and Favourites etc etc., there are some people who just bug the hell out of you and generate irrational hatred. Obviously this has nothing to do with actually meeting them, nor anything to do with their photos. It's just that you get a sense of their irony-free, creepy, over-ingratiating personalities because they post loads of bland and sucky uppy comments on other people's photos.

There is one individual who is often first with a comment. I tend to feel that the first comment sets the tone for the rest of the thread. I try not to leave too many "great photo" comments these days. You want to compliment people occasionally, but these days at least Flickr lets them know even if you just add the photo to your favourites.

It shouldn't annoy me but it does, the sucky uppy "vote early, vote often" commenter. Sometimes you laugh, when someone has posted something mildly erotic for example, and you get the likes of, "great depth of field," or, "superb focus," when what people are really thinking is, "great tits," or, "nice bum." Or is that just me? Anyway, at times you get the impression of some underhand stalking, the idea that someone is lying in wait, logged into flickr 24/7, and adding comments as soon as something new goes up... you see this particular person's face so often that you want to run screaning from the room.

And, of course, he's prolly thinking the exact same thing about me.

House Wolf Lady

Heard a snatch of Gina Villalobos on Bob Harris last night - sounded great. And she's playing my home town in April, which is going to be super.

There are also 3 MP3 samples you can download from her site, yay, and I expecially commend her version of "Message in a Box" by Mr Wallinger.

Spoiler Alert

I was late driving home last night, because I went to Costco with Swerve to get some new Michelins; so I got to hear The Archers on the way home. First time in a while.

I case you can't wait, here's what happens next week:

Monday: The stakes are high for Matt's divorce settlement

Tuesday: Kenton takes some responsibility.

Wednesday: Clarrie gets her feathers ruffled.

Thursday: Ed loses more than his cool.

Friday: Jack finds himself in unfamiliar territory.

February 17, 2005

Devils & Dust

New Springsteen album scheduled for release April 26. Amazingly prolific for Bruce, who only released The Rising, what, just under 3 years ago? Steady on, Bruce, you'll get a hernia!

I got a bit excited about The Rising, as I've said before, because the pre-release tracks were great, but then the album itself was long and mostly dull.

Produced by Brendan O'Brien again, o dear. But I won't listen to the pre-releases and I'll just get it when it comes out and judge it then. We'll speak no more of this till April 27.

February 16, 2005

HolyHoses Radio Early Edition

holyhosesradio is online. Control-click (or right click) the link to download the target file.

It's a quick 'n' dirty experiment, thrown together in GarageBand this morning in under ten minutes before I started work. It's just under 14 minutes long, and to spare unpleasant surprises consists of 3 songs and some soundbites I happened to have handy.

If anybody bothers to download it, comments would be welcome. In the future, I hope to go beyond my own songs and include some from other musicians I know.

There's an RSS feed of it here, though I've no idea if that works. I just followed the instructions posted here.

February 15, 2005

No Thespians, please, we're British

I didn't bother to watch ER last night, the Ray Liotta episode. Looked like it was going to be a drag, more like a Casualty than an ER. Casualty tries to do the human interest stuff, ER should stick to what it does best.

You don't watch it for the ac-tors, you honestly don't. Sure there are beautiful people, but that's all about the visual richness of American TV. You watch for Maura Tierney, my secret girlfriend, or Goran Vijsnic, but you don't want them to be noticeably acting, putting on a performance.

I've got no time for thesps, I'm with Hitchcock. They should be treated like cattle, there to hit their marks and say their lines, but god forbid we should notice what they're doing.

I've been enjoying Hack, precisely because it lacks that sense of Big Performance and Show. David Morse is a bit like Dennis Franz, a dues-paid guy who knows what's required. You can see why Hack was cancelled: it's just too morally ambiguous. The hero is a disgraced cop, who doesn't even bother to deny that he's guilty. He's looking for atonement, but without much hope of ever finding it. And his former partner, still a cop, another great TV actor, Andre Braugher, he too is morally ambiguous: guilty but didn't get caught.

And in the midst of all this ambiguity, there are troubled people with problems, which by their very nature are not easily solved (they fall through the cracks, which is why the cab driver ends up helping them). Even though it's gritty and realistic, it's still beautifully lit and designed. The sets look like real places, not some cardboard thing knocked together by a BBC chippy.

Great TV actors know one crucial thing, which is that you don't just have an hour to build a character. You have around 16 hours in a season of 22 episodes to let the storyline build up and the nuances of your performance to tell. I don't want 44 minutes of some Hollywood big shot gracing us with his ac-torly presence, thanks. I'll take Morse and Braugher over that, any day of the week.

Jamie Oliver's Cool dinners

See today's EducationGuardian.

For Oliver's next series, the BBC are borrowing the Tardis off Dr Who and sending Jamie back to the stone age, to teach cavemen how to eat a balanced diet. He'll teach them how to make his quick and easy marinade (the secret ingredient is urine), introduce them to the concept of fire and then show them how to roast bits of mammoth meat on the end of a stick.

In episode two: fruit.

In episode three: nuts, and how to avoid breaking your teeth on the shells by crushing the nuts with the thighbone of a Neanderthal.

In episode four: the cavemen teach Jamie how to eat with a knife and fork.

Lucky Streak Continues*


BATCH NO: LDNL/001134/05.
REF. NO. LDNL/1285579/05

This is to inform you of the release of the EMAIL LOTTERY BALLOT INTERNATIONAL / WORLD GAMING BOARD winners of the SCIENTIFIC GAME PROMO LOTTERY; UNITED KINGDOM. Each email address was randomly selected and attached to ticket numbers and the numbers here category.

Corporate and individual email addresses were selected from Australia,New Zealand, America, Europe, North America and Asia as part of International Promotions Program,which is conducted annually. This was held on 8th of Feb, 2005, but due to the mix up of number,
the results were released on the 11th of Feb, 2005. Your email address attached to ticket number 600235 with serial number 768955 drew the lucky numbers of 13-7-9 which consequently won the lottery in the 3nd category. You have therefore been approved for a
lump sum payout of £500,000.00 (FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS)
in cash credited to file with REF. NO. LDNL/1285579/05.

CONGRATULATIONS: In a bid to correct the mix up of some numbers and
names, we ask that you keep your winning information confidential until
your claims have been processed and your money Remitted to you. This is
part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted
abuse of this program by some participants.

All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn
from only Microsoft users from over 20,000 company and 3,000,000
individual email addresses and names from all over the world. This
promotional program takes place annually.

Please be informed that all non-resident of The UNITED KINGDOM are
required to pay between £300-£600 Pounds for their non - resident
processing /application fee as a perequisite to the processing of their
winnings prior to the pay out and collection of their winning prize. The

amount is subject to your country of origin. To begin your lottery
please contact the Fiducial processing Agent Mr. John Amos of The
Foreign Operation/Claims Department of the appointed company, LUCKYDAY
INTERNATIONAL .on Tel:+44-787-948-4932** (luckyday2006@netscape.net) for the

processing and remittance of your winning prize money to a destination
of your choice.

Any claim not made will be reverted to charity organization for good

Note that all unclaimed funds will be included in the next stake.

N.B: Any persons under the age of 18 is automatically disqualified from
this programe.
Finally,we wish to congatulate you as a winner and you are advised to
contact our fiducial Agent for guidance on the procedures for claims
and payment as soon as possible.

Iris Han Kok (Mrs).
National Co-ordinator .

*Please note irony
** Younger readers should not attempt to call this number pretending to be me. Calls will charged at £500,000 per minute.

February 14, 2005

100 Greatest Wastes of Space

I never watch them, but even if I catch a 30-second snatch they annoy me, those listings programmes they're so fond of on channel 4. Cheap TV. Why is it that people aren't, on the whole, fooled by cheap films (largely unwatched, save festival goers and film club members) but will lap up as much cheap tv as you can throw at them?

These listing shows are all interchangeable anyway. What was it this week, oh yeah, Tearjerkers. What-ever. The really guilty parties here are the talking heads who take the money to make their bland commentary. Jesus, was there ever a more comprehensive waste of space than the average so-called film critic? Now, I appreciate that there have been film critics of import and stature - including all those Cahiers guys who went all nouvelle vague etc. And, of course, I've done the odd Film Studies course myself. Fact, "some of my best friends" are film studies teachers of that ilk.

But give me Emma Norman or Mark Eccleston (if that's how he spells his name?) and I have to ask, what is the point of those people? They're about capable of summarising a plot or describing a scene, but they don't bring any analysis or insight, they haven't got what you might call critical faculties. Honestly.

The bit I caught last night, they were talking about Shane. Talking about what a "great" film it is. Have they seen it? Because the Shane I've seen was total rubbish. Alan Ladd anyone? A midget in a suede suit? About as much charisma and screen presence as a glace cherry. Add the annoying little kid in the movie and you've got box office poison. Yeah, try and make that film today, would you pick Alan Ladd? I'd wager not.

No, what the so-called "critics" were parroting was something they'd read in the introduction or back flap of some out-of-date Film Studies textbook, I bet you. All those types, the Empire magazine types, they wrote for their student newspaper, took one film studies course, and then submitted their first review. Dim as a Toc-H lamp, the lot of them.

Can you spell O-N-E M-A-N T-E-A-M?

Richard Williams of the Guardian: Hollow laughter at Twickenham. Hilarious really. All anybody had to do was crock Johnny Wilkinson. Doubtless they tried, and prolly succeeded to some degree towards the end of the 2003 World Cup, but by whatever method they kept him going till the end of the tournament. Or did they?

My other theory concerns the car crash Wilkinson had immediately after the world cup. Reports were that he wasn't seriously hurt. Or was he?

In other news, my lucky streak continues with another small lottery win Saturday night.

February 11, 2005

Arthur Miller Dead

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | American playwright Miller dies.

He's most famous to young people today as the voice of Moe in The Simpsons. Not really. When you hear/read American Republicans using the word "liberal" as a term of abuse, Arthur Miller was who they're talking about, completely missing the irony re witchhunts, McCarthyism etc.

Ernie Wise is my favourite playwright, though I always respected Miller; I also loved the incongruity of his marriage to Marilyn: as if Stephen Fry married Nicole Kidman.

Pas Devant Les Enfants

[To the person who came to holyhoses by means of searching for "women fucking hoses," I say: ew.]

We've decided not to talk about the incident in front of the kids any more. They both seem to be doing okay with it, though Didi fell asleep at nursery yesterday and had to be collected and taken home, so she's obviously not been getting enough sleep.

In the spirit of shutting the stable door, we changed the lock on the front door, so I guess that's okay, and I check and double-check every night before I go up. He came round, I should mention that, came round with yet more flowers and a box of chocs for the kids, and apologised effusively for his behaviour, which he also did in a letter to the same effect. So he's trying to do the right thing about it, fine, but you know, even this morning, feeling my way downstairs in the dark (didn't want to turn the landing light on in case it woke the kids), I had a heart-stopping moment at the bottom as I just pictured in my mind what it would be like to find someone sitting down there.

Your imagination is a powerful thing, and you can convince yourself that you see faces in the bathroom tiles, or that the shape of the blanket and the cushion on the couch is actually a person who has broken into your home. Maybe I should just turn the lights on, to hell with waking the kids.

February 10, 2005


but probably pointless, the flickr graph by Marcos Weskamp allows you to explore the connections between flickr contacts.

It's interesting to see, for sure, but just a way of illustrating the obvious 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon nature of things like flickr. Duh, of course you and your friends are going to share some contacts, etc.

I love flickr, you know that about me, it's the first bookmark I visit every day, but it does have a certain tendency, which is probably caused by all these only-slightly-connected people having only really one thing in common, which is flickr and their interest in photography. The tendency I'm describing is the tendency to disappear up its own arse.

For example, groups are the main way in which you can "publicise" your photos. The function of groups is for people who have taken or are keen to take photos on a similar theme, and share them (or show them off) to each other. Fine. That's how you meet new contacts and broaden your flickr horizons. On the other hand, you do occasionally encounter a group that screams CONTROL FREAKERY at you: "A group for photos taken of buildings with exactly three broken windows." Some of them really are incredibly anal, like the famous (and amazingly popular) "Squared Circle" group. You get the sense of a ringmaster or mad scientist in the background, rubbing his/her hands with glee as the trained chimps learn to recognise circles inside squares.

Boo to me, I hear you say, and maybe so, but I have thought for a long time that one of the universal truths of the innernet is that most of the people who are on it often enough to become really involved in the likes of flickr, or blogger, or even friendsreunited etc, most of them are working in IT. And the thing about people who work in IT, there's a strong tendency towards the anally-retentive, flat-food-only, devil-in-the-details contingent. Which is fine, what you'd expect, but the key here is to remember that this is not the world, nor even a representative sample of the world: it is a little corner of the world that the rest of the world knows nothing about.

For myself, I like to look at the photos, and I have my favourite flickr photographers, like my friend James* (Swerve), or Twinmama, or Romanlily*, but I do avoid the control freak groups. I prefer groups which allow a wide remit, and free interpretation, just because I'm one of those people who would do something off the wall and odd and not quite what people were expecting. Not to make a value judgment about it, but I'm eccentric that way.

The up-the-arse tendency was never more evident than on the almost-famous flickr coincidence thread. Now, I do think it's interesting that someone took a picture which included someone else taking a picture, and that both pictures ended up on flickr (it's still a small enough corner of the world for that to be remarkable). But then as you go down the forum thread it gets more and more up its own arse, until it starts to read like the minutes of a Critical Theory seminar (I've been there, and it's not a pleasant experience) where the boys try to outdo each other with arcane references and questions, which nobody really knows what they're talking about, especially the boys.

That is all. * Except to add, if you were in the market for one of the excellent low-priced digital SLRs like the Nikon D70 or the Canon EOS 300D (or Canon Digital Rebel, rather embarrassingly, for Americans), you could do no worse than look at the photostreams of Swerve and Romanlily. Swerve uses the D70, and his photos - mostly landscape or abstract - are clear and sharp, with natural colours and great detail; Romanlily has a 300D (Rebel), and her photos - which include some fantastic portraits and foodie shots - are full of rich colours and flatter their subjects. Which means, in short, that I'd choose the D70 if I was principally a landscape photographer, and the 300D if I was more into portraiture. That's a broad brush way of looking at things, and of course you can do all kinds of photography with both cameras, but if you look at the photostreams you'll see what I'm talking about.

February 09, 2005

Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 25

Part 25, A conversation about possibilities, has just been published over there.

The hard thing about these episodes is that sometimes it seems a little repetitve. Because it seems to long since some of the events described that you feel like you have to reiterate, but still. It's in the nature of the first draft that it's going to be loose and sloppy, full of inconsistencies etc.

Interesting that I now feel it wants to go in a direction I was sure I wanted to avoid not so long ago.

Minolta A200 update

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
Older readers may be surprised to learn that I've decided to keep the Minolta A200, it being the dozenth camera I've had on test over the past couple of years.

The killer feature is the anti-shake mechanism, which is fantastically good. I've tried anti-shake models before, both from Minolta and Canon, but this particular model does it justice. This picture was taken with a shutter speed of 1/20 of a sec, hand-held, and I've taken others with even slower speed with good results (see the flickr photostream for more). Being able to take pictures indoors without a flash or a tripod is exactly what I want.

The downside, it's a bit bulky, especially compared to the compact yet excellent F300 I'm now selling on. But as I said to B last night, sooner or later she'll be getting a new phone, and that phone will certainly have a camera incorporated, and that will probably do as far as camera-in-your-pocket is concerned.

Meanwhile, I can take the photos I want to take around the house. Discovered last night that on "ultra high speed continuous" mode the A200 can take 40 (count 'em) frames in what seems like a couple of seconds (it's supposed to be 10 frames ps, but feels faster), which is going to be great fun when the kids are running about in the spring sunshine.

February 08, 2005

Virtually Virtual

As Steve Bunts said on Fighting Talk a couple of weeks ago, exactly what planet was Ellen MacArthur sailing round? It's as if her parents put her on the boat to get rid of her - they told her it was a round-the-world voyage, but actually she's sitting in one of those virtual reality environments at the Earl's Court boat show with servo motors wobbling it about. This quote from Today's Guardian says it all for me:
Robin Knox-Johnston, a MacArthur supporter who plans to be at Falmouth for the formal welcome, has drawn an instructive contrast between his round-the-world voyage in 1968-69 (the first non-stop solo circumnavigation) and MacArthur's. "My boat, Suhaili, was small and wooden," he has said. "MacArthur's boat is three times as long as mine, half as heavy and has sails three or four times larger. To navigate, I had a sextant and a chronometer. The equipment had changed very little since Captain Cook's time. MacArthur has GPS, which updates every three seconds, telling you where you are, what speed you are doing and what direction you're going in. You don't need to navigate.

In other words, she has so much technology at her disposal, she might as well have an engine and be done with it. The full support team, the webcam, the satnav, the live radio interviews... where's the challenge? When I was a boy, I had a model boat I called Suhaili, and I used to float it on the Harpenden boating lake. Perhaps she could try that.

She's not exploring, not a pioneer, and it's all a bit sterile, like reality TV, like virtual reality TV; there's nothing to match the real excitement and danger of being out of radio contact (remember when the Apollo capsules would come back from the moon - all those minutes of silence as you wondered if they'd made it?). As for the B&Q sponsorship, honestly. It makes me sick to my stomach.

February 07, 2005

Holy Jesus Fucking Christ What the Fuck Are You Doing In My House You Bastard?

With these words, I greeted the stranger who let himself into our home in the middle of the night, and set up camp in my 4-year-old daughter's bedroom.

Didi came into our room. It's 4 in the morning, and she says there's a man in her bedroom. I get up, feeling vulnerable in boxer shorts and tee-shirt, but don't take the time to pull on some tracksuit bottoms. It seems more urgent than that. I turn on the light in her room, and, sure enough, her quilt has been mostly pulled off her bed, and is covering a lump on the floor.

Cautiously peeling back the quilt, I reveal a youngish man, clearly not a vagrant, mid-20s, medium build. I scream at him, B screams at him. He seems confused, disoriented (you think?). He gets up, picks up his shoes, and I take him downstairs to the door. He's wearing a tee-shirt, it's the middle of the night, cold outside. Inappropriately dressed much? I ask if he had a coat. He says he does.

While I go back to fetch his thin leather jacket, my wife tackles him on the subject of what the hell he thought he was doing in our house. She twigs that he is the son of the woman who previously lived there, though we know for a fact that her son was not living with her at the time she sold the house (he was living with his dad).

Turns out the front door was unlocked, which I blame myself for, as I had a slightly different house-to-bed routine the night before.

So now we're lying in bed, shocked to full wakefulness, and take an hour to drift back to sleep, with Didi between us for comfort. At 5.30, footsteps on the stairs. HE'S BACK!

This time, we know we locked the fucking door, so how did he get in? He's as confused as disoriented as ever; not smelling of drink, but clearly stoned out of his gourd on something.

He still has a key. To our house. On his key-ring. For the last 3 months? Wha?

So I didn't leave the door unlocked. We threw him out again, and that was that for sleeping - that night, and the night after. In the morning, B wanted to phone the police, but I suggested she phone his mother because I suspected that she and her ex-husband between them will give him a harder time about this than the police ever would. She reported to us that he used to be a bit of a stoner till the day he fell out of a window and broke his neck in 3 places. So they thought he'd left "all that" behind him.

My personal opinion is that nobody in their right mind gets that stoned - to forget where you live, to not have any memory about what you did when you wake up the next day. I think to get that far-out you've got to be quite far out to start with. I generally don't like to be around such people.

I don't know if I'll ever sleep again, and I wonder how long it'll be before Didi sleeps through the night in her own room again. We downplayed the incident to her. Told her it was a "boy" (though he's 27) who was the "little boy" of the woman who used to live there. So to Didi he's a "naughty boy" and part of the game of "naughty boy in the room."


Nicky Campbell's sloppy seconds

A few months ago, BBC Radio Five Live's Nicky Campbelll was about to interview someone from the Kent Hunt about the hunting with dogs ban, but in introducing the item, his tongue slipped and he said "Cunt..."

Shelagh Fogerty never misses an opportunity to remind him of this slip, and this morning she did again when they were talking about "things we'll still be talking about in 500 years."

Then some bright and original listener sent a text to the same effect and Campbell started to read it out. Except he did it again, said "Cunt" instead of "Kent" and followed up with, "I don't believe it, I don't believe it..."


February 04, 2005

6 String Therapy

Guitar (1 of 7)
Guitar (1 of 7),
originally uploaded by shadowbox.

Aaagh! I just totally arsed up this blog for 10 minutes or so because I left a tag open in this post. Blogger always warns you if you forget to close a tag, but flickr doesn't; so I arsed it up and then messed around with it so much I ended up changing the template. Again. Apologies.


We've been running one of those typically boys-only challenges in the office: create a compo with 10 songs which exemplify the best-ever guitar tracks. I started with a shortlist of about 20 and wittled it painfully down to just the 10 required. Quite a challenge, but I do think about this kind of thing quite often. Which is probably not entirely a good thing.
Mine goes like this:

  • When I Start Walking - Jonathan Richman - JR has more entertainment value in his little finger than in a multitude of angry young men who-think-they-are-Jesus

  • You Look Good in My Shirt - Keith Urban - "In the beginning was the Telecaster..." and this is how it's supposed to sound

  • New Morning - Bob Dylan - Dylan's voice never sounded better than this - and the lead guitar has a nice, loose, improvised feel. You get the feeling this is around the second take; you can hear the musicians working towards something, giving each other space, and the solo at the end rises up out of the mix like magic.

  • I'm Mandy Fly Me - 10cc - In the 70s, there were two British bands renowned for the studio trickery - Queen (who I never liked), and 10cc. Queen had Bohemian Rapsody and 10cc had I'm Not in Love. After that came the arch and knowing album How Dare You with this track, which is a long-term favourite. Knowing 10cc, the acoustic rhythm guitar on this was achieved with some studio trickery - still great though

  • Even The Losers - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - for when your teenager asks, "What was the greatest rock & roll record of all time?" Along with Jonathan Richman, Mike Campbell is probably among the most under-rated guitar players

  • Get Real - Kelly Willis - it just goes round and around, but it builds up beautifully with layers of guitars

  • Every River - Kim Richey - this is a songwriter with some session musicians - but can you really tell? Guitar and song are one.

  • Shut Up & Kiss Me - Mary Chapin Carpenter - John Jennings is a guitar god and this is one of his better collaborations with MCC

  • The Sun's Gonna Shine on You - Vince Gill - Who wins out over Brad Paisley, that other great country guitar hero, because Gill has more soul & feel

  • No Next Time - Allison Moorer - great breakup song - and the overdriven lead guitar against the strings at the end sounds wondrous

Let me know if you want a copy.

February 03, 2005

Keeping up with the Joneses

Because a friend has one, and I've been thinking of getting one for a while, I decided it was time to try a Konica Minolta DiMAGE A200. So I got one out of the warehouse and I'll try it this weekend.

Given my history with KM's repair department, you may be surprised to learn that I'm thinking of going for another KM model, but the truth is I've been very happy with the photos I've taken with the F300 (so much so that it's hard to choose a more recent camera, because nothing quite matches its quality and convenience), and KM continue to offer - on paper at least - a winning combination of features and quality at very competitive prices.

The A200 is a slightly dumbed-down version of the A2 from last year, but it's still an 8 megapixel model with a 7x zoom. The big selling point of this one for me is the manual zoom control (you twist the ring on the lens, as on a traditional SLR); and (optional) manual focus control (another ring, between body and lens). You'd get both of these options on a digital SLR, of course, and with a £100 cash-back offer (just announced) from Nikon on the D70, it's not too much more expensive to go that route.

But I know myself and my style of photography, and I've had SLRs in the past, so I know that I'm not that bothered. I owned SLRs, but never purchased any additional lenses, so in that respect the A200 is as SLR-like as I need it to be, and over £100 cheaper, even with the cash-back.

The real test will be in use, so I'll give it a go this weekend and see how I get on. Reasons I still love the long-in-the-tooth, F300: the lens is excellent, and it slips into a pocket very easily. Things it doesn't have that I wish I had: more manual controls, bigger zoom range, option to have an external flash. The A200 offers all these extras, plus the anti-shake mechanism that might allow me to take the kind of "available Light" pictures I prefer to take.

February 02, 2005

Tv Land that Time Forgot

I mentioned briefly before the goodies available on some of the Freeview channels, like abc1 and ITV2 and 3, for example. There's some pretty decent stuff, and I'm much more likely to watch something on ITV3 than I am on ITV1, which is one of life's little ironies.

Above anything, these channels are the places television shows go when they die. Much of what you see (and I'm talking about American shows here, because that is what I mostly watch) has already been cancelled in its native land. abc1, for example, has Sports Night, which is fairly decent but not as good as it thought it was; and Mad About You, the Helen Hunt vehicle that shot her to fame; the Geena Davies Show; and others.

Sports Night has a stellar cast, with faces familiar from many other hit shows. Him out of Six Feet Under, her out of Desperate Housewives, Benson from Benson, her out of Sliders, him from The West Wing. The problem with it, and the reason it was cancelled, is that it's not quite a comedy, but with a 30-minute running time, doesn't cut it as a drama or comedy-drama, either; and the canned laughter is annoying.

abc1 is also a window into hell, for uk viewers who have never experienced the US way of broadcast. Suddenly the pre-credit bit and the little bit at the end are revealed in their full horror: for a programme to run a full ad break (which on abc1 almost entirely consist of trailers for Now and Again and General Hospital) and then show the last 30 seconds or so of the show is, frankly, disturbing.*

On ITV2, we're enjoying the superb 3rd Rock From the Sun twice a night (as I mentioned, CJ loves it - she nearly killed herself laughing at Tommy with his hair done like a girl). And on ITV3, I think Hack is pretty darn good: a slow-moving and quite intense drama starring David Morse and Andre Braugher. It's hard to make an emotional investment in a show you know has already been cancelled, but you can't help liking it. I also thnk Crossing Jordan is decent enough to pass the time.

As for Mad About You, I have to say, I always thought Helen Hunt must have looked glamorous and beautiful in this show - an explanation for her subsequent popularity, because I never understood her appeal in the movies I've seen her in. Turns out she wasn't, so go figure.

Cancelled shows are sometimes like musicians out of contract. As a fan, it's sometimes hard to see why something failed, but I try to be a little bit objective.

*Fortunately, because I record most of these shows on my hard disk recorder, I can skip through the adverts easily.

The Searchers

If you wanted to find information about Natalie Wood, who co-starred with John Wayne in The Searchers, among other films, where would you go? As this interesting article from the Guardian about search engine technology indicates, for 42% of us, first port of call is Google. This is particularly true of Safari users, who have a Google search box in the top right hand corner of the browser by default.

I use it a lot myself, and have done since it was an infant, so I'm obviously fairly happy with it, though it's true that good results are harder to come by as the web gets increasingly clogged with filth and cant. On the other hand, as I indicate below, alltheweb.com works better for image searches.

But two engines mentioned in the Guardian article are also of interest. Teoma claims to offer results based on authority, and groups resources relating to the search together, where available. By "resources" they mean collections of useful links other people have assembled - people interested in guitar technique, for example. Clusty, also groups search results together, by subject. This means if you're searching for a common set of words, you get less ambiguity, because the various interpretations are offered on the left side of the results screen. Searching for "hoses of the holy," for example, offers various ways in which "hoses" and "holy" appear on the web.

Only time will tell if I'll find either of these two as quick and easy as google, but it's nice to have alternatives, and I'll certainly be trying them out over the coming weeks.

February 01, 2005

Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 24 "Dear Karen..."

With deepest apologies for the sporadic nature of the publication, Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 24 "Dear Karen..." has just been published over at the other place.

I can't promise it won't happen again, but perhaps now I'm getting out from under the winter blues, I might be a bit more active.

In fairness to myself, and why not, I should point out that Parts 1-24 total around 33,000 words, which is about half what I'd consider an only slightly skimpy novel. If the target is 80 - 100,000 words, I'm over 1/3 of the way there. My problem with episodic publication is that I don't work best this way. My creative process involves frequently starting over from the beginning, adding bits here and there, writing a little bit further than I got the time before, and then rewriting from the beginning, and like that. So coming up with a new episode would normally entail writing the whole thing over from the start, which would take as long as these episodes are taking anyway.