Chew on this: new research on Qat "The Home Office's drugs and alcohol research unit ...will report in the autumn. If they conclude that qat is dangerous, they may well recommend that it should be classified along with other illegal drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines, bringing UK law into line with the majority of western countries."
The balanced view on Moveable Type bloggers "You are all pretentious twats. Every last one of you. You're all latte-sipping, iMac-using, suburban-living tertiary-industry-working WASPs who offer absolutely no new insights on anything whatsoever apart from maybe one specialist field if we're lucky."
Anti-Semitism, real and exaggerated The foreign editor of Die Welt syndicated to Ha'aretz. Well worth a read. He concludes: "The European reality [of anti-semitism]... is less threatening than the Israelis believe but more worrisome than the Europeans want to think."
Blumenthal on Dean and Gore "Gore's endorsement of Dean is the most important since grainy film was shown at the 1992 Democratic convention depicting President Kennedy shaking hands with a teenage Bill Clinton."
Julie Burchill: The hate that shames us The follow up to last week's starter on anti-semitism. Quite an unspectacular romp through some of the usual suspects (Tom Paulin, Tam Dayell and the supression of the EU report).
This is a Magazine. Well - only in the loosest meaning of the word. But well worth your clicks.
Iraq Phase three: civil war Simon Tisdall in today's paper: "An orderly transition and the assertion of legitimate, democratic governance is by no means assured. Continuing, escalating civil strife, scattering the seeds of a possible civil war, could yet turn out to be the Bush-Blair legacy in Iraq. "
I'm currently in the process of winding this blog down - I've had lots of fun with the idea of 'write about anything whenever you want'...but I've sort of ground to a halt in recent weeks while swamped with other things. l've got plans for something a little more focussed to emerge in a week or so: To quote Woody Allen (again): "At the moment it's just a Notion, but with a bit of backing I think I could
turn it into a Concept, and then an Idea." Will report back soon.
Small robots with friendly faces have helped out in the development of handheld translation gadgets to be tried out by travellers in Japan. Visitors landing at Tokyo's Narita Airport will be able to hire a device which can translate the local lingo.
Should make them available in Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle.
Great piece by Jonathan Glancey writes in today's Guardian which points the finger in all the right directions. First the building was far too architecturally ambitious for its own good. Second, the lack of anyone who can take responsibility at Hackney. Or as he puts it
"no one can find a name, figure or department to point a finger at in Hackney Town Hall, precisely because there is effectively no one there capable of handling and taking responsibility for such an ambitious building".
Barbra Ellen interviews Alicia Silverstone about Miss Match, which frankly is sugary nonsense compared to Sex In the City (they're both created by Darren Star), and seems set to be removed from the TiVo 'season pass' list very soon.
Also riding high in the 'I can't believe I'm watching this' stakes is Nip/ Tuck, an every day story of Plastic Surgeon folk in Miami.
Most recent episode: teenage son caught in threesome (then all three sets of parents and children sit down to discuss: which causes heartbreak for the lesbian of the bunch); man seeks breast reduction to go to top notch swinging party (he gets the op, but finds he has hepatitis C); wife of one surgeon first has crush on a young medical student/ personal trainer; then ends up kissing the other surgeon (her husband's best friend - there's lots of history there, as you'd expect); meanwhile her husband is falling in love with a recently divorced chiropracter with a double mastectomy. Oh, and there's obviously a bit of girl-on-girl action at the swinging party.
Well, it might be gratuitous rubbish, but it's well worth supporting just to spite the puritanical Parent's Television Council who have run a campaign to stop companies advertising in the show (complete with wonderfully prurient summary of all the shocking bits at the bottom of that page).
Needless to say, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is also outraged.
Belle de Jour, the internet’s most talked-about web diary, has a book deal. According to Publisher’s Marketplace, the London call girl, who may or may not be a literary name masquerading as a high-class hooker, has inked a deal with Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion to turn her anonymous tales of love-for-money into a manuscript due for delivery in August. The film rights are also being frantically contested. Which begs the question: what happens when her parents find out?
A brief glimpse to another world today, when someone showed me Anarchy Online a massive multi-player game. Completely not my thing (frankly, my gaming stopped with Street Fighter 2). The game itself is of no interest to me...but what's fascinating is the fact that people now buy and sell the credits you earn from playing the game (and which allow you to buy weapons and armour, and take months of playing to build up) for real cash on eBay. A quite spectacular collision of real and virtual worlds. Apparently you get booted off if you get caught trading. Anarchy by name....free market by nature, it seems.
That the world and his wife stand up to slag off Sex Lives of the Potato Men, and say it's shocking that it should have been given £900K from the lottery; while hardly anyone outside local media is kicking up a sustained fuss about the £34m of lottery money spent on the Clissold Leisure centre: which has now closed after being open for little more than a year, and probably won't re-open for another 18 months.
Albumize (vb int) spend hours putting photos into albums - either physical or digital.
Most of the weekend has been spent in a mad whirl of old school albumization (ie putting real prints into real albums). Part indexing-hell, part pure nostalgia. It's not such a problem when the pics are quite recent and all one size (preferably 6 x 4's), but it's hell when they're a few years old, in a mix of APS formats and you can't remember when you went where.
Still, it's all worth it when it's over: with all the crappy snaps removed my past has never seemed so attractive.
One day, all this might be made redundant by portable digital albums, but I sense that's quite a while away in our household.
Piece in today's Online about a piece of software called Vocaloid which is one of those. Basically it's a singing synthesiser: you type the words, give it the notes and it sings for you in one of a number of 'vocal fonts'. Price is a shockingly cheap - by professional standards - £200 a font. The samples sound pretty good: ok, it's not like you've suddenly got Aretha Franklin in your laptop, and they do sound a little weedy and vocoder-ish. But frankly, we've all heard much worse real voices (and not just in the Pop Idol auditions).
It's really meant so composers can hear their music in loads of different ways, but we should expect uproar from the backing vocalist's union as the software improves. And frankly, if you buy four male vocal fonts, then you too can have your own boy band: without any pesky boys to blow all the profits on drugs and fast cars.
Covered previously in the New York Times and Popular Science
Late as ever to catch anything...I stumble across the brilliant collection of neologisms that is The Word Spy after kottke reveals it's been turned into a book.
Particularly like: mucus trooper (MYOO.kus troo.pur) n. An employee with a cold or the flu who insists on showing up for work.
Apple's approach to the iPod battery is emblematic of the company's attitude to design generally.... It was evident, for example, in the first version of the Macintosh... which Jobs insisted should have no expansion slots.. Jobs was implementing his vision that computers were consumer products - like, say, food processors or TVs - not engineering test-beds. The Mac should have, as it were, 'no user serviceable parts'. It was perfect just as it was.
This might be a sensible policy for food processors and games consoles, but for a general-purpose machine like a computer it was daft, and Apple nearly died as a result. Jobs was pushed out, and replaced by men in suits who drove the company into the ground.... the iPod has been the crowning glory of the new strategy - a consumer electronics device that has taken the world by storm... But implicit in it is Jobs's old hostility to consumer tinkering.
I know hardware can't always be all things to all people. But if Apple want to keep hold of their revolution, they need to sort out the battery thing, the radio thing and the recording thing: before someone else does. (well, before someone else does it in as attractive a package...iriver isn't quite there yet)
...has led me to trying WikiPad (after seeing a link on LinkMachineGo). It's a standalone app, which as its name suggests combined the functionality of a notepad and a wiki. Very clever, although whether it will pass the novelty stage...I'm not yet sure. Would love a print or export to text function. I'm still waiting for V2.0 of Keynote.
The new musical year has started with an excellent set of CDs arriving over the last few weeks (see refreshed set of CDs in the right hand column).
First two singer/ songwriters. I caught up with the rest of the world to buy The Half Chapter by Clarkesville - which is lurvely. Very much in the Badly Drawn Boy/ Ed Harcourt school, which is no bad thing in my book. Anyway, hurry now as it's on sale at Virgin for only £5.99!).
And I also splashed out - again a little late - on SK 1 by Ciaran McFeely, aka Simple Kid (actually, I think I prefer his real name). Witty, original, slightly weird and all round wonderful. Watch the video to his brilliant single Average Man now to see what the fuss is about.
But the news has been the arrival of two hugely and justly hyped albums from the Scissor Sisters and Franz Ferdinand. (gushing reviews here and here)
They're different to each other. But, oh my god: they're both like sooo 80s: and, I mean that in the nicest possible way. Listening to them both took my right back to being 16/17, wearing an Oxfam suit and dancing spectacularly badly. It's back to an age when bands (and their fans) wore daft clothes. When lyrics were oh so clever and deliberately twisted and the whole thing strived (but often failed) to have a bit of sophistication and wit to it; rather than obvious pouting and posturing.
As Alex Petridis writes about FF: "Behind the weird name lies a clear interest in the arty Scots post-punk bands of the early 1980s, such as Orange Juice and Joseph (sic.) K. At a time when most groups seem to have bought their image off the peg in the Gap sale, Franz Ferdinand also look thrillingly odd, a situation compounded by drummer Paul Thompson's recent decision to grow a rather questionable pencil moustache."
I mean: Joseph K Josef K - naming your band after a character from Kafka...and contracting it. Franz Ferdinand - named after the Archduke whos assassination started WW1. You just don't get that level of screaming pretension intelligent allusion any more. (Don't tell me: Westlife are actually named after a character from Ulysses).
Scissor sisters are a lot more electro (actually a bit tinny in parts) ; FF very guitary. Both very funky (actually, quite similar to Radio 4). This is the stuff we danced to in the awkward gap between disco and dance music. Go on... you know you have to. Buy from Amazon: and make me a millionaire Franz Ferdinand / Scissor Sisters / Simple Kid / Clarkesville