Monday, 28 December 2009

Visual Thesaurus

This evening, while writing a pretty passage about gold atoms in an eternity band ending up at near infinite distances from one another at the end of time, I was searching for an appropriate synonym of the ordinary(!) word 'plain'. I discovered something I thought might excite Nick. Of course, he's probably already seen it, but if not, you'll have spotted it to the left of this text!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

from Hong Kong.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas Drink for Lazy People

It's Christmas, and if you're like me you have totally left everything to the last minute. Here's a drink I made up from things in my cupboards, but still tastes like christmas.


1 Can of Coke
150ml Water
2 Tablespoons of honey
2 Tablespoons of lemon/lime juice
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Handful of raisins


1. Put all the ingredients in a pan, and heat over a low heat until simmering.

2. Serve with a couple of shots of vodka or brandy for extra Christmas cheer.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A Song... never so good taken up again halfway through.

I mean, if you listen to a song on your ipod, walking into work or college or wherever, and you pause it halfway through because you arrive at your destination, and then perhaps an hour later you put your coat back on to brave the brutal snow once again, and switching on your ipod, the second half of that song comes on again, and it's suddenly only half as good. Know what I mean?

It might be because the damn thing's been playing on repeat in your head ever since.

Or it might be a partial confirmation of my suspicion that all songs are best at their beginnings.

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Horror!

So, I have watched two foreign language horror films in the last two days, which, despite not being all that scary, were still worth a quick mention on here:

1) The Orphanage: This is a Spanish film, endorsed by certifiable genius (take that how you want) director, Guillermo Del Toro. Astute readers will have realised that it's about an orphanage. It views like a M Night Shyamalan film, if M Night Shyamalan had stayed acceptably interesting after the Sixth Sense. All it needs is to end 5 minutes before the actual end.

2) Let The Right One In: A creepy Swedish vampire (small v) film, which reimagines the key points of the mythology into a largely familiar, but disturbing in the details, story. An anti-Twilight?

In Twilight the vampires sparkle. If you can forget that they are stone-cold killers (and that is made very easy with baseball matches and such), then you can lie back and enjoy the shirtless vampire hunks. Don't worry teen girls! The vampires (tellingly created by a serious Mormon) don't really want to have sex with you, that could bring out their wild (read: murderous) side. It's all chaste before marriage (read: vampirisation), not like with those real boys! Vampires in Twilight are like the safe face of mass-murdering pedophiles. It's actually a bit troubling if you think about it.

In Let The Right One In, on the other hand, stars a "12-year old" vampire "girl". Her 40-something "minder" (the relationship in the movie is ambiguous, apparently it's not in the book), bleeds innocents to death in bleak, snow-covered suburban parks then brings the take-out home for his ward. She meets a bullied, disturbed boy, and gradually draws him out of himself. The boy's maturation is disturbingly linked to his capacity for violence, his ability to control his own environment by imposing his will onto it.

Now, which film more successfully embodies the way that we, as a society, expect our children to behave? Twilight's heroine is almost unbearably annoying, possibly a bit of schadenfreude for the mainly teen female demographic. Does her damsel in distress/virgin/pseudo-whore present a positive image for her fans? Or is her passivity, her endless pining after dangerous/preternaturally safe guys, the very antithesis of what we should be aiming for? The protagonist in LTRON is flawed, but his arc in the movie is undoubtedly in a positive direction, from victim to actor. The movie is being remade for Hollywood, and I wouldn't be surprised if the negative aspects (gore, shocks, illicit sexual themes) are advanced at the expense of the more positive themes like coming-of-age and self reliance. It seems that mainstream cinema, no matter how deviant in subject matter, is unfortunately, and probably congenitally, status quo endorsing. How else do you get box office?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


I hope I'm not the only one a little freaked out by this. Apparently some octopi carry coconut shells around on the off chance they might have to hide from something.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Amazing Cellular Automaton Miracle

When I read Matt's post on cellular automata the other day, I decided to crank up my copy of Mathematica and have a little mess around. Above is a cellular automaton I created by using an extrememly large number of iterations. You know what, I thought, it would be interesting to zoom in on some of that randomness and see what I can see.

Then the weirdness happened. Below is pictured what I found when I zoomed in yet again. To be honest, I'm still a bit freaked out.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

P.O.S. + Blakroc = A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

With all the end of the decade fun I've been having, I have been neglecting some of the things that have happened in the previous year. I apologise, but I will make up for it a little bit today.

1) P.O.S.

If you're anything like me, you grew up on grunge, then worked backwards through the finest in American hardcore punk, before jumping into the 21st century via alternative rap. I understand that this is unlikely, but please bear with me. Remember the rap/rock crossover fest that was Walk this Way? Me too. Remember Puff Daddy (P Diddy?) vs. Dave Grohl on It's All About the Benjamins? No? Luckily I'm here to remember it for you wholesale. It was awesome. Now, follow me, if you will, on a flight of fancy. What if I was not good at maths, but instead was a RAP GOD! What kind of music would I make? Luckily, I don't need a time machine to head back through the ether to press a Public Enemy 12 inch into my 8 year old self's sweaty palms. No, the answer exists in the world as it is now. I believe, provided of course that I was a talented rap god (by no means guaranteed), that the music flowing from my mixing desk would sound something like P.O.S. Observe:

That drum beat reminds me, did you get the White Rabbits this year? Not sure about the album, and their London show was one of the more painful concert experiences of my life, but this single rocks with a hefty side of Awesome Sauce(tm):

Also, one thing we must never forget is that P.O.S. graced us with one of the world's greatest Pearl Jam covers. I love it:

2)Roots rock indie losers The Black Keys (to be fair to them, I only assumed that they were such based on maybe one song, and that appalling name), teamed up with some of the biggest names in rap and dropped a disc a couple of weeks ago that actually, amazingly, lives up to the (rop/rack)/(rap/rock) promise. So, despite the fact that they probably never dress in anything other than black, and never breathe in unless through the comforting mediating influence of a clove cigarette, I am forced to recommend them. Cheers, asshats:

PS: How it happened. If it happened in edited form.

PPS: 2009 was also a great year for sublegal mashups of indie music and rap. Observe:
Radiohead x Jay-Z = Jaydiohead
Sufjan Stevens + Who's who in alterna-rap

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


I am too lazy to write a real post, so I am substituting three, count them, three amusements:

1) Surveys, Republican style.

2)This guy has something called B-Roll. It's a real thing, if, like me, you were wondering.

3) The lord our (Tetris) god is a vengeful god.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Cellular Automata

I have recently been reading all about cellular automata, most recently extolled by Stephen Wolfram (creator of Mathematica, a computer programming language) in his book 'A New Kind of Science'.

The basic idea is that you start simply with a long line of squares, or 'cells', across a page. A cell can be either black or white. At regular intervals of time a new line of cells is drawn on the page immediately below the first (like an old refreshing monitor). Whether a cell on this second line is black or white depends on a rule applied to its two nearest neighbours on the first line. All sorts of rules can be immediately thought of: 'If a cell on the first line has a white cell on its right then it must be black on the second line, otherwise white.' This quickly generates a pattern of some sort that may (or, amazingly, may not) stabilise into a static or repeating pattern.

To latch onto 'amazingly' in the above paragraph: Wolfram discovered a rule, number 30, which led to a totally random result: one that did not stabilise into a static or repeating pattern but which just threw out a totally random sequence.

However, far far more interesting was rule 110 (picture above, showing the most common result of this rule). This rule threw out a result that was neither totally random nor completely repetitive; localised structures are created which interact in very complicated looking ways. In fact, it turns out some of these structures (different results are obtained by an infinite variety of starting states) are rich enough to support 'universality' - in other words they can represent everything. This, in theory, paves the way for a Turing Machine, a computer capable of every type of calculation!

So, the obvious question becomes: is the universe the product of a cellular automaton?

Unfortunately, this would require some external 'clock', which doesn't seem compatible with anything we can presently point to... or maybe we just haven't found it yet...

Saturday, 5 December 2009



Best of the 2000s: Giant Sand: Chore of Enchantment

Before they went on to achieve unexpected success as Calexico, Joey Burns and John Convertino were firmly part of the revolving Tucson musical collective Giant Sand. Giant Sand is basically Howe Gelb and friends, and it would be hard to think of a man better equipped to be the centre of such an undertaking.

Even though I love Giant Sand, they are absolutely terrifying for the newcomer. They are very much a cult band, with seemingly hundreds of records released by different line-ups, and a thriving ecosystem of collaborators and side projects (including, by this point, pretty much anyone who is anyone in indie music). He also taught guitar to Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter for the harrowing Generation X art-film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Luckily for normal people who would prefer not to spend the whole of 2010 listening to an endless stream of Howe Gelb output (It's a fools errand, he will probably release enough material in 2010 to last you for 2011, and so on. You'll only be free when he dies.), Chore of Enchantment is a safe entry point to the Pandora's box which is the Gelb output. It contains all the things that make him himself: wordplay, eclecticism, deceptively simple guitar work and an endlessly roving intelligence, and condenses them into one digestible hour.

The album is, at heart, the most upbeat memorial album ever. It is bookended by tributes to Gelb's friend and former Giant Sand bandmate, slide guitar hero Rainer Ptacek. It contains some standout moments, including Shiver, a cute country ballad which was, bizarrely, used to score a Coke commercial.

I saw Gelb play a solo show in Aarhus, Denmark, where we both lived for some time in the early years of this decade. Gelb took more away than me, his current band is filled with musicians from the thriving jazz scene there. He had with him a CD player perched on top of his piano. He played random songs, and played along on the piano, or on his red guitar. The mistakes and missteps were part of the performance, as was the open stage where anyone could join him. That's Gelb in a nutshell, generous, eclectic and genius in equal parts.

C'mon, c'mon.

Wow, I've never seen that video before. How fine it is.

Friday, 4 December 2009


I don't believe in free will, but up until about 30 minutes ago I thought that at least I was being worked like a puppet by my own genes and brain chemistry. No longer. Is it accurate to say that the rabies virus knows more about human aggression than the finest minds in neuroscience? Possibly, rabies can alter your thoughts so thoroughly as to make you want to bite someone, thus propagating itself, neuroscientists cannot.

Toxo is a cat parasite. The only place it can reproduce is within the feline gut. The cat shit, now enriched with toxo eggs, is then eaten by rats. Now the toxo has a problem, how is it going to get back into the gut of a cat? It can't just whisper in the rat's ear, convince it to get eaten by a cat. Instead it invades the cat's brain and hijacks the normal response that a rat has to cat pheromones. Now, instead of fearing them, the rat is actually sexually attracted to them. With predictable results.

Now, this would be extremely interesting in and of itself, but wait, it gets so much better. It turns out that the genome of the toxo actually has a pathway for hacking into the dopamine system found in mammals, and that's how it changes rat behaviour. So what happens when a human is infected? It was thought that a toxo infection was largely asymptomatic (except in pregnancy, where it causes developmental problems with the fetal nervous system), but recent studies have shown that a toxo infected male is 4 times more likely to die in a car accident as a result of speeding. That is stunning. This parasite, which startlingly is very prevalent, can affect human behaviour in a completely undetectable way. What else is screwing with you? What else is stealing your free will? Did you have any in the first place? Scary stuff.

You have to watch this video: Sapolsky on toxo. There is so much more in this video I can't even begin to start, best 25 minutes I've spent all week. Sapolsky also wrote a fantastic book, A Primate's Memoir, about his time as primatologist in Africa.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Flash Fiction III

Being a story, in under one hundred words (including this introduction), which contains the requisite Beginning, Middle and End.

A Beginning: She woke up and stretched luxuriously.

A Middle: A chase. In the end and after many trials, he successfully wooed her. She initially accepted his advances with caution; she never forgot the tan line on his finger.

An End: It was a dream. She woke up, and from behind the cabinet beside her bed a figure emerged. It was her husband.
'I was looking for my ring,' he said.
She wondered why he had taken it off.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Best of the 2000s: Modest Mouse: The Moon and Antarctica

One of the concerns I have about doing this retrospective is that it will reveal me as what I am. Old. I am painfully aware that the selections I've made so far have all been from the first half of the decade, and I don't see that this is going to change a huge amount with subsequent additions.

A less old person might have chosen one of the more recent Modest Mouse records, Good News for People Who Love Bad News (excellent), or We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (less so). The reality is, though, that my selection marks me as old in two ways:

1) I am old because I remember the first years of this decade. They are, in fact, my formative years. I was 19 when this record came out in the year 2000. 2000 still sounds like the future to me.

2) I am old because I still listen to some pieces of music as solid albums.

The Moon and Antarctica is much easier to type than Modest Mouse's other albums, but it also possesses other virtues. The key to my enjoyment of it is that it asks, no demands, to be played and enjoyed as an extended, cohesive whole, with all the thematic and musical coherence that that implies. Although it swerves drunkenly across genres from track to track, from spacey dream-rock to acoustic prettiness and back via some bass-led almost dance, it never feels like anything but a whole object. That makes it really difficult to select a representative track to post below, but it also makes it a wonderful example of a form which is gradually being lost in the wake of changes in the way music is being consumed. If I come across any of the individual tracks when I am randomly wandering through my music, it seems like a lost orphan, and I have to reunite it with its kin by playing the whole album. This is why I am happy to risk seeming old by recommending it; it is, I think, a rare enough thing to praise.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Q and A

1) What should the flag of the world look like?
2) What career would you imagine Rev Dr David Adamovich to have?
3) Can you name a terrible place to live?
4) What would you call the unholy offspring of a person and a chimpanzee?

1) The flag of the world should look like this:

It's an average of all the flags in the world, with the weighting provided by population. I approve of the design, I don't approve of statistics. Ever. Find out more here.

2) If you were a very good imaginer, you might imagine him to be one of the world's most accomplished knife throwers. A man of god, he might also, in your fertile wonderings, also run a wedding business on the side. Your guess would have the virtue of being correct.

3) Yes you can. Cité Soleil, Haiti.

4) You might call it a humanzee, if you were interested. You might also be interested to know that several experiments have been undertaken to create such a monstrosity, and that it is theoretically possible. You sicko.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Best of the 2000s: TV Edition

This has been a great decade for TV. And I love TV. Interestingly enough, I haven't really watched broadcast TV since about 2005, something that wouldn't have been possible until recently. Paradoxically, this 5 years of TV-less TV has been easily the best TV watching of my life. No Adverts, no waiting for the same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel, it's all been there in front of me on DVD or YouTube. So, without further ado, let's countdown (and, no, Countdown doesn't make the cut):

5) The Wire. Superlative cop show for people, like me, who don't really like cop shows. manages to turn all the worst bits about policing (wiretaps, politics) into something that isn't just gripping drama, but is also a multilayered and generally critical look at where the US is today. Thematically incredibly strong, and the theme is this: we all get screwed by the machines we work within.

The boys use some technical police language while examining a crime scene.

4) Arrested Development. The traditional sitcom is something which has very little appeal for me. Arrested Development is the exception. Though it's packed with more jokes per minute than anything else out there, the show's real strength is its characters. Unlikeable and devious to a man, they are still incredibly, well, likeable. Did that make any sense? No? Well watch it and you'll see what I mean.

3) Curb Your Enthusiasm. The Office, as the Office would be if instead of being about Slough, it was about Hollywood. And instead of being about office wage-slaves, it was about incredibly foul mouthed media execs. In a word: Gold.

2) The Venture Bros. This one is not so familiar to a British audience, but it's by far the best cartoon on television, and, I think, among the best the medium has to offer even without caveats. Populated with the most amoral cast of losers (the theme of the show is definitely failure) ever to grace screens, the show nevertheless imbues them with a sense of pathos that is hard to find even in the most serious and well-written drama series. Not forgetting that it is hilarious. Unmissable.

1) And finally, The Sopranos. This show was enthralling from start to ambiguous finish. Top points for letting the viewer decide on their own ending, continuing the theme of documenting, but not judging, the main characters' often illegal actions. Sadly, it seems it's a bold move just to let people think for themselves.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Long Form Journalism

Today I want to highlight a couple of interesting examples of long-form journalism. The internet has made it a lot easier to find this kind of writing. Before you would probably have been limited to the stories appearing in the papers and magazines you usually bought.

The first is a story from the New Yorker about Caster Semenya, the South Africa athlete. The piece touches on some very interesting territory: Exploitation of celebrities for political capitalism, post-colonial politics, what the real difference is between male and female, the politics of sport, and the possible routes out of poverty.

The second is an article from the Guardian about the drug gangs and the favelas they control in Rio. It's amazing to read about how the city is basically a loose agglomeration of independent states, each with their own standing armies and legal systems. Even the state police (military in this case) are in on the deal, controlling territories in the form of militias. Welcome to the future, it's looking pretty grim.

Intra-links- A long-form article on zombies.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Albums of the Decade: At the Drive-In: Relationship of Command

Is that a Trojan horse on the cover? I like to think so. The new millennium started with a year of awesome, spine-melting, rock-punk; Queens of the Stone Age broke into the big time with Rated R, superficially a loud, stupid cock-rock album, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead released Madonna (technically late 1999, but who's counting when there's a point to make?), superficially a punk album with proto-emo overtones and a side of snotty teenage rebellion, and, best of all, At the Drive-In dropped Relationship of Command, superficially the loudest, most drum-intensive thing ever to bleed out of your speakers at maximum volume. Of course, these dirty surfaces are deceptive: QOTSA are secretly very sophisticated, they create an stoned-desert atmosphere so thick it's like treacle, and Rated R contains a couple of Mark Lanegan's greatest vocal performances. ...AYWKUBTTOD have a real emotional bedrock, subtly underscored by the off-kilter music (see Mistakes and Regrets). But the biggest Trojan horse of all, of course, is Relationship of Command. Secretly, instead of the hammer it appears to be, it's a scalpel. A rocket-powered scalpel.

I remember seeing an At the Drive-In performance on Jools Holland (thanks, internet!). If they never did anything other than elicit the look of horror (sadly not on that YouTube clip) that crossed Robbie Williams' face when he realised that he would have to follow that crazily overpowered performance, I would love them. Happily for me, and also for people who missed that show, ATDI give use plenty of other reasons to love them. Firstly, RoC has, by far, the best opening 30 seconds of any album ever (featured below). Tribal drums plug directly into your animal instincts while a weird, super-treated, grinding guitar wobbles out an almost synth tone, shot through with feedback, but then, crucially, it stops. A lone bass bangs out a single note a few times, is answered by quiet piece of feedback, and then plaintively calls out again. This time the bass is answered more emphatically and is joined in its call by the guitar and the drums. It's like a non-pansy-assed version of Peter and the Wolf. Then all hell breaks loose.

If this sounds awesome to you, get the album. If it sounds awful, I'm probably not going to convince you with talk of texture-clashes, impressionistic sci-fi lyrics, virtuoso playing and Iggy Pop guest appearances. But I wish I could, because in many ways this kind of music set the tone for the decade, sadly setting the tone for Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit, but happily informing the work of crossover angular dance-punk like Bloc Party and the weird rock voyages of the Mars Volta. Overall, I like it because it makes me want to jump up and down.

Christmas Reading List

This year my family is no longer buying books for each other that will never be read. Now we provide each other with reading lists from which the relations can select titles to buy as presents. Sensible? I think so. Here's mine:

"Nausea" - Jean Paul Satre
"The Crack-Up" - F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Butterfly and the Tank" - Ernest Hemingway
"Endymion" - John Keats
"The Last Tycoon" - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Poems by Christina Rossetti
"Phaedra" - Jean Racine
"The History of Love" - Nicole Krauss
"Don Quixote" - Miguel de Cervantes
"Birdsong" - Sebastian Faulks
"Embers" - Sandor Marai
A biography of Richard Burton

So, who does this list make me?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Albums of the Decade: Jim O'Rourke: Insignificance

Over the next month or so, I'll be highlighting some of the albums that I think are among the best of the decade. There will be no order to them, I'll just put them up as they come to me. Maybe I'll rank them at the end, but I don't think so.

Looking at you reminds me of staring at the sun,
And how the blind are so damn lucky.

These charming words are just a small example of the heartfelt lyrics you can expect on Jim O'Rourke's Insignificance, an album where the vitriol of the sentiment is only matched by the prettiness of the arrangements.
O'Rourke is probably best known, if at all, for his work as a producer with some of the biggest names in indie music (also, and this is an extremely interesting fact, he co-wrote the songs for the actually quite good Jack Black vehicle, School of Rock). He's no slouch as a performer, though, as this album demonstrates. A charge could be leveled against it that it is just a work of pastiche, simply retooling some crusty '70s rock stylings. This would be missing the point, I think. The album's classic sound (and it is incredibly well produced), is used to lull the listener into a false sense of security while O'Rourke pours bile over various, thankfully, unidentified people.
The lyrical concerns range from loneliness (on the gorgeously understated Good Times) to break up fuck yous (All Downhill from Here) and back, making brief stops at bondage (Life goes off) and, best of all, wanting someone he knows, and presumably hates, to be told it's his last night on Earth, and then, when he has taken a girl home to comfort him in his last hours, finding out that he is paralysed and can't even kick the girl, who has gone to sleep because she has work in the morning, to stop her from snoring. Cute.
Enjoy this track, I couldn't find one without the movie picture. I'm thinking Jim isn't much of a video guy.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Best Job in the World

According to some kind of study, the best job in the world is the one which the authors of this blog scrambled so hard to avoid, mathematician. You can even see their methodology here. It's obviously flawed, because everyone knows the best job in the world is Neal Stephenson, followed closely by wildlife photographer where you get to do amazing things like get taught to hunt penguins by enormous leopard seals. Observe:

Saturday, 21 November 2009


May each depression that I make in this paper be the mark of your feeling, the impression that you made... when you loved me.

I have this vision of love as a sort of constantly revolving revelation, a kaleidoscope by which to gaze into the mysteries of existence.

Looking deep into her wide, inky eyes I saw youthful adolation and wondered: could I do it... again?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

America's Recession

I'm going to point here to another example of information visualisation elucidating an otherwise fairly abstract idea: the current recession in America.
It is clearly a public good to allow these visualisations to be made. In order for that to happen stakeholders in any given dataset should be granted access to this data. Amazingly, given its recent form on copyright infringement proposals, the British government is planning to do just that with the public release of 2000 data sets, including, brilliantly, the Ordnance Survey map data. Democracy in action, and something that should have happened a long time ago considering this data has been collected using public funds. We can expect to see a lot of interesting use being made with this data, with a very definite net gain for the citizens of Britain.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Found in Space

In pushing out from our natal world, reaching for the unknown and the unknowable, we expected to find nothing. In prodding at our own boundaries, we expected confirmation of our uniqueness and privilege. Decade by lightning decade we sent magnificent ships, and when they returned, much later, they were full of stories of nothing, of dead worlds and chemistry. With the Great Return, though, we have moved beyond these childish times, this infancy of our species. We have seen beyond knowing, yet we think not on what we have found, but on what we have all lost.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

I believe that every boy who grew up in the '80s was obsessed with Choose Your Own Adventure books. If they weren't, I was certainly obsessed enough for all of us.
This site is a brilliant analysis of the way that these books worked, and includes some really quite beautiful diagrams of the paths that the various narrative threads took through the story-space formed by the pages. Obviously, kids have computer games to fill their interactive narrative needs these days, but there are very few games which offer such comprehensively branching stories. Mostly, what seems like a non-linear adventure is really a main linear story with optional side-routes. It's hard to see that changing; content costs money, and if you create 10 different endings for a story, most people are going to only see 10% of that content. Unfortunately (economically at least) we don't live in a universe where people are prepared to pay for potential entertainment, and most games are too long for people to keep on playing until they've seen it all.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

National Poetry

The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight
In an everlasting kiss

The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive

It's clear from those lines which country we're in. In the video game Civilization, one of the wonders of the world was the creation of a national literature. And with good reason: Ancient Rome sought to legitimise itself by commissioning Virgil to pen the Aeneid in the mould of Ovid's epics. America has been extremely successful in forging its own modern-day mythology around emptiness, pioneer-spirit and pointless, focused rebellion. The question is, can you think of anything written in the last 50 years which evokes an identity for Britain? The closest I can think of is the work of the Arctic Monkeys. What does that say about us?

Facebook Flash Fiction

The other day, in the pub, some friends of mine said that it'd be lovely to just think of a girl's name and then magically find a girl with that name to date. I told them to do it. The result is Facebook Flash Fiction:

1) Invent the name of a girl.
2) See if that girl really exists on Facebook.
3) Send that girl a message provoking some kind of response that isn't: 'who the hell are you?' or 'get away from me you freak'. An easy answer was FFF - write a 100 word story about that girl based only on her name and picture, then suggest to her that she write one about you, if she so feels like it, as though it were a type of chain game or something...
4) Hope that the girl in question doesn't Google 'Facebook Flash Fiction' (which you've put in the title) and discover this site, blowing the whole thing and getting you arrested for some kind of bizarre stalking offence...

Wish me luck, I'll update you on my progress with Sophia _____ (like I'd make it even worse for myself!).


According to classical Greek historian Herodotus, 50000 Persian warriors were killed in a sandstorm while crossing the desert in Western Egypt around 2500 years ago. The Bedouin in the area have maintained that in a certain place in the desert, and under the right weather conditions (dry, presumably), one can see the 1000s of skeletons belonging to that self-same army. Amazingly enough they have now been found by science and documented. I assume they will now jerk to life, Harryhausen-style, and wreak a horrible revenge on the living.

In case you're wondering, that picture is of a dragon skeleton made from whale bones and placed as an installation in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Why? To sell this sword, obviously.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


I think that everyone understands that witches were an actual, factual part of medieval Europe, and that they were, in fact, the continuation of a centuries old herbal healing and spiritual tradition. Kind of like an old-age new-age healing factory.

The interesting thing is that these witches were probably just on an awesome psychedelic bender. A recent book has exposed and explicated the strange mind-journeys which the witches (you try spelling that when you've had a couple) went on. I could spend all day quoting from this article, but here is one:

The boundary between the town or village (“civilisation”) and the wilderness beyond was freighted with dread meaning in Medieval Europe. Jackson points out that Saxon tribes referred to the night traveller as haegtessa, the “hedge-rider,” for she could traverse the mysterious “hedge” (boundary) that divided the worlds of the living and the dead.
I will just leave you with the quote that has forever ruined Bewitched for me:
Harner emphasises the importance of the greased broomstick or similar flying implement, which he suggests served as “an applicator for the atropine-containing plant to the sensitive vaginal membranes as well as providing the suggestion of riding on a steed, a typical illusion of the witches’ ride to the Sabbat.”
Typically, British children are taught the religions/philosophies of a wide range of countries and traditions, but are taught the spiritual past of their own nation simply in terms of the coming of Christianity. I think that it's a shame to rob them of this colourful and interesting part of their heritage. Read the whole story here.

On a similar note (in terms of physicality, not spirituality) a study on female sex toys at Duke University has come under fire from its own Catholic Center. Not for encouraging promiscuity, but for not "promoting relationships", as it will encourage them to "sit around and masturbate." Enjoy.

Monday, 9 November 2009


Zombies are pretty hot right now. Movies, games and comics are all being produced about their crazy, undead antics. However, the best thing about zombies is that they're real, and actually fill an important role in the unofficial power structures of Haiti. In this brilliant article, Mischa Berlinski follows the story of a hunt for one such zombie:
About a month after I arrived in Jérémie, a rumor swept through town that a deadly zombie was on the loose. This zombie, it was said, could kill by touch alone. The story had enough authority that schools closed. The head of the local secret society responsible for the management of the zombie population was asked to investigate. Later that week, Monsieur Roswald Val, having conducted a presumably thorough inquiry, made an announcement on Radio Lambi: There was nothing to fear; all his zombies were accounted for.
It's like another world.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Answer and a Blast from the Past

The answer to yesterday's question was A) Yes. The idea is that if Anne is married, she is looking at an unmarried person, and if, on the other hand, she is unmarried, she is being looked at by a married person (in a most chaste way, presumably).
Apparently, smart people who are able to optimise their thinking to allow more efficient cogitation, are loathe to consider both of these two possible scenarios, and therefore answer that there is not enough information.

On an entirely different note, this video of London in colour from 1927 is absolutely amazing. It's almost the same, but with a touch of the cities of SE Asia about it; lots of handcarts and street vendors. Enjoy.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married, but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

A) Yes.

B) No.

C) Cannot be determined.

Answer tomorrow. Apparently 80% of people get it wrong.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Time Travel Tips III

"I know! I'll learn some of the timeless songs of the Beatles, and become the greatest bard the world has ever seen!"
I'm sure that you're expecting adoration instant and unreserved love from all, as soon as you get through the first 3 bars of Love Me Do. For the record, I think this one is actually a fairly good plan, with only one significant drawback: People in 1960 thought the Beatles were "out there", imagine what the people in 1360 will think. I propose that rather than swimming in pools of peasant girls, you will instead be burnt alive. On a stake. Plus, where are you going to find nickel-wound strings in the 14th century?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Justifying Objective Morality and Population

I read a sad story in the news today. A mother and a father are at odds over whether or not their child should be kept alive. The baby is on serious life support and cannot live without it. The doctors say he will live a painful and pitiful life.


The father has a video of himself interacting with his son and hopes that this will show the baby recognises him and is aware of his surroundings. He believes this is enough and that one day an operation may improve the condition and give this baby a chance to live.


The mother, with whom the doctors agree, simply says that this baby experiences intolerable suffering and should be released from artificial life support and allowed to die peacefully and 'with dignity'.


Now, the way I see it, there are two ways of looking at this situation: subjectively and objectively.


If that were my son I'd be like the dad. I'd want my child to have a shot at living. I'd think that any chance was worth taking and that, the baby being a baby, he should at least be given a few years to develop ideas of his own.

I once wrote an entire blog about the (existence) of objective morality. I don't intend to repeat it here, but it was fun. *My* idea of objective morality in this case (oh, the oxymorons!) is that this baby should be allowed to die. The world is massively over populated and natural selection should not be so completely thwarted.

Now you may have opinions on any of this, but to me, today, the most interesting question is this: Do we have a right to make objective decisions (supposing they are agreed by the majority to be correct, for a simple take on 'objective') even though we acknowledge that our decision would be different if we were involved?

Can the higher good be pursued at the expense of hypocrisy?

William Gibson: No Maps for these Territories

Last week, when I was browsing in the library's DVD collection, I found a documentary about seminal cyberpunk author William Gibson. I took it out, hoping that it would be an interesting look at how the future looked in 1999 and that that would provide me with some cheap laughs. I was disappointed on the laughs front, and there is no good excuse for putting Bono in a film, but the film was a thoughtful and entertaining look at writing and, more specifically, about writing about the future. Gibson says that he and, he thinks, most people are happiest living 10 years behind the bleeding edge of progress. I think that as things start moving faster and faster, the number of years will increase until most people think that they would be happiest inhabiting a time before they were born. And perhaps they'll be right. Check out the movie on IMDB.

Monday, 2 November 2009


I'm currently studying Information Visualisation as a part of my degree, so I was happy to see that today's XKCD was a good hook to hang a little of my current obsession on.

The comic itself strongly resembles a key work in information visualisation, Charles Minard's graphic depicting Napoleon's advance and fall back from Russia. Edward Tufte, visualisation and user-interface visionary and scholar, rates it as one of the greatest visualisations of all time. I urge you to take a look at the full size version, as it tells the story of that conflict in an extremely visceral and accessible way. The graphic displays 4 variables: Army Size, Temperature, Position and time in a remarkably succinct manner. It is, in short, a masterpiece.

More currently we have the excellent Information is Beautiful blog, run by designer David McCandless. He produces beautiful graphics himself, mostly centred on current news items, and also highlights innovative work being produced by others in this field.

Finally, because I was a bit jealous of all these people getting to have all the fun, I produced (by which I mean pressed a button to make magically appear) a picture of the words we've used in our blog so far. Looks like know is in the lead, which is comforting.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Time Travel Tips II: The Boom-Stick Option

"I know! I'll get together a small arsenal of modern day weaponry and fight my way to the peak of the pyramid those savages were pleased to call a society."

In the timeless classic movie Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness, the tragic antihero Ash is transported back in time to face the forces of darkness in an Arthurian setting. He has with him a chainsaw, attached to his arm where his hand once was, and a shotgun, not attached to anything. Using his "boom-stick" he saves the day and gets the girl. Great idea, huh?

If you read yesterday's post, you'll probably know that the answer is "No, Nick. That's not a great idea, it's a terrible idea, but please explain why." I'm glad you asked! Sure it would be fun to head back in time with automatic weaponry, explode a few peasant heads, and generally act like someone with all the powers of life and death. But even you have to sleep sometime. Once the peasants work out that you're really only pressing a bit of metal, and it's not really a genuine, divine, will-of-god style power, one of them will sneak into your sumptuous palace decorated with the best that the peasants have to offer (extra-large turnips, and wall-hangings of only the really good sackcloth), and off you. Still, it was fun while it lasted, right?

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Time Travel Tips

In his last post, Matt bought up the possibility that he would be transported back in time. I have therefore decided to offer some handy suggestions to him, or indeed to anyone who finds themselves transported into the distant past. To start with, I will tell you why all your treasured ideas will actually result in you getting painfully screwed.

1. "I know! I'll sell my technological knowledge. I'll be like a god to those superstitious fools!"

Well, overlooking for now that you can't speak the language, there is a bigger problem: You don't know anything about technology either. Do you know how to make gunpowder? Maybe, but do you know how to refine and cast metal? Do you know where to get sulphur from? Do you, in short, know everything about every stage of the production of anything except, say, baskets? You do? That's great! The problem now is that you will be like a god to those superstitious fools. Do you know what else you look like? A witch! Or, at the very least, you look like a serious threat to whatever despot is in charge of your chosen corner of the world. How's your steam engine going to help you when they shoot you in the neck with an arrow? You are, in short, a dead man. Plus the past smells really bad.

Ok, that's the first time travel tip! More tomorrow.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Internal Combustion Engine, and 'Men'

Years ago Nick and I had ideas about what it was to be a man.

Back then we thought that perhaps Nick's interest in cars might possibly compliment my interest in football and, in combination, create credible man credentials.

Then we walked from Lake Geneva to Nice across the Alps with nothing but a tent and a cooker on our backs. The matter is no longer questioned. We also learned that 'man', in any sensible meaning of the word, requires the prefix 'granite-hard-mountain-'.

But all this is (half) beside the point. Because today I suddenly had a flash moment of insight into what Nick (and some few previously-considered-mad) men find interesting about cars, or the mechanics of them, at any rate. I actually read an explanation of the internal combustion engine.
A piston draws a mixture of air and fuel into a cylinder, then compresses it. A
spark plug ignites the mixture, and the explosion pushes the piston, rotating a
crankshaft to turn the wheels. Waste products escape out of the exhaust valve,
and the cycle repeats.

It's so simple! And who doesn't occasionally wonder how pissed off they'd be if they were transported a couple of thousands of years back in time and couldn't explain this kind of stuff to revolutionize the world and claim immortal fame?

(And no longer will I have to avert my eyes in ignorance and shame when someone mentions the words 'spark plug')

Football Nick?

Augmented Reality II

When I was younger and full of pent-up rage without any obvious outlet, I invented in my head a gun. This gun looked a lot like the one that came with the NES for use with the game duck hunt. In fact, it looked exactly like it, only it was hooked up to a box that connected to your TV. I know the question forming in your mind: Did that box look anything like the NES. The answer to that question is no. My box was black.

The crucial difference, though, was the fact that my box was intended to merely alter the signal from conventional broadcast TV, with the aim of making it look like you could shoot characters in your favourite (or least favourite) shows. How I wished I could shoot Stonefish from Neighbours and take his woman for my own. How I longed to send Otis the Aardvark shuffling from this mortal coil. Now, 15 years later (thanks, fast moving technical progress. Thanks a lot.), my fantasies are about to become a reality. And not just for TV characters, Oh no! With the wonders of AR, already extolled here, I can pretend like I am shooting various household objects which have aroused my wrath. Cupboard getting you down? Don't worry, turn on your iphone, open the application, spend 5 minutes setting the relevant settings then exact your revenge by producing a picture of the cupboard with a semi-realistic hole through it. Wonderful. This is why the state funds people's university educations.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Arnold "the guvernator" Schwarzenegger's office have not
confirmed that this letter contains a
relatively cleverly hidden message for a colleague who has been
overly critical of him in the past.

Seems to me that a statistical defense won't hold a lot of water.
There are 26^7 combinations of first letters possible for
inciting seven lines of text. That's a lot of work for

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


In this godless modern world there are frequent and shrill shouts telling us that the book is dead. As an avowed technophile and owner of a Sony e-book reader, I may have even lent my voice to the cacophony. I am here today to atone. The book is not dead, it is just different and, arguably, better. For about 6 or 7 years now, and to almost universal acclaim, McSweeney's has been publishing books that rise above that designation. As a subscriber to their "Quarterly Concern" you would have received a book that looks like a pile of mail, a book that is really 8 tiny hardback books in a dainty little box, a selection of books about Latin American revolutionary behaviour stored in a cigar box, and, for some reason, a black plastic comb.

The reason I bring this up now is that McSweeney's are having an unbelievable sale. For all those of you with jobs I highly recommend dropping 100 USD, which will get you at least 10 books including the postage. Believe me, you will feel all of the positive feelings associated with robbing a baby when the books turn up in all their unconventionally packaged glory. I cannot recommend it enough.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword: Part Deux

Dear Reader,

Further to our prior communication on the subject of good writing, and what that might look like if you were capable of producing it, I wish to add this addendum. I feel that the content could especially benefit you in overcoming your unique difficulties.

Yours Truly

Nick James

Welcome to the Future

It is my considered opinion that the human race is doomed. Soon we're going to be overrun by super-intelligent computers created by pasty scientists in green-tinted labs, who are, as we speak, crossing lines in the pursuit of knowledge that no man should consider even approaching. These silicon brains will, ideally, be encased in indestructable metal bodies, which will ruthlessly crush their erstwhile human masters underfoot.

Sadly, though, we have a while to wait until that happens. In the meantime, everyone is welcome to enjoy the happy fruits of the pursuit of truths better left undiscovered. One of those fruits (I'd put it on the level of a pineapple, or, at a push, a mango) is augmented reality. This means exactly what it sounds like it means. It's reality, but with bolt-on extras. Think Firefox plug-ins for your pathetic meat-based senses. Obviously the technology is still in its infancy, so no terminator style threat-identifying vision yet. You can, however, take a picture of a restaurant with your iPhone, and magically receive reviews and menus immediately. It's not a slab of refreshing transistors implanted directly into the soft grey tissue of your frontal cortex, but I guess it's a start.

More info here, and loads more than even I know what to do with here.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Writing Elizabeth Taylor with Chips

Three Things:

Elizabeth Taylor

This lovely much misunderstood(!) star of such classics as A Place in the Sun (An American Tragedy) (1951) (pictured) had some early wisdom in love, even if it did betray the naive romanticism that eventually did for her.

At the age of 14 she had about 20 pet chipmunks, all called Nibbles (they were interchangeable, like men). In order to be completely sure that Nibbles loved her, she took him to the edge of a forest and set him down upon the ground. Nibbles tentatively hopped towards the line of trees before turning around and gazing back with big, sad eyes. Suddenly, filled with adoration for his pretty little girl, he dashed back and leapt into her arms. This became the foundation of her later approach to relationships: set the man free and offer him escape back into the world, away from her, and see if he comes back. From then on, at the critical point, she always tested her lovers, turning them away and giving them only one chance to run back to her arms.

I said she had wisdom. What do you think? Love on terms of freedom only?

Chips (Fries)

(As in, little stubs of potato, fried)

I just made the most delicious chips imaginable. The secret is to cover the bastards in cheap vegetable oil and then hit them with maximum heat in the oven. Oh baby.


Nick mentioned writing tips a couple of posts down. Very useful stuff. Can't really agree with the celebration of Vonnegut though. I've read Ice Nine and Slaughterhouse 5 now and neither struck me as totally brilliant, though I appreciate them both in many ways. My problem is the smugness of the guy. He's so proud of his short, punchy little sentences.

Even my creative writing tutor (oh yes, every Monday night for 3 hours in North London - at least he's a successful author - Andrew Taylor) thinks Vonnegut is a model of writing style. I made the same objections to him and he more or less ignored me. Mind you, I think he appreciated the contribution since no one else in a class of 14 had read any of his stuff, or Chekhov's, or Dostoyevsky's... Who are these people?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Bread and Circuses

In the 20 odd years I have been playing computer games (is our generation the first to have grown up with this ubiquity?), the trend has been for more. More enemies, better graphics, sound that comes fro, like, behind you and, best of all, realistic physics. Its a bit of a surprise then, that one of the best games to have graced my screen recently looks like it could have been made in 1987, and requires only one key to play. Canabalt is set in a, I assume, dystopian future where buildings are procedurally generated and people are controlled by only one button. That button is 'jump'. The rest of the time the citizens run blindly towards their deaths far below on the mutant-overrun streets. The suits look pretty good though, so it's not all bad news on the horizon.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

I suspect that many readers (and writers) of this blog would prefer to make their living by the pen. By this I mean that instead of using their pens to write about meetings and finance data, they would prefer to use them to write stories about meetings and finance data. I therefore present some useful writing aids and tips.

1. If you are willing to make the effort to move your eyes 3 inches to the left, you will see a picture. This picture illustrates but 4 of 42 third-act twists to spice up any story about corporate minutia. Or zombies.

2. If your tastes run more to the non-fictional, here's some useful advice from real life, non-fiction author (he both writes non-fiction, and is a bona fide author), Bryan Caplan.

3. Finally, my personal favourite, the late, lamented Kurt Vonnegut's style guide. That should really need no introduction.


Following on from my Brief Slice of Emo the other day, it turns out I'm not the only one to have such thoughts (surprising eh?). I'm reading a biography of Sheilah Graham, a Hollywood gossip columnist from the 1950s and the last lover of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She discovers poetry with him and he says:

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You can discover that your
longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from
anyone. You belong.

Medieval-Style Wooden Skyscraper

Brilliantly crazy Russian gangster business-guy, Nikolai Sutyagin, has spent plenty of time and money building an enormous wooden skyscraper (12 stories!). I don't speak Russian, but luckily the internet is a fantastic place that always has my back. Here's the whole story from (presumably) primary documents.
Also, click on the picture for more, um, pictures.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


"We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don't like?" Jean Cocteau

Monday, 19 October 2009

A Brief Slice of Emo

We are all quick to believe that the love we find is unique, but if it should end then the only comfort is in knowing we are not alone.

Neal Stephenson Possibly Kicks it out of the Park

I think that my co-author and I speak with one voice when it comes to praising the virtues of Neal Stephenson. Equally at home writing about the past, present and future, and filling every book with provocative, important ideas (Google Earth? Cheers for that one Neal. Avatars? Well the jury's still out as to whether they're a good thing, but Neal certainly coined the term).
Anyway, if there has ever been a reason that I miss living in Ontario, it's this conference/festival. Luckily for me (and Matt) the talks are all online. I haven't been able to find 75 min to watch this clip of NS, Lee Smolin (author of the excellent The Trouble With Physics) and Jaron Lanier (general purpose artificial reality pioneer/crusty cyber-hippie), but I would stake my reputation on it being mind-meltingly awesome. Get it here!

Discovering the Social Brain

Last week I attended The International Symposium on Applied Neuroscience and Neuropsychology at the University of Hong Kong. The theme was the "Social Brain", and included talks on mirror neurons (which I wrote about a couple of years ago here), Autism, and the loss-chasing behaviour in gambling.
The really striking thing about the conference was not only how much we now know about the chemical and neurological bases of psychology, it was how much more and fascinating work remains to be done. With current scanning technologies, scientists can identify specific areas of the brain in which neurons are firing in real time. They then say: Look! that bit's the bit of the brain that deals with risk analysis. And then, just to be sure they go out and look for some poor soul who has received some kind of horrifying but localised brain injury in that area. Usually that person will display bizarre quirks when it comes to risk analysis, and act in abnormal ways when presented with stimuli of this type.
But there's still so much more to be done. I'd love to put some children in a scanner and see what the neurological processes were for the acquisition of language, or the difference between their responses to vocal and multimedia presentations. The problem at this point is cost and portability. You have to think, though, that the technology will improve over the coming years, until units will be available to field investigators. It's an exciting time. Over the coming week, I'll delve a little more deeply into some of the subjects discussed, and the implications of the research. Watch this space!

PS: Bunny Boilers

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Whilst Nick's been kicking off this soon-to-be-mighty accomplishment of literary-critical world-system observation, I've been wandering about in Trieste, Italy, and Pula, Croatia. I have a little story from each.


There is a bridge over the short canal that proceeds inland from the harbour. Upon this bridge are dozens of padlocks. I asked my (girl in every port) Patrizia what this was all about. Apparently some guy called Federico Moccia wrote a book called I Want You and now all Italian teenagers feel the need to go around writing their names on padlocks, locking posts on bridges and then throwing the keys into the river as a symbol of everlasting unbreakable love. The craze, it seems, started in Rome and has caused a political storm, amazingly resulting in the following quote from probably the most romantic petty bureaucrat in the world:

"There are so many stupidly hateful people these days who want to strike out at
people who are really in love. The message of the padlocks is strong and
extremely positive," said Marco Daniele Clarke, the assessor for public works in
the municipality.
So I took a pretty picture:


Then I looked across at Patrizia, silhouetted against the moon, hair gently wavering in the light Indian summer breeze and... Yeah.


There's a small island off the coast of Pula, called Brijuni (the guy at reception in my decadent hotel laughed when I pronounced the 'j'). It was once the Summer residence of Tito, the then president of Yugoslavia (out of the ruins of which Croatia emerged last decade). Tito, when not running the Non-Aligned_Movement, or giving tangerines to sweet needy little orphans, or proclaiming the brilliance of communism, was using the proceeds of 'worker power' to fund this crazy island which boasts a now abandoned zoo and a bizarre golf course where the greens are sand bunkers.

Anyhow, my friend Rob and I were wandering around this island a couple of afternoons ago when, as though we were in some strange adventure RPG, we came across a prism of glass, about 10 metres high, with giant spolights inside it pointing outwards, as though to turn it into some sort of magic sun-prism by night. As we pondered this peculiar artefact we heard an inhuman cry come from between the trees off to one side. Glancing nervously at one another we proceeded through a break in the line of trees to discover a set of rusting, apparently abandoned large bird cages. Approaching more closely we found that one of these cages had a cockatoo in it. "Hello!" said Rob. "Tito tito tito tito!" said the bird. I laughed at the bird. The bird laughed at me. Seriously. It laughed. It was the most human laugh you can imagine. I laughed again, more nervously. The bird laughed, then said something in distinct syllables that I can only imagine must have been Croatian. Amazing! Apparently, as we later discovered from a local, this must have been Tito's legendary talking bird. The incredible thing is that Tito died nearly 30 years ago and this bird still talks about him...

Junk Mail

One of the great things about living in the future is the fact that we have witnessed and taken part in the communications revolution. Right now I am sitting in a towel writing a post which will be read by fully threes of people. There's something I couldn't have done 20 years ago: inflict my poorly judged opinions on 1/1000000000th of the Planet Earth's population.
Still, the best thing about these magical technologies is the junk mail. In the past week alone I have been propositioned by 14 presumably attractive girls, who, despite having never met me are fully prepared to engage in congress of the most base type. I think it's the Lynx effect.
I understand, though that some people don't feel the same way as me, and for those unenlightened few I offer a solution. An enterprising soul has created a series of pictures showing the denizens of officeland how to regress to their primitive selves by tossing photocopiers out of windows and forming hunter-gatherer societies, armed only with staplers. All you have to do is print them out, send them back to the junk-mailing companies in those pre-paid envelopes, and wait with bated breath for the newspaper story telling of the Reader's Digest office's slow descent into a happier, more stone-agey, time.

Friday, 16 October 2009

I'm not in Britain...

..but those of you who are need to be picking up this magazine.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The funniest thing I have seen all month:


LHC: Targeted by its own future?

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has been beset by troubles since its inception (most recently a researcher has been accused of having links to Al Quaeda). Luckily though, there is a perfectly ration explanation: the project is being sabotaged by God, who is desperate to ensure that the facility does not, at some time in the future, produce the Higgs Boson.
The theory is brilliant its simplicity. No wait, it's not; it's incredibly out there, weird and Terminator-esque. Still, the current number one contender for a "theory of everything" posits that our familiar particles actually exist in 11-dimensions, most of which are undetectably small, so maybe time-travelling, ultra-secretive deities are not the weirdest things bumping around in physicists' minds these days.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


So, the real problem here has been coming up with a first post that will say something about what is coming up without understating the probable impact, or overstating the amount that the world is going to change by simply having this blog in it. Finally it hit me and I assure you that it wasn't just the impatience. The impact is going to be akin to a bullet hitting various things, and the things are going to explode in beautiful ways like shattered flowers. And when they don't explode like shattered flowers, they are going to rip and shred like the scales that will fall from your eyes when they are exposed to the power of our truths. And when they do none of the above, our truth-bullets will simply liquefy, leaving only metallic drops floating silently and majestically to earth. Behold:

Also, like this video, our blog will best be enjoyed under the influence of your consciousness expander of choice. In this case I recommend Duvel, balls to the wall belgian craftsmanship. If you believe in such a thing. Most of all, enjoy!