Sunday, July 30, 2006

Opera

Opera is nifty in comparison to IE6. That's about it though, as Firefox has so many different extensions that a reasonably savvy user can make it better than any one existing package.

Opera might be good to put on your mom's machine.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Wal-Mart Leaves Germany

Another blow to incivility.

Why the failure?

One example of that might be that Wal-Mart's American managers pressured German executives to enforce American-style management practices in the workplace. Employees were forbidden, for instance, from dating colleagues in positions of influence. Workers were also told not to flirt with one another.

A German court ruled last year against the company's attempt to introduce a telephone hotline for employees to inform on their colleagues.

High labor costs may have been a big hurdle for Wal-Mart Germany, as well as workers who tried to resist management's demands which they felt were unjust.

One Wal-Mart employee told the newsmagazine Der Spiegel that management had threatened to close certain stores if staff did not agree to work to working longer hours than their contracts foresaw and did not permit video surveillance of their work.

Wal-Mart Germany has had several run-ins with the trade union ver.di, which represents retail store workers.


It'd be nice to think it was all due to the recognition that they're shitty to their workers, but in fairness the article says they seem to have been the shits at selling stuff there.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Killer Art

'People fell out' as wind took blow-up sculpture
Monday July 24, 2006

Witnesses today described how a giant inflatable sculpture was picked up in a mild wind and collapsed over a park in County Durham, killing two and leaving 13 injured.

Classic Rock Forward

'Imitation IPod' Invades Radio

By Dave Demerjian

In the two years since Jack FM radio made its debut in the United States, the majority of U.S. radio stations programming the "imitation iPod" format have seen healthy, sustained gains in listeners. The format is a rare bright spot for the major radio broadcast chains, which are fast hemorrhaging listeners to real iPods and satellite radio.

Defined by wide-ranging playlists and unusual combinations of songs from different genres and eras, Jack has been likened to an iPod set on shuffle.

Dear god. Has nobody noticed that it's "extended" classic rock? Just a minor era shuffle?

I really miss unrestrained Top 40 radio, in which some stupid metal band could face off against twangy yokels or lounge singers. I suppose college playlists come close to that kind of range, but it's mostly anemic white boys, which I like, but you know...

Anyhoo I suppose I have to post some song list which will prove I'm old and unhip. A random set of highly-rated iTunes:

She Watch Channel Zero ?! - Public Enemy
Everything Is Everything - Lauryn Hill
Names - Cat Power
Cold Ethyl - Alice Cooper
Tea Party - Stephin Merritt
Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
Ain't That A Shame - Fats Domino
Swimming Ground - Meat Puppets
Under the Anheuser Busch - Billy Murray
Goin' Out West - Tom Waits

Nice to Find a Snotty Sentence Here and There

"The civilized world has asked little of Mississippi since William Faulkner's passing, but signs of a pulse in the state legislature would be refreshing."

Alan Contreras, AACRAO's Guide to Bogus Institutions and Documents

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

AltBoyle

ADDED: Roy thinks I'm objecting to Boyle's politics. He specializes in calling me an idiot, in numerous posts, but he never seems to begin to understand my writing. Here, he comes to the defense of writers. But do writers even want to be defended by a man who is such a poor reader?

Snort. Boyle writes about the very same issues in his fiction as in the objectionable interview. Poor reader indeed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Idle Hands Put to Good Use

It stands to reason that a king should be able to massage anyone he wants, especially in his own domain. It's also important to remember that even if you're the most important king in the world, that still doesn't mean that you're king of the whole world. Rubbing up against another nation's queen is a bad idea unless you intend an alliance-by-marriage, so think hard before you try that one again. (It's worth noting that if gay marriage will make all social conventions go kablooey, then you get to marry whoever and whatever you like as much as you like: thought is required.)

I recommend you acquire a slave for rubbing purposes. Many might be pleased at the precedent. There's also a ready supply close at hand, with a transport system ready to go if you need slaves at short notice wherever in the world you might be ruling. Requisitioning individuals seems to be a whimsical matter in any case, so why not turn a lemon into lemonade? Requisition some babes instead of sourpusses and keep those hands where they belong: on your property.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Dyslexia

Can't get this out of my head.



Posted it at Sadly, No! and spelled dyslexia wrong. Frustrating.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

You Go Girl!

What's Better than the Thousand Nights and a Night?

It's hard to describe how amazing the Thousand Nights and One Night are.

I first took a stab at them following along the snobby recursive post-modern path, reading too much Borges and Barth, both of whom were smitten, and so I figured I should take a stab at it.

The only edition I own is a four-volume Powys Mathers translation of an intermediate French text. If you're interested in questions of authorship, translation, blah blah blah, it's hard to compete with a work of stories within stories within stories assembled over centuries by many unknown authors, translated well and poorly over the years and finally translated into English from a source that is not only not original but with additional text inserted. I can't remember exactly which bit (flying snakes? diamond valleys? golden deserts guarded by ants the size of foxes?), but I recognized a story from Herodotus (or rather that Herodotus heard) in there.

And after that, you get a work that, Bach-like, both defines the rules of the game and takes liberties with them.

One of the things I've always been obsessed with (along with everybody?) is firsts: first story, first life, first cause, etc. For a while I thought I was looking for a first story by reading things like the bible, Homer, myths of all sorts, but I think I have to be content with the idea that these kinds of primal stories are not founded on some perfect pillar of a first story but that the "primal stories" are inevitable and illustrative of the wiring of the average individual then and today. What first story could be satisfying?

Anyway, all I'd intended to write was that a particular book fulla stories was teh neato, and I've blabbed on and on to the apparent conclusion that given a bunch of stories you get a map of a person's brain. Way to go Mr. Obvious. The most jaw-dropping part of the book to me is the verse, which is all cleverly rhymed and metered, from Arabic to French to English. Baffling and awe-inspiring. But I'm too lazy to type it. So consider the following for flavour, from Polish to English, from polymathic Stanislaw Lem to wizardly Michael Kandel, in which two inventors are arguing about a poetry-writing machine:

"Have it compose a poem--a poem about a haircut! But lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism and in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter s!!"

"And why not throw in a full exposition of the general theory of nonlinear automata while you're at it?" growled Trurl. "You can't give it such idiotic--"

But he didn't finish. A melodious voice filled the hall with the following:

Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed.
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.


~ from The Cyberiad, originally written in Polish and translated by Michael Kandel into English
Valiant and unlazy typing stolen from here.


Firefox Fabulousness

Middle-click on the "back" button and get the old web-page in a new tab.

"Can" and "Should" Are Different

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why Not Write About Israel?

Jesus Christ, what am I thinking with a subject line like that?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Big WTF

Joe Klein, biographer of Woody Guthrie? How can that be?

Chickenhawkery

Sadly, me too:

  1. Righteous Bubba said,

    July 13, 2006 at 2:04

    Left-wingers who don’t read the entire articles shortened here are chickenhawks not willing to head into the danger dealt with by our fine boys like Captain Travis. Snort.

  2. Kathleen said,

    July 13, 2006 at 2:13

    I am perfectly happy to let Travis fight them over there, so we don’t have to read them over here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fuck You, Jeeves

In further laziness, I read Thank You, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse. [Get a load of that link! If a crumbling nation of corrupt depressives can get behind Wodehouse, uh, something something something.] What a piece of utterly un-life-changing shit. There was a brief while when I fantasized a modern filming of it, or at least the blackface scenes, imagining the exquisite squirming of an appalled audience, and that caused me to snicker. It seems somebody took a shot at it already, but back in the days when such things caused less gasping.

I tend to prefer characters to exhibit some kind of humanity instead of robotic tics, even in fantastical situations. Makes funny bits just that. Less Disco Stu and more Ralph Wiggum. No more Wodehouse for me.

The Chairs

Saw Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs recently as well, nicely handled. I'd only read his work previously and seen nothing staged. Nice when something funny on the page actually makes it on stage. It always shows me that I have not yet learned how to properly read a script: seeing the things come to life is a shock because I've never really imagined the characters walking around a physical space.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Vacation Hijinx

I saw a lotta movies this week, all four of which I enjoyed, which proves something about suckerdom or how fucking fantastic the movie industry really is. Which is more likely?

Anyway, the most embarrassing first: I enjoyed Superman Returns, though the Spacey hump-stab was disturbing. Loads of little things to quibble about, but the big complaint was...if you're gonna set your hero up as a god, what the fuck's the deal when he's absent? Every canoodle with Kate meant some burned baby or squashed grandma somewhere, so get a move on, underwear pervert, or at least mention it in passing you amoral fuck. Oh, and the kid? Read this. Nevertheless, enjoyable.

Brick was really fun, although I went with someone who dropped a bomb: she'd never seen The Maltese Falcon. Consequently she giggled a lot less than I did. It must mean something when one's enjoyment of a movie depends very much on one's enjoyment of another movie, but I figure I would have been entertained anyway. Is Ulysses a standalone good read? I dunno, I've always avoided it. Ridiculous high-school noir? I'll drop dollars for that.

Thank You For Smoking was a lot of fun with sympathy developed for Mr. Tobacco Lobbyist. The thing is, idiots in movies are always easily disposed of and clever people sympathetic. Was anyone really rooting for justice in The Last Seduction? No, you wanted to see the smart person put one over on all those dummies. I await a movie about a clever German collector of vintage furniture post-Kristallnacht, or maybe a droll and graceful Khmer Rouge executioner. Those victims'll be such fools it'll be a pleasure to see them exterminated for profit/ideology. But hey, movies don't kill people, people kill people, and Bugs Bunny was always plenty sadistic in my favourite cartoons.

Last I saw A Scanner Darkly, which I looked forward to/dreaded. I thought Waking Life was a very polished turd, so exceptionally polished that I wanted the technique applied to a movie that was, you know, good. And lo, A Scanner Darkly is good. I've always thought that Philip K. Dick was a hack who somehow got addled enough to fool people into the illusion of talent (I've read a few of his books, including this one which I'd completely forgotten) and the slacker talk Linklater has pushed in the past ordinarily makes me heave, but they smack together in a surprisingly tight way. The miserable circumstances of the characters lives are rendered watchable and gorgeous by the technique, and there's more of a plot than I expected, meaning less jiggery-pokery about the nature of reality than feared. The funny bits were funny. I love that previous sentence. One caveat: Keanu Reeves is somehow no longer convincing when he plays someone with a faulty brain. You can ordinarily rely on the guy when he's playing stupid/ignorant/confused, but this time no go really. He should start exploring the psychology of malfunctioning emotionless robots, and he'll hit his stride.