Saturday, November 03, 2007


Fireworks are really being overdone now in the UK. Today, two days before Guy Fawkes' Day, there are more fireworks in the street than there is in Denmark on New Year's eve, which is the only night in DK where fireworks are generally used. Actually this evening the explosions are constant outside, not a break of five seconds to be heard. It's braindead.

Wonko said:
Most villages, towns and cities will have an organised public display, as do other organisations - the "soccer" club in my home town for example. Some are free events, some are ticketed, any profits usually going to charity. MGLW and I went to a display in my home town last night. It used to be arranged by the local Roundtable (charitable and community good works group), recently it's been taken over by the Borough Council. It remains free, with stewards carrying buckets for people to donate their loose change. As always we were treated to an excellent 40 minute display! Even the dog enjoyed it.

Fireworks are sold all year round in the UK, business just tends to pick up in the Autumn in preparation for Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night/5th November. In theory fireworks should only be sold to over 18 year olds, but there have been many cases where unscrupulous shop keepers have sold to those under that age.

Let me give you a personal example of the harm they can do. Several years ago I was out with friends around this time of year; we went ten pin bowling. As we had gone in some local "yoofs" had tried throwing eggs at us, but their aim was poor and they missed. When challenged (and out of eggs), they ran off. Later as we were about to leave the bowling alley someone threw a lit firework into the foyer we were just entering. It went off with a tremendous bang and a lot of acrid dense smoke. I'm still a little deaf in one ear to this day from not managing to cover it in time. In retrospect we were quite lucky. It could easily have started a fire, burnt someone and caused a lot of damage.

Selling fireworks to the general public is therefore a bit of a hobby horse of mine. I don't like it, and I think it should be more tightly controlled. This may strike those who know me as being a little out of character, my views are generally more liberal/libertarian. However, let me pose some questions:
Would you let just anyone buy and handle a box of shotgun cartridges? How about a quarter of a stick of dynamite? Or a few ounces of plastic explosives? I'm presuming that most people will say "no" on all three counts. Well, the average box of "family fireworks" you can buy at your local supermarket has more explosive potential than any of them. Because they make pretty colours in the sky a lot of people tend to forget what's in fireworks, namely; gunpowder, cordite and various metals that when ignited burn very quickly and very hot, e.g. magnesium. That's how you get the pretty colours and big noises.

What would I do about it? Well, not an outright ban. I would make sale of fireworks reliant upon the buyer holding a valid licence, renewable each year, obtained from the local police or fire station. There would be a charge for this licence, sufficient to cover the costs of administering the scheme and to make you really want to get one. No licence, no sale and tough penalties for anyone (buyer or seller) breaking the rules.

Hundreds of people each year are hurt by fireworks, often children, many terribly burnt as a result not just of deliberate mishandling, but simple accidents. Ask your local Fire Service or A&E unit and they'll tell you it's one their busiest nights of the year. There are plenty of public, organised displays to go to, and the fireworks used at them them are far superior to anything the average citizen can buy. So, I can't see a good reason to not implement the kind of scheme I mentioned above. And it would cut down the constant barrage Eolake originally commented on.

A contest idea

I was listening to a song by my friend Gemma Gariel, and I was struck once again by the oddity that her music is is not known and enjoyed yet by millions of people. It's truly world class.

So I got the idea to post one of her best songs on YouTube with some kind of video track. Anything. But essentially an Amateur Music Video, I guess.

I'm not likely to get one done myself, but I figured I might make a contest, offering a few hundred dollars to the best AMV made and posted on YouTube. Any ideas for how to do it? (Shouldn't be tough to do, but feedback is always good.)

My two favorites songs of hers, and I might use both, are:
Serenade Me My Little Blue Angel
My Personal Cupid (Just Called Me Collect)


Timing in photography.

Isn't a shark an amazing creature? It's just pure mouth. Sleek, streamlined death, cold and uncaring.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Fame. David Bowie wrote a song about it, and he was also the one who said that most of what could be said for it is that it gets you a table in restaurants.

I believe him. Perhaps in my tender youth I imagined it was desirable, but no longer. At least not the kind of fame that means you can't walk in peace. Like one actor said on Actor's Studio, actors are all kind of neurotic, for who needs that much attention?

Anyway, Stephen Fry writes a long, insightful, and often funny essay about it.

Oooh, I just remembered: once I saw on a small Danish television station one of the new breed of "journalists" ("it's all about me") walking around in mixed celebrity company and asking how he would go about becoming famous, because he really wanted to become famous. When he asked one of the grand old men of Danish acting, Ove Sprogø, Ove did not even bother dignifying this idiocy with a reply, he just turned and walked away. Wonderful.
Update: I've meant to mention this before, but now I have a good example...
What does "if not" mean?

Stephen Fry wrote:
"I completely understand that to be well-known is to be blessed with all kinds of advantages. I completely understand that fame is something that many, if not all, hunt after in their lives."

Does Fry mean "many, and perhaps all, hunt after" or "many, but not all, hunt after"?
A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.
-- Fred Allen

Funny thing about Stephen Fry: even if you did not know his sexual orientation, you might guess it just from the sheer number of times he utters the word "arse" or any of its synonyms. It's just countless, both in his books and on TV.


How to carve Ellen Feiss.
I'd say I no longer have patience for such projects, but I don't think I ever did.

Renée Zellweger

I'm glad to see that Renée Zellweger is looking nice again in Bee Movie. I really think they overdid her chubbiness in the second Bridget Jones movie, she was not attractive at all.

I know little about Bee Movie yet, it's not even clear if it is computer animation or live action. Of course it might be both, like the underrated Osmosis Jones.

De Palma

Why is Brian De Palma so tremendously respected? I've never seen any film of his that I thought was better than decent, and some are just dreadful, like the one I'm trying to watch right now, Phantom Of The Paradise. It's like somebody tried to make a quaint and abstract movie, but just didn't have the talent to support it. And yet De Palma is a huge name, especially amongst movie buffs, I don't get it.

Mission Impossible was ridiculous. (Numbers two and three at least had some faint grounding in reality.)

I tried to watch Carlito's Way last year, but I don't remember anything about it.

Raising Cain was unwatchable.

Blowout was OK, I guess, but didn't seem to have made much of an impression on me, I mainly remember the theatre I watched it in.

Hi Mom was just weird.

Mission To Mars was an unremarkable blockbuster attempt. The same for Bonfire Of The Vanities and The Untouchables. And Ronin.

Scarface was uninteresting. Not even Michelle Pfeiffer kept my interest on it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


I was just reflecting on something I heard: that some people work towards retirement as their "reward" for decades of work.

Does anybody really think like this?

How do they know it won't go like it did with my uncle: shortly after retirement he dropped dead of a heart attack. Boom, c'est finis.

If it's true, maybe it's an American thing? I don't recall meeting anybody from whom I got the impression that they looked forward to retirement as the reason for which they were working.

Pratchett interview

Video interview with Terry Pratchett. A view into the world of a writer.
Includes a young man who breaks down crying when he tells Pratchett how much one of his books meant to him. Pratchett takes it totally in stride, it seem this kind of thing is not at all unusual to him.
Another one here, which I haven't watched yet.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Seven Year Itch

The Seven Year Itch.
I never realized how funny this film is, or I'd have watched it long ago. I ripped this clip for you, priceless.

There's a Making-Of on the DVD, and it's amazing to hear about censorship in the fifties. They actually had rules like "adultery must not be made the subject of comedy or laughter". Good friggin' gawd.

Walter Matthau was wanted for the role by director Billy Wilder, but he was an unknown, and the studio did not want to take a chance with him. Stupid decision, that would have been so great.

This film of course is the one with the famous scene where Marilyn's skirt blows up. And I was reminded of on day in Copenhagen, walking with my friend Bettina. Near the main station is a street which becomes a veritable wind tunnel when the wind is right, and we were crossing this, and suddenly Bettina's skirt blew up, all the way up, revealing her small red knickers. Some young men passing looked like gold had suddenly fallen from the sky. "I can't believe it!" one of them exclaimed delightedly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Captain Video

The adventures of Captain Video, an early TV show, produced live five times a week.

"...the TV series' plots often involved wildly implausible inventions created by scientific genius Captain Video or evil genius Dr. Pauli, but obviously made from hardware store odds and ends, with much circumstantial double talk regarding their use. As the series was originally broadcast from a studio in the building occupied by the Wanamaker's department store, the crew would simply go downstairs when props were needed, often minutes before the show went on the air."

Eye Candy

Apple does make great eye candy. The Time Machine interface is gorgeous, the windows are stretched out in space, with stars slowly moving towards you like a very fast space journey.

And lo the Welcome movie which plays the first time you boot the computer after having installed Leopard. (Use the contextual menu to save the file on disk.) (I wonder where the full sized version is saved on my system, it looked fantastic full screen on the 30-inch display, I wanna see it again.)


A funny perspective on the plight of the artistic soul.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Generic PC

Mac OS X Leopard now has "icons" which can scale up to 512x512 pixels. That should be iconic enough for everybody!

And they've retained their subtle humor, sometimes with an edge. This is their icon for "generic PC". Hah. I remember working on monitors looking like that.


We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, April 2, 1957

I wonder if that's true?
It surely feels true. It feels really nice to have your life all orderly like that.

But I wonder: are we really likely to have such great insight that we with certainly can select the singly most important thing in our lives?

Also I don't like the term "bend to". I would have used "arrange around" or "support". "Bend to" sounds like everything else is sacrificed for the one objective. It sounds very much like warrior-thinking. And warrior-thinking is unhealthy, is my viewpoint. If you think like a soldier, you will be surrounded by enemies.


I get quickly bored by martial-arts movies, but this uncut sequence is impressive from a movie making viewpoint.
(By the way, what was the name of that Russian movie which was one single cut?)

Detective ttl said:

Russian Ark (2002) is said to have been shot that way. I'm sure there are others.

The tagline for it sounds impressive:

"2,000 Actors. 300 Years of Russian History. 33 Rooms at the Hermitage Museum. 3 Live Orchestras. 1 Single Continuous Shot."

I am tempted to order the DVD. Thanks for the tip, Eo.

It certainly puts into perspective that many movie directors will use a dozen takes per 20-second clip.

Wapnick interview

Gloria and Kenneth Wapnick interviewed about A Course In Miracles.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Instant answers

CBS news web site has a pretty cool feature: if you highlight a word in an article, instantly a popup window appears with a definition from
It only happens with a single word highlighted, so it is not likely to be an irritation. I like it. It popped up just as I was about to activate my macro copying the word and looking it up at

Very little gravitas indeed

Iain M. Banks writes some wonderful space opera novels, particularly the Culture series. The stories are big, exciting, complex, and humorous. Maybe the best space opera I've ever read. I recommend starting with Use Of Weapons or The Player of Games.

One of the cool things about them is that many of the most interesting characters are AIs. Like drones, minds, and ships. Yes, spaceships are sentient beings in those stories. And they often have a sly sense of humor in many things, including naming themselves.

You can view the Culture books as what a humanoid civilazation might be if humans really got their shit together and made a big and wonderful civilization instead of being stuck in infighting. But the books also, fortunately, contains many other sentient aliens of great variety.

More on Leopard

... So far I'm really pleased with Leopard.
Everything worked perfectly after installation and migration.
I like the look and feel, and things generally seem more responsive and solid than in the last incarnation.
And I haven't even started using the new features yet. Nice.

And Apple has finally fixed two issues I've had with the the Desktop Picture ("wallpaper") control panel:
1) You can now have several folders of images sitting ready for selection, instead of having to hunt around for it whenever you wanted a new folder.
2) And now it will fit an image to the screen even if it is portrait-orientation and too tall for the screen. It drove me batty for seven years that I had to go to Photoshop, edit and make a new file to make this happen before. :)

Update: I did not know why "Spaces" should interest me, since I use keyboard shortcuts (macros) for changing between apps. But it turns out Spaces works on the single-window level. So now in one browser I may have a Blogging Space and a Reading space, and a Web Admin space. Each with a couple of windows. (Sub-update: in a rapid turnaround of events, I have abandoned Spaces for now. They seem to cause a little too much confusion both for me and the OS.)

Update: Thanks to Through The Lens for pointing to this review, which supports my feeling that a lot of good work has been done in the deeper levels of Mac OS X with this release. Quote: "As I've learned more about Leopard, it's become increasingly clear where, exactly, those two-and-a-half years of development time went. Leopard is absolutely packed with improvements. It seems that not a corner of the OS has gone untouched."

I recommend this e-book bundle.
Ooh, by the way, I accidentally bought two copies of Leopard. Anybody want to buy one? Fifty pounds or a hunnert bucks.

Evening light

While on the phone with a friend this evening, I noticed this lovely light outside, and snapped a few pictures. Thanks to a wireless phone with a headset, I did not have to interrupt our conversation. :)


Customizing a new system made me think of a couple of personal "traditions" I have. They give me a nice feeling of... continuity, in this madly changing world.

One is that since the very beginning of my computer use, or at least over a decade I think, I've used F1 for calling forth my main web browser. And F9 for my email app. (Which has been Eudora for almost as long.)

Another one is naming my Hard Disks with names beginning with HD:

e-book formatting

By the way, a comment about TidBITS' e-books. They are easy to read. Not only in the way of language, but also typographically.
It is difficult to format PDF pages well for both paper and screen reading. And most don't do it well. Adobe, inventor of PDF, is one of the worst offenders: their PDF documents usually have such tiny type and such long lines that I have to all but give up reading them, printed or not. But TidBITS have found a good way, I think: the text is so large that you can easily read it, even showing a full page on screen. (At least on a largish monitor.) And if you want to print it out, you can easily avoid too much paper waste by formatting it with two pages of book per one page of paper. It's a good idea.