log (2001/05/11 to 2001/05/17)

older log
newer log


site news

Tell me something:
Thursday, May 17, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

All that "other country" stuff must just have been a dream. I can describe the last three days without any reference to a business trip, and they'd sound perfectly full and normal and eventful: voted for the school budget (it passed) Tuesday morning, Group Lunch at noon to say farewell to one colleague and give various awards to others, Spring Concert on Wednesday at which the little daughter played her viola and said her line as Lucy impeccably and someone else's little daughter very scarily fainted in the middle of "Take me out to the ball game" (a zillion cellphones dialed 911 and the place was overrun with EMTs; rumor so far says that she's OK except for a cut on her chin where she fell), perfectly normal weekday morning this morning. Obviously no room in there to have gone to Toronto for a panel on collaboration tools.

"I don't care who you were, or what your handle was, or what crewz you belonged to, or what stupid websites you defaced, or how many systems you rooted. When you came through that door all that stopped mattering.

Everything you know is obsolete. The only important thing now is how fast you can learn."

Voice of the Whirlwind (from which the above is not a quote) turned out to be just what I was looking for to counteract all the subtly ambiguous stuff that came before it. Good solid noir cyberpunk, tough guy with a heart of gold, exploding aliens, all that sort of thing. A couple of computer breakins that seem completely implausible until you remember that the typical computer system in the real world is also completely insecure.

Stuck in my head: the Ubbi Dubbi version of "Small Talk" from "The Pajama Game":

Whuby dunon't yubou stubop
Uball thubis smuball tubalk?

The Zoom kids act as though the name "Ubbi Dubbi" itself is in plain English; when speaking Ubbi Dubbi, they say "Ububbubi Dububbubi". But we've always suspected that "Ubbi Dubbi" is already in Ubbi Dubbi. Applied phonetically, that means that the English version of the name of the language is "Idi" (as in "Ubidubi Ubamubin Dubaduba").

On the other hand, if you apply a spelling-based translator to map "Ubbi Dubbi" from Ubbi Dubbi to English, you get "bi Dbi": clearly "B2B". Ominous, I say!

Graduate students, on the other hand, must "(1) become bitter and jaded; (2) quickly dispense with any fashion sense; and (3) wear a bike helmet at all times."   --

I'm just bitter because they never mention me: picked up an issue of Brill's Content in the airport (I always try to buy a magazine that I never normally look at for airplane reading), and found it had another one of them gosh-darned stories about gosh-darned weblogs! (Well, OK, maybe I bought it partly because the cover prominently featured the title: "Human Portals".)

You can read an online copy, but it doesn't have the sidebar that lists some sample weblogs (congratulations to Kottke (as always) and Zannah, and condolences to their bandwidth providers).

Blind Link o' the Day: I think my favorite is "Othellolita".

A whole speazload of interesting-looking links can be found in the latest Crypto-Gram; I haven't had a chance to follow most of them yet myself. Part II of Schneier's article about what military history can teach network security seems largely wrong and/or dangerous to me; Schneier's usually right about stuff, though, so I will think further before saying anything rash...

Wednesday, May 16, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

In another country

It's still Tuesday at the moment, but this probably won't get posted until Wednesday or Thursday. (Or perhaps "It's still yesterday at the moment, but this probably won't get posted until today or tomorrow"?)

On the highway, on the drive from the airport to the hotel, there was a man driving a pickup truck, a man with a thick fringe of grey hair around a bald crown. The sun was directly behind him, shining in through the rear window of the truck's cab. There was a square sticker on the window, and the sun cast a square shadow right in the middle of the top of his head.

I've found no evidence here of the conference that I'm talking at tomorrow, except for the front desk's assurance that this is the right hotel, and a sign in the lobby pointing toward the registration desk, which closed two hours ago. That's what happens when you breeze into a conference in the middle. I suppose I could wander into a random restaurant and see if I notice anyone I know. But I don't want to actually eat anything (had a huge lunch back in that previous country, and a snack on the plane). So I'll just sit here in my skivvies on the bed and type.

The TV in the room here has lots and lots of channels! Even not counting the naughty movies. Maybe I'll watch Prime Time TV tonight! That might be fun.

Here we are watching "TBS", which is showing commercials at the moment. Oh, now it's basketball. That's sort of boring.

The speakerphone in the room has a pamphlet next to it about The Kids' Club Storyline. Apparently the telephone can tell stories to children. There are lots of different stories, selectable by two-digit code.

10 - "Be Quiet Rooster"
11 - "Granny, Nanny & the Episode at the Bridge"
12 - "The Tortoise & the Hare, the 2nd Generation"
18 - "Little Biddie"
19 - Foreign Language (Spanish) "Zapatos"
20 - "The Spotted Lady Bug"
21 - Foreign Language (French) "Les Vacances de Collette et Michel"
33 - Foreign Language (Japanese) Akita-Ken "Shiro"
34 - "A Little Chipmunk"

Nice of them to remind us that Spanish, French, and Japanese are foreign languages. Although isn't it a serious offense in Canada to refer to French as a foreign language? Maybe I'll listen to one of the Japanese ones. Then if the Universal Consumer Database is doing its job, I'll start getting junk mail in Japanese.

I'll leave it to my readers to speculate about Granny and Nanny and Collette and Michel.

The History Channel is doing something about the history of The French Railway System or something. Hm.

"CMT" has a pretty lady singing. We'll watch that for awhile.

So I've called M and Dad and the kids back at home, and I've bought cute souvenirs in the cute souvenir store. I haven't heard from my fellow panelists about getting together for breakfast tomorrow. Should I attempt to get this computer to talk to the hotel telephone to check my email? That seems so boring and conventional, not to mention only somewhat likely to work. And probably expensive.

(The pretty lady has stopped singing, and now "CMT" is having commercials also. I'm beginning to remember why I don't watch much commercial television.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

It occurs to me that the next couple of days are going to be Unusually Busy; so tomorrow's log entry may be delayed or even missing. I know you'll cope somehow!

Readers write:


cute knock-knock sequence:
Ether (Ether Bunny)
Anna (Anna nother ether bunny)
Stella (stella nother ether bunny)
Cargo (cargo beep-beep, run over all the ether bunnys)
Boo (Don't cry, ether bunnys OK)

That Ether Bunny one went over very well with the family (I said "Beep" instead of "Cargo", but it didn't seem to matter). Quite the little gasp after "run over all the ether bunnies"!

Another reader (well...) writes:

Dear Fellow Online Entrepreneur,

Why so down? Let me guess. You have joined multiple business opportunities and have used every promotional tool you know of, but you still aren't seeing any results.

No, that's not it. Another attempt:

Looking for serious dealers for GREAT NEW ADVERTISING PRODUCT

What a great advertising product that would be, indeed! A SIGN IN A DRUM! Why didn't I think of that?

Random trail: from Linkwatcher to Jimblog to Lions face new threat: they're rich, American and they've got guns:

Mr Bush is among prominent members of Safari Club International (SCI) who have written to the Botswanan authorities asking them to lift a ban slapped on trophy hunting of lions in February.

Apparently the wholesome family values that the Bushes and Schwarzkopfs and such advocate includes the pointless killing of rare animals. What a high moral tone our leaders set!

Big-game hunting gives strength! Strength crushes enemies!

Have a great weekTM

Monday, May 14, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

I sorted through the tapes that I keep in the beaten-up old cardbox in my car over the weekend, to see what-all I had, and to see how many had been destroyed by the sun and heat and general neglect. Happily, I have some very neat stuff, and essentially nothing had been destroyed! Even my copy of "Attack of the Killer B's" (notable for, among other things, Laurie Anderson's "Walk the Dog") was fine; so when I tried to play it the other year and it was all mumbly, it must have been whatever I was trying to play it on, not the tape itself. That was nice.

Anyway, so I was playing Information Society's "Hack", and when "Move Out" came up the little boy said "That's the Sonic music!", and the little daughter and I both said "You're right!". We all agreed that the music for that song had been in the background somewhere in one of the two Sonic the Hedgehog (what do game designers smoke, anyway?) computer games that we got the other month. So we fired up Sonic R (the racing game) and then Sonic 3D (the running around bashing into evil robots game), but we couldn't actually find the song. Is it hidden somewhere? Is it a collective hallucination? InSoc did do some video game music, so it's plausible, but why can't we find it?

Knock-knock jokes from the weekend (we had a very nice Mother's Day, by the way, but nothing I feel especially moved to chronicle here). The ones I remember best are the ones that play with the genre a bit:

  Who's there?
  Duck who?
Duck Butler!!

This was the little boy's, apparently inspired by a duck being a butler in some cartoon he'd seen earlier in the day. This sparked a whole sub-genre of absurdist and/or scatological jokes along the lines of

  Who's there?
  Butt who?
Butt Butler!!

and others even more painful to relate. Then there's

  Who's there?
  Boo who?
Don't cry, it's only a joke!

which begat

  Who's there?
Little old lady.
  Little old lady who?
(Some witty remark about yodelling)


  Who's there?
  Wa who?
(Entire group dissolves into laughter and shouts of "Wa-Hoo!")

We also encountered the shaggy-dog of knock-knock jokes:

  Who's there?
  Banana who?
  Who's there?
  Banana who?
  Who's there?
  Banana who?
  Who's there?
  Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say "Banana"?!

which the little boy deconstructed into:

  Who's there?
  Orange who?
  Who's there?
  Orange who?
  Who's there?
  Orange who?
  Who's there?
  Banana who?
Banana aren't you glad I didn't say "Orange"?!

which I thought was at least as good as the original. (Ref Broken Jokes.)

Mr. Marley

Small world: I'm amused to note that the site that I linked to yesterday as having cool Soviet posters, in the same entry that I talked about Bob Marley, also has cool Bob Marley posters.

(The rasta-free ganja-free NPR story about Marley that I mentioned yesterday is now online; it's under "History of Reggae" on this page.)

Silly stuff: the ever-popular strange Flash movie "Hatten är din" turns out to be an Arabic song by one Azar Habib, which some wag Flashified into a video that makes (marginal) sense if you hear the words as Swedish (various translations of the Arabic out of Swedish into English can be found on the Web).

Now some other wag has taken the original (Japanese) version of the Pokémon theme, heard (some of) the words as English, and built a strange video (which is now all over the place) from the result. Very silly, but also popular.

Random strange amateurish Flash movies isn't a genre that I'd expect to have great staying power; on the other hand, many many people seem to enjoy long stretches of Terry Gilliam animations much more than I do.

What an odd place this is...

Friday, May 11, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Excuse me while I light my spliff
Good GOD I gotta take a lift
From reality I just can't drift
That's why I am staying with this riff   --

This morning NPR ran a feature (which may be online sometime tomorrow?) on Bob Marley. They managed to fill the whole timeslot, talk to various people, play some of his music, and even say some true things about him, without once uttering the words "rasta" or "ganja". Bowdler lives?

So I finally got my thoughts in order about Blow-Up enough to write a review for Amazon. Thus:

Do you remember when angst was young? (4 stars)

I read Antonioni's "That Bowling Alley on the Tiber", and being impressed by his written thought I looked for some of his films. "Blow Up" is the one most likely to be in your local video store.

As cultural history (or mythography) it's priceless. Some people see Austin Powers in it; myself, I keep expecting the Avengers. Mrs. Peel in a catsuit (or Tara King in a miniskirt) would be right at home.

Visually it's delicious. The thin flanks of English girls rolling around in a huge sheet of purple paper, our hero (chest bare and hairless) helping the delivery man bring in the enormous propeller. Noisy mimes sweeping through London like locusts. A roomful of Mods staring silent at the wailing Yardbirds. The cinematography is perfect.

So what's the point? What's the point of all the murder-mystery setup if we're not going to have an explanation? The point is, naturally, that there is no point. In 1966 this was shocking and important. In 2001, there's the sense that we've been through that revelation and come out the other side ("My parents went through an existential crisis, and all I got was this lousy NASDAQ"). But that doesn't mean that we don't need to be reminded now and then. And if nothing else, it's refreshing to remember a time when the meaninglessness of existence and the indeterminacy of truth were still thrilling and scary, rather than vaguely problematic bits of the background scenery.

See it.

Even more pretentious than usual! I could just have written:

A fun film. Even some nekkid chicks. But don't expect to figure out what's going on.

But how many "helpful" votes would that have gotten? On the other hand, would it really have been less helpful?

Today's question: what, besides actual helpfulness, does Amazon's review-feedback mechanism encourage? How large is the gap between what's helpful to visitors, and what will tend to cause visitors to push the "that was helpful" button?

Let's work harder, comrades!

So after reading "The Magus" and "That Bowling Alley on the Tiber" and Spark's "The Public Image" (which also has an ambiguous ending), and watching "Blow-Up", I'm now craving something that ends with Boy Gets Girl, or the bad guy's castle blowing up, or the alien fleet vaporized, or something like that. I took Walter Jon Williams' "Voice of the Whirlwind" from the To Read stack; I'm hopeful...

From Apathy, a very neat collection of Soviet-era posters.

From Apathy again, to Cartoon Research News, to Mickey Mouse's Worst Nightmare. Did you know "Shreck" was a Disney parody? I'd missed that.


earlier entries