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Harvested by the National Library of New Zealand on: Mar 5 2009 at 6:34:48 GMT
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Thursday, March 05, 2009

West of Eden

It's not really Wright's fault he's become the architect of doom. It's probably down to the fact that most of these buildings are publicly accessible and conveniently close to Hollywood – unlike some of Wright's finer houses in the midwest, say, most of which are still in private hands. Wright's own involvement with the movies was limited (although his granddaughter was Anne Baxter and he once made a bizarre TV appearance on What's My Line). Warner Brothers once asked him to design sets for the 1949 movie of Ayn Rand's novel, The Fountainhead, in which Gary Cooper plays an uncompromising modern architect not dissimilar to Wright himself. Wright charged an architect's fee, the story goes: 10% of the entire budget. Warners hired someone cheaper.
Frank Lloyd Wright in Hollywood, from the Guardian.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pinch, Punch and Slim

Young Sulzbergers are inculcated into the spirit of serving from an early age. By 10 they go to their first family meetings, and by 15 they are expected to understand their role as protectors of the brand. The problem is that Pinch, as the chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr is often called, stands accused of having got the Times into this mess. With his father, Punch, he bought the Boston Globe, a now grievously stricken title, at a dangerously inflated price, then spent $600m on the newspaper's new Renzo Piano offices that instantly became a monument to old media hubris. Over the past decade, Pinch has spent nearly $3bn buying back Times stock to bolster the share price - leaving the company undiversified and hence highly vulnerable to the downturn in advertising revenue - as well as artificially boosting the dividend in a move interpreted by many as a bid to keep his relatives happy. The thought that really disturbs staffers is that he could have used all that money to buy Google before it went public: he was said to have been offered the search engine and rejected it.
Life and New York Times, from the Guardian.

In the video which follows, Kirsty MacColl terrifies a roomful of German teenagers.


Though even the oldest among us can see that Facebook represents a marvellous saving on stamps, Twitter emphasises its desirability by being unfathomable to anyone a bit inflexible or busy who is neither a self-promoter nor an exhibitionist. Why would you want to answer the question "What are you doing?" in up to 140 characters? If such questions only betray one's dizzying proximity to the grave, there is also much on Twitter to comfort the mature visitor. The abundance of tweets, even from more dashing contributors, saying things like "about to have breakfast", "too tired", or "Masterchef final was very good" confirms that age has finally surrendered its monopoly on unembarrassed inanity. Indeed, when the first genuinely interesting tweet is posted, as in "looking down at my grey, motionless body", or the simpler "dying", it is likely to come from an older subscriber.
Catherine Bennett is an Observer columnist. These are her views, not mine. I link to them because I find them funny. I appreciate that several of you are quite enthusiastic about Twitter. I do not share your fervour but then nor do I watch Battlestar Galactica or take any interest in sport. Each to his/her own. Please do not hit me.

Oh look it's 1988 and we are just in time to see Mr Tony Wilson introduce The Fall:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Everything you know is wrong

"I'm writing this emergency letter to bring you up to date on what we've accomplished, and to ask for your immediate help— to ensure that we can complete this project, solve this mystery, and perhaps change what every scientist on Earth thinks about basic physics."
Yes, even astronomers get begging letters. This one is from the Planetary Society and it is about the Pioneer Anomaly. It's like this: the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft, launched in 1973 and 1974, are not where they should be. Something is holding them back. We don't know what that something is. The Planetary Society want to find out. They want to look at all the old data. But it is not just a case of getting those clunky old tapes and powering up those dusty old drives in the back of the store. No, sir. They need to convert the data to something that can be read on new-fangled modern 'puters. And they need to do it fast, while there are still geeks around who know how the old ones work. And they need to do it because the Pioneers may be telling us that there is something very wrong with our understanding of Physics. I know; it is worrying. Just keep it to yourselves. If the Fundies find out, there will be no end to their wittering about Cosmology. They will say that God is doing it, to punish us for something.

It get worse still. Apparently there are thirteen things we don't know that are really troublesome. Look on the bright side: problems One and Three might be the same as the Pioneer Anomaly, which comes in at number Two. Of course, the possibility that our Constants are not constant and we that we know stuff all about the Universe are vexing, but at least we would have only ten more worries.

The Damned:

They came from Canvey Island

Kids today, they don't appreciate how bad the mid-70's really were. They think Raleigh Choppers and muttonchop sideburns are neat. But they don't know about Dralon lounge suites and macrame. They never had to talk to someone whose life has been changed by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. They never had to sing Morning Has Broken in school assembly. It was rough then.

Look, here are some kids in 1975. They can't dance, their hair is too long and they all have really awful v-necks. Fortunately, some visitors from the future have arrived to teach them Cool. Their lives may never be the same again.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

England their England

In which the estimable Mr Henry Porter witnesses the Metropolitan Police stopping and questioning innocent people, in the British Library, next to an exhibition about civil liberties.

Meanwhile, Britain has become Europe's most unequal country, as the estimable Ms Polly Toynbee points out.

Elsewhere, the estimable Mr Peter Cresswell has compiled an admirable list of punk videos. Unaccountably, however, he has omitted The Adverts:

Great moments in Dutch rock 'n' roll, #1

Shocking Blue, Venus, with primate and invisible keyboards player. Bet you didn't know they were Dutch.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Antisocial networking

In which Ryanair, the budget airline, shows that good manners are not part of its web strategy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One minor drawback

While U.S. intelligence officials have spent more than seven years searching fruitlessly for Osama bin Laden, UCLA geographers say they have a good idea of where the terrorist leader was at the end of 2001 — and perhaps where he has been in the years since.

In a new study published online today by the MIT International Review, the geographers report that simple facts, publicly available satellite imagery and fundamental principles of geography place the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. in one of three buildings in the northwest Pakistan town of Parachinar, in the Kurram tribal region near the border with Afghanista

The seven-member team of Geographers used distance-decay theory and island biogeographic theory to determine the town in which Bin Laden must be hiding. Having found the town, they then looked for the building:
Faced with the prospect of picking from more than 1,000 structures clearly portrayed in the satellite imagery of Parachinar, the team decided to come up with a short list of the criteria that bin Laden would need for housing, based on well-known information about him, including his height (between 6'4" and 6'6", depending on the source), his medical condition (apparently in need of regular dialysis and, therefore, electricity to run the machine) and several basic assumptions, such as a need for security, protection, privacy and overhead cover to shield him from being spotted by planes, helicopters and satellites.
They found three structures that met their criteria. So they published their findings, concluding that US forces must examine (but not bomb) these buildings.

Then Scienceblog publishes the story. And then 3 Quarks Daily picks it up. And then the first comment on the Scienceblog posting points out one small problem with this theory: Bin Laden is a Sunni, who is responsible for the deaths of many Shiites; Parachinar is a Shiite town.

I believe this is known as a Kryten moment.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wrod of the day: redundent

Further proof, if proof were needed, that New Zealand leads where others follow comes from the Guardian: it seems that newspapers in the Old Country still employ Subeditors, on the premises. How quaint.

Here in thrusting, forward-thinking New Zealand, both halves of our media duopoly have centralised subbing for their many titles in vast facilities somewhere south of Bombay, or possibly north of Mumbai. Such rationalisation ensures efficient throughput and omptimaised media content generation, or some such guff.

So, come on Britain! Do what we have done: sack your subs and say goodbye to the misery of pedantry! Grammar, punctuation, facts and spelling are all so 20th Century.

Go away

I really, really wanted to blackout this blog, like all the cool kids are doing today. But I could not figure out how to do it, at least not without deleting this blog for good.

So, can we all pretend that this blog is blacked out? Just shut your eyes. No, don't; that's silly. Instead, don't read anything today. Come back tomorrow. Go on; it's for creative freedom.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Power corrupts; money corrupts absolutely

A Right-wing religious group called the Maxim Institute ran the campaign in New Zealand to deny equal treatment before the law for gay couples. Maxim was explicitly anti-free market and attacked Milton Friedman when he died. Maxim said Friedman was "simplistic" and said he ignored the "social good". They say that "the individualist view, espoused by Friedman" is just as wrong as the collectivist view mainly because it ignores the desire of theocrats like Maxim to impose Christian morality by the force of law. They couch their theocracy with left-wing phrases like "the interconnectedness of community and the relational nature of human society." Apparently this interconnectedness means they gain the right to use state imposed violence to make people obey their moral agenda.

Maxim has run campaigns exclusively on socially conservative issues. It has never taken an explicitly libertarian position on anything. Maxim spent most their budget in two years to combat the legalization of brothels and the civil unions legislation.

These campaigns were funded, in part, with money that Atlas Foundation gave them. In fact this money was just Templeton money channeled through Atlas. In 2005 alone Maxim received three “awards” from Atlas for their anti-libertarian positions.
The true history of the Atlas Foundation, sponsor of the Maxim Institute.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The burial of the dead

As Dr Johnson might have observed: Sir, a Fundamentalist Christian's talking about Aesthetics is like a dog's preaching. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all. Here it is done on the subject of George Dickie's Aesthetics: an Introduction; to cut to the chase, the reviewer concludes that a hatrack cannot be a work of art and that Dickie is of "the dead who bury their dead," whatever that means. Oh well, at least she tried.

The Inmates, from 1980:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Black is the new black

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. is against this unjust law - help us

Black Flag: