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Justin Mason's Weblog Posts


Boo. Jon Johansen — the Norwegian teenager who broke the DVD CSS copy protection scheme — has been indicted by the Norwegian “white collar crime unit”. He could get “six months in jail if Johansen gained illegitimate access to data”, and “up to two years in prison for having caused damage by gaining such access or for having done so with a financial motivation.” Found via

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NSync dropped from new Star Wars movie: Joey Fatone rang a Florida radio station to say the scene has been scrapped … “because people made a big deal about it. We’re not going to be in it and I’m not going to comment on it any more.”

The movie’s going to suck regardless ;)

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Great article at about changing prorities for academia; money-making over public benefit.

In the 1980s, computer scientists at Berkeley … created an improved version of the Unix operating system, complete with a networking protocol called the TCP/IP stack. … In 1992, Berkeley released its version of Unix and TCP/IP to the public as open-source code, and the combination quickly became the backbone of a network so vast that people started to call it, simply, “the Internet.”

Many would regard giving the Internet to the world as a benevolent act fitting for one of the world’s great public universities. But Bill Hoskins, who is currently in charge of protecting the intellectual property produced at U.C. Berkeley, thinks it must have been a mistake. “Whoever released the code for the Internet probably didn’t understand what they were doing,” he says.

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You could not make it up. It seems Ballymena councillor Robin Stirling, has accused UTV (Ulster Television) of sending viewers subliminal messages promoting Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. From via forteana.

Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2002 19:02:35 -0000
From: Joe McNally (spam-protected)
To: Yahoogroups Forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: The voice of reason

UTV sent subliminal message: DUP man

By Maeve Connolly

A DUP councillor has accused UTV of sending viewers subliminal messages promoting Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

Ballymena councillor Robin Stirling says Gerry Adams features more prominently in the opening sequence of UTV news bulletins than any other politician and has compiled statistics he claims prove his point.

Mr Stirling has video-tape evidence and freeze-frame photographs of the on-screen images and is prepared to visit Havelock House to meet UTV representatives.

“The figures I analysed and was able to pick out were Tony Blair occupying 3.5 per cent of the screen, as compared to Gerry Adams at 21 per cent,” Mr Stirling said.

In a letter sent to UTV in December, Mr Stirling claimed the station was using ‘perceptual psychology’ similar to that previously employed in undemocratic regimes such as Romania and the former Soviet Union.

Mr Stirling said UTV had reassured him it was changing the graphic sequence, but he dismissed as irrelevant claims it was an “issue of artistic impression”.

“They were very pleasant but they’re not seeing what I’m seeing,” the councillor said.

He said he had not received support from all members of Ballymena borough council when he raised the matter at Monday night’s meeting and produced a three ft by two ft photographic montage to back his argument.

“People’s perception vary depending on their tolerance level.

“There are people on the council who wouldn’t be too worried what appears on their screens. Their idea is if you don’t like it turn it off, but I don’t know if that is really addressing an issue,” he said.

Last night a UTV spokeswoman said the news graphics had no political intentions.

“The montage of political figures which councillor Stirling refers to is not a political statement but an artistic sequence with a comprehensive range of images to ensure no political bias,” she said.

Fellow Ballymena councillor Lexie Scott said he supported Mr Stirling’s right to take issue with what he saw but expressed concern at the council being seen as trying to impose political control over the media.

The Ulster Unionist said the image of Mr Adams comprised approximately one second of a five-second clip and the montage swept over a large number of politicians.

“I think the vast majority of people in Ballymena are unlikely to be unduly influenced by a photograph of any politician, but especially of Mr Adams,” Mr Scott said.

The SDLP’s PJ McAvoy dismissed the matter as “frivolous and trivial”, adding that there were more important matters for Ballymena borough council to discuss.

“I’m sure all television companies do things in a very fair minded way and don’t set out purposefully to provoke,” Mr McAvoy said.

“At the end of the day all these people are prominent figures in the news.

“If some people seem to see a split-second flash of one person more than another I don’t really think it’s worth discussing,” he added.

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Here’s that VR tour of an abandoned US ICBM silo which J.G. Ballard mentioned. Don’t mind the authentic 1995 background GIFs, frames, and big navigation buttons; it’s an amazing site, full of great little observations like:

Note that all of the overhead lights in the facility are mounted on shock-resistant springs so that if the complex were bombed, the ground could shake without burning out the lightbulbs.

Kevin Kelm and his co-explorer certainly did their homework and explored the silo thoroughly, and the descriptions read like an adventure game. Very spooky!

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Cory at BB does it again… I don’t know where he finds ’em, but the animated GIF cartoons on this page are really neat; hand-drawn, black-and-white manga featuring what appears to be Killer Chicken Man (or something. hmm… I could really do with some subtitles ;).

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Caganers, Catalonian shitting figurines, are getting in trouble in a California museum.

Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2002 10:45:29 -0000
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Caganers defended

Defecating Figurines Part Of Holiday

Tuesday January 8, 2002 9:40 AM

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Placing statuettes of defecating people in Nativity scenes is a Christmastime tradition so old and so strong in Spain’s Catalonia region that even the Roman Catholic Church here doesn’t dare try to ban it.

When an exhibit of the figurines in a California museum sparked an angry denunciation from a Catholic group in the United States, Catalonians who cherish the tradition came ardently to its defense.

“Unfortunately, there are intolerant people who are offended by any little thing,” Josep Maria Joan, director of the Toy Museum of Catalonia, said Monday. His museum has a permanent collection of the figurines, known as caganers.

Spanish artist Antoni Miralda’s exposition “Poetical Gut” at Copia, a food, wine and arts museum in Napa, Calif., features ceramic figurines of the pope, nuns and angels with their pants down, squatting over their bowel movements.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a 350,000-member group based in New York, has written to the museum’s board of trustees to say it finds the show offensive.

“When it’s degrading, everybody knows it except the spin doctors who run the museums,” the group’s president, William Donohue, said Sunday. In a tradition that dates back to the 18th century, Catalonians hide caganers in Christmas Nativity scenes and invite friends over to try to find them. The figures symbolize fertilization and the hope for prosperity in the coming year, according to Joan.

“It’s really only a game,” he said. “The caganer is not supposed to steal Jesus’ spotlight in the manger scene. But it’s logical that when traditions like this are exported they can be misunderstood.”

An official with the Cultural Heritage department of the Barcelona Roman Catholic diocese, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the tradition as a harmless game for children and indicated the church has no plans to oppose it.

Although the traditional caganer resembles a red-capped Catalonian peasant, Miralda is not the first to depict public figures. Since the 1940s, Catalonians have been making modern renditions of the caganer – including, recently, Osama bin Laden.

For Marti Torrent, founder of the 70-member Association of Friends of the Caganer, the meaning goes deeper than child’s play.

To him, the caganer’s act symbolizes “the fertilization of the earth” and pride in the land of Catalonia, whose inhabitants won the right to speak their own language and govern themselves after the 1939-75 Spanish dictatorship.

“I know that American society is more strict with its religious ideas than we are in Catalonia,” said Torrent, 89, who added that what the caganer does is natural. “Even the king has to do it every day or at least every other day.”

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Two Sides of the Sun, from the Guardian via forteana, “How the Sun (UK and Irish tabloid newspaper – jm) cast a two-faced shadow on the eurozone”:

  • UK: Dawn of a New Error: The euro is born. And thank goodness Britain is not part of it. … Sun reporters in London were taken for a ride by the euro.

  • Ireland: Dawn of a New Era: Ireland wakes up to a new era today as the euro is introduced. … in Ireland, the new currency was set to be a huge hit with the public.

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good interview with J.G. Ballard:

… consider another of his favourites: “There’s this group that got into a disused American nuclear silo (site now gone, unfortunately – jm). It’s wonderful! You’re taken on a tour and you can choose alternatives. ‘Would you like to look at the missile control room?’, ‘Would you like to see the sleeping quarters?’. It’s straight out of the stuff that I was writing about all that time ago.

“Sites such as these feed the poetic and imaginative strains in all of us who have been numbed by all the Bruce Willis films,” he says. “I’m waiting for the first new religion on the internet. One that is unique to the Net and to the modern age. It’ll come.”

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My ghod, the new iMac is the coolest piece of industrial design I’ve seen in a while. Story here (via Boing Boing).

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What used to be known as Media Grok before The Industry Standard fell over is now being published again, as Media Unspun. It’ll be free from now until March, then it goes commercial. Here’s hoping it works out.

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Drunk men have been lurching into the headquarters of Queensland’s Prostitution Licensing Authority and demanding prostitutes.

Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2002 11:49:35 -0800
From: (spam-protected) (glen mccready)
Forwarded-by: William Knowles (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
cc: (spam-protected)
Subject: 200 metres!

BRISBANE, Jan 4 AAP|Published: Friday January 4, 6:02 PM

Drunk men have been lurching into the headquarters of Queensland’s Prostitution Licensing Authority and demanding prostitutes.

The unwelcome men triggered a security overhaul of the authority, it was revealed today.

Police Minister Tony McGrady said “intoxicated or undesirable males” had regularly turned up at the Prostitution Licensing Authority’s office looking for some action.

Some of the men wanted to hire a prostitute and others were looking for their partners, who they believed worked as prostitutes.

“Some of these males refused to leave the premises and caused minor disturbances,” Mr McGrady said in response to a question on notice.

The incidents happened when the Prostitution Licensing Authority first moved into their offices in suburban Milton 18 months ago.

Mr McGrady confirmed the Milton offices had been upgraded before the Prostitution Licensing Authority moved in, on the advice of state government security experts.

The office had duress alarms, intercom facilities, a fireproof safe and was soundproofed.

Access to the offices through the roof was also sealed off.

The Prostitution Licensing Authority was set up in July 2000 to process the license applications for “boutique” brothels and monitor the legalised sex industry.

Queensland so far only has one legal brothel, operating in the inner-city Brisbane suburb of Bowen Hills.

The authority has approved a further three brothels, two in industrial areas of the Gold Coast and another in the southside Brisbane suburb of Yeerongpilly.

Last month, authority chairman Bill Carter said the he was also considering applications for brothels in Townsville, Mackay, the Sunshine and Gold Coasts and Brisbane.

Under state law, legal brothels must not have more than five rooms or employ more than five sex workers.

They must also be at least 200 metres from schools, churches, homes, hospitals and child-minding facilities.

By Barbara Adam

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Again, from a nerdy POV. It’s fascinating to discover this old SGI memo on memory leaks and code bloat, mainly because the code sizes they talk about are miniscule, these days.

The window system (Xsgi + 4Dwm) is up from 3.2 MB to 3.6 MB, and the miscellaneous stuff has grown as well.

3.6 Mb for a GUI desktop? Not bad! ;)

Much of the problem seems to be due to DSOs (jm: dynamic shared objects, aka shared libraries/DLLs) that load whole libraries instead of individual routines. Many SGI applications link with 20 or so large DSOs, virtually guaranteeing enormous executables.

As far as I know, this is still the case on most popular OSes.

Interestingly, I used both IRIX 4.0.x and 5.2 — and I preferred 5.2. Could have been the hardware, though. But anyway — the bottom line is, things have only gotten bigger and bloatier since then.

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On a more nerdy tip, Joel talks about those days when you just can’t get started, under the title “Fire and Motion”. Here’s a choice quote:

Think of the history of data access strategies to come out of Microsoft. ODBC, RDO, DAO, ADO, OLEDB, now ADO.NET – All New! Are these technological imperatives? The result of an incompetent design group that needs to reinvent data access every goddamn year? (That’s probably it, actually.) But the end result is just cover fire. The competition has no choice but to spend all their time porting and keeping up, time that they can’t spend writing new features. Look closely at the software landscape. The companies that do well are the ones who rely least on big companies and don’t have to spend all their cycles catching up and reimplementing and fixing bugs that crop up only on Windows XP.

The sales teams of the big companies understand cover fire. They go into their customers and say, OK, you don’t have to buy from us. Buy from the best vendor. But make sure that you get a product that supports (XML / SOAP / CDE / J2EE) because otherwise you’ll be Locked In The Trunk . Then when the little companies try to sell into that account, all they hear is obedient CTOs parrotting Do you have J2EE? And they have to waste all their time building in J2EE even if it doesn’t really make any sales, and gives them no opportunity to distinguish themselves. It’s a checkbox feature — you do it because you need the checkbox saying you have it, but nobody will use it or needs it. And it’s cover fire.

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“Monster waves” — ocean waves of 100 feet and more in height, not caused by seismic activity — may be explained by a new theory from researchers at the Technical University in Berlin.

“Even in the tank the effect was awe-inspiring,” said Prof Clauss. “The exploding wave was so powerful that it broke through the ceiling of the building in which the tank is located,” he added.

Impressive — but I’m pretty sure there’s been eyewitness accounts of bigger waves than the ones mentioned (120 feet), as well. I wonder if the theory can account for those?

Date: Sun, 06 Jan 2002 12:38:53 -0800
From: Brian Chapman (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: Mystery of monster waves solved

Sunday Telegraph | 6 Jan 2002

Mystery of monster waves solved By Tony Paterson in Berlin

GERMAN scientists claim to have explained the mystery behind so-called monster waves – the term given by oceanographers for near-vertical breaking seas up to 120ft high. Such seas are thought to have sunk more than 200 supertankers and container ships without trace during the past two decades.

Often dismissed as sailors’ yarns, monster waves have terrified seafarers for centuries and provided the raw material for countless novels and films including Sebastian Junger’s recent best-seller The Perfect Storm.

Yet until now scientists and oceanographers had been unable to determine exactly what formed such gigantic “one-off” seas that are capable of breaking a 600ft-long ship in half and sending it to the bottom within seconds.

A team of oceanographers at the Technical University in Berlin has now managed to explain the phenomenon with the aid of computers and by simulating monster waves in a tank.

“Our wave experiments have proved for the first time that monster waves are physically possible and that they really do exist,” said Prof Gunther Clauss, who led the team of scientists.

“This represents a breakthrough for the shipping and oil industries because we can now start to design structures that can cope with these monsters,” he added.

Using a computerised, hydraulically powered wave-making machine in a specially designed tank supplied by oceanographers at Hanover University, Prof Clauss’s team has established that monster waves can occur with little or no warning.

The waves are created in a storm when slow-moving waves are caught up by a succession of faster waves travelling at more than twice their speed. “What happens then is that the waves simply pile up on top of each other to create a monster,” said Prof Clauss.

“The result is an almost vertical wall of water which towers up to 120ft in height before collapsing on itself. Any vessel caught by one of these has little chance of surviving.”

Photographs of the experiments show the monster wave building into a vertical wall of water before exploding into an uncontrollable boiling mass as it collapses on itself.

“Even in the tank the effect was awe-inspiring,” said Prof Clauss. “The exploding wave was so powerful that it broke through the ceiling of the building in which the tank is located,” he added.

Monster waves are thought to have caused the loss of at least 200 “super carriers” or ships measuring more than 600ft in length on the world’s oceans over the past 20 years. The unexplained disappearance of many smaller vessels including trawlers and yachts could put the total number of losses much higher.

Yet accounts by seamen who have witnessed such waves are comparatively rare. One, dating from 1995, was when the QE2 was hit by a hurricane on a crossing to New York.

She survived what was estimated to be a 95ft high wave which the ship took directly over her bow. Her captain, Ronald Warwick, described the phenomenon as “like going into the White Cliffs of Dover”.

One of the few small-boat sailors to survive a monster wave was the British yachtsman, Brigadier Miles Smeeton, who did so twice. His 50ft ketch, Tzu Hang was dismasted twice by such waves while attempting to round Cape Horn in the 1950s – once after being “pitchpoled”, toppled stern over bow.

In Germany, the horrors of monster waves have been brought right up to date after revelations about the near-sinking of the German Antarctic cruise liner Bremen in the south Atlantic last year. The ship with 137 passengers aboard was hit by a 114ft wave in March while heading towards make Rio de Janiero after an Antarctic cruise.

The impact smashed windows on the bridge and cut the ship’s electricity supply. The vessel drifted engineless for more than half an hour heeling at an angle of 40 degrees in huge seas whipped by hurricane-strength winds.

“I have been at sea for 48 years, but never have I experienced such a wave,” said the Bremen’s captain, Heinz Aye, 65, who is now retired.

Prof Clauss said that his team’s research would help naval architects in their efforts to construct ships and oil platforms that were capable of withstanding such freak wave forces.

“In many cases it is as simple as building a bridge on a ship that is not slab-sided but rounded, so it can cope with being hit by a monster wave. Most ships plying the oceans right now are not built along these lines,” he said.

The team also hopes that its research will help in the development of radar that is specifically designed to warn of sea conditions that could produce the monster-wave phenomenon.

“This could help the captains of ships to steer clear of a danger area, but the truth is we can do nothing to prevent monster waves. They are a product of nature,” Prof Clauss added.

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Mmmmm….. Marmite. “It must be spread thinly. T-h-i-n-l-y…”

We now, thanks to various visitors from the other side of the world, have 4 large jars of the stuff. Looks like we’ll be lugging it around for a while. yum.

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Ever wonder if computer industry analysts were, quite simply, for sale to the highest bidder? Wonder no more, courtesy of the latest MS leak via the Register:

  1. The first wave will attack the perception that Linux is free. To that effect, we’ll have an independent analysis commissioned by DH Brown … The DH Brown report will be customer ready and will help your customer understand just how competitive Microsoft is in this arena.

  2. The second wave will be a full blown cost analysis comparison case study between Linux and Windows in a variety of usage scenarios (web, file and print, etc.) done independently by the analysts for us. ETA for this tool is in May and it will be a great tool to help you sell the value of Windows solutions over Linux. …

(emphases on will added by jm.)

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It’s alleged that 10 midwives at Wollongong Hospital’s maternity ward have been holding nitrous oxide and tamazepam parties at work. Those nurses have all the fun!

Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 09:14:22 +1000
From: Peter Darben (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Umm . . .

—– (from The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) 31.12.01),4057,3512875%255E3163,00.html

Midwives ‘partied’ as babies were born



TEN midwiveshave been stood down or shifted from Wollongong Hospital’s maternity ward over allegations they have been holding laughing gas drug parties at work.

The Illawarra Area Health Service has launchedan investigation into illegal drug use among midwives, and one doctor, who are alleged to have been inhaling nitrous oxide — known as laughing gas — and swallowing sleeping tablets while on duty.

The Daily Telegraph has been told the drugs were taken during frequent parties at the hospital, held inside empty birthing rooms while babies were being delivered next door.

A junior nurse brought the practice to the attentionof hospital authorities on December 11, claiming that one of the parties was held inside a birthing room on December 9.

While two women were in labour with premature babies, three of the four midwives on duty were partying with nitrous oxide, an anaesthetic gas which promotes feelings of euphoria and can cause hallucinations.

The junior staff member is said to have been horrified by the behaviour, which had the potential to put patients at serious risk — particularly during birth complications.

Authorities investigating the drug parties arebelieved to have been handed a photograph of one of the events, held during July.

It is believed some senior maternity ward staff have been implicated.

Since the investigation began last month, those who are not facing the accusations have been subjected to bullying from the alleged ring leaders, urging them not to co-operate.

A caution was issued to all maternity ward staff against harassment and intimidation – and one staff member who flouted the order was stood down on December 19.

Two days later, on December 21, that nurse and five of her colleagues were stood down and four were moved to other areas of the hospital.

Investigators examining the hospital’s drug records are understood to have uncovered unusually high usage of nitrous oxide and temazapam in the maternity ward.

This supports their belief that the parties have been something of a tradition at the hospital, rather than a one-off incident.

Yesterday, Illawarra Area Health Service chief executive Dr Tony Sherbon confirmed that an investigation into “unprofessional conduct” at Wollongong Hospital’s birthing unit had led to disciplinary action.

“The Illawarra Area Health Service executive and Wollongong Hospital managers are deeply concerned about this serious breach of conduct,” Dr Sherbon said.

“The decision to stand down midwives was made on December 21 following allegations they had misused nitrous oxide while on duty.

“There are also concerns about the high use of the sedative temazapam in the birthing unit and that investigation is still ongoing,” he said.

Dr Sherbon said the NSW Nursing Association and Nurses Registration Board had been advised of the decision to stand down the midwives.

And “a thorough review of all recent births at Wollongong Hospital has not shown any link between the use of nitrous oxide and any adverse outcomes for any mothers or babies”.

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Incompetent websites, part 43985943. Waider @ ILUG notes:

It’s a moot point at this stage, but am I the only person (well, other than whoever fixed the problem) who noticed that the euro countdown on was, until some time this morning, counting down to midnight Dec 30/31 as opposed to midnight Dec 31/Jan 1?


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Where does the smell of rain originate from?

If you’ve wondered why the ground, or the road smells a bit odd when it rains after a long dry spell, wonder no more… The smell is given off by Streptomyces bacteria, a genus belonging to the Actinomycetales order of Gram-positive eubacteria, also called actinomycetes.

The bacteria grow in damp, warm earth before fine weather dries out the soil, which then blows around as dust. During a dry spell, actinomycetes produce spores that are released on contact with moisture. Rain hitting the ground kicks up an aerosol of water and soil and you breathe in fine particles of soil containing the bacteria.

Cool! via

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Jeff Bone points out Lingua::Romana::Perligata, a Perl module … that makes it possible to write Perl programs in Latin. A plausible rationale for wanting to do such a thing is provided, along with a comprehensive overview of the syntax and semantics of Latinized Perl.


#!/usr/bin/perl -w
use Lingua::Romana::Perligata;
maximum inquementum tum biguttam egresso scribe.
meo maximo vestibulo perlegamentum da.
da duo tum maximum conscribementa meis listis.
dum listis decapitamentum damentum nexto
fac sic
nextum tum novumversum scribe egresso.
lista sic hoc recidementum nextum cis vannementa da listis.

The mind boggles.

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Blade director Steven Norrington is planning to direct a movie of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore’s fantastic comic. This should be bizarre — Victorian superheroes, in authentic period style, filmed by a hyper-Hollywood director (going by Blade at least).

I wonder if they’ll take out all the accurate 19th-century colonialist bigotry: “the inscrutable Chinee” etc.?

BTW — went to see Lord of the Rings last night, totally fantastic. The interpretation was spot on too, and some of the CGI effects (Saruman’s tower!) were just incredible! Well happy with that — best movie of the year by far. And the “over-celtic” criticism noted before just doesn’t stand up IMO.

Only fault I could have is the slightly sluggish first bit (but I suppose LoTR novices need a bit of explanation), and (as Lukage pointed out via private mail) the “breakdancing Gandalf” sequence. Well, also, the elves were a bit super-fey but I guess that’s unavoidable.

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Buzkashi — “Goat-grabbing” — is back in Kabul.

Horses’ hooves thundered, the crowd roared with excitement – and the carcass of a headless goat hit the playing field with a sodden thump. In a spectacle not seen since pre-Taliban times, the ancient Afghan sport of buzkashi returned to Kabul on Friday.

Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2001 06:29:12 -0600
From: “Webmaster” (spam-protected)
To: “Forteana” (spam-protected)
Subject: Goat Polo,1597,322586-412,00.shtml

Goat Polo In Liberated Kabul

Afghan National Sport Returns After Taliban Leave

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 28, 2001

(AP) Horses’ hooves thundered, the crowd roared with excitement – and the carca ss of a headless goat hit the playing field with a sodden thump. In a spectacle not seen since pre-Taliban times, the ancient Afghan sport of buzkashi returne d to Kabul on Friday.

Thousands of avid spectators perched atop mud-brick walls, clambered onto truck beds and stood balanced on bicycle seats to watch two teams of whip-wielding ho rsemen fight a running duel up, down and across a dusty field surrounded by rui ned buildings in the center of the Afghan capital.

“We haven’t seen this game played in more than five years,” said a grizzled fan , Ulam Siddiq, who was rooting for the Kabul home team. “It’s part of our cultu re, and we’re very happy to have it back again.”

Buzkashi – which means “goat-grabbing” in the Dari language widely spoken in Af ghanistan – is not a pastime for the faint-hearted.

Leaving aside any squeamishness about the “ball” – that would be the decapitate d goat – the game involves no-holds-barred combat, waged at full gallop, to wre st control of the carcass from the rival team. Gashes and broken bones are comm on; spills commonly send riders and horses alike tumbling.

Being a spectator at a buzkashi match isn’t all that much safer. Every few minu tes, the watching crowds scattered and fled as groups of horsemen plowed wildly into the sidelines, whips clenched in their teeth.

The object of the game is to try to snatch the 150-pound carcass from the cente r of the field and carry it to the scoring area. Only the most skilled players – known as “chapandaz” – manage to get the goat. And keeping it can be even har der.

Traditionally, the game is played at festive times like the start of the new ye ar, or at Afghan wedding parties, when matches lasting days would sometimes be staged. Organizers said this match was meant to celebrate the inauguration of A fghanistan’s new interim government six days earlier.

Like so much else in Afghanistan, the sport has particular ethnic associations. Buzkashi is most popular in the north, where it is thought to have originated among Turkic-Mongol peoples, and is primarily played today by Uzbeks, Turkmen a nd Tajiks.

Horses and players alike undergo years of training before they are allowed to t ake to the field. During Taliban rule, the best-known players fled into exile i n Pakistan or were bottled up in the small slice of territory held by the oppos ition northern alliance.

“Our best horses and our best players are not back yet,” player Sayeed Ashi sai d just before the match began, seated astride a chestnut horse with a brightly patterned saddle blanket. “But we’re proud to resume this tradition – it’s our national game, and we love it.”

Milling among the spectators Friday were dozens of Kalashnikov-toting northern alliance soldiers, some in camouflage uniforms. They hooted and applauded along with the rest of the crowd – and quickly dodged, along with the others, when a knot of thundering horseflesh headed their way.

The two teams – one from Kabul, the other from the rugged Panjshir Valley

  • bat tled to a 9-9 draw, but the crowd enthusiastically applauded the

goal-scoring o f both. Organizers said matches would be held regularly in the capital from now on.

While the mood at the buzkashi field was festive and no serious injuries were r eported, recent days have seen renewed interest in blood sports long popular in Afghanistan and long criticized by international groups. Cock-fighting and dog -fighting, both banned by the Taliban, are once again taking hold in around Kab ul.

“It’s part of the long story of our country, fighting,” said Siddiq, the buzkashi fan. “For now, it is fine to have it only on the playing field.”

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More pics up on, from the Casio watchcam over November and December, including two trips to Philip Island to see the penguins. BTW, “I am not lazy, I am surviving” is my new life motto.

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I can wholly sympathise with Joe Barr’s experiences with MPlayer; I tried to set up a few good, recent video players on my Red Hat laptop a while back, and the DLL hell just wasn’t worth it.

The attitude is hilarious too:

Don’t get me wrong. There is documentation. It is scattered, and often incomplete, and carries the same attitude I had seen elsewhere, but it is there. An example of that attitude, taken verbatim from the FAQ:

Q: I compiled MPlayer with libdvdcss/libdivxdecore support, but when I try to start it, it says: error while loading shared libraries: lib*.so.0: cannot load shared object file: No such file or directory

I checked the file and it is there in /usr/local/lib.

A: What are you doing on Linux? Can’t you install a library? Why do we get these questions? It’s not MPlayer specific at all! Add /usr/local/lib to /etc/ and run ldconfig. Or install it to /usr/lib, because if you can’t solve the /usr/local problem, you are careless enough to do such things.

What the hell are BOFHs doing writing a video player? Go back to LARTing lusers, or something!

I finally got XINE set up, thanks to two lovely RPMs from Red Hat’s Rawhide bleeding-edge distro. (At least someone around here knows how to package software ;)

There’s a few other packages which (I’ve heard) boast scary maintainers. Very nice to look at, but ask a question and the maintainer’s likely to stab you. Can’t see the point of that, myself. Half of writing free software is the fact that the users will contact you at some point. Get used to it!

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Online Banking With Konqueror — an exhaustive list of online banking systems, and whether or not they work with Konqueror. Since Konqueror uses a from-scratch implementation of Javascript, and is generally just not MSIE, this also acts as a good guide to online banks that Have A Clue How To Write Usable Web Apps. (Kudos go to AIB 24-hour Online Banking, who have run a clean, friendly, and very usable plain-HTML banking system since day 1.)

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We noticed various characteristic Muppet behaviors such as the Muppet Panic and the Muppet Walk (and the one I just realized, the Muppet Moment of Inner Turmoil That’s Actually a Hand Rearrangement).

ROFL! I’d always wondered what was going on there, now it all makes sense.

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Bizarre, if quite funny, spam. This guy should give up on the spammage and just sell wierd stuff over the web legitimately.

Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2001 10:15:18 -0000
From: “Bob Rickard” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) Com” (spam-protected)
Subject: FW: Help Stick it to Osama!

From: Billy Yank …
Subject: Help Stick it to Osama!

Introducing the latest weapon in the war on terrorism: THE OSAMA ‘PIN-LADEN’ ANTI-TERRORIST VOO-DOO DOLL!!!!

Yes, you read right….AN Osama Doll! But NOT JUST A DOLL!!! The ‘Pin Laden’ Voo-Doo doll is NOT just a wacky little stocking stuffer… It is a bona-fide, home-brewed ‘PSY-OPS’ ANTI-TERROR MOVEMENT!!!! Read on:

It’s like this—Remember those Moony conventions (or whatever they were), where they got thousands of people together in a football stadium to blow out a candle thorugh willpower? Well, we’re trying to ‘blow out’ Bin-boy pretty urgently, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!! So Grab your Osama Voo-Doo doll, an assortment of The Red,White and Blue ‘Patriot Pins’ included, and STICK IT TO HIM AMERICA!!!

Remember, THIS IS WAR, so please buy a few for patriotic friends too…YOUR COUNTRY THANKS YOU!

Still not convinced?!

OK, OK, While it may not be an officially sanctioned initiative in the War against Terrorism, ‘MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT,’ this IS for a good cause. 15% of the net profits wil be donated to Rudy Giuliani’s TWIN TOWERS FUND.

So in a way, it’s like RUDY HIMSELF SAID YOU SHOULD BUY ONE!…(unless he e-mails us all pissed off, in which case we’ll take this part out.)

But wait a second…if you poke an Osama Voo-Doo doll, WILL IT REALLY WORK to combat terrorism? Well, if you don’t, it wont work for sure, so WHAT’VE YOU GOT TO LOSE?! Rip open the bag, chant a few curses, and STICK IT TO HIM AMERICA!!!

Hmmm….If you’ve read down this far, I guess you still need convincing….You’re probably thinking this is just one more lame spam advertisement sent to clog up your in-box for the profit of others.

Uhhhh….Well, you have a point, but we have one too–6 in fact..You see, every person who decides to ‘Stick it’ to the ‘Pin-Laden’ Voo-Doo doll, with the 6 RED, WHITE AND BLUE ‘PATRIOT PINS’ included in the package allows us to donate money to the families of victims of the 9-11 attack via the Twin Towers Fund. It’s a COMPLETELY LEGITIMATE (albeit slightly tasteless) venture, and this IS much funnier than 99% of all the other junk you receive, isn’t it? And after all, they really do make great stocking stuffers to boot.

Look, what are you afraid of? Hey — it’s a cloth doll okay?! It ain’t anthrax, and it ain’t gonna make you end up on some kind of Tipper Gore black-magic satanist insurgent watch list! It may very well delight and impress your friends, and make a useful doorstop, toilet scrub-brush, rottweiler chew-toy, or firestarter!! When we bring one of these to the local pub, they make a nice trade for a few free beers.

Hey one word of warning…this is not a toy, this is a WEAPON OF WAR!!! So please keep this product away from children, incompetant adults, and any terrorists you may happen to know personally. Use the same care with this product that you would playing with matches or cleaning your ears with your car keys.

IN SUM, we invite you to Vent Anger, Relieve Stress, and Aid Victims…. ….and most of all, STICK IT TO HIM AMERICA!!!!

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George W. Hart is a sculptor who works with incredible geometric forms. “Classical forms are pushed in new directions, so viewers can take pleasure in their Platonic beauty yet recognize how they are updated for our complex high-tech times. I share with many artists the idea that a pure form is a worthy object, and select for each piece the materials that best carry that form.”

I like “ Gonads of the Rich and Famous“, a 3D printing. But what exactly is a 3D printing?

(Link from Forteana, via a discussion on edible trilobites. George has a recipe on his site ;)

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Good article at the Guardian, on what J. R. R. Tolkien would have made of the movie:

Why, he would have asked in despair, has his quintessentially English shire been turned into an outstation of Riverdance? “I do know Celtic things and feel for them a certain distaste. They are in fact ‘mad’,” he wrote in an untypically snotty letter in 1937. So why do the hobbits do Irish jigs at Bilbo Baggins’ birthday party?

Why are two of the hobbits in the fellowship, Merry and Pippin, cast as prat-falling Irish clowns? Why does Howard Shore’s music break into repeated Irish warbling? Because, as he would dolefully have guessed, James Cameron’s Titanic proved that dollops of Irishry play well with the US box office.

Well, I think I’ll be with JRR on that one then. begorrah.

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a mind-boggling tale of debauchery, supposedly regarding “Philip Murray, a glamorous wayward socialite son of the great classical scholar and Oxford don Gilbert Murray. In the final days of the Spanish Civil War, young Murray fils found himself in the beleaguered town of Valencia, then still under Republican rule. Murray had been on an extended binge and was reduced, in Delmer’s picturesque phrase, to a state of ‘phobic moodiness and mad romantic exaltation in which love, hunger for love, threw him into delusions and despair.”‘

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 16:29:56 -0000
From: John Hurn (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: re: ape sex

This looks like the one…

To: (spam-protected)
From: Rachel Carthy (spam-protected)
Subject: RE: AIDS, chimps, and Sasquatch

I’m sorry, I’ve been saving this up since the great orang-shagging debate of blessed memory because I didn’t want you all to think I was some kind of primate perv… but I can’t hold back any longer…:

“A more romantic example of bestiality is described by the celebrated war correspondent of the _Daily Express_, Sefton Delmer, in his vivid memoirs _Trail Sinister_. Here, Delmer recounts in a thinly disguised portrait the last amorous exploit of Philip Murray, a glamorous wayward socialite son of the great classical scholar and Oxford don Gilbert Murray. In the final days of the Spanish Civil War, young Murray _fils_ found himself in the beleaguered town of Valencia, then still under Republican rule. Murray had been on an extended binge and was reduced, in Delmer’s picturesque phrase, to a state of ‘phobic moodiness and mad romantic exaltation in which love, hunger for love, threw him into delusions and despair.’

“One evening, down in the squalid port area of Valencia, he met up at a street circus with a ferocious anarchist group calling themselves ‘The Iron Guard of Karl Marx’. During the show, Murray’s attention was drawn to a female chimpanzee – the circus’ top attraction – ‘a fine buxom she-ape with all the indications of her sex emphatically developed.’ [Why is it I hear this in the voice of the ‘very, very drunk’ raconteur from the Fast Show? R]

“Filled with misguided love, Murray tried to buy the creature, offering a huge rate on the black market. When the circus owner rejected his offer, the Iron Guard of KM intervened; they called the owner a miserable skulking capitalist – ‘You refuse to part with this ape who is obviously dying with passion for the British compagnero!’ – threatening to shoot him and burn down his circus if he did not agree.

“Delmer then recounts how Murray and the ape, arm in arm with the Iron Guard of KM, proceeded on an extended tour of the town’s bars and bodegas, during which the chimpanzee drank Fundador brandy glass for glass with her new admirer.

“Finally, when they reached the plush Victoria Hotel, – the grandest in town and the HQ of the foreign press corps – the night porter refused them entry with the pompous words ‘No apes allowed in the hotel.’ The leader of the Iron Guard of KM, brandishing a pistol, shouted ‘If you do not immediately permit the senora ape to enter the hotel with the Ingles, then we shall destroy the hotel and when we have finished there will be nothing left of the hotel or you.’

“Murray and his ape duly repaired to his room, where he was last seen turning on the bath-water, and heard saying, as he closed the door, ‘And now, my poppet, you shall have a lovely warm bath with plenty of lovely lavender soap. Do you like soap, oh Queen of my heart?’

“Nothing was seen or heard of them for another 48 hours. The hotel personnel did not enter the room, partly because Murray had locked the door, but also because they were afraid – not only of the ape but of her peculiar English friend.

“When a leading correspondent of the _Daily Mail_, William Forrest – who confirmed this story later to one of the authors – finally gained access to the room, he was greeted by a scene of unutterable chaos and squalor. The ape lay in a corner, huddled in a nest of pillows and blankets, coughing horribly. Philip Murray lay in another corner, flushed with a high temperature and obviously very ill.

“The British consul made arrangements for Murray, by this time almost delirious, to be evacuated to a British hospital ship, the Maine, lying off the coast at Alicante. But before this could take place, during his last moments of semi-lucidity, Murray – ever romantic – was able to despatch three cables to London – addressed to the three most eligible Society beauties, proposing marriage to each of them.

“Murray died in the ambulance before reaching Alicante. The next morning – Delmer records – three telegrams arrived for Murray at the Victoria Hotel. They were from the girls to whom he had proposed. Two accepted him.

“Delmer adds the foot note that a British doctor remarked afterwards that he had never seen a case of pneumonia like it, since this was a strain known only among apes, and he could not understand how a human had contracted it. Delmer and his colleagues kept faith with their dead companion and said nothing.”

(_The Dictionary of Disgusting Ideas_ Alan Williams & Maggie Noach, 1986)

Impeccable journalistic sources… ;)


… ..- -… .-.. .. — .. -. .- .-.. — . … … .- –. .

(spam-protected) London, British Isles

“How come if someone tells you there are 1 billion stars in the universe you believe them, but if they tell you a paint job’s still wet you have to touch it to make sure?”

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The Evil Gerald strikes again, with Mystery Arab warns commuter of possible attack:

We both got off the train at Shankill, and he took me aside in a mysterious fashion. Then he told me in a very hushed voice, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but you’ve been so kind to me. I’ve had this briefcase for three years and I’ve never been able to open it. The sandwiches my wife made for me in 1998 have gone off, but that’s not the point. I’m going to give you a warning, but you must promise to not tell anyone unless you don’t want them to die, in which case it’s fine, I’ll understand that. Listen: Don’t eat so many fatty foods. You’ll clog up your arteries and run a greater risk of suffering a fatal heart attack later in life. It’s only common sense.”
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Forgotten History – Badshah Khan:

Pashtun warriors so impressed the British, including Indian born Rudyard Kipling, that in 1847 they created a separate Pashtun force, the Corps of Guides. But what is little known is that they also created one of the world’s great pacifist movements of the 20th century. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who was born in 1890 and died in 1988 led it. His life is heroic. He spent more than 25 years in British Indian and Pakistani jails.

Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 13:37:04 -0500
From: STEPHEN JONES (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: Forgotten History – Badshah Khan

Forgotten History – Tuesday, December 11, 2001
“Little known facts and overlooked history”

Badshah Khan

By Denis Mueller

Pashtun warriors so impressed the British, including Indian born Rudyard Kipling, that in 1847 they created a separate Pashtun force, the Corps of Guides. But what is little known is that they also created one of the world’s great pacifist movements of the 20th century. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who was born in 1890 and died in 1988 led it. His life is heroic. He spent more than 25 years in British Indian and Pakistani jails.

Khan practiced non-violence as a way of life. “There is no- thing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan like me subscribing to the creed of non-violence.” He was an ally of Gandhi and once persuaded 100,000 of his countrymen to lay down their arms and vow to fight nonviolently. His profound belief in non-violence came from the depths of his experience and his belief that these principles lay at the heart of Islam.

Khan and Gandhi worked hand in hand using the tactic of non- violence to free their land from British oppression. Khan opened schools and brought women out of their homes to become a part of society. For over two decades Khan and his followers dominated the Northwest Frontier without resorting to violence as a means for independence.

He was a valued Muslim ally of Gandhi who sought a non-secular India. In 1947, political backfighting between Hindu’s and Muslim’s split India in half. Khan opposed this and asked his followers to boycott a referendum on their separation. Muslim politicians derided Khan and called him a lackey of the Hindus. This caused Khan to be arrested by Islamabad’s new masters.

When Khan called for local autonomy within Pakistan he was rejected. At this time Afghanistan warlords saw this as an opportunity to extend their influence. Khan was jailed and defeated. He was eventually released but banished from the area. But his non-violent message was lost and the whole world of Islam is poorer for it.

When he died in 1988 at the age of 98, the funeral procession stretched for miles and miles. It was called a “craven of peace, carrying the message of love.” This forgotten chapter of history suggests that Islam is more complex than its radical supporters and western detractors are willing to say.

Khan said, “the Holy Prophet Muhammad came into this world and taught us, ‘That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God’s creatures.” Belief in God is to love one’s fellow men.” At the end of his life he left these words. “No true effort is in vain. Look at the fields over there. The grain sown therein has to remain in the earth for a certain time, then it sprouts, and in due time yields hundreds of its kind. The same is the case with every effort in a good cause.”

Sources: Karl E. Meyer, The Great Game and the Race for
Empire in Central Asia. (

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(Untitled) Is Your Son a Computer Hacker?:

Is your son obsessed with Lunix?

BSD, Lunix, Debian and Mandrake are all versions of an illegal hacker operation system, invented by a Soviet computer hacker named Linyos Torovoltos, before the Russians lost the Cold War. is pretty funny… but they really need to sort out some kind of comment voting system. They have some seriously humor-deficient readers.

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Live(ish)! New (unarguably)! Updated, er, whenever the laptop’s plugged in and online, and at most once an hour!! Presenting… jmcam!

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With a defiant cry of “right on motherfuckers”, pop superstar Madonna has presented one of the world’s most famous art prizes to conceptual artist Martin Creed for his controversial creation of a bare room with a light that switches on and off.

Riight. If there was ever any doubt, I reckon it’s now clear that the Turner Prize is all about getting column inches instead of actually awarding new, interesting art.

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brrr. The weather here in Melbourne is pretty much exactly what the weather in Ireland would be — ie. cold:

Sure this was the second day of summer, but instead of worrying about bush fires, I decided to get the home fires burning again.

After all, it was a shivery 14 degrees – the average maximum of a day in June, not December.

I know that Melbourne’s weather is meant to be changeable, but could we be kidding ourselves when we say that December is summer?

Last December, when the average maximum was an unusually warm 26.2 degrees, there were no fewer than eight 30-degree days, while January turned out to be one of the hottest months ever experienced in Melbourne with 14 occurrences of above 30 degrees.

You have to go back to 1879 to find a December when the thermometer waited until the middle of the month before cracking 30 degrees.

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Crime writer ‘solves’ Jack the Ripper mystery. Patricia Cornwell, a popular crime writer, reckons the impressionist painter Walter Richard Sickert did it — and (ludicrously) ripped up one of his paintings looking for clues.

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 10:40:42 -0000
From: “rpjs2217” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Crime writer ‘solves’ Jack the Ripper mystery


Crime writer ‘solves’ Jack the Ripper mystery

A US crime novelist is claiming she has solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper and named him as an artist who painted images of a murdered prostitute.

Patricia Cornwell spent almost £3 million on her hunt for the true identity of the Victorian serial killer.

She now says she believes the Ripper was really Walter Richard Sickert, an important Impressionist artist who painted the series of gruesome pictures 20 years later.

She told American TV’s Primetime: “I do believe 100% that Walter Richard Sickert committed those serial crimes, that he is the Whitechapel murderer.”

Cornwell, 45, spent part of the fortune her best-selling crime novels have earned her on her hunt, buying Sickert’s paintings, then using them in the hunt for clues.

She even flew a team of American forensic experts to London to examine the notorious Ripper letters for DNA, and bought 30 of the artist’s works, ripping one of them up completely in her hunt for clues.

Sickert, who was born in 1860, was an apprentice to Whistler and worked with Degas and is regarded as a key link between British art and the growth of Impressionism.

But Cornwell claims he led a secret double life as a serial killer – and the five prostitutes named as Jack the Ripper’s victims were not the only women he killed.

They were horribly mutilated and all but Kelly were murdered on the street but their killer – who taunted police in letters signed “Jack the Ripper” – was never found, prompting one of history’s greatest murder mysteries.

Cornwell said she had been led to Sickert by a series of clues and her knowledge of forensic science and the mind of serial killers. Sickert was 28 when the killings started, an age Cornwell said was typical for serial killers to start their sprees between the age of 25 and 30.

Story filed: 10:08 Friday 7th December 2001

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Pentagon: US military forces have in their control a … US citizen:

All along, Americans have known there were Taliban sympathisers and supporters in their midst: the FBI has been focusing on little else for the past three months. However, it expected they would be of Arab descent, part of the huge wave of immigration from Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine of the past 20 years, living in one of the big, ambivalent Islamic communities, perhaps round Detroit or New York.

No one bargained on a 20-year-old white kid with a Swedish name, Irish descent, a strict Catholic father and a Buddhist mother.

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Farting Shatner’s PR genius:

A rumour of William Shatner farting during an interview pushed sales of a Star Trek video beyond the final frontier. Mark Borkowski applauds stroke of PR genius …

The source of the story was the video company’s publicist, who applied a nifty bit of creativity to one of the most intractable problems in entertainment PR. … Getting coverage for a video release is well nigh impossible because the stars have already done the circuit and everything’s already been said.

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