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Guardian review of a new book about 18th century scottish sex clubs, via forteana:

The Beggar’s Benison, the club to which Stevenson devotes his attention, was dedicated to “the convivial celebration of male sexuality”.

Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 16:44:19 -0000
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Great Scottish wankers of history

http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/history/0,6121,635688,00.html

The Beggar’s Benison: Sex Clubs of Enlightenment Scotland and Their Rituals

David Stevenson

265pp, Tuckwell Press, £18.99

Clubs were one of the 18th century’s great inventions. “Clubbable”, a word invented by Dr Johnson, was a coinage for the age. For men, the club promised a new form of sociability. Nowadays we associate clubs with reactionary habits, yet once they were self-consciously modern, allowing enlightened gentlemen to socialise outside the narrow confines of family or profession. In a club, men were to express their common rationality and learn social sophistication. And lowland Scotland, whose capital, Edinburgh, was a hub of Enlightenment culture, was the home to many such associations of like-minded citizens.

David Stevenson’s mischievous aim is to show that the 18th-century club was not necessarily the polite and proper organisation celebrated in official propaganda. Some clubs were merely “raucous” – the average meeting more stag night than philosophical discussion group – while others were fervently “libertine”. The Beggar’s Benison, the club to which Stevenson devotes his attention, was dedicated to “the convivial celebration of male sexuality”. It was founded in the town of Anstruther in Fife, though it came to have branches in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Its earliest members were customs officers, merchants and affluent craftsmen – leading members of the community. By the end of the century it included churchmen and aristocrats. All were, in their own eyes, modern “defiers of convention”, liberated hedonists.

They dined and drank together, delighting in obscene songs and toasts. They had some earnest interest in matters of sex, and texts survive of “lectures” on what we would call sex education. They used the club’s stock of pornography and were occasionally entertained by naked “posture girls”. And it seems that they indulged in rituals of collective masturbation, participation in this apparently being an initiation procedure.

Masturbation was a preoccupation for the club, and Stevenson remarks that this may speak of the lack of available entertainment in 18th-century Fife. He also makes historical sense of it by describing “the great masturbation panic” that began in the early decades of the 18th century, with physicians in particular warning that onanism was “a major health and social problem”. The club’s rituals, he thinks, were a reaction against the backwardness of quacks and moralists. Shameless “frigging” was an expression of intellectual freedom.

The evidence of the club’s activities includes many odd relics. Among the impedimenta of would-be libertinism are medals depicting naked human figures, plates and bowls with startling genital decorations and seals depicting the club symbol, a phallus with a small bag suspended from it. This made graphic the club’s benison: “May prick nor purse ne’er fail you”. Forward-looking proponents of commerce, members seem to have been enthusiasts for both free trade and free love. A prize possession was a snuffbox donated by honorary member George IV containing pubic hair from one of his mistresses.

As Stevenson concedes, his theme is not entirely new; associations of Georgian rakes have been described by historians before. Many will know of Sir Francis Dashwood’s Medmenham Monks, the so-called “Hell-Fire Club”, whose members blasphemously substituted Venus for Christ in parodies of religious worship and cavorted with loose women in the caves of Dashwood’s estate.

What Stevenson manages to show is that such associations were, however oddly, some part of Enlightenment culture. Sometimes his enthusiasm to see his libidinous Scottish gentlemen in their proper historical context leads him to pile anecdote and digression promiscuously together. He cannot omit any good story about sex-obsessed Scotsmen, from the obscene versifying of Alexander Robertson in the 1690s to the sexological therapies for which James Graham was imprisoned in the 1780s. But he certainly shows that his 18th-century countrymen were not quite as restrained or “polite” as is usually supposed.

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BBC’s “The Experiment”, a recreation of the Stanford prison experiment, has been halted:

it is clear the participants – particularly those selected to be ‘prisoners’ rather than ‘guards’ – were placed under severe levels of stress. Friends of some who took part in the programme .. said that it was more gruelling than they had been expecting.

So, what were they expecting, exactly?

Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2002 09:46:58 -0000
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Stanford Experiment redux

http://media.guardian.co.uk/bbc/story/0,7521,638266,00.html

BBC halts ‘prison experiment’

Matt Wells, media correspondent

Thursday January 24, 2002

The Guardian

When the BBC revealed it was to replicate for television the notorious Stanford experiment, when university students were “imprisoned” to study responses to solitude and oppression, executives said that it would not repeat the brutality of the original.

While the BBC version was approached with far more caution than the 1971 model, which was terminated after six days when the participants’ behaviour had degenerated, it appears to have met a similar fate.

Scientists overseeing the BBC project became concerned that the 15 participants’ emotional and physical wellbeing was in danger of being compromised, and called a halt before it was due to end.

There is no suggestion that any of the volunteers, incarcerated in a “prison” constructed at Elstree studios in Hertfordshire, came to any lasting harm or that their experiences went beyond what they had been led to expect.

But it is clear the participants – particularly those selected to be “prisoners” rather than “guards” – were placed under severe levels of stress. Friends of some who took part in the programme, called The Experiment and due to be televised on BBC2 in the spring, said that it was more gruelling than they had been expecting.

When the BBC advertised for participants last year, it was clear that The Experiment would be no ordinary documentary. Headed “Do you really know yourself?” the advert asked for volunteers who would take part in a “university-backed social science experiment to be shown on TV”, and warned that successful candidates would be exposed to “exercise, tasks, hardship, hunger, solitude and anger”.

Only men were asked to apply, money was not offered, and there was no suggestion that participation would lead to fame. Instead, the producers – from the BBC’s factual programmes department, not the entertainment division

  • promised it would “change the way you think”.

The BBC experiment was overseen by two psychologists: Alex Haslam from Exeter University; and Stephen Reicher from St Andrews. An independent “ethical committee” also monitored the project. This committee, it is thought, in consultation with the psychol-ogists, made the decision to terminate the experiment, due to last 10 days, after eight or nine. Philip Zimbardo, who oversaw the original Stanford experiment and later said it should never be repeated, was sceptical when news of the programme first emerged. At Stanford, the boredom of the guards drove them to abuse the prisoners. This abuse included night strip searches, making prisoners clean the toilets with their hands, and tripping prisoners when they walked past. Some prisoners developed signs of emotional instability. He said last year: “That kind of research is now considered to be unethical and should not be redone just for sensational TV and Survivor-type glamour. I am amazed a British university psychology department would be involved.

“Obviously they are doing the study in the hopes that high drama will be created, as in my original study. If not, it will be boring. If so, how will it be terminated and when?”The BBC said that termination of the experiment proved that its security systems had worked. A spokeswoman said a great deal of useful data had been amassed, and no scientific value was lost.

“It was planned that The Experiment would last 10 days but, aware of the stresses under which volunteers might find themselves, the BBC was always prepared, if necessary, to withdraw individuals or end it early. In the event the psychologists did decide to end the experiment earlier than anticipated, but not before a lot of data had been collected.”

“The psychologists are confident that the material they have will change the way we think about the nature of power and powerlessness.”

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The page cannot be fucking displayed (via FoRK):

The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings, but most likely you’re a complete dipshit. You tell your friends you’ve been online since ’94, but Mr. “I’ve been on the net for 5 years” seems to call me a lot at 2 am in the morning and asking what settings you need to put in your outlook express to get your @home e mail, or how do I send something in icq? My favorite moments from you and your friends are when you send me the “I love you virus” or the e mails I get with the jokes that are so not fucking funny I wanna snap your neck like a twig. No I’m not your personal Microsoft hotline, and when I go to your place for dinner, please dont ask me if I could “Just take a look at something” you’ve been having trouble with. The next time you tell me you pride yourself on how much you’ve learned about computers over the years, just know that I’m thinking “Bullshit” over and over in my mind ya prick.

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Megalithic Sound and Landscape: A research project to investigate whether ancient monuments were built with acoustic effects in mind, and how they related to the landscape around them. (via nutlog)

I’ve heard of similar theories before, and IMO there’s a lot of weight there. Every megalithic monument (well, enclosed ones like caves and barrow graves) in my experience have had great acoustic qualities, and it seems to make sense that in an oral society this would be very important. It’s one of my minor obsessions ;)

BTW, ObIrishness: Newgrange is significantly older than Stonehenge: Newgrange was built around 3200BC, Stonehenge about 1000 years later. na na na nah.

However, Stonehenge is the subject of a rocking Tap tune. More Tap:

Nigel: We saw the film that everyone else saw and we were quite upset because it was not a depiction that was accurate. You see someone like Derek not getting out of the pod. Most nights…

Derek: Every night!

Nigel: Well, 80 percent of the time…

Derek: But you don’t see that.

Nigel: What they choose to show…

David: They chose to show a time when we couldn’t get Derek out of the bloody pod.

Nigel: The night there was some mechanical misfunction and we become the brunt of a joke, and not the smooth act that we really were.

David: Skew, eschew…

Nigel: Basically, it’s all twisted. “Let me go into my little editing room and twist.”

Derek: What do they call that, McCarthyism?

David: It’s called McCarthyism.

Nigel: Charlie McCarthyism.

Derek: I call it DiBergiism.

Nigel: This Is Marty DiBergi should have been the name of the movie.

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Slashdot gets all hot and bothered about a ‘free energy’ hoax. The story in question is titled Irish Inventor Says Cracks World’s Energy Needs, which, despite having some awful grammar, contains a clue right there: Irish.

The whole point of the story is the Irishness — if it was a USAnian inventor, there would be no story, because there’d be no blarney crap like this:

If the Jasker men really are onto something, it could be the most important Irish invention since Guinness.

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The days of touch-tone hell are numbered: AT&T’s new natural-language-recognition system will fix everything. Aye right, as they say.

Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 06:50:46 -0600
From: “Webmaster” (spam-protected)
To: “Forteana” (spam-protected)
Subject: The days of touch-tone hell might be numbered

http://www.startribune.com/stories/789/1109766.html

AT&T’s new help service allows customers to speak freely

Kevin Coughlin

Newhouse News Service

Published Jan 21 2002

The days of touch-tone hell might be numbered.

AT&T gradually is rolling out a new help service to speed customers through the maddening maze of menus — “Press five for more baffling options” — that make simple calls an exercise in aggravation.

“How may I help you?” a computer now asks long-distance customers who call with problems.

And four times out of five, according to AT&T, the system actually understands them — whether they say “This charge is wrong,” or “You guys screwed up my bil l.”

Then it zips them to the right menu, or to a real person. If the machine’s not sure, it asks.

This is the new field of natural-language understanding, in which computers str ive to go beyond recognizing words, to grasp their meaning.

“Natural language, as opposed to speech recognition, is a big deal,” said Nigel Beck of IBM Voice Systems. T. Rowe Price is using an IBM system that talks wit h customers based on a 250,000-word vocabulary and 33,000 finance-related phras es, Beck said.

“Natural-language systems are right where the frontier is in call routing,” sai d James Flanagan, director of the Rutgers Center for Advanced Information Proce ssing.

‘Voice tone’ on the way

Researchers at AT&T Labs in Florham Park, N.J., say that “How may I help you?” is a precursor to “voice tone.” Before long, they say, folks will scrap telepho ne touchpads, computer keyboards and TV remotes, and simply tell their devices what to do.

Like “Star Trek.” Or the Bell System, circa 1900.

In those days, said Jay Wilpon, manager for speech processing at the labs, cust omers told an operator what they wanted.

“Now, the onus is on you to figure out how to navigate information using 12 but tons on the telephone,” Wilpon lamented.

Once the kinks are worked out, AT&T plans to retire its numbered menus. Then it might repackage “How may I help you?” for other industries. Imagine airline sc hedules, restaurant listings or weather reports without having to speak in code , as most computerized phone systems now require.

“You don’t have to say any magic words,” said Douglas Shurts, who oversees the AT&T program. “We have taught the computer to understand what customers are say ing, and how they are saying it.”

In the future, AT&T Labs aims to perfect a wireless computer tablet that respon ds to spoken or scribbled queries for directions and listings.

“How may I help you?” is possible largely thanks to faster computers and expand ing databases.

Speedy computers now test software in minutes instead of months. Vast databases “teach” the machines hundreds of thousands of words, plus expressions culled f rom thousands of actual customer calls.

Conversational difficulty

Since 1992, AT&T has used voice recognition to route billions of collect and ca lling-card calls, saving the company up to $300 million a year. Callers are pro mpted what to say, and the computer listens for those words, a technique called “word spotting.”

But following conversations is much harder for machines. They trip over “ums,” “ahems,” choppy grammar and colloquial expressions.

AT&T’s system ignores most of what’s said, listening for about 3,200 words that pertain to phone issues such as billing and directory assistance. From combina tions of these words, as learned from actual conversations, it attempts to glea n a caller’s intent.

“You’re never going to get 60 million people to talk the way you want them to t alk. For us, ‘natural’ is the way our customers talk,” said Allen Gorin, natura l-language guru at AT&T Labs.

“The crux of that is: Collect a large amount of data about what people actually say, learn what the salient phrases are and decipher the meaning of those. It’ s a mathematical and machine-learning problem,” he said.

Tests began about five years ago with 30,000 U.S. customers, and a national rol lout in selected markets began in August. The service is not yet available for business or international customers and works only from phones the network reco gnizes as AT&T residential customers.

Shurts said AT&T wants to make sure everything is up to speed. So far, so good.

Complaints about customer service are down 65 percent since the program was lau nched, Shurts said. He said it’s one-third more accurate than the old system, w here callers had to grope through as many as five automated menus and 25 choice

The new service shaves off about 30 seconds, he said, and ascertains the caller ‘s intent about 80 percent of the time.

A spokesman said this might thin the ranks of customer service representatives, through attrition, but he said the goal is to free them up for tough calls.

The program still stumbles over accents, odd expressions and background noises. Wireless and cable-TV calls were puzzling, too, at first.

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Hmm. I think I’ve just fixed a bug in WebMake which was screwing up dependencies and change detection on this blog. Let’s see…

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The Onion seems to be back on form:

Confused Marines Capture Al-Jazeera Leader

DOHA, QATAR– In a daring effort to dismantle the vast Arab network, a company of confused Marines raided Al-Jazeera headquarters Monday and captured leader Mohammed Abouzeid. “Al-Jazeera has ties to virtually every country in the Arab world, and this guy was the key to their whole operation,” Lt. Warren Withers said. “Nothing went through the Al-Jazeera communications array without his go-ahead.”

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Happy 2nd birthday to Boing Boing! Mark and Cory get big linky points, every day. Dunno how they do it.

To help celebrate, I’ve given ’em top billing on my daily reading list above (new feature!)

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Hmm. WTF is this “WAR ON THE WORLD – I FORESAW IT” crap? The ghost in the WebMake machine? Sounds like a Pravda headline to me.

Ah well, since I’m about to go off travelling for 4 months it’s unlikely I’m going to get to fix it ;)

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Adobe’s AlterCast is attracting some attention from the CMS community:

AlterCast is imaging server software designed to integrate with existing content management systems and help maintain the ocean of graphics used in e-commerce sites like Amazon.com and Outpost.com. It automates the creation and repurposing of pictures and eliminates the repetitive nature of tweaking and reformatting them for various needs.

AlterCast is installed on a server (Sun Solaris or Windows NT/2000) and scripts are created by developers so that key layers of Photoshop documents can be edited dynamically from within the user interface. Scripts can be developed to handle almost any need. A single image can be repurposed for high resolution print, Web optimization, and even wireless devices. Creative scripting can weasel its way in too. A script could be created so that after someone has visited a product three times on a site, a special starburst appears over the image that says, “Now 52 percent less!” just to close the deal.

It would, of course, be a piece of piss to write a WebMake plugin which uses the Gimp’s perl bindings to do this.

Also worth noting is that Roxen supports this out-of-the-box with the <gtext> and <gh> tags.

All Adobe have added is some commercial polish (always welcome though) and bindings to the PSD doc format. Presumably they’ll probably add some built-in support in Photoshop, too.

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From the IrelandOffline forum, (Irish premier Bertie) Ahern in bid to beat telecoms threat to economy:

Mr Ahern said Ireland is lagging

saik said:

bertie is in with the online gaming massive

LOL. The real Bertie quotes are here.

It’s good to see the government finally doing something when Ireland came in 27th out of 30 OECD countries in a recent survey on access to broadband, but I’ll believe this when I see it happening. A leaked document is not a policy statement, especially when there’s an election coming up.

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Just got a mail about SpamAssassin from Aaron Swartz, noted RDF guy. He runs a very interesting blog called swhack, which I’ve seen cited before, but never visited for some reason. Now I have, and it’s on the bookmarks list ;)

Anyway, the main reason for blogging this is this blog item about a story called Darwin Goes Digital, which is quite a nice intro to genetic programming:

… genetic programming (GP) , developed over the last decade by John Koza and his colleagues at Stanford University. Instead of starting with a set of guesses for the solution to a problem, GP begins with guesses for the actual method that best solves the problem. These are usually stated as random groups of instructions written in Lisp, a programming language able to cope with the cross-breeding and mutation demanded by the GP approach.

Interestingly though, the first time I heard about GP-style techniques was in Tierra, Tom Ray’s Darwinian OS:

The Tierra C source code creates a virtual computer and its Darwinian operating system, whose architecture has been designed in such a way that the executable machine codes are evolvable. This means that the machine code can be mutated (by flipping bits at random) or recombined (by swapping segments of code between algorithms), and the resulting code remains functional enough of the time for natural (or presumably artificial) selection to be able to improve the code over time.

Along with the C source code which generates the virtual computer, we provide several programs written in the assembler code of the virtual computer. Some of these were written by a human and do nothing more than make copies of themselves in the RAM of the virtual computer. The others evolved from the first, and are included to illustrate the power of natural selection.

This system results in the production of synthetic organisms based on a computer metaphor of organic life in which CPU time is the “energy” resource and memory is the “material” resource. Memory is organized into informational patterns that exploit CPU time for self-replication. Mutation generates new forms, and evolution proceeds by natural selection as different genotypes compete for CPU time and memory space.

Diverse ecological communities have emerged. These digital communities have been used to experimentally examine ecological and evolutionary processes: e.g., competitive exclusion and coexistence, host/parasite density dependent population regulation, the effect of parasites in enhancing community diversity, evolutionary arms race, punctuated equilibrium, and the role of chance and historical factors in evolution. This evolution in a bottle may prove to be a valuable tool for the study of evolution and ecology.

It was very exciting to see artificial evolution techniques actually work in this way, as if operating on a real genotype (have to be careful w.r.t. terminology here, Catherine’s a zoologist and gets very peeved about this stuff). Unfortunately, Tierra development seems to have stalled since then.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: The Satanic visitation that began with a bloody killing on July 6 ended prematurely for Manuela Ruda and her husband, Daniel Ruda:

She says they went to cemeteries at night, climbed around ruins, talked about this and that, and drank blood — their own blood, or that from so-called givers. Would-be drinkers of blood can find willing givers on the Internet, Mrs. Ruda says, explaining: “You just have to be careful not to hit an artery.” Givers are happy to offer their arms or legs for a bite, she says.

According to her story, it was around this time that she had her incisors removed and replaced with longer, sharper implanted teeth identical to those seen in vampire films. She dedicated her soul to the service of Satan and swore to accept his “every word” as law. Mrs. Ruda says she tried therapy but stopped, out of fear that she would be locked up if she revealed what she was really like.

Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 14:57:37 -0800
From: Brian Chapman (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: Murder Suspects Express Sympathy for the Devil

http://www.faz.com/IN/INtemplates/eFAZ/docmain.asp?rub={B1311FCC-FBFB-11D2-B228-00105A9CAF88}&doc={617FC000-5325-4826-85A7-C4ACB7D25F59}

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | 18 Jan 2002

Murder Suspects Express Sympathy for the Devil

By Karin Truscheit

BOCHUM. The Satanic visitation that began with a bloody killing on July 6 ended prematurely for Manuela Ruda and her husband, Daniel Ruda.

Plan A, Plan B and Plan C all failed. After they beat Frank Hackerts to death with a hammer and stabbed his body several dozen times, Plan A was to slash their own wrists, they say. Plan B was to drive to Denmark, get a gun and shoot themselves. Plan C was to fill up the trunk with diesel fuel canisters and then have a head-on collision with a truck.

All three suicide plans failed because, as the couple say, Satan chose to end his possession of them too soon. Instead of dying, the couple ended up driving back and forth across Germany. They changed tires, withdrew some money from a bank in Hannover and headed east.

The couple finally ended up in the hands of the police, who arrested them on July 12 in Jena, a city in the eastern state of Thuringia. Six months later, the Rudas are on trial in the western city of Bochum, where they are providing detailed descriptions about their motivations for killing Mr. Hackerts.

Everything started out so well. Sometime around last March, Mr. Ruda says he received four numbers in a vision: 6,6,6,7. Their significance was obvious, to him. The couple would marry on June 6, or 6/6. And on the 6th of July, or 6/7, they were to kill themselves after first carrying out a “sacrifice” to the dark lord. The purpose of the marriage was to guarantee legally that “our remains could be buried together.” As for sacrificing a victim to Satan, whom they both claim to serve, the couple had been toying with the idea for some time.

Choosing the victim was easy. Mr. Ruda’s coworker, Mr. Hackerts, known to his friends as Hacki, “was always so funny” and therefore seemed like the perfect candidate for “court jester” to the dark lord, according to a written statement by Mr. Ruda, 26.

Mr. Hackerts, 33, was anything but a Satanist. A “nice guy,” he maintained contact with the couple after many other people refused to associate with them. Together with Mr. Ruda, he sold car accessories at a parts dealer in Herten, a city located just north of Bochum in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Mr. Ruda apparently succeeded so well in separating his private from professional life that no one at the store wondered about any thoughts, desires or fantasies he might have had while selling bumpers and side mirrors.

Allowing a glance into his emotional world, Mr. Ruda wrote in his statement that he realized at an early age that he was Satan’s messenger of death. He hated people, and things like embraces disgusted him, the statement says. After original “visions” at the age of 13 or 14, he began to explore the dark side of his soul and later had fantasies of slaughtering people and “bloody dreams,” as he wrote in the confession. He discovered “religious deviations” and the Satanist bible, then took out a classified ad in a scene magazine. Manuela answered it.

They met and liked each other. It was a “harmony of souls,” says Mr. Ruda in the statement, which stresses that he rejects the “terrestrial lust” of sex.

Mrs. Ruda, 23, also says she discovered her brand of Satanism at a very early age. Elementary school was normal, but she dropped out after the 10th grade because “the others” could not deal with her and she could not deal with them. Deciding she did not fit into this world, she tried to give herself “an overdose of H,” heroin, at age 14.

It did not work. She took a few jobs and went to demonstrations “against everything.” She traveled to Scotland in 1996 and spent some time in London, where she discovered a club visited by “vampires” and other people. She could tell they were vampires because they were “extremely sensitive to light.” Returning to Germany in 1997, she worked at cafs and led an increasingly isolated life, studying “chaos magic” and preferring the company of vampires and their friends.

She says they went to cemeteries at night, climbed around ruins, talked about this and that, and drank blood — their own blood, or that from so-called givers. Would-be drinkers of blood can find willing givers on the Internet, Mrs. Ruda says, explaining: “You just have to be careful not to hit an artery.” Givers are happy to offer their arms or legs for a bite, she says.

According to her story, it was around this time that she had her incisors removed and replaced with longer, sharper implanted teeth identical to those seen in vampire films. She dedicated her soul to the service of Satan and swore to accept his “every word” as law. Mrs. Ruda says she tried therapy but stopped, out of fear that she would be locked up if she revealed what she was really like.

In the courtroom on Wednesday, she wore black sunglasses to match her black hair as she sat at the defendants’ table. The presiding judge allowed her to wear the glasses after rejecting her request that the lights be turned down in the courtroom. Her lawyer asked the court ts be understanding on this point because his client had lived nocturnally and slept during the day. And her chosen place of sleep was usually a coffin.

In the courtroom, she revealed plenty of tattooed skin and posed for photographers like an ill-tempered movie star, raising her hand in a “devil’s sign” for the next day’s newspapers.

As the trial proceeded, the court heard the details of the crime spelled out in the defendants’ confessions. Mr. Ruda claims that he was already in a mental haze when he went to Mrs. Ruda’s apartment in Witten, east of Bochum, last July 6. His perceptions “seemed distant” because Satan had taken over his body, according to the statement. He says he later saw Mr. Hackerts lying on the floor, a pentagram carved in his abdomen, but this was the only thing he says he remembers of that day.

His wife’s memory is more detailed. She says the couple spent most of the day “just hanging out.” She took a short rest in her coffin before they wrote farewell letters to their family and friends. At 6 p.m., they picked up Mr. Hackerts, whom they had invited to a party at her place. As they entered, she says she felt a “force field” and the presence of “entities.”

“We were no longer alone,” Mrs. Ruda says.

Satan took possession of them as they sat on the couch, she says. Mr. Ruda got up and left the room. When he returned, surrounded by a “flickering aura,” he hit Mr. Hackerts over the head with a hammer, Mrs. Ruda says. Mr. Hackerts staggered to his feet. She says a mysterious light suddenly revealed a knife on the windowsill and a voice gave her the order: “Stab him in the heart!” She grabbed the knife and went to work.

Mr. Hackerts was stabbed 66 times, according to the medical examiner’s report. A forensics specialist who testified Thursday said that the couple used many different objects in killing their victim. Police confiscated one short knife, a carpet cutter and a machete. When Mr. Hackerts could no longer move, they used a scalpel to cut a pentagram into his stomach. At that point, “the visitation” came to an end. They packed their things, fled in the car and waited for more orders.

Since Mrs. Ruda would prefer not to answer any questions in court, her lawyer assisted her confession with a few queries designed to reveal her mental state. “What do you say about the prosecution’s accusation that you committed an act of murder,” the lawyer asked.

“We are not murderers,” she replied. “It wasn’t meant in a bad way. We wanted to release his soul from the hateful flesh, so that he can serve Satan. It was in his own best interest. We only followed orders.”

She insisted that she and her husband liked Mr. Hackerts, and that his killing was nothing personal. “Hacki is still here,” she said, although he was no longer visible. Well within view, the victim’s parents sat across from her in the court. They showed no emotion as they listened to the woman with the sunglasses talk about their dead son.

A police detective, Franz Sobolewski, gave the court a different view of the couple’s actions. He said he interrogated Mrs. Ruda after the couple was arrested in Jena, and that both told police that Mr. Hackerts had been killed with a single blow and that the stabbings were a spontaneous act. Then they sliced open the victim’s forearms as a “rehearsal” of their own suicides.

“Suddenly, they realized that killing someone is not that simple, that it was monstrous and brutal,” Mr. Sobolewski testified. “They didn’t want to repeat that with themselves. They did not have the courage.”

During the interrogation, Mrs. Ruda cried because, she said, Satan had abandoned her. At the time, she added that she would gladly take it all back.

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LoTR screenplay summarised:

INT. IAN HOLM’S COMICALLY SMALL HOME

IAN MCKELLEN enters, hitting his head on objects.

IAN HOLM

There you are, you sage old wizard!

They smoke from IAN MCKELLEN’S PIPE.

IAN HOLM (CONT’D)

Ah, Ian, you truly have the finest

weed in Middle Earth.

IAN MCKELLEN

Heh. Both of our names are Ian.

IAN HOLM

Holy shit! You’re right!

IAN HOLM falls backwards, laughing hysterically.

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A ‘Where are they now?’ of UK ’80’s musicians from the Grauniad. What a mess!

Adam Ant

Remind me: In the early 80s, Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) was a self-styled dandy highwayman. He wore a tricorn hat, brandished a pair of flintlocks, and painted a horizontal white stripe across his nose long before sporting professionals made the same fashion statement. Ant’s music borrowed the post-punk fetish for Burundi drumming that made Malcolm McLaren’s Bow Wow Wow briefly popular, and was wedded to lyrics that proselytised in favour of dressing up and bigging it up in an unprecedentedly large manner. …

Where is he now? The secure Alice ward of the Royal Free Hospital in north London, where he is detained for his own protection and the safety of others under section two of the 1983 Mental Health Act.

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New layout. Hope you like it! There seems to be a bit of rogue metadata on the loose that’s changing the title to something bizarre, though ;)

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CNN: “A plaque intended to honor black actor James Earl Jones at a Florida celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, instead paid tribute to James Earl Ray, the man who killed the black civil rights leader, officials said Wednesday. … the erroneous plaque read: ” Thank you James Earl Ray for keeping the dream alive”.” Whoops. Not everyone can make that bad a mistake.

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Well, I’ve just added archives to the blog — about time too. Hopefully this will help keep http://taint.org/ fresh and sweet-smelling.

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Students describe John Walker as bumbling zealot:

John Walker bumbled his way through his first trip to the Middle East, unwittingly insulting other Muslims and repeatedly getting into trouble with authorities, say those who encountered the Marin teen-ager in Yemen. …

Josh Mortensen, another student, said from Cairo that Walker asked peers to call him Suleiman, affected a “bogus” Arabic accent and wore traditional Muslim garb unlike that of most Yemenis. Other foreign students at the school mockingly nicknamed him “Yusuf Islam,” the name pop singer Cat Stevens took when he became a Muslim and rejected his music career. …

Islamic experts said that in his naivete, Walker, a baptized Roman Catholic who converted to Islam at 16, fell into a trap so common that Mohammed himself predicted it.

“A person who might have been living a typical happy-go-lucky life and then he really gets very much attracted to the teaching of Islam and its ideal, but then he wants to change overnight – that’s what the prophet actually was teaching against,” said Jamal Badawi of the Islamic Information Foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “He said, ‘Go gently.”‘

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“A wayward weighing machine that told a woman she was a fat pig and told a man than he was a fat * * * * has been removed from a Melbourne shopping centre.” Hmm, hidden keyboard eh?

Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2002 11:55:59 +1000
From: Peter Darben (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: The War on Fat goes High Tech

—– (from The Courier Mail (Brisbane) 16.1.02)

FAT QUIPS ON SCALES WEAR THIN by Kelly Ryan

It was anything but just the ticket.

A wayward weighing macine that told a woman she was a fat pig and told a man than he was a fat * * * * (spaces inserted to keep Rob’s ISP happy- pd) has been removed from a Melbourne shopping centre.

Red-faced operators pulled the plug on the renegade scales after furious complaints about offensive comments it added to personal weight details.

The coin-operated scales are programmed to print a person’s height, weight and body mass details.

Bruce Hamilton was stunned to read that while his weight was up slightly, the ticket also told him he was a fat * * * *.

The Body Weight Machine was removed at dawn yesterday. Supplier Ian Sargent believes it was maliciously tampered with.

Mr Sargent said tickets usually carried “nice” messages such as “Happy Christmas” or “Happy New Year”.

He said it appeared someone had seen a technician use a password to access the hidden keyboard under the pad where the messages were changed.

—–

peter

coming soon – wormman.net . . . the horror . . . the horror

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Joel @ rathergood.com’s made a Flash video for Destiny’s Child which is worth a look — you might need knowledge of UKian TV for this one — http://www.rathergood.com/alf/ . (fwded by Stewart Smith from forteana)

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Japanese youth getting rowdy at their ‘coming of age’ ceremonies.

Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2002 09:27:32 -0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Drunken Japanese youths ruin coming of age rituals

The Electronic Telegraph

Drunken Japanese youths ruin coming of age rituals

By Colin Joyce in Tokyo

(Filed: 15/01/2002)

DRUNKEN youths disrupted Japan’s annual coming of age ceremonies yesterday, adding to concerns that the younger generation do not share the traditional Japanese values of courtesy and patience.

Japanese women celebrate at the coming of age ceremony in Tokyo The ceremonies are intended to mark the attainment of adulthood by those who turned 20 in the last 12 months. In recent years, however, the events have become a painful annual reminder of the growing gap between the generations.

In Naha city, on the southern island of Okinawa, seven people were arrested after youths drove through a police barricade in an attempt to bring a barrel of sake to the ceremony. Scuffles followed and 200 riot police were eventually deployed.

Takeshi Onaga, the mayor of Naha, said: “These stupid antics really leave me feeling sad and pained.”

Older Japanese observed their own coming of age ceremonies in respectful silence. Most recall it as an important rite of passage, though not necessarily because of the ceremony itself.

For many young women it represents the first opportunity to wear their elaborate, and breathtakingly expensive, full kimonos. While most women still wear their kimonos, a large number of the new adults sport hair dyed an orange-blond.

Yesterday, youths cheerfully swigged from huge sake bottles for television cameras, while others gave interviews in the deliberately rough street speech that older Japanese find boorish and inelegant.

Arrests marred ceremonies in several other cities. In Miyazaki, several youths set off firecrackers during the national anthem.

In Aomori, northern Japan, two boys mounted the stage and threw mayonnaise at each other before running off. Elsewhere, speeches were disrupted by hecklers.

It surprises no one that the new adults indulge in some drinking, but older Japanese say that in their day they waited until after the official business before getting drunk.

The Japanese believe that the virtues of respect for other people and patience are what make their society work so there is great disappointment that many youths are unable to sit through the ceremonies without chatting on their mobile telephones.

Sympathisers point out that the ceremonies are typified by boring and lengthy speeches but attempts to liven up events have led to some cringingly embarrassing scenes.

In Urayasu city, outside Tokyo, young people chose to fete their emergence as adults by dancing with Mickey and Minnie Mouse at nearby Disneyland. The generational change may be partly explained by the fact that 20-year-old Japanese today are further than ever before from the trappings of adulthood.

Ninety per cent still live at home and are economically dependent on their parents. A prolonged recession has damned many to low-paying, part-time jobs with little responsibility.

The average age of marriage and parenthood has risen by several years in the space of a generation. A survey showed that three quarters of 20-year-olds do not feel themselves to be adults.

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Lovely user support, a la Smoothwall. One of the /. comments notes:

I have visited irc.smoothwall.org only once. I do feel, however, that my experience there alone was almost enough to discourage my use of the product. I joined the #smoothwall channel in hopes that I might find answers from knowledgable users or developers that I had been unable to find in any of the available documentation (all of which I read in its entirety).

Upon joining the channel, I was bombarded with the omnipresent topic, “Welcome to #smoothwall :: Please do not expect free support if you haven’t donated. http://redirect.smoothwall.org/donate

Ignoring the blatantly anti-open-source sentiment, I proceeded to ask about features and functionality that I feel are paramount to implementation of a device designed to secure my entire network. Before anyone so much as regarded my first question, I was bombarded with “Have you paid yet?” A simple ‘not yet’ got me my first response: “Can’t you read the f**king topc?!”

Of course, I wasn’t looking for support — simply answers to questions about the products capabilities. Off to a great start.

Quite a few of the other comments say pretty much the same thing. IPCop is a fork of the code. Use that instead, I reckon.

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I used to think that geocaching sounded a bit silly — but after visiting Glenrowan’s astonishingly cruddy animatronic-fest that is Ned Kelly’s Last Stand, this looks like it would have been a bit of fun by comparison.

The wineries had to suffice instead. Mmmm, booze. And — very surprisingly for a country town — Benalla’s art gallery was really excellent.

BTW, this bloggage is quite funny about the whole “Ned Kelly Country” thing. Just be thankful he didn’t pay the 15 bucks to see Ned Kelly’s Last Stand; it’s the most overpriced, so-bad-it’s-not-even-funny-anymore tourist trap I’ve ever seen. I have a feeling cgregory would just have chucked a heart attack, there and then.

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Mr Bowron said the hotel was negligent in ‘Allowing or permitting the use of pork chops as footwear in circumstances that the defendant knew or should have known that such use would have produced a hidden trap and did so produce such hidden trap’.

Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2002 12:17:44 +1000
From: Peter Darben (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Carrying on like a . . .

—– (from The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) 15.1.02)

http://news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,3591032%255E3163,00.html

Pub sued over greasy floor By LORNA KNOWLES Court Reporter 15jan02

DRUNKEN hotel patron Ross Lucock came up with a novel use for the humble pork chop when the bar manager told him to put his shoes on.

Having just won a meat tray, the prankster strapped two juicy cuts to his feet and paraded around the Jannali Inn, leaving a trail of grease behind him.

About two hours later, another hotel patron, Troy Michael Bowron, walked across the tiled floor and allegedly slipped on pork fat, breaking his arm and shoulder.

The 24-year-old upholsterer is now suing Mr Lucock and the Jannali Inn for more than $260,000 in the NSW District Court.

Mr Bowron alleges the hotel failed to maintain a clean and safe premises for its patrons.

(sig material imminent)

In a statement of claim, Mr Bowron said the hotel was negligent in: “Allowing or permitting the use of pork chops as footwear in circumstances that the defendant knew or should have known that such use would have produced a hidden trap and did so produce such hidden trap”.

Mr Bowron told the court he had lost 15 per cent of the use of his left upper arm as a result of the accident.

The Jannali Inn has filed a cross claim against Mr Lucock and Paul Da Costa, a patron it claims pushed Mr Bowron to the ground.

Mr Lucock, 31, admits he strapped the chops to his feet with masking tape, helped by another man in the bar.

He recalled the chop bones cutting into his feet, telling The Daily Telegraph: “I’ve still got the scars.”

“There was a whole series of hijinx that night, a whole crowd of footballers. What happened, happened.”

Mr Bowron’s barrister Frank Stevens told the court on November 20 1997 a group of drinkers on the second floor of the hotel became rowdy after winning the meat tray.

“It appears there was great joviality among the drinkers . . . following which some person in authority was attracted to that area by the uproar,” Mr Stevens said.

“He pointed out to one of the party that in fact he didn’t have anything on his feet . . . and certain suggestions were made about what to do.

“One of the party strapped some pork chops, which were in the meat tray, on his feet and he started moving around the area in which the pool tables were situated on the second floor.”

Mr Stevens said once handled, pork chops became very greasy.

“Pork fat from the chops became strewn across the floor and made it inherently dangerous for anyone to proceed and walk on that floor,” he said.

Mr Stevens sought to amend his client’s statement of claim, increasing the damages to $260,000.

Judge Anthony Puckeridge told Mr Lucock, who appeared for himself, that he should find himself a lawyer.

“If I was in your position, the red light would be flashing,” Judge Puckeridge warned.

The case was adjourned for directions to February 25.

—–

peter

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Wow! Lossy zip compression reduces all files down to 10% or even 0% of their original size! The FAQ:

It utilizes a two-pass bit-sieve to first remove all unimportant data from the data set. Lzip implements this quiet effectively by eliminating all of the 0’s. It then sorts the remaining bits into increasing order, and begins searching for patterns. The number of passes in this search is set to (10-N) in lzip, where N is the numeric command-line argument we’ve been telling you about.

For every pattern of length (10/N) found in the data set, the algorithm makes a mark in its hash table. By keeping the hash table small, we can reduce memory overhead. Lzip uses a two-entry hash table. Then data in this table is then plotted in three dimensions, and a discrete cosine transform transforms it into frequency and amplitude data. This data is filtered for sounds that are beyond the range of the human ear, and the result is transformed back (via an indiscrete cosine) into the hash table, in random order.

Take each pattern in the original data set, XOR it with the log of it’s entry in the new hash table, then shuffle each byte two positions to the left and you’re done!

And you can see, there is some very advanced thinking going on here. It is no wonder this algorithm took so long to develop!

Very impressive! ;) (fwded by Joe on the ILUG list)

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Some really useful tips for business travellers in Ireland. These are pure horseshit, by the way:

  • Pointing is accomplished by using the head or chin, rather than the fingers. (jm: if you’re an actor in The Quiet Man, that is)

  • The peace sign or “V” made by extending the index and middle finger with the palm facing out, is an obscene gesture in Ireland and should be avoided.

  • If you are referred to as “plain,” there is no need to take offense; this is actually an affectionate term, meaning that you are “one of” the Irish. (jm: never heard of anything even vaguely similar to this)

And these were probably true about 30 years ago:

  • Welcome Topics of Conversation: drink; the economy, especially positive aspects; the weather – be aware that rain is viewed positively here (jm: since when?!)

  • You will find that potatoes are a very important part of meals in Ireland. Fish is also popular.

  • Serving bread with meals is not part of Irish culture. You may see an object on the dining table resembling a bread and butter dish, but this is actually a receptacle for placing discarded, boiled potato skins. (jm: no comment needed here I think)

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<bigwig> is a really interesting new design for web services. A month or 2 ago, I was thinking about web app languages, like perl/CGI, PHP, servlets, HTML::Mason, etc., and I realised that the big problem was the requirement imposed by the web environment itself; most “interesting” operations often have a UI that needs to take place over several pages, and each page has to

  • unmarshal the user’s CGI params, decode them, check them for insecurity, validity etc.;

  • open the database;

  • perform actions;

  • fill out the HTML template (I’m assuming nobody’s insane enough to still use embedded HTML-in-code!);

  • insert “next step” form data in that template;

  • send that back to the user;

  • save a little state to the database;

  • then exit, and forget all in-memory state.

When compared to most interactive programs now, it’s clear that this is a totally different, and much more laborious, way to write code. The nearest thing in trad apps is the “callback” way to deal with non-blocking I/O, ie. what we used before we could (a) use threads (b) use processes or (c) wrap it up in a more friendly library to do that. It just screams complexity.

<bigwig> fixes that:

Rather than producing a single HTML page and then terminating as CGI scripts or Servlets, each session thread may involve multiple client interactions while maintaining data that is local to that thread.

They call it The Session-Centered Approach.

It gets better. They also include built-in support for input validation, HTML output validation, compilation and compile-time code checking, and it’s GPLed free software. This is really good stuff. Next time I have to write a web app, I’ll be using this.

Found via sweetcode.

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I can sympathise with Leonard; I just had a wisdom tooth extracted on Saturday and (argh) have had to give up cigarettes for a few days to avoid the dreaded “Dry Socket” (sadly, this is nothing like a “dry pair“). Dammit, I want a cigarette! Must… resist…

Still, the no cigs and raw-hole-where-a-tooth-was bit is the worst part. The extraction was quite painless.

I considered taking a pic of the offending tooth (complete with plentiful decay and 3, count ’em, 3 roots), but then decided that would completely gross out the fledgling taint.org readership.

BTW I do not know why quite a few of the web pages dealing with dry sockets refer to them as “exquisitely painful”. Maybe The Little Shop of Horrors was right about dentists.

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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 rc3.org.

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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 Salon.com 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 IrishNews.com 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

http://www.irishnews.com/current/politics1.html

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 ;).