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OK, we’re back in Pokhara, after a 10-day trek up to the Annapurna Base Camp. Much fun, and much dhal bhat, was had by both of us, despite some initial scariness…

Basically, myself, Catherine and Bhadra our guide, spent a very pleasant first night in Dhampus, the first stop on the 10-day trek. Much rakshi (local millet booze, tastes like watered-down lukewarm vodka) was imbibed, resulting in some seriously ludicrous attempts at Nepali dancing! Thankfully there’s no photos.

Next day, we hiked up to the next town, Pothana, over some very leechy trails (top leech tip: cover your boots in salt, they can’t stand it). All well and good, until halfway through the town a Dutch guy ran out of a teahouse and stopped us, telling us that an English couple had been attacked in the forest just outside the town — of course, we immediately went to meet them. The guy had a bloodsoaked bandage tied around his head, and told us how himself and his girlfriend had been walking through the forest towards the next town, Landruk, when a Nepali guy approached. The English guy said namaste (hello), and was rewarded with a wallop over the head with a 6-foot stick! They then stole his girlfriend’s rucksack and attempted to take his, but (somehow) he managed to fight them off with half of the stick, then escaped.

With some help (and interpreting) from Bhadra, we found out from the locals that there was a gang of robbers operating in this forest, and a week previous to this, 2 Swedish girls had to be airlifted out because they were too badly beaten to walk! Serious problem — and one nobody had bothered to inform any of us tourists about!

After this, the 8 tourists, and their respective guides and porters, all trooped out of the village — Bhadra knew a quick route back to the road over a ridge, which saved us a half-day’s walk back via Dhampus. Along the way, the English couple were stopped by what seemed to be the entire village, who were having a very heated conversation. The upshot was that they wanted the English couple to wait around for a half day until some of the men returned from the forest, hopefully with captive robbers in tow, and then the whole lot would get the bus back to Pokhara (the nearest city) and give out stink to ACAP, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, who run the area. The English couple agreed, and we went on.

Eventually, we sidetracked around to another way up the trek. Myself and Catherine were the only 2 tourists to head up — everyone else decided to head back to Pokhara, but we were happy enough with Bhadra’s assurances that this route was very well-travelled, with no forests and no known robberies (by day at least).

It turned out for the best in the end — we had an amazing trek, got loads of pictures, saw the entire Annapurna range from the Annapurna Sanctuary, no clouds, and no further robberies. And lots of rakshi!

In the end, we heard through the grapevine that the robbers had been attacked by the local Maoists (the police don’t patrol the mountains any more). One 17-year old robber was shot, and 2 more had their arms and legs broken. Rough justice in the traditional paramilitary law enforcement style, I guess. (By the way, the Maoists enjoy about 80% support in the mountains, from what we’ve heard).

The remaining robbers hightailed it to Pokhara as well (they were not locals), and were eventually arrested. Hopefully the Nepalese law enforcement system can sort it out – corruption is apparently rife, but around here they take these kind of tourist-targeting attacks very seriously — for many people, it’s their livelihood, and it’s already suffered a lot this year due to the political situation.

So, a happy ending for us, and a warning for anyone else out there thinking of doing the Annapurna Sanctuary trek — stick to the known-safe trails, and bring a Nepali guide/porter for extra safety.

Photos will be forthcoming once we get back to Ireland, earn some money, get them developed and scan them in. This could take several months though… ;)

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Laos: Speedboats and Pla Beuk

Latest update: (This one’s a bit lazy. I’m just editing Catherine’s mail to travelogue, adding a few bits.)

We flew from New Zealand to Bangkok on the 18th of April. From Bangkok we headed for Laos via Nong Khai in North-eastern Thailand, on a comfy first-class train carriage again (spoiling ourselves!).

We then made for the Northern Thai border, passing through Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.

Vang Vieng is a tiny little town which has evolved into a tourist chill-out zone for falang (foreign) and south-east Asian tourists alike — we spent a nice afternoon with a group of holidaying Thai Buddhist monks, jumping into a deep river pool on a rope swing! (Camera was out of film for that one, sorry folks). Great fun spot though.

Having said that, Luang Prabang was definitely the highlight, I would highly recommend anybody to go there. The city is crammed with Buddhist temples from the 14th to the 21st century counterbalanced with crumbling old french colonial architecture. All of this is set by the Mekong river, filled with river traffic of all descriptions from water buffalo to large chinese sampans.

After this we headed for Thailand, up the Mekong river, on a speedboat. These are a reasonably insane way to travel, hitting speeds of 80km/h, and shooting the occasional rapids! We’d heard it was possible to have to wait a day or two before getting on a boat, so we paid extra to pre-book, just to make sure it was OK.

Things started badly, with an hour and a half delay as our pre-booked tickets didn’t really seem to make a difference; eventually we persuaded our boat to get underway, with 7 passengers instead of the promised max 6.

Then we hit Pakbeng, the halfway point, had a spot of lunch, and waited another bonus 1/2 hour, before our driver informed us that we’d be changing boats after the 2 Lao passengers left, leaving 4 falang in the boat. (The passenger details may seem meaningless, but I think he’d never have embarked on the next bit if a local was around to give him a bollocking).

It turned out our new driver had a nice sideline in trading pla beuk (giant Mekong catfish) and live monitor lizards up and down the river! After about 6 stops for chats, buying and selling, our group of 4 was joined by his 2 mates, 2 sacks of live lizards, 2 2-meter-long live pla beuk and another large, live mystery fish, all thrashing about occasionally. I’d wanted to see a pla beuk, but not this much!

Eventually we lost the rag a bit, and I think this got us to Huay Xai before the border post shut for the day. Not a good experience. For reference, our tickets were booked through a ticket agent 2 doors up from the LPB Lao Aviation office (one of our co-passengers booked through the Lao Aviation office itself), and our agent had assured us that these things — or the ones we could foresee at least! — were not going to happen. Suggestion: don’t bother pre-booking, or if you do, make sure you get these assurances in writing!

Anyway, after that we made it into Thailand, pretty sure we were going to be stuck in Chiang Khong (we’d missed the last bus to Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai, our intended destination). But the good news was that an agent of Namkhong Travel was touting on the far side of the Thai border post, and got 3 of us onto a very comfortable, very reasonably-priced private air-con minibus bound for Chiang Mai — so see, touts are good! Namkhong Travel certainly get my thumbs-up anyway.

So we are currently in Chang Mai which we missed on our last visit, and ahead of schedule no less. We are not sure exactly what to do next, we have a few days to mess about with, as we are leaving SE Asia on the 11th of May to fly to Nepal.

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Writing from an internet cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos. It’s sweltering, of course, so we’ve spent a day hiding in the shadows of wats (temples) and drinking pineapple and lemon shakes.

Despite warnings of bbq’ed rat and grilled frogs, we’ve found the food to be excellent — laap and sticky rice being the top favourite at the moment. Back to Thailand in a few days for more top tucker!

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Well, we’re back in Auckland after zooming around the South Island. Got to meet up with June and Vin in Christchurch for a tasty meal and much yakking about NZ; take a look at that site for pictures and imagine me and Kate instead of June and Vin, and you’ll have a good idea of what we’ve been up to… I haven’t even developed the photos we’ve taken yet!

We did meet up with a mate from Dublin — Yvonne; we didn’t even know she was over here, but there you go. Basically, we wandered into a Dept of Conservation (they manage the National Parks) office in Queenstown, intending to get some ideas of good walks to do, and who was working behind the counter but the girl herself. Small world! So we all did a 20km hike. WTF is New Zealand doing to us?!

Anyway, next update will probably be from Thailand — we still haven’t firmed up an itinerary yet. Let’s hope the political situation in Nepal settles down before we get there…

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We’re currently zooming through New Zealand in the cheapest way possible,

while still managing to see some stuff - very hectic and lots of early 

mornings. Managed to see lotsa dolphins close-up and do a 15km trek to see a crater lake on Mt Ruapehu (“see” in quotes because it was pissing rain and so foggy we could barely see 100m anyway).

Good laugh being had anyway, although there’s a danger we’ll catch scurvy from all the cheap noodles and packet pasta we’re eating…

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Help! We’re staying in a tent in a malarial swamp for 56 bucks a night! Can you spell rip-off?

But I think that’s Byron Bay for you. We’ll probably stay here tonight for the night that’s in it — there’s lots of bars here (happy Paddy’s Day), then rock up to Lennox Head, which sounds like a thoroughly nicer (and cheaper) beach chill-out kind of place. With any luck Lennox Head has less fairy-tat-selling hippie shops, flaming jugglers, etc. as well.

Fraser Island was cool, dingoes spotted, still no snakes or sharks though! BTW I’m not impressed by the “that’ll kill ya, mate” stories — IMO, picnics in th’ oul’ sod are more beset by stinging insects, plants, and rampaging animals than this place is (Queensland stingers and crocs excepted). Sure, there are dangerous animals out there, but they’re extremely rare, whereas the minor irritations of aggressive wasps and nettles are far too common at home. Plus the weather’s nicer here ;)

In other news I’ve just plumped for a copy of Lord of the Rings, so my reading will be sorted for the next few months I think!

La Feile Padraig shona diobh, will update again soonish…

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Touching land once again! Much swaying is taking place as the sea legs wear off.

The Whitsundays are lovely — a great archipelago of 74 islands off the Queensland coast, with beautiful blue seas and white coral and sand beaches. Good fish-watching too: pairs of cuttlefish, some large coral and potato cod, and — best of all — a huge (1.5m) Maori wrasse called “Elvis”. Catherine got some diving in, but I was surface-bound by a nasty cold so had to stick with snorkeling. Still, I think I saw more fish, ha.

Now off to Hervey Bay and Fraser Island (via the night bus. argh). Another update at that point!

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Well, just back from diving on the Great Barrier Reef; lots of good fish, and no attacks from groupers called “Grumpy”, thankfully.

Disappointingly, there were no sharks either. But I spotted lots of other good wildlife; a good few green turtles munching coral, lionfish, and some pretty large coral cod.

Great diving! Hopefully the pictures will come out OK once they’re developed — if so, I’ll scan ’em. First though, there’s sailing in the Whitsundays…

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Hi travelogue readers! Quick links for photos (probably will be very infrequently updated…)

Just back from tree-hugging around Victoria’s national parks; now in Sydney, bodysurfing! Great Barrier Reef next.

(Before I sign off, I have to note NTK calling me an “official NTK hero”. How nice is that? Cheers Danny ‘n’ Dave…)

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One last blog. This has to be noted as a worthy aim. Ben writes:

I think it would be mildly amusing if a lot of people were to visit this page and enter star ratings and customer reviews that do a little bit to repay Mr. Myers in kind for what he has so unstintingly given to so, so many people over the years.

Read on for more…

Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 12:38:31 -0800
From: ben walsh (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Kevin Myers

It is an indication of the hidebound and inflexible organisation of “The Irish Times” that they continue to give space — almost daily! –to Myers to vent his bilious spleen. What is particularly upsetting is that the column is in some ways an inheritor of Myles na gCopaleen’s brilliantly witty “Cruskeen Lawn” column. The humour is gone — Myers’ concept of this artform is to invent silly names for organizations which advance opinions he holds in contempt, especially those concerning women. Myers’ deep-seated loathing for women and schoolboy paranoia about lesbians and female orgasms is always close to the surface, so he sneers about the “Afro-Lesbian Collective of Limbless Veterans of the Falklands War” when he wants a “politically correct” straw man he can savage. Where Myles was inclusive in his satire; mocking “bores” that we could all recognize aspects of in ourselves and our friends, satirizing real people and events in a humourous and effective way, Myers is all vitriol; removed from any semblance of real life and especially the company of women, he inveighs against imaginery opponents wildly, inaccurately and without the benefit of the scholarship he fondly imagines himself to possess.

What Myers is in favour of is hard to say. His slavish admiration of anything English and upper class is evident in his hatred for the “lower orders”, as evidenced by this recent screed in which he fawns over the accomplished Fiennes family by asking why there is no “Sharon Fiennes, aged 23, the mother of seven children, in some tower block in London? She too, no doubt, belongs to the nowharmean linguistic subgroup. Her delightful offspring are of various racial origins, with an uncertain number of fathers (owing to drink having been taken on most of the nights in question, nowharmean; maybe even the odd threesome or two, eeer, wotchadoin, o-aw-righthen, nowharmean). Possible fathers might exceed the dozen, though no one really knows, least of all Sharon, and of course none of these fine lads is paying a single penny in maintenance, no-wharmean.”

Ignorant misogyny, racism and snobbishness wrapped up into one piece of vicious, hateful bile: that is the writing of Kevin Myers.

Similarly, a recent clerical controversy inspires in Myers a sudden passion for Christian orthodoxy which we never knew he possessed. Comments by a church Dean questioning the ressurection were deemed so off-the-wall by Father Kevin that he depicted a world turned upside-down as a consequence of the Dean’s thinking. And, this being Kevin Myers, the female orgasm had to make an appearance as he talked of a nude Mother Superior herding a group of nuns to: “The Anne Summers sex shop, of course … Batteries or mains, girls?”

It is sad beyond measure that “The Irish Times” publishes this hateful prattle so often and under the “Irishman’s Diary” byline, when an occasional guest opinion piece is all the insight into this sick worldview is more than is called for. Sadder still that a publishing house chose to compile and sell a collection of this output. Beyond comprehension that anyone would buy it.

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End Of Bloggage, for now — updates will be infrequent for the next few months. I’m off! travelling back to Ireland via

  • Oz
  • NZ
  • Bangkok, then overland to Laos and Vietnam (hopefully)
  • Nepal, then overland to India
  • and finally back to Ireland via Frankfurt

there will be intermittent bloggage ’til then. See y’all soon…

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Aaagh! I’m going to be diving in the Great Barrier Reef pretty soon. Gotta avoid this bugger — having my head chewed by a giant 100-kilo grouper called “Grumpy” is not my idea of fun, let alone when it’s 20 metres down.

(The diver said:) It came from underneath me. I never saw it coming. Then it was just ‘bang’ and I was inside the fish’s mouth. It ripped off my regulator but my mask was still on and then, just as suddenly, it let me go. …

(The dive instructor said:) Giant grouper have very powerful jaws. Grumpy could have crushed Andre’s head like a soft peach and snapped his neck like a twig. That’s why I think Grumpy was only being playful.

Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 10:01:07 -0000
From: Mark Pilkington (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: “Grumpy was only being playful”

http://news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,3660475%255E2765,00.html

How I survived being gulped by a giant fish

DOWN IN THE MOUTH: Swedish tourist Andre Ronnlund is lucky to be alive after being swallowed by a giant grouper

FRANK THORNE

27jan02

A MAN who was swallowed by a fish while diving on the Great Barrier Reef has told of how he was “stalked” by the creature which tried to make a meal of him.

Swedish backpacker Andre Ronnlund, 24, thought he was going to die with his head in the mouth of a giant grouper while diving at Yongala, off Townsville, last month.

“In the beginning, it was fun,” he said, speaking for the first time of his bizarre ordeal. “Me and my diving buddy had never seen such big fish.

“But then it came right up to within inches of our faces and followed us everywhere we went. I felt it was a little bit threatening and I didn’t like it.”

Running short of air, Mr Ronnlund decided to signal his diving buddy that he was going to surface.

That’s when the 100kg grouper – a local legend called Grumpy estimated to be 80 years old – made his move.

“I was hit from underneath and everything suddenly went black. My breathing gear was shredded. I was inside the mouth of this big fish and I blacked out,” he said.

“At first I thought it was a shark. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t know what hit me.

“I was as helpless as a prawn on the proverbial barbie and I thought, ‘This is it’, and I would end my days as fish food.

“I was stuck in its mouth and it was squeezing pretty hard. I felt the blood running down my neck and I couldn’t move. I was in great pain, just waiting to die.”

Mr Ronnlund was about 20m down when he was attacked.

“It came from underneath me. I never saw it coming. Then it was just ‘bang’ and I was inside the fish’s mouth. It ripped off my regulator but my mask was still on and then, just as suddenly, it let me go.”

As he reached for his emergency air supply, Mr Ronnlund had to put the boot in as Grumpy came back for another bite.

“I gave him a kick between his eyes and he swam back towards the bottom.”

Mr Ronnlund, who had been blase about stories of the dangers of Australian wildlife, is believed to be the only person to report a grouper attack.

Dive instructor Merv Ruggeri, of Adrenalin Dive company, said Mr Ronnlund was lucky to be alive.

“Giant grouper have very powerful jaws. Grumpy could have crushed Andre’s head like a soft peach and snapped his neck like a twig. That’s why I think Grumpy was only being playful.”

Mark Pilkington (spam-protected)


“The blood is the life, but electricity is the life of the blood.” Dr Carter Moffat, 1892


http://www.strangeattractor.co.uk :Strange Attractor http://www.forteantimes.com :Fortean Times online http://www.magonia.demon.co.uk :Magonia online http://www.kosmische.org :Kosmische Club

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The Turkish Star Wars. I reckon this has got to be seen.

What can anyone say? “The Turkish Star Wars” makes film criticism moot. From the early days of the flickering shadow scenes in the Lumiere Brothers’s shorts through today’s digital cinema, there has never been a film quite like this. Help us, Obi Wan Kenobi…help us!

Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2001 11:13:05 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: The Turkish Star Wars

http://www.filmthreat.com/Reviews.asp?File=ReviewsOne.inc&Id=2341

THE TURKISH STAR WARS

by Phil Hall

1982, Un-rated, 85min, Shocking Videos (spam-protected) (10/26/2001)

The Turkish film industry has a curious tradition of appropriating Hollywood classics and remaking them on a budget roughly equivalent to the price of lunch at a neighborhood kebab shop. Devoted readers of Film Threat will recall “The Turkish Wizard of Oz,” which tossed the MGM classic over an Istanbul rainbow and into a realm of utter surrealism, and there are also Turkish-based versions of “Star Trek,” “Tarzan,” “Superman” and even “E.T.” lurking about.

However, none of this knowledge could possibly prepare you for the jaw-dropping insanity of “The Turkish Star Wars.” This film is not actually a scene-for-scene remake of the George Lucas landmark, although it shamelessly pirated the special effects footage from the 1977 original and tacked it into a feverish nightmare of celluloid dementia which needs to be seen if only to prove how far the minds of lunatic filmmakers can run. Prepare yourself, because the only way to appreciate “The Turkish Star Wars” is to follow the storyline through its labyrinthine lunacy.

Long ago in a Turkish-speaking galaxy far, far away, the universe is being imperiled by a quartet of evildoers: two bush-haired men wearing Mardi Gras costumes, a slutty babe dressed as Cleopatra, and a blue robot with an ambulance light on his head. (I am not making this up…I could not possibly make this up!) Their fleet of spaceships go to war against the flying saucers of a heroic group of rebels, and for several minutes the screen is filled with F/X footage from a battered print of “Star Wars.”

… and so forth to the horrid climax: …

Now it’s time for a showdown between our golden gloved good guy and the entire cast of miscreants. A huge rumble takes place in an open field, with the villains getting their heads decapitated left and right. While this is going on , footage from the outer space battles in “Star Wars” is repeated, along with scenes from a film about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. After much derring-do and chopping, the bad guys are vanquished and everyone lives happily ever after. The man with the golden gloves goes back into outer space, leaving his chemically-enhanced blonde lady friend behind to clean up all of the severed heads.

What can anyone say? “The Turkish Star Wars” makes film criticism moot. From the early days of the flickering shadow scenes in the Lumiere Brothers’s shorts through today’s digital cinema, there has never been a film quite like this. Help us, Obi Wan Kenobi…help us!

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Gary Stock @ http://www.unblinking.com/ seems to be running Googlewhacking, originally heard of via a post on 0xdeadbeef:

I’ve gotten addicted to looking for combinations of common words which have the lowest incidence of appearance on web pages, as indexed by google. So far, I have yet to find a set of two common english words which do not appear together on any web pages…

Gary has taken this, and run (far and wide) with it. So here’s my attempt: bearnaise destructor: that scores 10600 x 242000 = 2,565,200,000 points.

BTW, I meant to reply to the 0xdeadbeef posting when it came through. This is really a resurfacing of Net Bullseye, created back in 1998 by Harold Chaput:

You and your friends gather around a web browser and go to AltaVista. Now do a search on two words or phrases. …. The first person who enters a search request that comes back with only one found document is the winner.

It’s a lot easier than Googlewhacking, since there was less web out there, back then ;) and the phrase addition makes it easy-peasy. Some of our hits:

  • +spindoctor +fertilizer (the hit was some kind of Northern Ireland “Peace Book”, appropriately enough)

  • +freebase +”pogo stick”

  • +sasquatch +”vacuum cleaner hose”

  • +inflated +”distributed objects everywhere”

  • +”ben walsh” +bum

  • +”embarrassing anal leakage” +walsh

  • +dinner +”baby’s kidneys”

Note the predominance of attempts to slag each other off. I’m particularly proud of my “embarrassing anal leakage” (so to speak), aimed right at Ben Walsh. Bullseye!

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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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