Archive for October, 2008


More intelligent than a cheese biscuit


For when the simple pleasures of living in an industrial society just aren’t electronic enough, you can now get a toy that simulates popping bubble wrap, so that you can repeatedly squeeze it all day long.

I bet it doesn’t have the feel of squeezing actual bubble wrap, though; part of the fun is the delightful moment when you know that the bubble is on the cusp of succumbing to your thumbing.


The Daze of Our Heroes


Now five episodes into season three of Heroes, my diagnosis is that the writers are suffering from the same malady that afflicted Star Trek: Nemesis. Namely, they decided that they could recreate a previous success (in Heroes’ case, their first season; in Trek’s case, The Wrath of Khan) by cutting-and-pasting the plot of that success right over whatever characters happened to be left standing at the end of their previous outing.

In both cases, the results look disastrous, because they turn something that was compellingly character-driven into something that is depressingly plot-driven.

Previously well-drawn characters are being scribbled into increasingly blurry shapes in order to fit the plot’s unravelling contours. Whatever dopey thing that some erstwhile honorable or intelligent character has to do to push the McGuffin off the chess board, that’s what they do:

  • kill their best friend or themselves because the plot demands a surprise;
  • be strong or weak, trusting or suspicious, with little regard for their character’s journey;
  • fail to use their power because it would wind things up too soon;
  • ignore their prime directive or vital instructions on a whim;
  • forget about what happened last time in just this situation;
  • act like dorks in moments of crisis because it’s not their turn to shout;
  • create the world-threatening jeopardy that they themselves ranted at everyone to avoid;
  • be surprisingly more related to one another than a bag of rabbits;
  • and generally behave like day-time soap characters at a cliff-hanging convention.

To Heroes‘ credit so far when compared with Nemesis, at least none of the villains has made a dramatic entrance down a Bette Davis staircase (such as you might find on any standard war ship), nor leered around through Bela Lugosi eye-lighting.

(Although it does look suspiciously like Heroes might have an uber-villain executing the most complicated and long-winded world-destruction-plot-cum-sudoku-game ever, despite being moments from the bottom of Death’s downward escalator. Even Dick Dastardly would cut to the chase under such time pressure, I think.)

Given the way things have gone so far this season, I expect Jeff Goldblum to turn up soon (as Dr Suresh’s hitherto-unmentioned aristocratic half-clone, Machiavelli Petrelli) just so he can do a double-take when he sees Mohinder hanging from the rafters with his skin peeling off and cocoons everywhere, before mutating into a flying shark and jumping over the freshly-decapitated Henry Winkler. Whose scalp, it turns out, was tattooed at birth with the secret, missing formula for credibility. In Welsh.

As the plot gets ground into a deliciously gritty gruel by Ando’s cold, robotic heart (courtesy of Primatech’s Organ Lab and Cookware Salon on Level 51); after the writers have gone blind from hanging lanterns on everything; and after every TOS alumnus (except Shatner) has had a walk-on part, Patrick Stewart floats down on an Oceanic parachute, says: “Computer, end program”, and returns Our Heroes to the holo-jungle, bringing to an end another brain-poking, eye-twinkling season of Star Trek: Mystery Island.

But wait!

That sound, in the trees; is it…banjos?

That symbol, in the sky; is it…a swastika?

And that guy, in the tuxedo; is it…Ricardo Montalban?

Find out in… Volume Four: We don’t know what happened either.


Now that’s criticism!


I just received the first tranche of six volumes of Essays in Musical Analysis by Donald Francis Tovey, which are en-poste to me from a sprinkling of Amazon Marketplace vendors, and the opening of Tovey’s essay on Harold in Italy by Hector Berlioz has already justified my modest outlay:

There are excellent reasons for reading Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. But among them I cannot find any that concern Berlioz and this symphony, except for the jejune value of the discovery that no definite elements of Byron’s poem have penetrated the impregnable fortress of Berlioz’s encyclopaedic inattention.

So much more witty than just saying: “Berlioz seems to have ignored Byron’s words when writing his music.”




Someone has compiled a prepostery of whispering imps (where prepostery is obviously the right word for preposterously large number of posters).

I’m surprised at how blatantly these posters put across the notion that magicians were all running some kind of minor-league satanic franchise, particularly as I imagine they were displayed during ostensibly pious times.

Still, Satan or not, the Wonder Show of the Universe sounds pretty good; I wonder if Satan’s barman will be serving the drinks.


Opposites attract


According to its page on, the book “Bill and Dave” is frequently bought together with Carly Fiorina’s Memoirs.

Presumably so that people can read one, and spit on the other, according to their disposition.


Hooray! (I think.)


Ridley Scott is making a movie of Joe Haldeman’s classic novel, The Forever War.

It’s a pity Jerry Goldsmith isn’t still alive to score it for him (although I suspect he wouldn’t have done it anyway, given how his music got treated on Alien and Legend).

If he does a good job on the new Trek, I hope Michael Giacchino is up for it.


Fun for all the retinas


The Eyeballing Game, an interactive test of how good you are at judging angles and finding specific points.

Eyeballing game example

Eyeballing game example

(Note, by the way, that the ‘Find the midpoint’ task requires you to straighten out the line segments, not just identify the midpoint.)


And now, wash your hands


Today is apparently Global Handwashing Day.

I wonder how they decided that October 15th was the right day for this important activity.

Coming soon, Rubber Glove Appreciation Day and Barf like a Pirate with Norovirus Day.


The Future of Web Proof-reading


For better or worse, I’m cursed with the ability to spot typos and spelling errors that normal people miss.

For example, this one on the home page of the Future of Web Apps conference that I’m somehow not attending:

But is it really so hard to see the ‘The The‘ in this rather large graphic?

The offending extra article

Personally, I think that somewhere in the actual future of web apps, there ought to be something that can help with proof-reading as least as well as desktop apps of the actual past can.