Friday, May 27, 2005

Welcome to Civilization Anonymous!

Welcome to Civilization Anonymous!


Finally, there is an organisation that can help me break my addiciton to conquering the world.

Civilisation is a great, great game, and should be available on prescription; it is one of the best cures for a broken heart that I know. Every major breakup I've been through has been accompanied by a subsequent orgy of 10-hour civ sessions. It truly is the best emotional panacaea available.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Common People

Common People - the Pulp song, as drawn by Jamie 'Tank Girl' Hewlitt.

Wow. Great Jarvis Cocker. And also, knuckles with 'Love' and 'Cake' tatooed on them. Ace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Who is Doctor Who?

Who is Doctor Who?:
"Hey Doc, ever get the feeling you're being watched? If you're everywhere, then so are we.

We've also been sent some fascinating paperwork from Kim Plowright, who used to be a Medical Research Archivist. She's been reminded of events that occured in Albion Hospital during the second world war. She's been able to email me some paperwork and documents about what they referred to as 'Empty Child Syndrome'."

He he. I make it into Who mythology. Rar!

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Have I mentioned how alarming I find it that creationism and the argument for design are gaining so much ground in the US?

It is shameful, and ignorant, and will impoverish minds.

A change is gonna come

gapingvoid: how to be creative (long version) - via, I think, Gavin.

It's all grist for the mill. I'm very quietly trying to re-steer my life towards having enough of a work-life split to let me go and be creative again. It's going to be like turning an oil tanker mid atlantic, but... well. If I start now, I should be doing something a bit more interesting with my life in four years or so - just in time to hit my breeding deadline.

Hmn. This may require more thought.

Monday, May 23, 2005



Well, I've had a thing about Sakura for a while; something to do with the whole longing-for-spring thing I go through every winter. The first plum and early cherry blossom always gives me that kick to get through to the light evenings. I ususally have a postcard of blossom branches against a shinto temple stuck to my monitor at work, just to remind me.

So anyway, during a long conversation about tattoos yesterday, it occured to me that maybe, just maybe, a traditional sakura design would be a good thing. Not, I hasten to add, that I'm actually going to get a tattoo - I am almost entirely certain that I can take neither the pain nor the possibly resulting parental opprobium - but the idea is interesting.

I've yet to find a good source image of ukiyo-e style cherry blossom that matches up to the idea of the design in my head; or at least, enough so to be adapted. It's going to involve a trip to the V&A to photograph a Kimono I rembember from a visit a long time ago.

But I have found this, which I believe would make the most fantastic wallpaper...
It's available to buy, too...

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri

NASA science uncovers texts of Trojan Wars, early Gospel:

"There also is an abundance of life's everyday stuff and miscellanea--tax records, marriage contracts, horoscopes, erotic musings, advice on how to buy a donkey and advice on how to cast a decent magic spell."

Many people have pointed to write ups about the Oxyrhynchus Papyri over the last few weeks - and it is a miraculous thing that these texts are being deciphered. Despite the fact that many of the pieces by the literati of antiquity (antiquitati?) are mere fragments, they represent a huge increase in the available material for these writers.

The thing that got me, though, is the less publicised vernacular writing that has been discovered: the donkey-buying instructions, the erotic musings.

People write; letters, notes, diaries, and now blogs. And the reason I started - and that I've continued - to write here is that I became fascinated by the views into the private worlds that personal writings afford. I started reading these cross-sections of peoples' lives, and became fascinated - and it started to feel like voyeurism to read other's blogs, without being brave enough to put my own words out there. It is extraordinary - and yet entirely mundane - to think that this instinct that drives so many people to empty their heads through writing has been kicking around for at least the last thousand years.

But what happens to all of our vernacular writing now it exists out on the web? The minute the oil runs out... or the infrastructure collapses, it will be gone. There will be no archaeologists in some undertermined future poring over the telling written miscellanea of our early 21st century lives; it will be just so many magnetic fragments on siezed-up, corroded harddrives.

Even amongst all of the noise, and documenting, we are erasing ourselves from history.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

I swear I don't make this stuff up


I finally scrape myself out of the house. And I go to a party, hosted by a lovely workmate. Which is wonderful.

So, about 10, my phone goes. It's a friend.

'Hey, Kim, we're on our way clubbing. Where's the Cross?'
'Uh... In the goods yards up behind Kings Cross, i think...'
'Yeah, we know that. But where exactly. You're the only person we can think of that might know'
'Err... Well, Um, I've never been. Sorry. But really, don't tell them. You'll ruin my reputation.'

Then, later.
A girl. Flirts. With. Me.
At least, I think so. She was wearing some kind of halternecked pinstripe number, with big heavy framed glasses, short black curly hair, vampish make-up*. German. She asked me to come on to a club. I was so confused, I declined. But, hey, it was an indy club, and I might have just been put off by the German thing; it's like chaff for Gaydar.

Then later. A terribly privileged and exclusive conversation in the boudoir of the host. Her housemate popped in.
'Ehm... was your friend coming on to me? Sorry, I just thought I'd check, I couldn't quite work it out...'
'Ha.. well... um. I suppose you could describe her as bi-curious.'
'Ah. OK. I was just wondering. I didn't like to presume.'

Then, even later - a whole length of a nightbus route later.

I'm walking down North Street in Clapham, doing my late night minding-my-own-don't-mess-me-about walk. And a voice comes out of a car window.
'Err, scuse me miss?'

Well, I'm nothing if not pathetically un-streetwise. i stopped.
'Um, yeas, sorry - err, do you know the area?'

I bent forward, looked in the open window.
'Um... Well, a bit - I just moved here. What are you after?'
'Yeah, well, um, I'm trying to find - someone told me there was a red light area round here?'
'Uh, sorry?'
'Yeah, is there a red light area round here?'
'Um, what, you're looking for girls?'
'Yeah, yeah, that's right. Red light.'
'Uh... OK. Um, I'm sorry, but... I don't have any idea. I really don't know the area that well.'
'Oh. Ok.'
'Um... But, you know. You and me both. Better luck.'
'Right. Thanks'

And then, all of a sudden, the Beastie Boys fought for the right to party on my ipod.

Not a word of a lie.

Who won the Eurovision by the way? I ended up at a straight do...

* For those of you who get the cultural reference, sort of nearly like Jennifer Tilly in Bound, but not quite enough.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Google, but personalised just for you

Google has launched a personalised homepage. It all feels a bit early yahoo.

I can't help feeling that they're missing the point - I pretty much only access google through the search box in Firefox, these days; and that lovely clean homepage was the radical innovation that made google great - no fuss, no mess, just results.

Mind you, what would make me happy would be Gmail and Bloglines integrated. With some kind of 'here are all your yasns profiles and comments and whatnot, all in one place'.

I should make some wireframes at some point...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A song for Europe

So... I'll admit now that this is a backdated post. I've been having sex, frequently, and it's stopped me doing anything constructive, like posting here. Yes, I'm a flighty little whore, sorry.

Anyway... The 18th of May.

Part of my 'old me is the new me' regimen, bought on by the now-old-news breakup has been reconnecting with things that interest me. To this end, I received an invitation from the wonderful Clare and Ivor to attend an art event put on by their friend Art. No, that really is his name. He's something terribly dashing in the city, makes oodles of moolah, and chooses to spend it by sponsoring proper art events.

The collective he works with - Measure - put on site-specific works in abandoned buildings around London. This event was part of 'Me and My Shadow: A projection of new sound interventions at Wilton's Music Hall.' The special evening we attended was a premiere of 'Songs for Europe', by Janek Schaefer and Philip Jeck; it was eerie, and beautiful.

Part of the joy of the event was a chance to visit the building itself. Wilton's Music Hall is the last remaining Music Hall in London; semi derelict now, it is a haunted space. The raw matter of the building shows through; crumbling masonry, faded murals. The main auditorium feels like a stage set, and even without the intervention of sound artists has an echo of crowds, and warmth, and old songs about it. One of the side rooms had a recording of people who'd worked and visited the music hall recounting their memories; about crowds, singing, and dumping drunks into a covered culvert underneath the Mahogany Bar, to be washed down to the bank of the Thames.

The performance itself was mesmerising. The musicians had spent time in Istanbul and Athens collecting old records; these were played back, patched together, turned into drones, looped and fed back. The near-eastern harmony and scale made it otherworldly, which made the space much much stranger. Sitting, letting it wash over you, the music became deeply visceral. The smell of old plaster added to that; I spent a happy hour sitting in the darkened room, quiet and out-of-time, letting the music cut together tiny films in my head.

I recommend it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Chris CFDG - Context Free Design Grammar

Chris CFDG - Context Free Design Grammar

Beautiful fractal/organic shape generator.

SIRC Guide to flirting

SIRC Guide to flirting

From the people that brought you the guide to pub ettiquette... a guide to flirting.

It's rather splendidly witty, but actually fantastically accurate. I only worked out the arm-touch trick when shown it in action by someone a couple of years ago. Look, I've never claimed to be the most socially soignée of souls... but really, if the whole flirtation thing leaves you a bit nonplussed, this is the best primer around.

The other thing that surprised me about being 'taught the tricks' a few years ago, incidentally, was that no-one seems to mind if you do them rather deliberately; the whole thing becomes a marvellously arch and slightly camp game.

I do wonder, however, if anyone has studied same-sex flirtations, and how it might differ...


This picture exactly sums up how I feel today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Raised Hides

I've been involved in conversations over the last few days about privacy and decency issues in flickr.

Hence, I give you this terrible pun. From the Alt groups:

Raised Hides

Creativity on a shoestring

I rather like this photo.

I liked it even more after I read how the photographer lit it.

Bloody fantastic.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hypocaust: Much Hot Air


Well. There was a really very entertaining post here, but my computer got tired and decided the world didn't need me being witty tonight. So, second try, but this time, briefer.

I was finally getting round to answering one of those awful blog memes. It's a thing called Caesar's Bath
This meme takes its name from Mel Brooks' A History of the World (Part I), and, upon receiving it, one is supposed to list five things that one's circle of friends or peer group is wild about, but that one can't really understand the fuss over. Quoth Caesar, "Nice. Nice. Not thrilling . . . but nice.

Actually, I've found myself idly thinking about this in odd moments, so have deemed it worthy of a reply. Well, that and I adore Lee, and he'll be upset if I'm sniffy at him. So, anyway, here we go.

Thing one: The Smiths

And bloody Morrissey too.

It seems to be compulsory that anyone of my age adore the Smiths; something to do with us all having been sensitive, individualist adolescents at exactly the right moment. And I do have a 'Best of' CD, but purely because I was feeling nostalgic for an ex-girlfriend whilst wandering around HMV sale one day.

The boy can't sing in tune, the lyrics are impenetrable, and the tunes are dirge like and miserablist. Once in a while I might be cheered by the one about the cemetery gates. But mostly, it's like fingers on a blackboard.

Of course, it's the one CD in my huge collection that my housemates are playing to death. That and McAlmont and Bloody Butler.

Maybe I should just expand that to 'Indie Pop'. Nice, nice, not thrilling.

Thing the Second: Make Up

Properly done, makeup is lovely. You know, for models and actresses and photo shoots. But I really don't understand why people want to wear it every day. It requires so much expense and effort, not to mention a three-step skincare routine. One ends up looking like a cheap hooker, and frankly it brings me out in terrible spots. It gets worn only to black tie or black rubber events, in my case.

This thing actually gets extended out to long fingernails, too. I actually really like nail varnish, but anything long enough to drum on table tops... no. I'm sorry, I know exactly what kind of injuries those babies cause, and I don't believe your line about surgical gloves and cotton wool and being careful; keep them away from me.

Thing the Third: Anonymous Casual Sex

I hang around with enough gay men and wanton women to hear many exciting stories about the thrill of the random pick-up. Of all the things, actually, this is the one that pains me most; I'd love to be able to do the quick cruise and away. Alas, for me, without a good run up - a week or two of conversation, email exchanges, whatever - it's just so much tedious frottage, frankly.

I want them for their minds.

I just don't get how people can have the instant sexual attraction and not care at all about what comes out of said persons' mouth. There have been moments when I've seen the most beautiful creatures, then discounted them instantly I realised they had an uneducated voice - be it accent or turn of phrase.

I can't get off without that tantalising glimmer of raw intelligence. Anything else is nice, nice, but not thrilling.

Thing the Fourth: Spiritual things, New Age things, and Wooly Science

Only good as a foundation for art works; give me cold, hard facts, and don't trouble me with your mysterious food supplements, gewgaws, faux mysticism and flummery.

You are on your own. Take responsibility, realise there is nothing 'out there', and get on with living your life as a miracle of provable, scientific nature. I don't begrudge you it, I just don't want you to try and justify your irrationality to me. Be honest about what the irrationality gives you, don't try to pass it off as truth. Woe betide you if you start adversely affecting another's quality of life with your misguided beliefs; I'm looking at you, the Christian Scientists who don't allow their children proper access to medical care.

And yes, this covers a wide spectrum from organised religion through to health foods.

This thing actually started out as 'The Da Vinci Code' - but, as you can see, it diversified. There is a space in life for spirituality, yes; but it is a place for the individual, not the organised or the business opportunity.

Thing the Fifth: Doctor Who

Well, yes, this is tantamount to treason. Now, I'm enjoying the new series, yes. And I am fond. But I am surrounded by people for whom it is an organising principal of their life.

The exact moment I realised that I just don't get Doctor Who was the moment that my housemate proudly showed me a copy of Club International that he'd saved since the early 80s because it had a topless picture of Lala Ward in it.

This week's episode was sweet, and entertaining. But, really, you knew Dad was going to pull through with an heroic suicide from a mile off.

Nice, nice, but not thrilling.

You'll understand if I don't send this on; randomly forwarding entertaining email memes very nearly made it into my list. But, dear reader, have a think about your very own Caesar's Baths... and drop me a comment if you decide to write them up. I'm genuinely interested, I just wouldn't dream of inopportuning you.

Actually, the Caesar's Bath attitude is one of which I'm very fond. There is a reason this blog is called Mildly Diverting: it is because as a person I am myself nice, but not thrilling, despite what my publicists would have you believe. I have spent a huge amount of effort even getting to this stage. Once day, I aspire to live up to my other domain name, Hardcore Irony.

But until then, this will do.


BBC - BBC Four Drama - Heimat


Die Zweite Heimat had a huge effect on me when I was about 19. I stayed in on saturday nights for weeks to watch it - and it's serious, proper, grown up stuff. At the time I was completely blown away by the way the lives of the characters intersected with history - it's absolutely right to call it epic.

I'm so very excited that it's being re-run.

You should all watch it. Really.

Vegas, LaChapelle, Flickr, Holga

The thing I love most is that flickr has given me the kick up the arse I needed to start with the old creativity again. OK, so I'm only taking snapshots - but there were a couple of pictures of Broadcasting House taken the other night that nearly, nearly make the cut.

It's also got me into playing with toy cameras - Holgas and Lomos, oh my! I've known about the Lomo for years, but never got round to picking one up until recently; it's so diddy, I fell in love with it instantly. I'm getting really overexcited about finishing my first film, and seeing the results - a delayed pleasure of film photography I'd completely forgotten about in this digital age.

So, anyway, I'm rambling. I meant just to put a pointer up to this marvellous set of Holga shots of the current Selfridges windows. Kind of where my head is at currently; shiny and kitsch.

Props to Froupster.

Flickr: froupster's photos tagged with selfridges

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Bring on the Dancing Girls

The problem with Burlesque, I think, was that I knew too much.

I'm by no means an expert, but I've seen a few old Bettie Page films and spent enough time on the internet (bless it, and its huge piles of smut) to have some kind of context around the historical roots of burlesque. Trace it back far enough and you hit Toulouse Lautrec, after all. The visual reference isn't too hard to come by, either: honestly, it's everywhere at the moment; I blame Kylie, and Agent Provocateur.

I've seen the odd bit of burlesque in clubs - including, I think, Immodesty Blaize doing a rather poor fan dance. It's fun - pretty ladies, pretty costumes, a bit of cheekiness. I was expecting the fully staged version to be pretty damn spectacular...

The set was fantastic - fairylights and pink upholstery and chandeliers. Perfect. And the costumes were beautiful; sequined and elegant and ruffled and over the top where necessary. And tassels. Yes.

But. But. Part of it was the strange mixed crowd: a significant proportion of folk had really never seen anything quite so naughty; there was very definitely one rich looking woman in her 50s who found the whole thing quite scandalously cheeky, but rather enjoyable. Then there were the boys behind me who whooped and hollered at the ladies, and made borderline homophobic comments whenever Walter came on. It seemed very strange to be right at the libertine end of the audience; on previous encounters I've been at the shy and retiring end.

There is, I suppose, always the problem of overlaying the images you construct in your head onto the reality of the performance. The only way I can see out of this one would be to direct my own events; I don't think this is a skill I have.

Ultimately, though, the problem is with the star, Ms Blaize. She's fabulous, yes - and how nice to see someone with a good, old fashioned body shape being sexy as hell. But... She doesn't have enough presence to fill a stage that big. The only performer who did was Spike Loons (and his balloons...), and it's sad when the comic relief shows up your star. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the non-intimate venue, maybe it was where I was sitting... But it was all too easy to take your eyes off her.

I heard someone - probably scandalised lady - discussing how wonderful her use of her eyes to engage the audience was. Well, yes, but those fluttery looks and pouts are textbook Bettie, my dear. It's all recycled, and terribly, terribly postmodern. Even the nod to mashup culture in the soundtrack was painfully badly done; please, please get one of the gybo boys in to redo the score.

Well, having said that, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The newly minted adage about improving anything by adding tits appears to be holding true, and the Lady Grey Tease dancing girls in their floaty 30s dresses hit all the right Arthur Freed buttons for me. And I now really, really want a new corset, and a bit more glamour in my life. And to find a really good late bar in Soho.

Besides which, the company was delectable.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Oooh. Sleek.

Xbox 360

So much prettier than the existing version. But deeply crap name.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

BBC Backstage

BBC Backstage has just launched.

It's a project that lets all the leet hacksaws have a dig around with BBC feeds, and make prototypes based on our stuff.

It's completely groundbreaking for Auntie - you can't believe how much red tape was sliced to get this up and running. But it's the first sign of the wonderful change in attitude inside this place. Roll on public value.

Go. Play. Sign up for the email list.

And when you sign up, give the Mighty Tom Loosemore and the equally Mighty (if smaller in stature) Ben Metcalfe and James Boardwell big props. They have achieved miracles.

And, err, with a toot of my own trumpet, have a look at The People's Weather - which 'won' best idea in the closed internal test of the site. It's made by someone we know...

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Push the Button

So it's a late night post again - but this time, easy on the vitriol.

I've had a lovely evening. First, invited to see a rather interesting show, with an entirely intriguing lady. Then ego thoroughly stroked by work friends. Then jazz all the way home, then parcels.

Oh, the parcels. Socks and some tiny whisks, via Mother; a Lomo LCA from ebay, and a book of mucky photographs via Amazon. Heaven.

Then I started drawing properly for the first time in years. It was cack handed shit. But I'm drawing again.

Today is nothing short of miraculous.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Statistically Improbable Phrases

" Statistically Improbable Phrases's Statistically Improbable Phrases, or 'SIPs', are the most distinctive phrases in the text of books in the Search Inside! program. To identify SIPs, our computers scan the text of all books in Search Inside. If they find a phrase that occurs a large number of times in a particular book relative to all Search Inside books, that phrase is a SIP in that book.

SIPs are not necessarily improbable within a particular book, but they are improbable relative to all books in Search Inside. For example, most SIPs for a book on taxes are tax related. But because we display SIPs in order of their improbability score, the first SIPs will be on tax topics that this book mentions more often than other tax books. For works of fiction, SIPs tend to be distinctive word combinations that often hint at important plot elements."

Amazon are just getting better and better. My only gripe is that it takes too darn long for their features to make it over the pond.

Anyway, I came across SIPs following blog linkage; the selection of SIPs for the page I landed on was rather fantastic...

Statistically Improbable in the context of both book and life in general, right now...


Insides on the Surface.

Really beautiful use of anatomical images - I can't tell if they're painted, projected or tattooed.


Worth a thousand.

La Petite Claudine: cat people

I'd semi forgotten about La Petite Claudine: a spanish (?) blog that I had tucked away in my bookmarks (bookmarks! how retro! all the cool kids use rss these days...).

Of course, I can't read a word of spanish. But she sure finds good pictures - and has excelled herself with these Rankin shots of people dressed as cats.

Just. Wow. Weird.

All I want to do is love you and listen to the music.

The Sensations.

They made snapppy pop, pre-motown, with close harmonies and parping saxophones.

Right now, if I were editing the movie in my head, there would be a brutal slowmo barehanded murder. Or possibly a simply adorable wedding, at a pinch.

Quentin Tarantino, you and I need words. Bombay Saphire, you and I need to get better aquainted.

Have I explained about the anger?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Penguin Remixed

Penguin Remixed


Well, now I've got Garage Band, i suppose i better pull my finger out and do some music.

The problem is, that it's so much more fun just to go down the pub or hang out with friends at the weekend. I'll never be one of those hyper-productive geeks...