Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ascii map of where I live

Why I am living in the USA

What would it take to create a Silicon Valley outside of the US? Why are Appple and Google here? It's simple according to Paul Graham. Plus the obligatory cute quote:

European public opinion will apparently tolerate people being fired in industries where they really care about performance. Unfortunately the only industry they care enough about so far is soccer. But that is at least a precedent.

Best music writer

Pound for pound, who is the best current music writer? I say it is Sasha Frere-Jones. He writes for the New Yorker, but despite that he likes pop as well (like the fabulous Girls Aloud). His blog is good too. A recent New Yorker piece talks about which British acts work in America. From an online-only followup piece:

We like the moody types, such as Radiohead, but we don’t like it when somebody says, clearly, “This bad thing happened and I have a theory as to why, and also we are from England because you can hear my weird accent and I just talked about takeaway curry and you’ve haven’t the foggiest.”

Monday, May 29, 2006

Positive article on San Francisco schools

Another positive Chronicle article that mentions Miraloma Elementary School.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Always move forwards

Green from Scritti Politti:

"It's that Bob Marley thing, remember? An NME journalist went on the road with Marley. They flew into Miami, checked their bags at the hotel and then went to the soundcheck. And afterwards the journalist said 'Are we going back to the hotel now?' and Marley said, 'No, we're going forward to the hotel.' I always liked that."
Now which cardboard box at home contains Cupid & Psyche '85?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A new play by Gavin Kostick

Kostick's new production, Olive Skin, Blood Mouth is a loose adaptation from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The play explores major themes of love, greed, war and loss. The cast are unleashed into the wild and enact a physically engaging and challenging drama.

My Top Ten Bookshops

Two interesting pieces on independent bookstores. Can they survive? This Village Voice piece is pessimistic, while this Guardian survey thinks there are still niches. In San Francisco A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books is for sale, and the Berkeley Cody's is set to close.

Like record shops, bookshops used to be valuable and important places. You could judge a neighbourhood by whether it had a bookshop. Before the net, bookshops were the gateway to information.

And so, my Top Ten bookshops:

  1. Compendium Books (now closed), 234 Camden High Street, London, UK. The best left wing bookshop ever. Great music selection plus my first sightings of RE/Search and Semiotext(e).
  2. Dillons (now Waterstones), Gower Street, London.
  3. Stacey's in San Francisco.
  4. Bookland in Chester (where you can shop in a 13th century crypt built). Maxine Reed worked there once.
  5. Cody's in Berkeley. The San Francisco store is new and nice but soulless.
  6. WH Smith in Chester. OK, it isn't cool but I liked it as a kid.
  7. Skoob the Best Secondhand Bookshop in London (but there's not much competition). It was better before it moved to the Brunswick Centre (which featured in Blake's 7 once)
  8. Green Apple a great secondhand store in San Francisco.
  9. Forbidden Planet on Denmark Street, London. Now a major corporation.
  10. Blackwells in Oxford and Cambridge. The best academic bookshop I have seen. Now a small chain.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bay to Breakers 2006

This year my time in Bay to Breakers was 1:06:57 and I placed 1474th. This is better than last year (1:22:00, 6150th) but that is partly because last year I had to stop to use a portaloo. I would like to be able to do it under an hour, after all, would you want to live in a city where the Mayor is faster than you?

The only bad thing about trying to run as fast as possible is that I didn't see as many of the costumes this year. I did see the Salmon (who I love). And I did see this porcupine (?)

There seemed to be fewer bands and soundsystems this year. Most of them seem to play classic rock and funk which goes well with running.

Frank Chu was there of course.

As well as someone in costume as Frank Chu:

There are some quite elaborate constructions:

As it is San Francisco there were some political jokes, like this:

and this:

Quite a nice set of pictures here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Where is the biggest market in Europe?

Odessa, Ukraine.

YouTube fun

I try to stay away from YouTube, but I cannot resist this Stone Golem costume.

Also, what if the 10 Commandments was a teen movie?

And then there's a video of the Wizard of Oz with Dark Side of the Moon as the soundtrack. This one is 43 minutes so make sure you have some free time.

Thierry Henry

Although I don't much like Alan Shearer's personality, I do admit he was a good player. I recently watched a documentary about Euro 96, and in those days he was fast as well as belligerent. Thierry Henry however is someone that has my respect. He is a wonderful player who displays intelligence and emotion. He looks like he could run across puddles without making a splash. I am not ashamed to say that his statements about wanting to stay with Arsenal (hiss) brought a tear to my eye.

"I've never played in Spain and I never will. I've played in France and Italy but this is the best country to play football and this is my last contract. I enjoy playing away or at home, getting stick. It's the passion I like. Here you can do your job in the right way - people here respect the player."
Even Jose Mourinho is pleased

"It is fantastic and I am very happy even though Arsenal will be stronger with him. English football must be very proud to have players like Thierry Henry playing in this country."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tom Friedman

Before the New York Times put its columnists behind a pay-per-view barrier I used to like reading Tom Friedman. I read The Lexus and the Olive Tree and learned a lot about globalization from it. This, however, is such a good skewering that I cannot resist it. Since I first saw this I have seen other mentions of the crucial next six months in Iraq and snickered.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Another soviet poster

Promotional poster for the scene group This is also a test of blogging directly from flickr. Hand edited to look decent.

Soviet posters, mmmmm!

a soviet poster

There are 1469 of these here to look at.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Football Jersey Fonts

A sign of the Apocalypse: Manchester United are not featured.


Steven Spielberg obviously has a lot of advantages when it comes to making a movie: he can choose the best scripts, the best cinematographers want to work with him. He is rich and successful, but he is still trying to make great movies. I think Munich is pretty good. It is political without lecturing. Some of the set pieces are amazing. There is a fantastic scene where the Israeli team is booked into the same safe house as a PLO team (who don't know the identity of the Israelis). There is a Mexican standoff, which is somehow defused.

This movie is so good to look, at, I was ashamed of my pathetic CRT based TV. Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, was quite a presence in a supporting role.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Wal-Mart to wreck Organic Food

Some key quotes:

"Consumers that gravitate to organic products don't always think of Wal-Mart as a top-of-mind destination to pick up those products."
"Organic agriculture is just another method of agriculture — not better, not worse," he said. "This is like any other merchandising scheme we have, which is providing customers what they want. For those customers looking for an organic alternative in things like Rice Krispies, we now have an alternative for them."
"We have no intent to send a message that the standard Rice Krispies are somehow not great brands,"
Mr. Hartman, the Seattle consultant, said organic now means different things to different people. "It's a multifaceted symbol representing everything from quality to health to ideology, and everything in between," he said. "It's something that lets people feel even better about their choices."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

How ClearType works

If you are using an LCD screen you should turn on ClearType.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bob le Flambeur

Bob le Flambeur poster OK, so this film should be fantastic, this is another prototype gangster film, they're going to get the gang together for one last heist. I enjoyed Le Samourai from the same director. However the use of the fast forward button is usually a clue that something is not quite right. I seemed to lose interest when the trajectory of the film became inevitable. The last time this happened was with In a Lonely Place, hmm, maybe the 50's are a foreign country for me. I did like the look of Paris (or as we Yanks call it, Paris, France).

Monday, May 08, 2006

To Me You Are A Work Of Art

Why Axl is cooler than Kurt Cobain.

Rock 'n' roll isn't about productivity. It's about doing whatever you want, whenever you want. Otherwise, it ceases to be a form of rebellion. Axl's idiosyncratic career confronts us with a kind of paradox: If being a rebel is your job, why work when you don't want to?

Freakonomics is fun

I loved the Freakonomics book. Here the authors look at some statistics about elite teenage soccer players on English soccer teams. From these statistics they deduce that "you should do what you love". This is probably good advice but they are deducing a whole lot from very little. They don't discuss what happens to those teenage players later. And my exhaustive statistical analysis of the Manchester United squad shows that their player's birthdates aren't clumped at the beginning: Jan, Feb, Feb, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Aug, Sep, Oct, Oct, Oct, Nov, Nov. So in fact players with birthdates early in the year are more likely to show false promise, and live miserable lives, forever repeating that they could have been contenders. Hey this Freakonomics thing is fun!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

How to make an atomic bomb

You hear lots about how Iran is trying to make atom bombs (or not) but little about the science. One reason for that is that a lot of stuff, even from 1945, is still secret. Looking back, what the Manhattan project did was really amazing. And they did it without computers. How is it that there aren't more countries with the bomb?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sleater-Kinney, Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, 2-May-2006

When I saw that the opening act was a comedienne I thought that this meant the show was going to be more radical than I expected. The audience was more than half female. There were a lot of school age kids. Tee-shirts seemed to be available only in small sizes. Alas, despite these signs of the apocalypse the band still started well after my regular bedtime. But I was glad I stayed up. Sleater-Kinney rock hard. They are not formal innovators, they are just a great rock band. Who happen to be all women. They like being in San Francisco and they like playing. I hadn’t realized that Carrie Brownstein is such an amazing guitarist. And I had no idea that she is a guitar hero, she looked great in a sleeveless shirt, somewhat like Chrissie Hynde. She has all the moves that any air guitar player could love: she struts, she kicks, she plays the guitar above her head. I knew from their records that Corin Tucker has a special voice but it was a pleasure to hear it filling a hall. It doesn’t get wearing either, I could listen to her all day. I was surprised that I wasn’t more impressed by Janet Weiss. Every great band has a great drummer and Sleater-Kinney is no exception. And I am impressed by any drummer who can hit as hard as Janet and still sing and play harmonica. Was I somehow expecting John Bonham? I liked the way that Carrie and Corin get by with only a couple of guitars each. There was no sign of guitar techs although Janet did seem to need the assistance of an earring wrangler at one point. I jumped around in a foolish manner. Another good gig, why did I ever stop going? I think the secrets are: don’t go to too many gigs (keep it special), only go to see bands I know I really like (which means not going to see the hippest new UK bands), don’t stay out too late.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Older Americans Sicker Than the English

An article in the May 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association says

... middle-aged to older U.S. residents have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, lung disease and cancer than their English counterparts.


My sad attempts to reconnect with my childhood continue with a viewing of Bullitt (1968). This was filmed on location in San Francisco and sadder people than I have detailed explanations of where it was shot. I think the key element was realism, the hospital scenes (filmed on location at SF General) are great. But the best thing in the movie is the car chase. Obviously nowadays we have more complex car chases but this one, filmed on the streets of SF, is astonishingly realistic. I did notice the continuity mistake with the green volkswagon but I was on the edge of my seat as the cars crunch their way through (random parts of) the city. Steve McQueen is ace too. By modern standards it's all a little slow moving but the car chase is a classic. I almost forgot to mention a great score by Lalo Schifrin.