Tuesday, 18 May 2004

I finished Pratchett's The Last Continent last night. Its a wonderful book, and a credit to the author in terms of the amount of research that he must have put in. There are an awful lot of references to Australian cultural icons both famous (Vegemite, Mad Max) and a little more obscure to foreigners (AB Patterson poetry). He spins a good yarn, too. No worries!
Summer seems to have arrived: Its really hot, and sunny. Its quite beautiful outside, and the roses are starting to come out, but I'd personally prefer it a little cooler. Its starting to be too warm for long pants...

In light of these fine conditions, I passed the entire weekend indoors, renewing my acquaintance with Baldur's Gate 2. The Mac OS X version is a piece of crap, far too slow, crashes every couple of hours, and exhibits some weird behaviour from time to time. Still, its a pretty good game, and could keep me amused for weeks if Mum & Dad weren't arriving from Australia tomorrow.

Speaking of which, I have a large list of things to buy before they arrive, from a thermarest to food (of which I presently have almost none). At the moment its all down to tomorrow morning before their train gets in, since tonight has been provisionally set aside for Kill Bill 2.

Monday, 17 May 2004

Kurt Vonnegut may be on the wrong side of 80, but it seems he can still tear people a new one when he feels the need. In my still-infant journey through American satyrical literature, DBC Pierre, Chuck Palahniuk, and Bret Easton Ellis have not yet lead me back to Vonnegut, but having read this rant, its not far away. (Article via Tilkov).

Friday, 14 May 2004

In what is almost certainly an example of wartime propaganda, Al-Jazeera's website has an article that questions the authenticity of the recent American prisoner beheading video.

The implied conspiracy theory (which is not to comment on its veracity) is a pretty good one, if a little obvious, but the fact that they quote bloggers as the source is more interesting to me. I would be surprised if "coalition" news outlets would do the same, despite probably a comparable appetite for propaganda. Also, notably, Al-Jazeera fail to follow the first rule of blogging: acknowledge the source. It used to be a rule for journalism, too...

Thursday, 13 May 2004

This via ABC (Australia) from other sources. This is all getting a little bit scary, and a little bit too "A Few Good Men" for my liking. God save us from America. I don't believe.
Franck, Damien and I had dinner at Clémentine's place last night. Domino's pizza - not quite traditional French faire, but it still beats the pants off Domino's in Australia. We also played a card game with some resemblance to Snap. I learnt that it helps to trim fingernails before playing, to avoid injuring people...

Wednesday, 12 May 2004

I've watched two films on DVD the past couple of nights.

On Monday night it was Lawrence of Arabia, by David Lean. This is, above all, a long, epic motion picture - its 3 and a half hours, with an interval between the halves (only the second film I've seen that does that, the other being Branagh's Hamlet). By about 15 minutes in, I was already wishing that I'd seen it in a really big cinema, because the sweeping desert scenes would look awesome on a 70mm screening. The story itself is interesting because it represents a combination of the older Kipling-style British patriotic story, and the later American cynical war stories from directors like Coppola and Stone. The central character, as played by Peter O'Toole, is genuinely conflicted, and the second half does a great job of sowing doubt about his nobility and even sanity. Also, I'm a sucker for tragic endings, and this one has it in spades.

The same could not be said for Tuesday night's fare, Minority Report. Don't get me wrong, this is a pretty good film, but it would probably have been 10% better if the dénouement had been halved, or removed. The sappy, typically Hollywood trend of wrapping every single plot thread is cloying and insulting to our intelligence as viewers, in my opinion. Moreover, being the last thing one sees, it really taints one's opinion of the film more than other flaws. The reason this is such a shame here is that the rest of the film is well-made. Drawing from the bountiful well of science-fiction short stories, here by Phillip K. Dick, the plot is strong and the essential dilemma compelling, the cinematography, by Spielberg's customary sidekick Janusz Kaminski, is interesting and distinctive, the music only a little overbearing, and the acting, well, adequate. Spielberg spoiled AI in a similar way, only moreso, and one would have hoped that he might have learnt something from it. He is undoubtedly a talented director, and should really know that, as such, he no longer has to pander to the whims of American teenage cinema-goers. If that is his reason...


While we're doing the image linking thing, here are the ones I've been to - pretty pathetic, really, particularly when you consider how much I've actually seen of North America, and when you consider that Singapore and Dubai were both only stopovers...

You can create your own map thing here.
Anyone who knows me will tell me that this is a crock of shit, right? Anyway, here you go, superhero quiz thing, probably not for those of any generation <X.

Hey, look, comments! Tell me I'm an idiot, or a legend, or that I should shut up.

Tuesday, 11 May 2004

In other news, "my" government (I use the possessive with the utmost sarcasm, since John Howard and company nominally represent my nation, but represent none of my national beliefs, either by their deeds or by their comportment) released their budget today. Significantly:
- they are throwing more good money after bad in Iraq, sure to see some more Australians killed by stray American bullets, which seem to kill friend and foe equally often. That's OK though, because the young Aussies killed can be replaced by:
- Babies! Incentives for young aussies to get on the job and pump up our population, so that we don't have to resort to accepting those dirty stinking immigrants (once again, utmost sarcasm intended). Oh, and we can raise these babies properly, with an increase in daycare centres. That way, Joe and Joan Citizen can keep working, and benefit from:
- Tax breaks! Oh, actually, that's only if their rich. If they're poor, they can apparently take cold comfort in the reassurance that their marginal tax rate won't rise. Let the jubilation flow like Moet at a boat launching...

Actually, the immigration statement is really fair, since there are also more places for skilled immigrants in the budget. Also, the funding increases for education, research, and the ABC are good things. Still, the defense and tax changes don't impress me one bit. Oh, and its truly an election budget, with funding increases in all the keystone areas.
This from CNN today: The Senate voted 92-0 Monday for a resolution "condemning the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison [and] urging a full and complete investigation."

This from Monty Python's Life Of Brian: We, the People's Front of Judea, brackets, officials, end brackets, do hereby convey our sincere fraternal and sisterly greetings to you, Brian, on this, the occasion of your martyrdom.

One could be forgiven for not realising which is fact and which satire.

Monday, 10 May 2004

On Friday night I bought an iPod - the Apple dealer didn't have any, but FNAC (large French CD/DVD/electronics chain) did. The French retail process is weird. I told (or my translator told) the salesperson that I wanted it, they checked the stock level, then gave me a ticket. I took this ticket to another person at another desk where I paid, and they gave me another ticket. This ticket has another desk, with another person, who actually goes and gets the item. It was the same when I was buying furniture.

So, new iPod in hand, I did a lot of walking on the weekend, in particular Sunday evening. I walked to the Cimetiere, then to La Poterie, then from the there to Centre Culturel Triangle, and then home. In all, it was probably an hour or so's worth. In fact, it was the duration of Herbie Hancock's "Secrets", plus most of Offramp, by the Pat Metheny Group. The Metheny Group stuff is great for walking around, and the funk stuff is pretty good too. By contrast, the Brad Mehldau albums, and classical music like the Rach 3 recording I have, doesn't really work on the street, because there's too much background noise.

Indoors, I've been listening to classical stuff, Mehldau, Metheny's acoustic stuff, and some Antonio Forcione. There's another album with two acoustic guitars, spanish classical influence, but more fusion style, and I don't know who it's by. Paul, if he reads this, should email me and tell me.

Monday, 3 May 2004

On Friday night I finished off a paper that I'd been writing with Michael, and submitted it to ISSRE. Our team submitted two papers to ISSRE, which is being general-chaired this year by Yves, one of my colleagues. I was a co-author on both :-) In fact, I'm a little unsure about the chances about the second paper, while I'm quite confident that the first will be accepted. Since the conference is in St Malo, its possible I'll find myself there in any case.