19 February 2008

Shut up and drive

Caught a cab this morning and the driver had Alan Jones, who's now so lazy that he just reads the newspapers, on the radio. I don’t need to hear right-wing bullshit – or cab drivers' opinions about right-wing bullshit – first thing in the morning, so I put my iPod on and listened to some music.

It's a 15-minute drive, and when we got to my office, he turned around and said, aggressively, “Are you happy living like that? Isolating yourself from the world?”

My pre-caffeinated comeback: “For $1.79 a kilometre, I’ll do what I fucking like, OK?”

And I made him give me $1.10 change.

18 February 2008

Thr3e: a review, of sorts

It looked like a typical serial killer thriller. Thr3e instead of Se7en. It even started like one: a rapid-fire scene of a police psychologist running through the streets, on the phone to a spooky voice, until she discovered her brother, in a car, bound up in gaffer tape, wired to a bomb. After that, however, there was something a little, well, off about Thr3e.

First of all, where was it shot? Somewhere dreary, obviously. Vancouver could never look this dull. No, it was Warsaw, with endlessly recycled phone booths, mail boxes, hot dog carts and yellow taxis to give it that “New York” look.

I won’t go into the plot holes, which were big enough to drive a truck into. But let’s talk about how every moment of tension ended in an explosion. The brother in the VW. The protagonist’s own car. A dog in its kennel. A TV in a fridge (don’t ask). A warehouse. A bus. Actually, despite the bus blowing up with an explosion so huge it flattened everyone in the street around it, it appeared to sustain no actual damage. That’s because the explosion was CGI and they just sprayed it with soot after that point. Che-eap.

After an hour, the serial killer hadn’t killed anyone, the “twist” ending was as obvious as the acting was hammy and a priest had shown up for no apparent reason to gasbag about good and evil. What was going on? It drove me to the internet.
Thr3e, it turns out, is a film from Fox Faith, 20th Century Fox’s arm that produces Christian-themed or Christian-friendly films. Yes, Rupert Murdoch is in on god-bothering entertainment.

It was in the Horror section with good reason. It was horrible. Do not see this film. You’re very welcome.

14 February 2008

Uno is number one

His thoroughbred name is Park Me In First, but you can call him Uno. He won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show last night, the first time a beagle has won since 1939.

I’m very happy, because if ever I had a dog, it would be a beagle. I’ve always loved them. They’re a good size and they have exactly the temperament I like. But I think they like being in packs, because they’re pack hounds, so I’d need two or three. Perhaps when I do my seachange and/or treechange, I’ll get my own pack of beagles.

Anyway, Uno travels with his favourite stuffed frog toy and a fluffy pillow he sleeps on with a Hollywood star on it. Pampered. As he should be.

Before winning Westminster, Uno had already won 32 best in show titles, and finished 2007 as the sixth-ranked show dog in the country.

Here he is working out on his treadmill at the hotel just before the show. So committed.

12 February 2008

Naughty Goths

Because I am a dedicated a journalist, I’m reading the Plan of Management for Hyde Park. The usual bureaucratic ordinariness, until this:

Saturday and Sunday afternoons bring a lot of Goths to the War Memorial. They hassle the Salvation Army Band.

Now I have to wander up there to check it out. I’ll take photos.

11 February 2008

Amuse bouche: just say non

Salmon Belly Tartare, Fennel Seed and Pine Nut Croccante, Preserved Lemon and Honey Gelee, Fennel Syrup.

It was the size of a five-cent piece and looked as though the plate hadn't been washed properly.

Could we not, please?

10 February 2008

Anonymous delivers

“For its part, Scientology is seemingly powerless to stop this underground warfare because members of Anonymous could be anyone.”
— reporter Bryan Seymour, Today Tonight

The /b/ thread that led to today's anti-Scientology actions is archived here.

09 February 2008

Quod erat demonstrandum

Ever wanted to get inside a saxophonist’s mouth? For some reason, researchers at the University of NSW did.

"It's wet in the mouth and the acoustic conditions in there are really variable, and it gets really loud in there during playing," acoustician Jer-Ming Chen he explains.

No shit, Sherlock.

Today’s issue of Science has the results of their research: experienced saxophonists are better players of the saxophone.

08 February 2008

“How may I torture you today?”

When is torture not torture? When it’s American, of course.

Only the masters of doublespeak could come up with the term “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” to cover waterboarding, standing shackled to a bolt for 40 hours, withholding pain medication for bullet wounds or being kept in a freezing cell and regularly doused in cold water.

Not illegal enough for you? Try the “acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” the US likes to use at Guantanamo Bay: 20-hour-a-day questioning for 48 out of 54 days, blasting prisoners with strobe lights and ear-splitting rock music, menacing them with snarling dogs, threatening to hurt their mothers, and humiliations such as stripping them naked in front of women, or holding them down while a female interrogator straddles them and whispers that their comrades have been killed.

President Bush will veto any attempt to outlaw the practices, effectively sanctioning American torture. Mark up another one for George Jr's legacy.

07 February 2008

Digital sajada

Losing count during the Salaah? Then you need US Patent No. 6783822: the Muslim Prayer Counter Rug. Every time your forehead touches the switch (14), it displays on the counter (26). Clever!

06 February 2008

The Queen’s small talk

I don’t know how she does it.

I was watching a documentary about the Queen. She was in Estonia, of all places, and was being introduced to 200 people at a reception. The British Ambassador to Estonia was flapping around – “This gentlemen is the inventor of the philharmonic chamber choir; this lady provides foreign policy advice to the prime minister” – and there she was, making small talk with each and every one of them. She had 45 minutes, which works out at 13 seconds per person.

It was getting close to dinner time and someone had to switch her off because, apparently, until someone intervenes, she will just go on meeting, greeting and thinking up questions. It’s done quite simply: “Your Majesty, the time has come.” She just stops, turns and walks away.

Of course, she’s been doing it at Buckingham Palace day in, day out, for more than 55 years. Endless diplomats, clergy and heads of state. The president of Ghana, the retiring Dean of St Paul’s, members of the Royal Welsh, ancient charity workers.

As a result, she has a ton of boilerplate patter in case someone clams up.
– Is this your first visit? Is it like what you thought it would be like?
– Was it difficult for you to travel here?
– Really? How marvellous!
– Comes around terribly quickly, doesn’t it?

And on and on and on.

When she’s over it, she presses a discreet buzzer in the arm of her chair. Two giant doors are suddenly flung open and, while her astonished guests have their heads turned, she just stands up. Audience over.

I also learned that she drinks gin and Dubonnet, 30/70, with a de-pipped slice of lemon under two ice cubes. At parties, all she has to do is spin around and someone will be standing there with a single glass, etched with “ER”, on a tray. Maybe that’s her real secret.

05 February 2008

Jewelled palaces

Another dreary wet night in Sydney last night but relieved by a very pleasant outing to the State Theatre. The Taj Hotels screened a dreamy travelogue about four of their most opulent properties followed by cocktails.

I met three members of Indian Royal families, all with glorious names. They are, left to right, Prince Rajkumar Vijit Singh from the Royal Family of Jaipur, Princess Bhargavi Kumari Mewar and Prince Rajkumar Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar from the Royal Family of Udaipur.

Prince Rajkumar’s family calls this palace, floating in the middle of a lake, its summer home. Sweet.

04 February 2008

All hail Mega-Dik

A new champion has been crowned in the spam wars: the botnet Mega-Dik, used solely to push penis-enlargement products, has taken over from the Storm botnet as the most prolific sender of spam.

Mega-Dik now accounts for 32% of all spam – about 3 billion messages per day – and is growing its army of zombie computers thanks to increasing high broadband penetration and low antivirus protection in Asia and North America.

Seventy percent of all spam is now coming from just five botnets: Mega-D, Pushdo, HTML, One Word Sub and Storm. The average inbox received 4,351 junk emails in 2007.

03 February 2008

Kon. Ich. Ee. Wa.

Andy Warhol demonstrates his mastery of the Japanese language in this ad for TDK from 1982.

02 February 2008

Another suburban coke addict

"Cocaine, darling! I'm totally off my face! That's why I let you touch me. By the way, who are you?"

01 February 2008

Making Sensorama

I’m obsessed with Morton Heilig lately. He’s called “the father of virtual reality” with good reason.

When TV sucked the life out of the cinema in the 1950s, the cinema fought back with gimmicks like Cinerama, 3-D and Smell-O-Vision. Heilig, who was working as a Hollywood cinematographer, wanted to take the illusion of cinematic immersion one step further.

His Sensorama machine, patented in 1962, was a hot-bed of cutting-edge technology. The experience was essentially riding a motorbike through the streets, complete with stereo images (for which he invented a new camera and projector) and sound, smells (wafts of hibiscus and jasmine), bumps and shakes through the seat and handlebars and the wind in your hair. All senses covered.

Great idea but, as he said himself, “Sensorama may have been too revolutionary for its time.” It was a commercial flop.

That didn't deter him, however. In 1969 he patented the Experience Theatre, a version of the Sensorama for a larger audience. It was a theatre with a large semi-spherical screen showing 3D motion pictures, with peripheral imagery, directional sounds, scents, wind, temperature variations and body tilting in the seat. The audience was seated in the focus point in arena seating. It didn't take off either, but the Walt Disney Company soon patented a similar system, called Thrillerama.