Category Archives: Raves

posts about what we think are a GOOD THING

Billions lost through killer app

The UK has lost its AAA credit rating in the same week that the engrossing 360 degree London panorama was released, causing an estimated £8.3 billion loss in national productivity.*

I challenge anyone to keep up their industrial output if they’ve got access to this on their work pc. A massive privacy disaster, granted, but genuinely magic.

* Ok, I made that up. But I did say “estimated” (i.e. my guess is as good as yours. Well, better because I have access to the media – to wit, a wordpress blog) So it’s totally consistent with all the economic forecasts that you see normally.

Brilliant artwork

By chance, I spotted a gallery/shop/whatever window display in Liverpool One, piled high with unsettling baby dolls. This was arresting enough as a sight and it was drawing the attention and laughter of almost every other passerby.

But the explanation that accompanied the exhibition showed that the whole project is close to genius:

To produce a written constitution for the UK, by outsourcing the job to China.

You can read all about the project – with some fascinating posts – and track the journey using Google Maps and even see photos of the disturbing dolls on
http://www.mrdemocracy.org/.

Brilliant.

Machines of Loving Grace

Another work of genius by Adam Curtis was on BBC last night. In the UK, Episode 1 will be on the BBC’s i-player, In any case, it will probably be repeated a few times before the next episode (Monday, 30th. )

Amazingly thought-provoking. It fills your mind with images and ideas. I would certainly disagree with some of his arguments. (I can’t believe that Ayn Rand was really a major influence on the development of Silicon Valley individualism, no matter how many techy people called their kids Rand, for example. ) The programme is so engaging that I found myself arguing political/social/ecological points with the tv screen.

Curtis presents masterly transparent propaganda. Propaganda in the purest sense – spreading ideas, trying to make people change their minds. Transparent because he is explicit about what he is saying and communicates in a form that makes it explicit that he is spreading ideas. With blinding creative skill. He wants to make the viewer think creatively and recognise and question other propoganda.

Even if you’re not in the UK, you can read an interview with Adam Curtis and watch an intro clip on the Register.

The Register interview actually makes his point of view a lot clearer than the first episode. (But watching the programme is a pure joy. The interview is no substitute)

Challenging Utopian theories about the web:

I was suspicious of it because I hadn’t noticed power had disappeared. The real bastions of power are as they were, and are more concentrated. So I decided to trace those ideas back to their source. It leads you back to an absolutely fascinating area, which you can loosely call cybernetics, and also information theory.(from the Register)

He has a blog on the BBC. This is a source of major treats, such as “A is for Atom” which has an old documentary he made which dealt with the design of reactor at Fukushima Daiich. Or Rupert Murdoch – a portrait of Satan

Christians trying to do some good

Sorry Yanks. Our Baptists and Methodists are much better than yours. (Well, there had to be at least one thing we could crow about.)

While American baptists include people like Pat Robertson. some of OUR baptists seem to be more sane – wise and admirable, even.

The baptists, methodist and united reformed churches in the UK haven’t just got together to speak out against the condem government’s massive cuts in public spending and welfare, they’ve even had the grace to challenge the made-up statistics that the condem government is using to support the cuts:

The Methodist and United Reformed Churches, and the Baptist Union, said the £5bn figure Mr Osborne quoted in his spending review speech wrongly depicted the poorest and most vulnerable in society as thieves.
President of the Methodist Conference, Alison Tomlin, said it was a question of fairness.
“Exaggerating benefit fraud points the finger of blame at the poor” she said. “Let us be clear this recession was not caused by the poor, those on benefits, or even benefit cheats.” (from the BBC)

The Moderator of the United Reformed Church has described her organisation as “concerned” about the cuts. Although. they actually put it a bit more strongly than “concern”.

Mrs Val Morrison, moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, warns about the long term effects of yesterday’s comprehensive spending review (CSR) on the UK’s infrastructure. She says: “I worry about the futures of communities across the UK – these cuts could undo years of constructive effort to build community cohesion and tolerance in the UK. And, on an individual level, the stark reality is that most households will be badly affected by the CSR and the ideological shift – from Big State to Big Society – that it represents.”…

…. Addressing the disproportionate impact that the cuts to welfare spending will have on the poor and vulnerable in the UK, Mr Simon Loveitt, public issues spokesperson for the URC, commented: ….. “As Christians we reject the rhetoric which seeks to revive a disciplinary approach to welfare, only concerned with controlling, rather than supporting, individuals; and sees poverty as an issue about personal behaviour and dependency, rather than economic inequality and justice.”

(What a great name that spokesperson has. Don’t you just, etc?)

In your faces, raptard baptists.

Some sort of tribute

Benoit Mandelbrot died on 14th October.

(Non-breaking news from me. i.e. Probably 4 days after everyone else knows it. A good tribute on the BBC by the way but the images are poor.)

He was the main man for making maths beautiful, even to mathematically challenged people like me.. Fractal mathematics is the mathematics of life. In fact, for atheists, fractal maths is pretty much a direct route to what simpler people call looking at the face of “god” .

Here’s a beginner’s guide to what fractals are with links to some image galleries.

In the mid-nineties there were any number of graphics packages that let you play around with creating fractals, from a standing start, on a 486…. Especially the venerable and respected fractint.

I found a version that’s still online. version 20. It’s been updated to work on Windows 3.0…. Hmmm, even my PC isn’t quite that elderly.
(Wahay. I found a 2008 ftp site. Must try it out again.)

Here are a few fractal image links from tinterwebs.

* The classic Mandelbrot set.From a site that explains why it isn't evidence of Intelligent Design

I like the source that I got this image from. It points out that someone might see a visual representation of a Mandelbrot set as evidence for “Intelligent Design” and answers

But in fact, the Mandelbrot set is the product of a relatively simple mathematical equation.

That’s the non-divinely miraculous nature of fractal images. A few simple changes in start conditions and/or a slightly different equation and another infinite set of magical things appears.

* A fractal vegetable.

from wikipedia- image of a romanesco broccoli
Romanesco broccoli

Ok that’s cheating. Pretty much any living thing is “fractal.” The difference is that romanesco broccoli LOOKS like a generated fractal.

* The coastline of Norway
Space view of the coast of Norway

The coast of Norway looks like a generated fractal too. But, then, any coast is fractal. Zoom in and it breaks up into infinitely recursive self-similar patterns.

In fact, everything is pretty much fractal. Incredibly simple and endlessly complex. And we can see this mainly thanks to teh work of Mandelbrot.

Genius

Facing the dole because of the cuts that have made the IMF so pleased with the Condem government?

(Who knew the IMF had a UK vote? To be honest, I prefer IKEA’s furniture.)

Well, you can now retrain for an easy and rewarding new career as a science journalist, thanks to Martin Robbins in the Guardian who has provided a template for any and every science article you’ll ever write.
This is a news website article about a scientific paper

It’s brilliant.

Eztra: I forgot to mention the links which are pretty funny too.

They never learn

The Team directly responsible for the Iraq War / selling off UK public services to private companies / destroying civil liberties / turning at least a blind eye to torture losing the last election really haven’t got the message have they?

Mandelson and Blair are telling Labour party members – through the privileged medium of the public press – who to vote for in the upcoming election. Well, who not to vote for, anyway. And that is a category that seems to include everyone except David Miliband….. They both regard a potential win by Ed Miliband as a potential electoral disaster.

But then they are such popular chaps, these two – Blair and Mandelson….

Any remarks by Blair will be a mixed blessing for David Miliband: Blair has not been forgiven by many Labour activists for the Iraq war and the involvement of the private sector in public services. From the Guardian

Indeed, all the candidates united in publicly expressing distaste for Mandelson only two months ago.

Former foreign secretary David Miliband, who is believed to be Mandelson’s preferred candidate for the party leadership, described the memoirs as “destructive and self-destructive”.
He compared Mandelson’s appearance in a TV advert for the book to that of Bond villain Enst Blofeld, saying all the former minister, nicknamed the Prince of Darkness, needed was a white cat to stroke.

And he’s Mandelson’s chosen candidate….

I can detect only minimal difference between Millidum and Millidee. A conspiracy theorist might even suggest that Blair & Mandelson’s support for Milliband_A was just a cunning ruse designed to leverage (;-) the mass force of Party members’ anti-Blair&Mandelson revulsion to ensure that Miliband_B was elected.

.. Mandelson said anyone who tried to take Labour back to the era before Blair’s election as leader in 1994 would wreck the party’s chances of a swift return to power. (from the Guardian)

(I didn’t even know that any of the candidates had a time machine. )

This implies that the Labour party that is just power-seeking machine. What is supposed to be the point of seeking power? Pre-Blair Labour supporters might have said something about social justice. The Blairite camp would just snigger at your naivete for even posing the question.
In a video on the Guardian’s website, Diane Abbott talked about the massive contrast in campaign funding between her campaign (a couple of volunteers and a £1000 in the bank) and Miliband_A’s. He, on the other hand, has received over £200,000. Plus the poisoned-chalice free support of the New Labour big guns, of course.

Spot the odd one out: Candidate’s voting records…..
Diane Abbott
David Milliband
Ed Milliband
Ed Balls
Andy Burnham

Mmm. Only one of these candidates hasn’t spent the past few years kissing leadership butt and supporting the sort of policies that have brought the Labour Party into such disrepute among its natural supporters.

There’s one candidate with clean hands. And (simulated surprise) she doesn’t have big money from big business.

As Andy Hamilton said on Have I Got News For You last year (from memory)…

“I can’t be doing with these new metric politicians like the Millibands. I much preferred the old imperial ones like Michael Foot..”

Shilling for free

I did warn you that there might be a bit of an unlikely folk dancing theme developing here. So I am proud to act as a temporary (unpaid) shill for a film about morris dancing. Here’s most of the press release:

Despite rumours circulating earlier in the year, Morris Dancing (yes Morris Dancing), is very much alive with thousands of participants across the UK and is the subject of the hilarious film Morris: A Life with Bells On, premiering exclusively on Blighty (Sky channel 534, Virgin Media 206) on 29th May at 8pm.

A film that will have even the most cynical viewer reaching for their white handkerchiefs, Morris: A Life with Bells On is directed by Lucy Akhurst and stars Charles Thomas Oldham (who also wrote the screenplay) as Derecq Twist, along with Sir Derek Jacobi (The Golden Compass), Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), Ian Hart (A Cock and Bull Story), Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen), Sophie Thompson (Eastenders) Harriet Walter (The Young Victoria), Aidan McArdle (The Duchess), and Greg Wise (Sense and Sensibility).

Described as This is Spinal Tap meets Calendar Girls, the film follows the fortunes of an avant-garde Morris team in their struggle to push the boundaries of the venerable, ancient dance. Set around the country pub The Travellers Staff, the docu-style comedy proves that Morris is not just an innocent pub pastime involving hanky-waving and bearded men with staffs, but also that it has its politics-laden, ultra-competitive side too.

The Millsham Morris men and their leader Derecq Twist are determined to achieve Morris perfection. But Derecq is also preparing to set the Morris world alight by performing the ultimate dance within the Morris firmament, the legendary Threeple Hammer Damson. As if this is not enough, he is in addition pioneering an innovative, daringly freeform brand of the dance dubbed “Extreme Morris,” drawing the anger of traditionalist elements within the Morris community. When Millsham unveil their creation in competition, the Morris Circle – the governing body of Morris in the UK – bans Derecq from future competition. Totally devastated by the decision, Derecq embarks on a global odyssey through tragedy and triumph, which gravely tests his passion for Morris.

I am impressed beyond words by the concept of extreme morris.

They embedded some clips with the press release. I’m not sure how well they’ll work here.


It looks as if it will be funny. (Don’t blame me if it isn’t. I haven’t seen it yet.)

The other clips are basically “DVD outtakes”, of which I’m not the world’s greatest admirer, so I’ve skipped them. If there’s any demand I’ll post them. I’ll have to put one of the publicity pictures, though, because it looks as if it came straight from the school of Zoolander Morris….

a publicity show for the film
I think this is Dereqk..

Fool for carrying on

The Metro alerted me to a music genre improbably called “Donk.” This seems to be a house-based descendant of the Wigan Casino Northern Soul line (related to Northend Scouse House and with a similar dress code.)

(Bow before my effortless cultural referencing. One of us was trained to do this….)

The Guardian was way ahead of the Metro on the donk-knowledge curve, describing it as

“Bouncy techno meets terrible rapping? Welcome to Donk”

OK, it sounds pretty tasteless to me. But not quite as tasteless as reading a Guardian writer and several commenters expressing a kneejerk sneering and bigoted response to any northern working class artform.

The same Guardian writer has introduced some truly improbable musical styles. Japanese dancehall is my current favourite.

So – in your face, music snobs. Here’s my April free gift to the world.

The bluffers’ tool that you can use to look effortlessly hip.

Invent a genre that you alone know about. Or, if you are musician, looking to corner the market in a new genre, this is the app for you.
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Simon Singh gets result

Simon Singh has won his libel appeal against a case brought by the British Chiropractic Association.

Take pleasure in the instance of the right thing being done but the case cost the defence £200,000.

So just to be on the safe side, not having £200k to spend on legal protection, I want it on record that this blog will never “question claims made by companies or organisations “……..

That leaves us with loads to blog about. Erm.

To start with, all alternative medicine works. Oh yes, the Rapture is imminent. ID cards are a brilliant idea that the UK population is crying out for, except of course the bad people who have something to hide. Political correctness has indeed gone mad. etc

Well, that should guarantee our future.

Requiem for a Dream

“I can’t be doing with these new metric politicians, like the Millibands.
I much prefer the old Imperial measure ones, like Michael Foot”

(Andy Hamilton on QI, from memory, so paraphrased)

Distressing to see that Michael Foot has died. It’s close to impossible to think of any living politician who could match his integrity.

Amazing that he ever became the leader of the Labour Party, in the face of a barrage of media hostility. Amazing indeed that the Labour party once contained members who didn’t consult the Murdoch press and the Daily Mail before they made policy. In living memory, even. That used the word “socialism” as if it wasn’t a curse.

He almost never put a Foot wrong. (Yes, I’m sorry for the terrible pun. It had to be said somewhere.) He was a co-founder of CND. He was an MP during the 1945 Labour government. He was also “an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association.” according to the Wikipedia profile.

One of Foot’s policies – nationalising the banks – seems to have taken place, although it’s hard to imagine that Foot would have done that without having any actual control over them….

It is genuinely unthinkable that Foot would have ever become leader of a government that pisses all over civil liberties, that seems willing to randomly invade anywhere the US chooses, that maintains privatised “immigration removal centres” comparable to concentration camps, and so on… Ad nauseam.

He was brought down by a “donkey jacket” that wasn’t even a donkey jacket. Of course no modern politician would attend a Remembrance Day event at the Cenotaph without consulting a team of stylists and PR advisers. And visibly sobbing when they got there.

The Guardian has pictures and a straightforward life story which is distinguished by the comments that express the great respect and affection of people from all political viewpoints.

Popular, not populist. Almost the mirror image of the current Labour Party in fact. Wail.

Speaking in tongues

English speakers are notoriously bad at speaking any other languages. When travelling, we tend to treat anyone’s inability to understand what we are saying as a form of deafness, so we just speak English very LOUDLY.

I’ve even come across an American variant of this, which involves the assumption that anything said in English will be understood just as long as you don’t use any contractions: so saying “I will not” will get you understood where “I won’t” won’t.

I’ve just (accidentally) discovered a BBC site that could singlehandedly end the international muteness of the English speaker.

It is wonderful. It covers a dozen languages well enough to take you quickly to a reasonable level of practical fluency. It also gives you key phrases for 36 other languages. It is entertaining and easy to use.

More BBC website genius. I stand in awe of the BBC for producing this. It’s free. It’s as useful as most commercial courses and probably a good bit more effective than any language lessons most people had in school. (If they had language lessons… I believe these are becoming the educational equivalent of an endangered species. like any non-utilitarian subject in British universities, now I come to think of it.)

Wouldn’t this be a good resource for schools? Imagine if English-speaking people left school with a useful smattering of a dozen languages rather than our present incapacity to even say “Hola!” on Spanish holidays.

As an aside, the print Guardian gave out little booklets with a few phrases in the world’s fastest-growing languages. No rival to the BBC’s mastery in the area but they did offer a few unique joys, such as the gestures. These were illustrated with drawings that made you think of the non-existent cartoon “Family Guy Does Russian.”

Is swine flu non-kosher?

Compare the faith-fulness of these Orthodox rabbis with the prosaic Church of England recognition that holy water is not actually holy enough to stop the spread of swine flu.

According to beliefnet, a planeload of rabbis and mystics held an airborne prayer meeting to ask their god to spare Israel from swine flu.

Flying Rabbis Pray to Save Israel from Swine Flu
JERUSALEM – A planeload of Israeli rabbis and Jewish mystics held an airborne prayer meeting in the belief that it could help check the spread of swine flu in Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Yediot Ahronot daily said a plane with 50 people on board circled over Israel on Monday, with the passengers chanting prayers and sounding the ritual ram’s horn. (From beliefnet)

A plane? Why did they have to get in a plane?

I can only assume it’s to get closer to Him Upstairs, in a touchingly childlike belief that their god actually lives in the sky.

In which case, I suggest that it might be easy to get funding for a few manned space missions, if the astronauts promise to pray fervently once they’re out of earth’s atmosphere.

Despite having fallen victim to the dread disease (for which I got free Tamiflu, courtesy of the NHS, :-p to US Republicans) I never realised that swine flu had a religious dimension. But the rabbis are not alone.

Here are a few swine flu magic stories, transmitted to me by the magical powers of Google Loki .

An Imam claimed that swine flu affirms the power of the Koran. He assumed muslims couldn’t get it because they don’t eat pork or work with pigs. :-) ( Bit of an epic science fail , there.)

I guess he’s had to reconsider the accuracy of Allah’s smiting strategy by now, given that even pilgrims returning from Mecca have come down with the virus.

The god of conservative Christians was busy smiting to put a stop to idol-worship rather than pig-eating. Republican faith Chat said:

SWINE FLU: GOD’S LATEST PUNISHMENT OF IDOL-WORSHIP
,,,but let’s face it: God doesn’t punish nonbelievers today to the same degree He did in the days of old. ….. And as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson aptly observed, 9/11 reflected God’s fury for our tolerance of abortionists and homos. But lately, the Lord’s slaughter has been limited to the occasional flood, tornado and plane crash which involve just handfuls of nonbelieving sinners. But no more! The Lord is back with a vengeance.
One of God’s favorite conduits for extinguishing evil is swine. Surely, we all remember the time that Jesus cast the devils possessing a nudist into a herd of swine which promptly drowned themselves. This time, the swine are staying alive and killing the devils, a/k/a Mexicans, a/k/a Catholics, a/k/a cultists, a/k/a idol-worshippers.”

(Ok, I admit it, this one must be a spoof site.)

Buddhist normally get off relatively unscathed in this column but this suggests there’s a publicity-hungry lunatic fringe in every religion.

Taiwan Buddhist master says swine flu is warning for mankind
A Taiwan Buddhist master said Thursday that swine flu is “the earth’s warning” to human beings to stop destroying the environment. Master Cheng Yen, 72, nicknamed Taiwan’s Mother Teresa for her charity work, gave the warning in her daily speech to her disciples around the world.
Choked with tears, Cheng Yen said it is not a coincidence that it was exactly this time six years ago that severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, broke out. (from Earth Times)

(I love the idea that “Taiwan’s Mother Teresa” is a nickname. You’d think it was much easier to say “Cheng Yen” )

Anyway, she thinks that everyone becoming vegetarian and looking after the environment would prevent swine flu.