Sun, Jul. 4th, 2010, 02:28 pm
Sunday Silliness

If greyeyedeve can play, so can I...

Fresh from being the first band to mention public-key encryption in a major record release, Cracker appear to have just one-upped themselves in the geek stakes. (The song's pretty good, too.)

Fri, Aug. 14th, 2009, 02:01 pm
ID Cards: All Aboard The Failboat

As if the soon-to-be-ex-government's soon-to-be-ex-ID card scheme wasn't looking doomed enough already, The Register today has a detailed article about just how poorly David Blunkett's magical biometrics are likely to work in reality. (Short answer: poorly.)

Oh, and large number of council workers have been fired or reprimanded for using the DWP's proto-identity database (the oft-lauded "clean" database having slunk back to fairyland some years back) to, amongst other things, look up their neighbours and vet their daughters' boyfriends. And that's just the ones caught in a random automated audit. But of course, the hundreds of thousands of people who will have access to the ID database will be entirely immune to such urges. Honest.

Sat, Aug. 1st, 2009, 09:50 pm
Reckoning Days : Thoughts on Bokurano

A few weeks ago the last chapter of Mohiro Kitoh's Bokurano was finally published. After taking the time to re-read the completed story from the beginning I've been wondering how to organise my thoughts in such a way as to be able to discuss it without spoiling it for anyone else.

It is, in many ways, a difficult story. Difficult to talk about, because to do so almost unavoidably entails revealing most of the key elements of the plot. Difficult to recommend because, whilst it can be charming, insightful, and breathtakingly beautiful, it is also unremittingly cruel and unflinching in its portrayal of human nature. Nonetheless, for those willing to deal with such things, it's a powerful, exciting and compelling piece of storytelling.

Fundamentally, Bokurano is a story about confronting one's own death. Almost from the outset, the central characters, all children aged 10-13, are condemned, and they know it, trapped in a game whose rules they only learn too late. Each is introduced as their turn comes: we learn their hopes and their dreams; we watch them live out the final days of their lives; and unlike them, we see what they leave behind.

The essence of the game which the children must play is simple:
  • For 48 hours you will be granted control of a powerful and nearly invulnerable weapon.

  • You will have the chance to fight to save the world; should you lose or forfeit the game, it will cease to exist.

  • You cannot know in advance when the game will begin.

  • Win or lose, you will die as soon as the game is over.

  • Should you win, your body may be disposed of in a manner of your choosing.

  • Even if you win, in order to avoid a global panic or possible reprisals, no-one will learn what you have done.

In the story as presented, the children are caught up in the game without their consent; their choice, for those who consider it, is to decide whether their world deserves to be saved. But suppose that the offer were made openly: someone must play the game, but you need not do so. Would you willingly decide to enter the game, knowing the consequences? Assuming you were required to play, how would you spend your final days? Would you want to win? And how might you use the power the game could grant you?

(Comments anonymised, in case anyone wishes to confess to having a hit-list prepared, or to having Hunter S. Thompson-esque fantasies for their funeral.)

Thu, Jul. 2nd, 2009, 05:57 pm
Waiting for The Big One

Because Hollywood really is overdue for its date with the pacific right about now.

Tue, Jun. 16th, 2009, 07:15 am
Magical Elixir

Bad dreams? We've got just the thing for you: homeopathic plutonium!

Also, it seems that the Faux News reporter who got sacked for talking about pirated copies of Wolverine is now claiming that he was really fired to appease the Scientologists. Whilst I certainly wouldn't put it past the Clams to be that vindictive (in fact I'd expect them to be much more so), I think I'll wait for the outcome of the court case before taking the word of someone who worked for the worst part of the Murdoch empire.

Wed, May. 27th, 2009, 07:36 am
Only Certain Shades of Red

Apparently Facebook and LiveJournal have received financial backing from the "colourful" Alisher Usmanov, infamous rapist, gangster, blackmailer and close personal friend of dissident-boiling Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov. (Oh, he's also famous for having Schillings send intimidating legal letters to anyone who suggests he's other than a heroic figure in the fall of Russian communism. Wonder if I'll score one for this?) This does not fill me with love for either site, it must be said.

Oh, and on the subject of gangsters, my favourite line of the day from Alan Greenspan:
Greenspan had an unusual take on market fraud, Born recounted: "He explained there wasn’t a need for a law against fraud because if a floor broker was committing fraud, the customer would figure it out and stop doing business with him."

Tue, May. 5th, 2009, 06:02 pm
Your Daily Snark

Bill Maher on the ever-increasing wackiness of Texas and its creationist governor:

Wed, Apr. 22nd, 2009, 07:33 am

What's this? Another "terror plot" with no actual terror? Quick, we'd better deport these dangerous subversives before they magic bomb-making equipment out of thin air. Or say something embarrassing about the government.

Meanwhile, across the pond: Ah, delicious irony.

Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009, 07:38 am
Pass the Holy Water

Quelle surprise: Dick Cheney has crawled out of his crypt to tell an approving Faux News that torture is just fine when he orders it. (Clearly the 182nd time's the charm when it comes to waterboarding...) Can anyone tell me why this pestilential ghoul is allowed to walk the streets instead of being in jail where he belongs?

Fri, Apr. 17th, 2009, 08:21 am
Tortured Language

Dear BBC: No, waterboarding is not a "controversial" nor a "harsh" "interrogation technique". It is torture, both legally and morally. This is not a partisan position, so who exactly are you attempting to mollify by avoiding the correct words? Neither is it "simulated" drowning: water enters the victim's lungs. It is actual drowning - "controlled" drowning, perhaps, but not "simulated".

It is, of course, sickening for President Obama to say that the CIA's torturers won't be prosecuted. The US has ratified the conventions on torture and therefore has a legal obligation to prosecute them, as does every other signatory country if the US fails to do so. Neither is claiming that "they thought it was legal" a defence. As the Nuremberg tribunals laid down, it makes no difference whether a government tells you that ripping someone's nails off is legal; as an independent moral agent, you have a moral duty to refuse to do so. (Indeed, I'm pretty sure that the act of claiming that torture is legal is itself a crime - and I wish the Spanish authorities all the best in attempting to prosecute Bush's former lawyers for doing so.) However, in the end the actual torturers are insignificant. The true criminals are Bush, Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo and their co-conspirators who planned and authorised the whole malevolent enterprise. Sadly, I have no faith that Obama will allow any efforts to prosecute them either. Which means it's up to every other nation in the world to hope that any of them plans to take a foreign holiday sometime soon...

10 most recent