Posts from 18th October 2005

Oct 05

Those poll results in full

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 293 views

Well, my extensive research. Which included chatting to three whole people at the bar, and peering over at the booking sheets to check the phone codes I can reveal that the mysterious pub goers come from all over the shop. One Liverpudlian and one Prestonian give the place a catchment area of over tenty miles, which explained the crush at the bar.

These findings, however, pale into insignificance next to the discovery that Mutton was on the menu, and man was it good. Slow cooked hunks of juicy meat garlanded with a golden, gamey, unctuous fat. I gather the noble sheep is due a bit of a restaurant revival, and on this showing about time too (the chips were good n’all).

It has a contour bottle you know

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 264 views

Brahma beer. That’s what they want us to drink. How will they get us to drink it? Make it cheap in the off licence. Advertise the hell out of it (just wait til the New Year). Stock the club back bars with it relenetlessly. It’s sexy, it’s Brazilian, just connect a bit of baille funk and carnival to it and bang: the next Sol will be Brahma.

What does it taste like? Ah fuck, it is bottled lager with a lime shoved down its neck. It doesn’t have to taste of anything.


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 190 views

… but this made me larf (it reminded me of me and ethanon AIM!)

(in PBS bcz of technology like)

CSI: Maths

Do You SeePost a comment • 925 views

Or Numb3rs (yes, that is how its spelt, I am not just googleproofing cos I am going to insult it). Where CSI has our talented professionals solving crime using forensic science, the heroes of Numb3rs use maths instead. Where CSI has Jerry Bruckheimer, Numb3rs has Tony & Ridley Scott exec producing. Now before I saw it I wondered exactly how they were going to trade in the gory yet fascinating SFX shots inside gunshot wounds with its mathematical equivalent. As much Athena went nuts on the fractal posters in the early nineties* maths just lacks the visual oomph of a shard of glass from an explosion lacerating an eyeball at top speed**.

Well Numb3rs does not really stray too far from its CSI template. Artfully shot serially killed bodies, quick forensic facts (the branding iron was heated up to 300 degrees). So far so Grissom. Even Rob Morrow, more crinkled than in his Northern Exposure turn, is the kind of lead actor that a CSI spin-off would promote to top spot. But then we hit the kooky home life (Judd Hirsch as crinkly Dad, and David Krumholz’s mathmo brother all living with top cop Morrow) and Krumholz gets to say phrases like “Everything is numbers”. And then we get our CSI sexy visuals: this time with graphs, swoopy stop motion graphics and the kind of equations which they love on TV because they are
a) Meaningless***
b) look like they have been written on a shitty old blackboard

So the family take the piss out of the brother, and Morrow gets to say lines like “Well he is a pain in the ass but he is a world class mathematician”. We cut from police procedural to maths procedural. Phrases like killer=innocent whiz across the screen. There is a sexy girl maths fans who touches the blackboard in a sensual way****. Mathmo gets told off for being a bit distracted by being told the history of Galois*****. And the maths that saves the day: PROBABILTY? Bah, since when did probability ever save anyone’s life (actually in this case it doesn’t).

So is Numb3rs (pronounced Numb Three Ers) any good. Well it is a well observed CSI knock-off, and it is not clear exactly why all these related men live together, but in a world with one too many CSI’s it is at least a bit different. And while the mathematical application in this episode makes a degree of sense, one assumes that the maths will get more and more tenuous as the series progresses (and so gruff, anti-maths Sarge can bark out things like “no way we get a court order off an equation”). We learn that humans do not conform to mathematical formulas, and then that they do, just slightly longer ones. CSI meets a Beautiful Mind. As good and bad as that suggests.

*In retrospect this is probably why Athena went bust.
** Or is that Man With A Movie Camera?
***Okay, there is a properly paid maths consultant on the show so its probably not completely meaningless.
****Turns out mathmo brother is supervising her. The ethics of this do just about spring up.
*****Inventor of Galois theory who died in a duel because he got messed up in politics. Some mathematicians think this is a shame. Anyone who actually studies Galois Theory or understands the finer things in life probably disagree.


TMFDPost a comment • 230 views

Patrick Fitzgerald, whizzkid prosecutor about to blow apart the Bush Administration (or possibly not), used to play rugby

THE KINKS – “Sunny Afternoon”

Popular37 comments • 4,888 views

#218, 9th July 1966

I have a vivid image of Summer in the 60s, heat-hazed beauty, dollybirds in floral print minidresses, everything rich and green and the whole English countryside suffused with light. Since I wasn’t born until 1973, this can’t be from memory. My best guess is that it’s rooted in The Golden Oldie Picture Show, a tawdry early-80s TV show fronted by Dave Lee Travis whose hook was “what if old hits had had videos?”. Very cheap videos. I can’t remember if “Sunny Afternoon” was given the video treatment but later songs by the Mixtures and Mungo Jerry certainly were and they told me that the recent past was bucolic, full of rich young things, boaters, long legs, lawns, lanes and muttonchops.

“Sunny Afternoon”, with the Kinks playing an English Lovin’ Spoonful, is a seed for that languid vision, even if I didn’t realise it. It’s also a satire of the idly wealthy, but the languor overwhelms the satire for me, now and every time. Mind you, it seems to me that effective satire has to carry within it the temptation to become the thing it hates – or in this case the rueful fear that it already has. Pop itself was creating new wealth – yachts, stately homes, the taxman’s hand were hot topics and not just for mockery, especially given how the London scene mingled pop and fashion and the young aristocracy, all basking in each others’ glory. Distance and deference balance in “Sunny Afternoon”: compromised bliss is still, after all, blissful.

“Sunny Afternoon” is also one of those records where I wish I had any kind of musicological chops, so I could piece together exactly how the Kinks create its four-pints-down sense of boozy irresponsibility, where time meanders by and nothing matters except the sunshine and a refilled glass. Something in the rhythms, the pub backroom piano, the buskerly strum and Ray Davies dreamy, blurred vocal, no doubt.

lord of the dance

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 324 views

i’m not a huge fan of james wolcott’s writing — about music, film OR more recently politics — and plus i STILL haven’t read rip it up (or finished benW’s notorious review!), but this handy rave, which then actually waxes more lyrical about cunningham and cage, reminded me i. of THIS, and ii. of a joke i made on POPTIMISTS somewhere, that simonR had NEVER IN HIS LIFE WRITTEN ABOUT DANCE (which is i think true if by “dance” you don’t mean “dance music” — which he’s written lots about obv — but like ACTUAL DANCE DO YOU SEE) (as in moving yr body in non-ordinary-language-ways

anyway it remains a massive yet strangely under-examined and shied-away-from aspect of pop, from TAPDANCING to JAMES BROWN to BRITNEY

so, shy towards it and over-examine, plz

UPDATE: “does for post-punk… what Roger Shattuck’s The Banquet Years did for the pre-WWI French avant-garde” — see for me this, intended as a vast compliment, is actually a bit of a slap in the face

b3ta’s food science: poached eggs

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 2,438 views follows the modern way of cooking. Google the recipe/method and try out the top hits. Now I don’t recall ever having poaching an egg, but I recall the “vortex” method – possibly because my massive science skeeelz bend my mind to anything with the word “vortex” in it. Perhaps poached egg methods are the rorschach test of food science.

can you guess the winning method?

The Professional Ethics Of Strangeness

Blog 7Post a comment • 153 views

In his excellent book about stage magic, Hiding The Elephant, Jim Steinmeyer touches on an important question – to what extent should magicians pretend that they actually have magical powers? Very few magicians are straightforward in their artifice, most make a show of inexplicability, but of course it’s accepted that it is a show, part of the act and also a professional courtesy. The stage magician, it seems, is bounded at both ends: deny any mystery and you lose the audience, overdo the mystery and you lose the respect of your peers.

Steinmeyer tells the story of the Davenport brothers and their cabinet of spirits, which emitted unearthly glows and sounds while the brothers were ‘tied up’ inside it. In this case escapology + gothism = the supernatural, but it caused riots across Britain during the 1860s. The apparent insistence of the Davenports that they could indeed contact the spirit world, and their involvement with the burgeoning spiritualist movement (started, Steinmeyer suggests, by a mendacious child with a deformed toe!) caused a rush of debunkers, several of whom then nicked the secrets for their own magic acts. In his book about the brothers, who he admired for their rope-wriggling, Houdini felt compelled to put in big capital letters that they NEVER CLAIMED TO BE SPIRITUALISTS (a total lie which his editor removed).

It’s clear this is an ethical line for practitioners of the fantastic – step over into the world of the supernatural and you risk drawing unwelcome attention, not from Teh Devil but from skeptics who otherwise leave stage magic well alone (not being total killjoys). Also it’s a bit lame. Unfortunately crossing this line can also put you in among the big earners, cf. Uri Geller who Alan rightly nailed on this earlier.

I suspect there’s a bit of sniffiness involved too – if you can gull the punters into believing you have actual psychic powers then you don’t need to work the physically dextrous aspects of your craft as much. Once a “TV psychic” has told his Big Lie, the specifics of his small lies are pretty tawdry and unspectacular. But of course some performers walk this line very well – Derren Brown has excellent stagecraft and a love for the spectacular effect that makes him less of an easy target than the Davenports, Geller and the likes of Derek Acorah.

Centrifugal Force

Blog 77 comments • 1,242 views

This didn’t make the FT list of unexplained phenomena on the spurious grounds that it is easily explained. THIS IS NONSENSE. Rarely will you get a scientist to explain it, they will try to fob you off saying that it just does not exist – which is obviously a lie. They are involved in a gigantic cover up on a scale unheard of since the great “there’s a floating gyroscope in my garage” incident of 1952.

Centrifugal force as portrayed in all good “science is fun (ages 7 to 10)” books is what keeps toy soldiers (or lego people) standing on a foil pie-case when swung around your head in a model of a space ship. But how does it happen? Normally the soldier will just slide off the pie case when you tip it up 90°? Centrifugal force must be a form of FRICTION – another unexplained phenomena!

(There really is a great deal that science fails to explain. Like cork floating. There are some things we, with our small animal perspective on the universe, are not meant to understand, and we should be more humble in the face of the infinite/numinous and know our place is not to pretend at even wanting to understand. Ever.)

If you ever get a scientist to expand on the initial “go away, there’s no such thing” lie, they will start to bleat on about “centripetal” force. This is clearly just the same thing – they’ve even copied the name, but with a slightly different ending! It’s so transparent a ploy that a child can spot it. I did – and I was just 7. Anyway, “centripetal” (ha) force they will say is “what keeps things going in a circle” blah blah (they will never get round to the important toy soldier/pie case thing) and it is equal and opposite to the centrifugal force because “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” SO… IT DOES EXIST!

How can centripetal force exist if it is equal and opposite to centrifugal force which you say does not exist!!! eh?

So where does centrifugal force come from? Well some say it comes from the edges of the universe – this is known as Mach’s Principle – and others say it is just very very clever. We may never really know more about this mysterious force.