From the category archives:

Time Sink

Harry Potter Moe

by Belle Waring on August 17, 2015

What if the people who made super-popular, insanely adorbs anime K-On made an anime of Harry Potter? In which they skip around from era to era so that everyone can be a student (and this is very much what they would do, if you think about it)? Then, it would look like the following video, which you must promise me you will watch to when you burst out laughing at the face of Severus Snape–himself as astonished as you are–after which you will find it mere child’s play to continue to the end to get a glimpse of Helga Hufflepuff in a miniature top hat. The Weasley twins are perfect. They could be like the twins in Ouran High Host Club! (The girls and I, hearing the premise of that anime–HS students run gigolo-type host club as one of the school clubs, and blackmail an androgynous girl into participating, in drag–thought it would be awful. But last summer we were bored at my mom’s and succumbed to the magic of Netflix, only to find it’s hilarious. It sends up shojo manga tropes a lot.)

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What Do You Tell Your Children About The Internet?

by Belle Waring on November 3, 2014

When Zoë was maybe 10 and old enough to start randomly looking at things on the internet without much supervision other than Google SafeSearch (well, such a thing was likely to occur; I’m not sure she was old enough per se) I had a little talk with her. And Violet, but Violet wasn’t paying attention. I re-had the talk with Violet later. It went like this: don’t ever go to 4chan, OK? OK. Also, there are weirdos on the internet who are grownups but want to have sex with children. Her: “Whaaaaa–??@? I thought people had sex so that–” Ya, I know. Just, roll with me. They pretend to be other kids so they can talk to kids. So don’t talk to weirdos who ask you a lot of personal questions, and don’t ever tell anyone on the internet where you live, and later when you have photos and an email and attachments don’t send them to anyone. But also if somehow something weird happens and you get scared of someone or feel like something is wrong you should always tell me, and I’ll never be mad at you even if you didn’t do 100% “the right thing,” and it’s never too late to say something is making you scared or feel weird, like, there’s not a crucial window that goes by and then if you miss it you can never speak up because it’s your fault now, because you didn’t say anything before. Also, don’t go to 4chan. Shit, don’t even go to reddit. I’m not saying this because it’s cool and fun, it’s just gross. [Dear CT reader who frequents a perfectly nice and informative knitting sub-reddit that isn’t even sexist at all: them’s the breaks.]

I oke-bray the ules-ray by getting Zoë an FB account for Xmas one year that–her age being the number after ten–was not one of the approved years. It was her top request on her list to Santa. (And free!) I made myself a page administrator, set the privacy settings myself, and said she couldn’t put pictures of herself up. I couldn’t issue a blanket “no anything-chan” rule because of course has all the best pictures in the world. For several years she has obsessively searched for and downloaded both official and (moreso) fan art, and then uploaded it again into massive albums on her FB page. There’s over 5K images on there!
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Shoes: The Only Band That Really Matters. Part I

by Belle Waring on January 18, 2014

No, IRL it’s The Clash. Nonetheless, power pop–it’s so wonderful! What’s the best part? The pop? It…sort of better be the pop because I like the Raspberries and, let’s be frank, the amount of “power” involved is limited. If I had to pick one power pop song that was my favorite ever, I would–I would first declare all Big Star songs off limits so they wouldn’t occupy all the top spots, but it would be “Jesus Christ”, and, well, it should oughta be The Flamin’Groovies'”Shake Some Action,” right?

But screw it, and forget the thing I implied .04 seconds ago in writing this post, because it’s really by Zion, Illnois’ finest, Shoes:

Oh but Belle, what is this mysterious power pop of which you speak? Is it a bunch of lame white bands from the late 70s and early 80s? No. It is a bunch of lame completely awesome white bands from the late 70s and early 80s. (There were some black power pop-style musicians I know nothing about, prolly. Tell me about them, edumacated readers.) Yeah, Americans liked the Beatles, but it took them years to get even the most basic grasp on the thing, during which they sounded like Badfinger, and then new wave started happening, which pushed people into a different confused direction. With the result that, amazing things happened, as above. See also:
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So, during our latest enjoyable discussion fracas mêlée, John alluded to the fact that what I have is something more like a reading illness than a love of literature per se. I usually either walked to school or took the (very crowded) bus when I lived in New York. So I never developed the special skill, honed to perfection by my uncle, of folding the New York Times first, in half upper to lower; then, in halves again but along the central line; finally, in half again along the midline, and reading 1/8 of a page at a time. This sounds easy. But you really need to picture my uncle, a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, taking the subway to work down on Wall Street from the upper East side, whence he was bound to get a seat–I must note he was being rather frugal (which will seem to be belied by what follows, but having a smaller number of really well-made suits is cheaper in the long run). There he is: sitting, in a beautiful bespoke suit (I thought he would die when during a brief fever of bubbliness the firm introduced “casual Fridays,” which policy was happily discarded in 2000, as I assured him it would be), and horn-rimmed glasses, on the express, hemmed in by people, none of whom he is inconveniencing in any way by his NYT reading, because of his special, lifetime-New-Yorker ability to pick up each section, shake it into sudden crisp folds against its own grain, and repeat, as needed, until all is read and the crossword finished by 7:45 a.m. when he gets to work. (As I say, it sounds easy, but think of what happens when you must get from an article folded into the top left 1/8 of one page into the middle 1/8 of the lower part of the next page, and you may not extend it beyond your knees or your elbows beyond your shoulders.) He is a very meticulous and wonderful person, my uncle.
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I’ve recently moved from Edinburgh to Bournemouth for a couple of months.Bournemouth is a bit tattier than I’d expected. I reckon 25% of the shop fronts nearby are vacant and the three hair salons I walk past each morning never seem to have more than one customer at a time. But the summer crowds aren’t yet here, and we have the gloriously long beach front to run and cycle along. And there’s always the breath-takingly odd New Forest national park just down the road. It’s like taking a trip back to childhood to round a New Forest corner at fifteen miles an hour and come face to face with a winter-coated donkey. Make the mistake of stopping the car and he’ll edge cheekily up to the window, baring his teeth to beg a free snack.

Bournemouth has a great system of public gyms, and as I’m on a short hiatus from paid employment (using the unexpected gift of 12 free weeks to write) I’ve discovered the wonder of daytime exercise classes. There is something utterly joyous about being at least ten years below the median age of a spinning session, and constantly dialing the bike down to keep up.

But being out of the army-wife bubble is hard. I won’t be going to two or three coffee mornings, then hosting my own and, hey presto, have met most of my local friends already. Last week, the only in-person conversation I had that wasn’t ‘here’s your change’ and ‘thanks very much’ was a rapidly-spinning-into-enthusiastically-shared-interests chat about steampunk with a guy in the Espresso Kitchen café. (I was re-reading Felix Gilman’s The Rise of Ransom City, and scribbling notes for the upcoming CT seminar on same.) Espresso Guy and I got to wondering if there are other kindred spirits about, and whether they might like to meet up for some rather excellent coffee in The Triangle in Bournemouth.

So, are there any CT readers on the south coast who would like to meet up at Espresso Kitchen at some point over the next week or so? Purely social agenda in mind, for chats about politics, books, and how nice it is that the People’s Republic of Tory have finally stopped broadcasting Thatcherite hagiography eight hours a day. The café can open late or serve food, and they’re open to hosting readings, book clubs, or just a few like-minded souls having a natter.

They walk among us

by Maria on July 23, 2012

Some time in 2009, I was sitting on a bar stool in Dulles Airport, killing an hour or two before a delayed flight back to the west coast. It was one of those horse shoe bars, and I was the only woman. The half a dozen or so suited men were being conspicuously polite about not imposing themselves, but I was feeling quite open to some company for the wait. I raised my glass to the two nearest guys and we got chatting. I was on white wine, and they were on whiskey. After a drink, one of them left to get his flight. The remaining guy stuck around. He was an ex-marine and very good company. He was itching to tell a story, but also kind of averse, so I sat back and let him come to it in his own time.

His old job at the Pentagon had been to sit in a single office and man two phones. One phone was for receiving calls through the public phone system. The other one, he simply picked up and it automatically went through to a blocked internal number. Every so often, the receiving call would ring. It would be a member of the public who wanted to report extra-terrestrial activity; strange lights, crop circles, abductions, whatever. Usually, though, just the strange lights. The guy would write down all the details verbatim, thank the caller for their information, and hang up. Then, he’d pick up the other phone, pass the details along to an unnamed individual, and hang up. And that was it. For two years, he recorded alien-sightings from the public and passed them to someone or other in the military chain of command.

The story tickled me. Not least, because it’s so inconclusive. You can see why the US military would want to keep tabs on sightings of odd-looking aircraft. (I still remember seeing the Stealth bomber parked in Dublin airport a while back and finding it hard to believe it was human tech.) But also, it’s kind of delicious to think the Pentagon is paying a little attention to stuff randomers see and report, just in case it turns out to be aliens.

Of course, the US is not the only country in the world trying, discreetly, to keep an open mind on intelligent, extra-terrestrial life. Recently, the UK’s National Archive opened some files about UFO sightings in Britain. The BBC news story says that between “1950 and 2009, a special Ministry of Defence unit investigated more than 10,000 UFO “sightings” – a rate of one every two days.” The unit followed the same model as my bar-buddy’s; a public hotline and a single staffer whose job was to record and refer. The more you look at the types of things recorded, the more it seems that it’s simply a way to keep track of all-too-terrestrial unexplained happenings in the sky.

All the same, I’m with Stephen Hawking on this; if more intelligent and inter-galactically mobile life exists out there, I very much hope they neither discover nor take any notice of us.

ICANN leadership positions

by Maria on March 11, 2011

I’m a member of the 2011 Nominating Committee which appoints several Board director and committee positions at ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers). Funnily enough, when I was still on staff at ICANN, one of my last tasks was to support the 2009 committee, so though I’m a new member I’ve actually been through a cycle already. Our job is to attract and then sort through applications for positions doing unpaid work on fairly gritty issues in the technical coordination of the Internet’s naming & numbering systems.

So far, there are about 35 applications for 8 open positions. Half of them have applied to be Board Directors. None – not a single one – is from a woman. I have been told this is at least partly because previous nomcoms have disproportionately appointed men, discouraging women from applying. A propos of the thread below on the tiny number of women appointed to the new Irish cabinet, and their ghettoization in family-oriented ministries, I can only say this year’s nomcom is taking this criticism to heart. All other things being equal, we can only appoint women if they apply. There’s also a process to nominate a third person – you nominate, we contact them and ask if they want to go forward.

We’re participating in ICANN’s San Francisco meeting next week to rally troops and encourage people to apply for these positions, as well as to shine a bit of light on how the nomcom works. It’s been criticised – fairly, I believe – for being more secretive than is necessary, and this year’s committee is keen to open things up more. Nomcom is one of those highly imperfect processes that’s like democracy insofar as it’s the worst possible method to appoint directors and councillors, except for all the other methods. (The Internet election of ICANN Board directors you still hear some people banging on about almost a decade later was captured by the employees of a certain Japanese conglomerate – not quite the global demos we had hoped for.)

The nomcom’s rallying cry; “Apply Now to Join the ICANN Board, the Councils of GNSO and ccNSO, and the ALAC”, won’t mean much to people not steeped in the depths of Internet governance. But if any CT readers are interested by the basic pitch and would like to know more, please ping me and I’ll happily explain. [click to continue…]

The disappearing invisible library

by John Quiggin on July 8, 2009

My Icerocket self-search (admit it, we all do it), led me to this marvellous project. The Invisible Library is a collection of books that don’t exist, except in the pages of other books. It is physically manifesting at the Tenderpixel Library in London, but will resume invisibility after 12 July.

The connection?

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Plausible Deniability

by Maria on April 1, 2009

April Fool stories tend to be more ‘heh’ than LOL. (A couple of Internet geek ones I’ve gotten today; one is ‘heh‘ and the other is ‘eh?‘) But just seeing a tagline with April 1st underneath it makes me doubt any post’s veracity, even totally plausible and unfunny ones like “Brian Barry’s Obituary” (which, by the way, I’m surprised doesn’t mention ‘Sociologists, Economists and Democracy’, the only one I’ve read so presumably the most mainstream.)

Perfect example of a spoof that’s too plausible to be all that funny (or is it a spoof…?): today’s from George R.R. Martin saying he has engaged Howard Waldrop as his writing partner on Ice and Fire. It all sounds plausible, especially given the amount of abuse Martin gets from his overly entitled fans for being so late in delivering the latest of the unwieldy Ice and Fire series. (They grudge him watching football, seriously.) But the last bit where Martin says Waldrop will knock out the rest of the novel in a month or two while Martin is “in the hot tube with some babes in bikinis, sipping some Irish Mist and watching my TIVO replay of the Giants victory over the Patriots in the last Super Bowl but one” gives it away. Still, if old George really did want to outsource his sprawling epic, there are probably worse ways to go about it.

Kast Skoen

by Scott McLemee on December 16, 2008

A Norwegian website allows you to throw a shoe at George Bush.

My best aim seems to be with “Vinkel” set at 15 and “Styrke” at 50, which clobbers him with a dramatic “Midt I Fleisen!” Otherwise Bush just sort of ducks or doubles over, or else the shoe drops to the ground.

Good things about Los Angeles

by Maria on August 26, 2008

Some time back, I mentioned in passing that living in Los Angeles has never been my life’s dream. As of last week, I’ve lived here for a full year, and I’m glad to report I’ve mellowed on it a bit. Well, just the decision to put less energy into disliking it helped.

On another CT post of mine today, commenters geo and Delicious Pundit gently point out that it’s silly to hate on a relatively decent place like L.A. I agree. There are worse places to be dragged to by your job. It’s several months since I felt a true twinge of jealousy of a friend whose work took her to Astana for a few years (turns out they have quite good skiing nearby). L.A. has quite a few good things. Among them, Delicious Pundit exhorts me to “come to the Sunday Farmers’ Market in Hollywood and get some avocados and strawberries (Gaviotas, the kind that don’t ship), some tamales, and maybe some watermelon lemonade from the nice people who come down from Solvang.” Which sounds very nice indeed.

The best thing about L.A. is of course the weather. Nuff said. The first moderately ok thing about L.A. actually reminds me of Brussels: it’s a bit crap until you get used to it, but there are lots of good day trips and weekend trips to be made nearby in the meantime. So far, I’ve driven to Ensenada in Baja Mexico, Joshua Tree National Park, a couple of presidential libraries (both Reagan and Nixon are well worth a visit, whatever your political preferences), San Juan Capestrano, Santa Barbara and Solvang, and down the coast to L.A. from San Francisco. There’s no shortage of places to go from L.A., and they tide you over while you wait to find the city less soul-destroyingly ugly. Now that I’ve become indifferent to the strip malls and freeways, I’ve begun to like some of the nicer bits.

Good things about L.A.: many, many outdoor things, 5k and 10k runs every weekend that let joggers explore the city, some good cinemas and lots of cultural stuff scattered around a 30 mile radius. Life for me picked up an awful lot when I got a car and moved away from the office.

Bad things: well, let’s not focus too much on those, but I was surprised at how dirty the sea water is, and it’s a bit sad that so many good, independent book shops seem to be closing down at the moment. (Oh god, reading this back it sounds so Stuff White People Like, I’m mortified.)

I’m drawing a blank, but am sure there are plenty more good things, right?

Who wants to be a millionaire?

by Maria on July 31, 2008

To the eternal question; what would you do if you won the lottery? Years ago when I worked in the film industry, a rather suave BBC producer asked the electricians one morning if they’d continue to work. (The conversation took place a couple of weeks after the sparks had broken ranks with the rest of the crew on working nights, insisted on getting their own pay off in cash, and marched around the set waving wads of it at everyone else. Nice guys.) But their answer was a good one: “Yeah, I’d keep on working, but I’d be very f..king cheeky.”

Of course the question really is ‘what is the good life?’. If money was no object, how would you spend yours? It’s complicated a bit by living in the US. First off, the lotteries here seem to impose a double dream tax; if you actually win one, you choose between an annuity or a lump sum. The annuity sums up to a greater amount but doesn’t seem that great a deal if you’re not already financially secure. But secondly, the moral value of money seems to have changed for me in the year I’ve lived here.

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Chick Flick

by Maria on July 29, 2008

One of the best things about respite care in my family seat – apart from being surrounded by friends and family, and the parents doing their proper duty and tending to my every need and whim – is the hen house. Or, more precisely, the fresh eggs every day from happy hens who spend their time milling around the garden eating worms and bits of old clothes.

Our four hens get a regular servicing from the cock (or ‘rooster’ for Americans who are a bit shocked by its prosaic name), and they all lay regularly, apart from Ginger (pronounced with two hard g’s) who was acquired purely for her beauty. Recently, after one or two literally abortive attempts, Mum managed to keep two eggs warm enough for a month. They’ve now hatched in their home above the Aga, and have begun to eat. So they’re over the worst. At least until their teenage months when their cuteness and fur are gone but they don’t yet have feathers.

Naming conventions for family animals have gone downhill since all six Farrell siblings left home, because the rentals now get a free run at it. These days we have sturdy dogs called Wolf or Sky. Time was when puppies or kittens were called after particularly nasty Roman emperors or generals (Trajan) or appealing characteristics (an initially unloved cat of indeterminate gender named Psycho). Some names were just a bit odd (a black minah bird called d’Arc, and two sweet lovely bunnies called Stalin and Jemima who were eaten by our cousin’s dog, leaving only a fluffy little ear behind), a pair of cockatoos named Chuck and Charlie (Chuck was beheaded through his cage by a cat. Charlie died instantly of shock.). An imposing terrapin named Ming the Merciless.

There was Terry the Pig – a publicity stunt birthday gift from Mum to a politician uncle who’d just had a gossip column written about him by the then-Taoiseach’s mistress, Terry Keane. Some names were just obscure: a foal called Masri and a Siamese cat called Kula. One very loved cat who went by Elvis/Felix by two opposing camps for his entire 15 years. A recent favourite was an ancient female who’d delivered many kittens and came to live with us in her retirement. She was nicknamed Prolapsia.

Anyway, what should we call our new chicks? I’m not allowed to name anything because for years I’ve harbored a desire for a King Charles spaniel who will love me dearly and eat off my plate and sleep in my bed and be named Sweetie. He/she is so real to me that I hardly need to acquire him/her, but my sisters say it’s just not right or natural.

These chicks need names and, left to her own devices, Mum will probably call them Bill and Hillary. The chicks already face a scrawny and awkward adolescence, in about 3 weeks’ time. So let’s not burden them with dreadful names.

Render unto Caesar

by Maria on May 15, 2008

BBC news reports that a bust of Julius Caesar has been found in the Rhone. It’s a rare (unique?) contemporary representation, and none too flattering. Who knew there was a Roman ‘realist’ style?

It’s driving me crazy because he reminds me of someone. On first glance, he looks like a Ferengi. It’s certainly a far less noble countenance than your average Julius Caesar. But on second and subsequent glances, he becomes very endearing, and not just in a Short Man Syndrome kind of way. (Dear God, he doesn’t look like Nicolas Sarkozy, does he?) You can really see that this needy little jerk had the smarts to survive Sulla and the gumption to cross the Rubicon. Well worth a look.

still waiting …

by Henry on November 19, 2007

“Andrew Sullivan today”: on race and IQ, yet again.

In the end, the data demand addressing.

Yes, “they do”:, Andrew. “They”: “do”: