Archive for December, 2003

The Top 10 Adverts Americans Won’t See

29 December 2003

…and we won’t see much of them either. Ad Age’s Top 10 Ads that are unlikely to make it Stateside, including the Daily Mail-bating Gucci G-spot picture (warning – contains muff), and a refreshingly honest FHM advert. I can’t vouch for the videos as I’m only on a modem at the moment :-( but they sound good, and it includes the inspired Honda ‘cog’ advert. Ad Age maintain a separate list of the Top 10 Most Downloaded Movies, which include some bizarre Turkish ads with Chevy Chase…


“Retrospective”

28 December 2003

Well, how was your Christmas, then?

Mine has been reasonable – my uncle came over from Venezuela to visit, and I got some reasonable presents (not least ‘cos it was, er, me who chose them), including the Strokes’ latest album, the book of Salam Pax’s Baghdad Blog, in fact lots of books, and this is despite the fact I haven’t read all the books I bought in this year’s January sales. Mum got me some clothes and the Premium Bonds people gave me a £50 cheque, which was nice of them.

Since it’s the end of the year and everyone else does them, why not one of those retrospective ‘Best Of 2003′ lists? Sorry, but Christmas has meant a dearth of decent memes, and I’m stuck on a slow connection anyway.

I’ll start with books, since I have loads of the sods on my desk now. The longest book I read (taking me nearly an entire month) was Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver – a ripping yarn (and quite educational to boot), but it had no real verve or pizzazz or cunning twists like his previous books – I suspect this is thanks to it being part 1 of a trilogy.

So no prizes there. The best-written book I read this year was probably Hari Kunzru’s The Impressionist: the words sparked off the page and I just couldn’t put it down, although I was a little bit disappointed with the ending.

Behind that came two closely related works, William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, which was the most emotionally engaging of all the books I read, and Yann Martel’s Life Of Pi, which has an ingenious plot which is beautifully executed and told. Actually, Life Of Pi might have to take the award instead. I dunno. Pick any of those three if you want a good read.

Apart from that I haven’t read too many other books worth mentoning. From the political front, Polly Toynbee’s Hard Work was a very well-written read, I was initially sceptical at a middle-class Blairite writing on poverty but she does it very well. I’ve got through a few of those Very Short Introduction books, and they’re quite good if you know nothing about a subject and want to feel a bit brainier. I’d also recommend the funny, if not particularly deep Jennifer Government by Max Barry.

I tried starting Gravity’s Rainbow but it’s just too damn hard to read – Thomas Pynchon is a cool writer, maybe, but I’m too thick to read his stuff.

Coming up on this blog – a review of the year’s CDs and films. Actually I might have to scrap the films one, I only saw four all year, and two of them were the Matrix sequels, and they were shite. So that leaves Kill Bill and Phone Booth, and I’ll probably nominate Kill Bill as the better one. But I still have to sum up CDs of the year – expect a long Hornbyesque blog entry on that soon…

Oh, and one on telly too. Although that will just be me gabbing on about how great 24 is…


The Beagle is landing…

24 December 2003

At about 0254 GMT tomorrow, Beagle 2 will land on Mars. Beagle 2 is one of the greatest British scientific achievements of recent times, and is a testament to how hard work and ingenuity can overcome the limits of a small budget. Beagle 2 has spent the past six months hurtling towards Mars (while similar projects have failed to make it), covering 250 million miles, but still has to overcome the most arduous part of the trip – the landing. If we’re lucky (and that’s a big ‘if’ – Mars is a notoriously unlucky planet), and the landing is successful we will hear Beagle 2′s call sign (composed by Blur) at about 0630 GMT, which would be a jolly nice Christmas present. In the meantime, why not download the ringtone while you’re waiting?

Update (25/12 09:14): Bugger. No confirmation signal yet. We’ll have to wait till 10pm tonight to see if it has been successful – but it doesn’t look promising. Keep your fingers crossed…

Further Update (26/12 11:59): News is pretty gloomy – no signal yet received. Beagle 2 has probably crashed. :-( Still, never mind…


Shut for Christmas

20 December 2003

I’m off for Christmas, so don’t expect too much from this site over the next two weeks. In the meantime, why not enjoy some stupid festive Flash frivolity?


“Wise recognition software has come a long way”

18 December 2003

If he Heaf there are experts have long disagreed about whether using a keyboard can cause must a skeletal problems, such as Koppel tunnel syndrome.

Today in the Guardian, Clint Witchalls reviews voice recognition software. In an inspired move, they also publish the original article as the software had interpreted it. This probably gives a better indication of the current state of the art than any normal review on its own ever could…


Saddam’s Capture: When Memes Go Bad

15 December 2003

They got him. Since soon as news broke, an army of Photoshoppers have been busily creating Tramp jokes, ‘Trap Door’ gags, Gandalf references, Brian Blessed mentions and of course, the obligatory Santa comparison. So much so that the backlash has already begun.

Update: Sorry. But even I’ve got in on the act and updated the “Where is he?” pic. Enjoy, or not, as the case may be…


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