Thursday, November 30

Metareview: The Hip in Concert

Jordan Zivitz of the Montreal Gazette reviews a live performance of the Tragically Hip over here. The review starts off promisingly, with a propulsive stylistic voice delivering humour and irreverence.

For the first few paragraphs at least, the author gracefully tosses off innovative visuals and metaphors.

Unfortunately, Zivitz can't maintain the energy, and the stylistic embellishments begin to grow tiresome. Quite possibly, he's subconsciously trying to emulate the titanic poetic powers of Gord Downie, the Tragically Hip front-man, whose lyrics are evocative as they are esoteric. If so, Zivitz has propped up a huge obstacle to climb.

A dash of earnestness breaks through the conclusion, and Zivitz rescues the review with stark emotional openness. His outré style, stripped of its cynicism, regains the crack and sparkle it originally showed at the review opening.

All in all, a commendable work.

Tuesday, November 28

Stuck Up: A Strip

This is my favourite Cat And Girl strip. The general format for C&G is to make a snarky observation about dichotomies between naive expectations and reality, thereby commenting wistfully on the cyncism necessary to cope with modern life. Most of the time, the observation's accompanied by a pun, visual or written, on one or both of the sides of the dichotomy. In this case, the dichotomy's between the seminal Magritte painting's complaint -- the difference between image and reality, the so-called use-mention distinction -- and an addict's skewed view of their own addiction. Their refusal to admit that their addiction is problematic.

There are similarities to the two sides beyond the fact that they're both negative declarative statements, too. The addict really doesn't see his habit as a problem, even though he recognizes that it can be problematic in others, just like we all realize that even though the painting isn't a pipe, it is a painting of a pipe.

The fact that the comparison between the two sides is made in comic form -- a form that plays off the use-mention all the time, one that (from a semiotic perspective, at least) requires a deep understanding of Magritte's complaint -- makes the joke even funnier.

..well, that and the fact that paint is delicious.

[This edition of the Stuck Up series guest-written by Fraxas; Pharaoh will return with regularly scheduled updates soon.]

Wednesday, November 22

Something I test well in!

I tested my musical skills in 6 minutes just now, and of the 15000 or so people who took the test before me more than 90% of them tested worse than I did. I've always thought I had a good ear, both for musical intervals and for accents; now I have (real! official! I read it on the web somewhere that sounded authoritative!) proof that I am.

What's your score?

Monday, November 20

Misordinaty a word I just made up. It means dislike for computers (by analogy to misanthropy). It'd probably be more correct to use the Greek root for 'computer' rather than the Latin one, making the word misupologisy, but somehow misordinaty seems prettier.

The term came up as I tried to evade a Mac/Win religious battle (all in jest, of course!) by suggesting that the fact that I use Windows and Solaris shouldn't be interpreted as me endorsing them but rather as an accident of convenience, and that I hate all computers equally.

I just thought I'd share.

Growing Up with Boy on a Stick and Slither

Boy on a Stick and Slither pulled out all the stops today.

Thursday, November 9

Stuck Up: Motivation, Soviet Style

Speaking of motivation, no one could do it like the cold-war era soviet communists. The streamlined design ethos of their propaganda posters is simply breathtaking.

There's some soviet propaganda posters here, all of which are fantastic.

Although, my absolute favourite I found elsewhere:

(High quality here)

This mind-blowing poster says "Smite the Lazy Worker." I have this mounted on matte-board right above my computer monitor. Whenever I start goofing off at work, e.g., surfing certain websites that are endlessly fascinating but are like whirlpool time-vortices (see sidebar links), this poster tells me to Smite the Lazy Worker within me. I grab my Soviet hammer, I swing my blocky but athletic silhouette of a body in a wide, smooth overhead arc, and I SMITE that lazy sleeping worker right on the fuzzy pate.

Works every time.

Thanks, Soviet Union!

P.S. Because of the beautiful intricacies of the Russian language, I knew that "Smite the Lazy Worker" would be a prosaic and inaccurate translation at best. So, I asked a Russian colleague to translate it for me. He gave me a half-hour explanation of the many-layered puns that appear in the original language. For example, the word isn't really "lazy worker," it's more of a Russian-only compound with a prefix best approximated by "pseudo," or "faker." E.g., Smite the Fake-worker, or Smite the Pseudo-worker, or Smite the worker-who-appears-to-be-busy-but-is-really-faking. Also, the connotation of smite is "hit," but "to work" and "to hit" are very similar in Russian, to the extent that the word for "worker" is like... "striker." So, it may very well be translated as "Strike the Pseudo-Striker," but that fails on several other levels. Smite the Lazy Worker works for me, so the lazy worker I shall smite.

Stuck Up: Motivation

Long hours of office drudgery can be utterly soul-crushing, especially for a hyperactive trained lab monkey like me. That's why a few well-placed motivational posters can turn nihilistic boredom to happy-fun lollipop sunshine rainbow time!

Mark Strivers is a cartoonist who updates his webpage once weekly with wonderful webcomics. (Alliteration!) His one-panel strips are amongst the best of the genre. Here's one I printed out and stuck up, for my own motivational benefit:

(Fullsize here).

Wednesday, November 8

Stuck Up: Telecalculograph

On "Stuck Up" I'll be discussing the things I printed and stuck up around my workspace. Today's entry is the most recent.

You've probably already seen this Boingboing post about a very cool steampunk casemod. Because I covet it greatly, I have done the next best thing. I printed out this image from the builder's Flickr photoset, and I affixed it to the front of my otherwise completely bland lab-provided Gateway:

Thanks, johnny5rd!

Monday, November 6

Lore Fitzgerald Sjöberg on Beastly Technology

I've blogged about the brilliant comedic writings of Lore Fitzgerald Sjöberg before. This week's entry is also top-notch. As he points out in his own blog, "Those of you who enjoy comments that miss the point will particularly enjoy this one."


I think Bible believers, followers and/or thumpers are really overlooking the other technological warnings inherent in Revelation. Here are some actual Bible verses, and the cutting-edge technology to which they clearly refer:

"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind."

This is obviously a reference to file sharing. The "stars" in question are the hard-working entertainers of the world, "falling to earth" because of the "casting" of their works to and fro like figs (figs were the main form of entertainment in the ancient world) by a "mighty wind." A mighty wind? Like a "torrent," perhaps?

Wednesday, November 1

"Forget violence, you are now driving war."

It's a Metafilter day here on Shiny Things. The Truth About Cars reviews the Audi RS4 and, as a car review, this one hits all the high points.

It's articulate, clear about the car's faults and strengths, and displays a genuine love for people-movers that's palpable even to someone as idiotic where cars are concerned as I am. Plus, it actually uses metaphor correctly and effectively!