Stet by Ria Bacon

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Bruno Bozzetto - Champion animator

Click to watch clip

This is Bozzetto's hilarious take on how the Italians differ from the rest of Europe. I particularly like the cafe scene where you hear how many ways you can order your coffee. They know no shame in being fussy - on the contrary, it's a sign of fine culture and good taste.

Un cappucco scuro senza schuima, Mario!

For those who want to know exactly what to order, here's a helpful guide for beginners.

For another of Bozzetto's masterpieces, this time on driving in Italy, see here.

Tried posting an animated gif w/o success. This one gets the message across anyway. I feel I have to confess: I bought some tomato soup, two baguettes, one Asahi beer, two bottles of Chilean wine and one of Beaujolais nouveau (heeyyyy it's the weekend fer chrissakes!), four yoghurts, gluten-free pasta and bread rolls and that's it. What do I have to do for penance? I've already drunk the beer, by the way ... Posted by Hello

Friday, November 26, 2004

It's that time of the year again!

Buy Nothing Day

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Sweet IE shortcut

Selects the text in the Address bar

CTRL+ENTER (this is the sweet one)
Adds "www." to the beginning and ".com" to the end of the text typed in the Address bar.

I know, I know, autocomplete is better but I just flushed my caches this morning. My office mate had to spend five hours watching the helpdesk guy take control of her PC (spooky) to get rid of a trojan. She had to sit and wait, wait to be told when to restart, which was every 15 minutes, it seemed. A real enema job. She could hear the techie muttering to himself, "Ohhh, I've never seen one of those before. Most interesting." Probably stroking his goatee while he peers at the screen.

And btw, I know, I know, Firefox blah blah. Run it at home but here everything is house bound to a few (ahem) trusted programs such as IE. Make that trussed. Security is tight.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Keyboard-controlled art

I see this won a Macromedia award in 2001, well worth it when you see the way the interactivity works so fluidly with Shockwave.

This piece is by Nicolas Clauss, an immensely talented artist whose pieces are some of the best work I've seen on the Web. The clips are at once disturbing, moving and amusing; you are quickly drawn into his dream world of memories, might-have-beens and may-be's.

Go now to Flying Puppet.

Papa Wemba found guilty

The King of Rumba, Papa Wemba, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison, with 26 of them suspended. He was accused of helping illegal immigrants enter France under the cover of his large musical entourage. Belgian police finally twigged when 200 "band members" disappeared while on tour. Papa Wemba won't in fact spend any more time in prison since he's already been inside for almost four months. I saw an excellent Belgian documentary about him and his band of sapeurs years ago. I see that the BBC has made another documentary more recently.

When I was looking for more to say about Papa Wemba I quickly found that there was very little I could add, given the already excellent articles available on the Web. It's quite daunting to realize how much is out there, and therefore how much my own notes are a drop in the the ocean. (Research proposal: Freezing weather brings on feelings of insignificance. I can barely feel my toes and the heater over the door is blasting over my head at 27 degrees C.)

More on Papa Wemba:

Rumba in the jungle (The Economist: consistently high-quality arts pages; too bad the rest is so dull)
New York concert (from AfricaSounds: excellent expert reviews)
Enter the SAPE (with Papa Wemba on stream)
Papa Wemba's official site is inactive


Friday, November 19, 2004

.........ECUADOR ALERT (1-0) .......

Got an internal UN alert this afternoon stating that current operations were suspended given the current situation.


Did an immediate google news search, hoping to get the inside poop on the latest coup d'état. This is what I found:

Brazil doesn't care about defeat at Ecuador

Parreira plays down Brazil's defeat

Ecuador shocks Brazil

Soccer: Night of emotions and upsets

OK, I get the picture. It's like the mails we get informing us that due to Director P's absence this weekend, Rodrigo Blogs will be Officer-In-Charge from Friday 17:30 to Monday 08:30. Always makes me imagine Rodrigo sitting by the phone all the weekend just in case there's a new outbreak of avian infuenza that requires some rapid reaction PR. Poor Blog kids...

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The telephone never rings twice

Just got my own telephone in my office. This is a mixed portent since it may mean I'm going to be sharing this space even longer. "My" office is still vacant down the hall, but it seems the administrative logistics involved in getting me in there are too daunting to deal with at present. ("I've just drowning under work right now" is our section slogan.) The plus side is that I don't have to stretch across to R's desk and dial in a prone position.

No one has my number, of course, and that's the way I'd keep it if I had any choice. Nevertheless, since it's been installed it's been ringing every ten minutes. Get this: one ring each time and the line's dead before I pick up. My first crank caller, how sweet. Actually the last two times it's rung twice. I think they're trying to psyche me out. Probably spying on me from across the way, waiting till I make a move to pick up. How am I supposed to do any blogging, er work, under these conditions?!

[16:30 update] Seems I'm sharing a line with one of the director's secretaries. Dang she's fast - picks up first ring almost every time. Bet she practises. I haven't yet tried to outdraw her. If I did then I'd have to bluff my way through a query about the latest gizzard production quotas from Tajikistan. ("They're up! Up! Up!")

It works both ways, of course. When I try to call maintenance, my screen flashes GRP CALL LINE BUSY. Meaning gizzard gossip. I got through on the third try. Maintenance man sighed wearily, just back from a heavy lunch, bit late in the day to start on it now, will try to come by tomorrow.

BTW, taking my phone off the hook makes no difference; it still rings but I can't stop it by hanging up. Final proof of deliberate sadism is that I can't adjust the ring volume. Ha!

Refugees for sale

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Check out the deals now!

Spotted this tempting offer while reading more on the crisis in Ivory Coast. There was also this one:

Cote d'Ivoire Singles
Conferencing & Mingling On the Web
Looking for Dates, Romance & Fun

Oh well. If you have access to your own generator and your fun is not dampened by the sound of gunfire and chanting mobs, then go mingle.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Dyslexia ruels

I clicked the next blog a couple of times and found an insanely dyslexic post, beginning

Todya is the Day!

I like the sound of that.

Favourite joke on this theme is about the dyslexic devil worshippers who sold their soul to santa.

Lucifer, son of the morning

I'm gonna chase you out of earth!

So begins one of my all-time favourite songs, Chase the Devil by Max Romeo, produced by the divinely crazy Lee Perry. Its startling opening lines are lifted from the Bible.

Romeo: Lucifer son of the morning, I'm gonna chase you out of earth!
Isaiah 14:12: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

Romeo: I'm gonna put on a iron shirt, and chase Satan out of earth. I'm gonna put on a iron shirt, and chase the devil out of earth.
Job 18:18: He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world.

Romeo: I'm gonna send him to outta space, to find another race. I'm gonna send him to outta space, to find another race. Satan is an evilous man, But him can't chocks it on I-man. So when I check him my lassing hand. And if him slip, I gaan with him hand.

Errr ... don't think my King James' says anything about evilous and chocking ...

In one biographical note I read on Romeo, when he was young and feckless, he narrowed his ambitions down to two: preacher or singer. He chose right.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A wall of vinyl

Helium Music Manager is a music tagger, renamer, cataloger, player, playlist manager, burner, and report creator. It can catalog and edit the most common audio-file formats (including MP3, OGG, and WMA) as well as regular music CDs. Helium fully supports the latest tagging standards, including ID3 v1, ID3 v2, APE2, and Lyrics3. You can catalog your entire music-CD or audio-file collection with a few clicks, whether it's stored on your computer, on CD-ROMs, or on network drives or any other media. Helium facilitates the structuring and
finding of your favorite music.

Uh, what about my '78s? (see Not the Nine O'clock News sketch) I don't actually have any '78s, although I do have a 10" Motorhead ep, along with 700 lps. I got tired of not being able to find an album in the middle of a conversation ("If you like that, I've got the original 12" version here ... somewhere."). I've dragged them from country to country so I know what 700 lps looks like when not stacked neatly. Still, I felt pretty daunted when I started stacking them into alphabetical piles. I skipped all the existential wrangling about ordering them (by genre, solo female Brazilian artist, etc.) and went for straight alphabetical. It was quite impressive how the classifying sometimes had to go to the fourth letter in the name.

They look verrry neat all lined up the whole length of the wall. Pity the towering stacks of CDs on the floor block the view.

Friday, November 12, 2004

You feelin' smug ... punk?

A thousand photos of apology, it starts to make you feel even more self-righteous than you did before the elections.

"I'm sorry. I tried. I'm so ashamed."

Well, alright I suppose. But don't let it happen again.

[update] the inevitable backlash:! Too bad you can't put an apostrophe in the url. Smartass response of course is, "so now you're sorry?" Judging from the comments, punctuation doesn't worry them much.

Isn't it scary that so many of them have guns? And if you think that's bad, see them get their fetish freak on at GlockTalk forum.


22 Reasons why you shouldn't post your picture on the internet

Huh. Won't make that mistake again. Hell, this must have taken a lot of time to do; it's so well done.

Slack off

A post about hedonism a while ago in this blog, along with Gordon's current nervousness about work got me thinking about a recent best-seller in France, Corinne Maier's Bonjour Paresse. The trigger for this thought may also have been my recent recruitment by the second largest employer in Rome, the UN (the largest of course is the Italian state, for whom I've also worked, at the Ministry of Overseas Trade - more on that another time)

Maier's book is full of pithy observations of bureaucratic nonsense and provides ten key points (or should that be "take-home messages") for the slacker:
No. 1
You are a modern day slave. There is no scope for personal fulfilment. You work for your pay-check at the end of the month, full stop.
No. 2
It's pointless to try to change the system. Opposing it simply makes it stronger.
No. 3
What you do is pointless. You can be replaced from one day to the next by any cretin sitting next to you. So work as little as possible and spend time (not too much, if you can help it) cultivating your personal network so that you're untouchable when the next restructuring comes around.
No. 4
You're not judged on merit, but on whether you look and sound the part. Speak lots of leaden jargon: people will suspect you have an inside track (It is fruitless to indoctrinate a super-annuated canine with innovative manoeuvres)
No. 5
Never accept a position of responsibility for any reason. You'll only have to work harder for what amounts to peanuts.
No. 6
Make a beeline for the most useless positions, (research, strategy and business development), where it is impossible to assess your 'contribution to the wealth of the firm'. Avoid 'on the ground' operational roles like the plague.
No. 7
Once you've found one of these plum jobs, never move. It is only the most exposed who get fired.
No. 8
Learn to identify kindred spirits who, like you, believe the system is absurd through discreet signs (quirks in clothing, peculiar jokes, warm smiles).
No. 9
Be nice to people on short-term contracts. They are the only people who do any real work. (So that's why everyone smiles at me...)
No. 10
Tell yourself that the absurd ideology underpinning this corporate bullshit cannot last for ever. It will go the same way as the dialectical materialism of the communist system. The problem is knowning when...

God. It sounds like we're in the Matrix. 'Cept that we're not fed on liquified corpses (right?).

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Ivory Coast mob rings doorbell before looting home

Not as funny as it might seem. I left the country three days before the first coup d'état on 24 December 1999. Since then life has gone down the toilet. Mass graves, assassinations, civil war. Now the last foreigners are getting out, in a country that once boasted of its open-arms policy to immigrants. Burkinabés, French, Lebanese, they all worked with Ivorians to make it the richest economy in the region. When cocoa and coffee prices fell and state corruption sucked dry the financial reserves, anti-immigrant resentment was stoked by successive political leaders: Bédié, Guei and now Gbagbo. I met him once at a party at the British Ambassador's residence. Funnily enough there were no waiters carrying trays piled with those disgusting nutella crunchy things (Ferrero Rocher, you dummy). I was most disappointed. One of Gbagbo's daughters was getting a prize, for some good citizen-type project vaguely connected with the UK. I knew Madame Gbagbo much better in fact, having taught her English for some three months. I couldn't believe the stories I later read about her, that she was the power behind the throne, a bloodthirsty zealot bent on stirring up trouble. It made me think that the press really cannot be trusted to tell a story straight, that it always has to sensationalize the banal. Sometimes though I wonder if it wasn't me who was mistaken. See, for example this dossier (in French).

The trouble started when Alassane Ouattara, one-time Prime Minister and subsequent IMF Vice-President, decided to run in the presidential election. The incumbent, Henri Konan Bédié, hadn't anticipated giving up the presidency - that was the pattern in Africa, it was a job for life. Sure Gbagbo had been around for years; he was as much a threat as Ralph Nader in the US or the Liberal Democrats in the UK: omnipresent but impotent (politically speaking). To block Ouattara, the government started a whispering campaign about his nationality, tha he was in fact not Ivorian. There was however no constitutional reason why a non-Ivorian could not run (unlike in the US), so the whispering campaign spread to taint immigrants in general, playing the race-card as happens so often when a weak power feels threatened. As I remember, it turned out that Ouattara had been born in what had been Upper Volta but that the borders were later realigned after the wave of independence in the region around 1960. Whatever the case, to me it was simply a ploy to eliminate a potential rival from participating in a democratic election.

I remember the first demonstrations against Ouattara's presidential bid in 1999. It was eerily quiet in our neighbourhood - people were already anticipating trouble and stayed off the streets. In the oasis of our garden it felt as if we were in a Graham Greene novel, with brooding violence just out of sight.

C'est vraiment dommage. Tant de misère pour si peu de raison.

Relativity Posted by Hello

An excellent photo showing perhaps the type of inspiration for "Relativity". The photo credit is Posted by Hello

Another Roman Escher, this time of S. Michele dei Frisoni, since 1990 the national Dutch church in Rome, although the church's antecedents with Frisians go way back to the eighth century. Posted by Hello

Not a well known Escher but interesting for its view of Rome. I've been trying to work out where he was. It doesn't seem high enough to be at the top of Gianicolo ... maybe the Botanical Gardens or Villa Corsini. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Googly dollars

I'ma gonna sit right back 'n' wait fer them thar googly dollars t'come a-rollin' in, yessir!

For those regular visitors out there, you may have been getting alarmed by the encroaching commercialism of this blog. Fear not. I suffer from layout agoraphobia - I get nervous with too much empty space around, which is why I've been trying to fill it with as much flashing, clickable code as I can manage to copy and paste into the right place in the template.
Now I'm getting nervous about the kinds of ads that are appearing. "Earthquake relief to Iran"? Why me? How do those googlers know I'm a soft touch for liberal causes? Now I'm getting hooked on constantly refreshing the page to see what new ads come up. What kind of person do they think I am?!
Wait a minute. If I click on the ads on my own blog, do I get paid? "click" "click" "click" "click" "click" "click"

Pack your bags, baby, we're going to ... Palau!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Divided by a common language

Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 06, 2004

So says the whole world. (We still good on the compact?) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Too close to call

"Palauans everywhere are waiting for the results of yesterday's elections in their island nation", reports Guam's Pacific Daily News.


Tommy Remengesau 3443
Polycarp Basilius 1960

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day in Palau!

Today is election day in Palau, a tiny independent Pacific island nation (population 20 000) currently in a "compact of free association" with the United States. President Tommy Remengesau jr is fighting for re-election on a platform of "preserving the best while improving the rest" against businessman Polycarp Basilius.

That's a tough choice: James Brown-style political rap against a wicked moniker.

What the hell's a "compact"?

Google this

One of the reasons I started blogging was to see if I could boost my Google hits for my website ***deleted***
Hush hush, don't blow your cover!

If by freak chance anyone actually reads this, could they link to me.

Purely out of scientific interest, you understand.

Monday, November 01, 2004

King of the Flat-tops

Top of my list to Santa: a Gibson J150 electro-acoustic.
A snip at $2 000 minimum . Posted by Hello