January 30th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Spanking cliches: a transatlantic comparison:

The Cowboy spanking story is as American as apple pie, while the Schoolmaster caning story reaches its perfection on the other side of the Atlantic.

Interesting for the comments, almost as much as the post itself. It’s somewhat odd how clearly I can see that neither of these appeal to me.

January 27th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Activists and insurrectionists: an article that gives the most damning definition of activism I could imagine:

. Activism can be defined as any activity which petitions the support of leaders and policy-makers (for the liberal activist) or which petitions the support of “the people” (in the case of “anarchist” activists).

Converting realaudio streams to mp3

January 25th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

To pull a realaudio stream and convert it to mp3:


mplayer -noframedrop -dumpfile out.rm -dumpstream rtsp://media.real.com/showcase/service/samples/b56realaudiog2.rm
ffmpeg -i out.rm out.mp3

[this uses mplayer to pull the stream, and ffmpeg to convert it to mp3.

Or, here’s how to do it in one command-line:

mplayer -noframedrop -dumpfile /dev/fd/3 -dumpstream rtsp://media.real.com/showcase/service/samples/b56realaudiog2.rm 3>&1 1>&2 | ffmpeg -i – /tmp/output.mp3

Why do this? Mainly because I can then use vlc to play the audio speeded up, which is great for slow-moving radio shows.

Protected: [filtered] selling out

January 23rd, 2010 § Enter your password to view comments. § permalink

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Protected: [angst] The opposite of angst, part 2

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January 16th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Perhaps the most successful in a long line of attempts to justify and explain Twilight:

Because Edward Cullen is porn. Weird, pre-sexual, socially conservative, deeply repressed and fucked-up porn, but in a world where ladies’ sexy feelings are fenced in with shame and warnings of danger from Day 1, is it any wonder that porn which consistently ties sex to death and fear and the urgent need for repression is selling to the girls?

Shock Doctrine coming to Haiti

January 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Heritage Foundation, via Naomi Klein, via some new facebook group:

“In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.”

January 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

oooh, a fantastic article in the NY Times:

we in the West have aggressively spread our modern knowledge of mental illness around the world. We have done this in the name of science, believing that our approaches reveal the biological basis of psychic suffering and dispel prescientific myths and harmful stigma. There is now good evidence to suggest that in the process of teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we’ve been exporting our Western “symptom repertoire” as well. That is, we’ve been changing not only the treatments but also the expression of mental illness in other cultures. Indeed, a handful of mental-health disorders — depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia among them — now appear to be spreading across cultures with the speed of contagious diseases. These symptom clusters are becoming the lingua franca of human suffering, replacing indigenous forms of mental illness.

January 11th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

“Jahrelang wurde es angekündigt, jetzt ist es vom Tisch: Berlin bekommt kein flächendeckendes Wlan.” [Morgenpost]. So we’ll have to make do with freifunk

January 11th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

And here‘s the article from Le Monde. Love the half-hearted defence put up by the mairie:

“Le contexte actuel est difficile pour les professionnels de la nuit, mais il est excessif de dire que la nuit parisienne est morte. Auprès des étrangers, elle garde une excellente image.”

These days, Paris-bashing is starting to seem too easy. Maybe in a decade or two, it’ll be time to rediscover its good side ;)

January 11th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Even the New York Times is getting in on the Paris-bashing party :)

January 7th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

John Harris musters more enthusiasm for centre-left policy wonks than I could ever hope to manage:

thousands of people know pretty much what a social-democratic, forward-looking and eminently electable Labour party might put before the voters – so why do so few people on the inside?

January 7th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Sometimes, when I fail to mentally or technically filter them out, online ads really get to me:

This is from the friggin’ Guardian

January 6th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Cory Doctorow:

[Myspace] pages are made by people who know – to the femtometre – exactly how ugly they are. They are supposed to offend your sensibilities. They are intended to make designers weep. Their ugliness is a defence mechanism that protects them from being knocked off by marketing/communications firms, because most designers would rather break their own fingers than commit such an atrocity.

Version Control for laws

January 5th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Mike points out a very positive-sounding statement by Phil Woolas:

the Government agreed to publish online, on a quarterly basis, information about ministerial meetings with outside interest groups. Information for the period 1 October to 31 December 2009 will be published by Departments as soon as the information is ready.

You can imagine this playing out in all kinds of ways. Some lobby groups will have yet more incentive to maximise their meeting count, regardless of whether they’re being listened to, just so they can show to donors how much ministerial conflict they have. Others will be even more desperately trying to figure out how to skirt around the law, arranging for their meetings to be social, unofficial or otherwise off the record. And whether the data is of any use at all will, naturally, depend on whether the political website crowd manage to get anywhere with it.
Relatedly, The Yorkshire Ranter links to the German government site, ‘a public version control system for legislation’.

January 4th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Der Spiegel’s review of the decade is appropriately grim.

January 4th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

English-language German news site thelocal puts out a review of the events of 2009. Shorter version: a year of no significance.
Also, not entirely unrelatedly:

Germans have less faith in their political system than at any point in the post-war period, mainly due to what they see as a weak response to the financial crisis, a poll published Sunday showed.

I have no fear

January 4th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

The president of Pakistan tells Seymour Hersh why his army won’t do anything silly with nuclear weapons:

Our Army officers are not crazy, like the Taliban. They’re British-trained. Why would they slip up on nuclear security?

Not entirely convincing, given that every military coup in Pakistan’s history has been led by a British-trained general. Worse still if you start to wonder precisely which tips they might have picked up:

…until they were retired in 1998, the RAF’s nuclear bombs were armed by turning a bicycle lock key. There was no other security on the bomb itself.

Meanwhile Bruce Sterling has started his annual state of the world interview, an open Q&A which he concocts a grotesque (but plausible) interpretation of the zeitgeist. Always brilliant, it’s especially entertaining this year because his contrarian instincts compel him to be optimistic while everybody else is full of gloom. So far, he’s completely failing.

…but I have no fear

January 4th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

The president of Pakistan tells Seymour Hersh why his army won’t do anything silly with nuclear weapons:

Our Army officers are not crazy, like the Taliban. They’re British-trained. Why would they slip up on nuclear security?

Not entirely convincing, given that every military coup in Pakistan’s history has been led by a British-trained general. Worse still if you start to wonder precisely which tips they might have picked up:

…until they were retired in 1998, the RAF’s nuclear bombs were armed by turning a bicycle lock key. There was no other security on the bomb itself.

Meanwhile Bruce Sterling has started his annual state of the world interview, an open Q&A which he concocts a grotesque (but plausible) interpretation of the zeitgeist. Always brilliant, it’s especially entertaining this year because his contrarian instincts compel him to be optimistic while everybody else is full of gloom. So far, he’s completely failing.

January 3rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Bruce Sterling’s State of the World is back for another year. I swear, this is the only piece of punditry that ever seems close to grokking what’s going on: