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20091101

iPod Random Generator October 2009

Entry 1611 posted in: 9. I, Pod


October. I'm sitting on a commuter train writing this post. White Room from Cream on the iPod. Life could be much worse.

Also in 2009 my iPod will be in autoplay mode and that for the second consecutive year. Pop Muzik, M (this band made 3 excellent consecutive singles and disappeared) followed by I feel Fine, The Beatles. Spoken about a strange combination.

The results from past year, apart from the song ratings, have been reset on the database. Slow Motion - Ultravox! (Ultravox! was an early incarnation of the succesful band Ultravox (without the exclamation mark!))

Every month a graph will be published here, the playlist of the month will appear on my MySpace blog and the overview of the year will be glued on my MySpace entrance page. Nothing to be excited about. Barrel Of A Gun, Depeche Mode.

For those who still want to know the how and what and where and when I give you this old link: Random Blueß aka sucking for statistics 


If you want to know how the graph looked like last month: iPod Random Generator September 2009 

A Bay of Hope

Entry 1612 posted in: The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit


Last week a professional rock memorabilia seller put some pictures for sale that he described as:

4 X ORIGINAL MICK ROCK PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN AND PRINTED IN 1974 SHOWING SYD IN HIS FLAT WITH PAINTED BOARDS

The 4 prints show Syd Barrett in his apartment and date from The Madcap Laughs photo sessions where both Mick Rock and Storm Thorgerson showed up.

The most recent article at The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit explains that:

¤ the pictures date from 1969, not 1974
¤ belong to the Hipgnosis photo shoot (not Mick Rock's)

...and introduces a new photo gallery called StormWatch, dedicated to the fine art of Mr. Storm Thorgerson.

A Bay of Hope, now appearing on browsers all over the world.

20091108

It's life, Eoin, but not as we know it...

Entry 1613 posted in: 2. DNA


You are in this city, that isn't your own but that you visit once or twice a year, and you know this nice little resto where they serve an excellent spaghetti carbonara. Let's have a spaghetti carbonara you hear yourself say and you stroll towards the square where the bistrot is located. The house is still there but instead of Il case di Vitollino (or something similar as you have a problem remembering the exact positions of vowels in Italian names) the place has now been called The Bull's Bollocks.

When you enter the restaurant the walls no longer depict frescos from past Italian pastimes, including wrong anatomical representations of fishermen and their fishes, but stuffed goat heads and other satanic paradigms. But the menu, probably out of habit, still has spaghetti carbonara and so that is what you are heading for.

The meal arrives and you start eating, as you are very hungry, which is why you entered the restaurant at the first place. The bites go in smoothly and it is only after a while that you remark a foul aftertaste in your mouth. The taste grows with every chew until you are so disgusted that you slide the plate apart swallowing down the bad taste with the cheap Chianti that was probably left over by the previous owner.

You pay, say that the food was delicious out of politeness and hastily leave the place.

The city will never be the same again.

The above tale allegorically recounts what I felt on page 134 of the sixth part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, originally written by Douglas Adams, and now continued by Eoin Colfer. I quit reading the book and turned the volume of my iPod a bit higher. Tomorrow's just another day.

My conclusion was, so you fast-paced readers do not have to delve deeper in this post, that And Another Thing was like going to a tribute band gig but that deep down inside you wished you had listened to the greatest hits cd instead.

Now for some fine-tuning.

Douglas Adams was of course victim of his own overnight H2G2 success. We all know that he started writing a radio series that became a major cult hit (isn’t that a contradiction?) and from then on the guide would guide his life.

The first two books were a more or less accurate rendition of the radio series (omitting, for copyright reasons, the two episodes that had been devised by John Lloyd). In the third novel Adams recycled a Dr. Who script that had never made it to the screen and although the result was rather messy its many anecdotes only added to the legend.

By then Douglas Adams was larger than life, the universe and everything and people, wearing digital watches and thinking they were very important, just started to wave blank checks in front of him.

Waving with blank checks in front of him had a certain effect on DNA as well (it has to be said, even Adams’s cool initials had market value). In one of the biographies (Hitchhiker, by M.J. Simpson, page 233) the story is told how Target Books wanted Adams to novelize his three Dr. Who scripts presenting him the usual fee of 600£, not fully realizing that the author would only reluctantly start his Mac word processor after an advancement of one million pounds – per book.

The fourth novel in the increasing inaccurately named H2G2 trilogy, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, isn’t generally nominated by the fans but it is by far and large the most personal of the Hitchhiker saga. Douglas Adams and his alter ego Arthur Dent are in love and the whole world has the right to know it. Only in the last chapters the focus is shifted from the Earth to the Universe and in one of his darkest passages Adams kills off one of the most liked personae of the series. No wonder that some fans were outraged, and Douglas also felt that some parts of the book didn’t come out as he had expected. This was probably because number 4 had been written in a rush, DNA had passed several deadlines for the novel and in the end the editor simply hijacked Adams and stayed with him in a hotel room until the novel was finished (this is a true story). The result was that some parts had better been edited out or rewritten entirely. Despite its weaker parts, Fish is my all time H2G2 favorite; the flying love scenes and the cookie incident are the best things Adams ever wrote.

The fifth tome of the original series more or less pretends its predecessor didn’t happen. Fenchurch, Arthur Dent’s love of his life, has been literally vaporized in hyperspace and Arthur suddenly gets the message from Tricia McMillan that he is the father of her child, Random.

When the uncontrollable girl flees to the Earth she doesn’t realize that the planet she lands on is located in an alternate universe. Arthur Dent traces her back and lands on (the duplicate) Earth as well. The whole scheme is a plan by the Vogons who want, once and for all, get rid of all earthlings and all the parallel instances of our planet.

The book ends in a nightclub where Random Dent, Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and two different instances of Trillian are waiting for the imminent destruction of the planet.

Douglas Adams had told in the past that the fifth book wasn’t going to be the last because he was a bit annoyed as well with its bleak tone. The final book should be a bit more upbeat, he promised, but then he did of course the utterly stupid thing of dying.

Of course Adams is entirely to blame for that. If he had consulted the Hitchiker’s Guide he would have known that sport and middle-aged men match together as Vogon and poetry.

In a controversial study, Physical Exercise (2006), biologist Midas Dekkers has written about the bad consequences of sport and how the ‘exercise is good for you’-cult has infiltrated the (medical) world.

All those hours spent in gyms and sport clubs are a complete waste of time; they will not make your life any better or longer. In fact, sport causes injuries and heart attacks and is therefore likely to shorten your life, is his well-defined opinion.

Adams is not the only victim of that. When my landlord had a heart attack he was obliged by the hospital to attend post-cardiac-arrest-gym sessions twice a week, to prolong his life.

You already guessed it. The first time he ran two rounds around the hospital he dropped dead on the Red Cross spot. Probably this is an easy and ingenious way to lower the Belgian state health insurance costs. The good thing is I could buy the house I lived in for a very cheap price after that, so long live sports.

But this post has been going on too long and I haven’t said a decent word yet about Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing.

Of course I read further on a few days after I had put the book aside. All in all the book is not that bad and in one occasion, in casu the planetary cheese battle, quite cheeky and hilarious. This is the one time I really laughed out loud.

All over the work there are guide entrances, printed in italics. I know DNA liked to put these as well, but sometimes it feels a bit forced and overdone as if Colfer had to be reminded that it was time to use a Douglas-trick again.

Someone at the DNA newsgroup said that he found the book was not that bad either, but he felt that the characters were out of character sometimes, meaning that they are no longer Adams’s characters but those of Eoin Colfer, which is quite natural, but also rather frustrating.

I liked it. I didn't love it.
I did giggle aloud several times.
I found myself feeling mildly repulsed by some of the character changes on the odd occasion (the occasional utterance seemed jarringly out of character for example -
"$Character wouldn't use that > phrase!").
Generally the positive outweighed the negative.
The Wordsmith, 31 Oct 2009 07:42:08 GMT.

To be honest, the book quite puzzled me and from time to time I was going through these mixed emotions ranging from ‘this is so brilliantly close to H2G2’ to ‘what the heck (not to use that other word that can be easily replaced by Belgium) he is writing about now’.

The comparison with a musical tribute band is not that far fetched, I realize now. Those bands try to be as close to the original as possible, but they aren’t, and will never be. You catch their shows from time to time, but they are easily forgotten afterwards.

Colfer doesn’t do a bad job but I fear I would never have read this without the H2G2 logo even if he continues adding in messages that are directly destined at me:

You look gorgeous in that sweater, Felix. There is no way anyone is going to call you a freak and throw you in a dumple composter. (p. 237)

I feel this review is rather unsatisfactory, perhaps these are slightly better:

And Another Thing… a review @ Thorx.
A Totally Improbable Review @ Wired.
Douglas Adams is re-born in Eoin Colfer's masterful prose, says Euan Ferguson @ The Guardian.
My dog apparently thought the book might be delicious @ Mazerlodge.
And another thing @ Lloyd Gilbert.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in these as well: The Restaurant At The End Of The Typewriter 

20091114

A Bay of Hope (update)

Entry 1614 posted in:


In a previous post at The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit the Reverend tried to catalogue the different pictures that were made in Syd Barrett’s flat for the so-called The Madcap Laughs sessions.

The latest entry adds some updates to this story with testimonies from:
Dark Globe who met Storm Thorgerson and
Beate S. who spoke to Mick Rock about these matters.

Further on there is some important Church news instigated by the Church's arctic coven and several galleries have been updated.

What are you still doing here?

20091120

True Story (part 3, the horror returns)

Entry 1615 posted in: 6. Self-Made Monsters


I duly want to apologize to the person of the Isabel helpdesk for shouting at him, on Monday morning, that he could fuck himself just before I smashed down the phone.

I only wanted to know if the Isabel utility was compatible with Windows 7 - that's all - but getting an actual answer on that simple question was something else.

Isabel is, or better was, the ingenious software that was devised by a conglomeration of Belgian banks to help the industry automate their bank movements. In the past when a company had to make payments they had to send over the bookkeeper or someone else who had the authority to sign legal papers over to the bank where he, not many female bookkeepers around in those days, had to stand in the queue with all those other bookkeepers from other companies wanting to do exactly the same thing. Basically all that was physically done was handing over some signed papers and receiving some stamped papers in return.

For once the Belgian banks did something smart. They created a company that devised software to send over bank movements by phone and that worked for all major bank accounts. It was safe, reliable and fast although most bookkeepers regarded the software as the devil's work because they used to have three hours long lunch breaks by claiming the queue at the bank had been very long and slow.

Of course you had to pay, quite a lot actually, for the program installation and there were, still are, monthly fees to pay for every add-on you desired to install. That is a bit silly as the software actually makes the banks save time and people so they should actually reward the companies for using it but the day a bank gives something away for free will also be the day that chicken get teeth and women will address their spouses with the sentence: headache who moi? When I bought a house and had to take a loan at a ridiculous interest rate all I got from my bank was a plastic pen.

Over the years something called the Internet, first by phone, then DSL, later cable, was invented but Isabel pretended this revolution had never happened and still claimed that only regular telephone connections were safe enough to transmit financial data. The developers were probably right, not because the Internet wasn't safe but because they were too old school to program the changes.

When all the banks individually started to give Internet accounts to their clients this was a situation that Isabel couldn't hold anymore. Try selling the story to a multinational that the janitor can do his personal banking affairs for free on the web, but the financial director, using an expensive professional tool not.

A couple of years ago Isabel finally managed to offer a secured Internet access provided that you paid that little monthly extra of course, noblesse oblige. The software still cripples a couple of years behind and anno 2009 it is impossible to share the software over a local network (at least without hacking into it) and although the website promotes version 6.0 nobody is entitled to install it.

The company I work for has several independent entities and so it is funny to see how every morning different bookkeepers are queuing behind the only Isabel machine we have got. A positive side effect of this is that you always get to know the latest gossip that floats around, Bernadette from 3D is now screwing Patrick from 2C, but an undesired result is that everyone leaves his personal Isabel logon card lying on the desk and that the different passwords can be found on post-it notes stuck to the screen. (This is also done out of necessity, the janitor from the example above can do all his bank payments from the beach on the Bahamas but if the bookkeeper goes on holiday for three weeks all payments will automatically stop until he gets back.) This is simple proof of how a fail-safe secure system will degrade into its opposite thanks to the über-silliness of its programmers.

The machine that is running Isabel is getting a bit old and so I wanted to replace it, but I wanted to know if the software would work under Windows 7. The Isabel website is typical for big companies, it contains hundreds of FAQ pages, but will – by default – never show the page you are looking for. There is also absolutely no possibility to ask support a question by mail and the mail I send to info@isabel.be returned saying that the box did exist but had exceeded its volume.

I had already lost over 45 minutes and finally I decided to contact the helpdesk that we can call because we pay a small but substantial monthly fee for that. The Isabel helpdesk computer started with a series of menus that I had to run through: the first time I must have pressed the wrong button somewhere because the machine advised me to consult the FAQ on their website and abruptly ended the communication.

I called helpdesk again, now paying close attention to the questions asked and even repeating the questions if I thought I had misunderstand something.

I ran successfully through the different questions of menu 1.
I ran successfully through the different questions of menu 2.
I ran successfully through the different questions of menu 3.
I ran successfully through the different questions of menu 4.
I ran successfully through the different questions of menu 5.
I ran successfully through the different questions of menu 6.
I ran successfully through the different questions of menu 7.

We will now pass you through to one of our helpdesk people, the machine said after 8 minutes of button pressing extravaganza. Yes, I thought, yes! At last a living soul, I felt like Robinson Crusoe who finally saw a ship after 36 years of misery on a desert island.

The phone rang. A man robotically said: "Subscription number."

He did not say: "Good Morning. This is the Isabel helpdesk, how can we be of service to you?" All he said was: "subscription number", and he didn’t even bother to put a please at the end, fearing that every instance of that word would cost him five years of his life.

I answered using my sweetest Jack Nicholson voice: "Good morning. I would like to know if Isabel 5.0 is compatible with Windows 7."

He replied as robotically as before: "Subscription number."

Suddenly I snapped. The sweet Jack Nicholson in me turned into the axe-carrying Jack Nicholson killer of The Shining. "GO FUCK YOURSELF!", I shouted, and then I smashed down the phone.

It was a very irresponsible, immature and very stupid thing to do but the bookkeepers that were waiting in front of the Isabel machine have now got a new story to spread all over the company.


Other helpdesk stories on this blog:
True Story
True Story (the sequel)

20091128

Perception

Entry 1616 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash


Last week a Belgian governmental institution published some HIV statistics. In 2008 1078 new cases of HIV have been diagnosed (other sources say 1079). It has been established that, concerning unprotected heterosexual encounters; there is an almost infinite small chance of getting HIV in Belgium, 1 in about twenty thousand. Strange enough the government and its affiliated partners refuse to confirm that we may all screw now like horny rabbits, in their minds protection and safe sex are still the standard when sexual encounters are involved. We are also informed that whenever we think there is something wrong with our reproductive systems we should go to hospital to have our tubes examined. Now here is a strange advice and I’ll tell you why…

Some statistics are harder to find than others but in 2006 it was made public that – yearly - 2500 to 3000 people die in a Belgian hospital bed of hospital-disease, an unhealthy collection of bacteria, viruses and fungal infections that have become resistant against antibiotics. The numbers are somewhat vague and not as well defined as with the HIV infections for the simple reason that hospitals don’t like to brag around that they have killed another patient thanks to their lack of hygiene. It was believed (in 2006) that this number would increase by 8% a year, so the annual hospital-bacteria-death-toll for this year could be anything between 3150 to 3750. I haven’t found any triumphalist hurrah-messages that these numbers went spectacularly down although apparently simple hand-hygiene from doctors and nurses in between patient-care, in other words: washing your hands, could lower hospital-disease with 40%.

Although over one hundred thousand patients a year get MRSA (and other resistant infections) in Belgian hospitals there aren’t dozens of subsidized organisations around to promote its prevention, as for HIV. In Belgium this results in 445000 extra hospitalisation days and as these extra days are paid for by the Belgian health insurance (and unfortunately the patient) we have the uncanny effect that the hospitals get more money out of a patient by being less effective.

The risk of catching a deathly disease in hospital is about 100 times larger than contracting HIV by screwing around. For every AIDS-related-death in Belgium, and my statistics are getting rather cynical now, 50 persons will die in a hospital-bed of a disease they didn’t come to hospital for.

I find it very strange that, at the entrance of every hospital, there isn’t a very big sign, in unfriendly letters, reading:

WARNING
ENTERING THIS HOSPITAL
MAY BE LETHAL

This post is meant to be satirical, although I fear that the numbers are correct. But statistics will prove anything, so said the scientist who drowned when he tried to cross a river with an average depth of 30 cm.

AIDS is a very serious life-threatening situation, especially in less-developed countries, and it is of course better to avoid it. While Belgian heterosexuals are rather safe, even when practicing unsafe sex, statistics for gay encounters are very worrying. The chance for a male homosexual to get an HIV infection is 1 in 20, thousand times larger than for heterosexuals. This is not something to act funny about, but - warning: here comes satire again - at the other hand I’m still wondering why some organisations find it discriminatory if one says this is a buggers disease?


If you liked this post - you might be interested in these as well: Bad Moon Rising   

20091130

iPod Random Generator November 2009

Entry 1617 posted in: 9. I, Pod


November. I'm sitting on a commuter train writing this post. One from Johnny Cash on the iPod. Life could be much worse.

Also in 2009 my iPod will be in autoplay mode and that for the second consecutive year. Song 2, Blur (that dance floor isn't big enough for the both of us) followed by Like Clockwork, The Boomtown Rats. Tick, tock, tick, tock...

The results from past year, apart from the song ratings, have been reset on the database. The Pilgrim - Iron Maiden.

Every month a graph will be published here, the playlist of the month will appear on my MySpace blog and the overview of the year will be glued on my MySpace entrance page. Nothing to be excited about. Broken Heart, Spiritualized. One of the dozen tracks they will have to play on my funeral, that will be a hell of a show.

For those who still want to know the how and what and where and when I give you this old link: Random Blueß aka sucking for statistics 


If you want to know how the graph looked like last month: iPod Random Generator October 2009