Monday, October 29, 2007


My computer at work has been moved onto a new server, and as a result I've lost most of my personalised settings on my email. The most notable change is that messages which the system identifies as spam are no longer automatically routed to my spam file, but instead pop up in my inbox.

I was living in blissful ignorance about the amount of spam I'm receiving... until now. Sheesh!

The interesting thing is that the computer will flag most suspect emails as spam, but one entitled "Ears Drum Sex Clown Leather Jacket Finger Slave" sailed through without notice. You'd think the "sex" might have set off some sort of alarm, but apparently not.

To be honest, I think it might be the best spam title ever! Individually the words aren't terribly interesting, but put them all together and frankly it sounds like the world's most impossibly specific porn:

Customer: I'd like some porn, please, with a woman in a clown costume with a drum and enormous ears, with a hand model in a leather jacket who is her slave.

Pornographer: Well, I can do you a woman in a clown costume with a drum and enormous ears, with a hand model in a leather jacket who is on a more or less equal footing with her. Would that do?

Customer: Ewww, no! That's not a turn on at all! What's wrong with you people!?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


You know how sometimes you do a Google image search for something, and it turns up an image that's the polar opposite of what you wanted, and you're moved to wonder by what bizarre route this image and the one you wanted ever came to be connected?

Well, I this is what came up when I did a Google image search for "Samson vs the Vampire Women":

Let's just say that it bespeaks a whole subculture about which I do NOT want to know.


garage dove

Between these doves nesting in the roof of my garage, the frog living in the jade bush, and the mysterious rodential scrabbling I've heard above the ceiling over the last couple of nights, my home is becoming host to quite the menagerie.

Monday, October 22, 2007


A few days ago I audited my collection of MST3K DVDs and updated my master list. It seems I have 121 episodes out of the 176 broadcast in Seasons 1 through 10.

Of course that means that there are 55 not yet in my possession. How am I managing to live, I ask myself, when I don't have the MST3K versions of 'The Leech Woman' or 'The Screaming Skull' in my grubby little paws?

The answer probably has something to do with the fact that I do have 'Viking Women vs The Sea Serpent' and 'The Brain That Wouldn't Die'. How can a man bemoan his lot in life when he knows that there resides in his DVD collection a version of 'The Giant Spider Invasion' mocked ten years ago by low-budget puppets?


On Saturday I had lunch with a friend of mine who works in software R & D.

One of his current projects is a system that allows computers to analyse blogs. In breaking down the blog posts and their attendant comment threads, the software will eventually be able to accomplish some very impressive feats.

For example, by looking at how often a commenter comments, and on what topics, and how their comments relate to the posts and the other comments, the software will be able to guess whether or not the blogger and the commenter know each other in real life, as well as online. That may not sound particularly useful, but once it identifies the difference, the software will be able to map your physical and electronic relationships and their overlaps. Unlike MySpace, which can only tell that you have 600 friends, this software will be able to analyse how many of those 600 you actually have a real relationship with, and even on what basis (electronic, physical, professional) that relationship exists.

The software does this by building an extraordinarily detailed image of each individual, based on language use and topics of interest. In terms of language, do I use emoticons? Do I use words like “basically” or “literally” a lot? Do I rely a little too heavily on ellipses, or do I always misspell certain words? In terms of topics, do my posts tend to contain certain words, like “scooter”, and never others, like “highchair”. Does my username frequently appear in comment threads that contain multiple instances of words like “jihad” or “lolcats” or “MST3K”?

Once the software has built an image of my language style and my buzz topics, it can compare that image to any given piece of text and calculate the likelihood of me being the author. A post of short, badly punctuated sentences bemoaning the lack of affordable childcare will score low. A post of long sentences full of parentheses about 'Zontar: The Thing From Venus' will score high.

The practical upshots are dual.

Firstly the software will be able to identify clusters or communities of bloggers, even if those bloggers don’t realise that they’re part of a cluster or a community. I will be able to ask it to find bloggers in my area who share my interests and lexicon, and it will identify them for me. It will look at the things about which I’ve written, my geographical location, the people I link to and the people they link to, and generate a list of possible correlations… neatly sidestepping dead blogs, spam blogs, subliterate LiveJournal entries, or any blog that contains the phrase “the wisdom of Kerry Nettle”. It becomes a kind of social networking tool, except that instead of laboriously filling out pages upon page of my details, everything I’ve ever written becomes my details. And it tracks all bloggers, not just those who have signed up to it, so it’s working from the largest conceivable dataset.

Secondly, the software will be able to identify any individual via the quirks of their writing style and the subjects they write about, even if they use different pseudonyms and computers with different IP addresses. All of a sudden anonymous trolling and sock puppetry become a lot more difficult.

The more perceptive reader will already be able to tell that I’m not exactly thrilled at some of the implications of this analysis. Put crudely, while the final version of this software will be used primarily to map individuals within limited communities, its technological descendants could potentially fingerprint every single person on the internet, so intimately and thoroughly that tracking an individual’s movements through cyberspace becomes a piece of cake. Next to this rather insidious technology, the data-mining of Facebook looks positively one-dimensional. We will all be tagged and tracked like migratory birds.

As a result, swapping between identities, or changing your identity, will eventually be just as hard on the internet as it is in real life. You might think that this serves people right for being clandestine or sneaky or hypocritical, but imagine if there was software that could upon request tie together your formal politically-themed blog, that one drunken rant about fat chicks you wrote to a chat room in 1998, your online CV, the fan fiction you wrote as a teenager, the anonymous venting about your spouse you wrote to, your old Lavalife personal ad, and so on and so forth. At the touch of a button anyone in the world can know about every single ill-considered remark, angry flare-up, ignorant position and superseded opinion you’ve ever expressed… and then, of course, use it against you. And if you’re like me - a big-mouthed idiot who can’t go a day without saying something offensive - it’s a cause for concern.

To invert the famous New Yorker cartoon, on the internet soon everyone will know you’re a dog.

Friday, October 19, 2007


While leafing through the community newspaper the other day, I noticed this advertisement from a local used car dealership.

car ad

Wow! Check out the savings on that little red Mazda! How do they even make a profit when they slash their prices like that?

I can buy it and then go get a cup of coffee... providing I find an extra 50 cents under the passenger seat.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I haven't been sleeping very well lately, what with my recent health problems and the changeable weather and the fact that there is no justice for the black man in this country. But last night was a new low.

I went to bed at 11.15pm, drifted off to sleep, and then woke up at 1.30am. There should have followed much irritable tossing and turning, but since I can't roll onto my right side, thanks to the Broken Arm of Perpetual Inconvenience, I had to restrain my turbulence. Restrained turbulence is no turbulence at all; you can't toss and turn while constantly reflecting on the musculoskeletal implications of your position.

Once I'd woken up enough to recognise that I wasn't going to just drop back to sleep, I got out of bed and took some drugs. For some reason a dose of paracetamol will often convince my body that all is well and allow me to return to my slumber. And this time was no exception... although it only took me ten minutes to fall asleep again, long before the drugs would have kicked in. So apparently I need drugs to get to sleep, but it doesn't matter what kind since it's just a Pavlovian response. Whether I take heroin or tic-tacs makes no difference, other than to my bank balance and my street cred.

But even so, two and half hours later, just as the drugs would have been wearing off, I woke up again. I turned onto my left side and slipped off to sleep once more, only to wake ten minutes later because my unsupported right arm was hurting at the break. At 4am, in the weary sleep-deprived fog, an irritating pain in that particular spot obviously means that the bone has broken again and it'll never heal and why did I have to sleep on my side and I'll die alone and unloved and I think I have a fever and possibly leprosy.

Once I calmed down I returned to lying on my back, with my arm resting on my chest, and the pain slowly ebbed, enough for me to go back to sleep. Then I woke up for a minute or two. Then slept. Then woke. Every fifteen minutes for an hour and a half. This wouldn't be so remarkable but at least two or three times I noticed as I woke that I was growling. I actually came to with a start and heard myself going "grrrrrrrrrr". In fact, I think I came to because I heard myself going "grrrrrrrrrr". It's not the sort of thing one can afford to ignore and thus tacitly excuse.

I don't want to be the sort of person who growls in his sleep. It's embarassing and disappointing, a little like dropping in unexpectedly on Jack Bauer and finding him sitting on the couch watching 'The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood'.

At least after 5.30am or so I managed to get some solid, quality sleep, unbroken by dreams, pain, discomfort or random impressions of the lower mammals. That is until 7am, when a crow landed on the roof and, judging by the sound, lost his footing and fell off, taking his drum kit and a shipping crate full of maracas with him.


Today I have a question for all Americans:

Dressing your children up as Satan... what's the deal with that?

If you were a nation of Baal worshipping, backwards Mass uttering, goat defiling infidels (like, say, the French) it would be understandable. But you build Creationism theme parks, refuse alcohol to people until they turn 21, and buy devotional gangsta rap CDs. A little consistency would be appreciated, people.

As with all American endeavour, it doesn't so much matter what you do, as long as you do it better than the next guy. To that end here is a short comparative review of Baby Satan costumes, so that when you dress your child as the Lord of Lies, you can be sure you're making him the very best Evil One he can be.

Ooh look, it's Satan's own spermatozoa! How adorable. All we need now is a willing female vessel and we can start shooting The Omen VI. C+

The look on this child's face is genuinely unsettling. One gets the impression that he feels all is going according to plan. All it needs is a sudden burst of "Mwhahahahaha!" A-

This kid seems to be enjoying his brush with the Realm of Darkness a little more than most, clutching his cloven hoof as if to say "I've been stomping on lost souls all day, and boy are my feet killing me!"

The blurb that goes with this product was apparently written by Jean Teasdale's evil twin:

Your little one is devilishly gorgeous in this Darling Devil Infant Costume! And so darned innocent, too, in this cuddly Velvet and polyester kids costume, complete with Infant jumpsuit, Headpiece, and Cape. Summon a diabolical playdate with the baby in a Honey Devil Suit Infant Costume, available separately.

"Summon a diabolical playdate"? Are you people insane? B+

Put a desk in from of him and this could be the infant son of the Devil and Vito Corleone, pondering which enemy to consign to eternal damnation next. C-

The good thing about this one is that the wings are detachable, so you can re-enact that whole Fall from Grace business. It also gets extra points for being made entirely of polyester, a material that couldn't be more born of Hell if it tried. B+

Thursday, October 11, 2007


While I was in the record store recently, snuffling through the bargain bins like a pig chasing a tasty morsel around the trough, I came across a series of CDs based on the music of individual years. The first one I came across was from 1962, and it contained songs like 'Twistin’ the Night Away' by Sam Cooke, 'Good Luck Charm' by Elvis and 'Love Me Do' by The Beatles.

“Cool!” I thought. “I wonder what they have for my birth year of 1968? It’d be great to play at birthday parties and such.”

It took a while, but I eventually found 1968… and it was dire. Nothing but inane novelty songs, awful earnest American prog-folk, and 'Hair'.

This got me to wondering what it was that happened between 1962 and 1968 to make popular music turn so rancid. Checking a little further into the early 70s, I found that the decline had continued. It was only around 1979, as disco perked music up and the world shook off the nihilism of the previous decade, that things started to turn around. One could even argue that we never fully regained the sense of fun and optimism embodied by the music pre-dating 1965.

I did a little research and came up with what I believe to be a convincing thesis on The Decline of Western Culture as expressed through pop music - 1963 to 1973.

From 1963 –

Surfin' Safari – The Beach Boys
This is what pop music is supposed to sound like.

Wipe Out – The Surfaris
Hot damn, could this tune be any more iconic?

He's So Fine – The Chiffons
What beehive hairdos would sound like if they could sing.

Heat Wave – Martha & The Vandellas
What beehive hairdos would sound like if they could sing and had a ton of sass.

Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
Nice to know that all the surfer boys and girl groups were offset by a little Man in Black.

Dream A Little Dream Of Me - Ella Fitzgerald with Count Basie
Ella, The Count and a hammond organ. Well, I’m happy.

The Pink Panther – Henry Mancini
Dispel any associations with pink cartoon felines, because this is the coolest, sexiest, swingingest piece of jazz to come out of the 60s.

and at least two songs by Buddy Holly

Beatles Status – The Mop Tops and Sharp Suits Era

From 1968 –

Harper Valley PTA – Jeannie C. Riley
Too bad she never finished her follow-up single, ‘The Park County Meals on Wheels Service’.

Little Green Apples – Roger Miller
“God didn't make little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime”… and more sickening, infantile drool in the same vein.

Tiptoe Through the Tulips – Tiny Tim
Sweet merciful crap, people of 1968, why? Why?

Do You Know The Way to San Jose? – Dionne Warwick
Behold, the most inane line Burt Bacharach ever wrote.

and at least two songs by Fleetwood Mac.

Beatles Status – The Psychedelia and Sgt Peppers Outfits Era

From 1973 –

Cum on Feel the Noize – Slade
I’d rather not, thanks all the same.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree – Tony Orlando and Dawn
The musical equivalent of the sludge resulting from two dozen Readers’ Digests and Hallmark cards fed into a blender full of sugar syrup.

Delta Dawn – Helen Reddy
“Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on, could it be a faded rose from days gone byeeeeeeeeeee?” No it couldn’t. Now go away.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
From his ‘Playing the Piano While Wearing a Donald Duck Costume’ period.

I Am Pegasus – Ross Ryan
“I am Pegasus, my name means ‘horse’”… no it doesn’t Ross, you pathetic hippie loser.

and at least four songs by Gary “Want some candy, little boy?” Glitter.

Beatles Status – The Drugs and Yoko Ono Era

I rest my case.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Before I tried to delete my account, I merely disliked Facebook. Now I actively loathe it.

My journey into seething Facebook hatred began with the realisation that Facebook is a virus. Like most viruses it does little other than perpetuate itself. Any benefit you gain from it is incidental to its main aim, which is to increase its size by any means possible. If your privacy or your lifestyle get trampled on the way, too bad. Facebook exists to suit itself, not you.

I'll be damned if I'm going to sit by and allow my precious life to become just another rung in Facebook's ladder to internet power. So I decided to delete my account. I figured that my friends will still be able to contact me via phone, SMS, email, blog comments or, as a last resort, talking to me face to face.

I should have realised it wouldn't be that simple. Did you know that it's not possible to delete a Facebook account? You can "deactivate" it, which from what I can tell does precisely nothing, other than giving you an illusion of closure. Your profile remains and is cross-referenced throughout the network. You can remove friends, drop pictures and reset personal details to zero, but your name and email are locked in.

After some thought, I believe that like a cursed object from a horror story, the only thing you can do to get rid of a Facebook account is to offload it onto someone else. So I have. Her name is Marcia van Fook, and fortunately for her she doesn't exist. She's just a silly name with a hotmail account which should expire and die in three months.

Poke this, you Facebook arseclowns.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Sunday was my birthday, and to mark the occasion I hosted a celebratory brunch. I invited all of my friends and family over, then I cleared the cars out of the carport, brought all of the tables out of the house and put them in a row, covered them with tablecloths and then covered the tablecloths with food. I also brought out every chair in the house, the barbecue, and virtually everything in the kitchen that wasn’t bolted down.

Well, I say “I”, but thanks to my broken arm I had to arrange for my friend JC and The Flatmate to all the heavy lifting… and the tablecloth laying, fruit cutting, and chair cleaning. I ground the coffee beans and assiduously performed the important duties of demanding martinet project manager.

Everybody seemed to have a good time, and we feasted on bacon, eggs, toast, chipolatas, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, croissants, juice, coffee, fruit salad with yoghurt and toasted pine nuts, three kinds of muffins and, in keeping with The Simpsons' definition of brunch*, fresh rockmelon. Oh, and champagne. It just isn't brunch without champagne.

Which is sort of odd, when you think about it. No one would consider holding a brunch and dumping a bottle of, say, merlot on the table. Why does champagne get a "Get Drunk in the Morning Without Social Opprobrium" card? I think we need to refine this further. Catering would be so much easier if I could simply hand each guest a box of crackers and a bottle of Jack Daniels and tell them to go crazy.

As usual I over-catered, so I have the prospect of eating leftovers for the rest of the week. Breakfast this morning was leftover fruit salad. For lunch I had croissants with Vegemite, which is the sort of culinary faux pas that would make your average patriotic Frenchman shudder like a cheap Korean car going over a cattle grid. Dinner consisted of leftover chipolatas with a salad of leftover grilled tomatoes, leftover fried mushrooms and salad greens from the garden, with leftover yoghurt for dessert.

If I make it to the end of the week without dying of cholesterol poisoning, I can celebrate with the single remaining bottle of champagne.

* "It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I am totally over my broken arm. Not in the sense that it's cured, but in the sense that I've had enough of it.

Part of the problem is that, as it heals, it becomes more and more possible to do things with it, which in turn means that it's more and more possible to forget that there's anything wrong with it. Over the last few days I've gone to pick up a heavy bag or reached back to push myself out of bed, only to realise what I'm doing at the last possible second, causing the internal equivalent of red flashing lights and a klaxon shrieking "ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!" The break is only 30% - 50% healed, and the right amount of strain could snap it again. A rebreak is not an option. A rebreak would mean casts and/or surgery, not to mention erasing all my frustrating care over the last three weeks.

At least my ribs have mostly healed. For the first time in three weeks I can lie on my left side again. My sleep still tends to be broken, but not as much as it was. I can yawn and stretch again without pain lancing up my side.

But I can't do any woodwork, or paint, or cook, or play computer games, or tinker with any little art projects, or do anything else that involves complex coordination or strength. Life is just a dull progression of lowest common denominator activities: work, TV, eating and sleep.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Like cockroaches following a nuclear holocaust, some stupid interior design ideas just refuse to die.

Over-oestrogened twin bed bedroom circa 1967. Note the preponderance of pink, the bizarrely random toys (“Santa brought me a koi and a gorilla?”) and the picture of a big hairy ass on the wall.

Over-oestrogened twin bed bedroom circa 2007. Note the preponderance of pink, the bizarre grouping of agoraphobic bugs, and the table that will cut your arm open if you accidentally elbow it in the night.

You’d think that the photographic record of the first room would have scared off later designers, acting as a lighthouse to warn the ships of good taste away from these particular conceptual rocks. But it seems that those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them, or at least to sleep in bedrooms that are girlier than Trixie Belden in a ballerina costume on a sugar-frosted pony.

In both cases, we can only hope that the big pointless canopy things eventually fell down and smothered the wretched idiots who commissioned them.