Just the facts, ma'am

Use Stylish?

Read The Irish Independent?

Hate that site's article page design?

Me too. So I wrote a simple (11 lines of actual CSS) user style for the article page which, to my eyes anyway, improves the experience of using that site. I changed the font family and size, changed the line height, italicised the first line of the article to make it more of a lede. Oh, and I also yanked the google adverts. I guess this is slightly rude, since, y'know -- global economic crisis and all, they probably need the advertising cash -- but seriously, there's more advertising space than article space. That's just bullshit.

I didn't touch any of the main landing pages because I hardly ever go to the site directly, I just go to the articles from my RSS reader.

Before:

Independent - Before

After:

Independent - After

You can grab the userstyle here.

Wherein I just don't get Girl Talk

I agree with almost everything Mat Honan says in this article on the new Girl Talk album. The way the twitterverse went nuts for the album all at the same time is almost unprecedented now, in our time-shifted universe, where we all watch the Lost finale at different times.

Even live media events are fractured, splintered through the lens of FoxNews or MSNBC or Autotune the News. It takes something huge to crash through the filters and clutter of modern life to get us to all experience the same thing simultaneously.

The new Girl Talk, released on Monday, did that.

Except one thing. I just don't 'get' Girl TalkDoes this mean I have to hand in my oversized hipster glasses now?.

Like everyone else on the internet, I downloaded the new album to give it a whirl. I put it on my iPod and listened to it when I went for a run the other day. Halfway through the third song, I'd had enough. I deleted it from the iPod when I got home.

My problem is that in any given Girl Talk track, there are flashes of brilliance that then gets lost under a deluge of novelty. "Oh No", the opening track on All Day is the perfect example of this. It starts off well. I mean… shit, Black Sabbath, 2pac, Jay-Z and Ludacris all working in perfect harmony? Then, before we have a chance to really enjoy this mix and for no apparent reason, it segues abruptly into Jane's Addiction and Cali Swag District. And since we've already gone down an evolutionary dead end in this musical menagerie, why not throw in a bit of "Swagga Like Us". It's like putting makeup on this dead horse you're flogging.

So yeah, I think Mat Honan is right about the 'event' nature of the new Girl Talk album, and I can admire that. But I also think it says a lot that the twitter hash-tag people are using is #favoritegirltalkspots and not #favoritegirltalktracks.

Wherein I just don't get Girl Talk

I agree with almost everything Mat Honan says in this article on the new Girl Talk album. The way the twitterverse went nuts for the album all at the same time is almost unprecedented now, in our time-shifted universe, where we all watch the Lost finale at different times.

Even live media events are fractured, splintered through the lens of FoxNews or MSNBC or Autotune the News. It takes something huge to crash through the filters and clutter of modern life to get us to all experience the same thing simultaneously.

The new Girl Talk, released on Monday, did that.

Except one thing. I just don't 'get' Girl TalkDoes this mean I have to hand in my oversized hipster glasses now?.

Like everyone else on the internet, I downloaded the new album to give it a whirl. I put it on my iPod and listened to it when I went for a run the other day. Halfway through the third song, I'd had enough. I deleted it from the iPod when I got home.

My problem is that in any given Girl Talk track, there are flashes of brilliance that then gets lost under a deluge of novelty. "Oh No", the opening track on All Day is the perfect example of this. It starts off well. I mean... shit, Black Sabbath, 2pac, Jay-Z and Ludacris all working in perfect harmony? Then, before we have a chance to really enjoy this mix and for no apparent reason, it segues abruptly into Jane's Addiction and Cali Swag District. And since we've already gone down an evolutionary dead end in this musical menagerie, why not throw in a bit of "Swagga Like Us". It's like putting makeup on this dead horse you're flogging.

So yeah, I think Mat Honan is right about the 'event' nature of the new Girl Talk album, and I can admire that. But I also think it says a lot that the twitter hash-tag people are using is #favoritegirltalkspots and not #favoritegirltalktracks.

Airport Security

John Gruber points to an article about the "'Israelification' of Airports", talking about how Tel Aviv airport managed to increase its security without turning it into a major inconvenience for the 99.9999% of us who are flying and who aren't terrorists.

Here's something that stood out for me:

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,"

First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes … and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

What I find most interesting is that while the security checkpoint to get into the gates at Dublin airport has gotten more convoluted -- hey, buy a little bag to put your liquids in; take your shoes off; take your belt off; take your laptop out of your bag; bend over and cough please -- the actual physical interaction with people before then has been reduced. Traveling with Aer Lingus or Ryanair, the question "Who packed your luggage" has been reduced down to a check-box on a computer screen. It's a ridiculous carry-over from when we used to be checked in by people instead of computers. Isn't the point of the question to have a real person gauge your response?

Airport Security

John Gruber points to an article about the "'Israelification' of Airports", talking about how Tel Aviv airport managed to increase its security without turning it into a major inconvenience for the 99.9999% of us who are flying and who aren't terrorists.

Here's something that stood out for me:

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

...

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,"

First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

What I find most interesting is that while the security checkpoint to get into the gates at Dublin airport has gotten more convoluted -- hey, buy a little bag to put your liquids in; take your shoes off; take your belt off; take your laptop out of your bag; bend over and cough please -- the actual physical interaction with people before then has been reduced. Traveling with Aer Lingus or Ryanair, the question "Who packed your luggage" has been reduced down to a check-box on a computer screen. It's a ridiculous carry-over from when we used to be checked in by people instead of computers. Isn't the point of the question to have a real person gauge your response?

A Better Use for Free Cheese

If you're wondering why your twitter/facebook feed has been exploding with cheese jokes, it's because the Irish economy is so completely boned and the Irish government so completely bone-headed that they've decided that the best way to ease the burden is to distribute free cheese to the poorI've been saying for a while now about how much the economic and political background of Ireland in 2010 resembles the economic and political background of France in 1789, and I've been wondering if we aren't going to see a similar bloody, violent revolution. But let's just get this straight, once and for all: Marie Antoinette never said "let them eat cake". Clear?.

53 tonnes of cheddar, to be exact.

This is a dreadful, badly thought-out plan. Worse, it's just so unimaginative. The poor people in Ireland don't want cheddar, they want jobs.

Know who wants cheddar? Expats.

Every time I go back to Dublin, someone in Rome asks me to bring back some cheddar. And tea. Because it's impossible to get any kind of cheddar in this city. It's like unicorn tears. And on those strange occasions when it can be found, it's not strange to be charged more than €25 per kilo. And people pay it, because it's cheddar. Even if you don't eat it yourself, you can use it to barter favours from other people, like prison currency.

So, Irish government, here's what I'm suggesting. Take the 53 tonnes of cheddar, divide it up and ship it out to your embassies around the world. Charge, say, €20 for a kilo. This will probably rake in about a million or so - a small chunk out of the €6 billion that needs to be saved in the next budget, but is now really a time to be turning your nose up to an easy million bucks?

Also, I'll get some cheddar. It's a win-win situation.

A Better Use for Free Cheese

If you're wondering why your twitter/facebook feed has been exploding with cheese jokes, it's because the Irish economy is so completely boned and the Irish government so completely bone-headed that they've decided that the best way to ease the burden is to distribute free cheese to the poorI've been saying for a while now about how much the economic and political background of Ireland in 2010 resembles the economic and political background of France in 1789, and I've been wondering if we aren't going to see a similar bloody, violent revolution. But let's just get this straight, once and for all: Marie Antoinette never said "let them eat cake". Clear?.

53 tonnes of cheddar, to be exact.

This is a dreadful, badly thought-out plan. Worse, it's just so unimaginative. The poor people in Ireland don't want cheddar, they want jobs.

Know who wants cheddar? Expats.

Every time I go back to Dublin, someone in Rome asks me to bring back some cheddar. And tea. Because it's impossible to get any kind of cheddar in this city. It's like unicorn tears. And on those strange occasions when it can be found, it's not strange to be charged more than €25 per kilo. And people pay it, because it's cheddar. Even if you don't eat it yourself, you can use it to barter favours from other people, like prison currency.

So, Irish government, here's what I'm suggesting. Take the 53 tonnes of cheddar, divide it up and ship it out to your embassies around the world. Charge, say, €20 for a kilo. This will probably rake in about a million or so - a small chunk out of the €6 billion that needs to be saved in the next budget, but is now really a time to be turning your nose up to an easy million bucks?

Also, I'll get some cheddar. It's a win-win situation.

Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy is like a case-study in how not to make a biopic.

Granted, it's a tough genre to pull off well. Rather than just presenting a straight documentary, with a litany of facts, you've decided to dramatise events, to make things more entertaining. Biopics are documentaries with jazz-hands. Except there's a huge temptation to allow your film to become little more than a series of narrative checkboxes and what Mark KermodeVia Jon Ronson calls "chubby? Hmm…" moments. These are the sequences where the filmmakers use the viewers' knowledge of the subject to sprinkle delightful moments of irony over a scene. It gets its name from a mis-remembered scene in The Karen Carpenter Story where Karen reads a review of one of their singles which says "and the chubby drummer kept time", to which she says "chubby? Hmm…"

If you were to take the John Lennon element from Nowhere Boy, what would you be left with? A trite and badly-told Dennis the Menace story with some terrific actors doing their best with some dreadful material. Essentially, it's "rebellious child with troubled family background escapes through music", a story you've seen a thousand times already. Try pitching that story without John Lennon's name attached and see how far you get.

The only thing Nowhere Boy has going for it is the John Lennon aspect. The first meeting of John and Paul! The first gig by the Quarrymen! And so on. All of which feel like 50-year old, heavily embellished anecdotes filtered through a Beatles fan's fever-dream. At times, it feels like director Sam Taylor-Wood is so keen to tick these narrative checkboxes that he completely ignores their effect on the larger story. Worse still, the best things about the movie -- Ann-Marie Duff and Kirstin Scott-Thomas's heavyweight performances -- completely put the rest of the cast to shame. Aaron Johnson really does his best in the lead role, but next to these two, he just comes across as a third-rate Lennon impersonator.

Skip this movie and just check out the Beatles Anthology instead.

Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy is like a case-study in how not to make a biopic.

Granted, it's a tough genre to pull off well. Rather than just presenting a straight documentary, with a litany of facts, you've decided to dramatise events, to make things more entertaining. Biopics are documentaries with jazz-hands. Except there's a huge temptation to allow your film to become little more than a series of narrative checkboxes and what Mark KermodeVia Jon Ronson calls "chubby? Hmm..." moments. These are the sequences where the filmmakers use the viewers' knowledge of the subject to sprinkle delightful moments of irony over a scene. It gets its name from a mis-remembered scene in The Karen Carpenter Story where Karen reads a review of one of their singles which says "and the chubby drummer kept time", to which she says "chubby? Hmm..."

If you were to take the John Lennon element from Nowhere Boy, what would you be left with? A trite and badly-told Dennis the Menace story with some terrific actors doing their best with some dreadful material. Essentially, it's "rebellious child with troubled family background escapes through music", a story you've seen a thousand times already. Try pitching that story without John Lennon's name attached and see how far you get.

The only thing Nowhere Boy has going for it is the John Lennon aspect. The first meeting of John and Paul! The first gig by the Quarrymen! And so on. All of which feel like 50-year old, heavily embellished anecdotes filtered through a Beatles fan's fever-dream. At times, it feels like director Sam Taylor-Wood is so keen to tick these narrative checkboxes that he completely ignores their effect on the larger story. Worse still, the best things about the movie -- Ann-Marie Duff and Kirstin Scott-Thomas's heavyweight performances -- completely put the rest of the cast to shame. Aaron Johnson really does his best in the lead role, but next to these two, he just comes across as a third-rate Lennon impersonator.

Skip this movie and just check out the Beatles Anthology instead.

Halloween!

Halloween is my favourite time of year. What's not to love?

I mean, you get to bust out the tog 90 duvets and lounge around on the couch watching scary movies all night. Plus, I love the dressing up.

Okay, I'm probably getting a bit old for it now, but I think it's great that there's one day a year where grown ups can act like idiots and play dress-up. A couple of years ago, I came up with one of my better Halloween costumes: a mad scientist. If you know me, you'll know that half-assedness is my forté and I tend to leave most things unfinished. Not with this costume; I put a lot of effort into it and nailed it. I dyed my hair snow white, got a giant white lab-coat, some huge black rubber gloves, a massive pair of welding goggles. Then to top it all off, I spent the whole night drinking blue WKD from an Erlenmeyer flask. I mean, have you any idea just how god-awful blue WKD tastes? I'm not sure what Smurf piss tastes like, but I'd bet it tastes a thousand times better than blue WKD.

This is how far I'll go. I looooooove halloween.

On the other hand, I hate the sexification of Halloween. I hate this bullshit of girls dressing up in a red bikini, putting on a pair of plastic horns and then - bam - that's their costume. A 'sexy' devil. Or a 'sexy' angel. Or a 'sexy' nurse.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it because I'm against half-naked women. NOT NEARLY AS MUCH AS I'D LIKE - AMIRITE?! HIGH FIVE! I just object to the sheer laziness of it. I can't believe I have to say this, but having tits doesn't give you a get out of jail free card when it comes to putting a bit of effort into a costume. Tits aren't like a note from home saying you're excused from P.E.

What I'm saying is: Put a bit of fucking effort in, ladies

Now, think of all the things that a girl could take from Star Wars and make 'sexy'. It's a real short list, right? Slave Leia, obviously - I don't know a single guy who that doesn't work for, on some level. There's also Oola, Jabba's dancer from Return of the Jedi. Oh, and I guess Padma from the prequels could work too, at a push. But after that, it's a real sharp drop-off. After this, we're talking Aunt Beru and Yaddleand if the idea of Yaddle Milk doesn't make you sick to your stomach, you've got issues.

Know what I didn't put on this list? That mangled-looking dude from the cantina who's all "MY FRIEND DOESN'T LIKE YOU… I DON'T LIKE YOU EITHER". Know why I didn't put him on here? Because he's a mangled-looking dude. Know who else isn't on this list? Chewbacca. Know why? Because he's Chewbacca, for fuck's sake.

Still, that hasn't stopped the makers of the "sexy Chewbacca costume", which is my new limit for trying to make something sexy that clearly isn't. I mean, who are you trying to score with a costume like this? Furries? Inuits?

Try harder, girls.