Sunday, 31 October 2010

What I've learnt this week (slightly late edition)

Some people don't bother to check whether something is possible before the promise somebody else will do it.

More languages than you might think have words for the practice of making a mobile-phone call that isn't intended to be picked up.

The governor of Tokyo really doesn't like crows. The feeling may be mutual.

I'm even less likely than I thought to be related to Phil Collins. Or Edwyn, or Lewis, or Andrew, or Colin...

The title of Steve Reich's box Phases is a pun. Admittedly, that is a musical fact but one unlikely to appear on any of my other blogs.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Who cares what picture you see?

Some time ago, this was supposed to be the post that launched this blog. Indeed it was this story that finally persuaded me to set up a generalist blog to write about things other than music, or at least subjects that didn't fit the rigid structures of my other blogs. As usual, I spent a while prevaricating about whether or not to do it, and even longer thinking of a name for the thing, especially since I was determined to avoid an obvious musical reference there, and you know it don't come easy.

In the meantime, by an odd coincidence, a related issue has come a bit closer to home: I myself received a DMCA takedown notice for a post on one of my other blogs. By the standards of most people who comment on the subject of alleged online piracy, I seem to be something of a moderate: I've always rejected glib notions along the lines of "they can afford it" because I know that the ultimate victims are never going to be the multi-millionaire established stars who get paid fortunes for endorsements, nor the executives at media corporations who aren't going to go hungry whatever happens to the the companies; instead it's always the people in the lower-ranking jobs who have to worry. And unlike some people, I don't perceive the existence of the recording industry as an inherantly bad thing, if only because I'm too cynical to believe that something as important to people as music or film will ever not be a moneyspinner for somebody.

All of that said, though, I was still quite surprised to read this story on my local newspaper's website. And not because it isn't very well written or edited, which I'm used to. A 21-year old man from Harrow was sentenced to six months in prison last month for copying movies on his mobile phone: and when I say copying them on it, I mean he was actually sitting in the cinema pointing it at the screen, eating and drinking while he did so. It goes without saying that this is a stupid and wrong thing to do, and it probably shouldn't go unpunished, but actual jail time seems rather on the excessive side, considering the effects it'll have when he gets out; I'm not referring to him by name here because it probably gets enough Google hits as it is. And unlike the newspaper, I'm not giving the address of the presumably illegal website he uploaded this stuff to either. More to the point, perhaps, if someone said to me "When something is recorded at the cinema people no longer pay for tickets at the cinema or spend money on the DVDs," I might actually have thought about whether that's true or not before I printed it (a point also made in this more thoughtful post by another blogger). It may be just about possible that there's some potential loss of revenue in there somewhere, if people see the uploads of a film like The Bounty Hunter and decide it's rubbish, but in all honesty there can't be many people who make a conscious decision between going to a cinema and hunting round the internet for a grainy upload with munching noises all over it. There's a more subtle argument to be made about the harm that "camming" can cause, but once again nobody can really be bothered to make it.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

It's like looking into the eye of a duck

OK, I'm a few posts into this blog now, it's time for me to throw in a bit of pointless arrogance.

I've entered a few shots into the Wildfowl And Wetlands Trust's photography competition. I'm no Bence Máté and I have no real expectation of winning, but in the interests of public service, I'll supply links for anyone interested to see my entries:

Duck On A Green Lake

Hey I'm a mallard!

Pecking nene

Something at the Wetland Centre

This last one seems to be the most popular, even though it's just a cameraphone snap. If you read this before the end of October 2010, feel free to vote for as few or as many as you like. I'd strongly recommend checking out the competition as a whole, because there are some excellent shots in there. If you get to a WWT centre before the closing date, why not have a go yourself?

Friday, 22 October 2010

What I've Learnt This Week

Smoking lettuce might be dangerous.
Yes, I know I must have been about the last person on the internet to see that.

Eurasian Cranes like trying to eat shoelaces.

Some photos look a lot better on a lightbox than they do on paper.

The British Museum closes at 5:30pm, at least some days.

A traditional Japanese social ceremony included a five-course meal followed by thick tea and finally thin tea. And the host didn't even get to drink any of it.

Teenagers still say things like "Shame on your life" to each other.

A fortnight off work is very relaxing, even if you like your job.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What I learnt last week (2)

In 1990, Charles M. Schulz appeared on the same episode of Wogan as New Kids On The Block.

Some people still think it's possible to walk and type a message on a BlackBerry at the same time.

People in shops is Chiswick are quite friendly.

Starting a blog and not telling anybody about it doesn't lead to a big hit count.

...However, Google thinks my Now blog gets a lot of views from Denmark.

Gauguin was a good painter, but not a very nice person. He did, however, do a carving with some monkeys eating mangos, which I liked.

Keeping to a regular blogging schedule is harder than it looks.

Monday, 11 October 2010

What I learnt last week

So I'm launching things here with an end of-week feature, at the beginning of the week. Start as you mean to go on, or at least as you expect to, I guess.

So, the idea of the feature is that I'll try to keep a tab on small things I've learnt over the course of a week just gone, in the hope that the need to write this will help me remember them and get me into the habit of blogging regularly. It should also help serve as a reminder of what a joy it is to learn things.

Johann Hari keeps a regular diary of things he's been wrong about. I have to hope this doesn't include "Not punching that funny-looking kid in the year above me at school".

'That's What I Like' by Jive Bunny has one of the most offensive videos in pop history. And the sleeve's not much better.

If your front door seizes up due to humidity, applying WD-40 will help loosen it.

If you stand around in your office holding a box numbered 9 and start saying "Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine..." people probably won't get the reference.

Magpies are very bold this time of year.