Quotulatiousness

February 15, 2018

The Volkswagen Thing Is Slow, Old, Unsafe… and Amazing

Filed under: Germany, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Doug DeMuro
Published on Oct 13, 2016

GO READ MY COLUMN! http://autotradr.co/Oversteer

Thank you to Morrie’s Heritage Car Connection for letting me borrow your Thing!!
http://morriesheritage.com/

December 23, 2017

Repost – Kate Bush – Christmas Special 1979 (Private Remaster)

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Oct 2013

I know there’s a good few copies of this out on YouTube, but here it is, again! The other copies were either split up into individual tracks, the best complete one (from BBC Four’s rebroadcast in 2009) had the wrong aspect ratio, which annoyed the hell out of me! So, here this is…

Video and audio have been tidied up very slightly, not much was needed!

Kate Bush – Christmas Special
Tracklist:
(Intro) 00:00
Violin 00:29
(Gymnopédie No.1 – composed by Erik Satie) 03:44
Symphony In Blue 04:44
Them Heavy People 08:20
(Intro for Peter Gabriel) 12:52
Here Comes The Flood (Peter Gabriel) 13:22
Ran Tan Waltz 17:02
December Will Be Magic Again 19:43
The Wedding List 23:35
Another Day (with Peter Gabriel) 28:05
Egypt 31:41
The Man With The Child In His Eyes 36:21
Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbreak 39:24

“I was recently asked about this BBC TV special and I thought I’d share my comments here. Kate: Kate Bush Christmas Special is a stage performance by Kate Bush with her special guest Peter Gabriel. Though most of the songs are not holiday ones, they come from Bush’s first three albums (Never for Ever her third album would be released in 1980 after this 1979 TV special was taped). The performances include costumes, choreographed dances and a wind machine, creating an eclectic music TV special to say the least.

This is one of the programs that makes my research quite difficult — because it calls itself a Christmas Special yet it contains only one performance of a Christmas song “December Will Be Magic Again” (a song that wouldn’t be released as a single by Bush until the following year, in 1980). TV programming that calls itself a Christmas Special and yet contains little to no Christmas entertainment is actually quite common — especially on the BBC.

Between the end of November and the end of December each year, there is quite a bit of special programming on television. Remember Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special — it aired in December that year and includes only one holiday song, a performance of “Blue Christmas.” Is it considered a Christmas special? No, not really. And so, despite its title, the lack of holiday programming in Kate Bush’s 1979 TV special means it shouldn’t be considered a Christmas special either. But the Kate Bush Christmas Special is certainly worth watching!”

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

December 21, 2017

UFOs? Again?

Filed under: Media, Space — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I must admit I share Colby Cosh’s just disproven belief that we were done with the UFO craze:

Yeah, I know: wrong UFO

There can no longer be any doubt: every fashion phenomenon does come back. I, for one, really thought we had seen the last of UFO-mania. When I was a boy, the idea of stealthy extraterrestrial visitors zooming around in miraculous aircraft was everywhere in the nerdier corners of popular culture. If you liked comic books or paperback science fiction or Omni magazine — and especially if those things were among the staples of your imaginative diet — there was no getting away from it.

Anyone remember the NBC series Project U.F.O. (1978-79), inspired by the USAF’s real Project Blue Book program? As the anthology show’s Wikipedia page observes, most episodes had the plot of a Scooby-Doo cartoon, only backwards: they would end with the investigating protagonists discovering that UFOs remained impenetrably Unidentifiable, but must be “real” craft capable of physically improbable manoeuvres. (I know citing Wikipedia will savour of pumpkin-spice holiday laziness on my part, but the Scooby thing is a truly perceptive point by some anonymous Wiki-genius.)

Then, at the end of the show, a disclaimer would appear on-screen: “The U.S. Air Force stopped investigating UFOs in 1969. After 22 years, they found no evidence of extra-terrestrial landings and no threat to national security.”

[…]

There are very good reasons for a superpower’s military apparatus to devote a little money to following up UFO sightings. “Threat Identification”? Sure, whatever. Plenty of U.S. military flyers have seen UFOs, and these people ought to be comfortable reporting odd occurrences without ridicule. But if I were American, I would definitely want most of that budget to go to Scully rather than Mulder. Don’t throw cash at someone who really, really wants to believe.

What I find vexing is that most of the response to the Times story has been in the spirit of “Whoa, aliens!” rather than “Taxpayers got robbed.” Young people may know on some level that ubiquitous good-quality cameras have all but eliminated civilian UFO sightings. But they lack the personal memory of a live, thriving UFO fad, one that bred quasi-scholarly international UFO-study associations along with a whole publishing industry devoted to UFO tales. I wonder if the Times’ piece on UFO research, by the very virtue of its flat-voiced Grey Lady objectivity, is having the same weird effect as that disclaimer they showed at the end of Project U.F.O.

November 30, 2017

QotD: Nuclear winter

Filed under: Environment, Media, Politics, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences reported on “Long-Term Worldwide Effects of Multiple Nuclear Weapons Detonations” but the report estimated the effect of dust from nuclear blasts to be relatively minor. In 1979, the Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on “The Effects of Nuclear War” and stated that nuclear war could perhaps produce irreversible adverse consequences on the environment. However, because the scientific processes involved were poorly understood, the report stated it was not possible to estimate the probable magnitude of such damage.

Three years later, in 1982, the Swedish Academy of Sciences commissioned a report entitled “The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon,” which attempted to quantify the effect of smoke from burning forests and cities. The authors speculated that there would be so much smoke that a large cloud over the northern hemisphere would reduce incoming sunlight below the level required for photosynthesis, and that this would last for weeks or even longer.

The following year, five scientists including Richard Turco and Carl Sagan published a paper in Science called “Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions.” This was the so-called TTAPS report, which attempted to quantify more rigorously the atmospheric effects, with the added credibility to be gained from an actual computer model of climate. At the heart of the TTAPS undertaking was another equation, never specifically expressed, but one that could be paraphrased as follows:

Ds = Wn Ws Wh Tf Tb Pt Pr Pe etc

(The amount of tropospheric dust = # warheads × size warheads × warhead detonation height × flammability of targets × Target burn duration × Particles entering the Troposphere × Particle reflectivity × Particle endurance, and so on.)

The similarity to the Drake equation is striking. As with the Drake equation, none of the variables can be determined. None at all. The TTAPS study addressed this problem in part by mapping out different wartime scenarios and assigning numbers to some of the variables, but even so, the remaining variables were — and are — simply unknowable. Nobody knows how much smoke will be generated when cities burn, creating particles of what kind, and for how long. No one knows the effect of local weather conditions on the amount of particles that will be injected into the troposphere. No one knows how long the particles will remain in the troposphere. And so on.

And remember, this is only four years after the OTA study concluded that the underlying scientific processes were so poorly known that no estimates could be reliably made. Nevertheless, the TTAPS study not only made those estimates, but concluded they were catastrophic.

According to Sagan and his coworkers, even a limited 5,000 megaton nuclear exchange would cause a global temperature drop of more than 35 degrees Centigrade, and this change would last for three months. The greatest volcanic eruptions that we know of changed world temperatures somewhere between 0.5 and 2 degrees Centigrade. Ice ages changed global temperatures by 10 degrees. Here we have an estimated change three times greater than any ice age. One might expect it to be the subject of some dispute.

But Sagan and his coworkers were prepared, for nuclear winter was from the outset the subject of a well-orchestrated media campaign. The first announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan in the Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized, high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear war was held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, the most famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Sagan appeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times. Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings with congressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.

This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.

Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”: the Caltech Michelin Lecture, 2003-01-17.

November 24, 2017

Not Guided by Policy: Hunter S. Thompson and the Birth of Gonzo Journalism

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, Sports, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 6 Nov 2017

In this video:

“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.” This is the opening line from the highly acclaimed roman à clef Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream written by Hunter S. Thompson, one of America’s most countercultural and anti-authoritarian writers. The untamed master of his own self-titled genre, “gonzo journalism,” Thompson set ablaze the American standards for journalism during the 1960s and 70s with a cornucopia of drugs, alcohol, gun toting, and most notably, his exemplary writing.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/07/not-guided-policy-act-gonzo/

November 8, 2017

Nancy Friday, RIP

Filed under: Books, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the 1970s, one of the most controversial books was Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, drawn from interviews with a large number of women about their sexual fantasies:

My Secret Garden exploded on to bestseller lists around the globe in 1973. The work was shocking, deeply sexy in parts and proved that women had erotic imaginations just as men did, and that they, too, masturbated just as men did. It heralded the innocent dawning of what later became known as the sex-positive feminist movement. My Secret Garden came at the beginning of a wave of overtly sexual content written by women. Also in 1973, Betty Dodson penned what was to become the world’s bestseller on masturbation, Sex for One. My Secret Garden didn’t have the gravitas and respectability of say, Shulamith Firestone, but as author Susie Bright, the original “Sexpert” in the 1980s and 90s, says, “it sold millions and millions of copies and was a big wake-up for America’s puritanical, sheltered girls and young women”.

Of course, Friday was attacked by many. Like Dodson, her work was dismissed for being not scientific enough or for being too personal, or too much like soft porn. But an even bigger issue was that she wasn’t, Bright recalls with glee, “the tiniest bit politically correct”.

There is something quite secret about My Secret Garden. All Friday’s interviewees, who talk about fantasies ranging from being sex workers to being urinated on, talk anonymously. One interviewee explains how, when she has sex with her husband, her fantasy is imagining “the bed practically torn apart and us ending up on the floor wet and sticky and happy”. The reality though is that, “All he’s really doing is lying on top of me and thrusting away.

In 1996, Friday told Salon: “I would no more go to a consciousness-raising group and talk about my intimate life with my husband than fly to the moon.” In that same year, while discussing sexual harassment in the office on Bill Maher’s Comedy Central talk show Politically Incorrect, she claimed that men suffered from harassment as much as women.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle, who commented:

This was a very important book, although some will scoff at the idea. I was always struck by the fact that the only two male fantasy “objects” who were named (possibly for overly cautious “legal” reasons; one is clearly Leonard Cohen but not called that) were Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes…

The wide-spread (and I believe disingenuous) surprise that greeted the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey was no surprise at all to me. Friday was denounced as “no feminist” for revealing women’s rape fantasies, and she was decidedly non-p.c. in other respects. Whenever anyone dismisses this or that “evidence” as “simply anecdotal,” I think of this book in which anecdote is all, and more revealing and true than any “experiment” or “survey.”

QotD: The second coming of SF’s depressing and neurotic “New Wave”

Filed under: Books, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Back in the mid to late 70’s the “New Wave” was in full force. Downbeat endings, “black and gray morality” (which can be good if handled well, at least as a change-up from more clear cut items) or worse “black and black.” Those were the tone of Science Fiction.

Then, fairly close to each other, two movies came out which took an entirely different approach: Lucas’ Star Wars and Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The rogue was given back his heart of gold. The callow youth could be the hero of the piece, not ground down by the world weary cynics. Heroes who are actually heroes fighting bad guys who weren’t so “sympathetic” that you couldn’t tell hero from villain.

It was a refreshing change. And the result was that, for a time, it became OK to have good guys who were good guys. Bad guys who were actually bad and not just “oppressed” or “victims of their backgrounds”. You didn’t have to wonder who to root for.

Today we’re kind of in a similar position. One of the best selling series, for young people is The Hunger Games. Black and Very-Dark-Gray morality, little really to choose from in the sides, and (no spoilers) that’s shown pretty clearly in the ending. And in printed SF? So much “humanity is a plague” stuff. Bleah.

David L. Burkhead, “Star Wars and the Human Wave”, The Writer in Black, 2015-10-21.

September 20, 2017

In the 60s and 70s, “Confederate Chic escaped the modern odium that often had been accorded the Lost Cause revisionism”

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Victor Davis Hanson on the era when the progressive left embraced the “Lost Cause” imagery of the South:

Leftists love Johnnie Reb in movies and songs. But statues? Not so much. How exactly did the Left romanticize the Lost Cause Confederacy, and by extension its secession and efforts to preserve slavery? To use a shopworn phrase, “It’s complicated.”

Good Ol’ Rebels

Well before the end of Jim Crow, post-war leftist Hollywood still largely continued its soft mythologies of the Confederate Lost Cause. Perhaps the cinematic romance arose because of the lucrative fumes of earlier Gone with the Wind fantasies, which themselves might’ve come from an understandable desire to play a part in “binding up the nation’s wounds.”

[…]

The supposedly left-wing 1960s and 1970s, in fact, were the heyday of Confederate Chic. True, there were plenty of In the Heat of the Night portraits of the now-familiar racist white Neanderthals, but with the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the end of Jim Crow segregation, the romance of the Old South reappeared, updated and tweaked for the era of counterculture protest.

The contemporary hippie style of long hair, beards and mustaches, resistance to government authority, twangy folk-song strains, and hard-edged metal all fed into the rural, down-home Confederate romance. Notions of slavery, segregation, and secession mysteriously disappeared. Southern attitude was no longer Bull Connor but airbrushed Sixties-era resistance, at least at the superficial level of pop culture.

In Walter Hill’s post-Vietnam The Long Riders (1980), the murderous Jesse James gang morphs into a sort of mix of Lynyrd Skynyrd with Bonnie and Clyde — noble outlaws fighting the grasping northern banks and the railroad companies’ “Pinkerton Men.” David Carradine and his siblings, playing members of the gang, appear like Woodstock rockers, with exaggerated southern accents, long unkempt hair, hippie buckskin, and a don’t-give-a-damn Bay Area resistance attitude.

[…]

The unlikely common denominator that brought together left-wing Sixties popular culture with Confederate cool was a mutual hatred of a supposedly big, square, soulless, and powerful Washington, hated for its insolence in Vietnam and for stifling the individual — as if the poor lost South had been once as defenseless as the Vietnamese in the face of such a godless steamroller, or as if the Carradine clan were like the Allman Brothers with six-shooters.

Southern pop-music angst, hard metal, and crossover country and western channeled southern and Confederate themes, supposedly adding authenticity to mostly mainstream northern suburban American pop. Were rockers from the South popular versions of the 1920s and ’30s Southern Agrarians (“I’ll take my stand”) critics?

Few pop icons (but see Neil Young’s “Southern Man”) dared in the 1980s to suggest that southern chic was somehow blind to the racism of the Confederacy rather than just defiant and anti-government. The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama”), the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels (“The South’s Gonna Do It”), Confederate Railroad (“Summer in Dixie”), and even REM squared the circle of grafting old-style Confederate attitudes with hip counterculture, even if superficially and often nonsensically.

In other words, Confederate Chic escaped the modern odium that often had been accorded the Lost Cause revisionism sweeping the country from 1890 to 1920, in part fueled by rising nativism and renewed commitment to Jim Crow.

September 14, 2017

QotD: The 1970s economic mess

Filed under: Economics, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

He then goes on to blather about the policies of the 1970’s. I lived through the 1970’s and what you need to understand was that the governing motive of policymakers then was panic. The “policymakers,” by and large Democrats, screwed up as badly as possible and just couldn’t get a grip on what [the problems] really were.

John C. Carlton, “Who ‘Stole’ The Country’s Wealth, The Rich, Or Government ‘Policy Makers?'”, The Arts Mechanical, 2015-10-16.

August 23, 2017

Playing with fire – James May Q&A Extras (Ep36) – Head Squeeze

Filed under: Humour, Science, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 30 Aug 2013

James May reminisces about his misspent youth playing with matches and debates the merits of using foam to put out flames from petrol.

July 20, 2017

ESR on the early history of distributed software

Filed under: History, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Eric S. Raymond is asking for additional input to his current historical outline of the development of distributed software collaboration:

Nowadays we take for granted a public infrastructure of distributed version control and a lot of practices for distributed teamwork that go with it – including development teams that never physically have to meet. But these tools, and awareness of how to use them, were a long time developing. They replace whole layers of earlier practices that were once general but are now half- or entirely forgotten.

The earliest practice I can identify that was directly ancestral was the DECUS tapes. DECUS was the Digital Equipment Corporation User Group, chartered in 1961. One of its principal activities was circulating magnetic tapes of public-domain software shared by DEC users. The early history of these tapes is not well-documented, but the habit was well in place by 1976.

One trace of the DECUS tapes seems to be the README convention. While it entered the Unix world through USENET in the early 1980s, it seems to have spread there from DECUS tapes. The DECUS tapes begat the USENET source-code groups, which were the incubator of the practices that later became “open source”. Unix hackers used to watch for interesting new stuff on comp.sources.unix as automatically as they drank their morning coffee.

The DECUS tapes and the USENET sources groups were more of a publishing channel than a collaboration medium, though. Three pieces were missing to fully support that: version control, patching, and forges.

Version control was born in 1972, though SCCS (Source Code Control System) didn’t escape Bell Labs until 1977. The proprietary licensing of SCCS slowed its uptake; one response was the freely reusable RCS (Revision Control System) in 1982.

[…]

The first dedicated software forge was not spun up until 1999. That was SourceForge, still extant today. At first it supported only CVS, but it sped up the adoption of the (greatly superior) Subversion, launched in 2000 by a group for former CVS developers.

Between 2000 and 2005 Subversion became ubiquitous common knowledge. But in 2005 Linus Torvalds invented git, which would fairly rapidly obsolesce all previous version-control systems and is a thing every hacker now knows.

Questions for reviewers:

(1) Can anyone identify a conscious attempt to organize a distributed development team before nethack (1987)?

(2) Can anyone tell me more about the early history of the DECUS tapes?

(3) What other questions should I be asking?

June 13, 2017

Dave Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock now available

Filed under: Books, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Several years back, Dave Weigel wrote a series of articles chronicling the rise and fall of Prog Rock. Today, his new book is being published:

The fact that I linked to all five parts of his 2012 series is probably enough of a clue that I’m a fan of the genre and will be purchasing my own copy of the book. Here’s some of the blurb from the Amazon.ca page (Click on the image above to go to the Amazon.ca site):

The Show That Never Ends is the definitive story of the extraordinary rise and fall of progressive (“prog”) rock. Epitomized by such classic, chart-topping bands as Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and Emerson Lake & Palmer, along with such successors as Rush, Marillion, Asia, Styx, and Porcupine Tree, prog sold hundreds of millions of records. It brought into the mainstream concept albums, spaced-out cover art, crazy time signatures, multitrack recording, and stagecraft so bombastic it was spoofed in the classic movie This Is Spinal Tap.

With a vast knowledge of what Rolling Stone has called “the deliciously decadent genre that the punks failed to kill,” access to key people who made the music, and the passion of a true enthusiast, Washington Post national reporter David Weigel tells the story of prog in all its pomp, creativity, and excess.

Weigel explains exactly what was “progressive” about prog rock and how its complexity and experimentalism arose from such precursors as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. He traces prog’s popularity from the massive success of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” and the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” in 1967. He reveals how prog’s best-selling, epochal albums were made, including The Dark Side of the Moon, Thick as a Brick, and Tubular Bells. And he explores the rise of new instruments into the prog mix, such as the synthesizer, flute, mellotron, and—famously—the double-neck guitar.

If this clip of Yes performing “Roundabout” doesn’t immediately suggest Spinal Tap, I can only assume you’ve never seen the movie:

But not everyone of my generation was a fan of prog: here’s James Lileks summing up what he thought of the age of musical excess:

It’s obvious from Note One that everyone involved in the effort had so much THC in their system you could dry-cure their phlegm and get a buzz off the resin, but instead of having the loose happy ho-di-hi-dee-ho cheer of a Cab Calloway reefer number, the songs are soaked with Art and Importance and Meaning. You can imagine the band members sitting down to hash out (sorry) the overarching themes of the album, how it should like start with Total Chaos man because those are the times in which we live with like war from the sky, okay, and then we’ll have flutes because flutes are peaceful like doves and my old lady can play that part because she like studied flute, man, in high school. The lyrics are all the same: AND THE KING OF QUEENS SAID TO THE EARTH THE HEIROPHANT SHALL NOW GIVE BIRTH / THE HOODED PRIESTS IN CHAMBERED LAIRS LEERED DOWN UPON THE LADIES FAIR / NEWWWW DAAAAY DAWNNNING!

June 11, 2017

Nostalgia for a lost England

Filed under: Britain, Economics, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David Warren got all weepy about bygone times in England:

I lived in England — London, to be more frank, but with much wandering about — through the middle ’seventies and for a shorter spell in the early ’eighties. By the late ’nineties I visited a place that had been in many ways transformed, and clearly for the worse, by the Thatcher Revolution. Tinsel wealth had spread everywhere, trickling down into every crevice. Tony Blair surfed the glitter, and people with the most discouraging lower-class accents were wearing loud, expensive, off-the-rack garments, and carrying laptops and briefcases. No hats. It was a land in which one could no longer find beans-egg-sausage-and-toast for thirty-five new pence, nor enter the museums for free.

I missed that old Labour England, with the coalfield strikes, and the economy in free fall; with everything so broken, and all the empty houses in which one could squat; the quiet of post-industrial inanition, and the working classes all kept in their place by the unions. I loved the physical decay, the leisurely way people went about their charmingly miserable lives. Cricket still played in cricket whites; the plaster coming off the walls in pubs. It was all so poetical. And yes, Mrs Thatcher had ruined all that. For a blissful moment I was thinking, Corbyn could bring it back.

Actually, he would bring something more like Venezuela, but like the youff of England, one can still dream.

I visited England as an adult in mid-Winter 1979, the “Winter of Discontent“, and it was a fantastically appropriate epithet for a chilly, damp, and miserable time-and-place. When we landed at Heathrow, there was some kind of disruption with both the bus service and the underground (“subway” to us North Americans), so getting into London required taking a cab. The cabbie “kindly” took us around a bunch of touristy sites (and probably ran up the meter a fair bit) before dropping us off at King’s Cross station. When we bought our tickets for the train north to Darlington, we were warned that the catering staff were not working that day (no idea whether there was a formal strike or just a wildcat walkout), so there were no meals available on the train. The restaurant at the station was closed — that might just have been the time we were there, as British restaurant opening and closing hours were quite restricted at the best of times.

On the train, we were at least able to get a cup of tea and a stale bun. The journey took quite some time — once again, that might have been normal, but what was supposed to be a ~3 hour journey probably took closer to 5 hours (maintenance, signalling issues, strike-related delays, and for all I know the “wrong kind of snow” were all possible contributors). By then, we’d missed our connecting train to Middlesbrough, but they ran fairly frequently so we weren’t held up too long. We finally reached my Grandmother’s house, only to discover that we might be hit by blackouts as the power station workers were threatening to go off the job. It was a dismal and yet appropriate welcome back to the place I’d left as a child in 1967 … it was tough to recognize the places I thought I remembered, as childhood memories tend to emphasize the (fleeting) warmth and sunshine and ignore the much more traditional wet and windy British weather.

I left Toronto wearing normal winter clothing, which was well adapted to our Canadian winters, but not at all appropriate to the bitter, wet cold of Northeast England at the best of times and this was the worst winter since 1963. My teeth started to chatter as we left the terminal at Heathrow and didn’t stop chattering until the door closed on the aircraft for our return two weeks later (in the middle of a huge winter snowstorm that had us on one of the few aircraft that arrived or departed that day).

My brief two weeks’ experience of England’s Winter of Discontent didn’t build up any particularly rich sense of nostalgia, let me tell you…

May 29, 2017

Mark Steyn on the career of Roger Moore

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

On the weekend, Mark Steyn posted an article discussing the late Sir Roger’s pre-Bond roles:

Roger Moore played 007 in seven Bond films – although it seemed like more at the time. He was a rare Englishman in a role more often played by Celts and colonials – Connery (Scots), Lazenby (Aussie), Dalton (Welsh), Brosnan (Irish)… Any Canadians? Yes. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). For some Ian Fleming fans, Moore was a little too English for a role that benefits from a certain chippiness toward his metropolitan masters. Yet he bestrode the era like a colossus whose legs wee almost as unfeasibly long as they are on the Octopussy poster and whose trouser flares were almost as terrifyingly wide as on the Man With The Golden Gun poster.

[…]

But The Saint, for six years in the Sixties, was a hit of an entirely different scale, and made Moore the first UK TV star to become a millionaire (hence, in the Seventies, the tax exile). Leslie Charteris had created the Saint in the Twenties, and the books are very much of their day. But Moore’s version planted Simon Templar firmly in the Swingin’ Sixties with a lot of Continental dolly birds to give it some Euro-cool. Lew Grade, bored by running a local telly franchise in Birmingham, had his eye on the global market and gave The Saint a rare style for the British TV of its day. It started with the stylized graphics and theme tune, and then, upon the initial reference to Simon Templar’s name, the animated halo appearing over the character’s head, at which Roger Moore would glance amusedly upwards – perhaps the first conscious, and most iconic, deployment of his famous eyebrows.

True, if you paid close attention from week to week, the passenger terminal helpfully labeled “Nice” or “Monte Carlo” or “Geneva” looked remarkably like East Midlands Airport, but Moore’s tuxedoed aplomb held it all together. He was almost too dishy in those days – his beauty spot, for one, seems far more prominent in monochrome – and he sensed that he didn’t have to do too much but stand there looking suave. Everything he would do as Bond he did as Simon Templar: the quips, the birds, the sports cars. But he did it, more or less, for real. He co-owned the series, which eventually made over a third of a billion pounds (which back then, pre-devaluation, wasn’t that far shy of a billion dollars), and he took it seriously enough to serve as producer and director – although, on the one occasion I met him, he characteristically pooh-poohed the idea that he had any talents in either field. The series became less of a mystery-solver and more of a spy caper as it progressed, and indeed in one episode Simon Templar is actually mistaken for James Bond. Sean Connery had been whinging about his Bond burdens since at least Thunderball in 1965, and Roger Moore fully expected to get the call.

[…]

Moore belonged to the last generation of British thespians for whom it was assumed that acting meant presenting as posher than one’s origins. Unlike Lord Brett, young Roger didn’t go to Harrow but to Battersea Grammar School. He dad was a policeman who went to investigate a robbery at the home of Brian Desmond Hurst, a prolific director whose films include the all-time great, Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. Constable Moore mentioned that his boy Roger quite fancied being an actor, and Hurst hired him as an extra for Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and then paid for him to go to RADA. That’s where he met a young actress called Lois Hooker from Kitchener, Ontario, who changed her name to Lois Maxwell and became the defining Miss Moneypenny. Young Lois and young Roger both poshed up at RADA – although, as snootier critics with more finely calibrated class consciousness were wont to observe, from his Saint days to Lord Brett to Bond he was Lew Grade’s and Cubby Broccoli’s idea of an English gentleman rather than the real thing.

May 24, 2017

ESR presents Open Adventure

Filed under: Gaming, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Eric S. Raymond recently was entrusted with the original code for ADVENT, and he’s put it up on gitlab for anyone to access:

Colossal Cave Adventure was the origin of many things; the text adventure game, the dungeon-crawling D&D (computer) game, the MOO, the roguelike genre. Computer gaming as we know it would not exist without ADVENT (as it was known in its original PDP-10 incarnation).

Long ago, you might have played this game. Or maybe you’ve just heard stories about it, or vaguely know that “xyzzy” is a magic word, or have heard people say “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”,

Though there’s a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods’s final version – Adventure 2.5 from 1995 – has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license.

Until now, that is.

With the approval of its authors, I bring you Open Adventure. And with it some thoughts about what it means to be respectful of an important historical artifact when it happens to be software.

This is code that fully deserves to be in any museum of the great artifacts of hacker history. But there’s a very basic question about an artifact like this: should a museum preserve it in a static form as close to the original as possible, or is it more in the right spirit to encourage the folk process to continue improving the code?

Modern version control makes this question easier; you can have it both ways, keeping a pristine archival version in the history and improving it. Anyway, I think the answer to the general question is clear; if heritage code like this is relevant at all, it’s as a living and functional artifact. We respect our history and the hackers of the past best by carrying on their work and their playfulness.

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