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Justin's Linklog Posts


Two worlds collide — Barry Morris, CEO of Iona (my employers for 7 years), playing live on stage with Spinal Tap. NOOOOOO!! ;)

On a less disturbing note, I’m off to Thailand for 3 weeks, so updates will be even more sporadic than previously…


A two-headed crocodile has been born at Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm on the outskirts of Bangkok. I’ll be going to Thailand in a week so I can verify if this is just a case of the magic of superglue. ;)


Alan Turing is finally being honoured for his work, with a statue in Manchester. There’s an interesting follow-up mail from Mike O’Dell there, too: “the notes go on at length about the need for subroutines, subroutine libraries for common functions, and he even invented debugging and the concept of a debugger program. he also described what we today called a relocating assembler and linker – inventing the whole notion of “relocation” as an “obvious” aside.”

ALAN TURING, the national hero who broke the Nazi’s enigma code and is credited with turning the tide of the World War Two, is to be honoured with a life-size statute.

The bronze monument, which will be unveiled today, comes almost 50 years after the brilliant scientist was driven to suicide by persecution over his homosexuality. Five years after its inception, the pounds 20,000 sculpture of Turing sitting on a bench holding an apple will be displayed in Manchester’s Sackville Park in the city centre.

The mathematical genius became a national hero after his involvement in World War Two, he also helped invent the inaugural computer, at Manchester University, but was persecuted and prosecuted for his homosexuality. He committed suicide in 1954 by eating a poisoned apple.

Many believe Turing has never been recognised properly for his outstanding contribution to science. But Glyn Hughes, the statue’s creator, is confident that Turing has finally earned his rightful place in the history books. Hughes, from Adlington near Chorley, said: “It’s stunningly realistic. I’m sure it will go a dirty black over time, but it looks wonderful today.”

GRAPHIC: Glyn Hughes’ sculpture of the wartime hero, Alan Turing, will
be unveiled in Manchester today Paul Burrows

Via: David Farber (spam-protected)
Subject: Re: IP: Statue of a computer scientist
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 22:01:00 -0400
From: “Mike O’Dell” (spam-protected)

many years ago, the Journal of the British Computer Society published a collection of Turing’s papers and notes along with some history-of-science analysis.

what was truly stunning was that Turning not only invented the general purpose computer as we now understand it, but he also invented *programming* and even *software engineering* as we now understand it. the notes go on at length about the need for subroutines, subroutine libraries for common functions, and he even invented debugging and the concept of a debugger program. he also described what we today called a relocating assembler and linker – inventing the whole notion of “relocation” as an “obvious” aside.

he had the design for a complete computer almost done, and he was fighting for resources to build it, but caught up in his other problems it fell to others to build what was probably a lesser machine.

I hope all the BCS stuff got collected and republished somewhere, and if someone knows where I’d love to know as I haven’t been able to find it.

Reading those notes makes it abundantly clear that there’s very little in modern computing that Alan Turing didn’t invent or at least fortell.

His loss was an incalculable tragedy.



The hazards of sweary parrots. “Everything was going OK until the word ‘arse’ was blurted out from the cupboard.” Isn’t that always the way?

Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001 09:02:07 -0700
From: (spam-protected) (glen mccready)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Polly want a court-marshal?

Forwarded-by: William Knowles (spam-protected),,2-2001211806,00.html


ADMIRAL Sir Alan West, Commander-in-Chief Fleet, was addressing fellow officers in the wardroom of the frigate HMS Lancaster during a tour of the Gulf when a high-pitched voice from a side room cupboard shouted “Arse”.

Mildly perturbed but with steely resolve, the admiral continued with his briefing. “Bollocks”, said the voice.

Further choice epithets not unfamiliar below decks followed without regard for the fact that serious top brass could hear them. “Slag”, said the voice.

It could have been worse. Sunny, the 18-month-old African grey parrot who is employed as the Lancasters mascot and who usually lives in a cage in the wardroom, has an extensive repertoire.

She can quote the words of Sir Michael Caine, “Zulus, thousands of ’em”, whistle the theme tune from Steve McQueens The Great Escape, and remark in the manner of a macho Australian, “Show us your growler”.

The Lancasters officers had thought Sunny should stay out of sight during the admirals visit, but the voice refused to be silenced. “F off”, it said.

One of the Lancasters ratings said: Everything was going OK until the word ‘arse’ was blurted out from the cupboard. The Commander-in-Chief looked a little stunned at first, but fortunately he just carried on as normal. God knows what he was thinking.

The crew had taught Sunny her bad habits, another rating said: Now she shouts ‘arse’ and ‘bollocks’ every other minute.

In future, if senior officers come aboard, Sunny will be banished from the wardroom, as she can no longer be trusted to observe naval discipline.

When she returns to Portsmouth next month at the end of the type 23 frigates six-month tour, she needs to mind her As and Bs or she might find herself an ex-parrot.


A message from David Prior quotes the FCC’s Michael Powell, stating that “the amount of money BT spent on a 3G licence, plus that which will be spent on development and roll-out, could have funded (fibre-to-the-home) deployment to 95%+ of households in the UK.” Sickening.


Toby Young on being interviewed by Joan Bakewell about porn. “It was like being interviewed about pornography by my Mum“. Pretty funny, in an excruciating way.

Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 15:47:22 -0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Not fortean, but pretty funny

From The Spectator, 23 June 2001

Mum’s the word

Toby Young

Gore Vidal said there are two things in life you should never turn down: the opportunity to have sex and the chance to appear on
television. Consequently, when a researcher from the Beeb called and asked whether I’d like to be interviewed by Joan Bakewell for her forthcoming series, I immediately said yes. Apart from everything else, it would give me a chance to meet the thinking man’s crumpet in the flesh. It was only later, when I had time for reflection, that I thought this might have been a bit rash. You see, the subject she wanted to talk to me about was pornography.

I wrote about my interest in porn for The Spectator not long ago but Boris thought the article was ‘a bit racy’ for Speccie readers. It was about the trauma of having to part with my collection of X-rated videos when I moved back to London from New York last year. To be fair to Boris, he told me later that he thought he’d made the wrong decision but by that time it was too late — I’d already flogged the piece to GQ. (If anyone would like to see it, you can contact me at (spam-protected) and I’ll email you a copy.) Anyway, this article was read by one of Joan Bakewell’s minions and that’s why I got the call.

I realised I’d made a terrible mistake when the researcher rang back and asked if I’d be prepared to play Joan Bakewell one of my ‘favourite tapes’ on camera. Certainly not, I told him. In any case, I’d left all my tapes in New York. Nevertheless, any hopes I had of passing myself as a disinterested journalist were dashed. Clearly, I was being interviewed in my capacity as a ‘user’, not an impartial observer. I suddenly got paranoid about how they were going to bill me when my bald head first appeared on screen. ‘Toby Young, pornography addict’? ‘Toby Young, compulsive masturbator’? ‘Toby “Wanker” Young’? Unfortunately, it was too late to back out now.

‘So, Toby,’ Bakewell began, when the cameras started rolling, ‘when did you first develop your lifelong passion for pornography?’

I was stymied. My plan had been to appear as smooth and debonair as possible in the hope of seeming completely unembarrassed. It was being filmed at my bedsit in Shepherd’s Bush and I had a copy of Philip Larkin’s letters at my feet, ready to flick to his dispatch to Robert Conquest in which he talks about his visit to a Soho sex shop. ‘You see, Joan. Plenty of respectable people like porn.’ However, I immediately flushed crimson.

‘Er, well, er, I’m not sure, er . . . .’

‘I have to say, Toby, I just can’t see the point of it,’ Bakewell continued. ‘To me, it’s just like watching little bits of gristle. Why d’you find it so . . . compelling?’

As I struggled to answer this, I could see the cameraman darting about in front of me, getting the close-ups he’d been instructed to get by the director: quivering lower lip, shaking hands, rapidly blinking eyes. This was turning into a nightmare.

‘C-c-c-could I please have a glass of water?’ I stammered. ‘My mouth’s suddenly gone dry.’

The whole experience was like being interviewed about pornography by my Mum. Indeed, Joan Bakewell was actually a contemporary of my mother’s at Cambridge. It wasn’t her intention to embarrass me — she seemed genuinely puzzled by what an obviously intelligent chap like me saw in this filth — but I felt exactly like I did when my Mum discovered a pile of Playboys under my bed when I was aged 14.

The low point came during a discussion about who pornography is for.

Joan: ‘I gather from talking to pornographers that these films are
very popular with modern couples. Apparently, after they’ve put the kids to bed, they open a bottle of Chardonnay, sit down on the sofa and watch one of these tapes together.’

Me: ‘That’s all bullshit, Joan. The fact is, the main market for porn
is sad, lonely, loveless men, men who can’t get women.’

Joan: ‘Is that you, Toby?’

Me (Spluttering): ‘Er, no, no, of course not. I mean, not any more. I’m about to get married. My interest in pornography was just a phase.’

Joan: ‘A phase? Come on.’

At this point, the cameraman swivelled round to get a close-up of my television and the videotapes scattered in front of it on the floor, before swinging back to get a shot of me sitting on my sofa looking shifty.

Me: ‘No, really.’ (Pause.) ‘A 20-year phase.’

After this ordeal, I can say with some confidence that there is an exception to Gore Vidal’s rule. Have as much sex as you like and appear on television as often as you can, but for God’s sake don’t agree to talk about anything of a sexual nature on television, particularly with someone who reminds you of your Mum. Sorry, Joan. But it’s difficult to appear like a thinking man when you’re talking about crumpet.


One for Tom — “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Libertarian“. FoRKposted by Bill Humphries.

I Am the Very Model of a Modern Libertarian

by Kim Plofker

[With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, and also to one Lollius. Note: In order to avoid the infringement of individual rights by imposing totalitarian ideals of harmony, the soloist and choristers may sing each in his or her own tempo, tune, and key.]

I am the very model of a modern Libertarian:
I teem with glowing notions for proposals millenarian,
I’ve nothing but contempt for ideologies collectivist
(My own ideas of social good tend more toward the Objectivist).
You see, I’ve just discovered, by my intellectual bravery,
That civic obligations are all tantamount to slavery;
And thus that ancient pastime, viz., complaining of taxation,
Assumes the glorious aspect of a war for liberation!

You really must admit it’s a delightful revelation:
To bitch about your taxes is to fight for liberation!

I bolster up my claims with lucubrations rather risible
About the Founding Fathers and the market’s hand invisible;
In fact, my slight acquaintance with the fountainhead Pierian
Makes me the very model of a modern Libertarian!

His very slight acquaintance with the fountainhead Pierian
Makes him the very model of a modern Libertarian!

All “public wealth” is robbery, we never will accede to it;
You have no rights in anything if you can’t show your deed to it.
(But don’t fear repossession by our Amerind minority:
Those treaties aren’t valid — Uncle Sam had no authority!)
We realize whales and wolves and moose find wilderness quite vital,
And we’ll give back their habitats — if they can prove their title.
But people like unspoiled lands (we too will say “hooray” for them),
So we have faith that someone else will freely choose to pay for them.

Yes, when the parks are auctioned it will be a lucky day for them —
We’re confident that someone else will freely choose to pay for them!

We’ll guard the health of nature by self-interest most astute:
Since pollution is destructive, no one ever will pollute.
Thus factories will safeguard our communities riparian —
I am the very model of a modern Libertarian!

Yes, factories will safeguard our communities riparian,
He is the very model of a modern Libertarian!

In short, when I can tell why individual consumers
Know best who should approve their drugs and who should treat their
Why civilized existence in its intricate confusion
Will be simple and straightforward, absent government intrusion;
Why markets cannot err within the system I’ve described,
Why poor folk won’t be bullied and why rich folk won’t be bribed,
And why all vast inequities of power and position
Will vanish when I wave my wand and utter “COMPETITION!” —

He’s so much more exciting than a common politician,
Inequities will vanish when he hollers “Competition!”

— And why my lofty rhetoric and arguments meticulous
Inspire shouts of laughter and the hearty cry, “Ridiculous!”,
And why my social theories all seem so pre-Sumerian —
I’ll be the very model of a modern Libertarian!

His novel social theories all seem so pre-Sumerian —
He is the very model of a modern Libertarian!


Some interesting recollections about high-power radio transmissions causing toasters to sing and the like.

Date: Sat, 09 Jun 2001 09:21:51 -0000
From: (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Singing Toasters – Just for Starters!

Back in the middle 1930s, Cincinnati’s clear channel radio station WLW broadcast at hi-power – 500,000 watts, ten times today’s standard – and measured its DAYTIME audience to include Hawaii and Scotland. (Mrs. Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor, listened for a little touch of home and sent fan mail.)

People who then lived around WLW’s Mason, Ohio, transmitter received WLW programs over electric toasters, light bulbs, vacuum sweepers, electric AND gas stoves, clocks, COAL (!) furnaces, water and gas pipes and right up out of kitchen and bathroom drains! (Shades of Stephen King’s IT!) One woman – personally known to me three decades later – listened to WLW out of the kitchen drain all day, but the signals always stopped just before her husband came home from work. He merely assumed that his young wife was going nuts, but the real explanation was that WLW changed its directional antenna array at night.

During World War Two the transmitter was retuned to shortwave and became known as WLWO (WLW Overseas), broadcasting programs especially to Nazi-occupied Europe. After the War it became the anchor transmitter for Voice of America broadcasts to the Iron Curtain countries.

George Wagner (spam-protected) (spam-protected)

— In (spam-protected) (spam-protected) wrote:

A year or more ago during a discussion of odd EMF effects, etc , I mention that as a teen I remembered that one Summer my family rented an isolated camp. That camp had an old style toaster in it and on quiet nights you could clearly hear a local radio station from the toaster.How ??? beats me ! Resonating wires sounds good but I think it’s an oversimplification.



Incredible — Colombia Pictures fabricated a fake film critic, to provide ad-copy-on-demand.

Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 14:24:40 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Fake film critic,4029,501215,00.html

Columbia critic exposed as a fake

Sara Gaines Monday June 4, 2001

A critic who has given ringing endorsements to a string of Colombia Pictures films has been exposed as a fake. Newsweek magazine discovered the gushing “critic” David Manning was created by the studio’s advertising department to boost campaigns for a host of new releases. The fake critic’s relentlessly positive quotes were included in advertising spiel for at least four films and the studio has apparently been happily churning out rave reviews in his name since last July. The glowing quotes attributed to Manning included tributes for A Knight’s Tale in which Australian actor Heath Ledger was praised as “this year’s hottest new star!” and for the Rob Schneider comedy The Animal which was hailed as “another winner!” Other endorsements were used in advertising copy for Hollow Man and Vertical Limit. Susan Tick, a spokeswoman for Columbia’s parent company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, admitted to Newsweek the reviews were “an incredibly foolish decision.” The company has now withdrawn adverts which contain the fabricated quotes although some newspapers had already carried them over the weekend. In the adverts Manning is named as film critic for The Ridgefield Press, a family-owned weekly in a small Connecticut town.

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Signature FoRK Debate Moves — a list of cut-out-and-keep debating tactics for mailing lists, featuring such tried-and-trusted feints and lunges as the Old Post Resurrection Embarrassment, The Link Slam (my favourite), and the truly beautiful to behold Tom Whore.

Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2001 04:06:49 -0500
From: Jeff Bone (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Signature FoRK Debate Moves

(In memory of CobraBoy… Humor Ark Ark?)

So much as I hate to say it, FoRK is pretty analogous to the WWF in many ways. As such, it too has its signature moves. In deconstructing the recent rambles and pondering the Debate-O-Matic ideas that have been tossed about, it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to document some of those signature moves. Here’s a rough cut. (Before anybody starts yelling, let me acknowledge that I indulge in almost all if not every one of these myself on a regular basis. This isn’t (hypo)criticism, it’s reflection.)

The Character Assassination

The Character Assassination is a classic maneuver with a fairly self-explanatory name. Rather than attacking the point of argument itself, the attacker seeks to undermine the defendant his/herself. This is done in a variety of ways, yielding variations that are each themselves worthy of study. The general character assassination attack can take two modes: direct and indirect. In the direct attack, the attacker draws directly from the surrounding debate context in order to build material — relevant or not — which is positioned to undermine the defendant’s credibility, and therefore weaken their position. In the indirect attack, the attacker uses context outside of the debate itself to executive the move.

The Stereotype Assassination

The Stereotype Assassination is a variation on the Character Assassination. In it, the attacker seeks to draw parallels — real or otherwise — between the defendant’s position and a tendency to unthinkingly buy into stereotypes. Because we all “know” that stereotypes are over generalizations, narrow-minded, and generally “wrong” the attacker is able to undermine the defendant’s credibility and therefore their position without addressing specific issues at all. The stereotype maneuver is ironic in nature; the attacker is usually utilizing unfounded generalization from the defendant’s actual argument in order to paint the defendant as engaging in stereotyped thinking.

The Category Assassination

The Category Assassination is in many respects the ironic complement of the Stereotype Assassination. In this move, the attacker builds the perception in the audience’s mind that the defendant belongs to some particular category, and then makes the assertion that the category in question has some particular stereotyped mindset / behavior / what have you; by having such behavior, the attacker asserts, the defendant cannot possibly have a position of merit -wrt- the current debate.

The Context Stomp

The Context Stomp is a cheap but effective maneuver. In it, the attacker intentionally misrepresents something the defendant asserted, taking a particular point out of context and flaying the hell out of it. Doing so may or may not detract from the defendant’s position, but it certainly distracts. The defendant is put on the defensive, and must clean up the situation before proceeding to prosecute his or her point.

The Level Lunge

The Level Lunge is another distraction maneuver. The attacker seeks to gain points by plummeting down the metalevel ladder; first, the meta-argument is attacked, and then the meta-meta-argument, and so on. This is a good maneuver to engage when the attacker is on the outs, losing the fight, as it can force a stalemate. (A successful Level Lunge resulting in a stalemate is referred to a Stack Overflow Termination.)

The Slight-Of-Hand Strawman

In the Slight-Of-Hand Strawman, the attacker directly engages the defendant’s arguments, but during the process subtly shifts the point. After doing this long enough, the attacker has constructed a weak strawman which is quickly knocked down for the kill. The SOHS is widely regarded as a cheap maneuver not worthy of FoRK. In past lives though not on FoRK, Gojomo has been known to be a skillful master of this maneuver.

The Zecious Zero

In the Zecious Zero, the attacker tediously constructs an apparently logical framework, states that it is formally correct and any disagreement must therefore be merely a definitional / semantic matter, and vigorously defends the formal framework. It should be noted that in most cases the framework constructed is “zecious” in the extreme; while having the appearance of a very detailed formal framework, it is usually internally inconsistent. Only the complexity of the framework hides the inconsistency. (Kudos to Gordon Mohr for coining the term “zecious.”)

The Extrapolation Explosion

The Extrapolation Explosion is a combo Context Stomp / SOHS special. In it, the attacker puts together multiple iterative context stomps and SOHSes in one post, extrapolating from the current debate, until the defendant’s argument is so grossly distorted that it cannot maintain its integrity. This move is extremely hard to defend against; in this regard, it resembles the Level Lunge in that attempting to counter usually results in Stack Overflow Termination.

The Insinuendo

The Insinuendo is not an attack per se, rather a feint. It is a mild and subtle CA move which is not intended to score but rather to disorient the defendant and plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of the audience. When executed correctly, it can be very effective; however, FoRK isn’t a particularly subtle place, so we don’t even see this one attempted very often.

The Jane-You-Ignorant-Slut

The JYIS is an Insinuendo without the subtlety. It is almost entirely ineffective in either disorienting the defendant or in seeding doubt among the audience, but it does have one beneficial effect. When executed well, it demonstrates the attacker’s superb sense of humor and comedic timing, and therefore scores points *for* the attacker without actually taking them away from the defendant. FoRK tends to see JYIS at the tail end of threads collapsing into rhetorical holes, which is unfortunate; it’s a beautiful maneuver, but worthless in such a situation.

The Mortar Lob

The Mortar Lob is the Hail Mary of our moves. It involves drastically changing the topic mid-thread, making an extreme shift towards some position entirely unrelated, and firing away. It is usually a last ditch effort employed as a defensive conversion maneuver when one is on the way out. The Mortar Lob almost never works, but if you don’t try it, you’re a pussy.

The Loaded Word Gambit

In this move, the attacker loads the argument up with words which carry significant emotional baggage and implication. By appealing to the knee-jerk interpretations of these words, the attacker seeks to gain the advantage. The Loaded Word Gambit is almost never effective, and often results in the Semantic-Spiral-Of-Death.

The Semantic Death Spiral

This maneuver is often used in either of two contexts. It is often engaged when both positions are rhetorically strong, or when the rhetorical frameworks employed cannot be meshed at all. It’s an endless recursion of definitional arguments, with each combatant seeking to co-opt the other’s argument by defining away any disagreement. The Faith Thread is a good recent example of a tag team SDS bout.

The Curse and Recurse

The Curse and Recurse is a disorienting attack in which the attacker gets all wiggy to throw the defendant off, pops the stack, then circles back around to resume the same attack sequence that didn’t work the first time around. This can go on forever unless it falls into some terminal sequence.

The Old Post Resurrection Embarrassment

In this attack, the attacker diligently — perhaps through a significant act of e-mail archaeology — seeks to undermine the opponent’s position. This attack can take a variety of forms. It is often used to illustrate some (potentially irrelevant) inconsistency between the defendant’s current position and some position adopted in a previous bout. It can also be used, as by Greg Bolcer recently, to illustrate the fundamental incorrectness of the defendant’s position by referring to a previous post made by somebody else. When deployed as the latter, this move is also known as The FoRK Historical Stupidity Attack. There is no effective defense against the Old Post Resurrection Nightmare, though the defendant may sometimes attempt the Teflon Don in retaliation.

The Drunken Master

The Drunken Master is a move intended to completely imbalance the attacker. It is often employed after a brief hiatus during which the attacker engages in some late night substance abuse; the attacker then blathers at top volume until the defendant is totally unbalanced, at which point the attacker attempts to close in for the kill. (And usually falls on his/her face in the process.) The Drunken Master always feels good at the time, but is usually regretted the next day.

The Pedantic Nightmare

The Pedantic Nightmare is the complement of the Semantic Death Spiral. In it, the argument is focused on its formal structure, without regard to semantics. The attacker seeks to use endlessly tedious formal reasoning in order to illustrate the inconsistency of the defendant. It is usually ineffective both through the attacker’s failure to prosecute it properly and the defendant’s unwillingness to let it happen.

The Dennis Miller

Also known as The Reference Roundhouse. In this move, the attacker attempts to co-opt credibility by dazzling the defendant and the audience with a barrage of not particularly relevant references, preferably obscure, usually nonauthoritative. The theory is that if the attacker has such a vast array of trivial knowledge at their disposal, surely they are therefore correct in their assertions. (I know, it doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t stop us from trying it from time to time.) The Dennis Miller is often coupled with the Teflon Don when things go awry, which is pretty funny when you think about it. The Dennis Miller can be effective in the right context, and is almost always fun to watch.

The Vocab Blitz

The Vocab Blitz is another credibility co-opt maneuver intended to add punch to a particular attack. The Vocab Blitz involves maximizing the syllabic length of any and every possible word in a particular parry in order to demonstrate the attacker’s intelligence. Clearly, such a genius much be infallible. (Or so the thinking goes.) The Vocab Blitz is cheap and meaningless.

The Link Slam

The Link Slam is an attempt to shore up an attack by over reference. The theory is that clearly the attacker has researched the issue much more thoroughly than the defendant. Whether this is believed or not, this can be effective; it often sends the defendant on a fact chase, therefore distracting them enough for the attacker to make a finishing move.

The Psuedofact Slam

The Psuedofact Slam is like the Link Slam, but without the links. In this move, the attacker shores up their position with a seemingly limitless array of very specific sounding and potentially believable supporting “facts.” These “facts” need not and often do not have any factual basis whatsoever; the attacker need not even do a Google beforehand, as no attribution or support is provided. Only a diligent defender can effectively parry a Psuedofact Slam.


Also known as The Cartman, the Screw-You-Guys-Im-Going-Home is a defensive measure of last resort, effectively ending the bout without a victory condition. Pretty clear from its name what it consists of, the SYGIGH was most recently effectively employed by our own Strata in a debate with Yours Truly. The SYGIGH almost always results in a rematch, once the party who employs it decides a rematch is needed.

The False-Falling-On-Ones-Sword

This maneuver consists of the attacker feigning a conciliatory or self deprecating position, in an attempt to draw the attacker in and put them off guard. It is usually immediately followed up by some combo of the Slams, or even — particularly effectively — an Old Post Resurrection Embarrassment.

The Overpost Armageddon

The Overpost Armageddon is a massive blitz of sequential follow-up e-mails, each of which typically tears a single previous post apart line by line, employing various attacks. The goal of the Overpost Armageddon is to completely overwhelm the defendant, making it literally impossible for them to counter each attack. The author is periodically the reigning master of this particular maneuver, though in his case this is believed to be the result of some neuropsychological disorder such as TLE- or OCD-induced hypergraphia. The problem with this maneuver is that it usually leaves everyone involved — including the attacker — exhausted for days.

The Teflon Don

This is a particularly obnoxious defensive maneuver in which one eliminates all possibility of further damage simply by claiming that the positions taken, rhetorical style employed, formal structure, definitional correctness, or behavior in any way represent one’s own character, beliefs, etc. The Teflon Don is a terminal move, which cannot be countered, though it should be recognized for what it is: the king of all cop-outs.

The Consistency Spasm

The Consistency Spasm is a disorienting attack in which the attacker alternates between two obviously inconsistent positions in order to find maximum advantage from which to press further attacks. It’s not a pretty sight. Only the most steadfast defendant will hang in there instead of simply leaving the ring in disgust.

The Circular Thrash

The Circular Thrash employs single level circular “logic” in order to support the attacker’s position. It’s impossible to counter if undetected, but is a risky proposition: upon discovering a Circular Thrash, the defendant needs to merely cry out “Shenanigans!” in order to call the match and declare victory. If this is done, the attacker who attempted the Circular Thrash is usually surprised to find themselves standing alone in the center of the ring, calling out “Hey! I wasn’t done yet!”

The Running-To-The-Edges

The Running-To-The-Edges is a particularly sophisticated attack derived from both the Extrapolation Explosion and the Level Lunge. In it, the attacker immediately level jumps not with respect to the meta-argument level but rather to the maturity-of-argument level. In doing so, the attacker takes the defendant’s nascent and ill-defined condition and fires a barrage of edge cases at it which appear to contradict it. The conceit is that this invalidates the defendant’s admittedly general argument, by implying that the edge cases cannot be reconciled with the defendant’s position. Russell recently introduced this maneuver to FoRK, where it has enjoyed immediate popularity.

The TrapperKeeper

Named for the South Park terminator spoof episode, The TrapperKeeper is the most beautiful, elegant, and sought after of moves. In it, the attacker baits the defendant with arguments or assertions that the defendant should conditionally agree with. If the bait is successful, if the defendant “touches” the attacker’s TrapperKeeper, sharp spikes shoot out to impale the defendant. Unfortunately, the TrapperKeeper has to this author’s knowledge never been effectively executed on FoRK.

The Tom Whore

The only eponymous move in our repertoire, The Tom Whore is a joy to behold when executed properly. In it, the attacker becomes simultaneously so artfully obscure / obtuse that no retaliation is possible. The immediate effect is that the defendant is left looking rather dazed while picking the Speedo wedgie out of their ass crack.

Whew. Anyone have any additions or edits?

Your faithful servant,



A Las Vegas sleaze-merchant reckons that a “shadowy cabal of criminals, corrupt insiders and professional hackers” selectively re-routes phone calls in order to “steal” customers.


The Observer and Daily Mail both got sucked in by a survey with some dubious credentials.

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 16:32:42 -0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Drug abuse, the ‘Daily Mail’ and the former punk with an alien on his website

The Independent

Drug abuse, the ‘Daily Mail’ and the former punk with an alien on his website

Firm claims it talked to 20,000 teenagers for a headline-grabbing survey. But trading standards and a university are not so sure

By Chris Blackhurst 14 May 2001

It was a typically apocalyptic Daily Mail front page. “School Drug Abuse Shock,” screamed the paper’s headline on 1 May this year, “400,000 children under 16

are regular users, warns survey." Inside, the comment page carried a pulpit-thumping piece: "Why daren't we tell our children the truth about drugs?" by Mary Brett, head of health education at Dr Challoner's Grammar School in Buckinghamshire.

"The drug culture continues to tighten its grip on our young people, dragging ever more teenagers under its malign influence," warned Ms Brett.

She went on: "An authoritative survey just published confirms that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of 13 and 14-year-olds starting to take drugs, with many becoming regular users. According to the report by the Adolescent Assessment Services group (AAS), by age 16 almost 9 per cent of boys and 7 per cent of girls are taking drugs at least once a week."

The Daily Mail was not alone in highlighting the study. Under the headline "Shock rise in hard drug use among pupils", The Observer reported how the survey findings, "based on questionnaires filled in by 20,000 children in 67 secondary schools last year, contradict recent government claims that juvenile drug use is falling". The Observer quoted Jeremy Gluck, head of the Adolescent Assessment Services: "The results were very striking, drug use is much more extensive than we thought. The sheer numbers involved are very worrying. Some totals were so high that we genuinely didn't want to believe them." Mr Gluck's study was also covered by BBC2's Newsnight and by the Press Association.

A full copy of his report is available for £25 from the offices of the AAS in Swansea and he is also selling places at a conference on drugs and school-children for £95 each.

The questionnaire contains a code, which, says the AAS blurb, "allows us to follow individuals over a number of years without anyone ever knowing who they are. In this way we could survey a class of Year 6 primary school children at age 10 and follow them through secondary school every year until they leave at age 16." The questionnaire does not concentrate solely on drugs. "If an LEA or health authority wanted to know about the level of awareness to HIV and Aids in 12-year-old girls we can arrange for their inclusion and analyse the data accordingly." This year, the AAS claims to be surveying 100,000 young people.

Odd then, given the scale of such an operation, that the AAS is not in the phonebook and its offices are Mr Gluck's home in suburban Swansea. The firm is not known to any of the local bodies with a keen interest in drug problems: the Welsh Assembly, Swansea Council or South Wales health trusts. Odder still that Mr Gluck seems to have no qualifications for pronouncing on the nation's health. He is a Canadian, a former punk rocker with a band called the Barracudas, who, when he is not selling reports on drug abuse, runs his own website where he claims to be in touch with a higher being called Aona that keeps him posted about the destiny of the human race. He also once ran for a council by-election, for the "Independent Party of Wales", attracting nine votes. As well as the AAS, Mr Gluck runs another organisation, Spiritech UK, which he bills on the internet as "an online initiative dedicated to exploring the spirituality-technological interface and how we are evolving in cyberspace".

As for Mr Gluck, he describes himself as "an artist and writer by vocation, a visionary and dreamer by nature, and a meta-modernist by intent ..."

He maintains an internet dialogue with Aona, which tells him we are not alone: "The human race is not unique. There are many human-type races throughout the universe, so much so that it would be quite useless trying to quantify this fact." Earthlings are hampered at present by our DNA, which, Aona tells Mr Gluck, is not fully developed. But do not worry: "This is a restriction for earth-born human beings, yet it is also a source of their future or impending strength ­ restriction always brings out the best in a being, because it forces that being to master its nature through endurance."

Unfortunately for Mr Gluck, more down-to-earth bodies are taking a keen interest in his affairs. Swansea Trading Standards are looking into Mr Gluck's organisation. John Spence, director of Trading Standards for Swansea, said: "We've had certain information given to us among which there are issues which need to be clarified in relation to the activities in which Mr Gluck is engaged."

Alan Williams, the Labour MP for Swansea West, has asked the decidedly less than ethereal figure of Jack Straw to investigate. "I've referred the survey to the Home Office," said Mr Williams. "I wish the people who used this report had investigated its bona fides properly first." Particularly worrying is the suggestion that this could involve the surveying of large numbers of children and secret monitoring of them over a number of years.

Mr Gluck has also incurred the wrath of Swansea University. In its blurb accompanying the report, the AAS claims to be "a spin-off company from the University of Wales". Mr Gluck does work for the university. He is a part-time lecturer in IT in its adult education department. A spokeswoman for the university said: "His claim that Adolescent Assessment Services is linked to the university is not true and we have told him to remove the reference."

Mr Gluck maintained that he surveyed the children on behalf of 10 local education authorities. As well as not naming the schools the report provides no clues as to the identity of the authorities. "I can't name them because of confidentiality ­ the children must be protected," Mr Gluck said. "The whole procedure is designed to protect the anonymity of the children."

The Independent wanted to have a long chat with Mr Gluck but he was remarkably unforthcoming on detail. He acknowledged the AAS was not in the phonebook but assured us it did exist. He did not say how many people worked for an organisation that claims to survey 100,000 children. He would not say how many copies of his drugs report he has sold or how many people had paid for the conference, except that the response has been "overwhelming". The discussion, such as it was, became truncated when he was asked whether he was concerned about the referral to the Home Office.

"Before I speak any further I shall have to speak to my colleagues," he said. "The actual report is sound," he emphasised, before repeating he would have to consult his unnamed colleagues. He said he would call back. He never did.


William Hague a nazi — photographic proof, courtesy of Reuters. Who needs Photoshop with pics like this?


A STORY thought to be a myth about a horse and cart being entombed during the building of an extension to the West Highland Railway Line over one hundred years ago has been proved to be true.

Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 10:51:31 -0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Century-old rail ‘myth’ proved

The Times


Century-old rail 'myth' proved


A STORY thought to be a myth about a horse and cart being entombed during the building of an extension to the West Highland Railway Line over one hundred years ago has been proved to be true. After a 17-year search Professor Roland Paxton of Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, has found the animal’s remains in the spectacular Loch-nan-Uamh viaduct near Mallaig, Argyllshire.

Professor Paxton said that his team found the almost intact remains of the horse and cart on the weekend, using state of the art radar equipment to probe the pillars.

He said: “The cart is lying at the bottom of the 40ft pillar with the horse sitting vertically on top, as though they had fallen in backwards.”

The accident in 1899 must have happened as builders began pouring stone into the pillar’s cavity from a backed-up cart, he said. “It’s quite difficult to reverse a horse and cart and it looks like this one went over the edge and disappeared into the pier, dragging the poor horse in after it.”

The horse had probably died instantly, the professor said. “There’s evidence the horse’s neck was broken, presumably in the fall, and that the filling continued.”

Professor Paxton first read about the accident 17 years ago, but the myth and folklore that grew around the story made it difficult to know where to search. It was not until he recieved a tip-off from local man, Ewen Macmillan, 75, from Arisaig, Argyll, that he was able to find the right location.

Mr Macmillan said that he had first heard the story as a boy from his father. “I was fascinated and the story stuck in my head ever since,” he said.

Sir William McAlpine, whose great-grandfather Robert McAlpine was the building contractor on the eight-span viaduct, sponsored the search.


“I think nipples are just there now as a part of fashion,” says Valerie Steele, acting director of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “They have really become an acceptable part of fashion for at least the high-fashion and street-style worlds.”

Date: Wed, 09 May 2001 12:41:42 -0600
From: “Miriam A Aruguete” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: The latest accessory: beyond cleavage

Chicago Tribune May 8, 2001

The latest accessory: beyond cleavage

By Judy Hevrdejs

Scan the magazine racks. You can’t help noticing them. Charlize Theron’s are revealed on Esquire. Jennifer Aniston’s tease from the cover of May’s Vanity Fair.

And they have been popping up on TV and in movies -Jennifer Lopez’s, if you recall, made a notable appearance at the Oscars.

What gives with all the nipples?

“I think nipples are just there now as a part of fashion,” says Valerie Steele, acting director of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “They have really become an acceptable part of fashion for at least the high-fashion and street-style worlds.”

But will the trend reach the rest of America? Lori Barghini is banking on it.

Last summer, Barghini plus pals Julia Cobbs, Elizabeth and Bill Glaeser launched a Web site ( to sell bodyperks -basically, erect silicone nipples ($20 a set) that are meant to be tucked inside a bra.

The quartet from Minneapolis-St. Paul sought funding for their endeavor (“A lot of people looked at us like we were nuts,” Barghini recalls), then sold more than 1,000 pairs at a South Dakota motorcycle rally.

Next, they went to Vegas, where they did their own market research. “We had someone dressed really provocatively, with cleavage. And someone else in a short skirt, high heels. And then we put a girl in khakis and a nice little sweater with pearls. I mean real prim, but wearing the ‘perks. Guess who gets all the attention?” asks Barghini.

The woman wearing the pearls and the bodyperks, according to Barghini, noting “for men, it’s almost like a subliminal thing. They’re drawn to it like bees to honey.”

She wasn’t talking about the pearls.

Last month, the bodyperks team attended a lingerie industry show in Las Vegas and with at least one major retailer interested in the product, says Barghini, bodyperks could be available at a lingerie department near you soon.

“Movie stars and all those in that area are a little more forward in that,” says Cyndi Salat, at Schwartz’s Intimate Apparel in Wilmette. “As far as the general public? For every day, they’re looking for a little more coverage.”

Barghini is quick to note that bodyperks are not meant for the office or boardroom, but instead as a fun accessory. “It’s to go out and be sexy and flirt,” she says.

Those who consider a funky faux diamond brooch from your granny a fun accessory might not feel the same way about these faux nipples. As Steele points out, the appearance of nipples in fashion can evoke strong emotions.

“Because of the way that they stand up like that, they can be a little embarrassing because they are showing that you are having some kind of physiological response,” Steele says. “So I think that in that way, they are more revealing and, therefore, maybe more taboo than cleavage. . . . The nipples are a like a blush on the breasts. I think most women would be more embarrassed or anxious about that than about other forms of breast exposure.”

While Barghini calls bodyperks a fashion accouterment and puts them in the same category as a padded bra, she also thinks a woman who has had a mastectomy or is contemplating reconstruction could try them to see if they want that look.

New Yorker Liz Carr has tried them.

“I’ve worn them at work a couple times and about five times clubbing,” says Carr, a manager at Patricia Field, an eclectic New York boutique — yes, the same Patricia Field who is costume designer for HBO’s “Sex and the City.”

And the reaction?

“I got a lot of looks from men and women and a lot of women asking me about them,” says Carr, who says the boutique has sold about 10 pairs in the six months they’ve carried them. “When I was wearing them out, I was really happy about it. just pop them inside your bra and it’s more subtle or just right in your T-shirt and that’s more of statement. It’s like a toy thing. A fun way to slip out of yourself and be something different.”


A great insight into marketing software at the “enterprise” level. This explains a lot, IMHO:

“price it high enough and the decision making process is taken out of the hands who know enough to make a sensible decision”.

Forwarded from Cam and Phil Suh’s cms-list.

Date: Tue, 08 May 2001 06:51:07 -0700
From: Julian Harris (spam-protected)
To: “Huston, Virgil H.” (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: RE: Why Vignette?

Exactly why Vignette’s strategy works — price it high enough and the decision making process is taken out of the hands who know enough to make a sensible decision.

Lowering the price would be a fatal move.

— “Huston, Virgil H.” (spam-protected) wrote:
> My experience says that corporate IT people are not
> baffled by BS.
> Problem is, they do not make the final decisions, at
> least in middle sized
> companies that I am familiar with. For example, I am
> basically a nongeek
> (maybe semigeek) and I run a company external
> website & ecommerce system. IT
> supports the backend and helps me out when I get in
> over my head (like
> trying to make changes to asp pages that appear to
> be intentionally written
> to be very difficult to decode – even the
> programmers have problems). We
> went with a fairly high priced (but not the highest)
> ecommerce vendor. The
> brass made the decisions and we implemented it along
> with vendor
> “consultants.” We provided input, which is sometimes
> taken and often
> ignored. The in-house costs (mainly labor, but also
> hardware) were still
> very high even with the consultants, which is
> typical. But, don’t blame the
> IT guys/gals. In my case, the IT folks and I are on
> the same sheet of music
> and we both understand how and why things should be
> run (at least we think
> we do). The powers that be, however, have us doing
> other things. They are
> the boss, right or wrong. As when I was in the Army
> years ago, we have an
> obligation to tell the brass what we think, but when
> the decision is made,
> we have to salute the flagpole and charge the hill,
> no matter how many
> machine gun nests are on it.
> Virgil
> > Are
> > corporate IT people really that baffled by BS? Or
> do they see something I
> > cannot? That’s what’s troubling me here.
> >
> >
> ————————–
> Subscribe:
> More Info:
> Post: (spam-protected)

Do You Yahoo!? Yahoo! Auctions – buy the things you want at great prices

More Info: Post: (spam-protected)


Har de har! The perils of being used for demos. (or something).

Date: Sun, 06 May 2001 18:07:55 -0700
From: “Adam L. Beberg” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: How to make lots of new friends..

Just have your AIM screenname on screen when a friend is interviewed for CNET, some instant messaging story or something, which is then played on CNBC and CNN… and…




An interesting interview with James Schamus about his work with Ang Lee on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Date: Fri, 04 May 2001 14:21:21 +0100
From: (spam-protected)
Subject: Fwd: Crouching Tiger Stuff

Crouching Writer, Hidden Story James Schamus thrives where East meets West.

Written by Marsha Scarbrough

In 1990 a fledgling filmmaker from Taiwan asked New Yorker James Schamus to produce a no-budget film about an old Tai Chi master. Part of Schamus’ contribution to Pushing Hands was to “nip and tuck” the screenplay and write some additional scenes. Ang Lee was impressed and asked Schamus to co-write his next film, The Wedding Banquet.

Since then Schamus has worked as writer, producer, or both on every Ang Lee film. He was co-writer and associate producer on Eat, Drink, Man, Woman and co-producer on Sense & Sensibility. He produced The Ice Storm and wrote the screenplay adaptation from the novel by Rick Moody, which was nominated for the 1998 Writers Guild Award. Next, he co-produced Ride With the Devil, writing the screenplay adapted from the Daniel Woodrell novel Woe to Live On.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon marks the culmination of the happy collaboration between Schamus and Lee. Schamus served as co-producer of the acclaimed martial arts epic and shares screenplay credit with Tsai Kuo Jung and Wang Hui Ling, two Mandarin-speaking writers who live in Taiwan.

In addition to his work with Lee, Schamus produces other independent films with his partner, Ted Hope, through their New York production company, Good Machine. Schamus’ executive producer credits include Happiness, Safe and Poison, The Myth of Fingerprints, Wonderland, and The Brothers McMullen. As if he’s not busy enough, Schamus is associate professor of film theory, history, and criticism at Columbia University, where he has taught for a decade. He was also the 1997 Nuveen Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. He serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for Independe nt Video and Film as well as on the board of Creative Capital.

Schamus somehow made time to talk to me by phone from the Good Machine offices in New York. (Please note: Our conversations reveal the ending of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, so if you haven’t seen the film, do so before reading further.)

Marsha Scarbrough: Describe the development of the script for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

James Schamus: The script is based on a five-volume novel written in Chinese [by Wang Du Lu, b. 1909, d. 1977], and I don’t read Chinese, so it could well have been written on a napkin from my initial point of view. The novel was brought to Ang’s attention by Tsai Kuo Jung, a really interesting writer in Taiwan who is mainly a journalist and cultural commentator. He had a first crack at–I wouldn’t necessarily call it a first draft–more of a sketch of some ideas for the script. Then Ang, working with a story editor here in New York, worked out an English-language précis of those parts of the novel, particularly the fourth volume that he was most interested in.
> From that précis, I crafted a financing production first draft that, in terms of structure, is essentially the movie you see now. But in terms of the Chinese cultural context of the film, it was woefully idiotic. At that point, the script was translated into Mandarin and given to Wang Hui Ling, who is a Taiwanese television writer we’d worked with before on Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. She worked with Ang and wove into the film a great deal of what’s most meaningful about it. At that point, it was translated back into English and, for the next four or five months all the way through pre-production and into production, I was back and forth to China writing, rewriting, rewritin g, rewriting. All the way to the subtitles, which then I rewrote again.

MS: So the language difference was handled by a translator who translated
the script back and forth?

JS: There were a number of them who fell by the wayside. For a while, it
was like simultaneously translating a World Wrestling Federation match, we were moving so quickly. It’s very difficult because I was writing in a very American way. Although when I went to the dialogue, I told Ang, “I’m going to write this in the International Subtitle Style.” I wanted to make sure that when we went back to the subtitles that the feedback would give us language that was understandable and would flow in the subtitled environment . But that language rendered in Chinese is much more complex. Ang insisted on a very classical and poetic form of Mandarin Chinese for the dialogue, so the translation back from Chinese into English often came out looking like a garbled computer virus readout of what I had originally written because, in fact, it was going into language that was very, very subtle. We were constantly bridging east and west, the different imperatives of, on one hand, a very nuanced language and dialogue, and on the other hand a very straightforward, easily understandable and legible language and dialogue.

MS: That’s an interesting cultural conflict expressed just in the language
itself. English only has 26 characters, so the way we express ourselves is direct and clear while Chinese has some 2,000 characters in common use.

JS: Two-thousand characters is just the number that you need to become even
slightly familiar with the language. It has scores of thousands of characters, many of which have histories that go back almost 5,000 years. Within those characters, references and cross references can be made based on the look of the character as well as the sound of the character. So you have enormous resonances available to you in Chinese that simply aren’t available in phonetic languages like English, which is relatively simple.

MS: And you have levels of subtlety…

We were constantly bridging east and west, the different imperatives of, on one hand, a very nuanced language and dialogue, and on the other hand a very straightforward, easily understandable and legible language and dialogue .

JS: Absolutely. So it was really fun. As I said to Ang, “This is a wonderfully
educational experience for me, although it’s a very painful experience for you.” What Ang kept saying was, “If I can get James to understand this, then any idiot in the theater will be able to.” Even as a writer, I was a guinea pig audience member for this film.

MS: Your identification of the writing of the subtitles as being a critical
element was very astute. I was just a juror at a little film festival, and it made me very aware of how bad subtitles can totally ruin a movie.

JS: Exactly. It’s a long tradition.

MS: A long tradition of bad subtitles?

JS: Especially for Hong Kong martial arts films. As we see on the Internet,
they are constantly posting these just insane subtitles from Hong Kong “chop socky” movies. Occasionally, it’s fun to lapse into that level of bombast. Things like, “Your fingers in my brains are giving me a headache!” Stuff like that. I don’t think we quite got there with Crouching Tiger.

MS: Is the novel contemporary or ancient?

JS: It was published before World War II.

MS: Was it a popular thing or a spiritual text?

JS: It was the Chinese equivalent of pulp fiction. It’s in a genre known
as the wuxia pian, a kind of martial arts romance genre. It was very popular at the time. It’s part of a very long tradition of popular fiction and, of course, movie making in that genre.

MS: Several of the films you’ve written require extensive knowledge of Chinese
culture. Did you have a hidden dragon? Did you have an interest in Chinese culture?

JS: I have a long-standing interest that’s really developed through a decade
of working with Ang. On the other hand, I am neither academically qualified nor temperamentally adjustable to make that leap into another culture where the language is so different. I come at it very much as an amateur. Luckily, obviously I have a great partner in dialogue with Ang. We feed off of each other continuously. He’s not somebody who stands over your shoulder while you’re writing, but he is somebody who makes enormous demands on just about everybody…in a very nice way, of course, because he is so sweet, but he certainly is demanding.

Chop Block Party

MS: Have you studied martial arts or Chinese philosophy?

JS: If you could see me now, you’d know I haven’t studied martial arts,
but I have studied Chinese philosophy in translation. It was a great experience to be able to integrate my reading in Chinese philosophy, particularly Taoism, into my work as a screenwriter for the international marketplace. I think there really are, if not influences, inspirations…particularly a Chinese philosopher named Chuang-Tzu who wrote a couple thousand years ago. He’s a deliciously funny philosopher, let’s put it that way, whose brand of Taoism really stressed a kind of transcendental absurdism. He’s an early existentialis

He was really at my side during a lot of this process, maybe not in terms of the actual writing of the script, but in experiencing the process of making the movie. You needed to be existential to get through it.

MS: Because of the vast gap in cultural attitudes?

JS: Mainly because of the logistical, financial and physical hurdles of
making the film on top of the writing of the screenplay. It was not an easy shoot.

MS: The combination of writer/producer is unusual in film, and you seem
to have a unique collaborative relationship with Ang as director. How did you develop that working style?

JS: Organically, through the filmmaking process. Early on we established
a relationship where we could work in an environment of real trust on story and on script.

MS: The key thing here is trust between the writer and director?

JS: I think it’s trust knowing that the outcome you both are seeking is
a common one.

MS: I find that writers often feel they’re in an adversarial position with
the director, but you don’t.

JS: That’s an easy place to get to in the studio development world just
because of the way these relationships are structured. Obviously, writer/produc er in film is an odd hybrid. In television, it’s not. Although in television, you tend to identify the writer/producer John Wells, Steven Bochco, David Kelley.

MS: Do you work with other directors besides Ang in that way?

JS: Not in this way. I take assignments. I have fun doing more studio-oriented
writing. In terms of learning craft, it’s a wonderful thing.

MS: How do you feel about the possessory credit: “An Ang Lee Film”?

JS: In the case of a very few directors who have achieved a level of mastery
and stature and who have control over the process from beginning to end, as Ang does, even though I am part of that process from the first step to the last with him, I don’t think it’s inappropriate. On the other hand, I think the wholesale handing out of possessory credits to directors, which is what is happening in Hollywood, is a ludicrous mistake.

Those Who Can and Do Teach

MS: How do you research Chinese culture?

JS: In my other life I’m a professor at Columbia University. Among the courses
I teach is a course on Hong Kong cinema that incorporates a large number of readings from the Chinese classical canon: Confucious through Lao Tzu. I have the students really pay attention, not just to the cinema, but also to the imbedded and ancient cultures that are often engaged by that cinema.

MS: In writing the fight scenes, how much detail did you go into, and did
you structure drama into those scenes?

JS: I structured drama up to those scenes, and then I had the masterstroke
of being able to describe each fight scene very economically. I used two words: “They fight.” There’s a reason for that. As a producer, I knew how
we were planning them anyhow, and I knew that Ang and our martial arts choreogr apher, Yuen Wo-Ping, are people who don’t need my help. It was great. It was a real luxury, in fact, not to have to do a punch-up of the script in terms of “action beats”. However, I did want to make sure that the fight sequences were written into the script in places where they would not simply contribute to the action but to the emotional logic of the story and the development of the characters. We paid a lot of attention to that. I think people have noticed that these action scenes are very different from most that they’ve seen.

MS: When I saw it with an older audience, they broke into applause after
the first fight scene.

JS: It’s great. Part of that is the fight scene and part of that is the
result of the carefully planned build-up that the film provides before that fight scene.

MS: Is there a metaphorical meaning to the sword?

JS: I’m sure there are many, some more Freudian than others. I’ve let that
level of abstract meaning find its own way out there. When it’s something that you yourself have written, you try not to make too many symbolic claims as to the elements you’re using. It’s your job to make them “work.” It’s other people’s job to figure out what they mean.

MS: You’ve written several films with female protagonists and/or strong
female characters. Are you a feminist?

JS: That’s a question you can ask my wife. Most of those characters are
probably not even as strong as she is. Put it this way, I’m married to somebody who can lay claim to being the basis for many of those characters.

MS: As a man, how do you go about creating strong female characters? Do
you write your wife over and over?

JS: Now I have two daughters, so I have a lot to choose from in terms of
underlying resources.

MS: Any other thoughts on men writing strong female characters?

JS: Two. Men have written strong female characters throughout history…not
necessarily being feminist, by the way. Ibsen, non-feminist Strindberg–two guys writing a century ago who could be poles apart in some ways but honestly very fascinated with the creation of strong female characters. There’s a real history in Western culture… and Eastern culture… to these figures. I think people are responding very much in Crouching Tiger to the inclusion of a new approach to that kind of female psychology in this genre that was never there before.

MS: Did having female protagonists make it harder to get financing?

JS: No. I think the initial hurdle was still Chinese language.

MS: There seems to be a common theme in Crouching Tiger, Ice Storm, Sense
and Sensibility of women struggling to break free of their prescribed role in society.

JS: They take a center stage as emblems of what is a shared struggle across
gender lines. It’s the question of the individual trying to find a place for his or her freedom within a social order that is obviously trying to bear down on those desires.

MS: That’s in Ride With the Devil, too.

JS: You bet. Ang still has that as the crux of his work. It’s always an
exploration of, on the one hand, the desire for freedom and, on the other hand, a sense of obligation and connection to other people. Somehow we must maintain a balance between freedom and obligation.

MS: That’s the tension between American culture and Asian culture?

JS: It is and it isn’t. We Americans are often surprised at how traditionalist
and constrained we really are. We love to believe that we are the freest people on earth. In many ways, the marketplace, the radical nature of capitalis m makes that, in a very large sense, true. However, it doesn’t mean that we have freed ourselves of the laws of historical or emotional gravity. I think that was what Ice Storm was about: the sense that here’s freedom. Here’s all the freedom you want, and by the way, little did you know, you still needed some kind of connection. You just didn’t know what it was.

MS: It seemed to me that Crouching Tiger ultimately champions compassion
and decency over martial strength.

JS: That’s right.

MS: I think that’s different than other martial arts genre movies. It redefines
power as personal empowerment.

JS: That’s exactly right. As chi, in fact. As energy. As an inner energy.

MS: When Zhang Ziyi makes the leap of faith at the end, where does she go?

JS: She’s obviously going into the sequel. [We laugh.] I’m happy to say
I don’t know. Again, this was an area that was quite scary because, for western audiences, open endings, or so-called ambiguous endings, can often be real turn-offs. At the same time, what I said to Ang was that I wanted an ending to this movie that was “narratively open but emotionally satisfying.”

MS: The teacher relationship was a very important relationship that was
not fulfilled.

JS: You just picked up on something that dominated the response to the film
in the East. In Asia they understood that to be almost a revolutionary gesture in terms of the genre. The interjection of the female student and the male master… that relationship and how she, in a way, was teaching him some things too… and his desire to teach her… all that stuff was quite revolutio nary.

MS: Were you surprised that it’s doing so well?

JS: I had hoped for it to have this kind of success. I don’t want to sound
jaded at not being surprised, but, of course, the magnitude of it is something that we should just be cognizant of and respectful of and grateful for. We’re just pleased, especially after having had Ride With the Devil get slaughtered in the studio politics of the time. It’s a great thing to have an absolute disaster under your belt.

MS: It wasn’t a creative disaster. It was a marketing disaster.

JS: It was a disaster way before they thought about marketing it. But it
shores you up for the vagaries of this business and puts the successes in perspective. The main thing for us is always, “Will they let us make another one?” That’s how we define success or failure.


Lord of the Rings — comings to Cannes RSN…

From: “Douglas Shoop” (spam-protected)
To: “forteana” (spam-protected)
Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2001 8:53 PM
Subject: LOTR update

Getting Into the Cannes ‘Do Spirit

by John Forde | May 1, 2001

Here in Hobbitland, there’s only one word on everyone’s lips: Cannes.

New Line unveils its worldwide media launch for the trilogy at the Cannes Film Festival this month, with a reel of selected footage from the films and a much aniticpated, invitation-only party.

The studio has rented a medieval castle just outside of Cannes for the showcase event, and it has been furnished with props from the set. LOTR’s editing crew has been working overtime to finish a special teaser with selected scenes, to be shown to international film distributors. Most of LOTR’s stars are expected to be in attendance, including Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee. Incidentally, it’ll be the first time many of the cast have met, owing to conflicting schedules last year.

The Music Man: LOTR composer Howard Shore was in Wellington recording some of his score with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and a 50-member men’s choir. Sources say the music was recorded for the Cannes trailer, which gives Shore a chance to develop his themes for the final movie score.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch… The trilogy’s stars have been quietly flying back to New Zealand for ADR [additional dialogue replacement, or looping]. We spoke to a jet-lagged Billy Boyd (Pippin) and Dominic Monaghan (Merry), who were both pleased to be back in New Zealand and looking forward to donning designer tuxedos for Cannes.

Also in town are the two Sir Ians–McKellen (Gandalf) and Holm (Bilbo)–who had fun fielding each other’s calls as they stayed in the same hotel. Sean Astin has also been spotted with wife and daughter in tow.

Good Gollum: Andy Serkis is also expected back Down Under to finish postproduction effects for Gollum. Describing his character as a “Ring-junkie” who experiences withdrawal symptoms, Serkis calls Gollum “the point of human contact for what the Ring does to you. He’s very much a case of ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ ”

The Gollum special-effects process includes motion capture technique–where performers wear a special suit covered with reflective dots, and their movements are read by a computer-driven camera and translated into an equivalent computer image. Look for our visit to the motion capture department in an upcoming report.


Greetings from sunken R’Lyeh! Snow domes from the H.P. Lovecraft mythos.


IBM’s SF graffiti is being imitated country-wide! Spotted in Boston too.

Date: Tue, 01 May 2001 20:27:50 -0700
From: “Gordon Mohr” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Re: Sun volunteers to clean up IBM graffiti :-)

> [Cheeky, for a $20B (revenue) company. I can only hope we retain such a
> sense of humor! — Rohit]
> ————————————————————————

I think IBM’s initial campaign was boneheaded — but I now suspect that SF culture-jammers have started to propagate the sidewalk-markings elsewhere, to make IBM look even worse.

I initially saw the black-stenciled “Peace. Love. Linux.” icons on sidewalks around Moscone center, near the time of some technical conference, which at least makes sense.

(An apparent attempt has been made to remove some of the black-stencilled markings along Market street, but they remain visible, only faded.)

Now I’m noticing them in other areas, including the Haight and the Castro, where I doubt IBM would have targetted for initial ‘tagging’.

Tonight, I saw sloppy *green* and *yellow* reproductions that appeared to be fresh in Nob Hill, on California avenue, descending from the Fairmont Hotel.

  • Gordon


Brilliant! A while ago, Dan Lyke commented, Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to do gzip -dp phonelist.gnumeric | xmlsearch “select phonenumber, longdistanceprice from” | xmlsort “person.longdistanceprice”?

Well, here’s a step along that very road. xml2 converts XML into line-oriented name=value pairs, perfect for Perl, awk, grep or sed to mangle in the traditional UNIX style.

I can see this one coming in very handy!

It also points to Pyxie, which sounds similar — but I think I like the xml2 notation better.


Apparently, a replica of Michelangelo’s David has caused a bit of controversy in Lake Alfred, Florida (pop 3,890). A quote: “I work six days a week. And we do live in Lake Alfred… you know? What we look at is raccoons and rattlesnakes. To me it was a naked man on the side of the road.”


Gerry reckons the Irish Times are taking the piss.

Date: Tue, 01 May 2001 14:42:46 +0100
From: “Gerry Carr” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: IT are taking the piss out of me

Mere days after I send them this letter

Dear Sir,

Having read Mr Cruishank’s invaluable insight into the Health Shambles, can I offer the majority of your contributors a handy Irish Times letter generator;

Dear Sir/A Chara

How can one convince this Government that we need; a decent health system; help for the homeless; housing for travellers; free care for drug addicts; help for the 3rd World; free computers for every school; more social welfare money; more money for teachers/nurses/doctors/public servants/dustbinmen/soldiers wives

much more urgently than:

2 stadiums; a spike in O Connell Street; politicians’ beanos on St Patrick’s Day; a Eurovision song contest; sponsoring a race car; bailing out RTE; fireworks on the Liffey; a government jet/building/pay rise/reception/refurbishment/chauffer/travel expenses/secretary/ etc.

Is the government lacking morals/priorities/reason/sense of proportion/focus/ethics/

yours etc/Is mise [ADD NAME HERE]

Just delete as appropriate and you’ve got yourself 6 months worth of material.

Yours etc.

They print these 4 in a row;


Sir, – Let’s see if I understand the £60 million offer of our money to the GAA. It appears to have been offered the money to ensure that foreign games would not be played at Croke Park (thereby strengthening case for Stadium Ireland), and on the understanding that some key GAA matches would be played at the folly. In effect, does this mean that the payment is designed to ensure that Croke Park will be under-utilised? Just how far are our politicians willing to go to support an ego trip which could cost a billion or so by the time it is build? How will its annual financial costs of, say, £60 million be met? That amount equates to a Croke Park “donation” for every year to infinity! Surely, this money could be better used – to reduce the national debt, improve the infrastructure, assist the underprivileged and so on. Yours, etc.,

BRIAN FLANAGAN, Blackrock, Co Dublin. Sir, – The money being proposed for financing a national stadium in Abbotstown would be equally well spent on a submerged clock counting down the 998-plus years, second by second, to the next millennium. – Yours, etc.,

JERRY TWOMEY, Woodlawn Court, Santry, Dublin 9. Sir, – I would like our Taoiseach to complete the following sentence. I believe that £1 billion should be spent on a national stadium and not on our ailing health service because . . . – Is mise,

CIARAN MacAONGHUSA Baile an tSratha, Tír Chonaill. Sir, – Haemophiliacs are offered £4 million, the GAA is to receive £60 million. What a great little country we live in. – Yours, etc.,

EAMONN TIERNEY, Beverly Avenue, Knocklyon, Dublin 16.


Eircom gets beaten up by regulator. Check out this quote: “As eircom has failed to supply all the relevant information, I have set interim prices […] Eircom’s approach with respect to costing and the level of response and co-operation on this issue is not acceptable.”

MEDIA RELEASE For Immediate Release April 30th 2001 Telecoms Regulator sets prices for Local Loop Unbundling.

Etain Doyle, Telecoms Regulator today (Monday 30th April 2001) cleared the way for implementation of local loop unbundling. In a Decision Notice today the regulator set prices for access and directed changes to eircom’s Reference Access Offer. Monthly line rental is fixed at €13.53, or £10.66.

According to the Regulator ” while there has been an LLU reference offer available from Eircom since the due date of 31 December 2000, this was incomplete and non compliant in several respects. In order to ensure that consumers are in a position to derive the benefits that Local Loop Unbundling can bring I have decided to intervene and set prices.”

Local Loop unbundling has to potential to increase significantly the range of competitive services available to businesses and consumers. It requires the network owner to provide access to the copper pair connecting an individual telephone subscriber to the nearest point of interconnection with the main telephone network at the local exchange. This allows new entrants to offer a full range of broadband services directly to the customer.

The regulator continued “As eircom has failed to supply all the relevant information, I have set interim prices based on the information available to me. Despite repeated requests and the clear direction that the 30th April was the final date for the determination, there are still very substantial gaps in the material provided to me by eircom. Eircom’s approach with respect to costing and the level of response and co-operation this issue is not acceptable.” These charges set are based on data from eircom, benchmarking and other reviews and analyses by the ODTR of efficient operator costs. They are within the range of pricing in other EU countries. The line rental at €13.53 is within the EU range from €8.23 to €19.51, and connection at €119.73 compared with €47 to €221.69.

The setting of these prices does not relieve eircom of its responsibility to address the deficiencies in its pricing proposals and to make a comprehensive re-submission to the ODTR on all matters.


Why Finns are sick of illnesses named after them.

From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
Organization: Management School
To: (spam-protected)
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 12:00:05 +0000
Subject: Why Finns are sick of illnesses named after them

The Times


Why Finns are sick of illnesses named after them


GERMAN measles, the Ebola virus and Lassa fever may be a blight on the regions that are forever linked with the illnesses. Even conditions such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever West Nile encephalitis or even Malibu disease (a nasty skin complaint suffered by surfers) add insult to injury. Political correctness has spread to diseases. Doctors are to discuss ending the practice of naming them after places in case it has a “negative impact”.

Doctors from 70 countries meeting in France this week at the World Medical Association will hear calls for change raised by the Finnish delegation, upset that Salla disease, a genetic disorder, was named after a small town of 10,000 souls in the north of their country. It is not Finland’s only place in the lexicon of illness. Kumlinge disease, a viral encephalitis, took its name from a Finnish island and Pogosta disease recalls a small village in eastern Finland.

The Finns want an end to the practice of naming new diseases after “persons, communities or regions”, pointing out that diseases are “very seldom restricted to a certain area”. The Finns conclude: “Germs and infectious agents can usually be found anywhere in the world. When giving names to diseases or pathological conditions, no names should be used, which could insult or have negative impact on persons, communities or regions.”

The naming of diseases is regarded as something of a privilege for scientists making the discovery, as reflected by conditions named after researchers such as Huntington’s, Down’s and Hughes Syndrome — a blood-clotting disorder described in 1983 by Graham Hughes, a British doctor.

But there are also countless examples of places forever linked to the first recognition of rare and distressing illnesses, such as Marburg’s disease (an acute haemorrhagic fever, with some of first reported cases in Marburg, Germany, in 1967). Peter Lackman, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “The naming of diseases is something which has grown up in a quite unorganised way and this is probably inevitable. What is important is that a consistent name is always given. Otherwise this causes confusion.

“For example, the English Disease is what the French used to call syphilis while the English called it the French Disease.”