Author Archives: ward

Mind Lamp

Pic presumably taken with mildly annoyed scientist nearby.

I wrote recently about robots controlled by the brains of rats. Rats have all the fun. This week, I bring you a lamp that is controlled by human thoughts. Not as cool as a robot and much more likely to be horse shit, but it is one of those things I really hope is true.

Back in the 70s, when I was just a precocious nipper, mood rings were all the rage. These were rings with a stone that could apparently sense your mood and changed colour to match. Even at the tender age of 7 I possessed a genius and sceptical mind and I conducted a series of tests on one of these. I soon discovered that it just responded to temperature. Which still made for a cool ring, but lacked any of the psychic qualities I really hoped it possessed. I really want these things to be true but can’t help feeling the need for some actual proof. It stops me believing in things like: the moon landing is a hoax, god, aliens inserting rectal probes and then not quite fully wiping your memory, psychics, and so on.

It sucks to be a sceptic. I really want to believe in psychics and mediums too, but no one has ever been able to be even slightly accurate under controlled conditions. The most convincing practitioner of these skills is Derren Brown where he explains it is all down to a set of techniques. Watch his brilliant Messiah where he proves to be the best medium and psychic the ‘experts’ have ever seen. The world must be more exciting if you believed everything.

Anyway. Mind lamp. Like the mood ring, this lamp apparently senses your mood and adjusts its colour accordingly. They’ve even used some science-like words to make it more convincing. The website www.mind-lamp.com says: ‘At the heart of the Mind Lamp is a precision device known as a random event generator (REG), which was designed by engineers at the PEAR lab for use in scientific experiments.’ Apparently no one can work out just how it does its magic. Spooky. A Random Event Generator sounds suspiciously like it just er, randomly changes colour. If it was me I would program it to start it off with a purplish colour to symbolize curiosity, then green when you are astounded that it works, then orange when you start to think that perhaps it is crap, then red when you think it is either preprogrammed or random.

If anyone has one of these lamps please let me know. I will do a follow-up story. The email address is on the home page. Don’t bother with comments. I get too many morons spamming me, so I have to disable them. If I had a mind lamp, it would turn red every time I checked the comments section. If it didn’t, then at least I could cheer myself up by smashing it.

Below is a video that practically proves it works. Apparently ‘many scientists’ now think we can control stuff with our minds. Presumably, these are some of the scientists that used the REG in their ‘scientific experiments’. It uses ‘quantum’ things to change the lamp’s colour, which sounds very convincing until you look on the website where they admit: ‘The mechanism by which this occurs is unknown, and is the subject of ongoing research.’ So scientists doing scientific experiments discovered a lamp that uses quantum mechanics and a Random Event Generator so that it can change colour according to your mood. Or your mind. (That remains unclear). The only problem is that they have no idea how.

I want this to work! I just can’t help feeling slightly doubtful. My mind is currently a greenish/bluish/orangish/ reddish/purplish colour representing hope/cynicism/doubt/belief/etc.

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Cyborg controlled by rat brain

Robot revolution

Continuing with my ‘robots will take over the world’ theme, here is something even cooler and scarier than the Aggressive Quadrotor I wrote about recently. It is a robot controlled by a rat brain. Which is pretty awesome unless you’re a rat. Presumably the robot currently heads for the nearest bin and hangs out there. Like in the Simpsons when Mr Burns puts Homer’s brain in a giant robot and all it does is eat doughnuts and nap.

I now have a dilemma about what to do when I die a couple of hundred years from now. I was going to get frozen and then reawakened when they have the technology to make me live forever and all the women wear nothing but spandex. Now I’m toying with being Robocop. Unlike Robocop though, I’d like my private parts to still work or there isn’t much point in survivng.

So without further ado, here is a very cool video of ‘Ratbot’. They should have had a clear perspex dome so you can see the brain but I’m just being picky. Maybe in Ratbot 2.0

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Aggressive Quadrotor

This is where it begins. Rise of the machines. I don’t understand how scientists – generally huge Sci Fi fans – can watch films like Terminator or Matrix and then go to work and create stuff like this. Don’t they care? Or are they like me and think that a world ruled by robots while a surviving group of generally attractive humans fight back is actually a fucking brilliant future.

Check out this new helicopter thing. It’s pretty impressive. Give them lasers and make them swarm and surely mankind’s struggle against evil emotionless robot overlords is just months away. Or a huge one with a massive machine gun and rocket launchers. Call it the Killotron 3000 or something

Bring it on!

The iPad for writing. One month on.

iPad landscape mode for writing

I have now had my lovely iPad for almost a month. A friend suggested I write about it, so here we are. How does the iPad work as a writer? How is it generally?

When I originally bought my iPad, I was actually on my way to buy a netbook. At least, I was going to look at netbooks with a view to getting something I could travel and write with. My main laptop is still superb and state of the art and I love it lots. It’s just that it is big and heavy. I wanted something portable that I could carry everywhere and had a decent battery life. In short, I’m very demanding.

Buying the iPad

At the new Apple store in Covent Garden you can have a play on the iPads. There is a whole section dedicated to it, largely peopled by tourists grinning in wonder at the iPad like small children staring at fireworks.

Having elbowed a few children and tourists aside, I had a go on one. I tried writing on it and was impressed. Very impressed. It seems to suit someone such as myself who types with the “two fingers and a thumb of each hand” typing technique. In landscape mode, I really can’t tell any difference in my typing speed. In portrait, it is slightly more fiddly but some people seem to find no problem with it at all.

Keyboard Docking Station

As well as the iPad, I bought a keyboard which also doubles as a docking station. This is what I am writing on now as it happens. For sustained periods of writing, this is a seriously good option. A few critics have complained that this means carrying around an extra bit of kit. They are right but I have found a cunning way around it – carry a bag. The keyboard doesn’t weigh much after all. The keyboard is great if you intend on writing for hours at a go. Plus, with the docking keyboard you can see more of the screen than with even a conventional widescreen laptop.

iPad Keyboard dock

iPad Keyboard dock

Another problem I was worried about was with writing for the internet. This isn’t the only site I write for and nearly every site requires you to write in a window in a piece of third party software. This site uses WordPress for example, and other sites like Suite 101 require that you write in these little windows. This is because a lot of writers aren’t savvy when it comes to things like HTML. We’re creative and all that crap.

For some reason Safari doesn’t seem to like these interfaces. There was no need to worry though. As it says on the adverts – there’s an App for that. One option is called ‘Split Pea’ which allows you to open a document in one half of the page and a non-Safari browser in the other. Another option for this site, is the WordPress App. Does what it says on the tin, although it is a tin with a few bugs in it. A third option is called iTeleport which allows you to control your PC/Mac through the medium of magic as far as I can tell. It’s a bit weird seeing your PC on your iPad, but it is cool being able to manipulate files and so on. It means your laptop has to stay on and there can be trouble with firewalls, but it is possible.

Conclusion – 1 month on
I bloody love this thing. My writing levels have increased dramatically. For some reason, it doesn’t feel like as big a deal to write on a bus or in the corner of a pub. Even with a net book you probably wouldn’t bother as it involves opening the thing and going through startup and so on. Maybe it is just me. If I want a more extended period of writing then the keyboard dock is superb. Otherwise the landscape screen does very nicely.

So writing is great.

Surfing the internet is superb too. Lots of sites seem almost designed for the iPad. An evening’s telly while surfing the web has never been so user friendly.

Is anything wrong with it?
Personally, I have come across two main issues. Only one of which is of concern to me and possibly none which will be of concern to you.
One is that it doesn’t have a camera pointing directly at your face so you can’t video Skype or anything. There is a microphone socket, so it will have to be audio only. I am pleased about this as I don’t even really like the phone, I certainly don’t want the added stress of a cam. Calling in sick for work will soon be a nightmare.
The other is that I can’t play poker on it. This might not bother some, but it pisses me off that Apple won’t let this happen. I can gamble on football or horses but not poker.

Otherwise, I am delighted with my purchase. Unlike my laptop, I no longer have to worry about whether it is worth bringing it along given the weight. I carry it everywhere. As a device for other things – apart from the poker thing – there is an App for that.

Lame though that sounds.

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The Pope is in the UK and is worried about our holidays

The pope is finally here! God bless us every one! As you may have guessed from reading this site, I’m not particularly religious. I have nothing against those who are (although I think you’re wrong), I just don’t like it when I have to pay for other’s beliefs (As I have written elsewhere.). Officially the pope’s visit is a state visit but this is hardly like a visit from the a foreign president. The Vatican is a city state and to be a citizen you have to work for the church. 74% of the citizenship is clergy, the rest are Swiss guards and so on. It’s not a normal country we can hopefully increase trade with or anything beneficial like that.

But he’s here, I’ve paid and it’s done. Traffic disruptions aside, why should I care anymore? Once he’s gone past on his popemobile, and things return to normal, the impact on me will be none.

All that will be left will be my memory of finding some of the comments and opinions both humerous and worrying. This is a man who speaks to third world countries and tells them using condoms is a sin. Mind you, one of his minions thought Britain was a third world country, so he must be pleased that we have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Europe. It’s a shame most aren’t married, but it’s a start. This and all the kid-fiddling that has been covered up are the worrying bits.

The funnier aspects of his pronunciations are his alarm over things like the marginalisation of religion. People still believe in all sorts of ridiculous things – healing crystals, ghosts, moon landing conspiracies, mediums, homeopathy, UFOs, alien abduction, psychics, the loch ness monster, and tons more. There are also lots more religions that are relatively new to the West. What he means is the reduction in his particular branch of those who worship the one true god. The same god that’s worshipped by Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the rest but in slightly different ways.

He has specifically mentioned those who have voiced opinions about not celebrating Christian holidays. ‘I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity,’ he has said. (http://www.metro.co.uk/news/841305-pope-fears-religion-is-being-marginalised). He skirts around the fact that this has largely been because people don’t want to offend other religions, as opposed to an increase in atheism. I have to agree with him on this though. People should be able to celebrate what they want. I love Santa and the Easter Bunny. It just feels a bit weird to have the Church speak against suppressing other religions.

I think it is too late. When most people think of Christmas, they think of this:

Traditional Christmas

Or in my case this:

Sexy Santa

Now let me just state that I have nothing against religion. I have lived in a lot of places and have numerous friends from various faiths. We all respect each other’s views. To some extent anyway. I just don’t like it when religions behave in dumb ways or say stupid things and I consequently read about it. I like living in multi-cultural societies just as long as no one clings to ideas that are massively outdated and are actually harmful.

Basically my point is this Mr Pope your worshipfulness. Say what you like about God and angels and harps and demons and pitchforks and singed pubic hair and so on – that’s fine with me. Tell a country that is in the middle of an AIDS epidemic not to wear condoms, then I am forced to disagree. Converting people and then persuading them to breed is not the answer any more. Just be sensible. I know that the majority of Catholics agree with me, they’ve said so in the papers and on forums. Use the internet and advertising and viral videos to reach new converts – they are much more effective and millions needn’t catch STDs.

As for Christmas and Easter holidays. I’m afraid the pagans have taken them back.

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War Horse Play review

War Horse

War Horse

I saw this the other night and was blown away. I knew it had puppet horses in it but little else.

War Horse is about a horse called Joey and a farm lad from Devon called Albert. Albert’s drunken dad buys Joey when he is wasted and feeling competitive at an auction. He makes Albert look after the horse and a touching bond soon forms between them. When Joey is then sold by his drunken dad to the army and sent to Belgium as a cavalry horse, Albert gets a little pissed off. He runs away from home and decides to enlist to fight in World War One. In order to find his horse.

The story is ok and provides a backdrop to the main events and effects of the play. As I mentioned, all I knew about War Horse was that it had puppet horses. Life size puppet horses with people riding around on them galloping over fields or charging at the Hun. They are pretty astounding and the puppeteers do a genius job of bringing them to life. They even have realistically moving ears. There are three people for each horse. Two inside (think pantomime horse) and one moving the head. It’s brilliantly done and you really start to feel affection for the horses, which is doubly well done as I don’t like horses all that much in real life.

Cavalry horse puppets!

There are a couple of other animals too, most notably a humorous goose.

At the back of the theatre is a screen that has animated pencil sketches of backgrounds and animated horses and barbed wire. It is quite simple but it is effective in setting the scene. There are also loud explosions and tweeting birds that help with this too.

The actors were all pretty good but it is the West End of London and tickets were £50, so you kind of expect that. I went with a non-native English speaker and she found it hard to follow some of the accents. It doesn’t really matter all that much though, it’s pretty obvious what is going on.

The story is simple but to be fair it is from a kid’s book, so is hardly going to be like ‘Inception’. It can be a little slow at times but I thought it added to the emotional connection between audience and story, so I’ll let it off.

I loved War Horse. It was so well done. Apparently Spielberg is going to turn it into a movie but as the most impressive parts of the play were the set and puppets and stuff, I’m not sure how good it will be. He seems fairly competent, maybe it will be like ‘Saving Private Ryan – the equine version.’

If you like spectacular theatre and want to see some amazing puppets, you should definitely give this a go. Here’s a bit about it from channel 4 news to wet your appetite:

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Writing for the Internet

Writing for the internet

I feel like I have been neglecting this site a little bit of late. I feel bad about that. But, your honour, it isn’t my fault. In the past five days for example, I’ve worked 60 hours plus 10 hours commuting. That has pretty much been a constant for the last two months. I’m not complaining as I get paid by the hour and was able to buy an iPad which is fucking awesome. Unfortunately it hasn’t given me much time to write.

In addition to all this pointless toil (pointless in that I just provide shite for people to watch at home), I have started writing on the internet. I know you are thinking, ‘Hang on, but isn’t that what you are doing now? You handsome genius you.’ (Just guessing here obviously but I’m sure that’s what is going through your head.)

Well yes, but even though there are ads on this site, it is hardly making me lots of cash. See above – 60 hours TV work is what pays my bills. So I have decided to spend more time writing for sites that actually pay. One such site is Suite 101. It is a ‘content site’. There are lots of these around but Suite 101 seems fussier and you have to talk about what writing work you’ve done and submit a couple of samples. I assume that means more respect and fiscal reward but I doubt it.

Some of these content sites pay a small amount upfront. Also known as a ‘pittance’. About $15 or so. Others build on what you have written.

The amount you get for this latter type is also piss poor but the money you get grows with each piece you write. What’s more it keeps earning you money even if you stop. Unless the website goes under.

If you want to read some of the better articles on the site check out these three superb examples:

http://www.suite101.com/content/a-guide-to-pubs-in-south-end-green-hampstead-a277522

http://www.suite101.com/content/alternative-things-to-do-in-bangkok-a277101

http://www.suite101.com/content/gift-giving-in-thailand-a276529

These are coincidentally written by my own skilled hand but they are worth a look.

I’m not sure how long I will keep writing for the net. I will post an update here later. The advantage of writing for a website like Suite 101, is that your articles are readable for years and have the potential over time to make you more cash than something in print. On the minus side, I love having a portfolio of articles I have had published that I can touch and feel proud of. I know it’s vain but seeing your name and writing in a glossy mag is very satisfying. It’s even better when you open up a magazine and see your own face and bio on the writer’s page. As I said, it’s vain, but I write a blog so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The Word of Ward will keep going though. I like writing here. No style guides and I can swear. It’s really fucking liberating.

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iPad is now justified

Like the sad nerd that I am, I got filled with techno envy and impulse bought an iPad. I now need to justify this purchase by writing something on it. Plus, if I review it, then I can hopefully write it off against tax.
The review will follow at a later date when I have got to grips with the typing and interface and so forth.
First impressions though. Fuck is pretty. If I wasn’t me right now, I’d be looking over my shoulder riddled with pathetic jealousy. I was worried about typing on it but I only use four fingers when I type, so it seems surprisingly easy. I also bought a docking station that is a full-sized keyboard which is pretty god-damned awesome. Haven’t used it yet so I’m pre-assuming brilliance.
The first time I saw an iPad I thought, “What the fuck is the point of that? It looks like one of those futuristic clip-boards they use in Star Trek.” Now that I’ve had one for a whole 30 minutes I realized, “Wow! It’s like one of those awesome clip-boards from Star Trek.”
The big question is whether it will stand the test of time as a writing device. The even bigger question is whether my wife will kill me when I tell her I bought one.
Only time will tell. For now though, Trek on!

Kick-Ass review

Kick-Ass the movie

Yes, this is a review of the film Kick-ass. Although it is, what with this being my writing, an actual ass kicker of a review.

I’d been meaning to watch this film for ages as it poses a question I have often asked myself. ‘Why aren’t there any masked superheroes?’ Surely some martial art obsessed, do-good, eccentric, nutcase would have tried it by now. You read the odd story but nothing I would describe as cool.

The film follows a geeky teen called Dave Lizewski, who tries to answer this question. He gets a green wetsuit and becomes a character known as ‘Kick-Ass’. His first time out he gets the shit kicked out him and is then run over. He keeps plugging away it at and comes to the attention of two successful but unknown masked crime-fighters. Who are hard as hell. They set out to take down a gangster and mete out some righteous justice.

One thing that surprised me in this film was just how violent it was. Which is obviously a happy discovery for someone with a cinematic bloodlust such as myself. Legs get lopped and bullets blast through heads. If you are easily offended and don’t like bad language or blood, I politely suggest you fuck off and watch some other movie. Actually it isn’t that bad at all, I just wanted to swear and use some mild alliteration.

The highlights are Nicholas Cage and his young daughter played by Cloe Moretz – who are Big Daddy and Hit Girl. There’s also good music, a hot chick, lots of humour. And fights. If that doesn’t sound good to you, then you are probably more grown up than me. Check out ‘A Single Man’.

I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed this film. It’s funny, violent and enjoys lots of references to geeky things like, predictably, comics.

Imagine a more fun version of Watchmen. Well worth watching.

Here’s the trailer:

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Giant Rats in Bradford

Ratzilla shot on a Bradford estate!

This is some scary assed stuff.

The Rats are coming!

Apparently some local yokels were out ‘ratting’ when a small group of huge rats ran out. The inbred humans were basically doing what I always suspected they do in that part of the world. When they aren’t having race riots, they hang around dump-sites and shoot rats with air-guns. Nice. Just a shame the rats didn’t turn on them and mete out some karma.

Experts say it might be a breed of super rat from South America. Why are all the creepy crawlies down there so damned big? If it is a rat and not a coypu or something, then it is pretty worrying. I wrote just the other day about how we needed something genuine and cool to worry about in Blighty and now it looks like it might happen. James Herbert predicted this years ago in his superb ‘Rats’ trilogy. If, like in Domain there is also a nuclear war, we’re doomed. God I love those books.

Anyway, if it is a mega-super-giga-killa-rat from South America then lock up your cats. Check out this slightly unpleasant photo:

Unhappy cat

It’s like Tom and Jerry after Jerry has eaten some radioactive cheese.

Just imagine if the rats breed and spread to areas where the locals don’t shoot rats for fun. Where I live for example. They say you are never more than 10 feet from a rat in London but at least they wouldn’t make off with your leg.

Here’s the news, where the killjoys show it could actually be some other big rodent. Sadly quite a cute one with little hands and twitchy noses.

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The Rosslyn Arms pub, Hampstead

Rosslyn ArmsThis pub is just down the hill from Hampstead Tube. Or just up the hill from Belsize Park tube. Take your pick. I think it is slightly nearer Hampstead though and you can walk down the hill rather than up. Which is a plus. Hampstead is always nice too and you might see a celeb.

This is a nice enough pub and one of the few places I regularly visit in Hampstead. The others are the Hollybush (which I will review one day) and the Flask. If it’s a nice day, which is rare is this soggy country, there are a couple of pleasant tables out front for superb people watching. There’s also a smallish beer garden out back which tends to be full of smokers. The main room is slightly odd in that it is split into two areas. The bar faces the window in a D shape. Behind the D is a seating area. Both areas have a slightly different feel to them but both are pleasant.

The main draw for me are the friendly staff and the food. Plus there’s a bus from in front of my house that stops in front of the pub 5 minutes later, but that might not be the case with everyone.

We normally go there on a Monday or Tuesday. For pizza. The pub has decided to not bother with a lot of different gastropub foodstuffs. They do primarily wraps and awesome pizzas. The wraps may be awesome too but I’ve never had one. On a Monday and Tuesday they do a two for one pizza deal, so you can get one of these bad boys for £5. Which is a bargain. The £20 I always subsequently spend on beer balances things out I guess.

Even without the pizzas, if you are in the neighbourhood, it’s a nice stop off. They have great music (Hendrix, Zeppelin), good beers (try the Sagres lager), friendly staff, and a unique chandelier made out of kitchenware. Enjoy.

(There’s also a Giraffe restaurant next door that does half price cocktails from 5-7pm Sunday to Thursday as well, if you want to start early. Just FYI.)

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Be afraid! Please…

I was wrong I’ll admit it. See how damned magnanimous I can be? Last year I wrote about how swine flu was being blown out of proportion by the media and compared it to the SARS, birdflu, and zombie outbreaks that were supposed to have happened in previous years. I followed this up with another piece when to everyone’s amazement we all survived another winter: Swine Flu – we might all live shock!

I then predicted that there would be yet another threat this year. Rabid bubonic goat flu or something. But it hasn’t happened. I was wrong. Obviously I’ve been wrong before – I initially thought a remake of Dawn of the Dead was a pointless idea for example – but it’s rare. Rare that I’ll admit it at least.

So what went wrong? It seems the press have realised that the country just won’t stand for another tale of impending disease. You can only cry wolf a few dozen times before we wise up. Instead the media is now bleating on about how they were mislead and that most of their sources were actually in league with the drug companies. It was WHO and the drug companies that exaggerated things apparently. As stated in the always reliable Daily Mail:

“Five of the 15 specialists who sat on the emergency committee had received funding from pharmaceutical giants, or were linked to them through their research.

The revelation will prompt speculation that the ‘pandemic’ was wildly overestimated and largely fuelled by the drugs industry who stood to benefit from the panic.” (Mail, 13/08/2010)

The nasty, evil, self serving drug companies made it seem worse than it was. Thank christ for papers like the Mail for letting us know this. Cynics might argue that the media prompted the government’s panic buying of flu with articles such as:

“Swine flu deaths in UK double as country now has third highest number of cases in the world.” This Daily Mail article recounted how deaths rocketed from 7 to 14 cases and warned that: “the NHS is not ready to deal with a swine flu epidemic because of ‘muddled’ emergency plans and time-wasting bureaucracy.” (Mail, 10/07/2009)

Or this:

Ok, maybe I’m picking on the Mail a bit, it’s just that it is so much fun. All newspapers have displayed some levels of hypocrisy.

But now we have nothing to fear! We need something. Global warming might wipe out our current civilisation… but not for ages. Obviously I am only including Britain in this, there are plenty of horrendous things happening all over the world already. But we need something in Britain. Something to sell the papers, something to keep us in line. What else is there?

Legal highs – fear for your kids! Meow meow killed two and is linked, possibly, to more! Oh no, hang on, the two in question didn’t actually take any. Still, thankfully that’s been banned. Now there’s the terrifying Ivory Wave, described as being “more dangerous than meow meow” (Metro, 17/08/10). ONE guy has died. This is sad for his family but on closer inspection there’s no need to worry too much yet. Ivory Wave is actually a bath salt. The guy who died might possibly have been killed by his 300 foot fall off a cliff rather than the drug. The lesson here is not to eat household products at random as they can be poisonous or send you a bit loopy.

Double dip recession! Read any reports on this and count how many times the word “possible” occurs. We’re hardly dying in the streets. Go to a third world country and get some perspective.

Paul the psychic octopus gets death threats! Okay, this is a bit scary – I can’t believe how many idiots populate the world.

I remain unafraid. I need the media to fill me with dread, I’m getting all complacent. Something cool. Who cares if it never actually happens, the British public demands something to be terrified by or we’ll run out of conversation in the pub. Here are some suggestions:



(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1302505/WHO-swine-flu-advisers-ties-drug-firms-Experts-linked-vaccine-producers.html#ixzz0wsOzU5g0)
(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1198613/Swine-flu-deaths-UK-double-country-highest-number-cases-world.html#ixzz0wsQrmyHL)

(http://www.metro.co.uk/news/838251-first-briton-dies-after-taking-new-legal-drug-ivory-wave)

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Word of Ward has been poorly!

Yes, my poor website has been ill. Like the egomaniac I am, I went to check my readership last week and found that it had dropped to 150 a day from its previous 300. I was distraught. I knew that because I’d been working lots, I hadn’t written much recently but still. Had my fickle readership found some other opinionated writer spewing forth his shallow observations that was even better than my humble self? Obviously not, what a ludicrous idea.

So what had happened? I went onto my website to check it was still the piece of unappreciated genius that I remembered and at first all seemed ok. Then I clicked on the blog section and was suddenly confronted with a huge red page that told me the site I was visiting had malware reported on it. After checking what malware was, I looked at my google analytics. It said that a particular website was known to have malware in it and the name of that site was somewhere on my site. Although it stated that there wasn’t actually any evil things on my site, the other one was a known bad boy.

What had happened was that I’d copied a picture from the aforementioned diseased site and by way of thanks I’d provided a link to them. I won’t be doing that again. I deleted the picture and the polite link and the digital doctor gave the Word of Ward the all clear. Hopefully my readership will flourish once more. I make almost £2 a month from this site and hope to get a meal or something out of it at the end of the year. Feel free to tell all your friends and colleagues about the site so that by Christmas I might be able to take my wife to somewhere nice. You know you want to.

Ironically, the picture and link that caused the red warning screen where in my post called ‘Freedom of speech’. I will henceforth stop providing links to other people’s websites and this site will remain clean and healthy. Balls to the internet community.

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The City and The City by China Mieville

The City and The CityThe City and The City is a unique and fascinating book. Plus it is a good one.

Set in the fictional Eastern European city of Besz it follows a policeman as he tries to work out who killed a young woman found on an estate. Having spent time in Eastern European cities, Mieville’s description of the run down city slowly emerging from the shadow of being Eastern Bloc, is spot on. Trams rattle, the internet is slow, there are lots of hookers and drinking and so on. As Inspect Borlu chases down his suspects the scope of what is going on expands and we soon realise that Nationalists, fascists, politicians and even worse may be involved.

So far, so fairly standard.

The City and The City is a book with a highly original setting, however. The clue is in the title. There is another city that Borlu visits called Ul Qoma. Ul Qoma happens to be in exactly the same place as the city Besz and has it’s own populace and fashions and phone numbers and brands of tea bag. Some parts of the city exist purely in Besz and others in Ul Qoma. Other parts are cross-hatched and citizens walk by one another or drive round each other’s traffic without acknowledging the other’s existence. They are all conditioned since birth to ‘unsee’ the other city and its denizens since birth. If they break this law and notice the buildings or populace or even worse, walk into sections that belong to the other city, they get in shit with a powerful entity/entities known as the Breach. The Breach makes people disappear or die or various other states and is a fast shadowy presence that pretty much kicks ass.

I know it sounds a bit weird but it actually works quite well and becomes almost believable. By the time that Borlu travels from Besz through the one permissable check-point to Ul Qoma and unconsciously notes that he is technically near his flat but is actually in a foreign city, you don’t bat an eyelid. Soon he becomes more involved in the Breach and the even more mysterious Orciny.

I really enjoyed this book but it didn’t quite do it for me. Apart from Borlu, all the characters seemed a bit flat. It is very well written but for reasons I can’t go into, the book didn’t quite go in the direction I wanted it to. The cities occupying the same place idea was actually pretty cool and well explained – to a point. I then found myself with a few questions that hadn’t been satisfactorily answered and I don’t think it was because Mieville was being purposefully enigmatic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book but on reflection wanted something slightly different.

The City and The City has won numerous awards though, so it obviously completely satisfied some. It is good, atmospheric, clever, Kafka-esque, and so forth, but didn’t quite tick all my boxes. Maybe it will yours – there isn’t much out there like this, so you should give it a try.

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i Dosing

No one can accuse thewordofward of not having its finger on the pulse. You want zeitgeist? This is it baby!

i-Dosing is allegedly the new craze sweeping the easily swept youth of today. It works on a principal that uses ‘binaural beats’ where opposite ears hear differing sound waves. If I was to be cynical, I would call this fascinating aural phenomenon something whackier like ‘stereo’.

But apparently i-Dosing can get you off your tits with the effects replicating a variety of drugs. You can get stoned or coked-up but all legally and without coughing or numb gums. Essentially the audio waves put you into a trance state. This theory has apparently been used in clinical settings to research things like sleep disorders and has been around since its discovery in 1839 by German physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove.

To add even more credence to i-Dosing’s ability to ‘fuck you up’, it has already been the subject of some panicked warnings by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Maybe they are over-reacting a tad. I suspect no-one who’s panicking has based their fears on anything as daft as actual fact or evidence.

There are numerous i-Dose tracks available through the genius of the non-judgemental internet. In the name of science I thought I’d try out a couple that are on youtube. So you don’t have to. Nice of me isn’t? Putting my brain on the line for a website. I remember an awesome bit in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash when a guy in a virtual world (like Second Life) gets a scroll and when he reads it, it scrambles his brain and puts him in a coma. This could have happened to me.

In the name of science and journalism I have previously ‘experimented’ with weed and cocaine. The weed was in Amsterdam where it is decriminalised and therefore morally ok. The coke was at a party – I work in TV and it’s practically compulsory. If a policeman reads this then I should point out that I’m lying and you can’t prove nothing copper.

So what happened?

I can reveal that i-Dosing does fuck all. No drug induced state, no euphoria, nothing. I did experience intense moments of boredom and irritation though. I’m not sure what clinics have used this technique but I suspect they also use aromatherapy and healing crystals. This is clearly a lot of quite clever kids having a laugh at the establishment. It reminds me of when Chris Morris invented the drug ‘cake’ and persuaded celebrities and politicians to jump on the band-wagon. Morris even got them to say that ‘This is a made up drug’ that affects the part of the brain called ‘Shatner’s Bassoon’. I’ve said it hundreds of times on this site – the press loves a good scare story and won’t let contrary evidence or pesky facts get in the way of selling their product. Here’s the dozy media terrifying parents over nothing:

In case you don’t believe me I have included an i-Dose clip. I will not be held responsible if you have a good time or get a headache though. If, like with weed, it leads inevitably to you using crack, then it’s because you are an idiot not the ‘binaural beats’. I suspect this whole craze is made up and is some kind of viral hoax to be spread around the internet by drug addled writers like myself. If it doesn’t work, and it won’t because it’s someone having a laugh at the press, I can recommend Thai stick and Pink Floyd. Enjoy!

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Stop eating fish!

The Faroe Islands

I saw a documentary the other day called ‘The Cove’. It was a pretty awesome documentary about a secret bay where a load of Japanese slaughter thousands of dolphins for no real valid reason. At the start of the documentary, before you see the slaughter, the activists involved are a bit baffled as to why. Dolphin meat has toxic levels of mercury and don’t make good eating. They then discovered that the fisherman were passing off some dolphin meat as whale meat and people were unwittingly poisoning themselves. My first thought was that it sucks for the dolphins but at least they aren’t endangered like whales – if people ate what they thought was whale but were in fact ingesting toxic dolphin meat, then at least some good is coming out of all this. Lots of dead whale munchers. Then it turns out that kids were being fed this meat too and that’s just wrong. They should at least have the chance to grow up and make their own choices.

As you can see from the photo here though, the Japanese are not alone. Norweigans, Icelanders, and the Faroe Islanders kills whales.They justify it because these long finned pilot whales are on the slight increase and so therefore it’s ok to hack at them with choppers.

One of the reasons given by the Japanese in the documentary for killing whales and dolphins are that the animals in questions eat too much fish and

No more fish

stocks of fish are depleting. This is ridiculous. Numerous studies have shown that fish stocks are depleting because, and this seems fairly obvious, we are all eating too much fish. When you hunt a marine species to the point that less than 10% of its population survives, that species goes into collapse. It has been proven that if diversity drops, then so do fish yields. In about 40 years we may just run out. According to UN studies fish exports rose 55% from 2000 to 2006. Six of the top ten exporters were Western countries (http://www.fao.org/newsroom/common/ecg/1000850/en/fishtradefacts08b.pdf). Killing dolphins and whales won’t help fish recover, not eating them will.

Another argument put forward by all whaling countries, is that it is a way of life. Well, tough shit. Do something else. Unless you’re an idiot you can retrain. Plenty of jobs have gone – chimney sweeps, hansom cab drivers, coal miners, dodo handlers, British Airways staff (soon). Welcome to the modern world. Become a web designer or something. Thanks to the EU nearly all British fisherman have had to do this.

I’ve had friends that claim to be vegetarians but then it turns out they eat fish. It’s weird being lectured by someone with a plate of 30 dead whitebait in front of them that my eating a slice of cow is wrong. Also when people say they eat fish, they actually mean fish, crustaceans, molluscs, arthropods and so on. Basically they seem to hate eating anything that made the evolutionary crawl out of the sea. It’s ok for one person to eat 50 mussels but not 50 people to eat one cow. At least now you can point out that they are causing the death of huge amounts of species and the imminent collapse of marine ecologies, while you are eating an easily sustainable food-source or ‘sausage’. (Apologies to these friends as you no longer do this.)

So what should you eat? Obviously something has to die as we live on organic matter. You can eat vegetables and fruit. Woohoo!

I personally think it’s ok to eat cows, pigs, lambs, chickens, insects and swans. The first four can be humanely farmed and can happily trot round fields before you fire a bolt into their brains. Insects are in no danger of dying out and are pretty much the same as prawns. Bit weird though I’ll admit but huge amounts of the planet eat them. I ate a fried grasshopper in Thailand once and it was actually quite tasty although when I woke up with a hangover and found a leg stuck in my tooth, I almost threw up. Swans are ok to eat because they are pure evil. I hate swans.

Basically you should eat your greens and if you choose to eat meat, eat one that is easily sustainable. Preferably one that would die out pretty quickly if we stopped looked after them, like with cows.  I do think that the animals should be organic and free range though. Battery farming is cruel. This will also mean that meat will be more expensive, taste better, and will become more of treat. People shouldn’t expect a chicken for a fiver or meat with every meal.

So please my friends, don’t eat so much fish, campaign against whalers, stop the slaughter of dolphins. Also avoid tofu, it’s just weird.

Sources and pictures:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6108414.stm

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization http://www.fao.org/newsroom/common/ecg/1000850/en/fishtradefacts08b.pdf

http://www.laughparty.com/funnypicture/Eat-More-Chicken/300/

barcelonareview.com

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The Pope is coming!

Sorry for being controversial but the Pope is coming and it has annoyed me. If you are Catholic please ‘turn the other cheek’ and forgive me. There aren’t many left in Britain anyway, so I feel fairly safe.

I am an atheist and have nothing against those of you who wish to believe in all powerful magic being. Do what you want. The thing is, I am having to pay for this visit. The current amount is apparently £15 million quid. Christ knows why. That figure doesn’t even include security, so presumably it’s all going on bread, wine, incense, and gold trimmed pillows or something.

Why should I pay for some representative of a religion I’m not part of? Are people of other religions even more annoyed than me? Officially I’m a Jedi, so why doesn’t the government pay for a huge Star Wars convention for us? Fly in all the stars so we can shake hands with Yoda and get to know the guy when he’s not on screen. Catholics make up 8% of England’s population whereas Jedis make 1% so £2 million should be fair. As it stands, you have to pay to go to geeky conventions, why can’t this be the case with the Pope? Didn’t Henry VIII say “balls!” to the Catholic church and had us separated from the whole religious sycophancy? Why then are we paying for the head of a group we split with?

People bitch about the monarchy all the time but they live here and are our monarchy. They bring in tourism and help pay for themselves and do good things for charity. Besides I like having a Queen and don’t want to be a republic for the simple reason that it just isn’t as cool. The monarchy costs us a chocolate bar a year. Which is worth it in my opinion.

Ok, I’ll stop complaining. Don’t want a load of angry Catholics on my case.  They breed quite quick, so there can be a lot of them. Thankfully they have to be merciful and forgiving or they go to hell, so I should be ok. Apparently they’re already starting to queue up in places like Glasgow so hopefully they won’t read this. Even if they do – I’m chipping in for their benefit not mine, so chill out.

I would just like to have been asked if I wanted a snickers bar or a pope. I love snickers.

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Total Perspective Vortex

This is a really cool video that, like the Total Perspective Vortex, makes you feel like a utterly pointless speck of nothing.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Total Perspective Vortex, it appears in what must surely be one of the greatest series of books / greatest radio plays of all time – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

The story is this:

This is just for our galaxy but you get the idea.A man called Trin Tragula gets pissed off with his wife always saying that he has no sense of perspective. So he builds the Total Perspective Vortex just to shut her up. Essentially, it is a device that shows you a virtual recreation of the entire universe, everything in all its glory and hugeness. Then it has a tiny arrow saying ‘You are here’. Trin Tragula’s wife goes inside and when she realises how utterly and completely insignificant she is, she goes mad. It then gets used as a torture device for shredding people’s minds. The only person who has ever survived this device is Zaphod Beeblebrox, who said that it just confirmed what he has always thought, “I’m a really great guy.”

Well the following video is a bit like that. Someone gave me a link to this, but unless my ego is so huge that I’m immune, it won’t send you mad. It will just make you feel very small. When it comes out in 3D or virtual reality, then be afraid.

Now go back to your pointless job and do some work.

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Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

Can I get through a whole review of Pirate Latitudes without resorting to spouting pirate cliches? No shivver me timbers I can’t Jim lad. There, got that out of the way.

This is Michael Chrichton’s last ever book. Which is incredibly sad because he was a great author. Not one to settle on any genre, he has tackled dinosaur parks, the medical world, the aeroplane industry, the environment, vikings, pirates, and more. He is consistently fun to read. This book was found on his laptop after he died, which always makes me a bit wary. Was it finished properly? Why didn’t he send it out?

Pirate Latitudes is about pirates. Of the Caribbean. Had to word that carefully. It follows the adventures of the privateer Captain Charles Hunter as he has a series of what can only be described as ‘rip-roaring’ adventures. The core of the novel is his attack on a fortress called Matanceros in order to nick a Spanish treasure galleon moored under its protection. The fortress is predictably impregnable. Almost.

The book reads like a fun, shallow series of adventures. Every pirate adventure cliche is present, it is almost as if he wrote a list. Rough rogue Captain leads a plucky crew and does the following (tick the pirate story boxes): climbs cliffs, blows up strongholds, has duels, sleeps with whores, has sea battles, gets thrown in a dungeon, fights cannibals, is attacked by a kraken, and lots more. I didn’t give away any more of the plot than is on the cover. Plus it doesn’t matter. Think of this book as an old fashioned periodical adventure series, like Flash Gordon or the basis behind Indiana Jones. If you approach in that frame of mind you won’t be disappointed.

With the above mindset, you can forgive the cliches. And it is very cliched and formulaic. His crew, especially when he recruits them, is like those you would find in a cheesy film. The ones where a leader goes through a load of dossiers and finds one that can fly a helicopter and is good at knife-fighting, another that is a brilliant hacker, and so on. In this: the Jew, aka, Black Eye, is brilliant with explosives. Enders is a brilliant surgeon and one of the best helmsman around. Lazue is a feisty woman fighter who has brilliant eyesight. Bassa ‘The Moor’ is a huge strong black guy with no tongue. All a bit familiar but it really doesn’t matter in a story like this. Look at the Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Arc, or Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon, or anyone in a Bond film.

So is Pirate Latitudes any good? Yes. Not brilliant, but fun. It’s an action adventure about pirates for fuck’s sake, what were you expecting? It is harmless escapism, with lots of narrow escapes and cliffhangers. It is a bit cliched (a word I have used a lot in this review) but that is utterly irrelevant as the book is well-written in a page-turning thriller kind of way. If you want more realistic sea adventures – look at the superb Patrick O’Brian. If you want a rip-roaring pirate tale in the vein of Treasure Island, look no further. Me hearties.

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World Cup 2010

Pretty topical stuff here at the wordofword. Fairly surprising too, if you knew me. Generally speaking, I couldn’t give the tiniest shit about football. Especially the premiership where individual games cease to matter and it is all about ‘doing pretty well over a year’. I just don’t want to invest an hour and a half of my life on something that might end up nil-nil. Plus I can’t be bothered to pin my emotions onto something I have absolutely no control over for extended periods of time. A team can change its players/management/grounds and you are still supposed to care. Well I bloody don’t.

Except the World Cup. I like world cups – be they football or rugby or cricket or women’s beach volleyball. They are exciting and rare and there has to be an outcome.

I even feel part of the footie humour. Although the main joke going around is based on history and I am very passionate about history. I first heard this two days ago, which by internet standards makes it incredibly old. First I heard it on text, then twitter, then facebook, then email, and blah blah.

“The World Cup is turning out to be like World War Two. The French are out early, the Americans have turned up at the last minute, and we’re left to fight the Germans.” Hilarious isn’t it? Actually I thought it was mildly amusing the first time.

You have to feel sorry for the French. Well, not really but you can pretend. I could empathise when Captain Thierry Henry was summoned before President Sarkozy to explain why things went so badly. I had to do that at school all the time. Except the whole country didn’t know about it. It was probably blamed on the company he keeps in Gillette commercials – that Tiger Woods is always shagging around (allegedly) and even the usually flawless Federer had a match point against him at Wimbledon. The three of them clearly need separating. It is all a bit weird though.

Anyway. Football. Us versus the Germans. I always predict we’ll limp through the early rounds then get knocked out by Germany on penalties. I’m hoping that by writing this down, that won’t happen. Let’s see. If it works then this website will be little more than a list of predictions, none of which I really want to come true. (I predict Jessica Alba will be fully clothed on TV this year, sort of thing.)

I may be wrong about fans having an influence on the outcome of football. I say that as a cunning link to a load of gratuitous pictures I found enjoyable 4 years ago on the topic of why England didn’t win the World Cup in 2006. Sorry if it is a bit misogynous but we’re discussing sport yeah?

AND NOW THE VISUAL PUNCHLINE

Well, that’s me done talking about football for a while. I’ll write another post on it in four years. By then, I’ll probably have minions, but I promise one of the better ones will write it.

Thanks to http://treebeard31.wordpress.com for the pictures.

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