Too good not to post… Glass on Unicycles

via Bruce Sterling, who so often gets the good stuff, this splendid piece of street theatre/music.

A segment from the amazing street performance “Glissendo” at a French art festival: “Lightning” by Philip Glass. Concept and technical design by Ulik (the mechanical clown).

Unicycles, or Segways (or Daleks) under the robes? Doesn’t matter. This made me chortle like a happy baby.

Better and worse

OK…
After a brief tussle, now got the Dell running the latest Ubuntu version (9.04 ‘Jaunty Jackalope’ – sadly the next version is not called Kinky Koala… but Karmic Koala isn’t bad either) and the Netbook Remix interface. Since Dell’s tech support for their Ubuntu is charitably describable as ‘limited’ there was nothing to lose, except possibly some SAN points. Found a blog app that doesn’t suck (KBlogger) and pretty much got this little guy ready to roll.
It has its limitations of course – the keypad tininess takes a little getting used to, and some of the keys are in non-standard positions – but since my typing is of the two-finger hunt-and-peck school, this actually doesn’t make too much difference.
I still scorn and despise the individual who decided where CAPSLOCK lives, however.
In other news, I appear to be coughing and sneezing on an professional basis. This is displeasing, but is at least non-pork related.
For the moment, I seem to be more active on Twitter than anything else – posting a few links on the remarkable political upheaval in Guatemala and the usual Forteana. Daily digest, as always, at News Felch.
Sent from Dell Mini 9, which still lacks a good nickname…

Upgrades, again

Another new piece of kit – finally fell prey to the netbook paradigm & got a Dell Mini 9, running their remix of Ubuntu 8.04. After some minor teething troubles – a keyboard glitch which of course took over an hour on hold to tech support, only to be fixed in 2 minutes – it’s pretty good.

It’s a tiny thing – half the size and a third the weight of my venerable iBook G4 – and thus perfect for general carry (without the considerable limitations of the Nokia N810 pocket unit).

There’s a few things lacking in the Ubuntu ‘ware department, top of the list being a WordPress blogging client! But for now blogging from the website seems tolerably fast and pretty much everything else works fine. (And if I feel adventurous, it’s the best netbook for a OS X install.)

So, once I get over the non-pork-related virus the whole clan is down with, I can take my act on the road!

Want a new free Bruce Sterling short story? ‘course you do!

Via Boing Boing, who said this:

In White Fungus, an “architecture fiction” published in the first issue of Beyond magazine, Bruce Sterlng marries the sardonic and the hopeful in a gripping, hilarious story about how every aspect of civic life from schools to tomato-farming will be reformed after ecotastrophe and econopocalypse destroy our present way of life.

Sample:

Logically, industrial farmers should move into places like White Fungus and industrially farm the lawns. Derelict buildings should be gutted and trans formed into hydroponic racks. White Fungus was, in fact, an old agricultural region: it was ancient farmland with tarmac on top of it. So: rip up the parking lots. Plant them. Naturally, no one in White Fungus wanted this logical solution. Farming was harsh, dull, boring, patient work, and no one was going to pay the locals to farm. So, by the standards of the past, our survival was impossible. The solution was making the defeat of our hunger look like fun. People gardened in five-minute intervals, by meshing webcams with handsets. A tomato vine ready to pick sent someone an SMS. Game-playing gardeners cashed in their points at local market stalls and restaurants. This scheme was an ‘architecture of participation’. Since the local restaurants were devoid of health and employee regulations, they were easy to start and maintain.Every thing was visible on the Net. We used ingenious rating systems.

Enjoy a small glimpse at a very possible near-future, but one where survival, and even creativity, thrive.

Grant Morrison on The Matrix ‘borrowing’ from The Invisibles

Since it’s the tenth anniversary of the cinema release of The Matrix (and as I found this synchronistically while looking for something else), here’s Grant Morrison interviewed at Suicide Girls on the subject of just how much the film took from his epic magical (literally) comic The Invisibles:

It’s really simple. The truth of that one is that design staff on The Matrix were given Invisibles collections and told to make the movie look like my books. This is a reported fact. The Wachowskis are comic book creators and fans and were fans of my work, so it’s hardly surprising. I was even contacted before the first Matrix movie was released and asked if I would contribute a story to the website.

It’s not some baffling ‘coincidence’ that so much of The Matrix is plot by plot, detail by detail, image by image, lifted from Invisibles so there shouldn’t be much controversy. The Wachowskis nicked The Invisibles and everyone in the know is well aware of this fact but of course they’re unlikely to come out and say it.

It was just too bad they deviated so far from the Invisibles philosophical template in the second and third movies because they blundered helplessly into boring Catholic theology, proving that they hadn’t HAD the ‘contact’ experience that drove The Invisibles, and they wrecked both
‘Reloaded’ and ‘Revolutions’ on the rocks of absolute incomprehension. They should have kept on stealing from me and maybe they would have wound up with something to really be proud of – a movie that could change minds and hearts and worlds.

I love the first Matrix movie which I think is a real work of cinematic genius and very timely but I’ve now heard from several people who worked on The Matrix and they’ve all confirmed that they were given Invisibles books as reference. That’s how it is. I’m not angry about it anymore, although at one time I was because they made millions from what was basically a Xerox of my work and to be honest, I would be happy with just one million so I didn’t have to work thirteen hours of every fucking day, including weekends.

In the end, I was glad they got the ideas out but very disappointed that they blew it so badly and distorted all the Gnostic transcendental aspects that made the first film so strong and potent. If they had any sense, they would have befriended me instead of pissing me off. They seem like nice boys.

And while I’m at it, here’s XKCD’s take on the anniversary. And seriously… if you’re a magician and haven’t read The Invisibles yet, why not?

Pagan myths of Easter

Every year since time immemorial, Pagans and Wiccans and witchy folk have told others the tale of how Easter is really a Pagan festival to the Goddess Eostre which was co-opted by the Xtians.

And every year, writer Adrian Bott attempts to point out that there’s bugger all evidence for this being true and most of what is ‘known’ about the details is entirely made up. This year, he’s kindly given the full details on his LJ blog.

The total sum of available information about Eostre amounts to two lines of text.
The Venerable Bede, in his De Temporum Ratione (“On the Reckoning of Time”), explains the naming of the Easter festival as follows:

Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

And that is all there is. There is no hare connection, no suggestion of a bunny story, no link to eggs. Bede’s passage is the only evidence we have that there ever was a goddess called Eostre; worse still, he may even have been making it up.

And to cap it off, an awful lot of the popularising of the Pagan Easter myth is being done by… fundamentalist Xtians:

This is because their version of Christianity does not accept Easter, or indeed anything else that is not found in the Bible. Associating Easter with paganism has allowed them to villify secular traditions, and presumably become more truly Christian in their own minds. Christians are thus responsible for some of the more ludicrous suggestions concerning Easter and paganism, such as an attempt to identify Eostre with Ishtar, and the assertion that ‘Eostre’s hare was the shape that Celts imagined on the surface of the full moon’, which manages to garble together Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Chinese myth in one sentence. (Pagan Origins of Holidays). It seems that not a year goes by without more spurious Eostre nonsense being thrown on to the heap, a far cry indeed from Bede’s two sparse lines.

Enjoy your chocolate eggys and bunnies, folks – but don’t fall for the mythologising. Or, if you have to commemorate some spiritual aspect to the festival that has nothing to do with the Jesus-man, why not follow the Way of Saint Bill of Hicks?

(And for the non-Americans, click to find out what a Lincoln Log is!)