The Null Device


Entries in b3ta's Crap Computer Games challenge, in which contestants submitted demos (as animated GIFs or Flash; though at least one entrant wrote an actual ZX Spectrum program) of naff 8-bit computer games that never actually existed, both original ones and interpretations of pre-supplied concepts like Window Cleaner, Trade Union Organiser and a Spanish holiday simulator; anyway, you'll find these and more (including Football Text Adventure, the tape loader from Ocean's Last of the Summer Wine tie-in, and Mirrorsoft's Robert Maxwell Yacht Simulator) all (well, most) in pixellated 8-bit glory.

The contest was in connection with Look Around You, a BBC comedy series satirising 1970s educational television. The first episode of the new series (now changed from 9-minute "educational" programmes to a half-hour magazine-programme format; not unlike Curiosity Show for the Australians in the audience) aired last night. Unfortunately, I only managed to catch the last 5 minutes (did anyone manage to tape it?), though what I saw looked very amusing; perhaps even more so than the first series.

IMHO, Look Around You is the cream of British comedy these days. For all that is said about Little Britain, the usually cited candidate for this honour, there's no escaping the fact that it's basically a British version of The Comedy Company (right down to Vicki Pollard being a chav Kylie Mole). It inherits little from the great British absurdist tradition of the Goon Show and its heirs, instead throwing out the same predictable plots and trademarked catch-phrases in slightly different settings.

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It looks like the next generation of Americans are finally getting over that "free speech" fad that gripped the country for 200 or so years. A survey of US schoolchildren has revealed that one in three believe the First Amendment goes "too far", Meanwhile, half of students believe that the government has the power to restrict any indecent material on the internet and newspapers should require government approval of stories for publication. This is in contrast with dangerously liberal views held by their pinko-coddling baby-boomer elders:

When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.

Eventually, though, the baby boomers will die away and America can complete its transformation into the new Sparta, all without anybody noticing that anything has changed. Or maybe it won't; perhaps this is not so much a trend as part of a cycle. I heard accounts of similar things happening during the McCarthy era (one in which someone once posted a copy of the Bill of Rights, without the heading, somewhere, attracting outraged complaints about "Communist propaganda").

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A proposed solution to email spam, which takes into account advances in character-recognition algorithms (which can now trivially break many "captcha" schemes) and the economics of spammers hiring sweatshop workers to transcribe the codes in question. It involves automatic whitelists, disposable sub-addresses, and are-you-a-human tests based on interpreting computer-rendered scenes involved humanoid figures and flowers.

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Following on from the fact about John Garden, a few more Goodies-related items. Firstly, the the second DVD compilation comes out in the UK in two weeks (there's an official launch in London's Prince Charles Cinema on the 12th), with Australia following on 3 March, and will include, among others, Radio Goodies and Sarth Efriker. Apparently a third DVD set is also in the works, on the strength of sales of the first set, so if your favourite episode isn't in the first two sets, it may well be there.

Secondly, Tim, Graeme and Bill are doing a Goodies tour of Australia, playing gigs on the East Coast (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra) in early March. Australia seems to be the world leader in Goodies fandom, being more fond of the series than Britain (case in point: you can get Goodies T-shirts on Brunswick St., though you won't find them amongst the Michael Caine/Vespa/Atari/random-sexual-innuendo T-shirts all over Camden and Carnaby St.). I'm hoping, though, that they do some London shows at some stage, if only for the city's population of Australian expats.

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An amusing take on the evolution-vs.-"intelligent-design" debate. (via Toby)

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