The Null Device
Last.fm is currently temporarily down, and displaying a grey page with text, in various languages, informing the user of this fact.
Interestingly enough, the English message reads:
We're sorry, but our database servers are currently overloaded. Please enjoy a quick cup of tea and then try refreshing this page.whereas the Italian one reads:
Siamo spiacenti ma i nostri server sono momentaneamente sovraccaricati. Gustatevi un caffè veloce e provate ad aggiornare questa pagina.Which, literally, invites the user to have a cup of coffee (which, when one thinks about it, is more culturally appropriate than literally translating it to a cup of tea).
The Portuguese translation seems to also mention coffee, though the French, German and Polish ones seem to stick with tea; the Spanish one doesn't seem to mention any beverage. I don't know what the Russian, Japanese or others say.
Which gives a concise tea-vs.-coffee map of European cultures. And it made me wonder whether, were it written in Australian English, it would refer to coffee rather than tea. And what about American English? Perhaps "please enjoy a Mega-Grande Lattucino™" or something?
A computer scientist in Reading has solved the problem of how to divide by zero. Dr. James Anderson did this by defining a new type of value, named "nullity", which sits outside the conventional number line. The Nobel committee will, I imagine, be in touch shortly.
Norway could soon see a renaissance of striptease, after the Norwegian High Court ruled that striptease is an art form, and thus exempt from Norway's 25% VAT.
It was not clear whether the three judges had conducted field research before reaching their verdict. Certainly they made a clear distinction between "banal and vulgar" striptease--in which there is physical contact between dancers and the audience -- and artistic dance.
The question of the artistic value of striptease has been raging since the late 19th century. The first professional stripper was a Parisian, Yvette, who in 1894 stood on a music hall stage and pretended to undress for bed. The artistic content came in the act of undressing rather than in the nudity. which was often brief and incomplete. American burlesque theatres borrowed striptease acts from the French. The most daring showed Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils--complete with a papier-mâché version of John the Baptist's head -- as if to underline that striptease had respectable roots.
Spare a thought for Robert Smith, frontman of The Cure, who's having trouble coming up with relevant lyrics. Presumably more so than normally:
"I want them (the words) to mean something, it's not enough that they rhyme," Smith said in a recent interview. "I find myself stopping short and thinking I've done this before, and better.
"I've given myself a deadline to finish the words before Christmas. If I don't I should be shot," he said.The article points out that The Cure made an early splash with "tight, three-minute post-punk songs" (quite unlike the bloated six-and-a-half-minute stadium-rock epics they were pumping out a few years ago), and paved the way for the emo movement, which may prompt some people to agree that perhaps Robert Smith should, in fact, be shot.
Perhaps he could write a song about the sense of loss at no longer being able to come up with lyrics?
While Ken Livingstone prepares to slap punitive charges on oversized SUVs and gloats over the drop in SUV sales, Westminster City Council has installed free recharging stations for electric cars and bicycles. These are devices that look like parking meters, and are located in Covent Garden (where London's first hydrogen fuel cell bus also goes). Both parking and electricity are free (albeit there's a 3 hour limit), so in addition to not having to pay the congestion charge, you get your fuel paid for by the council. Assuming that someone else with an electric vehicle hasn't gotten there before you.
I suspect that free charging stations won't last after electric cars become more popular; after all, someone has to pay the bill. I guess there's sustainability and then there's sustainability.
A Times columnist's take on France24 and those silly French people:
Since, alongside the news , the new state-funded France 24 channel sees itself as an ambassador for the French "art de vivre" (French for "way of life") and for its "savoir faire" ("rural snail-tasting festivals"), the channel launched at 7.29 GMT yesterday evening -- presumably in order to allow staff and viewers to first knock back a couple of reviving Pernods after their return from the traditional Gallic post-work/pre-dinner bout of hanky-panky ("mouchoir-pouchoir").
That means that at the time of writing, we don't actually know what the opening headlines were. But we might guess they were something along the lines of, "Iraq, c'est encore un grand mess, n'est-ce pas?" (literally, "That George Bush is a dork, isn't he?"); And "L'Angleterre evidemment a une équipe de cricket qui joue comme un bunch de garçons de Nancy -- pas, obvieusement, notre Nancy en Lorraine!"); though maybe not, "Et maintenant, les actualités chaud directe de Rwanda ...").
France 24 is basically a TV channel for a nation that is annoyed that it has failed to persuade the rest of the world to speak French rather than English (apart from -- and this really embarrasses them -- the word gauche, which is the universally used term for "Donald Rumsfeld").Aside: I wonder which variant of English France24 will use: whether it'll be broadcast in the Commonwealth English of their ancient adversaries and fellow EU members across la Manche, or the American English of their former revolutionary protegés and historical friends, recently seen eating Freedom Fries and putting "First Iraq, then France" bumper stickers on their Hummers.
Not that long after al-Jazeera launched its defiantly postcolonial English-language news channel, another player is entering the market; France 24 will be a 24-hour news channel, funded by the French government and a French private TV network, and broadcasting in French and English (with Spanish and Arabic to be added later).
France 24 can be viewed through its web site (if you have Windows Media installed), and will be available on cable TV. Its mission is, in its own words, "to cover worldwide news with French eyes"; the channel insists its editorial policy will be independent of the French government (though, in either case, you'd expect them to say so).