The Null Device
The New Year's Eve public transport débâcle in pictures, courtesy of the troublemakers at Indymedia. Pictures of small trams packed to a crush whilst larger ones stood idle, the police directing people to find other ways to get home, and lawbreakers riding between carriages. All makes you wonder whether it's pure incompetence or, perhaps, whether a smoothly-running public transport system would not have been in the interests of someone in a position of influence. (via Alex)
Lake Superior State University's annual list of banished words is out, listing various words or phrases which came into wide usage over the past year, and should bloody way come out of it. They include obvious ones ("metrosexual", "bling-bling" and the endemic use of "X" in product names), war-related jargon ("embedded journalist", "shock and awe") and miscellaneously annoying or pedantic coinages, like "companion animals" or "hand-crafted latte":
We're not sure where Orin Hargraves of Westminster, Maryland discovered this beauty, but we agreed with his assertion that "This compound is an insult to generations of skilled craftspeople who have mustered the effort and discipline to create something beautiful by hand. To apply 'hand-crafted' to the routine tasks of the modern-day equivalents of soda jerks cheapens the whole concept of handicraft."
"I'm just waiting on 'Shock and Awe Laundry Soap' or maybe 'Shock and Awe Pool Cleaner,'" says Joe Reynolds of Conroe, Texas.
Criminals are turning to blackmailing office employees; the criminals send mail to the employees, threatening to wipe their hard disks or install porn on their PCs unless the victims pay them a small sum. Unlike traditional e-extortion schemes, the perpetrators usually don't have to demonstrate their control of the victims' machines; among the millions of people spammed, they find one or two clueless people who accept their claims and pay the small sum demanded; which, of course, marks them out as a "sucker", and results in them being blackmailed for larger amounts.
"It's getting simpler," said Hypponen. "If you wanted to extort money from a small company you would have had to hack them and convince them you have stolen their information. Here, you don't have to do anything but send an e-mail around."
For the past few weeks, Warren Ellis' blog has been running predictions for 2004 from the various gonzo futurists, scifi writers, early adopters and scary goth camgirls he knows; Matt Jones' predictions are probably the most interesting of the series:
BrIC: 2004 is the year where the cultural and economic dominance by BrIC [Brazil, India, China] starts to emerge. More movies of the calibre of 'City of God' dominate the movie and soundtrack charts. Brazil's equivalent of the Neptunes dominate the global ringtone charts. Kids on the 8mile practice not rap, but capoeira battles.
CORMANRINGS: In 1977, Lucas unleashed Star Wars. There were a gazillion cheapo ripoffs on tv and screen including Roger Corman's awesomely bad-but-I-love-it "Battle beyond the stars": y'know the one with John-Boy Walton as the hero... The oscar-winning success of Peter Jackson's Tolkien trilogy coincides with the low-low price of pro-am digital video and film production to produce a bumper crop of copyright-skirting elvish nonsense of a similarly amusing/appalling ilk.
(Machinima meets Dungeons & Dragons, anyone?)
Update: There's more on BrIC in the news: a piece on the Brasilia Consensus replacing the Washington Consensus, and a piece on the G20 (which includes BrIC) and EU issuing a joint communique on global trade talks. (Though isn't the EU, economically speaking, an inherently neo-liberal construct?)