Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Australia Day!

I'm not even sure that's the right greeting, or if there is any kind of greeting at all. Most aussies are vaguely aware what the day is for and that it might be a bit contro, but are more concerned with the Aussie Open, grouse tunes, barbecueing lamb chops and getting sunburnt to buggery.

This year, I can impart a new Aussie Day tip: When making a Sam Kekovich mask, using lip balm in lieu of a glue stick does not work, and makes Sam look even scarier than usual.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Yes, they can. Now, we hope, they will.

Obamalamadingdong! What a day! I was lucky enough to be able to watch the whole speech and parts of the build up here at work. I'm a born, eternal optimist, but whatever your mental persuasion you must concede that it was a momentous occasion and one to be celebrated. It seems like most of the world has.

The picture at left shows the points in his speech I was most delighted about; Stephen Fry agrees! The commitment to science and shout-out to atheists were compensation for all the grumpy muttering I did during the religious bits.

The word 'curiousity' demands further attention. It's a wonderful human quality worth remembering - and using - but I think it's particularly interesting in this political context. Labels in politics are nebulolus and endlessly argued, but I think most would agree that conservatism, even by its very name, implies a desire to preserve the status quo. At best, this can mean defending ideals, values and systems that serve us well. At worst, it can mean a blind opposition to change. In this latter case - indeed, in *any* case - I think it's wise to be curious about other ways to do things. If we never inquire, we'll never know. If we never wonder, we'll never discover.

We've had compassionate conservatives. Curious conservatives next?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thank god I'm not I'm all thumbs

I'm a very slow texter. This is partially due to my dogged insistence on whole sentences, proper punctuation and long essays that mock the very name Short Message Service. But for the most part, it's 'cos I'm not very good with my thumbs. I'm rubbish at video game thumb controllers. I could never do those funky string things where you make spider webs and whatnot.

I'm a thunco.

I just had a neologasm and covered myself with neolojism.

They are among us

I live quite near Paddington Basin. It's interesting to watch how they've been transforming it, but I only just realised it's the headquarters for a Cylon invasion.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Wikipedia

You're not always right. You're not always popular. Yet, you are, unequivocally IMHO, a remarkable achievement. Congratulations.

Incidentally, I'm surprised by how many people don't know that Wikipedia provides "dumps" of the entire encyclopedia. Amazingly, this collection of every single English article comes to a mere 4.1GB! Almost anybody could fit on their home computer these days if they deleted that season of The Wire they've already watched. The dump doesn't include the revision history, discussion pages or non-text media, but it's enough to be getting on with, eh? (I speak from experience here, having been on many bleary eyed wikibinges where I start at one place and end up somewhere really, really different).

Furthermore, 4.1GB is well within the capabilities of mobile devices these days. This means you can hold an appreciable fraction of the sum total of human knowledge in your hand. Perhaps becoming less useful in this ever-more-connected world, but still astonishingly cool. Sucks for these, though.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Last night I went to see The Comedy Store Players. Their improv nights are a London institution and always great fun. All good, then, in the proverbial hood. Except for one, terrible, accursed thing that haunts my dreams and fuels my nightmares.

My laugh is silent. No sound comes out. My mouth turns up at the corners, I wrinkle up near the eyes, my upper body moves rythmically and involuntarily...with a total absence of sound. Nada. At no level of hilarity will my vocal apparatus arrange air molecules into meaningful waves. Perhaps, at best, I emit a sort of rapid breathing sound. Imagine a mildly hyperventilating phone pest. Now imagine him amidst a crowd of laughing people. You won't hear the pervy bastard no matter how enthusiastically he whispers what he'd like to do to you.

I concede this seems a fairly trivial problem, even by my standards. But live comedians rely on laughter as feedback. Comics don't need you to fill out a survey after the show or conduct phone polls while you're trying to eat dinner. They know immediately if they're doing well. To them, the sound of a wave of a laughter is the sound of success. I'm not part of this. I may as well not be there! It's like watching on telly with HD and surround-sound but that empty feeling that maybe you should have got off your arse and gone to some gigs! I, ever dog-paddling in an endless sea of neurosis, worry that I'm not showing my appreciation. This irks me. There are other ways of showing this appreciation: I can buy a comedian's CD, recommend them to my friends, or lurk outside their house until they come home. But none of these offers the satisfying immediacy of a big, belly-holding, audible laugh.

I've tried various ways of dealing with this. I've tried exaggerated movement; it's beverage spilling and awkward. I've tried showing extreme pleasure on my face; it's asking to be picked on and/or pointed out to security as a potential madman. I've even tried whooping and shouting, but even at the most exuberant standup gig this risks ejection the third time you do it for anything other than a nun-raping joke.

So to fake laughter. I'm not mute. I can emit sounds other than the ones the Japanese have electronic contraptions to cover up. But fake laughing is fraught with dangerous embarrassment. There are fine lines between many things, but not many finer than the one between a convincing fake laugh and an outright declaration of pantomime villainry. Every HAHAHA is just a BWHA away from worrying about the Evil Lair property market. Even if such accidental cliche is avoided, what alternatives? Men should not titter. Nor giggle. Civilised people do not guffaw, or do they? Chuckling is perhaps acceptable, if suitably controlled, but when does a chuckle become a chortle? Is sniggering ever acceptable? Let alone the suitability and reproduction of this cachinnation cornucopia, which of them should one choose as one's signature laugh? Nature chooses these at random for the unsilent majority, providing a pleasing laughter chorus with just the odd outlier that allows easy identification of particular laugh tracks. We muted merrymakers bear the extra responsbility of choosing where in this laugh orchestra we should fit for best effect; anything else would be gross irresponsibility. Thunderous bass amusement? A clear, trumpeting tenor? Subtle, lilting alto? Ear-splitting soprano cackle? I get so worried I forget what I wanted to laugh at in the first place.

So I've given up. Comedians, know that I do appreciate you. I love comedy. But short of wearing a distracting hat with BLOG.NEONWOMBAT.COM/2009/01/CURSE-MY-SILENT-LAUGH.HTML written on it, no comedian I've seen is likely to stumble across this treatise. If you do, know that I thought you were brilliant, especially that bit about dogs. This, of course, doesn't apply if you were shit. That silence was deliberate.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy Lame Attempt To Not Have A Cliche Title

That was, of course, 'Happy Gregorian Increment' until I changed it. Hope you had a good holiday whomever and wherever you are! If you're even reading this. And if you're not reading this, how is it getting into your head? Deep? Or stupid? It's a fine line. Not it isn't. It's just stupid.

Couple of quick things to start off the year that aren't nonsensical conversations with myself:

  • Listen to Stephen Fry's podcast on language. It's especially brilliant even by his high standards. (Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing sums it up well with suitable verbiage).

  • Check out the 'mini-blog' on the right, which is why I haven't been posting as often. For the web literate amongst you, it's simply my bookmarks. It's quite useful as a link-sharer and allows me to make a quick comment on each link, which stops a proliferation of one-link blog posts. You can subscribe to it separately, which you should do immediately, as I am ace and only ever include the highest quality linkage.

Right. Get to work. Forget the naysayers, 2009 is gonna be a great year! (If people actually took this advice, the 'tough economic times' would stop being a self-fulfilling prophecy...)