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post 1 on Thursday 18th January 2007 at 10:56

Halcyonelle.com Is Dead! Long Live Morethanjellytots.com!

I'm restarting my blog and forgetting about the old one. It was becoming too much to wonder what I wouldn't want people to see. What I should have done was to password protect the old stuff. But handing out the passwords would have seemed like some membership to my exclusive club. So here it is. My first ever new post!

tags: [ woot ]
post 2 on Saturday 20th January 2007 at 13:49

Do You Beat Your Wife?

My deadlines at University are so close. I can't believe I have left it this late. If I fail this year I will now know how NOT to do it for ANOTHER year. So I'm trying so hard to work diligently.

But not too hard. I went to the football last week for the first time ever. I was so surprised by the serenity of the place. I was expecting bottle smashed faces and cattle crushes but no, only a poster; quite obviously nestled amongst its target audience, posing the question everybody wants to answer "do you beat your wife". Dear me. What a world of stereotypes. You have to laugh.

tags: [ advertising ] [ career ] [ culture ] [ university of teesside ]
post 3 on Sunday 11th February 2007 at 11:15

Can't Think Of A Title

Somebody please put me into my cave where I belong. Hell, throw away the key. This girl is ABSOLUTELY spent! Every scrap of energy's been expended on my assignments for University. But two are handed in and over. What a comfort to me then to be able to relax after such hard work. Nope, not I said the idiot. The idiot is working on even more things which don't even need to be worked on! I conclude: a lot of things in this world make no sense, and my self is one of the most sense less. Teehee!

tags: [ university of teesside ] [ woot ]
post 4 on Monday 12th February 2007 at 14:45

Shine On

I'll make a fine example of a blog where the blogger has nothing to say. I'll be like all the other people who've started blogs. Everyone wants to read what I want to say, hey, it's dim in here - would you be so kind as to point that light in my direction?

tags: [ woot ]
post 5 on Thursday 15th February 2007 at 09:38

A Tale Of Stolen Bins

I can hardly believe I've yet to write about the saga of the wheelie bins! A story, which in summation, involves what can only be described as a *shit load* of wheelie bins (belonging to thirteen oak street) being cruelly stolen from the alley.

People take my wheelie bins for what purposes I'm unsure but I’m guessing theft, debauchery, rat storage, police hikes, "oh shit, it's the TV licence van", etc would probably all be accurate if not speculative possibilities.

Just some background: I live in a row of Victorian terrace houses in one of the most run-down and socially deprived areas of Middlesbrough. We share an alley which runs parallel to the length of the houses and, I state this with authority, we ALL should have a wheelie bin - as provided free of charge by Redcar & Cleveland council. The bin men come every other Tuesday (we're supposed to recycle) and apart from myself and Mr. Norman are the only people with access to the alley gates.

Now the bins and their travels have become somewhat of a comedy in this house. Questions such as where do they go? What do they see? What mysterious contents do they harbour on these mystical journeys? etc, all remain unanswered. Just to provoke the tale further (and make my plight seem all the more pitiful) it actually took me three months to get a wheelie bin, after which time two were dispatched by the stupid council; one serving as the alley bin, and the other becoming a very useful "cache" bin.

The first bin to go was an unmarked bin which naked and green was sent to the alley like a lamb to the slaughter. I didn't draw on this bin and that was my first mistake - the bin was taken but the incident was kinda dismissed as a one-off. In fact, due to the cache bin it was almost forgotten about! But then when the cache was stolen it was like WTF? What am I going to do now! So I called the council was given a case number. Can you believe that? A case number! So fully authenticated we trotted down to yon tip in Redcar to get a new wheelie bin.

Enter bin number three - trundling into the alley like the car outta Grease, rising up from the mist of its own excellency and fully inscribed with more identifying marks than a police line-up. BUT IT WAS STILL STOLEN!

After a four week sabbatical, during which time the rubbish was just flowing from the back door, the bin returned as is nothing had happened. The only clue was a dead rat lay at its wheels ... make of that what you will. Where from here? Well, I'm considering RFID and GPS technology. But I’m leaving this post open for more news. I’m sure there’ll be some. As Dad would say “you couldn’t make it up”.

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ culture ] [ rants ] [ south bank ]
post 6 on Friday 23rd February 2007 at 19:04

The False Promises of Magazines

I wrote this a few years ago but bought a magazine yesterday breaking a magazine-fast of a few months. It kinda sparked something off. ;P

Why it is that any self-respecting, intelligent woman would get sucked into the false promises of women’s magazines?

If you walk along any news stand, you'll notice delightfully achievable captions such as "CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN YOUR LUNCH BREAK - WE DID IT YOU CAN TOO!". Society places too many demands on us as humans, and some of us assume that something must be wrong with our lives if we're not fulfilling the roles that society has created for us. Magazines enforce this by creating a problem which we must now solve though reading the damned magazine. In fact, the problem never existed, and because it never existed, it can never be solved. Thus when we inevitably "fail" to reach this unreachable solution, we feel inadequate.

And yet magazines are full of outrageously contradicting advice. On one page we are told to look thin, be saintly, and preserve our figures because we’re special, and we should stay that way. Yet the next page opposes the previous with recipes for "naughty" and “sinful” foods we should make to "indulge" ourselves and our families. They made chocolate sinful! Them and the diet brigade, but that's another story.

What I have had to remember is that magazines are fed this shite directly from people trying to make a fast buck out of playing on our desires and fantasies - advertisers. These people are educated on what buttons to press. Not only do they have demographics; for example age, gender and location, they also think they know us by simply sliding us neatly into one of their social grade categories (waves to all the C1s out there!!). In short, they know what subconscious desires and needs they can tap in to based on who we are and where were going, or want to go.

The saddest thing is that this is just a reflection of our current society. We are told what to wear, what to eat, what to think, and what to need, and not by some body that we have elected to listen to - but by people trying to make money, for themselves.

If you want to be sane and happy, boycott women’s magazines.

tags: [ feminist rants ] [ rants ]
post 7 on Friday 23rd February 2007 at 21:28

Pizza: Always Wizhin Dhze Hour

Ever had one of those everything's-a-pound-land scenarios when the same question is directed time and time again to the same person who gives the same answer but the asker just wants to hear it? Now is one of those times.

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ south bank ]
post 8 on Monday 26th February 2007 at 23:59

Who Am I?

I am the Queen of Random
The girl of no form
A limitless shapeshifter
I'll be great when I'm there
I am an unsharpened pencil
If only I could stick at things
But I want to be turned in the right direction

tags: [ poems ]
post 9 on Thursday 1st March 2007 at 23:53

In Like A Lion

Whilst languishing today, I noticed it’s the first of March, which is always a date for my calendar. Why? It’s the first wash day of course! – no not mangles or carbolic, I mean, it’s dry enough to hang your smalls out isn’t it? That means line fresh baby – even in South Bank – where the air lingers with the smell of coke (that’s pre-burned carbon deposits that work like coal to anyone under fifty) and fried onion bhajis from the Imperial Food Park.

All the plants here at Oak Towers have reanimated – the word from the windowsill is that the geraniums, honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine are all experiencing an abundance of buddage. Yay, seed time! You see there aren’t many plants in my garden. In fact, there are more inside than out. So if we have a death in the family it’s a serious loss to stock. Luckily, since the great slug slaying of 2006 we’ll be having no more casualties.

Oh and there was a fruit fly in the kitchen. So there you go – it MUST be the first day of spring - and even South Bank knows it!

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ domestics ]
post 10 on Sunday 4th March 2007 at 17:32

Call 999 - It Doesn't Work In Mozilla!

You were looking for a job role that would allow you to cultivate your secret inversion, to fulfil your inner solitude, to help flourish your silent genius, and what did you get? You got clients calling you at a twenty-to-nine on a saturday evening. Are you a therapist, care worker or a member of the emergency services? No, welcome to the career choice of the eternally harassed, the web designer.

tags: [ rants ] [ web site design ]
post 12 on Tuesday 6th March 2007 at 12:11

A Tale Of Stolen Bins pt II

Bin number two has returned! Welcome back cache-pig bin! The deviously but insufficiently masked scribing of the neighbours was evidently no match for my indelible pen! The question remains whether I shall reclaim what is rightfully mine and surreptitiously pull the bin to the bosom of my backyard? Or shall I cast it to the eternal torment of number three/seven/nine?She's leaving

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ crime ] [ south bank ]
post 13 on Thursday 8th March 2007 at 11:52

Garden 2.0

Bloomin' wonderful!I've just finished the start of this year's gardening attempt. If gardening is anything like being at University, which - hang on - It is JUST like University - all down to the first year of gardening in ANY garden being totally redundant. All you can hope for are cheap fixes - because nothing counts towards anything and you're simply giving the garden momentum to gear up for the second year, where all the action lies.

The bulbs I thought never came up did. The honeysuckle that was devoured stealthily and without detection for some months, from the root, is now spreading itself far and wide along my Venetian wall, overlooked by Steve's Rose, an octogenarian of the rose world, and only just a challenge to the beauty of the honeysuckle in full bloom.

The grape hyacinths are popping up. Even the garlic is resprouting. The failed poppies from last year have also made a reappearance! How AMAZING it is that spring is here! And as for cheap fixes - I don’t even need to go to B&Q!

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ domestics ]
post 14 on Saturday 10th March 2007 at 09:20

Black Is The New Black

BlackBlackBlackBlackBlackBlackBlackYou’re never going to be a good designer unless you can use your work to visually “ping” people - connecting you with your audience and capturing them in the moment of your message. Then why is it that instead of being able to choose from the myriad of colours available, Microsoft’s black Vista colour is dominating web designer’s choices? Presumably it is now my job as a web designer to put aside my bad attitude towards Microsoft to reach as many of these black-loving folk as possible with a cognitively sticky design by incorporating the world’s thirst for black into my work?

But, good people, I get disappointed when I realise that the only thing that’s going to seduce the masses for the next three months is a shed load of black! And I see a-plenty more colours I’d rather be using! And wasn’t all this Microsoft’s fault? What do they know about reaching the masses? The answer, absolutely everything.

I admit the black look can be a nice one. But please let’s remember it started on teenager’s bedroom walls many, many years ago and will be forgotten about by the time Vista becomes stable. This wasn’t Microsoft’s idea. You can’t patent colours. Although it wouldn’t surprise me to see a black background on a web site tagged “Black appears courtesy of Microsoft Corp”.

Now for a moment lets think about who’s driving all this. Microsoft bring out a new operating system which most savvy users know is black. The designers start realising people are going to be finding black seductive. The designers start to get the odd request and begin using more black. Black becomes the new black and everyone gets sick of black. See where this is going?

Doesn’t anyone remember the done-to-death left-hand tree menus, the clouds, and (saints preserve us) the shiny chrome web sites that seemed to dominate web design when Microsoft launched the Windows XP Luna interface? We all got sick of that. To hell with clouds, the world now wants self-confidence, death, sophistication, formalism, mystery…

The moral of the story. We’ll be seeing more black. We’ll be avoiding the lime green that went with that a few years ago. We’ll be seeing more coral and I have a feeling more purple, oh and more brown. And now by the end of writing this I have accepted black and am taking black back – for the designers, for the anti M$ and I’m arming my palettes ready!

tags: [ web site design ]
post 15 on Tuesday 20th March 2007 at 22:22

Boots Do Your Stuff!

Get downThere was a saying we used to use - "Boots do your stuff!" - taken from the Young Ones "Oil" episode. I've been meaning to look it up for it ages. And now I have. It's just the concept of world unpeace being overcome by Dr Martens boots. Oh and the music is catchy too. "Doctor Martens gave his boots to the world so that everybody could be free they're heat resistant, waterproof, and retail for only 19 pounds and 99 p!
Watch it on YouTube

tags: [ videos ]
post 16 on Wednesday 21st March 2007 at 16:42

MTJT Ten Of The Best: Macclesfield

Would you like some fags young lady?Dale's shop on Coare Street. The blessed old man was so blind he'd serve fags to anyone whose head appeared above the counter. He didn't mean to break the law! He didn't mean to fuel our blossoming cigarette addiction! He was so old; he even served fags to my Granddaddy!

The Stanley ArmsCountry pubs. In Macclesfield, you're never more than five minutes from the next quality inn.

Tim, of Tim's Megastore fame Tim's Megastore, for everything! Most notably for having console games on tape at bargain bin prices. You can't get a decent game from 20p upwards nowadays.

King's School MacclesfieldKing's School for posh boys. For being so shocked by a fourteen year old with a nose ring and for making Rugby an armchair sport, all visible from the comfort of the bedroom window.

The Nags HeadThe Nags Head, for having the only known Street Fighter 2 pinball machine in Macc, resplendent with battered matchbox car and miniature Blanka.

Tittays!The now demolished Nurses Homes on Westminster Road. Didn't they realise that was a 6ft wide window, it was dark outside, the curtains were open, and they had no top on?

The maraudable giant boulder in West Park MacclesfieldWest Park: A trove of entertainment. Most notably West Park Museum for being betrothed with polar bears; scold's bridles, death beds and artefacts of ancient Egypt (yeah, REAL Mummies!). Secondly for opening a skate park in the early nineties and for having a dedicated BMX track and half-pipe. Presumably in considering building this teenager’s delight the council had deemed West Park to be far enough away from the *bad estates* that it assumed would attract "the usual" type. Silly council. And if you didn't feel like tearing tarmac or your own fleshy knees you could visit the Aviary or sit atop the giant stone.

The Queens HotelThe Queens; colloquially referenced as "The Bosnian". For its ability to allow various positions of slumber on the loo floor and for having a white ball retrieving pit bull and for being the only pub in Macc you *knew* your teachers wouldn't visit at lunchtime.

View from Teggs NoseTeggs Nose Country Park. For being a free place for eighteen year olds to eat McDonalds and rev engines.

tags: [ macclesfield ]
post 17 on Friday 30th March 2007 at 12:00

Run, It’s The Pigs

RobocopWhat is it with Oak Street? Why is it full of lecherous criminal scum? As I type, the Police are hammering down the door of number eleven. Last year my house was stormed by a SWAT team, some on horseback, six on foot (four of which feet made light work of trampling my Convolvulus to oblivion), allowing them to gain access to a house up the road via my back yard. Am I the only person stupid enough to allow such intrusion? Is it the law to let four brick-shit-house Police men storm my palace? As it happened, I was doing something illegal myself at the time, and was highly paranoid. But they didn’t get me. Thinking back on it, I needn’t have worried. Smoking grass to them is like a walk in the (druggie filled) park compared with the shit they put up with in Middlesbrough.

There are nine houses on this street. Of those houses there are only two that use their yard for anything other than a refuse dumping ground. It annoys me that my local friendly Police service think it’s OK to treat us all like dogs. I blame Ray Mallon and his Robocop tactics. What can you do? Smile, say "yes officer" and keep smoking your drugs to block it all out?

I think a society makes itself, say what? Knock it all down. Great stuff.

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ boro ] [ crime ] [ domestics ] [ ray mallon ] [ south bank ]
post 18 on Tuesday 17th April 2007 at 11:02

Lamb

Lamb, comprising Lou Rhodes and Andy BarlowTime and time again I am in wonderment of Manchester 90s electronic group Lamb. They released one of the finest soppy songs of all time, Gorecki, yet they’re serious enough to be taken seriously by a sometimes too serious listener (both in terms of the "soppy" music thing and the generic music thing – which Lamb is not), and achingly beautiful enough to twang a hardened heart string. Vastly underappreciated with a wealth of fantastic lyrics to read when you’re done with the music; described by aficionados as pop layered over synth (but without any over-used disco beat that synth/pop music seems to suffer from) they dabbled with drum n bass (reminding me of Everything But The Girl, Massive Attack, and Portishead), with the boy doing his thing with the music while the girl banged out a powerful vocal; which the boy then toned down and cleverly layered with the original atop - varying the intensity by creating a dichotomy of strongly whispering voices. Gorecki by the way was taken from the name of the composer who inspired the work, Henryk Górecki, specifically his Third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

Lamb – Gabriel
I can love
But I need his heart
I am strong even on my own
But from him I never want to part
He’s been there since the very start
My angel Gabriel
Lamb on Last.fm

tags: [ electronic music ]
post 19 on Tuesday 17th April 2007 at 15:23

I'm Not A Feminist Or Anything But...

My bra is smouldering in the hearth as I typeIt might never end until we stop using our bodies as a measure of our self-worth. We all do it. The trouble comes in that we're traders now, not nomads. Everyone who is here to make money will try to do so in the most successful way. This might even involve using our fears to sell us stuff - one of those fears happens to be grounded in a woman's need to be part of her society (one where you can find your place, somehow, be you off-the-wall or conventional - but *a* place) so when fashion dictates we should be a certain size and shape of course we want to be part of that. But before we had fashion, did we care about the size of our bums? It wasn't until male designers came about designing stuff (oh apart from the religious thing, but that's another story) that we had any problems. Let me add they probably preferred an androgynous male form, and thus the girlies started squeezing their bodies into non-ergonomic clothing and starving down to un-natural proportions. The trends sometimes for hourglass, waif, athletic, size-0, etc, would be totally irrational to a nomadic person. Damn, you'd need a good pair of feet, strong legs, and a healthy body and mind to be this woman. You'd have to forage and hunt to live and your body would both support and cultivate this. So now what? We have a lazy body pushed into various insane and downright dangerous diets, exercises, medical practices and, the horror, surgery; undertaken in the name of a desirable, fashion-worthy body which also happens to be socially and culturally unobtainable – after all, we don't get honed pecs and abs talking on the phone and typing all day do we? And it's easy to be overweight via food, as it's so cheap.

You know I have been shocked by the women I've seen trawling around three major cities over the last month in the UK (the worst of which was undoubtedly London) who look absolutely miserable. This woman's complexion is grey, dehydrated, pinched; her expression wears a dull veil and her eyes bear a spike of panic. She certainly wouldn't come home with a freshly-killed boar slung over a well-muscled shoulder. Why? Because she's starved down to nothing to become a fashion designers dream; and I'm bloody sick of seeing people looking unhappy, unhealthy, and thin.

Yep, it sucks, OK.

tags: [ feminist rants ]
post 20 on Wednesday 18th April 2007 at 00:00

The Beach

It was Redcar beach, really glassy mists scud polished beach
devoured by the muted sea
a little dulled was evenings bleach
and gave an air of mystery
The End :)

tags: [ poems ]
post 21 on Thursday 19th April 2007 at 14:56

Wagamama v. Etsuko

So close, yet so far apartEver since local Japanese noodle bar Etsuko opened some years back I’ve been an avid supporter and oft-times regular customer. Having also been a distant appreciator of international noodle bar Wagamama, you'd expect I’d be the sort of girl to notice a rip off where Japan and noodles are concerned right? Well I didn’t notice; not until I finally got to visit Wagamama in Leeds this weekend.

It would seem that Etsuko has ported the entire Wagamama ethos to the (as yet) Wagamama-less North East. The minimalist-styled menus look identical - even down the choice of font. Presentation, choice on the menu, speed; everything identically perfect for both. But in a wild twist of honesty, I claim that the chain-free, no-added-corporate-darling Etsuko is the better choice for the noodle connoisseur and for the kids who just love to go local. The food tastes fresher and the spring onions don’t carry that two-days-ago-chopped taste. The noodles are squishier too (how’s that for a gastro-review?) So how does Etsuko get away with it? And why didn’t anyone spot this belligerent imitation before? Maybe Etsuko is Wagamama, and in a North Eastern dialect Wagamama translates roughly into "I'm going to make love to your mam, like", and so the hunt for a suitable name was somewhat influenced by the need to choose something distinctly oriental in order to appeal to a different clientele: "Etsuko" seems to be a Japanese person name and means absolutely nothing in any language making it as good a non-descript yet incontrovertibly-oriental noodle bar name as you're gonna get. Its strange newness to the North East was reflected in how bare the place was when it first opened its doors. I’m sure the layout had something to do with it - too much like a school canteen - "you’re saying I have to sit next to a stranger?!" And maybe the bleak amount of traffic was testament to an overzealous vegetable-to-meat ratio, not to mention the proximity of the restaurant to three of the nation’s favourite cop-out restaurants; Nando’s, Pizza Hut and McDonalds’s. But still, Etsuko seems to go from strength to strength, and with the opening of the most excellent mima at the start of the year (and thus beckoning an influx of avant-gardettes who'll cross through this prime Middlesbroughian location) no doubt Etsuko will continue to flourish. And I do hope so because not only is it the definitive place to get fed a decent meal out around here but the staff are a total dream! One server actually remembered the mushroom allergy I’d explained to him during an earlier visit! So thumbs up to Etsuko, regardless of their blatant corporate plagiarism.

Did I forget to mention that they have a Maneki Neko with a wagging paw at the beautifully decorated counter? Not that I'm swayed...

tags: [ culture ] [ vegetarian ]
post 22 on Sunday 22nd April 2007 at 20:47

Riverside Pizza, Previously

"How long mate?"
"Wizhin dhze hour"

Knock at the door
"ello"
"Zats ninepound eighty plize" [sighs]
Hands over ten pounds
"Don’t worry about the change"
Keeps on foraging for change
"Keep the change"
"Oh sorry bizy nayt you know?"

Yeah I know. I’ve been kept waiting by you for ONE HOUR and ten minutes and I've been waiting for you to fuck on with your change unnecessarily for the last two of those minutes.

When you say wizhin dhze hour, you should be within the hour, my man!

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ domestics ] [ south bank ]
post 23 on Monday 23rd April 2007 at 16:36

Life In Slaggy

Dorman Long, last seen chucking out effluent from a chimney near you...Betwixt hell and high water
Is a town named South Bank
Can’t count on a local
Whose outlook is rank
Bum blatant he may
With no job to fill
Spending all day
In William Hill
On Fridays comes market
And the yokels will shout
"Get us some bait"
From "Eat Your Heart's's Out"

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ poems ] [ south bank ]
post 24 on Wednesday 25th April 2007 at 10:20

Student Vis Awards

University of Teesside Student Vis AwardsHoo and ray! The Student Vis Awards site (as designed by Halcyonelle) actually went live two days ago, and I never posted a shameless self-promoting link amongst my various belles-lettres. What was I thinking?

tags: [ career ] [ university of teesside ] [ web site design ]
post 25 on Wednesday 25th April 2007 at 19:58

Letter Of Intent

Getting on, meI Helen C Davies, intend not to leave my only-three-weeks-to-go database systems assignment, with a hand-in date of 16th May 2006, a day longer, and I Helen C Davies, pledge to try my hardest not to be a student that would rather be at her paid job. I would also like to state that I am hereby registering my intent to allow myself freedom from black eye bags and waking up thinking about UML.

tags: [ career ] [ university of teesside ]
post 26 on Tuesday 8th May 2007 at 17:48

The House Life Doctor

Watch out, they sometimes hunt in packs!I saw my old boss today in ASDF. For the benefit of the uninformed I will allow myself the pleasure of bringing you up to speed on my last job before starting work with National.

I worked in telesales for a local building and glazing firm qualifying sales leads for shoddy salesmen who would visit the customer’s home with a view to supplying extraneous Double Glazing Units. I must mention now that I felt a definite sense of divided loyalties in this job: should I fulfil the criteria of a good telesales person, closing leads through furnishing misinformation, or do I commit to a strange sense of obligation to mankind (not to mention the old ladies) by not allowing the wool to be pulled over their eyes; and let the salesmen do their worst once they were on the property?

Anyhoo, I was working through a database of about 6000 customer contacts whilst simultaneously trying to ignore the dwindling number of available customers that I could actually call to qualify. Then one day, not so far from me reaching the end of the records on file, and with the promise of street selling looming, the boss called me on the ‘phone an hour before I was due to work. He said "We're very sorry Helen (and the intonation of his voice was really grating my tits at this point) but we're going to have to let you go [like I was foaming at the mouth to lose my £7 an hour job!]". This was backed up by a short and to-the-point letter the very next morning (so they'd been planning it?) and thus I was cast onto the cold, hard streets of unemployment (although my student status rendered me one above totally redundant!) And lo! Hot on heels of the jobs hub of the North East, the University of Teesside Students' Union web site, trawling endless bar jobs to find something remotely suitable, I came across a job for a web developer at up to £8 an hour.

Look how I witter? Back to Gary! ... I stood in the queue contemplating the lentils or the red kidney beans and I never noticed he was in front of me. My feeling is that he, for his sins, had tried to remain inconspicuous in order to avoid my attention, cowering behind his copy of The Sun like a shameful schoolboy. Clearly, he believed himself to have committed some wrongdoing in my eyes? For when we finally made eye contact after all these months, and his vacant fish-like stare met with my wide-eyed surprise and luscious enjoyment at seeing him squirm, he couldn't possibly have known that losing my job with The House Doctor was the best thing that happened to me. In fact it's safe to say it brought about some things in my life that go beyond my comprehension of the happiness possible from "a job".

So thank you, Gary. For everything. For bringing me a routine, a chance to make mistakes and learn from it, extra money, friends, happiness and love!

tags: [ career ] [ rants ]
post 28 on Thursday 10th May 2007 at 16:55

Missing Richie

Richie HawtinI miss you Richie Hawtin. Because of you, every day for the last two years I've had the acid of a 303 burning through my speakers. I'd been waiting to be with you. And I wish so I could have stayed on form in The Mint Club, but the Red Bull I Consumed to bring me Closer only worked to put me in a Koma, hands cramped and brain collapsed. You were too much for me, I am sorry.

After the trauma, I couldn't listen to you anymore. I had to Rekall you from my player. I'm over it now; you know you're still in my top twenty yes? One day we will meet.

Until such time, I remain a devoted Krakpot.

Your Loving Spaz,
Halcyonelle

tags: [ electronic music ] [ plastikman ]
post 29 on Wednesday 16th May 2007 at 17:30

Mamma's Got A Brand New Tablet

Ray Mallon drawn with the mouseRay Mallon drawn with the stylus and tabletBought myself a new drawing tablet today. Can you guess who it is yet? Ray Mallon of course! Now just how did Middlesbrough’s favourite elected Mayor get to be on mtjt again? Can you see how the first image more accurately represents his growling, licking-piss-off-a-thistle countenance, even with Flash’s lack of pressure sensitivity support? The tablet was only £20. Which is just as well - I have a zero tolerance approach to spending money on hardware. :)

tags: [ online ] [ ray mallon ]
post 30 on Thursday 17th May 2007 at 09:50

Rise Of The Mumnet

Sisters are logging on for themselvesI have just read on the BBC that young women now outnumber their male counterparts online. They’ll be spending an estimated $22.1bn on the interweb in 2007 - no doubt on utter tat (for evidence of this please see below). Women also now account for 38% of online gamers.

But this doesn’t reflect a seismic shift in women becoming more capable or tech-savvy, nor even does it have anything to do with women, men or gender. It’s to do with the web becoming more accessible, more advertised, more promoted; and is part of rise of the culture of the web. Every body with a face has a web site and women are still only into babies and handbags. I bet the games women play online help them grow, suckle and rear cyber babies.

But the difference between women and men, in real life and online, is that women are more comfortable with social networking. We gossip over coffee. We idle away hours wondering what everyone else is up to. And now we add unknowns to our "friend list" with the hope of idle chit-chat. And with the rise of Web 2.0 applications, such as Facebook, this is easily done online. Meanwhile, the men are frantically searching for women with which to engage themselves in cyber sex.

I’m starting to realise the web world is not much different to the real world. And while it used to be the domain of the technically adept, it’s fast becoming a corporate breeding ground in which greedy ethics naturally entice a full societal spectrum. And so now the masses have been admitted. The women want babies, the men want sex. As above, so below. Everybody's happy.

Top Sites For Women Age 18-34 (BBC)

tags: [ culture ] [ domestics ] [ feminist rants ] [ online ]
post 31 on Friday 18th May 2007 at 07:59

Monolake

Digitalis - a plant *and* a Monolake track

The minimal techno of Berlin-based Robert Henke and Torsten "T++" Pröfrock has been a tremendous help in getting me through my second year of University. Throw in some of their tech-dub style and you have yourself a pleasant listening experience that totally reflects its moniker in sound; although their name was actually derived from the Mono Lake, an alkaline and hypersaline lake in California's Eastern Sierra.

I first heard Monolake in 2002 when Gerhard Behles was part of the art. Discontented with merely delighting us with his own music however, Behles for now is concentrating on Ableton software - helping others create good stuff too – by writing software that allows the generation of electronic music without the need for traditional midi input. Why are German people always so efficient? The song was called Bicom. I thought it sounded so serene, and yet it was dub techno. How could this be?

Well, Robert Henke also builds his own hardware - the Monodeck is a customised midi-controller with a difference; performing mixer, effect, and instrument functions all-in-one. It also has flashing LEDs, which gets my vote any day! They used a Roland Juno 6 and Yamaha sy 77 synths up until 2003/2004. As a teenager, Henke saved up all his pocket money to buy the Juno, after he'd bought the obligatory Jean Michel Jarre records of course. It's no wonder their music sounds unlike anything else. Not content with the standard; they improvise, creating perfect form out of both order and chaos. The man clearly sees the beauty in the unusually beautiful:

 Techno. Music of the future. Invented in the last millennium to stay forever. An idea which has been brought to this world cannot be undone. I see no revolution coming up and I do not need one. I believe more in evolution. The well tempered piano was invented and it took 200 years to play jazz on it. In 200 years from now people will still dance to a more or less steady rhythmical pulse and they will still enjoy harmonics, sound and melody. The computer will be so normal in every aspect of life including the creation of music that no one would even think of mention it. Probably there will be intelligent algorithms for the creation of background sound. 

Henke's recipe for tasty Monolake? He doesn't know what makes a Monolake track taste so good even if he tries to describe it. He generalises with space, time, continuous change, colour, and rhythm, and cooks them down, leaving the usual ingredients such as song, melody, and chord progression on the side of the plate. The result? A feast of pure electronic pleasure.

Listen to Monolake on Last.fm

tags: [ electronic music ] [ monolake ]
post 32 on Saturday 19th May 2007 at 20:42

Fw: Never Argue With A Woman...

Statue of a woman readingOne morning the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and reads her book.

Along comes a Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, "Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?"

"Reading a book," she replies, (thinking, "Isn't that obvious?")
"You're in a Restricted Fishing Area," he informs her.
"I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading."
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."
"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault," says the woman.
"But I haven't even touched you," says the game warden.
"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment."
"Have a nice day ma'am," and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think.

tags: [ feminist rants ] [ jokes ]
post 33 on Sunday 20th May 2007 at 21:51

Cloud Gazing

Preston ParkStare at the clouds
Let slip like a glove
Share your bad feelings
With puffed air above
And also with someone
Someone you love
Rains comes tomorrow
Today there is sun
Who’d have known cloud gazing
Could be so much fun?

tags: [ poems ]
post 34 on Monday 28th May 2007 at 08:49

Bleach Baby

Chromatic AbstractionI’m making some magic. Specifically a moisturising face-oil comprising a sweet almond base, and a synergistic blend of two of my favourite essential oils: Geranium and petitgrain. Now here’s something interesting. The chemical components of petitgrain oil are geraniol, linalool, nerol, y-terpineol, geranyl acetate, linalyl acetate, myrcene, neryl acetate and trans-ocimene. If you saw those in a toilet cleaner, would you be surprised? These extracts are used extensively throughout the chemical and perfumery industries. Meanwhile we’re trained up with a need to buy crap, harmful products from big companies; just because it somehow fuses what we want with how we achieve it, without our having to think. It’s like someone handing you a decision on a piece of paper. It’s the same with food. How many times have you come away from the supermarket with a jar of tomato pasta sauce, when you have some olive oil, fresh tomatoes, garlic, and basil in your stores? We could have made a fresh pasta sauce our self, but we wanted the machine to channel us; we’re used to the machine channelling us!

The benefits to not using company bought chemicals? Fresh essential oils help to balance the mind and emotions, while stimulating the adrenal cortex/lymphatic system and balancing the hormonal system. For skin, the production of sebum is balanced, and the speed of wound healing is increased. Used correctly, essential oils are generally non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing - despite their potency!

Are the companies gonna tell you that in their adverts? Are they going to tell you what they add and take away from the raw ingredients the world was bestowed with?

But you must take what I say with a pinch of salt. I too, of course, have a few bottles of the bad stuff in my house. The training was good no? Even those who know the difference often have lapses of magpie-ism and laziness. And I figure I do my bit in the great scheme of things. But I won’t rest on my laurels. I will keep trying to find better alternatives to buying from chemical companies; alternatives that fit with my status as a cheap skate and part-time chemical chef. And like I've said before; convenience food is as much about not making a decision as it is about not cooking.

So I’ll keep cleaning my face with the free bleach I was given by my brother’s boss, then. ;)

tags: [ domestics ] [ products ]
post 35 on Friday 8th June 2007 at 11:31

How The Boro Got Its Mayor

How the Boro got its MayorFurther to a perhaps obsessive interest in Ray Mallon, Mayor of Middlesbrough; and partly triggered by a speech I received from Ray in my first year at Uni, I have created this short animation, which offers an alternative scenario to Middlesbrough’s first man’s arrival in this world. I was given a very loose brief for a 30 second web-based animation from my lecturer. Perhaps dangerously loose.

May I also take this opportunity to thank my kind boys who supplied support, voices, tea and audio editing - cheers sweeties! You are AMAZING!

tags: [ animation ] [ boro ] [ culture ] [ jokes ] [ online ] [ ray mallon ] [ university of teesside ]
post 36 on Friday 15th June 2007 at 12:31

Design? No Accident

Robert FrostDesign
by Robert Frost

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

tags: [ poems ]
post 37 on Sunday 24th June 2007 at 07:33

Do (Google) Machines Like Flowers?

Mahalo is Hawaiian for thank you...and it likes flowers...For the last six months or so, Google's dominance has had me worried. Just recently, Google has left me feeling like there must be something else. Anyone who has ever done even the smallest amount of search engine optimisation, submission, or following, will surely know how important it is that Google is appeased. But can you send Google a bunch of flowers and hope it takes kindly to you?

No - the machine is too big for that. And machines don't like flowers.

And that's what it is - a dirty great big shed-load of code, algorithms, and other machine-based fluff. The machine has the final say.

In 2001, when the internet was still in nappies, and search engines must surely have been the simplest of creatures, I remember thinking "so where's the front door to all this access?" Resultantly, Google has surely has been my front door since a friend introduced us way back then.

And since then, well, their interminable market dominance and the reliability of their search has had me coming back for more for six years. They have the clever search tech, they have Page Ranking, and they have Link Popularity. They no doubt have millions of search algorithm nuances to understand the content of the web.

But Google is like the supermarket of web search. It has thousands of products on its shelves. All are neatly put away and labelled. It is mass production; machine generated, and leaves me craving the taste of something human! I want the shopkeeper to point me to the product he himself tried last week and thought I would enjoy! The shopkeeper knows I don't like sifting through buckets of spam and adverts. You can't fool the shopkeeper with black hat SEO tricks.

Enter human based search: "editorialised searching" where human editors get the final say! Craving something else? Try mahalo.com, the world's first human-powered search. What with the trend for social networking and user provided content, it's a good business model on which to base a new search engine. Searches have guides, discussions, and a shed load of cool stuff. Try it!

What will Google do, then? Will the big machine-dog be fast enough to roll out out a human powered search? "I don’t think we’re ideologically bound to only computers, only algorithms" they say. I'd say they're pretty much bound to computers wouldn't you?? Their aim of categorising the entire web prevents them from making their searches human-powered in any hurry: their own success prevents it. Maybe I am wrong. We will see. :) But hooray for humans!

tags: [ online ] [ search engines ]
post 38 on Wednesday 27th June 2007 at 21:34

The MySpace Facebook Divide: Class, Corporation, Or Vibe?

YOU decide!For a few weeks I've been thinking about how MySpace and Facebook differ. Last night I made a text file that outlined a post speculating how MySpace and Facebook demonstrate a definite class divide, and then my boyfriend came home and said "did you see the news about Facebook and MySpace" I said "no!", "don’t tell me it was about a class divide?" he replied, "kinda, yeah!". But I have refused to let that stop me from writing my thoughts on the matter.

So, to those ubiquitous social networking sites which have become such an integral part of our lives. How do they differ logistically? Where do their origins lie? And how different are the people that use them? How are they divided and how are they united?

Obviously you can do very similar things with both sites: you maintain a list of friends and contacts; and have a host of features that facilitate and enrich contact and communication with those friends: such as groups, file sharing, blogs, video, comments, etc. Technically, the layout, and design, and especially the control over your page, are different. But above all these two omnipotent forces just feel different. Maybe it’s a vibe thing? A different crowd? If you could put them in little groups, Facebookers would be the educated elite of future professionals; and MySpacers the rowdy but easy-going kids from the high school down the road. Some users (actually, a lot), of course, do not belong to such blatant and vulgar stereotypes. Take me for instance; I was not educated at a public school, instead my impoverished family shooed me off to the nearest high school (which just so happened to be eight miles away). I do however have an education and that’s how I came about Facebook about a year ago. I joined MySpace far later, although I was aware of its presence for some time before I finally enrolled myself.

I believe the difference in the two sites comes down to the networks within the networks. Historically, potential Facebookers needed to supply a valid University email address. Now? "Everyone can join", that's true. But Facebook is far more a closed network. And especially so because profile’s hinge off networks within Facebook: for instance, my network is Newcastle, so only people within the Newcastle network can see my profile. I’m also in the Teesside Uni network; they can see my profile too. Anyone else has to make a friend request before they can see the unabridged content of my page. Contrastingly, anyone can view anyone's profile on MySpace. People don’t belong to predetermined networks. The scope for faraway friends is far greater; yet you feel miles away from those close to you.

As for customisation you can do as you will with your MySpace page, but you must first learn how to do it – and they don’t make it easy. You can develop applications for Facebook, but it must be through the correct channels. With this have come teething problems, but at the same time, entire sub-communities have been born thence just for Facebook developers. This concept of fraternity is not as prevalent on MySpace. Here it seems each man for him self as entrepreneurs vie for your space as much as bone-fide friends.

Facebook was started for student academe by Mark Zuckerman, but his Facebook idea was very well developed at version two before it became the Facebook we know and love. Incidentally, it originally got him kicked out of school. Schools in China had been using BBS for years before Facebook appeared. But Facebook took the BBS model and expanded it; allowing a far greater range of community driven activity and expression. It originally restricted to members with a college or university email address: so its roots clearly lie with the educated. Even the name Facebook refers to a publication in US colleges that’s distributed at the start of the academic year by administrations to help the kids get to know one another better. What a charming idea!

MySpace was founded by two people long out of University as a totally commercial venture and is now owned by corporate giants Fox.

Now I wondered the other day what will happen to poor old Friends Reunited? They must surely have reached total user saturation. I’ve seen profiles unchanged and users not logging in for three years or more. Feel pity for them: they were at the right place at the right time, but there was no infrastructure there. The networking was all wrong. And they certainly didn’t have any new fangled web 2.0 technology.

As I sit here typing, I’m getting the feeling that both sites are destined for either corporate sell out, or bored-user burn out. Everyone wants a piece of the social networking phenomena and I know deep down that their corporate longevity will be curtailed.

What I do see sticking however are the sites that offer first and foremost an industry or an interest, such as video or music: take YouTube and last.fm. They too have a large base of (far quieter) users, who are concentrating on their art at the same time as having fun and networking. So while MySpace increase their content (as seen in their new video television service), YouTube are broadening their social networking tools. Convergence I hear you cry? Perhaps. In any case, watch out for greater video support on MySpace and improved user tools on YouTube.

So we know how different the sites are, we know how their users differ, and we know what ideas stick with popularity, despite hype. But where will all this end?

All it says to me is that the web will one day mirror society in its social infrastructure. Oh, and when it gets to that point, people might realise that real life is better, and go to the pub instead.

tags: [ online ] [ social networking ]
post 39 on Saturday 30th June 2007 at 12:45

W00t!

TechnoratiI'm making this Post Claim for Technorati by posting yon Technorati link on tut' mjtj web site. Want to see my Technorati Profile?

tags: [ woot ]
post 40 on Sunday 1st July 2007 at 21:31

Choose Life, Choose Tabs

Some men, enjoying a tab, in the fiftiesI don't know about you, but I have one of those personalities that will try to oppose any rule put before me when that rule is something that my own logic and freewill are capable of making an informed decision on. We all like to have choices don’t we?

Well, Mr. Government, whoever you are, I hope you’re listening, because some of us didn’t like smoking in public places anyway, and chose not to. Many of us didn't appreciate a lungful of second-hand smoke to go with our mouthful of soup-du-jour at the restaurant, so naturally curbed our desire to smoke: both for the benefit of the immediate environment, and the heightening of our own senses.

Imagine my delight at learning I can no longer have a cigarette in a public place. Now I shall revel in not doing what I never did, and knowing it was my choice and nothing to do with some stupid law.

Over the last week I’ve been chatting to fellow smokers and been horrified to discover that nearly all of them now intend to give up smoking for good because of the smoking ban. Shocking! Yes, I know it is for the best, but surely this choice is best taken for one’s own benefit?

I really felt for my smoker comrades on learning of the ban: personally, I favour a no-smoking environment and only smoke in public where my roll-up won't make much difference. But people smoke publicly and unashamedly in most parts of the North East and will surely miss having a good tab; although anybody with any sense gave up years ago. And those of us with an emotional attachment to smoking ... well ...

Why is it that the interfering government have to try to control everything we do by slapping a ban on it instead of looking at the broader picture? Maybe a ban has been necessary with the case of smoking – it’s the only way. But we should have the right to choose what is right or wrong for us, and whether or not to affect other people in this choosing. Or Labour thinks everybody in this country needs forcing and not educating. I suspect their education is lacking: the shocking but highly entertaining "don’t smoke" adverts didn’t take us any further to realising the error of our ways then? Or was that merely a pre-emptive measure - a forewarning?

I know it's one solution, and I am somewhat on my high horse, but it makes me angry to have choice taken away.

So go on, blacken your lungs and have a tab today, in the comfort of your own home, before they’re outlawed totally. At least we still have that option.

tags: [ culture ] [ rants ] [ tobac ]
post 41 on Saturday 4th August 2007 at 02:27

Crimes Against Normality

A youthOK so you've probably heard by now some of the sagas connected to the criminal damage that's been too regular a feature in my life over the last 9 months.

When I first moved to South Bank, I couldn't quite understand what the fuss was about. Criminal damage? Surely if you had an alarm on the house, an adequate insurance package, and the right attitude towards keeping the locals happy, everything would be OK?

I clearly just didn't get it.

These aren't hardened criminals looking for heists on Grannies Wedgwood figurines, nor are they in any way associated with some romanticised idea of bygone robberies – bags of swag and harmless goons and all that.

No, these are obnoxious and wicked kids; a group of young lads no older than 18, who maraud the streets of South Bank in the small hours with a mélange of weaponry including knives, chains, and bricks.

It started off with the breaking of the rear passenger window of my trusty Ford Mondy. I came down one morning to find it had been smashed through, yet amazingly, not a thing had been taken from the inside (which incidentally contained the CD player which I'd forgotten to unhide from the glove box, and a good fifty CDs). Although a relatively harmless incident, I think this first time perhaps felt the worst for me, as I gained the realisation that I was no longer living within a crime-free bubble. It hit me quite hard, but I tried to make sense of it by stashing it away in my brain under "one-off incidents".

To err on the side of caution, I was now sure to lock the car away every evening. But even locking it in the alley every night wasn't enough to protect it from my local friendly hooligans: no – they somehow managed to manoeuvre their red house bricks over the 8ft alley gate to land beautifully and gracefully upon my rear windscreen, rendering it down to the shards and cubes that would later become wedged in my backside.

On a third occasion, my front windscreen was broken too.

Then the abuse on the house started, and I waved goodbye to any sense of security, whilst desperately trying to figure out how I could raise the £200+ needed to repair the window. Luckily, a friend of 13 Oak was able to help, and the whole debacle cost just pounds to straighten out.

But now, as I sit here protecting what is left of my belongings; with two broken bay windows and three slashed tyres, I start to see the severity of the situation. Not only do I lose a days pay, hours of sleep, and quality time with my fella; I also have lost my peace of mind. Because I can’t explain why four or five youths would target my house, break the windows, and slash my car tyres at 1.30am, and be seen on the horizon; brandishing a blow torch in my general direction. What makes me stand out amongst my neighbours?

I certainly have things they don’t have: I have a car, I have a job: two very normal things, in a normal society. I have a way out of here. They are stuck here indefinitely.

And so I sit here at 2.00am, sipping coffee to keep myself awake, jumping at every noise, and unable to get into my own bed to sleep for fear of being attacked. I can't use my car. I can’t get to my job. And what have they gained? Do they feel happier for stripping me of my ability to keep moving forward? I doubt it.

But maybe this is the push I need, to help me move forward, to make me see I am different and that it's better that way. I don't belong here, sad to say. It's not a crime to be normal.

So Monday I pay a visit to the Citizen's Advice Bureaux. I find out how I can get out of here, and I go. So you see, young thugs, you're actually doing me a favour. Bet even your own Mums' didn’t think you would be so helpful. Cheers lads.

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ boro ] [ class divide ] [ crime ] [ rants ] [ south bank ]
post 42 on Tuesday 14th August 2007 at 19:09

Rapex – Are You Old Enough To Bleed?

A new anti-rape device dubbed "vengeful" and "disgusting" will be released onto shelves in South Africa in the coming month.

The device looks a lot like the female condom Femidom – differing only in its inclusion of sharp teeth, worn internally with the intention to lacerate and maim anything that may enter its razor-lined jaws.

Whilst I agree with Rapex (I feel bad even typing that word) in principle – the reality of such a device reeks of brutal DIY barbarism. It reminds me of Tony Martin of Bleak House fame shooting down that sixteen year old Fred Barras lad on the pretext "if you're where you shouldn't be, expect what you don't want". Deciphering just how a rapist is supposed to tell whether or not his victim may or may not be wearing the "Rapex" device is unfathomable.

But you'd expect the lady to walk carefully whilst harbouring a small barber’s kit in her lettuce leaves.

But, he shouldn’t be there in the first place, should he? What happens if it’s a young lad of sixteen, goes by the name of "Frid", say, who knows know better?

Ah I give up. Ladies and gents, I present to you: Rapex – now men can be old enough to bleed, old enough to butcher, too.

tags: [ feminist rants ] [ products ] [ rants ]
post 43 on Friday 17th August 2007 at 12:44

baby@home

Not the real Baby @Frustrated with a limited range of surnames, a Chinese couple have turned to the internet @ symbol to name their child.

Charmingly, it turns out that our English word "at" sounds just like the Chinese phrase "love him": the father is cited on Washington Post web site, "the whole world uses it to write e-mails and translated into Chinese it means 'love him'".

Wonder what it would mean if the child were a girl? Oh if only I could be bothered to look that up. This might have been doubly interesting a post.

Anyway, the parents of baby "@" are not alone; with only 129 unique surnames distributed through 87% of all surnames; this last year alone, Chinese officials examined 60 million Chinese names containing unfamiliar characters.

So it would seem Chinese people are getting bored and giving their kids a first name to remember them by. Maybe we should send our own answers on a postcard to the Chinese authorities?

If it’s modern and original they want:
ASCII – because Americans have standards too.
Beta – a great name for your second born child.
Popfly – don’t know why, but it sounds cute.

Got your own great idea? Email it!

tags: [ culture ] [ online ]
post 44 on Monday 3rd September 2007 at 07:55

How To Get Rid Of Internet Advertising

Wipe the page cleanThe first ever piece of software to effectively "wipe clean" advertisements from web pages is rapidly gaining popularity. It sounds great, with the only downside being that the product is only available free of charge to Firefox users (IE7 users have to pay – and aren’t guaranteed equal effectiveness).

I’m actually spluttering into my cup of tea over this news. What about the foretold recent online advertising boom, and the consumer interest in interaction with online advertising? The sticky, viral, user-driven advertising that the web does so well, that an entire business model had been built upon, where big companies are falling over themselves to pour money into the online advertising revenue pot?

Will this saviour of web user sanity be able to differentiate between the adverts we enjoy to interact with, and the irritating, and oft times flashing, 2 bit advertisements of old?

With the boundaries between advertisement and entertaining interaction becoming increasingly blurred, let's hope so – lest millions of browsing folks miss out on a full spectrum of web offerings.

This does follow the lead of other web censoring methods so it's certainly not the first time online marketeers have been curtailed: just look at how common spam filters, net nannies, and the ubiquitous pop up blocker are for everybody nowadays. And the software does slide into the unwritten web rule of antagonist-protagonist where it comes to standards. You know, you’re in one camp or the other: Microsoft or GNU, Internet Explorer or Firefox, that kind of thing.

Regardless, it would seem the big daddies of the webnet are for now ignoring what could clearly start a potential phenomenon, and end with them rocking in the corner, sucking their thumbs over lost dollars. With 2.5 million users of Adblock Plus worldwide, it’s not popular enough for Google, Microsoft, et al, to sit up and listen.

So maybe we’d better get using it then.

adblockplus.org

tags: [ advertising ] [ online ]
post 45 on Sunday 9th September 2007 at 09:40

Pop Goes The Weasel

Get yer gas mask!The concept of creating an offensive term by mixing a potentially health-threatening substance or food product with the part it affects has always amused me. Childishly, I do happen to find beer-belly, lard-arse and fish-breath amusing. I could even raise a titter for something a little rarer: but popcorn-lung?

Yes you read the correctly – but only in America. It turns out that the microwave version of this presumed-friendly Friday night staple contains a chemical dangerous enough to warrant the alert of US factory workers who handle it over concerns that it may cause cancer.

Some microwave popcorn contains butter flavouring, Diacetyl, a naturally occurring substance found in products such as milk, cheese, butter, and others. So why is this causing a problem? Well, factory workers have the safety net of protective armour to shield from the ravages of working in a place that makes food (gah!).

However, the case that has caused people to talk involves a consumer at home.

Unprotected, and undoubtedly addicted to microwave popcorn; suffering all the symptoms of popcorn-lung – his case is now serving to highlight the dangers for us all.

Blame the microwave I say. Who are we to complain about cancer-causing food additives when we use the nuke power of fifty million gamma rays to heat food as a matter of course?

But what sort of food is one that, when heated, gives off vapour potent enough to cause the mutation of cells in the lungs when inhaled, anyway? Alright, the dude is obviously sat watching the bowl turn, drooling down his big old pants, totally unaware of the danger, and thinking only of losing himself in mindless oblivion in front of the goggle box some time in the next 20 seconds.

When is the US government going to realise you can't approve a food additive just because you're golf buddies with the CEO of the company that manufacturers it?

It reminds me of the Aspartame scare of a few years back. I can just imagine Ronald Reagan on the fifth hole with Mr. Monsanto, nodding his head and smiling in compliance and joviality, the words "sure you can have a licence, we could all use a little extra sweetness huh?" stumbling off his uneducated tongue.

So there we have it. Another "food" to avoid and another idiot consumer taught a harsh lesson.

tags: [ domestics ] [ food safety ] [ rants ]
post 46 on Friday 21st September 2007 at 21:24

Nectar: Trick Or Treat?

Nectar, they play treek!Be wary, sweet loyalty card investors, of Nectar’s recent ploy to coalesce with consumers through its recent misleading, but wonderfully inventive, promise of a free gift.

Tonight, I came home weary from work, thumped down into the seat at my desk, and saw there a bright shiny package from Nectar. Kicking off my shoes, and thinking the evening was about to get perhaps a single percentile more interesting, I hurriedly tore open the letter to be presented with not only a new card, but the promise of a free gift – just for being me!

Leafing through the glossy treat brochure they’d helpfully enclosed served to heighten my sense of urgency for the kind of gratification only the words "free" and "gift" can satisfy. So my fingers eagerly scurried the required five centimetres from the shredded envelope to the keyboard, where I typed in www.nectar.com/treatme.

The brightly coloured site presented me with a range of "adventure" activities and "treat" activities, and I plumped for the latter (yes - I'd like a treat), clicking on the cucumber-eyed woman, who lead me to the free facial page: "fill in the claim form" the site persuaded – "we'll do our best to send you the treat you ask for, but if it's unavailable we'll send you an alternative that we're sure you'll enjoy!"

Alarm bells are already ringing. But I leave the form in the safe storage of the web site, thinking that perhaps it will be tomorrow now before a representative will spend some time hunting down a nice spa or beauty parlour just for me.

Suspiciously soon, I receive an email. Surely Nectar’s representatives didn’t find me a salon this quickly?

"We're very sorry but we've been unable to offer you your chosen treat. Don't worry, we thought you might like this one instead!"

Let me clarify. I asked for a free facial or, as a second choice, a free Reiki session: and I actually ended up with "Killhope Lead Mining Museum" in County Durham. The name says it all. I think this is perhaps the most devious marketing scheme I’ve ever come across.

Credit though to Loyalty Management UK Limited, the promoters of this scheme - as I bet this really works for Nectar in getting rid of all of those free venue tickets for places nobody cares to visit, whilst simultaneously increasing their exposure and their "oh that’s nice of them" factor.

As someone who takes perhaps an unhealthy over-interest in advertising and marketing practices, I am probably overly suspicious. But with no contact link anywhere to be found on the entire site, what’s a girl to think?

Call me bitter, but I’m thinking Nectar doesn’t taste as sweet after all.

PS: If I do take them up on the free trip offer, I can't wait to see what the "Jigger House" is all about.

tags: [ advertising ] [ domestics ] [ nectar ] [ online ] [ rants ]
post 47 on Thursday 18th October 2007 at 11:05

Making Life Seem Greener?

Making life seem greener?So grandparents' favourite Sainsbury's want to buck up their green cred and be seen as an environmentally conscious retailer, enlisting fish-lipped TV gastro-arse Jamie Oliver in a new television campaign; their MARKETING director crying piteously, "we've been too humble".

You'd think all the do-gooding, Daily Mail reading morons would have tugged on JS's coat tails and lamented "why are you not offering green loyalty points?"

Well maybe these customers are clever enough to already know Sainsbury's is doing *so much* for the environment (guffaw), and are sensible enough not to make a fuss about it? Or maybe the truth - more likely, they, like most sensible people, realise that green loyalty points don't make a flying fuck's worth of difference.

Perhaps they ponder "surely it's the plastic they drive into landfill every year, rotting our earth from its delicate core" or "the fuel miles clocked up shipping carrots from the Netherlands because they're cheaper than carrots from the UK".

One thing's for sure - it's a stupid consumerist society where marketing executives are the new politicians. And I'm not buying it.

tags: [ advertising ] [ domestics ] [ food safety ] [ rants ] [ sainsburys ]
post 48 on Friday 28th December 2007 at 20:57

Returning to the Einstein Argument

LOL!Me and my better half have been wiling away the afternoon debating Albert Einstein's alleged vegetarianism. After a small amount of Googling, it transpires that the hairy-chopped genius was in fact vegetarian but, disappointingly, only for the final year of his revered life; although for many years he advocated a vegetarian diet:
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." and "it is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."

I wonder if the human temperament gains such benefits from goodies like fake sausage rolls, and jelly beans; anyhow, my general theory (which is shared by many others), is that if we all ate foods that were grown and sold in our own vicinity we'd do OK, and there'd be far fewer starving babies. That includes meat: it would be far more acceptable if cows, pigs, and hens, were killed by your local butcher, some place within walking distance of your spit roaster. But I'm not going to grab the Duraglit to polish my halo just yet: lots of vegetarian foods are mass produced; take Soya for instance (one shudders to imagine the amount of poor field mice killed during the harvesting of Soya, which is enjoyed by vegetarians and carnivores alike). But, meat just happens to be one of the food products that suffer the greatest volume of mass production, especially with McShitbags et al. I'm not even going to start on the rainforests.

To put the record straight once and for all, the reason I went vegetarian boils down to not enjoying meat enough to warrant killing animals and bestowing the entire world with the ensuing consequences. For all the outcomes of vegetarianism: less environmental strain, reduced animal cruelty, less food miles, better health, no starving babies, etc, it was also a healthy dose of the ideas presented by this image, which sums it up perfectly.

PS, Was Einstein Vegetarian? and Was Hitler Vegetarian? may satisfy any faintly lingering curiosity.

tags: [ domestics ] [ einstein ] [ fake meat ] [ rants ] [ vegetarian ]