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Simply Gum: Hipster organic artisanal gum via a kickstarter.

2014-04-15 by cms in links

ANS: Once upon a time, Apple used to ship some fairly funky, fairly chunky AIX boxes.

2014-04-02 by cms in computers, history, links

Serapeum: is a conservative library of Common Lisp utilities. It is a supplement, not a competitor, to Alexandria.

2014-03-31 by cms in computers, links, programming

30 Years On: BBC News has a nice summary commemorating the closure of Chatham Dockyards

2014-03-31 by cms in history, links

Bup: A highly efficient file backup system based on the git packfile format

2014-03-30 by cms in computers, links

Numbers Are Important: What Heidi Roizen learned from negotiating with Steve Jobs

2014-03-29 by cms in links

"…a decent society…"

There’s been a little flurry of le Carré activity in the British press this week, following on from release of MI5 archive files that indicate that an MI5 agent, known as Jack King ran a network of UK nazi collaborators during WWII. Highly fortunate timing for the British spooking establishment to garner some positive press, some might say. The last couple of months the news reports about them have mostly been about illegal mass surveillance techniques attempting to record and analyze all internet traffic at source, and creepy write ups of mass automated collation of private video chats. Some of them intended to be particularly private, no doubt.

Journalists had a bit of fun trying to retrospectively finger the real Jack King. The Telegraph decided King was probably John Bingham, Lord Clanmorris, whose name is usually mentioned in passing in press stories about ‘le Carré’, itself a pen-name for David Cornwell, who often mentions that Bingham is one of the component inspirations behind his super-famous fictional master spycatcher, George Smiley. The Telegraph also span off an article about Bingham’s sense of disapproval of his protégé's literary exploits. Mr Cornwell, writing under his given name, sent in a marvellously succinct letter by way of reply.

Bingham was of one generation, and I of another. Where Bingham believed that uncritical love of the Secret Services was synonymous with love of country, I came to believe that such love should be examined. And that, without such vigilance, our Secret Services could in certain circumstances become as much of a peril to our democracy as their supposed enemies.John Bingham may indeed have detested this notion. I equally detest the notion that our spies are uniformly immaculate, omniscient and beyond the vulgar criticism of those who not only pay for their existence, but on occasion are taken to war on the strength of concocted intelligence

Navigating around the little flurry of reportage about this little back and forth, I found this engrossing older Q&A with le Carré, from the Paris Review, held at the time of the US publication of “The Tailor Of Panama”, back in the late 1990s. It is a marvellous read, concerning the mechanics, circumstances and techniques of his fictional writing, and touches into politics. This quote leapt off the page at me.

My definition of a decent society is one that first of all takes care of its losers, and protects its weak.

Quite. He’s quite a writer, that Mr. le Carré. If all you know of his work are the mostly excellent TV and motion picture adaptations of his more famous works, you might do yourself a favour, and read a few of the source novels. They work best tackled in publication order.

posted Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 15:42 by cms in books, history, internet, privacy | No Comments »

DIY Mineral water: Like fancy mineral water? Why not clone it with a soda stream?

2014-03-08 by cms in cooking, links

Sound Sculpture Deconstruction

They actually did it! And amazingly enough, close to my old gaff, down in Bexhill-on-sea, home town of Q, and one of my favourite buildings, the De La Warr Pavilion. In my day, I chiefly associate the De La Warr with local dance and dog shows, ropey touring comics, and humdrum seasonal panto. It seems to have fully reinvented itself in recent years, as an contemporary arts centre after a face lift from the usual lottery funding raffle committee.

The story leading here; Ceramic artist Keith Harrison, as part of his residency in London’s V&A museum last spring, created a "an experimental sculptural sound system” out of a ceramic tile sculpture, and invited Napalm Death to play a high volume live set through it, potentially involving the destruction of the sculpture through sonic assault.

So far, so awesome… It sold out quickly, and then the museum curators suddenly came to their senses/got cold feet and chickened out, as they realised they were about to stage a grindcore gig at volumes deliberately intended to destroy sculptures in their museum full of fragile objet’s d’Art, many of which are kept in darkened chambers as they’re too fragile to expose to strong light.

Aboo. So, I felt slightly better about missing out on tickets, and forgot all about it. 

I subsequently discover with glee, they relocated it to the De La Warr in November, and completed the show without any particular mishaps to life or property. The installation/gig was called Bustleholme, which is the name of a degraded housing estate outside Birmingham. The sculptural components of the installation, through which the band’s amplified output was channelled, were ceramic tile structures loosely based on the dimensions of the estate. In the words of Keith Harrison…

The Bustleholme estate in West Bromwich was where I was born and lived until I was 8. Located in the Black Country, the heavy industrial centre of the Midlands, three tower blocks depicted overlooked the estate and their vivid blue and yellow ceramic tiles are one of my earliest memories. Despite the subsequent poor reputation of the blocks, at that time in the late sixties and early seventies they symbolised the optimism of a radical approach to social housing rising out of an urban landscape of motorways, canals, polluted rivers and railway lines.

The quote is taken from a short interview with the sculptor and band over at the vinyl factory where there is a fascinating short documentary film about the whole event. More of this kind of thing, please.

posted Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 10:30 by cms in art, music | No Comments »

Cast A Kitten: Nerts! This post on dead 1920s slang terms is postively Eel's Hips.

2014-02-05 by cms in history, links