Meandering in space

by Yule Heibel on September 26, 2006

Lost? I just logged on to my writely account, and found that the vast majority of my documents are gone… Very disappointing. It seems the service had some kind of massive consolidation / switch-over with email addresses, and in the process managed to lose lots of data. At least that’s what it looks like from here… [update: I was able to retrieve the missing documents by logging on (almost by fluke) to my old account and manually transferring them to my new account. I sent a message to writely that I consider the lack of guidance a flaw in usability interface, and had a message back from the service as well. Look, it’s a great service, and it’s free; but one does need good UI, otherwise people get …anxious.]
Luckily I do have most of it backed up in some other way, but probably not safely — most of it is backed up in some digital, web-based way. And if writely can lose all my stuff, who’s to say that gmail won’t do the same?

Jeepers, does this mean going back to the horrifyingly dull 1.0 method of backing documents up to CDs? How disappointing… [update: good grief, I installed Word on the machine. But I’m still using writely…]
I’m too busy to mess with stuff like that…


Really busy.

But with time enough to say that I recently came across the most amazing blog, We Make Money Not Art. Brilliant, thought-provoking stuff, as well as fun stuff. For example, this entry describes a recently developed umbrella (by Pileus) that takes photos (camera mounted on top of umbrella) and immediately uploads these pics to Flickr (“with some context tags,” it says — perhaps geotags?). There is a control in the handle’s grip that allows for browsing, and judging from the picture, it seems the photos are projected onto the inside of the umbrella…? Whoa, just be careful stepping off the curb…

Our drought continues as expected, but by November our rainy time will (I hope) be going full drizzle, and thinking of those short winter days with rain made this umbrella look very attractive…

Today, We Make Money Not Art pointed to a YouTube link for Hungarian commercials from the 80s. WTF, you say? Well, that was my reaction, too — but I haven’t actually had time to view any of them. So, this link is for Maria at alembic, who also is far too busy to waste time on Hungarian commercials from the 80s, but who might, if she does venture to click through on one, be able to tell me what it’s trying to sell us!

And from Swen’s Weblog (also found very much by chance), I learned that there’s a spyware free Real Player version available from the BBC, and that Swen has figured out how to download Real Audio Streams and convert Real Audio files to MP3 format.

When I have some time, I plan to follow his directions and learn how to do this, too. And then I might even find the time to listen to one or two…


maria September 26, 2006 at 10:27 pm

I looked at a couple of those commercials… what a riot! As if created by eager grad students in advertising, who want to make sure that their prof will see that they got the message. Over and over.

The selling one, for the shopping center said something along the lines of “I go in,” I come out,” “I go in, I come out, but when I go in how well I do come out…”

The commercial for the drink with all those wild Hungarians throwing the stuff down the hutch had lyrics that encouraged you to drink because all your daily troubles could go away when you grip the frosty glass….

The one about the sausages was truly inane. A bunch of lyrics that listed the panoply of sausages to be had, from blood to liver, and how they perfect in every season.

yulelog September 26, 2006 at 11:39 pm

In light of your swift reply, Maria, I felt compelled to click through to a couple of these commercials, of course!

The third one (“Kifut?”) is a riot, too: I swear the voiceover guy keeps saying “echt modern,” which is German for “really modern” or “authentically modern,” or simply: “cool.” That’s a riot, given the Germans’ reputation for Deutschmark-bought (now Euro-bought) status. Geez, if you have enough money, of course you can afford Jil Sander! (And if you can’t, it’s your own look-out, in true German “fashion”!)

I also like “Casco,” which I took to be about car insurance. …Reminded me of a car ride I took with a Hungarian boy from high school, albeit here in Victoria, BC back in the 70s. Ah…, wonder what ever happened to Gabor? Went off a cliff, no doubt…

Now: is it the ninth one that YouTube labels “OTF?”? That one has to be saying “one out of ____”, as in “one out of 10 Hungarians suffers from athlete’s foot” or something like that. The thing that’s funny here is that the guy in the trench coat bears an uncanny resemblance to John Cleese in the Monty Python sketch where he plays a Hungarian tourist fallen victim to a bogus Hungarian-English dictionary publication. According to the dictionary, “I want to fondle your buttocks” is rendered as the English translation of “I want to buy XXX [cigarettes or something].” Proof positive that one out of ten bloggers remembers a silly TV episode when watching a silly TV ad whose language they don’t understand…

yulelog September 26, 2006 at 11:49 pm

Speaking of TV… I let myself get sidetracked by one of the Hungarian commercials on the sidebar of the one I was watching (you know how YouTube sucks you in deeper and deeper, right?). Well, this one features a king who I swear is played by the same guy who plays “Mr. Hooter” (known for his connoisseur nose — he is a perfumier) on The Avengers’ episode How to Succeed (at Murder). The rallying call is “ruination to all men!”


Cavalor Epthith September 28, 2006 at 6:28 pm

We have a question that I think only you are qualified to answer and we would love to have your opinion. Are our modern cities, literally the planning and construction boom that has brought sprawl to every megalopolis creating a society more willing to change through violence?

Thank you pointing us to We Make Money Not Art, this stuff is fascinating!


Cavalor Epthith
The Dis Brimstone-Daily Pitchfork

yulelog September 28, 2006 at 11:37 pm

Fascinating question, Cavalor, and one that I can’t answer off the cuff. I like cities, so I’m not inclined to blame the built environment for all social ills, although I don’t think that’s quite your question, anyway. You’re asking whether cities and sprawl have anything to do with creating a society willing to change through violence, which is a slightly different kettle of fish. That’s sort of like asking whether or not bad design, which creates tons of stress, is driving people to some sort of edge where they’re willing to punch their fist through someone else’s head. My answer to that is “yes and no,” insofar as bad design exacerbates stress, but that even stress is no excuse for bad manners or criminal behaviour.

Bad design is at the heart of this. Negative externalities passed on to consumers/ citizens/ commuters are the economic manifestation of bad (and I mean that aesthetically and ethically) design (and economics), and those negative externalities are sprawl, massive traffic/commuter jams, absent LRT/ public transit; “nowheresville” suburbs, anomie, alienation; schools as factories, schools as big business, kids as hostages to the system; and so on, etc.

Gangs, random violence, “droogs”: are those things “encouraged” by cities and sprawling suburbs? I don’t think so, at least I don’t want to think that it’s entirely the built (or any kind of) environment’s fault. Individual responsibility still counts for something, doesn’t it?

Let’s see if my wonky HTML skills work in the WordPress comments board, here’s a go: take a listen to this CBC podcast of Theodore Dalrymple. He’s the British psychiatrist who has written Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.

What Dalrymple describes in the CBC podcast is, as the intro puts it, like something out of “A Clockwork Orange,” a society that has completely subsumed itself to victimology. I don’t know where you live when you’re on Terra, but there’s enough of that around in Canada, and in the UK it’s probably already a bit out of control (which I guess is a bit like “a little bit pregnant,” eh?, kind of an equivocation…). One of my sisters has a house in Hastings (UK)– she is anxious to sell it and she never wants to own property in the UK again. Why? She feels terrorised by one “bad egg” and his thug (“droog”?) friends, who keep the neighbourhood cowed, and she feels there’s no recourse to law or anything to get this person and his gang to “move on,” as it were. These creeps set the tone, and all she can do is sell out and hope to move on — to rent, perhaps, where it will be easy to pull up stakes and move on. Although she has called the cops on this asshole (at risk to herself), her neighbours haven’t. They don’t dare.

Now, you think about that and ask yourself what that sort of mini-migration (owners selling out to become temporary renting tenants) does to a society in the larger picture, in terms of social stability? What would it mean for me and everyone to say: “I can’t put down stakes here, it’s not ‘safe'”? Hastings isn’t exactly a big city — it is sort of/ kind of a commuter satellite to London, but by no stretch of the imagination is it just a suburb, either. It’s a small city in its own right. If that’s the way of Hastings, then it seems pointless to blame megalopolises and their sprawling ‘burbs for the violence that’s permeating them.

According to Dalmrymple in the podcast, it’s really a bigger question of social mores breaking down.

And it’s a question of this damn victim ideology, where every single tic or maladjustment gets traced back to some childhood trauma or something. You know, I find this offensive. Think of all the children who have survived horrible slum conditions and/or abuse, but who manage still to grow up to “love their fellow man,” to help others, to be a shining example. Think of death- and concentration-camp survivors, who had more excuses than anyone to turn into murderous thugs, and who still maintained their humanity, their dignity, their beauty. Think of Nelson Mandela who endured decades in prison and faced a wife who “betrayed” him, but who managed to hold on to dignity — why?, how? Because it was “in him” or because he chose to? And if he could choose to, why do we make excuses over and over and over again for people who make bad choices? Are we idiots, or what?

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