All entries for March 2006

March 30, 2006

Houllebecq: 'withered ghoul'?

Writing about web page

So, Houllebecq – 'withered ghoul', genius or bit of an arse? This review doesn't really help his case:

It is the natural reductio of the trouble we’re in: a world in which nothing frightens more than the prospect of growing older, less desirable, less relevant to the interminable bustle of sexual commerce.
The pathos of Houellebecq is that, however completely he understands this condition, he allows himself to be governed by it. He hates himself for being a withered ghoul. He frets incessantly over the decline in his sexual potency. Where a more mature and reasonable man would pursue marriage, children, and family, he desperately chases chemicals and sexual experiences to artificially prolong his youth. (These lead only to embarrassment and heartbreak: “I had left my coitus cream in Lutétia, and this was my first mistake…I sensed she was a little disappointed.”) There’s nothing new or modern about fear of the twilight years. What’s new is the undignified manner in which people like Michel Houellebecq shuffle toward the end. Simply, he’s a coward.

OK, so he's a bit sad. This piece does seem somewhat overindulgent towards his behaviour though.

But his books are still, I think, really rather enjoyable if wilfully shocking at times and a bit flabby.

March 28, 2006

Songs about gambling: Approximation of a playlist §10

Gambling etc

Bingo master's breakout – The Fall
Girlfriend is better – Talking Heads
A better future – David Bowie
Life is a gamble – Marvin Gaye
Lie dream of casino soul – The Fall
Better luck – Scissor Sisters
You could have it so much better – Franz Ferdinand


You better you bet – The Who
Roulette – System of a Down
Russian Roulette – Lords of the New Church
You can't say crap[s] on the radio – SLF

March 25, 2006

Really very amusing music/history gag

Writing about web page

I just laughed at this:

Franz Ferdinand Frontman Shot By Gavrilo Princip Bassist: GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—Lead singer and guitarist for pop band Franz Ferdinand, Alexander Kapranos, is in critical condition today after being shot by a man identified as the bassist for rock group Gavrilo Princip. "We ask fans to cooperate with Interpol to find the assailant, and call upon British Sea Power, Snow Patrol, and The Postal Service for help," drummer Paul Thompson told music magazine NME Monday. "The suspect had links to The Decemberists and The Libertines, and we are following up on all leads." It is unclear whether the shooting was linked to The Polyphonic Spree's invasion of Belgium earlier this week.

When Saturday comes

4 out of 5 stars

Saturday - Ian McEwan: McEwan pulls another one out of pretty much the top drawer here. Saturday, as the title implies, covers one (rather long) day in the life of Henry Perowne, renowned neurosurgeon. It is the day of the big anti-war demo and this offers an interesting back drop to proceedings as Henry deals with the traffic and the attitude of his daughter Daisy, an aspiring poet, towards Iraq. The story focuses on interactions (somewhat, but not entirely, incredible) between Perowne and a thug he happens to encounter and the effects on his family. Baxter (the thug) features in a number of compellingly intense scenarios but too much detail would give things away.

Overall this latest offering is genuinely very good and is brilliantly written but just doesn't quite fully convince – the family arrangements and personal interactions seem odd at times and the no doubt accurate medical detail is overdone and too clever by half.

Well worth a read though.

World of (middle class) Goth

Writing about web page,,1735690,00.html

Nice story this one from the Guardian:

It's every parent's nightmare. Their apparently well-adjusted child suddenly comes home with hair the colour of a coalface, a face whiter than anything made by Dulux, and announces, "Mummy, I'm a goth." However, according to a new study, parents of goths will probably end up boasting about their son/daughter the doctor, lawyer or bank manager.

But, isn't it simply the case that most goths are middle class anyway and therefore much more likely to pursue a professional career?

March 20, 2006

Another e–learning wash–out

Writing about web page,,1735137,00.html

Report in today's Guardian on another woeful e-learning venture gone pear-shaped:

An e-learning venture by Oxford University, with Yale and Stanford in the US, has folded after failing to attract enough students. A joint announcement was slipped out quietly by the three universities, which face an embarrassing blow to their prestige. The failure follows the collapse of a series of American university ventures and the £62m debacle of the UK's e-University. Oxford today declined to disclose how much money it lost on the AllLearn project, launched in the heady days of the dotcom boom in 2001. By June 2005, AllLearn had incurred a deficit of $783,410, with a revenue of $2.5m and expenses totalling $3.28m, according to the London-based Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, which monitors international developments in distance learning. In a statement on the AllLearn website, S Kristin Kim, president of the company, said it had offered 110 online courses from Oxford, Stanford, and Yale universities to more than 10,000 participants from 70 countries during the past five years. "As we looked to the future, the cost of offering top-quality enrichment courses at affordable prices was not sustainable over time."

"Affordable prices" certainly captures it. It looks like the average cost was $250 per participant.

Sounds like a bit of a weakness in the business plan. But how could these three institutions get it quite so wrong?

March 12, 2006

Sampling problems?

Follow-up to Choosing a university: thankfully, students aren't this shallow from Prole Art Threat

There are many other thinks contained in this exciting survey but, even though the sample has been carefully selected and normalised for the population, the findings summarised in this article:


just don't feel quite right.

March 11, 2006

Legal problems: approximation of a playlist §9

Legal issues in song:

I fought the law – The Clash
Oswald defence lawyer – The Fall
The Hives are law – The Hives
It's a crime – The Magnetic Fields
Caught by the fuzz – Supergrass
GBH - Death in Vegas
A boy named Sue – Johnny Cash
Hazy shade of criminal – Public Enemy
Judge Fudge – Happy Mondays
Police & Thieves – Junior Mervin
Bankrobber – The Clash
New York City Cops – The Strokes

Choosing a university: thankfully, students aren't this shallow

Writing about web page

Reading this report, you would be forgiven for thinking that prospective students were facile, image-conscious individuals who don't give a stuff about the academic quality of courses and universities. Fortunately, the third time I looked at this I realised that the authors had simply excluded academic factors from their consideration.

Makes sense though, doesn't it?! To heck with standards, what are the catering facilities like? And, by the way, are they provided by a nice external operator like, say, Sodexho, or, in error, by the university itself?

Here and there and back again

3 out of 5 stars

Man is accidental time traveller, catapulted back and forward. Wife isn't. But they first meet when she is young and he is rather older and continue to meet throughout her chronologically normal life until they eventually get it together for real but then, of course, it ain't quite that straightforward.

Nice proposiition, well-worked through and kind of hangs together despite the changes in time, ages and setting (which I gave up trying to track). A very easy and light read and pretty enjoyable really as a fun thriller. There is a love story between the protagonists at the heart of it which gives it its main thread but I'm too hard to comment on that.

So, top Richard and Judy fayre but no worse for that!

March 2006

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