A lazy Reykjavik
dog.

Gimlé

Fri, 31 Jan 2003

Bad Day Turned Good.

This started out as one of those nasty, feel-bad, gunky days where your confidence in yourself and your work is so low that it views chatting up slimy earthworms as a major boost in social standing.

Thankfully it was slightly pulled up as I went into salvage mode (ignore it and just take it easy, that is) and spent a good part of lunchtime reading through Jane’s World archives.

Then I get an e-mail noting that my books are on their way from Amazon.

And then I get that new IBM keyboard that I had ordered (niiiice).

And I’ve just got a call from my friends to go meet them up at the pub tonight.

Which leaves me with no money but lots to read and a good keyboard to write on.

So, I still have the self-confidence of a crushed snail, but at least I feel happier about it.

Baldur. Clifton, Bristol.

Thu, 30 Jan 2003

A Warning.

My mother always told me that my sarcasm and caustic sense of humour would get me into trouble.

Regarding the preceding post: I’m not really railing against specific people here. It’s more of a rant against the general tendency with a lot of people in the blogoverse (to use a horrid word). People who think that there is no such thing as a casually browsing web user and that everybody’s looking for something specific.

It’s this kind of thinking that drives the World Wide Web Consortium into uselessness, for example.

The majority of people browse the web because they don’t feel like working and are killing time. Ignoring those users is fine, as long as you acknowledge their existence in the first place.

Pretending that the majority of web users are browsing with any sort of point or purpose is just a tad delusional.

Saying that the researchers, the users with a purpose, are the only ones you care about is fine. Your website, your call.

But randomly browsing the web is the 21st century worker’s version of going out to smoke a fag.

Now, if you want to flame me for bad grammar or for violating the English language you’d be perfectly justified in doing so.

Baldur.

Life Less Fun.

Dorothea Salo has been plonked recently for daring to criticise her betters.

The idea that weblogs are periodicals and that periodicals are referenced in most people’s minds by date first, keywords and such second, is obviously a delusion on par with thinking that the moon is made of cheese.

The idea that somebody might be only be mildly interested in these websites and want browse them casually (y’know, the way most people browse the web) by flipping through date based archives (either monthly or weekly, with well designed ‘next’ and ‘previous’ links), is about as likely as farm animals flying out of bodily orofices.

That the majority of readers belong to the general group who read weblogs as periodicals, are not doing research, don’t read it often enough to warrant a feed subscription, and refer to things posted within the last six months old by date rather than subject, is as real as the martians in Uncle Bjossi’s head.

That quite a few people would say: “That sounds like an article I read last week on Salon.com”

Rather than: “That sounds like the article on [insert keywords here] I read on Salon.com once.”

Sheer lunacy of course.

Casual readers, browsers, those who are not looking for anything specific, those who are not hardcore webloggers and are not focussed researchers, seem to consistently get forgotten in discussions on archives, data-mining and the so-called semantic web (the semantic web being something that talks to machines and eschews humans).

A weblog that you can’t browse casually via large chunk archives is like a library where you’re barred from entering and forces you to do everything via the librarian behind the desk.

Not being able to wander around, glance over things semi-randomly, taking in the smell and feel of the library…

Well, it simply takes the fun out of the thing.

Doesn’t make a difference if you are just looking for something specific. Doesn’t really make it less functional in any sort of meaningful way.

If anything, it might force people to be more professional in the way they reference and look for references.

It’s just less fun.

And we can’t have that, can we?

Baldur.

Chapter 4 of Gylfaginning from the Prose-Edda.

Gangleri asked: “What was the beginning, how did things begin, what was before?”

Tall answers: “As is said in Völuspá, the prophecy of the Volva:”

r var alda
a er ekki var,
vara sandur n sr
n svalar unnir;
jör fannst eigi
n upphiminn,
gap var Ginnunga,
en gras ekki.”

As the ages began
what is, was not,
no sand nor sea
or cooling waves;
no earth was found
or sky above,
emptiness was young,
and of grass was none.

Then Astall says: “Earlier, Niflheimur was made. Many ages before the creation of earth, and there in its middle lies a well named Hvergelmir. From there rivers flow so named:Svöl, Gunnþrá, Fjörm, Fimbulþul, Slíður og Hríð, Sylgur og Ylgur, Víð, Leiftur. Gjöll is the one closest to the gates of Hel.”

Then Third says: “First, though, was the world in the south named Múspell. It is bright and hot, burning with fire, impassable to strangers and those not native to the land. Surtur is the one so named who stands on Múspell’s border, guarding the land. His sword is flaming and as the world ends he will go out, make war against and triumph over the gods. And he will burn the whole world with fire. So is said in Völuspá:

Surtur fer sunnan
me svigalvi,
skn af sveri
sl valtva;
grjtbjörg gnata,
en gfur rata,
troa halir helveg,
en himinn klofna

Surtur comes from the south
wielding fire
The gods’ swords shine, like suns in the darkness

Mountains collapse into rubble
And fiends shall fall
Man walks the road to ruin
as the sky splits in two

More Translation Notes.

I’m having fun with this, obviously.

The main problem is with the names, trying to judge when to translate the names and when not to.

Icelandic names can be problematic this way. Most names, especially in the old myths have a literal meaning.

Óski and Ómi, for example, some of Odin’s names from chapter 3, mean Wish and Tone, respectively. My dad’s name, Bjarni, means Bear, while my mother’s name Bergljót, means Beautiful Mountain or rock.

Beautiful, in Old Norse, that is. After christianity, the meaning of the word ljótur changed to mean ugly as it had religious connotations connected in relation to the old faith.

The problem with translating these names is that in Icelandic the name function takes precedence. When you read a text where the names have obvious meanings, the names still function as names first, and the semantic meaning of the words fades into the background (still there of course, affecting the reading).

If you translate these name into English, the meaning of the words take over and the names are lost as names, become awkward metaphors.

It’s made even worse by the fact that some of the names are absolutely untranslatable, their meaning so vague and indistinct.

I decided to provide the original language versions of the poetry, accompanied by translations, rather than simply translating the verses into English prose, or worse, pretending to be a poet and translating them into poetry.

I’d like to hear what people think about that.

I’m very greatful for the online annotations of Völuspá available, unfortunately, only in Icelandic.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

Wed, 29 Jan 2003

Chapter 3 of Gylfaginning from the Prose-Edda.

Gangleri began with the question: “Who is the greatest or oldest of the gods?”

Tall said: “In our language his name is Allfather, but in ancient Asgard he had twelve different names. One is Allfather, second is Herran or Herjan, third is Nikar or Hnikar, fourth is Nikuss or Hnikuður, fifth is Fjölnir, sixth Óski, seventh Ómi, eighth Bifliði or Biflindi, ninth Sviðar, tenth Sviðrir, eleventh Viðrir, twelfth Jálg or Jálkur.”

Gangleri then asked: “Where is that god, what can he, or what has he accomplished?”

Tall said: “He lives for all ages and rules his all his kingdom, and rules all things, large and small.”

Then Astall says: “He built the heaven and earth and the air and all that belongs to them.”

The Third says: “The geatest thing he did was the creation of man and giving man the spirit that shall live and never fade away, though the body rots to dirt or burns to ash. And all people shall live, those who are honorable and just, and be with him in the place named Gimlé or Vingólf, while the bad and dishonest shall go to Hel and from there to Niflhel, down in the ninth world.”

Then Gangleri asks: “What did he do before the creation of heaven and earth?”

Tall answers: “Then, he was with the ice-giants.”

Tue, 28 Jan 2003

Notes on Translating from Icelandic.

I might throw up a few translations here from time to time and, to give people a bit of a background info, I’d like to make a few points on why I’m doing this.

First of all, none of these translations are suitable for those who want all of the references and styles of the original preserved. I’m aiming for the preservation of the work’s feel rather than its context.

I’m also assuming that you know things like the fact that the Aesir are one of the nations of the Nordic Gods (the other one was Vanir).

The context is very important for students of these things but I believe that the feel of the original text sets the stage, focusses your approach to studying its context.

But that feel is often lost in translations, especially those intended for academic reading.

So I reason that there are others who are much better at preserving context through careful use of style and footnotes but that portraying a feel, an emotion, is something I can strive to do.

So when these translations work (probably not that often) you should be able to read my translated pieces first to get the feel and then use a proper academic translation to study the work with proper references and what will probably be a style closer to the original.

We’ll see how it goes; whether I’ll do any more translations in the future.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

Chapter Two of Gylfaginning from the Prose-Edda.

Translation by Baldur Bjarnason, of the original text by Snorri Sturluson.

King Gylfi was a wise man with some skills in the arts of magic. He was perplexed about the powers of the aesir, seeing that all things were at their beck and call. Those powers, he reasoned, were either derived from something in their nature or from the godly powers they paid their allegiance to.

He headed towards Asgard in secret; in the guise of an old man. But the aesir learned of this and they spotted him on his journey before he arrived to Asgard. They prepared for his arrival with illusions.

When he arrived in the city he sighted a palace so tall that its upper reaches were barely visible. Its roof was tiled with golden shields.

Gylfi saw a man juggling with handaxes, seven at once, in the palace’s doorway. The juggler asked for his name. Gylfi called himself Gangleri and claimed to be a lost wanderer looking for a place to sleep for the night. He asked who the palace’s owner was.

The juggler answered that it was their king. “I can take you to see him. You can then ask him yourself for his name,” and in speaking those words he turned around and walked into the palace. The door closed shut after Gylfi as he followed.

Inside he saw many rooms and crowds of people, some playing games, some drinking, some fighting with arms. He found many of the things he saw incredible.

He saw three thrones in a row and three men, each sitting in his throne. He then asked for their names.

The juggler who led him in, answers that the man in the lowest throne was their king whose name was Tall, the man in the next throne was Astall, while the man in the highest throne was Third. Tall then asks the newly-arrived Gylfi whether he has any other business here mentioning that he is free to partake in the feast with the other people in Havahöll.

Gylfi first asks whether there is somebody here who is well-read and knowledgable, as he is seeking some information. Tall says that he will not be able to leave the palace safely without finding some answers to his questions, and

“Step forward as you listen
the speaker shall stay seated.”

Mon, 27 Jan 2003

More Writing.

I’m reading other people’s essays on interactive media.

Does anybody else think that more writing on interactive fiction is the functional equivalent of Writing as Sex as the Metaphor of waving an umbrella in Westminster Abbey?

Loads of grunts—loud—but none of that contact we so enjoy.

Baldur.

Fri, 24 Jan 2003

Come Over to the Dark Side.

Dorothea Salo has just found out that sometimes an ugly application with a badly designed user interface will do the job better than the pricey proprietry competitor.

There is one thing I like about GNU/linux and FreeBSD, something I have come to rely on, and that is the fact that if it has something to do with system maintainance or automation, then free software has something rock-solid to sort you out.

This is actually the one area where Mac OS X lags behind its freer counterparts. The Apple tools are, and have always been, horribly inadequate. Norton Disk Doctor or Diskwarrior (most often both, if you want to be really safe) are de facto required purchases for any new Mac user.

RSS and Validation.

Just finished reading Parsing RSS at all cost Mark Pilgrim’s second column at the O’reilly website.

It has already appeared on Blogdex, which means that everybody either has read it or is about to in the next two days no matter what I do.

But there is one thing that needs to be said.

The reason for having an ultra-liberal RSS parser is because an important proportion of feeds don’t validate.

Mark fails to say the obvious. All RSS is automatically generated by an application of some sort. The webloggers are end-users themselves of weblogging applications.

So we should lobby the application developers to automatically validate the RSS feed every single time it is generated and automatically fix the most common errors (unescaped ampersands).

Lobbying hundreds of users who are rightfully trusting their tools is just a silly notion.

It is not the responsibility of the end user to keep track of what seems to him to be arcane notions on validity.

Those who should know better need to be told better.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

Tue, 21 Jan 2003

As Sadness Catches Up.

I’ve been way too busy in the last few days. Hence the scarcity of writing. I promise to make up for that in the next few days.

In the meantime:

People may or may not realise that Iceland is a small society but it is a culture that values living in foreign countries as a way to learn something about life and yourself. And it’s not always in the easy countries, like Denmark.

An e-mail has been making the rounds in my family. It is from an acquaintance of my sisters who is living in Ramallah and—

Well, it is a bit dramatic but I felt that it deserved some exposure, so I translated it into English.

I’m publishing it here anonymously (unless she e-mails me to tell me otherwise, or to ask me to take it down). The main reason being that I’m sure that she would get hate-mail or worse.

I’m not going to take a side here. Let’s just say that if I got an e-mail describing the situation from the other side I would not hesitate one second to post it here on the website.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

It is midnight in Palestine.

The longer that I stay here, the more I get to know people—people who have experienced things so distant from us… You’ve followed events in the media but when you’re actually here I feel that I’m really understanding (and not) the tragedies are taking place…

It surprises some, when I’m asked how things are here and I say that the situation is probably better than elsewhere in Palestine…that we don’t have soldiers in tanks all over the city… But that I say it’s better does not mean it’s good…

Imagine Reykjavik surrounded by military checkpoints… that you who live in Kopavogur [five minutes away from Reykjavik] cannot go to visit your relatives in Reykjavik.

… that in the summer before last you and your family had to wait at home for thirty days with little to no food. And that watching television isn’t a recreation because the only thing you see are pictures of people, children that you even know, dead or wounded, because somebody has decided that there should be a curfew.

…that when you go to university you need to go through checkpoints where guns are pointed at you all over the place. That you need to prove who you are with your ID, and don’t be shocked if the soldiers humiliate you in every way.

…you need to go to the store. You with your two month baby and your husband are stopped, it is dark outside and the soldiers tell your husband to come out and walk with them around the corner… there they get him undressed and force him to lie on the ground for 3-4 hours… the wife and baby waiting in the car knowing nothing… and then they let him go, laughing…

…that soldiers raid a home of a mother with her children… the soldiers take a nine year old child into the bathroom, spray cold water over the kid, aim guns at the child’s head because they want to know where the father is… something the child doesn’t know… the soldiers leave and say that they will soon return and do it all again… the child can’t talk or go to the toilet for a long time afterwards.

All these things have happened, directly and indirectly to the people that I’m living with here in Ramallah… this we may not see in the television but it is awful!

The situation is bad, everywhere in Palestine… and that will not change until these human rights violations, murders and horrors cease!

Though it may sound incredible, a single person, like me can do a lot for the Palestinian people, that I can feel. We out in the larger world give them hope with our support, and we can give them our support in many ways. I realise that this letter may be dramatic but this is simply the reality and to write is the only thing I can do… because sadness caught up with me tonight.

Free Palestine!

Mon, 20 Jan 2003

Glorious Generalisations.

The Theories.

  1. Bakhtin’s Polyglossia:
    How various ways of speaking and writing styles interact and form a narrative structure.

  2. Lévi-Strauss’ Binary Oppositions:
    How binary opposites become focal points that change our understanding of the rest of the story.

  3. Derrida’s Parergon:
    How Context changes a structure’s meaning without actually being a part of it.

What Structure.

  1. Polyglossia:

    For example: A poem and a prose monologue can be analysed as separate wholes.

    But if you combine the two with a third cynical narration—one that comments harshly on the romantic naivety of the poem and talks with sadness how the gloomy pessimism of the character speaking in the monologue ended in suicide—you end up with a multivocal narrative structure.

    A work that behaves in a way that is completely different from that of traditional narrative structures. Bakhtin called this a novelistic structure.


  2. Binary Oppositions:

    Looking at binary oppositions draws out the prevailing relationships in the structure.

    By looking at several separate pairs of opposites and analysing how those oppositions—their tensions—affect other components a theorist can gain an understanding of the flaws and qualities of that structure as a whole.


  3. Parergon:

    A set of analytical methods specifically designed to analyse the relationship of meanings between comment structures (such as footnotes, picture frames) and narrative structures.

    A commenting structure, such as a footnote or accompanying essay, can have a completely different style and structure from the main work and yet completely change our understanding of the work—its meaning—by delineating which readings of the work are and are not possible.


The Story.

Penguin edition of Egil’s Saga.

Mon, 13 Jan 2003

Story Evaluation.

This should be a short evaluation of the qualities of the Icelandic Saga Egil’s Saga as a subject of the narrative experiments this research is based on.

Public Domain.

Being free to do whatever I want to the text and distribute as needed is of primary importance. Current practice with copyrighted texts cannot deal with the realities of digital authoring and distribution, especially that of networked meaning and structures.

That is not likely to change anytime soon so the experiments need to be based upon a work which puts no limitations on what can be done with it.

Adaptable.

The text of Egil’s Saga is available both in Icelandic and English (Icelandic, Old Norse, being the piece’s orignal language).

This means that the text of the work can be adapted, rewritten and retranslated into English when necessary to make it more suitable for online and on-screen delivery of the work. Something that is harder to do when the text in question has a canonical English language version.

In effect the English version of the text is more fluid as a result.

Abridged.

Like Shakespeare’s plays, it is rare for somebody to read the whole text of an Icelandic Saga in order. At the very least people skip the frequent family trees and related lengthy passages which describe to whom each and every character and supporting character is related.

There is a tradition for skipping the passages less related to the current reading when these stories are taught in school in Iceland.

This means that there is a strong precedent for abridging the work to make it more suitable for adaption to interactive media.

Multiform.

The work is composed of two different narrative forms. On one hand you have the impartial to the extreme narration which very cooly describes even the most horrific or emotional events. On the other hand you have the intensely emotional poetry which is said to be by the original and historic character Egill son of Skallagrír himself.

Egill uses the poetry to comment upon and directly affect events in his life. We say directly affect because one of the basic beliefs of the old Nordic cultures that language, when bound in form, can directly change reality.

The poetic form used in this Saga is untranslatable without extensive commentary and referencing, making it an ideal candidate for the use of tooltips, links and such in digital media form. Indeed it could be said that the only way to represent these poems properly in English would be using hypertext and interactive media.

Author.

Egill’s Saga, as all the Icelandic Sagas, has no author.

Today, scientific truths tend to be referred to in the public mind as if it were authorless. How often, for example, is the author of the gene-concept or black hole referred to in mass media? Who came up with these ideas in the first place has in most cases little relevance to whether we think of them as truths.

Stories, novels, biographies, on the other hand are almost never referred to without reference to the author-construct. For some reason, new narratives are not taken seriously unless some name is attached to the creation of the text.

At the time of the writing of the Icelandic Sagas the opposite was true. No idea was taken as a scientific truism unless it had an author attached (e.g. Aristotle’s Elements) and no story was considered to be a proper story unless it was treated as authorless.

None of the stories written at that time attributed to an author (although it is likely that the author of Egills Saga was Snorri Sturluson, the writer who wrote the Prose-Edda, without which all our stories of the Norse Gods would be lost, also a coward and gutless traitor who betrayed Icelanders by working with the Norwegian King).

The nonattribution of these texts frees them. A text attributed to an author is a fixed text which has a canonical version as dictated by the author.

An authorless text is more fluid, as can be seen by the many versions of these texts throughout the ages. There is less of a cultural hindrance to the idea of adapting the text to a medium. Often, before printing, when a transcriber found that he did not have enough pages to transcribe the whole text he simply rewrote and abridged the text to fit.

He would have been more hesitant to do so if the text in question had an author-dictated “true” version.

These are texts from a different age where the word “story” meant a different thing.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

A Short Theory Overview.

This is supposed to be a short critical evaluation on the theories and theoreticians behind my Phd research, the primary focus being the very ideas behind the theories.

Jacques Derrida.

Derrida is the first and probably the most important of academics who form the theoretical basis for this research.

Although he is undoubtedly a solid part of the poststructuralist movement his critiques point out the major weakness, caveats and flaws in structuralist and formalist theory and as such forms an essential part of any theoretical enterprise that intends to use structuralist and formalist ideas.

The thrust of his theories is that meaning is not constructed out of some essential truth or fact found in reality but that meaning itself and our perceptions of meaning are linguistic and philosophical constructs, an idea that was probably originated by Nietzche who referred to truth as a fossilized or hardened linguistic metaphor. A referential construct that is necessary to comprehend reality and make it accessible to the human intellect.

Derrida’s work consists of systematically looking for and analysing these linguistic constructs, he breaks them apart with the idea that once you figure out which bit, once removed, breaks the machine, that gives you a handle on what makes it work.

Do this often enough and you should have an understanding of how the construct works.

One construct that he analyses are structures which only gain meaning as contextual constraints to other linguistic structures (remember, in Derrida’s world-view, everything is a linguistic structure so he finds these ideas to be very applicable to art and painting as well as writing).

These contextual constraints are any sort of structure that exist on the boundary of a work, thereby adding their meaning to the work as well as marking the boundary by their very existance. A good example of this sort of structure is a painting’s frame which gives us an initial indication of how we are supposed to understand the painting (the classic example being the difference between a plain black frame, a gilded frame, and an unvarnished, rough wooded frame).

Derrida calls this structure a parergon or comment.

The idea here is that the computer interface provides us with several structures which are of a similar nature to Derrida’s parergon, examples being comments, tooltips, popup-windows, the browser-window’s decorations and user interface. Each of these change the way you approach and understand a text on the net without actually touching the structure or content of the text itself.

M.M. Bakhtin.

Bakhtin sees the novel as an interplay of languages. If you have a novel with a working-class lead character, what seems to be an upper-class narrator, a literate middle-class supporting character, then you have a structure composed of three identifiable and interdependant languages. The meaning of the novel is derived from their interplay, how their styles work with each other and comment upon each other (Bakhtin calls it dialogic contact tying neatly in with Derrida’s ideas above).

A novel is any narrative structure where the primary origin of meaning is derived from this interplay.

Each language serves the role of being a thread in the tapestry of the novel’s structure. Each thread is a linguistic image of a language or style used in society.

A linguistic image can be the unique style of speaking belonging to certain classes, social groups or areas. It can be a narrative style existing usually in it’s own form (a frequent reference here is how other poetic styles appear within the context of Evgenij Onegin as the language of specific characters. The interplay between the poetic styles of those characters with the poetic style of the narrator gives the whole structure an added meaning that is impossible to derive from those poetic styles as independent and separate wholes.

The ideas behind this theory of multi-voice narrative structures (or Derrida’s parergon) does not preclude nonlinear structures. It seems very likely that one of the primary narrative methods of some hypertexts is to create interplay between stylistically different threads using hyperlinks and other digital media structures.

Claude Lévi-Strauss.

The concept of binary opposition is central to structuralism (q.v.) and structuralist practice. As a structuralist concept it derives especially from Lévi-Strauss’s studies of mythology.
Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory: Fourth Ed.(p.82)—J.A. Cuddon

Binary opposites represent one of the central ideas of structuralism and is as well one of the things poststructuralism gains meaning from criticising.

You cannot really discuss Derrida’s ideas without referring to binary oppositions and Claude Lévi-Strauss (as well as Saussure’s theories on the sign and signifier), and vice-versa. You cannot really discuss Derrida without talking about Saussure and Lévi-Strauss.

Binary oppositions, while frequently artificial and invalid constructs existing only in the academic’s mind (or as a cultural tradition) as deconstructionists like to point out, remain a good method to tease out the motive engine behind the narrative structure&mash;it’s a way to figure out where the tension, excitement, and power of a story comes from.

By finding two extreme opposites that interplay and bounce of each other within the text you find two narrative threads whose dialogic contact (to use Bakhtin’s term) is that of a more obvious and extreme opposition. Subsequently deconstructing that opposition using Derrida’s analytical methods opens up the nature of the relationships between the independent objects within the narrative structure.

It is equivalent to picking two parts of an engine which have a relatively obvious relationship, taking that relationship apart, finding its flaws, and then using that knowledge to try and understand the relationship of those two parts with their surrounding parts.

Do this often enough and you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the narrative’s structure.

References should follow later.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

Sat, 11 Jan 2003

Radio Days.

Just been listening to the excellent Dead Ringers on Radio 4 now. Funny stuff if you are a UK resident.

The rest of the day is going to be monopolized by Any Questions, Any Answers, and the second part of the BBC’s massive adaption of the Dark Materials trilogy. Each episode is around two and a half hours long. You shouldn’t miss this one.

I think I’ll settle down with one of them computer book thingies to have something to glance through as I listen.

Baldur.

Fri, 10 Jan 2003

Bath Pubs.

Was in Bath for a pub crawl last Tuesday and I must say that Bath has a much better selection of pubs than Bristol. As much as I like Smiles when properly kept I confess to a liking of the Bath ales and bitters.

Smiles, though, can be viewed as a “tastes like chicken” test of the pub in question. Smiles, can taste like anything ranging from utter filth to a smooth tasty session drink all depending on how well the pub keeps its ales.

Guinness and lagers, on the other hand, have all sorts of chemicals and gunk in them that makes sure that no matter how incompetent the bar staff is, they can’t ruin the beer.

Ales and Bitters need tender love and care to taste good, making them a rather more expensive thing to maintain properly. Running a good pub with traditional ales and bitters is an entirely different proposition than running a lager boozer for students (something that is common here in Bristol, given that you can’t hark a loogie in a random direction here without hitting the contorted face of a drunk or hung over student).

Methinks it is time to start looking for a place to rent in Bath.

Baldur.
Clifton, Bristol.

Blockety Blocked Blocked.

This always happens after I visit Iceland. I’m blocked, unmotivated and unfocussed right now. Finding it hard to write.

This never happens when I travel normally (anyplace but good old Iceland), normally when I travel ideas well up constantly and phrases keep bubbling up in my mind as I wander around a slightly unfamiliar place.

The issue may be that of overfamiliarity. I’ve spent many a sleepless nights wandering around Reykjavik, got a couple of dozen photos taken in the midnight sun, some which I am quite proud of.

One photo can be found in the places category on wKen’s photoblog which I mentioned previously and has now successfully recovered from internet ribaldry.

I’m thinking about putting more up at some point. Maybe.

I think that I’ll have to do something different the next time I go to Iceland. Maybe bring a really good camera like a Canon A1 and a couple of good lenses. I know my grandfather has a couple of good tripods that he’d be willing to lend me so I would have to bring those.

And then travel. My Dad’s an ex-boy scout, a compulsive “outdoor experiences&rdquo guy. He’s the kind of person who you can travel with in the Icelandic countryside and can give you the names of all the mountains that surround you on the horizon.

You are always surrounded by mountains on the horizon in Iceland, even in Reykjavík. If there isn’t a mountain there, that’s probably because you’re facing the sea.

I think a trip dedicated to photograph the Icelandic countryside would make my next trip much more cathartic and personally inspirational.

In the meantime, I think that the only way to restart my writing engine is to read a good book.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

Wed, 08 Jan 2003

That Apple Thing.

I’ve been watching the fallout from Steve Jobs’ keynote yesterday with interest.

Most of the discussion on the web has centred on Apple’s new webbrowser called Safari.

I’m not going to talk about that as I’m working on a separate article on Safari with an intent to focus on issues which others haven’t discussed yet (namely, everything except for webpage rendering bugs and the bookmarking features).

This keynote is Apple’s most interesting keynote in a long while, even more interesting than the introduction of the new iMac (a phrase which unfortunately has similiar connotations as “New Coke”).

The first thing to note is Apple’s continuing shift towards openness.

An open XML file format for Keynote (although Apple will have to publish a detailed specification document plus DTDs and such for the format if they really want people to build tools for the format).

It seems that the Apple software development culture has realised the value of open standards, of letting people scratch their itches.

Apple will be interesting to watch over the year.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

Apple and Mobility.

A lot of people have fond memories of the old Macintosh Pluses and SEs, the conceptual ancestors of the all-in-one iMac.

One thing that a lot of the same people also forget is that those machines were also the portables of their day, which sounds, considering the size and shape of the machines, completely false at the face of it.

But those machines have to be assessed in their proper context. At that time, those machines where the lightest, most portable and yet commonly available machines around.

Add the excellent user interface to the mix and you’ll realise why they were so popular for so long.

So Apple and mobility go back a long way.

Yesterday, it became obvious that mobility and mobile computer has become Apple’s primary focus.

A luggable desktop-replacement on the high-end. After that you have a slightly more portable desktop-replacement for those who do not have servants to carry their luggage. Then you have a ultra-portable full-featured notebook followed by the economy solution.

Whatever your mobile need, Apple is now almost guaranteed to have a solution.

It could be argued that this is by necessity, the PowerPC processors available today are rather anemic as desktop processors, a joke as workstation processors, but are excellent mobile processors. Power-efficient, fast enough for most mobile tasks and run at genital-friendly temperatures.

Maybe, but the mobility focus would be a smart move in any case.

A quick look at the state of computer-ownership at my local university reveals that almost everybody owns a desktop computer but only a fraction owns a laptop.

So you’ve got two markets, one is completely saturated with recent machines, the other is almost completely unsaturated.

If you were running a computer company which one would you focus on?

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.

Tue, 07 Jan 2003

Animation Stuff.

A few of my sister’s simple first semester animation exercises for her course in Wales. Uploaded primarily for friends and family who want to follow her progress

Unfortunately these are only in the Quicktime .mov format (Sorenson codec) for now.

Sun, 05 Jan 2003

Returning Home.

Still recovering from travel fatigue.

I’m back in my Clifton bedsit. Unlike many others I have a big need for personal space and staying at your parents’ places (plural, because they are divorced) means giving that up. I can only last for two or three weeks like that. Less, what with all the family Christmas gatherings.

Kind of need a break from cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, parents and grandparents. Tired of having to be constantly self-depreciating and goofy, something I do mainly because some people are intimidated by me (or, to be more precise, intimidated by my degree, academic status and supposed intelligence).

Got a bit annoyed there in the last few days. That should be easy to spot in the posts written over the last couple of weeks in Iceland.

I am not satisfied with my writing in those posts. Or my texts in this weblog for that matter. So the only new year’s resolution I’m willing to reveal to the public is to write better in the new year.

We have to change the negative things into positive. In today’s Japanese film industry we always say we don’t have enough budget; that people don’t go to see the films.

But we can think of it in a positive way, meaning that if audiences don’t go to the cinema we can make any movie we want.

Takeshi Miike—Via Matt Fraction’s Poplife column (via Warren Ellis’ Bad Signal e-mail list).

Submitted a photo celebrating the midnight sun to wKen’s “I love …” photocontest (picture not up at the time of this writing), found out later that the weblog’s comment sections had been attacked by idiots saying stupid and hurtful things.

That reminded me of Takeshi Miike’s quote above. Sometimes we have more freedom to do interesting things when we are not noticed. After all, we are all aware of the profusion of stupidity in the world.

Anybody who has been a kid at school, teenager at a menial job, done any sort of service job or simply interacted with society in any small way quickly realises that there a lot of idiots around.

People who are simply nasty and simply seem to want you to suffer and die slowly, roasted on a campfire, all while being publicly humiliated by society’s elite du jour.

Being bullied as a kid does not instill in you an undying belief in humanity’s kindness and goodwill.

Watching idiots take over online newsgroups, mailing lists, forums and message boards doesn’t either.

This weblog is my territory, my ground, my emotional space. I’ve staked it out. I do not ever want to feel violated, offended, hurt or abused by anything on this weblog unless it is something I have written myself.

Adding a comment facility is equivalent to opening your door to strangers. If the door is open long enough, you are bound to be visited by a bunch of drunk college kids at some point who will then proceed to piss in your living room, hurl abuse at your partner and try to microwave your cat.

And the cat won’t like it.

Baldur Bjarnason.
Clifton, Bristol.