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Microsoft’s attempt to break email, and more

I woke up this morning (da da-da da DUN) to what sounded like a Microsoft spokesman explaining on theToday program, how they were going to break email.  I half feared it, half didn’t believe it.

A bit of research shows me it’s worse than I thought.

Say hello to Information Rights Management, and fear.

Apparently this was announced some time ago; I guess I just missed it.  This Inquirer article comes from February, and back in September a site callled Open Source Politics discussed the pros and cons in ‘Microsoft Information Rights Management…Threat or Menace?

If there is hope, it lies in two areas, I think.  Open source/free software can be part of the solution, of course.  As the Open Source Politics article suggests, something like this is going to come sooner or later; it just doesn’t have to be Microsoft’s implementation.  In conjunction with that, we have to hope (and exert any influence we may have to ensure that) companies, governments and other Microsoft-using organisations realise that this move may welll decrease their data security and increase the degree to which they’re in thrall to Microsoft.  With such realisation they might kick Office 2003 into the long grass, where it belongs.

Otherwise it might be time to start saying goodbye to the Information Age as we have known it, and hello to the age of total information control.

Deepest Sender…

… is apparently an anagram — though I don’t know of what.  More importantly, it’s a LiveJournal client that runs in Mozilla Firebird.  It’s based on the default Windows client, but I’m typing this at the moment in it running in Firebird on Linux.  How cool is that?

You can find the Firebird extension on the extensions page, and its homepage at

Turns out there’s another one, too, called LiveLizard.  And the more I see of the Mozilla Project’s XUL, the cooler I think it is.

Me Tired? Well Boo Hoo

Now, more than ever, I realise that we’ve lost one of the greats.

We all blogged Warren Zevon’s death, but now I want to write an appreciation of him. This may turn into a rant against death and the loss of the greats, but if so, so be it.

Seven o’clock, Eight o’clock, Nine o’clock, Ten
You wanna go home?
Why? Honey, when?
We may never get this chance again!
Let’s party for the rest of the night!

I got his last two albums a week or two back, and they haven’t been out of my personal CD player since. I’m listening to My Ride’s Here as I write this. At least as I start it. I’ll probably have alternated between it and The Wind a few times before I finish.

He died at the top of his game: the three albums that closed his career contain some of the best things he’s ever done: Life’ll Kill Ya, My Ride’s Here and The Wind. I don’t believe that there’s ever “a good day to die,” or even, really, that you can have a “good death”.[1]

But that’s a thought for another day. The point here is that Warren died having completed his final album, said goodbye to his family, friends and fans, and even seen the latest James Bond film. If you’ve gotta go, it’s better than most of us can expect. Unlike Joe Strummer, for example, who died at the tail end of last year, and who was taken from us totally by surprise: he wasn’t sick, and no-one expected it; and he had no chance to finish things. Which is how most people die, of course.

Eleven o’clock, Twelve o’clock, One o’clock, Two
Me, tired? Well boo hoo!
I’m starting to fall in love with you
Let’s party for the rest of the night!

I like to think though, that, despite all that, Warren went raging against the dying of the light; and ‘The Rest Of The Night‘, from his last album, is the perfect roar of defiance to hurl at the darkness. Yet at the same time it shows some of the resignation, or acceptance, we see on some of the other tracks, such as ‘Keep Me in Your Heart‘. Many have described the latter track, which closes the album, as the most affecting song on it; and I can scarcely listen to it without a lump coming to my throat.

Yet ‘The Rest Of The Night’ is the song that, for me, captures the end-times nature of the album more than any other.

As a straightforward party anthem it’s right up there with Springsteen’s ‘Mary’s Place‘, from last year’s The Rising. (The comparison is particularly apt, because Springsteen provides guitar and backing vocal’s on The Wind‘s other rabble-rouser, ‘Disorder In The House’.) But it’s in the context of his impending death that ‘The Rest Of The Night’ really takes wing.

“We may never get this chance again” is the key line here. Of course, considered rationally, that is true of any of us, any time, about any experience; Zevon must have felt it very keenly, though, whether or not he was well enough to party.

Then the line, “I’m starting to fall in love with you” suggest that, even as “the old whore death” was hovering in the background of his life, Warren was still willing to take a chance on the great rollercoaster ride that makes life even more worthwhile.

The song has a similar effect on me to the film Dead Poets’ Society, with its advice to “seize the day”: it makes me want to grab hold of life with both hands and hang on for the ride. Because we’re only on this Earth for a short time, we don’t get a second chance, and (I believe) there’s nothing afterwards. We may not have this chance again — whatever it is — so let’s throw ourselves into it now.

Three o’clock, Four o’clock, Five o’clock, Six
Let’s throw it all into the mix
And open up our bag of tricks,
And party for the rest of the night!

All quotes are from Warren Zevon’s song, ‘The Rest Of The Night’, and are reproduced without permission, but with journalistic intent. Somehow, I don’t think he’d have minded.

[1]Well, OK, some are better than others, but only because some are worse than others.

I thought it was in chamber six

has already discussed this in some detail, both in the post and the comments, but I started writing this before I read his, so I’m going to allow most of it to stand.

Derren Brown’s Russian Roulette was a fascinating study in psychology and showmanship. When he pretended he though the bullet was in chamber five and aimed down the room and we heard the click; the few minutes of silent anticipation that followed seemed like hours, and had me on the edge of my seat.

This despite the fact that I was (and am) sceptical about the possibility that he could come to any harm. I don’t know how (any more than I know how that Copperfield guy flew a couple of hours later (this should include a link to Channel 4′s ‘Top Fifty Magic Tricks’, but I can’t find it on their site)), but I’m sure there was no way he could possibly have blown his brains out.

The strange thing for me was that, since he showed right at the start, with the cup game, essentially how he was going to work out which was the deadly chamber; and since it was clear in that cup game example that the guy hesitated slightly before he said the number of the cup in question; I expected to be able to tell which chamber held the bullet.

However, they guy who loaded the gun (James?) was so nervous that he raced through counting one to six, with only, I thought, a slight hesitation on six.

But he’d loaded chamber one.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that’s an incredibly weird number to choose? My mind was screaming “four”, but that’s probably because it was cup four in the cup game earlier. But to put the bullet in the first chamber. I don’t know: what if Brown had decided just to start at the bottom?

More significantly, how did Brown catch the hesitation in James’s voice when it must have come on the first number spoken? Make it hard for the guy, why don’t you, Jimmy.

And what does watching that kind of spectacle do to us as viewers, to television as a medium? In Saturday’s Guardian, Mark Lawson route about potential death as media spectacle, saying:

Our culture is now so tricked out with smoke and mirrors that were Brown to fall to the studio floor under a gunpowder cloud – or, indeed, if David Blaine was carried out of his glass box in a wooden one – we could not be certain that we were really seeing what we thought we saw. In the spun world, the illusionist just joins a queue behind the politicians and other tricksters. In such an environment of lies and winks, the media need to set rules of truthfulness and keep to them.

If Brown really is risking his life tomorrow night, then it’s a moment of landmark depravity for television. But, if he really isn’t, then it’s a lesser but still terrible offence against the integrity of the medium.

And now I find that in today’s, he points out the twistedness of the David Kelly/Samaritans/Russian Roulette segue. I feel slightly unclean.

A Classical Education

I started reading Jane Eyre for the first time the other day. It’s been in my to-read pile for a couple of years at least, but you know how it is: there’s always something else; something more cutting-edge, more up-to-the minute.


People, the fucking preface alone is one of the finest pieces of writing in the English language: jam-packed with wisdom for our time and all times. George Bush should be made to read it.

But don’t take my word for it; go on over to Project Gutenburg and read the start of their version of Jane Eyre; it won’t take long.

Charlotte Bronte’s sister’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights is the only book that’s ever made me miss my stop on the train on the way to work. Proof, perhaps, that genius can run in families; or that a similar environment can produce similar results.