This Site Now Has a Dark Theme

    As you’ll have noticed if you’re looking at this post on a device set to dark mode, I’ve added a dark theme. At the moment it’s just automatic: if your device is set to dark you get the dark mode, if light, you’ll see it as it has been for the last year and a half. I might add an option switch at some point.

    Let me know if anything looks weird.

    Star Ratings

    Giving star ratings to things I’ve watched, read, etc, is not something I ever did until I started using Letterboxd. It looks like I started logging films in September 2019 (the August ones were a bulk mental dump when I first set up my account). I didn’t start them automatically posting here until the November, and I’m sure I’ve missed one or two along the way.

    My initial thought was just to log the films that I watched, as an aide memoire as much as anything. But Letterboxd encourages you to give the films star ratings. I’ve been doing that, but all the time I wonder what exactly I mean by them.

    Which sounds like a strange thing to say. I made the choices, after all: I set the rating. Surely I knew what I meant when I did it?

    And that’s true enough on each occasion. I know what I mean when I give the rating. But that’s the thing: it’s what I meant at that time. All it means is what I thought of the the film at the time I added the entry to Letterboxd. I’m not trying to make a statement about what is good in absolute terms. I’m just saying something about what I thought about the film at that time.

    I like to think that I judge each film on its own merits. At the very least, I try to judge it in terms of what it’s trying to achieve. A five-star drama and a five-star comedy are very different things. It won’t be very meaningful to compare the ratings I’ve given to different films and see if there’s a hierarchy of my preferences. Though it is fair to say that any film with five stars is one of my favourites.

    While Letterboxd encourages star ratings, it pleases me that you don’t have to give one. Unlike, say in some online surveys, where zero is not an option. I don’t know, though, whether a Letterboxd ‘no stars’ should count as ‘zero stars,’ or just the choice not to rate it. I intended the latter with Can’t Get You Out of my Head, as I made clear in the post.

    It seems that I rarely watch anything less than three-star, though. Either I’m very discerning, or I only watch things I know I’m going to like.

    Tarantino Thoughts

    Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is kind of a love story, kind of a biopic, and kind of a history.

    Note that this post contains spoilers. Don’t read on if you haven’t seen it and care about being spoiled.

    Or maybe “buddy pic,” rather than “love story;” but the relationship between the two leads will be analysed for its homoerotic content, no doubt.

    How it certainly has been described is “a love letter to Hollywood,” and that’s fair enough. What it also is, is a counter-factual, or alternative history. But don’t worry, I’m not going to claim this one for SF.1

    The main characters – fading cowboy actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his regular stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt – are invented. But most of the other named characters, and many who are mentioned or appear as extras, are real people. The most significant of these is Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie. And it’s her story that makes this film most interesting, and maybe problematic.

    Because of course she died tragically, murdered by members of Charles Manson’s “Family” cult. And in this version — she doesn’t.

    If you know the history — which of course, many younger people won’t, which makes for different ways of experiencing the film — then you spend half the time expecting the massacre. There are captioned dates, and even though most of us wouldn’t know the date of the murders, there can’t really be any other reason for showing them. And then when it comes, something else happens.

    The violence in that scene is gruesome, over the top, ludicrous — almost hallucinogenic, making me wonder if the tripping Booth2 is meant to have hallucinated some or all of it. But there’s no need for there to be so much of it, or for the majority of it to be directed at women. The “Family” did consist largely of women, I guess, but I can’t help but feeling that Tarantino is revelling in it a little too much.

    And on top of all that, as my family agreed after seeing it: there’s no real need for the whole Sharon Tate thread of the story. It would have made a fine tale if were just about the two actors against the backdrop of late-60s Hollywood. I wonder what the point of it was. Did Tarantino feel he could in some way “save” Sharon Tate?

    1. Although that might be an interesting exercise. There isn’t really enough after the big change to make it worthwhile, though. 
    2. There’s probably no significance to his having the same surname as the killer in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Probably. 

    2017 in Bitface Blogging

    Well hello. It’s been a while. That daily posting thing didn’t work too well in the latter part of the year, and was particularly weak in the last couple of weeks. Weak weeks.

    In fact I posted 261 times in 2017. It’s surprisingly hard to find that kind of thing out from Wordpress itself. I had to dig into the database and run some simple SQL:

    select count(*) from devilgate_posts
      where  post_status = 'publish'
      and post_type = 'post'
      and post_date_gmt like '2017%';

    261 is 72% of the days of the year, which is not too bad. Certainly the most posts in any year out of the past fifteen(!)

    Here’s the monthly breakdown:

    Month Posts
    Jan 32
    Feb 33
    Mar 33
    Apr 18
    May 27
    Jun 15
    Jul 21
    Aug 17
    Sep 18
    Oct 18
    Nov 23
    Dec 6

    A strong start, tapering off in the middle, with a rally in November and then a complete collapse in December. I suspect the last is from a combination of post-nano slump and the festive season.

    If you’re interested, here’s the SQL that got me that table:

      date_format(post_date_gmt, '%b') as Month,
      count(*) as Posts
      from devilgate_posts
      where post_status = 'publish'
      and post_type = 'post'
      and post_date_gmt like '2017%'
      group by date_format(post_date_gmt, '%m');

    As to this year, we’ll see how it goes. I hope at least to keep the frequency reasonably high. And improve both code and table formatting.

    Yesterday’s mysterious post was not meant to be a post at all. Instead it was a reply to a comment on But something went wrong and I posted it without the reply’s @-name at the start so it appeared as a full-fledged post, and got crossposted to Twitter and Facebook as usual.

    I’m going to leave it in place as a learning experience.

    Nuts to Dough

    Just thought I should mention, en passant, that when I referred to misspelled donuts the other day, I was talking about the ones that can’t spell “crispy” or “cream”,1 not the spelling of “donut” itself. I was brought up with it as “doughnut,” but I guess I’ve come round to the other, presumably American, spelling.

    1. And that don’t taste at all like proper do[ugh]nuts. ↩︎

    The Microformats 2 WordPress plugin was causing spurious HTML tags to be visible around my name next to these posts. I’ve disabled it for now. But looking at the page to get that link, I’m realising that maybe I don’t actually need it:

    For all themes that do not declare support for Microformats 2, this plugin attempts to add Microformats to areas that are accessible through filters and actions.

    I think the theme I’m using, Minnow, probably supports microformats already. Though I confess to having only slight understanding of what microformats are for. I added that plugin while moving the site the other day, along with all the #Indieweb plugins.

    Holding Pattern

    I’ve been working on a more substantial piece about music and gigs and nostalgia and my gig-going plans for the year, but it’s getting long, and possibly out of hand. So I’m going to delay it till later.

    Consider this a placeholder.

    And so it’s got some content of value, let me just draw your attention to the National March to Parliament next Saturday, 25th March. Meet from 11:00 in Park Lane.

    I don’t know if it can do any good, but if you believe, as I do, that Brexit must be stopped, then you should try to be there.

    Reading Materials

    You’re probably wondering what’s happened to my books posts. Surely I must have read something since January (and I thought I’d posted about two books this year, but apparently not).

    Thing is, after the Twin Peaks book, I started something rather large. I’m over 200 pages in, which means I’m about one-sixth of the way through it.

    It is Alan Moore’s Jerusalem: a monster hardback with tiny print. I picked it up when I went to see him interviewed by Stewart Lee, back in November. I could have got either the hardback or a slipcased three-volume paperback version. Almost as soon as I started reading I wished I’d gone for the latter, because it’s so damn heavy to hold.

    So it’ll take me quite a while till I’m ready to write about it. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, though.


    Well, yesterday genuinely feels like the first day I’ve missed posting this year. A few post-midnight posts have counted towards the previous day, but although I’m writing this early in the morning, it’s definitely the 16th.

    It’s for a good reason, though: I went to the pub after work.1

    The occasion was the monthly drinks for ex- and still-current-Misys people. Always good to see folk I haven’t seen for a while. And Misys are in the news at the moment. It looks like my old section, Payments & Messaging, won’t be long for this world (even what little is left of it). This D+H outfit — Vista, the owners of Misys, have bought them and are planning to smoosh them together with Misys — is big in payments. I’d expect that their products will be seen as superior, and our Payment Manager will start to be sunsetted.

    That’s certainly the likely trajectory if Misys management end up running the combined organisation. They have a permanent, severe case of inverse not-invented-here syndrome. Any product that the company has been making and selling successfully for years (decades, in the case of Midas and Equation) is automatically suspect and needs to be edged out in favour of something that came from another company, and/or is newer and less capable.

    Mind you, those old products have a habit of keeping on keeping on (and making the company money). Because, of course, they meet the needs of customers.

    Not that anyone was talking about that at the pub.

    1. I did start to write something when I got home, but it was never going to be anything viable. Looking at it this morning it doesn’t even make sense. ↩︎

    Why Devilgate?

    I always expect people to ask me about my use of the handle devilgate, but they almost never do. But an old friend did recently, and I wrote him the answer, and I think it belongs here.

    So sit back and relax, and I’ll fill you in on the whole story.

    You’re familiar with the origin story of the comics character Daredevil, I assume? Well it’s almost exactly like that, except with less radioactive material/eye interaction, blindness and skintight costumes. But with added rock ‘n’ roll.

    So, back around the time I was in primary 4 or 5 (age 9-10), Suzi Quatro, as I’m sure you know, had a song called ‘Devilgate Drive’ (or so I thought for decades; I was telling a colleague at work this story a few years back and we looked for it on Spotify, and couldn’t find it; until we split it into two words: ‘Devil Gate Drive'; somehow much less satisfying). I didn’t actually know the song back then, but some of my classmates did, and started calling me ‘Devilgate’, precisely because I was decidedly non-devilish (or so I assume). I was seen as a bit of a goody-goody, because a) my Mum was a teacher, and b) I was a bit of a goody-goody.

    As nicknames go, it was a lot better than it could have been. I remember once another kid asking me what it meant, and I said, “Devilgate: the gate full of the devil.” Which is kind of embarrassing, but considering how goody-goody I actually was (altar boy, and all that), it’s surprising that I wasn’t more bothered by the diabolical nature. Perhaps further evidence that all children are naturally without belief, until and unless they’re indoctrinated into having some: I probably didn’t really believe in the devil.

    Anyway, spin forward a few years and I got online and was looking for a handle somewhere – Slashdot might have been where I first used it, and I was just trying to find out whether you can find the creation date of your Slashdot user ID, but it seems you can’t. I have a vague feeling, actually, that I used it somewhere else first, but I can’t imagine where that might be.

    Anyway, having established it, it became my go-to handle. Wherever there’s a web service, if there’s a devilgate (or Devilgate: I see that I capitalised it back in the Slashdot days), it’ll almost certainly be me. Except for eBay, where I’m devilgate_real, because some bampot had nicked my name by the time I got there.

    And so when I finally got round to registering my own domain, it was obvious what I’d choose.

    New theme

    Have just activated a new theme for this site. It's called "MNML":[](,) and it's designed especially for quick posts. As ever, I'm not quite sure about it yet, but we'll seee.

    New website, blog

    I’ve had the domain for nearly two years, now. But it has taken me this long to actually start using it for more than a source of throwaway email addresses.

    At last, though, I’ve put some readable stuff up there. So far it’s just a main page and a blog. In time, though, I might put up some stories, pictures or other material.

    WordPress, which I’m using for the blog, has a nifty little plugin that allows you to automatically crosspost to LiveJournal. So you should shortly start seeing posts here with links back to original posts over there.

    Pop on over and have a look; or why not add the RSS feed to your favourite feed reader?

    To summarise, then: the site; the blog; the feed for posts; the feed for comments.

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