Author Archives: Tim Hall

Hitler on Model Railways

If you have ever encountered hardcore P4 modellers, this one’s for you.

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We Live In Interesting Times

Only a fool dare predict the outcome of the next general election. Suggestions that either the Liberal Democrats will be wiped out or UKIP will gain more than a handful of seats are probably wishful thinking on some parties’ behalf.

It’s looking like the major battleground will be Scotland, where the latest poll suggests Scottish Labour faces being wiped out by SNP. If that poll really does reflect the way the election will go, then the SNP are on course to become the third largest party in the next Parliament.

What that means for the next government is anyone’s guess. A potentially fractious Labour/SNP/Liberal Democrat coalition is probably the least bad option as long as UKIP don’t gain enough seats to be potential power-brokers.

But the worst nightmare, perhaps even worse than a feared Conservative/UKIP coalition would be a grand coalition between Labour and the Conservatives. Such a government could bring out the very worst in both parties; the swivel-eyed social reactionary side of the Tories and the nasty authoritarian side of Labour that hasn’t completely purged the ghost of Joseph Stalin from its veins. Such a chimaeric monster risks being closer to actual real fascism than any coalition involving the right-wing UKIP.

“May you live in interesting times” was always a curse.

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Why #GamerGate must end, and why it needs a truce

Two months on and GamerGate is still going on, with every attempt to shut it down merely fanning the flames. But we are starting to see some rejection of the manicheanism and lack of nuance that’s a big part of the problem.

For example, this rant on Popehat that takes no prisoners. But while most of it is aimed at supporters of GamerGate, pointing out how ridiculous the majority of their claims are, he also takes some well-aimed shots at their opponents. In particular the proponents of knee-jerk outrage-driven call-out culture who are shocked to find their own tactics used against them.

If you cultivate a culture in which people react disproportionately to stupid or offensive jokes, sooner or later someone else is going to be freaking out — sincerely or cynically — over someone “on your side” telling a stupid joke.

If you cultivate a culture in which the internet lands on someone like a ton of bricks for being an asshole, sooner or later some segment of the internet is going to decide that you are the asshole, and pile on you.

It is pointed out that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend:

Look, if you see #GamerGate as a vehicle to advance cultural conservative messages that you believe in, more power to you. That’s free speech. But if you are genuinely someone who only cares about journalistic integrity, and you promote Breitbart and Yiannopoulos, aren’t you being a useful idiot?

And both sides are guilty of that:

Yiannopoulos is by no means the only example. There’s also the feculent two-faced pack of scribblers at Gawker Media. Gawker Media, through Kotaku and Gawker and Jezebel, is consistently outraged at the misogyny of #GamerGate, and has retreated into pearl-clutching couch-fainting at the attacks it has recently endured on its own work. But Gawker Media loves feminism like a glutton loves his lunch.

Slate’s David Auerbach notes that there are all sorts of people for or against GamerGate, including feminists supporting it as a proxy war in a long-running feud between different generations of feminism. But it’s all reached the point where the human cost is just too high. It has to stop.

Whatever a troll does under the cover of Gamergate—such as doxxing actress Felicia Day or offering free game codes to accounts that send death threats—is guaranteed to get a lot of attention (far more than typical Internet harassment) and to be blamed not on the individual but on Gamergate collectively. For a troll, this is a perfect setup: maximum effect, minimal exposure. I could dox any woman in gaming, and Gamergate would get blamed. So as long as Gamergate drags on, trolls who care less about games than about causing chaos will wreak havoc

But he also makes the point that GamerGate, despite all the attendant toxicity, is going to continue for as long as the gaming media continues to use the highly visible misogyny and harassement to deflect attention away from things the media doesn’t want to talk about. His conclusion is that in order for GamerGate to come to an end, there has to be some sort of truce with those supporters who aren’t reactionary trolls. Parts of the media do need to clean up their acts, and he’s another to point an accusing finger at Gawker Media, who have not exactly been covering themselves in glory.

I’ve mentioned parallels with the culture wars across music a generation ago before. Back in those days entire genres of music had to fight for their right to exist. In a dishonest hit piece so notorious it’s remembered decades later, Rush and their fanbase were slandered as Nazis. We were told that guitar solos were misogynistic because the guitar was a phallic symbol. Well, perhaps not in those exact words, but that was surely the subtext behind Paul Morley’s ridiculous “Anti-Rockist” movement.

But all that was years ago, and it was really the growing pains of a far more diverse music scene that was rapidly fragmenting into multiple overlapping subcultures. Nowadays genres of music whose audiences are overwhelmingly white and male such as metal or progressive rock are allowed to exist without constantly having to defend themselves against charges of racism and sexism for that reason alone. And because the relative merits of different styles of music is largely divorced from identity politics we can have discussions about homophobia in the metal scene without getting derailed by “You should all be listening to dance-pop instead”.

Music’s bitter culture wars took place in a very different media environment, where a limited number of gatekeepers have far more power, and agenda-driven music journalists really did have the ability to make or break careers. It was far more of a zero-sum game in the days before the internet and the diversification of distribution channels.

Only the other hand, perhaps we’re lucky there was no Twitter during the Punk Wars.

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It seems as though “Gamers are over” is the new “Rock is dead”. We’ve been hearing that rock is dead from people that have never liked rock in the first place, but rock has always refused to go away.

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HS25 and Beyond

Following on the announcement of HS3, the government are set to announce HS25. It will not serve any major cities but will just go round and round in circles. There are rumours that Hornby and Bachmann have both submitted bids. The system will be controlled by a big knob, but George Osborne has promised he will let other people have a go occasionally.

On a more serious note, I’m still seeing people who loudly declare that high-speed rail is a waste of money and we should be building high-speed internet instead. If you really believe that the nation should not be investing in transport infrastructure to meet future demand because you’d rather sit at home and play video games or watch high-definition porn, then congratulations; the nation’s trainspotters can look down on you as socially isolated shut-ins.

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Kickstarter for Howard Sinclair’s new album

Howard Sinclair - The Light Broke InSinger-songwriter Howard Sinclair is running a Kickstarter campaign for his second album “The Light Broke In”, a followup to his début “The Delicious Company of Freaks”.

Howard Sinclair ought to be familiar to fans of Panic Room having supported the band many times. More recently he’s played keyboards for Also Eden and appears on their album “[REDACTED]“.

The new album will be full band project, now including former Morpheus Rising drummer Paul “Gibbo” Gibbons on drums alongside Patrick “Patch” Sanders on lead guitar and Becky Baldwin on bass. It features cover art by Mark Wilkinson, known for his iconic artwork for Marillion and more recently for Fish.

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Black Axe – Night From The Blue

A forgotten NWOBHM classic, from a session for Radion One’s Friday Rock Show.

This is a recording from the radio, with the voice of the late, great Tommy Vance at the end. As far as I know, Black Axe never released this song on record, so their Radio 1 session was the only recorded version.

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So Beady Eye have split after failing to set the world on fire. If they had hoped to be Whitesnake to Oasis’ Deep Purple, they ended up being Paice, Ashton & Lord.

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Pumpkin Spice?

Ello might not be the Facebook-killer we are looking for, for it’s yet another closed propietary silo.

Maybe it will be something like Pumpkin Spice, an idea that’s come from the delightfully retro tilde club.

Take all the standards we’ve got – RSS, Atom, FOAF, email, etc. – and use them to simulate Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. while letting the user own all the data, and without requiring the user to sell their personal data or eyeballs.

There are a lot of projects out there that let you own your data, but usually that means you go buy a raw server. Ain’t nobody got time for that, where “nobody” means “my relatives.” What we need is something that’s absolutely brain-dead easy to use, and that simulates a social network they’re already using. That means it has to have content, which means it has to be pretty agnostic about what it allows you to “friend.” Under the hood it’s mostly an RSS/Atom reader, but it’s also got to make use of as many proprietary APIs as it can, to pull in Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever the stuff they want to follow is on. Of course, since ideally those “friends” catch on and bail on the silo’d, privacy-hungry social networks, being able to use those APIs for long is going to be a problem.

This sounds like an interesting concept; a decentralised social network that doesn’t rely on any server-side infrastracture of its own, doing everything in the client.

Given the increasing popularity of tables, especially their adoption by the generation that grew up before the internet, it will really need client applications for Android and IoS as well as Windows.

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Was Michael Moorcock’s Law and Chaos based on any real-world religious or philosophical system, or did he create it from the whole cloth? It’s remarkable how manycultural conflicts that cut across traditional political and religious lines make more sense when framed as Law vs. Chaos, or between conflicting strains of Law.

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