Sunday, December 02, 2007

TV Shows Legally Online

I have wondered in the past, why unlike online radio, online TV is not available to everyone, everywhere; and it is much more difficult to watch some good shows online.

Apparenly, some TV productions are available completely legally online, but viewing is usually limited to U.S.-based users.

The creators or the ingenious "IT Crowd" have taken a completely different attitude. First of all, the show was legally available for watching on the Channel 4 site; it understands that the globalisation of tv production and the availability of TV shows outside their original production rights are a fact - and its way to deal with it is to create better content, that would make us want to buy their DVD (I know I want it). Wikipedia describes the DVD extras:




Also included on the DVD are subtitles in leet. The leet subtitles, for the
first episode, are not a direct translation of the show and include many
references to geek culture that were not included in the original episode. The
second episode has the subtitles ROT13 encoded, episode three has
all the words in the subtitles sorted in alphabetical order, episode four has
the text base64
encoded and the last two episodes are direct leet translations.[10]
It is
possible to run the decrypted VOB files for episode four from the DVD through a
subtitle OCR program
such as SubRip which will produce a text file containing the base64 data. After
removing the extra line feeds and time indexes, the resulting file can be
processed by a base64 decoder and it will produce the 15.3KB plain text of the
subtitles (using Unix
linefeeds). The base64 encoding does contain one error: line 423 and 424 are
duplicates and one must be removed for proper decoding (the text is
"LAoKCgp0aGUgcGVvcGxlIHRoYXQgdHVybmVkIH").[11]
The DVD
also included a short film written and
directed by Linehan called Hello Friend, which starred
Ayoade in a silent role, and also had an appearance from Little
Britain's
David Walliams.




But finally, even non-UK users can enjoy the first season legally, through FileClowd



Other legal downloads of TV shows there are rather Internet produced TV shows (read: independent television, an interesting concept in itself).

Monday, November 12, 2007

tv-video.net VIP channel - Worth it?

tv-video.net have a neat trick - a VIP channel, separately from the "normal" users' channel. One can become a member of the VIP channel in two ways: contributing (through PayPal) to the site (nice way to make money for all that bandwidth); or contributing (free advices) at the tv-video.net forums.

Tv-Video.net are quite elusive as to what are the real benefits of joining the VIP channel. One can only assume that unlike the "regular" TV-Video, which claims not to link to high definition/resolution versions of the full episodes they have, the VIP section has high definition and/or has quicker download rates.

TV-Video.net was not available several times in the past few weeks, with glitches in the software. This, of course, adds somewhat to the big question, whether or not to join their VIP club.

Further Links:
More Video Toolbars and Sites
More TV Online Sources
Radio Online
Should you download SATVOD?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mercure's Russian Roulette

Mercure hotel chain now runs a new campaign for its hotels in Berlin:
(1) you buy a room for 50 EUR a night, 99 for two nights, breakfast included
(2) four days before arrival, you will be notified which Mercure hotel you're receiving.
(3) the charge is non refundable. That is, even if you get a hotel you don't like, you can't call the deal off.

They call it "Glücksroulette Berlin", which means "luck roulette".

Now, Mercure have a couple of hotels in pretty decent locations in Berlin: one near Check Point Charlie, another near Charite hospital in Mitte (and near the Natural History Museum), one in Frankfurter Allee and another near the Technical Museum. There is also a hotel near the Boddinstrasse station (and close to the Tempelhof airport), which might not be the best neighbouhood in Berlin, but is very convinient, transportation-wise.

However, it has 9 hotels in Berlin and its vicinity: others are not "just" far away from the centre, but also from means of public transportation; and two are actually outside Berlin proper: in Potsdam and in the lively town of Henningsdorf, a place about which most Berliners haven't heard (let alone visited). Their hotel "Berlin City West" is described on their site as a city centre hotel, but is in fact located in a remote corner of Spandau, near the indusrial area of Siemensstadt (in all fairness, it has good public transport connection).

In other words, Mercure's Glücksroulette could end up as being quite a Russian Roulette: you might find tourself tucked away in Henningsdorf, Potsdam or Spandau; or in an airport hotel. The chances are even lower than the classic Russian Roulette.

Related Links:
Reserving hotel in Berlin at Hotel.de
Tours in Berlin

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More Video Toolbars and Sites

SATVOD, which was mentioned in earlier posts, is a toolbar which links to TV content uploaded elsewhere (YouTube, etc.), and lets you view it. SatVod might raise several problems:
* toolbars, as mentioned in the original article, are a hazard, and might be infected with adware
* some users have reported problems regarding the usage of SatVod - trying to uninstall doesn't always work, problems with upload, etc.

There are alternatives. It has several competitors. Some are toolbars, some are the sites from which SATVOD takes its content.

More Toolbars
Live TV Toolbar
http://www.tv-toolbar.com/ - this toolbar offers "1750 live TV stations", only that they include such wonderful TV stations such as Algerian TV and North Korean TV. Right, who could prefer Desperate Housewives over another speech by Kim Sung Il?

Search Engines
TV Over - a directory of TV and video sites
http://www.tvover.net

Find Internet TV
http://www.findinternettv.com/ - so much of the same thing, it looks like a clone (or the other way round?)

Media Players
Miro
http://www.getmiro.com/ - Miro is an open source programme that can do a lot for you: it can let you download bitorrent files; watch any video file type; download, search and watch files from YouTube, etc.

TV Stations
Most of these stations are US only, but there is a way around it, by using a proxy server while not distorting your IP address

ABC
http://dynamic.abc.go.com/streaming/landing - this US only ABC site lets you watch some of their top productions

CBS - Innertube
http://www.cbs.com/innertube/ - US Only content - full episodes of shows like Jericho, Survivor

NBC -
http://www.nbc.com/Video/ - US only content, full episodes of shows like My Name is Earl

AOL TV
http://video.aol.com/video-category/in2tv/103132 - US Only

SciFi Channel
http://video.scifi.com/

Channel 4
http://www.channel4.com/4od/index.html - Only for residents of UK and Eire. Broadcasts the godly (and godless) IT Crowd

Australian ABC
http://www.abc.net.au/tv/chaser/war/int/vodcast/ - download vodcasts of Chaser's War on Everything

Sites with Uploaded Videos (Like You Tube)
Not by the channels, uploaded by staff or users and not entirely legal everywhere in the world

TV Video Net
http://tv-video.net/

AllUC
http://www11.alluc.org/alluc/index.php - also includes two foreign language sections, a German one and a Spanish one (see more at: Watch German shows online/Kostenloser Deutscher Fernsehen Online)

PeekVID
http://www.peekvid.com/ - one of the best sites out there

America Free TV
http://www.americafree.tv/index.shtml - weird and badly designed, but could be also checked

Channel Chooser
http://www.channelchooser.com/ - TV channels that broadcast online, including some very good picks (ESPN, Comedy Channel)

Filmzzzz
http://www.filmzzz.com/ - probably illegal wherever you live - films that have been uploaded somewhere somehow

CinemaTube
http://cinematube.net/ - many films and TV shows in streaming, taken from user uploaded sites

TubeZoom
http://tubezoom.com - in a forum

Classic Movies (copyright free)

Internet Archive
http://www.archive.org/details/feature_films - old (copyright free and lega) films and TV

Archive Classic Movies
http://www.archiveclassicmovies.com/movie_lib.html - in fact take their links from the Archive

JBBTV
http://www.jbbtv.com/ - films from the Archive, TV shows from legal broadcaster's site

Clips of Shows
This is not really a category - such videos are available anywhere, but the BBC site has a great collection of their own stuff:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/clips/

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mystery

The Spiegel magazine has a new section, which deals with history, and which also includes personal questions and accounts. I will write more about it in another time, but in this case, this mysetery intersted me:

In 1988 I took a 19 year old hitch-hiker from West Berlin to Kiel. He said he
was a West German and wanted to get to Oldenburg. On the road he wanted to "go".
He went in a dark field just behind the rest area, and never came back.

About 300 meters after this field, there is a forest. He gave me his
passport "just in case". I called, jumped and looked all over for him, but had
to leave with very bad conscience, because leaving the road was not permitted.

The GDR border guards took away his passport, and released me after a
long interrogation ("we never had one less passenger").

I have
never found out, what has happened. His birthplace was near Magdeburg [in
another sourc
e he said the guy was born in 1963 or 1969], as I have later
learnt.

What happened in the forest? Why did he give me his passport?
Has he been arrested? Did he want to return to a long lost love? What does he do
today?

I would be happy to get any help in answering these questions.

I googled the name Ralf Strunz online. Several people emerge.
(1) someone who provided chorus and help in an Einstürzende Neubauten album (1996) [that somehow fits perfectly with being a young man in Berlin];
(2) the second, a football trainer from Baden. This guy formerly played football for a team in Riesa (which is in Saxony, East Germany); and might be the same person as
(3) the owner of an advertising agency in rural southwest Germany
(4) The head of the fire brigade in a small East German town [fits with being an East German, although the city is not near Magdeburg]
(5) Someone who lives in northern Bavaria (near the Thuringen border) and has bought a motorcycle

So which one is it? What has really happened? Did he (somehow the gentle spirit who originally asked the question does not put that as a possibility) commit suicide? Was arrested? Was in fact a spy (re)infitrating East Germany? Wanted to meet someone and try to get them out of the GDR, but the person has failed to show up? Missed his loved ones, as the asker implies?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Smelly Washing Machine

As this blog usually doesn't deal with household advices and life hack styled solutions to everyday problems (it is much more focused on non-existent, not important or non realistic problems, when it does), it came as absolute surprise that such an ingenious trick became apparent to me.

Well, it all starts with a stinky washing machine. Washing machines stink when fungus or mold develop under the drum, usually when the washing machine has front door. Liquids left after washing do not dry up and the result is growth environment for all kinds of stink.

There are several products on the market offering to solve this problem. In fact, if you will Google the term stiky washing machine or smelly washing machine, you will reach some of them. I have also reached some pages warning that some of these alleged miracle drugs can be harmful to the machine's rubber seal. Not to mention how environmentally unfriendly they are.

In other words: try these products at your own risk. Or you can buy a product that probably costs 0.01 of the price of those marketed products. Vinegar. In order to get rid of bad odor in your washing machine, just sprinkle some vinegar into the drum after emptying the machine, and leave the door open as long as possible. Friendlier to the environment, cheaper and most importantly, really works.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Young Boys' Club

Young Boys' Club: Ex-Google Employee Sues for Age-Discrimination

Through my friend Em, I got more information regarding an impending age-discrimination suit filed against Google: "A 54-year-old former Google Inc. manager who claimed he was fired after a supervisor told him his opinions were "too old to matter"

I have already discussed before what I saw as sexist remarks by a senior Google official that reflect the general attitude towards women in the high-tech industry. I wrote, that:


Cyberspace and the new Information Technology have not revolutionised gender relations, despite the fact that theoretically, on the Internet, nobody knows that you're a dog. Be a dog, but don't be a bitch - because unless you are career driven maniac who doesn't want a family (which is something most women are not), you cannot stand the hours in the high-tech industry. Even if you do have an engineering degree, which is a question in itself (less women than men study that).


Apparently, this is also true regarding age discrimination, which is a largely discussed issue in the industry. Like women (or men) who would not work crazy hours; like people with disabilities restricted to telejobs (which I wrote, are "pushed to the bottom of the social ladder. Those who telework are being stigmatised as "work-at-home-moms" even if they are providing a service that is unique and valuable"); "old" people are excluded from the young-boys-network.

How old is old? Actually, the perception of the geeks from the silicon valley is not dissimilar to that of the 14 year old mall rat from San Frenando Valley: 45-year-old are old people. 54 year old is already with one foot in the grave.

There are several webpages dedicated only to the issue of age descrimination in the High Tech industry. There are also very interesting responses on Slashdot to the story (well, I am halfway through, if you know what Slashdot is like).

Basically, if you don't fit with a corporate culture that under the disguise of being young and hip, excludes everybody who is not exactly like them, you do not belong there. This is the message that the IT culture passes to people. Accordingly, the "fun" and "hip" is all maintained in order to keep a young-boys'-network, just like in the olden days.

Yes, it does bring up a great idea for a site, probably up next in Google labs:
http://send-the-elderly-to-ice-floes.google.com

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More TV Online Sources

Mashable have published a list of TV online sources. Although not completely different from what you can get here, it is worth visiting

33 Ways to Watch TV Online
http://mashable.com/2007/06/18/33-ways-to-watch-free-tv-online/

Friday, October 05, 2007

Radio Online

Unlike online TV, which (because of different issues, mostly corporate copyright limitations), do not really manage to become a true Internet international phenomenon; radio stations sometimes manage to do that. In a way, it brings up the question why it doesn't happen with TV: you can hear regular radio stations, with their ads and songs, from anywhere; and in the case of the BBC radio, even clean of ads, but with lots of good music. Why can't it happen with BBC TV?

In any case, the prevalence of radio stations make a tool like the http://www.iheard.com/ radio stations directory very useful.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bremen on a Budget

As usual, when I travel, I also take my notes regarding the option of travelling on a budget. Bremen, unlike Boston and Copenhagen, is not considered to be a very expensive town. In fact, it is - like Berlin for example - a very cheap city indeed.

There are several options for cheap accommodation in Bremen. The most obvious one is the Bremen Youth Hostel (yes, no English on the official youth hostel site; the Germans like foreigners, right?); and several guesthouses near the central train station (Hauptbahnhof): e.g. the Bremer Backpacking Hostel.. Please keep in mind that these hostels and guest houses, unless you order a private room with your own bath, may accommodate you with people of the opposite sex; and the showers might be also shared (some may find it as an advantage, I guess).

If youth hostels are not your type, there are several other options. As usual, staying in a private flat is sometimes just as inexpensive as staying in a hostel, but you have your privacy. The city of Bremen has a list of private people renting holiday flats. From a personal experience, I went to stay at this flat, ran by Mr. Nalincioglu (pronounced: Nalinchi'orrloo). He speaks German, English and Turkish and is extremely nice and helpful. The flats are clean and very quiet (in Romantic narrow street), and most importantly, this romantic street is off a busy main road, where you can get public transportation, plenty of pubs and restaurants, etc.

Bremen's main attraction is its old town, and strolling in it is of course for free. The city hall and other magnificent renovated buildings are very impressive. You can find very good information on the City Tourism Bureau homepage, including free walking tour routes to follow; and recommendations cards you can use to get around and get admission into attractions.

The public transportation in Bremen seems to be working well, and therefore taxis are not a must. Except for the Old City, the Schnoor area, with its little boutiques and shops and the Ostertor area (which is where Mr. Nalincioglu's flat is located) are very good areas to hang around. In the Ostertor area you will find student-priced restaurants, bars and cafes, and you can try everything from a Doener to a nice typical Bremen food (if you are brave enough to eat the Labskaus: pork porridge with mashed red beet. In fact not as bad as it sounds - or looks - like, if you get used to the baby food texture).

A word of warning might be in place for those having a conference in the University of Bremen. The university is located at the end of the world. There is nothing to do there at night, and very little during the day either. No restaurants, no shops, and the only attraction is the oyster/spaceship shaped Science Centre. The university has some recommended guest-houses for visitors, but the area itself is like a remote village, so consider the fact that you will have to either have no life; or choose to stay in the city and travel every morning - like all students and staff - to the gulag where they put the university at.

Related articles:
Boston for less
Copehangen on a Shoestring

Monday, October 01, 2007

Rock the Village: A Clash of Cultures in Wacken, Germany

Full Metal Village is a new documentary made by German-Korean Cho Sung-hyung. It is a documentary about a rock festival, The Wacken Open Air, but it is in fact a documentary about a clash of cultures, and the tolerance to the “Other”.

The Wacken Open Air is the largest heavy metal festival in the world, which takes place in the village of Wacken in Schleswig Holstein, northern Germany. Wacken is one of those detached villages, not a gentrified suburb which still calls itself a village. And Cho chose to concentrate on the village and its people, and see their reactions to the invasion of the people, who are so different from them: the clash between the church choir of the village elderly; and the tattooed metalists.


Cho made her choices – except for two people (one 16 year old and another, the 40ish Norbert, who was one of the original organisers of the festival, and is now depressed, bitter, and unemployed), those interviewed are old and represent the “old”, post-war generation in Wacken. I am sure that there are couple other interesting, but less “representative” inhabitants of this 1800 people village.

The old people, however, are charming. You have the farmer who rents out the territory to the festival, who is constantly thinking of a way to earn the next Euro; the granny who was one of the Germans expelled from East Prussia as part of the aftermath of World War II; the one that believes that all heavy metal fans are devil worshippers and worse (the village’s vicar seems more relaxed); and above all, the farmer who relaxes with his cows and seems disinterested in all of this.

German-ness is the topic of the movie, and those coming to see a film about their favourite metal festival might be disappointed. They also might not be disappointed to learn about how tolerant most of their hosts are – willing to help the festival and to get along with the crazy week it entails: the scene with the sales of beer at the local supermarket is very entertaining.

But underneath Cho’s good intentions to bring about a nice film about the clash of cultures (which ends well), there is, well, Germany. The 16 year old girl is obsessed with the second World War in at some point says that “she wishes to have lived during that period” (to be able to learn more).Does her obsession go too far, to the dark corners we might connote with a German teen obsessed with Nazism? The film doesn’t say.

And what about the unemployed Norbert? He plainly says that the guilty party in his condition are all those “foreigners” who come to steal good German job places. And I would imagine, that as Cho herself is a “foreigner”, Norbert has somewhat censored himself, and did not reveal the rest of his opinions of foreigners. In other words, while the old people in the film are supposed be the intolerant, god-fearing, folks, it is the young ones that reveal intolerance to the present and longing for romantic past.

Cho also calls the film a “Heimatfilm”, an ironic title, as the original “Heimatfilms” where romantic (feature) films, which highlighted good old country life, with families, dogs and sheep. And maybe this is what this film is all about – the clash of cultures is not between the Metalists and the village people; it is between those longing for the past and those living in the present.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wikipedia has been had (by one of their own)

There have been several cases before, where Wikipedia has been had: most famousely, John Seigenthaler Sr. , whose page has been changed to include false information (Wikipedia themselves write about it). Wikipedia admins are usually quick in finding sheer vandalism ("Oprah is an alien"); less successful, when it comes to information that seems true, changing a year, a small note, adding information about a relatively unknown figure's life. Wikipedia also has its own category: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Suspected_hoax_articles

However, as far as I know, this is the first time that Wikipedia has been had by one of their own, someone who administered one of the many language versions of Wikipedia. The problem? The language, Siberian, doesn't exist, the site was a private joke by the administrators and his friends (with an opportunity to bash some Russians, which is apparently, the only reason the hoax has been discovered: the Russians complained of the non-objective, anti-Russian, content of the Siberian Wikipedia).

The issue has been heatedly debated before Wikimedia foundation finally decided to pull the plug on the Siberian Wiki, partially because the Siberians are still adament that everything is dead (or cold) serious.

It is not as if there are no constructed languages in Wikipedia (from Esperanto, which is pretty big and seems, to Klingon which is now unfortunately locked). I guess that they don't like to be made fun of....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Should you download SATVOD?

Because of my infamous post, where I listed TV and video websites I sometimes get people asking me about this site or the other.

SATVOD is apparently one of the latest buzzes around: they have neat graphics, and unlike those scammers who try to sell you "Satellite TV online", Satvod is for free - just download it, and they promise that they scan video sites (You Tube, etc.) for relevant material.

There are, as I have listed before, several sites that do that. Satvod, except of neat graphics, tells you to download their toolbar (in order to watch TV online). There are no reports (yet!) of the toolbar being harmful in any way. However, it raises a question - why download a toolbar when you can find sites that have the same viewer on your browser? why add another software to the already ladden computer? I am suspicious of toolbars by nature: for me, they (even the Google toolbar) more of a hindernis.

If you are a toolbar fan, however, Satvod promises you another bankload of streamed TV and video.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Boston for Less

It seems that life brings us to the most expensive places on earth. Last time, it was Copenhagen. This time it is another notoriously expensive city, Boston.

Although this is a “Boston on a budget” article, it would be unrealistic to talk about “Boston in $10 a day”, as tour guides used to do. This amount of money would hardly buy anything, let alone hold you for a full day, including accommodation, dining and having fun being a tourist.

So, how can you enjoy Boston on a shoestring budget? Here are several sections that try to answer the question. The sections appear here as one unit, but you can also find them as independent articles:

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Sociologist of Religion’s Visit to Boston

Boston is a very interesting city from a Religious Studies/Sociology of Religion perspective. There are numerous places that would be interesting for you to see:

(1) Visit the Mary Baker Eddy Library and the Christian Science centre

(2) Visit the Swedenborgian chapel in Cambridge, tucked near the Harvard University

(3) Visit the North End, with the array of Churches, some important in U.S. history, and the “Saints’ Alley” in particular.

(4) Other historical churches: King’s Chapel (on Beacon Street), Trinity Church

(5) Just walk the streets: see the small Catholic-Irish ornaments in Charlestown; the new Temples/New Religious Movements on Cambridge’s Main Street; the immigrants’ churches in Chinatown.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Boston with kids, babies and toddlers

A big disclaimer here: I wasn’t in Boston with a real kid (“mommy buy me…!”) but with a very young and obliging child who will do almost anything. Still, here are a few tips:

(1) Food – Boston’s inner city supermarkets are expensive, but it is still a good idea to raid them and eat sandwiches or even the hot meals they offer, and not fast food; those of you from outside the East (including me) probably don’t know Friendly’s, a family restaurant chain, a restaurant of which can be found near the Charlestown Community College train station

(2) The area near the New England Aquarium has a pool with seals for free, which might be enough for some kids

(3) Boston Commons and the Gardens are a great place to be with kids, given the ducks all over the place

(4) Coply Plaza is a great place if your kids are not the winy/buy-me kind, lots of escalators and other exciting things (water fountains, sculptures, etc.)

(5) Museum of Science is almost a “must”; it has attractions for kids of all ages in almost every exhibit. Boston also has a Children’s Museum

Monday, September 10, 2007

Boston Technicalities

Transportation - public transportation in Boston is cheap and convenient, but the city centre is not very large, so one could also go almost anywhere by foot. Remember to get yourself a Charlie Card before you ride, and not buy a ticket each time. Concessions available for handicapped, etc. - but you have to go to a special office for that.

Internet - free Internet is available in public libraries (for 15 minutes without any membership; longer for members or people that the librarian seems to like); most of Cambridge and large parts of central Boston have some sort of WLAN hotspot arrangement.

Newspapers - the Metro newspaper might not be Boston Globe, but is for free.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Eating in Boston for Less

After touring Boston's finest attractions the whole day, and just before returning to your affordable Boston accommodation, you'd probably want to grab something to eat.

The North End and Chinatown both provide an opportunity to sample great ethnic restaurants for less. Go to side streets (those not on the Freedom Trail) in the North End and you will discover Italian Bakeries that also offer sandwiches (no, you don't have to go to the most famous Pizza place in the North End to enjoy the food there); small places open only for lunches, etc.

In Chinatown, you can identify the good, cheap, restaurants because:
* They don't look like Chinese restaurants (that is, with red dragons and other "Chinese" decorations), but more like a cantene;
* Everybody inside, on the other hand, is. We needed in fact someone to translate our wishes to the cashier.

Buying cheap and good food is even more problematic. In Boston itself you can find mostly 7-11 (which haven't seen a fresh vegetable if it beat them); and two moderately-expensive chains (Shaw's and Whole Foods). Both are very good for shopping, and you can also substitute a restaurant's food for Shaw's salad and warm food bars (you pay by the weight). It is not extremely cheap, but for the same price, you would probably get mostly greasy chain food, not real salads. In Charlestown you can also find a chain called Johnny's Foodmaster, which caught our hearts, because it seemed that many handicapped people worked in that branch.

Also in Charlestown (which is in general, another place where you can find off the beaten track cheap places to eat and drink), you can find a "Friendley's" restaurant. For those of you who are not from the East Coast, where this chain operates: it is an ice-cream chain (with lots of balloons and attractions to keep your children satisfied throughout the meal), that serves surprisingly good casual "real" food, you can even get "healthy" stuff like very good salads, and the cherry on the sundae is that it is not very expensive either.

Here are several other restaurants found online:

Boston Magazine: Best of Boston's Cheap Eats

FoodieView

Best Inexpensive Restaurants in Boston, Cambridge and Eastern MA

http://boston.citysearch.com/roundup/38630

20 for $20

Boston: Cheap Eats (my favourite sites for restaurants, from the Boston Globe)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Boston Attractions - Cheap Thrills


While Boston accommodation for cheap might be a problem, there are many Boston attractions for free or at least tourist sites that fit a budget traveler:

Outdoor attractions
Naturally, many outdoor attractions are for free. The ones listed here are either well-recommended (in tourist books, in general); or ones I happened to have visited. There are probably many more.

First of all, there are two trails that could be followed in the city, for free, and show you some of the most important historical landmarks. The first is the Freedom Trail, with events and sites from the colonial period and the War of Independence. Another is the Black Heritage Trail. Both will not only show you the history they discuss, but take you to interesting points in town.
If that is not enough, you have the parks, Boston Common and the Boston Gardens are free of charge, just as the Esplanade (where you can see the Boston Pops stage) and many other gardens are out these, full of ducks.

One of the nicest strolls we have made was down the docks and the piers – from the south all the way to North End. Oh, yes. North End. A great place to stroll outdoors, enjoy the architecture and the flair. Don’t go (only) on the main streets (or those from the Freedom Trail) and everything will be also cheap. Other neighbourhoods, like South Bay or the Chinatown are also worth strolling.

There are some cheap things that could be fun – the Duck Tours seemed to us like a combination of a tourist trap and a nightmare (the weather was cold and going in a Duck seemed a bad idea); but don’t mix up the ducks with the swans in Boston Public Gardens, which are fun (in the summer and late spring only).

USS Constitution is a free open air museum, in a naval base. Interesting and worth visiting. It is the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy. The “Old Ironside” was never defeated in Battle because of its legendary ability to repel any shot fired.

Another touristy outdoor attraction for free is the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Naturally, as a marketplace, the whole idea is that you buy stuff, but there are always street shows and interesting things without it. And there are several decent eateries, despite the touristy location.
Outside the Aquarium, which is for a fee, you can find a seal pool.

Museums
Massachusetts Historical Society
Charlestown Navy Yard – including the USS Constitution
Gardner Museum – if your name is Isabella. See here: http://www.gardnermuseum.org/isabellas.asp

Free on certain days:
Harvard University Art Museums - Saturday 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; everyday after 4:30 p.m.; everyday for under 18s.
Institute of Contemporary Art - FREE for all from 5 to 9 pm every Thursday for Target Free Thursday Nights; FREE for families (up to 2 adults accompanied by children 12 and under) on the last Saturday of each month
Museum of Fine Arts - Citizens Bank Foundation Wednesday Nights at the MFA: No general admission fee required. Every Wed, 4–9:45 pm. Voluntary donations welcome. Special exhibitions ticketed separately.

Reduced:
Children’s Museum: Target $1 Friday Nights are offered every Friday from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
I would definitely go to see the Science Museum; in the science museum, you’ve got also some small sections that are free (including a petting zoo)


Various Rainy Day Options (besides museums):


  • Go to the Boston Public Library – except for being the oldest in the United States, it is interesting, has limited (I think 15 minutes) free Internet time and well, you can always read a book
  • Harvard and MIT – Cambridge is ugly, but the Harvard buildings are interesting; and MIT has the most interesting public building in Boston – the Ghery building (Senta Center) is as crazy from the inside as it from the outside.
  • Interesting window shopping: the Coply Square Mall; the Koo de Kir (65 Chestnut Street); The nearby Holiday designer shop (53 Charles Street Boston, MA 02114 )
  • Visit the JFK library
  • Visit the Mary Baker Eddy Library

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Boston Accommodation

Boston Accommodation – Where to Sleep in Boston for Cheap (Homeless Shelters not Included)

If you’re staying in Boston on a budget, you have several options, but you have to remember that it is real estate prices that make Boston so expensive (restaurants or shop, as well as some of the attractions, have to pay the rent, right?).

There are some ways around the expensive hotel prices in Boston, assuming you don’t know anyone in Boston who would take you in (thank you tmarmoret!!!). The first might be to join an apartment exchange program (like this, this or this). The way it works was featured in a pretty bad Cameron Diaz/Kate Winslet movie I’ve seen on a plane, The Holiday, but it doesn’t have to work like that. It could be actually good. You might find a cheap – perhaps even free – host in Boston that way. There is also the CouchSurfing organization, where people register themselves to accommodate or meet others. Another option for budget accommodation in Boston would be to look up – through Craigslist for example – for people willing to rent their apartments when they are on vacation; for example (given the number of universities in Boston, Cambridge and the vicinity) students on one of their winter, summer or spring break. Bed and Breakfasts are also usually more affordable than hotels, although in the case of Boston, you can’t be sure…

For those of you who cannot sleep at someone else’s house, I can recommend the Marriott Residence Inn, a cheaper version of Marriott, which is suitable to host a relatively large party for affordable prices, something that could be a solution for those visiting Boston with kids or as students. The Residence Inn is also very close to MIT and Harvard.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

History Channel, again, manages to ruin a perfectly good movie

In the past several posts I have lamented the style of the style of the documentaries shown on the History Channel. I said that they tend to over-dramatise their statements and movies, as if a good historical documentary will not do without their dramatizations and acting out. I said that they tend to use bombastic titles, a perfectly legitimate device to lure people to watch a film, only that after a while you get the point.

The series “Lost Worlds” provides another good example. Prima facie a very good series, which attempts to find, through computer technology and experts’ interview, how would cities or projects, that do not exist, look today.

The episode “Hitler’s Supercity” does exactly that with the Nazi vision of Germania, a fascist model city Hitler has intended to build over Berlin. These were not just vague plans – Hitler and his architect/Minister of Armament Albert Speer, have actually began testing ground for the megalomaniac project. “Hitler’s Supercity” is a great episode in that sense: the researchers have managed to find very knowledgeable experts, the computer simulation is amazing and as someone who lives in Berlin and knows quite a bit about the subject, the choice of places to shoot was not mundane. Excellent film, I would have wished to say, but unfortunately, the problems with this historical documentary start here: some Germans have decided to be interviewed in English; those who haven’t, have been punished by the history channel – voiceover (because our viewers are not intelligent enough to hear foreign languages and read subtitles, despite the fact that they watch a documentary about a very specific episode in Nazi Germany’s history). Voiceovers are quite popular, and I wouldn’t have been so raged if it was the dignified type of voiceover you hear all over good documentaries: neutral tone and accent.

Not for the History Channel fellows. They have to dramatise, even if there is no drama. And what’s better than insulting a few kraut historians who have done the unforgivable mistake of interviewing in their own mother-tongue? Right, the voiceover artist (listed as Corey Lawson) does a bad imitation of a German Akzent. Something you would have expected to hear in a Monty Python sketch, not in a serious documentary. Shame on the History Channel, for treating people who were willing to grant an interview like that.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What has Happened to Open Cola?

Open Cola was apparently all the rage just several years ago - a company selling colas and not only that, but also provide, in an open source mode - cola formula (see a recipe later), which they claim is identical to the Coca Cola formula - in order to pass a message regarding open source and copyleft.

This social experiment is very interesting, but the results are not entirely clear. There is great interest in OpenCola all of a sudden (through ocial Networking), but the site OpenCola.com, which you'd expect would become a major hit, vanished any traces of cola (or open source) activism from its sites, and it sells "premium bedding". The company was in fact sold in 2003 by its founders to Open Text Corporation.

Several names come up as associated with the Cola recipe. The first is Cory Doctorow, a web-activist, journalist and proponent of open source and copyleft ideas. The second name that comes up is Laird Brown, a business consultant. The third is Amanda Foubister, who is listed as a stunt double. She is in fact credited with the original recipe.

The recipe goes like this:

Open Souce Cola Formula
Disclaimer
Making soft drinks is not for the faint of heart, nor the dirty of finger. It is a solemn enterprise not to be entered into lightly, as with marriage or buying used farm machinery.

With any food-prep, failure to observe basic hygienic principles, follow directions, and exercise common sense can have grave consequences. OpenCola assumes no liability for any problems that arise out of the use of this document. Proceed at your own risk. No one's putting a gun to your head, so don't bother if you can't boil water.

Improper use of cola might result in blunt trauma, puncture wounds, physical illness, mental illness, caffeine dependency, dental necrosis, acid reflux, death, devastation, and random tax audits. Or it might not.

A list of warnings has been provided below. We did not include them for our health â€" we included them for yours. Read them. Know them. Follow them. Tattoo them to your backside.

Just in case you have any doubt: following the directions below may be hazardous to your health and property. You assume any and all risk arising from the manufacture and consumption of cola.

An important note: this is not the recipe for "OpenCola" - that is, the canned beverage from OpenCola that you may have received at a trade show, or other venue or outlet. Making canned cola requires millions of dollars in abstruse gear and manufacturing gizmos. It's easier to make nerve gas than manufacture cola. This is a kitchen-sink recipe that you can make all on your own. It is our kitchen-sink recipe. We figured it out somewhere between coding the COLA SDK and debugging the Linux build of the clerver.

Anyway, we've tried to be nice about the disclaimer. If it's not good enough for you, here's what our lawyers have to say about the whole shootin' match.

By copying and/or distributing the Program, you hereby agree to the following:

Indemnity: You shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless OpenCola, its affiliates, directors, officers, and employees from and against any third-party claim, demand, cause of action, debt, liability, cost or expense (including, but not limited to, reasonable attorneys' fees) arising out of your use of the Recipe, or any derivative thereof, including, but not limited to, any claims arising from your distribution of soft drink based on the Recipe or any derivatives thereof.

International: OpenCola makes no representation that the Recipe, or any soft drink based on the Recipe or any derivatives thereof, may be appropriate for use in locations outside of the United States or Canada, and accessing them from any location where their use is illegal is prohibited. If you choose to access this Recipe from any location outside of the United States or Canada, you do so at your own risk, and are responsible for compliance with all local laws.
License:
OpenCola soda is distributed under the terms of the General Public License (GPL), a copy of which is appended to the bottom of this document. Please check out Richard Stallman's Free Software Foundation. He wrote the GPL and has plenty of interesting documentation on the site.
Version History:

1.1.3
2/20/01
Added sterner caffeine warnings, link to Material Safety Data Sheet â€" thanks to Tom Swulius. Added contributors section.

1.1.2
1/31/01
Fixed Amanda's email address

1.1.1
01/30/01
Even more disclaimer, this time to differentiate this recipe from the stuff in the cans.

1.1
01/29/01
Fixed typos. Made disclaimer scarier. Removed snotty references to Americans.

1.0
01/27/01
Introduction
Contained hereunder is a HOW-TO for brewing up kitchen-sink OpenCola. Amazingly enough, every soft-drink vendor we spoke to acted like the preparation of cola was some kind of deep, dark trade-seekrutâ"¢. With much reverse-engineering and creative shopping, the research kitchens at OpenCola have coopered together the following makefile for brewing up The Black Waters of Corporate Imperialismâ"¢ in the privacy of your own home.

The basis for the whole thing is the 7X, Top-Seekrutâ"¢ formula. Our sources tell us that 7X is the internal Coca-Cola codename for their syrup. You'll note that the 7X formula contains eight ingredients: still more evidence of the deviousness of the Soda Gnomes.

As it turns out, mixing up a batch of cola's pretty easy. Finding the ingredients is damned hard. Most of this file is about finding and handling ingredients so as to produce a tasty bevvy without blowing up your kitchen, melting your flesh off your bones, or poisoning yourself. As with all undertakings of great moment, read and understand the instructions before attempting to commit cola on your own. Pay special attention to the "Warnings" section.

This recipe is licensed under the GNU General Public license. It is "Open Source" Cola, or, if you prefer, "Free" Cola. That means you're free to use this recipe to make your own cola, or to make derivative colas. If you distribute derivative colas, you're expected to send email to the recipe's author, Amanda Foubister (amanda@opencola.com) with your updates. In the future, we expect to have a CVS server up to handle additions, bug-reports, etc.
The Formula
7X (Top SeekrutTM) flavoring formula:

3.50 ml orange oil
1.00 ml lemon oil
1.00 ml nutmeg oil
1.25 ml cassia oil
0.25 ml coriander oil
0.25 ml neroli oil
2.75 ml lime oil
0.25 ml lavender oil
10.0 g gum arabic
3.00 ml water
OpenCola syrup:

2.00 tsp. 7X formula
3.50 tsp. 75% phosphoric acid or citric acid
2.28 l water
2.36 kg plain granulated white table sugar
0.50 tsp. caffeine (optional)
30.0 ml caramel color
Preparation

7X Flavoring
Mix oils together in a cup. Add gum arabic, mix with a spoon. Add water and mix well. I used my trusty Braun mixer for this step, mixing for 4-5 minutes. You can also transfer to a blender for this step. Can be kept in a sealed glass jar in the fridge or at room temperature.

Please note that this mixture will separate. The Gum Arabic is essential to this part of the recipe, as you are mixing oil and water.
Syrup:

In a one gallon container (I used the Rubbermaid Servin' Saver Dry Food Keeper, 1.3 US Gal/4.92 l), take 5 mls of the 7X formula, add the 75% phosphoric or citric acid. Add the water, then the sugar. While mixing, add the caffeine, if desired. Make sure the caffeine is completely dissolved. Then add the caramel color. Mix thoroughly.
Cola:

To finish drink, take one part syrup and add 5 parts carbonated water.
Scavenging and Handling Ingredients
7X flavor:

Measurement: I used a dropper purchased at a Shoppers Drug Mart (normally used to measure infant portions of medicine, I believe).

Oils: Oils can cause skin irritation. Wear latex food-prep or surgical gloves. If oils come in contact with skin, wash with soap and water.

I purchased all oils from health food stores and the herbalist store, Thuna's (see notes on gum arabic).

Everything could have come from the herbalist's. Try for 100 percent pure, undiluted oils. I used oils from the following companies:

* CK Solutions, Ft. Wayne, IN 46825
* Aura Cacia Oils, Weaverville, CA 96093
* Aromaforce Essential Oils
* Frontier Natural Flavors, www.frontiercoop.com
* Karooch, Peterborough, ONT K9J 7Y8

When I purchased the oils, I specifically asked whether they were food grade or not. All persons said that they were, one person said she used them internally all the time.

Neroli is a very expensive item, be prepared (US$48.52 for 5.00 ml).

All others were a more reasonable price (US$2-9.30).

Gum Arabic: It is very important that you get only food-grade Gum Arabic. There is also an art-grade, which is readily available at art supply stores â€" never use art-grade Gum Arabic! Art-grade Gum Arabic is toxic. It will make you ill. You'll be sad. We'll be sad.

I found food-grade Gum Arabic at an herbalist store in Toronto called Thuna's (416) 461-8191. I purchased 112g for US$12.46, which will make more than 11 batches of flavoring formula.
Syrup:

Water: good old tap water will do, if you trust your tap. I used spring water.

75% Phosphoric Acid: Due to its acidity, this product is corrosive to the eyes and skin. Handle with gloved hands, and use extreme caution. If comes in contact with the eyes or skin, immediately flush with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Get medical attention. Rinse any spills on clothing or other surfaces thoroughly. Store in a secure area. Do not store more than 50.0 ml.

Try finding phosphoric acid at a compounding pharmacy in your area. There are pharmacies that still mix their own individual compounds and still stock phosphoric acid.

Citric acid: Very easy to find. I found mine at a Shoppers Drug Mart (Rougier Pharma Inc, Quebec, Canada J7J 1P3). Says right on the label, "For the preparation of acidulous drinks and effervescing draughts, and preservation of jams and jellies." According to the Coke history book, citric acid was used first in the formula, but they now use the phosphoric.

Sugar: Basic granulated white table sugar found everywhere. Buy from a bulk store to save some money.

Caffeine: It's best not to store caffeine in any amount. Caffeine can kill people in relatively small doses. The median lethal dose for an adult human is around 10 grams, or approximately one third of an ounce. You can find out more by reading the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for caffeine at http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/c0165.htm. Don't yeild to the temptation to create a "Super-Joltâ"¢," adding tons and tons of the white stuff to your cola, our you'll be in a world of hurt. If stored, store in a secure area away from children. Toxic by inhalation and ingestion: If inhaled, remove to fresh air, If ingested, call a physician. Possible teratogen and mutagen. If product comes in contact with the eyes, flush with plenty of water. There is some great information on caffeine and it's over-consumption at http://www.thecaffeinepage.com.

Caffeine is completely optional. I used part of a caffeine pill (MVP, www.mvpnutrition.com), ground up in a pestle with a mortar. According to information on the pill bottle and on the Web site, the pills are 100% caffeine. As an extra safety precaution, I strained all of the syrup through a 4-ply of cheesecloth, in case any of the caffeine wasn't dissolved.

Caramel color: I found mine at a bakery supply store (World of Cake Decorating, 1766 Weston Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 416-247-4935). I was originally told to use double strength caramel color, but couldn't find it anywhere (retail or wholesale). It really only adds color, so it makes it a bit paler than we are used to coming out of a can or bottle. No other difference that we could discern during our taste-testing.
Cola:

Soda Water: I purchased a soda charger and CO2 cartridges at Nikolaou's (629 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 416-504-6411) to deliver the soda charge needed to make the cola fizzy. At testing, no one was impressed. What worked best was adding canned sodium-free (very important!) soda water to the syrup.

If you would like to make soda water yourself as well, here is a recipe from a great Web site on beverages (http://www.upl.cs.wisc.edu/~craft/bar/section7.html):

Soda: Carbonated Water

* 5 U.S. gallons of water
* 1.5 cups sugar (or sugar syrup)
* 1 teaspoon dry bread yeast (rehydrated)

I fill each bottle 2/3 full, screw on the top, and leave for one or two weeks. Each weekend I measure and add the syrup to a few bottles, top them off with water and stick them in the fridge.

This is a very quick operation. I had experimented with adding dry sugar, but this caused an excessive amount of foaming.
Warnings:

These are all associated with each of their ingredients, but they're repeated here just to make sure. We're not making this stuff up. Cola is a harsh mistress, and she is quick to anger. Heed the warnings below or proceed into certain peril.

Oils: Can cause skin irritation. If oils come in contact with skin, wash with soap and water.

Gum Arabic: It is very important that you get only food-grade Gum Arabic. There is also an art-grade, which is readily available at art supply stores â€" never use art-grade Gum Arabic! Art grade Gum Arabic is toxic. It will make you ill. You'll be sad. We'll be sad.

75% Phosphoric Acid: Due to its acidity, this product is corrosive to the eyes and skin. Handle with gloved hands, and use extreme caution. If comes in contact with the eyes or skin, immediately flush with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Get medical attention. Rinse any spills on clothing or other surfaces thoroughly. Store in a secure area. Do not store more than 50.0 ml.

Caffeine: It's best not to store caffeine in any amount. Caffeine can kill people in relatively small doses. The median lethal dose for an adult human is around 10 grams, or approximately one third of an ounce. You can find out more by reading the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for caffeine at http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/c0165.htm. Don't yield to the temptation to create a “Super-Joltâ"¢â€ adding tons and tons of the white stuff to you cola, our you'll be in a world of hurt. If stored, store in a secure area away from children. Toxic by inhalation and ingestion: If inhaled, remove to fresh air. If ingested, call a physician. Possible teratogen and mutagen. If product comes in contact with the eyes, flush with plenty of water. There is some great information on caffeine and it's over-consumption at http://www.thecaffeinepage.com.
Thanks, Acknowledgements and Afterward:

The 7X that I experimented with comes from the great Coke history book, For God, Country, & Coca-Cola, by Mark Pendergrast, Basic Books, 1993, 2000, ISBN 0-465-05468-4. I know, I know. I list 8 oils, not 7. It notes in the book that many believe lavender to be part of the 7X formula, so I tried it. We liked it in testing.

Special thanks to Pharmacist David at the IDA (Queen West near Jameson, Toronto) for advice on phosphoric acid and chemistry.

Thanks to Barb Holland and Rose Murray from Foodland Ontario for advice on various ingredients and general soda making.
Contributors:

The following people have contributed refinements to the formula. Thanks to:
Cory Doctorow (cory@opencola.com)
Tom Swulius (swulius@ih2000.net)

GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE

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12. IN NO EVENT UNLESS REQUIRED BY APPLICABLE LAW OR AGREED TO IN WRITING WILL ANY COPYRIGHT HOLDER, OR ANY OTHER PARTY WHO MAY MODIFY AND/OR REDISTRIBUTE THE PROGRAM AS PERMITTED ABOVE, BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR DAMAGES, INCLUDING ANY GENERAL, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE PROGRAM (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OF DATA OR DATA BEING RENDERED INACCURATE OR LOSSES SUSTAINED BY YOU OR THIRD PARTIES OR A FAILURE OF THE PROGRAM TO OPERATE WITH ANY OTHER PROGRAMS), EVEN IF SUCH HOLDER OR OTHER PARTY HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES


More information:
http://www.infoweb.co.nz/open-source-cola

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCola

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Between the Lines of "The World at War"

ITV’s monumental documentary series about the Second World War, The World at War, is now available on DVD (now is relative, in fact it has been available for some time now).

ITV produced “The World at War” between 1968 and 1972, with a record investment for that time. It has 26 episodes, narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier and magnificently edited. It strikes so, especially in lieu of originality of depth in some contemporary documentaries, most evidently by the History Channel (and sometimes also Discovery), who seem to think that sticking “Hitler” to the title of any film only marginally dealing with Nazi Germany (“Unsolved History: Hitler and the Spear of Destiny”), or that we need actors who’d reenact historical scenes for us (“Gestapo” series by History Channel).

Unlike these two examples, The World at War is a crisp, never-outdated, product. I could only think of another historical documentary, which might be better, which is “The People’s Century”, with its researchers locating the “simple” people recorded in historical reels. However, The World at War, without intending to, is also a very interesting sociological document into power relations in Britain (or in Europe in general), both at the time of its production, as well as in the times it refer to.

An example could be given using the fourth episode, “Alone: The Battle of Britain”, which describes the situation in Britain between May 1940 and May 1941, and the Blitzkrieg ran against the British. The episode is – as always in this series – excellent, and depicts both the perspective of those bombed as well as that of those who fought or were in political decision making points.

However, because the episode, after all, deals with the ordeal of the “rear front”, the civilians, the choice of interviewees is even more interesting. In politics, one will not be surprised to hear that most of those who were in charge at the time were “Lord” something or another; or just someone with a very fine accent. The social class of the pilots depicted in the documentary reels is also rather obvious: most seem like the stereotype of the higher class officer-pilot, including those survivors who talk in cameo.

The ones peculiarly absent from an episode dealing with the British civilian population, are those 51% of the population that have carried the weight, just as well as – if not in some cases – more than the other 49%. The producers have even rounded up a group of Londoners who’d tell about life under the threat of Blitz. Although women are shown in the group, the editor gave only one description by a woman, a very brief sentence where she complains about the lack of personal hygiene they had to endure. Other women are also seen – both in historical reels (where it seems that most if not many Londoners at the time were women), and in the interview sequence, but are not heard; are spoken of (an assistant to Churchill tells of a visit the PM made to the rubble that had been a house in London, telling the women that “we” shall overcome; with them answering him that it is *them* who are now looking for their remaining property in the rubble, not him).

This is of course not (entirely) the producers’ fault. First of all, it is possible that it was not the editor who chose not to put them in, but the women themselves, who would not speak openly about the period; because of social conventions or any other reason. The fact that reels love to depict women as victims in order to extort sympathy is also not new. However, it is interesting how we can learn some additional things, between the lines, from this fine documentary.

Monday, August 06, 2007

5 More "Most Exquisitely Sad Songs in the Whole World"

Spinner published, some time ago, a list of the "The 25 Most Exquisitely Sad Songs in the Whole World". I agree with some of their choices. The River or Eleanor Rigby make me cry; others sort of leave me cold, or at least wouldn't be on my top 25 saddest songs. It's OK, as Spinner got a very long list of comments by others, recommending their own stuff ("the saddest song is by Elvis..."); Here are my five additions, you may disagree, as most seem to:

1. Neil Young - Let's start with the usual elvisian complaint: how come there are no Neil Young songs there? He has several candidates for sure: Ohio ("what if you knew her, and found her dead on the ground?"); A Man Needs a Maid (well, because of the helplessness here), Old Man. The list could go on. But one would really make you cringe: The Needle and the Damage Done.


2. Leonard Cohen - Another great source for sad songs ("dance me to the end of love", with the chilling cancer-ward video-clip), but here I am torn between two songs: "The Partisan" (which was not really written by Cohen, but is so sad when he does it) and "Who by Fire".


3. If we stay at "horrible reasons to die", Billy Holiday has another one, with Strange Fruit:


4. And being a bereaved mother of a dead soldier is no picknick either, as Kate Bush's Army Dreamers can tell:


5. The last one might be considered by some a tad dramatic: Nick Cave's "Where the Wild Roses Grow". Nick Cave's fans would probably claim (rightly so) that I've chosen Cave's least sad song; and some of his less "commercial" songs (he doesn't sing them with any blondes) are much better. But just like the Holocaust, drugs or lynch death, this is also the story of death by humans:


And there are some runner-ups, of course:

* Terry Jacks' Seasons in the Sun (a bit melodramatic but works). What's interesting is that the original lyrics by Jacques Brel (yes, the song is from French, just like the Partisan) were considered "too sad" and therefore the song did not suceed with them (see on Wikipedia).

* James Taylor's Fire and Rain

* You'll have to take my word that Joni Mitchell's "Songs for Aging Children" is very sad, and especially if you watch it as part of "Alice's Restaurant", a film I should actually write something about.

* My Name is Luca, by Suzanne Vega, is about an abused child. No one seems to care.

* Another sad child abuse song (or at least this is what it sounds to me) is the Crush Test Dummies' "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"

* Cat in the Cradle, Cat Steven's masterpiece about another dysfunctional family

Monday, June 04, 2007

Memorial for the Homosexual Victims of Nazism

Berlin: The design of a memorial to homosexuals persecuted and killed under the Nazis should be completed later this year. It will be placed in Tiergarten, just accross the street from the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe.

"Last year, a jury chose a design by Danish-born Michael Elmgreen and Norwegian native Ingar Dragset for the memorial. It will be shaped as a gray concrete slab, with a window allowing visitors to view a film projection inside."

Deutsche Welle Reports:

Under the Nazis, between 5,000 and 10,000 homosexuals were shipped off to concentration camps. During its crackdown the Nazi regime also began 100,000 legal proceedings against homosexuals.

After the war, 44,231 homosexuals were prosecuted in what was then West Germany.

Legal discrimination of homosexuals was outlawed in 1994, four years after unification. East Germany had abolished its anti-gay legislation in 1968.

Tours in Berlin, also on this issue: here.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

About Me and This Blog

Finally, I came around into writing this, thanks to the advice of a friend. So, what is this blog all about?

Each individual is like an ice-cream parlour, with many flavours: I am a postgraduate student and a lecturer in Berlin (Germany). But I am also a former Google Answers Researcher (you can see my answers here). Google Answers used to be a main source of income for me, and was also one of the reasons I have started with My Eyes Online: I have found interesting sites, which I thought are worth mentioning, even if they are not relevant to my answer. Later on, I have also used it to wrote about my experiences as a budget traveller; a little about life in Berlin; and other things that happen to me, or that I find interesting.

After Google Answers shut down (in December 2006), my main source of income (besides a meagre stipend) has become AdSense.


Therefore, I decided to add some blogs about topics I am interested in: distance education, citiznship and immigration and dispensing advice on governmental/administrative help (tax, etc).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fight Your Brethren

Passerby News reported on violent fights between Buddhist monks in Cambodia. This pehnomenon, of people who are supposed to be on the same side, but are fighting violently, is not new.

European history is full of blood shed by one religious fraction against members of the same religion. . This existed even in early Christianity. The Albigensian Crusade of 1208 is a first crusade, which was basically aimed at fellow Christians (don't worry, Jews have suffered too, as they always have during crusades).

In world history, Slave trade relied on the fact that some clerics allowed Jihad against Muslims:

[...], some Muslim leaders have justified Jihad (holy war) against Muslims that were perceived as "heathen" (basically, Muslims are not to wage war against another Muslim) and as the norm of the time was, captives were enslaved.


Interestingly, many of the pictures I found online are of Buddhist monks fighting each other, something that might contradict with the Western layman's notion of Buddihists as peace lovers (something that has to do with post-1960s images and ideas than with actual historical facts).


Korea: Fighting at the Chogye Sah Temple, Seoul
(More about temple violence in Korea:
Monks charged over temple violence )


Sri Lanka

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