E-tales: Chatting with Kevin Smith

We were saddened at the untimely demise of actor Kevin Smith, who once almost starred on the cover of an IDG internet title.

Chatting with Kevin Smith

We were saddened at the untimely demise of actor Kevin Smith, who once almost starred on the cover of an IDG internet title.

In 1997 former Computerworld reporter Ria Keenan interviewed Smith about his exposure to — and on — the internet, which hadn’t yet quite penetrated the mass consciousness. At the time Smith was almost bigger in the US than at home. There, to the many dedicated Xena and Hercules fans, he was Ares, God of War (in Xena), or Iphicles, Herc’s half-brother.

In the interview, Smith revealed his bemusement at the fan websites and chat rooms that had sprung up around the shows. “I did go to Pacific Renaissance one time [Hercules’ and Xena’s production company] and saw an entirely weird thing — an image from the show was being used as wallpaper for the website,” Smith told Keenan. “I thought this is full on, it’s groovy. People are really into the show. It’s just amazing the amount of time people spend on the internet. I’ve got friends who get home at night and spend five hours surfing it.”

Had he, like Lucy Lawless, ever ventured into a chat room to see what fans are saying about him? “I did it once; it was ill-conceived folly. A friend was in a chat room and the Ares character was mentioned, so he said why don’t you go on? He typed in ‘I’ve got Ares with me here right now’. My typing was really bad, my spelling was bad and I was in trouble and my friend says ‘What are you doing’ and I said ‘I’m looking for the ‘H’ key, man!’ so he said ‘you talk, I’ll type’. It was kinda weird but kinda cool.”

Did the chat room people believe him? “That’s the thing — maybe because they knew this guy did work on the Xena crew, they seemed to believe. There was amazing venom; it was amazing just how into it people get. There were heated conversations and threats. I just imagined a lot of people hunched over, really typing in anger at their keyboards!”

The interview was never published, nor the photo, for which Smith obligingly posed with his Ares hardware, but it can be read in full online at www.idg.net.nz.

A queer career

What does New Zealand need to develop the much vaunted “knowledge economy?” — perhaps a splash of pink will help.

Richard Florida of Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University argues that the most creative cities in the US are also those with the largest proportion of gay households.

He has produced a “gay index” of homosexual couples, which is closely linked to a “coolness index” that measures the hip and trendy. Surveying 50 US cities, Florida found “the leading indicator of high technology success is a large gay population, followed by a high concentration of artists, writers, musicians and actors”, the Economist recently reported.

A look at the man-for-man section of NZDating.com indeed suggests that many of its hopefuls work in web design and other high-tech fields, so we await the IT industry floats in March’s gay parades to get the knowledge economy ball rolling.

What do women want?

IT is not it in online dating, at least as far as women are concerned. Perhaps they think they’d be wasting their time (see above). US-based Match.com says women would much rather hook up with a teacher.

It surveyed 5000 single women this month and found women reject the rich CEO, the powerful politician and the Wall Street stockbroker. Trish McDermott, self-styled vice president of romance at Match.com, says recent events have made women re-examine their values. They believe a teacher has strong values, is available to his family, has long holidays, does not work late nights in the office and takes few business trips.

“Teachers make great dads, they have summers off to spend with the kids, and they tend to be somewhat selfless,” McDermott says.

There’s more bad news for guys. Jupiter Communications says a man’s chances of finding love online is hampered because on the web men outnumber women by 59% to 41%. “Potentially adding to the frustration of being a single male surfer is that none of these [dating] sites are among those with the highest concentration of single or divorced/widowed/separated females,” says Jupiter analyst Max Kalehoff.

Net goes Fawlty

Monty Python’s cult comedy The Life of Brian has topped a poll of UK internet users’ favourite film lines. The winning line was actor Terry Jones’: “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.” Michael Caine came second in the 1969 caper The Italian Job, saying, “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”. Canadian Mike Myers was third with “Yeah Baby”, the catchphrase of his James Bond spoof Austin Powers.

The best TV lines, says Bol.com, went to BBC TV’s Dad’s Army and Fawlty Towers. First was “Don’t tell him, Pike”, delivered by Capt Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) in a scene where a German officer demands to know the British reservists’ names. Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) was runner-up, when after insulting German guests over dinner, he advises his staff “Don’t mention the war”.

Game boys

Researchers have discovered that one in seven child gamers are suffering health problems through overuse.

Some 20% of children aged 6 to 11 suffer muscle stiffness, a third of them so severe that the shoulder blade has been displaced.

The Akita University School of Medicine surveyed 1142 children and says children playing games for more than an hour a day are at risk. Noted health problems include “mouse elbow” — damage to elbow and forearm tissue through over use, and “joystick digit” — a consequence of overuse of the finder on the joystick.

Hang the DJ

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is creating a robotic DJ to work in nightclubs.

“We’re trying to make human DJs obsolete as far as possible. They’re expensive, they’re unreliable,” says assistant professor Chris Csikszenmihaly, talking about his DJ-1 Robot Sound System. “If we can make this machine work, we’ll give club owners an easy time,” he says.

DJ-1 uses a PC, several micro-controllers and an advanced “motion control” system to automatically mix, scratch and search the vinyl records sitting on its turntables.

Tests with real DJs have taken place in underground clubs and now the MIT plans to record the motions of famous DJs for posterity and combine their signatures to make “the perfect DJ”. Already real DJs have visited the institute to hear sounds produced by the machine to use in their own human performances.

Camouflage by computer

Canadian defence officials say the technology already exists to produce computerised fabric to camouflage soldiers. Canadian Defence Department spokesman Major Doug Palmer says computer sensors in the fabric would measure the light, shape and colour of surroundings. It is just a matter of developing the technology for combat situations and mass-producing the uniforms, he says.

Peerless Garments, which supplies Canadian army uniforms, already uses fabric patters generated from digital photos of different combat landscapes.

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More about BBC Worldwide AustralasiaCarnegie Mellon University AustraliaDefence DepartmentHerculesIDGJupiterJupiter CommunicationsMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyMatch.comMellonMITRenaissanceTechnologyWall Street

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