Entries tagged with “Geek”.


One of the fundamental foundations of American society is the indelible belief that anyone, no matter how humble their beginnings, nor how lowly their status, can achieve their personal vision of greatness, whatever that may be. A boy with an interest in flight can become an astronaut; a little girl from the Bronx can become a planetary scientist; a black kid from Hawaii can even become President.

But what all American kids really want to do when they grow up, is to be a superhero. Well, why not, eh? Let me introduce you to someone who has made that childhood dream a reality – Phoenix Jones:

Yes, this man, whose identity is a complete mystery1 is a real person who patrols the streets of Seattle in a funny costume protecting law abiding citizens from Evil through the use of his mysterious super powers. Well, OK, if you include under the umbrella of ‘super’ powers the ability to use pepper spray and the dialling aptitude for calling 911. And if your definition of Evil is something like two coked-up hysterically screaming women and their shiftless intellectually-challenged boyfriends.

See Phoenix Jones bringing his awesome justice to bear in this clip, where he is accompanied by his trusty lieutenant, Ghost.2 Sure, he spends most of his time running away, but it’s the thought that counts, right? And the costume.

Apparently, Seattle has a veritable Justice League of these dudes. There’s Phoenix and Ghost as we’ve seen, and the atramentous Pitch Black, the sapphire-bewigged Blue Sparrow, The Red Dragon, The White Baron and the Yellow Custard. Well, actually, I made that last one up, but it’s an obvious omission from the League, and at least he could run away with integrity.

The Real Life Super Hero movement to which all these defenders-of-the-common-good (DON’T call them vigilantes!) belong is supposedly about these people helping out the weak and the vulnerable in the night-time streets of Seattle.3 Even though I only heard about this weird story yesterday, there’s been a shitload of press coverage of Phoenix Jones and his cohorts. Something that doesn’t seem to occur to a single news reporter (or anyone else), though, is the very first thing that entered my mind: if you have an elite clique of superheroes shouldn’t you by absolute necessity have an elite clique of super villains? How can Seattle possibly aspire to be a real-life Gotham City with only drunken hookers and mentally challenged jocks for bad guys?

It seems to me like there’s an opening here, Faithful Acowlytes, and I hereby announce the formation of the Seattle Super Villains League. And the League needs YOUR help. That’s right Cowmrades, it’s a Cow Competition. It is your task to create a Seattle Super Villain – I want a name and appropriate super powers, and a description of his/her costume (extra points for artwork). Let’s give Phoenix Jones some real opposition! The funniest, cleverest, wittiest, meanest member of the SSVL wins an awesome something from the Tetherd Cow Shoppe.

Together everybody: MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

ADDENDUM: My friend Tone recommends James Gunn’s Super, the trailer of which I present below for your enjoyment:

  1. It’s not really, but people, for chrissakes – EVERYONE knows that a super hero’s real identity is secret! That’s Comicbook Tropes 101. []
  2. From the clip it’s a bit hard to tell what Ghost’s super powers are but they appear to be the ability to get in the way and the ability to stand near Phoenix looking confused. []
  3. In the daytime, the weak and the vulnerable are on their own. C’mon – no-one‘s gonna go out in those costumes in broad daylight… []

I hate computers. I hate them in the same way as I hate audio equipment. For me, gadgets have always been a means to an end. My idea of the perfect audio system is one with no wires, no speakers, no knobs and no disks. All that stuff is ugly and distracting. I would be happy if I could just go into my favourite room and hear the music without any need for the accompanying paraphernalia.

And my idea of a perfect computer is one with no hard drives, no interfaces, no file systems, no processors. I don’t really care that something has 3 terabytes of RAM or a 16GHz processor. And the big humming boxes that house such things are ugly, distracting and hot. My idea of a perfect computing environment is one with nothing more than a screen, a sketchpad, and a keyboard1 and where I can do stuff and get results without having to think about file management or disk fragmentation or syntax or communications protocols.

The last few days have seen a lot of discussion about the sad passing of Steve Jobs and the legacy he has left the world. There can be little doubt, even among the detractors, that his vision did change our modern lives in a most profound way. To deny it is to be trivially contrarian. For me, the greatest thing for which Steve2 is responsible is not the Mac, nor the iPod, the iPad or the iPhone,3 but the wondrous behind-the-scenes tech of the operating systems in all those gadgets.

Some of you are probably old enough to remember the kinds of computing devices that existed before the Apple Macintosh came along and changed the computing world forever. I had two of them: a Commodore 64 and an Atari ST. You communicated with the Commodore via BASIC4 and with the Atari via Atari DOS, neither of which were what you could remotely consider ‘intuitive’. Each of these devices required a significant amount of figurin’ if you wanted to get something useful done with them. There certainly wasn’t much need to own one unless you intended to do something that was, in those days, fairly obscure, like music sequencing or database building.

I believe that Steve Jobs greatest gift to us was to make the ‘computeriness’ of computers go away (well, at least to start making it go away – it’s still not as invisible yet as I would like personally). I think that Jobs understood in his bones that most people don’t have the remotest desire to want to tangle with computers. They just want to do stuff. They just want to have their whole music collection to choose from when they’re taking a walk. They just want a little game to play while they’re waiting for the train. They just want to snap pictures and send them to a friend – or make them into a photo album. They just want to be able to lie in bed and browse the web.

And, when they work, they just want to be able to write a letter, prepare a report, record a song, edit a movie or hold a video conference without having to understand what C+ or printer drivers or ROM or RAM or SCSI or serial ports are. Mr Jobs took us a long way along the path to never having to think about this kind of ephemera and to just getting on with doing the things we needed (and wanted) to do.

I admit, quite proudly, to being what is derogatorily known these days as an Apple fanboy. I bought my first Apple product, a Mac Plus, in 1988, and not long that after switched up to an SE. After the Atari it was like upgrading from a badly-tuned 2 cylinder motor scooter to a Rolls Royce. I was initially only interested in having a computer solely as a music tool, but with the Macintosh, suddenly I could do all this other stuff as well. It was truly an enlightening experience. The thing that captured my imagination most of all with those early Macs was that for my mind, at least, they just felt right. It was like there was someone sensible in the design process who was thinking more about me and how I might want to use the machine, than whether it had the latest chipset or the fastest clock speed. That someone was Steve Jobs. In short, I felt an immediate affinity with the Macintosh because it didn’t get in the way of what I wanted to do with it.

Advocates of PCs and the Microsoft Windows way of doing things (and to a lesser extent aficionados of worthy alternatives like Linux), can’t understand why we Apple disciples love our Apple environments so much. They look on the Apple culture as something like a fashion trend, believing us to have all been sucked in by the slick design and the tinker-toy simplicity of the computers themselves. They frequently proclaim that we have ‘drunk the Cool Aid’. What they fail to understand is that people like me simply don’t care that there are faster, cheaper, more efficient, cleverer ways to do computer things out there;5 to us, computers are necessary annoyances, and the simpler it is to get something done with them, and the less they force you to think ‘like a computer’, the better.6 This was the critical insight of Steve Jobs – an insight that went on to inform the Apple music players, the phones, the tablets and the online stores. We love Apple, and we loved Steve, because he made our lives richer by giving us the power of computers without needing to be part of the arcane secret societies that had previously been the sole interlocutors for the mysterious digital magicks. This, I believe, is what the PC (and IT) crowd hate most about Apple – that it has given the peasants the keys to the church.

One of the criticisms you hear most from Apple critics is that Jobs pushed ‘style-over-substance’. This is mostly a cry of ‘How come we can’t make OUR things so neat?’, because if you think about it, how can anyone celebrate a lack of style? The real implication of this complaint is, of course, that if there is style there must necessarily be little substance. Such a deprecation indicates the profound absence of acumen of the prosaic mind. As any thinking person should realise, style is not just an outer layer in which something is cloaked, but is an integral part of its very being. To quote Jean-Luc Godard:

To me style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body. Both go together, they can’t be separated.

The style with which Jobs imbued Apple products is not surface deep, but reaches down into the core of the Apple brand. It is his personal philosophy that we engage with every day when we use our iPods and iPhones, our iPads and iMacs. We believe that Steve understood exactly how to allow us to engage with the world in a way that felt stylish and empowering and fun and, well, yes, insanely great.

It is for this reason, I believe, that even though we didn’t know him personally, many of us long-time and dedicated Apple users feel very deeply that with his untimely death we’ve lost a dear friend. And we fear that the people who are now taking over the reins at Apple might not truly understand what Steve Jobs seemed to embody intuitively as a driving force. Certainly, there is currently no-one else in the tech world who does, even including the very closely philosophically aligned Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Perhaps that’s the way it happens. I guess that’s for history to judge. For now, Steve Jobs has planted the seeds of great ideas. We can only hope that they continue to grow into beautiful trees without him to tend them.

Rest in peace Steve. I, for one, am richer for having had my life illuminated by the tools and creative philosophies which you brought us.

  1. I still like typing over writing, and for the short term at least I don’t see any alternative to a keyboard. When voice recognition becomes MUCH better, maybe it will be nice to speak things to your computer, but as long as we read, I think there will be writing of some kind. Perhaps that will change when direct neural interaction becomes possible… []
  2. It’s funny how I feel quite comfortable calling him Steve. In my circles it’s always been the way. I think he has been such a big influence in our daily lives that I feel, like a lot of people I guess, that I kinda knew him personally. []
  3. I’ve always detested that pretentious and irksome ‘i’ prefix… []
  4. The C64 had no operating system as such, hard as that is to comprehend these days. When you booted it, it was just a dumb blank brain until you loaded something into its RAM. []
  5. Consider these two options: 1. An ugly car that has a theoretical speed of 300 mph, has a super-efficient engine, an optimized drive-train and is technically superior to every other car on the road – as long as you fully understood the complicated procedure for driving it; 2. A nicely designed car that reliably gets you to the shops and back without any thought on your part about how that’s achieved. Some people will undoubtedly choose the first option. People whose main concern is just getting the shopping done will be the same people who buy a Mac. []
  6. In this respect, Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign is not so much about how people think about the world, but about how the world was thinking about computers. Apple was truly thinking different(ly). []

When I was a kid I really wanted to be a Secret Agent.1 Like, really, really. So much so, that when we had a career counselor come visit us in 5th class, I summoned up my best James Bond suave and went for broke and told her so.

“That’s nice dear,” she said, removing my hand from her knee. “Now, let’s have a look at these pictures of people stapling bank invoices together.”

She was probably right, I guess. In those days a career as a Secret Agent meant a lot of training and hard work (like being a composer or a filmmaker, say), but back then we didn’t have the INTERNET. Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, if one has a computer it is easy to become an instant artistic genius.

OR… a spy!

Yes dear friends, prepare to have all your Secret Agent fantasies fulfilled as I point you to the wonderful treasure trove that is to be found at China Grabber.com. China Grabber is one of those ghastly third-world internet shops intent on offloading all manner of cheap electronic junk on the world in order to quickly deplete the planet of as many resources as possible. It has cell phones and USB sticks and mp3 players and, well, anything and everything that aspires to eventually end up as vast mountains of toxic landfill.

But it also has spy gadgets. Lots and lots and lots of spy gadgets. Oh, I’m not talking about your standard run-of-the-mill pen cameras and wristwatch cameras and cigarette packet cameras – the stock-in-trade of your generic 20thC spook. They do have those, of course. But for those of us on the cutting edge of 21st Century Spydom they have awesome things like…

Tie Cam! ‘The World’s Smallest Wireless Color Pinhole Camera built-in this nice-looking Necktie.’ Yes, you too can record video everywhere you go whilst looking entirely inconspicuous like this young chap (for best incognito results the Super Amusive glasses are de rigueur).

If, like me, you thought that the tie was not so much ‘nice-looking’ as ‘Hi I’m a voyeur!’2 then you might like to consider the less-affected Button Cam.


Dress it up, dress it down, Button Cam goes with any outfit! I would suggest avoiding the lycra, though.

If infiltrating nuclear facilities or other high-risk security zones is more your game, then this is the gadget for you:

Posing as an innocuous identity card, this little beauty will give you a whopping 4 gigabytes of video and audio recording. Now you can post up on YouTube the embarrassing footage of yourself being frogmarched out of the Playboy mansion by Mr Hefner’s henchmen. Oh, teh lulz!

For those of you who are less mobile in your spying, why not try a little Coke & dagger subterfuge?


Pop this little sucker in the fridge and get the goods on your coworkers’ annoying habit of stealing your strawberry yoghurt! Aside from gathering evidence, you’ll find out what really happens to the light when you close the door (also comes in Coke Classic for the less calorie-conscious).

Not what you’re looking for? Something with a little less taste for monsieur? Well, you can go no further than the Tyre Clock Cam:

It’s a clock! It’s a tyre! AND it’s a spy camera! w00t! The best wish for my good friend!3 Absolutely guaranteed to become completely invisible in the workshop of your shady neighbourhood mechanic (comes with complimentary girlie pinups).

I’ve been saving the best till last of course. Being a Reverend & all, I like to keep tabs on my flock and what better way than the with the sophisticated Cross Cam?

The Spy DVR Camera Cross with necklace design digital video recorder is so convenient to wear and record. This cross spy camcorder looks really fashionable as it dangles from your neck… This discrete spy video camera system can be applied to almost any situation… You are ready to make high quality video files as well as a fashion cross necklace!

Convenient and fashionable! Sweet! I’m not sure about it being applicable to ‘almost any situation’ though – it might not be all that discrete in the local mosque. But hey, totally appropriate for lamington drives, in the ‘hood or at boy scout meetings!

Goodness gracious, Faithful Cowmrades! It looks like just about anything can be a spy camera! Lawks, why even that cup of coffee sitting on your desk… yes, that one to the right there… maybe that is a spy camera! With all these sneaky devices posing as innocent everyday items, how can you be sure that you’re not being spied upon right this very minute!!!((You are looking a little tired today, if I may say.))

Why, with this China Grabber Anti-Spy Cam/Anti-Surveillance Camera Detector, of course!

A highly effective, practical device to detect spies or sleazy co-workers. A simple yet incredibly effective device that might just save your bacon, get one today and eliminate the paranoia that comes from living in today’s constant surveillance society.

A constant surveillance society proudly enabled by China Grabber.




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Thanks to Steve H for pointing me to the totally covet-worthy China Grabber, a place that surely has the dubious distinction of being the internet equivalent of the 2 Dollar Shop

  1. It was always spelled with capitals. []
  2. C’mon. Let’s not pretend that we don’t know what most people buying these things use them for… []
  3. You filthy rotten thieving bastard! []