The Pipwick Papers

I’m writing this from my new laptop. It still feels rather fancy and like I might break anything and everything if I look at it wrong. The first thing I did was try to play what I thought was a game about zebras but then it turned out the be a children’s book app with a zebra icon so I deleted the whole thing out of sheer disappointment. Now I’ve installed Dota and it’s business as usual. Here’s what I’ve been using it to read this weekend:

  • New Scientist takes an in-depth look at the world’s first biolimb – a rat forelimb grown in the lab
  • I enjoyed Margaret Maitland’s piece in response to the Guardian and BBC’s discussion of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics as inferior to or on a par with emoji. I particularly liked the sound of King Amenhotep III’s commemorative scarab messages where he delivers updates of his life. To my social media-saturated experience it sounds like a form of Twitter or royal PR. I think I might start sending my tweets as commemorative scarabs to other people’s houses. But anyway. hieroglyphics. Interesting stuff.
  • Settle in for the trailer for The Good Dinosaur – Pixar’s upcoming story set in a world where an asteroid never hit the Earth
  • There are a whole bunch of “ones to watch”style articles about the women’s World Cup which kicked off yesterday. I’ve picked the Mashable one because they’ve embedded highlights videos for the players where possible and I’ve been watching them over my morning coffee.
  • Jessica Fulford-Dobson goes into detail about her photo portrait series on the skate girls of Kabul. I really love the pictures for their mixture of stillness and energy. One of them came second in the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize which I try to go and see every year in the National Portrait Gallery but my favourite is actually a few pictures further into the set – a younger girl, I think, with her hair rumpled from her helmet, wearing a bright green scarf.
  • A longer read than the rest but absolutely fascinating, and not a little disconcerting, is Adrian Chen’s investigation of a Russian troll farm for the New York Times
  • And finally, there’s been a lot written this week about Charles Kennedy’s death and why British politics will be a poorer thing without him but one of the most moving was Alastair Campbell’s blog post. There are obviously forays into their political lives and a mention of Blair and the Iraq war but first and foremost it is a tribute to a great friend.
  • Going by the chats and text exchanges before and after his election defeat, he seemed to be taking it all philosophically. Before, he took to sending me the William Hill odds on his survival, and a day before the election I got a text saying ‘Not good. Wm Hill has me 3-1 against, SNP odds on, they’re looking unstoppable.’ Then he added: ‘There is always hope … health remains fine.’ Health remains fine – this was a little private code we had, which meant we were not drinking.

    NB: Pip is off the next couple of weekends due to E3 and associated [predicted] jetlag but will return after that!


    1. Det. Bullock says:

      I am a bit wary of pixar lately, while they are always good (I am firmly convinced Cars and Cars 2 don’t exist, and nobody would convince me otherwise though I had a fairly vivid nightmare of going to see Cars 2) they don’t seem to reach or come close to their best, Brave felt a bit bland, same with Monster University, I hope their upcoming films will win me over again.

      It’s somewhat telling that as a die-hard pixar fan I found both Kung Fu Panda and Dragon Trainer better than the latest pixar efforts (even with the seconf DT screenplay issues), Kung Fu Panda in particular is one of the best examples of “never trust a trailer” of the last few years (I remember passing on it because from the trailers it seemed another overstretched looney tunes short).

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Ah, got carried away and forgot to write what I wanted to write in the first place:
        Sincerely after the letdown that was Brave I feel a little burned out on Pixar, and I’m not sure I like the premise, Inside Out sound more interesting.

        • welverin says:

          Apparently Brad Bird is writing The Incredibles 2, maybe that will help.

          Though I feel a bit the same, the quality of their movies has been going down. They skipped last year, which makes me wonder what they felt about things, but then it appears they have two movies a year scheduled going forward, which is a bad sign.

          • Det. Bullock says:

            Well, that’s a given, but it’s everything else I’m worried about.

    2. eggy toast says:

      Oh look another movie where dinosaurs don’t have feathers. How cute. I hope they have cave men talk to the dinosaurs, too, just to keep everything the way it should be.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        I think we’ll need another Jurassic Park for that, I remember as a kid obsessed with dinosaurs being unfathomably happy to see a mostly anathomically correct Tyrannosaurus Rex instead of that weird dragon/lizard in a cangaroo pose you usually got.

      • DRoseDARs says:

        Oh no, don’t you worry, they’ve already implied in that trailer that Humans walk amongst the dinosaurs. Never mind large mammals (like eventually Humans) only evolved to fill the niche left void by the extinction of the dinosaurs (small mammals existed since the Late Triassic). Maybe the Humans can wear feathers since the dinos don’t.

    3. Fenix says:

      Have to admit, even though I am disappointed at the lack of feathers on the dinosaurs in the Disney movie, I am still kind of excited about it.

    4. LionsPhil says:

      Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest trolling operation in history, and its target is nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic space.

      I dunno; isn’t that record held by whoever implemented comments on YouTube?

    5. cannonballsimp says:

      I’m surprised at how many professorly people like Jonathan Jones, who should know better than to pronounce confidently about fields outside their expertise, continue to reproduce the myth that Hieroglyphs are ideograms. It was precisely this myth that prevented them from being deciphered for hundreds of years, although interestingly, in the Renaissance it was taken to indicate the depths of Egyptian wisdom rather than cultural degeneracy. They were regarded as representing ideas directly, without the mediation of language. Hieroglyphs are also functionally very different from emoji even when they aren’t phonetic (which most of them are): emoji usually have a pragmatic function, whereas most non-phonetic hieroglyphs are semantic determinatives, like the radicals of Chinese logograms.

      • Baffle Mint says:

        It’s terrifying, because you have newspapers repeating claims that can be refuted by reading the first chapter of any “Egyptian Hieroglyphs for Dummies!” book you care to name.

        I mean, we have to assume that at least some journalism is accurate, or else we’ll just be disconnected from the world, but then somebody pushes back the curtain and you see how tremendously, remarkably inaccurate they are about easily understood and discovered facts.

        And these continued claims that emoji are some kind of new language, rather than just, you know, completely ordinary pictures, also drives me up the wall.

        Pictures can be used to communicate ideas! Film at 11!

        I mean, you could take this post and translate in into ancient Egyptian and write it in hieroglyphs and people who could read hieroglyphs would know pretty much exactly what I said. You could not translate this post into emoji and then expect a stranger to read it. That’s the difference.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          Its my experience that when I read anything written by a journalist in any subject which I have studied at more than a superficial level it’s full of mistakes from the banal to the fundamental. And I hear the same thing from experts in just about any other field I can think of from medicine to computing. (the rare expectations tend to be when they get a professor to write something for them)

          Ironically, given what you can read about it on the internet games journalism seems to be pretty good at getting the facts right – but then I don’t write games and I haven’t spoken to any developers.

          • zontax says:

            Your reaction reminded me of a quote I read recently:
            “Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”
            – Micheal Crichton

            • Hedgeclipper says:

              Nail on the head, luckily my specialisation isn’t in games!

            • Premium User Badge

              FhnuZoag says:

              Unfortunately the same applies to Michael Crichton’s nonsense, so I don’t know what to think any more.

    6. onomatomania says:


      This tournament is basically gonna turn me into Jesse Spano (“I’m so excited! I’m so scared!”) and oh my God the Australia game is tomorrow oh Jesus

      Here’s a quick dump of more players to follow. Warning : I watch a lot of NWSL (US club teams) and US Nat’l team matches, but I’m pretty weak elsewhere.

      Kadeisha Buchanan, Canada
      – Fearless, skilled, can handle the turf, but occasionally lacking in composure, as you’d expect a 19-year-old would be. Lyon (arguably the biggest club side in women’s football) is rumored to have offered her a contract.

      Manon Melis, Netherlands
      – Another player I haven’t gotten to see much of – it’s hard to catch streams of Damallsvanskan/Champions League games – but she averages a goal every 120 minutes, so I wouldn’t sleep on her. The entire team looked pretty good going forward – Van de Donk was excellent, and of course, Martens’ goal.

      Amandina Henry, France
      Elodie Thomis, France
      – France’s starters are stacked and you can choose many of them, but in their 2-0 shellacking of the US, Henry and Thomis were standouts. Possession and creativity with Henry, speed and chaos with Thomis. Plus, like Renard, Abily, Necib, and Le Sommer, they all play for Lyon, and their experience together shows.

      Alexandrea Popp, Germany
      Dszenifer Maroszan, Germany
      – Lots of things to say about Popp, but more than anything else, she will beat the piss out of a backline over the course of a 90. It’s that whole German marriage-of-power-and-skill thing they specialize in. As for Maroszan, her through balls kill, her service out wide kills, her set pieces kill.

      Julie Johnston, United States
      Megan Rapinoe, United States
      – JJ can play all over the field, is great with and without the ball, and will run through people on set pieces. Oh yeah, and she’s a centerback, too. As for Pinoe, well, nine out of ten times, she’ll try to get too tricky, screw up, lose possession. The tenth time? No telling what it will be – ankle-breaker to pinpoint cross, top-corner curler, Olympico, whatever, it’ll live on in Tumblr GIFs forever.

      Ramona Bachmann, Switzerland
      Lara Dickenmann, Switzerland
      – Dickenmann’s basically a top-shelf French player. Bachmann’s basically a top-shelf German player. Switzerland isn’t a good team but they can get by with these two.

      Fransisca Ordega, Nigeria
      – While you’re busy marking Oshaola, Ordega will hang just off your shoulder, run in behind, and make life terrible for you. She needs service, though. It’ll be fun seeing what Nigeria can do (so long as they only do it to Australia and Sweden).

      Ellen White, England
      Lisa de Vanna, Australia
      – Two more players known for scoring Youtube-worthy goals. de Vanna’s both the most likely to bike one in, and the most likely to doom her team with a red card.

      Alessandra Alves, Brazil
      – Marta may have scored all the goals in Brazil’s 3-2 win over the US, but Alves killed down the flank. Bottle her up and you’ve got a chance. Let her beat you, start planning your early flight home.

      Yukari Kinga, Japan
      Ali Riley, New Zealand
      – Kinga and Ali Kreiger have fought for the designation of ‘world’s best right back’ for years now. Riley’s got a shot for ‘best left back’. All three will dominate their sides of the pitch in either defense or attack.

      • thedosbox says:

        There are also high hope for Jessie Fleming (all of 17) amongst the Canadians.

        And after watching the (excellent) game between the Netherlands and New Zealand last night, I would not be surprised if the former go far in their first world cup.

        • onomatomania says:

          Yeah – but I’d like to see how they do against China. If they can break that D down, they will absolutely do well.

          I was a bit disappointed in Wilkinson. Kept feeling like NZ’s attacks would die at her feet.

    7. Rizlar says:

      Surprisingly sad about Charles Kennedy’s passing. Growing up in the era of Tony Blair it’s stirred a lot of memories, among them seeing Kennedy speak on stage at a demonstration against the Iraq war. In a time of extreme cynicism towards politicians seeing people like him stand up and fight for what they know to be right is quite emotional. Tony Benn spoke at that demo too. More recently I saw Caroline Lucas giving an incredibly heartfelt speech at a climate protest, people can say what they like about politicians but I have only admiration for Kennedy and those like him.

      He was a great bloke.

      • MrPyro says:

        Have I Got News For You played back a couple of clips of Charles appearing on the show in tribute; he was pretty funny. Probably one of the better party leaders of our time, before they all became almost entirely interchangable PR people.

    8. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      I can’t remember where I heard it, but I had Egyptian obelisks described as the Pharaoh’s press releases about victories in battle, but the obelisks took so long to make they had to start the engraving long before the victory was expected to happen.

      Trust no obelisk.

    9. Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Out of curiosity, are you a bot that is posting these, or are you some poor underpaid schmuck copy and pasting it in?

    10. zipdrive says:

      Strange: The editors of the Hieroglyphics piece included a JPG which shows the development of several alphabets from ,and then went to the trouble of cropping out the right-most column, which shows modern Hebrew alphabet. o_0