Monday, May 31, 2004

Standing at the entrance to Ropemaker's Field. Isn't he/she a beauty?

Decided to go and walk around in London for the afternoon in the hopes of finding one of those portals to another dimension that all the other kids seem to find. I bought Walking London by Andrew Duncan two or three years ago, but realised last week that I'd only done seven or eight of the walks. Not so much through laziness but more not having the time or... umm, all right, partly through laziness although I would point out that of those eight I had done, I'd done each of them more than once, and now it's nine with todays walk.

I started at Tower Hill, then down to Saint Katharine's Dock, then along through Wapping and into Limehouse, through the churchyard of Saint Anne's Church before finishing at Westferry tube station.

It was a very hot day, surprisingly cool on the tube but I wasn't travelling in rush hour and I often find the underground takes a while to heat up when it's hot outside. I was also travelling back on the DLR and you know how I feel about the Docklands Light Railway. Most of the route, especially along Wapping High Street, had plenty of shade from the converted Wharf buildings and stores that lined the road. Wapping Old Stairs was a stairway that descended right into the Thames, with no gate to stop anyone from jumping into the river. I saw a duck, but sadly no ghosts.

All in all, a very pleasant excursion.

Dear Fuck, I think I've gone blind! Maggie Thatcher's Pants. What's next? Ronnie Reagan's Colostomy Bag?

[Andy] Kaufman's dead, no he is alive. Still, 'his' blog hasn't been updated for a fortnight now, so presumerably he's ready to fade into the interweb background along with Mahir and 'All Your Base...'.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Breaking news...

U.S. gives up trying to impress England.

US denies Paris airport outrage.

Big Brother Black Friday - the new face of Reality TV.

Wish You Were Here.

Sashinka wants more people to read her New For Old piece. And you really should.

What's the proper protocol when you catch someone having a whizz in your garden? My landlord was doing some work on the upstairs flat and there was someone, either a elderly handyman or his dad that was around as well. In the early afternoon this old guy walked into my backgarden, apparently not noticing that I was watching him. Just as I was about to go and challenge him, I noticed he was peeing in the rose bush. He was standing under my washing up on the line, apparently oblivious to the noise from my TV and having a slash in my garden. I did what any English person would do, I immediately left the room and waited until he left before coming back out. I mean, what can you do, except hope that you induce a cardiac arrest on the incontinent old fogey when you shout "What are you doing to the azalleas?!" It's not really something you can bring up afterwards, "Oh yeah, I heard you were drilling and, oh yes, your Dad came and spent a penny in the back garden".

You really should download Radiohead in a country and western stylee. Really.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Don't get mad, get even. The woman who The Sun named as the intern at the centre of the false claims about John Kerry and sexual harassment goes after the journalist who invented the story about her that appeared in the tabloid. One to watch I think.

Miramax buy back Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 rights, film may be in cinemas 'mid-summer'.

Friday, May 28, 2004

When scientists attack. Or at least get mildly annoyed... The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed-- inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging the gap between theory and observation.

I've added a search box for this blog on the bar, not so much for you but in the hopes this will counteract my poor memory and avoid those "where the hell did I put that link?" moments.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Yesterday evening, to The Foundry on Old Street for drinks and debauchery... All right, no debauchery, though Plums did show me her tattoo. We stayed outside as the weather was lovely and warm, but mainly to avoid the interpretive dance that broke out inside. Quote of the night was Cherry Bomb, who said she was shortly going back to the States to be bridesmaid at a friend's wedding. She was asked whether she was going to wear a pretty dress and she replied "No, but I do have to buy a relatively large inflatable p@nis." The mind boggles. They'd probably be happy with a dinner set or something Cherry... Flyboy meanwhile seemed to have decided he was Derren Brown and was displaying his mentalist powers. Gypsy Lantern was telling me about how his magical working with Oshun was going. When I was looking at ways to make changes in my life last year he'd recommended her to me as a possibly useful Goddess to work with, as she is a Flower Goddess, but after making a few half-hearted and wrong attempts I gave up, knowing that if I couldn't give her the attention and respect she deserved I would only end up hurting myself. He's invited me round for one of his sessions when he makes offerings and calls upon her, which I'd definitely like to attend.

Today, met up with Plums at Farringdon Station. She'd been up to review the Helen Chadwick exhibition at The Barbican for The 24 Hour Museum and there was one piece which was seperate from The Barbican. Blood Hyphen was a site-specific piece based at the Woodbridge Chapel nearby, and it had been recreated for this retrospective. What used to be a tall room had been split in two by a false ceiling, visiting it Chadwick had an idea which she developed into Blood Hyphen, using smoke machines in the gloom to periodically obscure a laser-bean that was shining from a corner on to a photo of cells from Chadwick's body. It was an interesting piece, meant to be interpreted in both a scientific way, the laser is scientific process cutting through the fog of ignorance to destroy diseased cells, and a religious one, the piercing light of God on humanity. It's free to get in so do pop along if you're in the area.

Right, geek out warning.

I bought Astonishing X-Men #1. Written by Joss Buffy Whedon, this effectively was following on from Grant Morrison's New X-Men and had attracted pre-launch publicity for a return to the spandex costumes that Morrison had ditched in favour of a 'mutant UN uniform that you wouldn't look daft in' look. Now, Whedon said he was genuinely happy with this decision, which seems to have come down from Marvel boss Joe Quesada. I have no problem with costumes per se, I've been a comics fan for over twenty years after all. What I don't like and don't agree with, is the way that they've been rationalised back into the plot.

Scott: The point is simply this- We need to get into the world, saving lives helping with disaster relief, we need to present ourselves as a team like any other. Avengers, Fantastic Four- They don't get chased through the streets with torches.

Logan: Here come the tights...

Scott: Sorry Logan, super heroes wear costumes. And quite frankly, all the black leather is making people nervous.

OK, so I've missed the meeting where it's been decided that the X-Men are super heroes. They've always behaved super-heroically, but they weren't a super hero team. And comparing themselves to legitimate Government-sanctioned super teams when they have no similar mandate, often fighting Government operatives out to kill them as often as super villains. There's also this quaint idea that the costume maketh the man, or mutant. Throughout their long history the X-Men have been scorned by humanity. It also suggests a media literacy amongst the normal people in the Marvel Universe that I don't think stands up, that they will see photos in their newspapers of people with super-powers in costumes fighting other people in costumes with powers and think "Wow, these guys must be heroes like the Avengers! We should like them!" Doctor Doom wears a costume. Magneto wears a costume. Any super-villain wears a costume. How are people supposed to discriminate between Doctor Octopus and a snarling Wolverine as to who is the bad guy? And super-heroes don't always have acceptance, look at Spiderman, constantly pilloried in the pages of the Daily Bugle? Costumes didn't stop fights breaking out between mutants and other superheroes back in the Secret War days.

When Morrison wrote X-Men he made a very important change. Nothing really came of it but it was a neat idea. The X-Men stopped trying to win humanities acceptence by fighting for their good. They have other super-heroes to do that. The X-Men repositioned itself as an organisation that was primarily about helping mutants in distress. This was acceptable to Scott, after all he founded X-Factor which initially did much the same thing, albeit under a different guise. This was a bolder approach, rather than the 'please like us' attitude it said 'we don't care whether you like us or not, but we won't let you hurt us'. If the X-Men are supposed to help all mutants they can't really do it by trying to make nice with the people that support their suppression. They have the money and the resources to wait them out. The Morrison uniforms also had prominent 'X's on them. Only one of the new uniforms does, the rest have small buckles that can't be seen from a distance and two of the team look like they're nothing to do with the others. How are a public under attack from costumed super-villains supposed to know who has saved them?

I don't care that Whedon has stepped back from this to a much less interesting reading which was the status quo for forty years. What irritates me is that he hasn't been able to find a way to do this that makes sense in the story. What irritates me more is that the new costumes look absolutely ridiculous, especially Cyclops' look. How can the others bear to be seen in public with him wearing that. His last line is that in regard to the public, "We must astonish them." Wearing that you will do.

But there was some promising dialogue on page 12:

Emma: We have learned the first lesson. They [humans] will always hate us. We will never live in a world of peace. Which is why control and non-violence are essential. We must prove ourselves a peaceful people. We must give the ordinary humans respect, compliance, and understanding. And we must never mistake that for trust.

It does make you wonder though why she's going along with Scott's 'be heroes to make them be nice to us; policy.

And don't get me started on Claremont bring back Magneto in Excalibur after Wolverine chopped his head off a few months ago...

Okay, non comics geeks can look back now...

The editors of the New York Times have apologised to Americans for misleading them, by publishing as fact unsubstantiated reports from Iraqi defectors which the Bush regime used as the basis for going to war in Iraq.

I'll hopefully be going to this sometime in the next week, No laughing matter: comedian advertises Coca-Cola's 'Nazi' past, I can't believe it'll last that long before Coke try to slap an injunction on it.

The site for the project: Nazi Coke ist sehr gut!

People who enjoy inflicting pain on small animals take next logical step and declare themselves a Church to attempt to escape imminent hunting ban. I'm hoping that if this fails they do the decent thing and martyr themselves in some kind of Waco/Jonestown way so we can be rid of them. The last thing we want is one of them turning up on 'Thought for the Day'.

So, two weeks ago we had the news that Blair's cuddling up to Bush was seen as a massive turn-off to floating UK voters, then last week we had that leaked foreign office memo about how exasperated British officials were with the Shrub's middle-eastern policy and now we have Blair insisting there is no difference of opinion between the UK and US over the power handover to Iraqis. In such a way as to try and make those floaters think there is a difference.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Don't they make a cute couple? Dennis the Menace Loves Minnie the Minx. (That's the British Dennis the Menace BTW) [via LinkMachineGo]

I always find it amusing when the Catholic Church thinks it has a right to talk about anyone else's morals.

Snopes on the America bringing back the draft story.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Just finished reading The Lonely Dead by Michael Marshall Smith, his second thriller [as Michael Marshall] and sequel to The Straw Men.

For a cynic there's possibly not much to mark this out from the crowd of serial killer thrillers... blah blah FBI agent forced out of the Agency... rogue cop... vicious murders... secret society... but even though Michael Marshall's writing isn't as wonderfully unhinged as his science-fiction books (and anyone who likes science-fiction should definitely check those out) he still manages to make these tired plot staples sizzle with energy as though no-one had ever thought of them before.

It's a few years down the line from The Straw Men. Following the conclusion of the investigation in that case which exposed a secret society of people with an unknown but malign intent former cop John Zandt has all but disappeared in his quest for revenge, Ward Hopkins, who almost lost his life discovering his links to the group, is always on the move, afraid that if he stops he'll be killed, only FBI Agent Nina Baynam seems to be living her life as before, but all that will change. The serial killer 'The Upright Man' is still active, and behind him, The Straw Men. There are still battles to be fought.

This isn't as good a book as The Straw Men. There's no 180 degree shocking twist as there was in that book. But then the twists in the first book were really ones that could only happen once, similar twists this time would contradict them. However, what becomes obvious is that there isn't much story to tell. There are many sequences when the plot effectively stops for one of the characters to give long explanations of various times in history, or the 'secret history' of the United States. The end of the book is such that there could be another part or it could just as easily finish things off, if it's the former I hope it's planned out already because most of this novel feels like a holding pattern. Marshall is good at keeping things tense, but it's a rather one-note tenseness, it's only really at the final climax where he puts his foot on the accelerator pedal.

But it's not a bad book, just not the book to introduce people to Michael Marshall Smith's great talents.

A group of MPs have returned from Afghanistan. Very depressing news.

And mea culpa, when I mentioned about the US and UK being given a 'get out of jail free' card for any crimes they commit(ted) in Iraq, I wasn't aware that this is common policy for Western powers. So this isn't a case when Bush and Blair are being especially evil but just institutionalised evilness on the part of the United States and the United Kingdom.

It's The Donald Rumsfeld quotes page!

Monday, May 24, 2004

If you're looking for a fun Java toy (and hey, who of us, except for smokers of the pipe of poppies, isn't?) then check this out. Why not start with the address of your blog? When you've done that, try double-clicking on your entry, I dare you!

(And it helped me find this brilliant article on Wonder Woman. Result!)

The United States is bringing back the draft. Can I suggest that people in the United States contact John Kerry and ask whether this is something he supports or something he would attempt to do away with if he became President (presuming it's not too late already and, considering it's Bush it may well be). Still, this should be fun for all those warbloggers who sit at home and fumigate about how the US is fighting The War Against Terror, now they get to do their part!

Considering that we here of ever-increasing levels of obesity in both Europe and the US, it'll be interesting to see whether the US Administration would have to shift the goalposts on what makes someone to be fit to serve to have enough people to fight Dubya's dirty little wars.

Meanwhile I'm wondering whether I can get Government funding for a company which marries US citizens to people in other countries to avoid the draft. Greencards'r'us? [Original report via Die Puny Humans]

Biometric ID card trial kicks off in Glasgow.

Government announces it will be working with PA Consulting Group on ID Cards.

Susan Sontag, author of On Photography, writes in the Guardian today on those pictures and their effect:

You ask yourself how someone can grin at the sufferings and humiliation of another human being... people do these things to other people. Not just in Nazi concentration camps and in Abu Ghraib when it was run by Saddam Hussein. Americans, too, do them when they have permission. When they are told or made to feel that those over whom they have absolute power deserve to be mistreated, humiliated, tormented. They do them when they are led to believe that the people they are torturing belong to an inferior, despicable race or religion. For the meaning of these pictures is not just that these acts were performed, but that their perpetrators had no sense that there was anything wrong in what the pictures show. Even more appalling, since the pictures were meant to be circulated and seen by many people, it was all fun. And this idea of fun is, alas, more and more - contrary to what Mr Bush is telling the world - part of "the true nature and heart of America".

Meanwhile, survivors have explained why they had guns and why they were near the Saudi border, now there's videotape of what was going on before the attack. Did the US cock-up and fire on a wedding party?

Sunday, May 23, 2004

An email that someone passed on to me...

I was awakened today with several phone calls from cast members and Doug to pass along the terrible news that this morning, Richard Biggs passed away.

We're still gathering information, so take none of this as firm word, but what seems to have happened, happened quickly. He woke up, got up out of bed...and went down. The paramedics who showed up suggested it was either an aneurysm or a massive stroke.

His family members have been informed, and all of the the cast have, as far as we can determine, also been informed.

This is a terrible loss for all of us. Richard was a consummate professional but more than that he was an honorable, stand-up guy. If he gave you his word on something, you never had to wonder about it afterward. He was always helpful and supportive of all the cast, even those who only came in for one episode, always with a ready smile and determined to do whatever it took to make the scene work. He was, quite simply, a terrific guy, and everyone here is just devastated at the news.

More word as this develops. We may try to have some kind of fund raiser to help give whatever assistance may be helpful for his kids.

We all miss him terribly.


I've just rewatched Adaptation and... oh my. I wasn't blown away when I originally saw it in the cinema, it was certainly one of the most unique films of the year but I was put off by what I saw as a descent into cliche in the last part of the film. It's deliberate and anyone with half a brain on their shoulders will know why it's happening, but I had an aversion to the paper-thin characters of eXistenZ and wasn't that happy when someone tried to justify it by saying "but it's a computer game, the characters are supposed to be characterless" which I saw as post-fact justification for bad writing. And I characterised this film as the same. But it's not. There's a scene at the beginning which, when I saw the film, I'd forgotten by the end, and it's this scene, this Kaufman monologue, that make it all clear. When I heard it, knowing what was going to be in the rest of the film, it justified everything. Unfortunately I can't recall it now.

So why am I writing this? Why am I wasting a little space on the Interweb with meditations on forgotten things? One reason is because I want to warn anyone who hasn't seen this brilliant film to carry the beginning with them so as to appreciate the end. Two is to say that we have to always remember that everything has significance and wonder, we are surrounded, covered, immersed in it and it's only that we forget to see it, not that it goes away. There is a direct line from this film to the chorus of the last song on the last album by The Silver Mount Zion Orchestra. This is the lesson I will have forgotten by tomorrow morning.

If I don't believe then I don't have to ache, but if I don't hurt then I won't create.

You don't need to go to Iraq to find British people mistreating foreigners, abuse going on at asylum detention centres too.

Anyone that saw the 'bombing' of Tony Blair during the week by Fathers4Justice (the unlikeable attacking the indefensable) and who may like to copy the idea should pop along during the coming week to the Radio 4 Broadcasting House website, start the latest show and begin listening at around 54 minutes when they get Janet Ellis (who kids will remember from Blue Peter in the Eighties) in to talk children everywhere through making their own condom bomb.

No Chimp Left Behind.

I have a new phone! Went to Comet this morning to get new earphones and was just walking past the phones... It's not the prettiest phone in the world but my main desire was a cordless phone with an answerphone and speed-dial and this was the cheapest one of those. So now I don't have to use the mobile if I want to talk to someone while either sitting in the back garden or curled up in bed. Or both at the same time depending on what the night before was like.

From this weeks Independent on Sunday... Alex Benkhardt, 46, a Berlin-based inventor, has made a toilet to stamp out the curse of poorly aimed pee. If the seat is lifted, a female voice shouts: "What are you up to? Put the seat back down. You are definitely not to pee standing up. You will make a right mess." The loo is being marketed as WC Ghost.

Well, this is handy. The Coalition Provisional Authority, crammed full of people who, if they don't get killed by their own people, will owe their future prosperity to the United States, have signed an agreement that, after the 30th June handover of power, US and UK troops will have immunity from proescution by any Iraqis or their relatives that they might accidentally kill or torture. The way this is probably going to be justified is that the coalition troops aren't completely immune, it's just the Iraqi would have to go to their country and make the complaint there.

What the bastards are in charge are probably hoping won't get pointed out is that currently Iraqi currency is worth so little that all the money in the country is equivelent to one Mars bar, so quite how your average Iraqi is supposed to fund travelling to another country, living while waiting for the slow wheels of justice to turn is unknown. Perhaps Shiteyes Blunkett should oppose this on the grounds it'll bring a flood of illegal immigrants to this country as they struggle to stay here long enough to sue the army for electrocuting their father in the genitals.

This just shows where the coaltion's priorities are at. Not stopping the torture of prisoners such as at Abu Ghraib jail, just making sure in future it'll be more difficult for us to hear about it and almost impossible to seek justice for those who suffer.

So what effect will this have on investigations into the Queen's Lancashire Regiment? They might not have appeared in those photos in the Daily Mirror, but still more evidence is coming out that they tortured Iraqis away from camera lenses. Will they get away from it all if charges aren't made before the 30th June?

And I'm sure that Dubya is pissing himself with terror at the stern threat from the UK that they will boycott any trial of Saddam Hussein in which he might face the death penalty if convicted. We won't do anything to stop such a trial, but we won't get our Air Miles for a journey to Baghdad. I'm sure if this comes up in the deliberations of the West Wing it's only as "Great! Everyone gets to take one more guest to see the firing squad!"

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, about how George W. Bush screwed each and every single American, wins Palme d'Or. This, despite the distinctly lukewarm "I thought Bowling for Columbine was better" vibes that it seemed to be getting in reviews in the papers. I do wonder if there's an element of the same thing that made the UK come last in last years Eurovision Song Contest, using any forum that comes to hand to register displeasure at the UK and US actions, although the Palme d'Or is voted for by people who know what they talk of. Hopefully this will help Moore find a distributor for the film in the US before the Presidential elections.

I must admit though that even from this side of the Atlantic that I, like Defective Yeti, like John Kerry more the less I hear from him. And while we're talking about DY, check out Lord of the Rings as an allegory for pregnancy.

Anyway, the next two days will contain shopping, part of which will be a new set of earphones for my Discman as one of the ears have gone in my current set (and why is it that my earphones always go one at a time? Is it that there is so little in an average pair of earphones that not much else can go wrong? Why do they never cut out together?). I may also possibly buy a new phone too, it will be cordless so I don't have to use my mobile if I want to talk when I'm out in the garden and have an answerphone so I can roundly insult the clueless muppets who phone my number because it's vaguely similar to a local computer company.

I'll also be hopefully going and finally checking this out. I did mention it in January when it was far too cold then forgot about it and then found the leaflet again yesterday. And I've got Adaptation on DVD, to try and work out why Flux liked it so much.

And while I have you here, does anyone know if Joe Pants' TV show The Handler has been cancelled? It was previewed on Sky with a load of publicity then about a month later got moved to a different place in the schedule each week before ending up at midnights on Thursdays. I know it wasn't doing too well but I've got a serious hankering for some Hill Harper and I'd be distraught if he's not going to be on my screen any more.

You're Rubik's Cube!! You may think you're
popular, but you're actually extremely
annoying. Seriously.

What childhood toy from the 80s are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

It's possible that I'm wrong, but I can't see any problem in the world that couldn't be solved if I was able to administer electric shocks to people's nipples from a distance.

Meanwhile, Plums is getting a tattoo today. No swirly goth bollocks for her, no she's taking in her favourite theory bitch book and saying I want one of those. I presume that if George W. Bush were to follow a similar idea he'd have a big tatt of Spot over his back.

Infinite Ideas Machine has a report on the Mistaken Identity conference, attended by everyone who has an interest in ID Cards except naturally the Government or the companies that'll make a mint out of selling them crap to charge us for. Clearly no-one fancied trying to defend the indefensible when faced with people who actually knew what they were talking about.

Clubbers in Spain are choosing to receive a microchip implant instead of carrying a membership card. This is what I was saying several months ago about how the Government should look at different and exciting ways to do the same things as an ID Card just without an 'ID card' if they want to get round public antipathy. I wouldn't one of these either, but it's an idea.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Leaving an island prison better educated and a little overweight?

How dare you?

Just watched Rabbit-Proof Fence which I found a huge disappointment. The story of three Aboriginee children in the 1930s who, when taken from their mother to a school where they will be 'educated' to 'overcome their baser instincts' instead escape and return home. Unfortunately the story is very dull. None of the three young leads shows any real charism or interest, perhaps going for a more correct method of being tired and taciturn. It's only at the beginning or end, when there are adults on screen and we see their emotions that we begin to connect. But when they are kidnapped two of the three girls practically go without struggle, by the time they reach the school-camp that should be their home for the rest of their childhood they are near mute and expressionless, needing to be instructed several times to do anything. They then run off and the best efforts of the police to recapture them come to naught.

The middle part of the film becomes a series of incidents, with the girls encountering people who either help or hinder them. But we don't build any empathy with these near mutes and the people who's path they cross don't linger on screen long enough to have an impact. The only time the film makes any real connection is when Kenneth Branagh is on screen. He plays Mr. Neville, the man responsible for control of the Aboriginal population of Australia. In several swift, economic scenes we are given the measure of the man, not some pompous goose-stepping buffoon, but a committed, caring man, who merely has the arrogance of Empire assuring him that the Aboriginees are not sub-human vermin, simply... unfortunates, unfortunate not to be good, decent God-fearing white people. But with the proper breeding plans, this can change. The film does not interest at all in the story of three girls walking thousands of miles to be reunited with their parents, it only succeeds by setting itself in opposition to what is wrong. And so a film which is little more than an hour and a half long ends up still feeling more long-winded than a film twice it's length.

How could a film which is based on a true story, which challenges the limits of human endurance, which is defined by injustice and oppression, be so very dull?

Troy in Fifteen Minutes.

ACHILLES: Hey, Mom! Odysseus wants me to go out and fight, can I can I can I?

THETIS: Well, if you stay here, you'll have a wonderful life with a wonderful wife and tons of kids, and they'll all remember your fabulousness.


THETIS: But then, after they're all dead, you'll be completely forgotten.

ACHILLES: Next option.

THETIS: If you go to Troy, you will never come home because your glory is tied to your doom, but you will be remembered forever and ever and ever. Is that what you want?

ACHILLES: Hmmm. We've established that I'm a complete famewhore, so the word I am looking for here is... YES.

It's nearly the end of May! Blimey, where did the time go?

My sister's just emailed me to invite me to her wedding in August... next year. Talk about planning ahead. The thing is, though I hope for the best, by my reckoning, if she were to develop, shall we say, 'irreconcilable diferences' with her fella, based on her previous record it'll be about two months before the big day. I'm sure that won't happen though. My future-brother-in-law is a lovely bloke and was my Fourth-Year Friend at Junior School (not some dirty 'Biscuit Game' style ritual but someone who helped scared little First Years get used to being in 'the big school').

Watched Kill Bill Volume 1 last night. I'm not going to add to the masses of electrons already sacrificed discussing this, but I was impressed. Tarantino is like Nirvana, when he's not around you think back on his work and think 'yeah, that was good' but it's only when you sit down in front of it that you really remember that the guy does actually have a lot of talent. I believe he compared himself to DJ Shadow in an interview in the way his movies refer to and use lots of other movies, often quite blatantly. Watching the fight between the Bride and the Yakuza boys I was wondering whether Tarantino had intended to make it look like a good Matrix battle or whether that was an unintended side effect of them both referencing exactly the same movies and using the same stunt team.

And I like the mature Tarantino that doesn't insist on verbally referencing obscure tv shows or enemies from 30 year old Krull comics. And the compressed storytelling that was absent in the underrated Jackie Brown. So I'm interested to see where this all goes in Volume 2.

Ooooh shit, did I really just send an email to another member of staff asking her to buy a copy of The Torture Garden by Mirbeau for The Closed Library? And this was after giving serious thought to whether there was a way to get away with buying Pat Califia's books as well. We obviously need cold showers installed in this library...

A couple of months ago I went to Gosh! in London to buy some graphic novels for The Closed Library with our library's then Children's Librarian. We both had a thousand quid, I would be buying for the adult stock, she would be buying for the teenage. I had abig list of stuff and went through it pretty quickly, she didn't know anything about comics and so was a bit slower. I showed her Ultimate X-Men. She flicked through it and came across a full-page picture of Cyclops, lying defeated on the ground and looking like he'd had seven shades of ink knocked out of him, bruised, bleeding, the full works. She decided to pass on buying the book for teenagers.

And if we were in America she'd have been right to do so. There's legislation going through the system to allow parents to sue anyone who's responsible for giving “material that is harmful to minors” to children. Now, maybe this is to stop those ice-cream trucks that drive around the US handing out porn mags that we've all heard about, but it could also be used to sue libraries that lend comics and graphic novels to kids, or shops that sell them. So, to all the parents in the world I would like to make the following announcement:

"IT IS NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO BRING UP YOUR CHILDREN! You spawed them so you stop them watching TV you think is bad for them, you stop them from eating at McDonalds, you watch over them in public places and you check what they are reading, if they still do that any more, before they read it. Now, we won't give a copy of The Torture Garden to an eleven year old who has worked her way through all the Lemony Snicket books, and there are rules which means a toddler can't take out The Exorcist, but it's not our responsibility to magically know whether you don't want your child reading Superman or Maus.

While we're at it. If we don't have a sign up saying the opposite, libraries are not creches. If you dump your child in the children's library so you can go off and use the computers, it is not our job to make sure your toddler doesn't toddle right out the front door.

It's bad enough you're contributing to the overpopulation of this planet as it is. It doesn't mean everyone has to bring up your children for you."

Thank you very much.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

And you find this admirable Patrick?

I mean, for... fucks... sake!

We are the United States of America. We are a good people, a just people and, above all, people who treasure freedom, democracy and all that comes with having those things.

They are the rulers of the modern dark ages. They are (or were, as the case may be) Saddam, Uday, Qusay, bin Laden, al Sadr, the Mullahs of Iran and many, many others. They are from many countries, many different places, but they all represent the same thing: evil.

I'm sorry, have we caught you in your Two Minutes Hate? Do you give 'a squeak of mingled fear and disgust' whenever the face of the Enemy of the People comes on screen? And of course most of them were friends of the US Government once as well. What was Strength again? Oh yes, I remember...

We see abuse of prisoners as a crime. They don't.

Hang on, pull back. Have the things to which 'we' and 'they' changed. 'We' see abuse of prisoners as a crime. Well, some of 'us' do. If the 'we' from the first sentences, the 'we' of the United States, the sole bastion of truth and decency in the world, see abuse of prisoners as a crime, how could 'we' do it? One cannot claim innocence of wrongdoing because it was their hand that did the act, they take responsibility. If one US soldier, or UK soldier, or Chinese soldier or any member of the Coalition of Those Unable to Stand Up To Bush do wrong then all have committed a crime, therefore 'we' may see abuse of prisoners as a crime', but if 'we' still do it, we have no right to lecture others on their immorality. And also 'we' don't know whether 'they' didn't see abuse of prisoners as a crime. All we can say is that 'they' apparently didn't care. Please pay more attention.

We make those who abuse others pay for their crimes. They reward them.

George Bush gives Donald Rumsfeld his full support. Can we just be clear again? Who is 'we' and who is 'they' through the looking-glass?

We view prisoner abuse as an aberration. They encourage it.

"I was instructed by persons in higher rank to stand there, hold this leash... and they took the picture. That's all I know," [said Private England]. 'They took the picture'. 'They'. It's always 'them' isn't it?

They cut off their prisoner's hands. Wefind doctor's to give the victims new hands.

'We' can rebuild them! 'We' have the technology!

We have men and women among our ranks who commit crimes and dishoner the armed forces. We do what's right. They hired people specifically to behead, torture and rape prisoners and that is what they consider honor.

The funny thing is, you can switch the 'we' and the 'they' around and both sentences still make absolute sense and are as true. 'We' call it psychological warfare, 'we' call 'them' doing it torture.

That is what separates us from them and why you should never say we are just as bad as they are.
We are the good guys. They are not.

And I really wish that saying made it so. What the events in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and any number of hell-holes around the world has shown is that both sides in a battle quickly come to an equilibrium of brutality, the only difference is in which side can more effectively scream to eternity "But we're the good guys!" So sleep well, tell yourself that you're better than 'them', just as 'they' once rationalised their crimes over others.

Ken Campbell on TV last night, about Philip K. Dick's VALIS:

"I'd be very careful [who I recommended VALIS to], I don't think it's a responsible thing to do at all... If you are likely to have a psychotic episode you're much more likely to have one if you involve yourself with VALIS... What is it about? It's about about, it's about aboutness, it's about how nothing is about what it seems to be about and the structure of the book is roundabout but then it goes shooting off... This is a damaging book, you take this book home and it's like taking home unexploded ordnance, some kind of cluster bomb... You think 'it's 6.99 I'll have that' but you don't just buy that, then you have to pay twenty quid for the Nag Hammadi Gospels because you can't have understood a third of [VALIS] without having read the Gnostic Gospels and where's that going to lead you?.. That the creation of the world was by God's lowest angels and that these, not being skillfull, arranged matters as we see them... 'Is the universe irrational? Is it irrational because an irrational mind governs it? Yes it is. The universe is irrational, the mind governing it is irrational.' No point getting in to this unless you're going to involve yourself... It barbs into the soul. I warn against it."

God bless Ken Campbell. If only this had been in the BBC's Big Read and Ken had had half an hour to make the case for it. Forget Hutton, Ken's testimonial for VALIS would have broken the BBC. If you haven't read it yet, why not?

(On a sidenote: Mariella Frostrup was putting the case for the other book in this show, Brave New World. If I somehow knew nothing of Huxley or his book, then I would probably decide never to read it based on her consistent denouncing of the science-fiction genre, "I don't normally read science fiction but... Brave New World isn't sci-fi", "like I said earlier I'm not normally an aficionado of science-fiction and [based on the behaviour of Ken Campbell] I'm quite relieved that I'm not". Oh piss off and live in a hole with Margaret Atwood where you can sneer at the common people and their low-brow tastes while you find some higher justification for anything you find you actually like in human endeavor. Run back to Newsnight Review where you have no purpose but to damn everyone else for the sheer bloody hard work of creating.)

Commons security reviewed after purple powder attack. It's nice to see how much Parliament care about their people. In case of an attack like that the procedure is supposed to be that the chamber is supposed to be closed off while men in containment suits come in and test the material to make sure it's nothing nasty. What actually happened? The Speaker suspended proceedings and a number of MPs immediately dashed out of the chamber to go speak to the news reporters outside on Parliament Green. If this had been an anthrax attack then the MPs would have helped spread it to the Greater London area. Thanks! All this talk of protecting MPs from the public, who protects the public from MPs?

What a strange dream I've just had. Were the Happy Mondays started in Madchester at the very end of the Eighties, or were they really started almost ten years later and comprised of Will Self, David Baddiel and the bloke who did the voice of K9 in Doctor Who? I have secret information!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The last couple of days, I are been mostly reading...

MMM Magazine. A guide book, a spell book, a comic... all about Helensburgh in Scotland. It's geography and history, showing you around a place through the experiences and memories of the people that have lived there, telling you the place's story through it's various locales.

It has a sea god that has seen Blade Runner, Vikings that got lost in Brazil and a bar that turned the Buddha away. It has the past and it has the future and everything that stands between the two. It's a mighty piece of work and you should appreciate the supreme effort it's going to take you to get a copy of this because it is truly worth it. And it's overseen by a Barbeloid who makes a damn sexy pirate. Oh yes.

...Orbiter. The main thing that put me off buying this up till now was the hardcover, I might have loved the man's Transmetropolitan but not enough to splurge on any of his other projects, so the almost year later paperback release was more likely to catch my eye for a moment of weakness panic buy.

It's Warren Ellis's love letter to space exploration, so many of his usual tics of someone who is harsh, rude and violent, much as Uncle Warren pretends to be in his epistles to the faithful are repressed if not absent here. Ten years after a mysterious disappearence that closed down manned space travel that missing last shuttle returns to earth, minus most of it's crew, covered in a strange material and with a catatonic and violent pilot. To solve the mystery of where it's been for ten years the team sent in to investigate have to open themselves up to possibilities that turn on their heads notions of how the universe works and our place in it.

I know nothing about space shuttles and I understand even less about physics, so consequently I don't know whether anything Ellis says makes any sense or whether he'd have a fine future ahead of him writing nonsensical technobabble for episodes of Star Trek. All I can say is it sounds convincing.

But it's mainly used to cover up the noticeable deficiencies in Warren's work, namely the difficulty he has writing idealists who aren't the bastard offspring of Hunter Thompson, see Spider Jerusalem, Jenny Sparks, Elijah Snow... This is basically an artifact story like Clarke's Rama books on a smaller scale. But the human interactions don't work, the pilot is psychotic when first met, but we get no explanation for that, nor does it come up again. Another character is seperating from her partner/husband, that gets one page for him to comment about how her first love was always space, to which he can't compare. And at the finale, the idea that two other characters have somehow managed to hit it off and are an item are absurd.

However, if this review seems overly negative it's because I don't want to spoil it for you by talking about the good part. Because the good part is the unfolding of the mystery of the shuttle and where it's been. This is where most of Ellis's work has gone into, and is as big a plus as his human scripting is a minus. Like I said, I have no way of knowing whether anything that Ellis writes is true, but it has an internal logical consistency within the story.

I don't think I've come across artist Colleen Doran's work before but in this I have to say "Meh". She starts off strongly with epic views of the abandoned Kennedy Space Centre which has become a huge hobo town, but as the story progresses and turns inward she is unable to keep up. As the story reaches it's climax points towards the end, with shots of the shuttle's engine, or the cockpit, either Ellis's directions in the script were poor or she was just unable to execute them. Extremely proficient at drawing things that are, when the script calls for a step into the unknown her artwork is unable to make it.

Definitely read before you buy. Or read before you buy MMM Magazine...

Government in 'desperate to get rid of someone that isn't actually breaking any laws' shock: Possible action against a one-man demonstration opposite Parliament is being carefully considered at the highest level of Government, the Commons heard today...

Terrorists could hide behind Mr Haw’s flags, placards and hoardings and “pick us off as we arrive at or leave the House,”
an idiot said.

New poll suggests we aren't as in love with ID Cards as the Government would like us to think.

Up to 5 million people would demonstrate against ID cards the survey conducted by online research firm YouGov found. One million would be prepared to go to prison rather than register for a card.

Celebrity Cyborgs. [via Sore Eyes]

Click here for the non-worksafe Eric Idle Versus the FCC song, where another Python has a go at the FCC, Bush, Cheney, Arnie and more!

Blog o' the week: Jews Sans Frontieres.

You are the 2002 TFL Map! Vibrant and new! Nobody seems to mind that you are printed on cheap card with cheap ink! You like stealing ideas from shunned revolutionaries.

Which London Underground Map Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Not quite sure where the 'shunned revolutionaries' bit comes in.

More US on Iraqi abuse allegations, this time against Reuters staff. I wonder what the proportions have to be before 'sorry' isn't enough for the US administration?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Just in case you think George Galloway isn't an arsehole.

I was in a bad mood but Patrick has cheered me right up, first with his hilarious love letter to Ronnie Reagan and then with his description of the BBC as only slightly more biased than most media outlets. Bless.

And just think somewhere tonight Ronnie Reagan and Maggie Thatcher are both still alive. If it's really true that those whom God loves die young I suppose we can't be expecting to see the back of those two any time soon.

Nina has some interesting ideas about the United States here. I have to agree about the self-delusion of moral superiority that some Americans have but then the expectation of Empire seems to be bred into some of them at an early age, as long as they're white, male, straight-acting... We had the same of course, when we ruled the waves, we were the masters at stealing from other cultures and convincing ourselves that it was our right. Once God blessed Britain. It's interesting that you can have someone like Bush say that they want to legislate to make homphobic prejudice legal at the same time as gay marriages happen, but do we really need a vile piece of shit like Bush to remind us that the battles aren't one, that nowhere, not the UK, the US, or anywhere in the world, has equality for all it's citizens.

Is it morally defensible to follow organised religion? All churches seem to have skeletons in their closets and half the battle is getting them to admit to it. So can you really be a Christian if you go to church?

Does anyone know any decent science-fiction books that attack religion? I'm getting near to the end of my science-fiction purchasing for The Closed Library and rapidly running out of alternatives, so I might have to buy those awful Left Behind books. If anyone knows any current sci-fi available in Britain that I can use as an alternative that would be gratefully received. Or indeed, Muslim sci-fi.

I'm starting to warm to this new Blogger design a bit. My favourite thing is definitely the switch between the typing pane and the preview. But I do find the moving of the recent entries on to another page annoying, as well as the limited space each entry has, which is pish when you're searching for something and you're not exactly sure where it is. A bit more flexibility there wouldn't go amiss.

The official, if currently rather sparse, Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy film website. [via Feeling Listless]

They may not have anywhere to compete in, but the International Olympics Committe has ruled that transsexuals can compete in competitions for the sex they have transitioned to.

Check out The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld, Set to Music, Rummy's gnomic utterences set to music. Anyone that remembers The League Against Tedium might feel a certain similarity to KombatOpera.

Monday, May 17, 2004

This is why parties like the Tories or the BNP get votes. The BBC was deluged with calls from 140 VERY STUPID PEOPLE after an edition of Panorama which dealt with how unprepared London is for either a chemical attack or accident.

"Presumably you did not intend to set the whole country into a state of panic, but that is what you did. My son phoned me from London, absolutely terrified. His friend had received a phone call from her mother who thought London was under attack, so she panicked and it snowballed," said one viewer by email.

Then for God's sake, get everyone involved chemically castrated so that they can't pass on the ABSOLUTELY FUCKING STUPID gene to anyone else.

"What are Panorama trying to do? Run a terrorist training school explaining how best to attack London? I know from just the introduction to this programme that a simple and effective way to bring London to a halt and to kill at least 300 people would be to target three underground trains. Blow front and back to stop the emergency services getting to the injured."

Because presumerably the people who took over a country, hijacked planes in another country, did various bombings of nightclubs in several other countries before the terrible attack in Spain have now run out of ideas and are having 'that tricky fourth atrocity' worries. Let's hope no-one shows them 'Back to the Future' or they might try to travel back in time to kill Dubya when he's a baby, or 'The Italian Job', in case they try to steal gold from Turin during a football game, in minis.

A childless couple from Germany could probably teach something to those in the UK and US who think abstinence is the only form of safe sex teaching that our kids should be getting.

[They were both fertile], a clinic spokesman said: "When we asked them how often they had had sex, they looked blank, and said: "What do you mean?".

"We are not talking retarded people here, but a couple who were brought up in a religious environment who were simply unaware, after eight years of marriage, of the physical requirements necessary to procreate."

New survey says Britain is 'a lonely place to live'. The further east you go the greater the perception of loneliness. I reckon it's worth investigating whether I have that Seasonal Attitude Disorder, because my circumstances now are no different to how they were in January, but I deal with my loneliness a hell of a lot better when it's sunny outside, even if I'm not going out anywhere.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Based on the stupidity-fest that is the latest Rage freakout on Barbelith ("You're all censoring me!" "How? This thread hasn't been deleted and your original post has been changed merely to link to your really crap picture rather than to post it directly on the board!" "Um... You're all censoring me!" etc) I'm much amused by Randy's post for 16th May.

Oy Butch, my suitcase is inches from my hand... And Frida Kahlo rocks.

I mean, I love the guy but he's just embaressing himself now. While at Cannes Michael Moore claims the White House tried to stop him making his latest film. It's quite possible but to say that without any proof is just dumb.

Now that the Queen's Lancashire Regiment have had their honour restored as it was proved that the Mirror photos were faked they can now defend it again against the allegation that they beat an Iraqi prisoner to death.

But back to those fake photos for a second. Everyone is rushing to put the boot into Piers Morgan but there is one point that seems to have been ignored. One of the reasons the Government and the Regiment gave as proof for knowing the photos were faked was that they had the truck used in the photo themselves. It was in a Territorial Army barracks in Lancashire. Now, during Operation: Blast the Bastards Back to the Stone Age, it was reported the crew of the Ark Royal were sickened by what they saw as intolerable BBC Anti-War bias so turned to News International instead. The Daily Mirror has been the only Anti-War tabloid. So, exactly how much was this a result of Morgan wanting to believe some photos to be true and how much was an operation to discredit an Anti-War newspaper and try to bolster a disgraced Army Regiment just before some of it's troops go on trial for brutality and murder?

This appears to be genuine. Operation: Take One For the Country. Well, I suppose they can't be called 'camp followers' as they aren't going over to Iraq themselves, and if they'd called themselves 'Joy Division' there would have been angry phone calls from Manchester.

'Operation Take One For The Country' is a movement of like-minded women (women predominantly as of right now)

I like this, presumerably if the US Army were to get rid of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', then OTOftC would seek to expand their employees.

Another British former Guantanamo Bay inmate tells of abuse, says there is video tapes of it stored at Camp X-Ray. Meanwhile, the New Yorker has a report that insists Donald Rumsfeld personally approved programs to torture Iraqi prisoners. I'm unsurprisingly unconvinced that the US administration seems to think that a few half-hearted 'sorrys' undo the damage of torture revelations. If they really wanted people to believe that their going into Iraq and killing half of them to get to Saddam was for the good of the Iraqi people then as soon as the first US guard is convicted (and the first trial starts on Wednesday right) then there should immediately be resignations. And I'm assuming it's Donald Rumsfeld that has responsibility. This isn't a partisan point and the difficulties it causes for the Republican party in the run up to elections should not shape anyone's opinions, but it's a clear moral point. Whether or not he told them to torture or he didn't, he has a responsibility for their actions. If the White House and the Presidents Men could bask in the glory of 'victory' last year, then they also have to take responsibility for the Allies failings. If Dubya is going to stand in front of flags and 'mission accomplished' signs, then he also has to stand in front of signs of Iraqis being killed by Coalition forces and men being humiliated by American servicemen and women.

Or at the very least he can go on TV and say "Donald Rumsfeld will not be resignatoring because we never really gave a fuck about the Iraqanian people." It would be nice to have some honesty for once. Chris is even more forthright, Donald Rumsfeld doesn't need to resign. Donald Rumsfeld needs to be fired, and he needs to be fired by President Bush.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

It's the Outrage Family. (That's not the Peter Tatchell kind of Outrage by the way.)

Recently seen graffiti

I've also seen one of the many sites hosting the Nic Berg execution video, you can try here or here if you want it yourself. I must admit, that those who think something is odd may have a point, but having never had to cut someone's head off I'm not in the best position to comment on technique. One of the things I've noticed is that while they are supposed to be cutting his head off (and the definition is too poor to be able to tell what kind of knife they are using) another guy is sitting on him, to restrain him, yet he doesn't move at all and his body has the appearence of a half-stuffed Guy Fawkes dummy. Very strange.

If you're anything like me, then kill yourself, kill yourself now, believe me, everyone will be better off! But otherwise, you've probably been feeling an aching void in your soul for some flash animations about a tiny ninja. Have no fear then, because finally that gaping hole can be filled, by Ninjai the Little Ninja!

Friday, May 14, 2004

Who's responsible for the torture in Iraqi jails? Take your pick, we've got gays, feminism, pornography, popular culture, women, academics, hostile journalists... Feel free to demand that any or all of those carry the can for this, just don't expect the men who directed these soldiers to be there to do it. That would be extremely unfair and counter-productive to The War Against Terror after all. However, psychologists say 'The type of mistreatment Iraqi prisoners have suffered at the hands of US soldiers is unlikely to have occurred without the knowledge of higher authorities'.

Meanwhile, there'll be few tears shed at a massive loss to British journalism, Piers Morgan gets sacked over false abuse photos. The Daily Mirror can whine about being a victim of a massive hoax, expect Conspiracy Theorists to write tomorrow how Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell mocked up those photos themselves in order to 'destroy' the paper that, like the BBC, was 'standing up' to the Government over the lies they were telling about the War in Iraq. But this needen't have happened if not driven by Morgan's sudden monomania and desperation to be right. Maybe the tabloid fight is so fierce that Morgan felt that to admit to uncertainties over the pictures earlier in the week would have lost him face with the other newspapers, but if he'd accepted the pies in the face earlier in the week he would have been able to survive the calls for his resignation, much as he did in that insider trading scandal a few years back. But instead he not only stood his ground but also dug himself deeper (or is that an impossibility?) so it became not 'if' but 'when' he would go.

Minister Nick Raynsford said there was no need for alarm but "sensible precautions" had to be taken so any area of London could be evacuated. If I should die, promise me you'll finish my work and ensure I take Blair and Bush with me...

Looking for a way to fool the ID Card scheme? Simple, just give a false ID.

Was the Nick Berg execution video faked in some way. Yep, proving once again that you can find people to take apart anything that you see on TV...

We were tortured in the same way as Iraqi prisoners, say Guantanamo Bay Britons. Presumerably no-one will bother to investigate this as no-one in the administration has claimed that anything to do with Afghanistan was to help the people of that country.

Is this Banksy?

Thursday, May 13, 2004

"Whitewash? Me? With my reputation?"

Asked about the "inexplicable" narrow focus of the inquiry, [Lord Hutton] said it would have taken too long if he had gone into wider intelligence issues. He denied his narrow focus "distorted" his conclusions... Lord Hutton said: "If I had brought the prime minister back to be cross-examined, I have to say, I considered I would be regarded as simply playing to the gallery."

Asking the prime Minister to come back and be questioned, that's just not what chaps do is it? I looked him in the eye and that's good enough for me...

He said he had been "very unhappy" about the leaking of his report's conclusions to the The Sun newspaper, but an inquiry into how this happened "had not been able to find the source of the leak".

I suppose no one thought to find out what Ali C had been doing that day then? No one wondered about the known closeness between the Blair Government and the Murdoch Press, or the fondness this administration had for announcing new policy initiatives through The Sun rather than the despatch box in the House of Commons?

ID Cards Nonced my Child!

ID Cards must be a fucking unpopular piece of legislation in the Mother of all Parliaments as they're trying to attach every piece of legislation they can to it, so the Chief Whips can say to rebellious MPs, "if you don't vote for ID Cards you'are actually helping terrorists chop off people's heads AND feeling up children like you're the Crazy World of Arthur Brown!" Latest up, and touching on stuff I've mentioned before, Government- response to Victoria Climbié social services fuckup- database of all children in country- will keep details of such things as the sexual relationships of parents, their drug use and so on- won't even need to be absolute fact. So any poly parents out there who love their children but also like the occasional jazz cigarette, you're screwed. Anyone in a perfectly heteronormative relationship but who may look a bit odd and having a disagreement with your neighbours? You could be screwed too. I also assume this is Megan's Law by the back door.

In other news, Mother angry at daughter's secret abortion. We need to know more than we're given in this case, but I would say that generally speaking, I don't believe a mother should have an automatic right to know these sorts of things about their children. But it's also unclear as to the quality of the advice the girl got, did she only want the abortion because she was afraid of what her Mum would say if she found out? Did her Mum guilt-trip her into wanting to have the baby once she did find out? It's a messy situation that needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis, but I think it was right not to automatically inform the parent.

The brutality of Mr Berg's murder and very public way in which he was killed has stunned America and horrified his family, who collapsed sobbing when they learnt of the video's existence... One could argue that the pictures of Iraqi hospitals full of children maimed and killed by American and British cluster bombs are, in their own way, equally horrific, but that would miss the point. Most Americans - even here in the middle-class suburbs of Philadelphia - never see, or never choose to see, images that portray the horror the war has wreaked on Iraqi civilians. But thanks to the same digital technology that ensured the pictures of the abuse at Abu Ghraib were dispatched around the world, Mr Berg's five killers carried out what was, in effect, a public execution.

I've added Motime Like the Present to the blogs on the right, he's a gentleman and a scholar... ;-)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Are you looking for a career change? Well, presumerably they're looking for people to take over in the vitally important area of 'humiliating Iraqi people' while those who got caught out get prosecuted...

And apparently at PMQ today Tony Blair was insisting, when being questioned about the torture of Iraqi prisoners, that things in Iraq are still better for the Iraqi people than when Saddam was in charge. I presume this is along the lines that it feels better to be shot by a Westerner than one of Saddam's soldiers, or that people are saying "Aah, maybe I am having my privates bitten off by an alsatian, but at least my willy is free as it's ripped from my crotch, not shackled under that tyrant Saddam!" It makes you wonder how much worse the country has got to get beforer Blair conceeds that maybe the country would have been better after all if the Allies had decided on something different other than all out invasion.

Ahhhhhhhh! The Infinite Cat Project. [via I Love Everything]

What these kids need is a good Battle Royale.

There's a tragic story from the frontline of the nature vs. nurture debate, David, formerly Brenda, known in psychology circles as 'John'/'Joan', committed suicide last week. Though I don't know much more than what comes out in this report, it does seem as what screwed the guy up more was not being forced to try to live in the opposite sex, but rather the 'sexual play' that the psychologist handling his case made him go through as a prepubescent. Such activity today would have him labelled a paedophile and shown the door, but apparently he's still practising.

A friend of mine found this report from ITN, listing the percentages for people they asked whether the war was right or wrong and has turned it into a pretty graph. The furthest point on the right, which isn't marked on the x axis is the release of torture pics. It's interesting that the release of the Hutton Whitewash was the key point at which the 'agrees' and 'disagrees' both changed direction, and the period from early April to now is the single sustained period of time where approval has been lower than disapproval.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I'm at the Greenhouse again. About four to six weeks ago someone left one of those trendy metal scateboard/scotters in the library and no-one has been in to claim it. It wouldn't be unethical for me to take it now would it? Really?

Video shows beheading of American man. Well, that should handily distract people from arguing about whether Donald Rumsfeld should resign over the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. And the terrible thing is, the militants are capable of doing this, the general tenor of Iraqi opinion that I've seen in the media comes out like this at best. So there's no need for anti-US conspiracy theorists to speculate about a black-ops team in Iraq working to discredit the Iraqis that are fighting the Occupation. But if this is allowed to distract from the torture issue, or used by numbskulls to justify the torture, that will be the true tragedy for both the Iraqis and the 'mainly decent' US Army. Brutality must not cancel out brutality.

I'm having a very strange argument on Barbelith at the moment. I don't mind the fact that I'm loosing the argument because it's not that important and I've been trying to argue from an absolutist position that I don't particularly agree with myself, but I have the sneaky suspicion that the arguments of the people I'm arguing with don't make any sense. Yes, there may be some value to keeping old houses, but to argue that we should do so because the artifacts themselves are free of bias, if that's what they are arguing, that can't be right, right?

Alistair Campbell just won't let it lie. Months after his friends acquited him of any wrongdoing in using the Government to fight his own little war against the BBC over a report which no-one would have remembered if he hadn't complained and which ended in doing immense damage to his boss and causing the tragic death of a man, Mr Pot refers to the darkness of Mr Kettle while insisting he himself is painted the most brilliant white.

The media and not politicians are responsible for 90% of what is commonly called "spin", former Downing Street press chief Alastair Campbell has said.

"Who's responsible? The media fucking are." As the Manics didn't once sing. There's an element of truth in this, as every policy David Blunkett comes up with is aimed at those who read the Daily Mail but this sob story would be more believable if New Labour didn't pander to the media from their inception. And let's not forget that 'spin' is the language you use to describe a policy and, considering that most reports tend to quote a government source directly it's not the fault of the media if the public don't believe the spin of the Government. Perhaps they might if the Government weren't shown to lie so much?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Click here to find out why.

But what means have we for deciding whether an internal report clears BBC news editors of wrongdoings in the wake of the publication of the Hutton Report is any more accurate than the whitewash that was Hutton? Anyway, sometime this month Dame Hutton is appearing before a select committee, although we may never hear it if the Government gets a good head of steam going over it's witch-hunt against the Mirror over those possibly faked photos.

At this rate the Government will have had a witchhunt against every main news organisation that isn't News International or the Daily Mail by next Spring. It'll have to start watching the end of Have I Got News For You for obscure trade magazines to pick fights with... "And the headline tonight, the Government has reacted strongly to the news that Doctor Who Magazine has voted Tom Baker as best Doctor, saying they have conclusive proof that Jon Pertwee was the better Time Lord. The Prime Ministers Official Spokesman said the Prime Minister also favoured Jo Grant over Leela."

Weird Searches: And when you find him, please let me know where you got him.

Scarey dolls.

Brain Haw, the anti-war protester who's been camped outside the Houses of Parliament for three years has been arrested and released. If anyone's in the area they can pop along and give him some encouragement. As when Dubya visited this country, pro-Government supporters tend to get hassled a lot less than those that exercise their democratic right to disagree.

Just seen a new blog, Surviving the Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Scandal. I especially liked the pictures here.

(registration required) Physical and sexual abuse of prisoners, similar to what has been uncovered in Iraq, takes place in American prisons with little public knowledge or concern, according to corrections officials, inmates and human rights advocates.

Oh well done Blogger, this whole Dashboard malarky is probably the most revolting design you could ever come up with, and now it's impossible for me to see my previous posts in the same window as my current one. Thanks!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Ooooh, I've just got back from the V&A and I have a feeling I'll be going back there soon.

Anyway, went to the Victoria and Albert today with K and Janina to see the Vivienne Westwood. Being spiritually akin to 'Reel 2 Reel (featuring the Mad Stuntman)' I like to move it move it and tend to breeze through exhibitions quickly. I also didn't feel I had any great affinity to Westwood's work, although I knew her as a figure from the prehistory of civilisation and so was mainly going because I had nothing better to do this afternoon. Still, I had a great time, more than I thought I would, and a big hugsnshout to Janina for explaining some of what we saw, helping me to a much greater appreciation than I would have had on my own.

The exhibition was split over two rooms, though I think that was really just because of the space the V&A had available at the time than some great clever reason. Room one was Westwood the punk, the 'Sex' and 'Seditionaries' years, and her early fashion years up to 1990. So there was lots of simple stuff, t-shirts and hijacked bondage and leather gear. And some of the early collections, such as the now dated New Romantic/pirate gear. Very nice. And over the speakers was a load of punk, the only track I can recall off the top of my head was 'Oh Bondage! Up Yours!' but there was loads of other stuff of the type that is now safe and put out on 'The Best... Punk... Album in the World Ever!' compilations.

Room Two was bigger and better, the post 1990 stuff which apparently was when Westwood became a 'proper' designer. The room was black with a quieter chill-out room soundtrack, some 'Airports'-era Eno, Holst's 'Neptune', very nice. I wouldn't have thought it would have worked beforehand but I don't know anything about Westwood so, who am I to say? To be sidetracked for a minute, I hate it when places exhibit stuff and don't tell you what the music you hear is. Maybe if I bought one of the programs it would be in there but by the exit door they thank everyone who was involved, but they don't tell you the music you've heard.

Anyway, there were samples from each of Westwood's collections post-90, it was a mix of some great stuff, often in silk and/or distressed bondage gear, and some absolutely awful stuff, mainly involving tartans and tweeds. Some of it I wanted to steal, some of it I wanted to burn. Three big wonderfully overlarge evening gowns took centre stage. One of the best exhibitions I've seen in a while, and well laid out, even if you think you have no interest it's well worth checking out if you're around.

The dumber you are, the greater likelihood you'll vote Bush.

Saturday, May 08, 2004


Which Type Of Stupid Fucking Online Quiz Are YOU?
brought to you by Quizilla

It is a sorry situation but also an opportunity to demonstrate how America deals with problems. The Arab dictatorships hide problems which then fester into catastrophes. America does its laundry in public and washes it out where all can see.

Well, there's a first time for everything...

Moorewatch is going to have a field day with this. The Michael Moore/Disney argument has now got into the messy area of definitions. Michael Moore knew a year ago Disney would decline to distribute his latest film. So, it'll all depend on whether you think that if Disney turned it down Moore should have given up then, or whether you think it was right for Moore to continue making it in the hopes that he could change their mind or, as Disney have said themselves, he could find an alternative distributor.

Just the right mix of funny and frightening: My life as a celebrity Scientologist.

"We have courses which can help you deal with your childhood traumas and depression," she says.
"But [my] music is about childhood traumas and depression. Listen to the album A Coffin Is Home."
"Our courses can make your music that much better. You'll find yourself writing about brand new things."
"If Franz Kafka were not depressed, would his writing be just as good?" Rosemary's smile grows. She thinks she's going to gain ground in her argument.
"I think his lyrics would be even better. He would have a whole list of new things to write about!"
I tell her to listen to his latest album, The Metamorphosis.
[via Boing Boing]

Just as the Bush administration shouted "They've got Weapons of Mass Destruction!" about Iraq until it turned out they hadn't, then shouted even louder "We never said they had Weapons of Mass Destruction! No, it sounded like that but what we actually said was 'Saddam Hussein is a bad man who abuses his citizens!'" so David Blunkett seems to have decided to abandon his "ID Cards stop terrorism!" schtick after coming unschtuck on the next question of "How exactly?". So today he's back on what for him must feel like safer territory: Xenophobia. Shiteyes tells Scots: If you exercise your democratically devolved right to not have ID Cards, your country will be swamped by nasty health tourists. And as health tourism is one of those things that is almost impossible to measure, Blunkett's free to claim "oooh, there's zillions of foreigners coming over to take advantage of the right in the UK to wait on a hospital trolley for weeks before a doctor even notices you" with impunity.

While we wait to see whether the Daily Mirror and Piers Moron* get away with saying that British servicemen and women indulged in a bit of the old ultraviolence with Iraqi plennies, John Pilger rightly points out that torture is nothing new, for either the US or the UK. The 'few bad apples' that Bush, Blair and Rumsfeld want us to believe are responsible for this outrage against decency are not just the few troops that thought it was okay to torture people, they are just the small proportion of the troops that had the opportunity to do what a larger proportion of the troops wouldn't have had any problem doing if they were given the chance. And can we be sure that there's another prison somewhere where there aren't any cameras where other Lynndie Englands are even now torturing** and humiliating Iraqi prisoners?

* Let's make no mistake here. Just because the Mirror has taken a stand against New Labour, the War in Iraq and the Bush/Blair love-in, let's not make the mistake of thinking Morgan is a nice bloke. He's simply an opportunistic tosser who thinks it's the best thing for his paper and circulation to take a vaguely left-wing stance. If Rupert Murdoch phoned him tomorrow he'd happily change his stance in a second.

** And the careful use of 'abuse' not 'torture'? If Bush and Rumsfeld are going to apologise for what they have done (and it was fun to see Richard Perle on Newsnight last night trying really hard to bite back the urge to say "but they were only fucking Arabs, it's not like they were real people!") shouldn't they at least have the decency to call it what it is, and move on from there?

Friday, May 07, 2004

I've only just discovered Wolf Food but have enjoyed what I've read so far. I don't know who Donna Barr is beyond what she puts in her blog. But there's been some cracking posts about adults, children, responsibilities and so on.

People, those of you who want censorship -- in any form -- no matter how mild -- for your kids' sake or whatever -- had better know that if you bring it up to artists/writers like me, we are going to blow sky high.

The Nuclear Family -- it kills kids.

See? These parents think that the rest of us are supposed to put up with the result of their breeding, and lose their minds the moment one of us says we have had it with the kids.

Now, her criticism is sharper than mine would be, but I've had to put my foot down at work and refuse, and so far thank Lada it seems to be working, to have anything to do with running any of the children related activities at the library since we lost our children's librarian. I'm happy to help out with legwork, I'm happy to do extra time covering another service point to free another member of staff to do the work, but I'm not going to sit and try reading stories to a bunch of pre-schoolers, or try to encourage six or seven year olds to get glitter and/or paint on the picture of the brontasaurus rather than their faces. Someone at another branch said that amy attitude was as bad as refusing to help disabled people because I didn't like the way they twitched. But you can actually have a conversation with disabled people, plus the reason we work in a team is so that people back one anothers strengths and weaknesses, there are several members of the team here that do better with children than me. And I'm not saying I refuse to help children look for books or do their homework, just story time events.

But as someone who is unlikely to ever take part in the breeding game, it does seem that having children often adds a whole new spurt of 'crazy' into the parental hormonal mix. And often libraries, whether they want to or not, get treated like creches. At the Greenhouse we had a real problem with a woman who would use a computer at one end of the library and would ignore her toddler who would walk to the other end of the library and try to get out the door. And the number we get who will sit by and do nothing while their child merrily tips books off shelves and make a mess, then walk away leaving us to clean up.

Thankfully I've also met great parents, I had two of them myself, the ones that realise that having children is a responsibility, not a right. This is where the Government, both in the UK and US, go wrong. The most important thing is not that there are two middle-class, white people of either of the two main sexes, if they are feckless idiots who, from the moment the egg implants in the uterine wall are looking to other people to bring their kids up for them. Some of the best parents I've seen are single, poor women who can't afford to buy their kids the latest toy and treat them with equal parts love and refusal. Good people are always made, not born.

The Economist's take on the torture situation.

I love The Department of Social Scrutiny. Finally the unspinned truth about how great it is that the Government want to lock us all up to keep us free. Daily Mirror photos genuine, "newspaper fake", concur media experts.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

A police chief has failed in an appeal to the House of Lords against a court ruling that he acted unlawfully in refusing to recruit a male-to-female transsexual. I might be able to summon up some small vestige of sympathy for the phobic old fuckwit if the reason given for turning her application down was: He had argued that she would be unable to carry out body searches on either men or women because the regulations required the searcher to be of the same sex as the person being searched.

Is that the best you could do? Is this the real reason for police inefficency, they can't stop crooks bringing in kilos of crack because they spend their entire day doing body searches on people? Still, the Gender Recognition Bill should mean that if the Bill are worried that female prisoners that are searched would find out and complain, they won't have a leg to stand on in court.

Let the rude little squirrel tell you the truth about the Atkins diet.

What a surprise... Glitches in ID card kit frustrate Blunkett's pod people.

Blunkett's evidence does not seem to have been particularly enlightening. It was, he said, largely the media's fault that the counter-terrorism aspects of the ID scheme had been given so much attention, and he cited a Today programme interview of 14.9.2003 where he claims he said that although the ID card and the Register (the other Register - Ed) would help, they would not resolve the terrorist threat.

This latest Blunkett stance is however somewhat undermined by the alacrity with which both he and the Prime Minister have used the terror threat as a wedge to win approval for the scheme and to accelerate its introduction. Blunkett's position on the card vis a vis terrorism therefore seems to be that it is a useful weapon against terror, but when asked to explain how it will be useful against terror, he retorts that he never said it was a complete fix, and that the terror aspect had been greatly over-emphasised by the media.

So, if Blunkett has changed his tune about terrorism (it was Madrid that made him and Blair claim that ID Cards needed to be brought in quicker. Now we have a situation where it would seem that he's accepted our arguments that ID Cards didn't prevent Madrid but he's still going ahead anyway) what is he going to do to stop terrorism? Concentration camps for the subversive people?

UPDATE: This Telegraph report seems to be more or less saying the same thing, 'long eyelashes' and 'watery eyes' give the system problems, suggesting that before you go to have your ID card done you should stop the hayfever medication a few days in advance.

Roland Sables, the project director, said that they were expecting a seven per cent failure rate with iris recognition.

OK, now just try to imagine what would happen if there were a seven per cent failure rate if everyone in Britain had a card. The 2001 census pegged the population of the UK at 58,789,194 people, which would mean just over 411,500 people (if my sums are right) would have ID cards with biometric data that wouldn't identify them. More if the 2011 census continues the upwards trend.

Meanwhile Shiteyes Blunkett has pretty much admitted that he's not being open about how much of the UK taxpayers money is going to go on this. The Home Office has previously put the cost of the system at more than £3 billion. Mr Blunkett, however, disclosed that this figure does not include the cost of thousands of biometric readers that will have to be installed in police stations, doctors' surgeries and public buildings. So Blunkett doesn't know how many illegal immigrants may or may not be coming into this country, but ID cards are supposed to stop that, tells everyone they won't stop terrorism, and at the moment will only admit to a cost to the public purse of three billion quid which he agrees isn't the final figure, even when he's charging you for the cost of this piece of plastic. So why won't you selfish bastards feel reassured that the Minister is saving you from terrorism?

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