Friday, April 29, 2005

I've been watching the Question Time Special - The Leaders from last night. Only got as far as Kennedy and Michael Howard so far, but here's what I thought.

I'm not too sure on Charles Kennedy, there were a couple of times he seemed to be avoiding answering the questions so as to bash the Government. Saying he would pull British troops out of Iraq even if the Iraqi Council asked them to stay seemed rather heartless, but maybe he was thinking that they'd only asked if the US told them to ask the UK. There was a young Asian guy who was allowed to veil an insult against Kennedy's 'lack of charisma' under the pretense of a question about the Lib Dems poor position in opinion polls, which I think Kennedy dealt with with charm and wit. It was good to see him being challenged in the Lib Dems tax plans as in the past, unless you actually read the whole manifesto (and who really does that?), the public never get to hear anything other than 'increased taxes'. David Dimbleby has this annoying habit of asking him a question, then as he starts to speak interrupts with another question, then as he starts to reply asks ANOTHER question and several times Kennedy does get annoyed at that.

The first question for Michael Howard challenges him on his anti-immigration policy as it would have stopped his own Mum and Dad coming to the country way back when. Unsurprisingly he doesn't answer the question straight away, instead pretending that he was asked 'please talk at length about how immigration is a danger to the wellbeing of this country'. When he decides to answer he talks about how the Tories would in fact welcome economic migrants who come to do a job, so we have another Tory myth, whereas when they were in power they were going on about cutting benefits because people were dole scroungers we now have the myth that people come to this country to grab benefits, when in fact the current system stops skilled people from getting jobs and having to sit around all day getting inadequate benefits that they can't live on. Beyond the fatuous 'cutting red tape' messages that seems to be how Howard wants to pay for everything he doesn't offer any guarantee that those skilled people in immigration centres will be able to come and work in our society. He gets challenged by an asylum seeker who insists that Howard see's him "as dirt", unfortunately he does then get a bit carried away and compares Howard to Hitler, not the smartest debating strategy after the whole flying pigs/Fagin episode earlier this year.

Moreso than Kennedy Howard takes a lot of time to bash Blair rather than talk about his own policies, a woman asks him about the Tories negative campaigning, he starts going on about Blair's lies on Iraq, she asks him whether it's good for democracy to talk about Blair being a liar, he talks about Blair's lies on Iraq, Dimbleby reminds him he's supposed to be here to talk about Tory policies to make the country better... He talks about Blair's lies on Iraq. He gets the first big jeer when he says "I tell it like it is. I tell it how I see it I'm afraid". The problem is that a few minutes later he says he would have still gone to war and trying to say he would have done it differently to Blair which doesn't really convince, when the reality of the situation is that it's an American show and we're just helping out saying you'd have gone to war commits you to pretty much everything that happened after we invaded Iraq as well.

Someone asks Michael Howard a leading question on whether the Labour Government is putting students under too much pressure, he sounds almost as though he's a placed Tory supporter. He claims that in the last seven years he "must have taken at least sixty, seventy written exams" which would have to work out at ten written exams a year. Surely this isn't accurate, surely this guy is either in some unusual educational circumstances or is using a very wide definition of 'written exam'. What looks like an equally planted Labour supporter asks Howard how he feels coming a distant second in the polls to someone he calls a liar.

On a side issue, another instance of re-emerging Tory homophobia. And then there's Michael Gove who, as editor of the Times said, in 2003, You can no more ?promote? the idea of becoming gay to a testosterone-fuelled, Key Stage 4-taking, FHM-reading, Jordan-ogling male teenager than you could have persuaded the young Graham Norton to make an honest woman of Ann Widdecombe but in 2004, as prospective Tory candidate for Surrey Heath, said [to] the Conservative Way Forward group that he supported a county-by-county introduction of the [Clause 28]."Those of us who want a more traditional sex education for our children should be able to choose schools that reflect our values," he said earlier this week... "You could drive up the M1 and you could enter Northamptonshire and it could say 'Welcome to Northamptonshire: This is Clause 28 country'." It's not homophobic to talk about values, it just implies that those who do not share yours do not have any.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Found this on Barbelith. Her name may be Paula Oliveira but from this day forth she is immortalised as Mad, fixed-expression, staring smiling girl!

OK, OK, the name needs a little work...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Muslim Conservative candidate uses homophobia in her election leaflets. It's like the gay community's equivalent of the blood libel:

In her campaign literature, Sayeeda Warsi, Conservative candidate for Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, claims that Labour's lowering of the age of consent from 18 to 16 left children vulnerable to be "propositioned for homosexual relations", and that homosexuality was being peddled to children as young as seven in schools... In her leaflet Mrs Warsi, the Conservatives' first female Muslim candidate, says: "Labour has scrapped section 28 which was introduced by the Conservatives to stop schools promoting alternative sexual lifestyles such as homosexuality to children as young as seven years old... now schools are allowed and do promote homosexuality and other alternative sexual lifestyles to your children. Labour reduced the age of consent for homosexuality from 18 to 16 allowing school children to be propositioned for homosexual relationships. Later in her leaflet Mrs Warsi is quoted saying: "I will campaign strongly for an end to sex education at seven years and the promotion of homosexuality that undermines family life."... Mrs Warsi, who has a seven-year-old daughter, stood by her leaflet last night: "It's a statement I make as I believe it. It is factually correct. Everything in this leaflet is fact."

That's a special kind of fact obviously. In much the same way that The Protocols are 'fact'.

Meanwo', from the SIndy...


Robert Fisk in London April 24. -

When Tony Blair published his notorious 2002 "dossier" which falsely claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, Downing Street also produced an Arabic version which contained significant deletions and changes in text that substantially altered its meaning. A translation carried out for The Independent reveals for the first time that several references to UN sanctions were cut from the Arabic text. On one page, the words "biological agents" were changed to read "nuclear agents". Arab journalists who reported on the dossier culled their information from the Arabic version - unaware that it was not the same as the English one.

I'm not sure how Fisk knows this by the way, I would have thought it equally possible that an Arab journalist might read the English version, certainly more likely than a Western journalist being able to read the Arabic one.

While there is evidence of sloppiness in the translation - a 2001 Joint Intelligence Committee assessment of Iraqi nuclear ambitions is rendered as 2002 - many of the changes were clearly deliberate, apparently in an attempt to make the dossier more acceptable as well as more convincing to an Arab audience.

At the time, the USA and Britain were trying to convince Gulf states that Saddam Hussein still represented a major threat to them - in the hope of seeking their support for the 2003 invasion - while the Arab world was enraged at the disastrous effects UN sanctions had on child mortality in Iraq. In the "Executive Summary" at the start of the English edition, readers in Arabic were reminded that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against Iran and his own people before the 1991 Gulf War. But the fact that he had admitted this after the Gulf War was deleted, along with the fact that he agreed to give up his WMD. The apparent intention was to convince Arabs that Saddam remained an imminent threat.

In some cases, too, the Arabic text was hardened to remove any doubts that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. The alteration of "biological agents" - biologia in Arabic - to nuclear (la-nawawiya in Arabic) is obviously deliberate, and may reflect the belief that an Arab audience would be more fearful of nuclear weapons than biological agents.

I'm interested in this point. After all, surely the Arab world knows about Hussein gassing the Kurds? Or do the Kurds not matter in the Muslim world, so they wouldn't really care that he'd used them on them? Why would the Arab world be more scared of nuclear missiles, unless they are mentioned because everyone knows Israel has some?

References to "damaged" Iraqi factories have been changed to "destroyed"(tadmir in Arabic), giving the impression that US and British air strikes in 1991 were more accurate than in fact they were.

On Iraq's nuclear programme, the English version of the dossier says that two research reactors were "bombed" in 1991. In the Arabic, the two reactors are described as "destroyed".

Isn't there an argument for cock-up rather than conspiracy? The intelligence agencies of both America and the UK have both admitted they are crap when it comes to knowing what's going on in the Arab world, isn't there a possibility that they might not have translators that are any good?

Lord Goldsmith's advice on the Iraqi War was finally leaked at the weekend, confirming what was pretty much known, that he said it was illegal before having some sort of Damascene conversion to deliver a final opinion that it was all above board.

Apparently the Romans, at the height of their empire building, would insist all their wars of invasion were actually wars to defend themselves, despite the fact that their sheer size made such a claim preposterous. Remind you of anywhere today?

So, we have Lord Goldsmith initially thinking the war could not be justified legally, only to suddenly change his mind, we have the intelligence services unable to give Number 10 evidence of WMD in Iraq or any reason to think that Saddam Hussein was a threat to his neighbours, only for that to somehow morph between them and 10 Downing Street to "weapons ready to deploy in forty-five minutes" and a Prime Minister who's remaining justification is that 'the ends justify the means', despite the fact that his own religion says that is not a moral position.

And what we can be sure is, on the six of May, we'll have a man soaked in the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, British troops and Doctor David Kelly as our Prime Minister.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Depression is no fun. I think I can state this without fear of contradiction, so why the media thinks stories with various flavours of depressed people are going to be interesting. Take Minority Report. Actually a fairly decent sci-fi movie but almost sunk by the focal point of the movie, played by Tom Cruise, is a depressive on the point of complete breakdown. Having him scowling and skulking around the movie makes it a struggle to just reach the point where the story really kicks in and he turns into 'stumpy hero guy'. Buffy series six. Brrr. And Troy. Who's bright idea was it that the story would best be served if it concentrates on muscled pouting Achilles? They would have been better served if they talked to Tony Robinson and bought the rights to Odysseus, The Greatest Hero of Them All instead, which would have made a better story.

We have some two and a half hours of Brad Pitt walking round a beach. Achilles doesn't want to fight any more we are told, though we are not given any reason why. Yet he agrees to go with the Greeks to retrieve Helen, because supposedly he knows that if he does so his name will resonate down the centuries. The Trojans are waiting for the Greeks at the beach outside the city of Troy and, in a half-hearted lift of the beach scene from Saving Private Ryan Achilles leads a near suicide mission to take the beach. But the writers don't seem to know what Achilles problem is. After the Greeks take the beach he refuses to take part in the next battle and watches from the sidelines. Does he think that his name will be immortalised forever just because he goes to Troy? As though the bards would sing of 'Bold Achilles, who sat in a deck-chair and watched as Hector killed Menelaus'? Then he decides to pack up and go home which makes you wonder why he left there in the first place?

The simple fact is that Achilles, as portrayed here, is a deeply boring person and any film around him will suck the more he's on screen. The battles are lovely, I can't be bothered to watch the extras to find out so I don't know whether they are done by the same people who did the battle scenes for Lord of the Rings or were meant to rip them off recall them. But really, this film would have been a lot better if the script were inverted, much less of Brad Pitt and much much more of Brian Cox, Peter O'Toole, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, well heck, everyone. There's a doomed attempt to portray the society of Troy as being more worthy of survival than the Greeks, Bana's Hector is wonderful, it's almost as though there was a script written in which the Trojans were heroes and the tragedy was that they were destroyed but the Hollywood machine managed to completely negate the point of the story by forcing it to be about one man dealing with the awful tragedy of being so good at fighting and looking so good when oily instead.

And I also got around to watching Point Pleasant. In which producer Marti 'last two seasons of Buffy' Noxon produces a dazzling new bit of fantasy drama set in a small (but this time it would seem actually real) seaside town in to which drifts a young, blonde teenage girl with supernatural powers around which strange events seem to occur. In no time at all she's made friends with the devastatingly attractive girl who's a loner and outcast at school who no-one understands and... Yes, it's Buffy with a hint of American Gothic and maybe as time goes by Twin Peaks will be added to the brew too. The pilot isn't offensively bad, it's just dull except for the two money scenes. But is Buffy without any of the things that made that show interesting going to capture the viewer's interest?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A full list of free MP3s available at Amazon. [via Boing Boing]

This reminds me of the maps of 'Jesusland' that circulated after the US election last year. Point Topic have worked out which are the areas in the UK with the highest use of broadband and the lowest, and without almost no exception the worst areas are all Tory or Plaid Cymru seats and the best are all Labour. What's going on there? Cardiff does well because NTL has had a lot of success selling the package, Caemarfon does poorly because it's apparently BT's fault for still not broadbanding up the exchanges. Far be it from me to suggest that people's inability to access internet porn or an amusing webgimick that makes it look like a cat is licking the inside of your screen leads you to vote Tory...

Spain legalises gay marriage, the public are for it, religious groups are against it and the law is going to be challenged.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Encyclopedia Oceasia, C.A. 217.

The Current Age: It is perhaps fitting, in this watery age, that we cannot say with absolute certainty when the Current Age began and when the preceeding age, the Stone Age, finished. The transitional period is held to begin on June the 16th 1904 by the old calender, and ended June the 30th the following year, or 01/01/00 by the calenders of the Aqueous Age. This gap of time gave us the two saints of the age, Saint James and Saint Albert.

But for a long time terranity was unaware of what had happened. It continued to use the old calenders and the old traditions for another century, a time during which more terrans, or humans as they refered to themselves then, were killed than at any time in the Stone Age. The Current Age, the Aeon of Water, was washing away all certainties and the natural response of humanity, still living in a world of countries and borders, was a regression to primitive first-circuit/lizard brain behaviour: The crumbling of the Germanic Empire led to the rising of the despotic Emperor Hitler, the fall of the Empire of Stalin inevitably led to the rise of the American Empire, led by the 'gang of four', Reagan, Clinton and the Family of Bush. And it was only when that last empire fell, after gorging itself on the planet until it was unable to sustain so large a beast, that the Aqueous Age could be said to have truly began.

Work done at the Charles Johnson Memorial Centre in Ramallah have shown that as the Age developed, as science dissolved the Stone with more uncertainty, so humanity responded with more fury, Saint Niels work on quantum mechanics was followed by Emperor Hitler's pogrom of Jews, which both Saint Niels and Saint Albert were. In the latter half of the 'twentieth century', c. 75 CA, Saint Richard's work on memetic theory was followed by a backlash and temporary restoration of the forces of religion. In both cases both Empire's shunned the people they needed to achieve their temporal objectives, the scientists and intellectuals, which led to their inevitable collapse. Religion was recapitulated into it's source in the human imagination, which led to the full-scale 're-realisation' of exactly what that term meant, and was seen as one of the main causes of humanities transformation into terranity.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I've been blogging now for about two years and one week. Comparing how I feel now to how I felt them I predict that by this time next year I'll probably be suicidal and a year after that will be offing myself Richard Geefe style. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I watched Derek Jarman's version of The Tempest this afternoon, more on a whim than anything. Now, I've only seen this and Jubilee so it's not like I'm basing this on his whole body of work or anything, but if these two are representative, Jarman is a crap film-maker. He's a brilliant artist and the costumes are great but both films are a bit of a mess, dropped cues, badly blocked scenes, filming at dawn and night with cameras not up to the task? I guess Jarman was never overflowing with cash but in this case it might have been better to be aware of limitations, not ignore them and hope it all comes out in the wash because you're an auteur.

Having said that, The Tempest wasn't awful. Heathcote Williams was agreably intense as Prospero, though I found it difficult to take him seriously as he bore an unfortunate resemblance to James Brown, sometime journalist and Loaded creator rather than soul man. Toyah's seagull costume is amazing and I want it.

Here, read this talk by Douglas Adams on science and religion.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

We're just doing unto him as he's done unto others...

I'm trying to think of how a blog for my library would work, half as a thought experiment and half as something I can toss at my current/possible future managers as a reason for why they should choose me over someone who's like, you know, better dressed and cares about being a librarian.

But I'm thinking that possibly a pure blog in the style of blahflowers or better still someone half-competent isn't a particularly useful structure. What we need is not a blog where you see the current entry first and then scroll down to see older entries, what you need is something that looks like a calender to start with, then you click on a day and get library events and contact details, then blog-type stuff, but what sort of content goes there? Information nicked from book-related websites like The Bookseller or the Telegraph books?

OK, I'll bite. Anyone know/recommend any good library-based blogs (as opposed to blogs by librarians)?

Catching up on news, at the weekend the chief of Metropolitan police has said again that ID Cards are needed. See, this is why no-one respects the police any more when their chief is saying such stupid things.

"I wasn't particularly keen on ID cards until recently - until I began to understand the way in which identity theft is carried out. There are no more printing presses in basements. The documents that are being produced are exactly identical to the real documents, they're just unauthorised," he said.

He seems to think that ID Cards will somehow magically be uncopyable. He's ignoring the fact that no biometric system has been developed yet which is good enough that it doesn't have a margin of error which makes it impractical when multiplied up to numbers such as the population of the UK. Surely identity theft is made more difficult by having a number of different documents rather than one card. At the moment the capitalist society has made people are a bit too free and easy with their various forms of ID, it might be more useful for the Government to work on making people be more careful with what they've got already, rather than wasting millions of pounds on giving them another card to be careless with.

Top Tories have supposedly privately appealed to their leader to stop being such a racist idiot and stop going on about immigration. Sadly no-one is talking to the top people in Labour about doing the same.

Monday, April 18, 2005

How to keep George W. Bush occupied for a day.

I'm not sure if it was a blogger or someone at work today who said "Apparently Phil Collins has promised that if the Tories win the general election he'll return to Britain. This means we have to vote Labour!"

The Sean Connerycottish National Party had a PPP on after the Channel 4 news. They wanted our vote because the parties down south were talking about English issues and not Scottish ones. Excuse me? Didn't we give you a Parliament to get rid of Alex Salmon and his tedious bunch of supporters who think they're Braveheart when in fact they're the Clan MacAdder from Blackadder (Blackadder "And how stands that mighty army, the Clan MacAdder?" MacAdder "They're both well." Blackadder "I've always thought Jamie and Angus were such fine boys." MacAdder "Angus is a girl.") The SNP's moan would have more weight if it wasn't for the fact that, by standing for the British rather than Scottish Parliament they are following the power, rather than their principles, unlike New Labour, of all people, of whom Donald Dewar stood down in order to stand for and run the Scottish Parliament. But Gordon Brown has a Scottish seat doesn't he? You'll be waiting a long time for full independence Alex.

Last week had the BBC broadcasting a party political broadcast on behalf of Labour... during Newsnight. This was the absurdity of Alistair Campbell's crusade against the BBC he was trying to portray them as sandal-wearing, bearded yoghurt-knitting, Open University supporting lefties when the fact is that the BBC is always fairly centre-ground and leans in the direction of whoever is currently in power and who they think will be in power at the next election. The BBC rarely transmits on it's news shows Blair in Parliament or at Prime Ministers Questions because they know he's bad at it, they do what they can to avoid broadcasting Michael Howard or Charles Kennedy getting the better of him during debates, the BBC deserves much of the credit for keeping the Government going, having Jeremy Paxman being sarky for a couple of evenings a week should be a price they are willing to pay.

But anyway, last week Newsnight had a special report on the case of Kamel Bourgass and how he'd nearly masterminded a plot to kill thousands of Londoners. By the end of it I was quite impressed that, while one branch of the security services had been fabricating evidence of WMD in Iraq, the other had been working to stop real terrorists. It gave Charles Clarke the chance to say that this case somehow proved that we need ID Cards (which at the time I thought odd, because Bourgass was in this country illegally he either wouldn't have had an ID Card or would have got one illicitly, meaning they would be useless), David 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' Blunkett to saying that we need tougher anti-terrorist laws, just like the ones he wanted to bring in, presumably then we wouldn't have to rely on having to find Bourgass guilty of committing any crime before banging him up and it gave Michael 'I want to put an end to the immigration freedoms that allowed my father to come to this country in the first place' Howard to moan about illegal immigrants before biting the neck of a virgin, or Anne Widdicombe, whichever was closer.

It was a couple of days later that I found out it was mostly bollocks. The only reason Bourgass got locked up was because he'd helpfully stabbed a policeman while resisting arrest. Although a lab said it had found ricin at the flat Bourgass was using it then discovered that that was a mistake and told the Government. The Government announced the lab had found ricin, it strangely didn't get round to announcing the retraction. Furthermore, while Bourgass had an intention to make it he had no luck in the cooking, scientists said his recipe was hopeless. They then added for good measure that ricin is a crap way to try and kill people, it's not very deadly unless ingested in large quantities, again information not passed on by the Government. They couldn't even tie Bourgass to Al Qaeda. The BBC weren't alone in trumpeting this as a Government success story, next day The Sun told us 'He Wanted to Kill YOU', although who hasn't thought that at some point when seeing someone read the Sun, although they were probably interesting in the 'illegal immigrant' angle.

Roll on May 5th. Then we'll have a few weeks of politics before they break up for their summer break and we'll at last be able to talk about serious things that matter once again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I watched The Last Temptation of Christ this afternoon, so that's two long films about Jesus I've watched in the last year. Not bad for an agnostic/atheist huh? But I much prefer this to The Passion of the Christ any day of the eternity. The main reason why Scorsese's film succeeds where Gibson's overrated epic flops is that whatever it is Mel drags through the streets and nails up on the hill it isn't human. It's an artifact, it's the son of God. And it's not human, so I don't care. It brings salvation? It can stick it up it's arse.

But the Jesus of Last Temptation is human, resolutely so. He's an epileptic Roman collaborator as the film opens and almost every step of the way needs the support of his friends and followers, most obviously Judas. When they travel to see John the Baptist, it's Judas that encourages him to approach John, it's Judas that controls the other disciples when their faith in Jesus wavers. And it's Judas that Jesus loves and trusts enough to ask the ultimate sacrifice of, the betrayal. And at the end, when Jesus has lost to the devil, it's Judas that rouses him to ask God for another chance. This makes a much more meaningful story to me, where humankind reaches salvation through conscious effort, not as mere spectators to a heavenly conjuring trick.

The Jesus of Last Temptation, it seems to me, is a human being who becomes divine, not a divine being sent down to instruct us. The latter has, to me, nothing of value to impart, I might as well seek instruction on how to be a human from a cow or a dog. The Jesus of Last Temptation would make me believe, if I were a Christian, that salvation is both possible and something to strive for, the message The Passion is that it is not something humans can attain, so there is no point attempting to reach it.

Which is not to say Last Temptation is absolutely perfect. It's a little bit too long, though it only really drags in the last half hour. And why does Mary Magdalene die if the devil allows Jesus to have a happy life with the other Mary? Is it because Magdalene was too closely associated with his life as the Messiah? In which case why lead him to her from the cross anyway? Then there's the question that since Jesus effectively fails the final test by allowing the Devil to take him from the cross, why does God allow him to return to it at the end and complete his task? Is it perhaps that this devil is the helper of God, and goes to all that effort to show Jesus why the cup cannot pass to another? It's a confused bit of mythology that doesn't really get explained in the stampede for the end credits, I think the best thing is to rationalise it as a Jacobs Ladder experience for the Son of Man to accept his part in God's plan.

And it has David Bowie in it too! In probably his second most important role after Jareth the Goblin King, as Pontius Pilate! Hot piss!

So, why do Christians want to believe their savior is inhuman? Why do they howl with outrage at the idea that his faith may waver? I just don't understand...

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome:

Liberal Democrat

Your actual outcome:

Labour -10
Conservative -32
Liberal Democrat 54
UK Independence Party 5
Green 30

You should vote: Liberal Democrat

The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

Half of the women in the Arab world are illiterate and more than 10 million children in the region do not go to school, a report has revealed. However, it's not all bad news, in Iran women can become police officers, and if you can't take joy in the site of women wearing chadors whilst abseiling down buildings or leaning out of a fast moving car-window shooting, then there's probably something deeply wrong with your soul.

If the Lib Dems do badly in the elections next month (and the news has got so dull recently, it's a relief that the campaigning will soon be over) then Charles Kennedy may face a leadership challenge from his newborn son. As things stand, they currently have exactly the same odds for becoming the next PM.

Donald Rumsfeld goes for 'cheekiest comment by a dictatorial superpower 2005' award with a warning to Iraq's governing council not to misuse it's powers of patronage. This from a government that tried to fill the Iraqi council with as many cronies that it could find that weren't wanted for too serious crimes of fraud, and who has a Vice-President who just happened to sit on the board of one of the companies to get the most work in the new Iraq.

If Rummy is taking requests, can someone see if they can get him to lecture the world on how pre-emptive strikes are wrong?

Monday, April 11, 2005

OK, is it just that April Fools Day has now been mandated to be every day in the year in the U.S. now? Florida bill to allow people to shoot each other without fear of legal reprisal goes before Governor Jeb Bush. My favourite part? Why certainly:

The sponsor [of the Bill Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala.] also led the failed legislative effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive by blocking the removal of her feeding tube — and decried a growing "culture of death."

So, presumably, if Terri Schiavo's husband had wanted to shoot her while she was in a vegetative state, Baxley would have been OK with that.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I've just been listening to Anthony and the Johnson's I'm a Bird Now because mention the word 'transvestite' near me and watch as I perk up. Sadly, a listen doesn't impress me. Tony has certainly got a nice voice, somewhere between Otis Redding and Nick Cave after an accident with his fly, but I don't particularly care for torch songs which, along with 'sitting on the dock of a bay' seems to be the era/style that is being pastiched in the 'no, we genuinely like this' style of the Scissor Sisters or The Darkness.

Along with a bunch of gender/kinkbending titles like 'My Lady Story', 'Man is the Baby' and, of course, 'I Am a Bird Now' it's just presented in such a dreary po-faced style. It's only just over half an hour long and by the halfway point I'm desperate for some humour and verbal high-kicks. The first track ends with some dynamic piano playing which they decide to not risk doing again.

The biggest disappointment from queersville since Ocean Colour Scene.

Some reading for the Sabbath day, an attempt to turn the U.S. into a Christian Iran, and the U.S. Government into an American Taliban.

Friday, April 08, 2005

This morning I found my way to this photo-essay on a Quakers anti-Iraq war demonstration in San Francisco last month, by someone who seems to be anti-anti-war.

Critics point out that Eyes Wide Open purports to honor the fallen servicemen in Iraq, while it actually uses the façade of supporting the troops to promote a hardline anti-war stance.

Much the same as critics might say that the right-wing media and government uses the façade of supporting the troops to promote a hardline pro-war stance.

Sure enough, in the tent that accompanied the exhibit, a series of large panels laid out the case against the war, using the usual litany of "facts" that the anti-everything crowd has repeated so often as to actually believe they're true.

This, under a picture of a billboard that states that no biological or chemical weapons have been found. Erm, we don't believe them to be true, no chemical weapons have been found! I'm sorry to break this to whoever wrote this, but the simple fact is the intelligence was wrong! It would seem that it's the anti-anti-war crowd who have repeated the 'yes there's WMD there!' argument so often as to actually believe they're true.

Still, at the bottom of the page he manages to find some anti-American graffiti so as to imply, with no proof as to who did it, that the Quakers who run this show and, by extension, anyone who is anti-war, is therefore pro-terrorism. Hmmm, such an argument has a whif of coloured footballs about it. Oh look...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

In an impressive display of bandwagon-jumping, a member of the New York assembly wants to pass 'Terri's Law', which would mean that a feeding tube could not be removed from a comatose patient without said comatose patient's written consent, even if they'd previously created a living will clearly stating their wishes. It would seem that dumb Democrat William Colton is confused between the type of non-responsive coma Terri Schiavo was in and the one he goes into each time he goes to work. [via Gothamist]

It's things like this that irritate me. We're constantly told as children about how technology is there to make our lives easier, or how technology helps the disabled or ill to live normal productive lives, then you hear about something like this, where who knows how much money is being spent, trying to find a way to save well-off people from the massive inconvenience that is having to take your iPod out of your pocket and look at it when you want to change tracks. I don't think enough is being done to sort out this blight actually, we need Bob Geldof and a huge fucking rock concert to raise awareness and funds to deal with this terrible problem.

Outside chance for Father DOugal to be the next Pope. Well, it'll be Father Jack if they want someone old, mad and incredibly right-wing who hates everybody.

HST's last wish, to have his ashes fired from a cannon, will be granted.

In shock news, Robert Mugabe stole last month's election!.

Proof that God is a Republican: After months of the press being very rude about Charles after it turned out that the Prince really meant it about loving Camilla and wanted to marry her, the Pope's funeral was set for the day of their marriage and now they've put it back to the Saturday the Met Office are predicting blizzards.

An Egyptian cleric denounced attempts to discuss safe sex and abortions in the country's classrooms. Shrubya's reaction reported to be: "Now, what's this about you chopping criminals' hands off? That sounds good to me..."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The leader of poisonous tossers the BNP, Nick wanker Griffin, has been charged with four race hate offences. He'd probably consider it a shame that the Crime Bill the Government is desperately trying to get through Parliament before they close down for Election duty has dropped the outlawing of religious hatred clause so he couldn't be prosecuted for that too. And ID Cards are dead for the time being too, though Charles Clarke has already promised that they'll be back in the Autumn. Still, as he waits for his day in court, maybe Nick would like to play with Peter Snow's Swingometer, though sadly it doesn't have an option to calculate what kind of mad circumstances would have to occur to get a BNP member of Parliament (as opposed to your merely racist or xenophobic Tory or New Labour MP).

Looking out over the valley

I went to Bedgebury Pinetum with my parents last weekend. The Pinetum, in the heart of Kent, looms large in my psyche though I can only remember visiting it twice and have probably gone there no more than half a dozen times in my life. It was where my Dad proposed to my Mum. Then we visited it a couple of times when I was a toddler, before and soon after my sister was born, one of the iconic photographs in my Nan's collection is of her grandchildren sitting on the trunk of a tree that had been cut down for kids to play on: Me first, probably somewhere between two and three, then behind me my cousin John, a few months younger but always bigger, then his brother James, about five, then Daniel and Matthew, around seven and nine, then Mandy who was the eldest of the kids and probably already twelve.

Bedgebury Pinetum is, when I read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, what I imagine the Shire is like. It is the forest from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or The Last Battle, it is Sherwood Forest, it is Dunsinane. Although the park area is quite a small part of the location, when I was a toddler it seemed impossibly vast and I think that is part of the attraction. There's also something about forests that captivates me, they are fantastic liminal spaces where we can step out of the everyday and into that mythic English past that never existed, of Arthur, Robin or Geoffrey. Other people might prefer their hills or their moors, I prefer the stillness of the forest, it is a place to recharge, retreat and regroup, the wood is the bated breath before the next step. When you stand alone in a forest for once nature is not subserviant to you, it can take your breath and turn it back into oxygen and if you were to drop dead it could easily swallow your bones to nourish itself. Treat a forrest with respect and it will let you peak behind some of it's masks. When I die I want my ashes scattered in a forest, this one if it still exists.


In case you didn't know, a pinetum specialises in the cultivation of conifers. Bedgebury is the national pinetum for the UK, and a hasty Googling would suggest there's only a couple of others in the United Kingdom in total. The paths aren't great for getting my Mum around in her wheelchair and talking to one of the staff it seems all profits they make go to the Forestry Commission and the only money they get from them has to go to the upkeep of the conifer collection. Getting shafted by political people: Happens to us all.

From the other side of the valley

So I don't remember my earliest visits there any more except at an unconscious level that is probably generated by those photographs. It's a place that you really do need a car to get to, there's no train station nearby and while buses probably do go to the local villages they equally probably do so irregularly, and then you've still got a mile or two to walk from there. Due to the lack of funding from the Forestry Commission the amenities are basic but once you actually get into the park itself it is wonderfully peaceful.

According to the events diary they are holding concerts there this summer from Madness and The Beautiful South. I don't care for Heaton's lot but the idea of Madness, one of the original urban bands, transplanted to the depths of the countryside is an intriguing one.

Safety tip

Travel Tip: Take plenty of bread. The ducks and geese by the lake are really pushy.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I'm almost starting to feel sorry for the Prince of Wales as everything that could go wrong with his wedding preparations has gone wrong, and under the gaze of a media that I assumed he'd won over since Diana died but which seems to have got the knives, forks and full dinner set out for him. But now he's had to postpone his wedding so as to attend the funeral of the Pope. Quite why anyone from the royal family has to go I'm unsure, after all they broke from Rome and are 'defenders' of a different religion to Catholicism anyway.

What every American family needs: The FOXBlocker. JUST $8.95, the FOXBlocker is a wonderful way of telling the advertisers at FOX News that you are no longer interested in being exposed to right wing propaganda or, as they admit, at least the right-wing propaganda of Fox News. And have you BitTorented Outfoxed yet?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Perverted fucking genius. (Safe for work? Are you nuts?!) [via B3ta]

Saturday, April 02, 2005

ITV tonight: Hit me Baby One More Time in which 'popular music stars of yesteryear aim to rekindle the old magic' followed by Celebrity Stars in their Eyes where celebs pretend to be popular music stars of yesteryear. Or perhaps you'd prefer Celebrity Who Wants to be a Millionaire with Harry Hill, Al Murray, Griff Rhys Jones and Saffron Burrows. They just aren't trying are they?

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Pope's last message. [via Need to Know].

Oh don't complain, I've spent the entire day waiting for the poor old bastard to die.

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