Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Steven Pinker gets sweary with What the F***?, an essay on swearing. [via Pete Ashton's Blog]


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In all the fuss about Rowling outing Dumbledore, it's easy such to forget the real victims in this, such as the guy who has the big Dumbledore tattoo on his back.

"I've always liked Dumbledore - just not in that way."

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Monday, October 29, 2007

JK Rowling under fire from US Bible belt after outing Dumbledore as gay. I realise that homophobe does not equal Christian fundamentalist, sadly, but is there really much danger of a backlash of parents who have thus far allowed their children to continue reading these books because one of the characters is gay? I suppose there may be if parents believe the inaccurate reports in the media rather than reading the books and seeing that Dumbledore is more closeted than Larry Craig.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Your Score: Lion Warning Cat

70% Affectionate, 84% Excitable, 44% Hungry

You are the good Samaritan of the lolcat world. Protecting others from danger by shouting observations and guidance in cases of imminent threat, you believe in the well-being of everyone.

To see all possible results, checka dis.

Link: The Which Lolcat Are You? Test written by GumOtaku on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test


My Right-Wing Dad. At last , somewhere to send all those awful emails from deranged conservatives (waves at Patrick with a big grin) about how not wanting to kill all Arabs is un-patriotic.

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Would you like to study philosophy?

Why not go over to Fluxblog and, while it's still available, listen to Malcolm McLaren's Love Will... . Those of you who remember the track by Malkie used for Kill Bill will find this is much the same, a mash-up of Love Will Tear Us Apart and Love Will Keep Us Together. Pop genius!

Also, A Pictoral Review of "Control", via Flux.

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Does exercise really make you thin? Admittedly, I'm putting on weight because, while I've cut out snaking on sweets and sugary drinks, I'm probably having bigger meals to compensate. Oh well, you win some...

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Memo to the McCanns: you're not helping. Yes, almost six months later and someone 'just happens to remember' something that happened at the time of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in which a figure was seen carrying a child wearing the identical nightclothes to Madeleine, but she didn't think it was important at the time and she can't remember what he or she looked like.

This is the biggest pile of shit on the planet since dinosaurs looked up and saw the meteor coming. The number of people genuinely concerned about this poor child's disappearance has, since the start, been massively outnumbered by the vast bulk of the British public who don't care. If the McCanns genuinely worry that public opinion is turning against them and it's not just another ploy to keep their name in the news then they need to stop pulling this crap. I mean, what is it supposed to achieve? Are they trying to annoy the United Kingdom so much that the entire country empties in to Portugal to find the body? The criminal investigation is being conducted in another country. If the McCanns are charged with their daughter's death then they will be on trial in another country where no Brits will be on the jury.

The sad truth is that the disappearance of this little girl is just another soap opera, up there with some stick-thin actresses new diet or Jade Goody's latest racist outburst. If people are less sympathetic it is perhaps because the McCann's mistook their interest in the story for genuine feeling, when in fact the public just want the story to end. After all, J.K. Rowling finished her story eventually, when are the McCann's going to have the grace to do the same? Have they not found their kid yet? That's too bad, shuffle them off the stage, we've got another celebrity sex scandal ready to go. If the McCanns refuse to go quietly well, fuck them. Who do they think they are?

Meanwhile, Charlie Brooker has it about right on the media's shameless behaviour during the summer.

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You stupid muppets.


Gah, is there anyone in the world who is more evil than Melanie Phillips without being a world dictator or involved with the Jeremy Kyle show? If the facts don't agree with your argument, use different facts. If the prejudice isn't against the Jews, it's okay. However, it's interesting that, at least for now, Phillips' Spectator blog has comments enabled. She disabled them on her website a few years ago when people kept pointing out the inconvenient truths that she left out of her arguments. Time for the children to have some fun methinks.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Dumbledore Pride T-Shirts. More the 'I Always Knew' t-shirt rather than the 'Wizards are Gay' one, just because it looks cooler. [via Boingboing]

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Bedgebury Pinetum in Autumn

Bedgebury Pinetum in Autumn
Originally uploaded by Loz Flowers


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Best. Daily Mail Story. Evar.

Lesbian foot specialist struck off after posing in bondage gear and saying 'fuck Easter' in front of nun.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Alan Coren has died.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Homophobic old man kept in police cells for eight hours after slurs against gay men. Serves him right.

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We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Enshrine in consumer law the right to transfer information across differing media for personal use.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to permit the forming of an independent judicial inquiry into whether the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorist "Operation Kratos" is in full conformity with House of Commons primary legislation and constitutes legitimate policing in a democratic society.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make an official announcement that he will meet with the Dalai Lama when he visits the UK in May 2008.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Catholic League call for a boycott of the His Dark Materials movies. That's nice, a good boycott always helps drum up extra publicity for a movie. The C.L. are mostly honest, claiming the film is an attack on Catholicism rather than Christianity, though they use author Philip Pullman's atheism as a reason for the boycott to be observed by more than just Catholics. Having read the books I must say Pullman's premise ends up being almost Gnostic, the real God is held prisoner by the first angel he created, Jehovah, who has usurped His power for his own. However, in the books, although God dies the Church is left untouched, so the C.L. are calling for a boycott because someone said something mean about a religious structure which the C.L. are choosing to claim is them.

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The Liberal Democrats have a real problem when it comes to choosing their new leader in that all their M.P.s that had any standing with the public stood last time and won't be standing again. There are members of the public walking our streets who cannot correctly name the Prime Minister of this country, what chance does a non-entity like Chris Huhne stand with them? Anyone who wants to stand for leader of the Liberal Democrats in the current leadership election will have such low public standing that their first step will be admitting at dinner with their family this evening that they are actually a Lib Dem M.P.

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Kate McCann claims she's being persecuted for being beautiful. Well, pretty much . I think all pretence that they are playing the media for the sake of Madeleine is gone now, now it seems they are trying to game the British public to support them if the Portuguese police decide to charge them with Madeleine's murder.

Ten shiny new pence for the first person who puts a "Leave Kate McCann alone!" video up on YouTube.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I read Tate Etc, I don't want to but I have no choice, they send it free to all Tate Members, I assume on the basis that no-one would actually pay for this heap of shit. I flick through it quickly, hoping against hope that there will be an article about an artist that has been written by someone who is excited by that artist and wants to show me why I should be excited by that person too. I'm looking for the art Fluxblog basically. They may not succeed, I may not think anything of that artist once I've checked the sample, but I'd at least appreciate the effort. Sadly thus far Tate Etc has failed to appeal to me every single time, pseud-art wankery spills from every page, if there was a ten page essay on a blind Jewish dwarf who worked entirely through the medium of crushed toilet paper between 1950 and 1952 I would not be able to guess whether it was a genuine article or a con by the editors. To someone like me who, like the Pope , doesn't know much about art but know what I like, it reads as deliberately exclusionary, making me feel like a dirty unwanted prole crashing the party of the bignobs.

I'm thinking of writing to the Tate requesting to stay a member but not have the magazine delivered. Whilst it goes in my recycling bin it would be yet more environmentally friendly if the paper wasn't wasted printing my copy in the first place. It's nice to see some of the companies that sell me products are starting to go paper-free, my BT bill and my electricity and power bills are now all seen through the tubes of the internets, hopefully soon all the organisations I'm a member of will take the hint and go paperless too. Why Unison or Liberty seem to think my membership of them means I want a small trees worth of literature sent to me each year is something I can't understand. Anyway, I'm getting away from my point...

When I saw my parents on Sunday for our little excursion on the London Eye my Dad passed me a copy of Art World , the first issue of which was apparently given away free with the Independent on Sunday. I'm so impressed with it that I'm going to take out a subscription, and I haven't even finished reading the thing yet. It's not dumbed down, but it's inclusionary where Tate Etc feels definitely the opposite. Both magazines have articles on artists that I've never heard of, but it's only Art World that makes me want to go out and find out more about them.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Who is Breyer P-Orridge?
Why is Breyer P-Orridge?
Breaking Sex Manifesto.

[via Coilhouse]

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Driving Mrs Pycock

We also visited Tate Britain for their Millais exhibition. I don't know when the last time I mentioned this was, but those of you who are my crazy Internet stalkers probably have in your fact files the information that my Mum is disabled. She can walk, but the distance varies depending on how well she's feeling and the wheelchair goes on most journeys she makes now, whether it's in to town for some shopping, or on holiday. You don't appreciate how difficult it is to get round somewhere until you're pushing a wheelchair, sure, you might have one of those infant-humans that are so popular at the moment, but they'll grow up and start using their own legs, failing that you can drown them in the bath one evening when you should be washing their hair. If Mum decides to ride, that cuts a lot of places off to us.

It does have benefits though. When we go to Tate Britain Mum's ticket has to be paid for, Dad gets in for free as her helper. And this is more common than I realised, on our holiday on the Isle of Wight a month back I found English Heritage and the National Trust give free admission to mobility impaired people's carers and/or helpers. Dad's dropped his membership of those two organisations, Mum has her members card and he gets in free pushing her. People often still move out of the way for wheelchairs, though I find pushing Mum quite fast and shouting "Get out of the way unless you want a wheelchair of your own!" works quite well also.

Pushing Mum is also quite a good way to get good views at a Tate exhibition in a hurry. Due to the limitations of the venue the first room especially is always packed, things thin out as you move a couple of rooms into whatever you're looking at. But when you're pushing a wheelchair that does encourage people to move around you, so you get bona views of the pics (except for the prick who, after we positioned ourselves to his right, decided to step to his right to look at a painting, coming within centimetres of elbowing my Mum in the face). However, halfway through the exhibition Mum said she wasn't always able to see the pictures very well, the spotlights the gallery use to illuminate the portraits was bouncing off the glaze on some of them and into my Mum's eyes. I'm not sure what we can do there, they use the lights to show the pictures at their best, but I suspect that they didn't consider what the effect would be at someone looking from waist rather than head height. I'm looking for an address to write to, not to complain, but to bring it to their attention. When you're at a busy exhibition you don't have the option of stepping back and trying to look from a different angle, everyone else gets in the way then.

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The Pod Behind Us
Originally uploaded by Loz Flowers
Went on the London Eye today, it's been standing there for seven years and hasn't fallen over once so it should be safe. It did help an alien race try to take over the Earth, true, but which monuments haven't, when you come to think about it?

Anyway, was going with the family, and we pre-booked our tickets, or our 'flight' as they rather implausibly refer to it. I can't recommend pre-booking your tickets enough. It allows you to bypass two of the three long queues at the place.

The first long queue, if you don't pre-book your tickets, is the queue for tickets. The second long queue, is one outside where they keep you back from the Eye. The last long queue is the actual proper boarding queue to get on the Eye itself. Whilst I would agree that the Eye looks lovely, it was obvious that the people waiting to get on were the last consideration and the space deemed necessary vastly insufficient. As it was I got aggravated with the queuing we had to do as pre-paid customers. We had to congregate in an area at the back of the ticket hall (to be fair, normally we'd get a room but today it was out of bounds because of a wedding party), then someone leads us out the door, through all the people milling about in front of the Eye, then if we're lucky enough not to get scattered during this, we go up some stairs and queue for the right pod. We'd gone for the 'guided tour' experience, so we finally got on our pod, past the bag-checkers who didn't bother checking our bags. If any terrorists want, for some strange reason, to take out the Eye, it would seem that while the people that have queued hours on the day to buy tickets get frisked, those who got tickets in advance don't. Just a little tip for your Jihad there. You unspeakable arses.

So, the whole pre-boarding rigmarole was less than fun (and the middle of October surely counts as off-season doesn't it? I'd hate to be a tourist doing this on a hot summer day). But the journey itself was delightful. Obviously, by pre-booking a journey you risk turning up on the day and it's tornados on the Thames and gale-force rain and fog. There was a little mist around when we went up, but it wasn't enough to spoil our view, we could see from Battersea in the West to the Post Office Tower in the North, to Canary Wharf to the East to the... lack of any impressive tall landmarks to the South. Looking at the Eye from underneath, or a distance away, doesn't really prepare you for how high you actually get when you're in the thing. It's not the highest point in London, but it is probably one of the most easily accessible to the public structures, it dwarfs the Monument (which is a bugger to climb too) but if this Wikipedia list is accurate, all the taller places aren't publically accessible.

So yes, thumbs up from the clan Pycock to the London Eye, great views, and they take your photo so that, for ten English pounds, you can have a photo of you and your relatives or friends giving a big shit-eating grin out of the capsule window. Great stuff.

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Another of those 'what kind of brain do you have young Padawan?' type tests. The odd thing is, based on the values listed on the left, I would have thought I'd see the dancer turning anti-clockwise, but no matter what I do, I see her turning clockwise. Hmmm...


i ar hiding u kant c mee
lolcat - cloaking device operational
Nobody expects the spanish inquisition!
[via I Can Has Cheezburger]


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nirpal Dhaliwal - Watch Part Sixteen - So it's come to this?

Parts One to Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen.

So, I've just watched the last episode of The Sopranos (I'm way behind on all my telly watching) and I'm in a bad mood, but also in the mood for a bit of self-deception and mistaken beliefs as to what makes someone a man in this modern age. But, sadly, there's not much to see there either. Liz'n'Nirps seem to be keeping largely schtum on their private lives and each other, turning out articles on current affairs or fashion. If the terms of the divorce include agreements not to refer to one another in print then we might be facing a sudden blackout on this column too.

There's not much to say on the state of Nirpal in September. Mostly articles about culture, one slamming Boris Johnson as a racist rather than a cheerful eccentric, but there is this on the 7th:

What divorce and Keira told me about England ; For one writer it took the new film of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement to reveal the deeper truth behind English reserve
Evening Standard (London); Sep 7, 2007;

RARELY have I seen a film that's so good it made me rethink my life. But watching Atonement, the film of Ian McEwan's novel, did exactly that. It is a great film about Englishness, that made me reflect on my relationships with the English and made me wonder whether I can truly be one of them.

I've tended to regard English reserve and understatement as a cold and aloof pose of superiority that implied a lack of human concern. Watching James McAvoy play Atonement's hero, Robbie Turner, I saw how this reserve is cultural and, in fact, a language of its own, full of emotional intensity and texture, that when expressed is all the more telling for having leaked through the cracks of self- control.

Readers of the novel will already know the plot but there is a real treat in store at the cinema if, like me, you come to it new. A victim of injustice, prised apart from the woman he loves, Robbie forced lumps into my throat as he stifled tears and measured his temper. His restraint displayed more rage, longing and despair than any character I can remember. He showed that the English are a people seething with passion but who express it in a way that others barely perceive.

Born in England, I am English. But I was raised by Indians in a neighbourhood where most of the people I knew were immigrants or their children. My education in English mores and mannerisms came mostly from TV and schoolteachers. Though I have native English friends and married an English woman, it is only now that I realise how I've misread them.

I was raised around tactile people whose emotional lives were writ large on their faces, who didn't consider, let alone censor their feelings before shooting their mouths off. In McEwan's novel, the only moment in which a character gives full vent to her emotions is when Robbie's working-class mother shrieks and thrashes the police car that is taking away her son for a crime he didn't commit: an exceptional expression of elemental feelings that cannot be withheld.

Re-reading that passage I smiled, remembering how it only took the discovery of a packet of cigarettes under my bed to send my mum into a similar fit. Anyone who thinks that Bollywood films are unfeasibly melodramatic doesn't know Indians and certainly not Punjabis.

My grandparents' generation of Punjabi Sikhs were earthy, peasant stock, and my parents inherited their operatic emotionality. Feelings ran riot in my family: laughter and raging arguments rang through the house in vast and equal measures. I'd be screamed at for minor misbehaviour, but also cuddled, petted and physically cherished. To this day, I hug and kiss my parents and siblings on saying hello and goodbye. My personality contains many ancestral traits, though now expressed in a cockney accent: I am gobby, sentimental, habitually foul-mouthed, and effusive.

For those from more expressive cultures, the English can seem like they exist behind a pane of glass impossible to grasp and connect with. My first real immersion in English life was at university, where I often felt alone and isolated. But much of it was due to my inability to appreciate the warmth that was extended to me, articulated in a muted form that was wholly foreign.

On first meeting, Indians will ask one another intimate questions about their family and marital status, their parents' occupations, and their own hopes and ambitions. The English, however, tiptoe into their relationships, and the seemingly anodyne conversations I heard the other students have about the weather, their schools and pets were in fact a subtle creation of rapport and a gauging of mutual compatibility that assessed social background and values. It was a code I couldn't read.

I regarded it as empty, platitudinous chitchat, and subsequently overlooked many people's good-natured efforts to befriend me.

The only other Asian on my degree course had been to public school. In my company he would be openly warm and expressive, but in a group he'd become restrained and impersonal, while I remained as fulsome as ever.

I thought he did this because he was embarrassed by me and wanted to disassociate himself; but he was simply engaging with the English in their language and making them at ease. My own tempestuous nature and instinctive over-familiarity often unsettled them.

They found it overbearing and intrusive, and I would regard their recoiling from my manner as a personal rejection.

My misunderstanding of Englishness even contributed to the failure of my marriage. I resented my wife for what I saw as detachment and indifference, when her concern was constantly expressed in words and gestures that were below my emotional radar.

For instance, when a close friend of mine died, I was bitter at the lack of emotion she displayed at the funeral. My friend had been black, as were most of the other mourners, and people I hardly knew took me in their arms and comforted me, while my wife stood aside seeming impassive. But she was the daughter of a former army captain, raised to display emotion with discrimination and formality. While I begrudged the absence of a hug from her, I had overlooked the enormous sentiment she had expressed by taking time and exercising her taste to select a beautiful wreath. It was a cultural symbol that had been lost on me.

My marriage failed my decree nisi has just come through and I'd thought I'd be making flippant jokes this week about how my divorce had marked another day of Indian independence.

But having seen Atonement, I have instead contemplated the theme of Englishness and how I've often woefully misjudged it.

I also know it is a subject that I am only just beginning to grasp. Now in my thirties, having experienced some of life's major issues love, death, divorce I've finally acquired the sobriety and evenness to appreciate the understated nuances of the English culture that, until now, have been almost invisible to me.

The essence of the English exists in their silences, in how they load quiet actions with extraordinary content.

McEwan captures this beautifully in a passage in which Robbie briefly meets Cecilia the love of his life after being separated for years. Unable to speak, he takes her hand just before parting. "The gesture had to carry all that had not been said," writes McEwan, "and she answered it with pressure from her own hand." The English are hard on themselves for not making more of an effort to understand other cultures; but it should also be stated just how poorly others understand them.

Meanwhile, Liz Jones writes:

MUST they subsidise motherhood as if it were dormant farmland?
The Mail on Sunday (London); Sep 16, 2007;

WHAT a strange week. First the Government pledges 120 for pregnant women to encourage them to eat more fruit and veg.

Next thing you know, David Cameron distances himself from a Tory Policy Group environmental report, which controversially suggests a ban on free supermarket car parks, saying his priority is to ensure families can still make ends meet.

I can keep quiet no longer.

I am going to say the unsayable.

There is no point fiddling while Rome (or London or Beijing) burns fossil fuels by suggesting we all boil less water in our kettles and switch off our plasma screens at source.

The only way to be really green is not to have children.

Of course, this is a terribly non- PC thing to bring up. Mothers are the last sacred cows in our society, untouchable, beyond reproach. When I was the editor of a woman's magazine, my then fashion director told me she was off on her second maternity leave in two years, to which I responded: 'Oh, that's annoying.' From the looks on the faces of the assembled (female) staff, you'd have thought I'd made a racist remark.

No one is allowed to complain when they are left to pick up the slack as every mum in the office hares out of the door at six on the dot, millions of plastic carrier bags in tow, hell-bent on creating a nappy mountain. No one is allowed to yawn while a new mum, who surely made this particular rod for her own back in the first place, complains about lack of sleep, or time, or affordable child care, or a big enough house.

And while I can understand the need to have one child, or even two, why on Earth have three, or four? No one is allowed to even raise an eyebrow at the Ruth Kellys and Nicola Horlicks of this world; au contraire, they are labelled Superwomen.

And don't try to tell me that men these days are more involved.

You only have to read Alastair Campbell's diaries to realise that children are mere dots on the horizon; good God, what woman, with Campbell's job and offspring, would find time to go swimming and train for a marathon? When I asked a friend of mine with three boys why she was trying for a fourth child, she responded indignantly: 'I just really want a girl.' Why on Earth does the Government subsidise motherhood as if it were dormant farmland, with lump sums of 250 at birth, free IVF, the right to an expensive home birth and help with child care, when in reality it is fuelling a society in which we all think we deserve everything, from a new car to an exotic holiday to an iPhone or a baby of the right sex, no matter the (environmental) cost?

Isn't parenthood just rampant consumerism? Like leaving the tap running while you floss, only a million times worse? A brood is the ultimate badge of goodness, used by everyone from the Blairs to the Camerons to the horrid, high-maintenance mum who lives not far from me, who is always posting 'Do not ring bell, baby sleeping!' signs on her front door, but then takes the wretched child to a fashion show where the decibels surpass rock-concert levels.

The idea that only parents make up the hard-working backbone of Britain, that the singletons of this world are frivolous and selfish, is nonsense.

I have just read Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson, a fascinating book that celebrates women who, having been forced to abandon expectations of becoming wives and mums due to the shortage dormant farmland of men after two world wars, became married to their careers in nursing and teaching instead, and were amazing, inspiring, dedicated.

I know that after 40 years of feminism, we are all supposed to toe the 'having-it-all' line, but I think too often a child is conceived as a status symbol, to prove that you can.

I have a friend who is a very powerful magazine editor, and she told me that when she hit her early 40s she earned more money than she could possibly spend, felt her life lacked meaning and so decided to have a child as 'something to do'. This is worse than catching a plane, surely? OW, I know I will be accused of sour grapes, and I'm the first to admit that while on the outside I might still wear Balenciaga jodhpurs and toe-rings, on the inside my womb is now lined with a doily.

I left motherhood too late not because I was trying to shatter the glass ceiling, but because I never met the right man.

I have ended up child-free not by design but by misfortune, so shouldn't I at least get the 120 towards cat food? Or a special designated parking space right by the door at Waitrose, with 'Barren, likely to die alone' daubed in white paint on the ground as my reward for not contributing to the predicted global population of 7.6 billion by 2020? Probably not, but I can dream.

So, where do we go from here?

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National treasure Stephen Fry on fame.

Odious Ann Coulter, who thankfully is not famous in the UK, lays into the Jews.

If you bought the new Radiohead album In Rainbows, how much did you pay?

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Low View- 'Shibboleth' by Doris Salcedo, Tate Modern Turbine Hall

Low View- 'Shibboleth' by Doris Salcedo, Tate Modern Turbine Hall
Originally uploaded by Loz Flowers
It's nice to see the Tate continuing it's interesting tactic of putting artwork in a public space that invites the public to sue them, there's the woman who hurt herself on the slides last year so how long before someone finds they can't get their foot out of a hole they shouldn't have inserted it in in the first place, or who claims they tripped?

I'm artistically illiterate so I have no idea how this work 'prompt[s] a broader consideration of power's divisive operations as encoded in the brutal narratives of colonialism', it instead reminds me of visiting Greenwich yesterday and the Royal Observatory, where the line that marks the Prime Meridian lies. The line of Shibboleth shifts, turns and runs all over the place (though rather annoyingly mostly down the one side of the hall), a more rough and ready Prime Meridian for something other than trade.

And how well does this make use of the space in the Turbine Hall? Well, for me, as it digs down, rather than rising up, it is again exploring negative space, in the same way as Rachel Whiteread's underwhelming collection of white boxes from a few years back. But, just as her display did nothing to address the space involved (and arguably no exhibitions since the Giant Sun have achieved this), so this also underwhelms. Presumably for safety reasons the crack mostly runs down the one side of the hall, doing nothing with the rest of the space. This could have been done anywhere else, which is a shame but still, following it from the top down to the bottom, once it becomes wide enough to see into it's reminiscent (geek alert!) of flying the X-WINGs down the trench in Star Wars, which is enough for me to like it.

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Flying Down the Canyon- 'Shibboleth' by Doris Salcedo, Tate Modern

Flying Down the Canyon- 'Shibboleth' by Doris Salcedo, Tate Modern Turbine Hall
Originally uploaded by Loz Flowers

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'Maman' by Louise Bourgeios

'Maman' by Louise Bourgeios
Originally uploaded by Loz Flowers

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OK, I'll admit it, I've not actually read any of her books but, based solely on this response, Doris Lessing rocks.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Most Trannietastic Alleyway in London

Passing Alley
Originally uploaded by Loz Flowers

If you fancy a visit, Passing Alley is here.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nirpal Dhaliwal - Watch Part Fifteen

Parts One to Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen.

Things have slipped past me a bit, I was on holiday when the last NDW was due and haven't had much of a chance to catch up until now. So this is what your favourite pair of journos did in August and I'll try to bring things up to date later in the week. How's that for service?

I'd rather be a 'coconut' than cling to race
Evening Standard (London); Aug 1, 2007;

I'M BORED with multiculturalism. Your colour, the food you eat and the God you worship are considered to be your defining characteristics. But I think that someone's choice of pizza topping says more about them than their choice of religion. And for stating this, I'll be called a "coconut" brown on the outside and white on the inside by those who cling to their race for their identity rather than making any effort to develop a genuine personality.

A new BBC survey shows that a third of young Asians in Britain think you have to be a coconut and "act white" if you want to get ahead in this country. A lot of black people hold the same assumption, using terms like "selling out" and "Uncle Tom". It's an attitude based on ignorance and resentment, expressed in empty playground taunts. Rather than acknowledge that someone's achievements have required talent and hard work, they dismiss their success as a reward for sucking up to Whitey.

Except no one really knows what "acting white" means. Morris dancing, binge drinking and dancing like a clown to Abba at office parties? And how would "acting white" get you anywhere in any case? There are plenty of white-skinned deadbeats in this country whose colour hasn't given them any advantage over anyone.

In fact the coconut complex is the ethnic equivalent of the old colonial fear of "going native". I've known many people who've made an ostentatious display of their ethnicity wearing loud ethnic fabrics or changing their English names to African ones to build a persona that is no more than skin deep. It's the same kind of neurosis that compels chavs who've relocated to the Costa Del Sol to create a Chigwell-on-the-Med, replete with trashy boozers and fish- and-chip shops.

Given that your colour is a biological fact that you have no choice over, being proud of it is as stupid as being proud of having lungs or eyebrows. Yet many Asians and blacks still think that this is what defines them. They look down at those who share their pigmentation but don't live by their clichs. And they're encouraged to do so by cheesy white nerds who think that being ethnic equals being cool.

I've been called a coconut many times for dating white girls, for liking indie bands, even for eating cous cous. For daring to live a life that's a bit more interesting and varied than the norm, I've been accused of selling out and trying to be a white man.

Sure, wearing a burka or speaking raggamuffin street patois won't fast track you up the career ladder; but they don't prove how strong your identity is, either. They only reveal how little exposure you've had to others and show the world that you are a someone who really ought to get out more..

Try as I might I can't see anything in this article that's a dig at Ms Jones. Is this the end of an era? A week later and Nirpal is still choosing to attack other people...

Face it, fatty - you're just greedy and idle
Evening Standard (London); Aug 8, 2007;

WHY is it that the NHS is reportedly spending 1 million a week on fat-fighting pills for the overweight? Increasingly, doctors are prescribing expensive quickfix treatments that do nothing to change people's diets and lifestyles. But the truth, as Dr Hamish Meldrum, head of the British Medical Association, admitted last week, is that people are fat simply because they're greedy and lazy.

I was a fat kid who lost weight in my teens; in my twenties I put a lot of it back on. I shifted it again by the only method guaranteed to work: eating less and working out.

My exercise routines were so hard they often left me wanting to vomit. It was a hellish experience, but it worked.

Ever since I have had no sympathy for fat people whatsoever.

Are there any parts of society that Nirpal does have sympathy for? Parts that aren't middle-aged British Asian authors with the initials NSD?

I was fat for exactly the same reasons that every fat person is: because I ate like a pig and slobbed out on the couch when I should've been going for a jog.

Almost a fifth of Britons are obese. That figure is set to triple over the next 20 years, making Britain the indisputable Fat Man of Europe. And if we want to avoid that fate, the message should be clear: we must stop mollycoddling the overweight and pandering to their sensitivities and start telling them painful home truths instead.

If only fat people were told, on a daily basis, from a young age, they were fat. Why, that would surely put them straight!

Unlike racism and sexism, discrimination against fat people is entirely justifiable. It is one form of prejudice that is beneficial for those discriminated against and society as a whole.

Looking up 'prejudice' on, I see the first definition is 'an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason', which pretty much fits Nirpal to a tee. I also like his clear separation of 'good prejudice' such as that against groups he's not a part of, and 'bad prejudice', such as that against groups he is, such as ethnic ones. Alright, so he puts sexism in there too, so it's nice to know that he's only concerned about himself 90% of the time rather than the full 100%.

If fat people faced obstacles in employment and other areas, they'd think twice before stuffing their faces. We would then have a trimmer, sexier society, and save billions currently wasted on stapling the stomachs and treating the heart complaints of the overweight.

I wonder how much money is spent on treating those who started smoking trying to stay skinny? There's also the assumption in there that only skinny is sexy which, of course, if Nirpal pulled his head out of his skinny arse for a second he'd see wasn't reflected in society. Still, he's spent years living with Liz Jones, it's not surprising he's picked up the fashion industries fucked up attitudes towards body size.

Fat people should be ashamed of themselves but our society stupidly celebrates their condition.

When? Where?

Mika has a top 10 hit with his song Big Girl (You Are Beautiful), and Dove's ad campaigns have famously featured busty, broadhipped models, proclaiming they represent "real women". Most of those women are not "real", they are merely fat albeit much prettier than most fat women.

Nirpal doesn't believe fat women aren't real. I'm not sure what basis he's using for this claim but it would be nice if one of the biggest champions of his writing, plus-sized Julie Burchill, was just a figment of someone's imagination. I also presume that Nirpal did not study history, that most societies except recent ones did not hold up the Kate Moss physique as the final word on beauty.

And don't start me on those Dove adverts, I suppose it's another sign of how fucked up the fashion industry is that those women are considered freakishly different, so as to be held up by Dove as being examples of 'real beauty', one of the more headachey advertising campaigns of the modern age. Where are the disabled women? The women with cleft palettes? Why haven't Dove told any Down's Syndrome girls they are beautiful? Argh! One fight at a time, let's focus on the bigot in the room for now.

Those ads help to normalise obesity in the public consciousness, and make it acceptable.

God forbid that we should try and live and love as one.

Despite all the junk excuses given for why people are fat their genes, or that they comfort eat because their mums never hugged them enough

Or when scientists explain natural biological processes...

the fact remains that they can all lose weight if they grit their teeth and take charge of their lives. Telling the same old lies about fat being a disease or the fault of the fast-food industry will only create a catastrophically overweight society. Fat people have to accept that they are the only ones to blame for the state they're in and just stop passing the buck.

The paper received a letter a few days later.

Disabled - and now demoralised
Evening Standard (London); Aug 10, 2007;

I WAS aghast to read Nirpal Dhaliwal's column (Face it fatty you're just greedy and idle, 8 August).

I was born with a dislocated hip.

For a long time I could lead an active life, but my hip suffered progressive deterioration and for about five years, until I had it replaced, I could barely walk 100 yards because the pain was unbearable. As a result I gained a significant amount of weight, despite eating healthily.

I am now rebuilding an exercise regime, including swimming half a mile four times a week, but would still fall well outside Dhaliwal's trim ideal. He may be correct in thinking some fat people could do more to help themselves, but could he consider the demoralising effect his comments might have on those larger members of the population physically unable to do the hard workouts he recommends?

How bloody dare you 'name and address supplied'? How dare you suggest that Nirpal thinks about anything he writes? Are you aware of the neurological trauma and overheating of the head that occurs if Nirpal tries to engage even one of his neurons? Have you seen the film 'Scanners'? Are you really willing to take responsibility for the consequences?

The following week Nirpal writes about how he was lazy at school until he came round to doing his exams he says:

Exams are the fairest way of measuring ability. The affluent might be able to pay for private tuition for their children but kids with a desire to do well if properly encouraged can make up for it with individual hard work. I went to a nuthouse of a state school but I breezed through my GCSEs because I did a ton of revision on my own.

There was no way I would have done so well if it all been coursework. My school was so anarchic that it was impossible to behave in class; the mob mentality meant that any pupil who was obviously bookish was despised. It was easier to join in the mayhem and revise crazily in the run-up to exams than to perform consistently throughout the year.

To be fair to him he was, as he admitted the previous week, a lazy fat kid.

Exams are an excellent preparation for adult life, which is full of stress and expectations to deliver results while under pressure.

Nirpal Dhaliwal is an author who took some six years to write a novel, supported in that time by his then-wife. It's important to keep these facts close to hand when reading his columns.

Come August the 22nd and Nirpal is telling us how he tried cocaine once and didn't like it, and why Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse are arseholes (nice try Nirps, but you can't win me over that easily).

I have one friend with a drug problem and never show him any sympathy. I'm honest and tell him how tedious he is, unlike his fawning girlfriends whose mollycoddling has helped keep him an addict. He respects me for being straight and holding a mirror up to him.

He doesn't appear to have made any effort to encourage his friend to kick the drugs habit, he just calls him a boring idiot every now and then.

Exodus from London? I just couldn't live anywhere else
Evening Standard (London); Aug 24, 2007;

THE UK is experiencing the biggest exodus of Britons for a hundred years. Some 385,000 people emigrated last year, many of them from London, with Australia, New Zealand and Spain topping the list of most popular destinations. Some doom-mongers regarded these figures as evidence that Britain has gone to the dogs and that people can't leave the country or the capital fast enough.

But if Australia's so much better, why do one million Australians five per cent of the population live outside of Australia? As many as 200,000 Australians expats opt for a life in London rather than in their own country.

Nowhere else on earth has the energy, creativity and sense of possibility that London has. Sure, very few people ever hit the big time in this city, but anyone with dreams of living an interesting life and making something of themselves will visit this town at some point in their lives, adding to the city's electric atmosphere.

Whether you want to write novels, sell samosas or become the hottest drag queen since Ru Paul, nowhere else offers you the scope and freedom to explore your personality and ambitions as London does.

Which estate did RuPaul come from? Which Old Compton Street bar was it kicked off the Gay Liberation movement? Did the Beatles come from Liverpool Street?

It is the most tolerant, open-minded and accepting city on earth.

Insert 'why does Nirpal live here then?' joke here.

Yes, I know New York is a great metropolis. But it's nowhere near as cosmopolitan as London. It's a city of ghettos, determined by class and race.

A black friend of my mine recalled being patronisingly congratulated by a New Yorker for holding hands with his white girlfriend on the subway.

Compared with London, in many ways the Big Apple is still Hicksville. The demographics and housing situation in the capital force rich, poor, black, brown and white to live cheekby-jowel. In east London, you find gay fashion-addicted hipster couples, burka- clad Bangladeshis and middle-aged media types living in the same streets. They might not be the How not to do best of friends; but watching people who look very different from you bringing home their shopping and taking their kids to school humanises them, and makes rabid bigotry absurd.

People lament the anonymity and loneliness of life in London, but that is precisely what makes this city unique. You can be whatever you want here no one cares. Free from the stifling prejudices of curtaintwitching busybodies, London is a city where you can try to become the person you always dreamed of being.

No one is too outrageous (trust me, I've tried pretty hard). Though born and raised here, I never feel like I truly know this city.

It moves with the times too fast for anyone to grasp. Its neighbourhoods change colour and culture every few years, absorbing people and influences from around the world. Londoners are probably the most globally aware people in the world.

I know that the property ladder, problems finding good schools and the stress of city life do drive rational people to forsake the capital. But I don't feel a shred of envy for their new lives. Nowhere else could keep me as interested in life as London does. And that's why you won't find me living anywhere else.


Life passes by but I'm in no hurry to join in
Evening Standard (London); Aug 29, 2007;

HAVING enjoyed such a glorious bank-holiday weekend, most Londoners will this week be moaning about being in the rat race again. But slower-paced people like me childless and working from home can see the modern obsession with busyness for what it is really is: the new religion for a godless society.

People whine about being too busy and nurse absurd illusions of how they'd paint watercolours, do t'ai chi or learn Persian if only they had more time. But the truth is, they deliberately pack every available hour to ensure they don't get a quiet moment.

Busyness is the new mark of self-worth. People publicise how active and stressed their jobs and children keep them in order to maintain the faade of having a meaningful life. The Protestant work ethic is so deep-rooted in our culture that even in an age of affluence and technological quickfixes, people are still compelled to live like hyperactive drones.

They might say they envy my time-rich existence but regular nine- to-fivers barely conceal their disapproval when I tell them I lie in each morning and work at a snail's pace while eating cereal dressed only in my underpants.

I can string a whole day out with a couple of basic chores such as buying milk and cleaning the toilet. When I tell people this, they look at me as if I've done something grossly immoral. The fact that I earn a living and pay my taxes doesn't matter; nor does the fact that much of their officebound time consists of surfing property sites and watching gonzo clips on YouTube. They are disgusted because I have committed the cardinal sin of our era: I do not worship busyness.

When travelling in the Third World, I was always amazed by the locals who could sit impassively during long bus and train journeys without a book, iPod or even a fidget. Now, living alone and without stimulus, I have the same ability to stare into space and literally watch life go by rather than fool myself with a hysterical pretence that I'm in charge of it. It's a lovely feeling, like snoozing with your eyes open.

I'm comfortable with myself and don't feel I'm missing out. People wilfully choose hectic family and professional lives in order to avoid their own company. Give them the time to think about it, and they would be driven mad by their existential emptiness. Children and careers give you too many responsibilities to contemplate big questions about the meaning of life.

I do miss working in an office, but not the sense of mission.

I only long for the gossip and flirtations that come with offices, the fundamental human interactions that are the most fun things in life. But busyness is strictly for the bees.

And yet earlier in the month Nirpal was claiming people were too lazy and fat. Now he's claiming that he does almost nothing and is on his own. He must obviously be living a life of monkish self-abnegation.

Towards the end of August there is that rare beast, a decent article from Nirpal about being an Asian indie music fan in the early Nineties.

I'm not sure whether my database is bust, or whether the only articles that Liz Jones wrote in August were on fashion. So, I'll finish with this article from the Western Daily Press:

Jilted Liz has scared off house sellers in the West
Western Daily Press 31 August 2007

She's the columnist who's left no stone unturned when it comes to revealing the secrets of her love life.

But now journalist Liz Jones has announced she may be moving to Bath to get away from it all.

Liz Jones has become a household name for her weekly column in The Mail on Sunday in which she talks frankly about her disastrous four year marriage to writer Nirpal Dhaliwal.

Before even reaching the sevenyear-itch milestone, the marriage fell into difficulties, with Dhaliwal said to have embarked on seven extra-marital affairs.

Jones has written explicitly about her husband's infidelity, labelling his mistresses 'cow whore bag trollops' or CWBTs for short, and said that last September he celebrated her birthday emailing another woman for a date.

The couple separated this year but not before she had put his name on her house deeds.

She has long talked in her column about moving to the country and revealed that Bath is one of the places that's high on her list. But she fears her honest approach led to her losing a house near the city as she made the vendors uncomfortable when being shown round.

"I have made offers on three properties - two romantic wrecks with parkland in Norfolk, and an immaculate William and Mary house near Bath - none of which has been successful (I think I was so enthusiastic walking round the house near Bath that the owners had second thoughts about selling)," she said.

"I am beginning to despair of finding somewhere perfect, ie, down its own lane, Georgian or thereabouts, with the original stable block, at least 10 acres, and nowhere near an airport or motorway."

Back in May Jones said she had finally decided to divorce Dhaliwal although her latest column said he has moved back in. But the on-off saga doesn't look near to being resolved with Jones saying she can't bear to sleep with him and hates having his clutter in the house.

She said: "I know it is an awful thing to admit but I find having sex with him quite boring; I actually watch Sex and the City over his shoulder' In her columns, which have become compulsive reading, Jones has revealed he has since signed the house back to her, been abusive by calling her an old hag - he is 14 years younger than her - and accused her of having a compulsion to tell everyone all their secrets.

Nirpal Dhaliwal has hit back with an article saying that following the break up, Jones got him dropped by both his agent and accountant.

Hopefully when I get round to the September review they'll be back to slagging each other off in that way we love so much.

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I found this last week but didn't get round to linking to it until today: 'The Problem With Atheism', a transcript of a talk by Sam Harris to the Atheist Alliance conference. Sceptical before reading, he makes a strong argument, to me, in favour of atheists going back to their constituencies and, rather than identifying as atheists, just trying to act like sensible, rational human beings. Certainly it's always worth confronting disorder with reason although some might not like Harris advocating going stealth.

If you label something then, while it's easier to oppose it, like The West against Communism, it's also easier to organise (like the Gay Lib movement). So is it better for atheism if those who believe in it speak without wearing their identities on their sleeves, or is their strength in numbers? I'm dubious about whether the political behemoth of organised Christianity, primarily in places like North and South America, and Africa, can be challenged by just trying to assemble an opposing force, especially when you've got to put up with Christopher bloody Hitchens as one of your poster boys.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Brian Eno Talks to Walter Wolfgang

Brian Eno Talks to Walter Wolfgang
Originally uploaded by Loz Flowers
At the Anti-War March.

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Yippee-kay-ay motherfucker!

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It's true what they say about the left-wing. If you give two people two loudspeakers, do you think they'll synchronise their chants? Will they fuck...

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Obviously I'm no friend of the Labour Party but some of the headlines over Gordon Brown's decision not to call an unnecessary General Election now seem rather harsh. We can ignore News International, who's policy of claiming that every full stop of government policy is dictated by a NotW poll rather than what Murdoch wants to do today went past ridiculous some time ago and is now over the cliff with the legs still moving, Wil. E. Coyote style. Even the Sindy is going for the jugular, with numerous cartoons of Gordo spilling or not drinking from the bottle marked Courage. But all the news organisations seem to be engaged in a pretense that it was the Government, not they, that were driving the story of whether there was going to be a snap election.

I expect that in a day or two, once the election non-story has died down, there will be a return to the 'Is Ming too old to be a political leader?' story, because Cameron has done enough to put down some of the stories about his leadership for a while (until anyone else in the party says anything else about Tory policy and exposes that they are secretely glad not to fight an election when they don't have a clue what to stand on). I don't know who can take the blame for this, but it does seem that in the last few years, there's been at least one main political story rumbling on and on at any one time, Charlie Kennedy and the whisky bottle, Why have the Lib Dems chosen Ming Campbell, Cameron takes over the Tories, the Cameron bounce, When will Tony Blair leave, why did he announce a date so far in advance, counting down Blair's last three months/two months/six weeks/one week/one day/one hour in office, wasn't Tony Blair a great PM? The Brown bounce, the Cameron stumble, the unnecesary election...

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Gah, stuff to do, stuff to do, thank Crickey I'm on leave this week as I'm just so tired right now.

Anyway, just time to dump a few links in your laps for your edufictation...

Iraqi interpreters and other key support staff who have risked their lives to work for Britain are to be allowed to settle in the United Kingdom.

And done just in time to avoid the meeting that was being organised in one of the rooms in the Palace of Westminster about this. Bollocks to it being 'a Times campaign', everyone played their part.

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary is urged to respond to allegations that failed asylum seekers have the shit kicked out of them as they are deported. The Indy had a big report on this yesterday, shocking if true but not surprising.

This ban will not stop us. There's going to be a Stop the War demo on Monday, but the police have decided it's illegal and dusted down legislation centuries old to justify their reasoning (which is interesting because although Gordon Brown promised to repeal SOCPA when he finally took to the thrown I believe it's still in force right now). More info here.

And finally, for some 'light relief', Celebrity racist Danielle Lloyd says she "felt like a man" after being forced to venture out in public with hairy armpits as part of a TV documentary. More TV fakery as it was prosthetic underarm hair, she wasn't even asked to just not shave for a while.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Kate Harding has organised a Flickr set to show that the BMI standards aren't really that useful.


Oh, following on from this, earlier? Look at the tiny disclaimer down the very bottom.

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Hmmm, do you think someone is possibly pulling the Daily Mail's plonker?

Children's books that don't have happy endings should be banned, it was claimed yesterday. Youngsters are already exposed to enough misery in their lives and should be protected from such stories, says a parents' group. The Happy Ending Foundation is planning a series of Bad Book Bonfires for later this month, when parents will be encouraged to burn novels with negative endings... Among the stories on the foundation's blacklist are best-sellers such as A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and Marcus Pfister's Milo and the Magical Stones... Adrienne Small founded the organisation when her ten-year-old daughter became depressed and withdrawn after reading the first book in the Lemony Snicket series.

So, rather than minding her own business and just going to the library and suggesting her child read the first Harry Potter book or something like 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' Mrs Small decided to start a nationwide society to restrict children's reading. As you do.

Here's the website. I had some difficulty finding it because the Mail misnamed the group as the Happy Ending Foundation rather than Happy EndingS Foundation. But surely, someone is taking the piss? Sad books are bad books. Mrs Small has now left her career as a tax inspector to focus on THEF full-time. She plans to rewrite all 13 Lemony Snicket books to give them happy endings. Her versions will be published on-line - watch this website! I'm sure Daniel Handler and Egmont Books will be watching the website. Wholesale rewriting of a current children's book, I don't think 'fair use' works here.

I don't know. I'm not a parent, but I would have thought that if my child was sad because they'd read a book that made them unhappy I would have tried talking to them about it, or tried cheering them up?

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Doctor Who: The City of Death- Shada Damnit, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency has started being broadcast on Radio 4, an adaptation of one of Douglas Adams' better books. Sadly most of the meanderings in the novel have been excised, perhaps so that the story begins in episode one rather than episode five, and if you don't know the book then you might find it all verging on the incoherent.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is this the most niche interest blog ever?

(See if you can work out what it's for before reading the explanation here)


Monday, October 01, 2007

Goddamn it, Listen To Me!

You! Sexy Hominid! Go here! Listen story! I'll be in the bushes, looking for midgets, then antelopes playing xylophones, wow, look at that sky, can a fish ride a bicycle, I've got knees! Kneeeeeeeeeeees!

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