Friday, October 31, 2003

The Jenny Everywhere meme must be dead if I'm having story ideas. Jenny's bro turns up to get her help rescuing their younger sibling Benny and his mates Bill and Rik from the forces of machiavelian evil. Now, all I have to do is write the thing...

Homer: Now, son, [The Fox Network] do a lot of quality programming, too. {the two bust up laughing} I kill me.

Six men are considering suing Sky One after they say they were tricked into competing for the affections of a transsexual in a reality TV programme. It's a bit like the people trying to sue McDonalds for making them fat. It's Sky telly! The British arm of Fox! They only make shows about pissed up Britains failing to cop off with one another! If they didn't want publicity about it they should have kept quiet, damn their tiny homophobic minds.

UPDATE: Sky have announced they are Delaying the broadcasting of/ cancelling showing the show.

If there's one thing more annoying than lipstick lesbianism for the titillation of straight men it's lipstick 'look but dont touch' lesbianism. I saw the video for Britney's new song Me Against the Music, which I assumed was some sort of 'Britney indicted for crimes against humanity' thing, while getting ready for work this morning. Presumerably following up Madonna giving her and Christina what for at the MTV music awards Britney decides to chase after her Madgeness for a bit more, only as this is Britney we're talking about, she seems to think sex is a non-contact sport that involves throwing yourself all over the place if you try to come in contact with your intended. Madge, seemingly content to be Diana to Britney's Nan spends most of her time shoving her groin in men's faces while waiting for Brit to get herself so worked up and excited that she might actually do something for once. But no joy. If you want anything from that baby Madge you're going to have to do it yourself...

As ever, Steve Bell is on the case, but I couldn't believe that last night there were Tory constituents who said that Boris Johnson was the man for the job...

He's got a taste for fame and he wants more... After his cringe-inducing appearance at the Fringe, Aaron Barshak is back in trouble for throwing paint at Jake Chapman. And he might go to jail this time. Anything to save us from another of his 'comedy' shows...

Thursday, October 30, 2003

I finished reading The Catcher in the Rye yesterday. Mark Chapman did J.D. Salinger a massive favour by having a copy of the book in his pocket when he shot John Lennon as otherwise I don't think anyone today would remember it and it wouldn't get nominated for the BBC Big Read. It's just so dull and tedious. Nothing happens on page one then continues not to happen right until the end. The central character, Holden Caulfield, doesn't even have enough personality to warrant being either 'the hero' or 'the anti-hero', it reads like a book written to take the piss out of small-minded teenagers who seem to think their problems are somehow grand and unique in the scheme of things. I can't believe anyone over the age of sixteen being able to like this book and it doesn't surprise me one bit that Ruby Wax is going to make the case for why it's so wonderful, the advert for Saturday's show has her gushing "If me and Holden met I'm sure we'd be best friends..." Says it all really.

What a difference twenty-four hours make. This time yesterday the Conservative Party had a leader that had been elected by the majority of party members across the country but not by MPs, which caused his downfall. Tonight the party appears to have a new leader in waiting as Michael Howard accepts the poisoned chalice, news which delights the MPs but which has the constituencies fuming.

If I understand it correctly, if no-one stands against Howard, then he becomes leader and that is that. If someone was to stand then it would go to a vote of MPs and party members. Quite what will happen if that were to occur is anyone's guess. As it was, a party member on Newsnight last night was livid about the betrayal of Iain Duncan Smith, the first leader by common consent of the party, and was complaining bitterly that as things stood the Conservative Party was far less democratic than the Labour party or the Lib Dems. What no-one pointed out to him was that in the case of the former, they stood up to and eventually defeated and drove out their rogue elements, the Tory party coddled and indulged their troublemakers.

I've got to get down to Brighton this month to see the Brighton Photo Biennial. I found it on the 24 hour museum site which has info on museums and exhibitions across the whole country.

"Not tonight Draco, I have a headache." Is Harry Potter causing headaches in kids?

"The obvious cure for this malady -- that is, taking a break from reading -- was rejected by two of the patients," [Dr.] Bennett said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Iain Duncan Smith looses vote of confidence and therefore leadership of the Conservative party. No surprises there. What some journalists thought to be a surprise was one of the prospective replacements, David Davis, saying he's not going to stand and saying Michael Howard should be the new leader. Davis is no idiot, neither are all the people in the party. Michael Howard is a popular replacement because the Tories know they are not going to win the next election so, providing he can't find some way to slide out of it Howard is going to be leading the party into defeat. He will then resign and then people like Davis and maybe even Portillo will stand as then they'll have a good chance of winning the 2009/2010 election. What the Tory party wouldn't want is someone like Howard being the Prime Minister in the country.

Worryingly specific Google searches (the most worrying being that there's more than one page of each of these):

'What are the main differences and why, between George Bush, Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein', which sounds like the set-up for a joke,
'exhausted superheroine pictures', which sounds like a new fetish, &
'leslie are you actually invade illegally' and I should point out that he was never convicted of anything, do you understand?

Residents were shocked after a caravan with effigies of Gypsies was burnt at a village bonfire party. In a clear example of example of digging oneself deeper:

Richard Gravett, chairman of Firle Bonfire Society, said: "There was no racist slant towards anyone from the Travelling community. If anything, it's actually completely the other way.
"It is to try to make people sit up and listen and realise that these people obviously - as all of us do - need somewhere to live."

And, of course, when people burned effigies of Guy Fawkes on bonfires they were really saying "He had some valid criticisms to make of the current Parliamentary system."

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

It's a good time to have an interest in science... The Cafe Scientifique offers coffee with your chemistry, while The Dana Centre offers a naked lady with tattoos and the promise that it's going to be taboo free, though looking at the events arranged thus far there doesn't seem to be anything particularly x-rated...

Drat. I've just found out that we're not going to get called out on strike for two weeks between now and Christmas. And I was busy planning what to do with my free time... < sniff > I never get to do anything fun!

Italian Muslim wins court case to have crucifix taken down from display in his children's school. Quite right too. Why should you display the symbols of one bigotted anti-human religion in a place of education and not another?

It really irritates me when people talk in amazed tones about how a certain strand of science-fiction has managed to predict an aspect of the future, IT'S SPECULATIVE FICTION! THAT'S IT'S JOB! You might as well say "wow, cars are really good at being four-wheeled vehicles that allow us to travel fast over distances that would take us ages to cover by foot". The worst offender being Star Trek. I have nothing against it per se, just against the 'science of Star Trek' type books that are full of "wow, Star Trek had communicator devices which fit in the palm of your hand, that means they predicted the whole mobile phone revolution", no they didn't! You already had mobile phone technology at the time Star Trek started, they were walkie-talkies used in the Army! And if you consider it, Star Trek's success rate to date has been fairly low, as warp drive, transporters, aliens that are culturally similar to non-American peoples, holodecks, artifical intelligences and women who would seriously find William Shatner attractive have yet to be discovered.

But science fiction is speculative fiction, so you'd expect it to at least once in a while have something which vaguely looks like developed technology. When you have fantasy like Harry Potter, and some berk like the Chief Technical Officer of Nokia mobile phones saying " [J.K. Rowling] is very good when it comes to predicting the future" because she writes about pictures which are alive. We'll ignore the fact that the Chief Technical Officer is talking about Nokia creating pictures where the image is displayed having been sent from a mobile phone, that it's static, doesn't interact with people and so therefore is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the pictures in J.K. Rowling's books, then yes, it's as though she has a pipeline to the future.

Here's an idea. I want to predict that the Presidential Elections in the US next year will be won by an American. Worship my god-like intelligence at predicting that outcome!

I've found my new work t-shirt! [From Librarian T-Shirts.]

Monday, October 27, 2003

I thought I was going to be complaining about how long take to deliver anything but then at lunchtime my Matrix: Reloaded DVDs turned up so I've been watching that this afternoon. This is my third time of viewing it and my opinion has increased each time. Which is not to say it doesn't have flaws, it does and they're quite big. But I don't think they're as large as some other people have made out.

The biggest flaw is in the character of Smith. Both the producers and the directors insist that the Matrix is one-story-in-three-parts, not a film with two sequels. The treatment of Smith is the biggest reason to doubt that. He turns up in Reloaded in much the same way as one brings a character back for a sequel, for more of the same, rather than it's an organic development of the character. It seems as though the Bros. Wachowski's plans for the other two films initially didn't include Smith, then at some point either lat in the development of the first film or very early in the planning of the second and third it was decided to bring him back. They weren't sure how to do it so they had a pseudo-philosophical conversation between Smith and Neo which I've listened to three times now and am convinced is meaningless nonsense, then an equally pointless fight. What does Smith want? How can he infect anyone else, including people who aren't connected to The Matrix? Why, when he's in the 'real world' of Zion does he not kill Neo when he has the chance? As it is the revelation that he can be more than one person is botched when, after Neo's first fight with Agents we see two Smiths. It would be better if that were saved until Neo confronts Smith in the park and suddenly we have multiple Smiths face him. As it is that fight is an incredibly dull one and the worst in the film, mainly because we don't know why it's happening. It's pure set-piece 'look at what our computer graphics people can do' filler, as evidenced by the fact that even Neo gets bored and flies off.

When Morpheus, in training him in the first film, tells Neo that they will have to kill anyone who's plugged into the Matrix because they could become an Agent it had rather worrying fascististic overtones. These are more in evidence in this movie because the characters are generally less human and more machinelike, with few moments of humour. With Smith around that becomes 'trust no-one', though they don't know that yet.

The sexuality and gender representations in this film are pretty fucked up in places, the nurturing mother-Oracle, the stern father-Architect. When our heroes visit the Merovingian there's the sequence with the orgasmic cheesecake which, if not now infamous deserves to be, and the embarrassingly bad section with Neo kissing Persephone 'as if he were kissing Trinity', both blatant scenes of sad boys writing for the titillation of sadder fanboys (why they didn't just go all the way and insist that Trinity kisses Persephone as well/instead, well, let's not give them ideas). In the first film Morpheus was allowed to show his feminine side in his relationship with his crew on the Neb. In the second film he's all masculine, all the time, butting heads with Commander Lock in some half-arsed attempt to set up a conflict over which of them gets the girl, Niobe. The Morpheus from the first film wouldn't have made the speech in church that the second one makes. He's become a zealot, if the war ended tomorrow you'd half expect him to dedicate himself to a Jihad across the planet in the name of Paul Mua-sorry, Neo. In this film all the men are real men and the women there to be fought over. I've heard that in the computer game that accompanies this film we are given some sort of a reason for why Persephone would ask for a kiss, but what a shame we couldn't have the roles reversed and have the aesthete Merovingian wanting to snog Neo. Ahh well, we'll always have slash...

There's an intriguing accident too. Look at the scene where Trinity and Neo are having sex while everyone's partying in Zion (a bad party scene written by people who don't know how to party). Just surviving being a total stereotype of the Iron Bitch in the first film she becomes it in the second, despising any sign of weakness in herself. And from the expression on her face mid-coitus she is extremely unhappy with being penetrated by Neo, as though she would rather be the one doing the penetration. She's become like Eowyn in Lord of the Rings, not a woman who is an equal to men but a woman who would be a man because she feels women are inferior.

And are the Merovingian and Persephone a previous Neo and Trinity? It would help if I knew what the word Merovingian meant. I suppose it depends on what exactly happens to The One when he returns to the source. But in their performance I saw a Neo and Trinity that had tried to save the world and ultimately failed, so became these rather bored seen-it-all aesthetes who are only really interested in their own pleasure because it's pointless trying to change the system. After all, Persephone doesn't seem to have any actual powers, and who's to know how long the program has really been running, they have no way of knowing for sure, Morpheus has admitted it, and as the Architect says that the 'real world' of Zion is just another part of the Matrix there's no real world time to measure against. Like Neo, the Merovingian protects the Keymaker from the Agents, after his own fashion. Possibly, having tried the direct route as Neo once himself, he seeks to prevent a new Neo from finding the Keymaker hoping the anomaly will overload and destroy the Matrix for good. The fight with the Merovingian's goons is as good as the Neo/Smiths fight is bad. And there are certain similarities between their dress and the Neb crews dress from Matrix One. One of them wears white like Switch and one of them has a silk shirt like Epoch.

As Neo and the others come to visit the Merovingian we see someone being led away. It's not the Keymaker, who is it? It looks a bit like the human Smith infected but in the matrix he looks like Smith now. So who is it? He looks meaningfully at Neo.

Other people have complained it's too long but I enjoyed the freeway scene, though the fact that no machine intelligence seems able to shoot straight is as annoying in this film as it was in the first one. And Morpheus seems able to hold his own fighting an Agent surprisingly well considering the drubbing he got from Smith in the first film.

It's taken me about three goes to understand the whole point of the Architect scene. The only thing I'm still not sure about is whether Neo alone is the anomaly or Neo and all the super programs together. See, I'm guessing that Smith wants revenge against Neo for cutting him off from the mainframe so he becomes a renegade for deletion, but he's better now than he was before. Does Neo have power that Smith doesn't have and wants?

And as Zion is part of the Matrix, what is the REAL world like? Is there one in any meaningful sense any more? From something the Architect says it seems to be fairly similar to the 'Real World' within the Matrix. Did the Architect and the Oracle create it based on the Real World as they searched for a solution to stop the Matrix crashing? And how much do the programs in the Matrix know of this? Was this the 'perfect paradise' Agent Smith mentioned in the first film? The Merovingian has met previous Neo's did they steal the Keymaker from him every time? He seems determined to stop him escaping, surely he would have had better security after five previous successful attempts to steal him? Would the Keymaker come back to life if the Matrix were restarted, again? And the Oracle seems to be the most important character in the world, apart from the Architect, surely she isn't vulnerable to being deleted as an anomaly by the Agents too? When she tells Neo there is no Free Will, just the understanding of our choices, she seems to imply we have free will enough to decide whether we understand a choice or not.

All in all, I have a lot of questions which will hopefully be explained next month when the last part comes out.

Mothers lose right to breastfeed children at work. It seems that this conclusion has been made in response to a bad decision: to claim that unfairness over breastfeeding rights was sex discrimination. It can't be, because men can't breastfeed. Surely sex discrimination as a claim can only be used when it's something both men and women can do? Having said that, legislation to improve the situation for women who want to breastfeed should surely be put forward by the Government here.

The Northern Line failed to reopen today as promised. Apparently the engineers need an unspecified further amount of time to finish their repairs. The official line from London Underground is that they don't know what caused the accident, an article in yesterday's Independent says that there were at least a half a dozen complaints from drivers about a section of track, pretty much where the accident happened. Meanwhile the BBC has evidence of massive failures to reach targets for safety on the Underground by the two private companies responsible for the track.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

You can guarentee, when the clocks go back I'm going to lie awake for several hours in the middle of the night so I can't get the benefit of that extra hour in bed...

There's a thought-provoking report from The Guardian about the UK public's feelings about the war coverage on TV. Two-thirds of the people asked thought there was too much time given to the war on telly, whether this was caused by Bush and Blair spending so much time beforehand warning that it was going to happen or the fact that it just wasn't that interesting. 40% of people thought the Iraq government position wasn't clearly explained, if you listened to the News International/Sky/The Sun/crew of the Ark Royal position you'd think that the BBC had made Saddam Hussein the new Breakfast TV presenter.

Quite how anyone can complain that the British don't know how to write good comedy any more when we have the Conservatives who have for ten years given us our longest running comedy show where first they loose power, then they loose their collective marbles. Now they're locked in the long running farce of Iain Duncan Smith must go. The only annoying thing is they win enough seats in Parliament to be given the unearned honour of being the official opposition party, but they spend more energy stabbing one another in the back than attacking the Government. Something for which the autocratic Blair, who increasingly seems intent on ruling by decree rather than consensus (The Independent on Sunday today reports that Blair is intending to ignore widespread public and scientific opposition against GM Foods), must be eternally grateful. He is apparently a weak performer in debates in the Commons, such as Prime Ministers Questions and, when they've not had to deal with rumbles from their backbenches, apparently both IDS and his predecessor William Hague were often able to outwit Blair at the Despatch Box. Not that the country would know it, when the Tories were in power we saw their disintegration weekly, but now we see little debate on telly.

Anyway, the Tories. The Independent fingers Michael Howard to replace IDS. Which pretty much guarentees Labour the next election. IDS was chosen by introducing the Conservative's to the foreign concept of democracy, the MPs didn't vote for him but the constituencies at large did. Thus the MPs are taken their revenge against the little people by using their power to force out the popular choice. This is what you get when you have a party that consists of the old and senile who have regressed in their second childhood and don't care that other people have opinions too.

When it came down to Blair and Brown leading the Labour party it became a question of presentation over policies, Brown might have been a better PM on paper but Blair had the charm, if the party had gone with Brown they might have won the next election but it wouldn't have been a sure thing and definitely wouldn't have been with the same size majority. The party chose a candidate that they may not have thought was the best Labour leader, but one they knew would appeal to non-Labour supporters. The Tories since '97 have persisted in picking Tories that they personally liked, not people to appeal to the outside world. Due to that age problem they are incapable of looking outside of that little bubble that is Toryland. I grew up with Thatcher, but possibly when I was a toddler the Tories didn't win that election, Labour lost it and we had a decade of Thatcherite hell. Maybe the Tories are incapable of thinking outside the bubble and picking someone who can appeal to non-Tory supporters. Maybe there isn't anyone who fits the bill, a Conservative Blair (yes I know...), but Howard certainly isn't it.

About a month ago I heard about a website called Illegal Art and when I checked it out found it was for an exhibition of various paintings, exhibits and whatnot that had been withdrawn due to copyright restrictions. The exhibition was in America so a bit beyond my means to pop out and see, but there was a magazine also involved, 'Stay Free', so I bought a copy of that which came with a free CD of illegal music. And it finally turned up yesterday.

It consists of 21 tracks of various levels of production quality by a range of artists. Some are 'proper tracks', such as Negativland's U2, a mix of a cover of 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for' on what sounds like a hammond organ, with cuts of late night radio shows and Casey Casem swearing over the top. There's also Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, with tracks that never saw the light of day due to problems clearing the samples. And there's John 'Plunderphonics' Oswald and The JAMMs who contribute Dancing Queen, the ABBA song with The KLF spinning a tail of travelling down to London to take over as Queen from Liz II (At this point you might be interested in looking at the archives at Detritus, say no more).

Then there are the weirder things, such as Culturcide's They Aren't The World, in which they sing over the top of the charidee hit We Are The World, brilliantly skewering their pretense of caring and Xper.Xr's Wu-chu-tung which consists of playing EMF's Unbelievable and then vocalising the bass guitar over the top, until someone comes in the room and disturbs him.

The final type of tracks are those which, as in The Evolution Control Committee's Rocked by Rape are tracks built around stuff taken from TVs and radios and cut into new tracks, RbR samples Dan Rather newscasts, Dummy Run's f.d. is assembled from a radio segment on how sampling leaves poor old musicians without a penny while the sampler goes on to fame and fortune.

It's a real mix of a CD, of course (no pun intended). How they managed to get this out without being jumped on by the record industry I don't know. It's very limited but worth a listen if you can get hold of it.

Ethically? Well, as the music industry have a long and ignoble history of ripping off their artists, I don't think they're in much of a strong moral position to complain when other people do the same thing to their catalogues and it tends to end up benefiting everyone involved. But then capitalism has nothing to do with sensible adult decisions and long-term decisions.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

And if you're going out to watch some fireworks tonight, have a good Diwali. (Oh yes, Flowers is so damn multicultural now!)

Loathe as I am to risk bumming people out by bringing up intellectual issues involving librarianship (hey, it bores me and I'm a librarian!) Dorothea over at Misbehaving brings up an interesting question about gender and IT in libraries: Is there a lag behind events in the real world due to librarians mainly being female? I'm in a different country but from my limited experience we have lots of women who may not know how to do something but are then prepared to try and find someone who can.

Searching fun:
Tread gentle grasshopper, she's powerful crazy if you get on her bad side. Yeah, like I know what I'm taking about...

After two derailments and a power cut, Union considers strikes over safety on London Underground.

The international kitty to rebuild Iraq now stands at $33 billion. Which is good.
But $13 billion of that fund is in the form of loans, which is bad. The fact that the Saudis loaned money is especially noteworthy, as a cynical person might suggest that an Iraq crippled with huge debts won't be able to make full use of it's vast oil fields, helping to maintain the status quo that helped Saudi Arabia when Iraqi oil was under international sanctions.
France and Germany didn't offer any money. Which is bad. But their reasons for not doing so are understandable, why should they pay for someone elses war? But that's not much of an excuse to all the people of Iraq today. They could point out that they didn't ask for a decade of sanctions either, and when they tried to do something about Saddam the international community turned it's back.

Must not get pissed off at Julie Burchill... Must not get pissed off at Julie Burchill...

Don't expect to have a clear run at public washrooms, either. In pubs and clubs, chances are that mob-handed trannies will have colonised the Ladies and are likely to claim compensation for hurt feelings if some helpful landlord tries to give his female customers a little privacy or priority.

Lesbianism used to be the one place a girl could get a little me-time, but these days men are having male-to-female sex changes so they can get in on the Sapphic act, too. And those who aren't actually having the snip are filling their boots with lesbian porn and party tricks, as snogging one's best mate becomes an accepted part of heterosexual foreplay.


(Still, nice dissing of the ex in there...)

Friday, October 24, 2003

Try as I might to get into the White Stripes I just can't, although their singles have a certain charm there should be stickers on the front saying 'Parental Advisory: All The Other Songs on Our Album Are Shit!'. With the exception of 'I Don't Know What to Do With Myself' which managed to perfectly match a crap song with a crap video, though a friend of mine tried to convince me that Kate Moss was supposed to be pole-dancing badly 'cos, like, she's not a whore, man. But I've just seen the video for their new song, 'The Hardest Button to Button' and I really like it. Alright, so Jack White is now trying to act as though he's Jonny Depp playing Jack White in the film 'The White Stripes Hit The Big Time' and if someone pays me I WILL hunt Jack down and forceably shave off that bumfluff 'tash he's foolishly decided to grow.

But I just like the idea of with each note either of them play they jump stop-motiontastically to a new position a couple of feet along the road, path, station platform, then playing with that idea in a number of ways, zigzagging in and out a train, Meg's position moving back and forth depending on how loud Jack is singing. Catch it while you can.

In other music news: Why are VH1 Classic ALWAYS playing Abba?

Blunkett confused (again) about BBC. Did he wish they hadn't done a story about racism in the police force? There are mixed messages coming from David Blunkett. After initially criticising the BBC for using secret cameras to film policemen showing their racist side (typical quote along the lines of "A dog that's born in a barn is still a dog. A Paki is still a fucking Paki") he was forced to back down when everyone else in the world reacted with shock and the heads of the various police forces involved apologised. Now he seems to be trying to occupy both positions simultaneously in true New Labour style, admitting that the BBC was right to expose racism in the police force while condemning them for... um, exposing racism in the police force.

In order to save time... Fox News Declares Bush Winner of 2004 Election.

And while we're Slashdotting, theres a New York Times article on ID Cards in America (it'll need registration to read, but if you don't have it apparently 'mediawhore' as the username and password is an open access name you can use). This is being sold as a way to get round security checks at airports. It's interesting that the Bush administration is reported as against ID Cards. I'll have to investigate and find out why. If you know then please let me know...

Amazon have a new search feature where you can look for keywords within books. Cool and all, but depending on how much of their stock can do this, it strikes me that the only things it might be worth searching for (obscure people, precise scientific terms etc) isn't the sort of stuff you'd be able to search for. [via Slashdot.]

US Senate votes to lift ban on travelling to Cuba.

Republican Senator Mike Enzi said: "For 40 years we've said 'sanctions', and for 40 years it hasn't worked," referring to the failure of the ban to unseat Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
But the White House said it was premature to lift the ban.

Presumerably it's got to last for 42 years, so that Jeb Bush doesn't need to fix the Florida result in next years elections again if anti-Castro Cuban Americans decide to vote against Dubya in protest.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Creepy Lesbo has threatened that if we don't link to her then she'll take our links down off her blog. So please, read about her trying to entice a journalist to see Spirited Away.

Christopher Hitchens has the newly beatified Mother Theresa in his sights, in an essay at Slate and an interview at Secular Humanism. I've had a vague distrust of how truly 'good' she was based on the few stories coming from women who had worked with her in Calcutta and her few statements on the world stage. But as she seems to back the Pope's 'Lets go back to the Dark Ages' views it's no wonder he'll pick on the flimsiest excuses to get her made a saint before he croaks (in the Slate article Hitchens pours scorn on the 'miracle' Mother Theresa is supposedly responsibile for).

Tony Blair doesn't care about civil liberties. Well, we knew this already. According to the Guardian's main report, at monthly press briefing he says the ONLY reasons that ID cards might not get introduced are on the grounds of 'cost and efficiency', the minute-by-minute report is a bit more equivocal.

Following up yesterday's Jim Davidson story, Davidson claims he couldn't perform because his act involved 'taking the mickey' out of people in the front row and the venue has said they won't bother asking him back.

In news that probably didn't surprise anyone, Labour expell George Galloway from party for 'disloyalty' over Iraq war. Because of course expelling someone worked so well for them when it came to the London Mayoral Elections (Official Labour candidate trashed by ex-Labour party member standing independently) and the Welsh Assembly Elections (Blair's preferred choice beaten by old Labour candidate). Based on the charges as hearing what he's supposed to have said at the time it does seem to be stretching definitions to claim he was actually disloyal or inciting against British troops, telling the UK troops to ignore illegal orders, you could say that he meant the orders to attack Iraq there and then but if inference sufficient proof in such a situation?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

And what's this? Now India and Pakistan might be improving their relationship. Typically in Northern Ireland the Unionists have thrown a spanner in the works. The only way I can see to resolve the issue is to get both sides in a room, lock the door and then throw in a couple of stereotype Irish mothers to slap them around until they agree. Mum's, they don't take nonsense from anyone.

"Gerry Adams, you come here right now and tell them how many weapons you got rid of! Don't give me that 'it's embaressing' rubbish you little smarterse, unless you want to see how embaressing it is for me to tan your backside in front of the world's media!"
"David Trimble, you stop your sulking you wee basterd! Now you've heard how many guns Gerry's got rid of you shake his hand and say sorry. And mean it! Ah stop your whining or I'll give you something to cry about!"

Aah, is there any problem in the world that can't be dealt with by fierce stereotype mothers?

'Comedian' Jim Davidson cancelled show, didn't want to do jokes about disabled people when there were disabled people in the audience watching. It seems that the idea of removing the jokes about disabled people from the act never occured to him. I like the way he accuses the member of the public who refused to move as 'playing the handicapped card' as, having a mother who needs a wheelchair due to having difficulties walking long distance I know that she does it just to piss people off.

"I hate people playing the handicapped card or the racist card [Mr Davidson said].

Considering what I know of his act, does that mean he has a severe case of self-loathing?

"I do what I do and people love it, why do the people in the wheelchairs go there?"

You can of course replace 'people in the wheelchairs' with 'gays', 'blacks', 'women', 'people with taste'...

Illegal immigrants being used as football in Westminster. Beverley Hughes was busy pushing the big lie at the Home Affairs Committee yesterday. Apparently I need an ID Card to prove that I'm entitled to work. Apparently, my having a card to prove I'm entitled to work will stop employers taking on illegal workers, presumerably this will stop those employers who stop on the motorway with a truck and take people off to do some nasty simple work for cash in hand.

Although the Home Office luckily have an actual case to base their statements on in this case, so much of the arguments seem to be based on the Home Office saying "we have no idea if this is a problem in any way, ID Cards will help us find out if it is a problem".

The Home Office as a department seem to have formed behind Blunkett's banner on this issue, the chair John Denham, a former H.O. minister, asked such impartial questions as "Isn't the truth that until there is a robust and reliable system of entitlement cards that people have to show and employers can rely on... we are going to continue to have abuse?" as though Ms. Hughes was going to reply "actually, no, but my boss is quite keen and you know what he's like when he gets an idea in his head".

"At the moment there isn't a single robust form of identification that also gives proof of right to work," she said.

It's my right to work? I thought it was a responsibility to work. My right would be to expect fair treatment and pay at work surely? And what about national insurance cards? They seem to have been sufficient for the last fifty years.

Now, a truly scary closing bit from the article:

Ex-Tory cabinet minister Ann Widdecombe said "nothing short of detention" would stop illegal workers from disappearing.

But Mrs Hughes urged her to "get real".

"If you are seriously suggesting that every person that we apprehend could be detained... you are going to need a very, very large expansion, at great expense, of the detention estate."

The minister said this was not a reasonable demand on resources and the government's other priorities.

The Government wouldn't oppose locking immigrants up en masse on ethical or humanitarian grounds, purely that it would cost them too much to do so.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Hey! No fair! Don't be nice to me! I don't want to like you. I want to hate you. I need to hate you for your shitty behaviour over the weekend! But if you start complimenting me on my writing I'm going to be forced to write it all off as you just having a bad couple of days, and I don't want that! Anger makes me strong. Hulk need anger to live. So fuck off with your compliments on how my writing works! Say you think I'm an escapee from a mental ward who obviously needs their nappy changed! For God's sake, PLEASE!

Conspiracy theorists have got a fillup from Paul Burrell, bodyguard and Princess Diana's 'rock' has released a letter in which she claimed that someone was out to kill her. Predictably this is somehow news. Let's review: Diana, not entirely sane, under immense pressure thanks to a lot of people who think her marriage to some bloke called Charles was in some way important, and with a bunch in in-laws who didn't like her. Paul Burrell: Claimed he would never reveal what Diana confided in him. Claimed that the Queen had warned him that 'dark forces were at work'.

So a hothouse flower, not easily dealing with her fairy princess lifestyle and not the brightest pea in the pod thought she was in danger. Millions of people each week think they're going to win the National Lottery but we don't tend to send them to a psychiatrist when they don't. But conspiracy theorists can add this to their exhaustive and dull websites on how Diana was obviously sacrificed at a site that had been a sacrificial temple to her namesake thousands of years ago as part of a ritual to bind humanity's soul to the dark blah blah fishcakes...

I'm worried that there's another shoe around that's waiting to drop, but Iran has agreed to sign up to tougher United Nations inspections of its nuclear facilities and to suspend its enrichment of uranium and the Northern Ireland peace process is on again. Now if we could just do something about Israel and Palestine...

There was an interesting item on last night's Newsnight about a possible method to at least calm tensions in Iraq, through the use of what's being called 'the Alaskan solution' with regard to Iraq's oil. This basically means that every Iraqi would get a share of the profits made from the sale of Iraqs oil.

At the moment Iraq is considered to have the world's second largest deposits of oil, and a large quantity of it's land has never been surveyed. Have a look at this report where it's the second item, about a quarter of the way down. There are probable problems with the plan, though the guy on Newsnight who complained mildly that it would encourage the Iraqi people into a culture of 'expecting something for nothing', I don't think that's a serious concern and let's wait a decade or so then see if that's happening yeah? I think that something has to be put in to this scheme without waiting for the oil money to be generated for it to start, ie: The Allies will have to put in the cash for the first round of oil money to the Iraqi people, even though there isn't any real amounts of oil being produced. It's only reasonable as we've spent much more than the money needed bombing the crap out of the country for the last decade or so. Take the amount suggested by Phillip Merrill, $10 a head, so about $230 mill. It costs the US $1 billion a week to maintain their troops. So we could see it as a downpayment on the troops safety and a start, at last, towards trying to build goodwill between the Allies and the Iraqis. When the Iraqi people see a financial benefit from ensuring the oil runs smoothly we might see sabotage, or the support for sabotage drop.

And of course, if the Iraqi people can be seen to be benefiting from their oil in the form of cold, hard cash, that might stop people like me from suggesting that this war was all about Bush and his cronies being able to seize a valuable source of oil for their personal profit...

Monday, October 20, 2003

Diebold have been getting a little interest recently over possible poor design of the machines they've made for use in elections. So, they've just threatened to sue, which will guarentee a lot more attention to their work and practices. Whoops! It's McLibel all over again!

A big "Hmmm" for this story especially as the person writing it doesn't seem to understand the difference between gender identity and sexual preference.

They say you can judge someone by the quality of their enemies. Which means the National Rifle Association is getting a much better deal than those people that oppose them. Check their blacklist here (Great music too!).

Sunday, October 19, 2003

A little webboard I'm on seems to have been going through some problems in the last few days, causing disagreement and snarkiness all around. I'm a bit of a newbie so I'm keeping quiet, but it does seem to be a case of one of the regulars deciding to pick on a newbie, ignore the newbie's apparently genuine attempts to try and explain her position and then flounce off with a 'I'm not going to continue reading this thread' behind hir when other people suggest ze is being unfair.

The BBC Big Read has reached it's next stage when last night they counted down from Numbers 100 to 21, then revealed the top 21 titles for people to vote for.

The top 100 seemed full of stuff between 50 and 100 that made you think "surely that should have got higher?" and stuff between 49 and 21 that made you think "why did that get so high?" It was depressing that, due to the rules that only one book per author could be in the top 21, three of the four Harry Potter books were camping at 21 to 23, I will be depressed if Goblet of Fire wins and, while Winny the Pooh and Wind in the Willows are good enough kids books, being in the top 21? Still, I admit I'm hoping that Lord of the Rings will win as it did at the Waterstones Book of the 20th Century a couple of years ago. The broadsheets have been predictably sniffy as they always are when the public give their opinion on anything, on the other hand I was depressed that several of Terry Pratchett's weaker books were in the top 100, Night Watch surely winning it's place because it was new out, the presenter said that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix wasn't in the chart because it came out too late for voting.

Second train derailment in as many days on the London Underground. Great. On a purely selfish note I hope it doesn't take them as long to sort this out as the Central Line, I don't want to have to get the bus into town. But this is the third accident to happen on the Tube since private companies took over track maintenance, they had contracts that last thirty years and they couldn't even last one year before things go wrong. The Government still want to bring in 'public'-private partnerships to run the Underground. Surely this is an indication that such a mad scheme won't work.

Anyway, so on Thursday we were on strike from work, as part of the UNISON campaign for an increase in London Weighting pay so that the capitals public sector workers can afford to live in the capital. After a lot of prevaricating and deciding that I wasn't going to go to the march in the centre of London I had a change of heart and toddled along. This wasn't out of any great swell of enthusiasm (indeed Thursdays strike was leaving me out of pocket in two ways, which I'll explain in a minute) but more that it fit in with my plans for the day so I didn't see the harm in giving it a go. I was annoyed because, while I accepted that I would of course loose a days pay for striking, it turned out that I couldn't claim the full hours that I would have been working on my flexisheet. Libraries have to use the same flexihours system that the majority of the council uses. But while most office workers have the freedom to walk in at say 9:15 rather than 9:00, just so long as they make it up by doing 15 minutes extra elsewhere, because we work with the public and have to open the library doors at a specific time, we don't have that freedom. We have one day off during the week and as we work alternate Saturdays one week we will work four days of that week, and the next we will work five days. We have to work 35 hours a week like office staff. Due to that Saturday, one week we work 34 hours, the next we work 36, so it evens out over the fortnight. HOWEVER, when it comes to holiday it gets really fun...

If you work in an office and you take a week off, each day is filled in as 7 hours 12 minutes, because 5 lots of them adds up to 36 hours and so you neither gain nor loose anything for that week. If you work in a library and you're taking a five day week off then you're okay. If you're taking a four day week off you have a choice. You can either be 7 hours 12 minutes down for a week, or you give up a day of your leave allowance (which effectively means you're taking a day that you wouldn't have been working anyway as leave) to make it tally. If you want to take one day off and it happens to be a day when you'd be working late (ie: until 8:00 pm rather than 5:00 pm) you don't get to claim the 10 hours that you would have worked, you only get 7 hours 12 minutes. If you're sick you at least get to put down on your flexi-sheet what hours you should have worked. But I found out last week that if you go on a UNISON strike on a day when your library would have closed at 8:00 pm, you can only put down on your flexisheet 7 hours 12 minutes.

Now, you could argue that we all have to make sacrifices in our struggle for a fair wage from Government. Okay, fine, I have no problem with that, I'm giving up a days wages after all. But my colleagues from other departments in the council weren't falling short in the accounting of their hours, which means I've got to work extra hours next week to make them up. I'm already in the flexi-red because I took a four day week off in August and refused to give up a leave day to make it a five day week, I refuse to be penalised for days when our service isn't open anyway. At Christmas I'm going to end up owing the library about seven hours time, because we'll be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day, which will fall on late nights, so I'll only be claiming 7 hours 12 minutes again, despite the fact that the libraries won't be open so it's not like I'm unwilling to work (well, I would be unwilling but you get my point).

Anyway, rant over. We were meeting outside Temple station on the tube, so I went there and came out expecting a handfull of people, most of whom would be there only to try and sell copies of 'Socialist Worker'. Instead there were a couple of hundred at least, maybe more. Alright, not the huge numbers of the Anti-War demos, rather a small proportion of the staff that were on strike. But I found other staff from the council and when someone at the front worked out what they were doing we were off. We walked along the Embankment, over Blackfriars Bridge, down into Southwark, then along to Saint George's Circus then finally to Lambeth Road and the Park beside the Imperial War Museum. Seeing me taking pictures along the way the secretary of the council UNISON branch siddled up and asked if he could have copies later on, as no-one from his office had thought to bring their camera.

As is typical at these things once in the park we were all milling around slightly aimlessly. The Socialist Worker sellers from Temple tube station hadn't marched of course and seemed to have driven there so they could wait for us and try and get us to buy their papers. There was a little stage set up and some speakers which I half-listened to, clapping in the appropriate places. We cheered when we were told that the meeting today had broken up with no agreement when the Local Government heads had withdrawn their 'desultory' offer which only covered the very worst off, we applauded when it was announced that the GMB, which had been intending to settle with Local Government had instead decided to ballot it's members about returning to strike as well and we booed when everyone on stage mentioned each time that it cost £55 000 for a house in London, far beyond the means of Local Government workers. With these things once you've heard one speech you've truly heard them all, they just mix the order in which they say things. They probably write these speeches beforehand like the cut-up technique David Bowie used to write some of his songs, write the important phrases down on strips of paper and then shuffle them into a random order and copy it down.

I'd been intending to go to the Imperial War Museum anyway, so this was ideal opportunity and I popped in once the rally was over. It was lunchtime, so I knew I couldn't stay too long, so ignored most of the free stuff and just went for the Women and War exhibition. I personally found it a bit disappointing but I think that's my prejudices coming to the fore. They've certainly got a lot of stuff on display, though a costume belonging to Catherine the Great hadn't yet arrived. Included in the price of the exhibition is one of those phone things which you dial and hear short tracks about some of the exhibits, such as pictures of women who ran off to fight in the American Civil War (and to think I'd recently been reading Monstrous Regiment too!) a copy of the only surviving wax cylinder recording of Florence Nightingale as a very old woman, war recollections from all sides and more up to date things too.

I suppose that as it is the Imperial War Museum it's to be expected that the exhibition would concentrate on WW1 and 2, most of the space was given to two large rooms full of exhibitions, posters, dummys wearing clothes from those periods. I was personally more interested in everything else, the small cabinet in which Florence Nightingale's uniform fought for space with exhibits to do with Mary Seacole, a black nurse who, when turned down by Nightingale went closer to the frontline of the Crimean war to give what medical aid she could to the injured and dying, or the exhibits of the suffragettes. Irritatingly the room after the end of WW2, the liberation of the concetration camps and the bombing of Hiroshima was for everything else since, all conflict up to the Falklands represented by a handful of photo's on the bare wall, then we had a female war reporters kit from that campaign, and the letter Ronald Reagan sent Maggie Thatcher when he left office, thanking her for her help. There seemed to be a shortage of material for the post WW2 era, so we had a cabinet of dummies wearing camoflage crop tops, showing how fashion has been influenced by war chic, then some mention given to anti-war demonstrations and womens groups such as the one at Greenham Common. It all looked as if it was thrown together in a rather haphazard manner, there was a photo of Leila Khaled on a wall, but on dialing the number next to it I heard a BBC report of the first female suicide bombing in Israel from a short time ago.

The only continuity was that of the calender, the American civil war girls were next to a large portrait of Queen Victoria, who was there it seemed only because she was wearing a military uniform in her portrait. Next to her nurses Nightingale and Seacole, then the suffragettes, then Mata Hari and the first war. Perhaps a themed approach along the lines of direct involvement in war and supporting industries might have helped cover the shortages in the collection, though that itself might have introduced different incoherences in the collection.

If you don't mind the concentration on the Great Wars or you have a misconception that wars until recently were just for the boys then this exhibition will be an eye-opener. I did enjoy it somewhat and will probably go back at some point to see the rest of the museum.

Let's see if this works...

Bloody hell, one huge leap for Flowers, one 'have you only just worked out how to FTP?' for humankind.

Yesterday The Sun ('never apologise, never retreat') reported that 'Bonkers Bruno' oops, sorry, that's Boxing hero Frank Bruno has left hospital. The Sun realised that after initially categorising him as a nutter that they had misjudged the pulse of the public and had to quickly shift their position from him being a loser to a brave battler against depression. I wonder if they would have given his wife a three-part series to talk about his difficulties if they hadn't put their foot in it in the first place. Probably, 'never apologise, never retreat', there never was a 'bonkers Bruno' headline, the papers been behind him from the start, we have always been at war with Oceania...

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Absolute genius... Cactus and Son. [via B3ta.]

Better than the real Britney... [via Your Daily Prescott.]

Microsoft warns of 'critical' flaws. That's as maybe. I'm just worried that, considering what happened last time, if I download any more patches then something else on my computer is going to go wrong. I'm at a shaky state of equilibrium as it is...

As Natalie Davis over at All Facts and Opinions has been extremely kind in linking to my ill-thought out ramblings I thought I'd link to her well thought out view of The Anglican Church versus homophobia.

What a sell-out! Banksy's work is hanging in Tate Britain! Oh wait, he put it there himself. Mind you, the authorities are cruel, describing it now as 'lost property'. Ouch!

The latest Julie Burchill article. She starts off with a fair and interesting point, then as ever ruins it after about the three-hundredth word. Deciding to take Lenny Bruce literally to try to discredit his idea? Poor show. She seems to believe it's best to keep such words as n*gg*r (trying to beat Google again) and P*k* off-limits, therefore forever keeping them for racists to use and therefore hurt people. And suggesting homosexual prison rape as a punishment for use of racist terms? Nice. And as a Monty Python geek I've got no idea what she's talking about with regard to the Piranha Brothers. And then referring repeatedly to a member of So Solid Crew as 'it'? Although I suppose having a weekly column in a newspaper does allow you to save on psychiatrists bills I can't help but think that's not always a wise idea, even if someone like Julie writes whatever drivel she thinks will annoy people like me...

A short and interesting article on the uses of Virtual Reality Exposure to help treat phobias. The great advantage being that it's easier to organise than exposing the patient to the real thing and cuts down on the embaressment factor. Slashdot mention this when linking to a CNN report that video games like Half-Life and Unreal Tournament are also being used in phobia treatment. (And a similar report from Wired.)

Friday, October 17, 2003

In Bi-visibility news an American artist is putting out a 'bi-positive' album after being heckled for saying he was Bi when performing at a Pride festival. Now, surely any performer, gay or straight, who would be willing to go on stage to help delay an Abba tribute band from going on at Pride should be applauded. Or even Knighted.

Sky One are desperately trying to summon up ANY enthusiasm in it's viewing public ahead of David Blaine being released from his box on Sunday, an ad for the event is being played several times an hour and I suspect that by tomorrow it'll be in every ad break. Blaine's camp are also doing what they can, Blaine 'suffers heart palpitations', though as he has not been examined by any doctors, due to being locked in a sodding glass box, we have no way of knowing how true this is. It does remind me of a couple of years ago when some guy was on a hunger strike for animal rights and his friends and family were talking daily of how he'd lost his sight and hearing, his internal organs were beginning to ingest themselves and he was very ill, the Government blinked and it turned out he hadn't been on hunger strike at all, all the horror stories were made up. I don't doubt that Blaine will be pretty weak, but it would be great if, five minutes before the box is due to be brought down all the crowd get bored and wander off...

Those wacky Raelians... Cloned baby story probably false, all done for publicity. Damn them, we fell for their cunning plan, oh wait, they announced they'd created clones, then promptly disappeared from the news scene entirely until now. Even William Hague has been in the news more than them this year and he doesn't even have a job any more!

Stop the War Coalition, for all your anti-Bush's visit to the UK needs. CNN have some of the highlights listed.

The Hendon and Finchley Times, news for NIMBYs, carried this story this week about how a Jews for Jesus billboard poster wasn't offensive, though I think posting it in Golders Green might be considered cheeky. The Advertising Standards Agency has given it the all clear, though the company who maintained the hoarding had already removed it. However...

Councillor Katia David, the cabinet member for equalities and social inclusion, had said the posters were 'completely unwelcome in Barnet'.

Now, the Jews for Jesus site is here. I've had a look and can't see anything that denigrates any other religion any more than regular religions do anyway and doesn't incite violence or hatred. So I can't see the basis for treating them as though they were the BNP, and that it's the 'equalities and social inclusion' councillor is telling, can the council be trusted to legislate for fairness for any minority group.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews point of view is currently on their front page.

Okay, I'm having a little discussion with Patrick about how it's unhelpful to tar entire cultures on the planet with a large brush because of what a couple of members of one of those cultures did. I'm not sure I'm being understood. Read here and then check the comments. If I'm being unreasonable, feel free to tell me.

Not to be confused with Blah Blah Flowers...

It makes my heart swell with pride to know that whenever someone Googles for Kurdish bubbling remix my blog is top of the pile (for some reason).
But as this is possibly libellous I don't mind being second in the queue.
I don't know whether to be scared that I can also be found under quicky wheelchair philippines.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Dude, left-wingers at demos still call one another 'comrade'! That's so sweet!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The latest Radio Times has an odd cover, namely Meera Syal and Alan Titchmarsh. Now there is a picture of it here (which will probably be there until next Monday or Tuesday). If you get the chance, have a look at the paper copy in the shops, they possibly just get away with it on the on-line version, but when I saw the original I was sure they'd touched it up to make Meera as white as Alan...

In a move that is probably surprising nobody Tony Blair says he likes ID cards but won't say whether legislation will be in the Queen's speech. Well, of course not. There are many reasons, not least of which it would be a hostage to fortune if it turned out they couldn't be done after all.

Labour's Nick Palmer backed up Mr Blair, saying that if people claimed benefits from the state, it was "not unreasonable" for them to show who they were.

"There is overwhelming support for the principle of identity cards so we have a society where people claim what they have the personal right to claim," he added.

If you repeat the lie enough times... Presumerably Nick Palmer is unaware that the truth of the matter is that there is NOT overwhelming support for ID cards. He's the MP for Broxtowe, I don't suppose anyone reading this blog lives in that area and would like to Faxyourmp to set him straight?

It's also interesting that he says that people on benefits should definitely have an ID card. People on benefits are often, by the very fact they're on benefits, the poorest people in the country. Yet they should have a piece of plastic that will cost them between £40 and £100? And how will this stop all the fraud that ministers regularly claim is going on that the current systems in place don't? And if he thinks those on benefits should have a card, does that mean he supports the rights of those of us who aren't on any form of income support not to have the card?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Have you ever had that thing where you hear a particular turn of phrase and think "If I had a band, that would be our name"? Anyway, for this week, Nina has named my band. Step forward I Love Looking at Foreign Kitchens. Obviously we're an Emo band with songs about how girls don't understand us and how to bake the perfect treacle pudding.

Blunkett declares "ID Cards! I'm sure we're still going to have 'em! No, I like standing in this corner thanks!". The madman's not for turning. And he's been hearing voices too: "Believe me, people have come up to me again and again and said, 'Stick to your guns. We know that if we are going to sort out clandestine entry, clandestine working, illegal use of our services, we need some form of identity card, a modern biometric card that can't be forged'."

US soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops. Argh! They're doing this as punishment for the farmers not telling them where the guerillas that are attacking US and UK troops are hiding.

1) Why do they assume the farmers know? I don't even know who lives two doors down from me.
2) These communities are inter-related over hundreds of years. That, plus the complete chaos and anarchy in Iraq after Hussein was deposed, why should people believe that the Americans want to help, and why should they risk being tossed out of theirn communities for helping the US?
3) This action is actually illegal under the Geneva Convention. But hey, fuck it, we all know how much a signature is worth when it's on a document that would stop the current US administration from doing what it wants to.
4) As this Iraqi woman makes clear, the trees are either far more important to the communities than the US realise, or the US do know how important they are, in which case this act is even crueller. And comparable to when Hussein drained marshland because he thought his enemies were there. Déjà vu, perhaps? Or maybe the orchards differ from the marshlands in that Saddam wasn’t playing jazz when he dried up the marshlands…

Monday, October 13, 2003

Had another session of dental torture this morning. At my last check-up my dentist discovered infections under three or four fillings, necessitating two sessions for him to abuse me orally. And I'm one of the people that tends to feel that a general anaesthetic should be administered before anyone starts fiddling around in my mouth. Today's session involved removing, clearing under, then replacing a filling, which I got a local for, and clearing a load of gunk off of my wisdom teeth, which I didn't. Presumerably, when dentists are taught their trade one of the modular areas they can specialise in is 'how to make the experience worse for the patient', using methods such as pulling down on any instrument they insert in the mouth so it crushes the bottom lip, and permanently stick that suction pump down the back of the throat so you feel that any minute you're going to start choking. I also dislike the way my mouth feels all out of shape (no giggling please) for the rest of the day, so every normal twinge immediately makes me think "oh god, my teeth are falling out!" If dreams of teeth falling out are bad, what about daylight hallucinations?

Anyway, after that watched City of God which for once was accurately described on the box as a 'Brazilian Goodfellas' or the story of rival gangs in Rio de Janeiro in the 70s. It's supposedly a true story from a young boy who managed to escape the slums by becoming a photographer. Only, if the story is accurate then the narrator can't have known as much as we saw because he wasn't around for lots of it and there wasn't anyone left to talk to. But it's a rattling good film that whips you along at a good pace, has some interesting side plots that come back in interesting ways and some bravura camerawork. If you haven't, see it.

In the afternoon, to distract myself I went for a walk round the park. It's only about twenty minutes away from where I live, but this was the first time I've been there in the just over two years I've lived here. Part of the problem is that I have to walk practically the entire way around the park to get to the entrance. It's not much more than three or four football pitches strung together and there are many nicer green spaces in North London, Regent's Park being an obvious example, or the park in Burnt Oak (worth a visit on a nice summers day, come out of Burnt Oak tube station on the northern Line, turn left, it's thirty seconds down the road). But I daresay in Summer it looks nicer than on an overcast Autumnal day. I was needing to stop myself from going to see Spirited Away. Not because I don't want to see the film, I do, but I knew that if I went I would then immediately afterwards go to the Camden Virgin megastore and buy The Matrix Reloaded which would be stupid as I wouldn't have any opportunity to watch it until next Monday and, as I've paid the dentist over two hundred quid this month to indulge his desire to cause me pain through my teeth, it would make sense to hold off on buying it until the next credit card month, especially when I still have Pulp and X-Men 1.5 DVDs which I haven't watched all the way through yet.

And it's true Plums rocks so hard that the next Darkness single is going to be about living in Brighton with no money and being grumpy about how young and shiny the students all look...

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Fuck The Pope

Just watched Panorama: Sex And The Holy City from which earlier news reports about the Vatican lying about the effectiveness of contraception came from. It was a fairly wretched program about how the Church has been moved, by the efforts of the present incumbent from a pro-contraception stance to an strongly anti stance and that it uses some rather underhand and morally questionable tactics to do so.

We start in Nicaragua- The Vatican insists that girls of thirteen, fourteen should have children even when they're raped. Even a young girl of eight who was pregnant, they tried to prevent her having an abortion.

According to someone (I didn't catch the name) who worked for the UN, the Pope blamed women for getting pregnant, it's their fault they get raped, they are tempters.

In The Philippenes the Church opposes sex education and people use Colgate toothpaste because they believe it's a spermicide. The parliament is debating a Reproductive Health bill and the Church has warned it will campaign to unseat any politicians that vote for it, so it's unlikely to be passed. The mayor of Manilla has banned contraception from all the clinics. They've had to throw out all their pills or condoms and get in anti-abortion posters. But when it comes to the prostitution and sex in the country the Church just tuts censoriously and talks about how it's bad and one day we'll outgrow it and look back ashamed. Liberal Catholics have seen the Vatican's observers at the UN work with countries such as Libya and conservative Muslim countries to try and prevent women's health bills.

Africa- World Health Organisation recommends abstinence or condoms, people in Kenya and Nairobi don't trust condoms. The Archbishop of Nairobi blames AIDS on condoms. Kenyan bishops claim that condoms have pores that allow the AIDS virus to pass through, which just isn't true. The bishop refuses to accept he's 'peddling superstition and nonsense', though as he's a bishop he probably can't tell one load of 'superstition and nonsense' from another. There are Catholics, including a married man with AIDS, who repeat this and say there is no reason for ever using condoms. This is a view put out by the Vatican who claims that scientists accept this. When they are challenged that the WHO disagree with that, the spokesman huffily insists "Well, dialogue isn't possible with people who believe that. It is simply not true."

It's not something I would normally say but hopefully God will soon be calling his 'good and faithful servant' to his side and there'll be a small chance that someone will replace him who'll be able to find a way to reverse the policy without seeming to contradict that whole 'Papal infallibility' thing.

Huh? Muslim girls expelled from French school for wearing headscarfs.

"The Islamic veil they were wearing in class was judged to be ostentatious," French TV said.

OK, firstly, will someone decide whether the girls were wearing headscarfs or veils. Secondly, what the hell kind of reason is 'ostentation' for kicking girls out of school?

National regulations lay down that signs of religious observance should not be displayed in state educational institutions.

Hmm, tricky. Does a Catholic country like France get away with banning anyone in schools wearing crosses? Maybe the Vatican should campaign to get condoms recognised an official symbol of the Church (see next post). But surely the two girls in this case could argue they are wearing headscarfs in a non-religious way? School and state then have no more right to ask them to remove them than they have to ask them to strip naked. It also goes against the EU consitution on freedom of religious expression, but then if the British Government is any guide I suspect the French Government may also decide to pick and choose exactly what rules it does and does not want to obey.

"We have been talking to some of the pupils of Maghreb or Muslim origin and they are saying to us: Stick to your guns, because we don't want the headscarf in school, because for these girls the school is the last place of refuge," he said.
"They can rely on the school to resist the social pressures in their community, in the district they live in."

Jesus, has the person who wrote this article ever passed an exam in English? I assume it's meant that non-Muslim pupils from the same ethnic background don't want anyone in the school who wear what they see as a symbol of religion. Presumerably they are worried that if the girls continue to wear the headscarves then they'll release some kind of gas that will turn everyone into a practicing Muslim. That's why we have equal opportunity laws, to protect the minority from the majority. Hopefully this wrong-headed view will get overturned, at least for the principle, although i think it would be best for everyone if the two girls look for a different school that isn't so prejudiced.

If it's the first half of the month then it must be time for a news report that ID Cards won't happen. However, it's way too soon to be hopeful that this is the end of the issue. At every step of the way those in favour of the scheme have ignored the massive public disapproval towards the scheme and the reports that have said it won't do anything to deal with the problems that it's claimed they would solve if brought in. Even now Tony Blair has tossed the issue to John Prescott, as David Blunkett has failed to sell the idea it's down to Prescott as chairman of the Domestic Affairs Committee of the Cabinet to try and manufacture, sorry investigate, a reason for why the Government should bring ID cards in.

UNISON have called for it's London members who are going on strike on Thursday over London Weighting to assemble in the city for a demo and march-past of the place where the negotiations are supposedly taking place. I'm in two minds whether to go and I suspect my final decision will be based on how cold it is and whether it's raining or not. But it'll only be a few hours (or, if I am involved, I'll only be involved for a few hours) so I'm thinking of nipping along to the Imperial War Museum after lunch for the Women and War exhibition which looks at the role of women in the conflicts of the twentieth century. Unfortunately the Independent website isn't carrying the fascinating article publisising the event, otherwise I'd recommend you read that too. It does however, end with the words:

The organisers of the exhibition at the IWM had intended to include some mention of Private Jessica Lynch, promoted to heroic stature by the US Government following her capture in Iraq in the spring, until confusion about whether she actually deserved her Bronze Star for bravery began to arise. The questionmarks that hang over Jessica Lynch's status as a Modern American Military Heroine are just part of the wider arguments that still deny women full gender equality in the armed forces.

Umm, no. The 'questionmarks' are all to do with how Lynch's patrol were attacked and how much she actually needed to be saved when she was 'rescued' from an Iraqi hospital, they aren't anything to do with the fact she was a woman. An otherwise excellent article though.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Hmmm, Patrick sent me this earlier in the week and I was sure I'd posted it, but looking back it seems that I haven't, so here's another evil evil .pdf file debunking the Bush resume.

A very interesting article on the beliefs of the US public with regard to The War Against Terror and the Invasion of Iraq based on what news source they used most here (in evil, evil pdf format I'm afraid). Makes sense, I've never met a dumb American (admittedly I've never travelled much outside the UK due to not being a good traveller over distance) but the news they get fed with is another matter (Not that the UK is any better as the tabloids regularly print reports that prejudice court cases and The Sun is current running Page 3 idol where you, the reading public, get to choose a member of the public who gets 'gets a Sun modelling contract and the chance to meet the stars').

Hmmm, a couple of articles to consider over your morning cereal/cigarette/Jack Daniels...

Dick Cheney on Iraq: "I'm quite prepared to keep repeating this until you believe me" (paraphrased slightly) (registration required).

"Some claim we should not have acted because the threat from Saddam Hussein was not imminent," Mr. Cheney said. "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?"

Well, Bush and Blair DID announce they were going to attack Iraq... Oh sorry, they were the good guys, right.

"Had we followed the counsel of inaction, the Iraqi regime would still be a menace to its neighbors and a destabilizing force in the Middle East. Today, because we acted, Iraq stands to be a force for good in the Middle East."... In remarks on Friday... Mr. Rumsfeld joined in the administration chorus, rapping the media for dwelling on bad news out of Baghdad. "The part of the picture that's negative is being emphasized, and the part of the picture that's positive is not,"

Naughty news media for reluctantly reporting that people get killed over there, the Iraqi's are starving, there is no system of public order (because the Allies don't feel confident to go out on patrol and when they do they seem to end up shooting down Iraqi police), water and medical supplies are low, anti-US and UK feeling isn't just something that was due to Hussein in charge, etc. etc... It is said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, but it seems no Allied plans for post-battle occupation of Iraq survived contact with the people. Even trying to look at the Allies as the most benevolent force imaginable, it does seem that they bombed the Iraqi infrastructure to pieces as part of the war, then went in without the means to immediately restore that infrastructure to support the people of Iraq. Then get surprised that they aren't welcomed with open arms. Saddam Hussein spends several decades telling the Iraqi people the US are evil. Of course, the US has spent several times as long telling it's people that they are good. Perhaps some new paridigms are needed here people?

And after that, Digby has got some things to say about the behaviour and attitude of Schwarzenegger fans before he was elected.

Friday, October 10, 2003

The quality and quantity of David Blaine pisstaking sites has gone rapidly downhill, he's yesterday's meme, like "Hatt Baby" and now people are having much more fun mixing IDS up with Derren Brown's supposed 'russian roulette' thing. Still, for old times sake, The Blaine Appeal, the sooner he leaves the box, the more money goes to charity. [Via the Magic Pixies at Need to Know.]

Weird Google Searches: Can I just say now how honoured and privilidged I feel to be number one when you search for Q C FOR X RAY DEPP FREE SOFTWARE DOWNLOAD? Now can someone explain what it means?!

Tony Blair and Geoff Hoon attend service of remembrance for UK troops killed in Iraq, against families wishes. I'm sure that 'history will vindicate' Blair's decision to turn up when he'd been asked not to...

I can just about accept that the Pope and, by extension, the Catholic church, have some numpty-headed views about sex, most humourous for a crew that are supposed to be celibate. However, to send letters of support to a seperate church (who, by the logic of faith are presumerably going to burn in hell for supporting 'the wrong faith') for their attempts to force the American branch of Anglicanism to retreat on their appointment of a gay bishop is surely impossible to justify, while telling people in African countries that condoms don't stop AIDS, while it might make sense to the Pope's twisted brand of morality is equally dodgy when they have absolutely no proof to back up such a fallacious statement.

If we make an extremely conservative estimate then a lot of people in Africa, just as in the rest of the world, are having extra-marital sex and are therefore 'sinning'. Popular cures for AIDS tend to involve having sex with a virginal girl. With this message the Catholic Church are saying it's better that people die of AIDS than to stay alive, and healthy, and repent of their sins. Do we need any more proof that Christianity is a death-cult that reveres pain and suffering amongst it's followers?

Last year, when Iain Duncan Smith characterised himself as 'The Quiet Man', impressionist Rory Bremner riffed from this into Iain Duncan Smith saying he was quiet like a ghost, and then that he was Casper The Friendly Ghost, as last year was also the year the Tories wanted everyone to think they were lovely. I didn't want to say anything about his speech until I had a chance to see at least highlights on telly last night but it was fairly appalling. It certainly reads well, though opposition party leader's speeches tend to suffer as the leader doesn't control everything as such, so all they can do is talk about their record (if they're in power) or criticise the others (if they are not). Labour have been in power foralmost seven years and still people have't forgotten what a shower the Tories were when they ran the roost. But IDS... He just doesn't seem to have any skill at delivering speeches. When he had to sound angry he sounded mildly petulent, about as emotional as the shipping forecast. He did a little better with a few ad libs and jokes, but when he was attacking Blair over the Kelly Affair he didn't sound as though he believed what he was saying. No wonder Michael Portillo has risen to take a pop at him...

Otherwise, read Simon Hoggart's impression of the speech: It was like being lectured for more than an hour by a very angry Dalek... His message was clear. "Tony Blair is a liar. Tories trust the people. I can't climb stairs."

Thursday, October 09, 2003

OK, some unashamed career-related geekjoy coming here. I've just come across Collect Britain, a project by the British Library to put their special collections material on to the web for free, much like they'd already done with their Online Lindisfarne Gospels. Although an incomplete work-in-progress (there's some stuff listed that won't be available until late 2004) some of the items already available are great, such as the Maps of London or Pictures and Drawings From India and South Asia in the 19th Century.

You do realise I don't know whether this is good or bad...
Ted: Food & Wine Connoisseur

Which Member from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is your type?
brought to you by Quizilla

Michael Moore's got a new book out. There's an interview on the Guardian website to promote it. He's also going to be appearing at the Orange International Writers Season in London this November.

Resist Bush! 19-21 Nov. Mass Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Buckingham Palace 19 Nov.

Hi everyone

At a London anti-war meeting last Thursday, it was decided to initiate proposals for open nonviolent mass actions to greet President Bush during his visit.

(This was a meeting of London GROW or Grassroots Opposition to War, a grassroots anti-war network which just organised the Grassroots Activist Conference in London 26-28 Sept.)

After a discussion at Saturday's London Social Forum, several activists (from JNV and other groups) decided to (a) call some meetings and (b) make a proposal for a framework.

Name for this initiative is currently, 'Resist Bush'.

7pm, Thursday 16 October, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London (near Holborn tube). Most likely the first of several meetings.

2) PROPOSAL: Buckingham Palace, Day 1, 19 November

We are suggesting that there be a day of action centred on Buckingham Palace on the first day of Bush's visit. We are suggesting

(a) an open, mass action with announced gathering point(s) (despite all the downsides of this, we think there are people who are just starting out on nonviolent civil disobedience who would appreciate this kind of opportunity)

and, in parallel, (b) a call for autonomous affinity groups to carry out nonviolent actions around, at and maybe inside Buckingham Palace during the day.

We would stress that this is a call for NONVIOLENT action. A proposed definition of 'nonviolence' is 'action which does not harm or degrade any human being'.

There are two other days to think of other parts of London, other focuses and (maybe) other styles of action. If you have suggestions for these other days, please come on the 16th for us to sort out coordination/keeping things distinct.

We should also stress that this is an open planning process. We realise that a lot of covert (probably small-group) actions will take place independently of this process. We propose that these meetings are only for discussing open actions, and for sorting out the coordination/distinction stuff.

So this proposal is supported right now by Justice Not Vengeance (JNV) and by the Pledge of Resistance. If your group would like to support it, please subscribe to our email list

We hope to have a website up soon, if you can help with this, please let us know via the e-list!

We are aiming to circulate the details of people willing to preparation/nonviolence training/legal briefing for affinity groups coming to Buckingham Palace. It's safer and more fun if you come in an affinity group: please think about setting one up if you haven't already got one going, and having a preparation session.

Many thanks
Milan Rai and Jonathan Stevenson (JNV), Gabriel Carlyle and Sian Glaessner (Voices in the Wilderness UK), and others.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Oliver Letwin is entering in the spirit of things at the Tory Party Conference. He's fully aware, unlike his leader and party chairperson, that the Tories are not going to win the next election even if Labour and the Lib Dems pulled out and started to campaign full time on their behalf. So the important thing for Letwin isn't to come up with policies that he'll put in to practice as Home Secretary, but to come up with policies that are popular with the party so he can replace Ian Duncan Smith as party leader. Therefore we have ludicrous but popular suggestions such as banishing all asylum seekers to a mythical island while their claims are processed. Personally I would suggest Fraggle Rock. Transport there would be a problem but at least they could run the lighthouse and they can live off of roasted Fraggle which tastes like chicken, so I'm told.
(Slightly worryingly, the closest David Blunkett comes to an opinion on this idea is "Until the Tories name where this place will be they will have no credibility in claiming they can process claims offshore," a spokesman for Mr Blunkett said. Maybe I'm being suspicious but that sounds rather like Blunko saying that it's not actually a bad idea just currently not implementable, so look for this in New Labour's Election manifesto)

The idea of semi-independence for police forces is interesting. Letwin seems to have stolen the idea from Labour, when Gordon Brown gave independence to the Bank of England to change the interest rates. This meant he couldn't get blamed for the decisions the BoE made. If the police force is no longer centrally controlled by the Home Office then it might mean that the Police are run by people who know what they are doing rather than by knee-jerk political playing to the gallery. But for a Home Secretary to give up control of the police would mean giving up the prestige of the number three job in the country, the Home Secretary would become Minister for Prisons and Being Nasty to Asylum Seekers and become less relevent in the Cabinet than the Leader of the House. Letwin is free to suggest it because by the time the Tories are in a position to implement it he won't be the one loosing half his responsibilities.

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