Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Anyway, happy 'randomly-chosen-and-designated-'first'-day-out-of-three-hundred-and-sixty-five-options' Earthlings...

Surprisingly, this report that MI6 planted stories in the media about Iraq having WMD in the late ninties isn't getting reported much in the UK and US. I wonder why that is?

Oh look, it's Liam Lynch. They managed to hold off on that one longer than I expected. Time for more wine.

While threats of violence are going too far, I find it difficult to find much sympathy for the racist little tosspot who is having difficulty at school for his views. It does seem that he's lit the firework, failed to step back and is now whining because it's exploded in his face. He shouldn't be surprised, invivting an NRA rep to make a presentation based on the idea that if teachers were armed that would stop tragedies like Columbine. Whether trying for parity of armament on the teachers side to match that of the student's is necessarily the right way to go, what about Class Marshall's disguised as pupils who can shoot any pupil who acts suspiciously?

Well, at least he admits he's a stupid evil bastard... What not to do when watching 'Return of the King'.

MTV2 seems to have surrendered to the 'Axis of Evil', namely that in the last half hour we've had Tenacious D's 'Tribute', two Foo Fighters videos (including that plane one with the Tenacious D boys in) and we'll probably have Liam 'Whatever' Lynch up in a minute too. Hmmm, VH-1 Classic has the original Tears For Fears version of 'Mad World'...

There's an article in the Washington Post about Bush hating yet, while there is truth to this, it somehow fails to convince. The two groups of people the writer identifies (and the second, bloggers, aren't mentioned but their existence is implied) are extremely small segments of the world population, he seems to fall into the trap of many journalists (just as many bloggers do too) of over-estimating the size of his cohort. Yes, journalists are important to the process, it was The Sun wot saved John Major's political arse in the 1991 election but to base an article on Bush-hatred on the odd person willing to stick their head above the parapit to have a pop is the wrong way to go about it, after all, what about the scads of journos willing to have Dubya's babies over the last three years, reproductive equipment willing or no? Admittedly, to write such an article would have required doing research beyond reading the local newspapers and hey, it's Christmas, who wants to bother with that?

Well, I've installed the Freeserve Broadband modem and it hasn't buggered everything else up, which is good. I'm not on the service yet, unsurprisingly as they say it could take up to ten days and I've only been waiting four so far.

As is probably surprising to none of the four of you who read this blog, I'm not out 'larging it up' tonight. Frankly, going out partying on New Years Eve is quite frankly ridiculous, everywhere ispacked and prices are up by a zillion percent. So it's just me, some wine and a couple of vids. And, it would seem, Cyprus Hill and some incredibly silly beards on MTV2.

Jackson 'brainwashed by black separatists'. You're too late you know, you're not going to get him back now...

US Spammer complains new laws will make his work more difficult, conspicuous lack of mourning from world. [via Slashdot.]

I saw a report in the Independent while I was 'on holiday' saying that with the outbreak of new generation TV recorders that can screen out the ad breaks, advertisers were now considering giving up on TV advertising. Similarly, Microsoft were supposed to be thinking of charging everyone for the honour of sending an email in the hopes of driving spammers to the poor house. It'll never happen, but isn't it nice to consider the prospect of a world without advertising?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Inflatable Jelly-Moulds of Jesus, what are these people doing in the library? I'm here because I have to be, what are these people doing here by choice? It's cold and raining outside, if I had any choice I'd be wrapped up in bed with a hot water bottle and a big bottle of that wine my prospective brother-in-law introduced me to over Christmas. Anyway, quiz-time, courtesy of Nina.

1. What did you do in 2003 that you'd never done before?

Bicon, without a doubt. I don't want to go into it all again, but although I've never been ashamed of my sexuality it did make me realise that I have been neglecting that aspect of myself to concentrate on other things, which possibly wasn't a good idea.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My only resolution for 2003 was to cut out sweets from my diet, which was pretty succesful until the Summer when I had a binge, then stopped again as Winter came in. So far my only resolution for 2004 is to cut fizzy drinks out of my
diet, except when I'm in filthpubs with mates and have no choice. But I'm also considering making myself get out of the house and do something at least once every other weekend, above and beyond whatever other plans I make
to meet up with people. It's ridiculous that I've got one of the largest cultural cities in the world to the south of me, lots of which it costs relatively little to see and I let sloth and lethargy stop me from seeing it.

Actually, another resolution should be to email the people in my address book more often, and not just to pass on the latest comedy email. If the families of the 21st century are friends rather than blood kin, then I've been neglecting my 21st century family chronically over the last year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not really. My cousin and his wife had their second, but I only heard of it in dispatches.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Nan. I've had three dreams involving her and her death, which is rare as I almost never dream about real people, more often than not just identityless or made-up characters. In one case she was coming back for a party, in one case she was still living in her house, despite being dead and the last had her little semi-detached turned into a school for teenagers, now she wasn't there any more. Verr strange, as absolutely no-one would say. I'm possibly mis-remembering half-forgotten dreams but I think there was a cat in each of them, she certainly didn't have any pets while I was alive.

5. What countries did you visit?

Absolutely none, physically anyway. Me and travelling don't get on well. I must admit I don't feel a desire to travel at the moment, not even the 'flight to the sun' impulse. When the grisly totalitarian nightmare future of Star Trek descends upon us all and we can beam instantly somewhere, then I'll be interested.

6. What would you like to have in 2004 that you lacked in 2003?

The inclination to write and less of a need to sleep so I can stay up late writing, have a few hours sleep, then wake up refreshed and ready for work the next morning.

7. What date from 2003 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Hmmm, I may return to this at a later date. I've had some good experiences and whatnot, but at the moment I can't think of anything particularly 'standout'y.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving it. 2003 hasn't been a particularly bad or good year but in too many ways it's been like a hiatus year, which is what led to me stressing out the week before Christmas. Too much waiting for stuff. Of course, saying this sort of thing is just an incitement for the big wobbly spirits make 2004 a living hell that makes me look back in fondness on the blankness of this year, but I'm trying to think positively.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not writing much. Not getting my bloody pointless Chartership from CILIP.

Living alone could fit in to either of the last two, depending on my mood.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Well, I had that strange cold that kept ebbing and flowing during the year, turning up whenever it was most inconvenient. I hope that doesn't continue into the new year or, if it does, that it becomes worse so that I can actually take some symptoms to the Doctor and be told that I have a genuine problem.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Some stunning skirts.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Plums, who has been unceasingly above and beyond the call all year, with the prodding of my buttocks with a sharp stick when I needed it, or the big hugs when I needed them. She's the Galadriel to my Frodo, just without the scary
lighting. Or am I Gimli? Hang on, maybe I'm Pippin... oh sod it, I'm confused now. She's Frodo and I'm Gollum. My precious...

Mentions must also go out to Saxey and Haus, winners of 2003's 'Most scary, tall and invariably dressed in black without being Goths' couples event, and to the lovely Angel. You're all my bitches.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Bush, Blair... How could they manage to make such a pigs ear of wanting to go to war against one of the most hated people in the world? Is it because of the out-and-out contempt they showed for everyone else? The fact that there was never any doubt that we were going to war? The fact they used arguments which didn't stand up for a minute? The fact that Iraqis were, are and will die because of this and they never gave a shit? The fact that Bush and Blair are both using this to clamp down on the freedoms of their populations like they were some tinpot third world dictator and most people (yes David 'stupid self-satisfied goatea' Aaronvitch, I'm looking at you, and you as well Chris Hitchens) think it's okay because Saddam was a bad man too. I'd pay good money if the next time Bush gives one of his little speeches in front of people who wouldn't dare to disrupt things by doing something like moving suddenly, we could pipe in the soundtrack from one of those Nuremberg rallies, see if a sudden chorus of 'Seig Heil! Seig Heil' makes the monster loose his grip for a moment and salute back.

Honourable mention to David Blunkett for his policy of 'Doing whatever The Sun and the Daily Mail want me to'. If there's an illegal immigration problem in this country it is because those two papers created it, I object to Government money being used to demonise honest people because it's the only way those two papers are allowed to be openly rascist any more.

And to a much much lesser extent, Grant Morrison. I don't know whether working on movies in America is taking up too much of his time, but he's spent the last year putting out comics that make no sense and lack cohesiveness.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Technically, food. But I probably bought more DVDs than strictly necessary, I could do with cutting them out for a couple of months and getting down to working my way through the two dozen or so books I've got on my shelf, some of which have been there for two years.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Seeing friends. The Two Towers DVD. The Return of the King. The return of The Matrix which was a partially satisfying experience.

16. What song will always remind you of 2003?

Anything by The Darkness. In seven years time, when they do 'I heart the Noughties' The Darkness will get their five minutes and we'll all go, "what was it that made us like them?"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Neh. Probably marginally sadder.

ii. thinner or fatter?

People tell me I'm thinner, though I can't see it myself. Probably a little healthier, so maybe my fat is more equally distrbuted over my body.

iii. richer or poorer?

Technically richer, though at the moment my bank account is probably about what it was last year. Must stop spending money...

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Spent more time with friends, written more. Tried that whole 'getting a life' thing that seems to be so popular with das kids these days.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Sitting around moaning about not having a life.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

Spent opening presents and scoffing turkey with family.

22. Did you fall in love in 2003?

Hang on, what happened to 21?

23. How many one night stands?

We're lacking one question in the twenty-one departments. Um, none. Celibate when I started the year, celibate as I ended it. You may scoff but this time next year you'll all be doing it, as I do whatever is necessary to sunder your relationships beyond any hope of repair.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?

Did anything light my fire this year? Buffy was awful, Angel dull, Enterprise plodding along... Two of the three best shows were repeats, Alistair Cooke's America and Edge of Darkness, otherwise, of course, it had to be Little Britain.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?


26. What was the best book you read?

This year? There's been so many it's hard to remember, possibly Chris Tolkien's books on the development of his father's Lord of the Rings, or From Caucasia With Love by Danzy Senna?

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Possibly the Scissor Sisters, though really that's going to be confirmed or disproved in 2004. This has mainly been an 'as you were' year music wise, getting hold of artists back catalogues (like the Dandy's excellent first album Come Down), but Elbow and Amon Tobin get a shout, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

28. What did you want and get?

29. What did you want and not get?

That puppy in the window, the one with the waggly tail...

30. What was your favourite film of this year?

Return of the King. I would argue that these are the most important genre films bar none, and deserve to be considered one of the best films of all time.

Honourable mentions to; Pirates of the Carribean, The Matrix Reloaded, because it didn't make a balls up of the story like it's sequel.

31. What did you do on your birthday?

I don't recall. I suspect there was presents and general wishing I knew more people.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A complete body transplant. That's not actually a joke.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2003?

'On the right lines'.

34. What kept you sane?

Insanity being too tiring.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Orlando Bloom and Jonny Depp in a big Pirates of the Carribean sandwich.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

The bombing of Iraq, the arrival and feting in this country of an international terrorist.

37. Who did you miss?

Auntie Skater. She was around when I was working I think...

38. Who was the best new person you met?


39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2003.

"You've already made the choice. Now you have to understand it."

It was a valuable lesson right, not the valuable lesson?

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"I don't like these days they make me feel so small."

Bonkers LotR related theory ahoy! Lord of the Rings is racist, and it's all the fault of the Freemasons.

Hmmm. Main UK pilots union tells it's members not to fly with armed sky marshalls on board. Disappointingly it seems that BALPA are not holding out for the abandoning of the Sky Marshalls carrying guns in favour of something less punctuating the side of the plane like pepper spray or tazers, but as the US government are insisting that this should be in place on all flights coming to the country the union is calling for a world summit of pilots unions. Could there be a worldwide strike?

Monday, December 29, 2003

I can't remember if I've mentioned them before or not, so in case I haven't, Spy Blog has extremely good analysis of the ways and means the UK Government tries to take away our liberties.

'I blow you a kiss, it should reach you tomorrow, as it flies from the other side of the world.'
- Elbow, 'Fugitive Motel'.

That one's for Plums as she's gone on her little holiday. I've suddenly discovered I like Elbow and have been listening to their Cast of Thousands album. It wasn't a Christmas present, I got it from the library just before I left and have probably been giving it more listening time than either Blur's Think Tank or the Dandy's Welcome to the Monkey House (and that was a mistake, making a Christmas present list for my parents before I actually got to hear it). It's fragile bleakness is most appealing.

Anyway, yes, I'm back. Christmas was a pretty good one really, with one exception which I'll come to momentarily. No family crises, which might have been due to only having stayed with the parentals for five days. But Jesus, people in Maidstone are the rudest bunch of fuckers on the planet! Now, I've complained about Maidstone before, and rightly so as it is a terrible little pisshole which would see carpet bombing as a step up, but we went in on Saturday for the annual returning and swapping of the unwanted/wrong Christmas presents. Now, even allowing for people being a little bit tense because of post-Christmas bargains to be had, you'd have thought they would have made some allowance for the fact that we were pushing our Mum around in a wheelchair. Nope. We had to fight for practically every inch of space we covered, and that was just outside. I opened a door and people were scooting through as though I was a doorman or something. When I let it go, did the gormless cow coming through catch it? Nope, it banged into her and she acted as though I should have waited until the end of the day before moving from the spot. This seems to be a particular kind of idiocy which they must breed for in Maidstone, I haven't found it in other parts of the county, like Chatham or Dover.

Anyway, I come home this Christmas to find Dad's big idea is broadband. His idea of the internet is somewhat sketchy, but he seems to think that paying £28 to Freeserve each month is a great idea for Broadband. So we're walking through 'the Chequers Centre' (think central Baghdad with more tinsel) and decide to pop into Dixons. And we end up buying the last two Broadband Freeserve boxes, because for some reason I've decided that I'd also like to pay Freeserve more money.

Well, registering with Freeserve certainly was easy, but we had fun and games with everything else. I haven't tried connecting my modem up yet, mainly because I want to post this message in case it turns out to be my last communique. But the cables you get with the box are far too short, the one for connecting to the phone socket assumes that your computer is about two inches away from your phone socket, so we had to go to PC World the next day for longer cables. Dad assured me that the 'just short of five metres' long cable would also be fine for my flat, I took some small pleasure in proving that was incorrect when we got back here today. Anyway, once the wires were also sorted out, I tried to install the software yesterday on Dad's laptop. Although the Autorun didn't (and the instructions helpfully assume that you will have Autorun working, so don't tell you which files to run), I was doing pretty well, until halfway through the installation of the modem it decided it needed files from the 'Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition' CD-ROM. Which my Dad never got, because he got the laptop through a friend of the family. Phoning around friends and relatives didn't do much good, although we did find someone who is going to try installing Windows 2000 on the laptop which he thinks will solve the problem.

But Freeserve make it a part of the proceedure that you HAVE to sign up FOR A MIMIMUM CONTRACT OF 12 MONTHS BEFORE you can install the software and modem. Paying money for something that doesn't work is one thing, but committing to pay over £300 when you haven't yet established that the stuff works seems rather a dodgy practice. I suppose we've only got ourselves to blame. Anyone else thinking of Freeserve Broadband (additional keywords: danger, warning, problem, problems, subscription), be warned!

Anyway, we drove to my place today, the car downloaded with presents and whatnot, such as The Pythons Autobiography, by the Pythons, another book about Monty Python's Flying Circus but a good one, copies of Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass and, from my sister's boyfriend History in Quotations, a monster tome which, as it's name suggests, looks at historical events through the eyes of those who lived them. I also got a Father Ted DVD, Eddie Izzard's 'Sexie' DVD and Pop Art, the Pet Shop Boys video retrospective, which I've been watching with their commentary over the top. I also got a new computer chair as my old one was moulting.

But yes, so I tried to lay out the extension cable to connect the modem by my computer to the phone socket. Just under five metres turned out to be way too short. Dad tried to encourage me to move my room around completely to accomodate it but it just wasn't possible, the cable had been so tightly bound that it was in large curls which we couldn't unwind, so all I needed to do was stumble one day and I'd rip the cable out and do damsge to my computer and/or the phone socket. So all we could do was drive to my local PC World, through the rush hour traffic, for longer cable. I'd phoned PC World ahead and been told that they had loads of different cables at different sizes and they could even cut me a length to suit if needbe. When I got there I found they didn't do cutting and the only length in, 9 metres, didn't have the right attachment at the end, though once I managed to find an assistant who a) wasn't helping someone else already and b) knew his way around the store (I had two who claimed they didn't know where anything was in the store, not very assisting there), he managed to find me an adapter. Anyway, it stretches all the way to where the computer is so there's no need to move anything round, but I'm probably not going to risk installing the broadband stuff tonight, I don't think I could take it if something went wrong. Also, although Freeserve is set-up to take your first subscription money from the instant you phone up and register (and they insist you must do so within forty-eight hours of purchasing the set), you don't actually get Broadband access for anything up to ten days, so no hurry yet.

For most of us, if we get drunk at a Christmas party that probably means we told the boss what we really thought of him and made a pass at someone we shouldn't have. If you get drunk at the Transport Ministry end-of-term knees up you could wake up to find that the previous day you put into place some incredibly insane policy. Such as armed 'Sky Marshalls' on British flights. I mean, what planet does Alistair Darling have to be orbiting if he thinks this 'would reassure passengers'? You have a, relatively speaking, fragile highly pressurised metal tube, and now you want people carrying guns that, if accidentally fired or fired at someone who might be a terrorist but misses, could break that seal and kill everyone on board? Plus, these Marshalls are going to 'pose as passengers', who in a crisis will know which passangers are terrorists and which are Marshalls? And wouldn't the threat of their presence make terrorists work harder to subdue the passengers and, if they find the Marshalls first, give them guns to use?

What's the next great policy move? 'John Prescott announces that a large stock of semtex will be left unguarded beneath the Houses of Parliament. "Safest place for it" announced Mr. Prescott before eating a baby and belching.'

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Here's a suggestion for next year. Move the giving of presents to your family and friends back by a fortnight. That way, you can buy Christmas presents at the January sale and take advantage of the fact that, as I saw today with the prezzies me and mine gave one another, the whopping big discounts being offered on them. And try to persuade your relatives not to shop at MVC, as if you want to swap it for something else you'll have a devil of a time finding something in there, amongst the Dido CDs and Austin Powers 2 DVDs worth swapping it for.

Well, I'm having a great Christmas, enlivened by yet more proof that the US Government was once less concerned about what Saddam Hussein did with chemical weapons than it claims now. One of Donald Rumsfeld's trips to Iraq back in the day was to assure Hussein that America's condemnation of his chemical weapon attacks was only for show. No wonder Hussein was surprised when people took his invasion of Kuwait the wrong way.

When conservatives feel rattled enough by proof of US/UK wrongdoings in this area they quite often use the 'our dealings with iraq were ancient history' and 'things have changed since Sept. 11th' excuses to brush it under the carpet. Somewhat ironic seeing as the leaders of the Allies make so much of their religious beliefs, dating back some two thousand years, or even longer if they try to justify why it's okay to be a Christian and want to kill people.

Meanwhile it looks like they've left the junior work-experience worker to write this article on murders of transpeople in America. Very impressively they manage to refer to transmen as 'she' and 'her' and transwomen as 'he' and 'his'. I hope they got lumps of coal in their stockings for that one.

Enjoy Winterval!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Well, as this is the last thing I'll be posting for a day or two, it only remains for me to wish you all compliments of the season, and those of you who believe in such things, happy Christmas pudding day!

Before I finally get to leave for MY Christmas holiday, The condensed Return of the King.

There's currently a difference of opinion amongst bored library staff today about whether the small child on the cover of the esteemed organ of our library union is 'cute and adorable', 'sitting on a potty' or 'looking at the person taking the photo with the cold, dead eyes of a killer'. What do you think?

And while I'm pretending to be professional, there's an article here on library-related blogs, though mainly US-based. Trying to find UK library blogs on Google doesn't seem to get anything much.

If Bush and Blair were 'fooled' in to believing that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, maybe Hussein was too. A fun idea, but based on the assumption that Hussein was lying every time he did something to show his country had no WMD, the Allies were never able to prove, before or after, that there was anything in the country.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Don't you hate it when you assume the company firewall will stop anything smutty from making it to your screen and then it doesn't? Still, it's Christmas...

What posesses someone to make an exhaustive list of all the priests in Father Ted? [via Linkmachinego]

Sheesh. A teachers' union has called for a ban on mobile phone cameras in schools, amid fears that the images could be used by paedophiles. The SSTA press release. This is just crazy. Follow this logic and we incarcarate all children in prison camps for the whole of their adolescent lives, only releasing them to the sun and the outside world when they turn eighteen. Picture phones supposedly lead to an unacceptible danger of paedophiles using them to get their rocks off, though from what I've seen of them the paedo would have to get within a few feet of kids to actually take a decent picture, one would hope there was a teacher around who would notice such a thing going on. This is like the suggestion that video cameras should be banned from school assemblies and christmas plays in case the tapes got passed on to paedophiles. Has research been done on whether paedophiles find a kid dressed up as Joseph sexually stimulating? As far as I was aware, being a paedophile does not mean you find ALL children sexually arousing, just as being heterosexual means you find ALL MOTOS devastatingly attractive.

In her latest entry (geez, can't you split them up or something? < g >) Creepy says:

Transsexuals I've never understood.
They should have a whole category of their own in my opinion.
I'm not trying to exclude - I just think that sticking transsexuals with the gays makes their life a sexual issue rather than a gender issue.
And surely it's the gender bit that's important to them?

I've always thought of this from the opposite direction myself, but then in my view sexual identity is a subdivision of gender identity. Considering the 'gay liberation movement' was kicked off by those high-kicking drag queens at Stonewall, the links between the two communities aren't as forced and unnatural as she seems to think. Yes, it causes problems, but then I'm guessing Creepy doesn't wear too many skirts or dresses, which if so makes her a tranny too. Loving someone of the same gender is as transgressive as wearing the clothes of what society insists is the 'other gender'. Sex is all about what you do with your bits, gender is all about the mind baby. Shazam!

Matrix parodies may be ten-a-penny, but this one is brilliant.

The US and UK's new best friend still has a poor human rights record, WMDs or no WMDs. Can we expect the usual handwashing that comes with such countries when Bush doesn't want to invade, human rights are 'an internal matter', we'll try and encourage Colonel Gaddafi to introduce human rights by being nice to him and giving him cash and welcoming him back into the human rights community... As Calpundit shows, the Bush regime doesn't much care for human rights abuses really and the UK famously decided an 'ethical foreign policy' was inconpatible with the main function of the Foreign Office, helping British business sell to bastards.

UPDATE: Noam Chomsky on, primarily, Paul Wolfowitz.

Monday, December 22, 2003

And in another of our series of 'short posts written when we're tired that we'll probably never get round to writing more about later', I've just got back from seeing Return of the King. There are few words to describe what Peter Jackson has achieved. But in the last half hour or so I cried, several times for deep dark pain and sorrow, and several times for joy. These words are bandied around so much in our culture today that they are meaningless, but 'LotR' is a classic. It outshines everything else, it exposes The Matrix and Star Wars as the little piddling pieces of crap that they are. We have our first true classic of the twenty-first century and only the snobbery of those who dislike 'genre' films (as if there is any film that is not a type of genre film) will deny it it's place as one of the best filmic experiences in the history of the medium.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Just returned from seeing Eddie Izzard's new show Sexie in Wembley. Absolutely wonderful. While comedy might have changed while he's been off trying to be a movie star he's still the best there is at what he does. Jokes about the fake breasts he's wearing as part of his costume, the siege of Troy and Odyseus, flies, cro-magnon man, horses and much more besides.

And here's a tip. If you face the prospect of being put right at the back of a large venue, get a disabled relative or mate to come with you. If you don't have a disabled relative or friend, find someone close to you and cripple them. If you take them along to the venue and appeal to the box office manager then she might be able to put you in the disabled area which is right near the front at the side of the stage. Thank God Dad didn't listen to me when I talked about how we probably didn't need to take Mum's wheelchair.

And this unofficial House of Commons 2004 calender is definitely not worksafe but very funny.

Woman wins TV 'Pop Idol' show, media goes on about how she's a large lady. Rather her than the BBC's Jane Warr who's so thin you can see her ribs. Still, it's better than the Guardian's take which seems to exude disapproval from every paragraph without actually saying anything mean.

Had a great time at S's Chrimble party in Brixton last night. Can you get high from passive dope smoking? Anyway, food was wonderful, company entertaining, then hurried along to the tube station to get one of the last trains north before they shut the station for three weeks to get rid of some asbestos they found in the escalators. I'd forgotten how noisy the trains are on the Victoria line, was shouting to make myself heard with B and this morning I'm trying to soothe my throat better.

Anyway, I know I can always rely on Tory peers to cheer me up. Tory peers angry that Howard has allowed the party a free vote on a Bill that will extend equal rights to transsexuals.

The proposed legislation would enable a "sex-changed" person legally to marry someone of their own sex


Normally this is the cue for wails of "won't someone think of the children" from the Tory benches in the Lords but that doesn't seem to have occured in this case.

"I was very angry indeed," [Lady Blatch] said. "I would dearly like to see us whipped to vote against this Bill. I believe the legal and scientific arguments are so powerful against it, it should be defeated. We are talking about people who are particularly tragic

Gee thanks. I think that 'bitter old lady' look you're working really does wonders.

and who need a huge amount of support but this is not the way to do it.

I see. For 'support' read 'treatment in an asylum until they stop wanting to change sex'.

I think the arguments against this Bill are absolutely clear."

It's disappointing that the Telegraph don't print any arguments against the Bill.

Other Tory peers who oppose the party's position include Lord Tebbit, the former party chairman,

Now there's a surprise.

Baroness O'Caithlan, and Lord Moynihan, the Tory spokesman on sport, who said that it could lead to "chaos" in sports as men who changed sex were allowed to compete as women.

Of course. All m-to-f transsexuals are doing it for is the chance for a gold medal. All that stuff about growing up, knowing they were in the wrong body was just a load of guff. Interestingly, when you look at the Hansard record of what was said during the reading of this Bill (see below), this has been answered by the proposer of the Bill.

Lord Tebbit said that it could prevent the police from identifying the suspect in a murder hunt such as that in Soham if the killer had changed sex.

Oh please, this is nearly as bad as the government spokesdrone the other day who insisted, with no evidence, that ID cards would have prevented the girls being killed. And again, Lord Tebbit's objection is already dealt with in the Bill below.

And here is the relevent section from Hansard. Bigots can take some crumbs of comfort though.

The Bill must also account for the situation of transsexual people who are in an existing marriage. Such marriages will not be able to continue. The Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended that existing marriages should not have to end. However, there is an issue of principle at stake here. Marriage is an institution for opposite-sex couples. After recognition in the acquired gender is attained, if existing marriages could continue, these would become marriages between same-sex couples. The Government are not going to change the fundamental nature of the institution of marriage in this way.

The nub of the problem (and I suspect what often happens in Lord's debates about social issues) is summed up in a later speaker's words:

Transsexual people are not really trapped in the wrong body. The body is healthy and the physical appearance and chromosomes are all in agreement, which was beautifully described by the noble Lord, Lord Chan. Lobbyists to the Scottish Committee taking evidence on this Bill stated that:

"The situation is actually very simple, given that gender dysphoria is a medical condition like any other medical condition. Unfortunately, because it relates to gender, that makes everything complicated. Currently we do not have the right to have our true gender recognised. We object to the use of the phrases such as 'sex change'. We have not undergone a sex change, we have aligned our gender to our true gender, which is the one in which we should have been born but unfortunately were not'.

This is surely wrong. At the risk of being repetitious, gender dysphoria is not a medical condition. We are born either male or female. To quote from Genesis 1: 27:

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them".

So a non-medical book of extreme age and doubtful providence should trump the real-life experiences of identifiable people.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

So, is the news that Libya is giving up it's WMD program a triumph for Britain and the US in their War Against Terror, or Libya dumping a weapons program that was a load of cack for renewed access to international forums?

Friday, December 19, 2003

The man leading the US hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq is to resign. He feels there's a lack of seriousness in the US's desire to find WMD now they realise there probably aren't any so are reassigning staff and concentrating on other excuses such as human rights. Probably more of an inconvenience for Tony Blair than the Shrub.

Maxine Carr will get new identity on leaving prison to avoid revenge attacks. She could do with putting on a lot of weight, being given several cans of hair-spray and extensive plastic surgery, that sneering expression is practically as iconic as that Myra Hindley arrest shot.

Still, at least Ian Huntley knows his Mum won't desert him. "He's my baby boy and I love him but he deserves to be punished. He deserves to be strung up for what he's done. I wish there was an electric chair in this country that they could put him in and that would be the end of it." Just imagine what would happen if this all turned out to be a miscarriage of justice...

Thank Any Passing Deity that this week has ended (me being one of those types that tends to follow the TV listings, so today is the last day of the week and tomorrow the start of the next one (phew, got out of that one)). I don't know why but I've been down all week. The trick has been to try and keep myself occupied. If I can do that then I'm just about okay, such as the usual pre-parental visit clean of the flat to try and cut down on the amount of time my Mum spends just tutting in disgust that I didn't inherit her standards of cleanliness (or crucially, her habit of getting someone to come round once a week to clean her house). The suspected leaking pipe/washing machine now appears to be just a puddle of water from when I last mopped the kitchen floor and I've now got the docking port thing for my digital camera working. If I can just deal with the mindcrushing boredom of my life then I'll be fine (and yes, I say that despite having a computer, telly, DVDs, CDs, books, videos and any other amount of crap. Will I throw it away and become an ascetic? What do you think I am, nuts?). I'm not entirely sure why this is a problem, boredom and I normally get on very well, we exchange cards at Christmas and birthdays, he invited me to his son's bahmitzvah and all, but this week he seems to have turned on me.

I guess my stress levels have just been upped by everyone else being hyped up about Christmas. I don't particularly dislike it but I do find it difficult to deal with people who make a huge fuss over it. The threat of closing a shop or a public building for a day or two over Christmas seems to drive people mental... "Sainsbury's are closed for twenty four hours! Shit! What if we all develop a strange craving for Ryvita smeared with boot polish? Buy the whole stock of Ryvita and boot polish just in case! And all the pet food too! But we don't even have a dog!" or "I'd like to renew my library books please. Are you open on Christmas day? No? Well, can you give me an extra month of my books just in case my house gets sucked into a temporal vortex on Boxing Day and I'm unable to escape for twenty-eight days."

And Christmas adverts... This year they seem to be making a big push of all the pretentious frangrance ones, why don't they just go that little bit further and actually name the frangrances after sex acts, as they use them in the adverts to sell them? 'Fisting' from Jean-Paul Gautier, 'Felching- Your Fragrence, Your Rules' from Tommy Girl. Do you remember those adverts Keith Chegwin used to do in the 80s about how it was a crime to do misleading adverts? Well surely that Lynx advert which suggests that anyone who sprays themself with one of those cans will get sexy page three pin-ups delivering them pizza is liable under that? I tried it and all I got was Gollum with a month-old dead rat. Still, he's got a very flexible tongue. That's another frangrance isn't it? A bottle with 'Rimm' in white letters, then 'el' in red letters and 'ing' in black underneath.

In an enjoyable example of Christmas hypocrisy, during this week the Daily Mail were blasting Chrimbo telly for a record number of repeats being scheduled for Christmas Day (how come 'Only Fools' is on again? Didn't they finish that with the entire cast killing itself in a death pact a few years ago?), then you turn on the telly and they're making a big thing of their X-Mas TV Guide, free with the Daily Mail.

Probably the best thing connected to the festive season so far, apart from the knowledge of the damage it's done to the careers of Julie Walters and Linda 'Always Cutting Prices' Barker, was the X-FM Breakfast Show Nativity Play this morning. Of course it was homophobic as anything, inside happily married heterosexual Christian O'Connoll there's a shy little boy just looking for a Daddy to take care of him, but who thought it would be a good idea to get Johnny Vegas into a pub at breakfast time, give him a few drinks and then put a microphone in front of him and expect him to play Mary in a Nativity Play? The blog entry doesn't even give you the half of it, but have it anyway. Expect the fine from the Radio Authority to be suitably huge, partly for Johnny's swearing but also for Chris Smith's pisspoor impressions.

One of the best things I've seen all week, Lord of the Rings crossed with the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Even the commission Dubya set up thinks the Government should have been able to prevent the Sept. 11th attack on the World Trade Centre. With the news that the federal court has criticised Bush for denying Guantanamo Bay prisoners rights like access to lawyers and another court saying Bush can't have American citizens held as rightless 'enemy combatant's it's not been a good day for the Shrub. If he's got Osama Bin Laden held in another hole in the ground, he might want to consider pulling him up tomorrow morning.

The US will know the details of anyone flying from the EU as soon as they fly out. But no mention of whether there's a reciprocal arrangement with US citizens flying into Europe. The privacy issues not withstanding, what does the Department of Homeland Security expect to achieve with this, that they'll get early warning there might be trouble because someone's passport will list their occupation as 'hijacker and international terrorist'?

The games I've been playing when I should have been working TODAY have been from Playerthree and great fun they are too.

Everything seems to be breaking around me at the moment, the clothes line in the garden, the cord in my coat, the plug the other week, my health (maybe), something behind the washing machine (again maybe, and as I live in a rented place and none of my stuff is in any danger I'm going to wait and see). The days are really dragging at the moment, though maybe that's just because I've got an ever-so-exciting weekend to look forward to.

Looked at the timetable for work over the next fortnight, I'm down some hours but it's not too bad. We get to put down 7 hrs and 12 mins flexi for next Thursday and Friday when the library is closed all day. However, I should have done 10 hours next Thursday, so I'll be down a couple of hours. Next Wednesday, Chrimble Eve, we close early at 1:00 pm rather than 5:00. That goes down on our flexisheets as 4 hours work, so we all loose 3 hours there. Just shows you that the Council really know how to fill you with Christmas spirit...

Newspaper, give awards, people who write good, big words, pretty pictures, on computer.

It's weird. I don't like religion, I believe it to have caused more pain and suffering in the history of humanity than anything else, and I'll be happy when the last mosque/temple/church/synagogue is torn down to build playing areas for children. BUT, I'm deeply uneasy about this French ban on 'conspicuous religious images', possibly because it penalises Muslims and Jews more than other parts of society. If you can tuck your cross inside your clothes then you're all right. I presume that cardinals and churchmen won't be prevented from wearing their religious clothes in public, or monks or nuns, so why Muslim women are being penalised seems unfair. And what about Sikhs? Are those turbans too ostentatious? I suspect that the authorities will have a battle on their hands getting people to accept this.

>Circus to Iraq is a small group of activist-performers - fools, clowns, jugglers, unicyclists, stilt walkers and
>magicians - who will travel to Iraq in January 2004 to give performances and circus skills workshops to
>children traumatized by sanctions, war and its aftermath. They will give circus toys and humanitarian
>goods to the children and their families and, on their return, will carry out advocacy work for the rights of
>the Iraqi people based on their new understanding of the situation.

>Performances and workshops will take place primarily in camps of Internally Displaced Persons (refugees
>within the country, made homeless by bombing or post-war evictions) and children's shelters. Many of
>the children in the shelters are not strictly orphans but their families are simply too poor to keep them at
>home. Others have been living on the streets for some time, working as shoe shiners, selling or begging.
>Tragically there are also girls who were raped during the post-war chaos and, as a result, thrown out by
>their families in a society which regards them as useless if they are no longer marriageable.

>C2i is working in co-operation with groups such as the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, HELP (German
>NGO) and the Mine Education Group to identify groups of children and families who will benefit. It is hoped
>that, in certain areas, C2i will also help with cluster bomb awareness through performances.

>Group member Devilstick Peat has worked extensively in the Balkans and Northern Ireland with traumatized
>children. He writes:

>"There's got to be laughter. Even in Kosova, where unspeakable horrors happened, there was laughter.
>Wherever there's a darkness, be it war, famine, pestilence or poverty, laughter can bring HOPE.

>"We went to a small mountain village in Kosova once, just after the war. No one else had been there since
>the war ended. For over ten years the children had been taught to hide from strangers. If you don't, they
>will rape and slowly kill you.

>"Took us ages to get those kids to trust us enough to come and play, maybe an hour or so. The only place
>that was safe and mine free was a field outside the school, part of which was taken up by children's
>graves. At one point we had maybe 80 kids playing games with 3 parachutes. In the middle of this was an
>old man, his hands held out in front of him, palm upwards, tears were running down a face that was split
>in two by his smile as he slowly turned around and around, unable to believe what he saw.

>"I never thought I'd see the day when my grandchildren would laugh again. Thank you for returning them to the
>real world"

>The performers have raised the money to cover their own travel and in-country expenses but money is needed
>for the following:
>1. Equipment, such as parachutes for games.
>2. Circus toys. Supporters have made a lot of juggling sacks which are unfilled, for ease of carrying, so we
>will need to buy a lot of filling on arrival in Iraq.
>We would like to bring more toys as these were identified as one of the main needs for children in
>the IDP camps, who didn't even have footballs or soft toys.
>3. Humanitarian goods to give to the families of the children - although the circus is a project in its own
>right, where there is such desperate need we would like to be able to give blankets, clothes, gas,
>medicines and so on.

>There is no upper limit to the amount of money we would like to raise - the more we have, the more we
>can give. We would like to bring at least 1000 pounds sterling (there's no pound sign on the keyboards over
>here), which will all go directly to help Iraqi families.

>Donations can be sent to Circus2Iraq, c/o. Reading, International Solidarity Centre, 35-39 London Street,
>Reading, Berkshire, UK

>Vive la circo revolucion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

An alternative version of the tube map.

MP forgets difference between fantasy and reality, and no it's not Blunko, though he is involved. Dalip Tahil, who I understand plays a character in one of those 'soaps' that are so popular amongst you proles, has had his permit to work in the UK turned down and is due to be deported. Only Keith Vaz stands between him and his fate.

I have had a number of letters from constituents who like this character Dan Ferreira and they are very worried about the newspaper reports that he might be removed from the country. I saw David Blunkett about other matters today and I raised his case. I said because of his position and his popularity, what is the chance of extending his stay here? Lots of actors have work permits."

So, if you're an illegal immigrant and you fancy staying in this country, your chances will be helped if you can get a job on TV. Knowledge of the English language isn't necessary but if you can blag your way on to Big Brother you're sorted.

Powerpoint doesn't kill people, people kill people!

One of the popular memes making the rounds is that Powerpoint makes you dumb. Loate as I am to jump to the defense of Microsoft, it does seem to be that it's not their fault that people are lazy. They've developed a bit of software which, when used by people who understand the mechanics of how to make a presentation, what information goes in a presentation and what information you give out as supplementary notes or what not, is pretty good.

Herod Blunkett under pressure to shut down rightwing website after discovery of a 'hitlist' of targets. Aaah, R*dwatch (again, I'd rather not have people finding this blog when looking for that). I'm briefly mentioned on a R*dwatch related site. I never bothered to complain about it because luckily there's no important information about me on there and what there is is out-of-date. It's because I subscribe to the Mark Thomas mailing list which attracted the ire of one Ian Gomeche, an unpleasant individual from Scotland who, after having his journalism turned down by the mainstream media turned his attention to writing for R*dwatch instead in their 'noncewatch' division. Which is, strangely, where we ended up despite the list having no connections, beyond personal connections, to Anti-Nazi actions.

Fox news has an article about Conservatives doing bake sales at American universities. The catch is that if you're a white male you pay one price, if you're female you get it cheaper, and non-white cheaper still. The message being that affirmative action campaigns are unfair. Sadly it seems this humourous demonstration tactic has been met with po-faced anger and violence from the left, when the most obvious tactic would be to out-weird them. Get a load of coloured students, buy out the stock and sell them on cheaper than the original price. I don't know any figures but I would have hoped that the white male proportion of students were outnumbered by the female and/or non-white students. Maybe the universities chosen for this are bastions of white male power or something. But these types of demonstrations always sound to me like people screaming at white (and often straight too) men "Look out! The barbarians are coming to strip you of your unearned priviledges!".

Having said that, AA is quite a dangerous tool to use at times. All women shortlists are often used with blunt force trauma to increase the numbers of female MPs in Parliament. I'm not sure that saying "Who is the best woman to represent our party?" instead of "who is the best person?" is a good thing. It can spiral off into "does a disabled Asian woman get more points than a Black lesbian?" type imaginings.

And so the conspiracy theories start... Sullywatch has this entry on the belief that Hussein was kidnapped, not captured. So far I'm not convinced, it seems to rely on things like Saddam's daughters insisting he must have been drugged to have been so compliant with the US forces (not that, like most bullies, he was scared stiff when in genuine personal danger) and some cultural differences. Newsnight last night had some commentators that suggested that even the low-key handling of the news in defference to the Iraqi's was not enough, TV pictures of Saddam as the bearded tramp that shouts at people at the bus stop would have been offensive even to Iraqis who hated him, it's the 'he was a bastard, but he was our bastard' syndrome. I'm not so sure about this, despite them saying that in the Arab world President's tend to be for life, it's not like it's unknown for them to be overthrown. It may be more to do with the fact that it's the US that overthrew him.

If you're looking for a new tattoo (Auntie?), why not get in contact with this woman, she's looking for people to have words from her latest story tattoed on their bodies. [Thanks to Mannaz for the link]

There's a funny article in ZNet, Jessica Lynch captures Saddam, while here is Michael Moore's perspective. Unfortunately when I tried it, his link to the list of American companies that did business with Saddam's regime (like those dastardly French and Russians) wasn't working.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

< froth mode > Argh! Herod Blunkett in yesterday's Observer: I have to behave like a right-wing Nazi fuckhead because if I don't, we'll be voted out and replaced by other right-wing Nazi fuckheads but crucially, I won't have any power any more. He dares to invoke the image of the Jews in the 1930s to DEFEND his policies to deny asylum-seekers the means to properly argue their cases for staying in this country, to support themselves while waiting for their cases to be processed and taking their children away from them. Yet Herod admitted that he doesn't have any figures on the number of illegal immigrants coming in to this country so how can measures he suggest work, he's shadow boxing. And that can't be good when you're blind.

Why doesn't he set up one of his investigations? Like the one in ID cards, he just tells them what to say, they go away for a couple of months, then come back and say it. It's ever so easy.

According to News 24 Tony Blair says the WMD-sniffers have found a 'vast underground laboratory system'. Strangely the news isn't full of this, so I can only guess that this isn't the hoped for discovery of Hussein's WMD program. The fact that news of apparent links between Hussein and Al Qa'ida has similarly failed to set the newswires alive makes me wonder what's going on. Of course the Allies might be waiting for the afterglow over Hussein's capture to fade before they set it alight again, but I'm sure even the UK would have heard if Bush had his 'links' evidence, and similarly I can't believe Blair would sit on evidence of WMD programs as the Hutton enquiry report next month could do his Government serious damage.

I suspect that this thing will never be fully proved one way or another. Or rather, there will be elements that allow Blair and Bush to say "See? There were WMD/links to terrorism" but at the same time elements that allow doubters to go "See? There never were WMD/links to terrorism".

I'm a bit wary of mentioning it in case I jinx it, but the amount of spam I've received in the last few days has dropped down to pretty much zero, and I'm using Hotmail. Don't tell me those anti-spam laws actually worked?!

Warren Ellis isn't going to be the new writer on X-Men when Grant Morrison's run as writer comes to an end in a few issues time. This probably isn't news to most people, neither do they care. On his mailing list Warren wrote about what the stance would be were he to write the book, reprinted here at Millarworld. I don't particularly care because even the appointment of God as replacement writer after Morrison wouldn't persuade me to relapse into forty years of continuity on a permanent basis again.

But stirring though Ellis' essay is, it also highlights that were he to write the X-Men, it would be crap.It's difficult to talk about things in the teeny tiny little world of comics but most of what Ellis has written in the past was shit. Transmetropolitan, the title that made him started off fairly well, then after three fairly good years is ruined by Ellis writing the equivelent of prog rock, one year in the real world is equivelent to one year in the comic, and four or five issues are taken up with events that happen over one week in the comic world. What I've seen of the long-delayed Planetary look amazing but in many ways his best work was in the silly-tights world of Stormwatch some four or five years ago. I never read the title before his stuff, but he wrote a tightly scripted couple of years worth of stories about what a band of super-heroes would be like if they worked for the United Nations (Unsurprisingly their biggest headache involves their relationship with the U.S).

Ellis is good at aspirational essays and rants about why things are wrong in whatever field he feels like concentrating at the time. His Die Puny Humans blog often shows a ferocious throughput of ideas (and acts of self-fellating egoism), but like Grant Morrison, he trips up when it comes to putting these ideas into a story.

I think I've commented before on Black Horse Westerns writers knowledge of and use of double entendres, here's another one I noticed.

In an attempt to restore the Christmas spirit, play with this snowglobe.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Aargh! Fuck! I think I've gone deaf! It took me twenty precious seconds to reach the controls when The Idols 'Happy X-Mas' came on TV. That's about nineteen seconds too late.

While the US administration has been admirably insistant that Saddam Hussein should be tried in a local court for local people some people have been expressing doubt as to whether the Iraqi legal system is in a fit state to try Hussein after years of Hussein being the law. I just hope that in a few weeks or months this won't be used as the excuse to try Hussein in something that's an American court in all but name. It's also a shame that the UK, anxious not to spoil the mood, will stay silent on the issue of Saddam probably facing death penalty. As Hussein isn't going to be tried in any kind of court over which we have authority I don't see why we can't at least say that we don't support the death penalty. Although it's always a worry that Herod Blunkett will hear reports of Saddam risking execution and go 'now that's an idea'...

Donald Rumsfeld today announced that Saddam Hussein would be treated as a prisoner of war, an interesting decision as I didn't think that the US was any more at war with Iraq than it had been with Afghanistan. Hopefully he wasn't announcing this while somewhere away from the world's cameras two burly GIs were working Hussein over with baseball bats. The UK Government has been frank in admitting it doesn't believe Hussein will give any useful information about it's Weapons of Mass Destruction, more of a problem over here than in America where Tony Blair's insistence that he had WMD remains in everyone's mind because of the death and investigation into the death of the Advisor David Kelly. Hussein has apparently already said that Iraq never had WMD. The impression from American media I've seen over here suggests that the administration has successfully changed the focus to be about the freedom of the people of Iraq from a dictator, so Bush's Christmas has come early.

However, while the Allies pat themselves on the back over capturing Hussein, over in Afghanistan, the less fashionable front of The War Against Terror, the Taliban and Al Qa'ida, you know, the ones who actually did fly the planes into the World Trade Centre, are back and seem to be winning back the country.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The world continues to adjust to a world with Saddam Hussein not free. But when Bush speaks about Hussein facing justice, let's hope against hope that he means it. Let's hope that the system that gave us Guantanamo Bay, an unstable regime in Afghanistan that they've turned their back on and ignored, the continued propping up of a tyrannical regime in Israel, the defiance of internationalism and a gung-ho occupation of Iraq caused by incompetence and lack of preparation, can actually deliver the goods.

I think it's a comic book, where a policeman is kidnapped and mentally and physically assaulted. When he's finally rescued he tells his men to capture his assailant by the book. It's not enough to just get him, he has to be shown that our system is better than his, is nobler, is righter. It's not enough that Hussein has been captured. He must be put on trial with the maximum of fairness, with every resource he needs to defend himself and we must be confident that our case is strong enough to get a conviction. I would personally prefer for him not to be put to death if found guilty. Not out of any sense of pity, quite the opposite. I want him to die an old man, seeing that Iraq was made a better place for his removal. I can't believe that there is an afterlife where he will receive punishment for his crimes on earth, so I want him to see his work undone while on earth and to die knowing it has resulted in a better country. This is what the Allies claim they want, here's a chance for them to finally do the right thing at last.

This is something that can involve the international community, while opinions may have differed on invading Iraq all were agreed that Hussein was a tyrant. His prosecution can be the long ignored opportunity for the US to finally rebuild bridges with the rest of the world, after coming begging to them for the cash to rebuild Iraq and then insisting that they can't take part in that rebuilding. The US is not strong enough to fight a war with the whole world, here at last is a chance for Bush to finally embrace a new idea for once in his life and a chance for the international community to act in a spirit of harmony for once. If the US squander this chance once more, or display more petty minded childish behaviour then Saddam Hussein will have triumphed again.

I mean take this for an example of what I'm talking about. Or this. Or even this. It's ironic that while the Right were criticising the anti-war coalition and calling them appeasers, it seems they were the ones closest to Hussein as they were jealous of his occupation of the gutter of morality and are eager to join him there as quickly as possible.

I've spent the last hour or so doing Christmas cards. I've never been a great fan of them in the past and, since she was the hub of information for addresses, birthdays and anniversaries in the family, I've tended to rely on my mother to append my name to my parents cards. I'm even reluctant to do them for work colleagues, trying to resist until a last minute stab of guilt due to having received cards from all of them. However, this year Mum put her foot down so I'm having to do them all myself. Outside of the family there's not that many people left, most of my friends I only have email addresses and phone numbers for, not addresses, so they don't get cards. Of course, I feel extremely guilty for allowing myself to become collaborator in the obscene Capitalist spectacle that is Christmas, so I make sure to append all cards with witty slogans like 'Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, where we will finally overthrow the Imperialist Overlords and feast on their guts!' or 'Hope you have a White Christmas and may we all have a red Christmas next year, red with the blood of the Capitalist scum!'. We must never forget our principles.

There's a pretty good American radio show on the music of and inspired by The Lord of the Rings. It's available for about another two or three weeks here.

Saddam Hussein found and arrested in Iraq. Good news for the Allies as they've failed to find Osama Bin Laden and those Weapons of Mass Destruction, expect Vercingetorix's trial to be the centrepoint of Bush's election effort.

The Fourth Plinth project has been set up and endorsed by Ken Livingstone to look at options for a rolling series of displays on the currently vacant fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Of the current current artist proposals the only one that really appeals is Thomas Schutte's 'Hotel for the Birds', the rest seem like gallery pieces, I like Marc Quinn's 'Alison Lapper pregnant' but I'm not really convinced by his reasons for why it should be in Trafalgar Square and not a gallery somewhere. As for Sarah Lucas' 'This Ones For the Pigeons', [ sigh ]. One day Britart will have shed it's popular image of being obsessed with bodily products and/or sex. But not while this is on the fourth plinth.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Big Read Part Three: Yes! It did it!

Big Read Part Two: Blimey but Sue Townsend looks awful. I was vaguely aware that she was going blind but now she's in a wheelchair. What's going on there? Simon Mayo seems strangely insistent on trying to give Geoffrey Perkins equal credit for Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, but at least he's knocking that one on the head.

Big Read Part One: Well, the final show has started. I've sent in a vote for Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials. I'm a bit worried that there's been some last minute goalpost shifting, the implication I've read into it is that all the votes thus far have only resulted in a top five of books and then it's all back to zero and the Big Read itself is going to depend on who gets the most votes tonight. I'll be annoyed if that turns out to be true. Clive Anderson is being rather dismissive as the presenter/host, I'm not sure he means to but it tends to be what he always does when he's doing something in a hurry.

Christ's fat cock! The obligatory rumours around this piece of Morris-ism speaks of around an hour of unused footage that was fine, just never broadcast. As details on this entry are sketchy at the mo, let's cross our fingers and hope...

Queere Eye for thye Medieval Man [via Venusberg].

Still, at least my working week has finally finished. It's been a bit longer than usual this week as I needed to swap working Saturdays so I (hopefully) won't be too tired for Angel's Christmas party next Saturday evening. Me and late nights really don't get on well, so I suppose I can't blame Plums for buggering off and doing her own thing. Anyway, it's going to be a quiet rest of weekend for me, if I get my stuff together I might even finally sort out a LJ, after Reg gave me a code sometime near the dawn of the third age of mankind (or was it the time of the Last Alliance between Men and Elves, or just a long, long time ago? I forget). For about the last three months my outgoings have exceeded my income and though I have the savings account to save me I want to try and make some pretense, now I've finished my Christmas shopping, of saving money again.

Anyway, on Thursday I was in Boots shopping for toiletry gift stuff for sister and her boyf. It seems those that make these sets for men are getting desperate so they're bunging in some fairly good looking free gifts, including a waterproof calculator and such like. So I got him a set with a waterproof shower-radio. And for my hetero-gender-normative sister, a colour compact. The helpful assistant pointed out I qualified for the 3 for 2 offer, so I also walked away with the 'Number 7 pamper kit'. Now I tend not to bother with these sorts of things myself, so I'm now faced with a dilemma, do I give it as a Christmas gift to someone, or do I treat myself to a go?

It looks most likely that Lord of the Rings will be voted the UK's favourite book tonight in the Big Read, which will no doubt piss off Germaine Greer and this guy here. I don't believe that Tolkien's book is perfect and some of the familiar arguments about it are one's I've used in discussion in the past, but not with the fervour that this guy aims for. The problem is that it's the culmination in many ways of a strand of British literature (and I'm already onto dodgy ground here, so I might need Plums to help me out or dash the planks from beneath my feet) which contains all the faults used to damn Tolkien. Absence of women? Well, yes, all the members of the Fellowship are men. I'm uncomfortable invoking Eowyn/Dernhelm because I think that Tolkien messes her character up totally in 'Return of the King' and makes her a twisted misandrist, but there is Galadriel who is one of the strongest characters in the book full stop. But it's the same in the King Arthur stories. I can't remember a female figure worth a damn in those. The events that shaped Tolkien's life were the First World War and university life, both intensely male environments. Is it any surprise that this carried over unconsciously into his writing. If you want female characters from Tolkien, read around the Lord of the Rings. There are the stories about Beren and Luthien, who many believe to be Tolkien and his wife. Luthien sneaks her way into the dungeons of the Dark Lord to rescue Beren and together they defeat him.

Racism. This is, I think, an extremely dodgy area to attempt to prosecute Tolkien, though it's one I've argued with Plums several times. The purely evil Orcs are, in Tolkien's words, "squat, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant-eyes". The enemy is the Dark Lord and he lives in the Black Land. So, the description is being 'matched' to some uber-stereotype of everything that is non-Aryan, and the use of the word's 'Dark' and 'Black' are being similarly misused. All fine and well if, before European society made any real contact with African or Eastern culture, different terms had been used to describe evil things. White was not Aryan supremacy, it was the colour of God, black the colour of the devil. During the day our ancestors could see danger, in the darkness they were more vulnerable to mishap. Sometimes black does not refer to the colour of a brown or yellow or red person's skin. And orc's aren't human! If he wants to hold them to some colour rules then I'm going to claim that LotR is extremely positive to other cultures because it has the powerful Ents who help to crush Sauron and they are ALL BROWN-SKINNED. And the orcs of Saruman all display a White Hand on their shields. Trying to link Tolkien to Nazism by bringing it up only to say, 'of course Tolkien wasn't a Nazi but...' is dishonest.

Luckily most of the people in the comments seem to agree that he's taking his arguments a tadge too far as well.

The families of the men being held illegally in Guantanamo Bay by the US, without any human rights and in contravention of most if not all the laws on the planet, have been demonstrating outside Downing Street today.

The Britons' case was raised by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair during last month's state visit to Britain by US President George W Bush. At the time, Mr Blair said the dispute would be resolved "sometime soon".

As I've previously said, the sticking point is how to convict men for crimes where there is no evidence of wrongdoing, where any result other than conviction will be extremely embaressing for the Special Relationship between Tony Blair and Dubya's arse.

Rimmer: I used to be in the Samaritans.
Lister: I know. For one morning.
Rimmer: I couldn't take any more.
Lister: I don't blame you. You spoke to five people and they all committed suicide. I wouldn't mind, but one was a wrong number! He only phoned up for the cricket scores! Red Dwarf

Nicholas 'All tenants and poor people are scum' van Hoogstraten has joined the Samaritans.

US VP's old firm found to have massively overcharged US military for services in Iraq. At least we can bask in the knowledge that this is good old Allied fraud, not evil German or French fraud.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Here's another infuriating game for y'all to try. [Via B3ta]

I'll be setting my video tomorrow for the Parliament channel (words I thought I'd never be using) as, thanks to those Need to Know boys I've found this lot who have found out about The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee meeting on ID Cards. From their report it seems that yet again New Labour has shown a contempt for democracy and openness, though there may be a few hostages to fortune in there and one possible flaw in security that would allow criminals to hack the system and get forged ID cards sent to them completely legally. Will say more after I've seen the show.

Reading through the blogs that Patrick links to over at his blog unsurprisingly most of them are gleeful at Bush refusing to allow countries that opposed the war in Iraq to bid for contracts to rebuild it. I haven't summoned up any enthusiasm to be outraged yet, I'm sure that there must be some half-competent engineering companies in the Allied countries, it's just whether or not they'll get a look in or whether despite contracts being open to a wider range of people it's still going to go to Bush's mates.

I'm not too keen on this 'the Allies blew it up, so only the Allies should get to rebuild it' argument though. One group of Allies did the damage, they personally aren't going to gain anything from the money spent on rebuilding Iraq. How many of the families of those that have died in Iraq are involved in reconstruction companies that could bid for jobs in Iraq? It's one of those claims that doesn't really mean anything when you look at it. Why chose the abritrary distinction of statehood? Why not insist that only people called Brian should be able to benefit from this money?

The Government are holding a review of the functions and roles of the BBC at the DCMS website, here. If I can ever find the time to read the documentation they try to use to choke off interest I'll respond, if any of you work-shy dole-scum fancy a go, you can see if it's loaded to try and drive respondants in a certain direction.

Angry Herod Blunkett threatens to resign from Amnesty.

The Home Secretary was furious after the human rights organisation denounced his emergency internment powers, under which 14 men have been jailed, as a "perversion of justice"... Mr Blunkett said: "When I became a patron and supporter of Amnesty many years ago, I did so to support them in tackling death and torture, the threat of people having their lives taken away and their well-being destroyed."

The British men in Guantanamo Bay, either the US or UK versions, don't count. What's shocking is not that Blunkett is thinking of quitting Amnesty, rather that Amnesty have not chucked him out. His stance on both terrorism and immigration is completely at odds with what Amnesty claims to stand for.

Inadvertantly revealing is this quote: He said the British detainees had been legally represented and were free to leave, providing they went to another country. So, Blunkett is saying that people held in this country because they are supposedly suspected of being terrorists, are free to go if they leave the country. If they were terrorists, wouldn't that be a little bit dodgy? Isn't that like giving the Yorkshire Ripper or Harold Shipman the key to their cell doors and saying "I don't care if you do kill anyone, just so long as you do it outside the British Isles"? Surely if it was really thought they were terrorists we wouldn't be so blase about the option of letting them go off and cause mayhem out there in the world, after all Blunkett's political masters are always talking about how there's a global war on terror in which everyone must do their part. He's be guilty of giving comfort to the enemy.

A feelgood library story: An independent research study has found that for every £1 the British Library gets it generates £4 of value for the economy. I wonder what would happen if this method was used to evaluate public library authorities in the country.

As part of boring stock plan work I spent most of wednesday evaluating the use of stock at The Greenhouse, situated in the middle of a council estate. The method we use for this is highly scientific, every tenth book we make a note of how old it is, and how many times it has gone out in the last year. The stock was largely up to date, averages between two to three years for age of stock for what I've counted so far (admittedly due to rigorous weeding earlier in the year and an influx of stock from The Closed Library), but non-fiction issues have been extremely low. Very few of the books in the science section had gone out, and in the 600s, which covers health, engineering, cookery, gardening and management and business theory, it was a similar story, albeit with spikes of interest in health, driving theory and pets. The fiction was better and hopefully, when I get round to the 'Community Language' section that'll show heavy use. But is the way forward to tip more towards the areas of stock that are getting used more at the moment, or does that lead to a danger similar to that experienced by the Conservative Party, namely going more in one direction to please the core user group who use it already but risk alienating 'floating users' who would pop in on the off-chance?

I can assure everyone that I definitely will not be producing a list of my favourite albums/singles et al for 2003, if only because I don't tend to keep up with music as it's coming out, my favourite album could turn out to be Pulp's This is Hardcore. Oh, and don't believe the hype, or what Fly and Flux have been saying. That LCD Soundsystem song is shit. But I am looking forward to the Scissor Sisters single release next year.

Otherwise, they've just shown the Peaches vs. Iggy video on Kerrang!, Peaches and Sir Iggy versus the zombies. Shame they couldn't come up with some decent lyrics to go with it but then I suppose when she plays live the crowd's too busy trying to have sex with Peaches to listen to what she's saying.

Mmmm, Bjork photo goodness.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Hey Plums, fancy trying for three out of three?

You are Kermit the Frog.
You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you have a habit of waving your arms about maniacally.

"Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and "Sheesh!"
"How Green Was My Mother"
"Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the Internet"
Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.

"Hmm, my banjo is wet."

What Muppet are you?
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Found while looking at old entries at City of Sound, the stunning Sonata for the Unaware, but you'll need a decent connection to appreciate it. For those of you who can't/don't, it's a piece of music which gets it's cues from the presence of humans in real-space, in this case, people at a train station in Philidelphia, in front of three seperate cameras. Very lovely, and fits very well with the Brian Eno CDs I've been listening to this week.

Free-to-access archive of poetry magazines.

Annoyingly I can't log on to Barbelith at the moment, so am having to go all cold turkey imagining the fun and games people are getting into in The Promised Land. I've emailed Our Dread Leader about it and will have to wait for his response. Last time he did this to me he mentioned something about not accessing Barbelith from different PCs, which if everyone followed that advise would cut out about half of those people who do post there, and make the others only post nocturnally.

I know the NME has been crap for a fair long while now, but this week's issue reaches a new low. As it seems that no-one in The Libertines has a) gone to prison, b) gone to hospital or c) played a Secret Gig in someone's bedroom while they tried to watch The Simpsons, the NME has been struggling for material to fill their rag. So we have several pages of what looks like half-developed photo's someone's taken of The Strokes with a Kodak Fun Camera (minus the sticker that says 'this picture has not come out because you're a dullard that can't even work a disposable camera') and four pages on a list of albums that Kurt Cobain came up with in a minutes boredom around ten years ago. If the NME were to fold, would it really be a bad thing that there was no longer a national weekly music paper?

'We not only are what we eat but as well how we eat'. An intriguing idea, which leads on to the Slow Food Movement, 'a movement for the protection of the right to taste'. Having had to quickly scoff down lunch in ten minutes today I can certainly empathise with that, however it was fast food (yes I know, I am the antichrist), which one does not really WANT to taste.

Mmmmm, nice! The Mill Hill Jazz Club, like Buena Vista, only colder and with less tequilla.

A ban on "conspicuous" religious signs in French schools is being recommended. Similar procedures have already been put into action in Germany. With the shock second place of Le Penn in France's last elections, the rise of the right in Eastern Europe, attacks on synagogues and the fact that here in the UK the issue of asylum seekers has been allowed to be declared a crisis without any proof whatsoever, it would seem that Europe is not a particularly tolerant place. However, I think this banning 'conspicuous' signs is numpty-headed and also in this climate the polite face of race hate. By demanding that the 'other' do something in order not to offend us 'normal people' (and I see no reason why this rule would only stop Muslim women wearing a headscarf, from the way it's reported it would require them to walk around in only their underwear) it creates more of a distinction between 'them' and 'us', which is what leads to the verbal abuse, molotov cocktails and death.

And why stop at religious symbols? Some people might feel offended by trannies, so let's stop all forms of cross-dressing in public places (trousers down ladies). Some people get irritated by people using mobile phones? Anyone found using a mobile phone in public has their hand broken. And smoking? It's the firing squad for you I'm afraid. I'm sure that after all this, we'll all feel much better.

Is the US preparing to invade New Zealand over weapons of mass destruction? On a more serious note, if this man was, as he claims, able to make a fully operational missile, it might be of interest to the NZ authorities to find out where he got the fissile (or 'the bit that goes boom' or 'the difficult to get hold of' stuff) material from. It's slightly embaressing for the US Government as it would genuinely prove that it's not that difficult to do and not necessarily evidence of criminal schemes of machiavellian evil. Still, at the moment New Zealand has one more confirmed WMD than Iraq. Anyway, Bruce Simpson's website is here and the bit where he rails against his Government for stopping his fun is here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Awwww! Poor ickle Americans feeling all insecure when they meet their Northern neighbour.

"Some participants expressed a certain amount of annoyance at what is perceived as a systematic attempt by Canadians to make the statement that they are not Americans by sporting the maple leaf," So, ummm, some Americans are annoyed by other people daring to be from another country?

So the first toll road in the country has opened, a move I applaud thoroughly. I do wonder though, if it becomes so popular that it gets jammed up, will they start lowering the amount you have to pay to get on it? Will the people in the first traffic jam on the M6 toll road be able to claim compensation?

Salam Pax has been a bit concerned that the US occupation forces in Iraq don't intend to let a census be taken of the population before the elections next September. It seems to be that they are doing this so national elections can't be held, presumerably they're preferred idea of some sort of regional 'nod'n'wink' system is one they think they can organise so 'the right people' end up running Iraq, not those inconvenient characters that the Iraqis are supposed to like who don't like America.

Yes! I rock! I'm Number One in a search for 'maxine carr nipples'. Go me!

(It's sort of like 'bette davis eyes' I guess)

You are Eponine! Clever and tactful, you are also strong-willed and choose your friends wisely. You are hopelessly in love with Marius although you know he does not love you, but nothing, not even death, can shake your firm resolve.

Which Character from Les Miserables Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

A woman whose pregnancy was wrongly terminated wants the European Court to accept a foetus' right to life. I must admit to being a bit confused as to why this woman is bringing this case. Her pregnancy was terminated due to a lamentable and entirely avoidable mix-up in a French hospital. Yet the claim she's making in the European Courts would be more suited for a woman who's pregnancy was terminated because the surgeon cackled "I can kill unborn children and no court in the land will convict me!" Whilst success in her case won't bring her baby back, it probably wouldn't lead to any prosecutions in a similar case, as a doctor would argue he had to choose between the mother or the child.

The usual pro-life arguments are here and as nonsensical as ever, if you accept that foetuses have the same rights as a human being, then every man is a mass-murderer, all those thousands of millions of sperms that never impregnate eggs. Hopefully if this woman tries to use her own experience in this case it will rightly be considered irrelevent, but we'll have to wait and see.

Showing that it's a busy day for the blinkered, anti-choice advocates Life and spokeswoman Nuala Scarisbrick get a look in both in this story and another one, where it's argued that it should be easier to access abortion services.

"We want less abortion, not more. A truly civilised society would want none."

Ignoring the fact that 'a truly civilised society' shouldn't force women into the trauma of backstreet illegal abortions...

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