Thursday, September 30, 2004

My listening this week on my lonely perambulations to and from work at The Closed Library has been Madness - The Business, a three disc set of all the singles, including b-sides. Those of us either old enough to remember them in their prime, or with a link to VH-Classic or Magic TV will remember the videos, replete with Monty Python-style cross-dressing, people in animal costumes and normally someone flying around in the air. But the thing that brings me back to them time and again is the melancholy that fills the songs. For me 'Our House' is an incredibly sad song and always makes me think of a man, somewhere in his late-twenties/early-thirties who, completely by accident finds himself in the street he grew up in. He moved away, tried to deny his working class roots and reinvented himself, only to find himself back there. He looks for the house he grew up in, onyl to find it's in the process of being demolished. The song, to me, is a wish to return to simpler times through their invocation,

Father wears his Sunday best
Mother's tired she needs a rest
The kids are playing up downstairs
Sister's sighing in her sleep
Brother's got a date to keep
He can't hang around

For me the key verse is in the middle, as he remembers his mum:

Father gets up late for work
Mother has to iron his shirt
Then she sends the kids to school
Sees them off with a small kiss
She's the one they're going to miss
In lots of ways

She's the one he is missing, in lots of ways. Have they moved away? Are they dead? Too late he regrets loosing touch.

Something tells you that you've got to get away from it

A very curious line. To dwell in the past is not a good idea for your mental health. Yes he could have stayed at home but in many ways that would have been as bad as moving away. You've got to stand on your own two feet eventually.

However, on Monday, The Closed Library becomes The Reopened Library. We've been slaving away like good'uns to try and get it all ready but we're facing failure. Not abject, miserable failure, but more 'we could have done with another week' failure. We've got most of the stock in, but the problem is that I've spent a lot of my time in the room where most of our non-fiction books are going to be, I've been discharging and shelving stock (an oddly meditative act I've found, though it leads to boring dreams) and what I've been getting hasn't been a fair proportion of what we've been ordering. So we have loads of computer books, or car maitenance manuals, or recipe books, but we've got about two dozen books in total for our 200s, world religions, compared to probably two hundred or more books in the 300s, social sciences and politics. Lots of art books but not much in the 800s, literature, and once you get past English literature you can pretty much forget it. We knew it was probable we weren't going to get everything in by the opening date but if that was the case I wish we'd had a more even spread of what we did get, so it doesn't look as though there were areas of stock we forgot to purchase. Unless of course someone else thought buying foreign literature was a waste of time? ;) We've got quite a nice little collection of Bush-bashing stock, Stupid White Men, Lying Liars, Bushwhacked... I can only claim in our defence that we do have some older works like Hitchen's attack on Clinton but it seems that somehow Ann Coulter's work doesn't seem to have been properly published over here.

Meanwhile Bird on the Moon is the hand that points to the moon that is this odd Flash scrap of film with Burroughs, Gysin and Ginsberg discussing cut-ups. [via toddius]

Heh heh heh...

Shiteyes is fiddling with biometrics again, one only assumes that because he can't see the things he assumes they look like magic pixies or something. Biometric gear to be deployed in hospitals and GPs' surgeries as one of the uses for the ID card is going to be "No card, no treatement for that large axe wound in your head." Remember, you won't need to carry your ID Card around with you, but if you don't and you're involved in an accident, then obviously this will be bad news if you have to go to hospital. But anyway, back to now...

An interesting thing to note is that, according to this report, Shiteyes has the power to tell any other government agency at any time to include in any scheme they're involved with that they have to include some sort of biometric package within it. Apparently John Prescott is currently ballsing up the plans for the next wave of house building in Milton Keynes. Blunkett could insist, and Prescott would have to obey, to biometric readers at every front door. Surely this would generate a lot of resentment towards Shiteyes and his mad total law enforcement schemes? We can hope can't we?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Presumably in an attempt to avoid future embarrassments like Abu Ghraib, the United States is trying to outsource the torture of prisoners.

"We don't kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them."

Hey Post Office! Instead of blowing your money on stupid ads with dancing CGI ants, why not spending it on ensuring that service goes a bit quicker so we don't feel like extras in Shaun of the Dead, surrounded by the blue rinse brigade who are flumoxed by trick questions like "Good morning!".

Still, Plums is feeling a bit under seige at the moment what with Labour Party bastards in town and furry animal killers in there. The latter did a KLF and dumped some carcasses around town. I tend to feel they've got their tactics all wrong, the average reaction of people to landed toffs complaining about being hard done by that I've seen is "Good. More please." The day after the Commons invasion the Daily Mail had some pictures of Bryan Ferry's son, Moon Unit Ferry or whoever he is, working on a farm. Apparently, despite the fact that his Dad is loaded, he likes to live like the common people and do whatever common people do. But, he doesn't get paid! He does this all for free! So surely we should let him kill foxes as he doesn't get paid for mucking out the horses? Of course, you can probably do something for the sheer love of it when 'Virginia Plain' gets paid as often as it does on VH-1.

Now I can sort of understand the dead horse as hunters have long tried to moral blackmail approach of "If we're not allowed to tear apart foxes with our bare hands and drink their blood for satanic rituals, then we're just going to have to do it with our dogs, our horses and our lower classes. And how would you feel to have their deaths on your conscience?" but where to calves come in to the whole blood sports area? Is this some hitherto secret side of the fox hunting scene? If they can't find any foxes do they fling some rugs over the back of a couple of cows instead? Or are there secret calf-fighting pits, where men gather round to watch baby cows get pitted against one another? Or was it that, come the morning the organiser looked in the horsebox and said "That's a dead horse and, oh bollocks, he's killed two calves as well. I knew we shouldn't rely on Lord Magoo to supply the dead horses for this." I wonder whether these animals died naturally?

Meanwhile inside, Tony Bliar edges closer to an apology. He's sorry that the intelligence was faulty but he's not sorry for getting rid of Saddam.

The evidence about Saddam having actual biological and chemical weapons, as opposed to the capability to develop them, has turned out to be wrong. I acknowledge that and accept it. I simply point out, such evidence was agreed by the whole international community, not least because Saddam had used such weapons against his own people and neighbouring countries.

But there is evidence that the United States both have and are developing biological and chemical weapons and the international community would agree that they have them. They have identified a number of communities they consider to be their enemy. They have attacked countries like Iraq which posed them no threat (as Bliar agrees above) and used chemical weapons such as missiles with depleted uranium missile tips which have half-lives of thousands of years and can poison communities for decades. So when do we bomb Washington Tony? When do we occupy the country and send in UN observers to try and ensure a fair election this time?

There are two views of what is happening in the world today. One view is that there are isolated individuals, extremists, engaged in essentially isolated acts of terrorism... The other view is that this is a wholly new phenomenon, worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful and honourable faith of Islam; that's its roots are not superficial but deep, in the madrassehs of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.

But to take this view, the view of Shrubya and Bliar, is to play their game, because they would love nothing more than a Holy War between 'Islam' and 'Christianity' and as an unbeliever I don't want anything to do with either. A pox on both your houses.

I know people say we should take the Lib Dems seriously. But I can't. I like Charles, incidentally. But recently he asked: "The Lib Dems are doing well but we have to answer the question: what do you stand for?" Charles, my strong advice is: don't go there.

The transcript doesn't note whether he clicks his fingers, but at least he doesn't later say "Anyone who criticises me should talk to the hand." Conference delegates were chanting "four more years!" (or was that a resigned chant, "four more years of this shithead!"?), but I don't think they were doing that weird stirring motion or shouting "Go Tony! Go Tony!" or "You tell 'em girlfriend!"

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Worst Lyric of the Month: "Beautiful boys on a beautiful dance floor, Michael you're dancing like a beautiful dance whore." Exactly how does a 'beautiful dance whore' dance Franz Ferdinand? Apart from that it's interesting how you've made quite a good song when the anecdotage for this, if New Musical Excrement is to be believed is that you all know a man, called Michael, who dances 'a bit gay'. Oh dear. There are two type of first albums (three if you count the simply crap ones), the ones which are fully formed and brilliant (waves at Bowie, the Dandy Warhols, Dubstar, Elbow and Massive Attack, to name a few) and the ones that are okay but which hint that given a second chance, the band can massively improve (Blur, Chemical Brothers, Nirvana, Orbital, Placebo). FF by FF is of the latter category, the singles are the best tracks on it, otherwise I get a teensy bit irritated when they press the buttons 'arch', 'ironic' and 'bunch of fucking art students', the first minute or so of first track 'Jacqueline' and the oh so casual dropping in of the German in the odd track here and there, to like this album is occasionally despite the band, not because of them.

Best lyric of the month: "I tried to do it proper but kept comin' up a cropper, I need some pipe think I'll ram raid Happy Shopper, haven't got a car so I'll use a space hopper." Well, honestly, you could put the entire album in there, it's the Goldie Lookin Chain's Greatest Hits. With odes to suicide, smoking soap bars and, yes, a clever and tender examination of sex reassignment surgery in later life- "Your Mother's Got a Penis". Yeah some of it is laughing at Welsh accents but this joycore of KLF-style proportions, a bunch of clueless idiots rapping about spending their giros on weed, trying to have sexual relations with a ZX Spectrum before their mates turn up to take the piss. The first Goldie album is full on and they'll have to raise their game considerably to beat this. Greatest Hits indeed.

I know you'll be surprised and shocked, so you may want to sit down when you read this. You may well think that there's surely been some mistake, that it's surely massively out of character, considering their candidate. Are you ready? OK, Republican party admits to anti-gay mailouts in Arkansas and West Virginia. OK, don't forget to breathe...

I've added the Alison Bechdel and Ektopia blogs to the side there.

Monday, September 27, 2004

... And sometimes I just want to hit everyone in Barbelith with a stick.

Or maybe a branch. Yes, that's right, sometimes I want to give everyone in Barbelith a damn good thrashing.

...Except for the ones that enjoy that sort of thing.

Evil evil Plums has unhelpfully pointed out the Dykes to Watch Out For blog. Gaaaaah!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

you are JENNY! you are sweet, shy, and innocent,
but you've got a darker, sexier side...and you
cant hold it in forever! you're the closet
freak of the group!

Which Character from The L Word are You???
brought to you by Quizilla

U.S. government offers workers a 'faith-based' health plan that doesn't pay for contraceptives, abortion, sterilization and artificial insemination.

'I firmly believed we should not march into Baghdad. Our stated mission... was a simple one- end the aggression, knock Iraq's forces out of Kuwait, and restore Kuwait's leaders. To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero. It would have... [assigned] young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerilla war. It could only plunge that part of the world into even greater instability and destroy the credibility we were working so hard to reestablish.'

from A World Transformed by George Bush, senior. But gee, it's good that his son knew better isn't it?

You are one of the Undying, the immortal beings
that would stand beside the gods, had they not
been bound to the material world by people.

What level of divine power do you have?
brought to you by Quizilla

If you'd turned on the news, read a paper or gone to a website at any time in the last two years, you might think that Iraq is a disaster zone of epic proportions, where the removal of Saddam Hussein has started the process of degeneration towards civil war which was the reason everyone (including Tony Blair, r-r-r-r-right up to the point when Shrubya said "I want to invade Iraq") gave for reluctantly not doing anything about him in the 1980s and 90s. Only, you'd be completely wrong, for American stooge Interim Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi Iyad Allawi is in America to explain that things really are all right and there aren't any problems at all. Josh Marshall even quotes him as saying that if the US and Allies hadn't invaded Iraq then there would have been a lot more Sept. 11th style terrorist attacks in the US and Europe. The wording is just loose enough that Allawi could claim he means that the terrorists wouldn't be involved with or coming from Iraq, but that they would somehow be emboldened by the fact that the world hadn't got rid of Saddam Hussein to go kill crazy. Of course, following his downfall, they've been a model of restraint. But to anyone with any sense, which rules out most of Shrubya's supporters, it's clear that the administration are still pushing the completely discredited lies that Hussein was involved with 11th September 2001 and that he was involved with international terrorism.

Meanwhile, Lurch Kerry calls press conference to deny rumours he's seeking to be the next President of the United States. Unfortunately no one turns up.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Elsewhere, militancy amongst pro-hunting groups towards anyone who isn't a bloodthirsty emotional cripple increases. The police seem unable to do anything, after all, these people are posh and have money, so they obviously can't beat the shit out of them as they would do if they were poor and/or black.

I tend to feel that surely we can deport the pro-hunters to a country where the wildlife either a) is a genuine nuisance to everyone, or b) is capable of fighting back. But then in many ways British colonialism was all about giving aristocrats who were bored with hunting animals something else to go for, elephants, tigers, foreigners. But there are places where a firm hand with animal management needs to be taken. Take the Wild Wood, only last year did a local landowner, who we shall call Mr 'T', found that after a short stay at Her Majesty's Pleasure over a misunderstanding over some piffling driving offences his house was simply overrun with weasels and stoats from this very location! Luckily, with the help of some members of the community he was able to drive them out, but what's to stop this happening again?

Alternatively in the woodlands of Northern Narnia, grey wolves have been seen. However, they are believed to be owned by an evil old lady with a tenuous grip on reality who seems to believe she can stop time and make it winter forever, so hunters may actually join her thinking it's 1980s Britain all over again.

In areas such as the Misty Mountains unwary travellers have been attacked by wargs, and wooded areas such as Mirkwood contain giant spiders. What true hunter could turn down such challenges?

Blair promises the Government will do whatever it can to ensure the release of latest Brit hostage Ken Bigley, short of actually doing something. Because, you know, then the terrorists would have won. But hey, the Government can support some British Muslims going over there to try and talk sense into the terrorists because, being black, it would matter less if they didn't come back.

Meanwhile The government's crisis command unit, Cobra, is monitoring tension levels around Britain to guard against extremists using the plight of the British hostage Ken Bigley as an excuse to attack Muslims. But, more importantly, the Government has a crisis command unit called COBRA! That is so cool!

11 Reasons Why Blair Must Go (from the excellent Bloggerheads) and the latest on the moves to Impeach Blair.

And how important are the Prescott Bush-Nazi links? So he was an unpleasant Conservative who wasn't afraid of making money out of the suffering and death of others. The apple really doesn't fall far from the tree. Why you shouldn't vote for George W.

Friday, September 24, 2004

So the latest book promotion dumpbins to turn up in the library are for 'Women's Watershed Fiction', some sort of joint exercise between Woman's Hour on the Beeb and The Orange Prize for Fiction. I'm not to interested in discussing the mechanics of it, it's pointless busywork to keep both groups busy but while we wait to see whether nominations from WH listeners throw up any surprises, look at the shortlist compiled by the worthies the OP talked to. There are a few oddities that crop up, Douglas Adams? Joseph Conrad? C.S. Lewis?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

A lesson in why, perhaps, it's a good idea if a writer really shouldn't talk back to her fans (starts about a third of the way down the page). I stopped reading Anne Rice in the early nineties. Cry To Heaven is up there in my list of favourite books ever, and The Witching Hour has so much detail on the lives of the cast and the several centuries of their existence. But what were, at the time, the final books in her two series, Memnoch the Devil for the Vampire Chronicles and Taltos for the Mayfair Witches, turned me off her work and, though I've read a couple more of her books since then, I've never gone back to her. Her performance here isn't going to do much to make me think that's a mistake.

If you go down to the seaside today (well, in the next week) you're in for a big surprise.

If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

And I picked up this at Forbidden Planet. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but hopefully the Alison Bechdel interview will balance out the hilarious 'what if comics characters had gay marriages?' article.

Oh, and I've lived in London for some six years without seeing anyone famous. But this afternoon I passed Mike Leigh in Shaftesbury Avenue. I feel fulfilled now.

Nips, I definitely have a cold, my traditional Autumn cold. Still, this time I've worked out the best way to get through it: replace my natural slow-moving foolish immune system with enough aspirin to make me higher than Shrubya ever managed until the cold slinks off ashamed.

I was trying to think of black acts that have managed to do well in British charts doing rap music. Plums argued for Outkast, Missy, and Kelis. I agreed on Missy, but I argued that Outkast, Kelis and NERD have only had success over here when they've effectively dumped the rap aspect, 'Hey Ya' isn't rap, big success, whatever it was that Big Boi followed up with, didn't noticeably rock the stratosphere. The only time NERD trouble the charts is when they dump the rap for a sing-song round the old Joanna. Kelis, 'Milkshake' and 'Trick Me' aren't rap either (I don't know anything else she's done apart from that 'I Hate You So Much Right Now' song to know if you can define her as rap at all). Dre and the Wu-Tang Clan only have any chart troubling action when they either get their white boyfriend to do a big rap in the middle of the song (which seems to be the only reason D12 have any luck as well) or when they intersperse their rapping with lots of singing.

Flyboy, you know much more about the music scene than I do, is this some particular breed of racism? Anything that seems to much like rap music=black=bad, if it seems like what we know as songs='R'n'B=good?

We went to Forbidden Planet looking for 'Dykes to Watch Out For' as we'd seen a dead spit for Ginger in the basement of First Out. They didn't seem to know what I was talking about. And Plums said that several heads turned when I said "Dykes". God I hate Forbidden Planet. Even more so with the fact that China Mieville is signing The Iron Council there, Saturday after next, the bastard.

Which Nigerian spammer are You?

Joel Veitch, he of various kittens fame (and whose younger brother I'm fairly sure I went to school with) has turned his site back into a blog.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

You are Tygra!

You're incredibly bright, innovative, and handy with a whip! Yet still you are shy and reserved, even among your friends, and worries for the future are frequently at the forefront of your thoughts.
Perhaps that's why Silky's fruit has such appeal to you.

What Thundercat Are You? at Cheezey's Thundercats Zone.

Hmmm, Blogger has been playing up a bit today. Anyway, check out Derelict London, fantastic stuff.

British diplomat says George W. Bush is 'the best recruiting sergeant for Al Qaeda'. Also, that John Kerry is the more likely of the two to help bring piece to the Israeli/Palestinian situation.

Meanwhile, looking at the latest hurricanes to hit the United States, is God sending a message to voters? If so, expect campaign ads soon claiming that God is soft on terror (akin to the 'If Bush were running against Jesus TV ad') and creation boat veteran Bill Z. Bub talking about how God takes credit for banishing the darkness and bringing in light when in fact it was the work of many other people.

Wicked Cousin Jerez
Oooh! You're Wicked Cousin Jerez! As an irregular guest character you have the distinction of being played by the most number of different character actors, including Thora Hird doing a Children In Need skit for Children In Need on 'Children In Need' night. Your dastardly plans have cost the Acorn Antiques staff dear, but just lately your change of heart has landed you in a sandwich course in computer studies at Fuengirola Poly.

Mrs Overall:

Which 'Acorn Antiques' character are YOU?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, September 20, 2004

The power of showtunes befuddles fundie preachers.

And, while we're at it, The official God FAQ. [via Blogdex]

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

Couple of articles from the Guardian: A hierarchy of suffering, and if you missed the show last night, Greg Dyke is interviewed in the Media Guardian, read it quickly before it disappears into their subscription-only service.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

I shook todays copy of The Independent on Sunday, the newspaper for the discerning concerned but powerless London liberal, and out popped a postcard for the 'Just Say Sorry Tony!' campaign, encouraging people to send postcards to the PM, asking him to apologise for being the lying scumbag that he is- oh all right, asking for a major admission of fault and a recognition that Britain can never go down the same route again. You can sign up on the website if you don't have a postcard.

I watched Greg Dyke's rant against New Labour and Alistair Campbell in particular on Channel 4, Betrayed by New Labour. It was incredibly self-serving, of course, starting with how he got the job of DG at the Beeb. Dyke almost goes as far as to say "I would have been a great New Labour stooge, if it wasn't for that meddlesome Campbell!" but that's the tennor of the piece: Everything would have been fine for the Government except that Campbell effectively didn't believe that the BBC had any right to put out anything critical of the Government. Maybe Campbell thought Gavyn Davies and Dyke were Government stooges and his letters were to try and remind them of that fact. Dyke's main point was that the entire argument over weapons of mass destruction and the dossier about Iraq's WMD was not one the Government wanted to have but was instigated by Campbell, pulling in the Government to fight his fight. Dyke points to several occasions where something was said in correspondance from Blair that was then contradicted in press releases by Campbell, eventually leading to assurances that Blair would not call for heads to roll at the BBC following the Hutton Whitewash, only to not do anything to stop or contradict Campbell when he called for that very thing the evening after the Report before.

The central irony was Dyke was asking us to believe that Tony Blair is not an 'okay kind of guy' that we all can trust and we can believe that because Greg Dyke is an 'okay kind of guy' that we all can trust. His acceptence of the fact the BBC did make mistakes rather depends on whether you believe he believes that, or whether he's saying it only because he doesn't work for the BBC any more. To say the BBC should have held an enquiry after Campbell complained, well, if they did that every time he complained then would have genuinely destroyed the BBC as he complained at least once a day. And it's also a judgement that really can only made in hindsight, if Campbell hadn't stirred things up by dragging this small report that few people would have heard into the full glare of daylight then it would have died and only left-wing wackos like me would have been muttering bitterly that the Government's facts were wrong, it's Campbell we have to thank for the entire world knowing the British Government lied about the evidence to support the need for immediate regime change in Iraq. That's Campbell's legacy to the Government he was supposed to serve.

An interesting paragraph buried in the middle of this article on the continuing clusterfuck that is the Allies handling of post-Saddam Iraq:

The US public is just as ignorant of the surging violence in Iraq because, ironically, it is now too dangerous for American television crews and print journalists to cover it. In the battle for Najaf in August, US correspondents with the dateline "Najaf" on their copy, or reports to camera, were often "embedded" with US forces several miles away from the fighting. The result? Network news in the US gives the quite false impression that Iraq is a crisis under control.

Shrubya is able to get away with posturing as a 'war president' without anyone pointing at his lack of clothes because it's too dangerous in Iraq for the American media to show how dangerous it is in Iraq. Although I do question quite how it's somehow safer for British journalists. After all, we invaded the country too, British personnel are also being taken hostage, surely we're not being seen as better than the US troops? Or is it just our journalists are more brave/suicidal?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

I've just finished the superb Evolution's Rainbow by Joan Roughgarden. It's a wonderful book. Her central premise is that Charles Darwin was mistaken about a few things when he came up with his theory of evolution. The urge to procreate isn't the sole driving force behind the animal kingdom, of which humanity is a part. Darwin and those who followed him were too determined to explain the behaviour of animals by putting them in narrow boxes of two genders and insisting they were only interested in rutting. Instead, Roughgarden gives examples, first in the animal kingdom, then in the third main section from humanity throughout recorded history, of multiple sexes beyond 'male' and 'female', multiple genders, and differing sexual behaviours. She suggests, in the second and middle section of the book, that the driving force is actually social, animals working together (for certain values of 'working together') for the chance of access to breeding opportunities. The attraction and advantage is that while Darwin's blunt evolutionary theory condemns queers and transexuals as genetic blunders, Roughgarden frees us, we're not mistakes, queer people rarely come from queer parents, so there's some biological reason for our existence (bisexuality is largely overlooked and mentioned only in passing).

I can't really criticise the thesis, possibly because it appeals to me, I don't know enough science to know the difference between the thing that evolved into the human arse from the thing that evolved into the human elbow but the book is extremely accessible and well worth a read.

It's ten years ago today that I started at university. Well, ten years ago was either a Saturday or a Sunday, so ten years ago today was when I moved into the Halls of Residence at the University of Central England. I was reminded of it when I went to Manchester University this year for Bicon, both times I went feeling pretty confident of my ability to cope, both times finding out that I couldn't, both times having several days of feeling disorientated and depressed on my own until I managed to adapt. Then, as this year, I was the first into my Halls. They were newly constructed, so newly that they were still building some of them and we crossed a building site to go to the university. We had to run both the bath and the shower for a while to get the mud out of the tank.

I started a diary on my first night at university. And I've kept it ever since. Not filled in every night, because sometimes I've managed to have a semblence of a social life to keep me busy. But I've kept it going for ten years which, seeing as my previous best had been for the fortnights of family holidays is something of an achievement. I'm not going to bore you or embaress myself with any choice extracts, save that on my first night I was so depressed at being away from home for the first time in my life that I sign off the entry as though I'm not long for this world when all I did was go to bed and fall immediately to sleep. It's not entirely thrilling, people drift in, people drift out, because I'm usually hopeless at remebering people's names new characters tend to be nameless for several weeks, then wrongly identified before I finally get it right, at which point I'm writing about them with complete familiarity. This is no work to put up there with the great diarists of history, unless cockroach-sapien finds it fossilised in several million years time and concludes from it that they truly are the first intelligent race to arise on the planet.

There's a review of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 from River at Baghdad Burning.

Following on from stories of Christian doctors in America refusing to treat queers and Christian pharmacists preventing access to contraception, I've found this interesting article on the Hippocratic Oath from 2001 (I know pharmacists don't have anything to do with that but I remembered it on reading this article). It's interesting that within there someone writes that the original oath mentions Pagan Gods, which are bad, but if the modern one were to mention the Christian God, well that would be fine and dandy. Thankfully that wasn't a doctor speaking.

Yet again it is clear: Iraq did not have any WMD, was not making any WMD and therefore had no ability to deploy WMD, whether threatened or not. This will probably not matter in the United States where it seems that Shrubya and Cheney are able to say the complete opposite without any journalists actually pointing out, with the facts before them, that the Commander in Chief of 'the Free World' is lying his arse off. In the last few years Chinese Bird Flu has been a greater biological hazard to the world than the deposed Hussein regime. It would be nice if Blair would step down now, seeing as how he staked his reputation a year or so back on there definitely being WMD there, but then that would mean that Blair was a moral person which, like Bush, we know to simply not be true.

But of course, the people of Iraq are so much better off with Saddam gone... Even Bush's own people admit he gave absolutely no thought to the Iraqi people's welfare.

Papers for our Government reveal Blair was told that civil war in a post-Hussein society was almost certain without vast numbers of peacekeepers and that Bush was only going to invade because of a 'grudge match' with Saddam.

Stuck for what to do this weekend? If you're quick, you can still attend the launch of the NO2ID campaign, presumerably it's lacking in details only because 'The Man' is watching. Elsewise, it's Open House London time again, you too could visit a tennis court in Barnet!

Friday, September 17, 2004

I can't remember who it was I heard say that in the United States today food has more protection against libel than people, in Supersize Me, which I saw on Sunday, there was some hopeful news that while the U.S. Government have made it illegal to sue food companies like the people who tried to sue McDonalds for 'causing' their obesity some schools have started to fight back against the huge amounts of junk food in their school and producing decent food for their pupils, causing a decrease in troublesome behaviour. But in England this week a school ships in McDonalds burgers for it's kids. To claim that eating burgers in school twice in one week won't put children's health at risk seems to be deliberately trying to miss the point, where's the anti-junk food message? Perhaps next week one afternoon the head could take the kids to the cinema and take them in to see SSM?

Meanwhile, McDonalds 'we're not concerned about Supersize Me at all' attitude is hilarious. Only a company truly unconcerned about a film that says they sell crap would produce a website to try and rebut it. Still, considering the stuff that came out at the McLibel trial Ronald is getting off easily this time.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

So, season five of The Sopranos is being shown on E4 and I've been watching it while recording it for Plums and watching season one as I got the DVD box set for my birthday at the end of August. Now season five is all well and good, Steve Buscemi is wonderful in it, but it doesn't really hold out next to the first season. I saw season two before loosing track of it on telly for a while, so didn't get to see the third or fourth season (I had a similar problem with The West Wing on telly, so it's also a show I can only follow through the DVDs) but that also wasn't as good as the first season. For me, season five seems to be a collection of character studies, very good character studies, but character studies nonetheless. Last week we had the story of Tony and Adriana, who I'm guessing haven't interacted in any meaningful way in the previous four seasons. At first it seems this is going to be a rerun of practically every other story involving Tony and a woman but stops it, instead going for a direction where Tony controls his rampant libido only for the story to go around that they had sex and that to cause him trouble with Christopher. This week it was a double header of Steve Buscemi's Tony starting his own massage business and Carmela having her first post-Tony relationship.

But each story wraps up neatly by the end of the show. Last week Adriana had serious bruising from the accident and then even worse from being beaten up by Christopher, this week she's flawless. Christopher wanted to kill Tony and, although the doctor did convince him Tony hadn't had sex with her you would have expected perhaps some residual awkwardness between them, or something coming from the fact that Christopher was a recovering alcoholic who fell off the wagon big time. Nope. Now yes, AJ's teacher was introduced in a previous week and we got the idea he might be interested in Carmela but this week had the set-up, the dates, the sex and the break-up. There's nothing in this episode to hint that we'll be seeing much more of him again.

But look at season one. Almost every character has an arc, Tony obviously has the issues around his depression, Livia keeps herself going by manipulating everyone to fight one another, AJ starts realising what his family is, Carmela with Father Phil, Uncle Junior wanting to be boss... and the way that one person's arc is used to push another's is masterful until it all comes to a crisis point. Season two had less of this, and season five seems to have nothing. The end of episode promos always show moments of violence from the next episode, making a good play of making it seem that something that turns out to be innocent is a huge crisis, but there is no real story going through this series. If I stopped watching the show after this week, there is nothing underneath it to make me regret doing so. The characters are largely walking around in independent vacuums, barely connecting with one another in any meaningful way and I think that's a shame.

When The Sopranos was created it was initially only thought to be able to run to one series tops. Now I can accept David Chase would be surprised when HBO came back and asked for more, but you'd think that three years later he'd be able to get together some writers to craft something of the intricacy and beauty of the plot for the first season?

More from the Fuck right off! desk.

The revolt of a small section of society about taking away their right to be cruel and beastly is nothing like the huge wave of dissent that was caused by the introduction of a cruel and beastly tax by a cruel and unloved woman.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The ideal present for the Republican in your life?

Pro-hunt protesters storm Commons. Earlier in the week we had Batman get onto Buckingham Palace, now we've got men who enjoy dressing in red costumes causing trouble. Bloody Daredevil...

Meanwhile, to show they've got their finger on the pulse of what matters to people the Tories unveil their new emblem. What with the arm coming out of the shirt sleeve or cuff it looks suspiciously socialist but then it's not like New Labour are cornering that market at the moment. But I'm also wondering if they're trying to get a resemblence to the Olympics, what with the 'great success' of Team GB.

I think I reported this at the other end when they brought it in, but school gives up on biometric scanners because they weren't any good.

It's Tales of the Riverbank versus early 80s electroclash! [via B3ta]

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Something of interest for London bloggers (none of which read this blog, I'm definitely going wrong somewhere): The London Noise Map: just one element of the Government's much wider national ambient noise strategy. It will provide information on the levels of road traffic noise across the whole of the Greater London Authority's area. Other types of noise will be covered by projects that are being planned or progressed at present. I live in a nice area with 50.5 to 55.5 decibels of road noise apparently, the black spot in the area is unsurprisingly the M1, about a mile away.

Poisoning, burning people alive then stealing their homes. The CV for Siberian estate agents is one hell of a read.

One of the workshops at Bicon that I enjoyed the most was the one on sign language. It's something I fancy looking into in the future as something that would be useful to know the rudiments of when working in a public library, it's an access thing. Anyway, so far all I can say is "my name is Loz".

Fathers 4 Justice activist breaches Buckingham Palace security. The funniest thing was Shiteye Blunkett's statement to the Commons afterwards: he said how the Royal Family "had always wanted the Palace to remain accessible to the people of the UK" and not "become a fortress" This was received with the contempt it deserved.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Just watched this. Damn Richard O'Brien and his lithe, thin body.

It seems religious leaders advocating hate can't be used as a stick to beat Muslims with: A group of prominent Jewish rabbis have asked the Israeli army not to flinch from killing Palestinian civilians in the context of the ongoing military campaign against armed groups resisting the occupation.

Now, Kris has complained about my 'slagging off' of Christians, as opposed to my slagging off of Politicians, the Greedy, the Stupid and the point where they intersect in the Oval Office. And she is right of course, it's unfair to lump her in with the Christian American Doctors that have decided their faith allows them to overwrite the Hypocratic Oath to include the clause 'but not the queers'. It's unfair to lump her in with the Christian African Bishops who are actively teaching their congregations that condoms are evil and do not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, causing the AIDS rates to soar and so force the Governments to beg with wealthy American drugs companies to lower the cost of their anti-AIDS drugs.

My problems are not with Christians like Kris and the members of her congregation, or the churches that my grandmothers were members of while they were still alive, one side of the family owes it's existence to the fact that one of my grandfathers persuaded one of my grandmothers not to become an African missionary in the years after the Great War. I've never met, face-to-face, a nasty Christian, or at least if I have, it's not been because they're a Christian but because they are a small minded person. But, obviously, I have huge problems with Christianity (just as I do with all the religions) and I have huge problems with the structure of organised religions.

So, I'm afraid it's not going to change. I'm sorry that it upsets and annoys Kris, but I dare say most of what I have to say about religion I feel as strongly about as she does about her views. I'm open to debate on the issue up to a point, with her or anyone else, and wouldn't think to give my opinion on her blog unless invited too. Similarly I expect that people would respect that I had the right to close the gate on discussions in my little space here. I'm not demanding that she either dumps her religion or she campaigns for a massive clean-up from the inside, it's what's good for her and I respect that if I don't agree with it.

In the entry to which she objects I will agree that, in the rush of typing I wasn't specific about what I meant and caused some unintended offence, as opposed to the offence I did mean to cause. I know that many Christians did object to the West's rush to war and the continuing attempts of Bush and Blair to try and hijack morality (whether Christian or not) in their desire to dominate. I was attempting to suggest that those groups in society that supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Against Terror would not find anything to object to in the drama The Hamburg Cell as it did not glamourise or justify the terrorist's actions. Obviously, I didn't make myself clear.

Anyway, in an attempt to cause brand new offence, I recently read Soon by Jerry B. Jenkins, one half of the team behind the Left Behind series about a post-Rapture Earth. Why did I read this? Well, looking at the back cover blurb it didn't seem like a story about Christianity. Whoops.

And Jerry has plundered the Bible again for the story, rather than take a few lines from the Book of Revelation and spin out a line that is popular with American Christians but has little standing in the accepted understanding of the texts, he's basically ripping off the story of Saul/Paul, except with slightly less of his rampant misogyny and, by the end of this book at least, none of the going around telling people he knows exactly what Jesus meant, despite never having met the guy.

Anyway, Soon is set some thirty or forty years in the future. The clash of religious fundamentalists we are suffering under now caused a Third World War, so the survivors decided to outlaw all forms of religious observance. To be a practicing Christian (although all religions are outlawed the only one Jenkins is interested in, unsurprisingly, is the big 'C') carries a death penalty, normally they get shot though the book opens with someone being burned alive in a petrol barrel.

I don't know whether Jenkins believes he has created an atheistic society in which to put his little morality tale but it has surprisingly pagan touches. The story opens at Christmas, now called 'Wintermass'. Now, you can argue that you can have a non-religious festival based around the shortest day in the year, but if you were creating a non-religious society would you have a festival reminding people of Christmas? Later on we are told that New York stock market traders refer to 'seers, psychics and horoscopes'. Presumably these are all non-religious seers, psychics and horoscopes, not ones that believe they commune with the Gods, because they would be Pagan and therefore religious. Unless Jenkins doesn't believe Paganism is a religion?

The society that Jenkins has created is obviously what a Christian having to imagine what a godless society would be like. Due to the damage done by WW3 the USA is no more, now redefined as the United Seven States of America, or USSA. Do you see what he's done there? There are other Rapture-tastic touches too, such as a one-world government and a one-world currency.

Anyway, our hero Paul, works for the Government in their 'rooting out and killing Christians' department. He gets blinded while involved in an operation and, recuperating in hospital he decides to listen to the Bible on CD so he can understand the mentality that lead his long deceased father to write him a letter declaring himself a Christian (in a nice touch Jenkins blames all religions for the war but then on the next page makes it clear that only Christianity is the 'right' religion). Following this he's on a plane journey when the possibility of crashing makes him pray to God, the flight is saved and he miraculously gets his sight back. So of course he's a new man and now tries to work to protect Christians from inside an organisation dedicated to wiping them out. But there are unexplained and miraculous events happening in the country, so the authorities decide to crack down and he must do something drastic when it's clear that people in his team aren't playing fair in the battle against Christianity.

Really this book is pretty dire, full of priceless remarks like "Believe me, religion is the opposite of non-violence" and his conversion seems to make Paul unable to go for more than a few pages without having to stop for a pray. The Bible is supposed to be a verboten text, yet Paul happily chats about it and the useful life lessons it has with someone who, perhaps luckily, turns out to be another closet Christian working inside the enemy. After listening to his Bible CDs Paul finds it 'harder and harder to dismiss [Jesus] as just a teacher' (Page 130). Why? Is the idea that we should be nice to one another a completely inhuman alien concept? This would be something that I've only heard from Christians, that atheists have no morals (and that Hitler was an atheist, which is incorrect but irrelevant here). Jenkins also drags C.S. Lewis in to defend Paul's conversion to Christianity, claiming that Lewis 'proved' that Jesus was the Son of God, he could be 'one of three things: a liar, a lunatic or who He claimed to be. You couldn't have it two ways. You could not call Him a wise teacher unless you believed His claim to be Lord of all' (page 130). But for starters the Jesus I'm aware of didn't claim to be 'Lord of all', second it's possible to be a wise teacher without being the Son of God. There are various faulty and Straw Men arguments in the book. But Jenkins does get the high bodycount of the Bible right, most of the Christians we meet in this book get killed.

So, I started reading the book by accident, I don't think I'll be reading any more now I'm warned. Careless rubbish.

Do you think you have what NASA doesn't when it comes to stopping fantastically expensive probes from crashing into the planet? Then check here.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Is this a law too far? Governor Schwarzenegger outlaws sex with corpses.

Hmmm. Stroke victim looses the ability to dream for several months.

Meanwhile keeping a diary makes you ill. I've been keeping a journal for almost ten years now. But do blogs count? Are people who blog about things better off than those who talk about their own life?

Men may only have ten million years. Given that dinosaurs didn't make it that long AND we've got George W. Bush I don't think we need to worry too much about that.

And thank god we've got The Rowboat Veterans for Truth to help expose George Washington for the fraud he is. [via BoingBoing]

John Constantine Pic
You are John Constantine.
John has a strong knowledge of the occult and at times he appears to wield strong magical powers but he has also become known as something of a con-man, more likely to talk himself out of trouble than pull a rabbit out of a hat.

What Gritty No Nonsense Comic Book Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Someone has taken an old Onion story from this time almost four years ago and updated it with hyperlinky goodness: Go see!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Things don't look good for the people of Jamaica in the face of Hurricane Ivan. Still, maybe the priests can get together and say that God is blaming Peter Tatchell for trying to get Beenie Man prosecuted. One of the most depressing things in a radio report I heard about it was the American woman who said that her family were there on holiday and they were planning to ignore the advice to get the hell out of their and 'tough it out'. I believe glib comments about 'a little wind' might also have been made too. "If we survive this we can survive anything." So, if her family survives they could be shot into space without food or water and we'll see how they manage.

News has come in that George W. Bush has converted to Islam in response to the news that the Christian God was planning to vote for Kerry in the US Presidential Elections. "Frankly I've always had my doubts about that God and that son of his." Said Mohammad Bush from the White House. "I mean, 'love thy neighbour'? 'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone'? What kind of hippy crap is this?" He said his family agreed with his decision and his wife, standing several feet behind him nodded. At least, I think it was his wife, she was wearing her burqua after all and Mohammad hadn't given her permission to speak...

I mean, I presume John Kerry hasn't officially thrown in the towel has he? I realise the terrible events in Beslan have shifted the myopic gaze of the western media for a while but we would have heard wouldn't we? While it may be unfair to stereotype the whole country, only in America could you have a man who went to war branded a coward while a man who got his Daddy to make sure he had a post well away from any actual danger, then still skive off to do something else instead is hailed as a brave wartime leader.

UPDATE: On the subject of Mrs Suicidal I may have been the victim of overzealous news snipping. Later in the day I saw what I assume is the same lady being interviewed on the Beeb. What this item included which the earlier snippet did not was the fact that she and her husband HAD tried to get off the island but all the seats on the plane had gone, so they were forced to tough it out rather than choosing.

Aaah, home time. I've been back at the Closed Library all week, about bloody time, taking part in the general chaos of trying to get it working in time for the reopening at the beginning of October. Today I've been playing up in the non-fiction library, discharging and shelving new non-fiction stock. Three hundred and fifty-six books released from the terror of 'In Transit'a and safely berthed on our shelves. Now I go home to rest.

OK, so maybe she didn't get to choose the title or the write-up, but could Doctor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema not have done something about the title of her book Women Who Think Too Much, or is she being aimed at the Surrendered Wife market? Maybe it's a valid description of a problem and a useful solution, but it just screams "Women! You've got to be a bimbo to be happy!"

Shocking pictures in prove NASA faked moon landing. NASA chief and former astronaut Mister Spoon was unavailable for comment. What's he hiding, eh?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Well, twenty nine hours and my computer is still working...

Sorcery runs rampant in our nation’s classrooms, daycares and playgrounds. Our juvenile magician prisons are overflowing with the criminally magical and the Mystic Wasteland of Drax continues to launch unicorns at our borders.

I love this guy.

Sometimes I love Barbelith. A discussion on a Guardian article on transsexuals and then the author of the piece turns up to talk about it.

In 'news catch-up stylee' all I can say is fuck right off.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I-i-i-i-i-iit's Me! Hooray! Yes, a lovely man came to my flat this afternoon (why is it when I made the original appointment with only two days between I got a morning appointment but when they have two weeks warning they come at the end of the afternoon? Oh well...) and, well, I'm not willing to commit myself any further than to say my computer is now working at the moment. We shall see...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Well, hopefully tomorrow morning the engineer from PC World will be turning up to MY flat (and not my parents) and will be able to fix my computer in a way that doesn't involve me having to reinstall Windows XP AGAIN (or at the least allows me to access and save the files I haven't got backed up on there).

In the meanwhile, expect a longer answer when I have the opportunity Kris. And congratulations to elfgeek and sermoa!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker top poll of public's favourite TV scientists.

Now I'm back in the Closed Library, playing with books. But the downside is that some guy is laying carpet on the stairs and singing along to Dido. What did I do with the Dictionary of National Biography?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

[stolen from someone on Barbelith]

Newsflash! For once Bill Clinton has non-fellat!o related chest-pains and shortness of breath. Of course, this gets more coverage on the British news than the thousands of people who actually have real heart attacks.

Elsewhere in the axis of evil, George W. Bush ends the week when he has to pretend to be a 'compassionate conservative'. Now he can go back to being a 'complete scumfucker of a conservative'. Anyone who votes for him in November believing he represents a kinder, gentler conservative doesn't deserve to have the vote. But if you don't happen to be white, male, rich and already in Shrubya's cabinet, what choice do you really have over who to give your vote to? When is the Democratic party going to start acting like an opposition and stand against the ruin and destruction the Republicans want to do, not only to their own country, but the world? Why should the US people have to make do with voting for the lesser of two evils? Why don't the Democrats wake up, look at the fact they're loosing in the polls when they are up against a President who manifestly looks after only himself and his friends, they are up against a cabal of cheats and cowards who send their children to die in Iraq and Afghanistan but were too chicken-shit to serve when it was their time, and stop putting up right-wingers from their party as candidates for the Presidency of the US?

The Hamburg Cell on Thursday night was brilliant. A bit too long but very, very good. It manages to humanise the September 11th hijackers without at any point making their actions in any way pardonable. These are crazy people, no more Muslims than Shrubya, fired up on a diet of lies, distortions and a self-distorting knowledge of history (when one of their more moderate friends points out that the Jews did actually happen to suffer unimaginably in the Holocaust one of the soon-to-be hijackers points out they must be guilty because they came out of it with their own homeland).

The main character is Ziad Jarrah, played by Karim Saleh. As the film starts he is going to university in Germany, meeting women and not thinking of himself as a Muslim. Disconcertingly the film then jumps and suddenly, months later, he is joining in radical prayer groups. The drama is supposed to be based on everything that has been found out about the hijackers since the incident in 2001, therefore it seems that the writers, Ronan Bennett and Alice Pearman, have been unable to find out what turns this shy student into a fanatacist. And Saleh is wonderful, at no point does he retreat into monsterdom, instead Jarrah is pretending to start a life with his girlfriend, while all the time 'preparing for martyrdom'. When anyone argues with him you see the light in his eyes die as he shuts down, going monosyllabic, protecting his core of warped fervour from people trying to turn him aside.

(And Alexander Siddig turns up too! He changed his name from Siddig El Fadil or something while doing Deep Space Nine because he was sick of being typecast in parts as 'dastardly Arab'. Oh well, nice try.)

The film drags in the final half-hour, as though this were a ninety minute film that was stretched out to fill it's two hour time slot. But as captions fill the screen faster and faster as we approach September 11th to tell us just exactly how many warnings, clues and mistakes on the part of the hijackers that the American intelligence agencies ignored the drama also builds to a terrible intensity. When the film closes with pictures of the planes crashing into their targets it's almost an anticlimax and perhaps unnecessary to the tone of the peace. Good Republicans/Conservatives/Christians can watch this film without worrying that it's going to make them sympathise with their enemy. It doesn't do that, but it does warn of the precise nature of the fanatacism that threatens the Western world, masquerading as and using adherents of the Muslim faith, and information must always be preferable to the simplified lies that Bush feeds people in his speeches.

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