Saturday, May 24, 2003

OK, I'm off for a few days. Tomorrow, I'll be in Reading for this then on Monday it's time for the lucky Blazers shirt to come out again as I find a pub to watch this in.

Just to give you an idea of the mentality of Wolves fans, here's something I received on a mailing list a few weeks ago:
There are two varieties of Wolves fans:
A) Those of you who already know Wolves will fail at the last hurdle. Some say that just because failures have occurred on a regular basis in the past, that doesn't mean failure is in the future. It's those same people who are likely to claim that just because the sun has been rising on a pretty regular basis, that's no indication that it will rise again tomorrow. Variety A fans recognize this and laugh sadly when they hear it.

B) Those of you who are too thick to join Variety A.

It's like being Catholic really. An organisation led by an old man who lives in what's effectively his own private country (Sir Jack Hayward owns most of Grand Bahama) that continually promises a future of happiness and joy to its followers. However, the promised land never seems to actually appear, and those followers instead spend lives filled with guilt and regular encounters with gut-wrenching despair.
Seems that enetation is playing up again - I seem to be getting most of the comments emailed to me, but they're not all appearing on the site for anyone else to read. I'll look into it soon, but I'm going away for a couple of days so it'll have to wait until I get back. Or, in short, I'm leaving it in the hope that it'll fix itself in my absence.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Here's a question - if Tatu do break the rules at the Eurovision Song Contest and do something vaguely 'risque' on Saturday, how many pages and photographs will the tabloids have to use on Monday to tell us all just how 'shocking, outrageous and disgusting' it all is?
The Andromeda Strain was on TV the other night, and now a scientist has proposed a theory that SARS might originate in space. Coincidence?

And if there is a connection, can Michael Crichton's agents demand royalties from anyone who catches SARS? After all, corporations are trademarking (and demanding exclusive rights over) everything nowadays from words to prefixes, so why shouldn't Crichton get his cut from space-borne viruses?
Wolves are doomed...we've just got Big Ron's Kiss of Death. Why am I even bothering to go and watch it on Monday?

Thursday, May 22, 2003

There have been a couple of interesting soc.history.what-if threads recently on the the best and worst possible alternate history novels. In an interesting parallel, The Modern Word is running an 'Imaginary Book Review' competition. Could be interesting.
Another great speech from Senator Robert Byrd:
Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this Senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing International law, under false premises. There is ample evidence that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda who masterminded the September 11th attacks, to Saddam Hussein who did not. The run up to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ laden death in our major cities. We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein's direct threat to our freedoms. The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 911. It was the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger.'

Just go and read the whole thing. (thanks to Lisa)
Beagle 2 (along with the rest of ESA's Mars Express mission) is launched in eleven days. I really would like them to discover life on Mars, not just because of the implications of finding life there, but also because it would be kind of ironic if, after all the fuss, the discovery is made thanks to the devoted efforts of someone from the Open University.
So, the Pentagon seems likely to be given $400bn to spend next year. Which isn't bad for somewhere that admits it can't account for a trillion dollars it's been given in the past and has also 'lost track of 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 missile launchers'.

OK, it's a big organisation. I can understand that there's going to be some pilfering of stationery or office supplies. I could even understand larger scale items going missing, even the odd gun and box of ammunition finding their way out of the stores and into someone's home. But how do you 'lose track' of not just one airplane but 56 of them? And are soldiers getting so confused they're accidentally driving tanks home at the end of the day instead of their cars and forgetting to return them? And does anybody feel safer knowing that there are 36 missile launchers out there that the US Army has seemingly forgotten about?

Still, when you're going through $12,649 a second, I suppose it's quite easy to forget some things. After all, you've just been given approximately $60 for every man, woman and child on the planet, so what's the odd missing tank among friends?

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

British Spin mentions 'I can't wait to read the inevitable Big Brother 4 blog'. So, is there one anywhere? While I've seen a few American sites devoted to TV shows there, the only British one I've seen devoted to a particular TV show is the rather good 24 Weblog - yes, it's an American show, but it's based on the British transmission of the show, complete with warnings of which American sites to avoid reading if you don't want to know the conclusion. So, is anyone planning a Big Brother 4 blog or will we all have to rely on Lowculture? And with the start of Big Brother and the Eurovision Song Contest on the same weekend can they keep up with the pace?
Bugger. Oh well, means I have an excuse to spend most of next Monday in the pub.
The Guardian's final extracts from The Clinton Wars are up, covering Blumenthal's falling out with Christopher Hitchens over Hitchens' claims that Blumenthal had perjured himself and Clinton's efforts to deal with Al-Qaida.
The Rumsfeld photo and headline in this week's Onion is rather amusing. And my nomination for this week's Onion story that will get circulated round the internet and have people believing it's true is Majority of Human Discourse Now Occurring In Online Product Reviews.

Talking of humorous websites, anyone fancy a sweepstake on when the next TV Go Home update will be? I'm going for July 4th.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Thanks to Dustbinman, I now know that The Sun is offering £50,000 to the first 'boy-girl' couple to have sex on this year's Big Brother. Which got me wondering - what if this year's contestants include both a gay man and a lesbian and they choose to ignore their difference of opinion in the quest for £25,000 each? Do they still get the money?
Today's Guardian had this article about Sandhurst cadets wanting to play Rugby League, which included a little bit of information I'd never heard before: The news prompted David Hinchliffe, leader of the Parliamentary Rugby League Group who played a key role in lifting the ban on the code that existed throughout the armed forces until less than a decade ago, to table a question to the MoD.

It's one of those bits of information that leave you open-jawed shock - the armed forces weren't allowed to play Rugby League until less than ten years ago! I'm trying to find some information about this on the web, but haven't come up with anything so far. But, there is a wealth of information about the history of Rugby League which is a fascinating example in itself of how class and sport can get bundled together. For instance, here's an interesting House of Lords debate from 1995 about discrimination by the Rugby Football Union against Rugby League players (League players were banned from playing Union at all until recently because of League's professional status) and this Rugby League history website has some interesting stories about the creation of the Northern Union and the prejudice faced by the working class players in the 19th century that led to its establishment.

Of course, Rugby League also has one of the strangest intersections between sport and history. Until the Second World War it was the predominant code in France, but then it was banned by the Vichy government (who also encouraged Union) because the working class roots of the League clubs meant they had close connections with the Communist parts of the Resistance. In fact, until 1989, League had to be referred to as the 'jeu a 13' as it was banned from calling itself 'rugby'. Actually, a quick Googling for 'rugby league france vichy' throws up a lot of interesting links, like this campaign for the return of League assets 'stolen' by the Vichy government.
More serialisation of The Clinton Wars in today's Guardian, with an interesting section on how Blumenthal discovered the 'Arkansas Project' and also how he got smeared by Drudge. Tomorrow should be interesting - 'why my friend Christopher Hitchins turned against me' - even if Blumenthal seems too nice a man to put out the dirt on his enemies they smear on him.
In a gratuitous Lib Dem moment, here's a BBC News interview with Simon Hughes, discussing his plans for next year's Mayoral election in London.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Ken Macleod has updated with a brief guide to the last twenty or so years of history - 2001 and all that:

The second thing Gorbachev did was to introduce Russia to the market. The problem was that Russia did not have bourgeois civility, so after it was introduced to the market it did not know what to say to it. Instead it stood about with its hands in its pockets, until it found that its pockets were empty. Its pockets had been picked by the Russian Mafia, which is just like the Sicilian one, except it is not Roman Catholic so does not have a Godfather at its head. Instead it has Ministers, like Protestants.
The Guardian is serialising Sidney Blumethal's The Clinton Wars throughout this week, and actually has the extracts available online. Seems quite interesting, though a lot of it looks like it might be covering the same ground as Conason and Lyons' The Hunting of the President and David Brock's Blinded by the Right, but with more of an insider's perspective on the events.

Today's extracts cover the day the first public announcements about Monica Lewinsky were made and an introduction to Kenneth Starr and the working methods of his team.
The Eurovision Song Contest takes place on Saturday, and to kill some time I've just been looking at the official website. The website includes the lyrics of most of the songs and I just want to say that, although Tatu are clearly going to win it for Russia, Austria deserve a special prize for 'most insane lyrics of any song, ever'. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 'Man is the measure of all things' by Alf Poier:
I like most animals on this earth
But I really prefer little rabbits and bears

Soon all birds and beetles will die
But Adam's in bed with Eve busy reproducing

Rabbits live in the woods
Cats in the meadows
And cockroaches
Live under tiles

Little rabbits have short noses
And kittens soft paws
And Mother Holle likes her wool
From the african dromedary

The difference between animals such as apes and primates
Is no bigger than between noodles and pasta

But whoever wants to know more about animals should study Biology or inform
himself on my homepage

Some animals have wings
And others have fins
Some live outdoors
And others in cans

Small rabbits…..

For full coverage of Eurovision throughout the week, just check out the magnificent Lowculture - they watch Lorraine Kelly, so you don't have to.
Should have written about this yesterday when it was still slightly fresh, but the Top 100 books from the BBC's Big Read campaign have been announced. Is it just me, or do large parts of that list just seem to be there to confirm Sturgeon's Law?

And when what seems to be a collected fan effort has got Raymond Feist's Magician on the list (no, I have no idea what it is either) isn't it slightly depressing that SF fans really seemed to take a pass on this one? Dune is the only 'pure' SF book on there (you could possible include Hitch-Hiker's, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World at a stretch, but it's still less than Terry Pratchett has by himself) - where's Neuromancer, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or even The War of the Worlds?

It's a weird list on the whole. Just when you think it's all decent books you notice that something like Kane and Abel or The Thorn Birds has got in there and High Fidelity and White Teeth haven't. And why are Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials on there as single works while the four Harry Potter books all get on there separately?

I took a quick look at the discussion boards to see what people are saying about it...but when one of the first topics I saw was: Does anybody else think that Captain Corelli's Mandolin is the best book ever written, and should win hands down? I got out of there.

And for those of you wondering...I've read 20 of the list.
OK, I don't normally do these...but it's Blake's 7! I had to, really...my inner nine year old would never talk to me again if I didn't - and he's where I get all my best ideas from.

BLAKE: "I'm coming back." --

You're a natural leader, weirdly charismatic for a middle-aged paunchy guy. You're idealistic, but not above sneakiness. You carry one hell of a grudge towards your enemies--though, to be fair, you have damn good reasons. People sometimes suspect you're not quite all there, and they may have a point.

Which Season One Blakes 7 Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


(via Hot Buttered Death)

Sunday, May 18, 2003

It turns out that the Tunbridge Wells superhero was all just a hoax, cooked up by some b3tans (found via Bloggerheads). But then again, maybe the hoax is the actual hoax and Monkey Man really does exist - this could just be a ruse to keep reporters from finding out the truth of his secret identity and inadvertently revealing it to his worst enemy... Or maybe not.
I'm still undecided over the whole 'should London be bidding for the Olympics?' issue. I can see good arguments against it (it's not popular with Londonders themselves) and good arguments for it (those of us who live outside the M25 like to mess up the lives of those within). But, my indecision isn't helped when you see the people coming out for and against it. Just today, Gerald Kaufman came out against it in the Mail on Sunday, so my thoughts were starting to lean in favour until I read the Observer and saw that David Aaronovitch had come out in favour of it. Making a decision is not getting any easier for me...