Friday, November 07, 2003


If you need something to fill the time while I'm gone, then you can make your own signs here. Or check out any of the other fine blogs listed on the right hand side of this page.

Swiss libel laws

If you understand German, then you may find this story from a Swiss website about Prince Charles interesting, seeing as it mentions stuff that can't be reported in Britain. If you don't then, you might find this or this useful in helping you understand it. (found via Republic)

Of course, none of this matters as the basic principle of the monarchical system is that these people are better than us for some reason (again, I think invisible friends come into it) and so what they get up to shouldn't be any concern of us lowly serfs.
This report is from the Washington Post, not, I repeat not from The Onion:
The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers...

The director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, sent an e-mail titled "congressional questions" to majority and minority staff on the House and Senate Appropriations panels. Expressing "the need to add a bit of structure to the Q&A process," he wrote: "Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee."

He said this would limit "duplicate requests" and help answer questions "in a timely fashion."

It would also do another thing: prevent Democrats from getting questions answered without the blessing of the GOP committee chairmen.
Every day, this looks like a much better world to be in.

And if you typo my name

You find digital artist and photographer Nic Barlow - who found me by typoing his own website. If you find it hard to tell the difference, he's clearly the much better photographer.

And not a surprise

Now, there's a surprise

Michael Portillo is stepping down as an MP at the next election. So, Kensington and Chelsea Conservative Association must begin the search for a new candidate, probably annoying a lot of wannabe Tory MPs who've found themselves seats a lot less safe than that. Matthew Turner, the blogosphere's man within the Conservatives of Kensington and Chelsea remains silent on the matter, probably in shock.

More surveys

Chris Lightfoot has finally completed his political survey, and I find myself sitting right next to Charles Kennedy:

My exact scores were -7.3950 on the left/right scale and +1.7954 on the idealist/pragmatist scale, should you be interested. Now, is anyone going to compile a table of these results?

Mystic Matt

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The big question

Does that figure include Sun journalists, or are they just bumping up the average?

The Matrix Revolutions: A review

From the Mighty Reason Man:
I will say one thing for the Wachowski brothers: their goal of making a deep Christian film that makes people take a new look at faith and belief has been realized; because of this movie, I now can say with confidence that God does not exist.

Actually, that's a lie. Matrix Revolutions has actually convinced me that God does indeed exist, and that He wants me to be unhappy.

This movie was a betrayal; I loved the first two installments of the Matrix. When people knocked Reloaded, I argued with them. I defended the pacing. I defended the orgy. I defended the convoluted melodrama of the Architect. So help me, I even defended The Kid (while secretly hoping for his speedy demise in Revolutions, of course, but still).

And what do Larry and Andy Wachowski do? They count their money and piss all over me.

Revolutions is an unending parade of crap from start to finish. To pick apart the individual flaws, fuckups, and moments that made me want to die would be an injustice to the sheer godawfulness that is this motion picture as a whole.

But will it make the OED?

Atrios has the 'Wingnut Debate Dictionary' over at Eschaton. Most of the terms refer to American bloggers, who people might not know, but it's still pretty funny. I'm sure Matt will enjoy this one:
Den Beste ex Machina (n.) - The creation of a fake political movement, such as Transnational Progressivism, that has virtually no basis in reality in order to disparage ideological opponents.
Update: There's a fuller version available here.

OK, let me get this straight...

You can now say who has issued the injunction, but you can't say what the story he's issued the injunction against might contain?

Still, Popbitch had some nice bits that may or may not be related to this story this morning. You can find some of them on Bloggerheads along with some more linkage.

And the fringe benefits of being a royal servant look quite good:
The Mail on Sunday, which is said to offer up to £500,000 a time for material from royal servants
How long do you have to have been a servant for to get that sort of payment, do you reckon?

Bizarro World of Sport

Typical. You wait ages for a strange sports story and then two come along on the same day: Ball stops play in the Zimbabwe vs West Indies Test Match and the strange saga of Colin Cameron's gumshield.

Howard elected

Michael Howard is the sole candidate for the Tory leadership, so he wins by default. And interest rates have gone up, just to help us remember what life was like back in the early 90s.

Update: Over at Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell explains why the question of whether Howard threatened to overrule Derek Lewis is important, and not just because it was a fun piece of telly.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The universe, considered as a trunk road

The Voyager 1 space probe has finally begun to leave the solar system. From the sounds of it, it's just passed through the cosmic equivalent of the M25 and is now passing through a barren vacuum devoid of anything of much interest. Pretty much the same as Brentwood, really.

Political Compass

This table of bloggers' answers from the Political Compass test is quite interesting. I find myself down in the bottom left corner, surrounded by Timberites, Chris Brooke , Backword Dave and British Spin, while John B does seem to be living up to his label of 'centrist extremism', at least slightly.

I've taken the test a few times - it's one of those great procrastination tools, and my results are normally in the same area, around -6 to -8 on both scales, with the difference probably accounted for by whether I was more in a mood to 'agree' or 'strongly agree' with a particular statement on the day in question.

Send the Saudis some sand

Because they might be about to run out.

No, really the worst

The list of The Nation's Top Ten Worst Films Ever can now be seen on the Film 2003 site (link via Simon). I'd agree with nine of the ten being there, but I don't think Blair Witch should be there - sure, it's overrated, but it's not a bad film.

The film I am heartened to see included is Highlander II. The original Highlander was one of my favourite films in my teens, and I still have a soft spot for it, but Highlander II really has to take the title of Worst Sequel Ever. My theory about the script is that the guy who wrote it never actually saw the original film, or even read the script of it. Instead, he went down the pub with a mate who'd sort-of watched it on video a few months ago and asked him to explain the plot. Having had that explained to him, he then wrote the sequel based on that knowledge.

Harry vs Ryan

There's now a contender to the famous Marks (et al) vs Kamm (et al) debate at Beatnik Salad for the title of 'best comment dispute' (now that's a category the Guardian should consider introducing) - this post at Harry's Place has got 50 comments at the last count, with no signs of abating just yet. My favourite, though, has to be this from Peter Cuthbertson:
BTW, who is betting that the same people who love this bill are the ones who fiercely deny that incestuous rapes and bloody murder on television night after night has no ill effect?
I'm just wondering what TV channel shows 'incestuous rapes...night after night'. Any suggestions as to which channel Peter may have found this on?

Legal News

This will not be the year they subpoenaed the Eschaton, as Atrios and Donald Luskin have now come to an agreement.

She's taking lots of vitamins

One thing I forgot to lonk to earlier in the week was this excellent 'This Much I Know' feature in the Observer Magazine from Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips:
The main difference between Americans and the English is the desire for intensity. Americans say, 'Let's do it now motherfucker, let 's go!' and the English are more like, 'Should we be intense right now, or should we wait till after dinner? 'I think anyone who stays in England long enough gets a little defanged.

All that heaven and hell stuff sounds like fun. But come on, be serious - nothing happens after you die. When you turn off the toaster, it doesn't sit there longing to make more toast, it doesn't become the ghost of a toaster. When the spark of life is gone, we're just a sack of flesh and chemicals with no ignition. That's why I live life with such enthusiasm.

The music business hasn't changed. It has always been about getting some Christ-like figure who has a lot of sex and money and looks good in pictures, and then exploiting him for money. Which is great!

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Lyra's Oxford: A review

My copy of Philip Pullman's Lyra's Oxford arrived in the post this morning, which was a bit of a surprise as we haven't had any post for a few days because of the strike and also because it's not officially published until the 6th.

It's quite a fascinating curio, consisting of a short story - Lyra and the Birds - and various ephemera including a map of Lyra's version of Oxford (complete with advertisments on the reverse, of which more later), a page from a guide to Oxford and a postcard from Dr Mary Malone to a friend. All of them come together to form something that's both not quite and more than a story. Before I read it, I thought Lyra's Oxford was going to be a capstone to His Dark Materials in the same way as Kim Stnaley Robinson used The Martians to collect various ephemera from the Mars trilogy, but it's clearly more than that. The story and the ephemera are more like a series of clues to a mystery that may or may not have an answer. As the introduction to the book explains, or doesn't explain:
This book contains a story and several other things. The other things might be connected with the story, or they might not; they might be connected to stories that haven't appeared yet. It's not easy to tell.
The story within the book itself may not be the most important thing there, but it's the simplest part to review, and in that it's a typically accomplished Pullman tale. On the surface it's an exciting tale of Lyra and Pantalaimon's attempts to guide an assistance-seeking witch's daemon across Oxford, reminiscent of the early chapters of Northern Lights, but beneath the surface there are other powers working, mysteries being created and strange motives at work leaving the reader with a sense that are important questions still to be asked.

My feeling is that Lyra's Oxford isn't a capstone, but a bridge, a link between His Dark Materials and the promised The Book Of Dust, taking us from the multiple worlds of the first into a newer, deeper, world where there are still fundamental questions to be asked and perhaps answered. I think it'll prove to be essential reading for anyone who read and enjoyed His Dark Materials.

The ephemera presented within the book, though, are perhaps that will occupy much time - are they just added colour or deeper clues? Certainly, there are interesting things to notice within them, such as the handwriten annotations on a couple of them, the resonance between a story in the guide to Oxford and the story in the book, and the name of one of the authors on a list of books. The section I find most interesting though, and others who have frequented soc.history.what-if over the years may feel the same as me in wishing these were available for purchase, is the list of maps available from the 'Globetrotter' company. Their list includes maps of such places as Brytain and the Isles; Eastern Anglia and the German Ocean; The German Electorates; Mesopotamia and Babylonia; Catalonia, Castille and Portugal; The Kingdom of the Clove Islands; Muscovy; Tartary; The Pashalik of Kazakhstan; Patagonia and Van Tieren's Land. The same company also stocks the 'Catalogue of Scientific and Surveying Equipment' from Theophrastus Colcroft and Sons and guides such as A Guide For The Traveller In The Realms Of The Witches and A Prisoner Of The Bears. It's enough to make you want to roam the streets of Oxford, looking for a window through to this alternate Beaumont Street where such wonders can be purchased.

As a final note, by way of noting an interesting coincidence as this book was travelling towards me, it seems that we all have our own Oxfords, though thanks to this post I now know that there is some area of overlap between mine, Chris Brooke's and Matthew Turner's.

The alternative Premiership

Here's the latest version of the Premiership table in the format created by Wolves fan John Breakwell. It's interesting that it's now in three distinct groups all separated by more than 3 points. He refers to them as 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' - the question of which is which is an exercise best left to the reader:

27 Arsenal
26 Chelsea
25 Manchester United
19 Birmingham City
18 Manchester City, Fulham, Charlton Athletic
17 Liverpool
16 Newcastle United, Southampton
12 Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur
11 Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Bolton Wanderers
10 Everton
9 Wolverhampton
8 Leicester City, Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United

Watch out, watch out, there's a mob about!

IDS has compared his treatment at the hands of the press to that of a paedophile. Given what happened before when the press went after paedophiles, can we expect some confused angry mobs to appear outside the homes of people called Iain?

Monday, November 03, 2003

Back to a coronation

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that Michael Howard might face a challenge from the Right of the Tory Party, in the possible form of Eric Forth, in the leadership election. It now appears that Forth has decided not to stand, thus denying us of the spectacle of hacks descending on my old home town newspaper, the Redditch Advertiser, to find out more about his time as MP for Mid-Worcestershire.

Oliver Kamm: An apology to my readers

Over recent months I, like many other Lib Dem bloggers, have responded angrily to posts made by the blogger calling himself 'Oliver Kamm' in the belief that he was a real person advancing serious arguments. You can imagine what a fool I feel today now I've realised that 'Kamm' is actually an arch-parodist at work. I should have guessed ages ago, but it's only this post that's finally made me realise. The reference to Stephen Pollard as a 'fellow-Leftist' should be the giveaway, but what finally convinced me of his parodic talents was the punchline where he refers to the possibility that 'consistent liberals' may have 'to vote for (Michael) Howard in order to keep the Liberal Democrats out.'

Comedy genius...

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire...

Grown men argue over who their invisible friend wants them to fall in love with. Surely, if this 'God' being actually existed, he'd be following his own precedent and raining down fire and brimstone, turning someone into a pillar of salt or something similar? But then again, that would require him him to show some kind of consistency and faithfulness to what's been written about him, and as his fan clubs never seem to manage that, I guess he wouldn't either.

Ah, the joys of letting your life be run by primitive superstitions...

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Someone's lying

But is it author Stephen Mansfield:
Among Mansfield's revelations is his insistence that Bush and Tony Blair have prayed together at a private meeting at Camp David. Blair has previously denied this.

Mansfield, however, says that, while there were no witnesses, aides were left in little doubt as to what had happened. He told The Observer: 'There is no question they have shared scripture and prayed together.'
Or Tony Blair?
JEREMY PAXMAN: You don't pray together for example?

TONY BLAIR: No, we don't pray together Jeremy, no.
It's always good to know that people in positions of power can't agree whether they spoke to their invisible friend or not.