Saturday, February 14, 2004

Connections

Interesting article from the IoS on Gordon Brown's links with John Kerry which makes me wonder if British political commentators can now breathe a sigh of relief as they'll be able to write about the US election in terms of how it will affect the Blair/Brown relationship, making it no different from any other subject.

Update: Changed 'release' to 'relief' which I'd always intended to have in there. As always, I blame sleep deprivation. Cheers to Doctor Vee for pointing it out.

Shock

Former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani has been found dead in his flat in Rimini.

You're in the right place...

Another Bill Hicks article, this time by John Lahr (author of 'The Goat Boy Rises' profile in the New Yorker) from the Guardian's Weekend magazine.

It's bostin'!

Found via Just another false alarm, I'd like to announce that What You Can Get Away With supports in full the Birmingham: It's Not Shit campaign.

Trust me, not only is the new look of the city centre very impressive (and it impressed an architect friend of mine) Birmingham is quite clearly not shit to anyone who grew up in Redditch like me.

Newton's Wake

I just went looking to see if I could find any reviews of Ken Macleod's new novel Newton's Wake which is published in a couple of weeks' time. Unsurprisingly, no full reviews yet, but this comment from Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who edited it, makes me place it pretty highly on my 'I want to read that' list (and also on my wishlist, hintingly enough):
Ken MacLeod's Newton's Wake: A Space Opera is indeed primo stuff, as Charlie says. Favorite scene so far: the one in which our heroine, semi-stranded on a planet being terraformed by Korean Juche-ists preparatory to selling it to the farmers of "America Offline," curries favor with her hosts by playing them a recording of the play The Tragedy of Leonid Brezhnev, Prince of Muscovy. Some excerpts of which are given, in iambic pentameter.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Marriage and the Brooke family

Chris Brooke posts some suggestions for a more Biblical definition of marriage in America, including:
B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives (II Samuel 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chronicles 11:21).

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your father drunk and have sex with him (even if he previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female (Genesis 19:31-36).
Picking up the baton, Michael Brooke suggests, among others:
If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.
(Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
It does make you wonder about their family gatherings.

Separated at birth

Stephen Pollard and Andy from Little Britain (as spotted by me and a flatmate while watching Dinner With Portillo):



One of them's famous for saying 'I don't like it' and the other's the comedic creation of Matt Lucas.

Strange site of the day

While Googling for something else, I discovered the rather strange, but probably bizarrely useful in certain trivial situations, Cinemorgue site, which details in which of their films actors and actresses have died in and how they died in those films. Strange, but useful for answering the question 'Has X ever died on screen?'

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Klingon and the Sane Man

Today's Independent has a good article by Bill Bailey on Bill Hicks (and it's only two weeks till Bill Hicks Day, remember!) which has the very good news that there's a new book coming out - Love All The People - a collection of his letters, song lyrics and stand-up routines.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

And then there were three

So, Wesley Clark has withdrawn from the race for the Democrat nomination. I think The Poor Man gets it about right in his analysis:
As far as a post-mortem: not bad, for a rookie. You're supposed to say that something was horribly wrong with every campaign which loses, but I don't think that it's really true. I think, in the end, people just went for the know quantity of John Kerry, rather than the less thoroughly tested Clark, or Dean, or Edwards. Losing to John Kerry isn't like getting dumped for the sweatiest loser in the school - he's a serious guy, no shame in that at all.
He also points out that it's hard to work out where Clark's voters will go now - if one assumes they were voting for him because he was Southern, they'll go to Edwards, if it was because he was an outsider or his anti-war position, they'll go to Dean, or if it was because he was a veteran, they'll go to Kerry.

Actually, I say there are three candidates left, but that could well be two as Dean may withdraw if he fails to win Wisconsin (which seems likely, as he was fourth in the last poll I saw) which leaves a Kerry vs Edwards race. Though questions about whether Edwards is now bidding for the Vice-Presidency mean that some reporters will be eager to call the race over.

I think that Edwards does still think he can win - though he knows that he's in a strong position to be on the ticket, which would be a nice consolation prize - though he probably has only a slim chance of stopping the Kerry juggernaut right now. However, if I was advising the Edwards campaign (hey, you never know who might be reading) I'd suggest leaving Wisconsin for the next few days and heading to Las Vegas. Not to gamble his remaining campaign funds, but because Nevada has its primary on Saturday. Dean and Kerry are both currently concentrating on Wisconsin and while Edwards can campaign there, he's likely to get squeezed out of the media coverage concentrating on 'Dean's last stand?'. Instead, if he goes to Nevada, neither of the others are campaigning there (indeed, I read - but now can't find where - Kerry is taking a couple of days off from campaign events to fundraise) and it would give him the chance to get another state win, and one outside of his Southern base. It only has 24 delegates, but winning it would show that he's still a viable candidate and the bounce from there would keep him going to Super Tuesday.

Finally, as an addendum to the Edwards-as-VP discussion I was going to mention one possible outside contender for the spot - Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee. As a young, black, centrist Southerner, he'd add a lot to Kerry's campaign, presuming he's the nominee, but unfortunately his youth is a terminal disadvantage this time round. As he doesn't turn 35 until May 2005, he's ineligible for the Vice-Presidency. Instead, my dark horse candidate for the slot will have to be Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, though I suspect he, like Ford, is more likely to be a candidate for the ticket in 2008 (assuming the Democrats lose in November, and he's re-elected in 2006, of course).

Cuthbertson beaten by gay vote

Now, why didn't The Guardian go for that headline? Congratulations to Scott and The Gay Vote site, I'm just wishing the full results had been published so I could see if I came 11th or 12th in the final tally.

The primary next door

Kos has a report from the Democrats Abroad London caucus, at which over 600 people turned up. It's a long process, where every country with a DA branch elects delegates who then go on to the international caucus, which is being held in Edinburgh at the end of March. If the weekend of the 27th March is a slow news weekend, I wonder if there'll be any reports about it on the news here?

Update: Lance Knobel was also there, and gives us the most important result of the day: 'The excitement of participants at the Bush-out energy was only exceeded by the news that the London turnout had topped the total in Paris over the weekend. Some rivalries supercede all other considerations. '

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Hopes: Now filed under 'dashed'

Money, money, money

Atrios has some interesting news about campaign fundraising on the web. In amongst all the Presidential primaries, there's also a special Congressional election (the American equivalent of a by-election) taking place in Kentucky next week. The Democratic candidate, Ben Chandler has been advertising on blogs recently and has to managed to raise almost $50,000 through those ads for an outlay of just $2,000. I don't know much about fundraising, but a 25 to 1 return on investment seems pretty good to me.

Of course, this does show how much American elections cost - that $50,000 which could probably run 2 or 3 British by-elections is under 10% of the total amount of cash he's raised for the election - but it does show, as the Dean campaign demonstrated before, how the internet can be used very effectively for fundraising, raising large totals by small donations from lots of individual donors.

One other thing that interests me in it is the way people have been showing where their donations have been coming from - Atrios has asked his readers to add an extra 18 cents to their donations to show they come from Eschaton readers, and I've seen similar schemes on Kos and Pandagon for their readers to identify their donations, though with different amounts, obviously.

I'm wondering - could this be successful with fundraising for British elections? I suppose it needs someone to take the first step and try it.

Tempted

I'm thinking that it might be fun to go to the Big Brother open audition on March 14th. I'm not quite sure why, but I think it may be because I'll have been working the night before, and it could be good fun to be there sleep deprived.

People wanting to point out how sad I am after this confession don't have to as I'm fully aware of it.

The troubles of marriage in this modern world

You might remember back last August that Adam Felber was looking for help in saving his marriage. Well, he's still married, but a recent decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court is threatening to end it all:
It may be too late for Jeanne and me. As soon as the first gay couple in the U.S. gets legally hitched we might just decide to pack it in. What's the point? But there's hope for the future if you DO SOMETHING. Write your congressman. Tell him or her that you want a Constitutional amendment that will protect marriage for straight people. That unless you have the right to enter that sacred union, violate it, exit it, and enter it again with somebody else, again and again, regardless of what crimes you commit, until you're too old and feeble to mouth the words, "I do," - unless you have that right and gay people don't, then there is truly nothing sacred in the United States of America.

And maybe, as you prepare to make that call, spare a thought to my wife and me - two starry-eyed youngsters whose sacred union was destroyed by the prospect of certain other people having something similar. And then for your children's' sake (if they're not gay), make the call, raise your voice, and stand up for what's right.

Yoshida Battles The Straw Men

I don't know how many of you have encountered the strange world of Adam Yoshida (for those of you haven't, he makes Cuthbertson look like Charles Kennedy) but, if you have, you might find this amusing (with all apologies to the Flaming Lips):
His name is Yoshida,
He wishes he wasn't from Canada,
He's working with insanity,
He's gotta discipline humanity

Cause he knows that
It's demanding
To defeat those evil straw men
He's know we're all traitors

Oh Yoshida, we don't believe ya
But you won't let us traitors destroy you
Yoshida, we just humour ya
But you won't let those straw men destroy you

Those evil Liberal straw men
They're programmed by Joe Stalin
Doesn't need to be sane to fight them
So he's reading lots of Heinlein

Cause you know that
It'd be tragic,
If those evil liberals win
You know how to beat them

Oh Yoshida, we don't believe ya
But you won't let us traitors destroy you
Yoshida, we just humour ya
But you won't let those straw men destroy you...

Monday, February 09, 2004

Assignment

Coldplay have won a Grammy award for 'Clocks', and seemingly endorsed John Kerry for President (discovered via Pandagon):
They dedicated the award to late country star Johnny Cash and Democratic presidential contender Senator John Kerry, "who hopefully will be your president one day."
I expect at least five right-leaning blogs to have posts by midday telling us how Chris Martin should stick to either music or making babies with Gwyneth. Go!

Coming soon: Schrodinger's vote

I knew that what British Universities usually refer to as Politics, US Universities normally call Political Science. However, I never expected to see Political Quantum Physics.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Between Soviet hip and British pride

I just remembered a song that didn't get mentioned in Harry's search for the worst political song. It's not the worst or the best, but it's probably unique in being the only song about a Liberal Conference not written and sung by the Liberal Democrat Glee Club.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Oh Blackpool by The Beautiful South

The peculiarities of reality

Watching the Ten O'Clock News I just caught a glimpse of Bush being interviewed on Meet The Press today. Now, there's enough commentary out there on what happened in the interview itself, but I was struck by the setting of it. It was in the Oval Office of the White House, but it looked to me like it was on an Oval Office set, rather than the Oval Office itself. I'm quite sure it did take place in the real Oval Office and this isn't an attempt to create some conspiracy theory, but I just found it quite interesting that the real Oval Office looks less impressive than the fictional version seen in The West Wing or other films and TV. Maybe it was just because it was being filmed by TV news cameras which, especially on American TV using NTSC, tend to give things a much more artificial look to things.

So, in future, maybe all Presidential interviews should take place in Hollywood where decent cameras and lighting can make the Oval Office look how people expect it, not how it is. After all, who wants reality in politics?

Recruitment

Interesting job advert. Do you think we can interest Chris Lightfoot in applying for it if the BNFL thing doesn't work out? Or is £81,000 for four days a week just not enough these days?

Another idea, probably doomed to fail

February 26th marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Bill Hicks. Now, aside from the fact that this makes me feel old (though I'm still, just, younger than he was when he died) I think it's a date that needs commemoration in some way.

So, having had a quick look round and found no other mention of anything to do with the anniversary on blogs (except for this) I'd like to suggest some kind of 'Hicks Day' blogburst on the 26th where people can mark the anniversary however they want and I'll link to any posts people want to make, like I did back on National Poetry Day - and this time, I've managed to give more than just a few days' notice if you want to do anything or spread the word.

And, just to make this idea seem less half-baked than it probably is, here's some suggestions for things you could do: Tell us your favourite Hicks joke, line or routine; Give us a 'what Bill meant to me piece; Hold a vigil outside the Dominion Theatre, claiming you're waiting for his return to the scene of his comedic triumph; petition Kevin Drum to rename himself Arizona Bay Pundit; A Hicks-related flash blog; travel to Mississippi to visit his grave; or just go to a field, take mushrooms and try and blog using the power of your mind. It's what he would have wanted. Well, if you ignore the other things he would have wanted, like not being dead.

Anyway, I'll be doing something here, though I have no idea quite what just yet, and if you want to do anything then let me know - comments or email are both good.

Tune in, geek out

One of the great things I've discovered about QFlicks in the past week is that, as well as having loads of films there you don't find in your local video shop, they've also got lots of DVDs of TV programmes, which means I'm taking the opportunity to go back and watch Farscape again from the beginning.

It's interesting seeing it again from the start as it did take some time to find its feet and realise just what they could achieve within the format they'd created. The pace of the earlier episodes feels a lot slower than the later ones and they'd not yet begun the multi-stranded, multi-themed plots that would feature in episodes later on.

It's also fun to play the 'Which Blake's Seven character were you based on?' game in the early episodes. Though before I get misinterpreted, I think it's more homage than plagiarism...after all, if you're going to copy, do it from the best. Rygel's clearly Vila, D'Argo's Gan with more to do, the Peacekeepers are the Federation and Zhaan is a mellower version of Cally. The other's aren't quite as easy - Pilot's mostly Zen, but with bits of Jenna, being used for the same sort of exposition. The only ones that don't map easily are Crichton and Aeryn with Blake and Avon (though the relationship between Crichton and Aeryn does have some of the same tone that slash fiction writers put into Blake/Avon stories). The best mapping is probably Crichton as the more idealistic Blake and Aeryn as the more cynical Avon (with the same 'if it's not black leather, I'm not wearing it' fashion sense).

Anyway, I'm only a few episodes in, so there's still lots more to discover and rediscover along the way. I had missed the first few episodes of the series back when it started, mainly because the trailers had made it look like another Henson Space Muppets series - I still bear the mental scars from watching ten minutes of Space Precinct all those years ago - and it was only when I caught an episode about halfway through the first series that I realised it wasn't just another Star Trek ripoff, but something much much weirder.

Where

Via Bobbie, this is quite fun either to just flash up the locations of the various counties, or to makea map of the ones you've visited(*) to be suitably parochial instead of making one of the US states you've visited or one of those big ones of the world that shows how little of it you've seen.

* - I've probably been through every county in England and Wales (and Scotland up to the Clyde/Forth) but I've limited this to the ones I can remember having actually stayed in for a period of time.

In America

Two more sets of caucuses tonight in Washington and Michigan. Kerry seems set for two more victories - beating Dean in Washington by a comfortable margin, and romping home in Michigan with over 50% of the vote. Edwards, though, looks to be doing relatively well in Michigan, and coupled with his earlier second place in Iowa it does indicate that he can get support in the Midwest.