Thursday, February 26, 2004


For the first time in a while, I've got a weekend where I'll be awake during the day and asleep during the night, so I'm off to make the most of it including a trip to the National Theatre on Saturday to see His Dark Materials at last.

So don't expect any posts from me until Monday. Have a good weekend without me and play nice while I'm gone.

More Bill

Bear with me while I plaster on a fake smile and plough through this shit one more time

A special gift for you all on Bill Hicks Day. Now available for your downloading pleasure is a Bill Hicks gig from Chicago in 1992. It's an interesting study of the relationship between performer and audience...


From the people behind The Public Whip website (with some assistance from Chris Lightfoot) comes Downing Street Says, collecting the press briefings from the Prime Minister's official spokesmen in weblog format, complete with comments and trackbacks. Looks like it could become quite interesting and useful, so take a look!

I'm here to sing some songs for my Momma

My name's Bill Hicks, and I'm dead now

It's now February 26th. Ten years ago today, Bill Hicks died.

I can't remember exactly when I first became aware of Bill. I can remember back sometime around 1992, Select magazine gave away a free Just For Laughs tape that had two Bill Hicks routines on it - Smoking and Flying Saucer Tour, if I remember correctly, I don't have the tape anymore - and I bought tapes of Relentless and Dangerous on the back of that. I already knew of him before that, though, as I'd definitely heard the smoking routine before, and not just through the thieving lips of Denis Leary.

Non-smokers die every day

This was comedy unlike anything I'd heard before. I was too young to have heard Lenny Bruce or Peter Cook in their prime and my frame of reference was limited to the British alternative comedians of the 80s and assorted American standups, whose routines who all seemed at the time to be basing their routine on how bad airline food was. This was different, this was a comedian who wasn't pandering to his audience and giving them what they thought they wanted, but giving them the truth as he saw it. This was a man who'd seen the absurdity of the world we live in and knew the only response was to laugh.

There's dick jokes on the way, please relax

What was important about Bill was that he commanded the stage in a way few acts before or since have managed. He seemed to spring fully-formed into our consciousness sometime in the early 90s, but that overnight success was built on ten years of work beforehand. Ten years slogging his way round the Comedy Pouches in places like Possum Ridge, Arkansas, years of criss-crossing America carrying a drug and alcohol habit that sometimes reached life-threatening proportions, years of learning a craft, becoming a master of the stage. He'd reached a point where he could control the pace of his act, letting him speak with a natural rhythm, a true voice, not the speeded patter of thousands of hack comics rushing through their material, desperately seeking the next punch line before the audience turned on them.

You're about to go down in history as the worst audience ever

I've seen what happens to most comedians when they lose the audience, that moment when they realise whatever jokes they've got aren't good enough and the hecklers are going to win. That's part of the magic of Bill Hicks, that he'd never be beaten by an audience. Some of the most popular bootlegs of Bill available on the web are the Chicago gigs where he ends up almost at war with the audience, and the first volume of the Flying Saucer Tour series to be released is a gig in Pennsylvania where it all goes wrong. For other comedians, this would be recordings to be tracked down and burned, forgotten about and cast into a deep dark memory hole so no one could ever hear them. Hicks, though, thrived on the antagonism he felt from these audiences, feeding back their own anger to them in a heightened and purified form, finding new comedy peaks. He was always a man who was set against the world, and it's though these performances you can see that, a righteous anger that won't settle or accept second best.

A clear beautiful serenity called Arizona Bay

He's been dead ten years, but he's not forgotten, and every year it seems more people become aware of him, more people get the joy of hearing him for the first time, more people discover that comedy doesn't have to be safe and comfortable and can go way beyond what you've heard before. He's known as an angry comic, a political animal raging against the machine, angered by the world around him, but there's one part of all his material that I always remember, one part that's already inspired many people and is going to go on for years to come.

The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, "hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..."
And we... kill those people.
"Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real."
Just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn't matter because: It's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

You're in the right place. It's Bill.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

And some more...

The Onion has some good stuff today - Massachusetts Supreme Court Orders All Citizens To Gay Marry:
"Since the allowance of gay marriage undermines heterosexual unions, we decided to work a few steps ahead and strike down opposite-sex unions altogether."

Marshall said the court's action will put a swift end to the mounting debate.

"Instead of spending months or even years volleying this thing back and forth, we thought we might as well just cut to the eventual outcome of our decision to allow gay marriages," Marshall said. "Clearly, this is where this all was headed anyway."
(And on a more serious note, Dan Savage makes some good points as well.

More on gay marriage

Kos points out that the proposed amendment is going to have a tough job even passing the first hurdle - 2/3rds majorities in House and Senate:
But Congress is a whole different matter. The House, that bastion of hard-core conservatism, is a poor bet for the amendment. Why? Because of gerrymandering. Most incumbents are so safe that there is little electoral blowback to voting against such an amendment. In fact, with 205 Democrats (and Bernie Sanders), the Dems could suffer 60 defections and still defeat the amendment. And that doesn't include the handful of Republicans that would also vote "no" (like libertarian Ron Paul).

Meanwhile, the Senate is even a bigger doubt, where Republicans would have to pick up 15 Dems and suffer no defections to pass the amendment. And again, that wouldn't take into account "moderate" Republicans who would likely oppose the amendment (like Chaffee).

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Double or quits

Isn't it strange that the same people who thought the US Constitution shouldn't have an Equal Rights Amendment now think that it should be used to block gay marriage? Though, as many people have pointed out, the proposed amendment does a lot more than it says on the tin.

Uh, what?

Peter Cuthbertson: '(Adam Yoshida) can fairly be deemed a capable cataloguer of social and political change.'

This is the 'capable cataloguer' who implies that legalizing gay marriage is one step on the road to legalising paedophilia and who states: 'Does it not seem to suggest that, in fact, banning (or restricting) homosexuality goes hand in hand with civilization?'

Of course, I'm sure Peter will claim that he and Adam are being misrepresented or somesuch, but he would, wouldn't he?

Update: Peter, in the comments: 'I've just given the blog some serious attention, and I will say now this is emphatically not someone whose views I would endorse or support' And just to show the bizarreness of the situation, this is probably the first and only time Peter has regarded being compared to Charles Kennedy as a compliment.

Yoosta Bees

Two reasons to recommend this Tom Tomorrow cartoon in Salon. First, it's quite funny and reminiscent of several people I've encountered blogging. Second, even though Salon's 'Day Pass' scheme is quite annoying, the advert for today's is quite clever, and if I was in the US, I'd probably check out the bookshop (Powell's) that's advertising because of its attitude.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Your courage, your strength, your indefatigability, your venus rising in Gemini...

Ryan finds an astrological interpretation of George Galloway's expulsion from the Labour Party (and Robert Kilroy-Silk's infamous article as well, presumably because it mentions Galloway).

I really have no idea what the astrological interpretation means, if it could be said to have any meaning when translated from the original mumbo-jumbo into everyday English, but it seems to hint at some deep, mystical connection between Galloway and Kilroy-Silk that's probably best expressed in the pages of a fantasy novel.

Only Simon Hughes can beat Ken Livingstone

James points out some more stupidity from the rather pointless Lib Dem Watch (coming soon: another LDW exclusive on how yellow's not a flattering colour and thus all Lib Dems are evil). Of course, I pointed out a similar thing last March, though unfortunately didn't use the line 'Only Simon Hughes can beat Ken Livingstone', so I'm using it now to make up for that lost opportunity. Of course, part of my prediction envisgaed Steve Norris getting out of the Jarvis boardroom to do some campaigning so, as usual, it fell into the same irrelevancy as most of my political predictions.


I was a bit surprised when I popped into a bookshop this morning and discovered that Peter F Hamilton has a new novel out - Pandora's Star. I hadn't even heard he had a new book coming out, but that may be because I'm still suffering from intense disillusionment at just how poor Misspent Youth was.

Anyway, if anyone has read it, I'd be interested to hear what you've thought of it. I probably won't be buying it for a while, anyway - not because of quality issues but because it's still only available in hardback, which are just too hard to read on the train, where I do a lot of my reading, and also because it appears to be the first of a series and, I really don't like reading parts of series before the whole thing is finished and published, as I'm very impatient and hate waiting to find out how it all turns out.

On pre-emptive action

Matt Turner has an interesting point about the seeming limits of pre-emptive action:
Have you noticed how among Republicans (and British Republicans..whoops 'neo-conservatives') pre-emptive action is always correct, except when it comes to global warming? I don't see much difference in the scenario -- something terrible might happen, we're not sure exactly what and whether it will, but the risks are too great to do nothing, and history won't forgive us if it does and we did nothing.
The difference, of course, is that shouting down your opponents for being 'objectively pro-carbon dioxide' isn't anywhere near as fun.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Now, who thought up that?

Has anyone within Serco or the Ministry of Defence ever seen any of the Terminator movies?

The reality/fiction dichotomy

It says something about me that when I hear about the Government planning to introduce drug tests in schools I immediately think about what a good plot idea it is for an episode of Teachers.

And will the results be included in the league tables? It'd be particularly interesting to compare the results between state comprehensives and some of the posher independent schools, particularly those attended by junior members of the Royal Family.

And how exactly do they do that?

Schwarzenegger believes that gay marriage presents "an imminent risk to civil order".

Those who don't believe so might be interested in reading here or here.

And of course, it's all quite scary when you've seen the gay agenda.