Saturday, May 08, 2004

Things to do if you're bored

1) Visit Boriswatch and marvel at the wonders within (via Jade and Green Fairy)

2) Link to Boriswatch and encourage others to do likewise

3) As links to Boriswatch multiply, it begins to climb in the rankings on sites like Blogdex and Daypop

4) As Boriswatch rises in the rankings, people around the world become aware of the wonder that is Boris

5) Confused foreigners start asking you 'what does this mean?'. Have fun explaining concepts such as 'the mutt's nads' and the general concept of Borisness

6) Soon, whole world becomes aware of the wonder of Boris and he is acclaimed Pope, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Lord High Grand Poohbah, Global Emperor and All Round Good Egg

7) Under benign leadership of Boris, the world enters a new era of peace, happiness, understanding, crazy hair, bewilderment and cycling

8) Everyone rejoices!

More words and stuff

There are some bloggers who don't update as often as others, some who can quite happily spend a week or two without posting anything, then they come back with such a good post you can forgive them anything.

Thus, I give you Chris Lightfoot's 'handy, no-bullshit vocabulary guide to the War against Iraq'.

And, while prior commitments mean I doubt I'll be able to make it myself, the Mistaken Identity conference on the 19th that Chris is plugging looks rather interesting.

It pays to increase your word power

Rumsfail (rums´ fâl), v., 1. To self-destruct, melt-down or implode under the weight of one's own arrogance. 2. To fail spectacularly, particularly in matters of warfare or diplomacy; to plunge into chaos. 3. Absolute, unmitigated disaster of national or international proportions and consequence; policy failure so utterly abject and miserable as to approach the realm of the epic. "Although long considered to be a costly and murderous fiasco, the prisoner abuse scandal revealed the war in Iraq to be nothing short of a rumsfailure." See also: "Karma"

Your duty

In the interests of ensuring all my American readers don't break the law (it's been demanded by the Whitehouse, after all) I urge you all to go and register for the draft.

TV gossip

OK, this gets complicated, so pay attention. Gez returns, and prompted by Jade's travails in buying The Day Today on DVD, links to the Cook'd and Bomb'd Chris Morris fansite which has a story on it talking about the new Morris/Charlie Brooker series which reminds me that I haven't yet mentioned that I know someone (on a friend of a friend-type basis, but this is reliable information) who's had two auditions for the new series and whose general appearance confirms (to me, anyway) that there's definitely at least one Nathan Barley-type character in it.

And in other TV news, I already know of some must see viewing in December (because a friend of my mother's is in it) - there's going to be a Shameless Christmas episode.

Amazed he doesn't sue

I just caught some of the programme about the BBC's End Of Story contest and one thing that struck me - aside from the fact that so much of it seemed to be about people going to extreme lengths to get a copy of the book, while I got mine by asking a friend to pcik me one up from the local Waterstone's - is that I'd always assumed that Shaun Hutson was one of the models for Garth Marenghi, but seeing him being interviewed, it was clear to me that he actually is, except perhaps not quite as talented a writer.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Back to the playground

I was over at Harry's Place this afternoon reading the contrasting articles from Johann and Harry...on reading them, was anyone else struck by the sensation of being back during break time at school, watching two friends turn on each other and feeling the irresistible temptation to form a circle around them chanting 'Fight! Fight!'?

Marillion and other matters

On torture

Last year, Jon Edelstein (aka the Head Heeb) wrote an excellent piece about how the US was subcontracting torture to other nations as part of the 'war on terror' ending with the conclusion:
I will support this war again when we return to fighting it like the United States of fucking America.

The revelations from Abu Ghraib have prompted him to return to the subject once more, with another powerful piece:

Some go faster than others - if Abu Ghraib is any indication, the United States has gone almost as far down the moral slope in one year as Israel has in thirty-seven - and once the downward spiral begins, it's hard to stop. The puerile Nazi comparisons currently making the rounds are ridiculous, but Rhodesia and Algeria seem uncomfortably possible as models for the future. It's the nature of the beast.

That you should go there now and read the whole thing goes without saying, of course.

Does he mean us?

In linking to the interesting and admirable new Blog:Vote site, which 'aims to get people thinking about, blogging about and most importantly voting in the upcoming (June 2004) European (and local) elections', Anthony comes up with a scarily accurate description:
anyone who reads political blogs is probably already a hopeless obsessive, drawn to the polling booth like a junkie to a crackhouse

The Double R watch

As Ezra begins the Donald Rumsfeld Resignation Watch, how about we combine it with something else and make a Sack Race out of it?

The question is simple: who's going to be out of their job first - Donald Rumsfeld or Claudio Ranieri? Place your bets!

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Blog-reading made easy(er)

I've been trying out Kinja over the last couple of days - it's basically a personalized aggregator that allows you to see the start of recent posts on whatever blogs you want. It seems quite good so far (though I'm sure someone will point out that a feed reader would be better, which is probably true) and if you're like me in that you don't like having too many programs running at once (dodgy old PC) or read blogs from several different locations, it might be worth trying out.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Behold the power of the blog!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how One Railway's name had the potential to confuse during station announcements, and now they agree! I'd call it a victory for common sense, but I don't want to sound too Daily Mail...

We may be in for a name change to something sensible quicker than you can say 'Consignia Post Office'. Not that it'll cost them too much, seeing as I've seen a grand total of two trains with the One logo on them. Most of the ones I've travelled on recently are still very prominently Anglia and Great Eastern.

(Thanks to Matt for passing on the link)


Matt has a good post about the effects of militray training. He's already simplifying a complex book in the post, but here's a sample, though you should go and read the whole thing (there are some interesting points in the comments as well):
Essentially there's a strong, inbuilt barrier against killing other human beings. Originally, basic training for conscript armies consisted of how to shoot the gun, lots of marching, and obey this guy. The main point of all the drills is to get you to obey the officer. Hard physical exercise, lack of sleep, reduces your inhibitions, lots of drilling in formation, all encourages you to obey orders and do what everyone else does. This was somewhat effective at getting people to break their inbuilt resistance to killing people, but not very. Modern basic training involves getting someone in a much more realistic setting, e.g. sitting in a foxhole using live ammo to , and offering rewards, such as time off if you shoot enough of them, The point being that it's much, much closer to real combat.

Now this is good for fighting wars -- having 70% more of your soldiers doing what they are paid to do obviously makes you a better fighting force. However it also means that you have 70% more of your soldiers prepared to do something normally they would not do, and as in this case it's killing someone, this does not make soldiers very good peace-keepers. It also makes such reports as we have heard recently almost inevitable.

The devil is in the details

You know, back when Bernie Ecclestone was still in the business of giving the Labour Party large sums of money, I wonder if he was giving them advice on spin as well? They could certainly learn from him and his way of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, especially given today's news.

All the headlines today are saying that Formula 1 teams have agreed to Ecclestone and Mosley's proposed changes to the Concorde Agreement (the rules that run F1) and that these changes could now occur in 2006 rather than 2008. Yet, when we look at what's actually been agreed, it seems that the teams haven't actually agreed to much beyond a single tire supplier and coming back later to talk about a potentially reduced engine specification. Oh, and Ecclestone giving them what they really wanted (and the basis behind the formation of the GPWC potential breakaway group) - a larger share of the money.

So, Bernie's given up large amounts of cashflow, in exchange for not much more than progressing on a little from what diplomats like to call 'talks about talks'. They can present a single tyre supplier as being a major breakthrough, but it isn't really, given that in recent F1 history there's never been more than two suppliers in any season and at least two seasons I remember when there was just one - it was all Bridgestone a couple of years ago between Goodyear's withdrawal and Michelin's entry, and all Goodyear not long before that after Pirelli pulled out and before Bridgestone came in. There's lots of agreement that something must be done, but no actual agreement on what this something will be. But, this'll get presented as big triumph for Ecclestone and Mosley, when it's anything but.

Maybe that's what Alistair Campbell's doing with his spare time nowadays?

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

I'm terrible at writing long reviews, mainly because I don't have a thesarus to hand and so end up using the same words over and over again. So, a quick capsule review instead: Fantastic. Go see this film now.

And with that done, I can now talk about my main topic of the day: why Charlie Kaufman is the reincarnation of Philip K Dick. Though his films have yet to make any semi-obsessive references to Linda Ronstadt that I've noticed, which is probably a good thing. And he was probably born before Dick died, as I'm pretty sure he's older than 22, so that strikes a big hole in that whole linearity of time idea that some people were hoping would work out.

Am I making sense here? Probably not. If I knew anything about programming, web design or those sorts of things, I'd make it so this entry slowly faded from sight as you read it, one word at a time, until there was nothing left to see (except Kirsten Dunst dancing in her underwear on your bed if you were really lucky) but instead you'll just have to imagine it - the fading, not Kirsten Dunst, though you may be imagining her already. Just start squinting now, gradually closing your eyes as you get further and further on. It might work, or you might just get strange looks from the people you work with. Pay no attention to them - this is just a dream.

It's interesting to note that Montauk is where conspiracy theorists alledge the US government conducted experiments into time and parallel universes. Was that an intentional reference, or am I reading too much into it? After all, why not set up your top-secret government experiment into mind control on a back street - who'd suspect anything was going on. Trust me (I'm from the Government) when I say that this person has been removed from her mind and you shouldn't talk about it anymore. You hear me, citizen? That's gone to the It Never Happened department and it's none of your concern anymore.

Maybe Kaufman's just Dick with a differently developed sense of paranoia. It's there, that feeling the world is out to get you, whether mad scientists erasing things from your brain or someone controlling John Malkovich from the inside, but it's not quite as acute, no Exegesis, no VALIS. Yet. I can't help but think of Kaufman adapting A Scanner Darkly or even collaborating with Gondry again on The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch. But if that all falls through, then I'm sure Wilson'll listen to offers for Reality Is What You Can Get Away With.

No, I have no idea how to finish this either. Give them awards, many of them - you can always forget about it afterwards if you want to.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Too much information

Sian (Lloyd) has called (Lembit Opik) 'the most fascinating man I've ever met' and has revealed they like nothing better than sharing late- night baths.
Congratulations to them, anyway. (via Jade)

Don't go there! (now, define what you mean by there)

Jerry: Tina, you are ... [reads cards] ... an existentialist, is that right?

Tina: That's right, Jerry. And Louis is, too.

Jerry: And what did you want to tell Louis today?

Tina: Jerry, today I want to tell him ...

Jerry: Talk to Louis. Talk to him. [Crowd hushes.]

Tina: Louis ... I've loved you for a long time ...

Louis: I love you, too, Tina.

Tina: Louis, you know I agree with you that existence precedes essence, but ... well, I just want to tell you I've been reading Nietzsche lately, and I don't think I can agree with your egalitarian politics any more.

Crowd: Wooooo! Woooooo!

Louis: [shocked and disbelieving] Tina, this is crazy. You know that Sartre clarified all this way back in the 40s.

Tina: But he didn't take into account Nietzsche's radical critique of democratic morality, Louis. I'm sorry. I can't ignore the contradiction any longer!

Louis: You got these ideas from Victor, didn't you? Didn't you?

Tina: Don't you bring up Victor! I only turned to him when I saw you were seeing that dominatrix! I needed a real man! An Uber-man!

Louis: [sobbing] I couldn't help it. It was my burden of freedom. It was too much!
A full transcript can be found here. Via Ezra at Pandagon, in honour of Jesse's new job working for Jerry Springer.

The lessons of history

Peter refers to Margaret Thatcher's election in 1979 as 'the Second Glorious Revolution'. I'm almost tempted to watch BBC Parliament to see if it features her landing in Devon at the head of 25,000 troops, the way Callaghan, plagued by nosebleeds and doubts over the loyalty of David Owen, refused to give battle on Salisbury Plain, how he fled to the safety of France and the protection of Giscard D'Estaing, how Thatcher sent the Army out of London, garrisoned it with Dutch troops and got a Convention Parliament to discuss the terms on which she and Denis would be joint Prime Ministers...

Oh, you say it's only just coverage of an election? I think I'll just go the gym then. Expect posts over the next few days to include the words 'ow' frequently...

Sunday, May 02, 2004

The largest party?

I was just reading about the Likud vote in Israel today, and aside from all the political issues connected, one thing amazed me - Likud has 193,190 members. Now, I don't know anything about how political parties are organised in Israel and whether that figure refers to paid-up party members (as in Britain) or just registered supporters (as in the US), though the use of the term 'members' implies something closer to the British system than the American one, but it still seems to me to be a very large number, especially considering that Israel's population is just over 6 million (according to the CIA World Factbook) which means that around 3% of Israel's population are members of Likud.

As a comparison, it would mean a political party in Britain or France having something like 2 million members or an American one having 10 million. It makes me wonder if - outside of one-party states and the like - if Likud is one of, if not the, largest parties in the world (proportionally, of course). Of course, a lot depends on how membership is defined - both in Israel and other countries - but even if that figure is just officially registered supporters, it still seems quite large to me, especially in a country with as many parties as Israel.

Off the top of my head, the only party I can think of that might be larger is South Africa's ANC. It clearly gets one of the largest shares of the vote for a party in an active democracy (70% just a couple of weeks ago) and one would expect it to have a membership commensurate with that support, but whether it gets up to 3% of the population (which would equate to well over a million members) I don't know.

Movie rules

I watched Undercover Brother last week, which is a rather funny film and prompted me to come up with a new rule of films: any film that features Denise Richards is going to be appalling, unless it also features Neil Patrick Harris. Thus, her entire career is pointless except for Undercover Brother and Starship Troopers.

And on another movie rule - that Gary Oldman always plays nutters - I may have found another exception to the rule besides Rosencrantz And Guilderstern Are Dead - his character in The Contender is distinctly un-nutterish, though I can remember reading reports at the time it came out that he was unimpressed with the final cut of the film, so who knows what pearls of nutterdom lie on the cutting room floor?