December 30, 2006

Summer Reading

I've spent the last week working my way through The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It's a shame that much of it doesn't live up to the intense breathlessness of the first hundred or so pages, but then, the first hundred or so pages more than make up for any other shortcomings it might have. Maybe it's just because of my own experience with a long distance relationship, but the feeling of love and longing that Niffenegger captures, right off the bat and without any apparent effort, is truly startling; and the way she expertly drip feeds you the exposition of her fairly kooky premise lets you very gently get to know the characters and their universe, at the same pace that they're discovering each other. It's the sort of opening that should make other writers hopelessly jealous.

And even though it does drag and digress in places, every now and then Niffenegger will just really nail something - a description, a feeling, an encounter - and it pulls you straight back in. Plus, the narrative device she's built into the story has enough potential for intrinsic interest that you never really want to put it down, anyway.

I haven't quite finished it yet, and I'm getting an ominous sense of a disappointing ending approaching, but unless it's truly horrific I can't see myself doing anything except recommending the book with much enthusiasm.

In other news, I also read Freakonomics, but my opinions on that are, predictably enough, fairly lengthy, so I've hidden them after the jump (just click on the post title).

In the meantime, happy new year!

So I finally sat down and read Freakonomics on the plane; I felt like, as a pithy and opinionated blogger educated in the social sciences, I really kind of had to.

It was, I will admit from the outset, an engagingly written piece of work. Having said that, I also found it at times to be simultaneously bland and infuriating, mainly because so many of the “mind-blowing” revelations that the authors are praised for peddling are pretty bog standard stuff if you’ve done even a little sociology (or economics, or whatever). I mean, they have whole chapters that basically boil down to “socioeconomic status has some effects on peoples’ lives”, and I have a hard time seeing why demonstrating this using some vaguely cute statistics has earned the authors such accolades. Of course socioeconomic status has some effects on peoples’ lives: that’s why we use it as an explanatory concept in the first place.

Worse, though, is the brutish way in which they take their narrow (by their own admission) conceptions of the issues and extrapolate from the results as if one set of numbers explains everything there is to know about a phenomenon.

A good example is the section they have comparing swimming pools to guns in terms of potential for accidental death. As it turns out, children are substantially more likely to die in a swimming pool accident than in a gun accident, and the authors use this ‘startling fact’ to overturn conventional wisdom and have a good laugh at anyone – chuckle – who has ever been uncomfortable with the idea of their chilrden playing with firearms (the simple-minded dolts).

And, sure, I guess it does prove something sort of useful if parents end up being a little more vigilant when their kids are near water. But it takes such an arbitrary slice of such a complex issue that it ends up just being a meaningless (if catchy) factoid. So what if more children die by water than by trigger? This really says very little (if anything) about the relative merits of swimming pools versus handguns, and I think I can safely say that, Freakonomics notwithstanding, we would all rather there was a pool in every backyard than a gun in every closet. It’s like arguing that bananas are more dangerous than rat poison, because you’re more likely to slip on a banana peel than on a rat poison box: true, in some odd sense, but only if you’re looking at the picture through a pinhole.

The swimming pool problem is actually a neat example of the duo’s undoing later on in the book, too, when they take great glee in demonstrating that there’s no such thing as “good parenting” – how well a kid does depends on things like parental education and income, rather than on any active parenting techniques (like museum visits, encouraging reading, and so forth).

Or so they say. Again, this feat of mind blowing is achieved largely through a bizarre transformation of the issue into something to which Levitt can easily take his sledgehammer of a statistical analysis. The entire argument hinges on a study of school attainment in the US, which shows, ceteris paribus, that there is no statistical relationship between high test scores and a whole host of ‘good parenting’ practices (like, for instance, a parent who stays at home to care for a child instead of taking paid employment; or, again, like museum visits and encouraging reading).

But it’s exceptionally poor statistics to then imply that parenting practices have no effect on anything: they may not have an effect on test scores, but we can’t say much more than that. The obvious counter example would be the parents who, following Levitt and Dubner’s earlier advice, build a fence around their swimming pool to prevent accidental drowning. This arguably constitutes excellent parenting; just not the kind of parenting that would be reflected in a child’s test scores (except insofar, perhaps, as that child actually has test scores). Indeed, not only are there any number of demonstrably positive parenting practices that are unlikely to affect test scores (cooking healthy meals every night instead of relying on microwave dinners, for instance); there are also plenty of other ways to assess how well a child has been raised, and how often a child visits museums (for instance) may well have an effect on these alternative measures. Besides, how often does somebody look at a straight-A report card and say, “My, what a well-bred young man”? High test scores are not something I would intuitively regard as the indicator par excellence of good parenting.

It’s the same problem, over and over again: the authors reduce a complex issue to fit the limits of their data, then (undeservedly) expand their conclusions back to the problem’s original terms. And, yes, they do acknowledge that their data is often just “a proxy” for what they’re really trying to study, but without any intelligent discussion of what this practically means for their results (namely, that they don’t directly measure what the authors blithely trumpet as the object of analysis).

And this brings us to the nitty-gritty: the somewhat inflammatory statement made in Freakonomics that legalised abortion is what caused the fall in crime in the mid-Nineties (because, the reasoning goes, those most likely to have been aborted are also those who would have been most likely to become criminals had they instead been born).

I have a couple of problems with this argument, not because of any moral indignance at the idea, but because it is, again, an excrutiatingly narrow (and methodologically messy) approach.

First of all, let’s talk about crime rates. Crime rates take the total number of crimes committed over a given period of time and in a specified population, and then express that figure relative to that same population. So a crime rate of, say, 20% means that for every ten people in a population, two crimes were committed over the period being studied. If the crime rate then falls to 10%, it means that for every ten people only one crime was committed over the period being studied. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there were fewer criminals, because that’s not what crime rates actually measure (though of course the two are highly correlated). They also don’t measure the likelihood of a particular person committing a crime, or the likelihood of a particular person being the victim of crime, even though these are common intuitive leaps when thinking about crime rates (that’s why governments are so fond of publicising their fall).

I point all this out not to dispute the truth in L&D’s numbers, but to try and make clear how little crime rates really tell us about reality; once we start to question the ironclad "truth" of the statistic, we can start to appreciate some of the deeper problems in the abortion-crime argument. Crime rates, for instance, tell us nothing about the qualitative nature of crime. Consider: if ten crimes are committed on a given day, these might be ten completely unrelated incidents, or they might have been concerted as part of a organised crime syndicate. The former is, of course, lamentable, but the latter is arguably the more troublesome situation; organisations, as any good sociologist will tell you, have a strong tendency towards self-preservation, and a well-established crime ring will be far harder to eliminate than so-called ‘opportunistic’ crime. (Organised crime syndicates, once ‘busted’, often simply find a new way to make money illegally, rather than disbanding altogether; that’s why the Mafia continues to exist decade after decade, informant after informant.)

In fact, Freakonomics itself provides a good example of this in its chapter on crack dealers. The Eighties and Nineties saw a big jump in numbers of crack gangs in the US. This was undoubtedly reflected in the skyrocketing crime rates leading up to the mid-Nineties, but when those crime rates began to fall again, crack gangs didn’t cease to exist. On the contrary, even while New York’s homicide rate fell by almost seventy-five percent, cocaine related arrests fell by barely fifteen. So the much-ballyhooed fall in crime rates masks the fact that a greater proportion of all crime is now linked with well-organised criminal gangs that have a propensity to self-replicate. Can we really then say that abortion has "reduced" crime?

The answer is no, because abortion rates, of course, tell us nothing much at all about crime at all. Why would they? That we can demonstrate a statistical relationship between abortion rates and crime rates is interesting, but it is hardly conclusive. Nor is it instructive: pointing out large scale demographic trends is not a useful way to generate anti-crime ideas, unless you're an advocate of pre-emptively aborting or locking up low income individuals, just in case they commit a crime at some point in the future.

Even supposing we simply let the figures guide our anti-crime efforts towards the specific chunk of the population identified by L&D's abortion figures (low-income, single parent families), we run into the same problem outlined above: the abortion-crime link tells us little about the qualitative nature of the crimes that would have been committed by the aborted children of the Seventies. Murder? Rape? Aggravated assault? Burglary? Grand theft auto? Admittedly Levitt’s original study does differentiate between property crime and violent crime, but only to show that they are both affected by the abortion rate, and what good does that do? There is still a large qualitative difference between burglary and murder, and the two obviously require very different prophylactic strategies (it’s a trite example, but closing your windows when you leave the house will reduce your chances of being burgled; it won’t reduce your chances of being murdered).

The abortion-crime link also tells us nothing about why people might commit crimes. It’s not enough to say that they’re from low-income, single parent families: that may make an individual statistically more likely to have committed a crime, but it’s not a motive. Its laughable that L&D omit this from their discussion-- how can anyone claim to explain why fewer people are committing crime without reference to motive? It's abusrd!

In summary: boo on mindless use of statistics. Analyses like Levitt's can be useful in making people think about topics in new ways, but they are never and should never the faites accomplis that Freakonomics makes them out to be. Any social scientists who use statistics in their work need to be able to back up their numbers with a rich understanding of the reality that those numbers attempt to describe. Frankly I don't get the impression that Levitt really wants (or even knows how) to do that.

December 29, 2006

December 22, 2006

Out

Sydney's been pretty good so far. Our first day we lolled about by the harbour drinking white wine all afternoon, and our second we spent mostly at the zoo (I have now seen wallabies, kangaroos, dingoes, bilbies, and all sorts of other animals whose names you wouldn't believe even if I could remember them).

Then in the evening we took the ferry across to Manly, a suburb of Sydney on the other side of the harbour. We had a nice seafood dinner, but mostly I delighted in giggling at all the store names there, like "Manly Souvenirs", "Manly Liquor", and, my personal favourite, "Manly Ladies' Shoes".

So far the only bad part has been inserting the new battery I had bought for my digital camera (the old one shorted out mysteriously last month), spending all night wondering what the funny smell in the living room was, and then getting up this morning to discover that my camera had quietly melted into the coffee table. I shit you not.

And today we're fixing up to drive to Terrigal, a coastal town a few hours north. We'll be spending a rustic week there in a hired beach house, returning to Sydney just in time for New Year's Eve. And since we'll be without the web up there, I would just like to say:

Merry Christmas!

Conversations With Greatness CX



Yes, I do realise that it's still Thursday in most of the world, but it's Friday in my little corner...

December 21, 2006

Great Moments In Japanese Cinema

This was the description of one of the movies being shown on my flight to Tokyo yesterday (the day before? I'm not really sure):
Comedy - 'Udon'

Trying to put behind him a failed career at stand-up comedy abroad, Kosuke returns to Japan. He does not look forward to the terse response he expects from his father, a noodle maker with whom he has an awkward relationship . . . Somehow he manages to spark a nationwide udon boom and realises that his calling may lie in following in his father's footsteps.
Now, tell me, why is it that when the Japanese actually make movies it ends up sounding like it would if it were a SNL skit about the Japanese making movies?

December 19, 2006

POz

Tonight, I fly to Australia! (Well, actually, tonight I fly to Tokyo, then spend five and a half hours eating birthday bento in the airport there, then fly to Sydney and arrive on Thursday morning local time.)

Anyway, long story short, blogging will be even less forthcoming than it has been lately, though Conversations With Greatness should, internet willing, continue to appear in its regular Friday slot. I get back to London in the middle of January.

In the meantime, please enjoy this random thought:

If they really want to reduce drive-bys in the hood, why don't they just put in speed bumps?

December 16, 2006

Causing A Fuhrer

From Fox News: Gingerbread Nazi Display Moved to New Ohio Town on Hanukkah Eve

Wellington, Ohio – An artist who was forced to remove his Nazi gingerbread men from the window of a hardware store has set up the display in an empty storefront in another town.

"The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men" depicts a small gathering at a Nazi rally. Keith McGuckin set up the display in this northeastern Ohio city Thursday night . . .

"I remember thinking to myself, 'What's the worst thing a gingerbread man can do?'," he said.
McGuckin continued, "Then I thought, 'Why stop there? What's the worst thing an attention-starved boomer who calls himself an artist can do?' And the rest is history."

McGuckin denies that the display was meant to cause offence, though he admits:
"This one does seem to rub people the wrong way."
Throwing his hands up in surprise, he added, "I never realised people felt so strongly about gingerbread."

McGuckin's next project is already in the pipeline: a life-size model of the prophet Mohammed made entirely out of Danish pastries.

December 15, 2006

I'll Bet It's Because They Were On A Break

Seen in the TV guide:



Oh man, that is, like, my favourite episode!

(Sorry for poor image quality. Buy me a scanner if you're that bothered, you moany gits.)

Conversations With Greatness CIX

December 14, 2006

Tall Tale

From Newsvine: World's Tallest Man Saves China Dolphins
BEIJING — The world's tallest man saved two dolphins in northeast China by reaching inside of them with his 3-foot arms to remove plastic they had swallowed, state media and an aquarium official said Thursday.
Is it just me, or does this sound like it would more convincingly read as follows:
Chuck Norris once saved two dolphins in northeast China by reaching inside of them with his 3-foot arms to remove plastic they had swallowed.
The story continues:
Attempts to use surgical instruments to remove the plastic failed because the dolphins' stomachs contracted in response to the instruments . . .

Veterinarians than decided to ask for help from Bao Xishun, a 7-foot-9-inch herdsman from Inner Mongolia, state media said.
Their conversation, of course, went something like this:

Vet 1: Well, I'm scuppered.
Vet 2: Me too. Let's leave these dolphins to die and go read the Guinness Book of Records.
Vet 1: Wait… What was that noise?
Vet 2: I don't know. It kind of sounded like logic expanding to fill a vacuum.
"Some very small plastic pieces are still left in the dolphins' stomachs," Zhu Xiaoling, a local doctor, told Xinhua. "However the dolphins will be able to digest these and are expected to recover soon."
Bao is thrilled that he was able to help save the aquatic creatures, telling media, "I've finally found my porpoise in life."

December 13, 2006

The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Lawyers

CBA wants its employees to be happy and healthy, so it sent around these helpful exercise guides for everyone's desks:



Irony, thy name is Dilbert.

December 09, 2006

Annals of the Semantically Impossible

From Newsvine: Serious Use For Silly String
STRATFORD, N.J. — In an age of multimillion-dollar high-tech weapons systems, sometimes it's the simplest ideas that can save lives. Which is why a New Jersey mother is organizing a drive to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.
They're going to fun those insurgents into submission!
American troops use the stuff to detect trip wires around bombs, as Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, a soldier in Iraq.

Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible . . .

"If I turn on the TV and see a soldier with a can of this on his vest, that would make this all worth it," said Shriver, 57, an office manager.
Oh, come on, lady, don't you think the US military operation in Iraq is enough of a laughing stock already? Now you want our boys to start strapping clown supplies to their fatigues? Why do you hate freedom?
In other cases of battlefield improvisation in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have bolted scrap metal to Humvees in what has come to be known as "Hillybilly Armor." Medics use tampons to plug bullet holes in the wounded until they can be patched up.

Also, soldiers put condoms and rubber bands around their rifle muzzles to keep out sand.
Okay, whoa, whoa, whoa. What are our soldiers doing with condoms? I pay my taxes to help fight the war on terror, thank you very much, not to support this pro-choice bullhonky. Why is the government handing out birth control all of a sudden? They should be telling the soldiers what they tell everyone else: if you're not willing to marry your gun, then you don't get to have sex with it.

I can be such a douchebag somtimes. Such a trenchantly satirical douchebag.

December 08, 2006

December 07, 2006

Short Amounts of Time and Something a Kid Does on Halloween

From Economist.com: All creatures great and small
The National History Museum at the University of Oslo has just opened an exhibition of gay animals . . .

Why [homosexuality] might be favoured by natural selection . . . is a difficult question to answer. In an attempt to do so, the exhibition picks on gay flamingos.
Man, talk about going for an easy target.

--

There was a mother-freakin' tornado a few miles from my flat today! Let me tell you, that was not what I was expecting to read when I logged on to the Bloomberg machine at work today to check the headlines.

Oh, and speaking of the Bloomberg machine, although I decided not to post about Lady Bonehead McFlatulence yesterday, it is clearly taking the financial world by storm; it was the fifth most emailed article on Bloomberg this morning.

I mean, can you imagine? The international information network for finance professionals and one of the most emailed stories is about some gassy American woman? Every second I spend in this business makes my life savings feel that little bit less secure.

December 05, 2006

Trans Actions

From Newsvine: NYC to Ban Trans Fats From Eateries
NEW YORK — From the corner pizzeria to high-end bakeries, New York City's world famous eateries are preparing for kitchen scrutiny as the board of health moves Tuesday to ban trans fats.

The board was poised on Tuesday to make New York the nation's first city to outlaw the unhealthy oils…

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who banned smoking in bars and restaurants during his first term, has dismissed cries that New York is crossing a line by trying to legislate diets.
No, sorry Mike, you are crossing a line.  The line of incompetent stupidity.  (It's a wobbly line, obviously, but you're definitely on the wrong side of it.)

I mean, I actually don't really buy the argument that legislating diets is overly invasive—why not restrict the use of harmful substances?  Governments do that all the time, and it's generally not that much of a hardship unless you're a crack-addicted, alcoholic teenager who enjoys bathing in toxic waste (man, if you think normal teenagers are moody…).  But since it's patently clear that banning trans fats is not really going to make much difference to anyone, I struggle to see the point in wasting time and money introducing such a bone-headed policy.

Exhibit A: If someone eats at McDonalds/Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/Billy Joe's House of Lard often enough that the ban will have a significant impact on their trans fat intake, then their trans fat intake is the least of their problems.

Exhibit B: A wide range of dipshits will interpret the banning of trans fat as evidence that McDonalds/Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/Billy Joe's House of Lard is now a healthy lifestyle choice, thus making them eat even more junk.

Exhibit C:  Simply removing one harmful ingredient from your diet is only marginally less pointless than, say, removing the shotgun pellet from your gaping flesh wound. What you need is to cut out trans fat, and eat more fresh food, and get a bike, fatty. (The same goes for shotgun wounds.)

In short, Michael Bloomberg is an ass, and I wish he would quit with the poorly-planned social engineering.

December 02, 2006

Hotscot: The Early Years

I know my blog output has been less voluminous than usual lately (it's also been peppered with more needlessly large vocabulary items; thanks Word Of The Day emails!). But, rather than do anything to rectify the situation like, oh, say, phone up and yell at the broadband company some more, or stop going out at the weekends, I've decided instead to avoid the problem by posting things I wrote years ago, in a misguided attempt at retrospective. Today, a satirical news piece I wrote back in 2002, when I was young hothead infuriated with the administration (now, of course, I reserve my ire for daytime television stars):
BUSH REJECTS YET ANOTHER BLOODY TREATY

Washington, DC— After months of infuriating diplomats the world over by withdrawing US support for several international initiatives, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Anti-Ballistic Missiles treaty, President George W Bush today rejected yet another attempt at creating a better world for everybody.

The International Commission For Ending Famine, War And Disease (TICFEFWAD) drafted the treaty earlier this month at a top secret, diplomatic 'Bat Cave' deep underneath The Hague. The agreement, which has already been signed by every other nation on the planet, would effectively put an end to all human suffering for the rest of time if endorsed by the United States. But Bush says he will not ratify the treaty, citing evidence that "it's printed in an ugly typeface".

The President also draws attention to the fact that there is not one mention in the treaty of how amazing America is, nor is there any mention of his great-tasting, Texas-style, extra hot chili.

"How can I, like, sign my name to this, like, bogus agreement when, like, not one European bureaucrat has, like, bent over and taken it up the ass from me today?" asked the President, in an uncharacteristic display of rhetoric.

James Z Hackenbush, the head of TICFEFWAD, is disgusted by the President's non-compliance. "The whole thing is a debacle of the greatest degree. With Bush's endorsement, the Earth would become a utopian society, with perpetual peace and happiness. But apparently, the President is just too fond of reality TV to fully end human suffering."

After Bush's overwhelming negativity, the agreement began to rapidly lose cohesion, with several other countries withdrawing their support on the grounds that there was no fucking point in signing any fucking treaties anymore. Jahatswa Neebuwany, representative of a small Eastern European country which has had two civil wars and been annexed by Slovakia since time of writing, had this to say of Bush’s behaviour: “Is this going to be on TV? Come to Jahatswa’s House of Expired Mayonnaise for all your condiment needs. What? No, I don’t want to talk about President Bush.”

Other diplomats, however, are less understanding. He has been branded “a thoughtless bastard”, “a blundering fool”, and “an American” by various representatives, who wish to remain anonymous.

Quick to come to Bush’s defense is his second-in-command, Vice President Dick Cheney. “George is just doing what he thinks is best for Americans everywhere,” maintains Cheney. “He read the treaty very carefully and ruminated over his possible actions for several seconds before coming to his decision, but he feels that it would be too damaging to the US economy. I believe there was also no mention of his chili.” The Vice President then made an irreverent joke about his pacemaker.

The remaining members of TICFEFWAD are already drawing up a new draft of the treaty, which includes several new clauses; such as a to-be-instated worldwide America Appreciation Day; an injection of European tax money into the US television industry; and an endorsement of the President’s chili. The new treaty is expected to be unveiled sometime next month, at which point Bush will wipe his poo-encrusted bottom with it again.
Chris, any word on whether or not there actually is a secret diplomatic Bat Cave underneath The Hague?

December 01, 2006

November 29, 2006

Random Thought For The Day

What happens when a guy with dreadlocks starts to go bald?

November 27, 2006

Coup Coup

From Newsvine: Peters Meets With Bainimarama in Fiji
SUVA, FIJI — New Zealand's foreign minister met Fiji's military commander Monday to try to avert a coup in the troubled South Pacific country, but Australia's top diplomat said a takeover by the armed forces still appeared imminent.
See, this is what you get when you put Eighties pop stars in charge of armies.

And, um, of course Australia's top diplomat thinks a coup is imminent:
"I think a coup is very likely to occur," [Australian Foreign Minister Alexander] Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I think it's going to be very difficult to stop him."
Downer then added, "They haven't got Brains, any of them, only grey fluff that's blown into their heads by mistake."

Speaking of jokes about people's names, the New Zealand Foreign Minister's spokesperson is called James Funnell, which I think is probably the most appropriate name a spokesperson could ever have (except, obviously, for Spokesperson).

November 25, 2006

Punctiliousness

Yet another reason why Wiki is better than Britannica:



I wonder how many times that link has been used by someone who actually was looking for the album instead of the criminal sanction.

November 24, 2006

November 23, 2006

Jack The Ripa

More on the tumultuous Ripa-Aiken-Fisting affair, from Newsvine: Walters: O’Donnell - Ripa Feud Is Over

I would like to make it clear that I was not so fascinated by this story that I decided to go looking for more information on it. Rather, it clawed its unwelcome way back into my already sobbing consciousness by appearing on my AP news feed, of all places.
NEW YORK — Barbara Walters said Wednesday all is now "well with the world" following a flare-up earlier this week between Rosie O'Donnell and Kelly Ripa on "The View." Ripa called in to the ABC daytime talk show after co-host O'Donnell accused her of making a homophobic comment to Clay Aiken, a guest host on "Live With Regis and Kelly.” . . .

O'Donnell said Tuesday on "The View": "If that was a straight man, if that was a cute man, if that was a guy that she didn't question his sexuality, she would have said a different thing."
Like what?! “Oh, you! Run your fingers all around the inside of my mouth, you deliciously straight man who I don’t know very well! I don’t care what anyone says, I’m going to use my tongue to caress the manly creases of this hand, right here on national television! What the—? Don’t fucking touch me, Philbin.”

Ripa denies her remark was meant to be homophobic:
"He's shaking hands with everybody in the audience. I mean, it's cold and flu season. That's what I meant," she said . . .

"I understand cold and flu season," O'Donnell replied. "I'm just saying from where I sit as a gay person in the world, I have to tell you, that's how it came off to me."
O’Donnell sits on the board of The Association of Vaguely Outraged Celebrities. Its other members include Jason Alexander, Patricia Heaton and Lewis Black, and its meetings are always hilarious.

I’m not really going to comment on Ripa’s alleged homophobia except to say that even if she was alluding to a sex act, there is nothing particularly homophobic about doing so. I mean — what the hell? — like if Aiken had had his hand up a vagina all day then Ripa would have been fine with having it rubbed in her face? It’s only homophobic if you’re a moron who believes that it makes you a bigot to imply a gay person has a sex life.

Also, does anyone else appreciate the captivatingly vapid symmetry in the fact that the cast of The View watches Regis and Kelly, and the cast of Regis and Kelly watches The View?

November 22, 2006

Annals of Improbable Headlines

From LAist.com: Taser-happy Cop's History Was One Reason for Tasers at UCLA
Terrence Duren, an 18-year veteran of the UCPD . . . hasn't had the smoothest career in law enforcement. He came to Westwood after being fired from the infamous Long Beach PD. A few years after being hired by UCLA he was accused of using his nightstick to choke a fratboy and the university asked the UCPD to fire Duren, but he was only given a three month suspension.
This is one of those stories that I really love, where every time you think you've reached the peak of horrifying insanity, it just keeps going. To wit:
In late 2003 Duren shot a homeless man, Willie Davis Frazier, Jr., in a Kerckhoff Hall bathroom.
Pretty kooky, right? WRONG!
During a 2004 preliminary hearing in which Duren testified against Frazier, the officer carried a Machiavelli book into court, "The Prince", which argues that the ends justifies the means.
Okay, now give us one last slam dunk.
"Did you know that this was Tupac's favorite book?" he asked.
LAist, by the way, is my new favourite website, with such journalistic gems as: Kramer Goes on Racist Tirade at the Laugh Factory:
The cellphone-camera/handycam starts rolling as soon as [Seinfeld's Michael] Richards screams "Fifty years ago we'd have you hanging upside-down with a fork in your ass," then continuing "You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherfucker! Throw his ass out, he's a nigger, he's a nigger! He's a nigger!" And he didn't even say it in a funny way.
And how's this for a headline: Kelly Ripa Alludes to Clay Aiken's Fisting Rumours.

The problem is, I find it hard to come up with punchlines when the stories themselves make me laugh so much. How can I improve on Kelly Ripa alluding to fisting? That's comic gold!

I have to go to bed.

November 18, 2006

Did She Snowboard Past a Stoned Asian, Too?

I'm at home for the weekend, and then working Monday and Tuesday in my firm's Edinburgh office, which I guess makes this my first official business trip. I am such a grown-up. It's sickening.

But it is really nice to be home. I haven't been able to stop smiling all day.

I was down at my dad's place for my brother's birthday party this evening, and picked up the latest issue of my high school's "Here's What Been Going On At Your Child's School This Year And Oh By The Way Would You Like To Donate Some Money?" magazine. There was a little essay in it by a fifteen-year-old girl who had been on a school exchange to Vancouver this year, and she had this to say about it:
I took part in the Canadian exchange 2006. I went with another girl in my year to live with a family in Vancouver for a month in the Easter holidays . . . I did so much there, ranging from ice hockey to tree hugging.
Yeah, that just about sums up Vancouver, alright.

November 17, 2006

November 16, 2006

Middle Yeast

From BBC NEWS | Middle East: Seven dead in Iraq bakery attack
In continuing violence, gunmen killed nine people in an ambush on a bakery in the east of the capital.
I think any attack on a bakery is kind of a de facto ambush, given how much most people would expect a bakery to be the target of sectarian violence.
The attack left pools of blood on the floor as people tried to flee in panic.

"The gunmen stormed into the bakery and killed workers while they were baking. They had done nothing bad," the Associated Press news agency quoted an unnamed man outside the store as saying.
"Nothing bad at all," the man continued. "It was totally kneadless violence." Realising the insensitive double entendre he had just made, the man quickly remarked, "Dough!" Then, with a sheepish grin, he shrugged his shoulders and added, "I guess I'm really on a roll, here."

Yup, I went there.

November 15, 2006

Tomb Much Information

In the mail today:
Dear Mr Ladd,

Many of you will know that since January Councillor Sue Tritton has been fighting, along with myself and local councillors Liz O’Malley and Marilyne MacLaren, to have John Livingston’s Tomb beside 1 Chamberlain Road re-opened.
Yes, you thought (hoped?) we’d forgotten, didn’t you?
It had been sealed shut and fenced off by the owners of 1 Chamberlain Road, who claimed to own the tomb and garden.
...And who, let’s be honest about it, are probably total pooheads.
They subsequently lodged a planning application to seal the tomb off permanently with railings and appealed to the Scottish Executive when the Council was unable to make a decision . . .
The national parliament, of course, has nothing better to be doing with its time.
The Scottish Executive has now decided that they cannot erect railings in front of the tomb. The reporter said, “The section of railing immediately in front of the tomb . . . shall not be constructed.” This is great news.
(That ellipsis is in the original, by the way.)
An official from the Parks Department has visited the site and discussed the matter with the owners of 1 Chamberlain Road.
...In what I can only imagine was a hilariously awkward conversation.
I hope this will bring an end to this unfortunate saga and that local residents can enjoy this popular local amenity again.
You are fucking nuts, do you know that? I walked past that damn tomb every day on my way to school for six years, and never once did I see anyone “enjoying” it. Not only is “amenity” a stretch of the imagination, ”tomb” is a stretch of the imagination— it is a glorified patio with a plaque. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to visit it, never mind wage war in the national legislature over the right to traipse in and out of it at ones leisure.

On the other hand, now that I know the Scottish Executive is open to ridiculous demands on its time, I have a few letters I’d like to send.

November 12, 2006

Time To Call In The Paddy Wagons

From UCLA AsiaMedia: CHINA: Villagers 'were manipulated'

I've been doing some research at work over the last few weeks into human rights in China, among other things. In the process, I came across this news item:
Dongzhou used to be a sleepy fishing village, but last week the community of 30,000 in Shanwei, Guangdong province, was transformed into the latest epicentre of China's social revolution.

For more than a year, Dongzhou villagers have complained that the local government had taken away their land for the construction of a coal-fired power plant . . .

Then on December 5, villagers said, Shanwei police began to search for their leaders using the excuse of looking for drug dealers. They claimed the first one taken away was Li Zelong . . .

Fearing that more police would come to arrest their representatives, Dongzhou residents, backed by their counterparts from their neighbouring village, stormed a wind-power plant in Shigongliao on December 6 with clubs, pipe bombs and fish bombs -- a concoction of fertiliser soaked in kerosene capped in a glass bottle with a fuse and detonator.
My God, that's terrible! They must have had a pretty serious set of grievances against this new power plant to go to such extremes.
Another concern among villagers was that the coal-fired power plant would cause serious pollution and ruin the village's fung shui. They also pointed out that the chimney was too short.
I never realised that bad fung shui could lead to pipe bombings. I guess I should start paying better attention.

Search Referral Fun Time!

PS. I thought some of you might like to know (ahem, Mariana and Dustin) that I'm now getting search referrals from "look at my tits".

And the stalwart "cock in pussy" is still providing about a third of all my search engine traffic. Sigh.

Google clearly has a very low opinion of me.

November 11, 2006

Fan Mail

By the way, in response to my post about the IT policy at work, I received the following email, which I found so hilarious I simply had to share it.
Oh poor hotscot, fallen among humourless and politically correct minions of Mammon! No “derogatory comments, statements, jokes, pictures or messages relating to gender, religion, race, colour, ethnic background, national origin, age, sexual preference, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy and disability”? Shock and horror. I guess this means that you couldn’t, in your lunch-hour at least, write and post:

“I’m writing this to let you know that I can’t stand the rancid smell of fermented soybeans coming off a certain quasi-male, pseudo-Buddhist, bigotedly and allegedly Caucasian black. What’s more, the pathetic Berber background and highly dubious Laotian citizenship of this 87-year-old transgendered bisexual divorcé[?é], who ‘supports’ no fewer than fourteen sadly undernourished children, all afflicted by foetal alcohol syndrome, from three previous disastrous marriages and is showily pregnant yet again, alas!, despite, or as a result of, being blind as a bat, really get on my tits. Ha ha! [See attached picture]”

I pity you in your deprivation. “O Commerce: what crimes are committed in thy name!”, or something.

An Anonymous Sympathiz/ser (and Member of the RSPCB)
The author is a charming linguist [sic] from Toronto, who has been a regular correspondent and occasional editor of mine for at least ten years (and a friend of the family for even longer). His daughter used to babysit for me while my dad and stepmother were at ante-natal classes, and we'd play an absurd hybrid of Scrabble and Balderdash, where any word was acceptable as long as you could supply a convincing definition.

All this to say, if you ever wondered where I get my insufferably intellectual wit from, you need look no further.

November 10, 2006

Conversations With Greatness CIV



Wednesday night's Daily Show featured another gag that I had made here the same day without knowing it. So apparently I no longer even need to watch the Daily Show, I can just sit at my computer giggling to myself. Why didn't they hire me when they had the chance?!

November 09, 2006

Why, MCA?

From The Globe and Mail: Gym, Jews don't see eye to eye

(You’ll have to register to read the full story.)
MONTREAL -- It has turned into a clash between skin and Scripture -- and it's pitting a group of spandex-wearing fitness buffs in Montreal against an Orthodox sect of observant Jews.

Last spring, a local YMCA in Montreal installed four frosted windows in one of its exercise rooms to accommodate a neighbouring Hasidic synagogue and religious school. Its devout members complained that their teenaged boys were being distracted by the exposed flesh of women doing their Pilates, aerobics and other activities.

But now the windows have opened up a rift over whether the institution went too far to accommodate a minority. Some Y members have circulated a petition demanding the opaque windows be removed . . .

"It's like getting us to wear a veil. Since we represent temptation, we're being asked to hide," Renée Lavaillante, who started the petition, said yesterday. "We shouldn't have to hide in order to exercise in Quebec. We're a secular state, and shouldn't hide ourselves for religious reasons."
After a moment of thoughtful silence, Ms Lavaillante added, “LOOK AT MY TITS, JEWBOY!”

My God, don’t these exhibitionist wonks have anything better to do with their time than harass the local Jewish community? The synagogue paid for the new windows in full, so it’s not like they’re actually imposing anything on anyone— the Y members can continue to do exactly the same exercise, in exactly the same place, wearing exactly the same skimpy outfits that they always have. The only difference is that now children can’t ogle them! Tell me why this is a bad thing? If it were just a normal school at which parents had complained about their children being exposed to scantily clad women during recess, would anybody be comparing it to the freakin’ hijab? (I mean, sure, that would never happen, because it’s Quebec and porn is practically part of the curriculum, but still.)
As [Serge St-André, director of the YMCA branch] discussed the issue inside the weight room, a Y member walked up to say he objected to the windows.

"We can't let ourselves be imposed upon by extremist religious groups,” [said] Outremont resident Robert Dolbec.
Extremist religious groups?! Are you retarded?! There’s a difference between extremism and orthodoxy; for instance, you are not an orthodox dipshit, you are an extreme dipshit.

I mean, look, I’m all for secular society, but this isn’t secularism; it’s pointless insensitivity, of the cartoon Mohammed variety. Don’t make light of people’s religious beliefs and then hide behind some twisted piffle about defending liberal society. You’re just being irritatingly self-righteous and gratuitously offensive. Did you know that this entire community sends its children to the Laurentians for three months out of the year so that they won’t be exposed to all the flesh bouncing around Montreal all summer? And you feel put out by some frosted windows? Learn some tolerance and shut the hell up.

I don't rant enough anymore.

November 08, 2006

Democrats Be In Tha House!

So, everyone knows, by now, the big story coming out of the United States… Britney and K-Fed are getting a divorce! OMFG!

Also, I believe there was an election of some sort.

I think this is my favourite quote from the coverage:
According to exit polls, about half of those who voted for Democrat Bob Casey said they did so out of dislike for Senator Santorum rather than support for Mr Casey.
So, a resounding victory for Democratic ideals, then.

Actually, my favourite quote is from the transcript of this press gaggle from Tuesday:
Mr Snow: Let me tell you what will be going on with the President today . . . He'll be having dinner with Brad Freeman and some members of staff. Karl Rove and a few others will be up in the Residence tonight. The President will be making phone calls. . .

Q What do you mean by phone calls? You're talking about to the winner --

MR. SNOW: He'll be talking to candidates, typically what you do on election night.

Q Can you quantify how many calls, to how many candidates?

MR. SNOW: No.

[…]

Q Can you tell us if the President voted for your predecessor's mother?
The White House Press Corps resorts to 'your mom' jokes?! I should send them my CV!

Finally, yes, I am fully aware that my post about the reaction to Saddam's sentence was more or less a carbon copy of a Daily Show gag on Monday night. But, in my defence, I wrote mine before the Daily Show had even finished filming, so if anything Jon Stewart owes me a beer.

Bannedwidth

Thanks to the new IT policy at work, I no longer have access to webmail. Blogger still works, though, so I thought I’d take a closer look at the acceptable use regulations and see if there was anything that might get me in trouble.

Well, blogs aren’t specifically mentioned, but I think this probably covers mine:
The following is not permitted: . . .

Derogatory comments, statements, jokes, pictures or messages relating to gender, religion, race, colour, ethnic background, national origin, age, sexual preference, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy and disability.
Too bad for them they don’t mention occupation, because boy do I have some choice words about bankers now that I can’t check my email during my lunch break.

Also, doesn’t that “and” at the end of the list mean that I just can’t make jokes about all of those things at the same time?

Also, pregnancy?

November 06, 2006

Baghdad Ass Up

Seen on the Beeb:



The caption reads:
As predicted, Shias in Baghdad hailed the verdict, but in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, supporters vowed to avenge him.
Oh, yeah, I can really see the difference.

It's A Bare Cop

From SunHerald.com: Man removes sharp handtool from rear at gunpoint

Which, incidentally, sounds like it should be a cryptic crossword clue.
EL CERRITO, Calif. - A police encounter with a naked man near the El Cerrito BART station turned into an arrest on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon Thursday.
Now, really, how can you arrest a naked dude for carrying a concealed weapon? That'll never fly in court.
Passersby called officers about 7:50 a.m. to report that a naked many was lying on a tree stump beside the Ohlone Greenway path, exposing himself and masturbating.

Police saw John Sheehan and arrested him on suspicion of indecent exposure.
Officers led him to the nearest street. Before putting Sheehan in the back of his car, Sgt. Paul Keith asked him if he had anything on him that police should know about.

Sheehan replied that he had hidden a screwdriver in his anal cavity, Horgan said.
Unsure about what to do, police called for a fire engine.
I can't stop laughing at this line, no matter how many times I read it. I just have this mental image of a bunch of cops standing around scratching their heads over it.
Cop 1: Well, I mean… Who should we call about this? A doctor? A handyman?
Cop 2: I have my rabbi on speed dial.
Cop 1: I guess it's really more of a medical thing.
Cop 3: You know, something similar happened to my brother once.
Cop 1: Well, what did he do?
Cop 3: I think it just came out on its own, eventually.
Cop 2: What about Johnny Knoxville?
Cop 1: It just seems like the sort of thing I would call a doctor for, if it were me.
Cop 2: Or a hooker.
Cop 3: Actually, now that I think about it, maybe my brother used pliers.
Cop 1: We're supposed to use pliers to get it out? That sounds kind of painful.
Cop 3: No, the pliers were what was stuck.
Cop 1: Oh. Gross.
Cop 3: Wait, wait. What if this guy were a tree, and the screwdriver were a cat?
Cop 1: Of course!
Cop 2: Oh, sure, pick his crackpot idea.
Sorry, I've been getting a little scatological in my story selection lately, haven't I?

November 03, 2006

Conversations With Greatness CIII



I had a bit too much to drink last night, and this morning I remarked to the bloke who sits next to me at work that I was feeling a bit rough.

"To be honest, mate," he said, "I could tell you were hungover from the moment I walked in."

Oh. Thanks.

"You know, I mean, you have this whiteness about you, and tiredness, especially around your eyes."

Please, don't stop.

"And you have that blotchy, drunken, red, blotchy skin, you know?"

Yeesh, did you have to use the word 'blotchy' twice? That's just cold.

November 01, 2006

A Pressing Matter

From www.bbj.hu: EU imposes tariffs on ironing boards from China and Ukraine
The European Union imposed tariffs of as much as 38.1% on ironing boards from China and Ukraine, seeking to shield British, Italian and Polish producers from imports that represent about half the EU market . . .

EU ironing-board makers suffered “material injury” because “low-priced, dumped imports from the People's Republic of China and Ukraine increased dramatically,” the Brussels- based European Commission said today in the Official Journal . . .

The EU imported about 4.1 million ironing boards from China and Ukraine in 2005, according to the commission, which said EU manufacturers sold half that number in the bloc last year.
I don't really have much to add to this, except to say:

(a) The EU has way too much time on its hands.

(b) Do we think that six million ironing boards is a surprisingly large or a surprisingly small number? My first instinct was large ("six million per year?! Are there really that many people in Europe who don't already have an ironing board?"), but on reflection I think maybe it's kind of small ("only six million? Do all the kids leaving for college still send their clothes home to be ironed, or what?").

(c) What do you think six million ironing boards looks like?

October 27, 2006

Conversations With Greatness CII



For anyone keeping track: I've updated the CWG website with a few new bits and bobs.

October 26, 2006

Cheney of Fools

From FT.com: Cheney endorses simulated drowning
Dick Cheney, US vice-president, has endorsed the use of "water boarding" for terror . . .

Mr Cheney was responding to a conservative radio interviewer who asked whether water boarding, which involves simulated drowning, was a "no-brainer" if the information it yielded would save American lives. "It’s a no-brainer for me," Mr Cheney replied.
He continued, "No-brainer as in, instead of a brain I have an evil super-computer like the one from Superman III."
A spokeswoman for Mr Cheney denied that he had endorsed or confirmed the use of water-boarding.

"The VP was talking about the interrogation programme, clearly noting that we do not torture and we live up to our international treaty obligations. He does not discuss any techniques or methods that may or may not be used in questioning," said Lea Anne McBride.
See, it's just the liberal media taking everything out of context, as usual. What Cheney really said was: "I would like to clearly note that we don't torture and we live up to our international treaty obligations. I am not discussing any techniques or methods that may or may not be used in questioning, during this very specific conversation about a particular technique that I publicly admit has been used in questioning. DUH. It's a no-brainer."

I mean, Jesus, what's all the fuss about? It's not like Cheney came out and made any direct, black-and-white statements about anythi—
Asked in the radio interview whether he would agree that the debate over terrorist interrogations and water boarding was "a little silly", Mr Cheney responded: "I do agree".
Oh.

So, I'm curious, when the vice-President comes out and says something so bat-shit crazy less than two weeks before the much ballyhooed midterms, what demographic is he trying to secure for the Republicans? Soccer moms? Whiskey-soaked hobos? Rush Limbaugh?

Actually, speaking of bat-shit craziness and the midterm elections, check out this guy.

October 24, 2006

The Brown Line

From BBC News: Train defecator hunted by police
A man has been defecating in trains across south-east England, causing damage costing £60,000 to repair . . .

He waits until he is alone before committing the offence, smearing excrement inside carriages . . .

"There is no particular pattern as to when he appears," said [Detective Constable Donna Fox].
In fact, it’s kind of a crapshoot! *rimshot*

Detective Fox described the man’s behaviour as "a serious public health issue," as well as being "exceptionally anti-social." Just pooping on a train would be anti-social, but I guess going the extra mile and smearing it all over the place is what earns him the "exceptionally."

Detective Fox continues.
"On at least one occasion CCTV footage shows the man being disturbed by a passenger walking through a train."
I imagine the passenger was somewhat disturbed as well.
"If anyone sees this man travelling on the railway network they should not approach him, but call the police or alert train staff immediately."
Right, because approaching him would be your first instinct.

"Oh, honey, look! It's that train defecator fellow! Let's go introduce ourselves! Do you think he's the same in real life as he is in the news?"

It's a slow day at work.

October 23, 2006

Stranded

I was out and lost with some friends in central London on Friday night, so we asked a girl handing out flyers for directions.
Us: Sorry, but do you know how to get to the Strand from here?
Her: Um, yes, I think it’s that way. [Waving her arm in a vague direction]
Us: Okay, thanks. [We begin to walk away]
Her: Hey, what time does that shut? [Handing us a flyer] Because when it does this is a great after-hours place.
Us: D’oh!
(If you didn’t know, the Strand is a pretty large street in London, and anybody who thinks it is, in fact, some kind of bar, is probably not the sort of person you want to be getting directions from.)

Still no broadband at home, etc., etc. I sob when I think of all the hilarious YouTube memes that have come and gone in my absence.

October 20, 2006

Conversations With Greatness CI



Actually, I'm not absolutely positive it was Freud who wrote that. It may have been Lacan. But without my handy cultural studies reader or Wikipedia at home (I don't want to search for anything including the word 'penis' at work), I can't really check.

October 17, 2006

Dipshitlomat

From FT.com: EU invitation to Putin a blunder, diplomats say

Wow, those are some comically undiplomatic diplomats. If that's what flies as diplomacy in Brussels these days, no wonder the EU is in such bad shape.

--

Yes, I edited this post facto. It has been so long since I've had the internet I am forgetting how to blog properly. Soon I will be reduced to pooing words on to my keyboard.

October 13, 2006

Conversations With Greatness C



As you may have guessed from my lack of posting this week, my broadband has not, in fact, been hooked up. This, despite almost an hour spent on the phone with incompetent (10p a minute!!) technical support-- a hilarious editorialised transcript of which I will post this weekend, if I can wrest myself from my dial-up induced depression.

October 09, 2006

Hello Photoshop, Goodbye Evening

From BBC News: Outcry at North Korea 'nuclear test'
North Korea's claim that it has successfully tested a nuclear weapon has sparked international condemnation.

The White House called for a swift response from the UN Security Council, calling Pyongyang's move "provocative".

Japan and South Korea also condemned the test . . . calling the move "brazen".
Provacative and brazen . . . Man, they ain't kidding — will you get a load of this guy?

I feel kind of dirty.

October 06, 2006

October 05, 2006

When Shit Hits The Fans

From Newsvine: DNA May Implicate Malibu Stars’ Toilets
MALIBU, CALIF. — Just whose waste is fouling the most star-studded stretch of the Southern California coast?

. . . Environmentalists and health officials suspect Malibu homeowners' leaky septic tanks are allowing what gets flushed down the toilet to flow down the hills and into the Pacific Ocean. To identify the offenders, authorities intend to use DNA testing and, if necessary, get court warrants to inspect septic tanks. And that includes tanks buried in the backyards of Hollywood celebrities . . .

"It is a big deal that the county is now saying, `We're willing to go on to properties to see what the source of fecal contamination is,'" says Mark Gold, executive director of the local environmental group Heal the Bay.
Ew. I’m sure glad my country isn’t saying that.
County officials initially will focus on properties with heavier toilet use, such as restaurants and Barbra Streisand's old estate.
Whoa! Wicked burn on Barbra Streisand!! It’s got to be pretty upsetting when local politicians use their legislative power to make editorial comments about your creative output — I heard that was what drove Kurt Cobain to suicide. (Come on, deep down, you know I’m right.)

On a completely unrelated topic, did you know that Facebook is ranked seventh in terms of total web traffic in the US? How did God let this happen?*

And splendid news! I received word today that my broadband gets hooked up tomorrow, instead of at the end of the month — so I can now talk on the phone and studiously avoid social networking sites at the same time! Woot.

--

*Because everyone knows that God is totally a Friendster guy.

October 04, 2006

Wit Parade

In Islington, Dan and I have quickly discovered, the official dress code when appearing in public is a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with a humorous slogan printed on it. As luck would have it, just a week or so before leaving Edinburgh, I ordered a couple of new ones, which arrived the other day:



Now all I need is a hipster mullet! (And a MySpace profile.)

--

Speaking of MySpace, my friend Dave Burdick (of blogroll fame) has always been fantastically hilarious, and this, I propose, is no exception.

October 02, 2006

Tongues Not Required

You know that scene at the beginning of The Naked Gun, where OJ stumbles around comically from one horrible injury to another? I blame that scene for making me see this story as kind of funny:
Pedestrian hit twice by vehicle

. . . The man was crossing the A68 Dalkeith to Lauder Road, in Pathhead, Midlothian, when he was hit by a Ford Focus travelling north.

The force of the collision . . . sent him onto the southbound carriageway and into the path of a Toyota Corolla.
I mean, God, isn’t that awful? And yet my first reaction was definitely to stifle a laugh. Curse you, Leslie Nielsen, for desensitizing me to the horror in near-fatal accidents!

Oh, what the hell, as long as I’m making grossly inappropriate comments about current events:
Fatal shooting at US Amish school

Six people are reported killed and three injured in a shooting at an Amish school in Pennsylvania, US . . .

It is not yet known whether the gunman came from the tight-knit Amish community or was an outsider.
Well, um — and maybe I’m going out on something of a limb, here — but I’m guessing that if he had a gun, he probably wasn’t too Amish. No?

*holds breath and waits for blowback*

October 01, 2006

I'll Have a Hamlet and Pineapple

Ah, yes, ye olde pi∫∫aes, of which the bard hath spake many a time with unrivall’d glee.

So, on Tuesday, my laptop broke, thus rendering my already tenuous internet connection pretty much non-existent. First, I thought, “It’s okay, I’ll just dial in through my AirPort base station and browse using my iMac,” but my AirPort base station stubbornly refused to talk to AOL’s dial-up servers.

So, second, I thought, “It’s okay, I’ll just move my iMac upstairs temporarily and connect it directly to the phone line.”

Sadly, my iMac is so technologically advanced that it doesn’t, in fact, have a modem. Which I have to admit has a certain degree of beautiful, postmodern absurdity about it.

Eventually, today, I remembered one of the ancient dial-up accounts I used to have growing up (like, really, when I was sixteen), and on a whim decided to see if it would still work. And, lo!, I have the internet at home again, so I can at least surf with a little more abandon than when I surreptitiously use the web at work.

Speaking of postmodern absurdity, when I went into the Apple store yesterday to see about getting my laptop repaired, I had the following conversation with a very helpful member of ‘The Genius Bar’:
Me: I need to get my iBook repaired. Am I in the right place?
Him: Do you have an appointment?
Me: No.
Him: Well, we’re fully booked today, I’m afraid. You’ll have to make an appointment for another day and come back.
Me: Okay. Can I make an appointment with you?
Him: No, you have to go to our website.
Me: But . . . My computer is broken.
Him: Well, then all you can do is just turn up tomorrow at 10am when we open the store, so you can get in line first.
Me: There’s no other way to make an appointment?
Him: [exasperated] No.
Now, I’m sorry, I know I’m no Genius, but does it not seem a little bit self-defeating that you need to use your computer to fix your computer? Why not just ask me to go outside and devour myself, ouroboros-like?

Otherwise, though, London has been much fun and I have had a much happy week. More later.

September 29, 2006

Conversations With Greatness XCVIII



Ah, AYB references. My web comic is truly complete.

September 25, 2006

Yay, Hi

I have successfully moved to London. Yay!

My apartment is a kick-ass awesome Ikea Palace the Second of a converted church. Yay!

My broadband doesn't get hooked up until October 31st. Boooooooo!

So, if I'm quiet for the next little while, you know why. If you've emailed me and are waiting anxiously (or not) for a reply, bear with me: I am slowly getting through them all in stolen lunch-break minutes at work, and once they issue me with a proper building pass, I will also be able to use the internet there more extensively. (Incidentally, do you know how I log on to my computer at work? I press my finger to a fingerprint scanner! How freakin' cool is that?)

Also, the phones at work have the same ring as the phones at CTU in 24, so as you can imagine I'm pretty thrilled. Yay!

September 22, 2006

Conversations With Greatness XCVII



Tomorrow I move to London, which means posting will likely be a little spotty for a few weeks, as:

1. I'll be on dial-up for a while until my broadband gets connected.

2. I start an office job on Monday so will have a lot less spare time.

3. Come on, people! I'll be living in London! Do you really expect me to spend all my time blogging?

4. Don't answer that.

September 21, 2006

Department of Keeping Things In Perspective

From Newsvine: Coup Interrupts Filming of Cage Movie
HONG KONG — Thailand's military coup this week interrupted filming of Nicolas Cage's new movie, a gangster thriller being shot in Bangkok, a news report said Thursday.
I believe it also had some implications for Thailand.

Syntax Be Damned!

From Newsvine: Panda Bites Man, Man Bites Panda at Beijing Zoo
Zhang Xinyan, from the central province of Henan, drank four jugs of beer at a restaurant near the zoo before visiting Gu Gu the panda on Tuesday, the Beijing Morning Post said.
Four jugs of beer?! Why stop there? Why not four amphorae? Four barrels?
"He felt a sudden urge to touch the panda with his hand," and jumped into the enclosure, the newspaper said.

The panda, who was asleep, was startled and bit Zhang, 35, on the right leg, it said. Zhang got angry and kicked the panda, who then bit his other leg. A tussle ensued . . .

"No one ever said they would bite people," Zhang said. "I just wanted to touch it. I was so dizzy from the beer. I don't remember much."
Talk about a hangover from hell.

Zhang's Roommate: [Whistles] Hoooo-boy, you look like you had a good night last night!
Zhang: [Groans]
Roommate: Man, what did you do, anyway?
Zhang: I... I'm not sure.
Roommate: You might say you're feeling a bit... bamboo-zled!
Zhang: I think I'm going to be sick.
Roommate: Hey, wait a minute... are those bite marks on your leg? Whooo-eeeee! [Does the Ali G finger flicking move]
Zhang: Oh God.
Roommate: And is that... Do you have short black hairs stuck between your teeth? You Casanova!
Zhang: I do have a funny taste in my mouth. It tastes like... It tastes like something endangered.
Roommate: Well, it was a girl, and we are in China.
Zhang: I think I'm going to go Google something.

Seriously, go read the entire news article. Pretty much every paragraph made me laugh out loud.

September 19, 2006

Well Red

I had a mildly unsettling experience yesterday.

I'm anticipating a slight cashflow squeeze when I first get to London, so I went to the bank to see about increasing my overdraft.

"Of course, what sort of amount were you thinking?" asked the woman, swiping my card.

"Erm, I don't know... Maybe an extra £500?" I said.

She then tapped a few keys on her keyboard, handed my card back, and said, "Okay, there you go."

That was it. No, 'Are you employed?", no 'Is there a particular reason you need the extra money?', no 'When do you think you might pay it back?'. I didn't even have to sign anything, or show any ID, or enter a PIN code. Nothing. Just, tap-tap, ta-da!, have half a grand. I should have asked for more!

Tomorrow I'm going to try the same thing at the record store.

September 18, 2006

I'm Having Nun Of It

Yahoo! News reports on an Italian nun killed in Somalia:
Sister Leonella, 65, was shot in the back four times by pistol-wielding attackers as she left the Austrian-run S.O.S. hospital at lunch time after finishing nursing school for trainee medics. Her bodyguard was also slain.
The article notes that
Several witnesses to Sunday's shooting speculated it was tied to the furor over Benedict's discussion last week, which included quoting a 14th century text that called some of Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman."
Now, the timing of the attack is certainly suggestive, but we are also told that,
Like many foreigners, Sister Leonella traveled with a bodyguard in this Horn of Africa nation, which slid into chaos after warlords overthrew Somalia's longtime dictator in 1991. A Swedish journalist, Martin Adler, was shot dead in June during a demonstration in Mogadishu.
So, I mean, Somalia: clearly not the safest place to spend one's vacation (who knew?!). Foreigners get shot there all the time — there's really no evidence at this point to show that the nun was shot specifically in response to the Pope's remarks, other than some coincidental timing (and as we all know, correlation doesn't prove causation, yada yada yada).

Still, let's see how this gets picked up by the right wing bloggers:
A nun who had spent most of her life helping sick people was murdered today by Muslims retalliating for Pope Benedict’s remarks about the violent nature of Islam.
D'oh!

But, come on, let's be fair here, the author is an open-minded guy, certainly not the type who would misuse suggestive language to make racist and inflammatory blanket statements:
I’m sure there are plenty of Muslims around the world who welcome [a Socratic] dialogue [on Islamic doctrine]. Indeed, they probably constitute a majority of educated Muslims. The problem, though, is that most Muslims are kept ignorant by their societies.
So what you're saying is: most Muslims are violent because they're stupid, but even among the not stupid ones, some are still violent anyway. Tell me, are you one of the educated Christians or one of the Christians kept ignorant by his society?

Okay, now finish us off with a real zinger:
Patrick Frey joins me in noting the irony of protesting the suggestion that Islam is violent by rioting and murdering.
Hey-oh! Supah snap on Islam! Man, I bet they don't even know what irony means!

So, in summary: assuming motive due to coincidental timing = bad; ignoramuses making sweeping generalisations about heterogeneous cultural groups = worse; health workers (nuns or otherwise) getting shot = worst.

September 17, 2006

Keep Your Wits About You

I think everyone is pretty shaken up about the Dawson shootings, which is precisely why I've avoided mentioning it— I seem to have a knack for being insensitive when I talk about things in my blog (viz. Patrick Deuel; viz. William Shady Elhami). Obviously I think the whole thing is/was a horrible tragedy and it's been quite moving reading about it over the last few days— not least of all because of the huge outpouring of community caring and support in the aftermath.

In the spirit of which, I would like to propose a chicken-soup-for-the-soul style Battle of Wits. In this article about the shootings, the BBC makes the following statement:
The city of Montreal [is] known in Canada for its cafe culture and fun atmosphere.
...Which — and I think anyone who has lived in Canada and/or Montreal will agree with me on this point — pretty hilariously misses the boat. More accurate would be:
The city of Montreal is known in Canada for its splenetic hockey fans and anything-goes strip joints.
I therefore invite you to come up with your own two point description of the things Montreal is known for— some Exposition, if you will.

If there are any takers, just leave a comment on this post. The winner receives a McGill Improv t-shirt*.

--

*Void where prohibited by McGill Improv.

September 16, 2006

Wasn't She A Character From Hamlet?

From Newsvine: Charges Dropped in Wis. Necrophilia Case
LANCASTER, WIS. — A judge on Friday dismissed charges of attempted sexual assault against three men accused of trying to dig up a woman's body to have sex with the corpse, noting that Wisconsin has no law against necrophilia.
"Besides," said the judge, "She was totally asking for it — lying flat on her back, didn't say 'stop', all dressed up in nice clothes. God."

Joking aside (blaming the victim is WRONG, kids, I'm serious), I have to say, this really is one of the most appalling stories I've read in a while:
Twins Nicholas and Alexander Grunke, 20, and Dustin Radke, 20, were arrested after an alleged attempt to dig up the body of a 20-year-old woman who was killed Aug. 27 in a motorcycle crash. . .

Authorities said the three were not acquainted with the woman but had seen an obituary with her photo.
So, essentially, what happened was: these three kids were ogling pictures of girls in the obits section, and suddenly thought to themselves, "Saaaaay, here's an idea..."

I mean, how horny do you have to be to come up with something like that? For God's sake, if you're that desperate to get laid, there are less extreme solutions than necrophilia. Even incest would be a better idea.

*Shudder*

--

It's a Saturday night, and my exciting plans involve watching TV with my cat. I mean, granted, she's a hot teen who sits docilely on my lap and doesn't open her mouth except to lick my face, which I guess is a dream girl for some guys — but as a feminist I don't really approve of that sort of thing.

September 15, 2006

Conversations With Greatness XCVI



If you care about these things: I've started publishing as GIFs rather than JPEGs, as this allows for clearer rendering of text without significantly increasing the file size. I had wanted to do this from the beginning, but at the time Photoshop's GIF engine flattened out the sprites (example), which I thought looked even worse than slightly fuzzy text.

Anyway, long story short, you probably won't even notice much of a difference. I just thought I'd GIF you a heads up. Ha!

September 12, 2006

Everybody Hates Rays, Man

From Newsvine: 10 Stingrays Killed Since Irwin's Death
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — At least 10 stingrays have been killed since 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin was fatally injured by one of the fish, an official said Tuesday, prompting a spokesman for the late TV star's animal charity to urge people not take revenge on the animals . . .

Michael Hornby, the executive director of Irwin's Wildlife Warriors conservation group, said he was concerned the rays were being hunted and killed in retaliation for Irwin's death.
How much of a Steve Irwin fan would you have to be to actively hunt down a stingray in retaliation for his death? I'm picturing a Ricardo-Montalban-as-Khan style reaction to the news of his demise.

In any case, how much of an idiot would you have to be to retaliate for Steve Irwin's death by going after stingrays? Yeesh. Go after Gerry Anderson, instead.

Swish! Three different pop culture references in one post! I am the king of bloggers!

September 11, 2006

Very Definitely Spanish

I've been spending a lot of time digging through my accumulated junk over the last few days, and, as is usually the case when digging through junk, I've found some fairly humorous things that I feel like blogging about.

For example, yesterday I came across a teach yourself Spanish book called Colloquial Spanish. It was originally printed in 1919, but I have the fourth, more 'modern' edition from 1963. Now, obviously this raises a whole host of questions, most obviously: why do I have a teach yourself Spanish book from 1963, when I have never attempted to learn Spanish and, furthermore, much prefer the Seventies?

But what I really want to share with you is the sort of thing a British audience was imagined to want to say in Spanish, circa 1963. Now, I should preface this with the author's claim that he doesn't intend to provide a complete guide to "the Spanish tongue"; rather, he aims to teach only "such idiomatic expressions as may be encountered in daily speech."

You know, everyday phrases like
Hay hombres que saben ocultar en su interior todos los apuros que les agobian y por fuera siempre parecen alegres y hasta chistosos,
Which is translated as, "There are men who know how to hide in their interior all the griefs that oppress them and outwardly appear happy and even humorous."

Much of the so-called 'Conversational matter' provided by the book is similarly bombastic:
Hace algunas días di mi retrato a mi amiga pero no le gústo. (A few days ago I gave my portrait to my lady friend, but she didn't like it.)

¿Quién era el médico del rey? (Who was the King's physician?)

Hablemos ahora de la guerra. (Let us speak now of the war.)
And, I think my favourite, the touchingly lachrymose:
El invierno es la estación más fría y más triste del año (Winter is the coldest and saddest season of the year.)
On the other hand, some of the phrases veer towards the delightfully surreal, such as:
Estoy hablando ruso. (I am speaking Russian.)
Ceci n'est pas un pipe.

The best parts, though, are the little dialogues that the book provides, as much for their outrageous racism as for their stiffness, eg.:
A: What does this man want?
B: I believe he wants money.
A: Why does he want money?
B: Because he is a very poor man.
A: Why is he poor?
B: Because he doesn't work.
A: Why doesn't he work?
B: Because he is lazy.
A: Why is he lazy?
B: Because he doesn't want to work.
A: Is his father also lazy?
B: Yes, he is lazy.
A: Is his mother also lazy?
B: Yes, but not so lazy as his father.
I love the way it just keeps on going, even when you begin to think that it has to end soon.

People who have been to Spain: correct me if I'm wrong, here. Perhaps Spaniards really talk like this and I am being an ignorant ass.

September 10, 2006

Muthafuckin' Snakes, Etc., Etc.

I went to see Snakes On A Plane today. Afterwards, I went to my dad's house for dinner, where, quite by coincidence, there was a Susan Sontag reader lying out in the living room (that's the kind of place my dad's house is). So after watching Snakes On A Plane, I re-read Notes on Camp — and, I have to say, the combination significantly enhanced my enjoyment of both.

I think maybe I could be on to a winning special feature for the DVD.

September 09, 2006

Jolie Good Show

From The Bryan-College Station Eagle: Brad Pitt: I'll Marry When Everyone Can
NEW YORK (AP) — Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won't be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped. "Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able," the 42-year-old actor reveals in Esquire magazine's October issue.
Um, sorry, but I'm going to call bullshit on this one. Here's what I think happened:

Angelina Jolie: Braaaaadddddd...?
Brad Pitt: Yes, Angie?
AJ: Braddy-poo, I've been thinking... Why don't we get married?
BP [spitting out his fair trade soy latte all over his left wing newspaper]: I, uh— what?
AJ: Why don't we get married?
BP: Well, I, uh— sure, Angie, that's a great idea, it's just that, uh...
AJ: It's just that what?
BP: Well... Oh, it's just that [nervous chuckle]... I mean, what sort of message does it send if we get married, while thousands of Americans are just, uh... languishing in unmarriable homosexualhood? Yes, that's right.
AJ: What do you mean?
BP: Well, I just think it would be fairer to everyone if we refused to get married until gay marriage is legalised.
AJ: Oh, Brad! You're so romantic! I'm going to go give another third world child a stupid name, to celebrate!
BP: Okay, honey, you do that.
AJ: And then I'm going to start planning our wedding, straight away, just in case the conservative president and Republican-controlled senate legalise gay marriage anytime soon! [AJ exits]
BP: Heh-heh-heh. Pitt, you sly dog. You've still got it!

[Fin.]

September 08, 2006

September 07, 2006

Oh Yes, It's That Time Again...

The Worrying Search Referrals Show!

What search term yields this blog as hit number twenty-three?



My favourite part is that it's not picking up any particular page with those words in it, like all the other sites — it just lists my URL in general as, you know, the place to go for cock and pussy.

Sigh.

Associated Philistines

From Newsvine: Toronto Fest a Venue for Transformations
TORONTO — Celebrities always are looking to show new sides of themselves, and the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the best showcases for their transformations . . .

Transformations highlighting this year's festival, which opens Thursday and runs through Sept. 16, include Sean Penn as a Southern demagogue, Forest Whitaker as an African dictator, Russell Crowe as a romantic lead, former James Bond Pierce Brosnan as a Civil War fugitive, new James Bond Daniel Craig as a cold-blooded murderer and Will Ferrell as a serious actor.
Whoa, ouch!

Also, you know how I hate to be a stickler about these sorts of things, but going on the structure of the other clauses, that technically means that Will Ferrell will be playing a serious actor, in his characteristically oddball style. Either that or Pierce Brosnan has somehow managed to travel back in time to the 1800s.

Ugh, my God, that is such an amateur mistake. I mean, like, Strunk-and-White-level. How is it that such boors can get jobs writing for the AP, while I am stuck diddling around in the blogosphere?

Speaking of bizarrely worded AP articles: Ky. Plane Crash Survivor Asks 'Why?'
LEXINGTON, KY. — The sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 49 people near the Lexington airport last week told family members from his hospital bed, "Why did God do this to me?" but he hasn't mentioned the crash, a close family friend said Wednesday.
The "Why did God do this to me?" comment was actually referring to one of those get well soon cards that plays a tinny electronic version of 'When The Saints Go Marching In' every time it's opened.

Making fun of plane crash victims: wrong?

September 06, 2006

Some Training Required

I think it’s a testament to Bill Bryson’s writing that I frequently go through life feeling like I’m in a Bill Bryson book.

I had originally booked my ticket back from London for Thursday afternoon, supposing that I would need that much time to find a flat. But after happening upon somewhere on Tuesday, I thought I might as well go back to Edinburgh a day early rather than aimlessly bum around in London (plenty of time for that come October, I say).

So I phoned the customer service number on my receipt and asked if it would be possible to change the ticket. I was informed that, in fact, my ticket was such that I could travel on any day this month, as long as I didn’t choose a service that left between the peak hours of 3:15pm and 6:15pm.

I should explain, at this point, that the British rail system is one of the most oblique and bewildering ways of organising a national transit network that you are ever likely to come across. Just before leaving for London, my stepmother had clipped me an article from the Guardian about how to get cheaper train fares on long journeys; it seems that, because of the way certain trips are classified as peak or not-peak — central or peripheral, literal or figurative, pink or blue — one can often save a great deal of money by manipulating the fare structure on the route on which you’re travelling.

For instance, rather than buying a ticket from Edinburgh to London, you could buy a series of tickets from Edinburgh to York, York to Peterburgh, and then Peterburgh to London. You will be on exactly the same train, for exactly the same amount of time that you would be if you bought the single Edinburgh-London ticket, but you’ll pay less, and it’s perfectly legit. Even more ludicrous, if you buy a ticket from London to Glasgow and then get off a few hours early at Carlisle, you’ll pay less than if you had bought a ticket from London to Carlisle on the same train (except that is totally illegal, obviously).

Suffice it to say, I thought I had better double-check before blithely turning up at the train station today, so I went to Kings Cross a few hours early and talked to a nice old lady in the ticket office.

“Oh, yes, that’s fine, you can use this today, as long as it’s not during peak hours,” she said.

“And peak hours are 3:15pm to 6:15pm?”

“Yes... Er, no, for this ticket, the latest you can use it today is 2:30pm.”

“Oh.”

“That’s only for GNER services, though. If you get on a Virgin train it doesn’t matter what time you travel.”

“I see.”

“But Virgin only departs from Euston station, so you’ll have to go there.”

So I went to Euston Station.

“Oh, no, you don’t want to be doing that,” said the man there. “Get on a Virgin train and you’ll have to go to Glasgow first. Your best bet is to get a GNER train direct from Kings Cross. But you can’t travel during peak hours.”

“And what are those?” I asked, with some trepidation.

“Ooooh, good question, let me check,” he said, before pulling a phonebook-sized tome from under his desk. After flipping through it for a few seconds, consulting with one of his colleagues (who in turn got out his own phonebook), and tapping a few keys on his computer, he proudly announced: “2:59pm until 6:59pm.”

“2:59pm until 6:59pm?”

“Yes. Er, no. What did I say? Yeah, 2:59pm.”

I decided that it was probably best to get one last confirmation on this, so I went back to Kings Cross and tried a slightly different tack with a new man, there. “What time is the latest train I could take to Edinburgh today?”

“Well,” he said, with the sort of tone that suggested the answer was something he could savour, like a fine brandy, for several hours. “Peak hours start at 2:30pm, so the last train to Edinburgh you can get on is the 2pm.”

“Okay, thank you,” I said.

“But,” he continued, as if I hadn’t said a word, “You could also get on the 2:30pm to Newcastle, and switch at York to the Virgin cross country service. That’ll get you into Edinburgh around the same time.”

“Alright.”

“Hang on a second, though, today is the second Wednesday of the month — that means peak hours are only applicable on routes through Fotheringham-Upon-Potts. So if you take the 2:45pm to Leeds and then change to a ScotRail service to Aberdeen, a rift in the space-time continuum will appear, and you’ll get in to Edinburgh sometime last Friday. Of course, that’s if they’re not doing signal work at High Bottomsbury. Then it would get a bit complicated.”

The upshot was that I got on the 2:30pm to Newcastle, with strict instructions to change at York to the Virgin cross country service. Only, when I got to York, the Virgin cross country service appeared not to exist — instead, the staff member on the platform told me, in an exasperated sort of way, to get on the GNER service to Glasgow, which stops in Edinburgh on the way. He then added, as if to highlight my stupidity:

“But really you should have just taken the direct service from Kings Cross to Edinburgh at 3pm.”

...

I believe the ultimate goal of all this is to make train journeys so confusing and unpleasant that nobody will ever want to travel by train — and then the government can just quietly close up the rail networks altogheter.

Sorry, that was a bit of a long one, wasn’t it? See what I mean about blog incontinence?

September 05, 2006

Touched By An Angel

And lo!, The Great Flat Hunt comes to an end. My feet are calloused and sore from two and a half days of solid walking; my shoulders bruised and tender from two and a half days of lugging around my laptop; my soul somewhat crushed by the experience (as many warned it would be). But this afternoon I put down a deposit on a nice little place in a converted church, just a few minutes walk from Islington's Angel station— widely regarded as one of the trendiest places in the universe. After the stress and desperation of finding next to nothing over the past few days, a great weight lifted from me as I signed the necessary forms in the estate agent's office.

The weight remained lifted for about three minutes. Then I started worrying about how I would ever pay for the damn thing.

Still, I love the neighbourhood, filled as it is with quirky bars, back street boutiques, and coffeeshops spreading out as far as the eye can see. There's even a supermarket about fifty metres up the street, which will make a nice change from the Sisyphean schlep to Provigo that I had to endure in Montreal. And my building is great, too— I mean, a converted church! Oh, how I will cackle with cynical, hipster irony as I drink, fornicate, and generally carouse under God's roof! All those wannabe mocking-religion-for-kicks jerks who walk around in "Jesus Is My Homeboy" t-shirts will be positively green with envy.

Coming up next week: The Great Job Hunt!

September 02, 2006

Department of Piss Poor Policy Practices (Formerly the Department of Alliteration)

Okay, first of all, I know I said I would be flat-hunting in London and therefore not posting much this week. However, I decided that, given how hard I've been working this month, it would be better to take a few days to build up a little more energy before taking on the London housing market. Also, two of my favourite ladies have made triumphant returns (following long absences) to the blogosphere today, so I felt the need to contribute some serious internet love.

That said, I do not love much of what I read on the internet these days.

Item: Some Co-Eds Evicted for Suicide Attempts
NEW YORK — A depressed Hunter College student who swallowed handfuls of Tylenol, then saved her own life by calling 911, was in for a surprise when she returned to her dorm room after the ordeal. The lock had been changed on the door.

She was being expelled from the residence, the school informed her, because she violated her housing contract by attempting suicide.
Seriously, I mean, talk about a roommate from hell. What an inconsiderate bitch.

A spokesperson for the college explained: "Our institution simply does not tolerate attempted suicide. Our hope is that this kick-em-while-they're-down policy will provide the incentive to finish the job properly."

Item: Blair to tackle 'menace' children
Tomorrow's potential troublemakers can be identified even before they are born, Tony Blair has suggested.

Mr Blair said it was possible to spot the families whose circumstances made it likely their children would grow up to be a "menace to society" . . . He said the government had to intervene much earlier to prevent problems developing when children were older . . .

There had to be intervention "pre-birth even", he said . . .

He admitted many people might be uneasy with the idea of intervening in people's family life but said there was no point "pussy-footing".
You know what, Tony? You are absolutely right: there's no point in pussy-footing. So why stop at problem families? Why not arrest teenagers who are having sex to stop them having children in the first place? Why not shoot alcoholics before they can become parents? In fact, I tell you what: why don't we just give you carte blanche to socially engineer the crap out of the country and we'll all send you some roses when everything is perfect in ten years?

I mean, Christ, have I just been exposed to American individualistic liberalism for too long, or is this the most retarded thing you've ever heard? He's talking about penalising people for things they may or may not do in the future, based on probabilistic social trends that aren't even fully understood! Boo, Tony, for making me side with the Tories on something.

Um... Internet love.

August 31, 2006

Connecting the Dots

Because it's been six days since I last posted, an update on why:

Last Saturday were the inaugural if.comeddies (aka the annual Perrier comedy awards, mauled beyond recognition by corporate rebranding gone mad). I managed to snag an invite to the ceremony (which was a mercifully short ten minutes, much how the Oscars should be) and the subsequent award party. I was hoping to rub shoulders with a few celebrities, but apart from seeing a drunk and confused-looking Rich Hall, I mostly spent the night taking obscene liberties at the open bar.

Sunday I was hungover. I was also going on about three hours of sleep, and it was only by the grace of copious amounts of coffee that I managed to stay awake through Demetri Martin's fantastic show and then the Underbelly's drink-the-bar-dry last night extravaganza.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday passed in a blur of bad smells and hard labour as we tore up the venue and flat packed it all into the back of a garage until next year. It was actually a fairly interesting experience in parts, like a giant 3D game of Tetris that required me to clamber about on top of twelve-feet tall stacks of couches and tables, trying to fill in spaces with other miscellaneous pieces of furniture and equipment.

And today I've been savouring the glorious freedom of having nothing to do, on only the third day since July 25th that I've not had to go to work. Tomorrow the flat hunt begins, so I probably won't be doing too much posting for the next week, either— but after that I'll have two weeks off to generally recover and take it easy before I move to London proper. And we all know what happens when I get two weeks to take it easy: blog incontinence. So you can look forward to that, and appreciate the novelty in the fact that you're looking forward to someone's incontinence.

Ick.