March 31, 2007

Tell Me More, Tell Me More

From Newsvine: Japan Prepares for Wave of Retirements

Really? Are you sure it's not a retirement TSUNAMI?!

Wa wa.

In other news:
Greek authorities have cancelled all team sports matches for two weeks after a mass brawl between rival women's volleyball fans left one man dead…

The authorities have long tried to eradicate the violence that is endemic in Greek sport, correspondents say.

Hooliganism mainly affects football and basketball but also breaks out occasionally at other sports such as volleyball and water polo.
I'm beginning to question whether or not Greece was really the right choice for the seat of Western civilisation. I mean, if you can't even stay genial at a water polo match, how civilised can you really be? And don't even get me started on the whole togas/pederasty/lightning thing.

March 30, 2007

Conversations With Greatness CXXIV



Sorry for complete lack of posting this week, have been hellishly busy (like, my entire week was fully planned by last Tuesday). *sigh*

March 26, 2007

Humbuggery

One of the highlights (sic) of my job is the time of the month when the fantastically insightful journalistic behemoth that is Bloomberg Markets lands on my desk. If you've ever needed complex economic arguments boiled down into a graph in the shape of a Starbucks mug, Bloomberg Markets is the magazine for you. It's sort of like Newsweek, only dumbed down.

This month they've got an article about Web 2.0, including this great detail about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg:
On his Facebook page, he lists his interests as revolutions and "eliminating desire for all that really doesn't matter."
HA! Yeah, you're doing a stand-up job on that last point – just ask all those people who can't go twenty minutes without checking their Facebook profile to see if anybody new has befriended them.

And, no, I have still not joined Facebook. I have to say, one of the nice things about not being a student this year has been not having to answer that question several times a day.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm late for Cranky Old Man Club.

March 25, 2007

Re-Bostonian

So, for those few of you who hadn't already heard, either from me direct or from Adrienne's blog (I can't actually believe I was scooped on details of my own life), I shall be moving back to Boston in September. I put down my tuition deposit yesterday, towards a Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at the old alma mater, Emerson College.

I am really excited to be going back and enthusiastic about the program, but I have to admit that the decision wasn't as black and white as I thought it would be. Though the nine-to-five job and constant early rising have me feeling worn to shreds by the end of the week, I've actually grown surprisingly fond of my London life. Part of me feels like I'm cutting it unfairly short. The capoeira group I've joined here is a really lovely, warm group of individuals, and I'm learning a lot and getting in better shape than I've ever been in my life; the people at work are lots of fun; and living with Dan is, well, excellent.

--

An aside:

[It is 9:30am on Sunday morning. I am in bed, but only half asleep. My mouth tastes like the drip tray on a beer tap, and my insides feel like they have liquefied. All of a sudden, the door bursts open and Dan, dressed only his boxers, falls into my bed next to me.]

Dan: Hey, dude, you remember how you said I would thank you in the morning for not letting me call that girl?

Me: Erm… Whurf?

Dan: Well, you were right.

Me: Why are you… Why are you in my bed?

Dan: Thanks, man.

Me: Get me some water.

--

So, yeah, I'm sorry to be leaving, because in a lot of ways I feel like I'm just beginning to get settled here. But the program at Emerson is perfect for me, and to be honest I was never really ready to leave Boston, either – so I think it's the right choice.

I shall not, however, be renaming my blog again.

Thus ends my boring personal update. Back to acerbic satire tomorrow.

March 23, 2007

March 22, 2007

A Racy Little Number

From The Chicago Tribune: To some in Paris, sinister past is back
"Some of the things that happen [in Paris, Texas] would not happen if we were in Dallas or Houston," [civil rights activist Brenda] Cherry said…

There was the 19-year-old white man, convicted last July of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck, who was sentenced in Paris to probation and required to send an annual Christmas card to the victims' family.
Because nothing says 'Happy Holidays' like a painful reminder of the racist legacy that kept your dead mother's killer out of jail. Whose bright idea was that?
And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School…

The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor--a 58-year-old teacher's aide--was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town's juvenile court, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.

Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation…

Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who is president of the state NAACP branch [said,] "It's like they are sending a signal to black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated."
"Don't be preposterous," responded Judge Superville. "We're not racist in Paris and we certainly don't want our black community to stay in the shadows. If they did that, they'd be practically invisible!"

Now, all you Canadians out there are probably feeling pretty smug about how much more liberal and open-minded you are than those stupid American Southerners, but don't get too comfortable:

From CTV.ca: Anti-Semitism hits an all-time high in Canada
[The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada's] 2006 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents revealed 935 incidents in 2006 – a 12.8 per cent increase over 2005…

Detective Sergeant Steve Irwin, of Toronto Police's Hate Crimes Unit, confirmed the report to CTV.ca.
"Crikey," remarked Irwin in a prepared statement. "What we have here is the most venomous form of discrimination in the whole world! Let's get a little closer! It won't attack unless it feels threatened. Or sees a Jew… Haim, you'd better give the camera to someone else."

Seriously, though, Steve Irwin? What a sucky name to have. I bet he gets real tired of hacks like me.

(Valuable consultation provided by Gil. Thanks for helping me avoid another Commentgate!)

March 20, 2007

The Lord Giveth, And...

This morning, my boss called me into an impromptu meeting, where I was thrilled to discover that I'm getting a raise as a reward for a job well done over the past six months.

This evening, I got home to find a council tax bill, as a reward for crippling an orphaned puppy in a past life.

I know it's crass to discuss one's financial details in public, but I feel the need to share this gross injustice:

Total extra income gained between now and when I leave this job: £720
Total council tax due during that period: £695

Net gain to me: £25
Cost of one round of drinks to celebrate raise: £25

Real life blows chunks.

March 19, 2007

Partisanship

From BBC NEWS | UK Politics: Hair buzz as Cameron moves left

I haven't wanted something to be tongue-in-cheek this much since the last time I was trying to kiss a girl.
Tory leader David Cameron's decision to part his hair on the left has sparked a buzz of speculation from commentators.

Some argued the new look was an attempt to look more "butch", others that it was actually more feminine…

Quentin Letts said it symbolised the direction in which Mr Cameron was taking his party.
I think it shows his ability to make the press leap at his every twitch like a cat towards a piece of string. That and his postcolonial meta-parsing of sociopolitical hermeneutics.

Fuck yeah, I can still talk the meaningless academic talk. Bring it, Judith Butler. (Bring it, Jordan Himelfarb, for that matter.)

March 17, 2007

This Week In Penises

You'll have to indulge me in a little phallocentrism today, because in the course of trying to find out more about one headline that had caught my eye at work yesterday, I discovered all kinds of other penis-related news that I now feel the need to pass on (it's kind of like that therapy where you get over something traumatic by writing about it).

So, first, a story from South Africa:
Penis found outside house

Hazyview - A man's penis was found outside a house at Masoyi village near Hazyview in Mpumalanga, police said on Sunday.
A man's penis, as opposed to... ?
Police were summoned and enquiries were made to local residents, but to no avail.

[Superintendent Benjamin Mtsholi] Bhembe said police were investigating and urged anyone with information to contact the nearest police station
Added Bhembe: "Cockless Joe, I'm looking in your direction."

Elsewhere, scientists have discovered a duck with a seventeen inch penis – the same length as its body. The scientists who discovered the specimen speculate that:
the giant penis may be an example of 'runaway' sexual selection… This species is "promiscuous and boisterous in their sexual activity", which means that there is likely to be stiff competition by drakes to be the father of ducklings.
Dur, I'm no scientist, but I think male sexual competition is always stiff, ZING!

Speaking of indecorous use of the word stiff, what about this headline?
Penis pump judge faces stiff sentence

A retired US judge is himself before the beak in Bristow, Oklahoma, "on charges he used a penis pump on himself in the courtroom while sitting in judgment of others", AP reports…

[Court Reporter Lisa Foster] testified that during a 2002 trial, she heard the pump "during the emotional testimony of a murdered toddler's grandfather". She continued: "The grandfather was getting real teary-eyed, and the judge was up there pumping on that pump. It was sickening."
Though, indeed, sickening, this is the tame version of the story! Another paper goes into more detail:
All nine former jurors testified Thursday that they had heard a whooshing sound frequently while they were in the jury box for one murder trial in 2003… When prosecutor Richard Smothermon showed the witnesses the penis pump that was in evidence, allegedly belonging to Thompson, and squeezed the pump handle, each juror identified the sound as the one they had heard during the 2003 murder trial…

Two court reporters, Michelle Smith and Jan Doolin, who cleaned out Thompson's chambers after he retired in 2004 when the penis pump allegations first surfaced, testified that they had found hand lotion, a pornographic magazine, a condom, Viagara [sic] and some disposable razors. Prosecutors say that Thompson also "shaved his scrotum" during one of his trials.
Predictably, following that incident, Thompson was given the sack, HEY-OH!

Boy, though, would I love to see the transcript of that session:
Prosecutor: Um, OBJECTION?!

Judge: Huh? Oh, right… Overruled.
I think that's enough prurience for one day.

March 16, 2007

Conversations With Greatness CXXII



I think I'm milking this one too much.

March 15, 2007

Big Fat Man Is Big Fat Megalomaniac

From BBC NEWS | Americas: Key 9/11 suspect 'admits guilt'
"I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z," said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a partial transcript from a closed-door hearing…

According to the partial transcripts, he also admitted responsibility for a series of attacks, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, the bombing of nightclubs in Bali in 2002 and a Kenyan hotel in the same year.

He claimed responsibility for the failed attempt by the so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, to bring down an American plane.

He also listed a string of plots that never came to fruition, including plans to attack Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and Big Ben in London, to hit targets in Israel, and to blow up the Panama Canal.

There was a follow-up project to the 11 September attacks, which involved hitting towers in the US cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and the Empire State Building in New York, and to attack US nuclear power stations.

He also claimed to be behind plots to assassinate the late Pope John Paul II and former US President Bill Clinton, the transcript said.
He went on to claim responsibility for leprosy, the Mexican Tequila Crisis of 1994, the death of Christ, airplane food, light bulbs, apartheid, my bus being late this morning and (of course) the JFK assassination, although he later retracted his admission to creating light bulbs.

When asked if any of his admissions were being made under duress, he firmly answered that he had discovered America, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, won the women's title at Wimbledon for the years 1974 through 1992, eaten an entire cow in a single meal, and had sex with over one woman.

It was later revealed that the Arabic translator had misheard the word duress and asked Mohammed if he was wearing a condom. When the correct question was later repeated, Mohammed fervently insisted that he was the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Steve Jobs, a hovercraft, and gassy. He then re-confessed to inventing light bulbs.

Mr Mohammed will now face a military tribunal, and later this year will defend his claim to the Wimbledon title in a sudden death Foxy Boxing match with Martina Navratilova.

[Edit: Re-organised paragraphs two and four. Chuckled at own wit.]

March 14, 2007

Flood Ties

From BBC NEWS | UK: Flood check plea as 1947 marked
The Environment Agency is urging people to check if they are at risk of flooding - 60 years after floods devastated parts of the UK . . .

Agency Chief Executive Dame Barbara Young said people at risk can sign up for free phone or fax flood warnings.
[Scene: a living room. Pauline and Kent are sitting on the couch. The phone rings.]

Kent: Hello? Hello? [hangs up] That's odd. There was nobody there.

Pauline: Maybe it was a telemarketer.

Kent: Maybe it was your damn mother again.

[The phone rings again.]

Kent: Hello? Maude, is that you? Stop doing this to us! . . . Oh, I'm sorry. Yes, this is Kent Dickens . . . The Environment Agency! Oh no! Is something wrong? . . . Oh, a fax. No, yes, this is the right number. Let me just plug the fax machine in . . . Yes, not at all . . . Yes, you have a nice day too. [Hangs up.]

Pauline: Who was it?

Kent: The Environment Agency. They want to send a fax.

[Kent gets up, walks to the other side of the room, and plugs the fax into the phone socket. After a few more seconds, it begins to ring.]

Pauline: Hey, do you hear that? It sounds like rushing water.

Kent: It's not rushing water, silly. It's just the the fax machine picking up.

Pauline: I think it's rushing water.

Kent: No, look, the fax is coming through now! It says... Oh, balls, the paper's jammed.

Pauline: [Looking out the window] Kent, I think we should get out of here. It looks like the river has burst its banks.

Kent: [Has the fax cover open and is trying to unjam the paper] Not. Until. The fax. Arrives.

Pauline: The Joneses from number eight are inflating a dinghy.

Kent: [Closing the fax, loading new paper] Pauline, this is no time for your crude euphemisms.

Pauline: Kent, there is a paddling pool forming in our living room.

Kent: [Staring intently at the keypad] Now, if I can just remember how to print from cache...

Pauline: And we just had this carpet installed. Ugh.

Kent: Okay! It's coming through now...

Pauline: For God's sake, I'm going.

Kent: Wait! It says...

Pauline: Goodbye, Kent.

Kent: [reading] 'You are at risk of flooding.'

[The door slams]

Kent: Gosh, what a great service!

[Fin.]

March 13, 2007

Hormoans

From BBC News: Teenage mood swing hormone found

Scientists found it in our girlfriends, am I right fellows? Zingeroo-snap!

Oh, wait. I don't have a girlfriend. Never mind.

Well, this is a pretty hideous study:
A hormone called THP is normally released in response to stress . . .

They found that the target for the hormone, a specific receptor, is more prevalent in the part of the brain which regulates emotion during puberty . . .

[Study leader] Dr [Sheryl] Smith and her team were able to genetically alter the receptor to reverse the puberty effect.

She said it might also be possible to block the effect of the hormone.
Ugh, that's right, we want to further medicalise our already hyperactive/depressed/obese/breathing children and try to "cure" what is widely acknowledged as a normal part of growing up. Holy God, that's not a bad idea at all, is it? Get it into your head, medical science: children are people, not malfunctioning washing machines.

I don't know how the rest of you feel about this, but frankly without the often painful experiences of my angsty teenage years I would probably still be throwing irrational temper tantrums at every tiny melodrama that came my way. I can understand why parents may want to do without moody assholes living upstairs for a few years, but what possible benefit can there be to children of levelling out their teenage years into one grey, monotonous, emotional flatline?

Oh, but wait, that's not at all what this study is about. Explains Dr Smith:
"This research has revealed that there is a biological basis for a teenager's mood swings . . .

"As adults, we just deal with things, but it is harder for teenagers because of their biology. I think it's important for people to know that."
See, they're just trying to educate people about the biological basis of teenage mood swings, because NOBODY has EVER described a teenager as "hormonal". Viz. the first sentence of the article:
Teenage mood swings are known to be down to hormones.
Yeesh.

March 11, 2007

Deja Who?

In honour of my dad's sixtieth birthday, we threw a Forties and Fifties themed party last night. I, naturally, dressed like this:



And, as if forever cursed, had the following conversation with my brother:
Marco: Who are you supposed to be?

Me: Um, The Fonz?

Marco: Who?

Me: You know, the Fonz, Fonzie, Happy Days – all that?

Marco: Sorry.

Me: Not as sorry as I am.
There's really only one thing you can say in a situation like this.

Heeeeeeeey!

March 10, 2007

Political Views of the Rich and Famous

From Newsvine: Edwards: Jesus Would Be 'Appalled'

Speaking to a religious website last week, Presidential hopeful John Edwards claimed that Jesus would be disappointed and even appalled at the US policy of focusing on its short term needs while ignoring the suffering of others.

Angry Republicans quickly shot back at Edwards's invective, claiming that "This is precisely the sort of inflammatory rhetoric beloved of evil individuals like Osama bin Laden."

Meanwhile, the White House issued a statement saying that such tactics were not in keeping with Constitution and that Abraham Lincoln would be outraged.

A spokesperson for Edwards responded to these attacks in a press release which stated: "If the Republicans want to continue to resort to this sort of mudslinging, they'd be well respected by the likes of King George III."

Barack Obama, one of Edwards's biggest rivals, capitalised on the scandal with his characteristic eloquence: "All I'm saying is, you wouldn't catch Mother Teresa getting involved in a debate like this."

Hillary Clinton, the other principal Democratic contender for President, also chimed in: "If we can't get past this level of maturity in our political discourse, we might as well all get into bed with Pol Pot. I'm sure he'd be happy to have us."

Across the Atlantic, the European press responded to the incident with glee. The Sun ran with the headline "Jesus Loves Saddam", while Italian daily La Repubblica mused in an editorial: "E checosa penserebbe Marcello Mastroianni di tutto questo?" ("And what would Cary Grant think of all this?")

Well, I can't speak for Jesus, but I can tell you that Andrew sure is appalled by John Edwards and his cheap and hollow campaign tactics. You just lost my vote, sir.

March 09, 2007

March 08, 2007

Fat Chance

From Reuters: Go On, Embrace The Mental Image
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Obese couples have a more difficult time conceiving a baby than couples of normal weight, according to a study published on Tuesday . . .

Previous research had established that semen quality and levels of reproductive hormones were diminished in overweight men.
Talk about demeaning research subjects: "Hey, fatty, jerk off in this cup!"

The new study, in fact, seems entirely to lack a point other than demeaning the overweight. Notes the article:
The study did not examine whether heavier couples had sex less frequently than normal weight pairs.

"If, for example, the obese couples hardly ever had sex then, of course, the chances of becoming pregnant would be reduced. But we don't know that at all," [lead researcher Cecilia] Ramlau-Hansen added.
Okay, so let me get this straight, you conducted a 'study' on links between pregnancy and obesity without tracking how many times couples actually had sex? Do you have low quality semen for brains or are you just extremely naive? How can we possibly draw any valid conclusions about fertility in the overweight, especially considering, DURRRR, previous research has shown that obese individuals DO have sex less. Have you heard of a literature review, Dr Ramlau-Hansen?

So, basically, this article is saying: we got nothing, but lose some weight or no babies for you. It's a fairly brazen piece of anti-obesity propaganda. Now, I think previous blog entries of mine have made it clear that I'm a member of the anti-obesity camp myself, but considering there are so many good reasons not to be obese, I don't see how making up sensationalist ones is going to help anybody.

I think early in the morning before my brain has really kicked in is a terrible time to be writing about such an inflammatory topic. How many people have I offended?

March 06, 2007

Campaign Against Listlessness

• Has anyone else noticed the interesting cognitive shift in the fact that auxiliary iPod battery packs are now sold as "Emergency iPod Battery Packs"? What exactly is an iPod emergency, anyway? Is there some hidden defibrillator function of which I'm unaware?

• I must say, I find these new restrictions on liquids in your carry-on luggage to be the most odious addition to commercial air travel since RyanAir. Show me a terrorist who can take control of a plane using breast milk, and I will show you a blogger with dignity.

• If you buy Lily Allen's album because you read a review of it in Maxim, does that make you more or less girly?

• Which of these headlines is more gratuitously tasteless? MSNBC/The National Enquirer's Is Britney the New Anna Nicole?, or GQ's Dying to Come Out: The War on Gays In Iraq?

• Montreal was fantastic. A warm and hearty thank you to all of you reading who accommodated, fed and entertained me, and otherwise contributed to the best eleven days of my year, so far. It's nice to have peeps.

• If Steve McQueen had to give a PowerPoint presentation, do you think he would include Bullitt points?

• I need sleeeeeeeeep.

March 02, 2007