July 30, 2007

Who The Hell Is Mitt Romney, Anyway?
Part One

Today I thought to myself, "I don't answer enough rhetorical questions." So, after yesterday's post, here's what I have found out about Mitt Romney thus far.

• Mitt Romney is either a flagrant plagiarist or is, in fact, a complex android built and controlled by the New England Patriots. Possibly both. The proof can be seen pretty conclusively in the logo on his campaign website (www.mittromney.com):

Come on, Mitt Romney: why are you trying to taint the purity of the National Football League with your partisan hatred? Get your own damn logo.

• Mitt Romney writes his campaign slogans using nothing more than a set of magnetic poetry with most of the tiles missing. "Mitt Romney: True Strength for America's Future" is bad enough as far as meaningless strings of buzzwords go, but click into "The Romney Agenda" and you're greeted with:
The Romney Agenda.
Strong. New. Leadership.
What the fuck does that mean, huh, Mitt? I could do that and you don't see me entertaining delusions of running for President:
The Ladd Agenga.
Truth. Justice. Punctuation.
I mean, seriously, is this a political campaign or a Gertrude-sodding-Stein poem?

• Mitt Romney has five sons, named Tagg (after the bodyspray, presumably), Josh, Ben, Craig and (this one's the best) Matt. This is so they can have Christmas cards printed that say:
The Romney Family.
Tagg. Josh. Ben. Craig. Matt.
In fact, not a single person in Romney's immediate family has a name with more than one syllable. What are you trying to hide, Mitt? Do you know who else liked one-syllable names? KARL MARX.

Coming up next: Mitt on Foreign Policy!

July 29, 2007

Clinton:Marx::Romney:A Person Who Is Not An Idiot

From BostonHerald.com: Mitt blasts Dems in N.H.: Likens Clinton's views to those of Marx
NASUHA, N.H. - Ahead in New Hampshire polls, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has turned his sights away from his GOP rivals and onto Democratic front-runners … comparing Sen. Hillary Clinton to communist Karl Marx…

“She said we have been an ‘on-your-own society’ and she says we need to replace that with shared responsibility and ‘working together society.’ That’s out with Adam Smith and in with Karl Marx.”
Oh, yeah, Hillary freakin' Clinton is a real stranger to Adam Smith, with her $30 million campaign budget. And Karl Marx?! Quite apart from the fact that Hillary Clinton is about as much of a Marxist as she is a Pop Tart, is American political debate really still at the level where brutishly insinuating that someone might be a communist is a valid tactic? Really? I guess Good Night and Good Luck still hasn't come through on Romney's Netflix.

It gets better though. Romney continued:
“She wouldn’t be elected president of France today, never mind the United States."
Yikes! Not only is she a communist, but she's a communist that even those socialist ignoramuses in France can see through! Let's pour her down the drain, like so much fine champagne.

Romney's wrath burned the other Democratic frontrunners, too, with Obama getting a severe dressing-down for advocating sex education in kindergarten (sort of) and Edwards drawing criticism for his comments about Iraq:
“He said there’s not a war on terror. It’s just a Bush bumper sticker. Tell it to the people in New York and Washington, D.C.”
The people in New York… You mean, the people who… Voted something like 80% Democrat at the midterms?

Pssst! I think they already know!

I must say, I haven't really paid much attention to Romney so far, but now I'm forced to ask: who the hell is this douchebag?

July 27, 2007

July 25, 2007

Pieces and Uncles

As is my custom during my annual employment at the Underbelly, a quick rundown of what's been happening this week.

--

I read Harry Potter. The ending was so cloying I wanted to vomit. It's hard to believe that the same author who, only two chapters earlier, had my heart in my throat and tears welling, could write something so irritatingly saccharine. Four out of five pundigrions.

--

I saw Harry Potter. Better than the corresponding book and with an excellently cast Luna Lovegood, but still, not a whole lot really happens. Three out of five pundigrions.

--

I lost a game of Facebook Scrabble. One out of five pundigrions.

--

I drove from London to Edinburgh without dying or going insane. I didn't even smell that bad at the end of it. Three out of five pundigrions, with one bonus pundigrion awarded for having driven through a town called 'Burnmouth'.

--

I did my Time Out-listed improv show and it went gangbusters. I even made £30! Five out of five pundigrions.

--

My (small) room in Edinburgh is now filled with (a) all my belongings from London, (b) all my still-to-be-unpacked belongings from Montreal, and (c) all my belongings from my childhood that were already in there. I can barely move, even after an entire afternoon of sorting and cleaning. One out of five pundigrions.

--

It's dinner time: home-made pesto. Twenty gazillion out of five pundigrions.

July 20, 2007

July 18, 2007

Tooting My Own Horn

This is awesome for two reasons:

1. It's me! In Time Out!

2. It's the first time my middle-of-the-alphabet name has put me at the beginning of an alphabetical list of anything!

Sorry I don't have more to say. As you can imagine my last week in town is a little hectic.

July 17, 2007

On Law

From BBC NEWS | UK: Convicted rapist at Labour event
A convicted rapist attended a Labour Party fund-raiser held by Gordon Brown, BBC Two's Newsnight has revealed.

Tycoon Owen Oyston, jailed in 1996 for raping a 16-year-old girl, is believed to have paid £10,000 for a table at the Wembley Stadium event.

The prime minister has asked party officials to investigate and said no money should be accepted from him.
At the risk of being controversial – and without wanting to suggest, obviously, that rape is in any way okay – I do wonder what an eleven-year-old conviction (for which jail time has been served) has to do with party finances.

First of all, what do we think he served three and a half years for? Okay, sure, criminological literature is full of evidence about how jail time isn't usually particularly reformative – but if we're going to continue to act as if locking people up is an appropriate way to deal with crime, let's not be half-assed about it. If someone goes to jail, serves time, and is released on a High Court appeal, shouldn't we consider that person absolved? A judge has clearly said as much, and by definition it's pretty much his or her call. It doesn't seem very much like justice to punish someone according to the arbitrary law our culture has deemed appropriate, and then continue to punish them even after they've served their sentence.

Second of all, what are the Labour Party that worried about? I mean, Christ, like they think the millions of people who vote, support and/or contribute to the party already are unsullied saints, each and every one? For heaven's sake, we've just spent years being bored by the Cash-For-Honours scandal. Considering how many sex crimes are committed in this country, I'd be very surprised if some of the perps didn't have connections to the Labour Party (and the Conservative Party, and the rest). Taking money from a convicted rapist doesn't make you a rapist.

And third of all, following Oyston's original conviction, he was ordered to pay court costs of £100,000, which were taxed and the proceeds given, natch, to the government. Now, of course, there is a difference between tax money going into public coffers and donations going to the party's own funds, but I think on principle we have to accept that convicted criminals can (and do) still contribute other things to society – especially after they've been released. It may not be a particularly pleasant truth, sure, but knee-jerk reactions aren't terribly helpful in dealing with it.

Besides, you'd think that this would be a little more embarrassing for Labour:

From BBC News | Politics: Tory candidate at Labour dinner
A Conservative candidate in a west London by-election recently attended a fundraising event for the Labour Party and was photographed with Tony Blair.

Tony Lit, standing for MP for Ealing Southall, was head of Asian radio station Sunrise at the time. Sunrise donated £4,800 to Labour at the event.
That money, though, hasn't been refused. Come on Gordon Brown: if you're going to refuse money from people on ideological grounds, surely a member of the political party to which you are ideologically opposed shouldn't be allowed to donate, either?

So, anyway, my point is this: though rape is an horrific act and rapists most certainly deserve to be punished, I think it is contrary to the basic tenets of justice to proclaim what a suitable punishment should be, administer that punishment, and then continue to punish the person beyond what was originally deemed appropriate. If we really think, as a society, that rapists should never be allowed to contribute anything positive ever again (and, to be honest, I wouldn't totally disagree with that), then what's the point of letting them out of prison at all?

July 15, 2007

It's Bin A While

From Newsvine: Bin Laden Praises Martyrdom in New Video
The authenticity of the video could not be verified, but it … carried the logo of as-Sahab, al-Qaida's media production wing.
Can somebody explain to me how al-Qaida can be both a loosely-connected organisation consisting of independent and mutually unaware sleeper cells, and have a media production wing? They make it sound like freakin' Viacom.

Also, since when did the AP switch to the British transliteration of al-Qaida (they always used to go with 'al Qaeda')?

Week At The Knees

I'm now into the home stretch of my year in London – a week tomorrow I'm leaving for Edinburgh, the Fringe and, anon, Boston.

Dan is moving his stuff out today, though, as he'll be in St Andrews next weekend for his sister's birthday. And since almost all of the stuff in our flat was his to begin with or is staying with him, I will effectively be camping for the next week. Consider, the few (highly practical) items I own:

• Blender
• TV
• Scrabble set
• Giant Union Jack flag
• Nintendo 64
• iMac

Thankfully it's a part-furnished apartment so I will still have couches and a bed, plus Dan is kindly leaving me behind a few dishes and some cutlery – so I will at least be able to sleep and eat in a relatively civilised manner. On the other hand, he is taking my desk, so for the next seven days all blogging will have to be done crouched on my bedroom floor.

See? Just like camping.

July 13, 2007

July 10, 2007

Curb Your Enthusiasm

From Newsvine: Anti-Smoking Pill May Help Curb Drinking
WASHINGTON — A single pill appears to hold promise in curbing the urges to both smoke and drink, according to researchers trying to help people overcome addiction by targeting a pleasure center in the brain.

The drug, called varenicline, already is sold to help smokers kick the habit. New but preliminary research suggests it could gain a second use in helping heavy drinkers quit, too…

"The biggest thrill is that this drug, which has already proved safe for people trying to stop smoking, is now a potential drug to fight alcohol dependence," said Selena Bartlett, a neuroscientist with the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco who led the study.
Now, you may think it's funny that a study on alcohol dependence is being conducted at a medical centre named after California's most famous vintner, but you should bear in mind that several well-known pharmaceuticals only gained clinical approval after extensive testing at ironically named research facilities. For example:

• Prozac's FDA approval relied heavily on research carried out at the Sylvia Plath Research and Teaching Hospital in Winnipeg.

• The controversial anti-hyperactivity drug Ritalin was piloted in a test group at the Mighty Morphin Super Happy Power Rangers Fun Time Clinic in Portland, Oregon.

• And, of course, a key study on the effects of Viagra was conducted at the Seeing Your Wife Swoon Over Ty Pennington's Toned Shirtlessness On The TV In The Bedroom Institute in Spokane, Illinois – and published, like the current study, in PNAS*.

(*Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which gained prominence in early 2007 when Bo Bladd, a professor but not a scientist at the University of Glasgow, published an incendiary article about the effect of genes on Chinese people's intelligence.)

July 09, 2007

Join The Club

For those of you with a penchant for meals involving bread – or a lot of spare time on your hands – why not check out The British Sandwich Association: "the voice of the British sandwich industry". Their goals include:
•To safeguard the integrity of the sandwich industry
•To promote excellence and innovation in sandwich making
•To promote the consumption of sandwiches
If you're a little confused by all this sandwich talk, well, they can help you there, too. Just what is a sandwich, anyway?
The British Sandwich Association defines a sandwich as: Any form of bread with a filling, generally assembled cold - to include traditional wedge sandwiches, as well as filled rolls, baguettes, pitta, bloomers, wraps, bagels and the like, but not burgers and other products assembled and consumed hot. Hot eating sandwiches are also included.
Honestly, though, you really should spend some time perusing the site. It is so adorably earnest about sandwiches in all their varied forms, it's impossible not to be pleasantly entertained. I particularly recommend the "Sandwich Features, News & Funnies" section of the discussion board, which includes possibly the best summary of the sandwich's history that I have ever read (not, admittedly, that it has much competition):
The humble sandwich was invented in 1762 by the earl of the same name, John Mantagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, as a convenient snack that he could eat without disrupting his gambling.
Because I've had so many poker games ruined by an ill-timed beef stroganoff. Yeesh. God bless you, Earl of Sandwich!

July 06, 2007

July 05, 2007

How Many Al Gores Are There, Anyway?

From Reuters: Al Gore's son busted for drugs in hybrid car

I love the Reuters coverage of this story.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The 24-year-old son of former Vice President Al Gore was arrested for drug possession on Wednesday after he was stopped for speeding in his hybrid Toyota Prius…

Al Gore III… was driving his environmentally friendly car at about 100 miles per hour on a freeway south of Los Angeles when he was pulled over by an Orange County sheriff's deputy at about 2:15 a.m.
The deputy smelled marijuana, and a search of Gore's car revealed a small amount of the illegal drug along with Valium, Xanax, Vicodin and Adderall, all stored in recycled, biodegradable packaging.

A spokesperson for the sheriff's office confirmed that Gore was arrested on suspicion of drug possession and driving without polluting the environment.

Gore quickly made bail, and at 2pm the sheriff's department released him and no harmful greenhouse gases. He will receive a notice of a court date, printed on paper made from trees sourced from sustainable forests, within thirty days.

July 04, 2007

Rain of Terror

From BBC NEWS | UK: Where has the UK's summer gone?
Our national obsession - the weather - has taken a strong grip this year, with cries of 'where's the summer gone?' resonating around the land.
It's true. The weather has been monumentally crappy for weeks. On Tuesday afternoon there were thunder storms (which almost NEVER happen in this country), and clouds so black that it looked like evening at 4pm. Today an email forward went around the office that said something like: "Missing: one yellow round thing, normally seen in sky, answers to name 'Sun'. If you see him, tell him it's FUCKING JULY."

But if you think that sounds a little tired of the bad weather, get a load of this guy:
"July is going to be lousy and the rest of it, August and September will not be worth waiting for," said Piers Corbyn, director of Weather Action.
"Go on, shoot yourself in the face right now, you might as well," he continued, before euthanising several injured kittens.
It was the wettest June since records began in 1914 and the coldest since 2002. England has also been the dullest since 1998.
Boy, I'll say. This year has been a real yawnfest so far. It's not really a fair comparison though; 1998 was the year that Furby mania hit England.
The weather is partly being attributed to the La Niña system, which means areas of warm water develop in the western Pacific, making the ocean surrounding Australasia warmer than usual.
Sweet! We're back in a "Blame Everything on the Central Pacific" kick in the media! Man, I remember when there was that wicked bad El Niño back in 1998, every single news story was "El Niño causes cancer," "El Niño raises taxes", "El Niño damages Furbies". It was awesome! Now I have an excuse for anything again!

Incidentally, the La Niña FAQ page at the NOAA website is great:
What is the difference between La Niña and El Niño?

Why do El Niño and La Niña occur?

What causes La Niña?

What's the difference between La Niña and El Niño?
I'M JUST NOT GETTING IT!!!

Anyway, time for bed; I'm exhausted. I bet it's that damn La Niña's fault.

July 03, 2007

Mad Illz

One fantastically pleasurable part of my trip to Sardinia that I neglected to mention was that I stepped on a sea urchin. It was within two minutes of getting in the water on our first day at the beach, so I was pretty thrilled. I spent about an hour on three separate days with a pair of tweezers and some whisky, painfully working the numerous, tiny spines out of my toe (the whisky was a half-assed attempt at sterilising the wounds/tweezers, not a libation; we had no rubbing alcohol in the house).

Anyway, my amateur surgery seemed to be a success and I pretty much just put it out of my head, but my foot continued to ache and yesterday morning I woke up with a fever so I decided to call in sick and go to the doctor.

Calling in sick is often a more painful experience for me than the illness itself. I can't really explain it other than to invoke the sadistic Calvinist ethos drilled into me at school. George Watson's College was (and still is, I'm sure) the sort of Scottish institution where they made the children (aged five to twelve) come to school wearing shorts, every single miserable day of the freezing Scottish year. Those who survived into the Senior School without losing life or limb to frostbite were allowed to start wearing trousers, though these were to be removed once a week for 'Games', which consisted — naturally — of rugby (in shorts) in the winter and cricket (in heavy woollen jumpers) in the summer.

Essentially, if you weren't suffering during some or all of the school day, you were doing something wrong — and what better way to demonstrate your commitment to hard work than to drag yourself to school with a fever of 102F and a spirited recreation of the Big Bang being staged directly behind your eyes?

Oh, they weren't idiots about it, mind you. There were strict guidelines dictating under what conditions the teachers were permitted to (grudgingly, always grudgingly) excuse poorly children from class. Relentless weeping was one, as long as these words applied to a sore or boil of some sort, and not to the child as a whole; certain, particularly infectious diseases (such as chicken pox or the plague) were also reasonable excuses to stay at home for a day or two. Generally, though, the staff favoured introducing dangerous biological agents into the student population; after all, the more kids get sick, the more character gets built!

Anyway, I very thoroughly internalised this attitude during my formative years at GWC, which probably explains why my instinctual reaction to the thought of taking a sick day is disgust, shame and an overwhelming sense of having failed at life. I simply cannot bring myself to take a sick day unless I have at least two hours to rationalise it to myself, and even then I instantly regret it unless later diagnosed with something life-threatening. It's a pretty awesome way to be.

The doctor, by the way, pronounced my foot fine (though, Christ, you should have seen the look of horror on his face when I first told him I had stepped on a sea urchin; he was clearly preparing himself for the possibility of having to address amputation with me), and said I had probably just caught one of the viruses going around. This, obviously, was something of a relief, though only compounded my intense feelings of guilt at having skipped work.

On the bright side, thanks to a new NHS pilot scheme targeting any person aged sixteen to twenty-four, I got to sit in the waiting room with an envelope on my lap that read, in giant letters, "CHLAMYDIA SCREENING PROGRAM". I mean, I think it's probably a well-conceived scheme, but is that really necessary? Why not give me a dunce cap with some flashing lights on it, instead?

And now, back to work. Phew!

July 02, 2007

Time To Facebook The Music

As many of you have probably discovered by now, I have given in and joined Facebook – despite this, this, and even this.

The sudden change in heart was due largely to the fact that a bunch of my future Emerson classmates were threatening to exchange Facebook pleasantries and I didn't want to have missed out on valuable in-jokes come September, though a strategically created impostor Andrew Ladd also pushed me over the edge. However, despite feelings of shame and self-betrayal, the whole sordid affair justified itself to me yesterday.

I was at the pub after improv, having a conversation that normally would have gone like this:
Her: Are you on Facebook?

Me: No.

Her: Oh. Why not?

Me: Well… [Lengthy and well-worn diatribe on what I see as the evils of Facebook]

Her: Yeah, but couldn't you just join and then not pay much attention to it?

Me: Well… [Slightly shorter but still impeccably reasoned case as to why this would be a bad idea.]

Her: I guess, but it just seems like it would make it easier for people to stay in touch with you, and what's bad about that?

Me: Hey, Mr Blogger, can we get an 'Etc.' in here yet, or what? Haven't you ever heard of concision?

Her: Who are you talking to?
Instead, my conversation at the pub yesterday went like this:
Her: Are you on Facebook?

Me: Yes.

Her: Cool. So, how'd you first get into improv?
It was such a short and painless exchange, it actually felt physically refreshing.

So, uh, I guess what I'm trying to say is… Maybe I shouldn't have been such a stubborn douche about it for so long.