Thursday, March 18, 2004

Blatantly ripped straight from Casino Avenue[1]. Will Young does Outkast's Hey Ya. Good god, has this man no shame? It's like a very slow car crash. Shake it, shake it, shake it like Rolf Harris's Wobbleboard.

[1] Note to self: I must stop typing that as Casio Avenue.
[2] Note to musicians and other singery type people: Only cover songs that were originally crap, as then the only way is up (and surely it's time for a revival of that classic. Yazz or something, wasn't it?).

I seem to be managing to hear a bewildering array of covers of Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River - all of which make me think (against my will) that despite his assorted faults, the boy can sing, and make things sound good. Whereas Jamie Cullum comes out as a croaky old man trapped in a young boy[3], who can't be arsed to sing half the notes. And the Lost Prophets do the same song, only louder. Get thee some originality.

[3] Minor typo, that should read "young body".

What has the world come to, that I openly discuss the merits of a former member of...N'sync [? I think that's the right boy band]. I shall have to skulk off now, all embarrassed, yet another Indie kid gone bad.



Wow, isn't packing fun?

Especially when you manage to find an old bottle of DEET (insect repellent), and shake it to see if there's any left. Well, it had some in it. Hmm, there's nothing like the smell of DEET in the morning (well, afternoon actually), to make you think of impossible lizards in Tanzanian hotel rooms (it had climbed a long way, and judging by the amount it fell off, wasn't very good at it). Though it's not as hot here, but it is much warmer than it has been - when did we last have snow? Quite recently. Though as soon as I'm about to disappear off to warmer climes, it gets warm enough to have the windows open here (bearing in mind the house has no heating at the moment). Typical.

Anyhoo, sorry this is a rather poor post, but I'm somewhat distracted (has anyone seen my sunglasses? I know I had them...9 months ago).

So I bid you adieu, and I may be gone some time...
(Though hopefully not as long as the guy who originally said that).

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

one for sorrow, two for Joy Three for a girl, Four for a boy Five for silver six for gold. seven for a secret Never to be told the truth. about the United States Trustee Program The Executive Office of the President Executive Order of November which

Courtesy of Google Talk.
Well I started off playing with the Poetry in Translation bit [latest post, 1], which turned it in to ensure, two for the joy, which doesn't seem as fun.

[1] But we've all babelfished[2] everything to hell before anyway haven't we? Even assorted radio stations have set up competitions based on converting song titles into other languages and back again.

[2] Oooh, look at me with my...verbalising sounds right, but it's already got a different meaning...converting brands into verbs a la Hoover. Actually given the amount of comment on Google becoming a verb, and Yahoo not, it seems odd that amazoned or amazoning[3] hasn't obviously cropped up in the media yet.

[3] As in to buy someone something on Amazon - so Mr X in Australia can amazon his friend in Canada a DVD.

And once again the aforementioned variations on trade-marks are just that, so I'm not trying to contest that Googling can involve using Yahoo, or Amazoning can happen through CD-WOW.

Hmm, Google Talk doesn't seem to like my mother's oft quoted phrase "patience is a virtue [possess it if you can, seldom in a woman, and never in a man]"[4], as it goes via Judaism, and Judson Poling (who?) to end in September Manufacturing.

[4] Coming from her? If you haven't already met, Mr Self, I'd like to introduce you to Miss Awareness.

Hmm, what is else is out there? DO's take on the bounds of Europe (anywhere but America). Hate to disappoint you, but the EU's already said it doesn't consider Morocco a potential candidate for membership due to geographic grounds. Presumably they don't fancy having the Sahara as a border (though quite why the states bounding the Mediterranean can't eventually join, I'm not really sure, except for the whole European Union thing).
And as for the eastward end of Europe I think traditionally it goes across to the Urals (so "Russia" is, but most of the former USSR isn't is in Europe), but whether it reaches the Caspian Sea has always been a bit uncertain - various places put the border through the rivers Volga or Don, or the Caucasus Mountains. But Asia begins at the Bosphorus, so much of Turkey is outside this traditional Europe. But then you get into the dubious distinctions of the Middle East and Asia Minor. And given that a chunk of this area is going to join the EU, it seems difficult to tell if Armenia could ever become a member (maybe they'll get round it by renaming the EU the Eurasian Union).

By the way, CNN stories about Georgia are filed under Europe, but the CIA map of Europe doesn't even do much of the Black Sea. As Yankiness is next to godliness [well, being omnipotent], which of these supreme beings should we believe?

Onto other stuff:
Things I have learnt recently. That there's a program on the CBeebies Channel (BBC channel for very young Children) called Smarteenies [presumably a branch of the Smart art program]. I'm now trying to work out how many 3 year olds know what Martini is. I'm guessing it's a pun they're not going to get for many years hence (well until they watch their first Bond film). Unless it's actually derived from "teen", and has the diminutive "ies" on the end. Which sounds like the type of thing that blue sky focus groups come up with, though possibly suggesting toddlers are little teenagers is pushing it a bit (but they do both throw strops...).

That people have craft moments. It happens when they go to do something, but forget what it was. CRAFT in this context standing for "Can't Remember A Fucking Thing". Which sounds a little odd, when heard coming from a very well spoken fifty-something woman in tweeds standing by the bread-knives in Dyas's [an ironmongers based in the South-East, don't be mislead by the dodgy JML adverts].

But now I'm feeling guilty because I realised I was being as judgmental as my mother[5] was, when I was scathing about her being surprised about a young guy, with straggly bleached-blond hair, low-slung baggy cords, hooded top, visible beads on neck and wrist, about 4 rings on assorted digits, and a guitar-case on his back, walking up to a display of newspapers, and picking up a copy of the Telegraph [there's something irredeemably Home Counties about that, 6].

[5] Turning into parents: bad, except when it happens on television, and the parent is Anne Robinson [can't find a link for the television version, and the Telegraph one probably requires a free login. And I've just seen the link for that page - be careful what you put in front of arts].

[6] Although it wasn't in a "waitrosed-up market town", to quote the Guardian (but it has already got a Tesco's, two Sainsbury's and a large M and S, that I know of, so that might explain the lack of the John Lewis Food Division[7]). But I had just seen an Ocado van driving round, so that probably counters it.

[7] What is it with tuppences on escalators? A few weeks ago in the Oxford Street one, there was a group of teenagers, managing to place coins on the handrail of the one the escalators right where people were putting their hands. So the people get on, looking at the floor, go up a little bit, as they readjust their position to examine the back of the person in front, they find money right under their palm. Cue the bemused looks, asking the people around them if they dropped it, and the brighter ones turning round to look at the people at the base of the escalator, and figuring out what happened.

And then much more recently there was another group in a different shop, failing to do the same thing. Very odd.

And another thing: is it just me, or do other people, when seeing the Scotland - Live it/feel it/taste it adverts, start thinking of alternatives? Such as fuck it, sod it, screw it, bugger it, damn it. Just me? Oh well. Though at least it's fun trying to guess if the opening shot of stormy heath covered mountains is an advertisement for A. Scotland, B. Ireland, C. Wales, D. Norway or other Scandinavian country. E. Whisky, F. Whisky from Waitrose. G. Moisturising hand cream, H. Air Freshener, I. British Gas as was, J. Tea, K. Washing Powder, L. Electricity, M. Biscuits, N. Beer, O. The new, utterly crap, Sunday evening television programme on either BBC1 or ITV.

Hmm, they've done their marketing well, as Google is completely stumped when it comes to finding who put out those ads (all I can find is endless ads for car-loans on a tartan background).

Anyhoo, I'm giving up now.

PS. I'm about to disappear for a while, I should be able to post again before then, but I might not have time, so that'll explain it if this blog goes dead for a bit.

PS number 2. Now I'm getting people searching for the symbolism of the frogs in a certain French film frequently mentioned here. This time I really have no clue (well except that "frogs" is a derogatory term for French people, stemming from the stereotyped belief that French people eat frogs' legs a lot, that's when they're not riding bicycles past the Eiffel Tower, in berets and blue and white striped jumpers, with strings of onions or garlic round their necks).

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Following on from yesterday's post, it now appears the Norwegians (and presumably others) were aware of the likelihood of an attack preceding elections in one of Coalition countries. But this information appeared on an internet message board [thus implying the suggestion was not entirely serious, as publicly advertising the attacks before they happen tends to get the attack prevented], and was considered to only apply to troops inside Iraq.

Strange that CNN is still running with "Spain threatens Iraq pull-out", when most other news services have decided that Spain is pulling out of Iraq. Yes, there is a clause about "unless control passes to the UN by the end of June", but given that Iraqi self-government or UN action are both apparently some way off, it seems inevitable that Spanish troops will leave Iraq.

Much of the media struggles to remain civil in its descriptions of Zapatero's decisions and actions (quite frankly I don't really blame them, though I wonder what the Spanish press make of it all). Why make that statement, and why make it as soon has he comes into office? Much of his current rhetoric seems to be for peace at any price. Terrorism happens, either you pander to every terrorist's whim or you shrug and deal with it. Yes, countries take precautions, yes, they seek to minimise risk, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. Trying to accede responsibility, to step away from the implied source of the terrorism, doesn't buy immunity (and possibly signals a weakness that can be exploited).

As you can tell this subject annoys me. I need to go and find some random quirk of the internet, expect the current leader in other people's blogs is finding out if you can pass third grade. Which consists of being able to identify the contiguous American states. Which is pretty easy, and I'm not even American (never even been there), and have no idea how old 3rd graders are. Ok, so I'd be screwed if I had to do the same for Canada (but how many Americans can do that?).

And aren't pile drivers fun? Especially when they're using the brute force and ignorance approach rather than screwing them in. It doesn't help it's got the same rhythm as some hippy dance shite [that's the technical term] that my next door neighbour plays a lot.


PS. last line of this report on locusts sweeping down through Australia: "If only we could chocolate coat them and send them off somewhere to sell," she said. Mmm, crunchy. Actually what they really need are lots of biology undergraduates, who will sit there plucking off different bits of the locusts depending on which experiment they've just been told to do. Measuring the energy retention through the elasticity of the thorax, that was fun.

Monday, March 15, 2004

A really rather good blog on all things Israeli. All things Israeli-Palestian, but that doesn't flow as well, and it's mainly on the I-P conflicts and related matters, rather than including the rest of Israeli life, but I'm guessing the chosen topic tends to dominate. But anyway a fairly fair[1] and sensible assessment of the current affairs of that part of the Middle East.

[1] That's in the non-Fox news sense (thank god, that due to digital wonderfulness, my choices of news channels aren't restricted to Fox or CNN anymore. Admittedly I can't get either now, but they're not really a great loss [well CNN was ok, I suppose]).

Enlightening random search of the day: To stick someone's face in the cold snow, ice or slush whitewash. There was I thinking it meant something as innocent as deliberating deceiving or hiding the truth from people, when all along it's some charming ritual. Fortunately Friday's snow has gone, and it's much warmer now, so no one in this household can get ideas (well unless they think of using the freezer, but I'm not sure bags of frozen peas would have the same effect).

"How do I explain this?" search of the day: What is the source of the phrase "friends of Dorothy"?. What has Canada's education system been teaching you Mr Curious of Calgary [it's where the hit came from]? So do I attempt to explain, or do I differ to someone who is more knowledgeable about such matters (which would be a fairly hefty proportion of the population)?

As I understand it (can you spot the "I'm probably wrong" get out clause?), the term relates to the film, The Wizard of Oz. Reputedly camp and/or gay men intensely like the kitsch musical, and so are ardent fans of the film [the implication being straight men are distinctly less enamoured of the film]. In the film the principal character is a naive girl called Dorothy, who, during the film, makes friends with many different characters (some of whom are arguably camp). So the term FOD either means a man who is likely to like the film or who is reminiscent of the camper characters. As campness in males being strong equated with being gay, the term is thus used to denote a homosexual man.

How to kill any subject dead: just ask me to explain it.

I hope that was enriching to you as the new meaning of whitewash was to me (well it wouldn't be hard).

And I just found out that The Wizard of Oz was a remake of a 1925 film.

So, what should one make of me putting the topics of a whitewash, a friend of Dorothy and Ariel Sharon in the same post? Hmm...I'll be expecting the "incursion" next Tuesday then. [Don't worry, Mr Sharon (golly, two girl's names, that guy is doomed from the start), being that way inclined is perfectly acceptable now].

By the way, much of this post is written in jest, with a playful spirit, so please don't take it too seriously. As in, please don't sue me. Or nuke me. And even hate-mail can get a bit irksome after awhile.

And what do we make of the new Spanish Prime Minister deciding that Spain no longer wishes to have anything to do with Iraq? My initial response is that it's cowardice, but that feels unfair to say it. How much of the PM's decision was based on the train bombings in Madrid? Well, given that his victory is widely suggested to be a result of the attacks, it does seem that a terrorist attack has made the government agree with the terrorists' aims[2].

So terrorism works then? Some how I doubt this is what many other countries wish to hear.

[2] This is assuming that the attacks were arranged by al Qaeda[3], and it was their aim to make Spain rue its involvement in Iraqi Liberation Coalition [or whichever term best suits your rhetoric].

[3] It has also been suggested that it was the previous Spanish Government's readiness to blame ETA, their selection of the nearest scapegoat, that strongly contributed to their electoral defeat. I wonder how the Spanish, and the international media have pursued this.

Initially when I heard of the attacks, I heard bomb and Spain and that made ETA. Then when I heard of the scale of the attacks, and the co-ordination, I thought of the West's nemesis du jour, al Qaeda. Much of the debate has been is it A or B, followed by examinations of the modus operandi of both. It bears the neither the clear-cut hallmarks of either, but a mix of the two. So what does this mean? Is it one or the other? Maybe it's some other group entirely.

But I wonder, could it be mix of the two? Can there be some common ground between the goals of the organisations, or is a purely mercenary deal, and marriage of money and information? ETA provides the local manpower and knowledge, even some of the materials, al Qaeda provides specification and the backing.

Is this possible? Can terrorism be outsourced, do terrorist subcontractors exist? Why not, it's a confused capitalist market. Though for the time being I think it's merely inconsequential hypothesising. But as much of the media has realised, after the initial hysteria, it's simply much too soon to tell.

[And somehow I doubt it, ETA doesn't seem quite that evil (or foolish), but at that end of the spectrum do shades of grey still exist?]

And now onto something else: Just to make you feel utterly shallow [click "physical attraction test"]. A version of Hotornot that has theories and planning behind it. Though I don't agree with the bit about the noses. It reckons one can only have a hook or a ski-jump for a nose, and nothing in between [it didn't help I was looking at the eyebrows at the time]. It also refers to various features as ethnic or exotic. Sorry, but I don't think of features common in Dorset as exotic.

Anyhoo, that's enough for this post.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

To those driving my stats wild, the Belleville stuff is in the 5th March and 27th December postings. But mainly the former.


The only tolerable use of the blink tag. And I wonder what subset of people would find that funny - they'd have to know about an HTML tag that's been defunct for years, about odd little scientific experiments (well hypothetical ones at least), and they'd have to have a sense of humour.

Random search [that leads here] of the day: significance of the fishing pole in to kill a mocking bird. The fishing pole is obviously a phallic symbol, illustrating Scout's homoeroticisation of Boo Radley. Hence the whole "posting" the "notes" into a "tree" thing. The entire book is riddled with lustful actions, although they are usually only implicit through the imagery. Even the name itself is overtly sexual on so many levels: we have fishing as a verb, meaning to lure, trap, snare, catch, and capture, reflecting the sexual acquisition and conquest process. Fishing is based on hooking: hard, narrow objects piercing softer flesh, which can be taken to mean both physical sexual acts, and the process of falling prey to both love and lust. And then, of course, are fish themselves, with a smell that frequently invoked in reference to certain bodily fluids.

Of course I could have just made all of that up, as I don't even remember there being a "fishing pole" the book.

[via Casino Avenue] Speaking of which, there's definitely something fishy in the water [Click downloads, then hold your mouse over the woman]. Well, maybe not so much fishy.... Does spunk mean something different to Americans? But I thought it was tap water, so it should be clean. Except of course if it's Eau de la dame morte. But that was near Walton wasn't it, and Coke-water is from deep in the Kent countryside...well Sidcup actually.

The BBC do know they've got a licence fee reassessment coming up, don't they? Because they've just put out this. It's that perennial easy column filler: understanding slang.

Woohoo, I think they just called off the tube strike. Which given I've got be god knows where[1] in London tomorrow, sounds pretty pleasing.

[1] Well I know where it is, because it says so on the letter, it's just that I've never been there before, and don't even recognise anything on the same page of the A-Z. So the thought of trying to get a bus there, when I don't do buses[2], doesn't exactly thrill me.

[2] Well, for a start it's hard enough trying to find the right bus stop (just look at how many are around Waterloo station). Then you have the joy of either not knowing if the bus that is approaching is the right one, or whether it's going to stop. So either you stick your arm out, and get odd looks from all about you, or you don't. Either way, if it is the right bus, it usually sails straight past, for no apparent reason.

When a bus that appears to be the right one stops, you get on (though now they've brought in the added complication of paying before boarding, but only for some buses). Usually to have the driver argue about whether you can use a travelcard on that service or not. Then you have to decide if you wish to risk the withering sneers of the driver by asking if he can tell you when you get to wherever you want to go (which given various driver will swear blind they don't go to A, when it's on their route, simply because they're pissed off that you asked if they go to A, isn't a good idea).

So you go and sit down, with your legs sticking out into the aisle, as they don't fit between the seats. This means every time anyone moves you have to as well. The bus trundles off, giving the passengers stunning views of the cyclists the bus has nearly killed, and the cars whose bumpers just got clouted. A few stops later and the bus is always more crowded, and more misted-up. This means you can't see out the window to know where you are (which given you would never know most of the time, just makes the whole thing even more confusing).

Eventually the bus gets to where you want to be. It may or may not stop. If it does, the driver may or may not tell the people on the bus where it is (including those who asked him earlier if he could). If he doesn't, it may or may not be possible to find out that this is the right stop to alight at. This information may or may not be gleaned from the side of the bus shelter (if you can see it, which requires sitting in the right part of the bus, in broad daylight, on warm, dry day, on an uncrowded bus), the batty old woman across the aisle, or the driver.

If you do manage to find out that this is the right stop, you may or may not be able to get of the bus, due to the crowding, and detritus of the young and old [pushchairs, walking frames, shopping, travelling round the world rucksacks]. Bus drivers often have immaculate timing, and so, just as you've just pushed you way to the front of the bus, they close the doors and start off (usually to stop 5m down the road at a red light). The driver will then take great pleasure in informing the trapped passenger that they can't help it if said passenger wasn't paying attention, and the passenger will have to wait for the next stop now, as they're not allowed to let people off outside bus-stops.

So if you do manage to get a bus, and get off it again in the right place, then you're quite lucky. And this isn't even mentioning the joys of standing the rain waiting for buses, the fact they alternate leaving early with leaving late, so you can never adapt to cope with it, and then they take bloody ages to get anywhere.

So the thought of trying to get one tomorrow morning, when everyone else will be trying to get them, and getting off at the right [unrecognisable] place, by a set time, is not high on my list of enjoyable activities.

Plus when I was busy getting stabbed on Tuesday[3], I found I started navigating my way round Oxford Circus station, and the underground in general, to avoid severe delays on the Bakerloo, and delays on the Victoria, instinctively without having to look at a map. Ok, so my avoidance technique involved sitting on the Northern line for ages (feeling my nostrils blacken), as it trundles, pauses, and trundles a bit more, underground.

Just as well I'm not doing it now - as the Northern line southbound is closed beyond Stockwell [hmm, my brother's going to have fun getting home], which blocks off using the London Park and Ride (well a car park near Morden Station, which is cheaper than getting the train, if there's more than one of you). See for yourself here. Hang there's now a fire alert at both Balham, and Clapham South Stations - before it was only Balham.

[3] Not in that sense. I was getting vaccinations at the BA (yes, as in the airline) travel clinic in Piccadilly. Because I'm about to disappear for a while, and the doctor's could only give me an appointment the day before I leave, and the local private one could only give me an appointment two days before that. So we went to the expensive (but not all that much more the NHS administered jabs) drop-in option. Which was surprisingly quick and efficient[4]. Sometimes capitalism rocks (though there is the inherent guilt to deal with).

[4] They don't take three goes to get the needle in. They also care about which arm you write with, though this may just because they don't want to make it harder for you to sign to card-slip.

Hmm, anti-bus rants and private health care - can you tell I grew up when Thatcher was in power?

Monday, March 08, 2004

It's time to introduce you to yet another science blog - but hey, they're interesting. Science, Space and Technology.... A collection of links that does exactly what it says on the tin. Considering it's only two days worth, there's quite lot gathered here. Hopefully there'll be much more to come.

Well it makes a change from "I went to gym again, did 50.../*OMG* the heel on my new ^purple^ pair broke!.../kelly isa bi-atch, cus Dean.../fUr-q sPuNkMaStEr...". Not that I can really comment from my nicheless corner. Especially I notice each of the caricatures of bloggers actually reflects part of what write about: swimming, new jeans that run, my bizarre social life, online spats (well if he will bemoan what he thought I wrote, not what I wrote...[dignity, ah, who needs it anyway?]). Which given that this blog was originally supposed to be about UK politics, mixed haphazardly with biological or other scientific topics...well I guess my ability to easily get distracted has flourished in this medium as well.

Hmm, IE is playing up, so I'd better stop now.

PS. Who on earth names their computer "quietly-confident"? Someone at Luton Uni, obviously. And ha! They just missed being the 700th visitor (that got captured on that tracker). That wondrous title went to someone in Hyattsville, Maryland.

More goodness from government. Scientist 'gagged' by No 10 after warning of global warming threat. The story seems to have emerged in a slightly odd way, but it's still a little worrying that criticism of the government and "friends" is not allowed.

A silly article currently doing the blogosphere rounds. Gay marriage equals fire and brimstone, doesn't it? Apparently not. Oh well. But the author's had fun playing one of the all time favourite bible-based games - quoting the bits that those who use the bible as proof of their arguments carefully don't quote. I wonder what he's keeping the trump card, of the bit about the virgins and the goats, for?

But it is worrying how much the Christian God is dragged into American media and politics. Many in those groups seem to confuse secularism with heathenism, and to whom both of which are unspeakably bad.

Or did he speak to soon? A plague of mutant frogs rains down on Sodom Central, otherwise known as Weston-super-mare in Somerset. Except they're not mutated, merely developmentally fused, and there's not a plague of them, but at the most three, except they move as one, and they didn't exactly rain, more hopped. So maybe the vengeful wrath stuff is coming next week.

And finally, any one else remember the joy that was General Studies? It's like PSE cubed[X]. Well now there's a blog for it. Just what the world needs. Though fortunately I did the science, maths and languages one (which involved figuring out how far up a wall a ladder would reach, and being able to work out what "exit" is in French), and so skipped the endless essays on "should art be taxed?". Oh and apparently (according to the blog) it's not even a proper whole A-level any more (like it ever was a "proper" A-level).

[X] Personal and Social Education for all those lucky people who didn't have to do it. Cue: attempted debates on euthanasia and abortion (strangely no-one in our class wanted to argue against it, much to the chagrin of the Head who was taking the class). Really bad careers advice, which consisted off filling in the all new and wonderful Kudos (do I strongly agree with the statement "I enjoy caring for the elderly/sick children/sick animals"), and having to study sheets that talked about being a "Tarmacadam placement technician". The RE (religious education) section was great - condoms are evil and give people AIDS, there are other religions, but there is only "one true faith", and there is most definitely a hell. And it was only after we finished the term that we found out that the other classes got the teacher to demonstrate meditation, and just walked out. And then there was sex education. Which was sponsored by Tampax, so all females look a bit like a ram's head, pregnancy didn't happen (presumably it dampens tampon sales), and also neither did sex, due to the continual bleeding. The rest of the section by the same teacher could be basically surmised as "drink, sex, drugs and rock and roll: all are great, but you must never have anything to do with any of them".

It's very odd being told about safe sex when A. Sex Is Bad, B. The RE woman says safe sex will kill you. C. The headmaster says unprotected sex will kill you. D. Condoms were banned in school. E. It's being taught by the only teacher who enforces the no-make-up, minimal jewellery, and hem-line length rules. The one who thinks that loose ties are the mark of the devil, and girls in trousers are wrong, despite what the school uniform rules say (that they were permissible if it was below a certain temperature - which meant they could be allowed in the morning, and illegal by the afternoon). This from the same school that ruled thin, unribbed, white cotton socks were the only socks boys should be seen in (have you ever tried finding anywhere that still sells them?).

So from Apocalypse [not quite] Now to bless his little cotton socks: I think that's enough range for today's bloggeration.

An odd weekend

Yesterday I ended up watching a film on BBC4 (bad idea I know) called Devine Intervention. Only I missed the beginning of it. And so spent the rest of the film trying to figure out who was who, and what they were doing, and why. I have hunch I would have been thinking that quite a lot, even if had I not missed the beginning.

The film is a series of captured segments of Palestinian life that gradually lock into each other to either form part of a narrative, or the punchline to some joke. The world of the film swings between petty, spiteful, foolish and resigned. It is full of odd little quirks and habits, that creates a dynamic yet static environment: there is movement, and yet everything is where it started.

As for the plot, there is one, and yet it doesn't seem to have happened. The entire film consists of omni-present questions, just enough of which get answered to stop the viewer giving up entirely, but not enough to stop the bemused feeling.

An odd, eerily, yet comfortingly repetitive film, filled with luxuriously attentive shots, and yet showing nothing. Suggestion and implication battle with assumption. A few shots of hands toying with each other, a balloon symbolising something, but something obscured, and playing surreally with fulfilling fears and perception. The sudden conversion of the Palestinian martyr into Christ with a halo of inward pointing bullets.

It feels like I don't get it, but maybe that's the point. Other than that, a curious film, that felt strangely French.

Or perhaps the near silent film didn't react well to competing with my neighbour's unhappy dog. They were out, the dog wasn't. They claim she's a quiet dog - yeah, but she's only quiet because they're there. And oddly enough trying to get someone to be around to hear the noise that only happens when they've got out, doesn't really work too well.

But i was in weird mood yesterday: In the evening I was watching the streetlights come on. Each one is like a paused frame of the sun's descent a few minutes before, each starting with the latest shot and moving earlier, yet still showing an a variety of final colours (which for a stereotypically monochromatic light source is odd).

On Sunday I went to the boat show at Ali Pali (how should one spell that?), which was the same as it always is there. It's quite small compared to its predecessor at Crystal Palace, or the Southampton boat show. There's less to look at or do, and it felt like there's a lower density of people. I was intrigued by Laser's new mini-catarman, which apparently is nearly impossible to right once capsized, and, when on its side, blows away faster than most people can swim, but other than that...well it looks cool, and that's what counts. It was either that or some boat that had built-in outriggers, each with its own dagger board (which was cunningly interchangeable with the rudder blade), and a central driving seat. I've yet to figure out how to do the stuff at either end of a sail in that boat, such as jumping over the bow to how her steady, and then haul her up the beach. Presumably one is meant to come alongside jetties or pontoons, but I don't see how one could have enough access (for grabbing posts and large lumps of iron) from the cockpit to control it. You can't even fend things off without having to struggle out of the cockpit and abandon control.

So I gave up and wandered round looking for a boat show. So we have pink, and blue, and pink stripes, and blue stripes, and oooh, giddily exotic purple. Except for the traditional stand that sells stuff covered in pictures of dogs. A perennial exhibit at every boat show, and I have never figured out why. Though fortunately just round is the Surfers Against Sewage stand (when one wears their stuff, it's amazing how many people ask you A. If that really says sewage, B. If I surf [Not much, but I do sail, and that mean spending nearly as much time in the water]). And as per usual, they have nice clothes in nice colours. Except it's the wrong end of the season, and so "reduced" isn't reduced enough to register as cheap (I know it's a good cause, but it's still money I don't have). And the t-shirt that caught my eye transpires to have enough shit already written on it. Which kinda limits its wearability, though I suppose in this instance it at least is a legitimate use of the word.

But being me, I inevitably find myself getting distracted by the architecture, and the view over London. So we go outside, to find that we must be get far round to the north, as the city is splayed out. Off by a shower is Canary Wharf and associated huddle (it was so much better as a solitary phallus, before the HSBC and Citibank testes appeared), then about 20o over to the right is the next huddle of the City buildings, dominated by the Gherkin and the Nat West Tower. The Gherkin is a spiral of darkened bands arcing round the panes at the top catching the sun, the rest of the building appearing almost translucent. Me like. And next to it is the Nat West tower, and study in angular black. Except it's like they stopped designing it when they got to the top, it just stops, in slightly cluttered horizontals. Angular awkwardness that exists in only two, not three, dimensions. It's like the abandoned early prototype for the Bank of China building in Hong Kong[1], the design pre-overhaul.

[1] And they would show it at its lightest, just to break the analogy.

Continuing round, and there's St Paul's, nestled in its protected view, but scarcely making anything of it. A slight curve above a crumbled flat sea. And further round still are the BT Tower[2] and the London Eye, each poking above a nearer the hill, playing games of hide and seek as one walks round the outside of Alexandra Palace.

[2] Can't find and official link, as wants to provide me with the address (they use Ask as their search, which sums BT up).
The Palace itself, is a bizarre mix. Victorian takes on neo-classical, with odd little quirks bunged in. And inside are the modern adjustments, the stretched plastic curves, in modern sail-like tents, protecting the scarcely glorified portacabins. The building is fringed with boarded up tower, hollow colonnades, blocked off for evermore. Bits falling into disrepair, bits simply falling off. The railway station fringing round one of the colonnades is battered, the missing pieces showing the huge iron bolts are faked out off wood. I wonder why it is quite so maligned. It may be on a weather-beaten hilltop, but it is in London.

And then we left, noting that intelligent Volvo we had passed earlier was gone - it had parked in the top of a loop of car park, cutting off one half. And then out, past the row upon row of interwar houses off to the right. And then to the left, a miniaturised version, row upon row of gravestones, the final step on the property ladder. Glancing in the A-Z, I find that even these rows have names, and so one can move from 29 Acacia Avenue or 14 The Crescent, to 18 Strawberry Bank or 51 Church Street South. So what if one is a house, and the other merely a collection of bits of stone, surrounded by shrubbery?

Continuing outwards and the sense of the strange does not fade. After sitting in traffic for ages, discussing amongst other things, whether or not the VW camper van in front is left hand drive (his shoulder moved when the handbrake was used), and who designed the patterns laid out in brick along an underpass, and why the grey coating that obscured the colour only started half a foot above the ground, and faded out about 5 feet up, also pondering the series of houses that fringe the road that are empty and abandoned, obviously bought to provide land for a scheme that never happened, we start going out along the A40.

Cue the usual slight bewildered smiles at seeing the Hoover building, a great flamboyant art deco factory, looming over a sign that says Tesco. Further along and another exuberant industrial building, built in the twenties style that is most often seen on crematoria, has had a functionalist hernia, and both now declare their allegiance to B&Q. It seems so surreal that somehow two gorgeous old buildings, which are so utterly different from the unified image that both stores present, should happen to have such internal juxtaposition.

But then at least they are still there, despite the incongruousness. Further along is the shattered remains of some modern warehouse or retail shed, torn down to presumably be replaced with a slightly more modern version. It all seems ever so slightly pointless. Then there's the sixties monolith, with the typical attempted levitation, that leaves a clear ground floor apart from the pillars, and the end section where the stairs and lift emerge, giving the impression one of the springs has gone, and the stuffing is falling out of the building. So in an attempt to brighten up the city-darkened concrete lump, someone has placed level series of hanging baskets along the pillars, each about 8ft up, looking ill-watered and wind-battered. The example of modernism, cluttered with an ineffectual and half-hearted attempt to change the character of the building. Somehow it seems apt.

Then as go along the M4, there's a model aeroplane rolling around the tops of trees, rocking in the gusts. A miniature plane, scarcely controlled, against the backdrop of Heathrow, the airport with two threads stretching out and upwards in either direction, each slung with more apparent miniature planes.

And so through the joyous contraflows of road widening, that consists of making the lanes narrower, watching stumpy BA planes overhead, and then home. Only to find that the cultural highlight of the evening is the immense pleasure that is Crufts. As presented by a Tomorrow's World presenter (to think I used to fancy her) coupled with a Top Gear presenter. And I can't help but have to suppress a snigger about the seriously and enthusiastically intoned comments along the lines of "and here comes [the most ridiculous name you've ever heard, and that's including racehorse names], a feisty, bouncy bitch. See the way she almost skips, so lithely, lovely swinging movement, so nicely turned out. Takes a lot of money to get a girl like that".

What is about the appearance of live audience polls that makes me stop watching programmes I probably should watch? Last night's Panorama being the most recent. Instantly I gave up on pondering the fate of the BBC [3], and started watching Cruel Intentions instead (even though I own a copy - I was young[er], Ok?). But then I found out 2DTV has returned, and watched that. They are cruel [intentionally] (but funny).

[3] I like it as it is: wish they'd drop all the junk around the national lottery, and possibly a few of the lifestyle shows, for something a bit more interesting and fulfilling [but I'm usually watching BBC2 or Channel 4 by then, so I'm obviously the wrong demographic], but that's about it.

Anyhoo, better be gone.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Once again Signal + Noise produces something that makes me feel ashamed of what I normally write here[1]. In this post he examines the suggestion that the processes behind sexual selection explain strict religious adherence. Which sounds vaguely convincing until he starts pointing out the importance of Occam and Pangloss[2].

In general one of those posts that make me wonder if I should (or could) get back into biology, or related subjects.

[1] Don't worry, I'm sure it won't last long.
[2] Occam, as in Occam's Razor, which, when very badly paraphrased, comes out as "keep it simple [stupid]" [but you knew that, right?]. Pangloss, after the character in Candide by Voltaire, for whom everything is always for the best (including being in an auto de fe). So Panglossian thought, when applied to biology, is arguing that something has happened because that is what is for the best, that is what increases reproductive success (or any other indicator of success). The response to which is to question whether the feature, effect or process is just an artefact or merely arbitrary [cue: examples based on the appendix in humans, or human iris colour, but I won't as I'm sure there's much research out there to instantly contradict me. 3].
[3] Could it be that this not bothering to look to relevant research up is why my posts are never as good as S+N? That and my shocking grammar.

I also recommend checking out his next post on coin flipping. And here I was thinking that a friend of mine's unerring ability to get heads is simply a suggestion of my paranoia. Though I figured out that it usually comes up the pre-toss upside up [4] a long time ago - but I assumed I was doing it wrong.

[4] So it's actually the base face when you do the catch and flip it onto the back of the other hand thing. Which in itself I always thought was pretty suspect. Though I've never figured out how someone can tell so quickly which way up it is, in order to change their behaviour, and so produce the desired result. But I've known for a long time some people can do it, as sometimes they'll flip it at the end, and sometimes they won't, and both invariably lead to them winning. But I guess it's just practice (and a willingness to cheat).

Well that better be it for now, as I'll only start talking about random things like dreams (which strangely involved a barn owl-peacock mix, Frontier Psychiatry by The Avalanches[5], and some Bjork song. That's when I wasn't being eaten by wasps and the horns of a stag beetle [with no sign of the rest of it. 6]). Are dreams supposed to come with soundtracks?

[5] Now there's a good song to have in one's head, and worse still in one's dreams - Lie down on the couch...But what does that mean?...It is the opinion of the entire Baltimore county school board that Dexter is criminally insane. Thank god I'm not called Dexter.

[6] Guess that's my own silly fault for reading books (admittedly very bad books, see the 29th Feb posting) on nanotech swarms and microassemblers attacking skin. So now I'm reading books about people called Honeychile. Yes it's Bond, the book (all 3 and 6 worth, and claiming to be "now excitingly filmed"). Strangely I don't think the description of Mr Suave vomiting reached the film version, and Ursula Andress is obviously not a method actor, due to having a nose that looks distinctly unbroken. I guess you'll just have to read the book to figure out what I'm talking about.

It was either that or discussing me forgetting how to drive (which I'm not owning up to), or possibly swimming along the bottom of a swimming pool, that's sloping downwards, and so when I want to come up for air being quite a long way from the surface. This time I hit the 15m mark on the bottom of the pool (that's along not down), before I realised what I was doing. Swimming underwater whilst half expecting to have Scuba kit can be slightly dangerous, though fortunately I remembered I didn't before I tried breathing too deeply (very viscous air today).

And that's about it.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Bonsoir à tous ceux qui recherchent le lyrique au thème de Belleville Rendezvous (du film eponymous, qui est également connu comme The Triplets of Belleville ou Les Triplettes de Belleville). On peut trouver la version française en cliquant ici. Or in other words, those who are turning up here looking for the lyrics to the song Belleville Rendezvous, click on the "ici" above.

And sorry if the French is a bit odd - but I tried doing it myself, realised it wasn't very good, and so got Babelfish to do it.

And why does the IMDB say "if you like this title, we also recommend...Eddie Izzard: dressed to kill". Um, ok. Is it the one where he switches into French, and does half of it in mime anyway, so the language doesn't matter? Or is it a different one? Personally I'm not quite getting the connection. I'm now trying to remember if the grandmother uses a "hud-da-da-da" on the cyclist's legs as well as a rotary whisk. And for those who don't get the "hud-da-da-da" connection, watch more Izzard (it's an old-fashioned carpet beater that was incredibly inefficient [I speak from very bitter personal experience], but as I said, watch Mr Izzard for more).

Anyway, back to BR (the film not the aged railway thing). There's another version of lyrics on the IMDB message boards, complete with a translation.

Other stuff:
Not much to say. Swimming went, er, swimmingly (well ish). The last 419 I got made me laugh - Given that the any_hoo address has only appeared here, and I make reference quite frequently to the fact that I am in the UK, what would you make of an email from someone claiming they want help getting money out of Zimbabwe. And you want me? A guy in the UK to open a British bank account, so you can transfer your money out of a dodgy Zimbabwean bank account? Um, could you have picked a more unlikely combination? The UK isn't exactly popular with the powers that be in Zimbabwe. And I think it's quite difficult getting any money out of there at the moment, let alone direct to a bank belonging to [insert whichever Mugabe quote along the lines of "Britain is the head of an evil Orwellian empire" you find funniest].
But you obviously don't bother to notice details like that, you just glean emails addresses from websites, and send off the same thing to thousands of people, very some random text appended to the end to make sure it gets through the anti-spam.

Strangely much of the current crop of spam is using text lifted from UK governmental sites, so there's writing about the Department of Work and Pensions' tax issues surrounding penile enlargement offers.

Oh, and as for the guy searching for "standard life" tv ad amelie rip off - I originally was referring to the earlier adverts (hence the October posting), and wasn't sure if it was coincidental that the style was similar to Amelie, but having seen the latest (complete with the fluttering heart), I'm beginning to wonder if the makers of the film can sue...
So yep I quite agree with the meaning of the search.
And going back and looking at the original posting, golly, I do get indignant sometimes, don't I?

Anyhoo, that'll do for now.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Damn him - why are people who work in the media so good at using words? Once again, Casino Avenue is annoyingly good. Especially when being bitchy about local news in London. He also toys with the latest incarnation of The Former British Republic of London [link not really worth reading, as it's mainly people stating opinions].

But would it be a republic? Or would it be a constitutional monarchy? Or maybe TFBRL and the Rest of the UK would take turns, and so TFBRL gets to be a republic for nine months of the years and a CM for 3 months, and vice versa for the RUK.

But how would the country and the city cope? What would the UK do if power went back to Winchester? Or would it spilt and the North be governed by York? Would this mean Timeout [Winx edition] would be talking about Itchen Stoke is the new Itchen Abbas, and eventually Four Marks as the new Alton?

Where would the barrier be? Around the City? Around London as generally perceived, around Greater London? Or maybe anywhere inside the M25. Actually if it's the last one, then there'd be lots of barriers off to one side of the road, which would be great, as it would get rid of most of the traffic. You could get to Oxford in no time.

Though I'm not sure what Weybridge would make of it. And I think making a big block round London when the power has shifted south west would leave Hertfordshire and Essex as declining into barren wastelands, scarred with the remains of endless double garaged executive homes [such a shame]. As for London itself, what would they do for the required perpetual influx of young people, which is needed to prop up the society's structures.

What would happen if the young no longer could come, and the old no longer leave? London has always drawn in the poor and hopeful, and churned out the richer and more successful, who move out because they are worried about raising children in the city. They settle in the suburbs, in counties full of commuter villages (though "village" is used here as loosely as the Americans use "city"). The children age, the parents move further out as their children are drawn towards cities, including the ultimate one. The children go off to complete the cycle as their parents continue further out coming to rest against a coast, or some suitably forlorn rural area, full of natural charms [i.e. no cinema, no sports centre, no galleries, museums or theatres. But it's got some lovely hedges].

Though would it mean we would no longer be stuck with the local news being London news, with the accompanying local weather, in which (if not blocked by a presenter's buttock) the area where we are is only occasionally referred to, and then invariably by the name "The Sticks". Just because Mr Cockcroft [who is looking strangely like Mr Punch these days] lives somewhere nearer Oxford...

So what would happen if London ceded from the union? Well I think a large part of surrounding area might prefer to join it, rather than stay with the rest of the country. But would that precipitate further devolution elsewhere? If the South-East declared itself as the Colonies of London, what would the rest of the country do? Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland would form the Celtic Union. Kernow would instantly declare independence (tell you what, as a token of the enduring friendship Cornwall has with RUK, you can have Plymouth as well), to be shortly followed by the establishment of Fenland. York and Lancaster (and possibly Durham) would divvy out Up-North, with the formation of the Federation of Post-Industrial Cities linking the closely packed city states between Bradford and Liverpool. Birmingham would refuse to be subservient to Winchester and break away along with the lands up to the FPIC zone. Oxford and Cambridge would follow suit and take with them most of the area above the M4. Which leaves Winchester trying to control a region that reaches from Devon to Hampshire and up to Bristol. And the Isle of Wight would also split off from the RUK, which would rename itself Wessex. Wessex would continue with an internal power struggle between the Solent Cities, Bristol and Exeter, with Winchester declining in power. The Isle of Wight would decide that its sole purpose was to make the entire world's population move to the IOW on the same day, just to see if that oft-quoted factoid is true. Oh and the FPIC would sink the Isle of Man, just because it was annoying.

So if London left the UK, then the UK would break into the constituent countries, and England would fragment into Kernow, Wessex, The Isle of Wight, The Former British Republic of London and Associated Colonies, Fenland, Oxbridgia, Brumland, The Federation of Post-Industrial Cities, The Land of the White Rose, Redroseland and Durhamhinterland. Oh and the Channel Islands, which immediately fall to the French.

Within a few years Durhamhinterland merges with Norway, LWR and much of Brumland is invaded by Denmark. Birmingham itself joins the FPIC. Kernow seizes parts of Wessex up to Taunton and Lyme Regis. Bristol and much of the eastern bank of the Severn fall to Welsh control. The southern coast of Wessex declares independence as the Alliance of Solent Cities, taking the capital Winchester with them. The Salisbury based remains of Wessex find themselves in an untenable position and join with Oxbridgia, under the name Wesbrox. The FBRLAC forms a union with the Netherlands, buys out Fenland, digs it up and transports the materials to the Netherlands to help counter rising sea levels. The ASC sells the neighbouring state of the IOW to the FBRLAC as building materials.

Redroseland declares itself an American State, but is rejected by the USA, and accepts an offer to become a Canadian Province. Wesbrox, seeking protection from Danish, Dutch or Cornish invasion, signs sovereignty over to New Zealand, and so becomes part of the Asia-Pacific Union of Successful States. The ASC eventually joins the FBRLAC, with Belgium, Normandy and Brittany [who are fleeing the Teuto-Turk dominated EU], to create the Former British Republic of London and Associated Colonies, Countries, Cities and Commuter Belts.

The FBRLACCCCB is renamed London England. In a few more years Wesbrox joins London England, and LE takes control of the member states of APUSS. The members of the Celtic Union join Canada as Provinces.

Er...where was i going with this? I think I better stop my bizarre meanderings in hypothetical lands. And I've forgotten what else I was mean to be talking about. Oh well,


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Well it's Super Tuesday once again (not that Super Tuesday, though it is) - and once again the stats have gone odd. Though I get to find out what all you lovely people have been looking for. My current favs are:
alan whicker dead or alive. For a start Google must have been very quick off the mark to get that one. Though who thought of searching for that and why? Who wants Whicker that badly?

And another one is this one. I'd forgotten I mentioned that in here. I feel I should mention that there was a context.

This one has to be included for the second result alone: Bassett's Jelly Babies pictures peace produces this as the summary to one of the sites: ... 047 - Horrific Accident leaves City in ruins; Bassett's Jelly Babies; ... Metal Crashes Into Bedroom Of Sleeping Baby; ... The TARDIS Console Room - pictures, guides and ... . Is it just me, or is anyone else having trouble figuring out the connection between the destruction of a city, and, um, Jelly Babies? Is there a story behind this, and if so is there a moral to this story? Confectionery is the work of the devil perhaps? Maybe all the bad stuff in life is the fault of sweets: Cadbury's Buttons are sent to oppress us, Wine Gums consumption increases the risk of road rage[1] and UFO's turn out to have been low-flying Smarties all along.

[1] Now if that's not a future Google hit, then there really is no justice in this world.

Hmm, can you tell I've had a rather dull day. I got shipped off to work in an office where things are a little odd. Like discovering that coming soon to a street near you are AdCaps. Good God there's a website [Wheel Designs do not suggest endorsement of the product. What, so no Nike deal yet?]. Even in South Africa, provided they can find a way to stop them being nicked (I'm wondering how the weighting would effect the frisbee action), and surviving dusty lumpy roads. Which the guy selling them didn't seem to think a problem. But I'm envisaging their impervious to everything locks being not terribly impervious to general wear and tear. So yep it wouldn't come off if you took a sledgehammer to it, but then by the time you've driven round any fairly murky place, neither will it with anything else, including the key. So there will forever be ads trying to communicate with people's ankles on the vehicle. Just hope it never gets a flat tire.

But from what I heard, the people on both sides didn't seem the most practical minded of people. For a start despite the urgings of the guy from South Africa about the risk of vandalism, none of them seem to have twigged that they are well positioned to allow perfect kicking. Park your adcaped car anywhere slightly dodgy, and the chances are that some one will want to see if they can dent those perfectly round bulges.
I wonder how they stand up to dog urine as well.

They also wanted to make them with moving parts inside, and so have and effect like blinds (or books for young children), whereby bits of card slide backwards a forwards and change in them image. Intricate moving parts on a self-righting thing attached to a spinning thing, which itself moves very fast and experiences highly variable forces, and will have withstand a good battering (literally). That sounds like a good idea. If you want a moving image try a hologram (except the cover will disrupt the light and stop it working well, and it's got narrow range anyway, so that's a no), or some electronic thing - you could rig a dynamo fairly simply to keep to running, and LEDs wouldn't take that much energy. But any detail would get blurred as the [inevitably growing] imperfections in the cover move past.

Actually I just realised I don't know if the cover is attached to the self-righting part, or to the wheel. If it's the former then people will inevitably try to spin them when the vehicle is parked. Which could be not very good for them or the vehicle they are on.

But these guys were suggesting putting them on any wheel. Including those of trains. Yes trains. Those big things that have a rather limited range (when was the last time you saw one driving round Soho?), and which go round with the undersides covered in brown junk, which one hopes is oil, but knows that it probably isn't. Those big things whose wheels one can't see, unless one's in a very shoddily built station with a tannoy that bleats "mind the gap" endlessly)

But they have a website full of jargon (paradigm shift - that's a quantum leap, isn't it? Except most people have figured out that a quantum leap isn't all that big really, hence the new in-phrase), spelling and grammatical mistakes[2], quirky characters (oh so those Danish looking "O" things are supposed to be apostrophes? Just as well you consistently use "its" for "it's" then), poorly edited text, complete with non-sequitars, topped off with mud-slinging statements (mud sticks, usually to the hand that threw it).

So, AdCaps: Expect to see them soon on a Foxtons car near you. Well it's their level: a funky, trendy marketing fad, that is quite probably pointless. Yes, there'll be a wow (ish) factor when they first appear, but that is not sustainable, and so after the first they'll become another part of scuffed greyish ephemera to be ignored.

[2] What? It's not like this is a commercial site. If they're trying to convince people to "pick me, pick me", then they could at least give the impression "me" has the sense to proof-read their own stuff.

Hmm, can you tell I had a good day? It's probably something to do with seeing these people send out a mailshot telling people they can know their future - including to a variety of people at the London Stock Exchange.

That and the boss there bemoaning that the applicants for one (non-too-well-paid) job all had poor experience. He wanted them to have more than he asked for in the job ad (usually 8 out of ten advertised pre-requisites is considered good, this guy wants about 14). He didn't want someone who had repeatedly done short term contractual work for an unknown "no-name" company. From what I gathered about the job, it is a on a short-term contract...and I hate to tell ya mate, but yours is a "no-name" company. Half a top floor does not a blue-chip make.

Back there tomorrow as well. Woohoo.

Anyhoo, bed beckons.

PS. Ought to have commented on [water is] The Real Thing, but haven't. [Might require a free login].

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