Thursday, March 31, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 2: Michel Foucault

(Full image shows Foucault losing a game of Othello to a small monkey in a baseball cap)

For the Record

For the Record

Goats are getting braver

At least that's according to the Childhood Goat Trauma Foundation, which provides testimonials and accounts from adults and kids who've been assaulted and bitten by the pesky creatures.

A spoof site, I'm sad to say.

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud

An editorial in the March issue of Christianity Today, "a magazine of evangelical conviction," laments that relief workers in the tsunami-hit regions of South Asia are being asked not to evangelize:

"Asking relief workers to muzzle their religious convictions or get out is both unrealistic and unfair—both to the helpers and to those being helped. If religious freedom means anything, relief agencies must be free not only to help, but to explain why they are helping."

Heaven forbid that the locals might resent rich foreigners dispensing aid with conditions attached.

"The affected areas have long been difficult in terms of Christian witness. But as one missionary told The Philadelphia Inquirer, the disaster, though terrible, "is one of the greatest opportunities God has given us to share his love with people.""

Of course. God does indeed move in mysterious ways. He devastates regions and the lives of thousands just so that evangelists can go in with their good news.

Don't share HIS love with them, you fucker, share yours.

Never work with children or animals

The March issue of Outdoor Life features a profile by Hannes Wessels of Tommy Bosman, "the unluckiest game ranger in Africa," who has been attacked by a leopard, an elephant, and a pet hyena.

A pet hyena, I ask you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

At home with the intelligentsia. No. 1: Guy Debord

(Full image shows Debord gutting a catfish)

Mind How You Go, Now

Ever since the introduction of GPS into cars, I've been predicting that the following scenarios, described by Anne Kandra in the April issue of PC World, would cease to become unusual:

"The next time you rent a car, you might want to check for stowaways. A few years ago, a Connecticut rental car company fined a customer $450 when the GPS device in his car indicated that he had been speeding. And there have been other reported instances in which companies have monitored the locations and driving practices of their clients. A British insurance company, for instance, has even experimented with installing the devices in its clients' own cars--the idea being that the company could offer lower premiums for proven safe drivers."

How long before all cars have GPS monitors fitted that will automatically report speeding? Not that you'll be arrested: No doubt your bank account or credit card will be automatically charged the appropriate fine the moment you exceed the speed limit, saving everyone lots of time and trouble.

Read the rest here.

"Writing a book is like making love to a beautiful woman."

Charlie Higson, who plays James Bond manqué Swiss Tony in The Fast Show, has written SilverFin, the first in a series of James Bond prequels commissioned by Ian Fleming's estate and published by Miramax/Hyperion.

They probably haven't read this, then.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

We've been to Church (Sign

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

From today's Guardian, an article by Donald Macleod on an academic conference in Manchester on The Smiths.

Talk about flogging a dead horse. Still, it could have been worse: They could have chosen the legacy of the Stone Roses.


Marxism is the opiate of the intellectuals

Or so they said in 1968. Following on from the Miasnikov article below, Class Against Class has the entire text of Marshall Shatz's biography of Machajski here. It is titled Jan Waclaw Machajski: A Radical Critic of The Russian Intelligensia and Socialism. Decades before the idea of co-optation was used by the Situationists, Machajski had spotted the opportunities for parasitism that hierarchical organization offers the middle classes and intelligentsia. One of the reasons why a genuinely progressive movement has to be non-hierarchical from day one if we are to be sure it will hold no attraction to those who would usurp its power.

Miasnikov and the Workers' Group

Obscure and rather old, but still worth checking out is this article by Paul Avrich from a 1984 issue of The Russian Review entitled "Bolshevik Opposition to Lenin: G. T. Miasnikov and the Workers' Group."

The Crisis in Irish Education

Exemplified by the following.

Me (during game of Trivial Pursuit with the in-laws yesterday): "Which Muslim leader did Abu Bakr succeed in 632 A.D.?"

Niece studying Medicine at the College of Surgeons: "Moses."

Later the same game.

Me: What are taurophobic matadors afraid of?

Same niece: "Mats . . . No, Tories."

No alcohol had been imbibed at this point.

Not for the Squeamish

And it happened right in front of my brother.

You'll be pleased to hear that since this awful event, Altrincham have started winning again.

Not sure what the moral of that is.

What I Read on My Holidays #2

Levinas: A Guide for the Perplexed, by B. C. Hutchens.

Still Perplexed.

Reliable Technology Comes to Counago and Spaves

he wrote optimistically. Inspired by the good works of Darren and Reidski and especially Alphonse, I finally got round to downloading and installing Picasa, so that we can add visual colour and flair to their literary counterparts at C&S (he wrote even more optimistically). The test photo below originally appeared twice, thanks to my early enthusiasm, but I've fixed it now; not that you can have too much of a good thing.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Better half with unknown blogger

Friday, March 25, 2005

He is Risen! (almost)

Some good news from Club Mekon about Edwyn Collins:

Edwyn appears to have survived the brain haemorrhages he suffered and is making a slow recovery.

Message from his wife and son on his website:

"Dearest All, Thank you for all the continuing messages. I read them all and draw strength from every heartfelt thought. He's such an unsentimental person in every day life I wonder how he will react when he realises what you have all done for him. Meanwhile his progress continues. He breathes for himself, he's eating real food again (as of today), he's communicating and battling for returning mobility. I have complete faith in him. Today is our best day yet. Thanks for everything, Love Grace and William (who is, by the way, a hero.)

If you wish, you can send cards to him at: West Heath Studios, West Heath Yard, 174 Mill Lane, London, NW6 1TB."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Still Crazy After All These Years

Chess weirdo Bobby Fischer has been released from prison in Japan and has flown/fled to Iceland, which has granted him citizenship, side-stepping Japan's insistence that he be deported to the United States.

Says Fischer: "This was not an arrest. This was a kidnapping. This was all cooked up by Bush and Koizumi. They are all war criminals. They should be hung."

Woah! Hold your horses there, Bobby. Not before you hang the creators of this.

The Price of Catholic in-laws

. . . is that I have to spend easter away from the keyboard as I do the North-West Passage (i.e. Monaghan, Fermanagh, Cavan). Still, we've posted plenty for your delectation here at C&S over the past week. Re-read, ponder, savour, ignore—do what you will.

And the upside to Catholic in-laws, of course, is that I don't have to see them in the next life.

Have a happy atheist easter.

Football and Anarchy (what a beautiful thought)

The March issue of Futbolista magazine (it was either that or German GQ at the airport) features a number of articles that those of us more used to 4-4-2 and When Saturday Comes might find bemusing. I was particularly at a loss to understand their infatuation with Wayne Rooney, described as "El Pele del Liverpool" (not even a qualifying question mark here), but maybe they anticipate a move to Spain for him in the near future so that he can play for a team that wins something.

Equally unlikely was this article, "La anarquía táctica, ¿estilo o desorden?" I shall defer to my co-bloggers for an accurate translation, but you get the idea. Anarchy as a tactical approach to footie. Not a million miles away from Total Football, in fact, insofar as you allow a team of players proficient in all positions to roam pretty much at will and improvise dead-ball situations according to circumstance rather than require rigid adherence to a system that, by virtue of its rigidity, becomes susceptible to predictability. My Spanish isn't up to translating the rest of it. I'm sure others can do a better job.

The issue also features an interview with the lovable Deco (lovable since he came to Barça, I mean, and when he isn't playing against England or Ireland). In it, he's described as "El Rooney del Barça."

Is he bollocks.

That's Entertainment! (Weekly)

From the February 21 issue of Entertainment Weekly, the TV Times of U.S. media:

Look Out, Franz

Considering the original Gang of Four parted ways more than 20 years ago, it's remarkable their bracing brand of angular punk-funk can be heard everywhere today. Just listen to Franz Ferdinand, Radio 4, and a host of other indie darlings taking their cues from the U.K. legends.

"We discovered through the media that these new bands are borrowing from us, but they're all rather conservative," says Gang of Four bassist Dave Allen. So he and singer Jon King, guitarist Andy Gill, and drummer Hugo Burnham reunited for a short U.K. tour last month, and an upcoming U.S. stint that includes a set at Coachella on May 1—in part to put the upstarts in their place. "None of the bands that name-check us can do anything like this," says Allen, backstage, referring to a frenetic Jan. 28 gig they had just finished in London. "They can open for us, and if they do a better job, we'll throw in the towel."

That's unlikely. Even now, in their late 40s, they perform with the same ferocity that's earned them fans like Flea and Michael Stipe. In their late-'70s, early-'80s heyday, as punk rock and Thatcherism took hold in England, they spat out concise salvos against capitalism's corruption of culture and personal relationships. Their lyrics borrowed from Marxist theory, but they were cheeky enough to call their 1979 debut album Entertainment! (it's being reissued on May 17 by Warner Music).

How does revisiting their radical past square with their more capitalist day jobs? King currently runs a video production company, Allen is a marketing consultant who counts Intel as a client, Burnham is an art professor, and Gill is a music producer (Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Futureheads, the Jesus Lizard). "Everything I've done I'm very proud of," says Allen, unapologetically. "The world loves us. I don't see any collision."

-Robert Levine

Franco Finally Falls

In Spain there has been a lot of talk lately about the decision to remove some statues of General Franco. Here's the latest news in English and Spanish.
While many of us are shocked at the fact that they were still standing, some Spanish media and political figures related to Aznar’s Popular Party have stated their protest about what they call “stirring the past”. Apparently they would have preferred to leave Franco where he was, because the decision to remove him is opening old wounds, according to them.
The freakiest episode of all this was that of the elderly woman who paid a boy 3 euros to write a graffiti supporting the dictator. Surely the boy didn’t even know who the hell Franco was, and frankly he sold himself very cheap.

How Low Can You Go?

Before anyone asks, there are some things I would never do for money. This is one of them.

From the March issue of Golf Magazine:

Team Frank:

Billionaire drink baron Sidney Frank loves golf so much, he pays others to play for him.

Like many golf lovers, he rises daily at dawn, stumbles out of bed and treks to the course. But Sidney Frank, 85, doesn't bring his clubs. Once a 6-handicap, the liquor magnate and former owner of Grey Goose vodka confesses that he quit "when my wife started outdriving me." Yet six days a week he holds court in his cart, eating organic plums and directing his squad of three-to-five hired golf guns, who each earn more than $100,000 annually to play for Frank's amusement. It's good to be a billionaire.

Frank founded his real-life fantasy team in 1994 at Rancho Santa Fe Farms Golf Club near San Diego, one of his eight private clubs. "Sidney came down the stairs and asked if there were any young pros interested in traveling the world and playing golf," says Rick Zeiller, 32, a marketing VP at Sidney Frank Importing and, at the time, an assistant pro at the club. "I raised my hand. Before I knew it, I'd quit school, broke up with my girlfriend and was playing every day."

Nice work if you can get it, though sleeping in isn't an option. During warmer months, they meet daily before first light in Westchester County, New York, at Frank's Spanish ranch home. After breakfast they take his black, bulletproof Maybach to, say, Trump National or, come winter, a club in the San Diego area. The group plays serious golf while their commander coaches, referees and calls the play-by-play. Like any good boss, he rewards good performance, and is always ready to peel bills from a large wad of cash: $100 for eagles, $500 for the day's low score, $1,000 for a course record.

Before joining Frank's team, his guys were club pros, college coaches or hopefuls scraping by in golf’s minor leagues. "As a teaching pro, I rarely got to play," says Jeff Fujimoto, 31, who came aboard in 2003. "I went from playing once or twice a week to playing every day."

In addition to salaries and bonuses, the man who last year sold Grey Goose for $2 billion spends thousands to cover his pros' entry fees and travel costs for tournaments or qualifying schools and has scouts scouring the country for promising amateurs. "He'd love to see us make the PGA Tour," says Travis Williams, 32, a Frank protege playing on the Grey Goose Gateway Tour this year. If we play well, any one of us can do it." When not chasing their Tour dreams, they're hopping a chartered 727 to Barbados or the Bahamas. "We like to look around and say, 'Where's a good place to play?' " Frank says.

He's just along for the ride, but it's the next best thing to swinging. And if some consider it an odd way to spend one's fortune, so be it. "No one in my family objects," Frank says. "Why would they? I've made them all rich."


You can just feel the purgatory of this existence oozing from every smug sentence, can't you? And how about that “before I knew it I’d quit school and split with my girlfriend.”? What profundity. What a sense of responsibility.

Golf at its best is a way of making the wait for death seem longer than it really is. Didn’t John Peel say that whenever he heard that a friend of his had taken up golf, he mentally crossed them off his list of the living?

I mean, I enjoy a bit of humiliation as much as the next man, providing the next man is a high court judge, but what could be lower than a life like this?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terri Schiavo and Life in the Abstract

Not too many yeasr ago, if I remember rightly, there was a case vaguely similar to that currently trying the conscience of America, in which a baby born without a brain was being kept on a respirator—whether in the UK or in the States, I can’t recall—and there were calls to keep its heart and lungs working on the grounds that despite not having a brain, it was at least alive.

I remember wondering at the time what purpose this could serve. To what extent could this baby’s life be regarded as a human life, given that there was no possibility of consciousness or the prospective development of consciousness (where the Schiavo case differs, obviously, is on the possibility of recovery)? What was to be gained by the perpetuation of this life? Had I had a blog at the time, I might have suggested that we could harvest the body for stem cells so that at least other people might benefit from the birth of this being, but that would have just been me being provocative, and the hate mail directed my way would have served no purpose except justify my retention of site meter.

Anyhoo, it occurs to me that the reason why protestors could not, even in that case, allow the respirator to be turned off was that old “slippery slope” scenario, according to which, if you concede that it is NOT the case that “every human life is worth living” and therefore sustaining, you risk falling into the trap of having to define “quality of life” limits that make it possible to introduce the acceptability of involuntary euthanasia into the zeitgeist. The alternative was to concede that the baby was not human, which would have led to the equally problematic prospect of having to redefine the boundaries of human existence without conceding ground to pro-choice supporters who contend that partially developed fetuses are “less than fully human.”

As it happened, the “baby” in question died before any real argument could take place (I think the heart gave out), much to the relief, I suspect, of parties on every side of the debate. But the questions remain: Was this recognizably a human existence? If not, do we have obligations to an entity simply because it is living, and would that thereby extend to beings such as plants or nonhuman organisms without brains? And more to the point, do those obligations include keeping it alive or, on occasion, allowing it to die with dignity if it is already moribund?

As a parting thought, and just to be macabre, should it be possible for us to generate fetuses in future without brains, what possible objection could there be to harvesting their stem cells? Indeed, why not produce them precisely for that purpose?

Johnny Dowd

Has a Web site here, where you can get his new album, Johnny Dowd: Live in Manchester, U.K.

It features Sally Timms of the Mekons "playing weird music." No less than one would expect.

More Abject Consumerism

By me, this time. Bought this, the 4-CD box set of Poison Girls recordings (despite already having them on vinyl), and this, one of my all-time favourite movies (ever since I was a nihilistic teenager).

Buying back my own past in commodified form. Can someone define alienation for me?*

*The smartarse answer is "I can. It's track 4 on Chappaquiddick Bridge."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What I Read on My Holidays #1

I thoroughly enjoyed Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby, with its witty plot, well-observed parodies of hyperbolic New Ageisms, and gentle darkness, so I was enthusiastic about beginning Diary, his story about struggling hotel maid whose husband lies in a coma and for whom she writes this diary, recounting events in his absence. Misty Wilmot, she who writes, is a once-aspiring artist in reduced circumstances, but as events unfold it transpires that her husband married her as part of a conspiracy by the locals on the island where she now lives, in order to rescue it and them by producing works of such sublimeness that they will induce in their viewers a form of hypnosis.

The book features all of Palahniuk’s usual bag of tricks, including his delight in displaying all of his research (we are presented with countless examples of artists through history whose suffering purportedly accounted for their talent or genius), but the premise of the plot, and its denouement, let the work down big style (spoiler alert!)

Maybe I’m being picky, but the islanders’ conspiracy centres upon Misty’s artworks inducing in its viewers what Palahniuk describes as Stendhal's Syndrome and recounts how Stendhal was so overcome by the works of art he visited in Florence that he was overcome, physically, by their evocative power.

In Diary, we are supposed to believe that all the wealthy outsiders who are ruining the island are so transfixed by Misty’s work that they don’t notice the hotel burning down around them and the fire that ultimately consumes them and rescues the island. I might quite happily have lived with that ending, although I might have felt a bit short-changed, had Palahniuk not specifically introduced Stendhal’s Syndrome and used it as an explanatory tool for the gallery viewers’ behaviour, since the usual understanding of the syndrome is that it is akin to neurasthenia, a sort of feebleness and nervousness. Indeed, just to cap the inappopriateness of Palahniuk’s trope, Stendhal himself recounts in his memoirs how, having being so overcome by the works of art in one particular church, he had to rush outside for fresh air and sit down on a bench to recover his senses. In other words, Stendhal’s Syndrome is a sort of vertiginous experience, a panic attack, the result of the senses being bombarded by overpowering images: The nearest we might come today to this is the uncontrollable excitement exhibited by kids watching consecutive toy adverts in the runup to Christmas.

Georg Simmel, sociologist and theorist of modernity, cited neurasthenia as one of the characteristic psychic states of the modern age but observed that individuals in modern societies had become largely immune to the constant bombardment of the senses from shop window displays, passing crowds, the rivers of traffic. As the novelty of the city wore off, we urban sophisticates got used to, and managed to tune out, this multisensory cacophony, an attitude exemplified by what Simmel referred to as the “blasé.” Thus inured to the exciting, he said, we have become people who are no longer able to be impressed by anything.

Palahniuk’s weekend visitors to the island were such people, people unlikely to be enraptured by anything: They were too urban. But more to the point, their response to works of such sublimeness would have been to rush outside for fresh air, not hang around transfixed in a burning gallery.

Which isn’t to say I don’t generally love Palahniuk's work, only that, this time round, he managed to subvert his own sophisticated air of nonchalance by exhibiting his own provinciality. And that’s a criticism coming from a Brummie who’s proud of his own.

Just Say Yes

An interview in the latest issue of Mother Jones with pranksters The Yes Men, who most memorably (for me, anyway) switched the voice boxes in a number of Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls on sale so that when the kids got them home, Barbie advised that "Dead men tell no lies" and G.I. Joe announced "I like to shop with you."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Don't Buy That, Buy This (or Out, Out Blackspot)

Adbusters have started to introduce their own product ranges for all you anti-corporate types.

I've just discovered a new level of cynicism.

Mobile Forensics

Not just more back scratching: Check out Kirstie's blog, particularly this most recent posting, involving a lesbian psychic and a farting bulldog. Brilliant stuff. Talk about Americana!

More Single-Serving Adventures

A most relaxing and carefree week endured in the Canaries got off to a phenomenally enjoyable start thanks to my latest single-serving friends. While lacking the erudition and sobriety of my last acquaintances, the couple who sat beside me on the flight over to Fuerteventura provided me with just the right dose of entertainment to get me in the mood for my hols.

Better half and I had been pre-booked seats because of my inordinate height, but it turned out some sadist had allocated us a window and a middle seat, so better half kicked up a fuss (which she’s very good at, by the way) and got us both aisle seats, across the way from one another.

As we walked onto the plane, ahead of most other passengers, better half selected her seat first, across from my new acquanitances, who were already ensconced. Better half’s astuteness soon became apparent, and post-flight conversation with her confirmed that she knew right away, just from looking at this pair, what I was in for.

Single-server couple were young, about mid-twenties, he with closely cropped but unshaven black hair, moustachioed and wiry, with T-shirt and jeans, she pleasantly plump in some lime green outfit you’d only wear on holiday. Less readily apparent, since they were sat down and not trying to walk around, was the fact that they were already “nicely sozzled.”

“I can tell you now, we’ll be up and down the whole flight,” was his greeting, in a broad Dub accent. I smiled politely, suggesting it was no problem but not realizing that he meant that the pissing would be almost constant.

Having successfully got past the flight attendants, and once the plane was in the air, single servers ordered a Red Bull from the cabin staff and surreptitiously opened their litre bottle of duty-free Smirnoff (Fuerteventura’s a duty-free island, so you can buy cheap booze at the airport on the way out). Vodka and Red Bull thus flowed copiously, if on the Q.T., for the next hour, the flow interrupted every 15 minutes or so by one of the two deciding they needed a piss.

To be fair, male single-server offered me a vodka early on. I declined, explaining that I’d been sampling the free whiskey at the airport and wouldn’t be able to read if I drank anymore.

“Good man. Whiskey. Puts hairs on yer chest. I’d be drinking it meself if it weren’t for this cunt,” he said, referring to his companion. “But you’ve got to live with the cunts, haven’t yer?”

At which he gave me a broad grin, revealing for the first time the only two teeth that were left in his head. Fuck me, I thought. They’ve sat me next to Cletus.

For another hour they worked their way through the litre of vodka, with the odd piss now and again, he at one point commenting on my choice of wine with my meal with the immortal observation, “I don’t know why you’re drinking their shit when there’s vodka here.”

Again, credit where it’s due: All this was said in a spirit of camaraderie. Neither of them was a nasty drunk; rather, they were impressive drunks with really small bladders.

Bladders that were their undoing. After about two hours, the cabin staff sussed what was going on, so that when female single server went to the loo for about the 19th time and male tried to pour himself another wee snifter, male flight attendant came down the aisle and relieved him of the bottle, explaining,

“You can’t drink duty-free alcohol on the flight.”

This could have resulted in fisticuffs across my seat, I thought, except male single-server was by this point so langered that he was incapable of response. His head dropped, he surrendered the bottle, and bowed his head to gaze forlornly into the empty bag at his feet. Needless to say, when female single server returned from the loo, she was raging at him and it quickly became clear to any observer just who was in charge in that relationship.

I didn’t understand why, however, until the following sequence of events played themselves out. Over the next two hours, male single server would drop off to sleep for ten minutes or so, then wake up and start searching his bag for the vodka. He'd spend ages bent double, rifling through his plastic carrier bag, then searching under his seat, then he’d wake up female single server and say, “Where’s the vodka?” and she’d have to explain to him that the flight attendant had taken it off him.

“No cunt took the vodka off me,” he’d say, then lapse into a melancholic stupor for another ten minutes or so until waking up again and repeating the whole performance.

After about an hour of this, my shoulder muscles were in agony from laughing so much. The poor sod might have had some sort of early-onset Alzheimer’s or alcohol-induced petite mal fits, I don’t know, but seeing him wake up, search for his duty-free, wake up his partner, then fall back to sleep again, over and over, and never any the wiser, afforded me all the fun I felt I was entitled to after the many, many times he’d made me get out of my seat so he could piss Red Bull and Vodka into the airplane’s innards.

It really made my holiday.

And, unbelievably, they were on my flight home yesterday. Sober. “Incredible,” I thought. “How the hell did they manage to avoid being deported in the intervening seven days?”

Maybe the locals got as much fun out of them as I did.

I should really buy them both a drink.

Hijos del Pueblo a Las Barricadas en Discos

News from Red Star Recordings via Club Mekon mailing list:

The Redskins tribute album Reds Strike The Blues will be released on 1st May 2005 on Red Star Recordings. The album includes The Three Johns version of "Reds Strike The Blues." For a full track listing go to

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

My brother has been to the Kingdom of Heaven

And my father too. And I myself want to pay a visit sometime soon. I’m talking about castles in Spain, actually, and one of them in particular, where Ridley Scott filmed part of his film Kingdom of Heaven.
This is not the first time the castillo de Loarre (Loarre castle) is used as a location for a film. Here and here you have a couple of sites about the place. They are in Spanish, though. But here you may find some news in English about the castle and the filming of Scott’s film.
You have more information about the film at its official web site. And there’s this other site as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Gigs in Barcelona

I’m glad Jordi has joined us. I know he dropped in a few times to take a look.
Well, if any of you happen to be in Barcelona during these days, there are a couple of gigs you may find interesting. Next Thursday 17th, Urge Overkill are playing at the Bikini (check out the Bikini new site, by the way). They scored a hit when Tarantino used their cover of Neil Diamond’s number “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” for one of his films. After that, they released one last record, and then disappeared. Now they’re back, and they will play in Barcelona in two days. I admit I’m curious to see their show.
Another interesting band that will be visiting us next Sunday 20th is Wilco. They are playing again in Barcelona (at the Razzmatazz), after the excellent show they offered at the last Primavera Sound Festival. I was there, but I wouldn’t mind an encore.
Well, I hope we can keep enjoying more good gigs around here, while we wait for the next Primavera Sound.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Gaining one of the good guys

A quick welcome to Jordi, who has joined the team here at C&S all the way from Barcelona and who will be hopefully adding a further dimension to our inimitable and brilliant blog.

Losing one of the good guys

Just before heading away, I learn of the death of Maurice Brinton of Solidarity, a group that has had a strong influence on my political thinking over the years (christ, how fucking pompous does that sound?) and which exposed me to the anarchist-communist/lib-soc works of Cornelius Castoriadis. I'll post more when I get back from my holidays, but there are comments and obits already out there, namely here and here.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Getting the Wobbles

Lisa over at Rullsenberg has been trying to post a comment to C&S with no success; I've had the same problem over there and on other blogger sites for some unfathomable reason recently. Anyway, you can see her comments on her site, and this contributor is off on his hols for a week, so with a bit of luck it will give Blogger a chance to get its act together.

I'll try and check in during the week to see if anything exciting is happening. Annoyingly, Site Meter tells me the hits have been picking up lots recently, just as I bugger off. I'll need to come back with some extraordinary tales of derring-do or laughable English incompetence abroad to get the numbers back up again.

¡Hasta Luego!

Dave Allen R.I.P.

The Irish Bill Hicks? Made me laugh as a kid but best watched when drunk (either you or him, preferably both).

May he be with his God.

Oi! Llewellyn-Bowen. No!!

Our efforts at being sincere, committed, non-sexist men here at C&S have every now and then failed to protect us from the implicit prejudices of our era, class, generation, and society to the extent that even this contributor, a former sociology lecturer in a college of higher education, has made phenomenally atrocious errors along the way: The most embarrassing of all has to be the occasion when I attended a moderating conference of fellow sociology lecturers where, during a break for tea and biscuits, I took hold of the teapot in an effort to be considerate and committed the most impressive faux pas of my entire life by turning to all and sundry and saying “Shall I be Mother?”

Thanks to writers like Donna Haraway, we can refer to this form of abject stupidity euphemistically as a sign of the “gendering of domestic technology.” Plenty of empirical research has been done on British home life to show that the TV remote control is a strongly masculinized object, which is to say that it’s usually the blokes who keep control over it, whereas the teapot, the iron, and the telephone are, to a greater or lesser extent, feminized objects. But what brought back to me that awesome blunder, cringe-inducing even at a distance of 15 years or so, was a conversation with a colleague of mine who has just bought her first home and is in the process of renovating it. Rightly proud of her work to date (she is somewhat of a tyro on the interior design scene) she has provided me over the past few weeks with a detailed description of the entire project, describing how she got the builders and electricians to get the job done on time, how she obtained discounts on the floorboards and curtains, and how she drafted in a gang of friends, on the promise of free booze, to paint her kitchen pink.

Yes, that’s right. Pink. She’s painted her kitchen pink. Bathroom, I can understand; bedroom, yes, that’s acceptable, too; but kitchen? Who cooks in a pink kitchen except Barbie? Yes, Barbie. Not Ken.

You see what I’m saying? Good. On aesthetic grounds alone she should be ashamed. For her crimes against morality, I await suggestions for a suitable punishment. Ironic ones only, please.

Proof that Mother Nature favours socialism

From the February issue of Car and Driver magazine, an article by Ken W. Purdy that originally appeared in the August 1957 issue profiling upper-class twit the Marquis of Portago. Here is the opening paragraph:

"Don Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Carvajal y Are, Conde de la Mejorada, Marquis de Portago, was 28 when he died at Guidizzolo, a few miles from Brescia and the end of the Mille Miglia, on the 12th of last May. Portago had been a flier, a jai alai player, a poloist, a steeplechase rider (the world's leading amateur in 1951 and 1952), an Olympic bobsledder and record holder, a remarkable swimmer, and he was at his death one of the dozen best racing drivers in the world. He had never sat in a racing car until 1954, but he believed he would be champion of the world before 1960, and most of the men he ran against every week thought he very well might be—if he lived."

The rest of the article carries on in a similar vein, extolling the virtues of this "incredibly brilliant athlete" and speaker of four languages. I suppose, grudgingly, I must accept that it's a product of its time, when playboys were still regarded as somehow admirable; the Lindbergh Syndrome, let's call it. Still, nothing brings out the misanthrope in me more than reading these paeans to the idle rich, as though there was something impressive and virtuous about someone who spends his life being good at games, pastimes, hobbies. Essentially, their entire lives are wasted on frivolities, no matter how seriously they take them. Today, of course, they'd be circumnavigating the world in a balloon or a boat or crossing the Antarctic by snail.

When I read that Portago had died at the age of 28, I confess, the first thing I thought was, "Good. Here's another candidate for the Darwin Awards whose stupidity and recklessness was no doubt the result of ceaseless inbreeding amongst the European aristocracy." The second thing I thought was, maybe Formula One isn't so bad after all. After years of thinking it was mindless driving in circles, I've missed the real attraction it holds for so many fans: the possibility of some upper-class half-wit driving into a wall at 150 miles and hour. It's the French Revolution in commodified form.

I think I'll take up knitting.

You lucky, lucky people (in Chicago)

Next Wednesday, at the Hideout, you can see the Waco Brothers AND the Nightingales. I only wish I was with you. A night not to be missed.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Stop Bolkestein!

Please read this and this and then sign the petition here.

If you absolutely MUST buy me a book

This one will do.

Christ is Risen. Fancy a Pint?

Spotted by my brother, a sign outside the Hare and Hounds pub in Timperley: "Join Us This Easter."

Says Martin, "Almost made me want to give up binge drinking for Lent."

Maybe they're holding a special Mass there on Easter Sunday: "This is my blood. It's a lovely Cabernet Shiraz. Goes nicely with the scratchings."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans"

So said John Lennon. It's also true about death and explains why there won't be any postings or party tomorrow, on the day of C&S's first birthday: Better half's remaining maternal aunt died over the weekend, so we'll be at the funeral in Carrickmacross for the day. Apologies for our absence.

It Could Happen to Anyone

Thanks to Darren at Inveresk Street for linking to this story at A Revolutionary Act of an Oldham neo-Nazi who died while attempting to achieve sexual gratification in a cupboard using a kettle flex and a picture of a model dressed as a schoolgirl (model's sex and colour not disclosed). Sounds like Cluedo, doesn't it?

Just the thing to cheer you up on a winter's morning.

Sublime and Ridiculous

Or rather ridiculous and sublime, respectively. Two articles in New York magazine of January 24-31. Jeff Sharlet reports on the increase in popularity of New Age healing in the metroplis since 9/11. One such healer is Bhakti Sondra Shaye, described as an adept member of the Great White Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Light. She says that she earns more money today as a healer than she did during the early 1990s as a corporate attorney. According to the article, she believes that New York is a New Age spiritual center because it is not afraid to interlink the worlds of spirituality and money. I'll bet.

In the Arts section, Mark Stevens reviews the exhibition "Mapping Sitting: On Portraiture and Photography," which runs through April 2 at the Grey Art Gallery at NYU. For the exhibition, artists Walid Raad and Akram Zaatari have collected a range of proletarian portraits of the Arab world. Instead of directly challenging the view of Arabs put forward in the Western media, they have chosen to present imagery that emanates from within Arab society itself. Retrieving the pictures from the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut, a huge archive of predominantly commercial photographs taken during the 20th century in Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, the pair provide an insider's view that successfully complicates and enriches the Arab character.

A Rival to Idaho Magazine?

From the February issue of Indianapolis Monthly comes news that the Indiana Historical Society has recently acquired the books of traveling columnist and World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle's personal library. Pyle was a hugely popular writer, mainly thanks to the accessibility and lack of pretence of his writing, so it comes as no surprise that the books in his collection are mostly unremarkable. Nine of the 300-plus books are travel guides, and many volumes are the crossword-puzzle books of Pyle's wife, Jerry. Even more interesting than the books themselves, we are told, are the notes that the couple scribbled inside them.

Cue jokes about the George W. Bush Library.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Party Time!

Counago & Spaves is one year old on Wednesday (if you're wondering where the rest of the blog is, click on "Previous Incarnation," left). To celebrate, we'll be having a champagne cocktail reception in the Shelbourne Hotel on Wednesday evening around seven.

Will we arse. We'll be having several pints of Guinness in Toner's and if you're lucky you'll get a pack of peanuts and a T-shirt. A Toner's T-shirt, not a Counago & Spaves one. We're not made of money.

What We Had, We Lost

This weekend's Observer carried a brief recollection and commentary by Will Hutton on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the miners' strike.

Loth as I am to agree with Hutton on many things, I found that reading the article brought back to me very vividly some of the feelings that were commonplace amongst us some of us on the left at the time who were actively involved, in a supporting role, and it's curious to contrast those feelings with Hutton's observations as an onlooker, as a non-participating journalist, particularly since he recounts how covering the strike affected his political thinking.

I suppose I should explain that I belonged then to a sceptical and disparate collection of anarchists whose basic attitude toward the situation was to be opposed to the strike but in favour of the strikers. What information we had back then indicated that this was the wrong strike at the wrong time and that the union was being provoked and goaded into striking at a time of the government's choosing (I still spit when anyone mentions the name Nicholas Ridley). It was a commonplace that defeat was likely for the miners and that they were led by a pig-headed, stubborn, ignorant, and tactically clueless leadership; that seemed to be true of a number of unions back then. Nevertheless, unlike Hutton, we knew that there was a moral obligation to support the strikers regardless of the union's blunders, and throughout the strike we manned the food stalls, made our donations, leafleted the shopping centres, turned on all our electrical appliances, attended and organized the rallies, all the usual stuff, and more beside.

Hutton writes, ambiguously, that “Without the evisceration of the Scargillite tendency, the Labour party would not have been able to shed itself of the old left project which, more than anything else, laid the ground for the two landslide victories of 1997 and 2001.” But the problem for us was never the old left project, it was the failure of the old left politicians to think outside the box, stop acting like dinosaurs, and think strategically instead of proprietorially or dictatorially. There was a level of machismo and slow wittedness (and a pride in both) that might be difficult to believe today, as though they thought brute force (in the form of 'solidarity,' but demanded, imposed, and controlled from on high) would guarantee victory.

Hutton: “Looking back after 20 years, it is clearer that the defeat of Scargill was vital for the economy, the labour market, the environment, the public interest and progressive politics.”

Vital? Overstating things, I think. In any case, "defeat of Scargill" is different from "defeat of the workers." From my perspective at the time, I only wished Scargill had been defeated on another battlefield, by his rank and file, before the strike ever took place. But arguably, for the labour movement, in the long term, it is better that Scargill lost; the fact that his identity was so wrapped up in the miners' cause has meant that he remains defeated - I'm annoyed only that the miners had to lose as well.

What We Have, We Hold

Up to Enniskillen for the weekend, one of my favourite towns on the entire planet, and not just because it is better half's birthplace. You haven't lived until you've sunk a pint of Guinness in William Blake's on a Saturday afternoon (although, sad to say, that's exactly what I was doing when news came in of the Omagh bomb). Better half's family have strong connections with this part of the world, anyway, including our 5-year-old godson and his twin brother, always good for a story or two, although this weekend I showed their mom how to access Counago & Spaves, so this may be the last of them.

It was a flying visit, so only two fleeting images left their mark amid the chaos of the lads' devilment. One was that of godson's brother kneeling up at the dining table on a wooden bench with his trousers round his ankles, eating his lunch with one hand while, to put no too finer point on it, manipulating himself with the other. How I envied him the experience. I'm lucky to get that once a year.

The other was our godson, Joshua, being chided by his mother for picking his nose, to which he responded, without irony, "I wasn't picking it. I was putting it back up." Well, why waste it?

Returned home yesterday afternoon to discover that Labour have upped their game. In our absence, they had delivered an East Meath-type newsletter, a two-sided A4 leaflet detailing their candidate's ideas for the Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington area. I assume Labour has produced similar leaflets for the entire East Meath area, an assumption I make on the basis of the paucity of the ideas presented, although these might just indicate the party's lack of knowledge of the area. It's only at election time that this sort of ignorance and lack of genuine concern from the parties becomes really apparent, because they try SO hard.

It was the turn of the Greens to turn up at the train staion this morning, albeit lower-profile than Labour were last week. I suspect the Green Party is lacking in the henchmen department. All I saw was a female hippy in a kaftan and a bloke with a woolly hat on. True to stereotype if nothing else. The leaflet they gave us was the same one we got through the letter box last week, so maybe they had a few left over. Not very eco-conscious, that, surely?

Looking forward to the final four-day blitz. Which party is going to pull the rabbit out the hat and surprise us?

That's a rhetorical question.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Rinus Michels R.I.P.

Originator of Total Football, died today. Made the beautiful game even more beautiful and gave left-backs like me an excuse to wander upfield. Cheers, Marinus.

Moot Question of the Week

. . . is who will I be voting for in the forthcoming Meath by-election, which takes place next Friday.

It’s been interesting to assess the various parties’ level of commitment to this election, at least on the basis of their readiness to pound the streets, canvass, and present their policies to the electorate. The Fianna Fail candidate has been noticeable most of all by his absence in my neck of the woods, even though his photograph was on the front page of the national press yesterday with the Taoiseach. I heard a rumour last week that Bertie made an appearance at Mass in Laytown Church the Sunday before last; there’s no point chasing after the votes of blow-in atheists like me, so I suppose there's no reason why I should expect to encounter him when he's off glad-handing amongst his natural constituency. The FF’s leaflet appeared in our porch overnight, which suggests that their canvassers deliberately slunk around the estate in the darkness without knocking on any doors so as not to be doorstepped by locals giving out about the appalling state of the infrastructure in this part of the country, where the builders (i.e. his mates) have been given free rein to build houses on any spare plot of land without any consideration of drainage, sewerage, traffic disruption, schools and access to other amenities like hospitals and libraries. Fuckers.

A Fine Gael canvasser popped round last night and conveyed the jovial impression of someone who was embarrassed by his candidate (although the FGs have 2 of the 5 seats) and was hoping that the fact that he (the candidate) is the brother of local Meath Gaelic Football hero Gerry McEntee would count for something. That seemed to be the main selling point on the leaflet, anyhow.

The Labour candidate actually made the effort to appear in person on the railway platform on Tuesday morning to meet commuters as they headed off to work, though he was accompanied by henchmen who seemed to be delighting in bullying all the schoolgirls to take leaflets home to their parents. Labour’s bumph was hardly more substantial than the FGs and FFs, which is surprising, because there are substantial issues that Labour could play on in this area to lather the FFs, and the train station is a great place to meet natural Labour voters: Users of public transport, working couples just starting families and new to the area, plebs like me who have moved down from Dublin. I suspect there’s a decent ‘Anyone but FF vote’ here, but it’s going to be split if Labour doesn’t pursue it more vigorously.

I didn’t see the Green Party candidate, but the literature was decent enough and quite comprehensive. It managed to isolate and recognize what look like the topics of concern in the East Meath area: the stuff cited above and concern over the Navan by-pass, which is a Green issue. The one issue that pisses me off and prevents me voting Green, if I was to vote, is their nonsensical policy on incinerators. It seems to be taken as read that incinerators are a bad thing, and both the Greens and Sinn Fein have been using this as an issue to beat FF with (Sinn Fein use the NIMBYism it arouses in houseowners concerned about house prices as a wedge issue to develop inroads into the middle-class vote). All the science I’ve seen (and I work with environmental scientists), along with the expertise of my brother-in-law, who used to be a county engineer, tells me that incinerators are not the dirty, cancer-causing monstrosities that the fear-mongers keep saying. You’ll find them all over France and Germany, and they’re much less of an environmental risk than landfills.

Anyway, last Saturday morning I dropped my better half off to the hairdressers and came home to find two Sinn Fein canvassers waiting on the doorstep. The moment they heard my English accent, I suspect they gave up any thought of winning my vote, particularly if they could identify it as Brummie. Nonetheless, they were courteous and charming, and I asked them for their leaflets and all the details about their candidate and promised to read them. Out of all of the campaign literature, Sinn Fein’s was by a long shot the best (forgive the pun). It outlined all the relevant policies for the area and offered a decent profile of the candidate, who had previously been a councillor in Navan, I think. And I confess that all the Shinners I’ve known through work have been nice lads and, in terms of their worldview, closer to mine than the mainstream parties. Nevertheless, I won’t be voting for them because, all said and done, they're a home for thugs and fascists. Despite their apparent socialism, there’s still an element of militarism and authoritarianism attached to the party that comes as baggage. If they do a good job of driving drug dealers out of working-class areas, it's because they've got access to guns too (and, incidentally, it's an indictment of the socialist movement that the Shinners have been able to use the drug/crime problem as a way into working-class areas in the South). You might call their activities a form of pragmatism, but it makes me think of Mussolini and the "politics of the street."

As for the PDs, their candidate came round during the last election to say hello; she gave me the impression of modelling herself after Mary Harney, which can’t be a good thing, and this time I haven’t even seen any literature yet, just posters of the woman everywhere, along with a flashing sign along the Julianstown Road telling us that Mary Harney needs Sirena (that’s the candidate’s name, not a drug for ADHD).

So that’s the current state of play. None of my friends or fellow commuters seem particularly exercised by the election, and the only amusement I’ve derived from events so far has been at the expense of the Shinners: There’s a nice poster of Gerry Adams down by the train station, carrying the slogan “Sinn Fein – Building an Ireland of Equals.” I’m sorely tempted to pop down during the night and scrawl on it, “Or Your Money Back.”*

*At the risk of spoiling the joke, for the benefit of readers overseas, I should explain that this is a reference to the IRA's supposed involvement in the recent Northern Bank Robbery.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Coming Your Way - The U.S. Army Blog

An article by U.S. Army Reserve captain and military intelligence officer Kris Alexander in the latest issue of Wired:

We Need Spy Blogs

"It's an open secret that the US intelligence community has its own classified, highly secure Internet. Called Intelink, it's got portals, chat rooms, message boards, search engines, webmail, and tons of servers. It's pretty damn cool … for four years ago.

While I was serving as an intelligence analyst at the US Central Command in Qatar during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in 2003, my team and I analyzed hundreds of messages and reports each day. We created briefings used by generals Tommy Franks and John Abizaid. A vast amount of information was available to us on Intelink, but there was no simple way to find and use the data efficiently. For instance, our search engine was an outdated version of AltaVista. (We've got Google now, a step in the right direction.) And while there were hundreds of people throughout the world reading the same materials, there was no easy way to learn what they thought. Somebody had answers to my questions, I knew, but how were we ever to connect? The scary truth is that most of the time analysts are flying half blind.

It doesn't have to be that way. Instead of embarking on an expensive and decades-long process of reform - the type loved by bureaucrats on Capitol Hill - the services can fix this themselves. There's no reason our nation's spy organizations can't leap­frog what the Army is already doing with Web technology and, at the same time, build upon what the public is doing with the blogosphere.

Launched in 2001, Army Knowledge Online is Yahoo! for grunts. All the things that make life on the Net interesting and useful are on AKO. Every soldier has an account, and each unit has its own virtual workspace. Soldiers in my reserve unit are scattered throughout Texas, and we're physically together only once a month. AKO lets us stay linked around the clock.

Another innovative program is the Center for Army Lessons Learned, basically an überblog staffed by experts. Soldiers can post white papers on subjects ranging from social etiquette at Iraqi funerals to surviving convoy ambushes. A search for "improvised explosive device" yields more than 130 hits. The center's articles are vetted by the staff for accuracy and usefulness, and anyone in the Army can submit.

Unfortunately, the intelligence community has not kept up with the Army. The 15 agencies of the community—ranging from the armed services to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency—maintain separate portals, separate data, and separate people. The bad guys exploit the gaps, and your safety is on the line. So if all us knuckle-draggers in the Army can use technology to make ourselves better, why can't all the big brains at Langley and Foggy Bottom do the same?

The first step toward reform: Encourage blogging on Intelink. When I Google "Afghanistan blog" on the public Internet, I find 1.1 million entries and tons of useful information. But on Intelink there are no blogs. Imagine if the experts in every intelligence field were turned loose—all that's needed is some cheap software. It's not far-fetched to picture a top-secret CIA blog about al Qaeda, with postings from Navy Intelligence and the FBI, among others. Leave the bureaucratic infighting to the agency heads. Give good analysts good tools, and they'll deliver outstanding results.

And why not tap the brainpower of the blogosphere as well? The intelligence community does a terrible job of looking outside itself for information. From journalists to academics and even educated amateurs—there are thousands of people who would be interested and willing to help. Imagine how much traffic an official CIA Iraq blog would attract. If intelligence organizations built a collaborative environment through blogs, they could quickly identify credible sources, develop a deep backfield of contributing analysts, and engage the world as a whole. How cool would it be to gain "trusted user" status on a CIA blog?

All this is possible with resources that currently exist. It won't require a complete overhaul of intelligence services, or the creation of a cabinet-level "intelligence czar." (Has the drug czar won the war on drugs?) Intelink blogging would immediately improve the information being used in the war on terror. AKO has managed to connect nearly 2 million members on an annual budget of about $30 million—that's chump change compared with the cost of a day's operations in Iraq. You do the math."

As a public service

From the February/March issue of Mother Earth News, instructions for making your own yoghourt, kefir, and chevre.

Using your own body fluids.

Only joking.

And now, Sean of the Dead

The first phase opens today of the largest shopping mall in Europe, in Dundrum. All the big names in retailing are there: Next, H&M, Dunnes Stores. And 25 restaurants.

Eat, Shop, Sleep, Work, Vote, Die. Un-die. Shop, Eat, Work, Vote etc. etc.

Thought for the Day

In the final section of Mulholland Drive, the "reality" sequence, the lead characters are named Di and Camilla.


Spotted, Mart.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hell is Other Existentialists

With thanks to Lenin, a wonderful interview here by Danny Postel with Ronald Aronson on the split between Sartre and Camus. From the journal Logos.

The Network surfaces

The Declaration Foundation. An article by Wayne Madsen on the Fellowship Foundation at 9/11 Citizens Watch. Their archives at Wheaton here.

With all these concerned citizens around, what have we got to worry about?

Proof that Scorsese has lost it.

He lets Martha Wainwright sing in The Aviator.

I'm Concerned.

Maybe I should join.

No. I'm concerned, not a psychopathic fascist.

What they get up to in their bedrooms is none of your goddammed business!

The slightly unfortunate closing paragraph of a serious article in the February 15 Advocate on 12 former U.S. military service members who are suing the U.S. Department of Defense, with the backing of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), to be reinstated after being discharged because of their sexual orientation:

"Yet the current administration's unabashedly conservative tilt has many legal experts concerned that while the case of the SLDN 12 will keep the military's unfair gay bashing and expulsions before the media, the accused will not be putting on uniforms again anytime soon."

Manchester gigs - someone tell Norm

Coming up over the next month as part of a pop art records promotion:

Thad Cockrell Tue 2nd @ Britons Protection
Laura Veirs Sat 5th @ The Roadhouse
Jill Sobule Mon 7th @ Retro Bar
Melys + Persil Wed 9th @ Star & Garter
Jeep Solid Sun 13th @ Retro Bar
Econoline + Dead Men Win Fights Mon 28th @ Retro Bar
Patrick Wolf Thu 31st @ The Southern Hotel, Chorlton

What I've heard of Laura Veirs sounds great, and Jill Sobule comes with a great biog:

"For more than a decade Jill Sobule has been one of Pop Music's greatest subversive writers. Her songs have poked fun at lesbian chic, celebrity obsession and production line pop babes. They have also dealt with drug abuse, anorexia and America's Christian Fundamentalist movement, although always in her inimitable light hearted poppy style. After dropping out of college and formed her first band. After a spell working at a local restaurant, she moved to New York and got a record deal. Whilst waitressing in New York in between recording, she served Madonna and Sandra Bernhardt who she described as "a horrible couple who didn't even leave me a tip" and got the idea for "Kissed a Girl". A jab at America's fascination with lesbianism, the song accidentally became an MTV hit. Now on the brink of releasing her 5th album, "Underdog Victorious", Jill is recognised as a witty, quirky lyricist and singer and an excellent guitar player, as well as recently starring in The West Wing!"

More here.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Must be drinking Petrus

Binge drinking costs £1 billion a year, says the Scotsman. Works out at £19,230,769 every weekend. And that doesn't include the taxi home.

We Should Let You All Burn

paraphrasing Basil Fawlty.

Deparmental heads came round the office today at 10.45 to tell everyone there would be a fire drill at 11.00. So half the staff got up and went over to the lockers and got their coats out, because it's much too cold outside to be standing there in just shirt and trousers. One enterprising individual, naming no names, went into the kitchen and put the kettles on so that we'd all have mugs of tea and coffee to take out with us. He should be promoted for his foresight and team spirit.

Of course, if a fire did start, the chances are we'd all be in the kitchen anyway.

He'll Sell You the Rope to Hang Him With

In the January 31st issue of Business Week, Jeffrey E. Garten, Dean of the Yale School of Management, laments the amount of research and development being carried out in China by American companies, thereby "sharing America's intellectual treasures with a foreign rival in unprecedented ways." Washington must adapt to the reality, he says, that "U.S. multinationals' goals may no longer dovetail with national interests."

The Dean of the Yale School of Management has just joined the 20th century.


Vox Populi, Vox Me

Muammar Gaddafi interviewed in the February 7th edition of Time:

Time: Given Foreign and Local Skepticism, Is Libya Really Reforming Itself?

Gaddafi: About the economy, quite possible. We have begun to apply the Green Book. It's what we call popular socialism and what Thatcher calls popular capitalism. Elections? What for? We have surpassed that stage you are presently in. All the people are in power now. Do you want them to regress and elect somebody to replace them?

Time: What Do Libyans Tell You?

Gaddafi: If you put them in paradise, they will still complain. (Laughs) Libyans are in paradise.