Friday, July 29, 2005

"Worse than Being in Manchester City Centre on Derby Day"

I'm back already.

Had to leave you with this from the Sale and Altrincham Messenger:

Race fears at disco riot

A junior disco attended by more than 500 children at Altrincham Leisure Centre turned into a riot as fights broke out with people from a neighbouring wedding function.

Trafford police - assisted by riot squad officers from GMP's tactical aid unit - attended the incident on Oakfield Road, last Saturday, just after 10.55pm.

Two officers suffered minor injuries and CS gas had to be used to bring the crowd under control.

A number of people caught up in the altercation also suffered minor injuries. Two boys, aged 12 and 15-years-old, were released from hospital after being treated for minor rib and head injuries respectively.

Six arrests were made outside the centre including: two 16-year-old boys from Old Trafford and a 15-year-old boy from Stretford. Two men aged 19 and 21-years-old received on the spot fines.

As the crowd was dispersed police escorted a group of about 50 people, who had travelled from outside Trafford, onto trams at Altrincham Metrolink station.

No further fights broke out but three men - a 19-year-old from Broadheath, a 21-year-old from Sale and a 19-year-old from Stretford - were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.

Supt Peter Aaronson, head of operations at Trafford, said: "It was a horrific display of public disorder that was totally uncalled for by all concerned and the courts will decide ultimately on the appropriate action for those convicted."

He added: "We are still gathering evidence from CCTV which we are examining and further charges are likely."

It is believed the trouble started when a group of 10 youths from the disco tried to gatecrash the wedding reception in another part of the leisure centre.

Shortly afterwards, at about 10.30pm, a fight broke out between a small group of men from the wedding and a doorman. The trouble inside the building stopped but then a second incident started outside.

Eyewitnesses report a blue van pulling up near the leisure centre and a gang of men jumping out. SAM understands allegations have also been made that the violence escalated after racist comments were made.

Door staff attempted to hold back the gang as scuffles broke out and teenagers - who had left the disco - were involved.

Organisers of the "Candy Club" disco have cancelled all future events at the centre following discussions with Trafford Community Leisure Trust.

The monthly under 16s night began about a year ago when "The Lizard", in Alderly Edge, closed down.

Spokeswoman Amy Clark, said: "The Candy Club team are in total shock and disbelief at the outrageous event that took place on Saturday."

She claimed: "A group of approximately 30 men between the ages of 20 and 30, unconnected to our event, mounted an unprovoked and vicious attack on children between the ages of 11 to 15 who had attended that evening."

She added: "On behalf of Candy Club we would like to express our deepest concerns with the situation that occurred."

Alarmed parents, whose children attended the event, have contacted the Messenger.

Nicola Doherty, 31, from Brooklands, collected her 13-year-old daughter from Club Candy. She said: "I arrived at about 10.55pm to pick up my daughter and four of her friends.

"Outside there was no police and girls were crying and hiding under trees while staff from the Candy Club were trying to calm the children down."

She added: "Grown men had been hurling racial remarks to provoke a reaction. I've been picking up my daughter from this event for over a year and I've never seen anything like this before.

"I think it's disgusting - it was worse than being in Manchester city centre on derby day. There was a lot of people running around and screaming - it was just bedlam."

Another mother, who wished to remain anon-ymous, told SAM she was angry her 13-year-old son and his friends were let-out of the club while the trouble was going on.

She said: "As they left they saw blood on the path outside and were threatened by a gang of men. The children ran off in terror and found refuge in a nearby pub where the landlady helped them."

The Hollies

As in, "I'm off on my hollies for a week. See you when I get back."

Feel free to post or comment in my absence. This is an autonomous workers' collective, not a self-perpetuating autocracy.

Smoke Fags. Drink Beer. Talk Shite.

An article in the latest Technology Review by Wade Roush on product placement in blogs, particularly efforts by Portland, Oregon, firm Marqui to persuade bloggers to post about its products.

Any suckers of Satan's cock out there in the blogosphere?

"Because that's my lunch box tied to it"*

Review of The Aristocrats from today's New York Times:

A Filthy Theme and Variations


Published: July 29, 2005

"The Aristocrats" is - how shall I put it? - an essay film, a work of painstaking and penetrating scholarship, and, as such, one of the most original and rigorous pieces of criticism in any medium I have encountered in quite some time.

For those of you who have not already put down your newspaper and rushed off to buy tickets (and I hereby authorize the advertising department at ThinkFilm to plaster the previous sentence wherever it likes), perhaps I should add that "The Aristocrats" is also possibly the filthiest, vilest, most extravagantly obscene documentary ever made. Visually, it is as tame as anything on PBS or VH1's "Behind the Music," but there is scarcely a minute of screen time that does not contain a reference to scatology, incest, bestiality and practices for which no euphemisms or Latinate names have been invented.

The film, made by Penn Jillette (the louder half of the Penn and Teller magic and comedy act) and Paul Provenza, who directs, is being released unrated, and one theater chain has already declined to book it, on the grounds that its appeal is too "narrow." That's one way of looking at it, but surely there are few forms of expression more universal than the dirty joke. Those curious about why this should be so - why from a very early age we are prone to laugh at references to sex, excrement and other bodily activities - can of course consult sages like Henri Bergson, Sigmund Freud or the evocatively named Gershon Legman, author of the two-volume "Rationale of the Dirty Joke." But none of these learned men are as funny as "The Aristocrats," or as revealing, through example and analysis, of the craft and tradition involved in what professional comedians call "working blue."

Mr. Jillette and Mr. Provenza start with a simple premise and a single joke, one that has a long and esoteric history going back to vaudeville days. The punch line is the title of the film, and the setup, which takes place in a talent booker's office, has a whiff of stale "Broadway Danny Rose" cigar smoke about it.

I won't say anything more, because I can't work blue in this room, and also because I don't want to spoil it. The point of the "aristocrats" joke, though, and of the movie, is that it can't really be spoiled, partly because it's so bad ("the opposite of a joke, really," one comedian muses) and partly because the humor resides in the delivery. While professional comedians rarely use it onstage - as George Carlin points out, most comedians don't really tell jokes onstage - they like to try out their own versions on one another, competing to see who can tell the dirtiest, most extreme, most shocking and longest version.

Through a series of interviews with an all-star cast of dozens of performers, television writers and other intellectuals - among the best known are Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Jon Stewart, Drew Carey and the animated boys of "South Park" - the filmmakers overturn two bits of received wisdom about humor. The first is that what is funny cannot be explained, the second that it dies by repetition. Indeed, the more you hear the joke - and you hear it, in bits and pieces and all the way through, at least 60 or 70 times - the deeper you appreciate its peculiar fascination. And as various comedians reflect on its meaning and history - Mr. Carlin is particularly thoughtful in this regard - you come to understand the codes and customs of that peculiar guild that makes a living by trying to make the rest of us laugh.
Along the way you learn something about the history of American comedy. Chris Rock explains that in the old days, raunchiness was not as much of a taboo for black comedians because they were excluded from television and mainstream theaters and clubs. Phyllis Diller, for her part, maintains that the first time she heard the joke she fainted, and that it was generally not the kind of humor a woman would indulge in. This notion is challenged by Lisa Lampanelli and brilliantly subverted by Sarah Silverman, who gives the joke its creepiest, funniest inflection by pretending that it isn't a joke at all.

And while "The Aristocrats" is full of howlingly funny moments - Kevin Pollak blending the joke with a Christopher Walken impression; Paul Reiser, Gilbert Gottfried and Bob Saget (yes, him) turning in notably disgusting renditions - it works on the mind as well as the funny bone and the gag reflex. It makes you reflect on the mysteries of timing, context and delivery, those aspects of discipline that make comedy an art and separate the pros from the cocktail-party bores. It also takes you deep into the land of the id, not just of individual comedians (some of whom have pretty scary ids), but also into that murky collective terrain of desire, regression and fear where we all started out and where a few brave souls remain to make a living.

The Aristocrats
Opens in New York and Los Angeles today.

* If you don't know the joke to which this is the punchline . . . you're better off.

No Curry Jokes Please

Only just learned of the tornado that cut a swathe through Sparkbrook yesterday. I shall resist comments along the lines of "how could they tell?" since this area was home to Mom's side of the family when I was growing up; many fond memories of trips down Ladypool Road, odd though it may seem.

Clearly not an act of God since, although it avoided the Balti houses, it missed St. Andrew's completely.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

When You're Lying Awake in Bed Tonight

Something to make your skin crawl.

At Least That's One War Over

IRA statement in full.

Fancy a Scrap, Reidski?

Do you reckon you could have The Green Lama?

Why Not Just Give Each Student a Mobile Phone?

Parents went ballistic when their kids at Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, California, were informed by Principal Earnie Graham that they would be required to wear student I.D. badges containing radio frequency identification chips whenever they were in school.

Graham, who also serves as the superintendent of the single-school district, told the parents that their children could be disciplined for boycotting the badges - and that he doesn't understand what all their angst is about.

"Sometimes when you are on the cutting edge, you get caught," Graham said, recounting the angry phone calls and notes he has received from parents.

In addition to the privacy concerns, parents are worried that the information on and inside the badges could wind up in the wrong hands and endanger their children, and that radio frequency technology might carry health risks.

Graham dismisses each objection, arguing that the devices do not emit any cancer-causing radioactivity, and that for now, they merely confirm that each child is in his or her classroom, rather than track them around the school like a global-positioning device. The 15-digit ID number that confirms attendance is encrypted, he said, and not linked to other personal information such as an address or telephone number.

For now. I like that. Does he not see that it is precisely that "for now" that the parents object to?

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Voice of Reason

And While I Think of It . . .

It isn't the elderly who happily fart out loud on the train home of an evening because they're wearing fucking iPods.

Collective Action Notes

A new link to your left for the above-named journal. In their own words:

"Collective Action Notes is a publication from Baltimore which documents and discusses different struggles (strikes, occupations, etc.) world-wide. We are interested in understanding class struggle and the different forms it takes in the present period, forms ranging from overt and highly visible struggles such as the French public sector strike wave in the winter of 1995 to more 'hidden ' forms of class struggle such as absenteeism. sabotage (broadly defined ), etc.

Loosely, it could be said CAN is sympathetic to issues of worker's autonomy and self-activity. Although no formally agreed upon political perspective exists at the present point, probably most participants would define themselves in one way or another as being critical of the traditional left, and close to class struggle anarchist/council communist views, again without being obsessed by old ideologies or labels (such as the historical divide between anarchism and marxism), which in most cases have been superceded by capitalist development itself.

CAN cooperates informally with the Echanges et Mouvement network in Paris. We also produce pamphlets and distribute literature and texts on computer disk by other non-U.S. based groups. Our most recent pamphlet is "From The Bottom Up", a collection of short articles by Anton Pannekoek. Write for a free sample issue."

Collective Action Notes
POB 39521
Balto., MD 21212

Mail to:

I'm Not Ageist: It's the Elderly Who Are the Problem

Nina at Infinite Thought has a funny story about visiting her racist granny and links to research that purports to show that elderly people aren't deliberately racist, they've just lost their inhibitory faculties.

It's an argument of dubious merit, to be honest; the idea that we are all influenced by stereotypes but are able to suppress our inclination to believe them, at least until we approach senility. This verges on a new form of cultural esssentialism. Rather than argue that we're all naturally racist but suppress it because it's not politically correct, we're now meant to accept that we're all "subconsciously" racist, not naturally, but because our culture is implicitly racist, and that the elderly are less susceptible to suppressing that cultural racism. By that logic, we can excuse the racism of the BNP on the grounds that they're just less inhibited about expressing the racism implicit in British culture, as if, somehow, they are the "truth" of our society rather than an expression of a reductio ad absurdum of nationalist ideology.

Anyway, I'm taking her anecdote too seriously. Particularly when the first thought that sprang to my mind was Catherine Tate's wonderfully hideous Racist Cockney Gran, the most appalling and irredeemable character in comedy today. Makes Larry David seem almost benign.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

For Armchair Revolutionaries Everywhere

The BBC reports that a new pan-Latin American TV channel, Telesur, has begun its first broadcast from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Communications minister Andres Izarra told viewers across Latin America that Telesur was intended to counter cultural imperialism, which he said had gone unchallenged in the region for 50 years.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to enable the Bush administration to begin broadcasting its own TV signals to Venezuela.

"Several international advisors to the new channel, including the Pakistani-British broadcaster and activist Tariq Ali, spoke against the attempts on Capitol Hill to get the US government to counter Telesur with broadcasts of its own."

Honda Civics

From today's edition of The Hindu:

"Gurgaon: Agitating workers of Honda Motorcycles and Scooters, joined by their families, clashed with police here for the second day today even as the State Government ordered a judicial inquiry into yesterday's incidents amidst outrage expressed in Parliament and elsewhere."

. . .

"Pitched battles were fought between the protesters and police, who fired rubber bullets, lobbed teargas shells and used batons to disperse the violent crowd that indulged in stone pelting and arson near the Government Hospital where injured workers are admitted.

The protesters, alleging that hundreds of their colleagues had gone "missing" from Government Hospitals and others were not being given proper treatment, attempted to manhandle Deputy Commissioner Sudhir Rajpal, shattered windshields of police vehicles and pelted stones."

. . .

"Widespread violence, which left scores injured, was witnessed yesterday after thousands of workers took out a march to protest against dismissal and suspension of some of their colleagues about a month back.

While 550 people were admitted in the Civil hospital last evening, hospital authorities this morning claimed that there were only 29 patients, unconfirmed reports said.

The situation reached a flashpoint when one Veerwati, claiming that her brother Khushiram, had gone missing from the hospital approached senior police officials and was allegedly manhandled by police personnel.

Angered by this, workers gathered at the hospital and indulged in brickbatting."

Read the rest at link, above.

"Get Me Vivien Westwood on the Phone!"

Aer Lingus staff have been getting justifiably steamed up over a leaked management memo in which a series of possible actions were mooted in order to ensure that the company's redundancy program "worked." Management were considering, among other options, rotating shifts in such a way as to inconvenience staff with families, introducing a new "tacky" and downmarket uniform in keeping with plans to turn Aer Lingus into a low-fare airline, and having a "word in the ear" of some staff members just to let them know they had no future with the company.

Management has said that there was no intention of putting these suggestions into effect, but Aer Lingus employees have in recent months been reporting incidents to their unions of harassment and intimidation in keeping with the strategy outlined in the memo.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Pictures of Maimed Children Sell Records*

I thought this was a very sad and tawdry attempt at exploiting the suffering of others. How the individual involved can imagine that it will reflect well on him is beyond my comprehension. It is worse than doing nothing because his very anonymity renders suspect any sudden pursuit of popularity he makes, even if he claims that it is purely to benefit charuddy.

Just donate money, mate.

*With apologies to Chumbawamba.

Big Brother Isn't Watching

I have this poster framed and looking over me in my study, just to remind me I'm being watched. Now I find myself wondering if I am and if "secure" was ever meant to refer to the passengers at all. Perhaps it refers to the buses and trains.

Friday, July 22, 2005

But Will He Be Cross-Examined by the CIA?

Ireland's minister for justice, Michael McDowell (he of the treaty signing below), is being sued by a Northern Irish paper for comparing it to a Nazi propaganda sheet before a single issue had been published, reports the Irish Echo here.

He's about as subtle as a Parazone enema.

You'll Just Have to Wait

I know you're dying for more book reviews, aren't you?

Well, I don't care, you're getting them anyway.


You can look forward to a couple of wonderful C.L.R. James/Johnson-Forest tomes, David Harvey's The New Imperialism, Immanuel Wallerstein's The Decline of American Power, Fintan O'Toole and Tony Kinsella's Post Washington, and Eric Hobsbawm's The New Century. And maybe the latest Maeve Binchy too.

Yes, you're right, the new year's resolution is right up shit creek.

I'm Still Confused

Suicide bombers who have their dry run AFTER the real thing?

"There Will Be Nothing Like This in Europe"

The Drogheda Independent reports plans to build a €30 million water park on the site of an old factory near Drogheda, on the theme of Atlantis.

We've already got a themed water park in Ireland. It's called The Midlands.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

You Touch Me Deep Inside

Not a porn reference, but a way of introducing these cracking pictures courtesy of Technology Review's June issue. Better half recently underwent a brain scan for what transpired to be a (relatively) unserious condition, and the images we were shown were pretty good (eyeballs, dentures and so on) but nothing like these.

Now we're through that particular cloud, it's pleasant to enjoy these pictures purely for their artistic merit.

I See McManus Hasn't Mentioned THIS

From the Irish Examiner:

"US INVESTIGATORS, including CIA agents, will be allowed interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy, under an agreement signed between Ireland and the US last week.

Suspects will also have to give testimony and allow property to be searched and seized even if what the suspect is accused of is not a crime in Ireland.

Under 'instruments of agreement' signed last week by Justice Minister Michael McDowell, Ireland and the US pledged mutual co-operation in the investigation of criminal activity. It is primarily designed to assist America's so-called 'war on terror' in the wake of the September 11 atrocities."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Signs That The End of the World is Near

Team U.S.A. ranked 6 in FIFA's latest standings, ahead of England and France.

Well, Where Can You Go After Co. Meath?

Eminem says he'll quit after Slane Castle gig.

I guess he'll have achieved everything he ever wanted once he's visited Navan.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What a Lovely Summer's Day

John Tyndall is dead.


At Home with the Intelligentsia. No. 22: Isaiah Berlin

(Full image shows Berlin refereeing a two-a-side tabletop soccer match between gerbils.)

Genocide in Sudan

I googled Nat Hentoff after reading his powerful piece in The Progressive about the ongoing genocide in Darfur and the CIA's secret meetings with Major General Salah Abdallah Gosh, the head of the Mukhabarat, Sudan's counterpart of the CIA. Gosh was Sudan's primary liaison with Osama bin Laden back in the 1990s when bin Laden was forming Al Qaeda in Sudan.

Hentoff's most recent piece I could find is here. Give it a read.

And Now, Irony with Added Schadenfreude

The July/August issue of the Skeptical Inquirer reports on the April 12 abduction of six-week-old Graciana Heughan in Toronto. The abductor was Graciana's mother, Lisa, whose father is Anthony Carr, a prominent Toronto area psychic billed as the "World's Most Documented Psychic." Carr has appeared in tabloids such as The Sun, The Globe, The National Examiner, and on Fox News. According to Carr's Web site, "politicians, royalty, Hollywood stars, and media people know that Carr is in a class all by himself. He has done readings for Sylvester Stallone, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Lillian Gish, Richard Burton, Liberace, and Mikail [sic] Gorbachev."

Nevertheless, shortly after the abduction, Carr appeared on the Canadian television network CTV saying he had no idea where his granddaughter was and pleading for his daughter to turn herself in. His allegedly "amazing" psychic abilities apparently didn't warn him that his granddaughter would be abducted, nor did they tell him where she could be found and rescued.

The child was recovered safely early the next morning, and Lisa Heughan, who had a history of drug abuse and mental illness, was charged with the abduction along with an unidentified man.

Who Said Irony Was Dead?

From the July Reader's Digest, a profile of Don Schoendorfer, whose nonprofit organization Free Wheelchair Mission has delivered more than 63,000 all-terrain wheelchairs at no charge around the world:

"Today, the chairs are made in two Chinese factories and can be delivered anywhere in the world for just $41.17 They've been shipped to 45 countries-Angola, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, China, India, Peru, Fiji, as well as Iraq, where U.S. Marines passed them out to hundreds of civilians in 2004."

I suspect that ONLY the Reader's Digest and U.S. News & World Report could print stuff like that without sensing the potential for irony.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Who's Laughing Now?

Heath croaks.

Take Off Your Pants!

An installation by Joshua White and Michael Smith at the Christine Burgin gallery in New York satirizes the supposedly liberatory potential of the Internet. In their eyes it boils down to men in their underwear getting their e-mail.

But we know better, don't we?

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Right Stuff

Spotted via TchadForum

"The hiring of a Muslim woman as a pilot by the Kingdom Holding Company has been opposed by an associate professor of Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.

Sheikh Yousuf Al-Ahmad, who teaches Shariah law at the university, was responding to a full-page advertisement by Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, congratulating Captain Hanadi Zakariya Hindi for becoming the first Saudi woman to get a commercial pilot's license."

Read the rest here

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

A bit of Aramaic for you on a Friday morning, courtesy, in fact, of Gore Vidal, whose piece in the June 27 Nation I just encountered. Worth a read for his comments on the findings of John Conyers's report Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohioconcerning electronic voting, something we've been guinea pigs for in County Meath.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hold That Thought #2

“The Marxist organization has developed certain characteristics which are peculiar to it and are still deeply embedded in it. When, after years of work, it recognizes that its hopes have failed, it does not dissolve. It turns further inward, depending on an ever-decreasing and hardening core. It continues to carry out its tasks on a routine level. What it is doing has become a way of life. There are in many countries such organizations which are doing what they have been doing for thirty years and will continue to do it until the end of time without ever expecting to get any further than they are. They follow a pattern.

a) They become preoccupied with problems of organization, relationships inside the organization, the human and material resources they control.

b) They develop the most profound historical reasons for their existence, which they combine with the most subjective analyses of their own personal needs and interests. Thus they attempt to justify their useless existence to themselves and their circle of contacts.

c) They tend to seek association with former bitter political enemies of the same political type as they are, whose ideas and methods of thought and action are similar and familiar to them. They pull out of old drawers cherished political distinctions, polish them up and, claiming that these hold and have always held the key to the future, trot them out on all conceivable occasions to keep their political pots boiling. Their mode of existence has its basis in some petty publication which they know is going nowhere but which they keep alive to give the impression that they are still actively engaged in revolutionary work. On this basis they are always ready for what they call a discussion.

This is not mere history. There are, in every European country in particular but not only in Europe, hundreds and even thousands of such people. An investigator for the London Times recently reported on a long list and he merely touched the borders. Some of them have ensconced themselves in the mass Labor parties where they live peacefully, still preaching Marxism. They are not only ruins. They corrupt and ruin the potentialities of hundreds of young people every year, and the spectacle of this futility keeps many others from Marxism.”

From Facing Reality (1958)

by C. L. R. James, Grace Lee, and Pierre Chaulieu (Cornelius Castoradis) pp. 132-133.

Bad Decision?

I've been informed this week by Uncut magazine that I have won 2 tickets to this weekends Guilfest. And like the idiot I am I've returned them in order to watch Alty vs. Greenock Morton in a pre-season friendly. Having checked out the bands I'm not too bothered (why did I enter the comp in the first place?) but it's still a freebie and I'll probably never win anything again. The buggers could've told me before I'd bought my season ticket at least!

Just Curious

Why would suicide bombers use timers?

Could it be that the bombers did not know what they were carrying or, if they did, believed they were transporting them somewhere else?

"The Observer has been told that police have virtually ruled out the terrorists having been on a suicide mission as the injuries to commuters on the tube trains indicate that the bombs were placed on the floor, probably near the doors. They have established that all the tube blasts occurred within 50 seconds of each other, suggesting the bombs were detonated by timers, not people. The details suggest a more professional operation than was thought at first."

None of the bombers seems to have been particularly radical in his beliefs according to the various profiles, although of course we await more details on what they got up to abroad.

If they were carrying timers, their deaths may be explained simply by the fact that they miscalculated. But even that leaves a serious question: Who set the timers?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Oh No! He's having a Go at the Buddhists Now!

I was just reading a back issue of Tricycle magazine, a "Buddhist Review," in which the "renegade lama" Nawang Gehlek Rimpoche is profiled. Renegade because he drinks, used to smoke, has had sex, and renounced his vows as a monk. Pretty much a renegade then.

But nothing as compared to the wonderful T. Lobsang Rampa (how can you discuss Buddhism and not mention him?), also known as Cyril Hoskins, an Irish plumber from Plympton. The link above will connect you to what I think is possibly the greatest story ever told (or not, but it never fails to bring a smile to these jaded, cynical lips).

Assured of a Big Irish Welcome

We just spotted a busload of National Review readers on Westmoreland Street (they all alighted with their NR baseball caps on - you can't miss the fuckers) and it transpires that this "journal of conservative commentary" has organised a British Isles cruise for its readers, visiting Waterford (why?!), Dublin (today), Liverpool tomorrow, Belfast on Friday, then Leith, Edinburgh, and Guernsey.

The magazine's blurb for the cruise says:

"What an adventure it will be! Alongside National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. for eleven days of unrivaled conservative revelry will be Lawrence Kudlow, the happy supply-side warrior and star of CNBC's Kudlow and Cramer; Robert Bork, the acclaimed jurist and legal scholar; Peggy Noonan, author, essayist, and commentator supreme; Paul Johnson, the renowned historian (his Modern Times remains a classic); David Pryce-Jones--NR's Senior Editor and renowned Middle East expert (his essential books include The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs), as well as NR Editor Rich Lowry, Washington Editor Kate O'Beirne, Managing Editor Jay Nordlinger, and Editor-at-Large John O'Sullivan."


"The National Review 2005 British Isles Cruise launches July 10 from Dover, home of the famous White Cliffs. There you will board the luxurious Crystal Symphony and depart for ten days of unrivalled cruising, stopping at some of the most famous and must-visit ports in Europe."

Mmm. Not the way I'd describe Waterford, Liverpool, or Belfast, especially during marching season, but there you go.

What else?

"In addition to the seminars, there is all the hoopla and fun and revelry that mark an NR voyage: This trip will feature three wonderful cocktail receptions (always a great opportunity to talk directly with our guest speakers and get a photo or two or ten taken with them), two late-night, pool-side smokers (a world-class H. Upmann cigar, a snifter of cognac, new friends, delightful conversation--this is the life!), and finally, on at least two nights, intimate dining, over a gourmet meal, with our editors and guest speakers!"

Presumably these Upmann cigars will be the Dominican rip-offs, not the genuine Cubans.

The Crystal Symphony holds 1,080 passengers. God forbid that they have the whole ship!! (Does NR have that many readers, and how would such mental and moral pygmies accumulate the necessary cash? Of course, the race goes not to the swift, bread goes not to the wise, etc.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Source of All Evil in the World Discovered in Kentucky

The organisation Answers in Genesis is in the process of building the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, due to open in 2007 or 2008. This biblically inspired history and science "experience" (although it calls itself a museum) claims to lay bare the “bankruptcy of evolution” while telling the true story of the Universe—all 6,000 years of it, most of which is laid out in the first book of the Old Testament.

Don't miss the Museum walk-through, here, presenting highlights that include No. 15: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Given that this place is meant to be a museum, I guess we're perfectly entitled to ask: Is that THE Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

Also check out the picture of ministry founder Ken Ham holding his hard hat. Now, I realize that this is an ad hominem statement, but anyone who looks that Neanderthal doesn't need a hard hat.

What was it Bill Hicks said about Creationists looking really unevolved?

From One Monarch to Another

Fidel sends a message of Solidarity to the Queen, from Granma:

Message from President Fidel Castro to the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Her Majesty Elizabeth II

Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Your Majesty:

We have learned with profound consternation of the attack with explosives on the public transportation system in London, which has claimed dozens of human lives and left hundreds injured.

At this time of mourning for the United Kingdom, permit me to express to you and your people our heartfelt condolences.

I can assure you that the Cuban people, who have been a victim of terrorism for more than four decades, share your grief and condemn this unjustifiable attack on the British people.

I would like to express our sincere solidarity, and at the same time, reiterate my declaration of my highest regards.

Fidel Castro Ruz
President of the Council of State and Government of the Republic of Cuba

Who the Fuck Are Malaga?

Counago on the move.

Monday, July 11, 2005

red ken's statement on the london bombings

it brought a lump to my throat when i read it so i'm posting it here for posterity:

This was a cowardly attack, which has resulted in injury and loss of life. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been injured, or lost loved ones. I want to thank the emergency services for the way they have responded.

Following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11th in America we conducted a series of exercises in London in order to be prepared for just such an attack. One of the exercises undertaken by the government, my office and the emergency and security services was based on the possibility of multiple explosions on the transport system during the Friday rush hour. The plan that came out of that exercise is being executed today, with remarkable efficiency and courage, and I praise those staff who are involved.

I'd like to thank Londoners for the calm way in which they have responded to this cowardly attack and echo the advice of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair - do everything possible to assist the police and take the advice of the police about getting home today.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a terrorist attack. We did hope in the first few minutes after hearing about the events on the Underground that it might simply be a maintenance tragedy. That was not the case. I have been able to stay in touch through the very excellent communications that were established for the eventuality that I might be out of the city at the time of a terrorist attack and they have worked with remarkable effectiveness. I will be in continual contact until I am back in London.

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
It's been a week of grimness and pain... and that was just the Live 8 concert!
I wonder if any of you have relatives or friends in London and if everybody is allright.

Gene Genius

I love this sort of stuff (Pdf file).

From the May issue of BioScience magazine, a brief report on the discovery that a mutant form of thale cress, the first plant to be selected for genome sequencing, is able to restore genes missing from the parent plants but present in the grandparents or great-grandparents. How bizarre is that?

But also, how awesome?

Friday, July 08, 2005

like a student using a tortuous simile....

not sure how authentic these are - but i suspect you can't invent genius like this - and god, i laughed...

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a tumble dryer.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a lamppost.

McMurphy fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a paper bag filled with vegetable soup.

Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.

Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the centre.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Yorkat 6:36 p.m. travelling at 55 mph, the other from Peterborough at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 m ph.

The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the full stop after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

The thunder was ominous sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.

The red brick wall was the colour of a brick-red crayon.

Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.

The door had been forced, as forced as the dialogue during the interview portion of Family Fortunes.

The plan was simple, like my brother Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for awhile.

Oh, Jason, take me!" she panted, her chest heaving like a student on 99p-a-pint night.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter."

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.

The knife was as sharp as the tone used by Glenda Jackson MP in her first several points of parliamentary procedure made to Robin Cook MP, Leader of the House of Commons, in the House Judiciary Committee hearings on the suspension of Keith Vaz MP.

The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free cashpoint.

The dandelion swayed in the gentle breeze like an oscillating electric fan set on medium.

It was a working class tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with their power tools. :shock:

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a dustcart reversing.

She was as easy as the Daily Star crossword.

She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature British beef.

She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

Her voice had that tense, grating quality, like a first-generation thermal paper fax machine that needed a band tightened.

It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

But I've Met Aristocracy. That's EXACTLY What They're Like

If you can't wait (and I couldn't) for the U.K. release of The Aristocrats, here's a site that provides you with many variations on the same disgusting joke.

Warning: Adolescent content.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Counago & Spaves Caption Competition

(Take your daughter to work day backfires for one unfortunate bobby)

Those Olympic Bid Teams in Full

Given that London was represented by Seb Coe and Princess Anne and STILL won, we must assume:

Paris: Jose Bove and Jean-Marie Le Pen

Madrid: Torquemada and Generalissimo Francisco Franco


New York: Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki

Blitzkrieg Bocadillo

Tasty if not tasteful rip-off of Ramones courtesy of Back Seat Drivers blog.

Madrid Win Nothing This Season

Including this.

More on the Punitive State

Beatrix Campbell in today's Guardian, discussing the National Offender Management Service (NOMS):

"Noms's mission is to reduce re-offending, but custody yields a 60% recidivism rate. And putting more and more people in prison actually puts public safety at risk, says Professor Michael Jacobson, New York's former chief probation officer. He has been in Britain this month arguing that, contrary to myth, the city's crime was cut in the 1990s not by prison but by community punishment and probation. So, why privatise probation, rather than focus on reforming the big but unsuccessful prison service? We are left to guess - and my guess is that the government's view of what works with offenders has become that nothing works, that criminals are part of a larger residuum with criminal tendencies, and if we can't make them earn a legal living wage, and we can't kill them, all we can do is control them. So, criminal justice replaces social justice."

And Did He Hand Back the Archives?

George Bush visits Copenhagen.

The Night Chicago Spied

Interesting article here from the May issue of Wired by Noah Shachtman, "Spycam Force," about the introduction of surveillance cameras to the streets of Chicago. Just consider the opening paragraphs:

"On a warm afternoon on Chicago's West Side, a young African-American man leans against the wall of the One Stop Food and Liquor store at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Homan Street. His puffy black jacket is so oversize that the collar hangs halfway down his back. Thirty feet up, a camera mounted on a telephone pole swivels toward him.

Three miles away, in a bunkerlike, red granite building near Greektown, Ron Huberman watches the young man on a PC screen. "You see that guy?" asks Huberman, the 33-year-old chief of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications. "He's pitching dope - you can tell. Fucker."

The corner of Chicago and Homan used to be a haven for dealers slinging heroin and rock cocaine, the heart of a gangbanger free-fire zone. In 2003, the Windy City had 598 homicides, making it the country's murder capital.

"We've gotta figure out where's he keeping the goods," says Huberman, his voice breaking from a bout with the flu. "We're gonna go on the air" - call for a police car - "and bust him."

With a move of his mouse, Huberman pans to the right. We're looking down at a second man, in a beige coat. He has a brown paper bag in one hand and a wad of cash in the other. "He's involved," Huberman says, staring hard at the screen. No cop, even undercover, could ever get this close for this long. But the cameras - housed in checkerboard-patterned, 2-foot-tall boxes the police here call pods - can zoom in so tight I can see the wisps of a mustache. Huberman decides not to have his suspected dealers picked up; too much of an Enemy of the State move to pull with a reporter around, perhaps. But the footage will be stored for review by antinarcotics teams. "Now you see the power of what we're doing?" Huberman asks, still staring at the screen."

Indeed, I think we do. You've just made a strong case for free provision of hoodies to anyone who wants to walk the streets.

In their book The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV, Clive Norris and Gary Armstrong report that in their study of monitoring in the UK, during 592 hours, 698 people were surveilled as being of primary concern, of which 7 percent were women, the majority were young white men, and there was an overrepresentation of black youth and the "scruffy" or "subcultural." (Perhaps less surprising was the revelation that many surveillers, from private security firms, used the cameras to ogle women in the street and even brought in videos from home to watch).

Couple this attitude with the late-20th-century turn to the "punitive state" outlined by David Garland in his book The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society and you can see where this is leading. The notion that crime can never be eradicated, because the poor and indolent are always with us, but they can be caught and locked away, providing all of society is willing to be surveilled, and you have a world in which it's safe to walk the streets only because privacy in the public sphere has been entirely surrendered.

Shachtman at least acknowledges some concern:

"All this technology has some longtime Chicago community activists squirming. History has provided several reasons to mistrust the police. Former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley's notorious Red Squad snooped on such groups as the League of Women Voters and the American Jewish Congress, and kept files on 200,000 Chicagoans. The unit was officially disbanded in 1981, but in 2002, the police infiltrated five antiglobalization protest groups and then undertook four more unspecified "spying operations" a year later, according to the Chicago Tribune. Reports of corruption on the force are still all too common. "It's almost inevitable, considering the nature of the Chicago police, that we're going to hear about abuses regarding this technology," says Representative Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther who has represented the South Side in Congress for 13 years."

And not only in Chicago, I suspect.

Related tangentially to this, I was interested to read this snippet in the latest issue of Lobster (linked left):

According to the Copenhagen Post of February 20, 2004, during the early years of the cold war,

" . . .the CIA was provided with a complete copy of all Danish archives, which was transported over the Atlantic in the form of 244 spools of 16 mm film and 8 spools of 32 mm film containing over 400,000 pages of sensitive and top-secret information about hundreds of thousands of Danish citizens, enabling the American authorities to reject "unsuitable" individuals applying for visas.""

Never could trust those Danes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Much Ado About Not Much

First report from Indymedia Ireland via Anarkismo (both left).

BBC Gives Voice to Anarchists

Well, one.

Under the Flower Beds, the Beach!

Or, as the front of the Irish Examiner had it today, "Anarchy in Edinburgh."

Personally, I prefer this version of events from the Irish Independent:

"UP to 1,000 anarchists were blamed for bringing Edinburgh to a standstill yesterday and provoking fierce confrontations with the police..."

"The turning point came when a scuffle broke out in Prince's Street Gardens, in which anarchists tore up plants from flower beds and threw them at police."

Tore up plants to throw at the police? Someone could have been hurt!

Not those individuals armed with batons, shields, and helmets, though, I imagine.

. . . and Start Again

I'm pleased to say Jonathan Derbyshire has noticed my request below, cast out into the ether, and posts a considered response to Ben Watson's review. I'm still not in a position to make any major contribution on the subject yet. I'm clearly the last of the 40-somethings to have got round to reading Simon Reynolds's book. Jonathan thinks highly of it, anyway.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Rip It Up

For those of you currently wading through Simon Reynolds's book Rip It Up, there's a disparaging review of it here in the latest issue of Radical Philosophy by Ben Watson of I'd be keen to hear opinions of his review, particularly because I think he misrepresents Jon Savage's England's Dreaming, which I'm close to finishing.

Down With That Sort of Thing

An article by Simon Brouder from The Kerryman:

A RACY stag party striptease in a Tralee bar has raised the hackles of pub regulars who claim they were forced to watch a full frontal strip show while out for a quiet drink.

An angry Mrs L Murphy from Tralee who contacted The Kerryman about the stripper, said she had been enjoying a drink with her husband and friends in The Rambling House on Russell Street when the mood was shattered by a raunchy strip show near their table.

According to Mrs Murphy, shortly after 1am on Sunday June 19 a stripper arrived at the pub and performed a strip for a stag party group that were celebrating in the pub.

Mrs Murphy, who requested that her full name be witheld, said her companions were stunned by the display.

“My husband and myself were in the pub with friends to celebrate Father’s Day when all of a sudden a stripper appeared and did a full on strip right in front of us. I’m a modern, liberal woman but I found it very uncomfortable to watch and my friends were all the same,” she said.

“I don’t mind if people go to a private club if they want to watch that sort of thing but seeing it in a bar is a bit over the top,” Mrs Murphy added.

Mrs Murphy said a member of the stag party group later came over to her table and started making lewd gestures with an inflatable pig. That was very uncomfortable and it got worse when he started asking me to join in,” Mrs Murphy told the Kerryman.

Management at the Rambling house said they had no knowledge of the incident and said the pub never hired strippers to perform.

“We only ever hire bands... things would have to be pretty bad before we’d start getting strippers in. The only way it could possibly have happened is if the stag party hired the stripper and she did her show in a corner. It’s a big bar but I’m sure someone would have seen it and stopped it,” said manager John L. McElligott.

All the Tennis News That Matters

My partner and I retained the Men's Doubles Over-40s trophy at Laytown/Bettystown Tennis Club last night, but we were knocked out of the main event in the semis, 6-4, 6-4, immediately afterwards, by the present holders, two 20-somethings who'd smugly watched us wear ourselves out from the comfort of the clubhouse. In the Mixed event, my (incredibly hot) partner and I had to scratch in the semis because she's headed off to L.A. today with her real-life partner, leaving behind only fond and erotic memories of her apparel selection and her phenomenal forehand.

And apparently Venus Williams won.

No Gods, No Masters

What a great way to start a Friday; reading this excerpt of an interview with Frank Sinatra from the Feb '62 Playboy at The Big Blowdown, then reading the rest here.

For those of us too young to remember, the Rat Pack seemed like some louche sexist mob-based slice of Americana that represented everything worth protesting against in the 60s. To read Frank citing Bertrand Russell, Albert Schweitzer, and Albert Einstein as role models and actually having some sort of coherent and progressive code of decency, well, that's just mind-blowing, you dig?