Thursday, August 31, 2006


Nuisance Neighbour

From Labour MP Diane Abbott's 'Sunday Times Magazine' interview two weeks ago:

'I have good and bad de-stressing mechanisms, and going to the tearoom for a bacon sandwich is my bad one. My better one is listening to dance and soul music. Living in Hackney, you can have it on very loud and nobody's bothered.'

She just reckons nobody's bothered - I bet someone is. We probably ought to get her an ASBO, just in case.

Noise pollution.


Post Mortem

Per Rob Hinkley:

'Royal Mail has suspended a postie for telling customers how to stop receiving the unaddressed junk which Royal Mail are paid to shove directly through your letter-box. Quite apart from the dubious ethics of suspending an employee for telling his customers about an opt-out service his firm offers, this is a spectacular commercial own goal. Like everyone else, I was entirely unaware it was possible to opt out of this until Royal Mail made a national news story out of it.'

This seems to be fairly typical of the view most people are taking to this story, but I have to say I think it's wrongheaded. I can understand why Rob calls it 'dubious ethics', but to turn it on its head, why should Royal Mail continue to pay the salary of an employee who is going out of his way to deliberately cost his employer money? I worked at a cinema a few months back, and if I'd stood at the entrance telling everyone to go to the competitor down the road, I could hardly have been surprised if they'd given me the boot.

What's more, what nobody is thinking of in this rush to opt-out of junk mail that's now sweeping the nation is its ultimate effect. Royal Mail have already announced increases in stamp prices way above the rate of inflation for the next ten years - taking away one of their major sources of revenue is only going to hit the customer's pocket even harder, for prices will rise even more. All this could be avoided - is it really so hard to transfer a fistful of paper from the doormat to the bin once in a while? I live in Manchester, and we got loads most days, but I can't say carrying it a few yards phases me, and just once in a while, it comes in handy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


No Sense Of Place

Hungbunny is pointing out that quizzes are often very easy; Tony T is complaining that the questions can be bollocks. However, it's where the twain meet that the fun really lies. This is from an episode of 'This Morning' a fair few years ago now:

John Leslie: Which European country is famous for its tulips?
Contestant: Is it Holland?
John Leslie: Well, I'll give it you . . . It's actually Amsterdam.

I love daytime TV.

Monday, August 28, 2006


'Religiously I'm Speaking On The Science 'Cause, We've Gotta Live On Science Alone'*

Over on Fisking Central, they have thrown down a gauntlet - who will argue against, or more realistically, take the piss out of, this article. The article in question, which must have a possibility of being the most-fascinatingly-incoherent-post-with-most-misguidedly-authoritative-tone ever published, is by a man on the 'Blogs For Bush' site who believes that 'science is dead'. In some respects, this is knocking fruit from pretty low-hanging branches, but what the hey, I've never been above that.

Mr Noonan, for that's who the author is, enunciates surprisingly few examples to prove such a sweeping statement. Then again, why bother with proof? His alternative is faith, and that of course requires no proof at all, and is therefore much more reliable. Don't take my word for it:

'Why did science stray from the path of truth? I think it is because we ceased educating the men of science with a knowledge of religion - a knowledge, that is, of genuine truth, genuine reason, and the relationship of man to creation, and his Creator. When science became a narrowly forcused search for something immediately practical, it was bound to eventually be hijacked by people who wanted to use the cover of science for very impractical efforts.'

'When I went into a field full of blackberries yesterday trying to pick them, it was inevitable I would return home with a handful of stinging nettles.'

He's quite right of course - science is best left in the hands of religious types, who had such a great track record of treating the discoveries of people like Copernicus with such dignity.

Being serious, the reason his article makes no sense whatsoever, and is blinded by factual inaccuracies and tautological theories, is his total lack of understanding on a grand narrative scale. If you read his piece, it becomes clear that he treats 'science' as if it were a club with a set number of people and a manifesto for its existence, like the Freemasons or the Liberal Democrats or the Wang Chung Appreciation Society or something. In some respects, that's slightly understandable, because he's religious, and that's kind of how religions work. Just as in the Wang Chung Appreciation Society, most think that 'Dancehall Days' was their greatest hit, and some reckon 'Everybody Have Fun Tonight' was better, so in religion, most reckon gay people shouldn't become bishops, but some reckon they could. However, despite minor disagreements, these groups are defined by their own (sometimes unwritten) manifestos - the WCAS decide their favourite song according to whether or not Wang Chung recorded it, while religions decide their rules based upon interpretations of a holy book, or the speeches of a great leader.

In other words, these organisations are structures. Science isn't a structure, it's a very loose word for processes. Imagine that I'm sat in front of the computer, trying to write a witty blog post that people will actually care about. It's really hot. I think to myself - it's hot, so global warming must be happening. Bollocks, right? Because you can't extrapolate a trend from a single result. It isn't science because the process is flawed. The conclusion may or may not be right, but it's irrelevant. It's still not scientific even if it is right. This is why comparing science and religion is totally daft - you're not comparing the same things. If Mr Noonan remains this unaware of the difference between a structure and a process, he'll end up going to his Blogs For Bush meetings in the nude, unable to comprehend the differences between the structure of his suit and the process of trying to decide whether to wear the suit, the hatstand or last month's tiramisu.

He illustrates his point with examples of 'scientific' hoaxes - Piltdown Man, ALAR etc - but these are a list of hoaxes or incidents of bad methodology, which were subsequently later revealed as such. Science the process discovered that they were wrong. As a result, they weren't science, but pseudoscience. I find some of his claims hilarious:

'The main thing was that science could only thrive as it did from about 1650 until 1850 when everyone agreed on the rules.'

Maybe his laptop is powered by moonbeams. Hold on, I'd forgotten that God handed electricity to Thomas Edison in an earthenware jug.

In the comments, he contradicts himself:

'So, the Age of Science is died between about 1850 and 1950. Never again will such a man-centered construct, I think, be held up as a paradigm...and good riddance, if you ask me.'

Because the moon landings happened when God threw down a celestial rope ladder for Armstrong and Aldrin to climb up.

Another classic:

'From what I understand, no educated person has held the world to be flat for at least 3,000 that time frame includes all of Christianity, and therefor all educated Christians, we would have to say that never, not even once, has an educated Christian thought the world flat...'

Well, he's only wrong by a factor of ten. In fact, most people still believed the earth was flat at the time of Columbus. This lot still do. By the way - there's a reason why their slogan is 'deprogramming the masses since 1547'.

Or this:

'The real destructiveness of the Darwinists comes in where they demand that nothing but Darwinism be taught, and that no questioning of Darwinism be allowed - this is a negation of science.'

I have no problem whatsoever with you trying to find scientific alternatives to evolution through, you know, processes and evidence. Good luck with that.

Even better:

'It is good to keep in mind, Georgia, that we're no smarter than the ancients - indeed, we may be less smart than they were. We know more because we've had a longer time to gather and transmit information, but we're no more clever than they are. Do you really think that they, looking up at the spherical Moon, couldn't conceive of a spherical earth?'

No, that's right, we're much more stupid than people thousands of years ago. Well, at any rate, he is.

You just have to love this discussion. More to the point, you have to love even more a writer who continues to insist throughout a comments section in which even the sort of right-wing Republicans who regularly hang out on a site with a name like 'Blogs For Bush' are accusing him of being obscurantistly stupid, and yet after several hundred comments he's still going:

'That is the precise problem - science has de-coupled itself from religion; reason has refused to work with faith. We have half educated people.'

'I try to look at the whole picture - not just bits of it and, worse, take those bits and try to extrapolate them in to the whole.'

And all the while a fellow by the name of 'Jeremiah' is shouting IN CAPITAL LETTERS!:

'God says - " I am the ALPHA and the OMEGA"

'Which translates into - The BEGINNING and the END!

'He also says: "There was NO ONE BEFORE ME, and there will be NO ONE AFTER ME!"'




'Get it?'

Uuuuuh . . . . no?

His writing style reminds me of something. Hold on, let me tune in my radio:

'But when she was walking on down the road
She heard a sound that made her heart explode
He whispered to her to get on the back
"I'll take you on ride from here to eternity"

[Chorus: (2 times)]
Hell ain't a bad place
Hell is from here to eternity'

Iron Maiden, 'From Here To Eternity'.

Oh my God - he makes less sense than Bruce Dickinson.

Oh, by the way, I hear God just loves MORE FEMALE NUDITY ON TELEVISION! After all, he did create Eve, and I'm pretty sure he was chuffed afterwards. He revealed it to me himself, so I expect the nation's TV programmers to get on the matter as fast as possible. The DIVINE ALMIGHTY can't wait long!

One final interesting thing to note is his selectiveness about what science qualifies as good and what doesn't. He uses the opening date of 1650 for a reason - Copernicus was obviously all right. Yet surely the same criticisms of today's scientists are true of those in the Middle Ages? Were they not also motivated by personal gain and glory? Of course, the real reason for this harking back to a mythical golden age of science is his a very modern objection that when people talk about matters scientific these days, they tend to pay little attention to those who approach the table waving the Good Book, and for that I say 'amen, brother'.

*The Dandy Warhols, 'I Am A Scientist'

Friday, August 18, 2006


A Political Hot Potato

Via Samizdata, we learn that this government have introduced 3000 new criminal offences, of which I would guess about 2900 are completely futile and needless, and they give an excellent example:

'Polish Potatoes (Notification) (England) Order 2004:
No person shall, in the course of business, import into England potatoes which he knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes.'

It's just typical of the greasy Poles to try and offload their Papist potatoes on us, but we're a decent Protestant country. Can't they see we don't want their Vatican vegetables?

For God's sake, I've only just managed to get over the Irish trying to foist their rotten crops on us.

On a different note, I shall be away for a bit. Probably just over a week.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


No Smoke Without Fire

Clairwil has a post up about the ludicrous response of some people to a photograph taken of Melanie Griffith giving her 17-year-old daughter a light for a cigarette. Now, you might assume that this isn't exactly a big deal, but you'd be wrong according to these lot. My favourite quote:

'Well just look at the way this "MOTHER" dresses, looks like a tramp, changes husbands every few years, and to quote the song "HAS THREE DIFFERENT KIDS WITH THREE DIFFERENT MEN", plus has has been in rehab for COCAINE and VICODEN addiction at least twice. She has already admitted to smoking WEED with her son. Please, where are the child welfare authorities and where is this kids father? Don Johnson, are you in the house?'

GOSH! LOOK how this "MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC" uses hyperbole to make a COMPLETELY INANE POINT. I mean, MY GOD! You know, I TOTALLY think child services should take her children away from her, even though this one is practically an adult. Oh, and what do you MEAN why don't I look after my own briar patch first? And NO, "Don Johnson" ISN'T a nickname for my husband's PENIS'.

It should be though. I'm going to nickname my penis Don Johnson. The opportunity's there, folks.

Clairwil goes on to make a series of excellent points, of which this is the most pertinent:

'Perhaps it is a symptom of a decadent society that people overreact so much to self inflicted tobacco deaths. Think of all the poor bastards in the world that die against their will. Most of them are lucky to get some pampered westerner poncing about in a sweatshop produced wristband in protest at their deaths. Yet the smokers slow suicide mission is continually interrupted with unwanted advice and nagging.'

Indeed. It's an increasingly wide trend across society. People who doubtless lead perfect lifestyles living only on air and love come up to you and berate you for having a cigarette or eating a bag of crisps. I would point out to these public benefactors that their advice is completely unwanted, but for the most part they know that already.

It genuinely irks me that people assume they have the right - even the duty - to inform you in usually repetitive, boring detail exactly what you're doing that's going to snuff out your existence a bit earlier. To which the appropriate response is: why don't you look after your body and let me look after mine?

There's a serious point in this. Like most people in Britain, I'm in favour of legalised abortion. Like - I suspect - most of those, I'm in favour of it because what a woman chooses to do with her own reproductive organs is her concern. Yet while in this instance we support and even champion the right for people to manage their bodies how they see fit, the same right for smokers is ridiculed or denied. One matter is personal, the other is an issue for Public Concern.

Melanie Griffith's daughter is old enough to know whether or not she wants to smoke. It's not like her mother's got her pinned to the ground and is forcing the ciggie between her clenched lips. Meanwhile, these joyless whiners should go and find something actually important to moan about, and let Miss Griffith do with her lungs what she wants.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


A TV Review Of 'Come Dine With Me'

Channel 4, circa 4 pm, weekdays

It's alright. Not as good as 'Coach Trip'.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Assorted Thoughts

- Over on Saving The World, they are getting themselves pissed and blogging about it, and it's most amusing. I wouldn't touch the Old Nick though if I were them. I remember drinking a bottle of that stuff on a coach trip once. Beastly it was. Still, if you use it in cooking, it turns all your food blue. Good for a laugh, so long as you don't mind throwing the food away uneaten afterwards.

- Some funny moaning about the Metropolitan Police.

- Kieran - whose whole blog is hilarious - mocks pandas for their procreational helplessness.

- I decided to follow the Ill Man's advice (sort of) and watch 'Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe' on BBC4 tonight, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprise at how funny he was, particularly the section on 'Dragon's Den', which had me in stitches. Good point about the distinctly phallic rubbing of piles of money that goes on.

One thing I have noticed about Dragon's Den is that they always turn down people who've just thought of an idea, but willingly give money to people who've done all the leg-work already. The only person on tonight's show was a fellow who'd come up with a car wash for lorries who'd already got contracts, letters of approval etc etc. He had, in fact, done everything. The only reason he wouldn't go to the bank for a loan was that he wanted someone with 'experience' to help him. Help him do what?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


A Cigar Is Never Just A Cigar

Some of the performers at this years Edinburgh Fringe have had the temerity to attempt to get into character for their roles. One, Mel Smith, who is playing Winston Churchill in the play 'Allegiance', had the nerve to actually presume he could smoke a cigar during his performance. After all, Churchill was famous for his love of cigars, booze and good food, all of which would of course immediately disqualify him from standing for office in these enlightened times. Still, portraying his character as, you know, his character couldn't be any harm, could it?

Not a bit of it. The artistic director of the venue pointed out:

'"I was told before his first performance on Monday by the council's chief enforcement officer that if Mel had smoked on stage I would have been given a £1,000 fine and he would shut down the entire premises."'

'"It was an extremely serious situation because he said he would also never give me a licence again."'

Welcome to authoritarianism. An unelected council busybody could propose a staggering fine and the permanent closure of a theatre because an actor had the temerity to smoke a cigar, as the real-life character he played did. Favourite lines:

'Mel Smith hit out at the Scottish Parliament last month, saying the smoking ban would have delighted Churchill's arch-enemy Adolf Hitler.'

I think even Hitler would have drawn the line before this.

Of course, the actor had to back down, but this is absiolutely staggering. What kind of a country do we live in? It reminds me of a line in the epilogue of 'Thank You For Smoking', where the crusading anti-smoking senator proposes editing the smoking out of old films:

Interviewer: 'What do you say to the accusation that you're changing history?'
Senator: 'I don't think so . . . [pauses] . . . I think we're improving history.'

Monday, August 07, 2006


Bare Faced Cheek

The Blithering Bunny is usually right about stuff - particularly GM food - but this is so wrong.

In it he analyses naturism, based only upon a degree of prejudice and an alleged case of rape at a naturist resort in France. From this, he extrapolates some frankly bizarre conclusions which I feel I have to respond to.

'A 15-year-old British girl was allegedly raped at at a French nudist colony by a 19-year-old man (who claims it was consenting sex).'

'Pascal Leclere, the colony’s manager, said: “As the father of two children who are also naturists, I could never have imagined something like this happening here.”'

'Let me get this straight, Pascal. You let horny teenagers walk around naked in front of each other, and you can never imagine that, let us say, “sexual misadventures” might happen. They might not be wearing any clothes, but these naturists have nevertheless got their heads in buckets when it comes to human nature.'

Even thinking about this for a third of a second should be enough to suggest how silly it is. Rape cases at naturist camps are extraordinarily rare - far and away rarer than amongst the population at large. Indeed, I suspect that if you could find the statistics - and I'm not good enough with Google to be able to do that, but I'd stake my house on it - you would find that as a percentage of population, the incidences are probably less by a factor of several hundred when compared to the statistics for more or less any nation.

'The weirdest thing about naturists for me has always been their insistence that their penchant for displaying their rude bits has nothing whatsoever to do with sex. That’s what really makes me think they’re weird — or liars. Because naturism isn’t about showing off your back, your tummy, your hips, your legs, or even a bit of ass. It’s specifically about showing off your sexual organs. If you turn up in the skimpiest of Speedos you’re still not a naturist.'

Of course not. The whole point is that naturism has nothing whatsoever to do with showing off. He's thinking of exhibitionism, or flashing, or streaking, or whatever. Naturism stresses the body as a whole, as opposed to 'the skimpiest of Speedos', which emphasise only the sex organs. For clarification, the International Naturist Association:

'But going without a manmade swimsuit will send another message altogether about respect for the body. Unlike the swimsuits of the past, which covered men and women from head to tow with billowy garments intended to maintain one’s “modesty,” today’s swimsuits are aimed to enhance and promote the most sexualized of body parts. In other words, material swimsuits promote unhealthy attitudes about the human body. With nakedness, you actually remove the sexual context of the beach wear, and all can enjoy the sun together without worrying about how sexy they look in their new bikini or trunks. True modesty is found in chaste nudity.'

Whether or not people think this is so much guff, the point is that it is manifestly not about showing off.

'So either they’re liars because they really do get off at looking at other naked people, or they’re weird because they genuinely don’t get turned on by looking at attractive naked people of the opposite sex (forget the ugly ones, I expect they become part of the furniture after a while. The brain probably filters their visual presence out eventually, which must come as a blessed relief).'

Wh-huh? In the first place, the men - and it is really the men he's meaning - are usually married, since most clubs refuse to admit single men on the basis that there is a possibility they might be a perv. However, it's rather less likely that dirty fellows looking for a cheap eyeful would take their wives along. What's more, men who make sexual passes at female guests - and sometimes the other way around - are thrown out of any respectable naturist club immediately. Sexual behaviour isn't tolerated, and if it is, it isn't naturism. Anyway, don't you think it might be just a little bit difficult for male naturists who, for the sake of argument, do get off on looking at their female counterparts to disguise the fact? You know, what with having their penises exposed and all? The second argument is even more ludicrous, mostly because it presupposes that people only attend naturist camps in order to ogle nymph-like young women only to find that they have mysterious erectile difficulties. Clearly, this is demonstrably not the case.

'I once walked along a beach in Sydney and was delighted to discover that a section of it had quietly been turned into an unofficial nudist beach. Although I enjoyed having a perv at some decent-looking women who taken off their clothes for the express purpose of being perved at, there was quite a creepy atmosphere there, and lots of naked, bearded middle-aged men sitting with one leg up as though concealing something from general view (some of them sitting some distance away, in the woods, or on the rocks), all giving me funny glances.'

Which is precisely the reason why most naturist clubs don't admit single men, as stated above.

'I know this sort of thing is not really part of the nice, “family-friendly” naturist movement, but involving your kids and pretending it isn’t a seedy sexual thing doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse.'

What, so the new implication is of paedophilia? It's not just dirty old men any more, it's dirty old married couples who get their jollies off looking at naked kiddies. Erm, this is true how???

'If spending time nude with other nude people isn’t a sexual thing, then why the hell are you doing it?'

There are clearly any number of possible reasons. In an attempt to feel better about your body. Because it makes it impossible to distinguish between people based upon wealth. Because you want an all-over suntan. Because swimming in the nude is more fun. I'm sure there are many others.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


No Novel Ideas

From Bill Bryson's 'Notes From A Small Island':

'I had only recently recovered from a fairly serious bout of pneumonia. I won't say that I nearly died, but I was ill enough to watch This Morning With Richard And Judy, and I certainly didn't want to be in that condition again'.

My own feelings about the self-appointed king and queen of daytime television are scarcely less forceful, and so when I watched their afternoon programme this week, it was with a good deal of trepidation.

What came on was their book review segment. Now, this I have somewhat mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I can quite see that anything which gets the nation reading is naturally positive in nature. They were busy boasting that the books they've recommended have shot straight to the top of the charts.

The trouble with this is that it all contributes to the damaging way books are sold in this country. Waterstone's are now the only major book chain on the high street, and so this in itself has a natural impact on choice, and the success of Richard and Judy's campaign only slims down the options still further. Instead of millions of different people having different and varied reading experiences, they are guided towards a mere handful selected more or less at random. I don't suppose for a minute these are best books of the year - though to be fair, I haven't read any of them - so by what process are they picked?

I guess my point is it seems a shame that they should have such a large effect on book sales, when they have so little qualification for passing on judgement. The discussion about one of the novels that followed was superficial to say the least, and mostly consisted of anecdotes about the celebrity reviewers' holidays. When they did touch on the book, the reviewers were in large part just concerned with the pace of the plot. By that standard, 'Wuthering Heights' is one of the worst novels ever published.

Go to a book shop, and buy a novel that you want to read, not one you've been told to.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Stop Trumpeting Your Morality

Via Mark Holland, who's been busy being profiled, we learn of a moral panic being instigated on our behalf by our protectors on the other side of the pond.

Basically, a bunch of very right-wing American blogs have decided to take offence about the new Armando Iannucci show, 'Time Trumpet', that was aired last night. Of course, the fact that none of them could possibly have watched the show has done nothing to blunt the extent of their indignation. You can catch a load of the righteousness here and here. The former of those links even suggests that American readers should complain (and provides links to do so) - about what, exactly? Why should complaints from people who can't have seen something be taken seriously? How would they react if I suggested people from every other country on earth complained about FOX News? I reckon they'd laugh - so why don't they just fuck off?

You might argue that I comment upon and review American films and TV programmes, and you'd be right. However, the crucial difference is that I watch them first.

Another counter-argument is that they show a tiny fragment of the show here. Let me demonstrate why this is bollocks with recourse to series two of 'Peep Show'. In an attempt to prove a university professor isn't that clever, one of the character's picks up a book from his shelf:

'Let's have a look at some of these books, shall we?' [picks up a book] ''Sister Carrie' by Theodore Dreiser'. [flips through it, picking out the shortest sentence he can find] '"The look on her face was one of disappointment". And that's good is it? What's good about that?'

The point is, anyone can take something out of context. Serious, clever people actually take the time to look at a bigger picture - they try to understand things within a context, not divorced from it.

By the way, I recommend that those who DID watch the programme and enjoy it should be vocal about the fact. If this is to descend into a shouting match, I fail to see why only one side should be able to raise themselves above a whisper.

I also recommend going on the website and looking at the clip 'Honey, I Shrunk Martha Kearney' - absolutely brilliant.


Rimone has a post that answers this one, and it's definitely worth reading.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Is There Anybody Out There?


I just wanted to say to you all that I *haven't* abandoned you, and to thank you all for your kind wishes. Unfortunately, I'm in a house sans internet connection, and I don't know whether I shall be able to pop by again until the weekend.

Please feel free to have a discussion amongst yourselves in the comment section, or just not bother. I promise I'll be back in touch soon.

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