February 2006

Arts&Audience participation&Pop culture26 Feb 2006 01:58 pm

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Environment&Random life24 Feb 2006 12:12 am

Ooh, it’s been Controversy Corner here for the last couple of days. To keep the momentum of well-mannered disagreement going, tell me what you think about this. Admittedly, it’s not in the same league as the previous issue, but it could still lead to fisticuffs at dawn depending on your viewpoint.

This evening I was with a very old friend (she’s my age, I mean we’ve been friends 20 years) and she told me that two friends of hers shoot squirrels in their back garden. They wait until their daughter is in bed and then they go outside and gun them all down.

I was horrified.

Call me a lily-livered pansy and/or a Buddhist (neither would be a million miles from the truth), but squirrels are (a) great (b) cute (c) harmless. Surely?

No, the trigger-happy couple say, they are vermin. They strip bark off trees. They must be DESTROYED.

But no… no, surely not? They’re excellent assets to any garden or wood, because they tidy up all the discarded conkers. And they’re very clever too. The ones in Russell Square are so used to people, they’ll wander right up to you and stare at you to see if you might be concealing acorns about your person. That enhances any urban bench experience.

The ones round my home make me happy on a daily basis, just bobbing around the trees and nibbling snacks with both hands. They’re part of the ecosystem. They don’t invade our homes or attack us. They’re fluffy. What’s not to love?

Reader, are squirrels expendable vermin or valuable wildlife? You tell me.

Gender&Human rights22 Feb 2006 05:58 pm

Cunt Ladies! Gentlemen! May I introduce you to Travis Frey?

Travis is 33 and from Iowa. He has been charged with kidnapping his own wife and involvement in child pornography.

Sounds like a special guy, doesn’t he? Oh, but that’s not all.

Travis drew up this marriage contract for his long-suffering wife to sign and adhere to. She didn’t sign it and instead gave it to the police.

In this document, he proposes to award her “GBDs” (Good Behaviour Days) if she complies with his demands, which she can redeem to get out of a few of her duties, and to deduct them whenever she does not comply to his complete satisfaction.

I wanted to pull a few quotes out of it to astound you, but the whole thing is just incredible. Check these out:

(Page 2)“You are to do everything that is requested or expected of you, if you do not you are considered noncompliant. You are also noncompliant if you start something and can or will not finish, even if you state you are in pain and something hurts.”

(Page 3)“Shaving will be done every third day, and includes underarms, legs and pubic area (navel to anus), all areas are to be completely clean shaven. Every Saturday you are to use the Walh clippers with a guard no greater than 1/2″, and then present yourself to me for a measurement check.”

(Page 4)“You are to pose for 20 photos per quarter on demand, unless your quota is filled. Outfits, toys and poses will always be chosen by me. You must be freshly shaven on the day that photos are taken regardless of your shaving schedule. You will also style hair, apply make up and nail polish as needed.”

“By the end of the first day of each quarter you are to choose your ‘pet name’ that you want me to call you by. Your choice must meet my approval, and noncompliance will be a 20 GBD loss.”

Woman and gun He adds helpfully:

“This is not a contract; it is a description of rules for you.”

Nice of him to clear that up.

Oh, but that’s not the half of it. There is much, much more.

Read the original document here (4 misspelt pages) and then answer me this: is it wrong to wish there was a dingy corner of Guantánamo Bay reserved especially for the re-education of Travis Frey?

American politics&British politics&Middle East21 Feb 2006 01:16 am

So let’s get this straight.

You’re a north African Muslim and a qualified pilot. You can work in Britain.

Somehow, you can be falsely accused of training terrorists. You can be wrongly detained in one of Britain’s most notorious high security prisons. You can be threatened with extradition to the US as a terror suspect, with all the nightmarish visions that conjures. Then you can be released after 5 months without charge and told by a judge there is not a bit of evidence against you.

But you aren’t eligible for any compensation for the wasted 5 months of your life, your ruined career or the injustice you have suffered.


Lofti Raissi

Luckily Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi has now won the right to a judicial review, which means he might just get some compensation for his pains after all.

But if he still doesn’t win the argument, it means we have a criminal justice system which allows an Algerian to be banged up in Britain for no reason and receive no recompense for his shredded life even when found innocent.

Well, I feel safer just thinking about it. Thanks once again, government.

Global politics&News media&Self&Writing20 Feb 2006 10:51 am

I spend a small fortune on books as it is, but have just found another book I ‘need’: it is Steven Poole’s Unspeak, an analysis of the slippery language used by governments, media and pressure groups.

Did you know the term “climate change” (as a replacement for the more frightening “global warming”) was invented by a coalition of oil companies led by the US and Saudi Arabia to remove the catastrophic connotations in the original term? Stands to reason, I suppose. Always good to see these things pointed out though, lest we overlook such extraordinary rendition – ha – of language.

Red planet In other news: it would seem that my newborn novel project could loosely be considered science fiction. Not just that, but according to one person, some aspects of it could even be considered a bit science fantasy. Crikey. I’ve never read any so-called science fantasy in my life, to my knowledge. How does that work then? My subconscious mind is a stranger to me, truly.

Self&Writing17 Feb 2006 04:30 pm

As you know, I failed spectacularly at NaNoWriMo this year.

Actually, “spectacularly” makes it sound better than it was. I failed limply.

Old book Anyway, I’m starting again. Now. Here. Just me. No month-long time limit. No hourly word count. It’s a crazy idea but it might just work.

So what I’d really like from you is a virtual kick every now and then, to make sure I’m still on track and still writing for this project specifically. Otherwise I might be distracted by shiny things and flutter off, like the magpie I secretly am.

Would you do that for me?

In return, I promise not to drone about it too frequently on here. Maybe just once or twice a week… no, a month. No, occasionally. How’s that?

Thanks for your help. Have a great weekend, each and every one of you. You rock like plutonium-powered rocking horses on a gondola, and I wouldn’t say that to just anyone.

Quick, have Morrissey’s new video before the lawyers get all shirty and take it down.

Pop culture&Random life15 Feb 2006 06:43 pm

Nathan Fillion After watching about half the series of Firefly, it occurred to me that Nathan Fillion (right) was a bit of a sexpot. Yet I couldn’t work out why.

He’s not an obvious sex symbol. He’s OK looking, but there are a million other celebrities who are theoretically more physically attractive.

It took quite a while to work it out. Finally I realised where his appeal, for me, lay.

He looks his age and he’s had no work done on his face or body.

Yes, that’s literally it.

He’s in his mid-30s and you can tell. You can see every facial expression. No Botox, no collagen, no chemical peels. He’s got bags under his eyes and his eyes wrinkle when he laughs. He hasn’t got a stomach like a ladder. He hasn’t got shiny bulbous biceps or a waxed chest. He’s not eerily symmetrical. He’s got the nose he was born with.

He looks like a real human.

Real humans are a scarce commodity in showbiz. Once I realised what it was that made him different, and therefore sexier, it got me wondering.

If non-celebrities are having more and more cosmetic surgery these days, and celebrities are unable to have a career nowadays unless they’re remodelled, even if they’re natural beauties to begin with – Halle Berry and Sharon Stone have been tinkered with in multiple areas, for heaven’s sake – then will we eventually witness the fetishisation of natural ageing in those rare exceptions who choose to go au naturel?

Am I just an early adopter of a future trend?

In the future, will real moving faces and non-Action Man/Barbie bodies be the subject of cult appreciation?

Will pallid complexions and wrinkles one day be as rare and prized as a real hourglass figure or a natural blonde?

Will Nathan read this tribute to unspoilt beauty and cancel his face lift?*

*Joke. He probably hasn’t booked one. [Please don’t, Nathan]

Strangeness12 Feb 2006 06:12 pm

Haunted house on a hill Reader, I have a question.

Do you believe in the supernatural and/or the paranormal?

I’m not going anywhere with it, just wondering what your views are.

What are your views, dear reader? Have you time to elaborate?

Self&The art of blog08 Feb 2006 10:11 pm

I’ve just imported my ENTIRE old New! Improved! blog, courtesy of my sparkly new WordPress upgrade. Hadn’t realised it was even possible, until I spotted a new tab in the upgraded dashboard and clicked it on a whim.

The process was fully automated and took about 10 minutes in total. Astounding.

I’m so easily impressed by the cleverness of computers.

Old printing press Still reeling from the joy of having all my twitterings in one place, I stupidly decided to go through all the old posts and categorise them for easy administration.

That was 5 hours ago. I’ve just finished.

*seized up*

Not the most productive way to spend an afternoon/evening. Still, it was kind of fun to skim through all the old stuff again. I laughed, I cried, I shrieked… Actually I didn’t do any of those things, but I did mutter things like “Oh Foxy, you pompous old goat” and “How naive of you to think that!” out loud to myself a few times.

How strange it is that people change so swiftly. None of the old entries are older than 16 months of age. Hardly prime nostalgia fodder. Yet so much of it seems strangely old-fashioned and irrelevant.

Then again, some of it was a lot better than most of the nonsense I write now. Heh.

While I’ve got my dazzled-by-technological-wizardry head on, I should probably try and work out why my blogroll doesn’t display in my sidebar. All the code seems to be there, but no list. Hmm. Please don’t take the absence of reciprocal links personally, my peachy brethren. We’ll be all linky-slinky just as soon as I can work out what in the name of Pingu is going on.

OR… I could move away from the computer for only about the 5th time since the morning and leave the chore for another day.

Yeah. That idea’s oddly compelling.

*knees crack melodramatically*

British politics&Europe&Middle East&Religion06 Feb 2006 09:00 pm

Muslim protest against Prophet cartoons Some Muslims have been protesting violently about the publication of some cartoons depicting the Prophet negatively. Embassies have been torched. Property has been destroyed. Threats have been made. Our newspapers are full of words and pictures about it. Our society is outraged.


Several Muslims have died as a result of the protests. (Not the hundreds that were killed during this year’s Hajj, admittedly, but then some Muslim deaths are more interesting than others.)

Muslim protesters rage not merely against this single act of blasphemy, but against what this act symbolises. They rage against European arrogance, Western governments’ mafia-style looting of Arab lands, media campaigns demonising anyone in a beard or hijab.

Great anger does not necessarily need great provocation. Anger is cumulative. Ills are totted up until their number is too great to bear. Like breakage of the proverbial camel’s back, after a while, a single straw will be enough.

The media is so saturated with this story, it whips the storm to ever greater intensity. More violence, better story. More coverage, more mileage for incensed non-Muslim columnists. More debate. More invented “Sensible Freedom-loving West vs. Archaic Tyrannical East” binary oppositions. More hate bred on each side.

The more the story is prodded, the angrier it gets.


In Westminster, an unpopular prime minster consults expensive public relations advisers as to how best to break the news of military action in Iran to a jaded public. The scene is replicated in European and American ministerial chambers.

The problem is that the general public do not see Muslims as “other”. The public are unable to perform the emotional detachment necessary to sanction another aggressive campaign. The ‘C2/D/E’ demographic are still open to manipulation without too much trouble, but the broadsheet readers are currently off-message. Their feeble ethical rebellion cannot stop progress, but it makes the job of presenting a benevolent veneer slightly more demanding.

If only a way could be found that would stop the leftists and pacifists from obstructing the path of Western corporate power. If only we could damage the reputation of Islam and those who follow it. If only something could be done to back Muslims into a corner and create the illusion that the wildest extremists speak for all. If only Islam could be portrayed as unreasonable, backward, dangerous, subversive, unpleasant, stupid.

If only followers of Islam could be hanged by the zeal of its most extreme adherents, in a way that would carve a deep chasm between ‘them’ and ‘us’, between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We know their weakness. We know which buttons to press. If only we could find a way to use that knowledge to our advantage.

If the flames of such a campaign could be fanned, it would give us the moral high ground. It would hush the whine of middle class pinko indignation and deflect pundits’ attention to such laughably naive concepts as “free speech” and “science versus religion”. While the dinner party set’s attention and sympathies are diverted elsewhere, we’d have just enough leeway to start our Iran campaign and tidy up the dregs of Iraq and Afghanistan. As a bonus, we’d probably win the “Are Hamas terrorists or freedom fighters?” argument too.

Of course, expensive public relations firms and governments do not need to ask “if only”. They just need to orchestrate an appropriate story and appropriate coverage. It is easy to guide public thought, and these men and women are experts.

Muslim woman praying Communication

For their part, the media will run any story released to them at any angle required, provided it does not conflict with the needs of their advertisers or shareholders.

Fait accompli

… Well, whaddya know. Pure luck and good timing, of course. Perhaps God is an Englishman after all.

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