Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, September 29, 2006

And I'm not on commission or anything

A few goodies to be going on with from the ever-entertaining linkbunnies.org:

Wondermark, a webcomic which has now joined Dilbert and Doonesbury in my pantheon of web humour (sadly, the Biff site hasn't been updated for ages). The linkbunnies guys are right about its being random though.

A Guardian article on the last words of Texas execution victims.

A video of soap being microwaved.

A Beijing restaurant with an interesting theme.

I heard of this happening once by accident when an ATM was loaded wrongly with notes. But being able to do it to order: Christmas has come early.

I should think so too. I've never paid anything like that much.

Monty Salvat and the Holy Grail

OK, so I haven't posted anything for a few days. I've been busy, all right? Partly work, partly sorting things out for a new season of Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra (yes, orchestral musicians - even amateur ones - are like the football fans in "Fever Pitch": life is divided into "seasons"). And partly practising for this, which kicks off tomorrow. First I have to go to work and chair a three-hour meeting; then I come home, grab some lunch, change, and load a couple of cars with percussion instruments which have to be shifted across Edinburgh. Then I spend seven hours (with two breaks, one of 30 minutes, one of 20) attempting to evoke the Castle of Montsalvat and Klingsor's Magic Castle. Eight hours of the same on Saturday, and then the "open rehearsal" on Sunday. About which there isn't much to say except "Have you any idea how much more exorbitant the music hire charges from Schotts would be if we were actually doing a concert (wink, wink) and advertising it as such?"

Since October 2001 we've done the four operas of Wagner's Ring cycle, and Tristan und Isolde. ths year, Parsifal, next year, Die Meistersinger. And the only time the open-rehearsal-ness of the final day has proved a blessing was the Chorus of the Gibichung Vassals in Götterdämmerung. It sounds fairly simple but actually is a real bitch to co-ordinate, and took us two shots on the day. Otherwise, despite an amateur orchestra (and chorus where needed), and between thirteen and twenty hours of rehearsal before the public came in, I believe we have done a pretty solid job so far. (That may sound a lot of rehearsal, but when you consider that most of these operas run for about five hours, have an orchestra of over a hundred players, and are fairly difficult to play and to sing, it's not very much at all.)

So this will be our sixth year of accompanying some splendid Wagner singers. In five of those years (counting this weekend) we will have been blessed with the presence of Elaine McKrill (as Brünnhilde, Isolde and Kundry):

and in four of them we have had Neil Howlett as Wotan and Gurnemanz (he would have been King Mark too but was ill last year):

Should be another good (if tiring) weekend.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Reviewing The Situation

Eddie Louise Clark of Ed's World has emailed a very positive and helpful review of The Dying of Delight to Clare (its author), and Clare has posted it (with permission) on her blog. Go and read the review, and then read the book if you haven't already done so. Because Clare has now completed the first draft of her next book, and is making little changes in the light of preliminary comments from readers. (I did suggest to her a long time ago that it should be called Delight Strikes Back, but I don't suppose she paid me any attention.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A bottle of some harmless-seemin' drink.....

While looking at Rachie's flickr stream (lots of elephants and zebras - she's in Namibia) I was struck by this picture.

"Saug mich aus" means "suck me out".

Google established that it's some kind of alcoholic beverage, but that was as far as I got.

I think we've just found out how to make alcopops less attractive to teenagers.....

The question, of course, is: did Rachie try it herself? And what was it like?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nor custom stale its infinite variety

I was looking at someone else's blog today, and they had listed some of the more bizarre search terms used to access their blog. I know, I know, a hackneyed device, but I realised I'd never done it for EKN. So here are a few of the goodies from the past few weeks, in no particular order.

melinda snake tattoo portugal
rob ferris private investigator
clasped hands right thumb on top
Linda Thompson protest at the United Nations
gormenghast fuchsia jagger
mozart eine t-shirt
Mahler syphonies
............ (someone whose typing is matched by my own)
david dawson ballet

Correlating search term and location makes it even more amusing:

see-through (an image search originating in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
turbaned porno (from Ankara, Turkey)
lina negra pregnancy (from Thimphu, Bhutan)
british women prefer uncut (from State University, Arkansas)

I have trouble imagining how those (except possibly see-through) located my humble blog....

Not Many People Know That

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Rob!

  1. The Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter is made entirely of Rob.
  2. Finding Rob on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck!
  3. White chocolate isn't technically chocolate, because it doesn't contain Rob.
  4. Rob is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature.
  5. Rob is born white; his pink feathers are caused by pigments in his typical diet of shrimp.
  6. You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching Rob!
  7. Rob will often glow under UV light.
  8. Half a cup of Rob contains only seventeen calories!
  9. You should always open Rob at least an hour before drinking him.
  10. India tested its first nuclear Rob in 1974.
I am interested in - do tell me about

(via Kate)

Die Walküre del West

Meanwhile, over on Latigo Flint's blog, he has just revealed to us the wonderful character of Reyna, the Prettiest Gun in the West. Or, as I prefer to think of her, the first Valkyrie of the Western ranges.

Why do I think of Reyna as a Valkyrie (and remember, I have a thing about Valkyries). Well, there's the horse business. Those hero-collecting girls are closer to their horses than to anyone (except each other). There's the whole impervious-to-piles-of-dead-bodies thing (part of the Valkyrie job description). And most of all, looks to die for (literally). The Valkyries are supposed to strike fear into the heart of any man who looks on them, and to be radiantly beautiful. Perhaps it's the beauty itself that strikes the fear. In any case, Reyna seems to tick all the boxes.

Of course, in stagings of Wagner's operas there is also the little matter of finding Valkyries who can sing; indeed, given the difficulty of Brünnhilde's part in particular, that is always going to take precedence over convincing appearance. (Though it is nice that in recent years the trend has been towards Brünnhildes who look at least halfway deadly/gorgeous.) So when Maurice Béjart came up wth the idea back in 1990 of a ballet version of the Ring, with the singing provided on tape and just dancers on stage, the Valkyries, freed from the need for Lungs of Mass Destruction, were the greatest beneficiaries. The production (by the ballet of Deutsche Oper Berlin) came to the Edinburgh International Festival, where I saw it (one of my all-time great festival experiences.) And their Valyries were just right: if you met one on a battlefield you'd just have time to start to be embarrassed by your premature ejaculation when you dropped dead from terror. I see Staatsballet Berlin have recently revived the production (which runs for about six hours).

Here is a picture. When I read Latigo's tale I imagined this (eternally) young lady, or someone similar, ordering that whiskey.

Nemo me impune lacessit, as they say in Germany.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Nine Billion Better Names of Books About God Than I Could Think Of

I've just been looking in on Velveteen Rabbi (whose blog title alone would earn her a place in my blogroll even if her posts were less readable). I was struck by this recent post, and in particular by its final paragraph:

And maybe the self/world dichotomy presumes a false either/or mentality: maybe the real task is finding a paradigm that includes the needs of both. As in the parable about keeping two slips of paper in one's pockets -- one which reads "for my sake was the world created," and one which reads "I am dust" -- maybe there's teshuvah in learning when to focus on one slip, and when on the other, and when to open one's hands and let them both go.


Oh, and on the subject of awesome titles, VR alerted my to the existence of two books discussing various kinds of common ground between Judaism and Buddhism. Their titles? One God Clapping and The Jew In The Lotus.

P.S. After coming up with my own (post) title, I discovered that
the story which inspired it is available online. Do read it (or re-read it).

Monsters from the ID

I don't have a problem with the idea of ID cards. I'm jealous of my daughted who has a driving license with photo ID, and I wish I didn't have to lug my passport around to take even domestic flights. Just about every other European country has an ID card system of some kind, and most of them have, frankly, vastly better human rights than we do these days. Identity theft is a problem; perhaps not as much of one as the government claims, but a genuine one. Hell, I just had someone pinch my identity in Kesher Talk's comments boxes. It happens.

Still, between a good idea and a bearable implementation of that idea is a huge gulf. Blairwatch has a good discussion of the issues here. As an IT prcatitioner myself I'd agree that database performance needn't be an issue. However, when my employers experimented with automated signature verification back in the 1990s, I had one of the highest failure rates of anyone in their trials. OK, so I KNOW my writing's crap, but it gives one a healthy disrespect for the technology of biometric verification.

Wouldn't it be nice if somebody in this government was capable fo learning from the past, especially regarding the delivery on time and on budget of large, complex government IT projects?

Heavy on the Accipitrinae, light on the Columbidae

Alert and Alarmed offers a "bird-spotter's guide to Zionist letter-writers" here (via), which neatly taxonomises the lies and evasions from "friends of Israel" that we all get so fed up with (but - sorry guys - not so fed up that we stop combatting them. You wish.)

Harry Potter and the Archive of Digits

In general the attempts of librarians to make libraries "relevant" fall very flat (when did books become irrelevant? did I miss something?)

However, the National Library of Scotland are to set up a digital archive of emails, blogs etc relating to J K Rowling, Ian Rankin, Alasdair Gray and other Scottish authors. Now that is a neat idea. Not only that, it combines genuine popular appeal with literary significance.

I assume the delay until 2008 is (at least partly) to allow JKR to finish the Harry Potter series so there will be no spoiler issues.

And now the NAQ (Never-Asked Question) about James Potter's invisibility cloak will just keep bugging me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Only Finitely Improbable

A fascinating article from New Scientist on what might one day be powering our spacecraft.

Hot Spare

Look, I posted an entire George W Bush speech, AND a link to the nuttiest nutter there ever was. So why has my evil rating dropped down to

This site is certified 36% EVIL by the Gematriculator

... a paltry 36%?

Clearly we need more occult references. I know links don't have much effect on one's Gematriculator scoring, but I'm not cutting and pasting the whole thing. what the hell. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you....

The magic of Austin Osman Spare.

Some time when I can be bothered typing it in, there is a hilarious bit about Spare in Francis King's "Ritual Magic In England : 1887 to the Present Day". Remind me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Far Right, Far Wrong

OK, now I've heard everything. Phil Plait (of Bad Astronomy Blog) spots a wingnut blogger who has his head so far up something or other that he perceives wicked lefty liberal conspiracies everywhere, including (wait for it) in the decision of the IAU to name 2003UB313 (the trans-Neptunian dwarf planet formerly known affectionately as Xena) as Eris. (And to name its companion, formerly "Gabrielle" as Dysnomia.) To Mike Janitch, it's as clear as day that this is evil anti-American sniping.

Mind you, anyone whose blogroll features Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, "Green Helmet Guy" and "Biased BBC" is clearly a Chris Morris parody.

Good ideas

Via linkbunnies.org:

It's a shame this proposed programme's a spoof. I'd watch it.

And I thought this piece of performance art was rather cool. Wonder how long he'd have kept it up if he hadn't been spotted?

You have to wonder just what part of "National Minimum Wage" they didn't understand

Excuses, excuses... ten 'reasons' employers give for not paying the National Minimum Wage (source: HM Revenue & Customs )

The excuses used by employers who avoid paying the National Minimum Wage are laid bare today as HM Revenue & Customs publishes a top 10 of some of the more unusual or outlandish reasons given to its enforcement teams.

The top ten worst excuses for not paying the minimum wage are:

10. I only took him on as a favour
9. The workers can't speak English
8. He's over 65, so the national minimum wage doesn't apply
7. She's on benefits - if you add those to her pay, it totals the NMW
6. They can't cope on their own and it's more than they would get in their own country
5. He's disabled
4. I didn't think it applied to small employers
3. I didn't think the workers were worth NMW
2. But she only wanted £3 an hour
1. He doesn't deserve it - he's a total waste of space

Wow, didn't see that coming

Concern at the TUC over the fact that the Blair party has done f-all to keep its side of the "Warwick Agreement".

Why would anyone expect Blair to keep a promise?

Old John England certainly knew how to how to sing them

I've just been watching Folk Britannia on BBC2. For some reason it was the first week of the series instead of the second as billed, which is good for me as I missed the first week last time round.

A few thoughts which occured to me during the programme:

Re the change wrought in Margaret Barry once she got an agent - it reminded me of The Man With The Microphone (Sydney Carter - best known as the author of "Lord Of The Dance") (I sang this song in my school folk club, to an audience who probably missed half the references) :

As I walked out one morning I was singing a country song;
I met a man with a microphone, and oh, he did me wrong.
He sat me on a grassy bank, and whipping out a tape,
He took my country ditty down before I could escape.
With a whack for Leadbelly, Lomax and Seeger and Burly Old Ivy and all.

To Tin Pan Alley he took my song and there he chanced to meet
A publisher who cleaned it up and gave the tune a beat.
So now they rock and now they roll and now they pay a fee
To that false young man with the microphone, but no-one thinks of me.
With a whack for Leadbelly, Lomax and Seeger and Burly Old Ivy and all.

I'll sell my rack, I'll sell my reel, I'll buy a steel guitar,
I'll buy a ticket to London Town and sing in a coffee bar.
I'll sing until I'm famous, and when I'm on TV
I'll tell the world of that false young man and what he did to me.
With a whack for Leadbelly, Lomax and Seeger and Burly Old Ivy and all.

I'm amused to find that if you Google the lyrics, the refrain now comes up as "Whack for Peter and Paul and Mary", which doesn't scan as well (and nowadays is probably scarcely less abstruse as a reference).

Re Stan Kelly (author of "Liverpool Lullaby" and "The Man Who Waters The Workers' Beer") - did you know he's the same chap as Stan Kelly-Bootle?

Re the Vipers skiffle group - best known for guitarist Wally Whyton, but also washboardist John Pilgrim with whom I played on several occasions.

Re Ewan McColl's approach - his theatrical way of looking at things made the Radio Ballads possible. It also alienated Shirley Collins and others who reckoned the English tradition had been hijacked. I remember Peggy Seeger (Mrs McColl at the time) criticising university folk clubs in th early 1970s, which were full of "these dreadful singer-songwriters". Her husband was a singer-songwriter, who had just received the Ivor Novello award for songwriting for "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". While knowing what she meant, one must deplore the slack language (especially as those student clubs were at the time her livelihood).

Re Dick Gaughan, Bob Davenport, Andy Irvine: didn't they look old? Aside, of course, from Robin Hall and Jimmie McGregor, who seem to get younger in every clip that is shown of them?

Shirley Collins still looks pretty good, though, and I enjoyed her description of chasing a hard-boiled egg round a bowl of soup on a Soviet-era Russian train. Shirley must count as English folk music's answer to Alma Mahler, having been variously married to Alan Lomax, Austin John Marshall and Ashley Hutchings.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pro-life? Don't talk to me about pro-life......

Nobody could ever, I hope, accuse me of being "pro-life" in the sense of "anti-abortion". I've known a number of women who have had abortions, and not one, so far as I could tell, entered into the decision lightly or as anything other than the last resort of a desperate woman at her wits' end.

So as I started reading this post (via), I wasn't predisposed to like it. But the more I read, the more admiration I felt. If all the "pro-life" faction were like this guy, the world would be a better place.

And the comments are worth reading too, especially the second one.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Return of the Son of 25 Answers

Unguessed lines in bold type. Thanks to all who contributed.

1. You can ask any crap corduroy question
Campag Velocet: "Only Answers Delay Our Time" (Bon Chic Bon Genre)

2. My new shoes are pinching, I guess they'll soon wear in
Dr Strangely Strange: "Mary Malone Of Moscow" (Heavy Petting)

3. They. Say. They don't. Trust. You. Me. We. Us.
t.A.t.U.: "All About Us" (Dangerous and Moving) - Rachie

4. Look we've seen this kind of thing before
The New Pornographers: "Jackie, Dressed In Cobras" (Twin Cinema) - Jason

5. Close the door, light the light, we're staying home tonight
The Seekers: "A World Of Our Own" (The Seekers) (band guessed by Lisa)

6. Hey girl, stop what you're doin'
Led Zeppelin: "Communication Breakdown" (Led Zeppelin) - Jason

7. Oh there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run

Gordon Lightfoot: "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" (United Artists Collection) - artist guessed by frankdog

8. They say a woman's a fool for weeping, a fool to break her own heart
Linda Thompson: "Telling Me Lies" (One Clear Moment) - artist guessed by Lisa

9. Think I'll pack it in and buy a pickup
Neil Young: "Out On The Weekend" (Harvest) - Phil

10. When I was young I listened to the radio, waiting for my favourite song
The Carpenters: "Yesterday Once More" (Singles 1969 - 1973) - Phil

11. Don't wade in muddy water if you can't swim.

Len Chandler: "To Be A Man" (To Be A Man)

12. Il est des mots qu'on peut penser, mais à pas dire en société
Michel Polnareff: "Amour Avec Toi" (Passé Présent)

13. Is it my imagination or have I finally found something worth living for?
Oasis: "Cigarettes And Alcohol" (Definitely Maybe) - Phil

14. It was the third of June, another hot and dusty delta day
Bobbie Gentry: "Ode To Billie Joe" (Capitol's Country Festival) - Jason

15. When the wagons leave the city for the forest and further on

Jack Bruce: Theme From An Imaginary Western (Songs For A Tailor)

16. I got my first real six-string, bought it at the five-and-dime
Bryan Adams: "Summer Of '69" (So Far So Good) - Jason

17. She was young, she was pure, she was new, she was nice
Flanders & Swann: "Madeira M'Dear" (At The Drop Of A Hat) - Mark Valladares

18. I stood alone upon the highest cliff-top
Van der Graaf Generator: "Lemmings" (Pawn Hearts)

19. I was nineteen when I came to town, they called it the Summer of Love
Richard Thompson: "Beeswing" (Mirror Blue) - artist guessed by Lisa

20. I don't know just where I'm going
The Velvet Underground: "Heroin" (The Velvet Undergound and Nico) - Phil

21. Oh I'd rather go and journey where the diamond crest is flowing
The Byrds: "Wasn't Born To Follow" (The Notorious Byrd Brothers) - Jason

22. She moves like she don't care, smooth as silk, cool as air
Blondie: "Maria" (Greatest Hits) - Lisa

23. I lost myself on a cool damp night
Elkie Brooks: "Lilac Wine" (Pearls) - Jason

24. Oh my life is changing every day, in every possible way
The Cranberries: "Dreams" (Everyone Else Is Doing It So Why Can't We?) - Alan

25. As I got on a city bus and found a vacant seat
Chuck Berry: "Nadine" (Brown-Eyed Handsome Man) - Jason

Like Frank Zappa, a defiantly Equal Opportunity Offender

I don't think I would have liked Oriana Fallaci at all if I'd met her.

Good gracious me no. No no no. But then not many people do seem to have taken to her personally.

However, the Guardian piece is clearly describing a Character, a vibrantly alive (well, until recently) Character; and the world would be the poorer without Characters, even unpleasant ones. And I have to warm a teeny tiny little bit to some one of whom the BBC's obit had this to say:

Henry Kissinger wrote after being interviewed by her that the interview was "the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press".

Plus, anyone who manages to piss off both the Shah of Iran and Ayatollah Khomeini can't be all bad.

A further Guardian appraisal here.

Shhhh! or everyone will want one

A funny thing happened on the way to the blog.....

You know (how could you not?) Kesher Talk, the New York-based, Israel-supporting, Melanie Phillips-adoring, right-wing blog. The one on which I fairly regularly post comments, sometimes supportive (as you might judge from my posts here and here) and sometime not (as evidenced by this one).

Well, Kesher Talk has a troll. This troll, among other things, is posting comments purporting to be from me, with a link to this site and everything. The posts are clearly intended as a crazed exaggeration of some of my views meant to draw down heaps of vilification on my head. Funnily enough, the first one contained a link to a Ha'aretz piece I'd just linked to, though Bizarro-Rob (as I have christened him) rather spoiled it by putting it in an unrelated thread, along with a thanks to Judith for not procreating. (Which is nice. Actually she could have dozens of kids for all I know.)

Of course, the comments aren't terribly well-written, the guy hasn't worked out that you can use html tags to create links, and he thinks Brits describe right-wingers as "liberal hawks", so it isn't too difficult to spot him; though some commenters have been taking him at face value. I've posted a few denials, and at least his stuff below those degenerates into cheap jibes at me and EKN which save me having to revisit them. I imagine he's using the email address provided here at EKN, so as that isn't the one I normally use at KT they should be able to spot him. Amble over there and see if you can tell which recent comments are me and which aren't. Bet you can. Hint: the one that rams Jesus down the throat of Kesher Talk's wholly Jewish staff (and I suspect predominantly Jewish readership)? Not mine.

I tried posting another denial using a new email address but from my usual PC, and it's gone for moderation, so it looks as though they've started looking more carefully at "my" comments anyway.

I suppose I should be flattered that a right-wing nutter is so incensed by my comments that he makes it his life's goal to drive me off Kesher Talk. Gosh. A bit like having a stalker. However, I'm pretty certain this stalker is a good five time zones away, so it's not as though he was going to fetch up in my front garden.

Update: Judith has now banned Bizarro-Rob from Kesher Talk. Thanks, Judith.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fisking the Fruitcake

Here is the complete transcript of President Bush's Oval Office speech on the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks Monday. (With some annotations of my own.)

Five years ago, this date -- September the 11th -- was seared into America's memory. Nineteen men attacked us with a barbarity unequaled in our history. They murdered people of all colors, creeds and nationalities, and made war upon the entire free world. (Actually just on America, and via their rhetoric, on Saudi Arabia and Israel.) Since that day, America and her allies have taken the offensive in a war unlike any we have fought before.

Today we are safer (not even close) , but we are not yet safe.

On this solemn night, I have asked for some of your time to discuss the nature of the threat still before us, what we are doing to protect our nation, and the building of a more hopeful Middle East that holds the key to peace for America and the world.

On 9/11, our nation saw the face of evil.

Yet, on that awful day, we also witnessed something distinctly American: ordinary citizens rising to the occasion and responding with extraordinary acts of courage.

We saw courage in office workers who were trapped on the high floors of burning skyscrapers, and called home so that their last words to their families would be of comfort and love.

We saw courage in passengers aboard Flight 93, who recited the 23rd Psalm and then charged the cockpit. And we saw courage in the Pentagon staff who made it out of the flames and smoke and ran back in to answer cries for help.

On this day, we remember the innocent who've lost their lives, and we pay tribute to those who gave their lives so that others might live.

For many of our citizens, the wounds of that morning are still fresh.

I have met firefighters and police officers who choke up at the memory of fallen comrades.

I have stood with families gathered on a grassy field in Pennsylvania, who take bittersweet pride in loved ones who refused to be victims and gave America our first victory in the war on terror.
(Can't argue with that - the "War On Terror" may deserve its quotation marks, but the Flight 93 revolt was precisely that.)

I've sat beside young mothers with children who are now 5 years old and still long for the daddies who will never cradle them in their arms.

Out of this suffering, we resolve to honor every man and woman lost. And we seek their lasting memorial in a safer and more hopeful world.

Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy, but not without purpose.

We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam: a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent. (Er, no, that would be the American Christian Right.)

If he's looking for a global network no wonder he rarely catches anyone: has he really not got the picture yet? That there are thousands and thousand of newly-radicalised - by Bush - Muslims who come up with terrorist ideas independently? And who, if they have the right contacts, which mostly they can get. will get in touch with the three or four actual al-Qaeda members who simply provide funds and put them in touch with other people they know who can help. Thinking of al-Qaeda as a multinational like Shell is the wrong model: it's a franchise like McDonalds.

And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, (ah, that would be Iraq - though only since the American invasion) and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations. (Do civilised nations invade countries without reason?)

The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century and the calling of our generation. (OMG it's the "clash of civilisations" rubbish. I thought he'd got over that.)

Our nation is being tested in a way that we have not been since the start of the Cold War. (Oh, I don't know: the US got its ass pretty well kicked in Vietnam, which always seemed to me to be a "test".)

We saw what a handful of our enemies can do with box-cutters and plane tickets. We hear their threats to launch even more terrible attacks on our people.

And we know that, if they were able to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, they would use them against us. (Pakistan comprises mostly Muslims who loathe America, which is why bin Laden lives there. Have they used their nuclear - sorry, 'nucular' - weapons against the USA? Or anyone else? Even India, which they loathe even more?)

We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes.

America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. So do I.

But the war is not over, and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious.

If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. (The only nuclear weapons in the Middle East are in Israel. The only state in the Middle East which has done any over-running of anywhere is Israel. So is GWB going to declare war on Israel? Or is this all total BS?) We are in a war that will set the course for this new century and determine the destiny of millions across the world.

For America, 9/11 was more than a tragedy; it changed the way we look at the world. (No, it was a tragedy. The rest is bollocks.)

On September the 11th, we resolved that we would go on the offense against our enemies and we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor or support them.

So we helped drive the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. (Yeah, that worked so well. Pity you got distracted by Iraq before you did the job properly.) We put al Qaeda on the run and killed or captured most of those who planned the 9/11 attacks, including the man believed to be the mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. (Um, wasn't there a bin Laden chap?)

He and other suspected terrorists have been questioned (tortured) by the Central Intelligence Agency, and they have provided valuable information that has helped stop attacks in America and across the world. (Because terrorist attacks have SO reduced in number since the "war on terror" began. Oh, wait, the "across the world was just for show and not intended to eb taken seriously.)

Now these men have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay (a torture camp illegally established and maintained by force on Cuban sovereign territory) so they can be held to account for their actions (so they can disappear from view to be tortured or murdered at will with no legal process or concern for human rights whatsoever).

Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding (because you've been pissing about in Iraq instead of hunting them) . Our message to them is clear: No matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice. (We haven't a clue where you are, and are hoping everyone will forget about you when we launch our next war on an irrelevant scapegoat country. If they don't, who cares? I'll be out of office by then.)

On September the 11th, we learned that America must confront threats before they reach our shores; whether those threats come from terrorist networks or terrorist states.

I am often asked why we're in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. (What threat exactly? )

My administration, the Congress and the United Nations saw the threat. (What threat exactly?)

And, after 9/11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take. (What risk? Just because you say it three times doesn't make it any more true. WHat is this, "The Hunting Of The Snark"?)

The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. (In what way? More pleasant maybve, but how "safer"? What threat was Saddam to anyone?)

And now the challenge is to help the Iraqi people build a democracy that fulfills the dreams of the nearly 12 million Iraqis who came out to vote in free elections last December.

Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East. They have joined the remnants of Saddam's regime (oh right, because Islamic extremists and militant secularists always get on so well together, like Pat Robertson and Richard Dawkins) and other armed groups to foment sectarian violence and drive us out. (Actually, everyone not actually on your payroll wants to drive you out. Haven't you got that yet?)

Our enemies in Iraq are tough and they are committed, but so are Iraqi and coalition forces. We are adapting to stay ahead of the enemy, and we are carrying out a clear plan to ensure that a democratic Iraq succeeds. (Iraq now is no more democratic than when Saddam was in power. Instead of intimidation by the Ba'ath party, there is universal intimidation by local warlords and religious fanatics. At least when Saddam was around there was some kind of rule of law. Now Iraq's society has entirely collapsed, and the only unifying force is the universal hatred of the Americans and British.)

We are training Iraqi troops so they can defend their nation (= beat people up and take bribes). We are helping Iraq's unity government (unity! government! ha!) grow in strength and serve its people. We will not leave until this work is done. (So you have no plans ever to leave Iraq then, at least until you run out of Americans to sacrifice to your ego.)

Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. (The worst mistake was to invade Iraq in the first place. The only terrorists in Iraq came purely to get the coalition forces out. There were no "terrorists" in Iraq until you invaded.)

They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. (Only until you're out of their country, dickhead.)

The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad. (Yes: and the sooner you admit defeat and get the hell out, the safer America and the whole world will be.)

Osama bin Laden calls this fight "The Third World War," (though oddly the only references on the Internet to his doing so seem to be in articles about Bush quoting bin Laden - did he actually ever say abny such thing?) and he says that victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America's defeat and disgrace forever.

If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden (who only took any interest in Iraq once it was full of Americans to kill - haven't you grasped yet that it's America he hates?), our enemies will be emboldened. They will gain a new safe haven. They will use Iraq's resources to fuel their extremist movement.

We will not allow this to happen. (Which is why we have made sure Iraq has no resources left, and is now a pile of unsustainable rubble).

America will stay in the fight (because I'm too stupid to do anything else). Iraq will be a free nation (not as long as America has any involvement wth it - Christ, you can't even maintain freedom at home) and a strong ally (ha!) in the war on terror (war on freedom).

We can be confident that our coalition will succeed because the Iraqi people have been steadfast in the face of unspeakable violence (the vast majority of which has come from the USA. And they have been steadfast, and you will be thrown out.) And we can be confident in victory because of the skill and resolve of America's armed forces (and clearly the abject stupidity of those in charge of strategy).

Every one of our troops is a volunteer (though most of them didn't volunteer for the period of time they have been required to serve). And since the attacks of September the 11th, more than 1.6 million Americans have stepped forward to put on our nation's uniform.

In Iraq, Afghanistan and other fronts in the war on terror, the men and women of our military are making great sacrifices to keep us safe. Some have suffered terrible injuries, and nearly 3,000 have given their lives.

America cherishes their memory. We pray for their families. And we will never back down from the work they have begun.

We also honor those who toil day and night to keep our homeland safe, and we are giving them the tools they need to protect our people (i.e. destroying freedom at home as we have been doing in Iraq).

We have created the Department of Homeland Security; we have torn down the wall that kept law enforcement and intelligence from sharing information; we have tightened security at our airports and seaports and borders; and we've created new programs to monitor enemy bank records and phone calls.

Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement and intelligence professionals, we have broken up terrorist cells in our midst and saved American lives.

Five years after 9/11, our enemies have not succeeded in launching another attack on our soil, but they have not been idle.

Al Qaeda, and those inspired by its hateful ideology, have carried out terrorist attacks in more than two dozen nations. (This pea-brain is till banging on about "al-Qaeda" carrying out attacks. Not quite got the hang of things, have we?) And, just last month, they were foiled in a plot to blow up passenger planes headed for the United States. (Not too difficult to foil, what with its being wholly imaginary.)

They remain determined to attack America and kill our citizens, and we are determined to stop them.

We will continue to give the men and women who protect us every resource and legal authority they need to do their jobs.

In the first days after the 9/11 attacks, I promised to use every element of national power to fight the terrorists wherever we find them. One of the strongest weapons in our arsenal is the power of freedom. (But they needn't worry, because you have plans in hand to remove as much of it as possible, at home as you did in Iraq.)

The terrorists fear freedom (eh? what they want is freedom, freedom from American influence) as much as they do our firepower (oh yes, that's so evident, because nobody with an IED has ever killed a heavily-armed American soldier).

They are thrown into panic at the sight of an old man pulling the election lever, girls enrolling in schools (Iraq had that until the Americans came), or families worshiping God in their own traditions (again, Iraq had reigious tolerance until the US invasion).

They know that, given a choice, people will choose freedom over their extremist ideology. So their answer is to deny people this choice by raging against the forces of freedom and moderation. (Talk about missing the point. And since when was the US a force for freedom and moderation, anyway?)

This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations (er, by you). In truth, it is a struggle for civilization. (Oh, nice: the racism card now.)

We are fighting to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations. And we're fighting for (against) the possibility that good and decent people across the Middle East can raise up societies based on freedom and tolerance and personal dignity.

We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom. Amid the violence, some question whether the people of the Middle East want their freedom (only you, George) and whether the forces of moderation can prevail.

For 60 years, these doubts guided our policies in the Middle East. And then, on a bright September morning, it became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. Years of pursuing stability to promote peace (propping up militaristic theocracies and dictators like Saddam) had left us with neither.

So we changed our policies, and committed America's influence in the world (dwindling as we speak) to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism.

With our help, the people of the Middle East are now stepping forward to claim their freedom. From Kabul to Baghdad to Beirut, there are brave men and women risking their lives each day for the same freedoms that we enjoy. (Unfortunately they are having to kill Americans to obtain them.)

And they have one question for us: Do we have the confidence to do in the Middle East what our fathers and grandfathers accomplished in Europe and Asia? (What, you're going to nuke somebody?)

By standing with democratic leaders and reformers (=warlords and corrupt apparatchiks), by giving voice to the hopes of decent men and women, we are offering a path away from radicalism. And we are enlisting the most powerful force for peace and moderation in the Middle East: the desire of millions to be free. (Only you're enlisting it against America.)

Across the broader Middle East, the extremists are fighting to prevent such a future. Yet America has confronted evil before, and we have defeated it; sometimes at the cost of thousands of good men in a single battle.

When Franklin Roosevelt vowed to defeat two enemies across two oceans, he could not have foreseen D-Day and Iwo Jima, but he would not have been surprised at the outcome.

When Harry Truman promised American support for free peoples resisting Soviet aggression, he could not have foreseen the rise of the Berlin Wall, but he would not have been surprised to see it brought down.

Throughout our history, America has seen liberty challenged. And, every time, we have seen liberty triumph with sacrifice and determination.

At the start of this young century, America looks to the day when the people of the Middle East leave the desert of despotism for the fertile gardens of liberty and resume their rightful place in a world of peace and prosperity. (A day which America will delay as long as possible. See under "Palestine".)

We look to the day when the nations of that region recognize their greatest resource is not the oil in the ground, but the talent and creativity of their people. We look to the day when moms and dads (awwww) throughout the Middle East see a future of hope and opportunity for their children (instead of the piles of rubble America helpfully provides).

And when that good day comes, the clouds of war will part, the appeal of radicalism will decline, and we will leave our children with a better and safer world. (And I am Marie of Rumania.)

On this solemn anniversary, we re-dedicate ourselves to this cause.

Our nation has endured trials, and we face a difficult road ahead. Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country.

And we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us. (Oppose me and you'll vanish into Guantanamo.)

We will defeat our enemies, we will protect our people, and we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty.

Earlier this year, I traveled to the United States Military Academy. I was there to deliver the commencement address to the first class to arrive at West Point after the attacks of September the 11th. (Oh, not to complete your dodged military service?)

That day, I met a proud mom named RoseEllen Dowdell. She was there to watch her son, Patrick, accept his commission in the finest army the world has ever known. A few weeks earlier, RoseEllen had watched her other son, James, graduate from the Fire Academy in New York City.

On both these days, her thoughts turned to someone who was not there to share the moment: her husband, Kevin Dowdell. Kevin was one of the 343 firefighters who rushed to the burning towers of the World Trade Center on September the 11th and never came home.

His sons lost their father that day, but not the passion for service he instilled in them.

Here's what RoseEllen says about her boys: "As a mother, I cross my fingers and pray all the time for their safety. But, as worried as I am, I am also proud. And I know their dad would be too."

Our nation is blessed to have young Americans like these, and we will need them. Dangerous enemies have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. (Well, only if you keep INVADING THEIR COUNTRES.)

They're not the first to try, and their fate will be the same as those who tried before. (Oh, like the Vietcong.)

9/11 showed us why. The attacks were meant to bring us to our knees, and they did; but not in the way the terrorists intended. Americans united in prayer, came to the aid of neighbors in need, and resolved that our enemies would not have the last word.

The spirit of our people is the source of America's strength. And we go forward with trust in that spirit, confidence in our purpose, and faith in a loving God who made us to be free.

Thank you, and may God bless you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

If these were surgical strikes there must be a lot of Israelis who go in for tonsillectomies and come out missing a leg

During the recent conflict in Lebanon, Hezbollah fired 4000 Katyusha rockets into Israel, targeting military and civilian areas indiscriminately. This was generally considered a Bad Thing. When the rockets exploded they sprayed ball-bearings, lethal at the time but inert afterwards. Meanwhile....

This from Ha'aretz (via).

So: one million bomblets, aimed of course at "terrorist" targets with pinpoint accuracy (+/- 1200 metres). 600,000 of these lethal at the time, 400,000 remaining to kill civilians (and if the experience of other cluster-bombed countries like Laos is typical, especially children). Oh, and chemical weapons too.

Inasmuch as the Western press bothered to report it at all, this too was considered a Bad Thing, except by Tony Blair who was enjoying it all far too much to support a ceasefire. (After all, not having your children sprayed around the neighbourhood while your skin burns off - that only makes you feel good for a few hours. Strutting about pretending to care about peace made Blair feel good for months.) At least Amnesty International and the United Nations weren't too craven to speak out.

Ehud Olmert was clearly mistranslated back in June when trying to justify the shelling of children on the beach in Gaza. I assume that the Hebrew for "moral army" must sound very similar to the Hebrew for "gutless bunch of murderers".

So in a morality contest between Hezbollah, Hamas, and the artillery units of the IDF, the Israeli entrants are presently lying a poor third. But hey: don't give up, guys. With practice you can learn to slaughter civilians just as morally as the other murderers.

Toute la journée elle fait non. non, non, non.......

A very sensible piece in Ha'aretz on the need for changed attitudes on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially in view of the new National Unity government in Palestine.


You know there is something funny going on when a gung-ho Bush-supporting wingnut site like Kesher Talk publishes a link on September 11th to a detailed timeline of events which demonstrate that the official version of event contains huge unexplained contradictions and omissions. At least the site is content to leave them as unanswered questions rather than filling the void with ill-considered "solutions".

Remember that Judith is no conspiracy theorist herself: when linking to the site which I yesterday described as being at the least-crazy end of conspiracy theory she was at pains to distance herself from the theories on offer. Which leads me to ask: if you're American, is it simply a given that the government has lied over the official story of what happened on 9/11? And is it only the tinfoil hat brigade who care?

Before you all mail me tinfoil hats, let me make a few things clear. I see no reason to doubt that the WTC towers and the wing of the Pentagon were destroyed by having hijacked airliners crashed into them. There seems to be some evidence that Flight 93 was finally downed by a missile fired from a pursuing aircraft (surely prompting the question "What took you so long?") during the well-documented attempt by its passengers to regain control. If such an action was unauthorised by the President it would, I feel, explain any cover-up by the USAF or National Guard. I'm not totally sure that the guys named as the hijackers were actually the full set of hijackers. And none of the above is contradicted by the detailed timeline, which does however raise questions concerning the NORAD response, that of the Presidential staff, and the communications problems which may have contributed to these.

Puzzled, I am.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No Such Doubts In New York

.... Judith at Kesher Talk knows who to blame. In the introduction to what promises to be a gushing series of hymns of praise to a bunch of lets-abolish-the-UN-then-we-can-do-as-we-please wingnuts, she states:

It was held in New York City on the 5th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2006 (sic) - connecting the terrorist attacks to decades of corruption and malfeasance at the United Nations.

Perhaps Judith was still salivating over yesterday's attack on the UN when she was typing.........

You think I'm being unkind in my assessment of the distinguished panellists? Or think that their intentions for the UN are benign? Speakers included US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, US Senators Tom Coburn and Norm Coleman, Natan Sharansky, Bill Bennett, Jed Babbin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Claudia Rosett and Anne Bayefsky. I asked this question:

My, what a collection of talent. A fake asylum seeker (Hirsi Ali), a journalist who suggested aborting all African-American foetuses to reduce the crime rate (Bill Bennett), and John Bolton, the man who never misses a chance to destroy the UN. The "usual suspect" right wing senators should have no trouble looking statesmanlike alongside that shower. (Even the Okie from Muskogee.)(Tom Coburn) Though I doubt whether the loathsome Sharansky will manage it. The only question is, what is Anne Bayefksy (who seems an intelligent and honest type) doing with this bunch of no-hopers?

Or as Judith put it "Have this many famous neocons ever been gathered in one place?"

Sharansky she describes as "world-renowned human rights champion". I describe him as "loathsome". Judge for yourselves. Since the linked article was published this great champion has resigned his ministerial position because he felt that Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw the Israeli invasion force from Gaza would compromise the human rights of the illegal Israeli settlers. I doubt whether any government with a serious concern for human rights would allow him to cross its borders, but I'm sure he found a warm welcome in New York.

Make up your mind, Hollywood: Was it Clinton or cheese-eating surrender Germans who caused 9/11?

A film I shan't be watching.

And another.

My only question is: why would Harvey Keitel, whom I have always respected as an actor, damage his credibility forever by associating himself with this crap?

Harvey Keitel's comments.

"It turned out not all the facts were correct." YOU THINK? Jeez, read the script more carefully next time, Harvey.

Wikipedia (treat with caution as on any controversial topic) has a list of some of the more glaring inaccuracies.

The comments threads at IMDb (registration needed) are amusing if you enjoy seeing right-wingers foaming at the mouth and hurling abuse at the nasty people who are daring to criticise this heap of junk.

Still, I liked the title which is already catching on: Plan 9/11 From Outer Space.

And once again, Defective Yeti has the mots justes.

Better living through chemistry

I've just been to the dentist, where I had a small cavity (first new one, as opposed to old fillings needing replacement, for ages). Mega quantities of interesting chemicals have been pumped into one side of my head (not sure what my dentist uses but a bit of Googling suggests this as a likely front-runner) so that for a while I couldn't feel my left eyelid and blinking was a bit weird. (following a brief experiment, it still is.) Plus, half my nose seems not to be there. (Hmmm. Maybe it was cocaine he was using.) Takes all the fun out of picking it. On the plus side, I didn't feel a thing as he made a hole, added fancy photochemical glue, filled hole, or when lovely assistant with big orange eye-shade thing (take that, Health & Safety Executive!) came and shone brilliant blue light into my head. I remember when fillings were made of silvery cementy stuff that was rammed into the hole in your tooth with a syringe like the ones for bath sealant, making a sqeeeeak-squeeeeak noise. Probably by the next time I need one he'll just spray an aerosol can into my mouth and then shove the output end of a particle accelerator into my gob. ("These neutrino-activated fillings, they're really good....")

Anyway.... in a neat example of synchronicity, Defective Yeti just posted this. So it could be worse.

Monday, September 11, 2006

And finally.....

While it's still (just) September 11th in this time zone, let's also remember the other 9/11.

And also Elizabeth Patricia Beatson, the first girl I ever took on a date, back in 1971, who is 50 years old today. Hi, Elizabeth, and Happy Birthday should you drop by.

Five Years On

And still no safer, thanks to Bush's and Blair's infatuation with "liberating" Iraq instead of actually pursuing the 9/11 killers.

Until recently I had no idea of the variety of "Grassy Knoll" style 9/11 conspiracy theories. This site gives an overview of them without giving most of them any credence. Whether or not there are inconsistencies in the official narrative, the proponents of some of these ideas need to be more careful about taking their medication.

At the end of the day, though, even if somebody managed to 'prove' that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Mossad and the USAF, we're still left with 2,996 dead people and thousands more whose families and livelihoods were destroyed. We're also left with many more thousands of instances of everyday courage, kindness and thoughtfulness in the aftermath to celebrate; not just in September 2001 but all the way to the present, and on into the future.

11th September 2001 didn't, as some folk like to say, "change the world". It made ordinary Americans, even those with little idea of the world beyond the USA, realise the kind of thing that Israelis, Indians, Sri Lankans, Germans, Italians, Peruvians, Irishmen and countless other nations had been suffering regularly for years (albeit not in such a concentrated form). But it was just business as usual for the terrorists.

No, it didn't "change the world". But it changed 2,996 worlds forever. And today is their day.

Shut DESO Action Day 16 October

Sara of CAAT posted the following comment last week on a long-since-archived post of mine. It seemed a shame for it to languish in obscurity. I shall be away on holiday, but some of you might want to go.


Enough is enough: Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is campaigning to make sure that DESO's 40th anniversary is its last. But for this, we need your support! Come to the Shut DESO Action Day on 16th October 2006 in Central London!

A broad coalition of NGOs and political parties is calling for DESO's closure. A crucial day in this campaign will be on 16th October 2006: By building a human chain around DESO's headquarters in Central London, we will show the strength of feeling about DESO's role in obstructing peace around the world. The protest will be peaceful. With the chance to lobby your MP this will be an inspiring and important day of action. Be part of our campaign and find out more about the Shut DESO Action Day here.

Time's up for the government's gunrunners – please support the campaign!Help us to spread the word:

Additional materials here.

Britain's Jewish leaders make us proud of them

Let us give praise where it is due. Jews in Britain, in so far as there exists any such homogeneous grouping, seem to have appalled their American neocon counterparts recently by failing to fall in line behind such revered political analysts as Julie Burchill and Melanie Phillips in the obligatory hymns of praise to the brave Israeli forces who were busily butchering their Lebanese neighbours. According to Phillips (author of Londonistan and other masterpieces) this is "minhag anglia, the historic custom of the leaders of British Jewry, to be craven and servile, to be terrified of rocking the boat and drawing attention to the fact that they are different, that they are Jews".

Now if you or I were to make an accusation that the leaders of British Jews had historically been "craven and servile" we might expect a visit from the police for peddling poisonous antisemitic nonsense (next thing you know she'll be complaining about their whiny voices and big overcoats).

However, the point is precisely that the leaders of Britain's Jews, not an especially reticent or cowardly bunch, have simply failed to grasp that the realities of Blair's Britain absolutely require that they spout whatever nonsense the "Friends of Israel" in Washington and New York write for them. Independent thought, consideration of evidence, and indeed consideration of what their religion might have to say about matters: all are insignificant beside the requirement to spout the (Republican or Likud) party line.

Well, Britain's Jews appear to have decided to disprove the notion that they are part of an international conspiracy by thinking for themselves and resisting American pressure. Good. What a pity our craven and servile Prime Minister can't do the same.

I'm sorry to see that Alcy hasn't taken to heart the lesson I attempted to teach her (apparently the male name is just a front for a female blogger) in this post, and seems still to imagine that Melanie Phillips is some kind of reputable journalist. And one who write "bravura pieces", forsooth. "Alcibiades" from her profile is apparently a writer by profession. If she has that little appreciation of journalism, no wonder she hides her identity.

The only theocracy in the region

A proud day for the "only democracy in the Middle East". Leaving aside the democratic credentials of the Palestinian Authority, the tale unfolded in this article in Ha'aretz shows the essentially theocratic and antidemocratic nature of much of Israeli politics.

Today, an important and incomparably dangerous principle will be established, according to which anyone who is not faithful to and does not support Israeli government policy will be beyond the pale. Today an Arab deputy mayor will be dismissed because he expressed his views about the war. Today will see Haifa's first political dismissal because of an expression of opinion.

And the offense for which Walid Hamis was dismissed? According to his accuser, Yitzhak Regev, it was quite simple.

He forgot that Israel is the state of the Jews. Period.

And if you don't like the fact that Israel is a theocracy where you and your co-religionists have severely limited civil rights (according to the US State Department), don't for heaven's sake imagine that its "democratic" constitution will protect your right to freedom of speech to complain about it, or about your government's conduct of a war during which your town is under attack.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair shows his contempt for democracy (not that any British citizen needs such a demonstration) while in Israel schmoozing with Ehud Olmert:

At a joint news conference with Mr Olmert, visiting Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his support for a renewal of Israeli dialogue with Mr Abbas, despite Hamas' control of the Palestinian parliament and government. (The Independent)

Note that "despite". Despite Hamas's having been democratically elected as the government of the Palestinian people, Tony Blair thinks Israel should talk to them. Because God forbid that any shred of democratic legitimacy should attach to the "peace process".

Despite Tony Blair's having been elected as British Prime Minister, I think he should shut his stupid mouth and come home before he does any more damage.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Maybe it's that Lisa was on holiday. Maybe everyone was too gobsmacked by all the GWAOTM stuff.

There must be some reason why NOBODY has even attepted any further first line guesses, even after I struggled with Blogger for hours and hours to upload ten helpful pictures for extra clueiness.

And after you started so well too. I refuse to believe that a few more artists, even if not songs, cannot be guessed.

Perhaps you're still too stunned that I confess to owning #5.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Seems like the funky days are back again

Well, duh. I mean, clearly it's only the bad parts of Saddam's legacy, like women in the workforce, religious toleration and the entire civil service that have been thrown out as part of the march of freedom. It would have been an affront to British and American morals if valuable traditions such as mass executions had been lost forever.

What do you call the man with no name? Nathan.

Which works perfectly well if you have a Scots accent.

On which topic, you might enjoy this which I found while Googling "shuggle" for the previous post. I used to know an American who lived in Central Scotland and had great difficulty with "Kirkintilloch", and some of the others are notorious traps for the insufficiently-assimilated visitor.

We're off up to the flat in Ballater tonight (with Americans Chip and Eddie of Chip's World/Ed's World), where we shall remember that Loch Muick does not rhyme with Buick, nor Lochnagar with dagger. Or maybe we'll wander into the Cairngorms where the Gaelic names really kick in and we get Loch Builg (pronounced boo-lig) beneath Beinn a'Bhuird (Ben a Voord), and Beinn Mheadhoin (Ben Vane) above Loch Avon (pronounced Aan).

Rocking All Over The World

When she isn't in right-wing wacko mode, Judith Weiss can be surprisingly sensible, as in this post. Yes, it would be nice for everyone to be completely understanding of fellow-passengers carrying out religious devotions in their seats, and perhaps some more training for airline staff would help, but it is understandable that less clued-up passengers might be alarmed by someone swaying vigorously in his seat. They might wonder if he was ill, for one thing. I have no problem with people wishing to pray on aircraft (I once took an EgyptAir flight where a prayer for the safety of travellers was broadcast over the intercom as we taxied to the runway), but I would definitely be alarmed if for example someone next to me began to speak in tongues.

And for my primarily non-Jewish readership, "davening" is praying and "shuckling" is rocking back and forth while praying. See here for discussion. (Interestingly, the Scots word "shuggle" means "shake". Go figure.)

If our media are so biased against Israel why have none of them picked this up?

I'm not greatly enamoured of the idea of an academic boycott of Israeli universities and their staff, for reasons given previously here. In this article last year, Abraham Foxman (who admittedly didn't quite get through four paragraphs before bringing in the accusation of anti-Semitism) ended with the following - not unreasonable - point:

Those who now urge a boycott of Israeli universities must know that such a boycott is an assault on the very idea of the university as a citadel of intellectual freedom and informed debate.

So how should we describe Israel's continued refusal to allow Palestinian students to attend their Palestinian universities?

Still, the Ha'aretz article underlines the point that not all Israeli academics are complicit in this racist bullying.

The petition was supported by Israeli professors, who protested the infringement on the students' freedom to study.

Indeed. Let's have academic freedom, and informed debate, with Israelis as well as Palestinians. But for the so-called "only democracy in the Middle East" to let Palestinians (in the democracy next door) attend university at all would be a good start to such freedom.

Speak the speech, I pray you

Reading this review of Cymbeline at Ed's World reminded me that before I got sidetracked last night I had intended to mention this splendid half-hour programme on Radio 4 yesterday morning, available online via the BBC Radio 4 website. Apart from the amusement of hearing the RSC's voice coach Cicely Berry comparing the speaking of Shakespearean verse to rapping, I enjoyed hearing Sir Peter Hall and Sir Derek Jacobi coming out with completely different approaches to the task....which then resulted in uncannily similar end-products. And you find out why dramatic 'parts' and 'roles' were so called, as well as hearing Samantha Bond and an Elizabethan drama expert reading a Quarto edition of Othello which had belonged to Burbage. (OK, that might have made better TV than radio......)

Blog With A One-Track....ah, forget it

Positively my last post about GWAOTM, for a while at least. (See below if you don't know what I'm on about.)

If you visit her blog and catch up on post-outing events, it's not all doom and gloom. She gave a good interview to the Guardian as well, which shows the difference between professional journalism and wannabe amateurism.

It's an ill wind. I know she was on my blogroll, but I don't suppose I'd visited her site more than half a dozen times up to tonight. But from here on, I'm likely to be much more regular, because like so many others out there, I want to be reassured that she's getting on OK after being dumped on by the Sunday Sensation and its Student Journo. And, mostly, she is. I think. I'm sure, though, that messages of support would still be appreciated.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Somewhere in Oxford there's an overturned stone missing its former resident

As I remarked before, to the delight of one of my commenters, I should get out less. I failed to notice that one of my fellow-bloggers (on my blogroll, even) was outed last month (her blog was anonymous, for fairly obvious reasons) in a peculiarly pointless piece of journalism in the Sunday Times. My attention was drawn to it here, and then I found this post and these two which between them say all I wanted to say. Well, except for:

(a) here's a rather funny spoof blog by "Anna Mikhailova" - she may need to get used to such unwanted attentions in the future now that she's upset the blogging community;
(b) what a pity she didn't stick to articles about town-gown punch-ups;
(c) I hope she enjoys a surpassingly brief journalistic career; I mean, she's already been famous for at least fourteen minutes.

P.S. And just after posting, I found probably the best piece of all on the affair, from a blog I didn't know before. Read it.

GATSO could be foxed by these beasts (5)

Is this not the best attempt ever at an excuse for being caught speeding?

No wonder the Iraqis remain unimpressed

Following their "Shock And Awe" world tour to bring the benefits of Freeman Moxy to unenlightened persons of brown complexion, may we hope that Bush and Blair (aka the Rolling Tones) will now tour the USA and extol the benefits of free and fair elections to those poor people?

Yet Good Can still Triumph

Some encouraging news from Punjab. Which, coming after this, is good news indeed.

Powerful the Dark Side Is

And here are a couple of posts demonstrating that it's alive and well, and masquerading as some kind of pseudo-morality near you.

Firatly, this post from Zoe Williams in the Guardian, about vaccination for an unpleasant kind of cervical cancer, and why some soi-disant protectors of our morals would prefer women to die from cancer than receive it.

Then this from Al-Jazeera's site, making the point that a) we are all decsended from primitive hominids (b) some of us have made a shorter journey than others since then. When your flavour of Christianity is shamed by the progressive adjustment to reality of the Catholic Church, that's when you ought to consider reincarnation as something more appropriate, like a film of mould in a jam-jar.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

25 Lines, 10 Picture Clues

Ten lines still unguessed in my current First Lines quiz, so it's hints time again. This time they are mainly pictorial.

#1 - You can ask any crap corduroy question

A song from the first album by this band who arrived in a burst of noise then disappeared almost as quickly. Obsessed with S&M and Clockwork Orange, some of their lyrics were in Nadsat. Recently resurfaced with a new album whose yellow cover features a legless child in a Red Cross t-shirt riding a skateboard. Phew!

#2 - My new shoes are pinching, I guess they'll soon wear in

A song from this album by these guys. One of Roger Dean's greatest album covers.

#5 - Close the door, light the light, we're staying home tonight

Bet you feel silly now, eh? Or maybe you just couldn't own up to knowing it.

The Seekers - guessed by Lisa

#7 - Oh there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run

He's from Canada, which has a bearing on the title. There was a time when every folk club had someone doing a cover version of his "Early Morning Rain".

Gordon Lightfoot - guessed by frankdog

#8 - They say a woman's a fool for weeping, a fool to break her own heart

Formerly the non-songwriting half of a duo. She wrote this one though, which was covered by Linda Ronstadt/Dolly Parton/Emmylou Harris on their "Trio" album.

Linda Thompson - guessed by Lisa

#11 - Don't wade in muddy water if you can't swim.

Title track from this album by this guy. A moderately well-known (in the sixties) contemporary of Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton et al. Like them he frequently appeared in "Broadside" magazine. Unlike them he was black, and unlike them he's been largely forgotten. This first line was used as a tag-line for a chapter in (I think) the "Illuminatus!" trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. Or it may have been RAW's "Schrodinger's Cat" trilogy. One or the other.

#12 - Il est des mots qu'on peut penser, mais à pas dire en société

Emperor Rosko used to play records by this Frenchman. His first record featured a session guitarist called Jimmy Page on (acoustic) guitar, and its cover picture showed the singer with a hamster crawling over his shoulder. I assume the one in this picture is the same hamster. The present song is slightly later, and still formed part of his live set for his "Live At The Roxy" album.

#15 - When the wagons leave the city for the forest and further on

Formerly one-third of a trio. From an album of songs dedicated to a woman who died in a car crash. Funnily enough the singer of #19 was in the same crash; the drummer from the band he was then with was the other fatality.

#18 - I stood alone upon the highest cliff-top

A song from this album by these guys.

#19 - I was nineteen when I came to town, they called it the Summer of Love

Formerly the other half of the duo mentioned above. One of his most-requested songs.

Richard Thompson - guessed by Lisa

Then they wonder why they never win arguments

A hilarious description of the sort of thing one should expect from American "Friends of Israel" (and with friends like these.....). I loved the annoyed suggestion by a pro-Israeli audience member that Zion and Klein had been stooges intended to make Zionists look bad; though whether that's more because of the impression they managed to give even to their natural constituency, or because of the implied conspiracy theory, I know not.

It makes one all the more thankful for people like Michael Totten. Even the folks at Kesher Talk, hilariously extreme though they are, look like models of well-balanced reasoning by comparison.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Talks With Fools But Keeps Good Counsel Dept.

A surprisingly readable blog from an American "Friend Of Israel". I mean, OK, he socialises with Benjamin Kerstein of Kesher Talk, but seems unsullied. He talks to real, normal, Israeli people and appears to tell the truth sometimes. My favourite extracts to date:

There's an old formula that's been floating around for a while.

1. Greater Israel
2. Democracy
3. Jewish Majority

Pick two.

And from an interview with a southern Israeli farmer:

"How often does Hamas fire rockets?" I said.

"Hamas doesn't shoot them" he said. "Islamic Jihad shoots them."

It would be nice if our media would occasionally make that distinction, though of course it serves their purpose to blame everything on Hamas and thus on the Palestinian people who wickedly abused their democracy by electing the wrong government.

Not total balls anyway. Worth a look.

Go. Read.

Two more instalments in Udge's beautiful reminiscences here and here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Blair Watch Project

Some great posts have appeared at Blairwatch since I last dropped in.

This linking to two great articles by John Pilger, well worth reading.

This one on the biggest waste of DNA to disgrace Downing Street since...well, I'm beginning to think "ever". The man who makes Ramsay Macdonald look like a socialist, and Stanley Baldwin like a giant of moral courage. Corrupt, cretinous, cowardly, and every possible C-word including, deeply, Conservative.

And this one on how the Co-Op Bank tries unsuccessfully to reconcile its ethical investment policy with massive investment in New Labour. What next? Al-Qaeda?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

25 Characters

Coming late to this, I discover that several of my favourites have already been suggested. Whatever. I'm a very inconsistent TV watcher, with odd tastes and huge gaps where other people have knowledge (what is this "CSI" of which they speak? ) Ah well, here we go, in no specific order, just as they occur to me, with notes as they seem needed.

1. Nile Crane (Frasier) - without whose deadpan humour the best sitcom ever would have been still-born. (Best sequence is the one where he attempts to iron a pair of trousers and ends up nearly burning down the apartment.)
2. Toby Ziegler (The West Wing) - again, gets most of the best deadpan lines. And some good dramatic bits. And twins ("I didn't realise babies come with hats").
3. Seeley Booth (Bones) ("Jesus was NOT a zombie! I shouldn't have to tell you that....")
4. Reggie Perrin (The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin) - for so many reasons. Think of all those excuses for lateness ("Twenty-two minutes late, badger ate a junction box at New Malden." "Twenty-two minutes late, escaped puma, Chessington North. " "Twenty-two minutes late, fed up by train delays, came by bike. Slow puncture at Peckham. ")
5. Cornfed (Duckman) - the most under-rated cartoon series ever, bar none. A depraved, corrupt private detective (Duckman - a duck) with a smoothly efficient sidekick (Cornfed - a pig). Sample line: "Any ex-wandering troubadour slash hostage negotiator could've done it. " And how can anyone not love a series with an episode entitled "The One With Lisa Kudrow In A Small Role"?
6. Fry (Futurama) - although almost any character would have done. A great series.
7. Damien Day (Drop The Dead Donkey) - can anyone watch a broadcast from a war zone now without thinking, however briefly, of Damien's hyped-up versions?
8. Marvin (The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy) - OK, the appearance of the TV Marvin sucked big-time, but that was just one more thing to depress him.
9. Zaphod Beeblebrox (The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy) - the Coolest Dude Ever (with a nice line in stolen starships).
10. Dana Scully (The X-Files) - as well as being the hottest thing on TV for decades, Agent Scully was the perfect foil for Fox Mulder's flights of (sometimes justified) wackiness. Clarice Starling with a license to perform autopsies. (I considered putting The Lone Gunmen in here as a single entry, BTW.)
11. Claire Fisher (Six Feet Under) - if for no other reason than that she paid back a school bully by putting a severed hand in his locker.
12. Jed Clampett (The Beverley Hillbillies) - in a sitcom full of over-the-top characters, the quiet purveyor of hillbilly wisdom. And still the funniest thing in it.
13. Jeeves (Jeeves and Wooster) - the Stephen Fry version.
14. Jason King (Department S) - Best. TV. Secret. Agent. Ever.
15. Toby Wren (Doomwatch) - Robert Powell's entry into stardom in 1970s eco-drama (exiting while trying unsuccessfully to defuse a nuclear device)
16. Sir Humphrey Appleby (Yes, Minister) - a performance which turned "Sir Humphrey" into part of the language, as every slick civil servant with an answer for everything.
17. Obadiah Slope (Barchester Towers) - Alan Rickman became a household name as this loathsome sycophant.
18. Livia (I, Claudius) - the best and baddest evil character in television history. ("Don't touch the figs.")
19. Johnny Bravo (Johnny Bravo) - for the deluded egotist inside each of us.
20. Bob Ferris (Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads) - the funnier half of a very funny pair, in a sitcom which pulled off the amazing trick of being a sequel about five years after the original, and being funnier. The humour was all about the stresses of being a lad-about-town who's now settled down and got engaged (then married), and Rodney Bewes managed to be completely convincing as the lad-about-town and as the settled middle-class guy, both at once, which is what made him so funny.
21. Sideshow Bob (The Simpsons) - OK, so I like bad guys.
22. Rupert Giles (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) Giles: Well, I'm... afraid that is not... You have responsibilities that other girls do not. Buffy: Oh! I know this one! Slaying entails certain sacrifices, blah, blah, bity blah, I'm so stuffy, gimme a scone. Giles (sarcastically): It's as if you know me.
23. Brenda Wilson (Watching) - the best character from one of the most under-rated sitcoms of all time.
24. Phoebe Buffay (Friends) - the best character from a rather over-rated sitcom, but still mostly pretty damn funny. Would get in on account of the "Smelly Cat" song alone.
25. Lurcio (Up Pompeii) - no, titter ye not. Any character based on an original (actually, a number of different smart slaves) created by Plautus who makes it on prime-time TV has to be worth including. Plus the character names were almost Asterix-like (Ammonia, Ludicrus, Hernia, Stovus Primus...)