Monday, March 31, 2003

Changes, changes... and the same old shit
The changes are coming inside this very house in the suburbs of Belfast - we're getting broadband internet within the next few days, when a wireless router and other stuff arrives. So if I'm silent for a long time, that'll be because I'm sitting in front of one or other of the computers in this house and swearing madly / laughing hysterically / crying pathetically - take your pick - with frustration, trying to set it all up with no prior knowledge of WTF is meant to be done!

In other news... there's no news. Well, there's a bit. The Latest War Stuff which caught my eye: a Time article, an Iraqi hospital perhaps used for torture of missing US soldiers, and Madonna brilliantly spoofing George Bush. And the mystery flu-like epidemic: may spread easier than first thought.

What with mes amis Mark and Tara due to arrive back from Australia soon, via Singapore, I'm a little worried...

Saturday, March 29, 2003

No, this is not another war posting
In fact, it's a posting about a tubby little Swede who likes to make marmalade, a weaselly little bastard who likes to keep very quiet indeed, and 24-hour news services.

Monday, March 24, 2003

The focus has finally narrowed
In war, sooner or later, the cameras stop concentrating on the strategy. They pan away from the issues, and turn their lenses on the smallest (and arguably most important) issues. And in war, those issues are about individuals or groups - about people. In war, those people are usually soldiers.

The suspected US soldier is detained under armed guardIn the past 24 hours, a US 101st Airborne soldier has been detained for rolling grenades into the tents of his superiors as they slept, killing one and injuring 15. Apparently, there were a few explosions in the night, people in neighbouring tents got hit by shrapnel, and soldiers scrambled to their emergency positions as others conducted a search of the camp. The perpetrator was quickly found.

In the past 24 hours, American soldiers have been captured by the Iraqis, paraded in front of TV cameras in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and as the TV networks worry about whether or not to show the footage, they also have to wrestle harder over whether to show the grisly footage of other, dead, US soldiers.

In the past 24 hours, a helicopter has come down inside Iraq, its crew missing and 2 helmets left at the scene.

In the past 24 hours, US troops have captured a chemical plant. In the past 24 hours, two helicopters collided in the Gulf, killing all soldiers and crew, and a Patriot missile destroyed a jet and killed both pilots in a friendly fire incident.

In 'the past 24 hours', in other words, a lot happens to individual people inside a war zone. It's war; that's what happens. No war can be absolutely clinical; when weapons are involved, no-one can be absolutely safe.

I guarantee that if the war was not taking place, this story would be front-page news all over the world.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

America, America... *sigh*
America is hated by some, disliked by others, and sighed at by the rest of us. Henry Porter explains why, while Robert Byrd echoes this, but from the inside.

But first thing in the morning, coffee is more important than anything. Nice to see that Nigel Slater and I agree on yet another point. And apparently, I'm in line for a new, exciting and independent world. What a pile of shit.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Soul of the Web
Does your site have soul? Whether you think so or not, take a look at this new site, which aims to explore the hidden riches of the web, the places where you usually never go, the places which truly have soul over style, substance over glitter.
Saddam may be injured...
...or it may just be one of the fake Saddams who they carried away on a stretcher, complete with oxygen mask, from the Baghdad compound bombed last night. Either way, the assault goes on, with Hussein's elder son reported to be killed. Iraqi troops have been seen from the air preparing chemical munitions as the allied troops push far into the southern reaches, tearing down portraits of Saddam in Safwan.

Iraqis are, however, wary of how to take it all. So am I. Where is the massive aerial assault so much trumpeted by Rumsfeld? If a major plan like that can be abandoned, what about others? Of course there are logistical considerations. Maybe they don't want to bomb the crap out of Baghdad if Saddam is already as good as finished - but maybe Saddam isn't finished at all.

In the wake of all this, there have been protests around the UK and other countries today, with further major action scheduled for tomorrow. People are not happy, and the Guardian's Polly Toynbee points out that Blair has just lost whatever currency he possessed within the EU. As if that wasn't bad enough, Tom Hanks won't turn up for the Oscars and Nicole Kidman is a doubtful appearance...

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Someone is even angrier than me.
Go look.
Today I weep for my country. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. - West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd

The American people are ready for the disarmament of Saddam Hussein. They understand what's at stake. The military is ready, the nation is ready and the cause is just. - White House spokesman Ari Fleischer

It's really too bad. What has become of the world? I'm afraid the UN system has collapsed. We have to give our earnest consideration to the problem. - Mikhail Gorbachev

I should stress straight away that the hostilities are being carried out against world public opinion, against the principles and norms of international law and the UN Charter. This military action cannot be justified by anything. - Vladimir Putin

Whatever the duration of this conflict, it will have serious consequences for the future. - Jacques Chirac

This indeed is a very serious undermining of the world. - Jacob Zuma, Deputy President, South Africa

We should not underestimate the risks and difficulties we may face against a regime that is an embodiment of absolute ruthlessness with utter disregard for human life. - Geoff Hoon, UK Defence Secretary
Bush's Deadline passes - 8PM EST, 1AM GMT, 4AM in Baghdad

As the deadline passes, and the long-distance bombers load up, no word from Saddam - and as yet, no attacks over Iraq. It's a strange night.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

War Has Started... Maybe
Plane lands on USS Kitty Hawk after possibly first aerial mission in warThe picture, left, shows an American warplane landing on USS Kitty Hawk in the Gulf earlier today. The plane was part of a squadron of F-14s and F/A-18s sent out to bomb Iraqi artillery pieces in southern Iraq. The mission, however, was described as 'standard no-fly zone activity'. Meanwhile, a 'fierce firefight' of unknown proportions broke out between Iraqi personnel and Special Boat Service soldiers around mid-PM, GMT, near Basra, also in southern Iraq. At the same time, American and British troops have been flooding into the demilitarized zones around the border, and a protester has fallen from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge while hanging a banner.

The mystery flu could have infected more people, as reports come in of a grounded flight after a family was taken ill on board.

Band of BrothersSo, in these early days of war, whether or not you support it, you'll certainly be in the mood for it. Everyone gets tired of the news during the buildup but the first few days are always exciting to some degree. If you're in the mood for a more thought-provoking, visceral presentation of war, try Band of Brothers. It's a Dreamworks production, with executive producers Spielberg and Hanks co-sponsoring a somewhat unusual project: a TV epic miniseries about Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division, and their progress through the Second World War. To call the thing a TV epic miniseries is an understatement. Combining the washed-out cinematography of Saving Private Ryan with the grisly excitement of Black Hawk Down and the sensitivity to violence of Schindler's List, it's by far the best treatment of the war I've ever seen. Get your copy of the DVD set here, or here if you're American, and as for reviews... who needs reviews for something this good? But you know where to go...

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

You think this will be one thing...
...and then it turns out to be entirely another. From the way it started I thought it was anti war. Read on:


March 16, 2003. Today it was reported that a severe earthquakes haveoccurred in 10 different locations in France. The severity was measured in excess of 10 on the Richter Scale. The cause was the 56,681 dead American soldiers buried in French soil rolling over in their graves. According to the American Battle Monuments Commission there are 26,255 Yankee dead from World War I buried in 4 cemeteries in France. There are 30,426 American dead from World War II buried in 6 cemeteries in France. These 56,681 brave American heroes died in their youth to liberate a country which is guilty of shameful unspeakable behavior in the 21st century. May the United States of America never forget their sacrifice as we find ways to forcefully deal with the God forsaken unappreciative, forgetful country of France!

Hmmm. And all it turned out to be was an anti-French rant.

You see how a xenophobic American standpoint utterly ruins perfectly decent political humour?!

Monday, March 17, 2003

US Forces: Iraq Battle Order
Get your updates here.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Someone just stepped on the gas.
Another soldier - he could not have been much out of his teens - spoke to his father: 'It's mad here. There's nothing but desert.' Then the soldier paused after his father asked him a question. 'Yeah, a little bit,' he replied softly. 'Yeah, I'm a little bit afraid.'

From The Observer's extra supplement on the final buildup to war in Iraq comes this report on how the British soldiers in camp near Iraq are gearing up for the inevitable. 'The inevitable?' I hear you say. 'Bush, Blair and Aznar are meeting in the Azores today, so nothing's decided yet.'

Hmm. Well, be that as it may, UK and US troops have been supplied with 'needle pens', powerful injection 'guns' which are intended to be used to limit the effects of nerve gas - an equipment issue which is only given at the very last minute before combat. They carry their gas masks to the showers, and are feeling jittery.

A reporter says efforts in Europe must continue apace to contain the world's best-known bent copper (Bush), but when you look at recent world events, and the diplomatic history between the UK and US, you might be forgiven for thinking that the rift will never heal.

And back in Iraq, Saddam has been somewhat left out of the recent reports. Can he really do anything to inflame the situation once war starts?

Friday, March 14, 2003

Get your beautiful-new-gadget news here, and your heads-up about what happens next year here.
War, and the... excitement of war?
MOYERS: And yet you say in your book that the first Gulf War, that we made war fun.

HEDGES: For those who weren't there. I was with the U.S. Marine Corps and they hated CNN. They hated that flag-waving jingoism that dominated the coverage, or dominated so much of the coverage?all those abstract terms that create the excitement back home become obscene to those who are in combat.

This is from an interview with Chris Hedges, former New York Times war correspondent, in whcih he discusses just what war actually is. Not TV pictures and cute little graphic reports, in case you were thinking that's what war is. (found on Metafilter)

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Sir Michael Peat: Prince Charles's Household not to blame
The Peat Report into allegations that the UK's Prince of Wales had an improper influence on the official handling of certain criminal matters last year has, unsurprisingly, given him a clean bill of health - it was written by his right-hand man. But inside it, there's this curiosity which I thought I'd share with you:

The Prince of Wales receives, and gives, a large number of gifts. For example, The Prince of Wales's Office has records of 2,394 official gifts received during the three years 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Furthermore, these gifts include 5 animals and livestock, 15 arms and armour, 53 pens and stationery, and 30 bottles of wine / spirits. Heck, it must be Christmas every day for the poor man, who is obviously in such a state (what with the media description of the report being that it's a whitewash) that he'll have to go and take a couple of hefty measures out of one of the 10-20 bottles of drink he's been given this year.
Consumer Stuff, for a change
Gould's Book of Fish - Richard FlanaganYou Shall Know Our Velocity - Dave Eggers
It's been a long time since I featured anything you can buy. I really, really like the idea of nicely-printed, well-designed books with some refined design innovation: Chip Kidd's The Cheese Monkeys was one from last year; Richard Flanagan's Gould's Book of Fish - a novel in twelve fish was another.

Kidd's book was a typographic masterpiece, setting a rustic, almost linotype serif against the brash, laidback feistiness of the subjectmatter, while Flanagan's book has discreet and refined use of coloured text, and the typeface alone is a masterful choice. Not to mention the fact that the paper, too, changes almost unnoticeably from chapter to chapter.

This year, we have the superbly-designed You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers, which begins in a no-nonsense way - right on the front cover. The first few sentences start right at the top of the cover, in embossed coloured type, with the title and author embossed (in silver, if I remember rightly) into a cloth strap-binding at the side. I haven't read it yet - just gazed at it enviously in the bookshops - but if you want it, hurry. It won't be the same in paperback, that's for sure. Kidd's book wasn't, and nor was Flanagan's. But then, nothing ever is...

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Mapping the Pentagon's hive-mind
When a state doesn't function like America says it should, it's part of The Gap. So says the ironically named Thomas "P.M." Barnett (my quote marks) who also includes a few helpful maps of the world.

These maps, here and here in PDF, chart which countries of the world are productive, 'Western' and therefore good, and which are underproductive or even (shock, horror) keeping their goods and money to themselves, part of 'The Gap' and therefore bad. No, Barnett is not saying that these countries are necessarily part of the retail chain's sweatshop ethics.

What he is saying, in sum, as far as I can see, is this: We don't understand these countries. They're so different to our own. They have these weapons, but they're different to ours, and we don't understand them, so we don't really want them to have any. And we really can't understand why they won't work with us. I mean, why wouldn't they? Who wants to go against America in today's world?

Answer: Quite a lot of people, really.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Bizarre conversations
haku: i mean jesus was an alien...u gotta admit...resurrections, 23rd century healing powers and ascending into the heavens...its got star trek written all over it
Pete: The thing is, I think that Americans like Bush are so religious and all because they know Jesus exists. They've got him locked away in Area 51 or whatever it is, and are scared shitless to tell the world, as it'd fuck Osama bin Laden off no end.
haku: area 51 is the moon
haku: they faked the moon landing :D

Thursday, March 06, 2003

My degree has condemned me to low earnings
According to a study published in Labour Market Trends, 'a degree in an arts subject reduces average earnings to below those of someone who leaves school with just A-levels' - BBC story. (For those outside the UK, A Levels are your final exams in a school which ultimately qualify you for University entrance.)

I graduated in 2000 with a First Class MA (Hons) in English Literature. Since then, I've been in and out of unemployment, certainly earning far less than many of my peers who graduated in vocational subjects.

I could earn a salary of £17,000 immediately by riding around Belfast on a motorised buggy which sucks litter off the pavements. But finally get any permanent salaried job, in Northern Ireland, which would be a direct progression from my degree and training, I'll earn £10,000 to £11,000 tops.
of wisdom at petullant.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

One moment, it was a fine sunny day in south Belfast. The next, the sky was leaden and rumbling, strobed by flashes... and threw down, for 5 minutes, the biggest most noisy hailstones I've ever seen in my life. This is a photo of some of them lying on the windowsill outside this room. Massive, they were. I would post more pictures of the general scene, but this page would slow to a crawl for humble modem-users like me.

Hailstorm thunderstones

Monday, March 03, 2003

A superb introduction to Malt Whisky
A bottle of Caol Ila single the unlikeliest of sources. Pictured is a bottle of Caol Ila which the Observer reckons is the ideal introduction to Single Malt.



Blogging is, contrary to popular opinion, a pretty solitary trade, and it's really nice to see that other people who read your site are actually spurred to thought about it - whatever that thought is.

You can, by the way, comment on the archives too. Just so you know how to ignore those comment links, too.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

This is me, apparently
These pictures are me. Apparently. According to the wonderful site My Virtual Model, via The Copydesk! The only thing is, the legs are a bit too big, and my hair's a bit darker. And I don't look so goddamn American. But other than that, apart from the fact that my abs are better and my arms bigger, I think it's pretty good! :o)

A superb photo from Russ.
US bugs UN diplomats in advance of war, Metafilter fails to discuss it
What was the NSA wanting to do with its wiretap intel? Twist arms? Influence votes? That's what the Observer thinks. The memo itself, from which this information is gleaned, has already been argued about at length on Metafilter, and includes bizarre pointers to the Guardian's style guide to try and rubbish the memo itself.

I'm all for balanced discussion, but what amazes me is that, on Metafilter for god's sake, there are only two notable defences of a newspaper's right to assume a position on a war, and support it with hard-won information.

You'd think that the Observer hadn't done its research properly and needed MeFis to check its sources to stop the story blowing up in its face. Need I point out here that blogging is *not journalism*?

And they've just got the man believed to be ultimately responsible for September 11... apart from Osama bin Laden, that is.

Aside from all that, Gareth Gates stammers during an interview (shock! horror!) and Nigel Slater gets his chin slippy. With fondue.