Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Iraqi Information Minister... again! :o)
Here we have an extract from a BBC story:

US President George W Bush has admitted that he enjoyed Mr Sahhaf's briefings so much that he used to interrupt some of his meetings just to watch him.
"He's my man, he was great," he told NBC television in a recent interview. "Somebody accused us of hiring him and putting him there. He was a classic."
And it's not just classical music, either.
Poetry is dead. As well. Apparently. Personally, however, I think it's very much alive. Some types of music are dead to me, and have always been so. But what does that say? Nothing. Apart from something about my individual tastes.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Music matters
We are all too used to watching the latest silver-screen blockbusters, reading the bestsellers and having some background sound, turned down low, over dinner. But, says modern composer James MacMillan, a lack of dedicated time spent listening to the most precisely abstract artform of all - classical music - is surely leading to an intellectual and spiritual decline somewhere inside all of us.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Pre-War Iraqi Presidential Meeting was bugged...
...and here are the results.

MUHAMMED SAEED AL-SAHAF (Information Minister): Mr President, what should I say to these stinking rats who gather with their notebooks and cameras at the ivory gates of our city, clamouring for a sign that our glorious 12-year victory over the bastard American infidels is over?
SADDAM HUSSEIN (President): Well, Muhammed, I'd be of the opinion that some rhetoric would go down a treat.
MSS: You mean I should make my words cause the livers of those ignorant bastards, crying outside our great bejewelled city, to fall out and be devoured by the fires of hell?
SH: Yeah, I think that should do it. Now, on to the next --
MSS: And what if they laugh, showing their rotting teeth, scourged by the ravages of western food, unavailed by the great wondrousness of Iraqi babyfood and toothpaste?
SH: Look, I really haven't got much time. I'd guess a bit of humour might come in handy. Get the journalists to laugh at them. Oh, and throw in some stuff like "I'm informing you" and "I can now report to you that the situation is different" - you know, power words like that.
MSS: And what of Ridley Scott, that infernal prattler of western fabricated scum? What of his film?
SH: Erm - yeah, throw a few film references in as well if you want, but I really have to be --
MSS: So saying something like "The midget Bush and that Rumsfield deserve only to be beaten with shoes by freedom loving people everywhere" and "We blocked them inside the city. Their rear is blocked" and maybe even "We are in control. They are in a state of hysteria. Losers, they think that by killing civilians and trying to distort the feelings of the people they will win. I think they will not win, those bastards" would be okay?
MSS: Hello? Anyone there?
MSS: Oh shit, he's gone already. (To journalist:) I am informing you, this snake has gone to hide in his long grass, but the people will smoke him out of his bush, and chop him up. Snakes try to find refuge in many bushes, but this man, by God --
FEYADEEN: Oi! What the fuck do you think you're saying?! By God, you are very lucky that I am not already feasting on your gizzard. GET BACK TO YOUR OFFICE AND STAY THERE UNTIL YOUR ORDERS ARRIVE!
MSS: Oops. Sorry, sorry. Got a bit carried away.
JOURNALIST (smiling): War is hell.

Inspired by the excellent website We Love The Iraqi Information Minister dot com.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Northern Irish Humour
"The Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics is sponsored by both the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association... The first volume of JEBS was published in 1976... In the mid-'nineties, the journal's name was changed from the Journal of Educational Statistics or JES to its current name. There are various reasons for the change in name and policy. In the first place, the name JEBS is more representative of the type of papers that JES actually published... We hope that you will enjoy the various aspects of JEBS."

I swear, it's all true.

Jebs Rule!

For those of you who aren't quite sure what I'm talking about, the acronym actually exists as a word in Northern Ireland, and means, well, those two things you usually find on the front of ladies. :oD

Friday, April 04, 2003

Friday goodness
A site which I'm not sure whether I approve of or really really disapprove of because of its title: PoemRanker. Everything in me just goes "Ewwww!" when I read that title, but the site seems good from a cursory glance. Of course you need *yet another* way to see loads of blogs by only having to look at one, and here it is - Random Blog Quotes. Finally, for those times you're sick of html and want real paper, BookFilter is something to peruse for 30 seconds before you go to the local Books etc. or Borders. Or Waterstone's. Or Ottakar's.
Have well-placed friends, will make money
Now, I'm all against big media moguls and huge corporations of whatever kind. Their money-madness drives me, well, mad. But when I see that one guy, working alone, is the biggest fastest news-source on the web and makes a bigger profit (although not necessarily more money) than his corporate rivals, it's hard not to leap from my chair and wave my hands in the air and yell happily. This article, found on LinkMachineGo, tells us about the man: Matt Drudge. Although his page is little more than a collection of links, it's *all* shit-hot. That's a highly precise news term, if you didn't know already.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Lazy afternoon
It's grey in Belfast, the house is quiet, and I've been looking at books all the time. Did think of starting the day with some Bottled Iraq but decided against it. Every time I watch the reports, I just get irritated by this strategy of embedding journalists. A journalist in Iraq who has just been thrown out by the military for not being embedded regularly posts to a website I'm a member of. He's not happy about it. Neither am I. And to think that a major said, at the start of March, "It'll be tea and medals in Baghdad in a few days' time".

Anyway. The books I have been reading today are a blast from the past. As a kid I was always interested by historical things. It started with ancient Egyptian Books of the Dead - papyri which hung in the tombs, telling the story of how the dead man travels to the afterlife - and then a few years later I discovered illuminated manuscripts. By that time, I'd started getting into castles in a big way, and during a few summer holidays visited a lot of Welsh castles. They are truly military innovations, and architectural masterpieces. The military bases of the 14th and 15th centuries. But the manuscripts are truly amazing. Of course they're books, so you might think "Okay, they're superbly decorated books". That's okay as far as it goes.

A manuscript detail - the lack of gold indicates this was cheap(er)But: they didn't have printing presses. They had to make the ink. There were different colours of ink. Most had to be made from precious stones and minerals, shipped at great expense in the case of the more luxurious books. The paint had to be made in the same way. Some of the illustrations and decorations are so tiny that it's hard to comprehend how they did it without modern magnifying-lenses. They had to write the text themselves. It had to be decorative. Try that yourself - it's not easy! They didn't have paper either - illuminated manuscripts are nearly all written onto vellum - a word for lamb or pig skin cured, stretched, scraped, treated and dried. A whole large book could take the skins of a whole herd of sheep, for example.

Examples: the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry - very famous among those in the 'manuscripts loop'. (A 'book of hours' is a prayerbook - usually medieval.) There are others, where the artists were less skilled and the labour was cheaper. Often, such prayerbooks were the most valuable single item most people ever owned. You can buy books on the subject, like those I was reading.