Sunday, May 30, 2004

Green tea and related delicacies

Green tea powder being sieved - from frangipani

It’s just rained steadily and mistily here, and the garden smells of damp leaves, rich earth, spring wetness. It’s the first rain we've had for more than a week, and as I sit by the window and the breeze moves through the room, I sip from a glass cup filled with green tea.

My tea isn’t as refined as some of the teas listed in that link. Especially not the revered Bi Luo Chun which is delicately harvested by hand from only 2 mountains. But it is delicate enough, and today I have added honey, as the hayfever season is getting underway.

Delicacy is the watchword with green tea, from the harvesting to the treatment of the leaves before packing and storing; from the kitchen–based teabag–and–kettle approach to that of the tea ceremony, described here and lovingly photographed here by f r a n g i p a n i.

The delicacy of the aroma is, I’m sure, why instead of drinking from a cup one must use a tea bowl instead. To constrict the vapour inside a narrow cup would surely concentrate it too much.

And that’s why I have my glass cup of green tea sitting on the windowsill, its vapour being teased apart by the breeze from the fresh garden in which a bird settles, cheeps, and bounces from stem to stem.

Friday, May 28, 2004

As if it happens now

The Blitz over London

10th of March, 1933: To-day Herr Göring, the Prussian Commissioner for the Ministry of the Interior, issued an order to the Storm Troops calling for stricter discipline, and asking them to refrain from acts of violence, but the order does not yet appear to have had the desired effect.

16th of March, 1933: The Nazi Terror goes on. The following letter has been received here from a private correspondent in Berlin, for whose good faith and trustworthiness the recipient of the letter vouches:– These Storm Troops (Hitler’s followers) are arresting Communists in their homes or on the streets. They take them into their Nazi barracks in order to torture them, as is being told us by eye-witnesses. In the Nazi barracks they whip the Communists and break their fingers in order to get from them confessions and addresses.

13th of November, 1933: All Germans rounded up to vote. The first official result from a town came from Neuss, where 36,256 votes were cast in the Reichstag election – that is, 98 per cent. Of these 35,583 went to the Nazi party. This would indicate that as compared with the last election nearly 20,000 supporters of the other parties had gone Nazi.

1st of October, 1938: An Anglo–German pledge. We, the German Fuehrer and Chancellor and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today, and are agreed in recognising that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe. We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic as the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.

4th of September, 1939: The Ultimatum. War Against Hitlerism. At War (leader). Britain at war with Germany:

The Admiralty, which was already in control of all British shipping, has now adopted the convoy system.

The banks will be closed to–day, but will reopen to–morrow. The Stock Exchange remains closed for the present.

All cinemas, theatres, and other places of entertainment are to be closed until further notice. Sports gatherings, indoor or outdoor, which involve large numbers of people congregating are prohibited. Church and all other places of public worship will not be closed.

President Roosevelt, in his broadcast to the United States last night, declared, “America will remain a neutral nation.” He disclosed that the proclamation of neutrality was already being prepared.

3rd of September, 1942: Terror still growing. How the Jews in France were rounded up. The plight of the French Jews was relieved to some extent by help and sympathy shown to them by their non–Jewish countrymen. Some were enabled to escape and numbers of children were given shelter and smuggled later into unoccupied territory, in spite of the danger involved. Others who evaded arrest are trying desperately to reach unoccupied France, and there is an almost uninterrupted stream of fugitives towards the demarcation line.

The Second World War, as reported by The Guardian. This is an archive of absolutely compelling stuff. Whereas photos and archive footage give us an idea of the horrors of occupied Europe and the troops’ advance, domestic contemporary reporting creates a first–hand collision between the events themselves and the country which must make sense of them. I’d say that even if you’re not interested in the war, a lot of this will hold your attention.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

New Creative Commons License

I’ve moved to one of the new Creative Commons v2.0 Licenses, and changed the licensing for this site to Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. That means if you use any of my material you can’t use it commercially (apart from with my permission) and must give me credit for it by a link if that’s possible in your media, and you have to distribute the resulting work under a license identical to this one.

Now, on to the blogging. I’ve been waiting for some time for the old “We’re all under attack” strategy leading up to the US election later this year, and hey presto, it’s arrived with Ashcroft’s sombre warning of some sort of attack, somewhere, at some time.

Quite an announcement for a country which has just been accused of countless human rights abuses:

The global security agenda promulgated by the US Administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle. Sacrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses have neither increased security nor ensured liberty.

…and has dismissed them out of hand. America was also, it’s suggested — although not by Amnesty — conveniently duped into war with Iraq by Chalabi. If that’s true, either Chalabi was really good at being a double agent of some kind, someone was really treasonous, or the administration was really stupid. Luckily, the New York Times’ disclosures of its mistakes in reporting Iraq are anything but stupid and an admirable contribution to proper responsibility.

Monday, May 24, 2004

The things people search for — redux

I know that people have visited this site before in (a futile) search for info or photos pertaining to the conjugal activities of furry quadrupeds, but this search… well, it’s a new one on me.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Palme d’Or

2004’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival goes to… Michael Moore, for Fahrenheit 9/11. MetaFilter has a debate on whether, given this is a French prize, it’ll do the distribution more harm than good.

Battleship Island… all deserted now

I really love abandoned places. Not just the variety of websites dedicated to documenting them, either.

When I was a kid I went on a field trip to somewhere in the Republic of Ireland. We encountered a country house, gardens, stable block and outbuildings which were all still standing, all utterly deserted. Things hanging from ceilings and swinging in the breeze. The wind passing straight through a drawing–room. Dead birds on the stairs. Scratchings from the end of dark corridors.

And then you go outside and there’s real outdoor wind, sunlight on your skin. The building you just left is there, solid and real enough, touchable, but still very, very unreal: its essential quality is one of evanescence.

Off the westernmost coast of Japan, is an island called “Gunkanjima” that is hardly known even to the Japanese. Long ago, the island was nothing more than a small reef. Then in 1810, the chance discovery of coal drastically changed the fate of this reef.

I was twenty-two when I first visited the island I had dreamed about ever since childhood. Much like a fortress built upon the sea, surrounded by high walls,the island possessed an air of a small kingdom, where its denizens boasted “There is nothing we don't have here.”

Eventually, the mines faced an end, and in 1974 the world’s once most densely populated island become totally deserted.

The link from the island's name takes you to a predictably unsettling gallery of this island — which is packed to the very clifflines with everything a small city would need. It’s all standing, and all empty. Amazing stuff.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Pope throws a rope…

…to all those furious people in the USA and elsewhere by making an announcement that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Now I know this is a bit of a semantic difference – the Pope is obviously talking about the Catholic definition of marriage – butI’d just like to say that it in fact isn’t. It hasn’t been so since 2001, when the world’s first gay marriage took place in Holland.

His pronouncement is borne out of the ‘unnamed threat’ fear. The US marriages (see previous posts on this blog and elsewhere, or click this google search) have not been religious or Catholic, and yet the Pope feels his church’s own marriages are challenged enough to reiterate its already–well–known policy.

A stand made by a quavering old man isn’t going to stop gay people loving each other, I’m afraid.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Seattle Central Library

I thought Tate Modern was amazing. It opened shortly before I started living in London, and during the time I lived there, I admired its exterior brutalism and its interior refinement – it was as if someone had just taken art gallery design to a wild and civilised height.

It remained my favourite modern building for ages – aside from some work by Tadao Ando and others – and then today I heard about Seattle Central Library and Tate Modern came second.

Seattle Public Library - exterior - copyright BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Inside the library, floors don’t hug the exterior wall, crayon colours give distinction to important focal points like starcases and escalators, and reading rooms are given a surfeit of natural light. A photo gallery on this page gives some idea of its essential qualities.

Inside are vast spaces — library officials admit the acoustics won’t be great — and bright colors: vivid-yellow escalators, lipstick–red hallways.

And there are floors and floors of books, with a system of sorting the nonfiction collection into a four–story “book spiral,” unheard–of anyplace else in the country.

The 363,000–square–foot building has 11 stories and will nearly double the amount of books that were available at the temporary library near the Washington State Convention & Trade Center.

With a brilliant designer, construction and budget glitches aside, it’s a superb building and I don’t see why I shouldn’t go and live in it right away. *grin*

Typographic shenanigans… and other things

I don't know if this is because I just have too much time on my hands, (and speaking of which, isn’t that such a strange cliché?) but I've decided to start using proper typographical marks instead of just relying on the keyboard's symbols. I revamped the design and from now on I might as well revamp my care with symbols, too.

That means using things like “ instead of ", and ’ instead of '. It's a small difference but I think that with this font, it does read better. And that’s really the point – not that it looks shallowly prettier. But as the link makes clear, when you start to use different kinds of dashes and things, there are grammatical rules. Sigh.

Anyway, on with the linkage. A young writer’s been fired from his job for, well, writing. And yes, it’s America, and yes, it’s Texas. Over in Washington DC, however, you can get fired for being interfered with by a Senator and then blogging about it. Still with sex, here's how the German Propaganda machine exploited it during World War II. Ghost Sites hosts a rather interesting snippet about what it’s like to be an extra on The Day After Tomorrow, a film about climate disaster New York style.

Sort of related to the previous post, here’s what American TV was like on 9/11 – this article is well–written and has some bizarre moments of hilarity—at least for me.

Moleskinerie blogs a book about Absinthe that I wouldn’t mind having. If you like Orchids, or don’t know yet whether you do, this Orchid photo site is for you.

Gay Marriage has finally taken off the the States – well, it did so yesterday actually, and The Boston Globe’s gay marriage page is a good place to get your info and views. A rather far–fetched set of conspiracy theories about Nick Berg’s beheading.

And finally, two simple pleasures. First, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair gets hit by a flour–filled condom, and second, Slashdot reports that ground coffee has lots of caffeine. Wow. What a relief.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004



The image above is an item from an exhibit of objects connected with 9/11 in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and it links to the exhibition site.

That’s enough to make anyone sigh. And it is unreal enough. I, however, am ready to scream when I hear of writing and art being destroyed in the name of a political ideology. And this has recently happened, and the writing wasn't some terrorist firebrand incitement to public disorder.

It was poetry.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on [her] school’s closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being “un-American” because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration’s failure to give substance to its “No child left behind” education policy.

The girl’s mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child’s poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

There was no obscenity. None. An opinion, expressed in verse by a young poet. The Principal of the school, spineless lackey that he is, has ordered that the teaching and reciting of poetry be banned there. Art teachers who refused to tear down pupils’ posters critical of the war found themselves unemployed at the start of the next school year. So who now teaches art there? And what effect does that have on the pupils’ understanding of art and its range?

The National Writers’ Union and the American Civil Liberties Union have pending legal action against the school, up to federal level. Damn right.

Writers and editors who have spent years translating essays, films, poems, scientific articles and books by Iranian, North Korean and Sudanese authors have been warned not to do so by the U.S. Treasury Department under penalty of fine and imprisonment. Publishers and film producers are not allowed to edit works authored by writers in those nations.

It makes me exceptionally concerned for the future of art of all kinds in America. Maybe these artists will rebel when they are released into a permissive einvronment, and my concern will be proved misplaced. But I think this is as serious an assault against the freedom to create as the Iraq prison torture was against the humanity of the prisoners. And it should be pursued with as much vigour. And who will pursue the defence but artists?

How I love my Wanklyn, and all that Jazz. I do.

Just a smattering for the moment. Looing at this post on Metafilter about weird / funny molecular names, I remembered that in my school there were many glass chemical-bottles with glass stoppers and old labels stuck to the sides. We all loved one of them for its name: Wanklyn! For those visitors who don't find that funny, even in a schoolboy way, to wank is to jerk off. :o) Similarly, the Wankel engine always caused loads of grinning.

Dean's World (I find his politics execrable but he's a driven blogger) writes about jazz for classical fans. Not that his choices would be good simply for classical fans, however. But he explains the raison d'etre of jazz really well. And to his list I'd add any of Keith Jarrett's Solo Concerts, most notably La Scala for its impressionistic quality and The famous Koln Concert because it shows most clearly how influenced Jarrett's musicality really was by Bach.

Finally, MetaFilter's thread on gay marriage. I know you might wonder why I reference MetaFilter threads. Well, if I knew I could walk into a building every day and watch a fight or an entertaining argument without fail, I would. MetaFilter, with its wealth of links, opinions and cross-opinions, is the online equivalent of being able to do so.

Monday, May 17, 2004

How maps inscribe me

If you don't know what the above image is founded upon, it's London's Tube Map. The link takes you to a well-researched and informative post which points you to loads of different treatments of the famous diagram. (Is it a map? or a diagram? Nobody seems to be sure.) There are 3D maps, maps which show tubes and trains, the realworld layout of the lines, - practically unrecognisable - other things in underground London, funny maps, rude maps, historical maps... but nearly all of the Tube, and a wonderful compendium.

While browsing, looking at the station names sent me on a 45-minute trip down memory lane and I got sort of emotional, so I went out for a walk around this bit of Belfast to centre myself. But not before using one of the sites to make the picture above: every little marker shows a station I actually entered or left, rather than just travelling through. Looking at it, I'm surprised at how many stations that amounts to. And not surprised in the least at how wistful I feel after remembering it all.

Sex Hill Barrow Tom Lenk Elijah Wood Sex

It's grey in Belfast this morning, which is slightly discouraging as yesterday was so sunny and uplifting. But as ever there are websites out there to ensure that your average online experience is never grey. For a start, The Cannes Film Festival has just screened Nine Songs, a film by Michael Winterbottom, which features real sex. Not simulated. With a cumshot too. I want to see it. It hasn't got a certificate here yet, but I'd be obliged if the censors would leave it uncut. Come, don't go.

Then we have the news (well, it's newsworthy to me) that Silbury Hill, a pre-Roman manmade mound in Wiltshire, is hopefully going to be classified as a building rather than protected land, to protect it against increased rambling rights. It's close to West Kennet Long Barrow, which I've also visited twice. They were clever people, those comparatively early land-dwellers.

Now we come (pun certainly applicable) to the superb Honeytom, the blog of a young man who I know, slightly, although not yet in person. He has a wonderful ability to create jaunty readable prose, and although that challenge is easily achieved by many, few can achieve it while blogging exclusively about gay stuff, as Honeytom does. Today there's a post about a slew of hot actors, including the very very gay Elijah Wood (who as a kid actor snogged Christina Ricci in Ang Lee's superb The Ice Storm) and, even better, the previously-unknown-to-me Tom Lenk. You'll have to scroll down Honeytom's post to see him, but grrrrRRRRRRrrrowl, he's worth it.

And finally, as an antidote to all that gay stuff, but still remaining within the gay meme, here's a page called Medical Consequences of what Homosexuals Do. I hate the word 'homosexual' as it's so puritanically Victorian but it never fails to make me grin when I see it on the website of an anti-gay group, especially when there are choice sentences like

Smokers and drug addicts don't live as long as non-smokers or non-addicts, so we consider smoking and narcotics abuse harmful. The typical life-span of homosexuals suggests that their activities are more destructive than smoking and as dangerous as drugs
in there. MetaFilter, which supplied the link, mulls it over here, and The Boston Globe has an excellent links list all about gay living in sin marriage here.

Movable Type - or Leavable Type?

Six Apart's justifiably-lauded server-based blogging software just got an upgrade. Thousands - maybe tens of thousands - of people have been using it for free. Many of their blogs are now online daily staples for tens of thousands of other people. Maybe even millions. The software is now not free, and the price is now many hundreds of dollars. Some of those blogs might now cease to be - or the bloggers might have to move to different software and settle for a blog with less features and therefore severely upset or inconvenience their readerships. Not to mention themselves.

So let's take a look at what the web is saying.

  • Six Apart's announcement of the price hike, with lots of angry comments at the bottom
  • MetaFilter's discussion / stoking of the fire, chronologically
  • Slashdot's members proceed to slash Six Apart's virtual windpipe. Over and over
  • HostingMatters has a more removed, academic discussion... for a while
  • An excellent overview of the 'why does it matter?' variety by Silent Running - "Primarily - the entire episode has motivated a lot of people to, possibly for the first time, do a careful comparison of the other options available in the realm of Content Management Software/Systems. And many of those folks were dyed in the wool virtual cheerleaders and unabashed advocates of the MT system"
  • Foreword, one of my favourite blogs, isn't happy at all. They posted again later about Six Apart's u-turn under pressure, and there are excellent links and commentary in that post
  • blogoSFERICS definitely fucking isn't fucking happy (and this link may consequently die)
  • Now, there are two alternatives out there which spring to mind for many people, the first of which is WordPress. The other horse to enter the race is ExpressionEngine.

    I guess you might be wondering "why the hell does this matter?". Well, you're reading a weblog which could just as well have been written under Movable Type. If you link from my sidebar you might be reading something which is actually written under Movable Type. And since blogging is so huge, and Movable Type such a market leader up until now, it's like... well, it's like the book industry just finding out that, from now on, a common type of paper now costs $ (insert really crippling price here).

    I was thinking that sometime I'd get myself some proper server space and figure out how to install Movable Type (for it's a difficult process). But now, I'm hoping that the competition will take advantage of this newly-blown-open market to identify the weaknesses of Movable Type as experienced by people who aren't server geeks. And I'm hoping that, a few years down the line, the competition won't charge several hundred dollars for the privilege.

    Saturday, May 15, 2004

    An eye for an eye? Just the way things happen?

    First came these revelations that UK troops had been engaged in abuse of Iraqi prisoners - a story broken by the publication of photos in The Daily Mirror. Next came the arguments. Denial after denial from the army; the Mirror and its editor, Piers Morgan, standing by the authenticity of the photos and the story itself. The army and government seemed to be struggling uphill against the public torrent of suspicion and disgust.

    But then, suddenly, Morgan and The Mirror were struggling to insist that the story was true even though the photos might have been faked. The army was joined by the Ministry of Defence in London which proclaimed the photos as categorically faked. It sought apologies.

    And then, last night, Piers Morgan, Editor of The Daily Mirror, was sacked.

    It's thought that his departure was the result of pressure from some of the paper's American stakeholders. It was swift: he was escorted from the building with no time to collect his coat. And his paper's presses were rolling an apology: SORRY... WE WERE HOAXED.

    I don't think the focus should be on Morgan (although there are plenty of journalistic obituaries out there as I write). Abuses have happened. The Army's police have today arrested 4 suspects. Morgan stood by a story, maybe too strongly; maybe it's right he should go.

    But I wonder whether an editorial head was really necessary. I wonder whether 'invisible' Government pressure was brought to bear - all the more invisible since the demise of Alistair Campbell's openly hostile attacks. I wonder whether The Mirror, a partisan, risk-taking paper in the spectrum of the UK's national free press, has simply been the latest media victim of a war which has caused a level of international and national diplomatic trouble and hotheadedness never seen before.

    And I wonder, in the case of those prisoners in Iraq or the case of the Mirror here at home, whether it's all an eye for an eye, or just the way things happen.

    Friday, May 14, 2004

    Fox not so cunning

    Imagine an American TV show in which a healthy, ruddy-cheeked, straight-down-the-line young man tries to fool his friends and everyone else that he's actually gay, by coming out to them, going to a gay club and trying to pull, going on a date with a real gay guy while keeping his real sexuality secret from said homosexual...

    Imagining that? (Oh yeah, and if he's good enough he wins $50,000.)

    Fox News will air such a show! It'll be hilarious! According to Fox the idea of having to pass for gay is 'a heterosexual male's worst nightmare'! *rolls in aisles* What a laugh it'll be! All those guys pissing themselves over it as they sit in the studio and watch their exploits! Oh what an.... erm.... insult. Quoting from the Washington Post:

    For one week, the two straight guys will "immerse themselves in 'the gay lifestyle,' " the network said. Is that something like "the Hispanic lifestyle" or "the black lifestyle" or the "single mom lifestyle"? See, already we can't wait for this show.

    If Fox wanted to do a really interesting reality series in which two heterosexual men experience what it is like to be a gay man in America, they ought to also send them someplace like Laramie, Wyo. Of course, that would not be the "outrageously satirical" and "hilarious reality special" that Fox has promised this one will be.

    After the two guys are done trying to "pass for gay," they will be put to a "jury of their queers," Fox said. Really, they said that.

    I know Fox is owned by Murdoch. I know straight people, by and large, often don't notice tiny homophobic stuff the way gay people do. I know the bulk of America is not particularly urbanised and is particularly traditionalist in its thinking. But the people who wrote that release were sitting in a monolithic building in New York City.

    I know many gay people fit this description, but today it is particularly of Fox that I wish to say: bungling, insensitive, foot-in-mouth assholes.

    Coffea arabica / Coffea robusta?

    For the past seven years I've breakfasted on coffee nearly every morning. There's nothing like stumbling softly around the kitchen, scalding the pot, feeling the intense cold of the container from the freezer (I freeze my coffeegrounds; the infusion isn't affected and the grounds don't lose their aromatic oil to evaporation when you store them this way), and standing around waiting, almost in desperation, until you hear the schchchchchchlllup as you pour. Even then, it is far too hot to drink, but you try anyway. I have often come within a yelp or two of scalding my tongue in this way. But it always seems worth it.

    I was sitting here a few minutes ago with a freshly-brewed cafetiere of the good stuff steaming gently beside me when I read with horror that 81% of British people class themselves as coffee-drinkers, and yet 44% have never had ground coffee. The difference between instant and ground is not simply one of olfactory prudery. It's the way the beans are grown; harvested; roasted; dried; ground; packaged - and the way the result is prepared, either by Joe Public or a trained barista. (And even the baristas sometimes aren't much good.)

    And then you get to the taste. While it's true that Robusta beans are often used as the raw material for instant 'coffee', and Arabica beans for ground, it's not true that there's necessarily a difference of quality between the beans themselves. The taste of any decently-prepared cup of ground coffee is much more complex, well-rounded, subtle and rich than any instant. Of that I am certain. I live on the stuff, for god's sake. :o)

    But why instant? In 1901, instant coffee was invented by Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato of Chicago. In 1906, English chemist George Constant Washington invented the first mass-produced version. (The guilty party was of course English. I knew it.) But WHY?!

    I have a feeling that this man was, like so many in society, driven by speed, and this notion of speed and quickness ruled. If he could make coffee in 3 seconds rather than 7 minutes, that was priority number one. During the process of perfecting this travesty he did what he could to keep the flavour half-decent, but it was never going to be enough. And it still isn't. But loads of us seem to think that we're never going to be fast enough. And we still aren't.

    Maybe that's because we never will be, though. And that's why, every morning, I blearily reach for the coffeegrounds instead of the instant. Ahhhh. :o)

    Thursday, May 13, 2004

    I love people...

    ...who blog about snow and the weather and link it into and out of other themes; public concerns; snaking through the fibres of their lives. This category on Reading & Writing is utterly, utterly superb in that respect. London and the North has also caught my eye for 2 reasons: first, it's by someone who lives both in London and the rural North of England, and second, it pictures the Lake District, which I know and love so well.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    Neo-Conservatives, Christian Conservatives and US Politics

    I found all this stuff after reading a chapter from Al Franken's book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. None of which - strangely enough! - I'd heard on the radio or seen on the TV when the Republicans and their campaigning for the Presidential Election was mentioned. Franken says things like:
    Remember how I'm a nut for statistics? Well, not too many people realize this, but show biz celebrities make up just .000000001 percent of the world's population, and yet consume nearly 37 percent of its resources. For example, every day, seventeen acres of rain forest are consumed by Barbra Streisand alone.
    Anyway, I reckon this is interesting stuff. Let's get to it:

  • Christian conservatives exercise either 'strong' or 'moderate' influence in over 40 Republican State Committees, according to Campaigns and Elections
  • The most powerful Republican outside the White House may be Grover Norquist, head guy of Americans for Tax Reform, who doesn't want to abolish government
  • Bush has managed to build a coalition of antigovernmental conservatives and Christian conservatives on Israel: the Christians support Israel because its existence (and destruction) pave the way for the Second Coming, and the neocons support Israel because it's the only 'western' democracy in the region
  • Rich Lowry, an editor at the National Review, called for Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift to step down - because she'd had twins
  • When Bush wanted to be Governor of Texas, back in the mists of time, he told a reporter that only people who accepted Jesus as their saviour could go to heaven. He kicked off his South Carolina Presidential campaign at the conservative homophobic racist hardline Christian Bob Jones University
  • He has cut funding for abortion charities and stem-cell research
  • He has said he reads the Bible every day but probably doesn't; it's just for show and those millions of neo-con Chriso-con voters

    That last point is, actually, probably the most interesting for me. Aside from the Bob Jones University bit, which I'm astounded at: here's a speech which John Ashcroft (who is the USA Attorney General) gave there. Girls and guys aren't even allowed to hold hands in the uni, by the way - it leads to sin. And so does having a web-based email account and unrestricted internet access. And this place (weirdly) still offers what looks like a wide undergraduate syllabus.
  • Echo

    Of a rather more massive work which I wrote about earlier.

    Pebble Spiral

    No! My security!

    It seems that a section of the sidebar on this site is seriously vulnerable to a security hole. Blogrolling, which is the site that stores and serves my list of links to the right, has a flaw. Some dumb guy decided to post exactly how to exploit the flaw, rather than simply alerting people to it.

    Well, Hossein, thank you very much for the heads-up. Fuck you very much for the disseminated hacking instructions to anyone who wants to google this. You careless, careless (although *maybe* well-intentioned) twit.

    A terrifying scream

    And then Nick Berg, a civilian contractor aged 26 who went to Iraq to help rebuild communications equipment, is pushed onto his side, the knife cuts into his throat, his screams get frantic and he gurgles, the bastards who are doing it shout "Allahu Akbar" over and over again. Finally his head is held aloft. [small video/large video]

    A statement read immediately beforehand stated:
    For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the US administration to exchange this hostage with some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused. So we tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffin after coffin ... slaughtered in this way.
    MetaFilter has a characteristically heated thread about this, The Guardian leads with a headline suggesting it was indeed a revenge killing for the recent Abu Ghraib torture (the Taguba Report about this, even though on Fox's website, is still classified, soldiers are told)...

    But is it really a revenge attack? DailyKos questions this in common with many other sites. In MetaFilter someone said Islam is a religion of peace. Yep. But this killing departs from the basic rules of Islam, and as someone else replied, every single religion has been held up to be one of peace by its adherents, only to be twisted by humans displaying human nature and being nasty to each other.

    I don't reckon this killing is a religious revenge. It may be in the minds of the murderers. But they don't care for the people in Abu Ghraib so deeply that they would kill for them. They held that abuse up as a totem, without caring about it too much. If the guy who did the beheading is Zarqawi, bin Laden's henchman, he's in Iraq to keep Al-Qaida's operations going. Cut off a young American's head in Iraq and who will go there? Create a vacuum, agitate, destabilise. That's what they're about. That's what they want. I've seen it in Northern Ireland enough times.

    A situation which was bad already just got a lot worse. It's hard to choose between throwing up your hands and getting out of there or going after this group and stopping them. But I think America should get out of Iraq governance, and into *helping* Iraq and every other nation hunt and eradicate Al-Qaida.

    "Uuuhhhhhh... I just came"

    Via MetaFilter, here's a site full of videos of women having la petite mort.

    View from the shoulders upwards only, girls and boys, from the shoulders upwards... no bush. But plenty of good facial expressions and groaning.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2004

    They That Go Down To The Sea...

    Via the excellent Moleskinerie, this is Sergeant Danny Baker.
    Where is he now? He must be at least 60 or 70 years old, if he is alive at all. His whole life followed this moment in front of the camera. Did many years remain ahead of him, or was he to be swept away young? Was he killed in a battle? Did he die old and alone, or surrounded by a family?
    This is just one photo from the haunting site They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships, a collection of photos of (now probably dead) young men of 50 years ago or more, their whole lives ahead of them.

    I think it's fascinating and erotic.

    "We are a nation of laws..."

    The US state which was famed for a rather messy witch-hunt a long time ago may be faced with more. This time it won't be superstitious, hysterical women brought before the legislature and the Lord, but white-collar civil servants. If they go against the Governor.

    Gov. Mitt Romney, of Provincetown, Cape Cod, (who is involved in the church and has a whopping 5 sons, 3 daughters and 6 grandchildren) has said he will prosecute any clerks who give marriage licenses to gay couples who are not from the State and have no intention of moving there. Town leaders, however, voted to offer precisely this freedom to the filthy deviants. ;o)
    Romney's office has warned clerks that they will be required to seek proof of residency or the intention to move to Massachusetts from all couples - gay and straight - who are seeking to marry as of May 17, when same-sex weddings become legal.

    "We are a nation of laws," Romney said in the statement. "If they choose to break the law, we will take appropriate enforcement action, refuse to recognize those marriages, and inform the parties that the marriage is null and void."
    Being from the UK, I really can't gauge the mood and temperature of the issue over there. But from here, it seems that a lot of public furore has died down, and that bigoted lawmakers are venting their private opposition by recourse to public statute. *sigh*

    Monday, May 10, 2004

    Ah... relaxation

    Most of the hard work's done now, Pete said, hopefully. :o)

    This redesign is because I always meant to give peripathetic a facelift sooner or later. My mind was made up this morning when I came upon this post on MetaFilter, and thought, hmm, Blogger's had an upgrade, I wonder what's new.

    Loads of people collaborated on it and are clearly very proud of themselves and relieved the work's over. A bit like me! But what exactly is new?
    1. User interface: I used it only today, when I was fiddling with the default template
    2. CSS templates designed by real, wellnown, respected web guys out there. Thanks to Douglas Bowman (who redesigned Wired) for mine. And sorry Doug, I mucked with it a little
    3. Posts on their own individual pages which I don't use for reasons of valuable space
    4. Comments (a first for Blogger) which you can open only to other Blogger users if you wish. I tried them, found them quite basic from an admin point of view, and removed them because they also require you to use no. 3 above
    5. Profiles for individual users which can link to other blogger users, which, as someone elsewhere pointed out, would be a hell of a lot more useful if they were incorporated into Orkut and Gmail etc., also run by Google. I don't use my profile. No desire to, but I can see why others would
    Now, don't get me wrong.

    Even though I really only use feature number 2, I'm sure there's loads that the complete novice would be more than happy with. But one thing I really, really wanted to see was the ability for users of the free service to get proper RSS feeds instead of Atom. I have an Atom feed on here (below the sidebar) but come on. If they can give Gmail users a gigabyte of space each for their emails, they can give us RSS.

    Like I said though, it was nice to have something new to play with, and the fact that so many of the templates rely on XHTML and CSS means I'll be forced to learn more, which is always good.

    [UIpdate] I've added a new comments and trackback system using Haloscan, so if you commented before, your comments are all gone, I'm afraid. It should be more reliable (and it handles better) than YACCS. Sorry for the deletions though!


    There are a few things so far:
    1. Old-tyle archives are still linked to by Google; these were left by the reindexing process
    2. When you choose archives or posts from any new page, they will appear on newly-styled pages
    3. Blogger has a new 'profile' section and I haven't decided whether I'll use it. For now, therefore, email address and photo will be invisible
    4. New 'Title' element displayed; will not display the title of old posts in a similar format unless I edit every previous post, and I can't be arsed
    5. New section (at right) which lists recent posts individually. I may remove this and rely on the archives
    6. The blogroll, webring graphics, OUTintheUK button and other elements will be reintroduced steadily over the next few days

    And that's that, really. I have yet to decide what colours I want, so I'll be testing them, too. But everything seems to be still here. And now I'm off for a workout.

    Changes... or maybe not

    This is really just a status post to let you know that I'm going to arse around with the design today. If I don't like what I see or get scared, I'll revert quickly, and this post will disappear as well. But otherwise... during the transition period, expect:

    1. A new layout which will intermittently look crappy or ill-matched as I make changes;
    2. Disappearance of some or all sidebar elements intermittently;
    3. Disappearance of some or all blogroll links temporarily;
    4. Temporary disappearance of the 'peripathetic' and 'archives' page titles while I recolour and retransfer them;
    5. Hopefully, at the end of it all, something you'll find easy to read and like the look of.

    So here goes. Fingers crossed. And sorry again if you visit and this looks shit in the meantime.

    As this blog now makes heavy use of CSS, I'm going to have to do a lot of fiddling and a bit of learning. Colours, widths, etc. all have to be finalised so there will be continual changes, as well as new posts, over at least the next week.

    Sunday, May 09, 2004


    Or just a gross abuse against a vein of democracy? The USA's Patriot Act will hopefully become history when the White House hopefully has a new boss later this year, so in the hope that it will, local governments are resisting.

    Other stuff: the Taguba Report on abuse of Iraqi detainess inside Abu Ghraib Prison. The Law of Land Warfare. The Geneva Conventions.

    Private contractors, according to the Toguba report, gave orders to US soldiers to torture prisoners. Their presence in Iraq is a result of the Bush military strategy of invading with a relatively light force. The gap has been filled by private contractors, who are not subject to Iraqi law or the US military code of justice. Now, there are an estimated 20,000 of them on the ground in Iraq, a larger force than the British army.

    It is not surprising that recent events in Iraq centre on these contractors: the four killed in Falluja, and Abu Ghraib's interrogators. Under the Bush legal doctrine, we create a system beyond law to defend the rule of law against terrorism; we defend democracy by inhibiting democracy. Law is there to constrain "evildoers". Who doubts our love of freedom?
    - Sidney Blumenthal

    The thing is, the monolith underpinning all this crap is the notion that 9-11 was the start of a continued and barbaric series of threats against America and the entire world. There's no proof of that at all, though! "But there have been no attacks in America since 9-11." Yeah, but there were no attacks in America in the years and years and years before 9-11... so you've proved what exactly? Bush steps into the White House, 9-11 happens, Bush clicks his fingers, Bush gets all the legislation he ever wanted, and a lot more than anyone would ever need. And they call that the world's greatest democracy.

    Saturday, May 08, 2004

    Spiral Jetty

    In 1970, three years before he died, Robert Smithson (who was known for working in minimalism) declared "Hmm, the Great Salt Lake is a beautiful place and I like the solitude, the slightly alien quality around Rozel Point, the humanity and barrenness of wandering near dead water. I'll make something there, nothing intrusive, but something that'll draw people into the landscape itself for its own sake, whatever that may be." *

    And so Spiral Jetty was born. It's 1500 feet long, made of black basalt, and when originally completed it sat blackly in red water. This photo doesn't show it the day after or anything, but you can sort of get the effect. It looks small here but it's actually massive - 1500 feet long, remember. It gives you an idea. It took trucks and trailers and heavy machinery to build it.

    The problem, which we know well but which maybe he might not have known then, is that the Lake's water level varies. At the time the jetty was built, the Lake elevation stood at 4195 feet, leaving it standing proud by 2 feet. But the elevation since the mid-70s has been around 4198-4200 feet or more, and as such the jetty has been underwater for most of its inanimate, magical life.

    It disappeared. Gone. Inaccessible. All that work - and then nothing. Nothing but little waves, the wind over the shore, and the water.

    Extremely. Salt. Water. Much saltier than the sea.

    And what's happened? Well, the water's changed colour a bit, and the jetty has, predictably, turned white. And how do we know this? Because the water level's dropped and you can now see it again!

    Whenever I post anything like this, half the readers here either skip the post, or they go "yeah, nice" and don't say anything, or, if they're Giles, they say "That's shit". ;o) Certainly my friend Chris would marvel at the millions spent on Spiral Jetty's construction and opine: "That could have paid for (x) hospital beds". After thinking about it for a while, I don't see the Jetty as being a statement, or useful (because it spirals inwards, nothing could moor there, even if your boat was immune to the clinging salt) in any way.

    The point isn't that you could buy hospital beds or blankets for third-world children. The point is: no point. A massive fragile spiral. A jetty which leads you nowhere. Sometimes invisible. Newly, whitely reborn. Under dead water. In very nearly the middle of nowhere. If you're not convinced by now, you never will be, so go enjoy whatever you do enjoy. *sweet smile* Meanwhile, I'll enjoy my dreams of a future trip...

    (*) I just reckon that Mr Smithson thought it would be a good way of inviting people to share in something he enjoyed, the beauty of a barren landscape, and maybe, if they were so inclined, the philosopy of it all. People are still making the pilgrimage along a nearly impassable road to walk along this Jetty. Artists have always thrived on that: new thought through attraction to new object. People always flock to see things that are visible from space.

    *amazed blink*

    "I was awakened in the middle of the night with a clear, vivid impression that the Lord wanted me to do some special drawings -- drawings depicting ordinary people in their everyday environment . . . . with one important addition: the presence of Jesus Christ and His involvement in those routine activities."

    Holy fucking shit trucking, carpet laying, juggling, studying... and all the rest.

    Others mightn't, but I find the site hilarious! *Highly* recommended.

    Friday, May 07, 2004

    This reminds me of Escher

    The cat stares at a cat who's staring at a cat who's staring at a... well, you get the pictures. Or you will do, at the Infinite Cat Project. It's a pity not one of these photos shows a watching cat getting angry. One wonders if there'd be a furball effect.


    Over at Orisinal, there are *loads* of incredibly well-designed, nice-looking, and sometimes quite tricky, flash games. Like playing ice-skater bowling using snowballs, or piling falling pigs up on top of each other, or a game called "Bum Bum Koala". It's funny cute.

    Thursday, May 06, 2004

    Just added...

    A search box at the bottom of the page. When searching within peripathetic, you'll be taken to the usual Google results page, and each result link will take you to the top of the archive page where your search term is to be found, rather than to the specific post. Sorry it's not more helpful, Pete said, apologising for a major corporation, but it should at least narrow things down for you.

    Tuesday, May 04, 2004

    The Shining

    In 30 seconds, with bunnies.

    Is their training really the point?

    And (if this photo is real) it's come to this. A British soldier urinates on a young Iraqi prisoner, clamps his boot over the hapless detainee's throat... well, the picture's there. Take a look. The Daily Mirror stands by the photos it published, discounting a growing clamour that they're hoaxes. This scandal is hot on the heels of a slightly larger one involving American troops degrading Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison.

    On the British side, they're now started arguing about which way our boys lace up their boots and button the pockets of their combat pants, whether or not the rifle is current, the vehicle too clean, the black-and-white film an anomaly. In the US, the furore centres around expressions of disgust and investigative action against those concerned. Listen to Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of coalition operations in Iraq: "It's reprehensible that anybody would be taking a picture of that situation."

    Reprehensible?? That anyone would *take pictures*?? That 'situation'?!

    Before I really sound off, here's one of the guys who's implicated in direct torture, and under investigation (note that not one of the troops involved has been shipped back to the US for trial - and that court martial still means you're in the friggin' army!): ?We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain rules and regulations, and it just wasn't happening."

    I'm really finding it difficult to restrain the expletives here. Let's see. You and your fellow troops are directly implicated in gross mistreatment of human beings. Stripped naked, posing them in provocative ways, piling them naked on top of each other, wires to their genitals, pointing at their bits and laughing. It's on film.

    I don't give a fucking shit about the fucking 'chain of command' or 'these people are trained to kill' or 'terrible war, gradual desensitising' or 'our orders were vague' or any of that bullshit.


    Get these people out of the US and UK armies right away. Get them out of Iraq right away. And if due process then judges them guilty, get them into prison right away because if a civilian did that to another civilian, it'd be 10 years or more. And they sure as hell wouldn't be allowed to be around guns. Army or no army, no excuse.

    And after some more consideration: get most of the army to psychiatrists once a month.

    Update: the UK pictures featured at the head of this post are, as of 14 May, still the subject of controversy over their veracity. The UK Government now says they were definitely faked but hasn't produced evidence. The Daily Mirror says they definitely weren't, but hasn't produced evidence. So we wait. -- Second Update: as of 15th May, Piers Morgan, the editor of the paper which published the above, has resigned and the paper has apologised.

    This is probably the world's most expensive painting

    Not that the expense matters in the least. I'm putting it up here because I think it's haunting and the boy is nice and has great legs and, by the looks of things, unless Pablo was exaggerating, a big package.

    But Boy with a pipe, painted by Pable Picasso when the artist was 24 years old, is being auctioned soon and may very well fetch a whopping $70-100 million.

    I couldn't pay that much for it, and I expect the starting bid to be well beyond a fiver, but who couldn't resist the temptation of having a boy with a great package and nice legs in their general vicinity? Apart from straight guys and lesbians?

    Monday, May 03, 2004


    OK, so here's today's interesting puzzle.
    - 1. Take a look at this picture.
    - 2. See the red circle? And the arrows? What could this be? Think hard, now.
    - 3. Getting anywhere?
    - 4. OK, that's the end of the test. Put your pens down.

    You could either get up and leave, OR you could subscribe to the ridiculous notion that the photo is, in fact, Noah's Ark.

    Sunday, May 02, 2004

    Windows Alert Music

    This music is actually damn cool! And funny too, in a geeky way. Of course, when Microsoft finds out that someone's been making music out of their .wav files, they might get snarky, but I reckon it has to stay! Free culture!

    (Oh, and by the way, that link points to a 2.5mb PDF, published to the internet under Creative Commons, of Lessig's eponymous book. Please play nice with my bandwidth and don't *view* it from here: save it to disk if you wanna read it. It's well worth it if you care about that stuff.)