Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Joe's Work

When feeling bored and even more miserable than usual (yes!), an essay by Joe Bageant never fails to cheer me up.

It's hard to pick a favourite, but one he published last year called Driving on the Bones of God is somewhere in the top three.

If you don't know Joe, or the essay, here's a little taster:
One of the best-kept secrets in this country is that half the intelligence community is nuttier than a bag of grandma's peanut brittle, and in fact, to be so seems a job qualification. I've met a dozen or so over the years and there is always a point in any extended conversation with them where a normal listener starts hearing those alarming weeeeooooweeee space sounds as the intelligence spook rattles on about how the world really works.
Click here to read this masterpiece.

Joe's output is eccentric and irregular, in every sense of the word. It's a pity there aren't more like him.


Monday, November 28, 2005

The Attack on Al-Jeezera

No apologies for citing Robert Fisk yet again.

There are currently D-Notices out to suppress the story of how good 'ole Dubya Fuckwit wanted to bomb Al-Jeezera but was dissuaded by the gallant and principled Lord Blair of Kut al Amara.

Fisky's memory is somewhat different:

I remarked how easy a target his Baghdad office would make if the Americans wanted to destroy its coverage - seen across the Arab world - of civilian victims of the Anglo-American bombing of Iraq. "Don’t worry, Robert," Tareq had replied. "We’ve given the Americans the exact location of our bureau so we won’t get hit." Three days later, Tareq was dead.

Click here for the full story of the destruction of Al-Jeezera.

* * *
My memories of Al-Jeezera are less dramatic but happier.

A serious young lady who spoke fluent and correct English interviewed me and some other volunteers for background information on a story she was doing the following month. Her dedication and comitment to accuracy were impressive.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Oh No, It's the Five O'Clock Hysterics!!!

Had a really busy stressful day trying to finish a help project that is complex with a lot of loose ends.

Now I'm calm, I'm seriously wondering why I bothered, since it can't be finished in any meaningful sense while the software is still undeveloped.

Anyway, my boss and a couple of colleagues swung by at around five and started having a deeply serious teknical discussion about new standards of terminology (or is it nomenclature?)for the documentation.

Really important stuff like:
  • Windows or Screens?
  • Shoppers or Customers or Clients?
  • Cardholders or Cardusers, or Card Holders or Card Users, or card holders or card users, or Card holders or Card users?
  • Payments or Transactions or Sales or Events?
If technical and business writers have a fault, it's that we take our craft and ourselves very seriously, because nobody else does (and nor should they).

Well, it had been a long day, and... I sat at my desk listening to this stuff, expected to contribute, listening to a group of serious intelligent people discussing this trivia as if there was a correct answer rather than a bosses opinion that would settle this and...


The five o'clock hysterics, laughing so much I got bad asthma, tears run down my cheeks, howl with laughter at the insanity of this trivial conversation, and how much better off we'd all be back home, instead of wasting time and money and resources on this madness. At least it was infectious and everyone else joined in too.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear! It's been a while since I've laughed that loudly and that long.

Must be what people who like sitcoms experience every evening. But maybe they don't.

I've always maintained that you find all the best comedy at work, produced by master comedians with no self awareness.

Is it home-time yet?


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"...and wishing you were far away"

A horrible day, it's cold and the sky has that mid November tint that's probably called "Suicide grey" in god's sample book. Paul Weller got it just right in "That's Entertainment":

Days of speed and slow time Mondays,
Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday,
Watching the news and not eating your tea,
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls.

That's entertainment.

and later:

Feed the ducks in the park and wishing you were far away

So I've just spent a few minutes day-dreaming about the heat and light of the South Western United States, where I once drove 972 miles non-stop from Phoenix to Denver, via Flagstaff and Albuquerque. Oh to be back there now.


The nice photo is one of several by Martin Mathis, you can see the rest of them here.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Republican Filth

The lazy arrogance of the US Right has to be experienced at first hand, but failing that there's always Tom Tomorrow. Click on the cartoon to enlarge it.


Fisk again

Robert Fisk once again (mainly because I've found a trove of his recent articles):

Friday night. In the heart of this vast and oven-like city stands the Green Zone, 10 square kilometres of barricaded, walled, sealed-off palaces, villas and gardens - once the Raj-like centre of Saddam’s regime wherein now dwell the Iraqi government, the constitutional committee, the US embassy, the British embassy and many hundreds of Western mercenaries. Many of them never meet Iraqis. Women in shorts jog past the rose beds; armed men and women " contractors" lie by the pool. There were at least three restaurants - until one of them was blown up by suicide bombers. You can buy phone accessories in a local shop, newspapers, pornographic DVDs. For tactical reasons, the Americans were forced to include dozens of middle-class Iraqi homes inside the Green Zone, a decision that has outraged many of the householders. They often have to wait four hours to pass through the security checkpoints. Irony of ironies, the tomb of Michel Aflaq, founder of the Baath party that once included both Iraq and Syria, lies inside the Green Zone.

On Friday night, this crusader castle was bathed in its usual floodlights. I was looking up at the stars over the city when there was a dull sound and a flash of light from within the Green Zone. Somewhere not far from me, someone had launched a mortar at the illuminated fishbowl that has become the symbol of occupation for all Iraqis. Many ask what will become of it when the whole Western edifice here collapses. Some say it will become insurgent headquarters, others the next parliament. My guess is that whoever runs Iraq once the occupation collapses will turn the whole thing into a theme park. Or maybe just a museum.

Click here to read the entire story.

"S" Again!

"S" is again allowed out on day release, and turns up a little before eight on Sunday evening, which is pretty civilised by her standards...

We yibble until midnight, and she only makes me 15 mins late for work today. The Care team should be proud of themselves; at this rate S will be reintegrated into society in a week or two, and free to re-offend at will.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Sheer, Unadulterated, Lazy Bullshit

Robert Fisk at his most humane, yet angry:

For as someone who has to look at the eviscerated corpses of Palestine and Israel, the murdered bodies in the garbage heaps of Iraq, the young women shot through the head in the Baghdad morgue, I can only shake my head in disbelief at the sheer, unadulterated, lazy bullshit -- let's call a spade a spade -- which is currently emerging from our great leaders.

His book about the recent history of the Lebanon called Pity the Nation is one of the best history/reportage books ever written.

Bad Science, Nice Insight

Dr. Ben Goldacre is in excellent form in an article he's written for Time out, about homeopathy (spit!).

And he also gives us this wonderful aside:

Marketing, after all, is engineered cultural

Click on the quote to read the entire article...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Andrew Wyeth - Christina's World (1948)

We'll finish "art week" with another American classic, this one is by Andrew Wyeth.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Are they Stupid or Lying?

Once again, Tom Tomorrow says it better than anyone...


Friday, November 11, 2005

Nick Watts - Aston Martin Victorious

This painting (a numbered print actually) hangs above the fireplace at home. It's a fine painting, particularly in artifical light, but it was basically an impulse buy at the Retromobile exhibition in Paris in 1995.

I don't much like Aston Martins, I have no connection with the 1959 Le Mans 24 hour race, and I don't even like many of Nick Watts' paintings!

This one attracted me because:
  • It was quite cheap
  • It's signed by Watts and the two drivers of Aston Martin No 5 - Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori. The fact they both survived the "blood sport" era of motor racing is a minor miracle.
  • It's a dramatic 'heroic' sort of painting that appeals to the romantic in us all
  • It doesn't make the le Mans 24 hour race look remotely like fun - instead it's portrayed as a grim ordeal, which it is.

The car is an Aston Martin DB 3 sports racer from a long long ago when Astons were small and agile and pretty.

David Brown (DB), the owner of Aston Martin, stood a fraction over five feet tall.

Let's hope that solitary Le Mans victory made him feel high for a while.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tamara de Lempika - Woman in Blue with Mandolin (1929)

Making-the-blog-more-visual continues, today is the turn of Tamara de Lempika. It's a pity you can't see this painting full size - it's awesome (as a Valley Girl would say).


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Edward Hopper - New York Movie (1939)

My favourite painting: romantic, realistic, well executed, a really unusual composition and ultimately it terrifies - has the boredom of work ever been expressed so well?


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Maxfield Parrish - Daybreak (1925)

This haunting piece of art-deco classical fantasy nonsense hung in the waiting room of the doctor's surgery in Lowell, Mass.

I'd never come across Maxfield Parrish before, but later learned he was America's most popular artist in the 1920s and 1930s.

The intention is to get the blog more visual, at least for a little while, so there are more paintings to come.


Monday, November 07, 2005

The return of S

That lovely wicked and practical romantic “S” came out of the darkness and rain last night after about 10 months of absence without leave.

I got less than two hours sleep as a result, and no sign of her when I woke this morning.

Perhaps she’s a ghost.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Child Killer

Melanie Philips is one of those why oh why oh why today’s society is doomed and I’m enraged! rabid bitches. You know, the type paid to scribble topical filth each week on a couple of pages of the Daily Mail.

Mostly she writes about social issues, Zionism, and politics, the sort of areas where zero-qualifications, zero-logic thinking, and a chin that drips with excessive saliva are no handicap. After all, in Mel's world if someone disagrees with you they must be
a deluded liberal, an unrepentant socialist, or an evil terror loving anti-Semite. Probably all three.

But Mel fucked up recently when she wrote a story that attacks the MMR vaccine. For those of you who don’t know, the Daily Mail was almost single handedly responsible for the unjustified and superstitious health scare about this vaccine, something that’s become gradually clear over the past couple of years. Mel really should know that, and leave this tired old subject alone, especially as her qualifications to write the article are a science-free English degree and a lot of anger.

Alas, her article caught the eye of Doctor Ben Goldacre, who writes the Bad Science column in the Guardian. Bad Science, if you don’t know it, is a lonely yet sharp column of real science that exposes some of the many lies found amongst the homeopathic drugs, colonic irrigation, grifters, and feng shui theory that is the subject of so much popular science and medical journalism.

Doctor Goldacre’s verdict on Mel’s article was damning:

She cites “research data” of highly dubious status and misrepresents what data there is.

Yup, that’s Mel’s world in a nutshell.

Mel darling, may you eat shit and die, preferably tonight, you filthy stinking child killer.