Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Adventures of Tiny Elvis

Often when I've been in the US, I've spent a lot of downtime watching Saturday Night Live reruns on the Comedy Channel.

I've just stumbled upon a site devoted to transcripts of the show and looked up three favourites from the early Nineties.

Thus, if you ever hear me announce - inexplicably - ' I'm just saying it's a big salt shaker, that's all', you can lay the blame at the door of 'The Adventures of Tiny Elvis'.

Worse, if I ever solicitously enquire, 'what's really bothering you?' I am ashamed to admit that I am more likely to be channelling the 'Sensitive Naked Man' than being sincere.

Unforgivably if I tell you that "you're a beautiful, intelligent woman", it is from 'Husbands and Wives'.

When you're a one-man band, nobody gets hurt!

Tidy Desktop Policy

On the very morning that I have taken the plunge and installed version 2.0 of the Google Desktop, 'The Onion" gives us the skinny on the Mountain View California company's latest announcement.
Executives at Google, the rapidly growing online-search company that promises to "organize the world's information," announced Monday the latest step in their expansion effort: a far-reaching plan to destroy all the information it is unable to index.

"Our users want the world to be as simple, clean, and accessible as the Google home page itself," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt at a press conference held in their corporate offices. "Soon, it will be."

Read on.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Motto for Blogging

But enough about me.
Let's talk about you.
What do you think of me?

As delivered by Bette Midler in Beaches.

Most of the time

Its a small step from Dylan Thomas to Bob Dylan. I came to Dylan fairly late with 1989's Oh Mercy album. I think this is the best song from a really good album. I love the way the first and last line undercut the sentiment the narrator is apparently expressing.

Most of the time
I'm clear focused all around,
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground,
I can follow the path, I can read the signs,
Stay right with it, when the road unwinds,
I can handle whatever I stumble upon,
I don't even notice she's gone,
Most of the time.

Most of the time
It's well understood,
Most of the time
I wouldn't change it if I could,
I can't make it all match up, I can hold my own,
I can deal with the situation right down to the bone,
I can survive, I can endure
And I don't even think about her
Most of the time.

Most of the time
My head is on straight,
Most of the time
I'm strong enough not to hate.
I don't build up illusion 'till it makes me sick,
I ain't afraid of confusion no matter how thick
I can smile in the face of mankind.
Don't even remember what her lips felt like on mine
Most of the time.

Most of the time
She ain't even in my mind,
I wouldn't know her if I saw her
She's that far behind.
Most of the time
I can't even be sure
If she was ever with me
Or if I was with her.

Most of the time
I'm halfway content,
Most of the time
I know exactly where I went,
I don't cheat on myself, I don't run and hide,
Hide from the feelings, that are buried inside,
I don't compromise and I don't pretend,
I don't even care if I ever see her again
Most of the time.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina and the waves

Hurricane Katrina's menacing of Louisiana reminds me that once, years ago, I was in New Orleans during a storm warning.

It is an eery experience to be in the Big Easy when they close all the shutters and abandon the streets to wait for a storm to come and pass. I spent the time - strange to remark - shut up in a bar watching the 24 hour weather channel.

Our storm passed without incident. I hope that everyone around the Gulf of Mexico will be safe today.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

He wishes for the cloths of heaven

Writing yesterday about the ludicrously opaque rhyming scheme of the Prologue to Dylan Thomas' Collected Poems has reminded me of its antithesis in a poem by WB Yeats.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.

You can't really get any simpler than rhyming cloths with cloths, light with light, feet with feet and dreams with dreams; yet it remains a transcendent verse.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

In my craft or sullen art

Writing alone late at night, I can't help thinking of Dylan Thomas.

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

Come to think of it, spindrift pages would be a much better subtitle for what I do here than commonplace book. I think I'll change it.

I've always loved Dylan, "Thump the Clouds" my erstwhile music project was named after a poem of his as well.

He categorised himself as follows:
One: I am a Welshman;
Two: I am a drunkard;
Three: I am a lover of the human race, especially of women.

A Welsh Born Icon, of course, but often a contrary bugger to read. The Prologue to his Collected Poems is 102 lines long and has an insane rhyming scheme in which the first line rhymes with the last, and the second with the penultimate etc. until the two halves meet with a rhyme between line 51 and 52. Its a bit like the legend of the code that proves that the bard of Avon wrote the English version of the 42nd psalm because the 42nd word from the beginning is shake and the 42nd word from the end is spear.

Oh, and Paul is the Walrus.

Speculative Grammarian

Speculative Grammarian is the premier scholarly journal featuring research in the neglected field of satirical linguistics.
How did I ever live without it?

Friday, August 26, 2005


One of the side effects - and I think it is a beneficial one - of keeping a daily log like this is that it tends to fix the events and developments on which one comments more firmly in mind.

Back in May I wrote about the Uzbekistan regime gunning down hundreds of demonstrators in the street. Today the Economist eviscerates the international community for its reaction saying:

That was three months ago. Since then, the European Union and America have expressed their horror at the worst massacre of demonstrators since Tiananmen Square by imposing the following sanctions on Uzbekistan:




In other words, they have done sod all. The European Union takes a particular bashing, but I suppose they have had their hands full dealing with the Chinese bra and t-shirt crisis.

A former member of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan is a part of the widest of Europe's concentric circles. It is a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and it has a partnership and co-operation agreement (PCA) with the EU. So there is some justification in allowing Europe, with its famous common foreign and security policy, to take the lead.

If so, the European Union has risen to the occasion as grandly as it did over Bosnia, Iraq and on so many other occasions: with a display of spinelessness worthy of a sea full of jellyfish. First, in June, it demanded that Uzbekistan submit to an international investigation to determine precisely what happened in Andijan. Failure to comply by July 1st, it terrifyingly threatened, might lead to a �partial suspension� of the PCA. Some countries wanted to go so far as to threaten a visa ban for (some) Uzbek officials and possibly even an arms embargo�but that was reckoned to be a bit too tough.

July 1st came and went, as did August 1st. Still the EU has done nothing.

I suppose I can take the advice of Craig Murray - the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and write to my MP to call for free elections in Uzbekistan, and demanding that Britain stops terming Karimov's murderous regime our "ally", but I did find her response when I wrote earlier this year about "incitement to religious hatred" deeply unsatisfying. She's now the PPS to the Minister of Defence though, maybe as John Reid's bag carrier she can at least be ashamed about things like the photo of the UK Defence Advisors assisting with defence reform in Uzbekistan on page 28 of this MOD/ Foreign Office document.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My Movies

I've been using AnyDVD to back up DVDs to hard disk for a few weeks now and experimenting to see what you can do with them. I cannot help but conclude that the film industry will be disrupted just as profoundly as the music industry has been by consumer digital technology.

I've established, for example, I can put a movie on a drive on one computer then watch it (using WinDVD) on another over an 802.11g wireless network.

I have found a free MCE (Microsoft Media Center Edition) add-on application called My Movies that can be used to catalogue and view online DVDs that have been ripped to hard disk.

A DVD takes up about 4GB of hard drive space. You can get a 250GB portable USB 2 hard drive that can hold over 60 movies for a little over eighty quid or �1.33 per movie. Given the difficulty I often have in simply laying my hands on one of my four year old son's DVDs I would gladly pay �1.33 per movie for the convenience of access that you get with "My Movies", and that cost is bound to reduce as the market penetration of 500GB drives increases.

I can see that in the medium term I will just get into the habit of ripping any DVD I buy, just as I do with CDs, and then putting it back in the case never to be opened again.

Am I a criminal? Gia put it best on her blog a while back:
don't start calling ME a 'pirate' in the way the Film Industry does because I copy films to my harddrive for my son to watch on the train... Last time I was in Blockbusters their TV channel-thingy started talking about how "Video Pirates" were "involved in drug and human trafficking"... ????... Really? Me? Almost everyone I know who regularly copies DVDs? We are all involved in drug or human trafficking?? Piss off!
Also, look at my last post. I regularly pay top dollar - without complaint - for Folio editions of books that are out of copyright when I could download the text gratis from Project Guttenberg. What does that mean?

My best guess is that it means that if providers can package their content is a sufficiently compelling and attractive way money will gush in, but if they can't they will end up throwing the baby away with the bath water.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Folio Society

In an ideal world, I would like to spend a couple of hours a day in a study panelled with dark wood, sitting in a bottle green leather reading chair, engrossed in a beautiful edition of a classic book while sipping fine red wine.

The only progress I have made towards it is buying the four editions each year that is the minimum obligation to maintain my membership of the Folio Society.

Well, it is that time of year again and for this round I will be buying;

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
Shakespeare's Sonnets
The Assassins, Bernard Lewis
An Alphabet for Gourmets, M. F. K. Fisher

I was rather hoping that there would be a Folio version of Heroditus after Chris Howell's top ten brought it onto my radar, but c'est la vie.

This year the free book which I get for renewing my membership is Kenneth Clark's Leonardo Da Vinci, which certainly appears to be a handsome volume from the bumph that they have sent out. Did you know that Leonardo wrote "intellectual passion dries out sensuality" in his Notebooks? What a twit!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter 'c' would be dropped to be replased either by 'k' or 's', and likewise 'x' would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which 'c' would be retained would be the 'ch' formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform 'w' spelling, so that 'which' and 'one' would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish 'y' replasing it with 'i' and Iear 4 might fiks the 'g/j' anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing aai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez 'c', 'y' and 'x' -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais 'ch', 'sh', and 'th' rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt seling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Mark Twain.


Last Friday I wrote and posted blog entries dated 19, 20, 21 and 22 August as I was going away for a long weekend and I knew it would be difficult to get an internet connection. I freely acknowledge that this is not rational behaviour but I am not alone. Joel Achenbach has got it too.

The blog is hungry. The blog will not be ignored. It is an insatiable little beast, a creature still unclassified by science -- hairy, warty, slobbering, with its own fiendish agenda. I often fantasize about killing the blog, but I worry that it will respond just like the crazed computer in '2001: A Space Odyssey': It will try to kill me first.

Read the whole thing in the Washington Post.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Hash Browne

According to Sky News:

A herd of cows in Russia is facing a high time this winter after a marijuana crop was found in with their normal feed crops.

Drug enforcement officers say they have no other choice but to let the herd feed on the drug crop.

Some 40 tonnes of marijuana had been planted among the sunflowers and maize crops.

"There is simply no other way out," a Federal Drugs Control Service spokeswoman told the Novye Izvestia newspaper.

"You see, the fields are planted with feed crops and if we remove it all the cows will have nothing to eat.

"I don't know what the milk will be like after this."

Which reminds me. Did you know that Howard Marks was from Kenfig Hill near Bridgend in Glamorgan?

During the mid 1980s, Howard Marks had forty-three aliases, eighty-nine phone lines, and twenty five companies trading throughout the world.

Bars, recording studios, offshore banks: all were money-laundering vehicles serving the core activity: dope dealing.

Marks began to deal during a postgraduate philosophy course at Oxford and was soon moving large quantities of hashish into Europe and America in the equipment of touring rock bands. The academic life began to lose its allure.

At the height of his career, he was smuggling consignments of up to thirty tons from Pakistan and Thailand to America and Canada and had contact with organisations as diverse as the CIA, MI6, the IRA, and the Mafia.

After many years and a world-wide operation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, he was busted and sentenced to twenty five years in prison at the United States Federal Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Indiana, the site of America's only Federal Death Row. He was released on parole in April 1995 after serving seven years of his sentence.

A Welsh Born Icon for some for sure.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Serpents, Spirals and Prayers

This "Journey Through Symbolic Forms in Jewelry" is an interesting companion piece to the symbols I collected in my cycle of harmony. The cycle is not intended as any sort of ecumenical or syncretist initiative, its just an attmept to concentrate on similarities and connections for once rather than differences.

The journey has good stuff on prayer beads, which it is worth remembering are a Christian, Moslem, Hindu and Buddhit tradition.

The activity of using beads in spiritual practice is not a recent or ancient phenomena but rather an archetypal one, as is borne out by the fact that it is common to all traditions. When strung together, these beads are used as a device to count recitations of prayers or as an aid to meditation.

The etymology of the word 'bead' helps us to understand this function, deriving as it does from the Sanskrit buddh, which refers to self-realization (Buddha being one such realizer) and from the Saxon verb bidden, to 'pray'.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Over my Shoulder

According to This is London.

Actress Jennifer Connelly has revealed she likes to read or shop online during sex.

The Oscar-winner also chats on the phone while making love to husband Paul Bettany.

'I just don't like to multi-task - except having sex,' the 35-year-old told Esquire magazine.

'I like to read a book while having sex. And talk on the phone. You can get so much done. If the room's dark enough, I like to do online shopping.

It reminds me of the old Mark Miwurdz joke about how quickly relationships can go stale.

"Didn't you mother teach you that its rude to read over someone else's shoulder?"

"Well it rude to be reading when someone is having sex with you!"

Friday, August 19, 2005

Angelina Jolie Coming For Your Baby

MALIBU, CA: Angelina Jolie has filed for adoption of your newborn baby, sources close to the actress reported Tuesday. 'Angelina loves your baby, and you should be honored that she has chosen it,' said publicist Jacqueline Silver, citing the growing collection of babies Jolie has culled from families worldwide. 'Color, creed, whether your child is wanted - none of it matters. Angelina has fallen in love, and through legal means or force, your baby will soon be hers.' Immediately after acquiring your child, Jolie will dress it in Betsey Johnson infant wear, give it a faux-hawk, name it after a random passage from the The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, then resume her relentless search for babies.

The Onion

Discontent and Romance

A family, Dr. Johnson once wrote, is a little kingdom, torn with factions and exposed to revolutions. This is a less than ringing endorsement of family life, of course; and the great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, whose childhood had been as unhappy as Johnson's, would have agreed with this assessment. But Johnson, unlike Ibsen, went on to remark that all judgment is comparative: that to judge an institution or convention rightly, one must compare it with its alternatives. Marriage has many pains, says Johnson in Rasselas, but celibacy has no pleasures.

Johnson saw human existence as inseparable from dissatisfaction. It is man's nature to suffer from incompatible desires simultaneously - for example, wanting both security and excitement. When he has one, he longs for the other, so that contentment is rarely unalloyed and never lasting.

However, most people find it more comforting to believe in perfectibility than in imperfectibility - an example of what Dr. Johnson called the triumph of hope over experience. The notion of imperfectibility not only fans existential anxieties, but also - by precluding simple solutions to all human problems - places much tougher intellectual demands upon us than utopianism does. Not every question can be answered by reference to a few simple abstract principles that, if followed with sufficient rigor, will supposedly lead to perfection - which is why conservatism is so much more difficult to reduce to slogans than its much more abstract competitors.

Wise words from Theodore Dalrymple - channeling the "Great Cham" Johnson - before putting the boot into Ibsen's implicit worldview while admiring his art.

I remember being delighted when I discovered that Rostand wrote my favourite play - the deliriously romantic Cyrano de Bergerac - in part as a reaction against the naturalism of Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg.

A wise man once wrote, "death in Rostand is more cheerful than life in Maeterlinck."

Give me an heroic comedy- in rhyming iambic hexameter Alexandrines - about love, honour, chivalry, swordplay and, yes, baking over Hedda Gabler any day.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sir Ian Blair

I had been meaning to write about how impressed I was with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner's handling of the July 7 and 21 bomb crises, so I think I should record it now that everyone and his dog seems to be calling for Ian Blair's head over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station.

My impression is that, especially from July 22 onwards, the main intended audience for Sir Ian's public pronouncements has been his own officers, and that his main message has been to reassure them that they will not be hung out to dry if they make honest mistakes in tacking the deadly menace that confronts us. This is why, in my opinion, he criticised another force for using a taser rather than a firearm in tackling a suspect and sent the officer who fired the shots at Stockwell on holiday. What he was doing was sending a message to his own about the use of force.

I think it was the brave and correct thing to do when it would have been easier to hide behind weasel words and ambiguity.

Clearly the shooting of an innocent Brazilian was a tragic mistake and blame will be apportioned in due time, but a mistake it was and real responsibility lies with the those who by carrying out wholesale indiscriminate murder created the climate of terror in which it occurred.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Abe Hirschfeld

Abe Hirschfeld, who died on August 9 aged 85, was an American property tycoon who first made his fortune building multi-storey car parks in New York City; his modus operandi was behaving badly, in the belief that his actions would be interpreted as the peccadilloes of a genial eccentric.

It was a strategy that was not altogether successful, particularly when he was jailed for trying, in 1996, to hire a hitman to kill a longtime business partner, Stanley Stahl, whose property Hirschfeld wanted to get hold of - the two men had a 'survivor takes all' agreement with respect to several properties which they co-owned. Instead of carrying out his commission, however, the hitman went to the police.

On his conviction in 2000, Hirschfeld wrestled with officials, screaming 'I'm not going, go all to Hell', as he was led from the court. Ever a publicity junkie, during his two years in prison he gave frequent interviews to the media from his cell.

Hirschfeld, who liked to affect polyester ties decorated with a crossword-puzzle motif, was known for his habit of spitting at people in public. He once held a New York City bureaucrat hostage in her office until she agreed to present him with a clean-air certificate for one of his car parks.
The Telegraph Obituary section delivers the goods again. Read the whole thing. Strange to remark he was born in Poland.

White Eagle Club

I've written before about all the Polish people and produce that I come across in Colliers Wood.

It turns out that Balham - which is just up the road - has been one of the main centres for Polish people in London since the 1950s and has a a Polish Church. The White Eagle Club (SW17 7BQ) is still a thriving community centre and a popular local restaurant.

"Nothing fancy - just good, hearty, authentic, great value Polish fare. If you want to visit Poland without leaving London, this is the place to come." commented Justin (May 19, 2005) at London Eating which is "Ni wyobraznia (dziwaczny) - po prostu (dopiero co) dobry, autentyczny, wielka wartosc Polska oplata za przejazd. Jezeli wy potrzebujecie (chciec) zeby odwiedzac Polske bez odjazdu Londyn (londynski), to jest miejscem przybywa?" according to the translation tool at

That should be my first stop in investigating Polish cuisine I think. The Polish Kitchen by Mary Pininska is currently the leading candidate for the cookery book I will inevitably buy as the author was mentioned in the entry on Polish food in Alan Davidson's wonderful Oxford Companion to Food.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Blogger for Word

Now you can use Blogger right within Microsoft Word. Just download and install the Blogger for Word add-in and a Blogger toolbar will be added to Word allowing you to:

  • Publish to your blog
  • Save drafts
  • Edit posts


North American Journal of Welsh Studies

If you have ever wondered about Gendered Constructions of Wales in the Empire, ca. 1847, then the North American Journal of Welsh Studies should be right up your street.

By labeling Welsh culture as more feminine than English culture, the Commissioners and their collaborators mobilized a paternalistic discourse to justify their continued and increased domination within Wales, much as imperial authorities in India justified their continued rule in India upon the effeminacy of certain groups of Indian males and the need for continued moral education.

So the English swine mobilised a paternalistic discourse, did they? The very idea makes my blood run cold.


These days I have a oxidised silver Enso around my neck and a Japanses Daruma hanging scroll on the wall.

Click here for a flash of inspiration on improving your concentration.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Comedy Tragedy Masks

On Saturday - when I was looking through a bag of assorted knick-knacks that Jane picked up at the pawn shop back in May to use, recombined, in her own jewelry - I came across a charm in the form of the Comedy/Tragedy masks that are universally used to represent drama. That started me thinking - along the lines of my harmony cycle - of what an interesting symbol they are so I did a little research.

Between 600 and 200 BC, the ancient Athenians created Western theatre. The two masks are the symbols for theatre. They are the comedy and tragedy masks that were worn in ancient Greece during the golden age, around 500 - 300 BC. This golden age was the first time that plays were written and performed. Plays were written in honor of the god Dionysus, the god of fertility and procreation, and were either Comedies or Tragedies.

As well as theatre, the masks also represent the two sides of Dionysus, as well as the two effects of wine: joyous, Bacchic revelry, and a dark, sorrowful harvest.

"Bacchic revelry and a dark sorrowful harvest." I can relate to that.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Potent in Potting

Amid all the hysteria about 24 hour opening and binge drinking, Act 2 of Shakespeare's Othello reminds us that some things have ever been thus in this green and pleasant land.

Some wine, ho!

And let me the
canakin clink, clink;
And let me the canakin clink
A soldier's a man;
A life's but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink.

Some wine, boys!
'Fore God, an excellent song.

I learned it in England, where, indeed, they are most potent in potting: your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander--Drink, ho!--are nothing to your English.
Is your Englishman so expert in his drinking?

Why, he drinks you, with facility, your Dane dead drunk; he sweats not to overthrow your Almain; he gives your Hollander a vomit, ere the next pottle can be filled.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Charity benefits as booty goes on line

The headline above comes from a Herts 24 article about our Bumblebee Auctions Police Property site.

It did make me smile. I suppose the conventional definitions of "booty" are appropriate for property seized by the Police, but these days searching the web or even images for "booty" via Google produces quite a different haul.

Friday, August 12, 2005

9 Years at the Mast

A card from my Mum reminds me that today marks the ninth anniversary for me running Coraider Services full time. (The company was founded in preparation the year before in 1995.)

It is certainly clear that the technology is advancing as fast as it ever did.

When I started off there weren't any ADSL or cable modems and one of the first jobs we did was connecting Surrey Police to the internet via a Basic Rate Interface ISDN line.

An ISDN BRI connection supports two 64 kbps B-channels and one 16 kbps D-channel. Last week NTL announced that is was to start offering 10Mbps as its standard broadband speed.

In 1995 the ability to capture an image and then see it again in the next instant without having to wait for your film to be developed put cutting edge innovation into the palm of your hand. That was the year Casio launched its QV-10 onto the Japanese market. It was the first compact consumer digital camera with an LCD screen.

Improved quality and lessening prices have seen digital cameras grow in popularity and this year sales will outstrip 35mm film cameras by 15 to one. Ealier this week, UK High Street retailer Dixons, which started off by selling 35mm cameras, announced that it is to stop stocking the items because of the popularity of digital cameras.

What a long strange trip it has been.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Most Useful Cookery Books Ever

I have found the Waitrose Food illustrated article on The Most Useful Cookery Books Ever, that - as I wrote yesterday - propelled Roast Chicken and other stories to the top of the best sellers list.

The list is definitely worth a read. But lo, it concludes -

And Finally� The Most Useless Cookbook we've Ever Come Across Larousse Gastronomique

Hamlyn; �60 (first edition, 1938) If you're a historian or a pub quizzer, Larousse may be useful; if you're a cook, it's not. Some might argue that this culinary encyclopaedia is not strictly a cookbook, but it markets itself as such ("an all-time classic cookbook," it says on the back cover) and contains hundreds of recipes. These are laid out in annoyingly dense blocks and do not include all the information you need; the size of dishes and tins are noticeably absent, for instance. Even as a reference work, it's overrated: esoteric and stuffy, it pitches itself as a universal guide, but is heavily biased towards all things French. If you've shelled out �60 then carted the hulking great thing home, you deserve more.

Drat! I bought Larouse Gastronomique for my brother's birthday a couple of years ago. He cooks with wine, sometimes he even adds it to the food.

As for me, since food has replaced sex in my life, I can't even get into my own pants.

Coraider to TightenUp

I went over to see a client in Strawberry Hill yesterday afternoon, which gave me another excuse to play with Google Maps.

It seems that you can access the routing function in the URL very simply by passing a start address (saddr) and a destination address (daddr). These addesses can be postcodes and they also accept text arguments.

So to generate a route from Coraider (SW19 2RD) to Tighten Up (TW2 5AG);


and the link is:

(If you generate the route from Google's web interface the URL is more complex, but I have found by trial and error that you don't actually need the spn=0.007640,0.023096 and hl=en gubbins.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Number 86?

The last couple of times I visited Amazon, I was peripherally aware of Roast Chicken and Other Stories (Ebury Paperback Cookery Series)sitting at the summit their Hot 100 Books, and I remember being mildly surprised that the latest Harry Potter had been dethroned.

This article from the Telegraph gives the background. It seems that when the Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine lined up a panel of more than 40 leading chefs, restaurateurs and food writers and asked them to consider 100 cookbooks, then choose the most indispensable one of all, this book - written eleven years ago by Simon Hopkinson - came out on top. (I hadn't even realised, from the title, that it was a cook book.)

Plainly I need a copy. The snag is that I aleady have 85 cookbooks in the kitchen and I think if I try and squeeze any more in there Jane may have my intestines for sausage skins. What to do, what to do? Perhaps I need to cull some of the tomes I seldom if ever consult.

Nobody Ever Brings Anything Small Into a Bar

I watched Harvey again last night over a single malt after everyone else had gone to bed. Paul is right. This monologue is the sublime highlight.

Harvey and I have things to do... we sit in the bars... have a drink or two... and play the juke box. Very soon the faces of the other people turn towards me and they smile. They say: 'We don't know your name, mister, but you're a very nice fellow.' Harvey and I warm ourselves in these golden moments. We entered as strangers and soon we have friends. They come over. They sit with us. They drink with us. They talk to us. They tell us about the great big terrible things they've done and the great big wonderful things they're going to do. Their hopes, their regrets. Their loves, their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. Then I introduce them to Harvey, and he's bigger and grander than anything they can offer me. When they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back, but that's envy, my dear. There's a little bit of envy in the best of us. That's too bad, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Skip

I took my life and threw it on the skip,
Reckoning the next-door neighbors wouldn't mind
If my life hitched a lift to the council tip
With their dry rot and rubble. What you find
With skips is�the whole community joins in.
Old mattresses appear, doors kind of drift
Along with all that won't fit in the bin
And what the bin-men can't be fished to shift.

James Fenton from his collection The Memory of War.


I have discovered, via, that you can append a text argument to Google Maps URLs. This is a lightweight way of linking to Google maps without touching on the maps API, and also gives you access to services, like routing, that are not available via the API.

... will show you where our office is and also let you plot journeys to and from it.


Here via Eamonn Fitzgerald is a great Emo Philips joke.

'I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: 'Stop. Don't do it.'

'Why shouldn't I?' he asked.

'Well, there's so much to live for!'

'Like what?'

'Are you religious?'

He said: 'Yes.'

'Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?'


'Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?'


'Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?'


'Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?'

'Baptist Church of God.'

'Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?'

'Reformed Baptist Church of God.'

'Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?'

He said: 'Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915.'

I said: 'Die, heretic scum,' and pushed him off.'

There is a serious point. The Sunnis hate the Shias, and the Shias hate them right back, just as much if not more than either of them hate the Crusaders. This may be inconvenient for Hazel Blears' community rebranding exercise.


There is quite a lot of coverage in the media today of the news that Ken Macdonald, QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, is studying remarks published in the media by three prominent radical clerics to see if a prosecution could be mounted on a charge of treason. On Newsnight yesterday that was talk of how difficult it would be to bring any proceedings under the 1351 Act.

What I can't find any mention of is the fact that the 1351 Act is the relevant law, because in a mind boggling farce, the more recent 1795 Treason Act was repealed in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, without the Government being aware of it. I wrote about this twice, almost whimsically, back in March. (The posts are here and here.)

It doesn't seem quote so funny this morning.

Somthing I've learned from writing this journal daily and commenting occasionally on current affairs, is how thin and unconsidered is the fayre that the media feed us. That must be a big part of how the govenrment can get away with being so incompetent.

Google punishes journalist for Googling

Google is refusing to speak to journalists from CNet after the US news website published personal information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Ironically, the information was not gleaned by any underhand methods but by searching the Internet, using Google.

However Google has decided to ignore the website's reporters for a year.

The offending report gave details of Schmidt's earnings, his wife's name, where he lives, a political donation and his hobbies, all by spending 30 minutes with the search engine.

The article was written to illustrate just how much personal information Google stores about millions of individuals.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Keyword: chefs

It seems that free meals are among the perks available to Google employees and that with the current growth of the company a search is on for two new executive chefs at their Mount View California HQ.

Here is an example menu from one of the 5 restaurants.

Ahi Tuna & Avocado Poke
Fresh line caught Ahi tuna diced with organic avocados and minced ginger, habanero chilies, cilantro, green onions and sesame seeds, tossed with a fresh dressing of orange juice, rice vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, lime juice, tangerine oil, sambal oeleck and garnished with black and white sesame seeds.

Calypso Rice Salad
Perfectly steamed wild rice with Valencia orange segments, currants, diced red bell peppers, cilantro, green and red onions, mint, coriander and cayenne, tossed with orange juice and extra virgin olive oil.

Tuna Melt Salad
Al dente elbow macaroni tossed with mayonnaise, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and lemon juice, then topped with tuna salad, cheddar cheese and green onions.

Eggplant, Tomato & Onion Skewers

Organic eggplant, tomatoes and onions, skewered, baked, and topped with cilantro chutney and yogurt sauce.

Stir-fried Cauliflower
Organic cauliflower stir-fried with mustard seeds, turmeric, diced tomatoes and red onions.

Greek Spinach Salad
Organic baby spinach, Greek feta cheese, roasted tomatoes, red onions, Kalamata olives and toasted pistachio nuts, tossed to order with a dressing of fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil, oregano and minced garlic.

Pork Loin Steak

Berkshire Farms pork loin brined in marjoram, paprika, red wine vinegar and brown sugar, then seared to perfection. Served with a roasted red pepper sauce.

Eggplant Ratatouille
Organic eggplant roasted with Roma tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, white onions, bell peppers, garlic, basil, parsley, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of red wine.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Organic russet potatoes mashed with buttermilk, cream and butter.

Agua Fresca� Mora
Blackberry infused water.

Pollo en Huerto
Free range chicken with garden vegetables: organic zucchini, onions, fresh corn off the cob, tomatoes, green, red and yellow bell peppers, carrots, jalape�os, cilantro, garlic and oregano.

Tamale Casserole

A casserole of organic zucchini, carrots, onions, green and yellow bell peppers, corn off the cob, green peas and diced tomatoes, with chili powder, oregano, cumin and garlic.

Snap Peas
Organic snap peas saut�ed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

Seared Day Boat Scallops in Green Coconut Curry Sauce

Day Boat scallops seared to perfection and tossed in green curry coconut. Topped with a red bell pepper coulis and daikon sprouts.

Pad Thai Noodles
Pad Thai noodles stir-fried with yellow and red bell peppers, garlic, ginger, shiitake mushrooms, cilantro and Thai basil.

Broccoli, Cauliflower & Haricot Verts
Stir-fry of organic broccoli, cauliflower and haricot verts with garlic, ginger and Dave�s special brown sauce.

Jasmine Rice
Jasmine-scented rice steamed to perfection.

Roasted Pork Loin
Berkshire Farms pork loin with mozzarella and bell pepper sauce.

Roma & Green Onion
Organic Roma tomatoes, green onions, Gruy�re and fontina cream.

Arugula with Dried Apricots
Organic arugula with dried apricots, shaved Parmesan cheese, tossed with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.

Herb Roasted Chicken
Free range chicken legs and thighs roasted to perfection with extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and herb salt.

Creamy Tomato Polenta
A lush blend of polenta, slow roasted tomatoes, cream and butter.

Saut�ed Wild Mushrooms
Organic shiitake, cremini, button and oyster mushrooms saut�ed in garlic and herb salt.

Capelin Pesto
Toasted pine nuts, basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic and herb salt.

Spinach Lentil Dahl
Tropical Shrimp Bisque
Wild Rice & Pork
Sweet Onion with Peas (chilled)

Red Velvet Cake with
Bright White Frosting
Hazelnut Shortcakes with Plum Compote
Coconut Cheesecake
Creamy Lemon Macadamia Nut Cookies
Cherry Chocolate
Chip Oatmeal Cookies

To give you an idea of scale, they use 55 gallons of olive oil per week.

Jules: Oh, man, I'm goin', that's all there is to it -- I'm fxxxin' goin'.
Vincent: I know baby. You'd dig it the most.

Porn Again

Billy Idol is celebrating his 50th birthday this year (30th November). Perhaps aware that his sexual charms are fading, he's offered the head of Vivid porn videos $15k per girl to attend his birthday bash.

And when he nearly killed himself on his Exile motorbike, he still managed to issue a press release refuting a claim that he had found God. He said he had been misquoted in an interview, and was not "born again" but "into porn again".

The snippet above made me laugh, but also reminded me that, strange to tell, the California based "head of Vivid porn videos"who got Mr Idol's offer is from Swansea. On the eccentric The Wolf Man Knew My Father: Notes From The Margins Of Welsh Popular Culture, David James gets this write up.

Ex-miner from Swansea turned international pornographer. He co-founded the Vivid Video empire in Los Angeles. The company structured itself like one of the great Hollywood film studios of the Twenties, using the star system to package its actresses like goddesses. Now porn divas are as well known as pop stars and mainstream actors. James is arguably the most culturally influential Welshman alive.

He has also been covered in the Economist. A Welsh Born Icon? The jury is still out.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Tommy Cooper: WBI

I found this old violin and this old painting so I took them to an expert and he said, 'What you've got there is a Stradivarius and a Rembrandt. Unfortunately Stradivarius was a terrible painter and Rembrandt made rotten violins.'

What delight to find that Tommy Cooper was born in Caerphilly (in Llwyn Onn Street) in 1922.

I have no hesitation in instantly elevating him to the pantheon. A Welsh Born Icon for the ages.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Life Beyond

He wakes, who never thought to wake again,
Who held the end was Death. He opens eyes
Slowly, to one long livid oozing plain
Closed down by the strange eyeless heavens. He lies;
And waits; and once in timeless sick surmise
Through the dead air heaves up an unknown hand,
Like a dry branch. No life is in that land,
Himself not lives, but is a thing that cries;
An unmeaning point upon the mud; a speck
moveless horror; an Immortal One
Cleansed of the world, sentient and dead; a fly
Fast-stuck in grey sweat on a corpse's neck.

I thought when love for you died, I should die.
It's dead. Alone, most strangely, I live on.

Rupert Brooke, 1910

Friday, August 05, 2005

The idea of evil

Recently, the media drew attention to an interesting new development in psychiatry - the possible rehabilitation of the word and concept of evil in the evaluation of particularly sadistic and vicious killers. Dr Michael Stone, a Columbia University professor of psychiatry who has examined several hundred murderers and has devised a so-called depravity table, is unafraid of using the word evil to describe such people. He said that though he was not a supporter of the death penalty, his examinations and conclusions showed that there were people who were neither mad nor disturbed in any classical sense, but who were evil, and must be removed from society - hardly a concept that will appear startling to the average layperson. Other psychiatrists disagree - some (for instance, Dr Robert Simon, who wrote a book entitled Bad Men do What Good Men Dream Of) because they say that evil is a meaningless term since evil is endemic to everyone, others because they totally distrust the idea of evil itself, imagining that we are calling up the shade of Satan, or some other direly non-secular concept. Still others of course naively persist in appearing to think that 'evil' is a synonym for 'ugly' or 'inept', with one saying that because murderer Ted Bundy was 'romantic' towards his girlfriend, the concept of 'evil' couldn't apply to him!

What interested me in this discussion was the poverty of the idea of evil displayed by so many of these eminent men and women. The most humble folktale story of the Devil is more complex, subtle and ambiguous in its exploration of evil than are all the depravity tables of people who, for all their undoubted eminence and record in helping the mentally ill, seem powerless in front of the reality that sometimes - rarely, fortunately - there arise human beings who have deliberately chosen the path of evil. Murderers of the kind Dr Stone examined have not vanished simply because there is a great deal of modern talk about the childhood influences that might have made them what they are, or how responsible society is in grooming them; indeed, these days, the truly evil know all the right excuses and sychobabble and have managed to bamboozle a great many psychiatrists, until now, anyway. Dr Stone's depravity table is merely a 'respectable' way of measuring - supposedly scientifically - what evil is. But it doesn't inspire me.

The old stories of the Devil, and the many explorations of the concept of a personification of evil, from the Adversary to Satan to Lucifer to Mephistopheles, were attempts at imaginatively grasping and understanding what we all know - that we are indeed all born with the 'deficiency' as St Columba calls original sin, and that we must struggle against that part of us which is selfish, narcissistic and wishes others ill. But it is more than that. The personification of evil may mislead the na�ve, but its imaginative force is that it embodies a reality, in all its complexity.

Evil is real, just as good is; you cannot have one without the other. It doesn't come with horns and a tail, not usually - it can be brutish or charming, thick or intelligent, cruel or violent, banal or extravagant, and it can be clothed in any human hide. But true evil is always conscious, it is never a product of mental illness or brain disease or circumstances - though it is usually quite opportunistic. It is always narcissistic, but it can be a negative, or passive one - i.e. the person is incapable of imagining others' suffering or independent existence, which is usually the definition of a psychopath (or, literally, 'soul-sick' - just clothe an old concept in scientific-sounding words and you're right as rain!); or it can be a positive, even more dangerous sort - perfectly capable of imagining others' pain and suffering, and going ahead anyway, because it's pleasurable, because the evildoers love power, because they consider themselves above all laws, whether man-made or divine. Often, such people can be charming, even charismatic. A combination of the two expressions of evil can be devastating - as in the case of the Moors Murderers, for instance, where the charismatic Brady dominated the more passive Hindley; or in the case of what happens in regimes such as Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia and Saddam's Iraq, where a regime is in itself criminal and a charismatic Adversary gives permission to its followers for all normal rules, and the normal preference for good over evil, to be suspended.

We all know that there are indeed people who, though they are human beings, not only exhibit traits and ideas which are inexplicably malign, but actually carry them out in real life. Despite Dr Simon's blithe assumption that 'bad men do what good men dream of' (reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's pious assertion that he was a sinner every bit as much as a real adulterer, because he'd 'committed adultery in his heart'), there is a vast difference between the thoughts that creep into your head on occasion, and actually doing it; it is by their fruits you shall know them, after all. Thinking something wicked in your heart is a sin - and something to confess, and to try and overcome, for that is what makes human life not some neatly plotted graph table but a constant and unremitting struggle - but actually doing it, and doing it in the full knowledge of what you are doing, that is something else again. It is there that evil truly resides - evil that would tear out the very roots of heaven, and make of the whole world, and of humanity, a wasteland without end.
Sophie Masson via normblog.

This a fine piece. I think that the second paragraph is particularly insightful.

(Much as I enjoy Jimmy Carter bashing, in Matthew 5.27�28, Jesus does actually say, "You have heard that it was said, �Do not commit adultery.� But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.�)

Rocky's Manager

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Jobs Mickey Goldmill Got Fired From Before Becoming Rocky Balboa's Beloved Coach.

Waiter at Olive Garden
'You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!'

Docent at the Museum of Natural History
'You ever fought a dinosaur, kid?'

Pornographic-Film Director
'Now remember I want 500 hard ones. Go!'

Funeral Director
'I think that people die sometimes when they don't wanna live no more.'

Volunteer at Local Soup Kitchen
'I'm running a business here, not a soup kitchen.'

'Down! Down! Stay down!'

Stock Boy at Payless ShoeSource
'Women weaken legs!'

Assistant Manager at KFC
'I want you to chase this little chicken.'

Salesman at Sleep Country USA
'Don't lay down like this! Like, uh, I don't know, like some kind of mongrel or something.'

Wake-up Caller at Holiday Inn
'Get up, you son of a bitch! 'Cause Mickey loves you!'

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Civility and Grammar

Peggy Noonan has a "favorite story this summer of cultural tensions and differences as navigated by two American women."

A Southern lady sees a vacationing society lady from the Northeast. The Southern lady is gregarious: 'Where y'all from?' Society lady is put off: 'I'm from a place where they don't end sentences with a preposition.' Southern lady smiles, nods her head: 'Beg your pardon. Where y'all from, bitch?'

Yoga classes 'provoke' prisoners

A prison in Norway has stopped holding yoga classes after it found that instead of calming inmates, they were actually making some more aggressive.

High-security Ringerike jail near Oslo offered the classes to eight inmates on a trial basis earlier this year.

Prison warden Sigbjoern Hagen said some of the inmates became more irritable and agitated and had trouble sleeping.

He said the prison did not have the resources to treat emotions unleashed by the deep breathing exercises.

The yoga group expressed surprise at the prison's findings.

Has Sheriff Joe considered yoga for his clients I wonder?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Can this guy be for real? I do hope so.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio (in Arizona) created the "tent city jail": He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them. He stopped smoking and porno magazines in the jails. Took away their weights. Cut off all but "G" movies. He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects. Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination. He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again only let in the Disney channel and the weather channel. When asked why the weather channel he replied, so they will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs. He cut off coffee since it has zero nutritional value. When the inmates complained, he told them, "This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back." He bought Newt Gingrich' lecture series on videotape that he pipes into the jails. When asked by a reporter if he had any lecture series by a Democrat, he replied that a democratic lecture series might explain why a lot of the inmates were in his jails in the first place.

More on the Arizona Sheriff: With temperatures being even hotter than usual in Phoenix (116 degrees just set a new record), the Associated Press reports: About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed-wire-surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued pink boxer shorts. On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing boxers were either curled up on their bunk beds or chatted in the tents, which reached 138 degrees inside the week before. Many were also swathed in wet, pink towels as sweat collected on their chests and dripped down to their pink socks. "It feels like we are in a furnace," said James Zanzot, an inmate who has lived in the tents for 1 year. "It's inhumane." Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy sheriff who created the tent city and long ago started making his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic He said Wednesday that he told all of the inmates: "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your damned mouths!"

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Banks' greatest save

As the IRA gives up its guns, an author reveals how he could easily have been a 'volunteer' - if it hadn't been for his idol, the England goalkeeper Gordon Banks

I popped into GJs on the way home for a cheeky, sneaky one and read this piece by Don Mullan in The Times.

You should read it as well.

Dick Head

A high street bank has said sorry to a customer after sending him a debit card containing the words 'Dick Head'.

NatWest said it had launched an inquiry after Chris Lancaster, 18, of Tiptree, Essex, received a cash card with the wording: 'Mr C Lancaster Dick Head'.

A NatWest spokesperson said on Wednesday: 'We have apologised unreservedly to Mr Lancaster.'

The spokesperson added: 'This is completely unacceptable and we have launched an investigation.'

Al Coholic, Seymour Butz, Mike Rotch, and Hugh Jass were unavailable for comment.

Count Dooku

From Mark Steyn's review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Fortunately, pop Wonka is played by Christopher Lee - or, as one of my kids exclaimed, 'It's Count Dooku!', that being the name of his splendid turn in Star Wars. Lee is having a grand old time at the moment, doing ten minutes in every blockbuster around. My favourite moment in the Lord of the Rings movies isn't actually in any of the movies, but in one of those 'the making of' documentaries that appears on the DVD. It's the scene where Saruman gets stabbed by Grima Wormtongue, and Lee explains to director Peter Jackson that the backstabbing sound isn't quite right, because in his days with British Intelligence during the war he used to sneak up and stab a lot of Germans in the back and it was more of a small gasp they made. Jackson backs away cautiously.


From ThisisLondon.

Three British men were arrested in Dubai and held for 10 days before being released without charge, the Foreign Office said.

The trio were reportedly detained in connection with the London bomb attacks on July 7. It is thought they arrived back in Britain on Monday.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Three British nationals were detained by the Dubai authorities on July 21. All three were released on July 30 without charge. They were given full consular contact to ensure all their needs were met."

The FO spokesman said he had received no reports of them being poorly treated.

But two of the men, Mohammed Rafiq Siddique and Alam Ghafoor, claimed they were threatened and deprived of sleep.

God give me strength. Perhaps the notoriously Islamophobic Dubai regime is using the type of profiling that Home Office Minister Hazel Blears so helpfully discouraged the UK Police from implementing yesterday.

I found her performance incomprehensible.

Its all very well to say that "tackling terrorism is absolutely dependent on the confidence of these communities to feel that they can come forward, give information and be part of the fight against this threat", but how did the meeting she had in Oldham contribute to that?

Who were the "leaders" she met? Who selected them? What right do they have to speak for British Muslims?

How does she know she is not exacerbating the problem by legitimising the unelected representatives with whom she so earnestly consults? My guess is that she has set a process in train that will make the power and authority of the "leaders" effectively dependent on their status as sanctioned grievance mongers and that this will encourage rather than discourage a ghetto mentality.

Worse. If any single one of those she met yesterday is an apologist for criminals she will have made it more difficult not easier for other members of the community to speak out.

Musum Pontificalis

Musum Pontificalis is a great new spoof blog.

About Me
Papa Ratzi

Basically, I'm just your average Joe. I like to drink beer and muse like everyone else. I love the Good Lord with all my heart and He has blessed me immensely, for which I am eternally grateful. I work very hard trying to shepherd His flock; which is no small task when you consider all of the wolves in sheep's clothing out there! So occasionally, I need some R&R. For me, that comes in the form of musing. Thanks to Blogger, I can muse all I want and it doesn't take a single penny from Peter's Pence.

A typical post

Good day, friends. Believe it or not, I am musing at 9144 meters - that is 30,000 feet for our American brethren. My much-needed vacation is over now and I am en route to Castel Gandolfo for the remainder of the summer.

I marvel at modern technology and what can be done with it; if it were only used for good the world would be a much better place. As I am musing to you via my Blackberry, I was struck by how modern technology, particularly computer code, demonstrates to us how unworkable the Relativist system is.

I am not an IT professional, and my infallibility does not apply to the IT world, so please bear with me. Computers have languages (like Basic, c++, etc.). Just the right language needs to be used to get the computer to function the way it was intended. I believe there is a saying about that, which goes something like, 'Garbage in, garbage out.'

If a computer programmer attempts to apply a Relativist philosophy to his craft, he will fail. A Relativist can try all he wants to force the computer to accept his irrational commands, but it simply won't work. There is a specific code that the computer is designed to operate by, and that code means something.

Likewise, God, as the Supreme Programmer has written a code for us, it is a moral code (Morals++?), and it means something, and try as we might, we just won't function properly, or be what we were intended to be without following the proper code.

Anyway, the stewardess has just informed me that I am not allowed to use cellular devices on the plane, so I have to go.

Papa Ratzi, over and out.

Jagger's drug raid claim

Sir Mick Jagger claimed police tried to plant 'white powder' on him during a drugs bust in 1969, according to secret files just released.

The files show Scotland Yard dismissed the claims, saying the Rolling Stones frontman was caught up in 'the world of users of dangerous drugs'.

Sir Mick's allegations followed a police raid on his Chelsea home in May 1969, where cannabis was found.


No news on the planting of the Mars Bar it seems.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Writer's choice 9

Norman Geras publishes a weekly Normblog Writer's choice which features well-known writers, journalists, poets and other such practitioners of the compositional arts, writing about books.

Today's piece by Anthony Julius is on "Human Society in Ethics and Politics" by Bertrand Russell which was a favourite book from his youth. His perspective today is very different.

Re-reading the book now, more than 30 years later, I have a different view. I was expecting to enjoy it again. I was surprised at how much I disliked it, and why.

So far from appreciating it as a book about the war, I now recoil from the loftiness of Russell's perspective on the Nazis' crimes. He treats the Holocaust as no more than a readily available instance of a familiar moral problem - 'when Nazis say that it is good to torture Jews, and we say that it is bad, we do not feel as if we were merely expressing a difference of taste...' Russell's war-time examples are continuous with his other ones - contrasts he draws between (say) the Quaker and the head-hunter as ideal types, and so on. They don't stand out in the way they did when I first read the book. What appealed to me then now seems to me to be typical of a failure of a specifically English imagination to grasp the terrible singularity of the Holocaust. It is as if it had not taken place.

This "recoil from the loftiness of Russell's perspective" is exactly what overcame me last week. What was initially intended as a light hearted nomination of Russell as a Welsh Born Icon gradually ran out of steam as I realised quite how disgusting some of his opinions were.

One blog per second

The blogosphere is continuing to grow, with a weblog created every second, according to blog trackers Technorati.

America's Buttiglione

According to Christopher Hitchens in Slate, "everybody seems to have agreed to tiptoe around the report that Judge John G. Roberts said he would recuse himself in a case where the law required a ruling that the Catholic Church might consider immoral".

Its news to me that Roberts - Bush's Supreme Court nomination - is a Catholic, although its not knews to me that Hitchens has a Richard Dawkins style tin ear when it comes to religion.

I'm disappointed therefore, but not surprised by Hitchens injunction to "quit tiptoeing around John Roberts' faith".

If he is proposing a sandbagging of the kind handed out to Rocco Buttiglione by the European Parliament last year I think it is madness quite frankly.

I wrote about Buttiglione back in March. My conclusion then is the same as my opnion today.

Never mind Islamophobia, we cannot possibly imagine that we live in a viable multicultural society if upholding conventional Catholic dogma excludes citizens from playing a full role in the public life of that society.

What do you get?

George Bernard Shaw knew what we want, but Merle Travis knew what you get, "another day older and deeper in debt".

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said 'Well, a-bless my soul'

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you, then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

Monday, August 01, 2005

What do I want?

George Bernard Shaw in a letter to Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
I want my dark lady. I want my angel. I want my tempter. I want the lighter of my seven lamps of beauty, honour, laughter, music, love, life and immortality. I want my inspiration, my folly, my happiness, my divinity, my madness, my selfishness, my final sanity and sanctification, my transfiguration, my purification, my light across the sea, my palm across the desert, my garden of lovely flowers, my million nameless joys, my day's wage, my night's dream, my darling and my star.

Brave and True

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has warned against resorting to "ever more drastic measures in order to combat terrorism".

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said people must never allow themselves to "surrender to a logic of fear" when faced with threats.

He was speaking at a special Mass for Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot dead by police in London as a suspected suicide bomber.

"In responding to the new threats in our midst, we must hold more firmly than ever to our laws, our freedoms and our principles. We must never allow ourselves to surrender to a logic of fear in which we have to resort to ever more drastic measures in order to combat terrorism."

I agree.

Roald Dahl: WBI

Undoubtedly the most famous Welshman of Norwegian extraction, Roald Dahl was born into a wealthy family of Cardiff ship owners. It was at the Cathedral School in Llandaff, he later recalled, that he developed a fascination with sweets that would later provide the inspiration for one of his most famous books.

With the opening of the new Burton/Depp movie of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last Friday in the UK, I am pleased to announce Dahl's official elevation to the status of a Welsh Born Icon.