Tuesday, June 27

Here's a thought.

Everyone seems to be talking about how fed up with the Union the English are getting. Regardless of the reasons for that, it does look increasingly as if Scotland will finally get its independence not because the Scots succeed in breaking away from England but because the English succeed in kicking Scotland out.

So, that being said, why aren't the SNP running candidates in England? Admittedly, it would be a slightly self-effacing campaign message — "Vote for us to be rid of us forever, dour tiresome whinging parasites that we are" — but surely a bit of insulting their beloved country and fellow countrymen would be worth it for the ultimate goal of independence.

Now, before someone gets all upset, no, I'm not calling the Scots "dour tiresome whinging parasites". Contrary to stereotype, they're not that dour. No, seriously, what I'm saying is that, were the SNP to run successfully in England, their selling point would have to be "You really hate the bloody Scots, don't you?" They'd have to play up every negative and downplay every positive thing about Scots and Scotland, because English people who like Scotland probably like the Union, too. In short, they'd have to campaign on the "Scotland is crap" platform.

Suggested campaign slogans for an SNP candidate in England — in the comments, please.



Wednesday, June 21

Flying off the handle.

In the last couple of years, you might have noticed a general lowering of the regard Americans have for the French. There's been a lot of discussion about what might have caused this, and a lot of that discussion has concentrated on recent events such as the Iraq War.

Well, bollocks. What caused it is that, on the whole, the French have held everything about the USA, including its citizens, in absolute contempt for most of the time since the Americans helped liberate their country. Adlai Stevenson's famous exchange with de Gaulle had nothing to do with Iraq or UN resolutions. The French detest America, loathe it with all their hearts, and mention so at every opportunity. All that changed in the last couple of years is that more Americans started to notice, and decided they were fed up with it. Fifty years of ignoring the bile, and finally they send some back. We could wonder forever about the precise event that triggered it, but it's academic — let's face it: slag someone off for long enough, and, sooner or later, they'll stop liking you.

This would be a good point at which to stop and discuss what "the French" means. It doesn't mean "every single French person"; it doesn't mean "the French Government"; it may not necessarily even mean "most French people", though, in this case, it probably does. There is an impression conveyed by every nation. It's no doubt a result of a complicated interaction between government, media, public, and God knows what else. Some people's opinions count for more — not democratically, but in terms of how influential their voice is in the public discourse. Pardon my horrid turn of phrase there, but it seems like the best way to put it. We all understand what it means to say that the French are disdainful of Australian wine. There's a whole miasm of subtleties packed into those two words. Some French people love Australian wine. Nevertheless.

Earlier today, I read this:

A disabled man is dragged from his car and beaten up in Aberdeen, and a seven-year-old boy is attacked by an adult in Edinburgh — simply because they were wearing England shirts.


Here's the gist of the original article:

[New Zealander and primary schoolboy Hugo Clapshaw], who has lived in Edinburgh for two years with his family, said: "He whacked me on the head very, very hard and it's left a big bruise. ... He told my dad I should be supporting Scotland not England."

....

Hugo had been playing with his family in Edinburgh's Inverleith Park on Saturday afternoon when he was punched by a man thought to be aged between 24 and 30.

....

In Aberdeen, [Ian Smith, a disabled man,] was sitting in his parked car on Anderson Road when he was dragged from the vehicle and beaten up on Tuesday.

....

Mr Smith said: "He was a psychopath, it was a totally unprovoked racist attack because I was wearing an England top and displaying an England flag."


I'm English and I lived in Scotland for eleven years. I'm lucky enough never to have been physically assaulted because of my nationality, but I was very much aware of the possibility during my time in Scotland. It's difficult not to be, if you're English in Scotland. Even without any violence, the constant background racism can get wearing. I'm pretty thick-skinned, and I love Scotland, not least because it's full of Scots, who are great people, but, sometimes, I snap. Slag someone off for long enough, and, sooner or later, they'll stop liking you. And, being English in Scotland, you don't half get slagged off.

So, earlier today, I snapped. And I wrote a long rant which, as you may have seen, has now been removed from this blog. Too much anger and not enough thinking about the wording. I offended a couple of my friends, which I prefer not to do. So I'm going to try and make the same points here, but with a tad more consideration.

Various people have observed that there is an increase in anti-Scottish feeling amongst the English these days. That's "the English". I think that's probably true. One might come up with any number of reasons why this is so. My own opinion is that any reason that is based on recent events is probably not really it. Recent events might have given some people a little push, but the real problem is that if you slag someone off for long enough, sooner or later, they'll stop liking you. There has been a significant, notable, highly offensive level of hatred emanating from Scotland towards the English for at least as long as the French have hated America.

When Braveheart was released, there were more violent attacks on students in St Andrews (where I was studying at the time) in the first six weeks of term than in the entire previous year. (And there were a lot in the previous year, because Scots travel over from Dundee to St Andrews especially to beat the shit out of anyone who looks like they might be English or who answers a question in the wrong accent.) Someone staggered into the Union with blood pouring down their face pretty much every night. We all had to be very careful about walking around in public, and it was a bad idea to go out after dark.

There is, of course, a wide spectrum of anti-English feeling in Scotland. There are the bastards who physically attack English people; there are the non-violent customers who go into the same shop every day, not to buy anything but to tell the English sales assistant that they've stolen a Scottish job; there are the nationalist politicians who have built their careers on blaming all of Scotland's woes on England; and there are perfectly civilised, nice, friendly, wonderful people who will happily marry English people but who still routinely use the phrase "fucking English cunts". They'll tell you it's harmless banter, and, often, they're right. But it's a symptom of a general social atmosphere.

It's tempting to say at this point that the same people who say "fucking English cunts" would never say, for instance, "fucking niggers", but that's not as true as one might hope. The difference between racism in England and in Scotland is that, as a rule, racist English bastards know that their opinions are not broadly welcome. They'll express them in private, they'll express them in company that they know to be sympathetic, and, of course, they'll shout abuse at the objects of their hatred in the street. What they very very rarely do is to assume that their opinions are so unremarkable and socially acceptable that they can express them to any stranger who happens to be the same colour as them and expect broad agreement. I lived in the centre of Glasgow's Asian community for six years. I lost count of the Glaswegians who, on discovering this fact, would say something along the lines of "Isn't it a problem, living with all they Pakis?" Never met me before, don't know me from Adam, but hey, I'm white, so how could I possibly object?

That being said, very few Scots would say something like that to an Asian. Whereas being abusive directly to an English person's face is broadly socially acceptable in Scotland. Anti-English sentiment is so prevalent, so woven into the very fabric of Scottish society, that it is simply not noticed. Events like the ones described above are merely the pointy end of a very big Scottish stick.

Take football. During the World Cup (and, come to that, at all other times), the Scots make a point of supporting every team but England. It's quite funny at times, yes, but it can wear a bit thin. Look at it this way. If England play Saudi Arabia, a country where thieves have their hands cut off, Scots support Saudi Arabia. If England play China, a country where expressing your opinion freely can get you tortured, Scots support China. If England plays Cuba, a country so hellish for its residents that they will cross hundreds of miles of shark-infested waters in an inflated inner-tube to escape, Scots support Cuba. If England plays Libya, the country that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scots support Libya.

It's not just football: the Scottish press make a great point of celebrating any and every English defeat, to the point of having double-page spreads in their newspapers on Pakistan beating England at cricket, a sport in which maybe eight Scots are interested. No, not all Scots feel that way, but enough do that it sells papers. More to the point, most of the Scots who don't actually celebrate an English defeat still see no problem with the celebration. Insulting the English causes more Scots to buy papers and causes a negligible number of Scots, if any, to stop buying them.

In contrast, the only time an English newspaper would so gleefully celebrate a Scottish sporting defeat would be if it were England who'd beaten them. If the Scots beat anyone else at anything, the English media are congratulatory.

A significant number of Scots — and by this I don't just mean a majority; I mean something kind of similar to "the French": I mean that their attitudes are broadly dominant in Scottish society — a significant number of Scots take every opportunity handed to them to slag off the English; they complain regularly about the "imperialist bastards" who "stole" their country despite the fact that the Act of Union was actually England bailing out a bankrupt Scotland and the Scots managed to negotiate a deal where they were overrepresented in Parliament; now, Scots MPs get to vote on legislation that affects England while English MPs can't vote on similar legislation that's been devolved to the Scottish toy Parliament; the Labour Party only have a majority in Westminster because of votes in Scotland, and now it looks like the English are going to get a Scots Prime Minister foisted on them (can anyone even imagine any party getting a majority in the Scots Parliament with an English leader?); it's becoming more and more obvious that the Scottish Parliament is spending English money on shite; and there has yet to be a Scottish problem caused entirely by Scots that hasn't been widely blamed on the English — witness the widespread delusion nine years ago that having a parliament in Edinburgh instead of London would solve Scotland's problems: the problem with politicians, the thinking goes, is not that they're inept or corrupt, but that they're from the wrong country. The English have been largely ignoring the constant stream of bile from north of the border for decades. All that's started happening lately is that they've finally got fed up with it, especially since the bile started to become government policy.

Frankly, I can't get my head around an Englishman who's been in Scotland for twelve years being crazy enough to wear an England shirt. It's suicide. The New Zealander had an excuse for not knowing any better, poor kid.

South Labour MP Anne Begg said ... "I am horrified, this is not typical of Aberdeen which is a welcoming city. People from England live and work here."


Yeah, on the implicit understanding that they never express much pride in England, same as the English in every other Scottish town.

Just to be clear: yes, there are lots and lots of great non-racist Scots, some of whom are the best friends I've ever had and am ever likely to have. Which is why it's perfectly safe to wear an England shirt at a party with your friends. Wearing one in public is relying on the non-violence and non-racism of crowds of total strangers, in the most violent country in the developed world and one of the most racist places I've ever been; it's running one hell of a gauntlet. Wearing a Scotland shirt in England isn't.

In Northern Ireland, where a lot of people have more genuine reasons than the Scots to be resentful of England, loads of people support the England team, in football and any other sport that happens to be on. I used to know a Catholic who went out celebrating when England beat Germany a few years back, and no-one here thinks that's strange. In Scotland, he'd be a social reject, and celebrating in public would be very likely to get him beaten up.

The recent rise in anti-Scottish feeling in England is a Bad Thing — not least because, in my opinion, contrary to the impression I've just been busy giving, the Scots are much nicer people than the English. There's a reason why I don't live in England: bits of it are quite nice, but I really don't like living there, don't much care for the culture, and can only take so much of the people. England's football fans may have recently improved their behaviour, but I'll be very surprised if they ever become as well behaved, friendly, and non-violent as the Tartan Army. After the 1998 World Cup, the various hotels and bars of Marseille clubbed together to take out a full-page ad in a Scottish paper, thanking the legions of Scots fans for their visit and asking them all to come back soon. I can't ever see that happening for the English.

In short, I'm not slagging off the Scots here because I'm English. I'm complaining about the Scots because they're bastards, just as I've been complaining about the English for the last twenty years because they're all bastards too and have recently started complaining about the fact that the Northern Irish are all bastards. No doubt, if I ever do move to the US, this blog will become the one-stop shop for all your Americans-are-bastards needs. But there are things to be learnt from comparing the nations' differing styles of bastardacity. And, of course, personalities are independent: Scots can become better people regardless of whether the English remain gits or improve themselves.

I'll finish by repeating my summation from a couple of years ago:

Scotland is both the best and the worst place on Earth. I fucking hate Scotland. I love Scotland. Especially Glasgow. I really, really detest Glasgow, quite possibly the greatest city in the world, and, as for Glaswegians, they're wonderful, friendly people, a real pleasure to be around, the violent, malingering scum.


I stand by every word of that.


Update:

My experiences of racism in England are based on living in the South-East. I am reliably informed that public racism is far more socially acceptable in the North. Could even be worse than Scotland.


Another update:

A pertinent comment here from another Englishman who's lived in Scotland:

He's correct; you would have to be out of your mind [to wear an England shirt in Scotland], and I speak as someone who subsequently spent a decade in a nation whose cities were razed by the RAF within living memory. Walk down the street in an England shirt there and the worst that will happen is that people will approach you and tell you that they went to London on a weekend break last summer.

 



Mystery missing rant.

There was a rant here about Scottish anti-Englishness. Judging from the comments, I completely misjudged it. So I've reworded it very carefully and reposted it here.

Apologies to all, especially David.



The truth.

Mr Kitchen sums something up perfectly:

The Scots hate the English and so, presumably, do not wish to be part of the union. Fine, fuck them. Let's get these whinging bastards off our backs.

....

Don't get me wrong, I love Scotland and, generally, I like the Scots. What I dislike is that I, who had always called myself British, have had the identity "English" forced upon me by pusillanimous, parochial bigots who hear only an accent. So fuck them.


I used to oppose Scottish independence, on the grounds of what was best for Scotland. These days, I support it, on the grounds of what's best for the UK.

The huge chip that so many Scots carry on their shoulders towards England, that they are so inordinately proud of, and that they gleefully bring out on display when they realise they're in the presence of anyone English, did a lot to encourage that change.



Tuesday, June 20

The holiday of a lifetime.

I'm going to change the names of a couple of my relatives here. One is an innocent victim in what follows; the other would appear to be somewhat thick.

Relative number one is Sandy, a skinny girl of twelve. She had never, until today, been to Glasgow, but she really wanted to go, because she'd heard how great it is. (And Glasgow, for the record, is great.)

Relative number two is James, Sandy's affable but somewhat arrogant and occasionally obnoxious step-grandfather. Sandy loves him to bits. He decided to treat her with a day trip to Glasgow.

So he bought a couple of flights, and off they went this morning.

They arrived at Glasgow airport and got the bus into the city centre. The bus takes about twenty minutes, and takes you right through the centre of town, past the copious shops and eateries, to Buchanan Bus Station, about a minute's walk from the main shopping centres of Buchanan Galleries, Buchanan Street, and Sauchiehall Street — the UK's largest urban shopping centre outside London, fact fans. Sandy and James arrived at the bus station and looked around for a couple of minutes. Quite which direction they looked around in is not clear, but James decided that there was nowhere to eat in Glasgow, so they got back on the bus and went back to the airport. And spent the entire day there.

Sandy has a new keyring, bought from a gift shop at the airport, as a souvenir of her day. I hear that she is not particularly happy.

Those of my readers who know Glasgow even vaguely will be aware of the levels of stupidity on display here. The rest of you, let me put it this way. If you were to eat out at a different Glaswegian eatery every day of the week, even limiting yourself to the city centre, you could probably make it six months before you had to go to the same place for a second time.


Update:

I have been informed that I got the wrong end of the stick: Sandy wasn't particularly bothered about visiting Glasgow; she just wanted to go on a plane. Which she did. She still didn't much enjoy her day out, though.

I'm honestly not sure whether this makes the story worse or even better.



Monday, June 19

A request.

There used to be — and I hope there still is — a website called something like "Dread Portals". It contained many photo of those ominous doorways that litter our urban world: old, disused, broken-looking, but firmly shut; under railway arches, down dark alleys, half-hidden by hedges, etc. For each doorway, the site had a brief explanation of which hell it led to and a potted history of which demons had used it and why.

It's a bugger trying to use Google to find it. Try searching for variations of "doors gateways demons hell" and you find an awful lot of stuff that isn't what I'm looking for. If anyone knows the site of which I speak, please please tell me where it is.

Thank you very much.



Origins.

One of the world's greatest writers, Michael Marshall Smith has given a rather interesting interview to Digit about being a designer — because he did use to be a designer.

Somewhere in there, there's this gem:

I once had a bizarre conversation with someone while I was working on a film script. They asked what I did, and I told them, and they were clearly very puzzled. Soon afterwards it became apparent that they believed that movie actors came up with their own lines (I'm not making this up). So I realised that me claiming to 'write films' must have sounded weird or maybe even borderline fraudulent to them.

 



Thursday, June 15

A new scheme.

There's this new thing called Nightcap Syndication. It is a damn good idea. It may even be, dare I say, An Idea Whose Time Has Come. Or it could be a total flop. You never know.

Anyway, here's what it actually is:

So, um, what’s this all about then?

It's an Open Source Newspaper.

So what's that then?

Just like a normal newspaper, just without the dead trees bit. Or the geographical constraints, editorial line, space restrictions and so on.

How does it work?

Just like a regular newspaper, as we said. All dead tree publications are inundated with pieces and copy from people who want to write for them. Some of it (a very little bit) actually gets used. For us, that army of writers is the 50 million people out there in the blogosphere. Just like a regular newspaper, sometimes we approach a writer and ask if we can publish the material here. Other times people approach us and ask if we'd like it.

....

Why "syndication"?

One thing we want to encourage is for editors to think of bloggers as potential freelance writers for their magazines and newspapers. So we have a system (in association with ScooptWords) so that an editor can actually purchase a piece here for publication. We're rather of the school of thought that blogs won't "beat" the mainstream press but we may well infiltrate it.


And look at this. A competition:

Write a review of a digital camera and you might be taken on as a freelancer for a magazine which, err, reviews digital cameras.

... this isn't a competition in the sense that there will only be one winner. Or even necessarily a winner. There are a number of slots open for decent camera reviewers and this isn't a once only opportunity either. The magazine needs reviews on a regular basis. Impress the Editor with your skills and nous and there is an opportunity for one or more to get a regular paid gig out of this.


It'll be interesting to see what comes of all this.



Modelling.

As you may know, I am a computer programmer by trade. As you almost certainly know, lots of scientists these days — especially climatologists — draw conclusions about the real world from computer models. I have therefore compiled this handy list. It's a list of the questions you need to ask any scientist who has used a computer model to reach a conclusion — and I'm not just picking on the climate-change crowd here; they may be the most prominent in the news, but there are lots of other guilty parties out there in all sorts of scientific fields. If a scientist doesn't give confident and reasonable answers to these questions, take their conclusions with a handful of salt.

  • Who programmed the computer model?

  • Did the same person do the programming as did the science?

  • If not, how was the science communicated from the scientist to the programmer? Are you confident that the programmer fully understood the science?

  • If more than one person programmed the model, do they all have the same background in and approach to programming?

  • If they have different backgrounds or approaches, what did you do to ensure that their contributions to this project would be compatible and consistent?

  • What proportion of total programming time was spent on debugging?

  • Was all the debugging done by the same person?

  • If not, was there a set of rules governing preferred debugging methods?

  • If so, are you sure everyone followed said rules to the letter?

  • Did any of the debugging involve putting in any hacks or workarounds?

  • If not, could you pull the other one, which has bells on?

  • Is there any part of the program which just works even though it looks like it probably shouldn't?

  • Are there any known bugs in the computer hardware or operating system that you run your model on?

  • If so, what have you done to ensure that none of those bugs affects your model?

  • What theories did you base the model on?

  • What proportion of these theories are controversial and what proportion are pretty much proven valid?

  • What information did you put into the model?

  • Where did this information come from?

  • How accurate is the information?

  • Have you at any point had to use similar types of information from significantly different sources? Have you, for instance, got some temperature data from thermometers and some other temperature data from tree rings?

  • If so, what have you done to ensure that these different data sources are compatible with each other?

  • If you've done something to make different data sources compatible, did it involve using any more theories to adjust data? If so, see the previous questions about theories.

  • Where you couldn't get real-world information, what assumptions did you use?

  • What is your justification for those assumptions?

  • Do any other scientists in your field tend to use different assumptions?

  • Have any of your theories, information, or assumptions led to inaccurate predictions in the past?

  • If so, why are you still using them?

  • If they previously led to inaccurate predictions, do you know why?

  • If you think you know why they led to inaccurate predictions, what else have you done to test them before using them in this model?

  • How many predictions has your computer model led to that have been verified as accurate in the real world?

  • How accurate?

  • Has any other computer model used roughly the same theories, assumptions, and data as yours to give significantly different conclusions?

  • If so, do you know why the conclusions were different?

  • How much new information has your computer model given you?


Most of the time, programmers ignore most of these questions. But then, most of the time, programmers aren't asking the world's governments to force all their people into a lower standard of living.

Also, programmers are generally creating software which merely has to work well enough, because the whole point of what we're doing is to create tools, not to discover facts. Who cares whether Excel crashes now and then when it's so powerful most of the time? It is merely a tool, and it works. That's all you need.

But scientists aren't creating mere tools: they are trying to discover facts about the world, often about the future. They are trying to find out things that they would not otherwise know. This means that there is no way for them to verify their results until it is too late. When your target is to achieve something, faulty bits of information don't matter as long as you achieve it. When your target is to discover information, every single bit of faulty information pushes you further from your target.

The software on your mobile phone is buggy. Yet you call someone and get through and talk to them. If you can understand each other, you've verified that the software works well enough; the bugs don't matter. But until you try to make a call, you don't know whether it works. The software Burger King use in their tills is buggy. Yet they usually charge you the right amount of money for your delicious Whopper and get near enough to balancing their books at the end of each month: so the software works well enough; the bugs don't matter. But until they use the tills and do their accounts, they don't know whether it works. The software used by a climatologist is buggy. They say that world temperatures will rise 2 degrees by 2120. And if they wait until 2120 and measure world temperatures and see that they have indeed increased by 2 degrees, then they'll know that the software works well enough; that the bugs don't matter. Until then, they won't know.

The last one is a trick question, by the way. Either the answer is "None" or the scientist knows nothing about computers and should be ignored at all costs. No computer has ever given any human being any new information whatsoever, because they are literally incapable of doing so.

As far as I can see, the usual answer is "Lots."



Wednesday, June 14

That Catholic opposition to Dan Brown in full.

The Da Vinci Code is full of lies. It is pure fiction, yet Dan Brown dishonestly presents much of it as truth. His alleged facts are actually nothing more than the deluded theorising of a man who sees grand global plans behind perfectly innocent and trivial coincidences.

Now excuse me while I turn this wine into God's blood.



Monday, June 12

A life of lifetimes.

I mentioned recently that the modern British definition of a "life sentence" — at least seven years before parole may be considered — meant that I am more than four lifetimes old. Well, turns out I was wrong:

A man who stabbed a woman nearly 30 times has been sentenced to life in prison by a court.

Mark Antony Oldfield, 32, from Devizes, Wiltshire, knifed ex-girlfriend Hayley Cooper 28 times, near Salisbury, on 14 September last year.

....

After stabbing her, he then tried to burn her, using an aerosol and a lighter, having previously head-butted her.

....

The judge reduced Oldfield's minimum term from nine to six years to give credit for his guilty plea, but he will be subject to lifetime parole.

But with a discount for good behaviour and taking into consideration the 269 days he has been in custody since the attack, the court heard he could be considered for parole in just over two years.


I am sixteen lifetimes old.



Low standards.

On the news last night, we were told how fantastic it was that only thirteen English football fans were arrested in Frankfurt on Saturday. Apparently, this is a sign of how civilised and well-behaved England fans are these days. And, sadly, that's true: this actually is an improvement, and it marks England out as better than many other nations. The German authorities are positively thrilled that violent pissheads are visiting their country:

Robert Schaefer, operational commander of the German police in Frankfurt, said there were 65,000 English fans in Frankfurt and the atmosphere was "euphoric".

He said: "There were not a great number of incidents and it was minor stuff.

"Overall, there were 80 arrests over the last few days from various nationalities and for a variety of minor offences like criminal damage, showing of unconstitutional symbols like swastikas and verbal assaults.

"But it was nothing extraordinary for a big event like a World Cup."

He said three police officers were injured — one female officer was taken to hospital after being hit by a flying bottle in historic Romerberg Square, one suffered a minor hand injury and one was hurt in an accident.

A total of 130 people of all nationalities had been banned from certain areas of the city like public squares, he said.

Nikolaus Muenster, spokesman for Frankfurt's city authority, said: "We are extremely happy and full of joy at how the past couple of days went.

"We are extremely happy with how the England fans behaved.

"It was a great party and the fans showed their bad reputation is long outdated. Their behaviour was excellent."


I cannot think of any other sport for which eighty arrests of its fans for causing "disturbances" and injuring police officers would be regarded as great news, or where the fans' behaviour would be described as "excellent" after one of them had hospitalised a female police officer by hitting her head with a bottle. If only a dozen rugby fans were arrested for violence, it would be seen as a stain on the sport's reputation. Can you imagine British fans starting fights with strangers after Henman had been knocked out of Wimbledon — or after he'd won? The very idea of a skirmishing athletics crowd is absurd on its face. Even cricket, a sport that is wildly popular in parts of the world where large-scale rioting can be rather popular, never leads to any trouble. For any other sport than football, thirteen arrests would still have made the news — but as bad news, not good.

What is it about football than brings out such awful behaviour in its fans that our society has adopted an especially low standard just for them?



Professional appraisals.

Randy Cassingham has received a complaint from Samuel Saraiva, the erstwhile subject of one of his stories. Apparently, Mr Saraiva dislikes being called "some sort of idiot" just because he did something clearly idiotic (Mr Saraiva had to have the wrong tooth pulled by his dentist three times before it occurred to him to complain about her and discover that she wasn't really a dentist). Not only does he contend that he is not in fact any sort of idiot, but also he does not believe that Mr Cassingham is qualified to call him an idiot. Yes, that's "qualified" as in "qualified":

It is common sense that one needs to be professionally licensed in order to qualify an individual as an idiot and this is done through exams; not speculation so that you don t commit the same error as the dentist who worked un-licensed.


Yes, Mr Saraiva believes that one cannot call anyone an idiot unless one is a professional Recogniser of Idiots and has reviewed an examination paper submitted by the subject. He also believes that calling someone an idiot without going through such procedures is roughly equivalent to practising medicine without a license.

What an idiot.



Saturday, June 10

A frankly alarming level of thickness.

Nicky Hambleton-Jones, the annoying host of Channel 4's Ten Years Younger make-over show, says that every time you go to bed without first removing your make-up, your face ages eight days instead of just one. Now, it would be fair to say that I am not a leading expert in the cosmetics field, but I still feel qualified to comment on this. Because I have a brain.

Let's say a girl starts wearing make-up daily when she's fifteen. Yes, most girls probably start earlier than that, but I'm keeping the numbers round. According to Ms Hambleton-Jones, if this girl goes to bed every night without first removing her make-up using a proper cleanser, then, by the time she's twenty, she'll look fifty-five. When she's forty, she'll look two hundred and fifteen.

She tells people this on her show and they just nod and maybe look a bit surprised but they lap it up; they believe this shite. Even worse, her little factoid appears in magazines, with never a single journalist or editor thinking to do a simple sum and question the claim. When the only fact-checking required needs nothing more than a bit of basic arithmetic — and even that can be done by total eejits using calculators — surely everyone's a qualified expert. And doesn't anyone ever wonder even fleetingly about the mechanism in make-up that means it only ages your skin at night? After all, the Hambleton-Jones woman spends a lot of her time telling women who don't wear make-up that they must do so — in order to look younger. See, it keeps you young-looking while you're awake, but wear it while you're asleep and it sends your skin hurtling through time itself. You'd think a proper paid professional journalist might ask her how make-up knows when you're awake. But no, no: it comes from someone in the fashion industry, so it must be true.

Everyone who hears or reads this nasty little woman's stupid vapid bollocks without spluttering at its sheer preposterosity should be forced to.... Actually, you know, I can't think of a better punishment for the idiots than for them to go through life believing people like Nicky Hambleton-Jones.



Friday, June 9

I have built some things.

The Eisenhowers are a rather good band — or, rather, a good solo musician with a plural name. Some of you may have heard of Gum, who are bloody excellent. Well, the songwriting bloke from Gum, Raymond Weir, is also The Eisenhowers. So there you go. Both The Eisenhowers and Gum are signed to Serali Records.

I mention all this because... well, partly because they deserve a mention, but also because I designed both the Serali and Eisenhowers sites, and am quite proud of my work. Just finished the latter a couple of days ago.

Yes, this post is nothing but showing off. So sue me.

I await the inevitable cavalcade of comments pointing out various obscure browsers on which the sites don't work. Tsk.



Rejoice, rejoice.

As you no doubt know by now, that bastard Zarqawi is dead.

Steyn:

You know, the Archbishop of Canterbury made this point. He said that the terrorists and the United States Air Force were both equivalent. They were only capable of viewing people at a distance. The guy in the plane, with all those anonymous buildings as little blips on the radar screen, on the GPS positioning thing way below him, he has more understanding of the humanity there. He knows which is the schoolhouse. He knows which is the hospital. He knows which is the restaurant. And he knows which is the one building he's allowed to hit. What's interesting to me about the people we're up against is they look you in your eyes. Zarqawi can look American hostages, British hostages ... poor Margaret Hassan, an Iraqi aid worker ... he can look these people in the eye and he fails to recognize their common humanity, and he reaches for his scimitar, and he cuts their throat.

....

I think the correct attitude is that of Mrs Thatcher when the British troops liberated South Georgia, an outlying island of the Falklands, from the Argentinian forces. And the newsmen were asking her all these silly questions, and she just said to them, gentlemen, just rejoice, rejoice. And rejoice, rejoice is what any sane human being ought to have done to the news that Zarqawi has been dispatched.


Hitchens:

yes, the most dangerous and most horrible terrorist in the world — and I don't exempt Mr bin Laden from this — I mean, the vilest of the lot, is dead. And if the defeatists had been listened to, he would by now be the most famous Muslim warrior in the history of the world. They keep telling us that only by fighting these people do we give them credibility and make them powerful and so forth, that we create them. This is a complete lie. If we had retreated from Iraq, Zarqawi would have claimed victory over a superpower, and his name would be on T-shirts. In bazaars of illiterate, unfortunate, Muslim children all across the world, he'd be a hero. Instead, he's dog meat, which is what he ought to have been a long time ago.

....

the Iranians are secretly helping someone whose public program is the massacre of Shiia Muslims — in other words, of their co-religionists — that their anti-Americanism is so intense, and so sickened, sorry, so sick, that they'll even collaborate with someone who regards them as a vile, heretic, scumbag faction.


Stan Bigley:

Ken was just one of a multitude of innocent people killed by that man. He was a monster. Personally, I would rather have seen him captured and made to stand in the dock and face justice for what he's done. But I won't lose any sleep over him being dead. I'm not worried that he's gone.


A US military official:

No one behind him had the kind of charisma and operational intellect that he brought to the table. Our hope is no one can step in, and you end up with fragmentation and perhaps dissension among his followers.


Hitchens again:

This seems like a good day's work to me.

 



Monday, June 5

Men in sequinned leotards are stranger than fiction.

Mark Steyn writes about Abba, and reveals what can only be described as Amazing Facts:

Benny and Bjorn ... were brought together four decades ago by Stig Anderson, former lead singer of Stig Anderson and his Mashed Creampuffs


His Mashed Creampuffs? Good. Carry on.

Unfortunately for Stig, Abba was also the name of Sweden's largest tuna-canning company. ... But Abba the fish canner agreed to share the name provided that Abba the group was "clean, well-behaved and successful".


Yes, Abba were so clean-cut as a result of their contractual obligations to a canned fish corporation. Well, being clean-cut isn't so bad. At least they weren't obliged to eat tuna in their videos or anything. Not that that would have made their videos significantly stranger.

Bjorn had ambitions to write his own material and with Stig collaborated on "Froken Frederiksson", a song about a man who makes the mistake of wandering on to his balcony in a dressing-gown on a breezy day and, after a sudden gust, finds himself reported to the vice squad.


Now, that is a song. If anyone has an English translation of the lyrics to Froken Frederiksson, please get in touch. Please.

Stig did a deal to start taking payments from the other side of the Iron Curtain in oil, which the group then sold on the Rotterdam spot market. The oil-price collapse in the early Eighties caused Stig tax problems and nearly resulted in the group going to jail.


This is beginning to make Fleetwood Mac's biography look tame.

Not for nothing did former EU Commissioner Chris Patten, the late Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and the Deputy French Foreign Minister Charles Josselin perform a ten-minute Abba medley at the 2000 Asia Regional Forum in Bangkok.


Er, right. Blimey. What?