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June 09, 2009

1 million idiots, voting for the wrong 'change'

Why they're buying the hype

A sample of the idiocy on display

Let's look at some of these, shall we?

"If somebody votes BNP, it means they are concerned about the uninvited change of the British character and society"

The uninvited change of the British character? How fucking provincial is that? If by uninvited change, you mean immigrants coming over here to do the jobs English people think they're too fucking good to do, I'd say that's an invited change. Or at least I welcome it.

"The nation has spoken in these euro elections. Well done to BNP and UKIP - parties that listen to the man on the street."

If UKIP and the BNP are representative of the man on the street, I'm glad I'm leaving. So xenophobia and barely disguised racism are the norm, are they? Fear of European integration, despite the fact that a federalised Europe is the only way the UK can really compete with the US and China.

"Immigration has changed the very face of this country and in doing so it is breaking apart the very tribal structures that have held our communities together for centuries. The biggest mistake is the labeling of Anit-Immigration people as racist. This has alienated the public even more. This is a crisis brought to us by Labours dnagerous inability to listen to the public. Britain has lost its romance and they want it back."

TRIBAL STRUCTURES!? Has this idiot listened to himself? There's a naturalistic fallacy if ever I've read one - 'oh, we've always been this way, it's tradition. If it ain't broke, why fix it?' Because there's this little thing called progress that everyone's been harping on about, don't know if you caught it mate, but apparently it's the way things GET BETTER! Not all anti-immigration people are called racist - the Tories had some reservations a couple of years ago and the word barely came up. But the US is a nation founded on immigration, and they seem to be doing alright. I agree that labour has problems listening but all this bullshit about romance is ridiculous.

"I can finally see the first signs of dissent amongst the ethnic majority of the British population. For years now the average working Brit has been treated like a second-class citizen in his/her own country."

Oh, the poor, downtrodden white man, totally powerless and can't take it any more. He wants to clean his own toilets, collect his own garbage, go through 7 years of med school to heal his own sick. Why? Not because he actually wants these things, but because when he looks out the window, or walks on the street and sees someone he judges to have not been born here, he gets jealous. That's what it boils down to, and that's why a vote for the BNP and many votes for UKIP are based on idiocy.

"the BNP only have support at all because of continued near-unrestricted immigration into this country, many being economic migrants who send their money out of the UK."

And that's a bad system because...? They have a right (and a duty) to support their family. So either the family comes here, and people whine aboute a strain on services and infrastructure, or they stay wherever they came from, and people whine about money leaving the country. We oughtn't to complain about money earned through hard work going to help the less fortunate, and yes, they are generally less fortunate, even if we're in the middle of our so-called recession. There are British people who are economic migrants to other countries, are we supposed to bring them all back too? What about foreign companies who set up branches here? They send money out of the country, but they still pay their taxes, and they still create jobs, and they still contribute. It's the stupid idea that the majority of immigrants coming here don't contribute, the sort of bullshit myth perpetuated by the BNP, that leads to this stupidity. Hell, we should chuck out all the 'welfare-claiming, teenage chav mothers' first - how are they contributing to Britain? Or are they an example of the traditional British character, the romance, perhaps? I was ashamed to be British when the results came out. Ashamed!

May 17, 2009

Not ageism, just common sense

The mother who looks like a grandfather

66 year old mum-to-be

"I don't have to defend what I've done. It's between me, my baby and   no-one else."

Sorry, Liz, but you might have to defend it to your baby. Most people cope with their mother's death past 30. By the time your child is out of his or her   teenage years, you'll be 87. If you even make it to that age - fit or not,   there's a plethora of things that could kill or severely disable you, and the   chances are high you'll need serious medical care before the child hits 20. A   mother is supposed to care for the child, not the other way round (at least   until the child becomes an adult). What kind of burden is that to leave your   son or daughter?

Not to mention the social stigma of growing up with a mother who's twice   the age of all the other mothers around, and has a face like a man. As a   divorcee, there's no father around to help out, either. This is an act of   immense selfishness, and maybe she should have stopped to consider that   there's a reason she doesn't have a child (like the fact that she's butt ugly).

April 23, 2009

I sent this last night to the British Library Direct

"To whomsoever it may concern

If you welcome our comments, I should like to put two out there. First, congratulations on a broad catalogue, an easy to use interface, and a well-organised site. Secondly, is the daylight robbery and extortion really necessary? As a student working on my dissertation, can you honestly think of a single morally justifiable reason why I should have to shell out IN EXCESS of £15 to receive an electronic document in TWO TO FIVE DAYS? What possible reason could there be for a) such a price in the first place, b) taking so long to send an article when it is obvious (given the even more ludicrously expensive quicker options), and c) the electronic form being more expensive than mail, when an email costs significantly less (if at all) than a letter and the paper to print it on? I was under the impression that libraries were supposed to be free.

Yours incensedly
Jimmy Kent"

I'm not yet sure whether I regret my decision. I did get the file almost instantly (not sure why they bother with the whole 2-5 days, that makes it sound like you'll get it in a minimum of 2 days). I definitely regret not finishing clause b), it makes me look illiterate. Anyway, we'll see how they reply.

February 23, 2009

An Oscar Review from the last 10 years, by Unesco Nobel

Only seen Milk and Slumdog, but Milk is 10 times the film Slumdog is.

All four other films are worthier winners than the empty and vapid blandity of No Country For Old Men. Seen it three times, first time I fell asleep, other times I wish I had.

Have not seen Iwo Jima. The Queen and Babel are only solid films, but still better than the festering pile of shite that is The Departed. A 5 year old could have written that film. Little Miss Sunshine is the stand out piece of genius from that list.

Fell asleep during Capote, and have not seen Good Night and Good Luck. That said Munich is a good movie with one of the most amazing and powerful pieces of cinematography I have ever seen (the sex/kidnap juxtaposition scene), and Brokeback mountain is an excellent film. Both tower above Crash, which suffers from the Pulp Fiction "we don't really need a story, just chuck in a load of (not at all) interesting characters and people will care" syndrome.

It literally hurts my soul that Million Dollar Baby won an Oscar. This was the start of the malaise, the current bad streak, and what a start. I wish I had fallen asleep - oh, for the comforts of the land of nod that Capote and No Country For Old Men provided, rather than the stale and fetid turd of canned manipulative emotion and shitty, unengaging dialogue and action that characterise this film. Ray was passable, though still not Oscar worthy, and I can't claim to have seen The Aviator, Finding Neverland or Sideways, but I find it hard to believe that none of those three is better than Million Dollar Baby...

2000-2003 marked a good streak for the Academy.

American Beauty is a very good film. In most years, I would not have contested its place as an Oscar winner. But the Green Mile is a work of absolute cinematic majesty, and all those involved can feel justifiedly robbed, even if by such a staunch contender as American Beauty.

However much love I harbour for Shakespeare, Saving Private Ryan is one of the finest war movies ever made. Shakespeare in Love is an above average rom-com. The difference in comparison to the rest of their respective genres alone should make Saving Private Ryan the clear choice, let alone the direct comparison between the films. I haven't seen La Vita E Bella all the way through, but, by reputation alone, it may well also be a challenger.

From 1998-2007, the Oscars are 4 from 10. We can only hope for better form this time round...

February 06, 2009

Oops, he did it again!

Oh look, Clarkson said something vaguely offensive. Now where's that bandwagon gone?

Quite apart from the fact that, like Brand and Ross, Clarkson's humour and style is well-established, and you'd have to be an idiot not to know it by now, there is slightly more ammunition this time round, what with Top Gear supposedly being a family show. It's not like he swore though, and people who watch the BBC would do well to remember that a) they don't have to watch, b) the BBC is a bus, not a taxi, and c) a lot of people do find him funny. Obviously, it's hard to see how Gordon's Nelsonian tendencies are relevant to his financial and economic nous, although one might, if one were playing on stereotypes (like the prostitute-murdering lorry driver), say that, being a Scot, he's likely to spend all the countries money on booze, or something equally bland. As it is, it's a funny sounding phrase, on a purely sonic, basically linguistic level, which he almost certainly didn't think through, and has apologised for. I still laughed though.

I also have to take issue with some of the reaction, specifically this obviously ridiculous and illogical generalisation:

"But the Royal National Institute for Blind People called the comment was offensive.

"Any suggestion that equates disability with incompetence is totally unacceptable" said chief executive Lesley-Anne Alexander"

Oh really? So if I were to equate paralysis with incompetence in the field of movement, or cystic fibrosis with incompetence at physically rigorous tasks, or blindness with incompetence at driving a truck or piloting a fighter jet, or a subnormal IQ with being a teacher, that would be totally unacceptable? The clue is in the FUCKING WORD! DIS-abled. Meaning there are things which they are NOT ABLE TO DO, at least, in the normal method of doing them. Whatever moral, social or other considerations follow from that are irrelevant - it is clearly idiotic to claim that equating a disability with an incompetence to achieve something is logically coherent in various situations. It is unacceptable to say that a person with a disability would be necessarily be less competent at things not directly affected by their ability, and there are obviously ways in which some people can overcome their disabilities, perhaps even improve on the normal (e.g. Scott Rigbsy). But the statement says "any suggestion". It's almost worse than Clarkson's, because she's a chief executive and has had time to think about it, and yet still come out with a statement that is clearly, demonstrably and logically BULLSHIT!

Also, I hate snow, if you didn't know already. But even more than that, I hate wankers like Simon Fanshawe who think it's alright for kids to lob snowballs at random strangers. Errr, not it's fucking well not, nor is it your Twelfth Night style night of anarchy, your pretentious cunt. It's an invasion of my personal space, my right to choose whether to interact with the snow or not. And since I am obviously (to anyone that knows me) going to choose not to, I don't fucking think it's anyone's right to force it on me regardless, child or not. In my first year, some wankers hurled a snowball the size of my head out of a car window while doing about 30 miles per hour, which hit me between the chest and the face and knocked me on my ass. As Judi James says in the article above, "some adults feel it demeans their dignity". I'll lighten up when I choose to lighten up, before anyone throws the inevitable and tired barb of me taking everything so seriously. It's my choice when to throw what little dignity I have to the wind, not some kid I don't know with a hand full of compacted ice, and not some probably student twats in a car who, being at Warwick, should probably know better...

January 31, 2009

Today's rant is brought to you by… xenophobia

The trouble with porn is...

The trouble with protectionism is...

I am just worried by people, really. The wealth of idiocy and ignorance displayed in these articles/discussions is truly disturbing.

"British jobs for British workers"? Really? What about the free movement of capital and workforce? Maybe we need a bit of recession to bring down prices in the UK - it's in part because of how much it costs to live here that it pays so much to work here, which is why jobs are outsourced, or undercut by migrant workers in the first place. And that very same free movement of capital means the calls to stop them sending money back to their home countries/families are impossible, even if they might have some merit or justification.

As for the neighbourhood idiots, either they knew what was going on when they moved there, they didn't check the nieghbourhood thoroughly enough, or it was subtle enough that they didn't notice. Even if they've lived there before the studio came about, then there's no moral case against it, except the dodgy arguments against pornography as a whole. If it's a legal business, which poses no necessary public nuisance or threat, then he's perfectly within his rights to conduct his business. I think the absurdity of it is shown by exhibit A, Peter Kite, who I can only describe as a fucking idiot. He says:

"The police say it's legal but they don't see everything. If you've got pornography here now, you're going to have prostitution next, you're going to have drugs. In a residential area? No way - no way."

Sorry, what? Have you just crawled out of your neolithic fuckhole before your brain is done evolving? Is your upper-middle class suburbia being threatened by someone with a legitimate business model? Slippery slope much?

It really does get me angry when people are so xenophobic, so afraid of the other, be it foreign workers, or the pornographer next door. Granted, my knowledge of economics is limited, but, as far as I can see, neither case has any logical merit or value of any kind. It is simply the rantings of the small-minded, and I'm pretty sure if I spoke to them face to face, any of their arguments could be dismantled, even if they might not admit it.

January 08, 2009

Ah logic, my frequent companion

Apparently, God probably doesn't exist. Well, it's news to me. Why? Because it's not actually a justified, coherent logical stance. The ASA should in fact hold up this complaint, and you should believe this whether you are religious or not. This is because it is simply not in the power of the British Humanist Association, or any other group or individual for that matter, to assert the probability of God's existence. It's entirely acceptable to say that one does or doesn't believe in God, but to assert as objective fact the probability of the non-existence of something which is substantially outside the human remit of absolute knowledge and understanding is clearly a violation of the code that "marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims". Where is the documentary evidence for the non-existence of God (which is not specified as the Christian God!)? It simply doesn't exist.

January 07, 2009

You know what drives me crazy…

I've have dreams about doing this very thing, right up till I started learning to drive. Genuinely, I had dreams as young as 10 about taking a car for a joyride and getting caught by the police after hitting a parked car.

The thing that irks me about this article is that the parents are blamed. I'm not saying they're entirely blameless - the boy has obviously played enough driving games to have learnt how to drive, and that's a sad state of affairs for a 6 year old. But I could well have done this, or many of my friends. Are they supposed to hide the keys? Watch their kids 24/7? The only possible case of neglect here is in the mother still being asleep. But I fail to see how that's endangerment. Honestly, it's just a sad, unforseeable scenario. From the information given, I thinking charging the parents with endangering their children and taking the children into care is extreme...

Are you a fan of Tumbledown Dick?

No More Scratchy Bottom

Hehehehehehe, Butt Hole Road :D

They'll be after the pubs next. What would Staines be without the Cock Inn?

December 18, 2008


Heads up - spoiler alarm ringing now. If you're playing Gears of War 2 and you don't want the plot ruined... then what the hell is wrong with you? Why are you playing Gears 2 for the plot? Ugh. Anyway, if for some reason you care about keeping the plot pristine for your first playthrough, I suggest not reading on.

I accidentally completed Gears of War 2 today. Any game players out there know what I mean? You sit down in your bathrobe at eleven o'clock with your breakfast spaghetti in a bowl beside you, flick on the console, and then you don't stop playing until the sun has set, the game is over, and you've sustained significant kidney damage.

Anyway I did that with Gears today. It's good! Who'd have thought it. Well, everyone. The Gears series is getting a bit like Halo - it's a summer blockbuster in computer game form, it's very popular, it has huge production values, and you get a very polished product. This installment sees new weapons, new baddies, yadda yadda yadda. It's been out two months, if you're interested in the game content then you either read the reviews or bought it already. What got me about Gears was the romantic sub-plot.

Gears being a summer blockbuster, it had to have one. In this case its main support character Dom's search for his lost wife Maria, a human refugee who was separated from him at some stage in the war against the Locust aliens. For about the first two acts Dom spends a lot of time (in cutscenes) asking various people (the Military intelligence operative assigned to your patrol, other refugees, toothless old madmen) if they've seen her. We all know we're going to see a heartfelt reunion.

Which is why I did a double-take when the reunion actually occured. Maria is interned in a Locust labour camp deep underground when Dom finally catches up with her. The quirky robot sidekick cuts open her holding cell. And there is Maria sure enough, glowing with a warm filter and a soft lens flare, all the light of summer caught in her mediterranean tresses.

If this is wasn't a summer blockbuster, alarm bells would already have been ringing. Internment camp? Slave labour? Deep underground? Surely this woman should be showing some signs of wear and tear? But no. This is a summer blockbuster, and I was expecting that saccharine moment of reunion to be the end of the matter.

So I was surprised the next moment when main character Marcus says to his partner simply, "Dom", and the veil drops away. We've been seeing Maria as Dom needs to see her. The lens-flare dies and standing before them both is a husk, a starved and tortured physical shell with no human intellect behind its rheumy eyes. Maria is emaciated, scarred, blind, mentally dead.

The Maria story was utterly irrelevent to the plot. It did nothing to humanise Dom or Marcus or any of the other walking refrigerators who joke and banter their way through ten hours of testosterone fuelled alien slaughter. The cliche of the soldier with the soul, the guy who's just doing it for his gal, has seen more use than the bed-springs in a brothel. It tends to engender about as much of a reaction as showing Playboy to a corpse.

But that very, very brief moment in which I was made to look at a real aspect of human suffering - the truth of already fragile bodies pushed out of recognizable form not by armour piercing rounds or a sticky grenade but by hunger, forced labour and torture, actually registered. It made me feel bad. And knowing that that sort of reaction can come out of a completely by-the-numbers action story, even more so from a computer game, makes me feel good.

December 06, 2008

Sue me, sue me, what harm could you do me, I'm Chris Martin!

Satriani sues Coldplay

I hope he wins, as well. From the 30 seconds of iTunes preview, there is a passing resemblance, but it's hard to tell how close or not it is. But I just want to see that fucking smug, self-satisfied smile wiped off the cunt Chris Martin's face.

November 28, 2008

The balance of power

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green arrested

I don't know the details of his contract and obligations, but, if the combined response of the Tories, Lib Dems and some Labour backbenchers is anything to go by, the mark has definitely been overstepped. It also brings to light the conflict between duties - if, as a minister, he comes by information which he truly does believe is in the public interest which has not been released, which is the greater duty, that to his contract or that to his constituents? Look at the leaks mentioned:

  • The November 2007 revelation that the home secretary knew the Security Industry Authority had granted licences to 5,000 illegal workers, but decided not to publicise it.
  • The February 2008 news that an illegal immigrant had been employed as a cleaner in the House of Commons.
  • A whips' list of potential Labour rebels in the vote on plans to increase the pre-charge terror detention limit to 42 days.
  • A letter from the home secretary warning that a recession could lead to a rise in crime

The middle 2 are perhaps spiteful and risky manoeuvres, but the first and last are most definitely in the sphere of knowledge of public interest. Though it also raises the question of whether he would wish to die by the sword as well - by uncovering information this government wishes to keep secret, he (and Cameron through his endorsement) loses any right to the moral high ground should the same thing happen under a Tory government.

Regardless, it seems an extremely excessive and heavy-handed way to deal with the situation. The obvious overreacting comparison is 1984, and we're not there yet,  but it is a step on the way...

November 13, 2008

We're all gonna die…

Love handles raise death risk.

Well shit!

November 10, 2008

Today's rant is brought to you by disgust…

Beyonce wants to play Wonder Woman!

Get over yourself, woman. As if there weren't already enough documented stories of you being a total bitch, you're now trying to extend your dubious career where it doesn't belong. Austin Powers proved you can't act. Nor are you anywhere near as attractive as everyone makes out that you are, or I might forgive it. But, especially when a decent or new actress could take the role, and try to meet the high bar set by superhero films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man, the prospect of more screen time for the new J-Lo pains me.

November 08, 2008

Retaining the moral high ground

I just watched the film The Kingdom. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. But it got me thinking, not least about the very visceral reactions it caused in me. It's possible this blog will totally undermine me if someone digs it up in the future, or open me up as a target for future attacks, much as if I blogged on my feelings about internet criminals and terrorists and fraudsters (like this story of opportunist cunts, for example). So if you can't bear to see me jeopardise my career, or don't want to lose respect for me due to some unintended offence (unless you're a suicide bomber, in which case fuck you!) then stop reading now. The fact is that the issues are important, and the discussion open and current. In The Kingdom, the chief Saudi investigating officer for a particularly deadly terrorist attack talks about how he is past the point of reason - he simply wishes to kill those responsible. I think this had special resonance for me on the back of rewatching Full Metal Jacket, particularly the scene where Joker executes the sniper to save her from further suffering, despite the fact that she took out three of his friends. I always find myself criticising him for it. The bitch should bleed to death, I think every time, slowly and painfully bleed out. It is a deep betrayal of my Christianity, as it is a step further than an eye for an eye, but if you start shit, you get everything that's coming to you. Or at least, that's the gut response, and that's certainly how I've handled fights (physical ones) in the past.

Putting aside the extreme fucking cowardice of terrorism, I find myself at a hypocrisy, one which is highlighted at the end of The Kingdom (spoilers coming). The final lines are two variations on "Don't worry, we'll kill them all" delivered from either side of the conflict, poignantly undermining much of what appeared to be the ethos of the film whilst pointing out that violence begets more violence. And yet I found myself agreeing entirely with the Saudi officer. The fuckers should die. But why do I feel like that? Watching the terrorists make bombs (as in physically construct them), I wondered how anyone could be a party to something that is an indiscriminate instrument of death, something which cannot be aimed like a gun. A gun can be awful in the wrong hands, but arguably has its place in keeping peace in the world, not least because now that they have been invented and proliferated, I cannot see any path that could lead us back to a time without them. But a bomb full of marbles and nails intended for any passing 'infidel'? It's literally obscene. Their violence is predicated on a version of God who encourages the wholesale slaughter of children and the innocent (though arguably they forsake their innocence by not being Muslim?). That is no worthwhile God. I wholly denounce that God. I know I'm saying nothing new here, that this has been reiterated countless times by countless people since 9/11 etc., but that God has no business in the world. I do not believe that is Allah's wish, nor do most Muslims, or there would doubtless be far more of what we currently label extremists. You can even believe in the eventual global caliphate without recourse to the barbarism and genocide that characterise Islamic, or for that matter any form of religious or political extremism.

But it's the reaction that I want to examine. Because mine is, like the characters of the film, to say "Fuck 'em, kill 'em all!" And why? Because they want to kill me for a God they've twisted beyond all perception. But, as a Christian - granted a deist who doesn't really believe in the Bible is not the best standard bearer for common Christianity, but the basic tenets still hold - surely my desire for retribution makes me no better than them, and worse, a hypocrite! They want to kill me because I believe in a different God (or different version of God). I want to kill them because they're cowardly fucks who will kill innocent people to achieve unjustified aims, and out of anger and pre-emptive self-defence. But since all their reasons for such actions stem from the difference in our Gods, does it not logically follow that I basically want to kill them because they have a different God to me? Not only does that make our basic reasoning identical, it is as more a contradiction of my faith than it is of theirs - God, in my eyes, allows no room for killing, and I do not have the veil of ignorance, or idiotic or misguided misinterpretation to excuse or explain my reactions.

Eventually, any rational system is based on certain basic unprovable assumptions, premises and beliefs. I do not know how they came to their idea of God (though I might hazard a guess). I criticise them, and any extremists, not so much for holding their beliefs but forcing those beliefs on others, but the problem there is that a) that is the natural extension of their particular beliefs, and b) I have as little rational basis for my belief that it is wrong to infringe on personal freedom in such a way as they have for their belief that it is not wrong. There is no recourse to the fact that most people (I almost wrote civilised people there, how fucking colonial of me) don't believe in terrorism, as inter- or universally valid subjectivity does not bring one any closer to objectivity. Populism is not a justification, a million people can be just as wrong as a hundred. Illegality is not a concern either, as their personal moralities, religiously induced as they are, are such that they transcend legal obligation. Mine probably would too - if tomorrow a law was brought in saying there were too many people on the planet and we each needed to go out and kill one person, I'm pretty sure my personal morality would override the law. And since that morality is based on those fundamental subjectivitr principles, we're no closer to an answer. I suppose if there were an obvious answer, or even an unobvious one, it would have been made apparent, publicised and used in dialogue and treatise. If you have any ideas, I'm all ears.

Of course, there is the fact that the reaction is just that, a visceral, animalistic, knee-jerk response to what we perceive of as atrocities and threatening, non-socially acceptable behaviour. We can rise above it to the point where we don't want to kill everyone. Obviously, if in any measure it can be said to be a desire, it's not one I'm actively pursuing. I'm not joining the military, or hunting down terrorists. But if I were given the opportunity to kill a suicide bomber, I'm not sure I wouldn't. Vengeance is an ugly, but powerful thing. I always thought Joker (in Full Metal Jacket) should have shot or cut off each of the bitch's toes and fingers one by one, make her fucking scream in agony like she made 8 Ball, Cowboy and Doc Jay suffer. Not sure I could do it myself, but then, I've never seen my friends shot in front of me. I might feel differently, especially in the heat of the moment. But similar arguments apply for FMJ, except you replace infidels and Islamic extremists with capitalists and communists. Again, those systems, whilst almost entirely rational, are based on the same sorts of unprovable premises and assumptions as religion, like whether we have a duty to help our fellow man, and in what way etc. Perhaps because of their more obvious rational basis, we can come a little closer to objectivity, but it's still fundamentally an exercise in futility, a battle of opinions that can never be solved by logic alone. Is it acceptable to be utlititarian here? I have often said that one of the greatest problems with any great change in a political system, even if it is a perfect system, is that transition. To bring about Plato's republic, for example, one would pretty much require a revolution, probably a bloody one. But, assuming for the moment that it is a perfect system (it's not), could it not be worth it? If one can bring about a perfect system, whereby there is the chance for potentially limitless happiness or contentment from the point at which the system is fully functional, is it not worth a few deaths? A little evil for a greater good? A finite loss for an infinite gain? If that sounds at all familiar, the words Third Reich might jog your memory. Hitler thought he had a perfect system, and was willing to sacrifice to get there. But logically, aren't we obliged to?

Perhaps it depends on the strength of one's convictions - most of us retain some sense of humility, realism or doubt regarding our beliefs, that doubt acting as an inherent check on us forcing those beliefs onto others. But if we were entirely convinced and certain, if we had indisputable knowledge, is it not a moral duty to act on that knowledge if it will benefit others? What separates 'us', then, from 'them' is not so much the type, but the strength of belief. If we all believed the things we do with full conviction, we would all be extremists. Is it arrogance that permits us the high ground, the arrogance we lack that they display? For there is simply no possibility whereby one could gain objective knowledge (except the cogito), even of God. Even a religious experience gives one certainty only for so long as one is having it - as soon as it fades, you're forced to rely on memory, which, as Russell's 5 Minute Universe Hypothesis shows, is wholly unreliable. Could they possibly live their entire lives in a state of religious experience? It seems unlikely, but it is not disprovable. Why God would choose them specifically and not others, and why he would encourage activity most of the world finds reprehensible is nigh on impossible for us to understand, but that could well be just an aspect of God's ineffability, of we as finite, imperfect beings trying to understand an infinite perfection.

So we're not exactly back where we started. We have narrowed it down to one logical possibility which would explain how they might be objectively right or justified in their actions, even if a) that possibility is entirely unprovable, and b) it gives us no definitive answer on whether we can retain the high ground, or even whether there is a high ground to maintain.

And if you read all of that and still don't want to kill me (I'm thinking of you, dad :P), you truly are a friend.

November 07, 2008


Writing about web page http://www.xkcd.com/

Webcomics are generally the domain of the geek - the basic requirement for keeping up to date with them, that you're willing to check the internet regularly, although less of a barrier to entry since the proliferation of my.space and facebook, still suggests the edges of the realm - webcomics are an internet phenomena, and they belong to those who love the internet. Nowhere is this more true than with xkcd.

"xkcd" is a word with no phonetic pronunciation, and that about sets the tone of half of xkcd's humour. There are extremely geeky jokes here, and I don't mean "geeky" as in dungeons and dragons and lolcats (although that particular colour swatch of the geek spectrum is well represented). I mean geeky in the sense of obsessive about particularly obscure areas of learning - science, programming, mathematics. Check the bottom two questions on the "about this site" page for evidence -


One on sorting algorithms, the other on the writer's favourite astronomical entity.

xkcd does assume a certain level of knowledge for some jokes. For this one -


you've got to have read "House of Leave" by Mark Z. Danielewski to understand the entire thing (have I blubbed about House of Leaves yet? I haven't? Oh you're in for a treat...) The writing is generally good enough that even if you don't understand everything in a given strip, the latent charm and character will buoy you up through the nerd culture references and hard science. And sometimes there's something so funny you'll find yourself traling wikipedia for half an hour before you decide whether or not what's just been suggested is impossible, or merely vanishingly improbable -



Tie all that to incredibly simplistic art and a sense of pure fun and you've got an excellent comic.

ID ID ID hi, ID ID ID ho

People "can't wait for ID cards".

Jacqui Smith:

I believe there is a demand, now, for cards - and as I go round the country I regularly have people coming up to me and saying they don't want to wait that long.

Sorry, but I'm just going to have to call that a bare-faced fucking lie. I have never met anyone, not a single person who thinks these are anything remotely like a good idea, and believe me I have discussed the situation a fair few times. Not only do most of the security experts say they are unworkable in anything like the capacity the government intends, they actually make identity theft easier by localising and collating sensitive data; they are shockingly reminiscent of 1984; and they are an exceedingly fucking unnecessary expense at a time when we need to be cutting back spending. I would gladly rip any cretin who has actually approached Jacqui Smith a new arsehole in a debate, or just knock out the ones too thick to debate. Honestly, either she's flat out lying or there are some fucking idiots about!

November 06, 2008

Yes We Can

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him, I congratulate Governor Palin, for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the vice-president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure. To my sister Maya, my sister Auma, all my other brothers and sisters - thank you so much for all the support you have given me. I am grateful to them.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best political campaign in the history of the United States of America. My chief strategist David Axelrod, who has been a partner with me every step of the way, and to the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; it grew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organised, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for their child's college education. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.

And above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity.

Those are values that we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours: "We are not enemies, but friends… though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection."

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those who would tear the world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you.

And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "we shall overcome". Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: yes, we can.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

First political speech I can remember in my lifetime that made me cry.

November 04, 2008

Have a flash fiction

I'm lucky enough to be taking the Personal Writing Project module in the Creative Writing department this year. Here for you to enjoy is a flash fiction I wrote while I was trying to find my feet with the project.


Plato at sea

Although the identity of the slave had been kept quiet, the shipmaster was well aware that he was taking Plato onboard amongst the human cargo. He did not know which of his charges was the philosopher, but he enjoyed the fact. Amongst the downturned faces was a great thinker whose words and name had been circulated across the entire world. He was sure that this turn-up: that a great thinker was walking unknown amongst human cargo: showed in large part how the universe felt about humans.

During the voyage he would walk amongst the slaves and see if he could hear any of them engaged in debate - a debate which would surely uncover the identity of the great man. But no-one spoke up. The slaves muttered and jibed with one another, railing against the human mass that encroached on them since they could not move against their true captors. But there was no revelatory discussion.

Then the captain changed tack. Perhaps Plato was the quietest of the slaves - perhaps he was afraid to reveal his identity to the mass in case they turned on him for his association with the king, even if that association had turned sour. Or maybe he did not want to waste his words on the common herd. Or maybe he was simply deeply, truly and deeply downcast. But there was no slave quieter than any other. Each muttered. Each jibed.

The captain began to worry. Perhaps Plato knew that he was listening for him? Maybe the man was leading the slaves into deeper and deeper discourse when the captain's back was turned. Their quietude - normal for slaves - was a cover for their secret dissent. At present that dissent was just an act of learning - learning, and disbarring the captain from joining in. But that implied that they had already discounted the captain from a brotherhood - and wouldn't that be a fine starting point for rebellion! Perhaps Plato had already seen his way around his shackles - these Philosophers were canny men. At night Plato would slip out of them, make his way on deck and by the light of the moon steal the key from the man's jerkin pocket. Then he would go back inside and let the slaves go - and then they would throw the crew overboard.

The captain became so consumed with these doubts that he lost sleep. Every time he saw the slaves in the flesh he was convinced that nothing secret was going on. Every time they left his sight he was convinced that they were plotting rebellion. He skipped meals, and he grew lax with the charts. After a week at sea, he drove them into a tempest.

It must be Plato's fault, he thought, as the men reeled in the sails. He struggled with the rudder, desperate to keep the ship on a straight course into the waves. He had forbidden the men to look behind them on pain of having their eyes put out with awls, because the sight to stern would have paralysed them with fear. The waves were as tall as the masts and crested with white horses. They reared up above the ship like the necks of sea-serpents. Plato must be to blame - this was a punishment sent by his father, Apollo. The tempest would break the ship into tiny pieces, and all aboard would be drowned, except Plato, who would float to the shore on a balk of timber.

Plato, with his hands in cuffs, prayed for the storm to end.

November 03, 2008

Et tu, Brute?

Councils 'ban' use of latin

Any reasonable grounds are totally undermined in that last sentence.

A Campaign spokesman said the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word "egg"

I despair for this world sometimes, I really do.

November 02, 2008

Jeffrey Rowland

Writing about web page http://www.jjrowland.com/

Jeffrey Rowland is the author of two long-running webcomics, the satyrical (and anarchic) Overcompensating, and the charming (and anarchic) Wigu.

Overcompensating falls into the realm of "journal comics". Ostensibly, a journal comic should be about the author's own life, but absolutely never is. There may be similarities - Jeffrey has written arcs about his necrotic spider-bite, the day he was certain he was going to die, hiring new staff at his company and similar mundane things. But as we all know not that much stuff happens in real life - certainly not enough for a daily update. So fiction is the order of the day. Jeffrey treats modern American culture and politics like a hypochondriac having a panic attack -


And deals with the harsh realities of modern life like a man staying afloat above a nervous breakdown, using his WACOM tablet as a raft. The results are brutally honest, absolutely absurd, and tremendously funny.

Wigu on the other hand is the tale of a little boy's adventures in the world. It's not quite the same world that Overcompensating occurs in - the scope of the adventure is simultaneously contracted - Wigu deals with events in "real-time", so by and large a comic covers about the amount of time it takes you to read it - and expanded - the Tinkle family, the stars of the comic, have travelled to the ruins of Atlantis and the surface of Mars during their adventures.

Wigu's main protagonist is the titular Wigu, an 8 year old boy living with his alcoholic mother, gothic sister and porn-theme-composer father. The family disfunctions in a caring way - so far so Simpsons. The joy of the comic comes from the family's exposure to the insane realities (and fantasies) of human existence. Wigu sees the same awful world that Rowland presents in Overcompensating, but he sees it with the eyes of a child. Not to say that everything is consequently a question of innocence lost - Wigu is a fairly astute potrayal of an eight year old child, from diction through to television obsession, and he's too much of a character to be completely perfect.

Wigu and Overcompensating are different attempts to deal with the unpleasant realities of a lot of human life - the awfulness of the internet, the idiocy of politics, the idiocy of people. Overcompensating gives an exaggerated picture of human life in dissaray - Wigu filters the madness so that the world is the kind of awful place children imagine their adventures coming from. Both are superb.

(A note to the wise - jjrowland.com links to several places, amongst them Overcompensating, the Wigu archives, and the currently updating Wigu series.)

October 31, 2008

Scary Go Round

Writing about web page http://www.scarygoround.com/

Who makes webcomics? Here's a pretty common picture - they're American, they're a gamer, and they subsist entirely on a diet of Cheetohs and Pepsi Max. Unfortunately for this post most webcomicists don't reveal their daily diet. But by and large the first two elements in our picture hold completely true - the mainstay of webcomics are made in America, and a very large number are based around computer games.

Which is why I'm starting with Scarygoround - from the pen of British born and bred John Allison, from Chadderton in Lancashire.

Scarygoround tells the tales of the residents of Tackleford, a small fictitious market town in the north of England, the sort of place pensioners go to die and the young lose their minds to cloying boredom. It's also subject to repeated zombie uprising, visits from it's twin city Mechacropolis XF1 (it's Soviet and full of robots), demonic cults, smugglers, fishmen, occasional excursions into the realm of the dead, jelly-fish, leprecauns and... well the list goes on.

Scarygoround is written and drawn entirely by Allison, and updates five days a week - no mean feat. Perhaps the incentive to maintain production come rain or shine comes from the fact that he makes his living entirely from the website (advertising revenue, merchandise, and selling print editions of his comics with exclusive content).

SGR has gone through more artistic stylistic changes than any other comic, with every new arc being greeted by a change of art style. It's a little disconcerting in fact - if you follow the series for a long time you'll be surprised how much a change in the art unsettles your perception of the series. But it also speaks of a commitment to development and change which is carried through into the scripting.

The storyline of the series (which features a continuous narrative but no pretensions of an overarching plot) jumps and jiggles in random directions. Major characters are put down (perhaps even forgotten) only to resurface in a new context leading the plot off in another new direction. The best and most striking example of this is the change of lead characters - Tessa and Rachel (a pair of bar-maids / university undergrads) starred in the first SGR arc (an investigation of a mysterious murderous sentient gas which had carried off the university chemistry society) but were quickly abandoned in favour of the red-headed twice-murdered meddler Shelley Winters.

A lack of foresight? Yep. You just wouldn't do that sort of thing if you were planning the whole thing in advance. But you'll forgive it when characters are thrown off a bridge, saved by satan, return as mother superior of a nunnery devoted to evil and then casually burnt to death (and out of the strip) for banning all the orgies. If necessity is the mother of invention, then updating daily and never being allowed to contradict yourself must be the fertility goddess. And somehow it manages to stay more internally consistent and believably located in a physical world than your average soap.

SGR isn't based around jokes, but rather witticisms in a banterous style reminiscent of The Mighty Boosh - a lovely example of which can be found here -


And this is tied in with a marvellous sense of place. The England of SGR is satirised and idealised; all the knobs have been turned up to eleven. The characters are characatures, the monsters are twee (and deadly), the story arcs are absurd and compelling.

The main thing I can say to recommend it to you is this - you won't find anything more English than this on the internet. In fact it's a little more English than England. And it's absolutely hilarious.

October 30, 2008


I'm a webcomics reader. Well, worse than that really - I'm a webcomics addict. I probably pour twenty minutes a day into checking up on the latest editions of all my comics. When you think that most of those are just three panels long, that's a hell of a lot of webcomics.

When it comes to mass media, webcomics are ranked somewhere between sex tips and Big Brother. Their closest relative, the print daily comic, does a little better, since it has the credibility of it's patron newspaper behind it (Steve Bell's "If" and G.B Trudeau's "Doonsbury" both make credible claims to being adult satires of politics and the life of the West). But webcomics exist in the unfettered hinterland of the internet. Anyone who has been rickrolled, goatsed, or tub-girled knows exactly what sort of thing goes on in the internet (screaming zombie faces at the end of every video, porn sites consisting entirely of hyperlinks to other porn sites, teenagers arguing in mindless sub-English babble over whether "Black Obamma or jon MACcain is gonoig to wiN!!!")

All of which misses some of the most exciting things about the interweb. When it comes to artists maintaining ownership of their own work, controlling the means of distribution, and having unfettered editorial control of their own media, no other channel can make these practises thinkable, let alone practicable. Webcomics are at the forefront of that - some of the most prominent webcomics were established a decade ago and have grown from cottage industry to office business. They survived the dot-com boom and bust and they command advertising revenues in the tens of thousands. Others are amongst the most idiosyncratic and original works of art that have managed to remain accessible and incredibly entertaining.

Which is why I'm going to be giving a run-down of the biggest, the best, and the weirdest webcomics I've ever come across. Hopefully you'll find it enlightening - better yet, hopefully I'll point out a little gem that you've spo far missed.

Suddenly an editor

I'm on the exec for TAPfactory, The Arts Publication society. That means it's plug o'clock! We're a termly student arts publication. If you've got any work you want to submit you'd like to see in print, you have til noon on Wednesday of week 7 (that's Wednesday 12th November). We accept submissions of poetry, prose, book film and music reviews, photography and fine art - in fact anything arts related you can put down in print. Our submissions address is -


October 29, 2008

It's been a while… here's why

It's been a while - but hasn't it always...

Life became surprisingly busy of late and, barring panic attacks when I realise I have to hand in a dissertation form in two days time, I couldn't be happier. I think of myself as a bit like one of those wobbly donkey things that you can occasionally buy from a souvenir shop. As long as the wires running through them are tense they stand upright - but press the base in and down they flop.

I'm working on a film script with the marvelous Jon Plant - he directed and edited Anhedonia, a 30-minute comic film that screened at last year's WSAF. The most interesting part of the process is that we have almost entirely divided it down the middle. Jon writes descriptions of mise-en-scene, camera motion, character appearance, camera shots and so on - I write the dialogue. It works remarkably well; I'm getting quite good at characterising people with their choices in conversation, and he has an incredible visual imagination which he is very good at expressing on the page.

It's interesting to me that despite being young, already mine and Jon's skills have begun to diverge. I think it can only be a matter of practise - I've spent much more time working on scripts (two months on Crowskin, on and off for almost a year with An Evening Without Dignity, and now almost a year of intensive work on another project which for the moment I will decline from naming.

I'm at a stage where I have to make a lot of choices which could have a serious impact on my professional writing career (assuming I'm good and lucky enough to have one). One of them is this - do I want to continue to develop my skills as a script writer, or do I want to try and broaden my abilities? For my personal writing project I have decided to try and pursue an extended piece of prose. At the moment I'm not ready to let my skills solidify into just one area of writing. But looming over my future is the old phrase "a jack of all trades is a master of none." I have rarely found any one activity sufficiently diverting that I can devote my entire time to it. As a result, I'm sure that I've achieved competence in most things I've turned my hand to - but I've never gone beyond that.

So. Do I take the plunge and launch myself with both hands at one form of writing? Or do I try and broaden my skills base as far as I can?

No right answer of course. And besides, even if I'm working on screen- and stage-plays and short stories at the moment, there are plenty of other art forms I can hope to try out. Perhaps my es muss sein will arrive when I'm polishing off the dialogue for a Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Game...