All entries for January 2008
January 31, 2008
English law is not as dry as it appears. Every so often you'll run into a case like this:
Parrott v Park  EWHC 210
A contributed £73,000 (55%) of the purchase price of the yacht "UP YAWS", which was then registered in B's sole name. There was no evidence of an intended gift.Can you imagine having to sue someone to claim your share of a yacht called "UP YAWS"?
January 29, 2008
Writing about web page http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/?ito=1640
I've recently written a couple of blog posts on some hideous pieces of recent Daily Mail tripe. It is only fitting that the next paper I should have a rant about is The Evening Standard. It is of course owned by Associated Newspapers Ltd. (responsible for other such tripe like The Mail on Sunday and The Metro).
If you're a Londoner as I am, it's not unusual to glance at the Evening Standard headlines from time to time. Has Madeline been spotted? Let's print a hideously inappropriate story! Red Ken cares about the environment? Let's print another hack attack! You get used to it.
Today was slightly different. Making my way home the Standard forced me into a double-take. I felt compelled to buy the issue to see any justification for the headline. What was the headline?
"MUSLIM PLOT TO BEHEAD SOLDIER" - Wonderful. Imagine encountering "JEWISH PLOT TO KILL MAN". What do you think your reaction would be? More importantly, do you think the Evening Standard would in any event carry such a headline?
It's disgusting, offensive and I'm going to telephone the ES tomorrow to ask for a comment.
January 17, 2008
Writing about web page http://gawker.com/5002269/the-cruis...s?autoplay=true
Just to make my feelings on the "Church" of Scientology™ perfectly clear:
It's a dangerous cult created by an outrageous, lying conman (L. Ron Hubbard™). If you'd like to know more, then please visit Operation Clambake.
I was linked to this video today and it is one of the most bizarre series of clips I've encountered on the internet (recently). I'm not going to host the video - I wouldn't put it past them to send teams of ravenous lawyers funded by their giant scamology™ after even a poor student like myself - but here it is:
Disclaimer - Tom Cruise, Black sweaters, Scientology, The Church of Scientology, This picture, Half of Hollywood, Old Mother Hubbard, Thetans, Operating Thetans, Crazy Xenu Rubbish, E-meters and a bunch of other crazy shit are all probably trademarks of the Church of Scientology.
January 15, 2008
I have big problems with animal cruelty. Torturing animals for any reason is morally reprehensible. I do not (generally) consider the use of animals for medicinal (testing) purposes, food, pets and agriculture a form of torture/cruelty. Bear baiting, cock fighting, the conditions in battery farms, cows hooked up to milking machines: all disgusting.
When it comes to the eating of animals, I don't eat seafood, pig flesh or anything that is carnivorous/omnivorous. I find it hypocritical that people who love nothing more than chomping on their bacon, sausages and blutwurst will cringe at the idea of eating dog meat. Rare steaks dripping with blood and finding tiger penis soup gross? Very odd.
How about the keeping of animals in captivity? I don't generally have a problem so long as they are looked after. Domestic pets are fine (and yes, animals are abused, as are children), although I have a problem with the caging of birds. Zoos are a necessary evil in that they are often of limited space (see the Gorillas in London zoo, or bent-fin Killer Whales in any aquarium) but they preserve rare species or species on the brink of extinction.
What has all this got to do with The Daily Mail and "Chinese Culture"?
Well I came across this recent article on a random Google search and I gave it a read. Some choice tidbits:
"It's almost a form of child abuse," says Carol McKenna of the OneVoice animal welfare group. "The cruelty of Chinese zoos is disgusting, but think of the impact on the children watching it. What kind of future is there for China if its children think this kind of cruelty is normal?
"Zoos like this make me want to boycott everything Chinese," says Emma Milne, star of the BBC's Vets In Practice.
"I'd like to rip out everything in my house that's made in China. I have big problems with their culture."
"Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by their behaviour towards animals, as the value of human life is so low in China."
I think Emma Milne is bordering on racist there. "I have big problems with their culture... the value of human life is so low in China". Disgusting. Perhaps we should boycott her?
The Chinese do have some serious problems with animal cruelty. Zoos and supermarkets alike. I've seen videos of monkeys beaten by street performers, images of tigers having had their teeth shaved to the point of exposure of the roots and I've personally witnessed crabs, lobsters and fish kept in distressing conditions in run-of-the-mill Beijing supermarkets.
Does this provide a stunning indictment of "Chinese culture"? I don't think so. You will find such cruelty in any developing country, especially one so difficult to regulate (through geographical and population size). Moreover, even in "developed nations", animal cruelty is common. I previously mentioned battery farms: if you've seen the pictures and videos they are vomit-worthy. Cows screaming with milk-swollen udders waiting for the machines to kick in; chickens dragged through electric baths, cows still alive because the bolt hasn't killed them first time around; animal culls; cosmetic testing (and let's not pretend that's not cruel); the list goes on and on.
Let's get back to Emma Milne. Here's a BBC article in which she's quote with regards to her views on dog-breeding:
Emma Milne, from BBC One's Vets In Practice, described the dogs as "mutated freaks". She claims inbreeding to produce show dogs has led to damaging genetic weaknesses.
"Modern bulldogs can't run, they can't breathe, they can't give birth," she tells the Real Story programme.
"They have enormous problems with too much soft tissue in their mouth and it adds up to a dog that is struggling for air all its life."
The breed, once pitted against bulls in fighting rings, is now a regular at competitions where champion bulldogs are worth up to £50,000.
Males and females with the flattest faces, biggest shoulders and smallest hips are mated to produce the purest possible offspring.
I agree. This sort of dog-breeding is disgusting. The animals are, as she says, essentially "mutated freaks" and it is cruel to breed them in this fashion to win dog shows so that rich housewives (and househusbands) can show their wealth and cruelty to the world. I don't see the same sort of criticism of "British culture" though. Perhaps it's not so obviously cruel? Watching a tiger kill a chicken is nasty and inhumane. But keeping a little dog as a fashion accessory..?
How about the "child abuse" with some children witnessing animals feeding on chickens? It may be terrible and it may verge on abuse. I saw Jurassic Park when I was about nine or ten and I remember seeing a T-Rex (which I found quite realistic at the time) eating a chained-up goat. Veliciraptors tearing apart a live cow (off-screen). Not a great example? Seeing a realistic polar bear swipe off the jaw of another polar bear (in the rubbish Golden Compass)? Perhaps seeing what appears to be a lion killing and eating a deer (in I am legend)? Or the strangling of one's own dog (again I am legend). What about the brutal stabbing of a tiger depicted in Gladiator (not to mention the number of grisly deaths)? Will this have less of an impact on a child than seeing a tiger killing and eating?
There's much to fix in China. There's also much to fix over here. There's no use climbing on your high-horse because people here don't like to witness what goes on in an abbatoir while they're busy using their lipstick (that may well have been tested by rubbing it over a monkey/ape's eye) and carrying fashion-accessory pets.
January 10, 2008
The Daily Mail doesn't usually mince its words. The mincing comes with its understanding of the law. Usually it's issues of self-defence where the misunderstanding of what exactly constitutes 'Reasonable Force' (ie subjective Necessity and objective Proportionate Force) leads to the defence of some people who have been put away either by a jury or by their own guilty plea because the "Nanny State" does all it can to 'protect the criminals'.
Its right-wing vitriol isn't limited to attacking the legislators and courts for juries putting away murderers, but also towards any council or town that observes health & safety regulations. Naturally the Mail doesn't quite realise that many of these regulations are in place to help protect councils from potentially heavy claims in tort.
Here's the thought-provoking Daily-Mail headline:
Health and safety killjoys order award-winning village to take down its hanging baskets
Wonderful, isn't it?
The Daily Mail goes on to criticise the council for its "politically correct" decision to ban placing these heavy (20kg) flower baskets on what the paper itself calls "crumpling" and "old" lampposts which are due to be replaced in 2010 .
Here is what is really the key issue, brought up by a sensible member of the council:
Simon Mutten, the council's environmental services manager, said: "A risk has been brought to our attention by professionals and we cannot ignore it because if we did and something, however unlikely, happened then we would be taken to the cleaners."
If you have foreseen a risk (and it doesn't necessarily have to be huge: Denning, cricket and all that jazz) with something that is your responsibility and you neglect to do something that is reasonably within your capacity and you have a well-established duty of care (as councils generally do) and someone does die or is harmed by your omission, you leave yourself up to all sorts of claims.
You may see this as a problem with the law/claims culture (see Atiyah) but that is something not easily changed, precisely because the development of the law has been trying to be as just as possible to all parties. The legislature is not (at least I hope) going to turn around tomorrow and rubbish the last 100 years of development in tort law because a bunch of farmers want to hang heavy baskets on "crumbling" lampposts. Nor should they.
This being the case, the council has taken reasonable measures to ensure the safety of its residents. The locals have substituted the flower baskets with roadside viking ship displays. They might not win a decadent flower show. Let's hope they don't turn to forming wierd vigilante cults.
January 08, 2008
Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5B6nysheec
When I was in elementary school, we used to have a special assembly every week where one of the teachers would talk about a subject they were particularly interested in. I don't remember many of the subjects (bearing in mind this was nearly 15 years ago!), probably because it was little more than a teacher's show and tell. But one of the assemblies that I remember vividly involved our humanites teacher. He brought in his music player and gave a brief introduction about why he loved classical music. Then he told us all to close our eyes and listen. And he played a German piece for us.
At the time I didn't know much German except for the odd phrase, so the meaning was completely lost on me, but I remember that when I was listening blind to the peice, I found it intensely moving and one phrase stuck with me "Mein Vater, mein Vater". I would repeat that line to myself every-so-often throughout the years, but I was never really able to find the song (this is long before wikipedia and google ladies and gentlemen!).
I was thinking about it the other day, so I flexed my google muscles and within moments I'd found it: Der Erlkönig. A Schubert piece written to the words of a Goethe poem. I can't comment on the history of it or the politics about it, but I'm going to try to learn more. It's a great piece.
Close your eyes and have a listen.
January 07, 2008
Writing about web page http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0480249/
- I Am Legend
When I first saw the trailer for this movie, it was intriguing, if a little cliched. Lone man haunted by screaming monster in the dark. The announcement of the name of the movie made me cringe: "I Am Legend". It seemed so very Hollywood and was an immediate turn off. In my ignorance, I did not know of the 1950s novel bearing the same name that apparently inspired this film (although I have watched The Omega Man). But it starred Will Smith and as I'd already watched what was worth watching at the cinema (and what was not worth watching) I thought I'd give it a try.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first half hour of the film. I thought Will Smith was perfect. The scenery was perfect. The dog was perfect. The fear and loneliness created a wonderful atmosphere in the film. The suspense continued right until we first meet the CG beasties: the infected.
I Am Legend teaches two lessons on the use of CG in a film:
1) When used properly it can enhance the film and increase immersion (CG New York)
2) When used improperly it can completely ruin the mood (the infected)
I don't want to 'ruin' the plot for you, so I won't go into specifics. The infected were poorly-done. The latter half of the film is full of little niggling plot holes that make one wonder if the film was forced into such an edit by the producers (in fact the film could have done with an extra half an hour or so). You'll find yourself wishing that the film fulfilled its potential instead of wasting one of Will Smith's better performances in years.
If you've got 90 minutes to spare, it's worth a watch. It's better than The Golden Compass. Drop a star if you don't much like Will Smith or powerful performances.
Movie Highlight: "Don't go in there Sam!"
January 02, 2008
Writing about web page http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article2951490.ece
You're all probably aware of the recent controversy over the Oxford Union inviting Nick Griffin (renowned racist) and David Irving (convicted Holocaust-denier) to come speak at the venerable institution. You are probably also aware of the attention-seeking President of that society, Luke Tryl, who has been waffling on and on about free speech and loathing what they say but it being necessary to hear it and all that tripe.
Tripe? Yes, when it's coming from his hypocritical mouth or hands.
Why hypocritical? The man is defending the invitation of two of the most disgusting men in the country, and giving them a platform to publicise their hate. In the ensuing (expected) media furore and protests, they've garnered even more publicity. Luke is revelling in it. Does he give a damn about free speech?
Let's see what Luke Tryl had to say when he was disinviting Norman Finkelstein (author of The Holocaust Industry), the Jewish son of concentration camp survivors.
Subject: Re: Debate
Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2007 20:38:31 +0100
Dear Dr Finkelstein,
I hope that you are well, I'm so sorry for the confusion about the debate. There was an organisational difficulty at my end and my secretary hadn't seen your emails.
I would appreciate it if you could keep this bit between you and I. Many people expressed concern that the debate as it stood was imbalanced and people felt that as someone who had apparently expressed anti-zionist sentiments that you might not be appropriate for this debate. I tried to convince them otherwise but was accused of putting forward an imbalanced debate and various groups put pressure on me. I received numerous emails attacking the debate and Alan Dershowitz threatened to write an Oped attacking the Union. What is more he apparently attacked me personally in a televised lecture to Yale.
I hope that you understand my position, this is not ideal and I would be happy to welcome you as an individual speaker to the Union in a forthcoming term. I know that the President-Elect Emily Partington would be keen to host you in Hilary. I just did not want to see the debate compromised and given the Irving Griffin Controversy I couldn't fight a battle on all fronts.