Sunday, September 26, 2004

Static - redux

The nurse popped a little slide with a droplet of my blood into the machine and pressed a button. The machine, in turn, whirred a little and beeped most cheerfully. When she looked at the readout, she visibly blanched.

Apparently, iron in the blood is supposed to be between ‘x’ and ‘y’. Mine was ‘x’ minus ‘a lot’. She wasn’t happy and I got a stern lecture about taking care of myself. Then she did something else painful and (typically) undignified leaving me wondering why it was that I had just paid so much money for the pleasure of her company. (Of course, I had paid privately because – short of losing my tongue and being accidentally rushed to a public hospital in Britain before I can give other instructions – I had chosen a private clinic where washing hands is still a common practice.)

It was a routine test to be taken before a little surgery I had on Thursday. Since then, I’ve been recovering from the (always hideous) effects of anesthetics on me with the help of tonnes of vitamin/mineral pills, a quarter of a cow and veritable fields of spinach and kale. I feel better than I have in two months. I even feel like posting again.

You see, I had recently been feeling more than a little tired. I had no idea what it was and had it down to ageing – although why I should age about 10 years in the space of 5 weeks was beyond me. I went from being able to run a few miles with only a little temporary whining at the end to not being able to walk up stairs without puffing like I had never done exercise before.

Baffled, I did what I usually do to a problem – I met the darned thing head on and decided that perhaps I was becoming unfit. So I would work harder. The harder I worked, though, the worse I felt. I put it down to laziness and…yeah…worked harder.

As you may have guessed, my particular personality type is useful for things like leading garrisons of troops into war or coordinating a change throughout a company. Unleashed onto things like personal care or small children, it can become a hindrance.

Matthew enjoys giving practical advice then chuckling from the sidelines when I vehemently ignore it just because the idea wasn’t mine. Eventually, I have to swallow my pride, ask him for some assistance in scooping my battered body off the floor, limp over to somewhere where I can lick my wounds and promise to take his advice. He looks down at me with crinkles in the corners of his eyes in a most infuriating ‘You’re so darned cute when you’re angry!’ look. Sometimes, he even says it. No punishment could be worse.

So I’m happy that I figured it out all by my (almost) self.

Now, instead of barely having enough energy to crawl through a day and contemplating writing a post with about as much pleasure as I would pulling out my own toenails, I have other problems at hand.

I have too much energy and I’ve been ordered to ‘take it easy’ by the doctor. Matthew knows this and is enforcing it with raised eyebrows, lectures and stern warnings.

The only place I can unleash energy, therefore, is work and here. Actual posts of value here we come:)

M

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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

We interrupt the white noise to state...

Try as I might, I can't quite convince life to throw things at me in a steady stream of interruptions that can be slotted neatly into a schedule.

Some scheduled things - like sitting down, reflecting over something, writing it down in a coherent manner, fretting over the wording and order, walking away to get a cup of tea, coming back and deciding it's just garbage and it would be better to finish off an older piece of writing, working on that, remembering that I'm supposed to be cutting down on tea, reading it over for the nth time and deciding that it's just damned near good enough - in other words, posting here, have been put on a back burner to simmer.

I did, however, go and see an advance screening of the new Jet Li film 'Hero' a couple of days ago and have a lot to say about it - so stay tuned into White Noise Station and you'll hear all about it soon.

M

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

A question of service

What would you expect upon joining the army?

Well, if you believe the recruitment advertisements of Australia’s armed services several years ago – a nice steady job in carpentry (rebuilding schools and hospitals in war torn parts of Asia), playing with fancy, blinking gadgets or ‘being a leader’ (don’t ask). Nowhere in the recruitment drive were a few key facts mentioned:

- There may be a war
- You may be shipped out to war
- You may need to kill
- You may die

There seemed to be the overall message that you would help your country ‘be prepared’ – but be prepared for what? A khaki and bronzed skin shortage, judging by the soldiers beaming out of the still shots.

Now, I don’t know how recruitment is run in the US or UK, but I’d guess it’s along the same lines as Australia’s government – “Join, it’ll be fun.”

Perhaps this is why it comes as such a great shock to western nations when their soldiers die in a war – it’s just not something to be expected, considering that our fittest and finest are simply busy ‘preparing themselves’ for ‘something’ in an occupational health and safety approved environment. Perhaps it’s why we have protests and why a silly woman heckled Barbara Bush last week.

Her heart wrenching story? Her son was in the army. America went to war. He was sent to Iraq. He was killed in the line of duty.

This is sad, bordering on tragic in this day and age of low infantry loss in times of conflict – but not something out of the range of reasonable expectation for a man diffusing bombs in the middle of a war zone.

Spontaneous combustion, sprouting a pair or wings or starting to convulse and speak in tongues springs to mind as terribly unexpected for a soldier in Iraq. Injury or death, sadly, no.

In order to realise exactly how preposterous this mother’s claims (that Bush killed her son) are, one only need to look to the fact that at some point in time, her son had in front of him a stack of forms to join the US army.

With full cognizance of the fact that he may be sent out to do some pretty dangerous things in the course of his military career, he signed them. If he wasn’t aware of this possibility, then I can only guess he was particularly dim, evading the issue or brought up in an isolation chamber.

I simply can’t imagine that there were boxes he could check on the application forms akin to:

- Full service.
- Service only during times of peace, thank you.

So why the outcry that soldiers are being killed in Iraq? Besides the fact that it’s an unpopular war in some quarters, I’d venture one of two guesses.

One is that these men signed up in far more peaceful times when a career in the army was just another moderately paying job with good prospects of education and furtherment, not to mention a great chance to play with some very nice toys.

The other is that most of us – growing up in the cotton wool surrounds of these paternalistic governments of ours – have forgotten what it means to take a risk AND LOSE.

If we lose our jobs we have social security, social housing, child benefits and food stamps. If we fall ill, we have ‘free’ medical care (I put the free in inverted commas because, of course, someone somewhere is paying for that medical care, often unwillingly). If we can’t afford basic education, the state steps in to foot the bill.

Where does failure land us these days? On a comfortable cushion of state supplied alms – certainly not cold, starving or dead. So where is the abject dread of failure? The knowledge that not to move forward is to die slowly and to move forward means taking chances with their inherent downside risks?

When looking at the downside risks of military service, how many recruits and their families did not take seriously the possibility of death? Certainly the chances of misfortune are greater in service than in other careers – even during training, let alone in a hostile country. I really wonder if the idea of the government as protective and coddling guardian extended in these people’s mind’s to the realm of war. “Nothing bad will happen – ‘they’ just wouldn’t let it happen!”

Nevertheless, mistaken or not, adults signed up to be soldiers.

I remember seeing Michael Moore being interviewed during the Democractic convention. He seemed to revel in the idea that he had caught his interviewer out by asking him whether he would send his own child to Iraq. The interviewer, of course, stated that this would be solely the child’s decision. Michael would take none of it and asked the same question again and again, thinking he had caught the interviewer out at some guilty admission.

Michael is living in the wrong decade, if not the wrong century. People willingly sign themselves up for military service in America these days. Conscription is (thankfully) a thing of the past and children are no longer chattels only doing their parent’s bidding.

In the same way that Michael couldn’t see that the interviewer’s children would have to make the decision to undertake military service for themselves, the protesting mother couldn’t see that her son undertook the decision for himself. She sees her son as merely a man going about his business at work – suddenly being shipped out to a dangerous foreign country for no fathomable reason.

Bush isn’t a murderer – he is a President in a political system allowing him to wield the power of an army at will. The army is made of voluntary recruits who have signed the daily determination of lives away for a certain period of time to their military leaders and to the government. Bush isn’t choosing random strangers off the street to go into Iraq and diffuse bombs, he is using soldiers who have pledged their allegiance and service to him. If they didn’t take that pledge seriously enough at the outset, they have made a serious error of judgment.

Signing up for the army is a gamble. It’s possible to serve well, with distinction, to make a career, to rise in rank – it’s also possible to lose at the gamble and pay the highest price a human being can. I’d say that one of the few things that make the gamble worthwhile is to respect your government and your leaders so that you take the risk for a cause that you believe in. It’s no wonder then, given the leaders we have, that I won’t be joining the army any time soon.

M


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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Dunny Quest

In a bold move, Starbucks London have this week installed their first Baldur’sBint(TM) toilets.

Girls wishing to use the facilities are faced with three choices of cubicle, each somehow incomplete. They must solve the dilemma to use the loo.

“It’s not that we don’t keep the ladies room to a certain standard” Jonathan Anders, 31, manager of the Oxford St store says “It’s that we want to present our customers with a logic puzzle as yet another unique attraction to the chain. I mean – how long is Wi-Fi going to give us differentiation in the market?”

A customer interviewed at the store agreed wholeheartedly. “Oh, it was just great!” gushed Monica White, 26 “There was some pressure at the beginning – but once I figured out I had to take the paper from the only cubicle that had any (but didn’t have a seat) and take it to the only cubicle that had a seat AND a functioning lock – the whole thing just solved itself.”

When asked if it wasn’t a tad annoying, she shook her head vehemently “Not at all, it’s really an appropriate diversion to host in a store that dispenses caffeine. I mean, everyone knows that it’s a diuretic – so it spurs you on that much more to get the answer in the minimum time.”

Apparently, a new attraction is already in the works. Talks have been held with MacGyver to develop something new and even more challenging.

Jason Binks, 47, Senior Waterworks Development Director at Starbucks International gives us the overall concept. “There will be no functioning facilities at all. The customer will walk into the booth which has a paperclip and a soggy match on a stand – they will have to construct the entire bathroom themselves, including the hand drier/blower machine which won’t work. We expect it to be a tremendous success and a welcome addition to the brand.”

I think we’re all busting to try it.

_____


Alright, so on a serious note, I’m severely unimpressed.

You really would have thought that a highly procedurised chain such as Starbucks could train its dead-eyed drones to do things to American standards – alas and alack, even my Soyaccino didn’t have any chocolate sprinkly stuff on the foam (gasp! the inhumanity!) and the place could have done with a good clean.

Someone disabuse me of my idea that everything works as it *should* in America – before I build a raft and paddle over there for good.

M

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Death to the goddamned Wahhabis, alright?

My social life seems to be running along the same schedules as the London Night Bus Network – an utter dearth of contact with friends followed by a week like the last which saw me heading out every night. Many posts are on scraps of paper written in a shuddering, lurching tube-influenced hand and will be posted over the next day or so.

The culmination was a Samizdata.net HQ dinner attended by a handful of regular contributors and those in the ‘other miscreants’ category. We were all, hell-bent on having a good time and thanks to the magical influence of Zubrowka, we did.

At one point in the evening, it was mentioned that this was the 3rd anniversary of September 11th. The table quickly lost its raucous quality as many shared their memories of the towers and their or friend’s near-misses with tragedy. One attendee had lost a childhood friend in the Bali bombings.

So we had a choice – we could be gloomy, predicting the imminent defeat of the freedom that we all held dear, we could be cynical and state that no matter the action it would all come to nothing, we could be cautiously offensive – sniping impotently at the few individual terrorists that have been identified in the world.

We choose a different course, one that I’m not ashamed of in any way. We lifted our glasses to a resounding cry of “Death to the Wahhabis!” Perry took a photograph and dashed upstairs to post it. We really thought nothing more of it until a few hours later when Perry happened to be checking the blog and the resulting comments to the new post.

It seems that some people weren’t too happy about the tone and intent of the post at all, seemingly squeamish about this impassioned outburst. Thing is, it wasn’t the time for a well-reasoned argument nor balanced debate. The cry wasn’t a statement of intent – it was far simpler than that. Here were a group of people acknowledging the fact that an atrocity had taken place and answering.

The answer was one, primarily, of affirmation of life. It could equally have been “Death to those who hold an ideology which instructs them to kill us” – but somehow that seems a little too PC and defanged to be any good. We were wishing for the elimination of those whose life’s purpose is to harm or destroy our mode of life, our culture and our freedom. The Wahhabi’s creed certainly fulfils those criteria. As far as I’m concerned, it was, psychologically, a damned healthy thing to do.

Objections were made to the fact that not all Wahhabis are violent, not all wish to cause harm, not all are strictly our enemies. A little bit of Googling reveals that Wahhabism is simply an extremely fundamental Unitarian sect of Islam and that they believe their way to be the ONLY way. This, frankly, tells me that anyone who identifies themselves as a Wahhabi sees me as immoral – probably as evil. Apparently, they also see the state solely as a method of enforcing their particular morality on others. This is a direct threat to me, to my life, to my values and to my freedom.

I’m not going to give credence to the moral relativists who will point fingers at me and state that I too have some idea of what the right way for humans to live is. Yes I do – it comes with the territory of independent and inquiring thought. Thing is, there’s no way that you can look at the Wahhabi’s brutal, horrendous, backward, patently foolish, mysticism-based ideology and say it’s just as good for human life as what I propose – freedom to do whatever you want to as long as you don’t use force or perpetrate fraud against another human.

If someone wants to be a socialist or a Christian or a Muslim or a hippie and live in some commune along with others that share his particular bent – so be it. If they want to live in society at large and hold those ideas then that’s just find and dandy as well. I lump people like that along with the foot fetishists and those who like to suspend themselves in the air from large meat hooks – I think it’s freakish and wrong but it’s your body and life not mine – enjoy. I’m certainly never going to ask the state to step in and stop you unless you try to force your ideas onto me.

Note the difference here – Wahhabis could live according to their values (well, all bar that niggly little ‘killing the infidels’ thing) happily in my society whereas I would be bundled in a tablecloth and forced to marry some misogynistic bastard in theirs. Have my own blog? I’d probably not even be allowed to learn to read in the first place.

Death to every single person who can be remotely connected with Wahhabism? Nope. Death to any Wahhabi who simply states that they hate Western values? Nahhh....it’s just an odd little habit of theirs. Death to any Wahhabi who actively works toward or funds action that harms others? Hell yes – pass them over, I’ll slit their throats myself.

What we did on Saturday night was right. We identified a broad class as our enemies and toasted to the triumph of our ideas. Anyone who understands the zealotry of the fundamentalists we are battling knows that the only viable way to stop most of these people is their death. We are at war, very much entrenched in it although it’s a type that Western civilization has rarely seen before. There may not be trenches and tanks, there may not be a convenient front line to send people to and sit back to watch, but there is no mistaking the fact that the battles are ongoing and that one side holds all the passion for the fight.

Our enemy has no qualms in toasting to our deaths. They have no concern in planning the enslavement of those who survive, binding them with superstitious nonsense masquerading as law. I don’t intend to hand civilization to these barbarians on a silver platter with my apologies for enjoying my lifestyle and my freedoms.

Death to the Wahhabis.

M

(Edits - factual error, 3rd, not 4th anniversary)

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Saturday, September 11, 2004

Cut & taste

There are certain things that you take for granted in life – death, taxes, the embarrassment of parents cleaning your face with spittle, a plague of slow drivers in front of you when you’re in a hurry - and photographs from those dinky little passport booths being utterly horrific.

If you take a look at my driver’s license or passport, you could easily ascertain that I’m either a perpetually surprised prat or that I’m a furball with a face. You see, those photos were taken in the BP part of my life. I am now AP and, evidently, things work completely differently this end.

I am, of course, sectioning my life ‘Before (hair) Product’ and ‘After (hair) Product’. For someone like me that has masses of devilishly curly hair, this is a significant stage in development, akin to learning to walk, talk and appear to be awake in lectures about workplace law.

When I was small, my hair would often overshadow me. It was down to my knees and almost covered the breadth of my back. It would be brushed once a week by my parents, sitting next to each-other on a bed. I would sit on the floor and endure an hour’s worth of pulling, tugging, ripping and cutting as entire little clumps of matted hair would be cut out of my mane.

After several years of this nonsense, my mother decided that my hair would be far more manageable if it were shorter. A wise decision for those with daughters possessed of sensible hair committed to obeying the law of gravity. Unfortunately, my mother was a little overzealous with her instruction to the hairdresser and it was cut to just above my shoulders…when wet.

Now, my hair has the miraculous quality of being half as long dry and curly than it is when wet or otherwise straightened. What started off as a bob became a hirsute helmet that looked awful on my already round face.

I spent the next ten years alternately growing it just past shoulder length then becoming annoyed with it and lopping it off – then becoming depressed because it looked so very bad when short. A particularly bad judgement led me to believe that I could somehow have hair the colour of Belinda Carlisle. Off to the supermarket I went for a box of hair dye, on went the dye, off went the dye, on went the hysterics as I realised I had dyed my hair the colour of Ronald McDonald’s.

The only thing that could conceal such a blunder was something very, very dark – so I dyed my hair the darkest shade of brown available. Conveniently, this was concurrent to a gothy stage in my youth. Not so conveniently, I had blondish roots. And blondish eyebrows. 2 days at a hairdresser’s dyed it back to blonde – but at the expense of frizziness the likes of which the world had never seen before. It now positively stuck at 90 degrees to my head in its natural state.

I had to do something…so I started experimenting with hair goop. First it was the heavy duty stuff – the mousses and gels that made me look like I never washed my hair at all. Coupled with a young girl’s lack of knowledge about the art of reducing one’s eyebrows to a bearable size, I looked very much like a Russian shotput champion out for a Sunday stroll.

Then came the first leave-in conditioners, which I never quite got the knack of, because I would only ever apply them to the top layer so it looked like a giant dirty blonde puffball was trapped underneath a layer of smooth, lovely curls. It was a little like a hair jail.

Successively growing the hair out, trimming off the damaged, bleached ends and extending my repertoire of hair care and maintenance products has finally produced a mane that is trained enough to look somewhat respectable most days. I learnt that a combination of the right products applied in the right order did utter wonders.

I was now AP. No longer does it look like I have an electrified squirrel clutching the back of my neck whenever I pull my hair back. No longer do I take out whole swathes of commuters every time I turn my head.

A week or so ago, I happened to be at my parent’s house when their hairdresser stopped by with his sharp little scissors and a head topped with blonde-tipped spikes that announced to all the world that he was either a great fan of The Pet Shop Boys or worked in something very artistic. This man actually does the hair of some rather famous celebrities at a certain salon that shall not be named and occasionally comes to some people’s homes to minister to their manes. I leapt at the opportunity of a trim (anything to hide the horrendous hairstyle a Toni & Guy troll had perpetrated on me).

He fussed and tutted, weighed my hair in his hands and exclaimed at the Toni & Guy butchering job.

“You maast haff it lonk!” he exclaimed in English, even though we were conversing in Russian. I think he really felt the need to get the point across in my native tongue as well – just in case I felt some strange urge when I was next near the kitchen scissors, no doubt.

“Look at vot zees eediots did! Ah! I am from ze Vidal Sassoon School – form and strakture. Ay vill feex zis. Yoo vill come every tvelve veeks. Yes.”

So he fixed it. He really did. And, finally, barring a couple of centimeters that we kept “For makink it lonk.” the damaged hair is gone. It swooshes and glides again.

This is all very important background information to what happened yesterday…I had a passport photo taken in one of those little booths. It was NICE. Actually it was beyond nice – it was flattering.

I didn't look in any way, shape or form like I was hiding a couple of kilos of Semtex in the seams of my clothing or like I had just hiked across the western Sahara with only an asthmatic camel and BBC radio for company. I wasn't squinting, I didn't look look mentally unbalanced or like I was thinking about Mao Tse Tung in his knickers. In short, it didn't look like your bog standard passport photo.

I took the photo to C and she exclaimed using language certainly not befitting a cultured young lady. I showed it to M and he took one of the four squares and quickly spirited it away into his wallet – this is a man who has never carried a photo of me with him anywhere.

The ONLY explanation I have for it is that the hair looks amazing. All. By. Itself. I’d had it scrunched into a ponytail-cum-randomly-bound-ball and just shook it out.

And it fell into place.

It actually seemed to understand that its purpose in life was to frame my face rather than run screaming from it. I think I could have actually grimaced and the hair would have saved the shot.

Halle-bloody-lujah, it’s been 26 years in the making. I have conquered the photo booth - I am ready for the world.

M


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Friday, September 10, 2004

Something fishy in the state of Szczecin

I'm quite fearful of my parents safety after spotting this at their house last week:



It was brought out after much sniggering on their part about a 'small gift' they were given by a friend on their recent holiday on the north coast of Poland. I understand that Szczecin is a maritime-themed town, I really do - but I thought that Amsterdam was the city associated with cheese?

This thing is massive...each of those little glasses is an Eastern-European sized shot glass. Think of the average paw size of a Russian and you'll get some idea that you could likely serve salad in each of them if you so chose. The fish is hollow, with a cork in it's mouth. There's a rope at the top of the 'anchor' so that you can suspend it on a wall. I've just realised that I'm wincing just remembering how hideous the damned thing is.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to be a gift that you would only bestow upon a mortal enemy. Something so hideous that it would plunge even a Lawrence Llwelyn-Bowen'ed lounge room into the murky orange-and-brown depths of the 70's.

I've heard of the mafia leaving horses heads on people's doorsteps when they want to frighten them - is this the Polish equivalent?

Either way, I was very glad when it was stuffed back into it's box and into the depths of a large cupboard which may have held other such monstrosities for all I knew.

When asked what they would do with it, they just looked at each other and giggled again. Oh dear. This is *not* a good sign...I simply demand that my parental units start to behave in a manner befitting their age and status, namely:

- Less undignified sniggering.
- Far fewer things held back from their daughter.
- None of this traipsing around Europe with wild abandon, returning with hair-raising stories of narrowly missing hurricaines and driving far too fast on Autobahns.
- Less raucous tales of their youth after imbibing one too many. Having a more interesting life than mine is simply not on.
- Telling dirty jokes in a variety of languages.

Failure to comply with these restrictions will simply force me to take drastic action. I may start thinking of them as damned interesting older people rather than parents.

M

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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Hear, hear

Perry over at Samizdata writes a short, sweet and completely correct observation about the silliness that is 'hate crime'.


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Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Memory Game

The very act of preservation is a futile struggle against the inevitable. For creatures such as ourselves, possessed of long and achingly accurate memories of favorite places, people, experiences, things, buildings, sights, smells and tastes – this can be agony. We try (in vain) to revisit the places of childhood, old workplaces, places where we felt happy or favorite haunts but find that change has tainted the physical reality irrevocably. I find that these trysts with time give me value only when I realise that the physical place acts as a key to unlock a depth of memories that I had thought long forgotten but that I possessed all along. The place is not a warden of the memories or strictly necessary to induce them – it’s simply very, very effective at prompting them.

Indeed, the sad realisation that I could never again stand in a particular forest glade in Sydney when the light hit it a certain way through a gap in the trees, dappling everything beautifully and making the white flowers everywhere luminesce simply made me treasure that moment in my mind all the more. That memory is of a time when skipping was still a reasonable mode of locomotion and adults were considered tall. The trees have likely grown since, the place may even have a building on it. My memory, however, is beautiful, pristine, unique – and what’s more, it’s mine and mine only.

Mysterious to me, therefore, is the fervent anger with which the demolition of an old building is met, usually on behalf of some vague collective called ‘the community’. It’s as if the building’s absence will wipe out the very memories it triggers in the minds of residents and this is reason enough to trample the property rights of its owner. Strange to me is the way people will hang on to objects almost as transportation talismans to days gone by.

Unfortunately, you can keep the stones as pristine as the day they were laid, you can manicure the garden to the point where it never seems to change, you can keep the décor exactly the same as it was long ago – but you can never again be 10 years old, scampering around after your baby sister brandishing a toad that makes her squeal. There is no power currently available to man that will achieve such a feat. Keeping a practically useless crumbly wall and a façade in roughly the same pattern as it has been for years in the vague hope that it will be the trigger for community recollections borders on the barmy.

The only thing that haphazard preservation does is amuse some at the expense of others. When a crumbling expensive-to-maintain monstrosity cannot be pulled down to erect the creation of a new architect, whom are we really oppressing – this ‘community’ or the landowner and the creative talent of the architect? Whose memories of a bygone era are we preserving and what kind of new creation is being foregone?

The worst thing about this preservation is that there isn’t a living person who would be able to take real advantage of the memory-triggering effect of scrubbing walls and painfully restoring mosaic, stonework and cornice. We’re keeping the memories of ghosts alive on the forced generosity of the public purse to some ‘noble’ end usually granted to our future generations. This is also usually tied to some ‘historical significance’ or ‘heritage’ that we all somehow share by virtue of geography at birth.

I say that if someone (or a group of people) values a building or historical site enough, they will put up their own dosh to buy it, keep it, restore it, sell chunks off to museums and perhaps even make a healthy return on ticket prices from tourists who are interested in a spot of de rigueur shuffling through something old and musty. Some sites will not be popular enough and will crumble into dust, some will simply be supported by interested parties – so be it.

The current state says that that is a preposterous idea. That no-one would actually pay for the upkeep of these buildings and that they would fall into disrepair. We also, as individuals, simply don’t have the requisite taste to decide what should stay and what should go. We are naughty, naughty, unthinking, uneducated children that don’t really know quite what’s good for us. We are to trudge to work like good little tykes, be taxed to the eyeballs and be very grateful that a handful of the bureaucratic elite are spending the proceeds wisely on ‘our’ heritage. To me, this is the absolute epitome of the idea behind a nanny state.

When we are forced, through taxes or council rates, to pay for the preservation and maintenance of publicly owned buildings dripping with stone cherubs, decorative columns and mildew – what suffers? I’d say private property does as funds are funneled away from its upgrade and maintenance. We are paying for the jollies of a handful of self-righteous academics who will invoke the spell of the interest of ‘the community’ and ‘history’ to lull us all into a compliant trance.

The discovery and accuracy of history, though important, is not worth the slavery of a single person, let alone entire nations. Surely there is a way for historians to continue their work without forcing me to pay for it? Much as I love museums, I would prefer to pay high prices for admittance and have far lower taxes. Preservation being paid for on a private basis is not unthinkable.

Progress though, not preservation, is the natural human state. Where we inhibit the former for the sake of the latter, we inhibit the advancement of us as individuals as well as a species. I would honestly rather we forget (or never discover) what the Mesopotamians had for breakfast than to forego the tremendous products, services and innovations that would be triggered by the freedom of a less taxed society. I would rather marvel at a new building than glance at an old one that’s still functioning despite itself. I would rather determine which buildings under my ownership are and are not demolished than hand over that power to a quango that I most unwillingly fund.

Old memories are important but not as important as the memories that we seek to make through living productive lives as humans. I’d like to look back in 50 year’s time and remember astounding and life-altering leaps in science than be all warm and fuzzy because 400 year old houses are still standing.

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Sunday, September 05, 2004

It was the wizard at 3 o'clock in the billard room with the book*

* Cludeo reference. I do hope you Americans know what I'm talking about.


It's been a while since I was really absorbed in a book. I'm usually quite good at reading 4 or 5 at once and putting them down to do the other things in life - like working, eating, walking around...blogging.

I have now find myself permanently glued to a book for days. I have bruises all over my legs from walking into furniture. M has quit trying to talk to me when I'm in my trance and I have found ingenious methods of preparing food whilst reading and flipping pages. Blogging whilst reading, however, has been outside the range of my skills - so I'll have to put something meaningful up tomorrow lest you all depart for greener, smarter, less distracted pastures.

So what's had my attention for days now? Not one book but four...JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.

I hadn't really been interested when this whole craze started. I suppose I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to popular culture, but you'll have to excuse me if I ignore the recommendations of a populace that regularly gives Big Brother high ratings.

Some months ago I was walking along a street and spotted something white and mangled-looking on the pavement. Picking it up, I realised that it was the second book in the Harry Potter series - albeit coverless and more than a little trodden-on.

Looking up and down the street to ascertain whether the (obvously callous) owner was around, I decided that I couldn't just leave it there. I have a soft spot for books so I dusted it off and took it home, dried it off, placed it in the Fantasy section of my bookshelf (Yes, it's sectioned into genres. Yes, I realise what this says about me. No, I don't care.)

Wanting to read something completely untaxing a couple of weeks ago, my eye alighted on this shabby little book.

I picked it up...started reading...it got dark all of a sudden and I realised that I had read for hours, that I hadn't made dinner or gone for my run and that my left foot was quite decidedly asleep.

Since then, I had been bursting to go out and get the rest of the series...I purchased numbers 1, 3 and 4 and am now firmly entrenched in the storyline of 4, to the detriment of my health, wealth and marriage - but hey, we're talking about Harry Potter here people, not just any random, common Muggle.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm in the middle of the Quidditch World Cup.

M

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fishy fashion

Having problems eating out?

Cutlery provided not meeting your strict standards?

Have a thing for the smooth taste of earwax with your California rolls?


Try new Sushi Specs, the latest trend in wearable cutlery.




No good with chopsticks? No worries - forks can be attached. How people who wear forks either side of their skull can honestly hope to breed in their lifetime is a puzzling concept.

I, for one, will be using my new, patented Sushi Fingers when I can't find two splintery bits of stick to squish my fish with.

Thanks to Businesspundit for the link.

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How to turn gold into lead

Well, 'gold' as in 'someone very wealthy' and 'lead' as in 'something rather cheap and common'.

Taking cheap shots at people isn't really my thing but Paris Hilton has somehow wormed her way into my life and I don't like it one bit. How I even know of the insipid little creature's existence is a fascinating study in saturation marketing. I don't have a TV, don't read magazines, occasionally read newspapers that would only ever deign to mention her obituary (even then, only if pressed) and frequent places on the Internet that would much rather ignore than comment on or sneer at the little thing.

Nevertheless, she's everywhere. On billboards, in shop windows, in advertisments in department stores, on certain newspapers left in the Tube and...lastly and most insidiously...in popup ads.

Now, I'll concede that she's pretty and has a good figure. All well and lovely if she had the good grace to just keep her over-preened lips shut and be the meat coathanger for certain fashions. Unfortunately for the civilised world, Paris thinks that her opinion is worth something.

A little news for Paris - a blowjob is no big deal, neither is sex. Being accidentally caught in the act is also one of the things that happens in life.

A video - distributed around the world - graphically showing you banging Shannon Doherty's leftovers is severely, deeply humiliating. It's *not* something to build a career on.

Nevertheless, when going to Amazon.com.....yes, goddamn it - AMAZON - I encountered an ad for her new fashion range.

If I had a teenage daughter that decided to wear that, I would be secretly shopping for baby carriages, an engineless, wheelless car to rest on blocks and a caravan. There's simply no other way to go once you start down that path.

The gormless bint has also written a book. The book has certain chapters where her Chihuaha 'Tinkerbell' "... the best-dressed dog in the world shares pages from her own secret diary."

Paris Hilton's book is co-authored by her dog, likely because her dog is already a published author.

I thought I'd just let that sentence hang in the air like that so that the full gravity of the meaning would hit readers at the base of the skull like a well-wielded vase in a murder mystery from the 60's.

The marketing blurb for this tome states:

"In her fabulous and very tongue-in-cheek -- and chic -- guide, you'll discover Paris's twenty-three rules for How to Be an Heiress (Never have only one cell phone when you can have many), Paris's list of Twelve Things an Heiress Would Never Do (Go out the night after the Oscars)..."

...and then defers to the madam of the miniskirt for a quote:

"If you follow your own plans and dreams and you don't let anyone talk you out of them, then you'll start to get the hang of being an heiress....All you need after that is a good handbag, a great pose, and very high heels, and you're on your way. (Long blond hair doesn't hurt, either.)"

Oh Paris, honey, it must hurt so much to be so very, very silly.

Pull down that big, thick, dusty book-thing with the word 'dictionary' on it from the shelf with all the other 'ouchie they make me think so hard' books and take a peek inside. You'll find that being an heir is a legal entitlement to assets or an estate after some triggering event - usually a death.

Handbags and high heels are not a prerequisite in any way - although I can see the intelligence of you choosing them very carefully. Ten minutes of conversation with you and I think I would be looking for something, ANYTHING, to distract me from the pain.

"Monica, Monica" I hear you say "what's wrong with you? This will all blow over in a couple of months - the book will sell 20 copies and then be relegated to the bargain bin at those cheap little places that sell romance novels and 99p Shakespeare."

Not exactly. Paris still has acting and singing careers to obliterate before she goes on to the places where celebrities go to die - the handbag designing business.



So this, by the way, is why I haven't posted in a while. My mind crashed when reading her words and had to reboot. Errors were found on restarting. I'm in the middle of a mental defrag consisting of drinking a lot of herbal tea and remembering that most of the women I know can compose a sentence without tossing their hair back from their shoulders and saying 'like' an inordinate number of times.

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