The State Is Healthy (Obviously)

But first, a little pre-game show.

Could somebody explain why the media has decided that Dean is insane? I've seen the footage of his supposed crazy-talking speech after the results came in last night, and I can't see it. Sure, he's animated, and yes, he's trying to work his crowd of supporters, who probably need a little pep talk after coming third, but I can't quite see the insane part. Hell, John Major has given livelier speeches.

So, as last year's entry was such a success, I'm watching the State of The Union address again. Apparently, the President is going to show that he's above they fray of partisan politics tonight, before he goes on a $200m spending spree to crush all opposition.

Ah? I'm sure it was on at 8pm last year. This could mean that I can turn Fox News off. It's the only news channel that is a direct feed from the US, but it makes me want to hurl heavy, blunt objects at the screen. "Hi! I'm Trent Lott! Vote Strom!" So I think I'll switch over to the BBC. No, I'm sorry, Lott has just criticised Edwards for not having enough qualifications for the Presidency, "especially in foreign policy decisions". I'm willing to bet that he's left the country once or twice, which I don't the current President did before he entered office…

Go Georgie! We're gonna party like it's your birthday (I'm so, so sorry)!

Dick! Dick Cheney! Not a fake! Not a hoax! Out from his secret location for One Night Only! Call 555-DIXXX for further details!

That was scary shot. Why does Donald Rumsfeld always look evil? He seems to have this look about him - that he'd prefer to be off somewhere firing missiles at something.

It's the smirk. More than anything, the smirk has to go.

We'll start with a bit of Army back-slapping then. Okay, fair enough. "Hi, I'm Tom Ridge!"

Interesting statistic: 88% of Americans will save less than $100 thanks to the 2006 tax cuts.

Um, when did anybody think that terrorists weren't plotting against America? Did you guys not read the memo that the previous Administration?

1st mention of September 11th. There should be a drinking game to go along with this.

Rah! The PATRIOT is cool! Really! Judges can't turn down our search warrants! The law-enforcement agencies are already abusing it! Hurrah.

Okay, that was funny. "Key provisions of the Act are set to expire next year" — Clapping from the Democrat side of the house, stopping him in his tracks...

2nd mention!

Ah, "could supply them with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons" — so is there a burden of proof required?

Look! Women have rights in Afghanistan! We won't talk about what the Iraqi National Council is doing to women's rights, will we?

They may not have running water, but the people of Iraq are free. Successes in Iraq follow. Fair enough, I suppose.

That's not true. Iraq had laws. Saddam was sovereign, yes, but there were plenty of laws to go around. Ms. Rice looks very annoyed for some reason.

Oh, now that was classy. Bringing the head of the INC over. Nice. (no sarcasm here, either. A good gesture)

"Do as we say or we'll kick your ass!"

But, we'll tread carefully with North Korea, as they can actually do some damage.

3rd mention! (obliquely, anyway)

Oooh. Let's talk about why we're never going to give the people in Cuba a fair trial, shall we?

So, we're actually using the Kay Report, are we? Lots of Democrat shaking heads now. Yes, it's great that Saddam is gone. Most of us will not argue the point that the world is better off without him in power. THAT WAS NEVER THE POINT. AND NAMING A FEW COUNTRIES THAT HAVE JOINED IN DOESN'T DEFLECT THAT YOU BYPASSED THE UN.

Please. Please vote him out. Or at least make him get onto the domestic front.

A good point made, though, that the Middle East can operate with democracy. Although people might point out that the last time the Arabic countries did so, America and Russia used their influence to install dictatorships, but that's probably a little harsh…

The economy rocks! Umm, that's a bit of an exaggeration, I think. And now we're reeling off some good things about the economy. As you'd expect, really.

America's economy is a changing one. No Child Left Behind! Except that most of the funding has to come from the States, which are close to bankruptcy at the moment. I also note that he didn't give any specifics there.

GENIUS! The camera settles on a Senator, who's clapping. He suddenly realises he's on-screen, and jumps up.

1,000 new jobs in December!

Another "expire" clapping round. Is it my imagination, or have the Democrats decided to wake up this year?

Hear that SCO? He's talking about YOU.

There now follows some gibberish about Social Security.

We can cut the deficit in half over the next five years! Of course, it'll still be greater than we you entered, but I suppose a start is better than nothing.

"Don't ask, don't tell" comes to immigration!

Once again, why don't you guys have a universal health system?

That guy's asleep!

The War On Drugs! Forgive me if I'm skeptical. Having finished The Corner, I really don't think this War can ever be won.

*bashes head on table* Abstinence programmes don't work. Oh God, he's not really going to do it, is he? Well, he never said "yes, I will go for an amendment", but he's made it clear he wants one. Grrr.

The post-prison plan sounds interesting and useful. I'm not sure how far $300m will go, but it's better than nothing (actually, it's less than $10 per released prisoner).

Cheapskate didn't send her letter! Couldn't be bothered to find a stamp to send the little girl's message to the troops. I'm shocked 8-).

winding up now. In a move that's sure to please some of you, I think I'll head off to bed now; if you made it this far, I salute you.

currently playing: Club 8 — Between Waking and Sleeping

MLK

Papers, articles, quotes, and speeches

Still a long way to go

currently playing: The Primitives — Out of Reach

Ghost World

For numerous reasons, I'm not much for talking at the moment. But I have got hold of the iLife update, and I've been tinkering around with iMovie. It appears this version is usable, which make some progress from earlier incarnations.

I'm hampered by the lack of a DV camera, but here's a little clip show I made of photos from the UNITAS retreat from last year (this weekend, if you go back and check the archives).

(Yes, I know there's a certain lack of...well, life in these pictures. This is mainly due to me forgetting I had a camera during the marathon drinking sessions, and not wishing to be cruel and taking pictures of people when they're asleep :-))

currently playing: Don McLean — American Pie

Winky Linky

Okay, who wants to own a record label?

The latest UK CD sales report came out yesterday. Sales are up! Record amounts of CDs sold! Is the BPI happy? Obviously not, as they've started raising the possibility of lawsuits. And, just in case we decide to look outside the country and get music cheaper elsewhere, they are helpfully monitoring the situation. For our own sake, naturally.

"I believe the line is 'Stay away from her. you bitch'"

"Let's go to the moon! Oh, you mean that somebody has to pay for it? Never mind, then. I'm sure everybody will have forgotten come next year, anyway…"

Proof that Pure Evil exists in this world.

currently playing: Kenickie — And That's Why

Duck Season! Rabbit Season! Primary Season!

The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the secrecy of terror arrests must be a comforting thought to the Bush Administration. If Paul O'Neill continues on his terror campaign, don't be surprised if he undergoes a sudden relocation to Cuba (it's also nice to see that the White House has decided to take a tough line on people leaking top secret information. As long as they're not blowing the cover of CIA operatives — that was just an accident, ho ho ho).

It was a bit out of the blue, really, hasn't? I mean, O'Neill left in 2002; why did he wait so long before sticking the knife in? Ah, but we're in the realm of the Book Deal now, and there's nothing that puts an end to loyalty than first week sales. All authors would gladly sell their grandmother for a position in the New York Times' Bestseller lists, and there's no publicity like 60 Minutes, the 24 hour news channels, and the paper of record. It helps that O'Neill is a crafty man; by throwing these revelations out now, he gets great press, but the story will have been forgotten come November. For the next week, the media will scrutinise O'Neill's claims, the White House will continue to insist that he's as mad as six industrial vats of frogs (and yet that didn't stop him from being fifth in the line of succession for two years), and then Michael Jackson will appear in court, and that will be that.

Meanwhile, the Democrat Party has decided that this is the ideal time to be struck with a large case of The Stupid. In the past week, we've had Clark declaring to turn himself into Superman when elected, Hillary Clinton making an unwise joke, Dean attempting to reorder the books of the Bible, and Mr. Lieberman giving us all a laugh. It has been one of those dirty, soul-destroying weeks in politics, where you look desperately for a candidate that has any chance of avoiding four more years Under Bush, and come up worryingly empty.

The first Democrat Primary takes place today, in Washington DC. Except that it's non-binding, and most of the candidates aren't on the ballot. It's more of a PR exercise for the city than a real contest; Washington is something of an oddity in America, as it does not belong to a state, and as such has no representation in Congress, despite that its inhabitants pay federal taxes just like everybody else in the Union (residents couldn't even vote for President until 1964). Everybody on the ballot (Dean, Shaprton, Kucinich, and Braun) is for giving the city a voice in Government, while the other main Democrat candidates have followed a DNC edict telling them to stay away from the contest. Meanwhile, up in New Hampshire, Dean appears to be running away with the lead, currently at 35% with 89% of that saying they'll vote for him or no-one. Barring any fistfights with voters, I think that NH is looking fairly secure for the Dean campaign (Iowa, on the other hand, is looking like more of a contest)…

currently playing: New Order — Ecstasy

An Invasion of Martians

Okay, it's just one:

Apparently, I'm obscuring his view of Venus.

Time for a joke (wiggle over the grey box for reveal-o-answer):

What is a pirate's favourite type of film?

Anything that's "Arrr!"-rated!

(BLAMMM! Sorry readers. It won't happen again —Ed.)

currently playing: Primal Scream — Shoot Speed/Kill Light

The Modern World, Part II

In honour of the final voyage of the Travelling Post Office today:

Night Mail

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers' declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

— W.H. Auden, 1936

currently playing: Mint Royale — Dancehall Places

Munch Says Happy Birthday Bonnie!

currently playing: Stellastarr* — Somewhere Across Forever

The Modern World

Almost every telephone box I passed today had one of two notices attached to the outside: a notification of removal, or that the box was under review. Bah. All you mobile phone users, do you see what you've done? You're destroying part of the fabric of British society! What will we do if the humble telephone box disappears?

Sorry, was channeling the Daily Mail there for a moment. It is a little sad to see the boxes being removed, although I doubt most people will care too much. I can't say I cared when people stopped sending telegrams…

Anyway, today I rejoined the library, after a considerable period of absence. Unfortunately, I didn't have the correct identification (a passport was all very well, but I needed something confirming my address, which sadly a passport doesn't have), so I can only take out two items until I provide something better. I did have a look for the books that have been recently recommended to me, but it appears that the library has had a refit recently, which has installed lots of new computers, DVDs, videos, and CDs, but removed most of the books. The books that remain are arranged in an interesting fashion, unless the placing of the Jack The Ripper books in the Careers section is a new tactic by the Government to wean the long-term unemployment back to work ("can't find conventional work? Why not try serial killing? Comes with Healthcare plan!").

I'll order the books when I go back with further id; this time, I left with a book on Dada and Jon Ronson's Them, a book about various conspiracy theorists and their views on the New World Order, government crackdowns, and twelve-feet high lizards. It has a great opening:

It was a balmy Saturday afternoon in Trafalgar Square in the summertime, and Omar Bakri Mohammed was declaring Holy War on Britain. He stood on a podium at the front of Nelson's Column and announced he would not rest until he saw the Black Flag of Islam flying over Downing Street. There was much cheering. The space had been rented out to him by Westminster Council.
Eventually, Ronson discovers that there's a common element to most of the conspiracies, a cabal known as the Bilderberg Group who meet once a year and decide the fate of the world. He sets off to find out more, only to find himself being followed on the streets of Portugal:
Sandra from the British Embassy called me on my mobile phone to inform me that she had spoken to the Bilderberg office at Caesar Park and they had said that nobody was following us and how could they call off someone who didn't exist?
'He is,' I said, in a staccato whisper, 'behind the tree.'
'The good news,' said Sandra, 'is if you know you're being followed, they're probably just trying to intimidate you. The dangerous one would be those you don't know are following you.'
But this was scant comfort. What if these men were the dangerous ones, and I just happened to be naturally good at spotting them? What if I was adept at this?
It's quite funny, although Ronson always reminds you that there's an edge to the people he's going around with; off-hand comments, visits to the ADL, people making martyrs out of others who have suffered tragedies, and so on. Definitely worth a checkout from the library, I think (Jon Ronson is currently writing a follow-up, which will be out at the end of the year, with a new Channel 4 series following at around the same time).

Haven't started the other book yet, but I imagine it'll be interesting, although I doubt there will be any appearances by the Brotherhood of Dada, the greatest supervillains of all time:

currently playing: Electrelane — The Valleys

Warning: Mac Owner Will Ramble About Keynote Address

That was a let down wasn't it? The Internet rumours were just too good to be true: a small-sized 4GB iPod for between $100-$200. The announced iPod Mini is 4GB, and yes it's small. But $249 seems a little steep, considering that Steve Jobs announced that the entry-level normal iPod would have its storage increased to 15GB, and it costs $299. Seems a little strange to me, but then that's because I quite fancied the idea of a sub-$200 iPod. Oh well.

Also: quite impressed to see that they're charging for updates for previously-free programs. No, really. Okay, okay, $49 for a photo book, music player, DVD application, movie editor and music creation program isn't that bad, I suppose. Although if you buy an iMac from today it comes free, so they're only after money from the loyal userbase.

The Pepsi promotion sounds cool, though. If nothing else, it'll help the person who has currently spent $29,500 on the iTunes Music Store. That's a lot of music (Around 90GB, in fact). Interesting point for the music industry (especially those in Europe dragging their heels over licensing details): iTunes sells 2 million songs a week. Which is greater than the combined sales of the Top 40 for almost any week since the mid-1990s. The single is dead. The album is looking a bit poorly. The next few years are going to be very interesting…

currently playing: J Xaverre — Bingo