Get Off My Land!

This makes sense: the UN won’t be allowed to run Iraq once the the Allies finish the liberation, but they will be able to contribute to the running costs. That sounds fair.

Hmm. I seem to be turning into a warblogger. This must stop, before I start to recognise the man who cleans the webcam in Baghdad for Reuters. That must be a fulfilling job. "Bill? The camera's dirty. Get up there and give it a wipe." "But it's been eight hours since the BBC showed the B-52s taking off from Fairford!" "Bill, do you know how many thousands of people are watching, waiting to see if the Americans hit the bus station? Will you disappoint them? Or will you rise above the risk, and maintain our journalistic integrity? For Reuters, Bill! For Reuters!"

I'm sure the universe was laughing at me today; I scrambled around town trying to find a working cash machine, got on the bus to RTP instead of Southpoint, and forgot to go to the one shop in the mall that I went there for in the first place. Bah.

I still haven't decided whether Ellis's decision to write issue #6 of Global Frequency as an extended version of a BBC trailer is a mark of genius or a further example of how this series has failed to live up to expectations. Nice cover, though.

currently playing: Lush - Etheriel

Well, That's Strange

I remember posting an entry here earlier today, but it appears that it never arrived. Hmm.

Courtesy of the United States Navy: How To Jam GPS Signals. And Phrack even has circuit diagrams. Build exciting illegal weapons! Wonder whether Iraq has an extensive chain of Radio Shacks just waiting to be hit by precise Tomahawk missiles!

I didn't update yesterday mainly because I couldn't summon up the effort to talk about the Oscars; even with Michael Moore's antics, it was easily the dullest ceremony I've seen for years. A helpful note to the producers for next time: when the show is starting to drag, it's not a good idea to stop the show dead to introduce us to 50-odd past Oscar winners. In fact, it's a really bad one. I was almost asleep, and I was in a decent time-zone this time.

He's probably not reading this, but I imagine it'll get back to him somehow: well done to Aaron for doing well at school this year. Keep up the good work!

currently playing: Sleater-Kinney - Burn, Don’t Freeze

I'll Be Your Taxloss Lover From Liverpool

The US Tax system is like a fractal; it looks rather simple from a high-level, but as soon as you start looking at the details, it becomes an infinitely-complicated, self-replicating monster. I prefer the British version where the Inland Revenue takes the proper amount out of your paycheque each month. Much simpler, and I don’t have to worry whether I can take the standard deduction, or if my donation to a charity means I have to fill out form 1040NR instead of 1040NR-EZ. And why do students from India get all the tax breaks? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones with a special relationship with the US? Or is that relationship simply an understanding that we’re to be used as target practice…

I've given up on watching the war on television; US news channels annoy me to the point of wanting to put my fist through the screen. Simpering interviews with US/UK officials, reporting rumours as facts (the 51st division has surrendered! Oh hang on, maybe not. They've fired Scuds! Whoops. Our bad! US fired missiles into Iran! Wait, Iran's now saying that they were Iraqi? Gee, we're sorry), or showing us continual pictures from that camera in Baghdad, even when nothing is happening (Ooooh! I can see a lorry driving past. That's why I tuned in, naturally). The web news sites tend to be a little less hysterical.

Good to see that the Americans are believing in the Geneva Convention again...

currently playing: Saint Etienne - Shower Scene

Weapons of Mass Distraction

“Just one last question, Victoria Clarke. How is Two-Face these days?”

Cat Power, Cat's Cradle 21/03/2003

That was…different.

I've heard all the stories about Cat Power concerts. About her chronic stage-fright which can sometimes lead to her spending two hours trying to play a song on her guitar. But this tour was supposed to be different; she has a backing band to provide some stability, and she was apparently looking forward to this tour.

The first signs were rather ominous; the band didn't start playing until 23:30, because they were late getting into Carrboro. They open with 'Baby Doll'. It becomes clear that something is bothering Chan. At the end of the song, she complains that she doesn't think the sound is right (to be fair to her, the monitors at the Cradle do seem to be rather abysmal). The next three songs continue in a similar fashion, with Chan breaking off at the end of the songs to ask for more "whoomph" on her guitar, to turn her vocals up, or to fiddle with her amplifier. It's not going well.

And then the backing band guitarist's amplifier dies.

The rest of the band leaves the stage; Chan says that they'll be back later (they never reappear), and continues alone with her piano and guitar. This turns out to be a mistake. She falls to pieces. For the next hour and a half, she manages to stumble through some songs like 'Names', 'Knocking On Heaven's Door', and 'Evolution', but for the most part she only can play snatches of songs before losing her place, saying that the piano is "too tight and bright".

She seems to get increasingly desperate; she spends the whole show sitting on the edge of a piano stool, tipping the other end up at a distressingly high angle (I really did think that she was going to fall towards the end). She tries to tap out a tune on her guitar using the lead when she's waiting for Matt to attach her amplifier directly into the sound system. She apologises again and again, and does her best to continue. She plays the first song she ever wrote, called "Wizard of Oz', and then lays her head on the piano. She confesses that she doesn't know what she's doing, and that she'll play all night.

After a glance at the long-abandoned set list, she manages to play a few more songs. As it goes past 1am, it's quite tragic; despite having spent money on the concert, all you want is for someone to go onstage, put an arm around her, and say "Chan, you can stop. You don't have to carry on." Eventually, at about 1:30, the tour manager does this, coming into the wings to say that she only has time for one more song. She gets through one last performance on the guitar, says goodbye, and runs upstairs to the dressing room.

As I turned from the front of the stage, I see that the sold-out crowd has dwindled to just a few die-hard fans. Some of the backing band are talking to the remaining audience. It's almost 2am.

currently playing: Bob Dylan - Shelter From The Storm

While I'm Here...

I want to hold Ari Fleischer down and kick him repeatedly. That is all.

Oh, and can we stop with ‘shock-and-awe’, please? Why not call it by the more famous original name: Blitzkrieg…

Marine Cobra helicopter gunships firing Hellfire missiles swept in low from the south. Then the Marine howitzers, with a range of 30 kilometres, opened a sustained barrage over the next eight hours. They were supported by U.S. Navy aircraft, which dropped 40,000 pounds of explosives and napalm, a U.S. officer told the Herald.
There are rumours that one of those new MOABs was used in Baghdad. That’s 25,000 tons of TNT. Funnily enough, thats roughly the equivalent power of the bomb dropped in Hiroshima…

We just lost the BBC Iraqi TV feed….

One Shall Stand! One Shall Fall!

Our secret weapon in the war on Iraq. This isn’t a joke, by the way; I’ve had it confirmed by friends of mine who actually know him. I don’t think he’s thought it all the way through, as Prime does tend to have a habit of dying…

Comic thing in progress. Polished up a script last night, and I've had three emails from pencillers responding to an web advert. No idea if any of them are serious (they haven't seen the script yet, either), but I shall keep you updated as soon as I make progress.

Cat Power concert tomorrow night. Apparently, these can be something of an event. Sometimes she's fairly normal and gives a great performance, but often she spends two hours shyly plucking her guitar and breaking down in front of the audience. Top-flight entertainment, our kid!

currently playing: Low - Way Behind

War! What Is It Good For?

Well, the CEOs of various oil companies, a President falling in popularity, and the New American Century group, naturally.

Sorry, a little cynical there.

currently playing: The Clash - Straight To Hell

Is The Ref Blind?

No matter what the sport, some things are universal.

I may have mentioned that one of my regrets about my time here is that I never managed to get to an American football match, or a basketball game. I didn't realise that the football season ended in December, and the basketball games normally sell out within five minutes of tickets going on sale.

On Monday night, I received the day's clump of mass-mailings from the university. One of them informed the university that the UNC basketball team had been invited to perform in the NIT on Tuesday night, and that tickets would go on sale Monday morning. Useful.

But I read the university newspaper on Tuesday morning, which sad that only 6000 tickets had been sold, and that students were almost guaranteed a ticket if they went to the Smith Center Box Office before 5pm. So I managed to get to a basketball game after all.

College sport is a big business in this country, and the UNC Tar Heel basketball team is historically one of the best in America (Michael Jordan made his name here, for instance). Recently, they've been going through a rough patch, although beating Duke two weeks ago made up for a lacklustre season. Or so I think; I know very little about basketball beyond the part where the players throw the ball around and try and get into the basket.

Anyway, after thirty minutes of brass band playing, chants, requests for the audience to respect the officials (ha!), and the inevitable national anthem, they finally start playing. For the first five minutes, DePaul runs rings around UNC, going 0-4 up. And then the ball goes out of play, and everybody stops.

The clock reads 15:21, and they've all stopped? The cheerleaders are back out on the court, and the band is playing. What's going on?

It seems that during a 20-minute half, play often stops for 'time-outs'. I'm not entirely sure whether these are TV-induced (the game was on ESPN), or part of the normal game, but they're rather annoying. You wouldn't expect everybody in a Man Utd v. Arsenal game to politely sit down after five minutes while the people back home are informed about Ford's newest car, would you? There would be riots.

By the ten-minute mark, UNC look halfway decent, taking the lead, and scoring an impressive number of three-point shots. But then they start literally dropping the ball, and by half-time, DePaul has 35 to UNC's 29.

There then follows more cheerleadering, a poor man trapped in a mascot suit, and a brass band playing DJ Otzi's Hey Baby. The horror.

The second half started with UNC drawing level within the first minute, and ended with the Tar Heels winning comfortably with a 83-72 final result.

So I got to see a basketball game. One thing that struck me was the friendlier atmosphere than you'd get at a football game; admittedly I haven't been to a match for a few years, but there was no constant hurling of abuse at the opposition that you normally get at these sort of events (the referees were fair game, but even then criticism was respectfully directed at his eyesight, rather than violent accusations of his parentage).

I'm off to go and pick up my comics. And this week's Angel? Funny. In a Superman III-type way...

currently playing: The Chemical Brothers - Setting Sun

And Your Raincoats 45s

I’m easily bought. Polyvinyl Records included a watermelon chew sweet with the CD they just sent me. Bless their little packing-pixies.

currently playing: PJ Harvey - Big Exit