Monday, August 30, 2004

Ann Coulter - Urgh

For a comprehensive and well researched treatment of the playing fast and lose with journalistic ethics perpetrated by Coulter see Al Franken's "Lies...". For just a wee tastie though - the poutingsorority girl/dominatrix proudly claims on her bio a profile in "the Guardian (UK)".

Well, knowing the Grauniad I couldn't believe it was a paean to the peroxide princess so I thought I'd take a look at this prodly boasted coverage:
"[You] stay transfixed, staring at the TV - your jaw slack with disbelief at her sheer gall. The sweeping extremism of her statements coupled with her consuming self-confidence"

"Since National Review is an unwavering organ of the American right, getting sacked from there for being too rightwing takes some doing. Coulter was too politically incorrect even for those who loathe political correctness. She is hardly repentant. (She slammed those who fired her as "just girly-boys".)"

" she flits from one rightwing prejudice to another, taking not so much as a gasp for oxygen"

"[H]er views tend towards the obnoxious and her journalistic methods towards the pretty appalling. It's not just the factual slips - she cites Bobby Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, as an early example of Islamic terrorism, even though he was a Christian - but her willingness to make the most sweeping, generalised statements on the flimsiest of evidence"

" Coulter makes the link that made even Tony Blair squirm with embarrassment, the fictitious connection between Saddam and al-Qaida. She goes further, describing the Muslim-persecuting, fiercely secular Ba'athists - those who made a capital crime of praying too zealously - as "Islamic totalitarians"."

Read the full article online - Jon Friedland seems to be able to keep his erection under control long enough to get to the point : Coulter is a hypocritical, uninformed bigot.

Oh - and to those who believe the americans don't do Irony: this woman who, on September 13 2001 wrote "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." (yep - that wacky Coulter again...) was a litigator for "the Center For Individual Rights in Washington, DC, a public interest law firm dedicated to the defense of individual rights with particular emphasis on freedom of speech, civil rights, and the free exercise of religion".


Thursday, August 26, 2004

Word of the day: Paranoia!

Nice bit of mental instability from Bernadette Malone of the Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. Hot much time for a commentary today (interview this mrning/early, afternoon rehearsal this evening. So I'll let Bernie speak for her addled little self...

"Prostitutes with AIDS plan to seduce Republican visitors, and discourage the use of condoms, according to liberal journalist Ted Rall" says the, lets charitably say, confused Malone (alright - lets get Al Franken on her and come right out - she's lying.)

In his column that veers between the tongue in cheek [1] and the outright (and rightly) vexed[2], Rall's column actually says "Rumor has it that prostitutes suffering from sexually transmitted diseases will discourage the use of condoms with Republican customers." Tongue in cheek or "Kidding on the square" [3], you decide, (and don't let the fact he's a Yank throw you off the scent. I know what you're thinking you condescending limey bastards!) So the disingenuous[4] Malone makes a throwaway comment about an alleged rumour sound like an outright death threat... Nice!

Still, the Republican National Congress is taking it seriously enough to point visitors to its website thataway ("...protesters supporting John Kerry...")

[1]"Like the hapless saps whose blood they sent to be spilled into Middle Eastern sands, they will be given intentionally incorrect directions to nonexistent places. Objects will be thrown in their direction. Children will call them obscene names.
They will not be greeted as liberators."

[2]"But White House strategist Karl Rove sees the continued exploitation of 9/11 for partisan political gain as Bush's key to victory in November. That means bringing the big bash three miles north of the hole where the Twin Towers used to stand, where most of the victims of 9/11 were burned, suffocated, impaled and pulverized. "

[3] See Al, it's working...[5]

[4]Slippery bitch

[5]See Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars who tell them for the origin of this wonderful coinage!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

More social science...

Whilst looking into information on relevance for my PhD I came upon another social science gem. Not swearing this time. Nor on the practice of drinking in pubs.

Eric Miller's paper for the U-Penn course "Ways of Speaking" provides interesting reading today. Whilst conversation in percieved as a turn by turn game, (the word coming from the Latin to "turn towards") in reality, it's much more of a fluid affair. The dangers of misunderstanding cultural differences in communication style can lead to conflict:

"Deborah Tannen has shown that there is much overlapping and simultaneous talk among certain Jewish groups; Roger Abrahams has shown the same among certain African and African-American groups. Indeed, in some of these cultures, individuals perceive the failure to overlap as lack of interest, or dullness."

Demanding undivided attention, when one is not being invited to do so, can also lead to problems:

"[T]he speaker may be the consumer, not the producer, of the valued commodity... To take up time speaking in a small group is to exercise power over the other members for at least the duration of the time taken, regardless of the content....[O]ne conversational participant may attempt to monopolize resources. Participants who feel slighted may react by withdrawing, resisting, and/or rebelling, for example, by being ironic. Violations of reciprocity are sources of dissatisfaction within groups, and are a major cause of group disintegration."

There you have it... Hope I haven't monopolised your time too much - overlapping comments welcome!

Monday, August 23, 2004

No, I will not fix your computer....

The problem, any CSer/IT bod will tell you is being roped into fixing people's computers. I've had this happen on so many occasions (including a Dr Elizabeth Corday of the motherboard, St Jude of the PC, raising of Lasarus of the desktop, miracle at 4am, new year's day 2001) , that I decided to get me one of these.

I have however decided to make this my manual. That'll learn 'em. I shall also be Kevorkianing the PC of the next person who says I can't be a geek because I lack a "y" chromosome... you know who you are: Be warned!

Thursday, August 19, 2004


Oh heavens. Ben Folds Five, Aimee Mann, how I love their mellifluous tones and lyrical prowess. So why this? Why now?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

"It has come to my attention that your use of similes is like a blind man searching for a park bench after a few too many shandies,"

So says Damien Ashworth about the fabulous Rob Smyth's live cricket commentary on Guardian Unlimited. Mr Ashworth may have a point. Smyth's gems include...

"Sarwan, like an overworked auctioneer, gives it some hammer ... "

"Anderson turns Joseph round like the Fresh Prince..."

"Freddie Flintoff continues to pummel the surface like an unhinged young gentleman taking his frustrations out on a nearby brick wall"

".James Anderson ... tempts Joseph outside off stump like Mrs Doyle dangling a whisky bottle to get Father Jack into his wheelchair"

Top chap - one to read even if you're not a Cricket fan

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Fuck yeah!

Don't you love the social sciences?

Expletives as solidarity signals in FTAs on the factory floor, [DHNS04], provides an analysis of the use of "the strong expletive fuck". And indeed "The analysis focuses on the complex socio-pragmatic functions of fuck and its role as an indicator of membership in a specific community of practice."

See, I've always worried about my excessive use of the anglo-saxon, but reassuringly the authours tell us that "Our analysis suggests that, in certain contexts, forms of fuck may serve to express positive politeness or solidarity"

Yeah, and Dick Cheney is the politest man in the senate!

[DHNS04] Nicola Daly, Janet Holmes, Jonathan Newton, Maria Stubbe, Expletives as solidarity signals in FTAs on the factory floor, Journal of Pragmatics Vol 36, pp 945–964, Elsevier B.V.2004

Can You Name The 53 States?

As seen on the Smoking Gun (thank heavens for the US FIA - can we have one here please?)

Apparently private schools in the US aren't necessarily any better than comprehensive schools over here. The "California Alternative High School" provided, until its recent closure, a 10 week, self taught course with accompanying workbook for only $1450. Said workbook contains the following gems:

- WWII took place between 1938-1942
- a section on "matemathics" (sic)
- a reference to noted philosopher "Aristotale"
- the question "What does H "o" 2 stand for in science?"
- the question "Is the earth flat or round?" (at least they got the right answer to this one...)
- "Why we scream when we argue with someone?" (Why I scream when I read this "textbook")
- and the slightly bizarre table:

"1960 - Drugs babies
1970 - Swallowing goldfish/streaking
1980 - Babies having babies
1990 - Crack babies"

I had no idea that swallowing goldfish was ever such a pressing social issue! I guess it's the bad influence of The Regurgitator

Saturday, August 07, 2004

License to print money...

I know the Bush administration has been a licence to print money for some (Ken Lay, the shareholders of Halliburton, the makers of SUVs...) but the Bush 200 clam note?

In September 2003, enterprising Michael Harris was arrested for trying to pass a phony, (not yet) "dead president". The 200 dollar bill, with (recto) fetching portrait of 'dubya' and (verso) a landscape of 1600 Pennsylvania ave, decorated with placards approbating (inter alia) ice-cream, broccoli and tax cuts.

Better still, on 6/9/2003 an identical bill was used and accepted at a convenience store at Roanoke Rapids. Fair is fair though, the canny counterfeiter strolled off with a $50 bill featuring another southern drunk, Ulysses S. Grant, as his change.

Image from TSG.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Grins banned from passport pics

If you look like your passport photograph, you're not happy enough to travel!

In the latest repugnant diktat by the UKPS, smiling on passport photos is banned. As are glasses, squinting, and "long fringes".

Presumably the biometric scanners can't cope with lipstick, eye liner or blusher either!

'course they could be shooting themselves in the feet:
Facial ID as plain as the smile on your face The Register, 29th Mar 2004

Prof Sidney Morgenbesser

You know that feeling: when you open the cinema guide for the week and see that there's a Marx Brother's retrospective on.... but then you realise that Duck Soup was on last night? I felt like that today while reading this obituary.

I wish I'd known - or at least known of - Prof Morgenbesser. Professor of philosophy, teacher and wit. Once asked to prove a questioner’s existence, Morgenbesser retorted, “Who’s asking?”.

I wish I'd been at the lecture where Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin explained that, while many languages use the double negative to denote a positive, no languages use a double positive to denote a negative. Morgenbeser: "Yeah, yeah".

His ready wit sometimes got him into trouble it seems. Once while lighting up his pipe on the way out of a subway station, he was stopped by a police officer. Morgenbesser protested to the cop that the rules covered smoking in the station, not outside. The cop protested, “If I let you do it, I'd have to let everyone do it,” Morgenbesser replied, “Who do you think you are — Kant?” The officer took offence, and Morgenbesser's colleagues managed to have him released only by giving a tutorial on the Categorical Imperative down at the precinct.

Sidney Morgenbesser 1921-2004

Columbia Obit

Miles Kington's "Where are they now?" A special survey was also strangely cheery in a death related way:

"Paul Foot has arrived safely in heaven where he is scandalised by the employment conditions of the angels...Judas Iscariot...was set up for the role of a fall guy before his suspicious death in custody"

Random Happiness

A bandstand full of French chaps in boiler suits. French chaps in boiler suits playing music that defies definition. Playing with an energy that shakes an irreverent fist at the searing August evening's heat.

A bandstand that moves. Playing pied piper with besuited, uptight, Waterloo commuters and casual, curious tourists alike. A bandstand that explodes as something not quite klezmer, not quite jazz, not quite ska and not quite french folk is unleashed.

A bandstand that hurls thousands of red petals and rainbow streamers in the air against the flat, concrete planes of the National Theatre. Red petals and rainbow streamers that hover for minutes in the freak updraft warm air from hot pavements, turning against a turquoise sky.

A random, surreal, serendipitous moment on the way home after a hard day.

Exploding bandstands. From the Zic Zazou website  Posted by Hello

Thursday, August 05, 2004

My life - Piled Higher and Deeper

Well, the money runs out in November, the ideas ran out last week and my enthusiasm has been MIA for months. I must be nearly finished?

Ah yes, the PhD process. One more crack about it being "worth it in the end" and I think I'll be forced to hit someone. Still, it's not as bad as when this happens.

I have felt like this so often that I think i deserve this

Still, at least I still have a chance of finishing before Martin - so when my birthday rolls around (the big 30) there's a change I can console myself like this