Thursday, November 30, 2006

[antikythera mechanism] was it the first calculator

Is this the discredited von Daniken all over again? Was there an amazingly sophisticated body of knowledge in ancient times which was then somehow lost? [Including the secret of king making?]

An ancient astronomical calculator made at the end of the 2nd century B.C. was amazingly accurate and more complex than any instrument for the next 1,000 years, scientists said Wednesday. The
Antikythera Mechanism is the earliest known device to contain an intricate set of gear wheels. It was retrieved in 1901 from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera but until now what it was used for has been a mystery.

Although the remains are fragmented in 82 brass pieces, scientists from Britain, Greece and the United States have reconstructed a model of it using high-resolution X-ray tomography. They believe their findings could force a rethink of the technological potential of the ancient Greeks. "It could be described as the first known calculator," said Mike Edmunds, a professor of astrophysics at Cardiff University in Wales.

The calculator could add, multiply, divide and subtract. It was also able to align the number of lunar months with years and display where the sun and the moon were in the zodiac. Francois Charette, of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, said the findings, reported in the journal Nature, provide a wealth of data for future research.

Edmunds described the instrument as unique, saying there is nothing like it in the history of astronomy. "What was not quite so apparent before was quite how beautifully designed this was," he said. "That beauty of design in this mechanical thing forces you to say 'Well gosh, if they can do that, what else could they do?'"

[currency] dollar falls to 14 year low v pound

Forbes reports that the U.S. dollar fell Thursday to its lowest level against the British pound in 14 years and lost value against the euro and Japanese yen.

The dollar's decline came on mixed economic news from Washington and positive developments in Germany, Europe's largest economy. The pound rose as high as $1.9575 from its level of $1.9462 late Wednesday in New York, marking its strongest showing against the dollar since September 1992, before Britain crashed out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

The euro rose to $1.3200 in afternoon European trading, up from $1.3156 late Wednesday. The euro has risen from below the $1.30 mark over the past week amid expectations that the European Central Bank will continue to raise interest rates, while the U.S. Federal Reserve holds, or eventually cuts, rates. The dollar fell to 116.12 Japanese yen from 116.31 yen.

[ayer’s rock] always a dangerous climb

An Irish tourist and his 13-year-old daughter were flown off Uluru by helicopter after they became stranded on the landmark rock under a burning desert sun. The 38-year-old tourist's young son yesterday thanked those who helped his family, including a ranger injured during the rescue.

Soaring temperatures forced rangers to close the climb on Uluru about 8am on Wednesday, when the Irish family, who live in London, were already about 100m up the rock. The Irishman, who had taken off his plastic sandals to walk on the rock, was suffering extreme blistering and dehydration while his daughter was having difficulty breathing.

About 200,000 visitors climb the rock each year, ignoring aboriginals who ask them not to. For safety the Uluru climb is also closed when there are strong winds, when it is raining or the climb is slippery and when lightning, storms or other potentially dangerous conditions are imminent.

There’s also a warning: Do not attempt to climb Uluru if you suffer from:

# Heart Condition
# Breathing Difficulties
# Fear of Heights

All of this is very true. Firstly, you can’t get any conception of how vast the rock is from photos. Basically, one climbs up one rock face with the aid of a rope ladder but it’s best in the early morning before the sun comes up. Once it comes up, it’s like that moment in Mummy 2 – it scoots across the land and hits the rock full blast. The other great danger was the rogue wind gust which just bodily picks you up and tries to sweep you over the curved edge.

Then you’re in trouble, with temperatures at the surface around the mid 40s and you’re advised to drink a litre an hour. I didn’t when we visited – I took two pints, not two litres and so I made it up and then, halfway down again my legs buckled under me and I had to go the rest of the way hand over hand on the rail and then baby crawled across to our car, where water and rest restored the balance.

[russia-chechnya] that little matter some were waiting on

I had three longish discussions today about Chechnya, Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, the former PM and radiation but mainly about Chechnya. It’s oh so complicated, essentially because various parties have ancient feuds with other parties, who have feuds with yet others. Here’s how I understood what was said to me today by Muslim and non-Muslim Russian alike.

Chechnya – the history behind the conflict really starts with intense resentment of the Russians who prevented the caliphate from Persia to Kazakhstan centuries ago. In other words, Chechnya was the stalling point and the Russians prevented further incursion. Vienna was another stalling point in Europe proper. The population in the mountainous Chechyan region remained predominantly Muslim and therein lay the problem.

With disaffected Checnyans forever sniping at Russia and resenting the lost opportunity, the USSR just moved the whole population to Kazakhstan and Siberia in the 40s to prevent them aiding the Germans but they were allowed back by Kruschev later. This did not help Russia but gave the Chechnyans a base and an identity. When the USSR fell, the Chechnyans saw the chance for independence as a nation and unilaterally declared this. Unfortunately, the area became both gangsterland and the breeding ground for more terrorism.

Two brutal wars followed and the Russians acted with the type of brutality which Cromwell showed in Ireland and that which followed the ’45 in Scotland, whilst the Chechnyans went in for both ethnic cleansing [mass murder] through these sort of people:
Akhmed Zakayev, Dzhokhar Dudaev and Shamil Basayev and attacks on neighbours e.g. Dagestan, which in turn led the Russians to see them as terrorists, not freedom fighters.

One lady today said the problem was one of totally unreasonable forces on both sides killing and maiming each other whilst the general populace wanted to just live their lives. But the others I spoke to today didn’t agree. Deep down, this whole thing is about simple antipathy. The two sides absolutely detest one another – almost an ancient blood feud. Hence the atrocities and the frenzy with which one attacks the other.

Who’s right?

If you support a non-Muslim west and the stonewalling of sharia law, then you’ll support the Russians. If you prefer to see sharia law across Europe and Britain, then you’ll support the Chechyans. From all the comment in the UK blogosphere, it seems most Britons want the sharia law.

When Politkovskaya butted in, she was initially even-handedly scathing about both sides and not a lot was done about her. But as she showed she was clearly aligned with Chechyan independence, which means dismantling the Russian bulwark against militant Islam and allowing it to spread once again across Europe, she and the warlords had to find sanctuary somewhere.

Enter Britain, who happily threw open its doors to them, aided and abetted by the FCO and BBC. The Russians concluded from this that Londonistan was just another haven for terrorism and fugitives from justice, e.g. Berezovsky - and their little club was a natural gravitating point for the likes of Litvinenko and anyone else getting the rough end of the stick in Russia.

Now comes the bone of contention. Even if Politkovskaya was a traitor to her country [which one side says and the other hotly denies], almost no one I spoke to today would favour the systematic bumping off of various parties. The Kremlin denies it, the Brits pretty well think the FSB is behind this and my friend this morning simply said: ‘It’s stupidity to speculate when we simply don’t know, on current evidence. Let British justice take its course and see where it goes.’

And that’s where I leave the topic for now until something new comes up.

[rude health] french, italian wines still the best

As it was featured in the Times, you know doubt saw it:

They might be losing out to the New World competition on taste tests, but traditional red wines from the vineyards of France and Italy are the best there are for protecting your health. The artery-clogging effects of a fatty Christmas dinner can best be counteracted by washing it down with a red from south west France or Sardinia, new research has suggested.

British scientists have discovered that red wines from the two regions boast the highest concentrations of a chemical that underlies the drink’s well-publicised benefits for cardiovascular health. Wines from Nuoro province in Sardinia, and the Gers departement in the foothills of the Pyrenees, are particularly rich, containing up to 10 times more of the beneficial compounds than alternatives from Australia, South Africa and the United States.

So there it is. I'm off to the wine shop to check it out.

[briefly] two pieces of non-news news

I’ll be accused of being a ‘glamourist’ by running Nicolas Sarkozy’s pic and not Peter Jackson’s but truly – I felt the latter was too much to inflict on the reader on a Thursday morning. Some may see it the other way round.

Two disparate pieces of news, not unsubstantial and yet not warranting more than a few lines. Plus you’ve no doubt already heard:

1] Peter Jackson will now direct The Hobbit movie, according to a producer whose company will soon own rights to the book.

2] Confirming the worst-kept secret in France, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, le Ministre d'Etat, ministre de l'Intérieur et de l'Aménagement du Territoire, has announced he is running for president next spring and will quit the government if his ruling centre-right backs his candidacy.

Perhaps neither were real surprises although I had thought Jackson might not.

[russian health problems] press finds another case

I’m not trying to minimize in any way this western journalistic beat-up – it could well be so. First this:

Another mysterious illness has struck another prominent Russian. Former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar became ill Friday at a conference in Ireland, vomiting and then losing consciousness for three hours, according to his spokesman. Doctors have not identified the cause of the illness and are considering the possibility that Gaidar, 50, might have been poisoned, his spokesman said. Gaidar became ill shortly after eating breakfast.

And then the inevitable Livinenko tie-in:

Former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko died Thursday in London after being exposed to a radioactive substance. That death, which has set off wide speculation about who is responsible, remains under investigation by British police.

What is on safer ground is this:

Gaidar was one of the architects of the post-Soviet transition to a market economy. He was later reviled by many Russians who blamed him for their impoverishment as favored tycoons enriched themselves from the privatization of state assets.

So, one of the boys actually. You know, it’s a rummy thing but you noticed an increase in the number of my posts last week? No? Well, I was off sick actually – stomach problems. Yikes!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

[calling lady bloggers] new cervical cancer vaccine

Eva Green, mother and sister

Now people, I feel distinctly uncomfortable running this and I don’t think it’s what I should be concerning myself with. And yet it seems to be quite important to at least get the attention of some of our lady bloggers, not least because of the moral issues for mothers with daughters.

A new vaccine is available to help protect young girls and women from cervical cancer. But local doctors say some parents think it is just too soon for their daughters to be getting the vaccine. "It's incredible, it's an awesome breakthrough for women," said Barbara Horwitz. Her daughter is eleven. And so on …

That’s it. Will one of the ladies please pick up on this and run it ’cause I’m outta here.

[country quiz 3] how many of these do you know?

1]…Suva is the capital of which country in Oceania?
2]…Avianca is the national airline of which South American country?
3]…Which airport has the code DFW?
4]…The Vinson Massif is the highest mountain in which continent?
5]…n which group of British Islands would you find the port of Sullom Voe?
6]…What are Chafarinas, Alhucemas and Vélez de la Gomera?
7]…In which Asian city would you find the Potala Palace?
8]…Which is the longest river in France?
9]…How is Portuguese West Africa now known?
10]..A black letter 'A' in a white oval on the back of a car denotes it is from which country?

Answers at the end of this link...

[gavin ayling proved right] wii really is better

Gavin Ayling’s dilemma: PlayStation 3 vs Wii. Even people utterly uninterested in videogames know by now that two new game machines have arrived this month to lure holiday shopping dollars out of consumers' wallets. One is the long-anticipated PlayStation 3 from the videogame leader, Sony Corp. The other is the more obscure Wii, from the videogame pioneer, Nintendo Co. Both are going up against the year-old Xbox 360 from Microsoft Corp.

Like the Xbox, the PS3 and the Wii bear little resemblance to the toylike game consoles of the 1980s and 1990s. They are powerful computers that have been optimized for graphics and sound. And, like the Xbox, the two new contenders can handle multimedia and can connect to the Internet.

The PlayStation 3 is a bulky, shiny black box that costs $600, or $500 for a somewhat stripped-down model. That's up to $200 more than the Xbox 360, and about what you'd spend on a basic Windows computer. The PS3 includes a hard disk, a networking port, Wi-Fi wireless networking, and playback of DVDs and CDs. It produces high-definition video. In fact, the PS3 can also play a next-generation, high-definition movie disk, called Blu-ray.

The Wii is a small, thin white box that costs just $250 and has much wimpier specs than the Sony. It does have Wi-Fi, but it lacks a hard disk, a networking port, and the ability to play DVDs or CDs, let alone Blu-ray disks. It cannot produce high-definition video. It has fewer ports and connectors.

Yet, in our tests, we found the more modest Wii to be the more exciting, fun and satisfying of the two new game machines. This is a longish article and you can read on here

[global warming] fact or myth – does the epa care

1] The Stern Report was set upon by many bloggers and dismantled but did they dismantle the report or the phenomenon of climate change as well? Is anyone saying there’s no climate change?

How much of this do you dispute? Greenhouse gases are generated naturally and by human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels. Once in the atmosphere, they trap the sun's heat and radiate it back to Earth. Motor vehicles emit four major greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons.

Whose side are you on here? California is part of a coalition of 12 states and environmental groups imploring the Supreme Court to tell the Bush administration that its Environmental Protection Agency has the authority and responsibility to regulate greenhouse gases emitted by new cars. The EPA has balked for years, saying the Clean Air Act does not allow it to step in.

The EPA's approach has frustrated environmentalists and the majority of climate scientists, who say rising levels of greenhouse gases are the driving force behind global warming. The Bush administration contends that it does not have the power to regulate greenhouse gases, and that even if it did, it would not exercise it. The government says carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are not “air pollutants” as the Clean Air Act defines them.

To oversimplify, Arnie says there’s global warming and that the cause and the course are clear. Dubya says there’s not and that they are not.

2] Or there is an alternative explanation. What about this and this being the real causes?

[state medical] some questions about the russian health system

On the topic of the state medical I underwent yesterday, Gavin Ayling asked…What is the point of these compulsory medicals? How does the Russian health service compare to the UK and is it free at the point of use? Ellee also asked…And what happens if you don't go for your appointment?

Both good questions. To answer, having a current medical record is what’s compulsory, not actually yesterday’s fun ’n games. Yesterday just brought all specialists together in one place, away from the houses of sickness and for that reason, on reflection, it was probably the best option of three. If I hadn't gone on the last available day yesterday, I'd have had two other choices:

1] waiting in lines, at different clinics, for each and every specialist over a period of weeks;

2] to have paid about 30% of western prices at a 'platnaya klinika', pay clinic. I glanced at a US site to get a photo for the post and they were advertising the same battery of tests for $1050. With the new affluence in this republic since 2001, many are now doing this sort of thing.

The question of compulsory health checks is one we could argue about – people’s freedoms etc. Some might say it is just window-dressing. Me – I suppose it’s necessary, otherwise I’d never go and have it done and it is nice to know my glucose is 4.6, that my eyes are minus something and that my blood pressure is 123 over 78.

Health insurance is still in it's infancy but it's coming. Many people say that though the new technologies are used at the pay places, they can still give shoddy service. It’s a case of Russia trying to lift itself by its bootstraps and taking two steps forward, one step back. But they are moving forward overall. For how long is anyone’s guess.

[worst movie ever] 4th nomination - starship troopers

Imdb: Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Writing credits (WGA), Robert A. Heinlein (book), Edward Neumeier (screenplay) Plot Outline: Humans of a fascistic, militaristic future do battle with giant alien bugs in a fight for survival.

All right, we get the idea. Now, not long ago, dirty dingus wrote…Starship Troopers should be there for its wilful abuse of the novel. It’s another of those movies that cause you to stop watching before the end. In this case it also makes you feel like shooting the dire-ector.

Author: Freemheart from Chile gives her literate take on the movie: The acting it's good, the soundtrack it's one of the best works of Basil Poleoduris. After this you can read the book of Robert Heinlein founding how far goes Paul Verhoeven in every scene and every character creating. This is a little worrying – praise from Chile. Let’s look at the cast: Casper Van Dien playing Johnny Rico, Dina Meyer playing Dizzy Flores and Denise Richards playing Carmen Ibanez.

Stop! Stop! Denise Richards, another ‘actress’ who runs the full gamut of emotions from A to B. Denise Richards, of TWINE – you know – the one with the tummy tatts and the heaving bust, whose acting won her the coveted Movie Site: Worst Supporting Actress of 1999, in The World is Not Enough.

All right, it’s on the list, dirty dingus.

[bond] a verdict from one who viewed it

Johnathan Pearce believes Mr Fleming would be very impressed. Here I reprint the bulk of his comprehensive verdict, for those who haven’t already read it:

Last night, I went along to see the latest
007 movie … there had been so much media noise and excitement leading up to the film, starring Daniel Craig as Bond, that I just had to go and see it.

I am very glad that I did so. I am one of those folk who actually prefers the original Ian Fleming books to the films, and I have a consequent dislike of the nonsense of the Roger Moore films, and the excesses of gadgetry and sheer silliness that the film-makers imposed on the stories after the first two or three of the Sean Connery movies, which are my favourites. So the fact that the new film deliberately sought to be more hard-edged, less dependent on gimmickry and cheesiness, was a good development.

Daniel Craig has been a controversial choice for Bond. The Bond of the novels is a slim, dark-haired old Etonian, of Swiss-French and Scottish ancestry - with a hard streak, a weakness for beautiful women in distress and a belief in living life to the full. Craig does well to convey the hard side of Bond, but he tries a bit too hard, sometimes.

He comes across as a sort of over-muscled army squaddie, who struts about the set rather than adopt the sort of feline grace of Fleming's character. But there is no doubting that Craig - who says he loves the Fleming novels - has taken up the challenge of portraying Bond as not just some suave dude who can kill and seduce the girls, but who can also take risks and get hurt in the service of his cause - his country.

And that is the unspoken message of this film, and very un-PC it is. Bond is a patriot (not much sign that he wants to work for the UN). He kills without the need to consult a post-traumatic stress disorder clinic, and is more likely to drink a large glass of bourbon instead. He gets cut, he gets beaten up, and he falls in love and learns the dangers of emotional involvement with ravishing brunettes (not that there is anything wrong with ravishing brunettes, ahem).

I thought the scene in the casino was the highlight, and even though the game was poker rather than baccarat - as in the story - the tension is built up nicely. The setting is nice, the actors who support Bond are pretty good, and the actress who plays Vesper is lovely - I can see why any red-blooded man can fall for her. The torture scene, taken from the original book, is pretty nasty, although the scene in the book is far nastier (it gave Raymond Chandler nightmares, apparently).

Some of the stunt/action scenes do not seem to add a great deal to the plot - such as the amazing scene at Miami airport - but they are incredibly well-done. For sheer excitement, the opening half-hour of the film cannot be beaten.

What is clear is that the film-makers, seeing how the Bond movies were mocked by the Austin Powers series of Mike Myers, have decided that our Jim is not going to put up with being a joke any more. Daniel Craig deserves a large, well-made vodka martini - made the right way, obviously - for playing 007 so well, and with such obvious conviction and relish.
Good review of the movie here. The original Fleming novel is definitely worth a read. Meanwhile, Jim Henley has thoughts. One final gripe: will the moviemakers ever get the casting right of Felix Leiter, Bonds' CIA buddy? In the books, he is a fair-headed Texan, ex-Marine Corps with a wonderfully sardonic sense of humour. Update: here is my review of Simon Winder's recent diverting if also irritating book about the James Bond phenomenon and post-war British history.

[obama] time to play or time to hold

The Chicago Tribune says: Granite State Democrats asked Obama to be the star attraction at a party event to celebrate sweeping victories in the state in the November election. The senator also recently has discussed a potential campaign with leading Democratic activists in Iowa, which holds the influential caucus that kicks off the presidential primary campaign in early 2008.

Among those he has spoken with are the former Iowa campaign managers for 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry and 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore, an Obama campaign adviser said. The recent release of his second memoir, "The Audacity of Hope," and a publicity tour in promotion of the book has bolstered his already high visibility just as he is contemplating a presidential run.

This blog does not claim any expertise in American politics but still, it seems premature. The Russians use the words ‘nye tak’, literally meaning ‘not so’ and there’s something a bit that way about the man. The answers a bit glib, the philosophy a bit pat and generalized - the passion is what carries him along, giving all the appearance of aptitude and authority.

First there’s his obvious charisma. One Iowa campaign worker said: You felt it. It was not just his speech. It was the way the crowd surged around him ... You couldn't move if he was in the area. I don’t trust that sort of charisma one inch. That’s early Blair charisma.

Then there was Cheney, who despite his faults is still an astute campaigner: He said in late October that he thought
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton could win the White House in 2008 and that a potential Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, was too inexperienced. That could all have been spin and yet …

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

[blogfocus tuesday] lad, lass, lad, lass, lad ...

The correct choice of beer before entering the cricket ground is critical. A fan ponders.

The beginning of this Blogfocus could have been called focus-on-food but the actual theme is 50-50, with one lad, one lass, one lad and so on. I don’t know so many female bloggers but we made eight and drew lots for the eight males. A little note – all links are in yellow but all other colours are highlighting only. Anyway, without further ado, here it is and hope you enjoy it:

The cricket is first up - Four and a Half Days at the Gabbatoir - The Sequel, by Colin Campbell and what I want to know is what a Scot’s doing following cricket [or is that my ignorance]? Not that I’m complaining or anything like … not any way:

The hype has been dissipated and normality has been restored. Andrew Miller dissects the Execution in the Gabbatoir … At least the beer is cold, the weather warm and sunny and although the Barmy Army Trumpeter has been banned in Adelaide, [he’s] welcome in Melbourne and Sydney. Life goes on.

Welshcakes limoncello issues us all un invito a pranzo - an unexpected invitation to lunch with Marco and Giovanna today.

Here are trays of Giovanna's wonderful breads [in the photograph]. It doesn’t end there – the page is full of dainty morsels from Sicily, so if you’re a cosmopolitan gourmet, this is for you.

7 more lads and 7 more lasses here ...

[worst movie ever] 3rd nomination – arthur’s dyke

Arthur's Dyke (2001)
Directed by
Gerry Poulson, Writing credits Robb Stringle Cast: Pauline Quirke … Janet, Robert Daws … Arthur; Richard Graham … Andy

Gracchi said … Not sure if this made it to the cinema but otherwise it surely would make the list. I ended up watching it whilst on holiday in Wales with a couple of mates and it was unintentionally funny because it was so bad. Its called Arthur's Dyke. Unfortunately I don't think it qualifies because I suspect it was never released cinematically.

James answers: That doesn’t necessarily disqualify it. It only had to be seriously intended for cinematic release.

Plot Outline: Twenty years ago, three men set out on the longest walk of their lives. They vowed to repeat the walk, but this time they are joined by a forty year old wife and mother who is in the midst of a mid-life crisis.

Looking, good, Tiberius Gracchus. Another review:

Shamefully assembled Author:
( from London, England

In spite of a humorous and interesting summary, Arthur's Dyke failed to sustain either humour or interest for any length of time. There are moments of well-observed comedy, but it looks and feels like an extended Sunday night drama - although overly long and disappointingly shallow. The film attempts to incorporate too much (neglect, terminal illness, ignorance, regret, homophobia etc) and is tarnished by a pointless cameo from Dennis Waterman. The story is potentially good, but let down in execution because insufficient time and depth is afforded to the key areas of the plot, and the cluttering of other (crassly inserted) issues. Having said that, it is well shot and occasionally witty, and Quirke's performance is solid. The viewer will, however, gain more from an average episode of 'Down to Earth'.

Think it’s qualified itself. One more from the SMH:

Arthur's Dyke plays out like an extended episode of Monarch of the Glen. At best, it's free promotion for the Welsh Tourism Board. Mostly, it's like walking all day through the driving rain, mud and marshes of the British countryside without a nice B&B to roll up to.

And if you need that in Dutch:

Drie vrienden besluiten na twintig jaar bij wijze van reünie nog één keer de oude wandelroute langs Offa's Dyke in Noord-Engeland te lopen. Huisvrouw Janet heeft hetzelfde idee gekregen en de vier ontmoeten elkaar onderweg, evenals allerlei andere soorten wandelaars.

So, Arthur’s Dyke has qualified as the 3rd nomination and thanks to Gracchi. The other two nominations so far are here and here. The 4th will be tomorrow morning, from dirty dingus.

[wren cross update] vapidity, interpretation, commentary

Remember the William and Mary business where the cross was taken from the altar of the chapel and locked in a cupboard so that it did not offend other faiths?

The Director, Gene Nichols, who did the act:

It is precisely because the Wren Chapel touches the best in us—the brightened lamp, the extended hand, the opened door, the call of character, the charge of faith, the test of courage—that it is essential it belong to everyone. It defines us. And it must define us all. I make no pretense that all will agree with these sentiments.


He’s going to keep it locked away.

Commentary by Beach girl:

The removal of the Wren Cross is like a rape, a violation. The Wren Chapel without its Wren Cross is an empty place, devoid of the solemn majesty that guarantees all of us freedom of religion. It is a sad day when Christians have to plead, to ask permission from a secular authority that the Wren Cross be taken out from under lock and key so that it may be placed upon the altar in the Wren Chapel.

Was there anyone so dispossessed as a uni student? Their opinions apparently mean nothing, compared to a smiling, besuited man in a mahogany office.

[likability] how whitehouse contenders rank

Trouble with journalistic articles on polls is that they never give you just the stats – it has to be woven into some magic piece of prose to justify their paycheck. Here are all the stats I could glean from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Hamden, Connecticut Likability Poll in the US, taken after the elections and then hacked about by the Washington Post:

1] New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, 64.2
2] Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, 58.8
3] McCain, 57.7
4] Condoleezza Rice, 56.1
5] former Democratic President Bill Clinton, 55.8
6] Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, 52.7
7] New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, 51.1
8] former Democratic Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, 49.9
9] Hillary Clinton, 49
10] New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, 47.7
11] Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, 47
12] Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, 45.9
13] unlisted by article
14] former Vice President Al Gore, 44.9
15] Bush 43.8
16] Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, 43.3
17] former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, 42
18] outgoing Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist, 41.5.
19] unlisted by article
20] Kerry, 39.6

So, the Lizard Queen isn’t all that high, really. Wonder what would happen if Condi ran?

[turkey and the eu] cyprus the stumbling block

On the eve of the Pope's visit to Turkey, where Europe's fraught relations with its predominantly Muslim neighbour have been highlighted by widespread protests, the EU abandoned any hope of reaching a deal on Cyprus. The breakdown sets the scene for three weeks of intense diplomacy as the EU decides how severely Turkey should be punished for refusing to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot shipping.

When will they wake up? There are certain things which will never happen. One of them is Britain escaping the EU clutch, another is Turkey compromising over their occupation of northern Cyprus. Another is Wimbledon Vinnying another FA Cup. CAP is another. And US trade subsidies is yet another. They’ll have lovely lunches together and trips to the Bahamas to sort it all out but, of course, they never will. Entrenched national interest is, in the end, paramount.

[state medical] still alive after they set the octopus on me

Who was the lady who muttered: "Men are wimps?"

Just got back from my first compulsory Russian state medical and count myself very, very lucky – just a bit of blood here and there, nothing worse.

They told me there were hundreds yesterday but today there were only five ahead in the line. Miss Gestapo in her jackboots and white cap snapped, “Follow me,” and I was mortified until the hard faced women on the desk behind began to laugh and berate her for being “slishkom gromko”, too loud.

Relief was short-lived because as I was being led away for execution, the women started shouting at me. I looked around at them, bewildered and they gesticulated at my winter boots. Ah, they wanted me to take them off. “Nyet, nyet,” they cried, jabbing fingers at a pile of plastic galoshes which go over the boots.

So, to cut a long story short, all seems fine but I - do – not – not - like probes and needles and when they started attaching giant octopus suckers to all parts of the body, the wires leading to a battery, I had to draw the line. “Electro-shock, da?” I asked which was the wrong thing to ask ’cause the girl was controlling the dial and she had a wicked smile on her face.

S’pose I have an irrational fear of clinical, sterile rooms, gurneys and electrical equipment and try to give hospitals and any other remotely medical facility a wide berth. Always felt that’s where I’d end up once the 4th player finally got to me. Either there or in a Grand Temple with the Ascended Brothers. So, still alive and reporting with just a touch of rhinitis and bronchitis. Could be worse. Could be much, much worse.

By the way, we have minus 15 today and beautiful sunshine. What about you?

Monday, November 27, 2006

[they got me] bureacracy and the workplace

Well, work finally caught up plus the bureaucracy. Tomorrow I must stand around a large building in the centre of the city for about four hours during morning blogging time, along with about 2000 others, for a battery of state medical tests - blood sample, fluorograph etc., then off to work, so unless I squeeze one post in early tomorrow morning during the glass of water breakfast, it will be tomorrow afternoon before the next one. And on Blogfocus day too. Wish me luck and hope they don't come up with something nasty I've contracted.

[cia recruitment test] do you have the personality for us

Of course you want to join the CIA – who doesn’t? First a question: Which words are etched into the wall of the original building's main lobby? Check the end of the post. ….. Well, how’d you do? All right, you may now proceed:

At the CIA, the challenges of today’s fast-paced global changes present opportunities for exceptional careers. Our intelligence mission is the work of the nation — and our success depends on a network of professionals around the world.

Myth 1 - You’ll Never See Your Family and Friends Again.

The work we do may be secret, but that doesn’t mean your life will be. Because the variety of CIA careers is similar to that of any major corporation. So… your friends and family will still be part of your life.

Myth 2 - Everyone Drives a Sports Car with Machine Guns in the Tailpipes.

Car chases through the alleyways of a foreign city are common on TV, but they’re not what a CIA career is about. And, they don’t compare with the reality of being part of worldwide intelligence operations supporting a global mission.

Myth 3 - You Have to be Superhuman in Every Way.

You don’t have to know karate or look good in a tuxedo to work at the CIA. But you must possess a deep intellect, the ability to make good decisions and a dedication to serving America through the collection of intelligence.

Myth 4 - A Glamorous Lifestyle Awaits You.

Working at the CIA doesn’t mean you’ll be jet-setting around the globe, attending parties with billionaires and showing off your Tango skills. In reality, we depend on administrative managers and staff for our operational success, at home and abroad.

Myth 5 - Hardly Anyone Ever Makes it Through the Background Check.

Because of our national security role, CIA applicants must meet specific qualifications — but, don’t worry. Getting caught smoking in high school isn’t enough to disqualify you. Your intellect, skills, experience and desire to serve the nation are most important to us.

"And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." John VIII-XXXII

[anna politkovskaya] curiouser and curiouser

Well, it gets more and more convoluted. First a western defence of Russia I wasn't expecting:

The Western reaction to Politkovskaya’s murder is quite another matter. The fact that the Kremlin is prone to shoot itself in the foot is not enough ground to portray it as an embodiment of all evil or worse, to accuse the Russian authorities as somehow being behind the killing. The people in the Kremlin are no angels and can be clumsy in their public gestures, but they are not cold-blooded murderers and they certainly are not idiots. The political and media frenzy that has engulfed the Western capitals is disgusting, and glaringly anti-Russian. It gives the impression that the West is not mourning Anna Politkovskaya but is instead trying to put Putin on trial.

Then my most rational source with military connections got back to me and a forty minute phone discussion ensued just now.

Out of it came a surprising defence of AP. Yes she was in with the warlords, yes she reported essentially the Russian misdeeds and a token number of Chechyen misdeeds to balance the books, yes she actually met Litvinenko in London to discuss strategy, yes the latter was on speaking terms with the other two, yes she was a woman driven by a sort of 'mission from above' as she saw it and it p---ed off a great many people, yes she met the terrorist leaders and was escorted around by them. And Putin's view that she was vastly more important to the west than inside the country [though of course she has her support] seems borne out by most people seeing her as "one piece in the jigsaw".

Out of all this comes the question: "And why not?" She was a reporter and that's what reporters do. Of course Basaev and company were accommodating, as she was taking a heavily anti-Putin and pro-Chechnyen line which she admits in her book "Dirty War". Of course Russian officers ran the other way when they saw her. I have a question no one's yet answered. "Why was she allowed to remain in the war zone reporting thus?" If she was subject to poisonings, beatings and so on, this is not the Russian way. Russians are not half-hearted if they turn against you with piddly little semi-poisonings and the like. The Russian way is to disappear you or send you to the gulag.

It suggests to me that either she was not nearly as great an adversary as the West likes to make out or else someone was making these clumsy attempts for publicity. Even the average Britisher will admit the KGB were at least efficient. So that's another twist. Out of it all, I look back at my previous posts and stand by them. Through Moscow and military eyes she was certainly a traitor, failing to adequately present the Chechyen leadership as a breeding ground for terrorism which all sources I've seen agree on. Through Western eyes she was a fearless heroine. I can't see that we can get much further now, really I don't.

and here are two more articles on her, both critical and supportive. Naturally you'll dwell on the part you wish to.

[anna politkovskaya] where lies the truth

I’ve been asked a perfectly reasonable thing: “Show why your negative assessment of Anna Politkovskaya and on what basis you're convinced that all was not straightforward with her.” It comes down to sources in the end:

1] politkovskaya’s own words
2] journalistic reportage on her
3] feelings of the ordinary person over here
4] statements by the Kremlin
5] certain sources close to the action

Source 2 currently floods the internet and the vast majority is derived from a small number of journalistic sources and/or based on AP’s words. 1 and 2 are the basis of most of your opinions.

My sources were 3 to 5. For a start then, we have the problem of agreed sources. I don’t mind saying that after reading a swathe of material today from sources 1 and 2, I began to have serious doubts. Then I went to work and thee asked all and sundry, which brought up this result:

3] The ordinary person’s opinion is not so reliable. Many today weren’t even fully aware of the major players, let alone who was who. I’ve cited the ‘ordinary Russian’ in earlier posts but it’s fairly clear now that they are in the same boat as most of you and don’t really know.

4] The Kremlin itself. Well, they're unequivocal – she was a known cohort of Basaev and was a spy. She was acting in the best interests of the terrorist warlords. Right, so not much for'rader.

Clearly, the only thing to do now was to go back to my own two contacts who’ve been reliable in the past and double check. This was for my own benefit really, to be sure myself before I even thought of posting anything. So I prepared a question:

“There are a number of people in the West who have been challenged my assertion that Anna Politkovskaya was not the innocent she appeared to be and I need to support what I've written. I’m not asking for details at this point but can you tell me – is there anything at all in the story of her collaboration with Basayev and others?”

Then I put in the phone calls. The first was silent at the other end, then wanted to know about how I’d use this and after I’d explained, he answered the question: “Konyeshno”, which is Russian for “of course”. So, I phoned the second, couldn’t immediately reach him but eventually did. He hobnobs with many who were and still are on the ground in Chechnya and he was less forthcoming. All I could get was that he’d meet me on Thursday morning to “talk about the woman”.

So we have an impasse, at least until Thursday. Now, even if my sources do enough to convince me, how much I’ll be permitted to put on record [remember the Chatham House situation] is anyone’s guess. Personally, the "Konyeshno" was too quick and categorical to allow me to graciously bow out and it seems that there is very much something in the assertion. But till Thursday, unfortunately, it must wait.

[woodpecker] not a bird which plays the haarp

Recently I ran
a post on the strange humming sound which appeared to be in and around Auckland, New Zealand and how they were having trouble identifying it. UK Daily Pundit, though, had the answer: It's the woodpecker grid.

What he was referring to, of course, was this: It has been established that the former Soviet Union (fSU) developed and boasted of weather modification technology during the 1960's and 70's with deployment against the United States coming in 1976 with the audible arrival of the woodpecker grid. They have called it the Geophysical Weapon. These weather operations continue to this day. But is the fSU the ONLY superpower that have developed this technology? The short answer is no, but they were the first.

The writer was quite right – they were not the only superpower to indulge in a bit of weather modification. One other power, whom I won’t name, also did this, in these programs:

# Project Argus (1958)

# Project Starfish (1962)

# SPS: Solar Power Satellite Project (1968)

# Saturn V Rocket (1975)

# SPS Military Implications (1978)

# Orbit Maneuvering System (1981)

# Innovative Shuttle Experiments (1985)

# Mighty Oaks (1986)

# ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency). Aug. 11, 1987

# Desert Storm (1991) EMP used

# High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, HAARP (1993)

# Poker Flat Rocket Launch (1968 to Present)

So that’s where the matter was left until I received the following message from New Zealand, which shows that the hum is not only in and around Auckland, as first thought, but more widespread. The bona fides of the writer seem to add weight to this.

Please read his comment here

[house of scandal] l'affaire de l'appartement gaymard

You’ve no doubt already seen the article by Gene Weingarten here, concerning the tete-a-tete between the French Agriculture Minister and himself. Well, by chance I stumbled on a tawdry scandal attached to the former and thought it best to publish it, you know. My little contribution to gutter journalism.

Now, before you take a quick glance, see that it’s written in French and look away mumbling and grumbling, stop a moment. You did four years of French at school , didn’t you? Anyway, written French is far easier than spoken and words like ‘l'affaire’, ‘58 894 euros’, ‘remboursement’ and ‘accepte son chèque’ are good indicators of a juicy tale. And it’s only one paragraph [well – two actually]. So read on, Francophiles :

Un article de Wikipédia, l'encyclopédie libre.

L'affaire de l'appartement Gaymard concerne le ministre de l'économie français Hervé Gaymard et de sa femme Clara, depuis l'annonce par le Canard enchaîné le 15 février 2005, que le couple était logé, avec ses huit enfants, dans un luxueux duplex de 600 m² payé 14 400 euros par mois par l'État. Elle aboutira à la démission de Hervé Gaymard de son poste de Ministre de l'Économie, des Finances et de l'Industrie le 25 février 2005.

En septembre 2005, il a reversé à l'État français une somme de 58 894 euros en remboursement des frais engagés pour cet appartement comprenant notamment les deux mois de loyers payés (14 400 euros mensuels), le montant des travaux effectués (31 800 euros) et les frais d'aménagement. Le
19 septembre 2005, le quotidien Libération a pris acte de ce remboursement en signalant qu'"hormis sa promesse, rien ne l'obligeait à rembourser. La location avait été avalisée par le directeur de cabinet de Jean-Pierre Raffarin et, du point de vue du droit, on peut même se demander à quel titre le Trésor public accepte son chèque" .

[happy monandæg] day of the moon

Despite disagreements, despite the workload we have on our hands this week, despite the previous posts so far, on which one kind soul commented: 'Bit heavy for Monday morning isn't it?', despite any negative vibes, it's going to be a wonderful day and a good lunch. Go to it rightly and may scallops rock yer tadger.

[britain] flat rate tax and cbi

I’m buying into an issue here which others with more claim to expertise have already dealt with. As your average Joe Bloggs, I asked a question on one site: how could a CBI be afforded and flat rate tax also? I suppose I was looking at our own 13% flat rate tax over here.

Here are some summaries of the issue for the benefit of those rare souls, such as me, who may not yet be au fait with the whole biz:

Radical UK Financial Reform. DK . Freebornjohn. Mr E. S&M reported over a year ago. Citizen's Basic Income. Tim Worstall.

Well, someone has costed it and a powerful lot of work it is. The bottom line is a 20% flat tax. Now I’d like to see how this and DK’s proposals can be combined. Stay tuned.

[litvinenko] the vexed issue of whom your sources are

I greatly appreciate comments of any hue on this issue because through thrashing it out, it might be possible to arrive at the truth and by so doing, we might have done a good turn.

Gracchi said: I heard a Radio 4 Start the Week in April where Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch argued that the Russians had effectively, through their brutality, turned a nationalist into an Islamist movement.

Notsaussure said: Isn't this conflating two separate questions? Whatever one thinks about Russia vs Chechnya, one can still hold views on the propriety of bumping off people who hold the wrong views, and particularly on the propriety of bumping them off in London … I tend to ask who benefits most and who has the opportunity; there's one well-known chap who clearly had the opportunity and whose name springs immediately to mind.

You can read their full comments in the comments section of the last post.

I replied: No doubt at all the Russians were more than heavy handed. The Russians aren't noted for their delicacy. Who was more heavy handed here – the oranges or the greens in Ireland? The Boers or the British? The Canaanites or the Israelis? A better question – who was in the right? These issues go too far back to draw a conclusion about that. And it’s hardly bumping someone off for ‘wrong views’ as you’ll see further down.

What is at issue here is that the British backed the wrong horse in Chechnya, a terrorist training ground. Sympathies were naturally directed towards the Chechnyans because of anti-soviet sentiment, because the FCO and BBC are very pro-arab, as are elements of the Royal Family and therefore the only story coming out was of Russian barbarity and Chechnyen innocence and national self-determination. The only media which was telling the other side was in the Russian language which Brits don’t read. But it was equally well documented and attributed and no – it was not state controlled – this was still in the heady days of almost complete press freedom 1991 - 2001.

I read two articles yesterday very pro Anna P which showed she was admitted to the company of the warlords, treated as a friend and given safe passage and yet the articles constantly referred to her as a fighter for justice, brave woman and so on. The Russians say she was consorting with known mass-murderers but worse – abetting them. You say, ‘What rubbish’ but on what do you base this ‘what rubbish’? I even provided links in the last post which show beyond doubt that Alex V’s and Anna P’s friends were criminals and in two cases, known committers of atrocities. Here and here are two of them.

In Alex V’s case, there is now evidence he’d even gone over to the Muslims and the source was radio Echo Moskva. Predictably, the western press immediately assassinated this radio station by saying it was Gasprom funded. This is gross injustice to a fine station and which my very libertarian Russian friends listen to avidly as the voice of freedom. The presenters’ tone is always critical and the articles in no way support the Putin line. That’s why EM is listened to. Why is it not shut down then?

Yes, exactly. Why is it not shut down then? And why does Putin hold citizen conferences where unvetted questions are asked online? Certainly not for foreign publicity because the west doesn’t know of them. And why does every Ministry have a ‘priyomni’ time where the Minister is in attendance to answer citizen’s questions and I’ve seen him doing it? And why is Putin popular?

The thing is, the British blogger is playing with a stacked deck which has been kindly provided by the MSM, which is controlled. And equally the Russian is playing with the same. And neither appear to want to hear both sides of the issue even when they can get hold of it. Of course I may be wrong in this.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

[accident prone] or just plain unlucky

Are you accident prone? Are you unlucky?

Britain's unluckiest man has suffered his 17th accident, falling down a manhole. John Lyne's misfortunes have included lightning strikes, a rock fall, near drowning and car crashes. Mr Lyne, 54, of Stainforth, will be out of action for eight months after his latest mishap.

Maybe you’re the type who’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe you just have bad luck. For example, you book a table at the local pub for 16 people from your office for lunch but when you get there, they have you in the V.I.P. room and are expecting the cash to flow whereas all you were hoping for was for them to put some tables together for a few drinks and nibbles.

BBC Health has an explanation but would that explanation cover this? And of course, everyone remembers Final Destination.

[worst movie ever] 2nd nomination – tom and viv

Appearances can be deceptive

Tim Almond submits a second nomination and it is indeed a worthy contender: Tom and Viv, about TS Eliot and Vivienne Haigh-Wood. It appears to have all the necessary qualities.

First, imdb: In 1915, T.S. (Tom) Eliot and Vivienne Haigh-Wood elope, but her longstanding gynecological and emotional problems disrupt their planned honeymoon...

Tim adds: So, when I saw it on a friend's video rack, I asked if I could borrow it. "Take it" he said, "It's terrible. I never finished it". Thing is, nor could I. The whole film is just location after location with Miranda Richardson's character being completely mad and creating a scene, whilst T.S.Eliot stands there looking embarrassed, with lots of irritating characters hanging around looking on.

The Washington Post called it: a stolidly literate new film ...

So, it goes onto the list and the plan is to wait until we have, say, 20 nominations, then run a reader-poll to see which is the worst. Agreed?

[litvinenko] just which side is the west supporting

We needn’t make too much of today’s headline: Suicide possibility of ex-KGB agent probed. This blog always thought it a possibility although, to be honest, it wasn't where my money was:

British detectives investigating the death of an ex-KGB spy probed the possibility he killed himself to discredit Russian President Vladimir Putin, police said. Increasing concerns over the reliability of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko's death-bed testimony have prompted police to check every detail of his version of events Nov. 1, the day he said he was poisoned, The Independent reported Sunday.

Look - the leap to blame Putin was premature, the leap to heartfelt emotional support for ‘Alexander’ may well have been misplaced, the leap to wild assertion by many commenters on how ‘the Russians’ would see him as a traitor but ‘we know better’ was predictable and now we have the conversion to Islam and ties with Chechnya reported by the anti-Putin Echo Moskva. The word suicide very much springs to mind in this context.

The man was not a Solzhenitsyn or a Sakharov, with international standing and one thing which must be stressed is that neither of these treated with the enemy. For that reason, Anna Politkovskaya, who made friends with Russia’s enemies, has to be treated with caution, no matter how much her 'fearless reporter' appearance appeals to journalists. People like Vladimir Rezun also present themselves as whistleblowers but questions arise when delving into their backgrounds.

A trawl of the majority of rightist blogs reveals a strong stance against Muslim extremism and the term 'Defending the West ' is often used. Yet the moment Russia is mentioned, all reason deserts many of these bloggers and they side with the very Muslim extremists they've been attacking - in this case the Chechnyans, responsible for Beslan among other atrocities. Putin is doing precisely what these blogs are calling for - cracking down on extremism and being vilified by the bloggers for doing what they ask for.

Nothing is straightforward in Russia and it is best if the British and Americans step back one pace on this issue and take a ‘wait and see’ stance, as UK Daily Pundit has. Links here and here if it's of interest.

[blogfocus saturday] back to the roots

Well hung blogger and his big gun

[Note before we start: all links are in yellow; red, blue and brown will take you nowhere, sorry.]

From the title, you’ll see that this Blogfocus goes back to my blog-beginnings and in a sort of Genesis of the Daleks manner, I’d like to present, this evening, eleven of the original bloggers who gave support to an arrogantly naïve blogger newbie who took some time getting set up and settled down.

While I can’t claim [with one possible exception] deep personal friendships with the individuals here presented, I do claim and I think it is apparent in the writing, that each holds a special place in my blogworld [Oliver Kamm would cringe at this word]. Like you, I can easily forget slights and insults – they’re just the collateral of good debate – but a good deed and kind word is never forgotten.

1] The Pedant-General-in-Ordinary has an alter-ego who can be found at the Select Society but this sort of thing:
We’re doomed and only the EU can save us… is a dead giveaway. Bit of a pointer, one would think.

I was thinking of a doing a “blimmin’ EU” post, but had not raised sufficient bile to do it justice. DK, however, lists us today - not entirely incorrectly - as being broadly anti-EU, so perhaps we should devote some time to the topic.Bring your pitchforks: It’s time to lynch the manufacturers of Mercury Barometers! I mean - look at it: if ever there were an instrument more finely calibrated as a vicious killing machine, I’m struggling to find a better example. I can see the stout jaw of Mr Free Market going all wobbly at the sight of it. Oh, OK, I’m still being facetious, but only just. Listen to this Today Programme interview: The key quote from Philip Collins (MD of restoration company in Devon that deals with Mercury Barometers):

It’s incorrect information that’s bandied around. 30 tons of mercury end up in the atmosphere every year. 0.1% of which is the TOTAL amount used in barometers each year. Average lifetime of a mercury barometer? Well, let’s just say that there is a decent antique market. So we have 0.1% of the total emissions being used in the manufacture and, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that each barometer lasts 100 years - these are expensive items which are handled carefully then hung on a wall where they are then not touched - so the mercury barometer trade could be contributing as much as 0.001% of emissions.

Seriously, this is the level of intellectual rigour applied in favour of a directive which will most likely shut down a craft industry for approaching zero benefit. The governments wanted to ban it immediately, but MEPs have put down an amendment to give a two year phase out to give the companies more time to adjust.

I still have two small issues: 1] Why does action have to been taken at the EU level? Why cannot our government act? 2] If the EU is so concerned about exposure to mercury - so concerned indeed that it must shut down a trade that will have to all intents and purposes exactly zero effect on the risks of exposure to mercury - why does it then INSIST that mercury be injected directly into the bloodstream of small children? Answers on a postcard, preferably addressed to Ms McAvan.

Another 10 bloggers here

[assault on samizdata girl] trash of a different kind

Jackie Danicki, of Samizdata, was assaulted and had the sense to snap the young thug while riding on the Piccadilly line, I believe. She wrote:

Don’t be fooled into thinking that, just because you’re minding your own business, some punk isn’t going to decide you need messing with. Sadly, scumbags like this have no problem with launching unprovoked attacks on women.

This was then taken up by Perry de Havilland, then by Clive Davis and probably now by the blogosphere. So, not content with being a low life, the worthy young gentleman has been very, very unlucky indeed.

Clive raised another issue - should a blogger publish a picture in this manner? My own opinion on this issue is in this post.

[worst movie ever] 1st nomination – manos

Accepting nominations now for the worst movie of all time but there must be one or two rules:

1] it must have been made for cinematic release, not as a garage movie;
2] they can’t have set out to make a bad movie. This last criterion would seem to put out Attack of the Killer Tomatoes which was intended as trash but ended up being quite a cult flick;
3] you must include a blurb and link;
4] pic would help

Manos – Hands of Fate; Also Known As: The Lodge of Sins; Runtime: 74 min; Country: USA; Unrated; Language: English; Color: Color (Eastmancolor); Publisher: Rhino/Best Brains Inc; Directed by: Hal Warren; Cast: Joel Hodgson, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu; Wiki saying it was made for $19 000, as the result of a bet; Review below by Adam Weishaupt [itself an in-joke]:

A husband and wife, with child, take a drive through the countryside. They drive for at least 15 minutes of screen time, till they become lost and pull aside at a small rundown farm. There they meet Torgo, who happens to be the servant of The Master, the worshipper of Manos, an evil deity. They spend the night, but the master awakes, along with his harem of bitchy wives. Nothing happens for what seems like hours, till the master orders Torgo to kidnap the travelling couple.

Torgo disagrees, since he is in love with the woman. The Master makes his hand spontaneously combust in a very (un)convincing special effect. The couple with child then attempt to escape. Later, we cut to two women travelling through the countryside. They become lost and pull aside at The Master's residence, to discover the husband acting as the new Torgo, and the wife and child made a part of the master’s harem.

Nothing can compare to how much this film sucks. It simply is THE worst movie ever. I have never sat through a more unbearable 79 minutes (and that was the MST3K version). Do not see this movie, whatever you do. This is one of those rare films that should be destroyed.

Powerful support, putting Manos at the top of the list of one so far.

[china and britain] green fuels the new fashion

Earlier this month, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China's largest oil producer, signed an agreement with the Sichuan provincial government to develop bio-fuel in the southwestern basin famous for its agricultural industry and natural gas reserves. They plan to produce 600,000 tons of automotive-grade ethanol made from sweet potatoes each year and 100,000 tons bio-diesel made from the seeds of jatropha curcas tree.

Soaring oil prices have encouraged world players in the energy industry, including BP, Exxon Mobile and Shell, to attach more attention to developing oil alternatives and other new energies. Sinopec is participating in a coal chemical project in Erdos, in Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region aiming for an annual production capacity of 4.2 million tons of methanol and 3 million tons of Dimethyl-ether (DME) when put into production in 2010.

At a State Council meeting on Monday, Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan said the government would raise the proportion of alternative energies in the total energy consumption and oil alternatives would receive priority. Projects for liquefied coal, bio-diesel, ethanol, solar energy, wind power, and hydropower would be encouraged, he said. [Source: Xinhua]

Well, that’s a good start, this blog thinks, perhaps naively. Any good news is better than none, after all.

[festive spirit] biffo and the spirit of goodwill

Is this behaviour clinically sane?

Please see this earlier post, in which I explain why I agree with Stephen Pollard and detest this winter holiday season. Now there is support for this curmudgeonly stance, from Utah.

For decades, the day after Thanksgiving has been called simply Black Friday, because it is the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, when retailers supposedly move into the black, or start turning a profit. Shortly after midnight yesterday, an estimated 15,000 shoppers pushed and shoved their way into the Fashion Place mall in Murray, Utah. Police soon joined them, responding to reports of nine skirmishes.

Once inside, shoppers ransacked stores, overturning piles of clothes as they looked for bargains. A retailer’s dream — too many customers! — quickly turned into a nightmare, forcing store clerks to shut their doors, and only let people in after others left. The mall even briefly closed its outside doors to avoid a fire hazard.

Many merchants angered shoppers by trumpeting huge discounts — like $70 portable DVD players and $600 flat-screen televisions — only to announce they were sold out moments after they opened. The fact that so many people were sleep-deprived probably didn’t help. A dozen malls, from Utah to Maine, opened at midnight. And
Wal-Mart, Best Buy and J. C. Penney began ringing up sales at 5 a.m. (A 6 a.m. opening at Target seemed so 2005.)

In Lewis Center,
Ohio, near Columbus, Cindy Milsap, 43, and her daughter, Ashley, 20, woke up before dawn to drive to the nearby Wal-Mart Supercenter, which advertised a 52-inch high-definition television for $474. “We don’t really need a new TV, Ms. Milsap said. “But at that price? C’mon.”

And choice is so much better this year.
May I ask a question here? Is this sane? Is this what the season of goodwill is all about? Some may think fighting off masses of frenzied consumers is the way to go. To you, happy shopping - the central purpose in life.