Media Memory: I thought he was dead.

That was my first thought when I read the linked article a few days back; “I thought he was dead”. Which of course he isn’t, as far as I know. Unless Israeli medicine is so far advanced of modern medicine that operating on a dead man is anything other than a fantastic waste of time. It’s possible; if they can surgically destroy Palestinian civilians with Cobra gunships, while only denting the intended Hamas targets, who know what they can do.

This post only came about when reading a previous post about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I realised that the only news I have heard recently about the wake of Katrina is that the US have magnanimously decided to share the blame across all levels of government. Which is big of them. What I haven’t heard is what shape New Orleans is in, are its citizens still spread across the remaining Lower 471, did anyone get fired over it, are they bothering to do anything about it?

Who knows? Certainly people outside the US only get sporadic information, when a news station does a news special: “Katrina: One Month / Year On”. I’ll wager even most Americans don’t know; you tell me, does the local TV station2 tell you these things?

It’s scary to think that even today with 24-Hour news, we only find out what they tell us. Well, duh! OK, what I mean is that someone decides what is News. Some Editor somewhere looks at all the possible stories and decides what the News is and that’s what we get. Just another example of how the MSM (a blogger-specific term wot I just learned – MainStream Media) manipulates our world.

I get the feeling that the editorial decision to just cover breaking and recent stories may account for the existence, success and demise of things like Fathers4Justice. In order that someone’s plight is recognised, something newsworthy needs to happen to highlight their predicament, whether its pelting Tone with flour, or climbing up the side of the Queen, or poking the London Eye. Only big, public changes to a situation make the news.

But I’m also thinking, having written the above paragraph, that what I’m asking may be outside the remit of the News. If News is meant to cover “new” stories, then asking them to recover old stories would not be up to them. Maybe what we need is an accompanyment to the News. So after the Nine O’Clock News, we get the NineThirty Olds. Sir Trevor could be persuaded to present follow-ups to stories that aren’t new enough to make the news.

I think I may have stumbled upon the reason for programmes like Newsnight and….the other political discussion programmes that barely register on my TV radar. They serve as bookends for the News, highlighting the news of the future and picking over its remains once its anniversaries are due. Plus it gives Paxman somewhere to submit the ne’er-do-well du jour to his own brand of Righteous Justice.

So, remember that what you see on the News is not everything. What you saw on the News yesterday is still going on. The repercussions of the news a year ago are still being felt. Keep the Olds alive!

1 I doubt any of the evacuees were lucky enough to get sent to Hawaii, or unlucky enough to get sent to Alaska.
2 If only US TV and Radio station names were allowed in Scrabble. Imagine the points you could get with “WKXY” and a Triple Word Score!

Valentines Day, brought to you by Hallmark

I sold out, I admit it. I went to the LargeGenericFoodShop yesterday and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a piece of red card folded in two and an envelope. Ridiculous not because the card was big, only because it’s just a piece of card folded in two! And it only took five minutes to choose because 95% of the cards were stilted, stereotypical drivel and only half the remaining 5% were physically visible amid the reams of red roses and ridiculous ribbons.

We always bang on about people like Microsoft charging hundreds of your local currency units for software of debatable quality and have no qualms about paying anything up to ten of your local currency units on a card to give to your beau / significant other / spouse just because Hallmark thinks you should. OK, if the card it played “Unchained Melody” when opened, I can accept it costing 10 local currency units. However, I’d never buy one because I’d be too busy packing my bags to go live in self-inflicted solitude for even contemplating buying one.

Valentines Day has some history behind it, I’ll admit, but the history has been hijacked to make money. At least it has more of a basis than Mothers and Fathers Days, which are inventions entirely fabricated by the card companies to make you spend money.

What are traditional Valentines1 gifts meant to imply anyway? “Here’s some chocolates = You’re too skinny”. Or “Here’s a bunch of flowers which were killed by a slave in a field in the Third World, put on a plane burning fossil fuels at a ferocious rate, so that you can enjoy them for the next two hours before they melt into a wilted and possibly contagious puddle = Our love is doomed to die.”
“Here’s a card = I got this at the petrol station on the way home, got sneered at by the attendant for being a thoughtless, typical man and I wrote things in it five minutes ago while you were downstairs making my lunch”.

And why do we need themed days anyway? It seems like every day or so its Knicker Elastic Awareness Week, or Stop Beating Your Family to Death Month, or Groundhog Day. These are all things you should think about all the time, especially when it comes to Valentines Day. If the Valentinee is a spouse or girl/boyfriend, then every day should be Valentines Day. If expressions of love and affection were only bestowed annually, I guarantee there would be no-one on which to bestow your monster card and bunch of fragrant, yet decomposing, posies.

If the Valentinee is not someone with whom you are currently making the beast with two backs, then a Valentines card is unlikely to further your cause any because;
1. If you make it anonymous, then you’ve spent lots of money and gained nothing,
2. If you didn’t make it anonymous, then you’re a creep without the guts to speak to the Valentinee to their face. You’re a stalker who’s using Valentines as cover.

A Valentines card is not a certificate (“This card certifies that the bearer loves the Valentinee for the period of one calendar year”), or legal tender (“I promise to love the bearer on demand for one calendar year”). At best it says “Look, I bought a card, I followed convention, I did what was expected; now I’m going to the pub / the golf course / my girlfriends house”. It’s worthless, merely a physical projection of a feeling, albeit strewn with cartoon rabbits, flowers and dirty limericks, for which there are no metaphysical equivalents.

So, if you love someone, tell them every day. Don’t wait until Valentines Day to tell them. And don’t waste money on corporate crap. Let Hallmark’s pain be your joy.

PS I hope you bought one. It’s really not worth the hassle.

1 See, even I’m doing it. Using the term Valentines in the context of tradition. Sure, it dates back to the 1800s, but that’s hardly tradition, unless you come from a country that only sprang into being since.

My Blog Phase 3: Answers in a Can, Please.

I’ve been blogging for over 6 months now and have submitted many wrongs to the harsh light of Truth. The shine, however, is coming off. I don’t mean that I don’t enjoy it anymore, because I do, despite the feeling that I’m starting to pick at old wounds.

What worries me more is having gone through the thought processes and arriving at conclusions, I have now made up my mind, I’ve decided my position on things. So when I go into grown-up conversations, my answers are canned. I’m merely regurgitating things I have arrived at in isolation.

What this does is make me feel like how I perceive politicians to act; always dispensing well-worn lines in response to pointed, direct questions. Take Prime Ministers Questions. An opposition cabinet member is granted to the chance to lob a interrogative hand grendade at the PM, who removes the pin and throws it back with “I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago”. And that’s just bollocks. While the PM can reasonably say that he is merely avoiding repeating himself (and neatly removing the possibility of contradicting himself), the process is adding no value.

Just like any new skill, blogging, while incomprehensible to those who do not blog, takes time to learn. I started out merely regurgitating a few sorta funny things I’d had taking up valuable trivia space in my brain. I then moved into documenting my thought processes on the news du jour. Which is the Phase to which I feel I am coming to the end1. Sure, there have been small diversions into adding pictures and linking into other blogs and other posts. But what I’m really after is the “killer app” for Phase 3 of my blogging career.

What I need is to go forth into the blogsphere, make friends and influence people. However, this means finding blogs that are covering the same sort of stuff as me. A couple of such people have found me (w00t to Ash and Golgotha_Tramp!) but I need to innovate and seek new advances.

If anyone wants to suggest good blogs or techniques for finding them, I’m all eyes. I’m perfectly happy to stand on the shoulders of blogiants.

1 Not splitting infinitives(?) does make for wierd english sometimes, well, most times. As Winston Churchill famously stated “This is the sort of english up with which I will not put”.

The View from My Window 9/2/06

A bit of a departure for this blog. I have done “view from my window” posts before; see Getting The Brush Off Day 1 and Day 2.

From where I work (up a hill to the south of Glasgow), I have an unfettered view over the silvery Clyde and its environs to the snow-capped mountains of the majestic Highlands over 30 miles away..yada yada yada… No, it isn’t raining. Sunny actually, although I did have to wear my Antarctic immersion suit to walk into work this morning. The “Wearing the wrong clothes? Just wait five minutes” effect in full flow.

However, the focus of my attention today is somewhat closer at hand. They are going to build a new building next door to mine. To get access they are having to denude the vegitation which has taken root on the spare ground and cut down a few trees.

Yesterday, first thing, a BigGreenTractor arrived, complete with FoliageMuncher20001 strapped to the back. It then proceeded to reverse into all the foliage and munched it all up. For those of you who have yet to enjoy this experience, the FoliageMuncher2000 consists of big, spinny blades. As well as munching up all the baby trees (Awww!), it also managed to inflict quite heavy damage to my boss’ car. From thirty feet away. FM2000 obviously picked up a rock or piece of tree or squirrel and fired it into his bonnet. Dented it and the wing. Mucho expensivo.

Today, a BigYellowDigger has joined BigGreenTractor. It’s starting to look like an episode of Bob The Builder. No evidence of pink concrete yet, but all we need is SmallAnnoyingOrangeCementMixer, TimidBlueCrane and MischeviousButHarmlessScarecrow and we’ll be there. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m hoping that, in the process of digging holes, they’ll uncover “a series of small walls”. The words “a series of small walls” are doubtless ingrained in the nation’s psyche after having watched Tony Robinson’s Time Team serial unearthing of said walls in every part of the Kingdom. They get in their funcky GeoPhys(ics) guy who walks around the place with a high-filutin’ metal detector thingy from which they get a map with the merest suggestion of lines on it. From that, the graphical artist comes up with some fabrication of what it might have looked like in Roman Times. I’d love to get that job; Tony would come to me to see what I’d come up with and I’d present him with a full-colour rendition of Disneyland Florida.

It is both sad and impressive to witness the speed at which a “bloke in BigYellowDigger” followed by “bloke with a chainsaw” can denude a small stand of trees. At some level it is satisfying to see an ordered, uncluttered space appearing from the tangled undergrowth. As humans, we prefer order to chaos and the modern world is a result of our attempts to impose our will on the planet. However, being able to breathe aside, trees are just nice things to have around.

By some device or o’er, the BigYellowDigger has managed to get its jib hooked over a branch and is now swinging gaily like a lyrca-clad Orang Utan. Not really, but that would have been cool. In actual fact, the BlokeswithChainsaws, for there are two, cut the trees most of the way through and then BigYellowDigger comes along and pushes them over, much like elephants do. This seems unfair to me. I would rather BigYellowDigger did the deed without assistance from BlokeswithChainsaws. As well as being a non-macho colour, it can’t even push over a little tree on its own. Pussy.

To continue the “Bob The Builder” theme, two new characters have been introduced; Maimy and Loppy, the Chainsaw Twins, join the gang. Much hilarity and dismemberment ensues, although everything gets sewn back on and they have a big laugh at the end.

Another sad but funny thought just occurred; I bet there are unfortunate Native American children who are named BigYellowDigger and BlokeswithChainsaws, just because when they were born, their parents looked out and saw the construction site invading their reservation. I’m reminded of the joke in which a young brave asks his father how he got his name, to which his father replies “Why do you ask, Two Dogs Screwing?”.

Well, we’ve reached the end of the day. No-one cut anyone else’s bits off with chainsaws, or pushed them over with diggers. Fingers Crossed for tomorrow!

1 FoliageMuncher2000 is not a trademark. However, if I was in the business of foliage munchification, this is what I would call it.

Muhammed Mouse: Cartoons spark Jihad

“Four killed in cartoon protests”. If the reality wasn’t so bad, it’s a headline you might expect come April 1st. You can just imagine Sir Trevor, were he still reading the news, trying to inject some gravitas into reports of Wile E Coyote blowing up The Simpsons and throwing Porky Pig off a cliff. “Cartoons spark Religious War” is the improbable but accurate headline for what is going on.

They say that there is no such thing as a new idea; merely new combinations of old ideas. That’s what this post feels like; sticking together elements of previous posts. We’ve got a soupcon of religious intolerance, a smattering of ignorance and a big fat dollop of media fuckwittery. But that’s the world we live in. We lurch from one faux pas to the next, lifting our foot from one debacle only to put it down in a new one. We’d leave it in mid-air, if only the standing foot wasn’t squashing someone’s human rights.

There is no safe ground anymore. Society has become self-violating. “Free” is not the absolute it was perceived to be. The only place where you can exercise your freedom of speech is in your room with your pillow over your face. It’s like that Gary Larsson cartoon; “If a tree falls in a forest, and it hits a mime, does anyone care?”. Similarly, if you voice a contentious opinion, and no-one hears you, have you actually exercised Free Speech, or caused offense? Neither? Both?

Whether the publishing of a craven image was intentional or simply down to ignorance matters little at this stage. Republishing it after it has caused uproar and outrage is just stupid. It goes beyond stupid, but I lack the words to express just how stupid. Billy Connolly was right; there are times when only swear words can convey the complete and total nature of the point one is making. “It’s broken” leaves us in doubt as to how broken it is. “It’s fucked”, while crude, achieves clarity.

So, the medias choice to reprint material they knew would cause offense was fucking stupid. It’s like someone saying “It hurts when I do this”, to which we inevitably shout WELL STOP DOING IT, YOU IRRETRIEVABLE BERK! Jyllands-Posten can claim ignorance, or pretend it was done to provoke a response to an issue swept under the rug, but every other paper who ran the offending image have fallen into the Jodie Marsh trap. Do something that offends someone (desecrate a religous image, wear nothing but some belts in public) and watch the media fall over itself in a salivating frenzy for the right to print it, full-spread and in colour, so they can point and go “Look at this!”, like a prudish, middle-class housewife watching an entire episode of “Pornography: A Secret History” just so they can “tut” for an hour.

The ill deeds perpetrated by the First World in becoming the First World appear to be coming back to haunt us. Like a Catholic priest, whose multifarious progeny appear from the woodwork once word is out, our “right” to abuse those we believe to be beneath us is rightly being punished. The First World is fast becoming a tiny “majority”, with the remaining 5 billion the put-upon, vocal “minority”. Everytime we rollout a stereotype on TV, or patronise a non-First-World person on the News, our imperial war-mongering and post-war carve-ups are thrust, fizzing, in our face. All we can safely do is be apologetic and print stories about cats up trees and the state of public transport.

I’m not sure what it says about the major religions, but I’m convinced that if Al Jazeera were to run a series of animated cartoons with Jesus “doing” George Dubya, the western world would laugh its collective ass off, probably accompanied by whooping and shouts of “Go, Jesus! Go, Jesus!”. That doesn’t follow though; the depiction of God and Jesus is allowed, as long as it is tasteful and not profane. Chapel ceilings are a Vatican favourite. However, I don’t recall hearing about rioting in the American Midwest the week after I received by email a picture of a fibreglass Jesus, grinning, winking, thumbs up and pointing, which bore the legend “Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you’re a c**t!”.

I think this inter-racial war, real or imaginary, comes down to people behaving how they are treated. If you treat a kid like a kid, they’ll behave like a kid. Treat them with respect, like a grown-up, and they’ll reciprocate. Similarly, if you treat an entire racial group like they’re all potential suicide bombers, then chances are some of them will be, and some more will become them because they have been treated like one. I can see the thought process; “They assume I’m a suicide bomber, so I may as well strike a blow. I’ve nothing to lose.”

Nothing I say here, or in any other post, provides answers. I don’t know how to resolve these problems. The problem seems to be that we know what to do, it’s just that we don’t want to do it. It’s like “Don’t, under any circumstances, push The Big Red Button”.

Lost and Found, Soon to Be Extinct

What’s is the first thing you do when you find something valuable? Keep it a secret. What you don’t do is go global, tell the world, especially if you expect to go back next year and find it still there.

Scientists are a wierd lot, full of brains, but not much common sense. They’re a duplicitous bunch who evidently have no understanding of things outside the precepts of “laboratory conditions”. Which is why I’m bemoaning the announcement of a new Lost World somewhere in Malaysia. They’ve found lots of things we thought were extinct, along with some new things we never knew existed. Like when you move house; you move the furniture and discover Auntie Agnes (who arrived to visit in 1983 and who no-one could recall seeing leave) and some mould on the fast track to cognisence.

The problem with this, although it makes us feel marginally less guilty about global warming and human expansion, is that we’ve now told The Naughty Men where they are. It’s like a big sign pointing right at the rare and exotic treasures who are too naive to run away. And unlike “Golf Sale”, this is a sign of which someone might take note. Will take note. One imagines wealthy and insane billionaires the world over putting in orders for Long-Beaked Echidna posing pouches and Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo jumpers (sorry).

It’s like saying to a child; “Here is more chocolate than you can comfortably eat. I’m going to go over there and when I come back, I expect all this expensive, imported chocolate to still be here.” You know what’s going to happen. You can see it their eyes. You’ll come back to be confronted by a chocolate-coated, child-centred abomination, who when asked “Did you eat the chocolate?” will quite innocently reply “No”, the undertone being “And I’m quite hurt that you don’t trust me”.

If you want something this valuable scientifically to remain safe from poachers and the like, it would seem more sensible to wait until the whole lot has been documented and written down, before you leak the location. Even then, it would be wiser to lie about the location; at least be deliberately evasive. “So, you’ve discovered the extremely rare Long-Necked Spotted Tree Eater, thought to be extinct. And you’re sure it’s not just a giraffe? In Southern Canada, you say? When it has only ever been seen up one tree in Madagascar? By a myopic lemur with a penchant for cocaine and a flair for the dramatic? OK, you sold me, get me on the next plane to Winnipeg”.

I fear that the scientists will get back next year, armed with specialised Echidna detectors and Kangaroo jump leads (again, sorry), to find a three storey white stucco mansion populated with bronzed, aging millionaires sporting Golden-mantled toupees and drinking Krug from suspiciously Long-Beaked champagne flutes.

Women vs Men: The Worm that Turned

The power struggle between men and women is, and has been, ongoing and the women are currently on top (no sniggering at the back). Many feel that Men are being marginalised in favour of women, the only reason for which seems to be as some payback for years of “opression” and male rule.

The following excerpt from the linked article quite succinctly captures the moderm dynamic between Men and Women; “While the female takes care of swimming and eating, the male fish, with its enormous (relatively speaking) testes, is charged with the task of aiding reproduction”. The article also uses the term “Sexual parasite”; terminology which women probably quite readily apply to men.

The Two Ronnies‘ “The Worm That Turned” serial sketch depicted an England where Women were in charge, and men stayed at home. Since this was the Seventies, the women were depicted as goose-stepping dominatrixes and the men as stereotypical stay-at-homes, complete with hairnets, flower-pattern dresses, pastel overcoats and handbags. The men then form an underground movement, a resistance against female authority. Obviously decades ahead of its time, it is mirrored today by the rise of Men’s Movements around the world.

Obviously, the labels “Men” and “Women”, and our preconceptions associated with those terms, are a far cry from the qualities of the individual man or woman. Like Tommy Lee Jones says in Men in Black: “A person is smart. People are stupid, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it”.

But why do women feel that they are devalued? Why do they want to the same jobs as men? Who says men’s jobs are all brilliant? Do women want to work down sewers, or washing skyscraper windows, or scraping barnacles off the bottom of supertankers? I’m quite happy for them to do all these things, but why does it need to be at the expense of men?

The statement that women are powerless, or that they have no value in society, is utter rubbish. Who is the one person in your life who has done the most to shape you into the person you are today? Your mum, right? And everyone had one of those, right?
The last lines of William Ross Wallace’s (1819-1881) poem reads “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” No argument there. So, assuming that George Dubya had a mother (although we might assume he didn’t know his father), Barbara Bush is the most powerful person in the world.

What we have here is system lag. As with Inflation and Unemployment lagging Interest Rate changes, Women’s Rights overtaking those of Men is a result of a system attempting to reach parity. Unfortunately, the effects of the changes made take so long to appear, that the next change is made just as the effects of the first appear. Like a car travelling at 200mph, the system is responding to inputs received some time ago.

While Men may come from Mars and Women may be from Venus, it doesn’t stop us all being humans, supposedly each with the sames rights as the next person. Maybe we should all come back down to Earth, ignore the fact that it is broken, behave like adult human beings. And here’s me always banging on about idealists….still, I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right. So there.