Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Things I Never Realised as a Child

When you're a kid, you just seem to take things as presented to you, without much in the way of judgement. Now, I really don't want to turn into a Daily Mail reader, constantly banging on about how things were better in my day, and that the world is being Elmo-fied from childhood up, but seriously... How can you not when you read stories like this?
"Nothing in the children's entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then - as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 - a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but . . . well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole."
"So many too choose from. The crows are very specifically depicted as poor and uneducated. They're constantly smoking; they wear pimptastic hats; and they're experts on all things "fly," so it's really a team effort contributing to the general minstrel-show feel to the whole number. You could pretty much pause this video at any second and use it as evidence in your hate-crime lawsuit against Disney."
"In Who Wants A Dragon? - published by Orchard Books last year - Ms Gardiner says: "I was told, 'You can't have the dragon breathing fire because it goes against health and safety.'

"It doesn't really make any sense."

Deep breaths, CTB, deep breaths. Let me leave you, instead, with a moment of clarity from Doctor Phil.
Awareness without action is worthless.
Exactly, Herr Doktor. Exactly.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Free Speech, Religion, and a Headline I Thought I'd Never See

One thing that constantly surprises me about the US is the addiction to religion. Growing up in Britain makes you the equivalent of agnostic in the US, even if you do believe in a higher power, and I often find myself outraged by the constant evangelizing and proselytizing all around me. In the morning, on TV, there will be as many channels running Christian programming as there will be running news and weather reports. The news itself is filled with stories of religious outrage or indignation about some minor event or another. In some areas of the country, one of the first questions when you meet a new person is "which church do you belong to?". When you grow up in a country where the stock answer to this question is "The Church of Pub", it takes a little getting used to.
Two stories in the news recently (this post got lost in the mail before I could post it) have highlighted the quandary I have between proselytizing and freedom of speech. In Indiana, a mother is complaining that a school board's introduction of a school uniform has infringed her daughter's right to wear t-shirts with a Christian message to school. In Colorado, a girl who inserted an unapproved message encouraging students to convert to Christianity in her commencement speech is suing her school board for threatening to withhold her diploma until she apologized to the entire school. I'm happy for these people for whom religion really means everything, but in a country that is supposedly 80% Christian, what do you have to prove? And who are you proving it to? Taking the first article here as an example, the school board has set a uniform for all the students to wear. It's a polo shirt and khakis. Really simple. You can buy 20 variations of that uniform from Old Navy for about $100. But she wants to wear a t-shirt. Okay.
"The school is basically saying I can't wear a shirt that talks about Jesus or Christ or God or any religious type of T-shirt because we have to wear a polo," Brittany said.
No. The school is basically saying you can't wear a t-shirt AT ALL. Suck it Brittany, you spoiled little cow. Wear your martyr-shirt after school, for Chrissakes, like EVERY OTHER KID HAS TO. Brandon can't wear his Slipknot t-shirt, LaDamon can't wear his $80 Sean John t-shirt and little Madison can't wear her Hello Kitty t-shirt, either, so suck it up and move on. Sure, it would be better if there was no uniform, that you could wear what you want. My high school didn't have a uniform. Lots of others around where I grew up did. You know what, the kids that go to those schools wear it, because they have to. They don't want to, but they do. In fact, it's such a normal thing, that it hardly ever even gets discussed. They're not banning Christmas, they're not out to stop you from spreading the word of the lord, they're not darksiders. Just go to school, show up to class and STFU, already, okay?
Ahem. Anyway. Yeah. Weird country, the US, filled with individuals with a massive sense of unbridled entitlement. But thene again, you probably already knew that, right?
Finally, the headline I never thought I'd see. Coogan Could Sue Courtney. I mean, seriously. Who the hell would connect the dots between Owen "The Butterscotch Stallion" Wilson, Kurt Cobain's widow and Alan bloody Partridge?

$250,000 won't get you to Central Park West? Personally I use a $2 metrocard and the C train.

This really appeared on the Women Seeking Men section of the Craigslist Personals in New York. The ad is a classic case of someone who has spent far too much time watching Sex and the City, and wants the Manolo Blahnicks without having to work for them. The response that follows, luckily, has restored my faith in humanity once more.

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy. I'm not from New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at   least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around  200 - 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won't get  me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married  to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as  I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I  get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms

- What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't hurt my feelings

- Is there an age range I should be targeting (I'm 25)?

- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I've seen really 'plain jane' boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I've seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What's the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

Please hold your insults - I'm putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm being up front about it. I wouldn't be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn't able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 432279810

 Dear Pers-431649184:
I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament. Firstly, I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your
bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a  crappy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring
my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't
be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty
hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case
you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to
believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way. Classic "pump and dump." I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know. 

Monday, October 01, 2007

Special driver's licenses to be issued to sex offenders


Tallahassee, Florida - There's a new law to help protect your kids against sex offenders.

School safety is top priority for many parents. Some schools already have security systems like the "Raptor" which can do quick visitor background checks to identify sex offenders.

But there's a new and faster way authorities hope to keep your little ones safe.

"Starting August 1st, anyone with a Florida driver's license or identification card will have a new designation on their driver's license or identification cards if they have been convicted as a sexual predator or offender," said Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Public Information Officer Ann Nucatola.

That new driver's license has a marking on the bottom right-hand corner with a special number identifying the law that particular sex offender violated.

Hmm... This is a little old now, but...

Okay here are some thoughts.

Once anyone is on that registry their life is over. You may as well shoot them as put them on that registry. If they're such a risk to society that they must be monitored like a good little Soviet for the rest of their life may as well be locked up for that time.

As a deterrant, it's useful, don't get me wrong. But not even murderers get the kind of treatment after they have served their time that sex offenders get. Those convicted in the Nuremburg trials didn't go on a registry after release (for those who were). What's worse, is that the range and breadth of that offense and subsequent monitoring is only ever going to grow.

Let's take this news story from a couple of months ago:

Family says I-4 rage led to mooning
SANFORD - A family driving west on Interstate 4 in a silver Mercedes-Benz on Sunday evening made the men in the black Chevrolet Tahoe mad.

The Mercedes had cut them off, the Tahoe's driver later told a Seminole County deputy, so front-seat passenger John Thomas Taylor dropped his pants and mooned the family, including their 14-year-old son, according to a Sheriff's Office report.


If convicted of the charge alleged by the Sheriff's Office, Taylor could face up to 15 years in prison and forever be identified as a sex offender.

So, if the first article is true, by the time the I-4 "mooner" goes to trial, if convicted, he will end up with a permanent mark on his driver's license for everyone to see. These days you need your license to travel, buy cigarettes and beer, pick up a prescription, heck here in New Park Slope you can barely use a dry cleaning service or return an unwanted gift to Ann Taylor without having to provide your license. Everyone's going have him labeled as a flasher. He won't be able to live near a school or a park with a playground, which in many places means he can't live in a town. If he has kids, he can't pick them up from school, or attend his children's graduation. And I'm using the term "his" interchangeably.

I was thinking about not posting this as I don't want to come off as defending sex offenders, as I'm not. There are a group of people out there that are vile and should go to jail, directly, without passing go or collecting diddley-squat. I just hate the registry, and wish there was some better way we could protect people rather than lumping anyone caught peeing behind a tree in the same bucket as child-molestors and having them tagged, filed and monitored like pound dogs for the rest of their lives. Kill them, lock them up until they die, or let them free, but this bizarre half-freedom we've given them doesn't help anyone, IMO.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Media Bias Survey Heavily Biased

I just filled out the above survey by the company Polling Point. It was about whether opr not we perceive bias in US TV news.
After filling out the entire survey, I found they had a feedback form at the end. This is what I had to tell them, and I never leave feedback for surveys.
Your poll has pre-concluded that there should only be two parties in US politics, and only two forms of political opinion, which skews the data. There are no choices of any other political persuasion until the final political question, forcing the questionee to give either possibly conflicting data, or data that is flatly incorrect. Choice A/Choice/don't know, is not the same as Choice A/Choice B/None of the above (please specify). You may want to take a look at that.
Also, you have mislabeled CNN as a major network. It is a cable channel, a 24 hour news channel, which ABC/NBC/CBS is not. I'm assuming that the FOX option was for the FOX network, and not the Fox News Channel, which should not be listed as a major network, either. The FOX network, of course, doesn't have a national news program, which also skews your data.
Finally, your list of news anchors is skewed. Bill O'Reilly, as contemptible as he may be, is not a news anchor like Brian Williams. His show is an Op/Ed show, not a news broadcast. No anchors for Fox News Channel are given in comparison to Brian Williams. Likewise with Wolf Blitzer for CNN. I'm quite sure that your survey will exemplify network news over Fox News, and it's no surprise, as the survey itself is biased. I have signed up for weekly surveys, but will quickly unsubscribe if the underlying agenda of the surveys are quite so blatant as this one's is. And, for the record, I have no love at all for Fox News.
Those crazy guys! They biased their survey about media bias. One of the people they compared Brian Williams to was Jon Stewart. Of course we're all going to vote for Jon Stewart. Silly, silly, people...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jesus and the Home Owner Association

I remember when I was a kid being a little afraid of the dark. The house where I grew up in Primrose Hill had a walk-out basement leading to a yard and a small road and beyond that was a small housing estate. There was a streetlight right across the road and a night, when you went to the toilet, that light refracted off the back door window and seemed to follow you as you walked from left to right, right to left between the staircase and the bathroom. Scared the bejeezus outta me every time. Also, sometimes, I'd wake up in the middle of the night and there been some clothes or something crumpled on a chair that looked like a weird monster. My mind would play all kinds of tricks on me when I was young, but I mostly grew out of it. Now, sometimes, I think I can see a bug or something out the corner of my eye crawling across the floor, but I look and there's nothing there. I'm usually a little drunk when that happens, though.
Now, however, at the ripe old age of 36, I don't really much that isn't there. Emily West of Lodi, California, on the other hand, claims to see Jesus in a knot-hole in her wooden fence. Apparently, it's there in the above photograph. Now granted my vision isn't exactly 20/20, and I've never been good at those Magic Eye things, but... Where the friggery is Jesus in that picture?
"I looked up and saw the face of Christ in the fence and I said, "Whoa," West said.
I look at that and say, "Buh?". Am I taking crazy pills? Is my imagination now so poor that not only do I not see the face of Christ, I don't see a face at all. There's absolutely nothing there to be read into. She's a survivor of breast cancer and great for her for making it through that. But West sees this as a sign that "things will be okay from now on". I'd rather get a opinion from a doctor on that than from a stake of gnarled wood rammed into the ground.
Meanwhile a little further north in Belmont, California, Estrella Benavides is getting a little more than cryptic whorls of wood as a sign of God's existence: actual messages from God. In her head. But they can't stay there, oh no. They must be displayed to the world across the exterior walls of her house and all over her car. Unfortunately, God doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense these days.
Now because of these messages on her house, she's being sued by the city she lives in, after she refused to pay a $5,000 fine for violating the city's sign ordinance. Now I actually think it's a shame that she can't express herself this way. If it was a mural, I doubt she'd be under such a hefty scrutiny from the city, plus it's her property, and she really should be able to do whatever the hell she wants to do on it. But... no. I'm sure it would destract drivers or bring down neighbor's property prices or whatever, and so we need ordinances such as this so we can lock up the crazy people.
What we don't need is ordinances to lock up the sane people. Unfortunately, that sort of thing makes Home Owner Associations cream their pants. HOA's are strange organizations which lord over suburban communities, making rules about how tall your lawn has to be, whether or not you can have a fence in front of your house or if it has to be hidden behind it, or what time you're allowed to put your garbage cans out at night to be picked up in the morning. They're not totally evil, though, as they also do things like hire snow ploughs so you can get your car out in the morning after an overnight storm, etc. What I didn't realize is that many of them impose a rule that bans clotheslines. Seriously.
In an attempt to go green, Michelle Baker of Vermont has stopped using her tumble dryer and is now drying her clothes in her yard, and, with her husband has started a company that makes clotheslines, the Vermont Clothesline Company, selling clotheslines all across the country. Lucky for her, Vermont has introduced a bill that will "override clothesline bans", and a national movement being tagged the "Right to Dry" campaign is on the rise. This ABC News article has really opened my eyes to just how pathetic much of HOA-run USA has become:

"the overwhelming majority" of community associations regulate or ban them, says Frank Rathbun, vice president of communications for the Community Associations Institute in Virginia. Sixty million Americans belong to one of 300,000 homeowners' associations, according to the institute, a national organization of community association leaders and management firms.

The rules exist for aesthetics, residents' expectations, and property values, Rathbun says: Environmental leanings have to be balanced against the desires of those who find their neighbors' blue jeans, khakis, and the occasional flannel nightgown to be unseemly, unsightly or both.

How far up your own arse do you have to be even think of a statement like that? Oh, I forgot what country I was living in for a second. The laaaaaand of the freeeeeeeeee...

Monday, August 20, 2007

If you could be any animal...

Yeah, well. I would.
Especially today.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I am evil and you will all hate me

But this is too weird not to pass on.  Chocolate Rain by Tay Zonday.
This bizarre little video is starting to get a cult following on YouTube. Tay Zonday is the next Star Wars Kid. Like SWK, the most interesting part about an internet phenom is not the original video, but all the strange stuff that springs up based on it. For Chocolate Rain, it's cover versions, people video-blogging in an effort to explain what it means, parodying the song, remixing the song, putting an effect on it so the song sound like Darth Vader sang it... It's incredible the kind of effort people from all over the world put into coming up with some kind of answer or comeback to one thing that suddenly gains popularity in an internet filled with literally billions of similar things. So with no further ado, here's a brief selection of what's available on YouTube, making Tay Zonday a internet superstar. Bless you, Tay, for you are now made of win.
Here's an attempt to explain the song.
Here's a kid in his bedroom kinda grooving to the song.
Zak Broman conducts a fake interview with "Tay Zonday".
Someone made a rather dull video for the song based on footage of Family Guy.
Sick of it yet? How about this Darth Vader-ised version...
Another attempt to explain it goes awry.
Sister Maria de Lupus does a cover of the song.
Here's another video recorded from the PSP game Monster Hunter Freedom.
And finally...
The internet is an extraordinary thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fighting the Unwinnable War

I've heard it called the Long War and the War Against Terror, but there's always been this strange optimism that somehow we can win. We've been fighting it now for almost 6 full years, and now, according to this New York Times article, we'll be in it for at least another 3.
WASHINGTON, July 17 - The United States will face "a persistent and evolving terrorist threat" over the next three years, as Al Qaeda continues to plot attacks comparable in scale to those of Sept. 11, 2001, the nation's intelligence agencies said today.
Less than one year after the events of 9/11 led us to this position, I wrote this piece on a site that was actually about the band I was in at the time. I wrote it because it explained a little about the lyrics to an album I was working on back then. I'm not the kind to completely blow my own trumpet, I buy CDs of royalty-free lopps and samples for that sort of thing, but it seems I was quite prescient back then...
An Unwinnable War?
According to George W. Bush's inexorable State Of The Union address in January 2002: "When I called our troops into action, I did so with complete confidence in their courage and skill. And tonight, thanks to them, we are winning the war on terror." Oh, reeaaa-ha-eaallly...

And exactly how is the war against terror going to be won? Exactly when will the victims of terrorism be able to celebrate VT Day? Is the US plan to take complete control over the entire planet and subject all 5 billion of its people to a single police state, hammering down all the sticky-out nails of dissent or resistance? Well if Ashcroft had anything to with it...

The more you subjugate people, the more people will fight back. Simple as that. Communism couldn't survive, the Roman Empire couldn't survive, hell, even George Lucas knows what happens to Evil Empires. This is simply an unwinnable war, and what makes it worse is that people are allowing the US government to get away with all sorts of injustices because we are in a "war situation". Unfortunately, it seems most people here haven't realised that this war doesn't have an end.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The first rule of Consensual Fighting Club is...

Don't talk about Consensual Fighting Club. The second rule is No Smoking.

Three men in jail over bomb at church

Star-Telegram staff writer

Map: Arson investigation
Map: Arson investigation

Three Burleson men who belong to a "radical Christian activist group" were in the Johnson County Jail on Friday night after a church deacon caught two of them attempting to ignite an explosive device on Independence Day at a church under construction in north Burleson, authorities said Friday.

Dayton Lee Calaway, 19, and Michael Philip Plaisted Jr., 18, were arrested Wednesday night near the Victory Family Church after they got bogged down in mud as a fleet-footed deacon chased them from the church in the 400 block of Northwest John Jones Drive, police said.

Two other people drove away, the deacon told officers.

An explosive device in a glass container was found propped against the church door. The suspects apparently tried to detonate the device twice before being interrupted by the deacon, police and Burleson Fire Marshal Stacy Singleton said.

As authorities were investigating at the church, they were notified of a fire on undeveloped land behind a north Burleson residential subdivision. A nearby resident reported seeing a vehicle drive away.

On Thursday, Jered Michael Ragon, 18, voluntarily went to the police station for questioning after Calaway and Plaisted implicated him, police Detective T. Catron said. Police called a MedStar ambulance because Ragon's feet were burned, and a emergency medical crew treated him at the station.

Ragon had gotten gasoline on his feet as he tried to destroy evidence from the church fire in the field, and his feet were burned, Catron said.

Calaway, Plaisted and Ragon face charges of arson at a place of worship, a first-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, Singleton said.

They remained in the Johnson County Jail in Cleburne on Friday night with bail set at $30,000 each. Ragon also faces a charge of tampering with evidence; bail was set at $5,000.

The glass container from the church and evidence found in the field have been sent to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lab for analysis, Singleton said. The ATF and the U.S. attorney's office are reviewing the case to determine whether federal charges will be filed, he said.

Search warrants served Thursday night and Friday morning at Ragon's and Plaisted's homes uncovered evidence that was also sent to the ATF lab, police said.

Cmdr. Chris Havens, the Police Department spokesman, said the suspects boasted about belonging to a leaderless group of 10 or 15 who share a belief that society has become too focused on self-improvement and self-gratification and has lost focus on the glorification of God.

"They admit to being Christian and being brought up Christian, but they believe there should be one denomination and one church, not multiple denominations," Havens said.

"They did not say they had a name for their group, other than they were a radical Christian activist group. That was the way they explained their group," he said.

The suspects said the group has three levels of involvement: Bible study, consensual fighting and destructive acts. Because one of their beliefs is free thought, however, participation in all three levels is not mandatory, they told police.

There's more at the site, but this is just brilliant. Of course, it will doubtless receive hardly any press outside the blogosphere, because despite being as crap at terrorism as the London and Glasgow Airport "bombers" of two weeks ago, they're all white Christians, and will therefore be presented as criminals rather than terrorists. What a fun place this country is turning into! I'm so glad I'm here to witness it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Destroy 'Em

Far be it from me to look at the Republican Party campaigners with a gleeful schadenfreude, but this story is pretty awesome. I'm no fan of the Republicans, and to be honest, I'm not much of a fan of the Democrats either. Neither seem to be untainted nor useful in a public servant sense, but the game going on behind the scenes in the race to the Whitehouse is becoming more worthy of ESPN than CNN, and it's more fun to get a little behind the no-hopers that have some semblance of personality than it is to follow the likes of Mitt Romney, who, besides once strapping his dog to the roof his car on a family outing back in the day, is pretty boring to listen to. "Double Guantanamo!" indeed. What a pussy.
It takes real balls to stand up and declare that one of the greatest evils in the US is the Internal Revenue Service, that income tax should abolished, and the US should withdraw from the United Nations. Republican Congressman Ron Paul has stated all those things, and continues to break away from the party line, calling for an immediate end to the Iraq occupation and re-instating a policy of non-intervention. I don't agree with everything he says, but I have to admire him. And it looks like many more are doing so each day, from Libertarians disillusioned with the crazies in their party, to Republicans dissilusioned with the crazies in their party to Democrats dis... Oh, you get the picture.
So here's Ron Paul, one of the Big 8 (R) candidates, and he discovers that he, for no given reason, has been excluded from a candidates' forum in Iowa last weekend. He cries a little bit, then decided to do something about it. If they won't let you in their rally, book the place next door and draw a bigger crowd than all the other 7 candidates put together. That's how a president is supposed to act.

Nose Ring, Big Butt Cures Scarlett Fever

Get it!?!? Scarlett Fever! Come on you E! Online readers, it's genius, right?
Okay, well anyone who read my rant the other day about how entertainment news is fast overtaking actual real event news will be glad to know that according to, because Scarlett Johansson has gotten herself a nose-ring and is wearing shorts that give her a butt, she'll never EVER win "Sexiest Woman Alive" again. Just so you know, ladeez, you're just a lack of nose-ring and a pair of ass-flattening pants away from taking the title right out of her sweaty little fingers.

Separated at Birth?

Al Gore III
Little did I know that Al Gore III, Al Gore's son, who has just been arrested for being able to hit 100 mph in a Prius (oh and some drugs were involved) looks scarily like a fat Alan Tudyk.
Alan Tudyk
Okay. Maybe not that much...

Monday, July 02, 2007

For When We Don't Always Have Paris...

What a shame this seems so staged.It's actually quite indicative of how bad news broadcasts are in America that even protests about how bad news broadcasts are in America are nothing more than self-referential, neo-post-modernist infotainment.

Here's a case in point: CBS Evening News anchor, Katie Couric.

Woah there, Nelly!

Not only is she constantly under fire from TV critics, but also from her peers. Dan Rather said she is "dumbing it down, tarting it up, going to celebrity coverage rather than war coverage", and at $15m a year, I'm sure she cries every night into a pillow of money, since it is Rather's shoes that she now fills. But I fear that Desperate Dan has missed the point somewhat on what has happened to CBS Evening News. Firstly, it's on in the evening, at around 6.30pm. And let's face it, your average American worker simply doesn't work 9-5 anymore, with a nice 20 minute commute to arrive home in time to sit by the TV and watch it. Any of it.

Secondly, there's no news there. And the link in the first paragraph of this little diatribe shows that off for all it's worth. There's no news anywhere. Insider is not much more than an extention of the evening news, these days, and actually, if you include the follow up Entertainment Tonight program, which is basically the same thing but with a different presenter, it actually lasts longer. Sure, we get 1.5 hours of local news before that, but with generally only 5 local reporters, how many real stories are getting? And this is just CBS. NBC also has its Nightly News show which is then followed by Extra! and Access Hollywood. ABC has the ABC World News show, which is the biggest misnomer I've ever seen, as unless a bomb has gone off somewhere, you're lucky if the 'World' extends beyond Central America, and by Central America, I mean Kansas.

So why is US television news so bad these days, when all you have to do is see 'Good Night and Good Luck' to realize that it was, once, extremely good?

It's not money, but it is. Even back then in the age of the Burrows' and the Cronkites, news departments had to pander somewhat to sponsors. For every stone turned, there had to be one unturned. But back then news departments were expected to still provide news items, even if the content may be a little suspect, and the reason behind that is that those departments were expected to lose money. They were festering sink-holes of cash for a major network who were prepared to lose it for the sake of quality journalism. Not highly-paid anchors, but actual quality journalism. Now, however, we have shifted to news departments which are expected to make profits, in the same way that tabloid newspapers do, by sensationalizing real-world events, and by filling your screen with pointless stories of pretty starlets and things either shock you or make you go 'awww!'. Of course, none of this is revelation, but strangely it seems to be missed by the networks themselves,and this is why I mention Katie Couric by name.

Ever since Couric took over the hot-seat at CBS, the Evening News ratings have tanked, and this has been such a tale for national debate that it would cause otherwise respected journos such as Dan Rather to make the remarks he made. Overlooked slightly is that Brian Williams and NBC's Nightly News has ratings that are falling faster than those of CBS, but that CBS still remains last, with Charles Gibson's ABC World News coming out on top.

Even more overlooked than all of this is that ratings, when news is concerned, shouldn't actually be a factor. No news show should be deciding what constitutes a worthy news story based on whether it will put butts on seats, they should be reporting the news, period. You don't want to be showing the same stories at the same time as everyone else? Then stagger your broadcast, rather than having 3 major networks broadcast the evening news at exactly the same time, followed by 2 networks going to into exactly the same post-news programming. It seems there are two reasons why ratings are tanking for evening news: one, the lack of news; two, there's no one there to watch it. Replace your pointless entertainment shows with a news broadcast at 7.30pm instead of 6.30, and you may pick up a whole bunch of viewers, if there's still time before the country forgets what good news is and starts thinking that US Weekly is more important than USA Today.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

TIVO and that

Justine Shapiro... Rowr!
I now own a TiVo unit, but I only have basic cable extreme. That means I get about 40 channels, but most of those are local programming (high school TV) or home shopping channels. One of the reasons why I got it is because we do get Discovery Health Channel, which shows lots of great trauma unit shows (real life, in the OR trauma unit shows) overnight, and I wanted to record those and watch them in the morning. Nothings more fun than sitting down to breakfast while someone's getting a 2x4 removed from their ribcage.
Problem is, there's a weird discrepancy between the cable channels I actually get, like on my TV, and the channels I'm supposed to get, which I'm suscribed to on my TiVo. I've no idea why, but I can't TiVo Discovery Health. I can TiVo CNBC, but we don't get that on my TV. We get USA on my TV, but not on my TiVo, etc. Very frustrating.
Of course now, what that means is I record a lot of stuff from PBS. Documentaries, Globe Trekker (I now officially have a crush on Justine Shapiro, and they need to get Cristina LaMonica on more, too), Doctor Who... You know, educational stuff. Luckily I do get TBS, which shows a lot of movies overnight, but I never time to watch them, unless I wake up in the middle of the night (like 3.30am, which I'm sonetimes wonet do these days for some reason). So I get to watch movies at 4am, like Deep Impact and, two days ago, Dark City. Deep Impact was mostly stupid, but man, I'd forgotten how cool Dark City was, and how its overriding themes were totally destroyed by the Matrix, which filmed in the same studio on some of the same sets right after DC wrapped. Any hoo, last night I managed to sleep the whole way through. Maybe tonight I'll setmy alarm for 4 so I can catch up on Doctor Who, and two episodes of original Battlestar Galactica I have saved.
I keep looking at upgrading to regular cable, but can never find a real guide to which channels I would get if I did. My cable provider lists pretty much all the channels, but I've no idea which ones are premium. Annoying. And the real question is, do I really want all those channels? Of course, the answer is no. One day, we'll get a proper service which allows us to pick and choose which channels we receive. I have no interest in the E! channel, or Cartoon Network, or the frigging Golf Channel, forchrissakes. Why can't I just get the broadcast channels, PBS and Sci-Fi? Oh, and Comedy Central, so I can keep up with the Daily Show and Colbert Report.
Next subject please!

Stonehenge at dawn - June 21, 2007
Today is the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year. It's so weird that the sun sets here a full hour before it does back in Camden. Sure we can get some pretty stunning sunsets, especially where I live, as the orange light refracts off the smog trailing from New Jersey's industrial wasteland to the east, nature just don't make colours like that. But I miss the long, light evenings, sometimes, though I mostly miss enjoying those long light evenings in beer gardens. Well, I miss beer gardens.
Let's face it, I miss getting drunk and watching the sun go down. Is that so wrong?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On UK/US Patriotism and Symbology

Another post originally made on This was in response to an article on about British Students in the USA and their impressions of patriotism and flying the Stars and Stripes in the USA. Many thought it was "very peculiar". I've had similar reactions myself, but after much thought came up with this conclusion on the subject.
Okay, this ended up a lot longer than I was expecting. If you don't feel like wading through the whole thing, here's the breakdown. Americans wave the Stars and Stripes as it is one of the only things that binds all Americans together. Brits don't need to wave a flag, as we have been acting as a family unit for the better part of 100 years. So here's the long version.

My take on the issue is this. Unlike Britain, America was founded much more on notions of individualism and personal freedom. In the early years of the Union, people were aligned with their individual home states rather than with America as a nation. The American Dream is to arrive poor and prosper on your own merit, leaving a legacy for your children. During the Civil War, the Federal government had gained much more control over the state governments, and afterwards there was a concerted effort by the Federalists to shift the allegiance of the people from their home states to the nation state of the USA.

In order to do that, you need symbology that people who are living as individual family units can look at and feel part of a greater group: Old Glory, the Bald Eagle, Uncle Sam, Chevy Silverados, etc. You may notice that the further you get from the big cities of the coasts (of course there are exceptions to this, as always) the more symbolic that patriotism becomes; the need to show a group identity becomes stronger due to a more insular local community, rather than the extended community of a larger city. So, the way I see it, Americans look at the Stars and Stripes with pride in the accomplishments of the nation they belong to and for the founding principles which it symbolises. Remember that the Pledge of Allegiance asks us to pledge first to the flag, then the nation itself. The flag has become the USA in the minds of many Americans.

<deep breath!>

In Britain, however, we are far more used to the idea of the British nation being a kind of family unit. Rather than leaving others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, we would prefer to help those of us in need as a nation. Most of us (excepting those who were born during Thatcher's reign) grew up in an era of nationalised industries, working for the nation as a whole, with a national health service, a free comprehensive school system, grants for those who were otherwise unable to afford to go to University, free school milk, etc. We knew what is was to be British, because we were part of the system, whether you believe that is right or wrong.

In Britain, it's the rapid descent of the empire which created these national programs, in some ways bringing the people closer together as a unit, and as we became more of an extended community, we found we didn't need to cling onto the cultural symbols of the nation as a whole, such as the Union Jack. We don't need to hang the flag outside the door to show our Britishness, because we are inherently living out our Britishness everyday. If this is the case, then it's feasible to say that only those who felt threatened by this new socialist(-ist) society, who believed that Britain was some kind of group of individuals rather than a collective family needed that kind of symbology. Not needing the flag to feel British anymore, we let the NF take it for themselves.

Now it's interesting that in recent years, as the social system is slowly being torn apart from within to a more Americanised value system, and more and more people are feeling threatened by immigration and fear of terrorism, AND Britain is becoming less of a family unit and more divided, with Scotland and Ireland gaining their own parliaments, and national independence parties gaining more and more seats and popularity, that NOW there are calls to 'take back the flag' as it were, to reclaim the symbol that many consider 'stolen', but was, in fact, let go as an unnecessary object.

Of course, I could just be talking out of my arse.

Upon the Death of Bernard Manning

So you're going to see a whole bunch of posts from me today, seeing as I've figure a way around my work's blocking of blogger. Here's a post I made on on the subject of whether Bernard Manning was a racist.
Bernard Manning was a racist. Said so himself in an interview with, of all people, Mrs Merton.

MRS MERTON: "... some people say you're racist."
MANNING: "Yes. Yes, I am. Some people I like, some I don't like. These people think they're English because they're born here. That means if a dog's born in a stable, it's a horse."

He then got into an argument with Richard Wilson (Victor Meldrew) and said "Where were the Pakis at Dunkirk and Monte Cassino?"

Which would have been been fine were it not for the fact that the first troops into Monte Cassino were the guard of the Maharajah of Jaipur. In fact 2 Indian divisions fought at Monte Cassino. Moreover, 2.5 million Indians volunteered (not conscripted) to fight on the Allied side during WW2. It was the
largest volunteer force raised by any nation for that war. They even won 30 Victoria crosses.

Personally I never cared for him, and I'm no bleeding heart liberal. Never found him funny, and I won't miss him. But here was a bloke, who served his national sevice and became an entertainer, I can't fault the guy for that. Different strokes, etc. I can't bear a person, however, who bases his views of large swathes of people on inaccurate information. We can tell all the racist jokes we want, and we can keep our prejudices all we want, as we do all have them, that's Psych 101. Just base your prejudices on facts, because comedy is much more funny when it's true.

I... I Want Him Buried...

As soon as Judge Larry Seidlin started his overwraught, chest-thumping, alligator-weeping ruling over the burial-place of Anna Nicole Smith back in early 2007, everyone knew he was playing it for the cameras. This was the ultimate ending to the downward-spiraling circus of Smith's life; like a kid in a world of fairground carnies, she span around face up to the sun until finally she fell down, too dizzy to notice anything, and died. Not content to let her live her life in the spotlight, others flocked around her trying to get in there, from the family of the multi-millionaire she married, to the Judge called in to preside over the custody battle that ensued for months over her body. In the real world, Judge Seidlin would have had his name in the newspaper for the duration of the trial.
This, however, is the USA, and he wasn't dealing with a habeas corpus writ on A.N. Onymous, this was Anna Nicole, the Marilyn Monroe of our generation, meaning she didn't actually have to create anything or do anything of any major worth to become famous. And, in the same fashion, all Judge Seidlin had to do was throw a wobbly in front of the world's press in a Florida courtroom and he was known around the world. In Andy Warhol's world, he'd be famous for 15 minutes.
This, however, is the USA, and there's a kind of national lottery that people who have made it onto TV can win if they play the game properly, get the right agent, and hang on for the ride. Cable TV is filled with ex-cast members of MTV's The Real World and Road Rules, a Tv show about a tanning salon is quickly making the Olly Girls famous, Chris Daughtry somehow has a recording career despite NOT winning American Idol... And now we hear Judge Larry Seidlin has been picked up by CBS for his own Judge Seidlin show. Not content with having Judge Judyand Judge Joe Brown fouling up the daytime TV slots, the powers-that-be at CBS actually fell for the ANS performance and are ready to give him an afternnon time-slot, should his pilot show do well. He has already quit the court he worked in Florida, but his show won't debut until Fall 2008. 18 months is a long time in Entertainment News here in the USA, and sitting on that Fame Lottery ticket for so long may be his downfall. Remember Reuben Studdard?
No. Neither do I.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A test

Erm... Is this thing on?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

1.31.07 - Never Forget

From Boston's News Times Live website comes this extraordinary tale of how 38 blinking LED boxes brought the city to a halt yesterday, and that the two guys who put them there, as part of a 10-city wide marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force, have been arrested and are charged with "placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct". Of course, as none of this is intentional, we can only speculate as to what Boston's legal system considers a "hoax device". Up until today, I was figuring this over-reaction (none of the other cities - including New York - had complaints or 911 calls made about the boxes placed there) was yet another example of the terrorists winning. After all, if that's all it takes to shut a city down, real terrorists might as well just get jobs in marketing.

But then I saw this, and realized everything's gonna be okay.

These are the signs that were being held by protestors and supporters outside the courthouse where the two were being arraigned.

Sheer. Genius.