Saturday, January 31, 2009

Playmobil Security Check Point

You too can have a miniature TSI Security Check Point so you and your dolls can stage Security Theater in the comfort of your own home.

The reviews on the Amazon page for the Playmobil Security Check Point give heartwarming affirmations that it really does teach kids how to obey authority unquestioningly and learn that not everyone in a uniform is your friend.

loosenut (Seattle, WA) says:

I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that's the worst security ever!". But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital. The best thing about this product is that it teaches kids about the realities of living in a high-surveillence society. My son said he wants the Playmobil Neighborhood Surveillence System set for Christmas. I've heard that the CC TV cameras on that thing are pretty worthless in terms of quality and motion detection, so I think I'll get him the Playmobil Abu-Gharib Interogation Set instead (it comes with a cute little memo from George Bush).
And so forth. Shame I found this out too late for Christmas.

Friday, January 30, 2009

More Government Bailouts...

Paul Craig Roberts served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration and earned the name "Father of Reaganomics". He was an editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Scripps Howard News Service. I read his net articles regularly.

A recent Information Clearinghouse article entitled, Is It Time to Bail Out of the US? set out the reality. The US is broke. Magicking money out of a hat to pay bankers to fly their private jets to parties and to pay armies to drop bombs on ordinary people who didn't use to have much antipathy to the US is not going to end well.

California State Controller John Chiang announced on January 26 that California’s bills exceed its tax revenues and credit line and that the state is going to print its own money known as IOUs. The template is already designed. Instead of receiving their state tax refunds in dollars, California residents will receive IOUs. Student aid and payments to disabled and needy will also come in the form of IOUs. California is negotiating with banks to get them to accept the IOUs as deposits.California is often identified as the world’s eighth largest economy, and it is broke. A person might think that California’s plight would introduce some realism into Washington, DC, but it has not. President Obama is taking steps to intensify the war in Afghanistan and, perhaps, to expand it to Pakistan.

It concludes:
The banksters robbed us twice. First it was our home and stock values. Then the government rewarded the banksters for their misdeeds by bailing out the banksters, not their victims, and putting the cost on the taxpayers’ books.The government has also robbed the taxpayers of $3 trillion dollars to fight its wars. About $600 billion are out of pocket costs, and the rest is on the taxpayers’ books.When foreign creditors look at the debt piled on the taxpayers’ books, they don’t see a good credit risk. Washington is so accustomed to ripping off the taxpayers for the benefit of special interests that the practice is now in the DNA. While bailouts are being piled upon bailouts, wars are being piled upon wars. Before Obama gets in any deeper, he must ask his economic team where the money is coming from. When he finds out, he needs to tell the rest of us.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

RIP John Martyn

I just heard the news. A real character and a peerless musician and writer. What a loss.

Here's his last interview, at Word Magazine.

I saw him with Paul Kossoff in Leeds in 1975, when I was a real Kossoff fan and could care less about John Martyn. I was a kid then.

The stories I heard about that gig since! And they're not even the weirdest tales in the Martyn biography. He was legendary.

Giant Squid Cake

It's too cold, I've been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency (apparently vast tracts of humanity are deficient - more on this later) and I have a terrible cold. Apart from that, everything's fine. At least I'm not trapped in an ice-world like one of my friends.

Another friend sent me this Boing Boing piece on a Giant Squid Cake. Two of my favorite things in one cakey package!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Scatological Friday

The New York Times has an article about British place-names. They're often from dialects or languages no longer spoken, and in modern speech sound kinda rude. The NYT gets a giggle out of it.

No Snickering: That Road Sign Means Something Else

Growing up in northern England, I found places like Penistone and Wetwang to be perfectly normal.

The NYT don't mention that the U.S., which doesn't have the excuse of obsolete words in its place names, has a few of its own. Pennsylvania alone has Beaverdale, Bird-in-Hand, Blue Ball, Intercourse and Stalker.

Also, in the Fisting the Night Away stakes, we have Fox News explaining what Barack Obama and the First Lady get up to when they're alone.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jimmy Carter and the Killer Rabbit

I didn't live in the US in 1979, and my knowledge of the doings of presidents was limited. One thing I did know, however, was that President Jimmy Carter was attacked by an aquatic Killer Rabbit. This has always impressed me mightily. I'm a glass-half-full sort of a person, and rather than thinking that Carter was the sort of person rabbits picked on, I got the impression of a man of so large a stature that killer rabbits flocked to try to take him down.

I hadn't thought about it too much recently, but STB sent me a link to a Freepers article about the incident.

Here's a picture of the bunny in question, and I am not making this up.

Picture courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library.

There is a large photo of Jimmy Carter and the rabbit at the Freepers page above.

Cecil Adams' Straight Dope says:
The rabbit incident happened on April 20 while Carter was taking a few days off in Plains, Georgia. He was fishing from a canoe in a pond when he spotted the fateful rabbit swimming toward him. It was never precisely determined what the rabbit's problem was. Carter, always trying to look at things from the other guy's point of view, later speculated that it was fleeing a predator. Whatever the case, it was definitely a troubled rabbit. "It was hissing menacingly, its teeth flashing and nostrils flared and making straight for the president," a press account said.

The Secret Service having been caught flatfooted--I'll grant you an amphibious rabbit assault is a tough thing to defend against--the president did what he could to protect himself. Initially it was reported that he had hit the rabbit with his paddle. Realizing this would not play well with the Rabbit Lovers Guild, Carter later clarified that he had merely splashed water at the rabbit, which then swam off toward shore. A White House photographer, ever alert to history's pivotal moments, snapped a picture of the encounter for posterity.
Apparently it is a swamp rabbit. I have no idea if that makes this more freaky or less freaky.

Roots Music Listening Room

I know I said American folk music was on sufferance with me, but I have no problems with spreading the word.

The Roots Music Listening Room has a huge number of streaming files for your listening pleasure. Run by, the listening room contains public domain music files from their collection of:

Rugged and Ragged Blues Piano from the 1920s
Blues from the 1920s (subset)
Gospel from the 1920s (subset)
Old-Time Country Music from the 1920s & 1930s
White Country Gospel from the 1920s-1950s

Vintage Hot Jazz from the 1920s
Louisiana Cajun Music from the 1920s - 1970s
Irish Dance Music from the 1920s - 1970s
Folk Music from Mexico 1920s - 1950s
Luther Strong's 1937 Library of Congress Recordings
Other Library of Congress Fiddle Recordings
Cape Breton Fiddle Music from the 1930s - 1950s
Calypso Music of Trinidad from 1930s - 1940s

S'free music. It's historic. Have at it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Form 696

The Guardian reported today on another little chip off the freedoms of British folk. I'm beginning to think the British government has a bit of a thing about not letting people do what they want. I've mentioned it before.
The Guardian says:
It sounds like an innocuous piece of paperwork, but in the last two months "Stop form 696!" has become the rallying cry of the live music industry. Risk assessment form 696 is used by the Metropolitan police when trouble is expected at a gig or club. It requests information about performers and audience members from the licensee. Failure to submit it could result in six months in jail or a £20,000 fine.

Form 696 has been approved by all 21 London councils, and its use could soon spread to the rest of the UK. It has attracted criticism not least because it is bureaucratic: while it has now been cut from eight pages to four, it still demands every performer's name, address, date of birth and phone number. It's hard enough to get a musician to answer the phone, let alone fill in a mini-census every time they perform.

Form 696's ulterior motives have also raised concerns. One question on the eight page version suggested it was being used to racially profile audiences: "Is there a particular ethnic group attending? If 'yes', please state group."
Is a particular ethnic group attending? What's it to you, PC Plod?

It's difficult to think of a counter to this insanity. After all, live music is a business, not a gathering of free speech enthusiasts, and all governments have the right to regulate commerce - although you'd think they'd regulate the real thugs first, like banks and credit card issuers, and leave musicians alone for a while.

I keep on getting the eerie feeling that this isn't the same world I grew up in. And it's not Al Qa'ida that's wrecking it.

Thanks to C for the heads up on this article.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Obama Day Again!

Got a bit excited yesterday. It's not Obama day until tomorrow, is it?

Here's something to tide us over. Meanwhile, George, don't bomb Iran. Don't think we've stopped watching you!


Interesting review of It Might Get Loud from Entertainment Weekly, one of the few magazine I subscribe to. On about 0.0001% of occasions it's been known not to follow the money, which makes it irreverent in American terms, hence its NME-on-training-wheels approach in the article about the movie.
"And though Jack White's largely manufactured backstory makes it hard to explore, the look on his face as he sits two feet away from Page and drinks in the elder statesman's performance of "Whole Lotta Love" says it all."
And lotsa other stuff. We all have a manufactured backstory, EW. Well, I do. Doesn't everyone?

Unlike everyone else I've read so far, EW *did* get into the Q&A with Jack White afterwards, and were equally flummoxed by his attitude there. They need to get out more.

These pictures are getting predictable.
Maybe a Dalek next post instead?
Get On Your Boots
You can hear U2's new single here.
It sounds like someone's thrown ten pieces of hit pop into the air and then recorded them as they fell. I've heard it three times now and it's beginning to grow on me. I could sing the hook instantly, but then I could sing the hook before I ever heard it, since it's not entirely dissimilar to "Pump It Up".

It is called "Get On Your Boots". (Shouldn't it be "Get Your Boots On"? I hate ungrammatical titles, me.) U2 claim to have been influenced by Jack White and Jimmy Page. It's the groovin' thing, apparently. I can remember when Led Zeppelin weren't all that hip, but I'll shut up about it because no one believes me.

Oh, and there was a whopping gert meteorite in Sweden a couple of days ago!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Obama Day

Obama day tomorrow. I can't wait.

I knew it was a bad sign back in 2002 when George Bush said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on --shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."

Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002. Sorry about the laugh track.

The correct words just would not come out. Someone who is pathologically unable to say "shame on me" was always going to be a problem, and this proved to be the case. In his final speech, he was unable to take responsibility for anything that might have gone wrong during his tenure.

Here's a few other things he said, courtesy of I hesitate to put these here because they give the impression that the man was funny. There's nothing funny about the Bush presidency.

I'm just glad it's over.

Collected by Daniel Kutczman of More where these came from

"Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?" --Florence, South Carolina, Jan. 11, 2000

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." --Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000

"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." --Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." --Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." --LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

"We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease." --Gothenburg, Sweden, June 14, 2001

"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test." -Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

"I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport." --Washington, D.C., Oct. 3, 2001

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." --Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." --Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000


"They misunderestimated me." --Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

No, I didn't. But I had to put up with you anyway.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (DVD)

As a bit of a change from yesterday's film Cold Mountain, a masterclass in wrenching a screenplay out of Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces, I'm watching "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1961) featuring Barbara Eden and Peter Lorre amongst others, walking around a giant, spacious nuclear submarine with massive forward viewing windows. This is the famous planarian-shaped Seaview.

The plot is simple and nobody in the crew is called Walker or Hiro or Turner or Inman or any other Deep Names. The Van Allen belts are on fire, and the world has heated up so much that everyone not on a submarine is dead. Admiral Thingy has to go to the marianas trench to fire a missile to douse the Van Allen belts. All kinds of obstacles present themselves, such as minefields in the middle of nowhere (as if someone knew during WWII to tether mines in case a big nuclear submarine wanted to get through in a hurry 15 years later).

We had a bet which Denizen of the Deep the divers laying phone lines would face. I uncharacteristically let STB lay claim to the giant inert rubber squid trying to Swallow Our Seamen and claimed for myself the old "getting your flipper caught in a giant clam horror". STB, of course, was right.

A giant octopus turned up later - go cephalopods! - but nothing daunted the Seaview and the world (slightly scorched and presumably barren, so I hope Barbara Eden's up to having a lot of babies) is saved once again.

This is an Irwin Allen production, of course. The set was so expensive The Master of Disaster kept it and persuaded ABC to make VTTBOTS into a series. I remember watching it as a kid and one of my very early science fictional efforts was based on the TV series. I think I was seven. I should look it out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cold Mountain (DVD) Review

I rented Cold Mountain, because it had Jack White in it. The therapeutic ratio of this movie is the 155 minute running time divided by the time JW's on the screen which is about 6 minutes, making the ratio 25.8. That's high, although I've watched dreadful movies for less Jason Isaacs in the past. Since I had to watch it all the way through, here's my thoughts on the subject.

By thirty minutes into it, I wasn't that overwhelmed. It reminds me of The Patriot - the horror of war contrasted with the pale and comely humanity of young love and other sick-making platitudes. I suspect that the beardie old scarecrow Teague is going to be the bad guy, rather than the elegant and savage Colonel Tavington of The Patriot, which is not an improvement.

It's managed to pile in every cliche in the book so far. The beautiful blonde middle-class preacher's daughter (Nicole Kidman), the young tongue-tied farmhand (Jude Law), the old preacher with the slight movie-cough that spells Doomed in capital letters, the insane ballet of gobbets of bodies flying through the air after a nice big blowage-of-shit-up, and quite remarkably, a shot of one man dying in the trenches cut to a white dove battering against the church windows followed by - get this - someone letting the soul oops I mean dove back out of the church followed by another cut to the man in the trenches starting to move again. Is that last one a cliche negated or a cliche squared? I can't tell! My sense of art (with a capital F) is all tangled up with with my astonishment that anyone would try such comic book cuts.

There's a Brit and an Aussie attempting ante-bellum (or in this case peri-bellum) American accents with their very best Gone-With-The-Wind enunciation switched on. There's also a lot of music so far which has reminded me that (white) American folk music is still on probation with me. I've never really liked it, finding it maudlin and superstitious, and it's on sufferance right now because so many people I respect seem to love it. But it could easily overstay its welcome in this rather syrupy incarnation. If P T Barnum or whatever his name is and Jack White were involved in it, one would expect it to get better. (Later note: Not P T Barnum. I meant T Bone Burnett.)

Spoilers oh ye who haven't seen it.

There is a much taught concept in screenwriting called "Plot Point 1". At this point the simple narrative (e.g. Jim's greatest need in life is to go to the shop to buy his wife a birthday present) takes a Jovian-gravity-sling sized turn around a pivot and jumps into the actual subject of the movie, which is about a thousand times as powerful (e.g. Jim gets halfway to the shops when a giant robot emerges from the earth and eats New York). This precipitates Act II (Only Jim knows that the monster has a vulnerable underbelly and the rest of the act is about Jim finding an F-16 and flying it into the monster's weak spot. Birthday is forgotten.) According to Syd Field, who wrote the book (literally) on this, Plot Point 1 should occur just before Act II, on pages 25 to 27 of the screenplay, or as we punters call it, at about thirty minute mark of the movie.

At thirty-eight minutes into Cold Mountain (it's a long movie all around so the points are stretched out), preacher-Dad with the slight cough dies suddenly, his death simultaneous with a rainstorm signifying Great Change and Turmoil blowing over Cold Mountain. About one minute before he died, we learned that his beautiful daughter can't cook. Therefore I predict the rest of the movie will be about her not being able to cook. This is a movie with Symbols all over it, so Not Being Able to Cook will entail being utterly destitute. And meanwhile her tongue-tied young man is on his way to fight the Yankee. What will she do?

The second part of the movie proves to be much funnier, so all is well. Renee Zellweger turns up as a sort of cross between a kobold and a farmer, choosing to live with Nicole Kidman for no apparent reason. She teaches the helpless woman how to till the soil and milk the pigs, or whatever it is people do in the country. She's as strong as a donkey and filled with wisdom. I can't understand a word she croaks, but I guess it's folksy and uproarious. Her character is called Ruby Thewes. "Thews" means "muscle" and comes from a word meaning virtue or character. You can tell that she is Flesh and Blood because she is thews and rubies. This is Deep. It is a Deep film.

I did manage to catch that the first word she learned to spell was "catastrophe" - funny plus foreshadowing plus Symbolism! Nicole's character could not deal with the farm's rooster, so Thewes ripped the cock's head off, which was pretty funny, and very Symbolic also.

Back to Jude Law's character. He's deserted the blood-filled trenches. The Home Guard is killing all deserters and those who support them, so he's walking home rather circumspectly. He meets a man at a ferry point. Hm. First suspicion that we are in a mythological world here. A ferry point? The ferryman, or in this case ferrywoman, agrees to get him and the man across the river. The Home Guard catch up at the bank and shoot the ferrywoman. This is after she'd offered to have sex for money - a typically Hollywood scene. A woman can't take charge of sexual matters and go unpunished. That rather startling shooting managed to be both funny and Symbolic too. Her purpose was to ferry the hero from one square on the board of his life to another. Usually the ferryman gets there alive with his charges, but this one hadda ruin it by offering Inman sex, so she serves the dual purpose of ferrying Inman out of the war and dying for being sexual.

Is he really called Inman? As in Man and In? He isn't called Emmanuel ("God is within") he's called "Man is within". Not a particularly lucky name. Let's hope it's IN this MAN to get through the movie in one piece.

I'm enjoying this movie now. Still can't tell what Zellweger is saying, though I think she's a Magical Negro. The film's first successful bout of non-clicheing is to have a white, female magical negro instead of Morgan Freeman or Morpheus from the Matrix. I'm sure she'll do a good job magicking Nicole Kidman out of middle-classdom and getting her in touch with her roots, literally as she's clearing a cornfield. (Though the first thing she does is build a sturdy fence. A fence! This is going up to 11 on the Symbolism scale!)

I'm following Inman's journey with bated breath. He's well on the path of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey now. Having been ferried out of his familiar surroundings (the war) he and the fallen preacher are tempted by the sirens that tempted Odysseus' sailors, the libidinous giants that dwell on the threshold of the familiar. Inman and the sidekick are dumb enough to follow the sirens. The scene starts out realistically enough with a dead bull in a stream, but once inside their house the lighting gets darker and more smutty (as in soot/smut and sex/smut) and irreal until we're in what Campbell calls The Belly of the Whale. The belly of the whale is the darkness closing over the hero. Next he should set out on The Road of Trials. Hey, I guessed right. The Home Guard have turned up to give our hero some of those trials.

Inman is rescued from his ordeal by an old crone (with attendant goats) in a magic hut in the woods. She's even mixed up a potion to cure his ills. I really had been given the impression that this was a movie about a bloody war, and in fact it's a typical fantasy. It's more Star Wars than anything remotely realistic. Remarkable. I have both Syd Field and Joseph Campbell's books open and I'm following along. The screenplay's writing itself at this point.

Inman's just met Natalie Portman as the Mother Goddess. She's carrying a giant baby about the size of a pantomime horse. What does Joseph Campbell say? Ah yes, "The ultimate adventure, when all the barriers and ogres have been overcome, is commonly represented as a mystical marriage (hieros gamos) of the triumphant hero-soul with the Queen Goddess of the World. This is the crisis at the nadir, the zenith or at the uttermost edge of the earth, at the central point of the cosmos, in the tabernacle of the temple, or within the darkness of the deepest chamber of the heart." Inman sleeps with her, but does not touch her. And the Goddess' baby won't suckle. We have bad omens, folks. (All snarkiness aside, Natalie and her giant baby had me in tears. Not bad going for a mainstream movie.)

The Dark Night of the Soul and stuff.

Hooray! Jack White's turned up and he seems to have cured Zellweger's crush on Nicole Kidman with just a couple of twinkles of his eyes. I can see how that happens. He's a musician and his name is Georgia, which makes for another brief funny during a tense scene where his mates have been captured and he's hiding from $Bad_Guy. The dumb good guy blurts out, "Where's Georgia?" Instead of narrowing their eyes, realizing they've failed to capture all the men in the party, and beginning a methodical search for the missing Georgia, everybody laughs, thinking $Dumb_Guy doesn't know where Georgia is! Haha! Geddit! Who said this movie was all about hacking limbs off and dying of gas gangrene in the snow? It's pretty funny!

I think I know where we are in the war, but that's only because I know the words to The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. If this is the winter of 65, then everybody's hungry, just barely alive. And presumably old Dixie is shortly in for it. The ground is frozen and barren. Snow is falling, coating everything. Mythically speaking, the land needs the return of the king to heal it.

And on cue our hero is back. Jude Law really is beautiful. He was a youth with that luminous presence, but unlike most young stars he kept the perfect symmetry as he grew up and now he's a spectacular looking man, with those widow's peaks to add a little touch of dignity. Alas all he and his earthly queen are doing in this part of the movie is talking about his loss of innocence. That won't heal the land and I suspect a twist ending coming up. Oh noes!

Yes, the twist ending came up, though it's rather predictable. Inman destroys the Home Guard including $Bad_Guy and the bad guy's obligate sidekick, the Eeevill Albino. They were the blight on the land, but the blight has destroyed the hero too. Inman is killed by the albino. And guess what! Nicole actually says those words in the character's voice-over, "The land won't heal – too much blood." Nice to know the script and I are both on the same film textbook.

The land is healed! Yay! Flowers in White Stripes' official
colors all round!

But we get a tacked-on happy ending of sorts. Jack/Georgia's still alive. He's married Ruby Thewes. It's spring again, the ground is unfrozen and everyone has had babies, including the sheep. But one sheep baby has lost its mother and one sheep mother has lost its baby. Nicole Kidman (still don't know her character's name) skins the dead lamb and puts the skin over the living orphan and the surviving ewe is fooled into accepting the lamb as its own. Not sure exactly what the writer's getting at there. Turn our coats? Hide our true natures? Something about a new skin, anyway, if we are to survive. Anyway, now the Goddess of the World's symbolic baby is thriving again. Fooled by a trick, the land at least appears to have healed.

Overall, I liked the format of the women being at home, the solid matrix, with the men being peripatetic. That's a recurrent theme in my fiction and done very well here. The cinematography is quite beautiful. I guess they couldn't cut that first half hour, even though it really does not fit the movie, as that would have reset Plot Point 1 to the start and taken out the slingshot-power of the change of focus in the movie. Shame though, as it really is an off-putting beginning. I won't watch it again and in future I will keep an eye out for films with a therapeutic ratio less than about 10.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More rants on our shrinking freedoms

Oh, and while I'm ranting:

In September 2007, I was telling my blog how pleased I was to become a citizen of the US. In January 2009, my government is telling the newsmedia that it tortures people. Not that it's been accused of it, or there's-a-fine-line-and-we're-good-guys-we-don't-cross-it, or ho-ho-nobody-calls-that-torture-it-hardly-even-tickles, or well-I-had-to-do-it-because-otherwise-he-would-have-blown-up-your-crippled-mother-and-your-puppy, just "yeah, we tortured the guy". Gee, thanks. (Obama's Torture Dilemma - Newsweek)

And back in Blighty, there's a move afoot to make buying a train ticket a contract that you agree to be searched by transport police. (Train Travel Only If You're Searched - Metro.)

Summary of where we are, freedom-of-speechwise

Where are, freedom-of-speechwise? The answer is, in deep... oh, I give in ...doo-doo.

I don't know why so many freedoms seem to be in the process of being reversed right now. I've seen a few articles blaming what Americans call Baby Boomers, i.e. me, for everything - breathing too much, consuming too much, warming the planet too much and the cardinal sin of all, hanging around existing when there are younger people who need the money and the spotlight.

But I haven't, and don't know anybody my age who has, found the entire planet suddenly so thoroughly riddled with filth that only the government could possibly deal with it, and therefore complained to Our Overlords about it. So who is doing the complaining?

Much of the territory won by the civil rights movement seems still to be solid ground, but it appears that one of the 'rights' won by the general population, the freedom to think and read about things in the privacy of your own home - is now becoming illegal. Since there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that reading or viewing material (produced without harm to others) leads anybody even halfway sane to harm someone else, I don't see why I'm being told I cannot read some material I may choose to read.

I'm flabbergasted at the witch-hunting of "child porn" and "extreme porn" in America, Australia and the UK recently. It's a Moral Panic, the new Satanic Sacrifice Scare, and we're all to believe that if someone sees a picture of (nonexistent non-humans) Lisa Simpson and Bart Simpson getting it on [1] they'll immediately turn into a childpornomaniac and rape the entire preschool, or if they see a thirty year old album cover with a young girl on it [2] the whole internet needs to be censored by the goverment [3], or if they read about a pop group being murdered [4] the writer - note, writer, not artist or photographer - can be charged with obscenity in the written word for the first time since 1991, and in so doing help prop up a badly-broken law that will make possession of pictures of consensual BDSM couples punishable by jail time [5].

America has the First amendment. It doesn't actually work that well in protecting freedom of speech - it's been nullified too many times - but it's nice to have a piece of paper you can point at during times like these. Britain's got nothing except its perennial Nanny Class, and apparently once again, they know what's good for us.

[1] Sex, censorship, and the Net - Info World
[2] Wikipedia Article Censored in UK for the First Time - PC World
[3] Me
[4]Blogger 'wrote of murdering Girls Aloud' - Independent (Contains the strange sub-heading "Case marks first time 1959 Obscene Publications Act has been applied to internet" but does not explain what part of the internet was deemed obscene in 1959. I think I know what it means, though.)
[5] 'Extreme porn' law could criminalise millions: Here come illegal pictures of legal activity - The Register

Monday, January 12, 2009

Do it yourself Hindenburg!

Today, January 12th, is the 40th anniversary of the first Led Zeppelin album.

In slightly late honor of that, why not make a Spitefuls Disaster Diorama of the Hindenburg? Spiff it up with some text and you have a cubicle-enhancing 3D Led Zeppelin cover of your very own.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

No Jimmy Page Tour - slightly more official

Regarding yesterday's post: OK, Music Radar wasn't lying. The BBC was uh, not accurate. Apparently the BBC are looking into it.

It was only yesterday that, according to BBC 6Music, Led Zeppelin were going to tour and record again. Today, however, they're not. We know this because Jimmy Page's manager Peter Mensch told us.

Joe Bosso finally makes it through a barrage of ice-tongued receptionists to the offices of Peter Mensch. The conversation went something like this:

JB: "Hey Pete, nice interview with the BBC, who's replacing Robert Plant, then?"
PM: "What interview? I haven't spoke to those guys for like four months or something."
JB: "So Led Zeppelin are not going to tour and record?"
PM: "No chance."
I want my Jimmy!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Official: Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones/Jason Bonham tour isn't not being called off.

Confusing day on the internet.

First this, from a Google alert at 4.42 AM my time:
Plant-less Zep to tour and record:

Peter Mensch, Led Zeppelin’s manager, has said that Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham are likely to record and tour with a new singer. Mensch told the BBC’s 6music,“People don’t really understand it. Jimmy Page has been playing guitar professionally since he was 16 years old. Jimmy Page likes being a musician. That’s what he does! He doesn’t want to be a race car driver or a solicitor. “They decided that if they could find a singer that they thought would fit their bill – whatever their bill was at this stage in their career – that they’d make a record and go on tour… That’s what Jimmy Page does”.

“I can’t comment on any rumours right now,” said the manager, “It’s gonna be a long and difficult process. And we’re not soliciting people! So don’t call me about it!”

There was an associated podcast from Mensch, here. (Plays sound.)


Then mid-afternoon, I was told about this, also dated today:
Led Zeppelin are over, says Jimmy Page's Manager.

MusicRadar spoke exclusively with Peter Mensch, Jimmy Page's manager, who stated categorically, "Led Zeppelin are over! If you didn't see them in 2007, you missed them. It's done. I can't be any clearer than that." There are absolutely no plans for them to continue. Zero. Frankly, I wish everybody would stop talking about it."

"They tried out a few singers, but no one worked out," says Mensch. "That was it. The whole thing is completely over now. There are absolutely no plans for them to continue. Zero. Frankly, I wish everybody would stop talking about it."

When asked what new projects Jimmy Page was going to be involved with in 2009, Mensch said, "Fuck if I know. I'm waiting to hear."

Oh Noes!

We have three theories. (By 'we' I mean teh intarwebs):

1. Music Radar made it up.
2. Mensch was talking about "Led Zeppelin" - and we all know already that Jimmy Page is not planning to tour as "Led Zeppelin", so it has no bearing at all on the earlier reports.
3. Mensch gave an interview in good faith to BBC6, was phoned up and bollocked mightily by a pissed off Jimmy Page, and so when he was contacted by Music Radar he blew his stack and uttered imprecations.

Your guess is as good as mine. More info at the indomitable Steve "The Lemon" Sauer website.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Just a thought.

How did women for the first fifteen thousand years manage to cook without having those little fork-prongy things that tell you the temperature inside the food?

I have no idea.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Wizard People, Dear Reader

One nice New Year's Day ritual is the Watching Of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone). It has a glorious Christmassy feel, all overeating and imaginary schooldays in front of dorm room fires, with dragons and dwarfs and stuff. But it is getting on a bit now and so, although we watched HPSS, we actually listened to Wizard People Dear Reader.

If you don't have a copy - and you well might, as it was first released four years ago - Wizard People Dear Reader is an alternative soundtrack for the movie. Completely unauthorized, it is available to buy as CDs or to download, or just as a streaming audio. You cue up the soundtrack with the movie (on mute, of course) and listen to a whole new story.

The author of WPDR is Brad Neely, a story teller who reminds me very strongly of the psychedelic, surreal Captain Beefheart on a roll with the Mothers of Invention. Of course you don't get the Mothers with this soundtrack, but instead you have the rich visuals of HPSS. As the story unfolds on screen, Neely gives a reading which is not-quite the same story featuring not-quite the same characters. The result is a hysterical tale of Harry Potter (the Beautiful Animal, the Destroyer of Worlds), Harmony (a hideous creature with her hair a mass of follicle sized serpents) and Ronnie (The Bear) Weasel, and their bid to outwit the vampire guy, Val-Mart (who is, of course, Harry's father).

I don't want to give away all the beautiful, outrageous descriptions and flights of fantasy. Wikipedia does, in its deadpan fashion, so if you like spoilers (or reminders) you can read them there. One of the descriptions that stuck in my mind was Professor Flitwick (Professor Ugnaught) described as looking like a happy pizza in a hen-house, covered in feathers and chicken sweat and greasy dust, a description that clicked with me. He does!

Although the tale itself is PG, the language is freighted with f-words, so it's not something you'd want to spring on the kids without reviewing it first. That's part of its charm - the use of a language that older American kids might use in a British Magical Boarding School is hilarious in itself.

YouTube tasters


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