Hot Buttered Death
the southern white crap that talks back
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Saturday, April 19, 2003  

Right, change is now officially afoot. Look here.

I'm going to experiment with layout and templates and stuff, see how much CSS I need to suddenly learn, before I do any more posting there, but in any case a new day for this blog has finally dawned. There won't be any more posting at this address, so if you've bookmarked this site, please redirect your bookmarks to:

posted by James Russell | 6:10 PM


Dirty Northern Irish laundry about to come out in the wash.

A branch of British army intelligence and some police officers in Northern Ireland actively and deliberately helped a loyalist paramilitary group to murder Catholics in the late 1980s, according to the Stevens Report.
The BBC's Northern Ireland Correspondent Denis Murray has learned the claim will be made in a report by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens, which he is due to make public on Thursday.
The report into alleged collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries has also found that military intelligence in Northern Ireland actually prolonged the Troubles.

posted by James Russell | 5:10 PM


Who's looking after the children?

U.S. forces have refused a Save the Children plane permission to land in northern Iraq (news - web sites) to deliver aid, breaching the Geneva Convention and "costing children their lives," the British aid agency said on Thursday.
Save the Children said in a statement it had been trying for more than a week to land a plane in Arbil carrying enough medical supplies to treat 40,000 people and emergency feeding kits for malnourished children.
A U.S. official told the charity no aid flights would be allowed until the area was safe but the U.N. has already declared Arbil a "safe and secure" area, the charity said.
"The doctors we are trying to help have been struggling against the odds for weeks to continue saving lives, but now the help we have promised them is being endlessly delayed," Emergency Program Manager Rob MacGillivray said.
"The lack of cooperation from the U.S. military is a breach of the Geneva Conventions and its protocols but more importantly the time now being wasted is costing children their lives."

posted by James Russell | 5:07 PM


Apparently Spinoza was right after all.

Lately, scientists have begun to approach consciousness in more Spinozist terms: as a complex and indivisible mind-brain-body system. And now Dr. Antonio Damasio, the head of neurology at the University of Iowa Medical Center in Iowa City and leading anti-Cartesian crusader, says that Spinoza was right in other ways as well. In particular, Dr. Damasio argues in his new book, "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain" (Harcourt, 2003), the philosopher anticipated one of brain science's most important recent discoveries: the critical role of the emotions in ensuring our survival and allowing us to think. Feeling, it turns out, is not the enemy of reason, but, as Spinoza saw it, an indispensable accomplice.
"Science is proving Spinoza more current," Dr. Damasio said over tea at his hotel during a recent visit to New York. "He intuited the basic mechanism of the emotions."

posted by James Russell | 4:25 PM


Gary S-T has an interesting story I didn't know about. I knew the government was ordered to stop indefinitely holding refugees when they couldn't return home, but this dumping people is a remarkable thing. Be interested to find out where he got the story...

posted by James Russell | 4:16 PM


Authenticity of the "Jesus box" apparently looking good.At least, the box itself is probably authentic first century AD stuff. Whether the Jesus, James and Joseph inscription refers to those biblical characters or not is still debatable, I think. Interesting article, in any case.

posted by James Russell | 4:00 PM


At least some Iraqi museum pieces are going home, it seems.

Prodded by Muslim clerics and guilty consciences, Baghdad residents returned 20 looted pieces from Iraq's ransacked national collection holding some of the earliest artifacts of civilisation. [...]
Baghdad's imams, encouraged by museum operators, had urged the faithful to return works, Hilil said. Friday, the first ones did.
"They come and say, 'Sir, sir, look in the bag,"' said Army Lt. Eric Balascik, part of a US Army unit manning the museum gates Friday. "And you look in the bag, and it's a vase or something."
The returned works included pottery and metal pieces, Hilil said.
"It was their conscience that made them bring that stuff back. That was why they brought it back," he said.

posted by James Russell | 3:57 PM


Saddam does an Osama.

His regime crumbling, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein called on his people to resist American invasion and insisted he remained in charge, according to audio of a speech reportedly recorded the day Baghdad fell and aired today by Abu Dhabi television. [...]
The station didn't say where it obtained the audio, or if it came from the same source as video of Saddam, aired earlier today, that was reportedly filmed on the same day.

I presume there will be a continuing stream of "new" audio tapes from Saddam much as there are from bin Laden from now on...

posted by James Russell | 3:49 PM


An interesting-looking new book on Krakatoa.

posted by James Russell | 3:41 PM


US gov't sides with record companies in music downloading case. Surprise, surprise.

posted by James Russell | 3:32 PM


Frank Rich praises The Daily Show's war coverage.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Stewart caused a stir by shunning comedy entirely. He shut down "The Daily Show" for a week, then returned with a tearful monologue about the attack on his city. "This time," Karlin says, "we all thought at the beginning there's no way we're going to be able to do the war." The default position was to stick with jokes about the media. But the war itself increasingly became the subject, and the jokes about President George Bush depart from the late-night clichés. The Bush on "Saturday Night Live" may still be frat-boy simple, wishing that "Shock and Awe" had been named "Tango Cash," but "The Daily Show" sees a slicker operator. After the president told the Iraqis in a subtitled TV address that they were "a good and gifted people" who "deserve better than tyranny and corruption and torture chambers," Stewart cited it as proof that "condescension knows no borders." Nor is the show taking at face value the White House's professed devotion to postwar Iraq. "We won," said Colbert in his "report" from Baghdad 10 days ago. "Rebuilding is for losers. Time to party! Then it's off to Syria for the next invasion."

I don't know, possibly I'm missing something, but what I've seen of The Daily Show here hasn't exactly left me gasping in awe at its genius. Possibly, though, the reason why I might be missing something is that here we only get the weekly 30-minute edit of the show on SBS and not the uncut daily thing, so maybe the really outstanding stuff is getting left out...

posted by James Russell | 3:29 PM


Blogcritics have redesigned, and this link is here because Eric Olsen emailed us all and asked nicely would we please link to the post announcing the new design. And who would I be to not comply with that request, even if I do have grave reservations about the new design (some of which are addressed in the post comments)? And with the various changes being made, could they not have finally installed a search function whereby you can search by post author's name so you can see all the posts a given person has made? Will the "remember info" function ever work so that I don't have to keep retyping my details every time I want to post a comment?

There's a "surprise" new section to be added shortly, but Eric told us what it is in the email so it's not a surprise to me. I won't post it here, though, don't want to get booted from the sinister cabal for revealing Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.

posted by James Russell | 3:08 PM


Changes are afoot.

More information as it comes to hand.

posted by James Russell | 2:51 PM

Friday, April 18, 2003  

Can I just take this opportunity to curse I don't use it myself, but that's because I refuse to use it when I see how badly it slows down the sites of people who use it. Especially when it fails to actually work, it holds up the site completely while it chokes. Plus it annoys me when I check the Sitemeter stats and find someone's clicked on a link to visit my site, because I don't know who the blogroll belongs to, and I like to know who's linking to me. So. No, I have nothing else of use to say, it just annoys the crap out of me.

posted by James Russell | 11:54 PM


Vote this guy for next leader of Iraq.

posted by James Russell | 4:56 PM


Portugal declared laziest nation in Europe.

posted by James Russell | 4:53 PM


Earliest writing found in China?

Signs carved into 8,600-year-old tortoise shells found in China may be the earliest written words, say archaeologists.
The symbols were written down in the late Stone Age, or Neolithic Age.
They predate the earliest recorded writings from Mesopotamia - in what is now Iraq - by more than 2,000 years.

Next: Donald Rumsfeld says "stop bitching about that stuff getting looted in Iraq, the Chinese were there first so the Iraqis don't count any more"...

posted by James Russell | 4:52 PM


42% of America not online.

Now that people can log on at work, at home, in coffee shops, in airports and even in public parks, the Internet seems like a pervasive, nearly seamless entity in most American lives.
Most, but certainly not all. Forty-two percent of Americans still don't use the Internet and the majority of them do not believe they ever will, according to a study released yesterday.
Missing out on the most popular movement of the 1990s didn't seem to bother the unwired survey respondents. More than half of nonusers said they don't want Internet access or don't need it, a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found.

Found this article via Eric Olsen at Blogcritics, who says:

That figure seems relatively high, but look at it another way: 58% ARE online, and the most of the non-users are either old, stupid, poor, living in a shack in a holler, or some combination of the above.

Alternately, maybe what those non-users say about not actually needing the Internet is true? It's become a pretty much indispensible tool for me, yes, but I can appreciate that there are people in the world who don't have the same use or desire for it that I do...

posted by James Russell | 4:39 PM


Atheist allowed to pray at council meetings.

An atheist who sought to pray in City Council meetings for deliverance "from weak and stupid politicians" got the blessing of the Utah Supreme Court on Friday. The court ruled that if officials in Murray, Utah, want to pray during government-sponsored events, the opportunity to pray must be equally accessible to all who ask.
The Supreme Court's 4-1 ruling reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit that Tom Snyder, 71, filed in state court in 1999.
"Thanks to the Supreme Court for reaffirming that constitutional protection," Snyder said. "There should be no government preference for one religion over another or a preference for religion over non-religion."
He and his lawyer have been pursuing the lawsuit since 1994, when Snyder filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Salt Lake City suburb for allowing other pre-meeting prayers but refusing to let him offer a prayer addressed to "Our Mother, who art in heaven."
Among other things, the prayer asked for deliverance "from the evil of forced religious worship now sought to be imposed upon the people ... by the actions of misguided, weak and stupid politicians, who abuse power in their own self-righteousness."

posted by James Russell | 4:29 PM


Alan Jones found guilty of defamation.

Sacked NSW policewoman Lola Scott was defamed by broadcaster Alan Jones during two on-air attacks about police corruption, a jury found.
Ms Scott, who controversially lost her job last December, sued Mr Jones and radio station 2UE in the NSW Supreme Court over broadcasts made in July and August 2001.
The jury of four men took one-and-a-half hours to return the verdict finding in favour of nine out of the 11 imputations raised by Ms Scott's barrister, Stuart Littlemore, QC.

Quite bloody right. The amount of political clout people like Jones wield is ridiculous and I'm in favour of them being reminded there are limits to what people can get away with.

posted by James Russell | 4:20 PM


Madonna releases tame version of "American Life" video. Must be really tame, then, cos I didn't think the original version (which got aired on Rage last week) was all that revolutionary and wild...

posted by James Russell | 4:09 PM


Ikea embarrassed.

Ikea has apologised after accidentally naming a child's bunk bed after an obscene German expression.
The Swedish firm didn't realise the problem until after the £110 bed went on sale across Europe.
The wooden bed is called the "Gutvik" which means "Good f***" in German. [...]
IKEA spokesman Sabine Nold, 40, said: "Yes, we do have a bed of this name that is on offer in our stores at the moment.
"It is the name of a tiny Swedish town. We did not realise that it could also be taken as something obscene."

I can just see 12 year old German boys poring over the map of Sweden and pointing to it, too. "Ho ho, ja, das ist noch ein Gutvik, nicht wahr?" "Ho ho, er hat "fick" gesagt!"

posted by James Russell | 4:08 PM


Louisiana police baffled by clean burglar. Next: Bosnian police tell Louisiana police to consider themselves lucky that they didn't have to track down some guy known as The Masturbator.

posted by James Russell | 4:02 PM


Email. Facilitating conversation around the world, ruining lives in the process.

Researchers have concluded email has become an increasing burden on computer users - with the power to ruin their personal lives.
A study of 26,000 users claims to have found the existence of Pre and Post-Mail Tension, which derives from misunderstanding emails and the fear that private messages could be circulated around the office. [...]
Researchers say PPMT was noticeable amongst those who used email as a flirting tool.
Three-quarters of people questioned admitted to using email to impress people they fancy. Women even preferred to make the first contact with those they fancied by email.
The survey also revealed 64% had problems concentrating if waiting for an email reply from someone they liked, 51% wasted time constantly checking for a reply, and 35% confessed stalling while struggling and agonising over a witty reply to impress the recipient.

Next: the prevalence of unsolicited bulk commercial email is found to demonstrably increase blood pressure.

posted by James Russell | 4:00 PM


PETA sinks to new low by co-opting Jesus.

Local Jewish leaders say a billboard that promotes vegetarianism by claiming "Jesus was the prince of peas" is historically inaccurate.
The billboard depicts Jesus with an orange slice in place of a halo, and was erected by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, to coincide with Passover and Easter.
PETA's Bruce Friedrich said the campaign is meant to provoke the thought that if people are eating meat, they are promoting cruelty to animals.
"The way that animals are treated on factory farms and slaughterhouses is egregiously cruel and mocks God," Friedrich said.
But Rabbi David Ostrich of Temple Beth-el said historical evidence indicates that Jesus, like other Jews of the time, was a meat eater. He said a ritual part of the Passover meal was a lamb slaughtered in the Temple in Jerusalem.


posted by James Russell | 3:51 PM


Richard Jinman in praise of Dark Side of the Moon.

posted by James Russell | 3:50 PM


Holy shit.

When the music newspaper Revolver folded this month after six years, the seven staff went to a pub, drowned their sorrows and wondered what to do next.

I say "holy shit" like that because Alison, the girl who edits (or, apparently, edited) Revolver, does that radio show I do with me. She hasn't been on air much this year because of scheduling conflicts with editing the magazine—she got the position late last year—but on those occasions when we've seen her it hasn't exactly sounded like a barrel of laughs. Still, I didn't realise Revolver was that close to folding. It's a couple of weeks since I've seen her myself—I was off air with flu for a couple of weeks and she wasn't there again this week—so I'll have to find out where that leaves her now...

posted by James Russell | 3:48 PM


Oy. I just got a spam message with the subject "Wish you had lager breasts". I do not require the enlargement of my manboobs, thank you very much, and I certainly do not require them to be enhanced with beer.

posted by James Russell | 3:26 PM


Brian Weatherson ponders those deep cultural divisions between us and the US.

One of the things that takes a while getting used to in America is that the place doesn't close down for Easter. Virulent Memes says that Good Friday is the quietest day of the year, and that's a pretty good impression of just how much the country does close down back home. And today (that's still Holy Thursday here) is the busiest travel day of the year in Australia, by far I think, but barely registers in America.
This is strange because by most measures America is a much more religous country than Australia. It would be impossible to have an atheist President here for instance, but it was barely comment-worthy that we had an atheist PM all through the 80s. It's just Christian holidays don't count for as much. It'd be nice to think that's a sign of tolerance towards other religions, and maybe at some deep level it is.

posted by James Russell | 3:06 PM



British police today offered a STG5,000 ($A12,940) reward after the body of a Muslim woman was found in a hospital mortuary, covered with rashers of bacon.
The desecration was discovered when the family of the 65-year-old grandmother was waiting to see her body after she lost her fight with cancer.
The Metropolitan Police's racial crime task force was called in to investigate the incident, at Hillingdon Hospital in west London, and an extensive inquiry was launched.
It is strictly against the Muslim religion to touch or eat pork and the woman's family, who do not want to be identified, have been left deeply traumatised.

Yes, way to strike a blow against the Saracen for western superiority, morons. Picking on a 65 year old woman who was probably as harmless in life as she now is in death really makes you look brave.

posted by James Russell | 2:54 PM


W's culture advisors resign over Iraq museum looting.

Two cultural advisers to the Bush administration have resigned in protest over the failure of U.S. forces to prevent the wholesale looting of priceless treasures from Baghdad's antiquities museum. Martin Sullivan, who chaired the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property for eight years, and panel member Gary Vikan said they resigned because the U.S. military had had advance warning of the danger to Iraq's historical treasures.
"We certainly know the value of oil but we certainly don't know the value of historical artifacts,'' Vikan, director of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, told Reuters on Thursday.

posted by James Russell | 2:23 PM


Australia criticised for withdrawing from Iraq.

The early withdrawal is believed to be in defiance of US wishes that some soldiers be kept in place to maintain order.
"It's one thing to have a short, sharp, highly professional, highly effective contribution when it's really hot," Mr Howard told a Perth radio station. "It's another thing to have a very long commitment of a large number of regulars."
The alacrity of Australia's withdrawal stands in stark contrast to the government's enthusiasm to deploy forces.
The EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten, in Australia for trade talks, launched a thinly veiled attack on the policy in a speech in Canberra.
"We've started something in Iraq which doesn't finish with the disappearence of the Republican Guard," he said. "The best response to those who have criticised the war would be to ensure that we played a part in creating something a great deal better."

Patten's right, of course, except Howard hasn't said anything about not playing that part. From the BBC:

"I don't think Australia should be in a situation where we have a large number of peacekeepers... simply because we have responsibilities of that kind going on in our region," Mr Howard said.
Australian forces are already involved in peacekeeping duties in the former Indonesian territory of East Timor as well as in other Asian hotspots.
But Mr Howard did say that Australia would provide "niche" areas of post-war support to Iraq, including military air traffic controllers and trained specialists to help in the search for weapons of mass destruction.

Which, to me, sounds like we will indeed be making a contribution to post-war Iraq. Anyway, we were small fry in this war; the American forces outnumbered us 150 to one all along. It was their goddamned war in the first place, let them do most of the cleaning up after it...

posted by James Russell | 2:22 PM


Hollywood's latest attempt to foil piracy.

Cinea LLC, which created an encryption system for DVDs, and Sarnoff, a technology research firm, are developing a system to modulate the light cast on a movie screen to create a flicker or other patterns that would be picked up by recording devices, making the resulting images unwatchable. The disruptive flickers would be unseen by the human eye in the movie theater.
The "forensic watermark'' system is designed to be used with digital projectors, which show movies stored on computer discs rather than traditional 35-millimeter film. Only a small number of theaters have digital projectors, although it is expected that most theaters will go digital by the end of the decade.

By that time, of course, the pirates will have moved on beyond using camcorders. The article notes that pirates these days often bribe someone in the projection room to let them set up a tripod for their camcorder in there; what'll happen is that when most theatres go digital, the pirates will bribe someone in the projection room to hook up a DVD recorder to the projector to dub a copy while the film is running...

posted by James Russell | 2:07 PM


Frances Katz appraises MTV's war coverage.

posted by James Russell | 1:58 PM


US offers piss-poor sum of money for info on Saddam.

The United States is offering up to 200,000 for information on the whereabouts of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
U.S. officials say they do not know whether Saddam is dead or alive following two massive U.S. airstrikes in Baghdad aimed at killing him.
Saddam tops a list of 55 Iraqis coalition forces have marked as the "most wanted." The reward for Saddam is a small fraction of the $25 million offered for information leading to the capture of another avowed enemy of the United States - terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Which is ridiculous. They've spent billions of dollars in this war and that's all the dough they'll pony up for the guy? Bullshit. I'm not normally inclined to agree with the people who write for Newsmax, but I'm with this fellow who says the US should offer a billion dollar reward. If they're prepared to spend the money they have so far, they should be prepared to spend that billion dollars to get a real result.

posted by James Russell | 1:41 PM


Bloggers and blog readers may be interested in this project being promoted by Tim Dunlop. I might take part in it myself.

posted by James Russell | 1:12 PM


Probably not that you care but I did go out last night. Decided I may as well brave the elements and potentially have a good time at the club as opposed to being miserable at home.

posted by James Russell | 1:11 PM

Thursday, April 17, 2003  

I was thinking of going out to Club 77 tonight, cos they've changed hands and the last goth club to be held there is on tonight. I don't like the sound of the weather out there, though, so I'm still debating whether or not to go. I don't do the big four-hour hair and make-up jobs some goths do—basic black T-shirt, jeans, shoes and jacket is as far as I go look-wise—so I don't have to spend ages tarting myself up; I could just fling some clothes on and go call the cab now, and not be such a baby about the weather. But damn I hate venturing out in that sort of rain (really heavy with quieter but still wet interludes) if I don't really have to. Plus I don't relish the prospect of catching a cab home from William St in that weather either. Either way, this'll do me for today. Back tomorrow.

posted by James Russell | 9:46 PM


Every now and then I get actual email, as opposed to the 10000 pieces of spam per hour my Yahoo account collects.

Hello to Paul Smith, who suggests the following:

As to your Bush poll and the poor response, maybe you should have played to the base side of humanity instead of offering altruistic outcomes. The question I would have asked is:
Would you blow George Dubya for $1,000,000
and I think I know a few blokes who would be elbowing to the front of the queue

I'll keep that one in mind. If you think you can do better than that, the email link is in the column at left... use it.

I got this comment in the email from someone responding to the Blogcritics post I made about the Casablanca remake:

Just leave it alone, it is not like your comments will actually mean anything. If they want to make a movie, that's their buisness. If you want to see it, see it. If you don't, then don't. It's not that complicated.

Yea, brothers and sisters, for truly I have seen the light. My opinions are not worth shit and if someone wants to do something, I should stand back and let them. If I don't want to watch it, I don't need to. So when some idiot goes driving a tank down your street, my friend, and bulldozes your house to the ground with you inside, I'll just turn my back, cos it's their business if they want to do that and I wouldn't want to watch, so I won't.

Hello to Gianna, who will find herself in the blogroll as soon as I post this. I've been meaning to add you for a while, but have just been slack about doing so.

Hello to Kitten, glad you enjoy the blog. I don't have AIM, unfortunately.

And hello to Jay, who suggests I should get some sort of search feature on the site. That's a pretty good idea, as I could probably make good use of a feature like that myself... I just don't know how you do it. I've checked the Google website and can't find instructions for adding a Google search thing to the site. If anyone can advise me on that, I'll be obliged.

posted by James Russell | 9:28 PM


Neal Pollack is in particularly fine form today.

posted by James Russell | 9:03 PM


The Smoking Gun has a beauty today.

While all news organizations prepare obituaries in advance of the deaths of famous individuals, the folks at CNN inadvertently gave the Internet-surfing public a chance to preview how the network's web site would note the demise of Vice President Dick Cheney, Ronald Reagan, and a few other prominent figures. Until earlier this afternoon, a CNN server housed mock-ups of web pages announcing the yet-to-happen deaths. The CNN pages, which were discovered by the intrepid folks at, were yanked about 20 minutes after being exposed (though TSG was able to grab a few of the pages for posterity's sake).

The obits TSG has use similar templates to each other, based on the obit page they did for the Queen Mother last year. I don't know about anyone else, but I think it's screamingly funny to see Fidel Castro described as "[the] UK's favourite grandmother" and to see his picture accompany the headline text "'Life is just one grand sweet song, so start the music': For much of Ronald Reagan's life, the words next to his high-school yearbook photo rang true." The Bob Hope and Pope ones, with a death date of 2001 on them, are even more hilarious. Apparently they were the UK's favourite grandmother as well. Brilliant.

posted by James Russell | 8:58 PM


The ultimate Beatles collectible?

Fans of former-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney have been invited to bid for a tiny piece of musical history -- germs from a bout of flu that caused him to cancel a recent gig.
After two days on the website, the germs have received two bids, the highest for 1.2 pounds and come from fan Ian Mears who claims he caught the bug from McCartney when he met him earlier this month.
"I believe this is the same strain of flu, and effectively his virus," Londoner Mears told the Daily Star on Wednesday. "I had no cold on the Saturday, then on Sunday I spent most of the afternoon with Paul and by Tuesday I too had a cold."
Successful bidders will receive their germs by post. "The highest bidder will receive a resealable bag that I will cough into," he said. "Or if preferred, they can have a plastic container full of mucus."

Next: a bag of authentic John Bonham death vomit fetches record prices on eBay.

posted by James Russell | 8:43 PM


Terror alert lowered to yellow. In other words, the threat of terror in the US is now merely elevated as opposed to high. You can all sleep soundly knowing you're marginally safer than you were yesterday.

posted by James Russell | 8:41 PM


Tatu in naked underage schoolgirl shock. And OH what hits I'm going to get from perverts looking for naked underage schoolgirls now...

posted by James Russell | 8:38 PM


Chicago no longer enforces laws against swearing. In related news, it becomes legal to read Hot Buttered Death in Chicago. Fuckin' A!

posted by James Russell | 8:37 PM


What the fuck is wrong with the Japanese?

Some may pooh-pooh the claim, but with over 2 million sold, golden turds are the latest hit consumer product to raise a stink in fad fetish Japan, according to Shukan Asahi (4/25).
Ryukodo, a Kyoto-based decoration manufacturer, has trouble pushing out enough of its golden turds to keep up with demand.
The blistering pace at which they've sold since hitting souvenir stores and clothing outlets across Japan since June 2000 seems to vindicate the old adage that nothing is as grossly overrated as awful sex and nothing as underrated as laying a decent log.
Supposedly lucky charms, golden turds weigh just under 2 grams and their curl gives them a height of some 1.2 centimeters. Rather than appearing scatological, they're cute little dollops of dung, which first made them a hit among high schoolgirls.

posted by James Russell | 8:36 PM


Madonna, for the love of God, just give up now before you make yourself look more ridiculous.

Madonna has revealed her forthcoming children's books are morality tales based on the mystical Hebrew texts she studies.
The singer, who is poised to claim her 11th UK number one this weekend with American Life, said she wants to write something deeper than the other "vapid and vacant" titles for youngsters. [...]
Madonna said: "I have a teacher I've been studying Kabbalah with for the last almost seven years now, and he's suggested that I write some children's stories based on a lot of things that I've learned in Kabbalah - so that's what I did."

Madonna, love, kids may need many things in their diet but I'm fairly sure books based on the Kabbalah are not among them. And calling kids' books "vapid and vacant" is a little rich coming from you; that music of yours has been vapid and vacant for a while now...

posted by James Russell | 8:04 PM


Even Jesus must wear a helmet when he's on his bike.

posted by James Russell | 7:59 PM


Bosnian police catch The Masturbator. Reports that he left a trail for them to follow have not been confirmed.

posted by James Russell | 7:58 PM


"Waiter! There's a worm in my soup!" "OK, crybaby, give it here and I'll eat it myself..."

posted by James Russell | 7:57 PM


Hell hath no fury like a TV fan scorned, apparently.

posted by James Russell | 7:56 PM


Alcoholics rejoice! The non-hangover vodka!

posted by James Russell | 7:51 PM


Oh God no.

The 1980s television series "Knight Rider" and its crime-busting, talking car are revving up for the big screen.
The drama starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, owner of the high-tech Pontiac Trans Am known as K.I.T.T. The car's voice was supplied by William Daniels.
The film is planned as an action comedy, Daily Variety reported Monday.

Thank Christ for that, at least. I had a terrible fear they might try and play it seriously. Hasselhoff is so far listed only as executive producer and no star has been named, but I wouldn't be surprised somehow if he takes the role. Incidentally, I've just discovered the fellow who provided KITT's voice also appeared in that Simpsons episode with "Night Boat". Useless trivia for you, but there you go...

posted by James Russell | 7:40 PM


OH good grief. I've finally been able to access the Mohammed Al-Sahhaf fan site. Many priceless quotes have been offered from Sahhaf, but I haven't seen this one mentioned anywhere else yet:

"It has been rumored that we have fired scud missiles into Kuwait. I am here now to tell you, we do not have any scud missiles and I don't know why they were fired into Kuwait."

Extraordinary. Absolutely extraordinary. It takes some incredible psychology to not only think you can fool people with statements like that, but to fool yourself with them too. As someone says in the reader feedback area, "this gentleman has achieved bullshit that transcends bullshit and becomes a thing of wonder. As a lawyer I can only stand back and watch in awe." If you've not had a chance to look at the site before (don't know why I've been unable to get into it before now), do so immediately.

posted by James Russell | 7:35 PM


Ah, if only this weren't from the Weekly World News...

posted by James Russell | 7:20 PM


Sony withdraws, apologises for "shock and awe" patent.

Electronics giant Sony has admitted "regrettable bad judgement" in attempting to register the phrase "shock and awe" - derived from US military tactics in Iraq - for its computer games division.
The company said it had withdrawn a trademark filing in the US for the phrase, which refers to the deliberately intimidating bombing techniques used in the early phase of the war.
The company said it had had no specific plans for the phrase, but it could have been used for one of the many shoot-'em-up games on its Playstation console.
"[Sony] concurs with the views of those who have expressed strong criticisms regarding this conduct," it said in a statement.
"Steps will be taken to heighten awareness throughout the Sony Group so as not to repeat such issues."

posted by James Russell | 6:39 PM


What the hell?

US commanders have said they will launch a "snatch-and-shoot" raid for Saddam Hussein if they track him to a hiding place in neighbouring Syria, The Times newspaper said today.
Although troops hunting for members of the toppled Iraqi regime have been ordered to respect Syria's borders, an exception would be made in the case of Saddam, said a senior US source at Central Command in Qatar, according to The Times.

Great... Saddam died in that first decapitation strike, then he was alive, then he died five years ago, then he didn't, then he died in that fucking huge bomb attack, then he didn't, now he could be in Syria. You don't suppose that at some point we'll actually be told what the truth of the matter regarding Saddam's ongoing or otherwise existence is?

posted by James Russell | 6:17 PM


Robert Thomas is coming home too.

posted by James Russell | 6:09 PM


Australia pulling some of its troops out.

Australia has decided to begin pulling its troops out of Iraq from next month with only a handful of specialists likely to remain in the Middle East after June.
The government announced the withdrawal Thursday, adding that it was reluctant to commit peacekeeping troops to Iraq. [...]
"Australia has provided highly effective specialist military capabilities to support the coalition's efforts to disarm Iraq," Defense Minister Senator Hill said in a statement.
"Much of their work is done -- we are now able to plan to bring home many of our 2000 personnel who have been deployed on Operation Falconer."

posted by James Russell | 6:08 PM


Bob Hope is nearly 100.

The legendary entertainer Bob Hope will turn 100 next month, and friends and fans gathered in Hollywood Tuesday to celebrate his career. The comedian was named Hollywood's "Citizen of the Century" for his work as an entertainer, and his work entertaining U.S. troops overseas.
Bob Hope has been making people laugh since 1909, when the six-year-old immigrant from England mimicked comedian Charlie Chaplin in front of a Cleveland firehouse.

Young Bob was clearly a precocious little bugger. It wasn't until 1912 that Chaplin made his first American theatrical appearance and not until 1914 that he first came to world attention with his films for Keystone. If little Bob was picking up on Chaplin when he was just six he clearly had an eye for future talent beyond that of most six year olds...

posted by James Russell | 6:05 PM


Dave Trowbridge pretty much says it all.

I remember vividly a day ten years ago when I stood in the National Archives before the plinth bearing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, tears in my eyes, my throat tight with mingled awe and pride... how I would feel upon hearing that the flames of anarchy had claimed them?
It makes me weep.

posted by James Russell | 5:56 PM


Incidentally, I've noticed Gummo splits up his more extended items across two or three posts because he says he has problems posting things over 2Kb in size. Wonder what's up with that? Cos the thing I've just posted clocked in a bit over 9Kb and it went in with no problems. I see quite a few other bloggers do extended entries too that are obviously over 2Kb. Don't know what Gummo's problem is that he can't...

posted by James Russell | 5:43 PM


Ken was musing in the comments to this post:

I'm also fascinated by the human drive to immortalise oneself, whether through conquest, career achievement, literature, art or whatever. Should we seek Buddhist annihilation of self and so minimise the suffering of being, or accept that egoistic ambition and suffering are the rocket fuel of human progress? Blogging in some of its forms might be a manifestation of the drive to immortality.

But blogging is really a bad choice if you're trying to achieve some sort of immortality. Indeed, almost any form of digital or electronic media is a bad choice. The world does not lend itself to permanence, after all, and electronic media least of all.

I frequent the alt.movies.silent Usenet newsgroup. There was a thread started recently about fires in film archives, and along the way that developed into a sub-thread about audio preservation, how in the late 1960s companies like CBS starting transferring all their sound recordings onto cassette tape (!) so they could free up storage space by destroying the original discs and open-reel tapes. That in turn led to someone just today mentioning a tape made around 1939 of a Polish pianist playing on Vatican radio... the tapes were found to still be playable, so a copy was made of them. The tapes then disintegrated as soon as the transfer was finished. A historical moment was thus preserved, but it very nearly wasn't.

On the other hand, a hundred years after Enrico Caruso made his first recordings, we can still go back to his original recordings. Why? Because they were produced on disc. The sound is accordingly rough, but we can still play those century-old discs. Go back even further, we can still (just) hear Johannes Brahms playing one of his own Hungarian Rhapsodies on a cylinder in 1889. In 2062, will they be able to use the original tape of "Love Me Do" by the Beatles for the 100th anniversary of their first release? I suspect not.

Videotape poses similar problems. Doctor Who is the classic example of a television company deciding their own product has no more commercial value and destroying it, as witness the wholesale destruction of episodes of the show during the 1970s (such 1960s episodes as still exist are all on film transfers; none survive on video) by erasing the original tapes. Even into the 1980s you find some tapes survive in less than optimal condition. For the video release of the 1984 story The Awakening, the restoration team had to repair a scratch on the master tape that had probably occurred while the episode was being transmitted.

And yet, as with sound recordings, we can go back a hundred years or more to the original sources. We can still watch the Lumiere brothers' employees leaving the factory because we can still take the film and shine a light through it. You can't shine a light through videotape to make it give you pictures, just as you can't get sound from an audiotape by dropping a stylus on it. 109 years after they walked out the factory gate, we can still see the Lumieres' workers buggering off home. Only twenty or thirty years after they were made, TV companies are lumbered with tapes they can't use.

The written word on paper, of course, has the best chance of all. It's why (to use the example I'm currently reading) Penguin Books can release a translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses made by Arthur Golding in the mid-1500s. It's why Arthur Golding could make his translation of Ovid in the first place. It's why we can still read Homer; the written texts were copied across the centuries and so come down to us today. It's why Aristotle's Athenian Constitution was rediscovered in 1890, and why Menander's Misanthrope was rediscovered in 1957, about 2300 years after each was written. And it's why we have the Dead Sea Scrolls.

These are all what you could call analogue media. Of course, they're not perfect; as I said, the world tends to impermanence anyway, and classical literature in particular is in quite mangled shape. We have 28,000 lines of Homer, but we don't have a single intact poem by Archilochus. Of the whole corpus of 5th/4th century Greek drama, something like only 45 complete plays still exist (7 by Aeschylus and Sophocles, 19 by Euripides, 11 by Aristophanes and one by Menander). Greek tragedy was commonly presented in trilogy form; Aeschylus' Oresteia is the only extant complete trilogy. The written word is not fireproof, after all. If you have the only copy of something and you put a match to it, it's gone.

Same goes for film. To be a film lover, after all, is to weep for the sheer volume of lost celluloid. The figure I've seen quoted on alt.movies.silent are that about 10,000 silent features were made in the US from 1912 to 1931, and about 2500 of those survive in some form today (about 500 only in fragmentary form). The other 7500 are lost. That's not counting short film production during and before the same time period, nor indeed production around the world. The Phillippines apparently has only four films made there still in existence from before 1970 or something. There was a vault fire in Mexico twenty years ago that destroyed 6500 films made there since the 1890s. Just because a print survives in an archive doesn't mean it can't still get lost.

You don't seem to hear about lost sound recordings as much, but it happens. A friend of mine has a set of old recordings of Bruckner symphonies, including one of the sixth symphony recorded in 1942. The CD issue is missing the first movement of the symphony because the original discs for the first movement are lost. While we have all of Robert Johnson's recordings, alternate takes of several of his songs recorded at those 1936 and 1937 sessions remain missing. Some early Beatles recordings for EMI that were thought lost have since turned up, but two of their audition recordings for the label remain lost.

Still, analogue media have, I think, a better chance than digital ones. The survival of data on a computer or CD is dependent upon that device remaining active and useable. Some CDs have a documented problem with disc rot and bronzing, and as someone once said, while a scratch on a vinyl record can just be annoying, a scratch on a CD can be deadly to the disc. As for computers, they can always be hacked. Didn't OzBlogger Rob Corr lose his entire blog archives to a hacker recently. A simple crash can cause enough havoc. I lost a couple of years worth of email and saved newsgroup posts in a crash a couple of years ago.

The Internet is, however, the medium most prone to impermanence. I know there are still web pages and FTP archives out there that haven't been changed for anywhere up to ten years, but for the most part the Internet is all about change and dynamism. Site designs change all the time. If you use style sheets, you can redesign an entire website in seconds. The current look of my own blog is about the sixth or seventh that I can remember doing. And because it's all about change, the look of the web as it used to be is becoming lost all the time.

I put up my first website in August 1998. The domain I used (sublet to me by the friend who owned it) no longer exists. The webpages themselves no longer exist in their old forms, either. I kept changing the design and the content as I changed the site. This is the earliest version of my old site that I can find, and that was the fourth or fifth design I came up with for it. I don't have any examples of the designs I had before then.

Things change, time passes, what used to be there isn't any more and the record of how things develop is lost. Things like the Internet Archive exist and some websites are actually officially archived by government libraries, but by and large the Internet is all about things changing and disappearing and leaving little trace. I can go into a used books place like Gould's and pick up (as I once did) a copy of an out-of-print book like Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution printed in 1889 for twelve bucks. It's hard to do that with a website.

That, at last, is why I think Ken's bit about "blogging [as] a manifestation of the drive to immortality" isn't quite right. You can change wording in your blog, delete whole posts even, hardly anyone will notice the difference. With time even you will probably forget you ever posted that and there'll be no record it ever happened. Maybe if you're more of an essay blogger with minimal linking, you've got more chance of being able to recycle the essay into something a print magazine can use. Otherwise, it seems to me that there's nothing immortal about a blog unless you actually save individual posts and print them up on paper. And, of course, doing that would be to defeat the point of the weblog entirely...

posted by James Russell | 5:27 PM


Pauline Hanson finally loses.

Pauline Hanson's bid to enter the NSW Parliament ended just before 6pm yesterday when the State Electoral Office finished counting votes for the Legislative Assembly and the Shooters Party MP, John Tingle, squeezed her out.

Don't know if we should be crowing or not, then...

posted by James Russell | 12:47 AM


About fucking time.

U.S. soldiers were standing guard Wednesday at Iraq's National Museum, where widespread looting broke out after the fall of Baghdad last week.
On Wednesday morning, a CNN news team saw two U.S. tanks parked inside the museum courtyard and another at a side entrance. Three Humvees -- two with mounted machine guns -- arrived soon afterward.
Signs in Arabic warned, "Under American Protection."
Army 2nd Lt. Erik Balascik said the troops were deployed Wednesday morning to secure the museum.

A bit late, but nice to see the effort finally being made.

posted by James Russell | 12:35 AM

Wednesday, April 16, 2003  

Have you seen Ken Parish's dog? Three year old white poodle, answers to the name "Munchie".

posted by James Russell | 10:41 PM


Thanks to Ted Barlow for turning that one up.

posted by James Russell | 4:13 PM


Christian rock band loses sales, airplay thanks to ideological incorrectness.

In a letter dated Thurdsay, April 10, Alan Meltzer of Wind-Up Records officially recalled all Evanescence products from Christian stores, Christian radio, and Christian charts.
"Despite having roots within the Christian community prior to the release of Fallen," said Meltzer in the letter, "recent statements by band members have made it abundantly clear that Evanescence is a secular band, and as such view their music as entertainment. No more, no less. As such we strongly feel that they no longer belong in Christian retail outlets. Despite the spiritual underpinning that has ignited interest and excitement in the Christian religious community, the band is now opposed to promoting or supporting any religious agenda. The decision to release Fallen into the Christian market was made subsequent to discussions with and approval by the artist. Obviously the band has had a change in their perspective, as well as changes within the band itself as relates to new band members. Wind-up deeply regrets this situation." [...]
Meltzer's comments concluded with the following. "I have no issues or problems with the band not wishing to promote a religious agenda. That is their opinion. How it has been handled is a separate issue. That being said, I do have a problem with misrepresenting the artist to the Christian community. That is not and has never been the intent of Wind-up or the band. Nevertheless, it is quite apparent that the landscape has now changed... I apologize for what has become an unfortunate and embarrassing situation. While I cannot go back and undo what has been done, going forward we will scrutinize our Christian artists' beliefs and commitment with even greater diligence. I assure you that there will not be any repeat of anything even resembling this present situation. I will personally inform all of our future artists who represent themselves as Christian artists and wish to be represented in the Christian community that in doing so they must understand the lasting and on-going commitment that involves. Those who are not 100% committed will not be offered to Christian retail."

Found this article via TMFTML, who comment: "The joke sort of makes itself, don't you think?" It would, if there were actually a joke to be made. God, I thought the indie rock scene was small-minded and purist...

posted by James Russell | 4:06 PM


Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf may have committed suicide.

It may well be the ultimate in spin from the Iraqi minister of information, but this afternoon there are reports circulating that Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has committed suicide. [...]
The fate of the man dubbed "Comical Ali" might not be known, but he is sure to live on in legendary status for his own creative interpretation of the truth, denying what was quite obvious to everyone around him. [...]
Al-Sahaf became somewhat of a cult figure in the early stages of the conflict when he declared that the "infidels" were facing "slaughter", despite the images of US tanks rolling into Baghdad and the sound of artillery fire reverberating around the city.
And when the Americans took control of Saddam international airport, he claimed Bush's troops had all been slaughtered.
Standing on the roof of Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, and ignoring the sight of Iraqi troops running for cover on the other side of the Tigris river, al-Sahaf declared: "Baghdad is safe. The battle is still going on. Their infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad. Don't believe those liars."
But his most famous and incredible spin was his claim to reporters that the Americans would find their "tombs" in Baghdad, when US tanks were visible to camera crews filming his impromptu briefing.

Next: Sahaf appears on TV to say "No I bloody haven't died. The infidels lie!"

posted by James Russell | 3:55 PM


Vote now for who you want to be the next President of the US. Buddha is leading by a comfortable margin against W., though the Olsen Twins are, a little disturbingly, coming second.

posted by James Russell | 3:51 PM


Well DUH.

Scientists believe they may have found a way to reduce the risk of a heart attack - watch an exciting football match.
However, it may be a high risk strategy, as it only seems to hold good if your team wins.

posted by James Russell | 3:43 PM


Maybe this is how the problem of the looting in Iraq should be solved.

posted by James Russell | 3:42 PM


Indiana college haunted by "barfing ghost".

posted by James Russell | 3:40 PM


I don't fucking think so, thank you very much.

We bloggers spend so much time, energy, and emotional effort revealing the most intimate details of our lives on our websites ... and yet most of us balk at showing a few square inches of skin.
What do we have to hide if we're supposedly letting it all hang out via our weblogs?
That's the purpose of this project: to challenge people's assumptions (both our readers' and our own) about what's really involved in revealing oneself via the blog medium, and to examine our own hang-ups about exposing ourselves on the Web. (And to have fun, too. None of this is meant to be taken that seriously.)

NOBODY needs to be looking at my penis, least of all on the Internet. You'll forgive me if I sit this one out.

posted by James Russell | 3:40 PM


OK, this is taking the S/M thing a little too far for my liking.

posted by James Russell | 3:37 PM


James Cameron comes in on 90th day of nine-day wonder (with apologies to Alfred Hitchcock).

Titanic director James Cameron is to film his next blockbuster in 3D.
Cameron, who also directed Terminator 2 and The Abyss, has just released documentary Ghosts of the Abyss - about returning to the Titanic.
And he revealed his next big movie project will be filmed in the same way, with audience members wearing special glasses.
Cameron told the Daily Record: "We've been messing about with this hi-tech equipment and we want to make more use of what we've learned."
He adds that fans can expect his new film project in about two years time.

posted by James Russell | 3:12 PM


Tony Blair: typical bloody man.

Tony Blair may be a hardworking Prime Minister, but his wife has revealed his housekeeping skills leave a lot to be desired.
Cherie Blair is in Australia to attend several conferences and to give a lecture next week at Perth's Edith Cowan University.
During a speech on women and human rights in Melbourne, she said that while more women now work in countries like Australia and Britain, they still have primary responsibility for housekeeping and child rearing.
To general amusement, Mrs Blair explained: "I am always quite astonished when I read surveys about how many hours (of housework) men are supposed to do, because in my experience they don't do any at all."

posted by James Russell | 3:10 PM


Charity wank set for webcast. Well, sort of.

A community sex education centre is to broadcast a charity masturbate-a-thon live on the internet.
It's being organised by Carol Queen of The Centre for Sex & Culture in San Francisco.
The Centre is a non-profit, sex education organisation which provides events, classes and a library.
Participants in the May 2 event will collect money for charity and then masturbate privately.

And a collective "aww" of disappointment went up around the world...

posted by James Russell | 3:09 PM


RIP Jean-Yves Escoffier.

Jean-Yves Escoffier, a French cinematographer who shot the original "Three Men and a Cradle" for Coline Serreau, has died of a heart seizure in Los Angeles. He was 52.
A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Friday at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. He died April 1.
A graduate of the Ecole Louis Lumiere in Paris, Escoffier was known in Europe for his collaboration with director Leos Carax, with whom he made three films: "Les Amants du Pont-Neuf" (The Lovers on the Bridge), for which he won a European Academy Felix Award; "Mauvais sang" (Bad Blood); and "Boy Meets Girl." He received a Cesar Award for his work on 1985's "Trois Hommes et un couffin," as the "Cradle" film was titled in French.

Can't say I've actually heard of the fellow, I must admit, but it looks like he had an interesting career.

posted by James Russell | 3:02 PM


Just experimenting with borders around blockquoted text. Marking out the blockquoted areas with a separate background colour is kind of not very good when the blockquote contains a link, I've noticed. The border works much better.

posted by James Russell | 2:50 PM


Oh, and, polling has now ceased operation. 100 people voted no, 77 voted yes. Results indicate, therefore, that only 44% of people would fellate George W. Bush to achieve permanent and unconditional world peace and 56% would not. (Yes I know that's a baseless extrapolation which I excoriate proper polling organisations and media for making, but it's MY poll. Shut up.) I don't know whether or not that's a good thing. I will, however, say I was disappointed in the voter turnout, only 177 people voted (and my thanks go to each and every one of them). I'd have thought that question would be too good to pass up... maybe it provoked too many conflicting emotions in people, the horror of the act vs. the nobility of the cause... maybe it was too disgusting to contemplate. If someone out there can think of a question to ask which is good but won't frighten people off, let me know...

posted by James Russell | 2:30 PM


Howard knows his limits, apparently.

The Americans also seem to be turning attention to Syria. Do you support that?
Well I certainly support the warnings they’ve given Syria about not cooperating with terrorism. I don’t think what the Americans have said should be construed for a moment as heralding some kind of invasion of Syria. I think there has been a complete overreaction by some people to what they have said. I certainly don’t expect for a moment, and would not support, any invasion of Syria. That’s not something that’s on our agenda.

We'll see how long he holds to that, though I will say they're heartening words.

posted by James Russell | 1:57 PM


What was that about truth being the first casualty of war?

THE “Stay Lucky” soldier pictured wearing a helmet riddled with bullet holes was playing a PRANK, The Sun can reveal.
Comical commando Eric Walderman and his comrades fooled Gulf War II newsmen by pretending he had escaped death by inches when he was shot at while fighting Iraqis.
In fact his Kevlar helmet was just lying on top of his pack when it was peppered by fellow Marines trying to hit an unexploded anti-tank weapon.
Eric, 28, then popped it on his head and posed for photographers travelling with 40 Commando before they took Umm Qasr in southern Iraq.
He gave no interview but he and his pals did nothing to stop journalists jumping to conclusions.
The picture was beamed round the world with the amazing story of his “miracle” escape. [...]
The Marines came clean when The Sun sought an update on Eric for our Gulf War in pictures commemorative special.
A senior officer said: “I’m afraid the pressmen have been had. All commandos have a great sense of humour. Boys will be boys.
“It will go down in history as a great wheeze.”
Eric’s receptionist girlfriend Lindsey Robinson, 25, was among those who cheered his luck after the “firefight”. She said: “I can’t believe it.”

You and a good few other people, dear. Wonder how many people will be laughing when he gets home...

posted by James Russell | 1:44 PM


On parallel universes.

Is there a copy of you reading this article? A person who is not you but who lives on a planet called Earth, with misty mountains, fertile fields and sprawling cities, in a solar system with eight other planets? The life of this person has been identical to yours in every respect. But perhaps he or she now decides to put down this article without finishing it, while you read on.
The idea of such an alter ego seems strange and implausible, but it looks as if we will just have to live with it, because it is supported by astronomical observations. The simplest and most popular cosmological model today predicts that you have a twin in a galaxy about 10 to the 1028 meters from here. This distance is so large that it is beyond astronomical, but that does not make your doppelgänger any less real. The estimate is derived from elementary probability and does not even assume speculative modern physics, merely that space is infinite (or at least sufficiently large) in size and almost uniformly filled with matter, as observations indicate. In infinite space, even the most unlikely events must take place somewhere. There are infinitely many other inhabited planets, including not just one but infinitely many that have people with the same appearance, name and memories as you, who play out every possible permutation of your life choices.

posted by James Russell | 1:30 PM


Achille Lauro hijack leader belatedly arrested.

posted by James Russell | 1:19 PM


Now James Frazier might lose that Academy Award of his.

An Australian film-maker's 1997 Academy Award is in doubt, after a US judge ruled his "revolutionary" camera lens does not work.
Los Angeles Judge Gary Feess has ruled that Australian James Frazier faked a videotape to win a patent for the lens system, court officials say.
The judge has nullified the camera's patent and Oscar officials say the case thrusts the future of Mr Frazier's award into doubt. [...]
John Pavlik of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which runs the Oscars, says the academy is examining the ruling. [...]
"Awards can be withdrawn and will be if the winners are proved to be ineligible for some reason.
Mr Pavlik says he knows of only one instance when an Oscar has been taken back from its winner.
In 1969, the academy took back the golden statuette from documentary winner The Young Americans because it was found that it had been released too early to be eligible for the 1968 Oscars.

posted by James Russell | 12:47 PM


The rise and fall of the music video.

The irony is that in the late '80s and early '90s, as videos became more formally sophisticated and better produced, they were played less and less on MTV. The channel joined the A.C. Nielsen ratings system in the early '80s, which measures viewership in 15-minute increments. People watched one or two videos in a row, but rarely three or four. So MTV began packaging its videos in clearly delineated formats - "120 Minutes" for alternative fare and "Yo! MTV Raps" for hip-hop - and producing more original shows like "Remote Control" and "The Real World." For a time in the early '90s, it seemed as if the channel's entire prime-time schedule had been ceded to "Beavis and Butt-head."

posted by James Russell | 12:44 PM


Why don't they just fucking well ban cigarettes altogether?

A SOUTH Australian government taskforce has recommended smoking be banned in all bars, gaming areas, nightclubs and dining venues within two years.
The report from the Hospitality Smoke-free Taskforce says the ban should come into effect on March 1, 2005.
It also suggests 50 per cent of the area of al fresco venues be included and calls for a comprehensive community and industry education program.
The only exemption to the widespread ban would be the high rollers' room at the Adelaide Casino.

Right on. Because if someone can afford to get in there, obviously they're someone the government should be keeping on side. Fuck the ordinary mug punters, we don't want to offend someone like Kerry Packer by telling him he can't smoke...

posted by James Russell | 12:36 PM


US forces trying to hinder media coverage in Iraq.

US forces yesterday tried to stop the media from covering a third day of anti-American protests by Iraqis outside a hotel housing a US operations base, according to a reporter at the scene.
Up to 300 Iraqis gathered outside the Palestine Hotel to express rage at what they said was the US failure to restore order after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.
For the first time, visibly angered US military officials sought to distance the media from the protest, moving reporters and cameras about 30 metres from the barbed-wired entrance to the hotel.
"We want you to pull back to the back of the hotel because they (the Iraqis) are only performing because the media are here," said a marines colonel who would not give his first name or title.

Remember kids, the problem is not that the Iraqis are protesting but that the media are reporting that the Iraqis are protesting...

posted by James Russell | 12:30 PM


And the war goes on.

United States troops opened fire on a crowd hostile to the new pro-American governor in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday, killing at least 10 people and injuring as many as 100, witnesses and doctors said.
The shooting overshadowed the start of US-brokered talks aimed at sketching out a post-Saddam Iraq.
At Mosul hospital Dr Ayad al-Ramadhani said the American soldiers had fired into a crowd that was becoming increasingly hostile towards governor Mashaan al-Juburi as he was making a pro-US speech in the city. [...]
"There are perhaps 100 wounded and 10 to 12 dead," Dr al-Ramadhani said as angry relatives of the dead and wounded voiced hatred of Americans and Westerners. [...]
But the US spokesman said: "There were protesters outside, 100 to 150, there was fire, we returned fire. We didn't fire at the crowd, but at the top of the building. There were at least two gunmen. I don't know if they were killed. The firing was not intensive but sporadic, and lasted up to two minutes."

So these 100-150 protestors were all on top of the building you were firing at? Good grief.

posted by James Russell | 12:20 PM

Tuesday, April 15, 2003  

Australia loses asylum appeal. We've all been told to go back to our own country... oh all right, no we haven't.

Australia's federal court has ruled the government has no power to detain asylum seekers prior to deportation where they have been refused permission to enter another country.
The Federal Court dismissed Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock's appeal against Palestinian man, Akram Al Masri.
Mr Al Masri was held for eight months at the Woomera Detention centre after his application for a protection visa had failed. Mr Al Masri had been denied permission to return home either directly or via Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.
Mr Ruddock appealed against the decision that Mr Al Masri be released pending his deportation.

posted by James Russell | 9:33 PM



Perhaps the time has come to recognise this dominant search engine for what it is - a public utility that must be regulated in the public interest.
The argument about keeping away from regulating the internet and the web has always been that the technology is not mature enough or important enough to merit government interference.
Surely, with more than half of UK adults using the net we have reached the point where this argument no longer applies.
A government serious about ensuring that the net benefits society as a whole could start by investigating Google and considering whether we should create Ofsearch, the Office of Search Engines.

Uh-huh... and precisely which government would create this? Which government would be given the power to monitor a search engine used around the whole world? Or are only UK users going to be governmentally protected from the techno-nightmare that is Google and the rest of the world will just have to make do with what we've got? Fuckwit.

posted by James Russell | 9:31 PM


Oh what the fuck has happened to my template NOW? The blog looks as it should when I actually publish it but when I go into the template settings to edit something it's giving me an outdated version of the template that I don't want. "Christ Jesus, Blogger are such utter cunts."

posted by James Russell | 8:34 PM


The blogosphere is slowly realising that there was a massacre in the former Zaire last week, around the same time that Coalition forces were knocking down statues in Baghdad. (I did read about it in the papers, but haven't posted on it. Think my head's been too full of Iraq.)

The United States has condemned the reported massacre of 1,000 civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo and urged the country's warring parties to end hostilities.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker made the remarks Monday in Washington as reports surfaced about the civilian deaths in the Congo's northern Ituri province.
The executions are said to have taken place last Thursday, one day after a multi-party peace accord to end the broader Congolese conflict was signed in South Africa.
Mr. Reeker said the United States has consistently spoken out against what he called "the grave humanitarian tragedy" of violence in the Congo, especially in the Ituri province.
He also said Uganda, as the party responsible for security in the region, must make sure no atrocities or human rights violations are committed in the area.

Michael Blowhard cites that pathological case John Ray, who

...points out that while the world's been fixated on the war in Iraq, millions of Africans have been dying in a war in the Congo. Millions! And he asks, Why aren't the do-gooders carrying on at least as much about this as they have been about the Iraq war? He points to this article about the mess, here.

Looking at the article, we find last week's massacre is, depressingly, not exactly out of the ordinary. Ray's precise comment on the subject—"An accident or misjudgement of war is an outrage if the U.S. is responsible for it but blacks can do ANYTHING without it being an outrage"—strikes me for some reason as being the sort of thing he'd say.

As far as the do-gooders go, it's not an entirely bad point; it's also much the same point as pro-war commentators made of anti-war commentators before the Son Of All Battles, i.e. "this has gone on all this time, and what have you done to stop it?" And the answer is pretty much the same as well. It's a fair question in that the "do-gooders" clearly haven't done enough to prevent this shit from happening... so what have the people asking the question been doing that's better? Can we expect the UN... no, sorry, I mean the US, I forgot the UN is irrelevant now of course, can we expect the US to whip up another coalition to go in there and do something to stop the people of Congo killing themselves? I mean, hey, they've got natural resources like diamonds and petroleum that the US can exploit... what's stopping them? Or can they only deal with stomping on one country at a time?

posted by James Russell | 8:20 PM


Nigel Richardson really can't stand Donald Rumsfeld.

posted by James Russell | 6:21 PM


This much Ian McCulloch from Echo and the Bunnymen knows.

We were the first band to split up because of culinary differences. If you're in a band, there are some things you just don't do. Will Sergeant [guitar] and Les Pattinson [bass] would have an 'egg butty' just after they came offstage at the Albert Hall. Can you imagine? Towards the end of the band, we had frying pans backstage, camping stoves, the stink of bacon... it was disgusting. [...]
I don't do breakdowns. Everybody has thought some time in their life: 'Could I ever kill myself, if it got that bad?' But I always think: 'Not if there's football on.'

posted by James Russell | 6:13 PM


Muslims angry over leniency for terrorist.

Seminole podiatrist Robert J. Goldstein pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to plotting to blow up a local mosque.
Goldstein faces 121/2 to 15 years in prison, according to a plea agreement, about two years less than he likely would face if convicted of the same charges at trial.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office expressed relief that the plot was foiled and the main player will go to prison. But the plea agreement left a local Muslim group with mixed feelings.
If Goldstein were a Muslim who plotted to blow up buildings, he would have faced a much harsher sentence, said Ahmed Bedier, communications director of the Florida office of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
"This appears to be a double standard," he said. "This sentence also sends a message that it just might be worth the risk to attack American Muslims." [...]
Altaf Ali, CAIR's executive director in Florida, said he had hoped the prosecutors would treat the case with "more seriousness," given the potential damage posed by the plot.
"We wanted them to treat this as a domestic terrorist cell," Ali said. "These are not tough enough sentences for what they planned to carry out."

posted by James Russell | 6:03 PM


US to forgive Iraqi debt?

Finance ministers and development activists gathered here Friday for meetings to discuss the world economy, poverty and reform of the world's financial institutions were stunned when a U.S. official suggested that global creditors should forgive Iraqi debts.
U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose government often sets the tempo for meetings such as this weekend's gathering of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, took the place by storm when he said Iraq's whopping debt - estimated at between 100 and 300 billion dollars - must be cancelled. [...]
Activists said they were elated that a U.S. official had recognised that debts left from corrupt and repressive governments are intractable obstacles to re-developing a country like Iraq, and that officials should apply the same logic to other nations suffering under worse conditions than Iraq. But some doubted that would happen.
"It's clearly self-serving," said Soren Ambrose from the 50 Years is Enough network.
The U.S. government has steadfastly opposed cancelling debts in the rest of the world, he added, "even in cases as egregious as the apartheid government's debts in South Africa and Mobutu's debts in Zaire (known now as Congo)".

This sounds much like the forgiving of Pakistan's debt which I posted about recently. Again, it looks like a fairly transparent attempt to get a country on our side...

posted by James Russell | 5:58 PM


Like quite a few people, Andrew Gumbel's wondering where the WMDs are.

They were the reason the United States and Britain were in such a hurry to go to war, the threat the rank-and-file troops feared most.
And yet, after three weeks of war, after the capture of Baghdad and the collapse of the Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction – those weapons that President Bush, on the eve of hostilities, said were a direct threat to the people of the United States – have still to be identified.
Many influential people – disarmament experts, present and former United Nations arms inspectors, our own Robin Cook – have begun to wonder aloud if the weapons exist at all.

Meanwhile another backtrack over the presence of WMDs has had to be performed:

US marines overnight reported finding five cannisters with a substance testing positive for chemical agents, but backed off a claim of finding 278 suspect artillery shells.
Officers with the marine's 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment said the canisters were found yesterday in a Baghdad schoolyard among large stocks of ammunition.
Corporal Chad Arva, a chemicals analysis specialist, said the contents of the canisters "tested positive three times for blister agents".
But battalion officers backed off an earlier claim they had found likely blister agents in 278 artillery shells.

posted by James Russell | 5:53 PM


Maybe this is what Iraq needs instead of our system of government.

A professional wrestler who fought his way to victory in local assembly elections under his ring name and wearing his trademark mask has vowed the mask will not leave his face even after he enters the staid halls of Japanese politics.
"This is my face," the wrestler -- known as "The Great Sasuke" -- was quoted by the Nikkan Sports newspaper as saying of his black and white full-face mask with bright scarlet streaks and golden wings by the eye holes.
"I won support from voters with this face, and to take it off would be breaking promises," the 33-year-old wrestler, whose real name is Masanori Murakawa, said of his victory in conservative Iwate prefecture, some 460 km (290 miles) north of Tokyo.
Catching opponents on the back foot to take one of 10 assembly seats, the wrestler said he now hopes to demonstrate his "superabundant power" outside of the ring as well as in it.

posted by James Russell | 5:30 PM


Like father like son, obviously.

posted by James Russell | 5:19 PM


Al Jazeera attacked from unlikely source.

A vegetarian activist group says the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera is willing to run graphic footage of human war victims but won't accept their commercial showing bloody animals.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Monday it offered to pay the network $10,000 to run its 30-second Arabic-dubbed spot, but was refused. Al-Jazeera said it's still possible the ad may run.
PETA specifically targeted Al-Jazeera because the news network was in the news early in the war for airing pictures of bloody American bodies.
The ad shows cows hanging upside down in a slaughterhouse after their throats had been slit, goats being killed and a chicken thrown violently at a box. It hasn't aired on any television network.
"It's certainly curious that they would be willing to show people the outcome of war but not be willing to show people the outcome of choosing to eat meat," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of vegan outreach.

posted by James Russell | 5:18 PM


Norwegian school thoughtfully accommodates drunken students.

Students at a Norwegian school are to be given an extra two hours in bed each morning next month - to help them cope with their hangovers.
A school in Rogaland says students can skip their first two lessons during their celebrations in the run-up to their final exams.
Final year students traditionally spend much of the three weeks before their exams at a series of drunken parties.
Known as the 'RUSS' celebrations, the 18-year-olds party in special buses kitted out with beds, bars and music systems.
But the parties take their toll. Last year there were reports of students falling asleep while their exam papers were being handed out.

posted by James Russell | 5:14 PM


Damien Hirst moves from dead animals to live ones.

posted by James Russell | 5:08 PM


Witchcraft legalised in Victoria.

WITCHES will be in stitches over the lifting of legal hitches on their craft.
Currently, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment and fortune telling carry a fine of $500.
But Attorney-General Rob Hulls said that after a review of the Vagrancy Act, the State Government would repeal the dated law.

What the hell does witchcraft have to do with vagrancy?

posted by James Russell | 1:34 PM


Andrew Baio tries to determine what the most commonly misspelled word on the Internet is.

posted by James Russell | 1:33 PM


Another goddamned school shooting.

Gunmen armed with an AK-47 rifle and a handgun opened fire in a packed high school gymnasium in America, killing a 15-year-old boy and wounding three teenage girls in a spray of more than 30 bullets that sent students scrambling for cover.
Four suspects, ranging in age from 15 to 19, were arrested in a sweep of the neighbourhood near John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, about two kilometres north of the French Quarter. Police Chief Eddie Compass said he did not know if the suspects attended the school.
At least 200 students were in the gymnasium when the four suspects entered the building. The victim was apparently seated on the bleachers with other students when the gunmen confronted him. They shot repeatedly, striking the victim in the head and body and sending panicked students screaming. [...]
Word of the shooting swept through the school where many students had radios and mobile phones. In the computer class, students used their internet terminals to read reports of the shooting.
Parents rushed to the school only to find their way blocked by the police lines. Darlene Claiborn said her daughter called her from inside a classroom on a mobile phone.
"How can this happen in a school?" she demanded. "They have guards in there. They're supposed to have security."
Anthony Amato, school system superintendent who has been on the job only since February, tried to calm parents by saying that officers had swept through the school and that the students were safe. He was repeatedly interrupted by cries of "where was the guard?"

posted by James Russell | 1:25 PM


White House says no to Syria.

The White House has privately ruled out suggestions that the US should go to war against Syria following its military success in Iraq, and has blocked preliminary planning for such a campaign in the Pentagon, the Guardian learned yesterday.
In the past few weeks, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, ordered contingency plans for a war on Syria to be reviewed following the fall of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, his undersecretary for policy, Doug Feith, and William Luti, the head of the Pentagon's office of special plans, were asked to put together a briefing paper on the case for war against Syria, outlining its role in supplying weapons to Saddam Hussein, its links with Middle East terrorist groups and its allegedly advanced chemical weapons programme. Mr Feith and Mr Luti were both instrumental in persuading the White House to go to war in Iraq.
Mr Feith and other conservatives now playing important roles in the Bush administration, advised the Israeli government in 1996 that it could "shape its strategic environment... by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria".
However, President George Bush, who faces re-election next year with two perilous nation-building projects, in Afghanistan and Iraq, on his hands, is said to have cut off discussion among his advisers about the possibility of taking the "war on terror" to Syria.
"The talk about Syria didn't go anywhere. Basically, the White House shut down the discussion," an intelligence source in Washington told the Guardian.

As Paul from The Friday Thing notes, this is not a million miles removed from what they were saying about Iraq last year:

The United States has no plans to invade Iraq or any other country, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday, but he refused to discuss the Bush administration's thinking about how to deal with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Saying it would be "dumb" to publicly discuss military planning, Rumsfeld declined to address news reports that top military leaders had expressed strong reservations about launching a large military operation to oust Hussein. [...]
Bush and his cabinet members have made no secret of their desire to see Hussein toppled, calling the Iraqi leader a dangerous tyrant trying to arm himself with a chemical, biological and nuclear arsenal. But Bush said during a visit to Germany this week that he has no Iraq invasion plans on his desk.

posted by James Russell | 12:38 PM


Daytime TV gets first lesbian kiss.

The kiss will take place during the April 22 episode of the Emmy-award winning soap opera "All My Children," making what ABC said would be a first in the world of daytime television.
It comes in a scene featuring gay teen character Bianca Montgomery (Eden Riegel), who came out as a lesbian in 2000, and her new friend Lena (Olga Sosnovska) who "in a moment of truth and true love ... comes to terms with her feelings."
"All My Children" has tackled a number of controversial topics during its 33 years on the air including AIDS, abortion, drug abuse, racial bias and teenage alcoholism.
"The theme of 'All My Children' from the beginning is the belief that, as God's children, we are all bound to each other by our common humanity despite our many personal differences; that it is our failure to understand and respect those differences that causes most of life's pain and suffering," said the show's creator, Agnes Nixon, in a statement.
"The Bianca story is our latest effort to dramatize that belief," she added.

So lesbianism causes pain and suffering in life much like AIDS and drug abuse do, then? And why couldn't they have done the lesbian thing when Sarah Michelle Gellar was on the show? They could've got her to do the lesbian kiss then instead of making us wait for her to do it in Cruel Intentions...

posted by James Russell | 12:18 PM


US to "repair" Iraqi heritage.

The United States has pledged to recover and repair the priceless antiquities looted from Iraq's national museum in the wake of the entry of US troops.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Baghdad museum was "one of the great museums in the world" and that the US would take a leading role in restoring it.

So will the Iraqi museum get computer-generated images of the stuff it's lost, like the man from the British Museum proposed for the Greeks? What if they don't have electricity to run the computers they'll need to show the images on? What if they don't have the computers, for that matter?

posted by James Russell | 12:10 PM


John Howard looks on the bright side of SARS.

Mr Howard said fewer people were travelling overseas due to fears surrounding SARS and the scare was having a "big effect on the airlines and those parts of the (tourism) industry that cater for overseas travellers".
"While ever the SARS scare is on, people won't travel," he told Sydney radio 2GB.
But he added the impact of the scare in Australia was "differential".
"There are some parts of the Australian domestic tourism industry that are doing better than ever before," he said. "I'm not saying that's universal but ...(when) people stay home, it can often be a boon."
Visiting Tasmania recently, Mr Howard said "every single person in the tourist industry told me there that that state is experiencing the
best boom conditions for tourism it's ever had".

The people in the article on Chinatown I linked to yesterday might dispute the tourism benefits of SARS. For once I find myself agreeing with Simon Crean:

"For the prime minister to try to claim a tragedy like SARS has a silver lining for Australia is grossly insensitive and a potential PR (public relations) disaster in the region," Mr Crean said in a statement.
"His distasteful remark is further compounded by the fact his claims are just plain wrong. SARS is not a boon for Australia.
"Mr Howard should explain to the 1000 Qantas staff who have lost their jobs, partly as a result of SARS-induced tourism collapse, how they have benefited from the disease."

posted by James Russell | 12:00 PM


Greeks offer to go halves over the Elgin Marbles.

GREECE has put forward a compromise loan deal that could end the tug-of-war over the Elgin Marbles, the ancient artefacts moved to Britain 200 years ago, and allow them to return to their homeland.
The British Museum has confirmed that it is willing to discuss the issue after the long-term loan plan was put forward by the Greek culture ministry to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) which is acting as mediator. [...]
A Greek culture ministry spokesman said: "We hope that this will revive talks and be seen as an attempt to meet the British Museum's anxiety."
It follows a decision by Neil MacGregor, British Museum director, to break off talks over the future of the artefacts. He has previously firmly resisted a permanent removal, suggesting that the Greeks accept a computer-generated image instead.
However, it is understood that Mr MacGregor is willing to have further negotiations to try to agree common ground.

For some reason I can't helping thinking that means "we'll keep the Marbles but we'll let you have an actual photograph of them instead of just the computer-generated thingy"...

posted by James Russell | 11:49 AM

Monday, April 14, 2003  

Howard slams war critics.

PRIME Minister John Howard today launched a scathing attack on "armchair generals" who criticised the conduct of the Iraq campaign, saying the war had run largely according to plan.
Addressing a luncheon in Melbourne of party supporters from the federal seat of Casey today, Mr Howard hit out at commentators and doubters of all complexions.
"When the decision was taken by the government we were subjected to fierce, vitriolic criticism," he said.

It's a damnable thing, eh, John, people daring to exercise their democratic right to disagree with the actions of the government like that. Free speech complicates things so. Much easier for leaders of nations to lead when their people just shut up and uncritically accept the will of their leaders whether they like it or not. You know, like the people of Iraq used to.

"Of course it had risks, of course it was criticised, but it was a necessary decision and a decision that had to be implemented, regrettably without the involvement, in a formal way of a further Security Council resolution," Mr Howard said.
But he said the campaign removed "a loathsome regime" and as a result all the world was safer from terrorist attack.

Well hurray for that. I'm sure the whole world is a lot happier now Saddam is gone and so they don't need to worry so much about being attacked and killed by the IRA, ETA, the PLO, Hezbollah, Al-Aqsa, Hamas, Shining Path, Jemaah Islamiyah, not to mention Al Qaeda...

posted by James Russell | 9:54 PM


Zimbabwean man has nothing better to do with his time.

A Zimbabwean man has talked his way into what could be a new Guinness world record with a speech lasting 36 hours.
Jonah Mungoshi, a 35-year-old father of three and bank executive, beat a 26-hour record set by South African John Trevor Walker on his way to a personal goal of 36 hours of almost non-stop talk which ended at 9 p.m. British time on Saturday.
"I'm extremely excited but extremely sleepy as well," a visibly exhausted Mungoshi told reporters. "All I want to do now is go home with my wife to sleep." [...]
Mungoshi was only allowed "natural pauses" of not more than 30 seconds and was permitted to take 15-minute breaks every eight hours to eat and go to the toilet.

posted by James Russell | 6:19 PM

what the critics have said