Monday, 30 November 2009

America & Great Britain: "Two nations separated by a common language..."

Where to begin?

The aphorism, "two nations separated by a common language", has been attributed to various notables: the toss usually being between George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill; although Oscar Wilde, Bertrand Russell and even Dylan Thomas also get a look in on its provenance. The common literary consent, although it can be found nowhere in his written works, is that the nod goes to Shaw. And whilst some of the perennial old chestnuts (fanny-pack/bum-bag, cigarette/fag etc.) are widely known, to say nothing of still smirked at, there has, of late, been a fresh batch to add to the canon.

In either case, as to appropriate usage, it is still very much the advised rule of thumb of 'when in Rome'; it's all very well waltzing into an American hairdresser's and asking for 'a shag' (to them a hair style), however the response from its UK equivalent may well see you leaving the salon with the fat lip or uncut hair - or probably both.

In the US, a 'Town Hall' is now a meeting (although, for some reason not immediately apparent, the 'meeting' qualifier has become redundant and superfluous to requirements - a 'town hall' in the UK still being, well, a town hall) - worth noting, too, that in the UK, to make a 'town halls' of something is rhyming slang for making a 'balls' of it.

In fact one of the things which has lent English (be it Am.Eng. or Brit.Eng.) such longevity, apart from its magpie ability to loot, pilfer and steal from whichever language it chooses, is its unrelenting practice of adapting to accommodate new words, uses and constructions; a comparatively recent case in point - and, to some, a somewhat hastily thrown-together hyphenation - being the new American verb, 'to man-up': meaning to be in possession of sufficient quantities of testosterone as to enable one to face up to, and accept, one's responsibilities (cf. 'have the balls to do'), as in "Sarah Palin has yet to man-up and announce her candidacy for the 2012 presidential election".

And, whilst we're on the topic of testicles and places of civic meeting, habitués of US 'Town Halls' may also be referred to as "Teabaggers" - to some, an otherwise perfectly respectable act of gross indecency, requiring a chap to dangle his undercarriage in the mouth and across the face and forehead of his beloved (or at least one for which he may have paid for the privilege of being allowed to do same).

Any way, given the apparent duality of the language, perhaps it's fitting that cross-dressing stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard have the last word on the subject. Enjoy!


Sunday, 29 November 2009

'Gitmo North': the cash-for-inmates scramble

And so, after years of "extraordinary rendition", false imprisonment, 3rd-party "interrogation" (i.e. mistreatment and torture) by people in countries with no recognisable history or appreciation of Habeas Corpus; and after president Gump Bush spent his entire period in office, and every trick in the book, denying Guantánamo Bay inmates any and all due process, incarcerating them without charge in an off-shore legal limbo, doesn't this news, about how towns with 'empty prisons' on the US mainland are now fighting to "win" the right to house those same Gitmo inmates strike you as ironic?

Before, under Bush, no expense was spared in keeping these inmates out of the clutches of any reasonable legal observation or purview - be that US or international.

Now, although it appears only out of a desire to attract the much needed revenues they will bring in a time of economic recession (sadly not any sense of wanting to do the right thing), the inmates will now end up being housed on US soil proper and, it is to be hoped, accorded all due legal process - no doubt a more straightforward proposition now that the morally bereft and politically dubious Bush-Cheney administration has been put out to grass. Full marks to Obama for wanting to close this outpost of cowboy law and mentality - a place which will forever symbolise the crassness, ineptitude, social autism and functionally illiterate 'two-wrongs-make-a-right' nature which so defined the Bush administration.

And of course, no story about Gitmo's guests would be complete without the comedy of its attendant irrational claims by Republicans, about how this move is a "threat to national security" - although, like most of their utterances since losing to Obama, they don't really amount to much other than their usual incessant partisan whingeing.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Thanksgiving: Has Obama pardoned the Turkey yet, or is Sarah Palin still under lock and key?

To all our US friends and readers - have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Much a bow about bowing

After his recent Asia trip, there's been a lot made and much brouhaha (at least in the US) about this display of Obama simply following international protocol and offering a formal bow to Japan's Emperor Akihito. Critics claimed the sign of deference went against US State Department protocol, which decrees, somewhat arrogantly, that presidents bow to no one.

I just see it as Obama acknowledging a man wearing a superiorly tailored suit - no doubt Saville Row of London.


Can't anyone at Fox News do percentages?!

Given their recent run of factual faux pas, it would appear that Fox News is collapsing under its inability to deal in anything resembling impartiality or actual facts; either that, or they've finally come clean and just given up trying to present anything which takes effort or non-partisan thought.

But this latest example places them firmly in the unintended self-parody bucket.

The above screen capture comes from a piece they did on Tuesday, 24th November 2009, regarding the 2012 Republican Party presidential candidature - and as you can see, they're struggling with simple maths - specifically percentages.

And so whilst Fox may be "4,000% behind Palin!" for the nomination, someone will simply have to break the news to them (pun intended) that, in total, you can only every have a maximum of 100% of anything - but as Fox report it above, they managed to poll six thirds of Republicans!

Impressive - that's a 100% margin of error! Way to go Faux!!

Of course none of this can help in their current battle for credibility after being shown, by Jon Stewart on 'The Daily Show', and others, to be fabricating news reportage, and taking a somewhat whimsical approach to using 'actual' film footage of the events they were purportedly covering. Embarrassingly, they managed to do the same thing twice in one week - to the point where the brass at Faux threatened anyone found guilty of any further 'breaches of accuracy' with being fired. Oops...

But, there is an upside here! At least we now know who conducts their polling and then collates Faux's poll statistics for them: Opinions Dynamic - the same guys who provide Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck et al with their teabagging figures...

Sometimes the comedy just writes itself.

The Darvaza natural gas crater

The Darvaza natural gas crater is located in the centre of the Karakum Desert in the central Asian country of Turkmenistan. The crater resulted after a Soviet natural gas exploration accident in the 1950s and has been burning ever since. The crater is approximately 60 meters in diameter and its depth is approximately 20 meters. (Photo and caption by Natalja Silver) Taken from National Geographic’s International Photography Contest 2009


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term"

You know, given that this this woman, Perino, was White House Press Secretary, under President Gump Bush, you'd perhaps have hoped that she'd at least remembered the one attack on the US which sent Gump Bush into his flat-spin and prompted the worst of his administration's excesses, right? Alas, she appears to have a bad case of selective amnesia, or the attention-span of an absent-minded gnat.

But hey, this is Hannity on Faux Noise - so the people watching will believe it anyway...

A Brief History of Socialist Plots to End the American Way of Life


A shout out to the New York Posse!

OK, tonight I'm a wee bit tired, so I just want to pass on three sites to you; one written and virtual, the other two very real; all worth a good look!

All hail from within the five boroughs which make up one of my wife's and my favourite places - New York! What? The picture of Chrysler gave it away, right?

The first is a blog site I came across only in the last four days or so, but it's a great read, with some amazing photographs of a bygone, almost mystical era in New York's history; written by a guy, Harry Delf, who obviously has a deeply modulated passion for his subject - perhaps not surprisingly, as it covers his family's history working and living in this great city. Some of the obvious treasure trove of personal, family, and other artefacts Harry's uncovered are stunning - I hope you enjoy them as much as I have been doing! Here it is: Harry Delf's "Family Archive".  And don't miss Harry's links on this same site to his other projects: see them under 'Vaudeville Redux'.

OK, next for shaving is the The Montauk Club, in Brooklyn. One of my mates, Bill Webber's, a member there - and, so I'm told, they have a menu and wine cellar to match anything to be found in NYC! By the looks, the architecture and history behind the place is worth an afternoon's promenade-n-perusal in itself. Bill's a man of his word, so I'm inclined to accept this view without much debate.

And to round off, here's the band whom Bill's club has booked for their New Year's Eve celebrations: Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra - play the videos on the link to get a feel for the period they cover (wonderfully Jazz-era radio-decadent!) - I can see Bill in his charleston tutu now...


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A great place to booty dance...?

In the pantheon of places you might choose to booty dance, with what appears to be a half-squadron of your mates, I'm not convinced a graveyard, and on top off the graves of the deceased, was your best choice...

Monday, 23 November 2009

Voodoo, Quackery, and a bad case of the CT's

'Conspiracy theorists have a grandiose view of themselves as heroes “manning the barricades of civilization” at an urgent “turning point” in history... Grandiosity is often a defense against underlying feelings of powerlessness.'

DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University, Richard Hofstadter, in his book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

Well that explains Bill O'Reilly.

Any one who's used the Web, on an even semi-regular basis (and even those who haven't), can't have avoided the utter deluge of quackery, voodoo and cant which pours forth from the space between the ears of the dedicated Conspiracy Theorist (CT) - otherwise known as a 'Tin Foil Hat Merchant'.

Incidentally, in case you weren't aware, this headgear of choice allegedly 'protects' its wearer from the sea of electromagnetic rays directed at them, and the predatory attempts of potential mind-readers; all of whom, so the theory goes, are seeking to make us all more complaint, for the day that 'They' arrive - although theories differ as to precisely who 'They' are, and when 'They' might come... Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is even a theory as to whether this is a conspiracy or not.

And so, like worker bees doing drudging duty to their queen, the sheer industry shown by the CT drones is impressive. Indeed, they put so much time and effort into trying to prove their reality wrong that, sometimes, it seems that the entire Internet, and all its resources, was created solely for their nothing-too-insane ideas to be 'researched' and then propagated 'for the benefit of Mankind'. Gee. Thanks guys.

If you've ever come across the species at close quarters, then you'll know that they'll not be persuaded that they are wrong, misguided or just plain mad in their beliefs, either: received wisdom and common-sense are for fools, apparently, whilst actual proof is either to be shunned, like daylight to a vampire, or treated with the 'What Aboutery?' clause - see below. Remarkably, it is their insistence that it is the very absence of any evidence (over and above a mixture of the outright circumstantial and the downright contrived) which just goes to prove that the conspiracy is indeed working! How is one supposed to argue with that logic? Heads you lose, tails you don't win?

Unremarkably, this double-headed coin logic is designed deliberately to be a zero-sum game. And they know it. So regardless of how irretrievably asinine the question might be (e.g. White House press conference: "Can I ask whether the President had sex with any alien life-forms at Roswell this week?"), they rely on the old "I'm sorry, we/the CIA/the NSA doesn't comment on matters of the President's or national security..." Ah, righty then. So the very fact that they refuse to comment means there is, by default, some form of on-going cover-up? Just add two sugars and stir. Instant conspiracy.

In fact, the recipe is slightly more complicated than that - but not much: just add a pinch of meagre plausibility; a willingness to believe even the most tangential of coincidence; toss in a dash of neatly-packed speculation, and there you have it. Don't wrap it, I'll wear it - conspiracy to go!

And even when you think you've nailed their 'arguments', and proved their fallacy and absurdity, they go and switch-hit and change the goalposts on you. Just when you've exploded every myth they take to be a sacred truth, they introduce the "What Aboutery?" clause - their other chief fail safe mechanism, and one which means that their world, and all its wonderful silliness, need never end - perpetual conspiracy theory; or PCT, which kinda sounds the likes meds they need to be on to control the incurability of their condition. 

And, in large part, it's the Web what's to blame; as it's the canvass on which they are allowed unfettered finger-painting time. The moment it came into being, this role of Web-trolling nutter was bequeathed to the CT - although, on the topic of the Web's 'Big Bang', they'll give you at least 20 different arguments as to when that was... and why... who wanted it kept dark - and why... etc...

Markedly, nothing is ever easy or regular in the minds of the CT; simply being straightforward is to be avoided at all cost, as they seem hell-bent on finding the most contrived explanation, the most outrageously nonsensical abstraction, and the most tinfoil-hatted method of connecting the imaginary dots they can find. You feel like you've stumbled across a race of people who've had their gullibility gene enhanced.

And to what end? How do they benefit from donning this mantle of absurdity? To be praised at the end with a universal congratulatory slap on the back for revealing some previously hidden great 'truth'? By ignoring ideas which all other evidence has utterly refuted in the past? By not painting an "I'm a Nutter" target on their backs?

Sadly, a resounding 'No' to all the above. Which brings us to cause and effect.

An inescapable side-effect of attending conventions of the similarly challenged, and the hours spent poring over obscure texts and other sources of highly questionable (to all but them) provenance, cannot make for anything like a fulsome domestic, or love life. Which probably accounts for the high percentage of being single amongst the CT brethren. How could any woman possibly measure up to their fist love and overriding passion? No doubt if she could, then she'd be considered to have something suspect about her. Precisely who put her up to being so good?! And why?! What are we not being told?!

And so it goes...

So, putting aside any immediate desire to give these people some concerted 'wall-to-wall counselling', and whilst you and I toil through the blithely mundane everyday, utterly blind to the series of 'Grassy Knoll' events in life we seem to be missing; and whilst AIDS was created in a laboratory with the deliberate intention of targeting only specific ethnicities, and those with a given sexual preference; and whilst NASA patently faked the Moon landings, and  9/11 was clearly an inside job, with the Gump Bush administration's either tacit or, for the more hardcore, active blessing - fear not: the CT are on the case for us, and will publish their findings... some day... [*cough*]

So while we wait, what's next? What fresh unleavened lunacy might we expect in future from the conspiracy theory industry?

Perhaps Michael Jackson just made 'Thriller' as a diversion in order to kidnap young boys and take them back to his Neverland Ranch? Perhaps he kept having all that plastic surgery in an effort not to be recognised whilst out doing his weekly shop at Wal-Mart? Don't tell me George W Bush is straight? Maybe Elvis, Princess Di and JFK are not dead: they're all merely enjoying a well-earnt rest, a few polite medium-sweet Sherries, and their respective haemorrhoid treatments at a secluded rehab facility in Colorado? Amy Whinehouse isn't really Pete Doherty in drag?

Hey, they could be onto something here! Not everything in that list is implausible.

And it's not too much to call it an "industry", either. As you can see here, there is now 'mediation' available for those suffering from CT - although, as we can read in the blurb there, it does inform us of one very salient fact: those who suffer from the condition have, to some deep degree or another, lost some form of control over a range of aspects of their life. It's not too big a leap, nor do I think I'm being unreasonable, to see these as self-esteem issues. And I think it's perhaps polite if we ignore the reason why a CT-sufferer had to bring his attorney to a mediation session about his condition... (although, speaking of paranoia and self-esteem issues, I'd love to see figures related to what percentage of CTs are Republicans and/or Fox News Borg?)

Anyway, what's the collective noun for conspiracy theorists? Perhaps it should be just that: a conspiracy of theorists? Why not? It's just as deliciously lunatic as a murder of crows, or a flange of baboons, or a functional illiterate of Bush (or maybe that should be a 'hanging chad' of Bush? A 'Florida' of Bush?)

But then again, and to be fair, who can blame them? Are they really so bad for wanting to steer us down dimly-lit corridors to their own corrupted Twilight Zone and demand that we believe them? After all, President GW Gump Bush was responsible for some of the most elaborate deceit-based conspiracies ever exacted on a people by its leader; as he milked the fear, panic and paranoia over 9/11 for all it was worth. And it was he who lead the US in a series of laughably buttressed conspiracies about Iraq's having WMD; and not only having them, but WMD which could hit the US in 45 minutes from being launched (the fact that it's subsequently been found that Iraq didn't even have so much as a working cappuccino machine notwithstanding...)

But, and just like the poor, and the piss-poor politicians, the CT will always be with us: they share that same frailty which is common to all - the human condition. Only theirs is perhaps more pronounced than others... that, and they try and hide it under a tin foil hat.

Further Reading:

The Quackometer: On Bullshit and Mindfucking

Putin loves Palin


More Motivational Posters

Click on any picture to enlarge.


Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Demands of a Ditzy Diva

Now even bearing in mind that the Heath & Safety Exective (HSE) is an organisation who'll happily provide you with an eight thousand-page report on the potential dangers of opening a can of tuna, and back it up with nanny legislation banning you from doing same, it won't come as a shock to you to learn that 'celebs' can make a consummate arse of themselves with some of the preposterous demands they make of the mere mortals who surround them; and bay-frontaged Mariah Carey doesn't disappoint here, either: Mariah Carey's demands for 20 white kittens blocked by health and safety.

OK, I understand that 'celebs' can be simply unrealistic; that they can be simply unreasonable; but then there's being full-batshit Diva! Demanding a bigger limo - I get. Demanding red-carpet treatment - I get. But on which part of her developmental stage did Miss Carey miss out? Why on earth, short of desires of being some Blofeld-esque-Bond-villain, would even the most vacant mind want 20 white kittens on hand... just to switch on some Christmas lights? Did she need one for each octave she can sing? No, coz that'd be four.

I call it the 'Michael Jackson Syndrome' (MJS): utterly pointless, fatuous and self-indulgent actions taken, and decisions made, by the rich of money, but not of mind - those who've forgotten the qualifier of "could I or should I do this?"; those to whom their usual coterie of lackeys, hairdressers and green-room sycophants have long since ceased to say "No! That's not appropriate, you'll just look stupid and vacuous!"

Mind you, I guess asking for nigh-on two dozen white kittens isn't as bad as a grown man taking a procession of prepubescent boys to his bedroom on a regular basis. Or paying them hush-money to keep their mouth shut afterwards.

Like that was ever gonna end in anything but tears...?

Gotta love local newspapers!

This, from the Kentish Express (UK)

For anyone not au fait with the term, here's an explanation of "cottaging".

Mussolini's brain 'for sale on eBay'

With this news Mussolini's brain 'for sale on eBay', I pondered just what other rare and unseen possessions, from the Great and the Good, might have been purloined over the years and punted out secretly into the market for a quick profit...?

Now bear in mind that not all of these would have necessarily been missed if stolen, but here's how the list might look:

  • Gandhi's knuckle-dusters
  • The lifeboats from Noah's Ark
  • The restraining order, not to come within a 5 mile radius, filed by George W Bush's shadow
  • The view of Russia from Sarah Palin's back door
  • Mother Teresa's porn stash
  • Any factual or unbiased reportage from Fox News
  • Gordon Brown's sense of direction
  • Iraqi WMD
  • Hitler's "lost" testicle
  • Anna Nicole Smith's talent
  • The plot to 'Lost'
What would you add to the list?


    The Etiquette of Tipping

    A pal of mine in the US, Chuck, has just fired this across the ether to me; and I have to confess to a sense of pique after reading this news Couple arrested after refusing to pay tip at Pennsylvania pub.

    The irony? America: the only country where gratuities can be gratuitously demanded.

    [affects tone of unbridled indignation] The damned cheek of it!  A pox o'their house, Sir! In civilised countries, tipping is a social custom, not a requirement!

    One of the things I love about travelling is the presented range of different experiences on offer in the far-flung. And if your levels of expectation are reasonably flexible and not pre-set, then you're more likely than not to survive (if not enjoy) most of these differences.

    Having lived, worked and travelled extensively in the US, I can say that you become accustomed to their custom of the all-but-mandatory tip, when paying for most meals (regardless of how light the repast may be) - and mandatory in the sense that waiters and waitresses, there, allegedly get paid so poorly that the only way they can 'make-ends-meet' is to receive tips and gratuities from willing patrons - even if the service is utterly below par, and sometimes so flagrantly unacceptable that you wouldn't consider kennelling your dog there.

    So whilst 'tips' are expected, good service can be an utter lottery. And whereas poorly prepared food may be sent back, in the reasonably safe knowledge of a corrective and freshly prepared dish replacing it, serving staff with bad manners, and an attitude towards customers of which the Gestapo might have been envious, is another matter entirely. Alas, these people have yet to understand that customers are not merely an embuggerance - and notwithstanding that the withholding of tips can result in a little more that just an awkward silence, as the above article points out. Nevertheless, poor service is one of my pet-hates, and I have, before now, on being kept waiting for nearly an hour after placing an order, informed the house "Hey! My money's good anywhere!" before walking out the door, followed in hotfoot apologetic persuit by the manager. However, I digress...

    But what of elsewhere? With just under 20% of Americans owning a passport (and fewer still having travelled outside the US), what might they expect to see and experience in terms of the habits and tipping etiquette of other nations?

    Well, by contrast, here in the UK, the tables are turned and the reverse is true: the working norm here is that we only tip if we feel that the food and service has been worthy of us being generous with our cash - if not, then we don't. Simple as that. There are no laurels for simply taking food from a kitchen where it's prepared and then placing it on a customer's table. After all, it's hardly a Herculean task, is it?

    And there is one set of circumstances to which I will always take umbrage: the like-it-or-not "service charge".

    As a working rule, any eatery, anywhere, which on the menu stipulates that a mandatory "service charge" is payable, regardless of how small the portion and underwhelming your Lobster Kebab might have been, gets no tip, as they've already shown temerity and fleeced me of it with this additional charge. The staff can then sort out who gets paid what with the owner. Harsh, but fair I feel.

    Mind you, the tipping etiquette in Iceland and Norway border on zero-tolerance!

    A couple of years ago my wife and I were eating with friends at one of the finest restaurants in Reykjavik, Iceland, The Pearl, where, on getting out my wallet to pay the bill, I was informed by our friends, in a mock-brusque manner, that tipping simply isn't done in Iceland - full stop! Same thing in Norway. Come to think of it, I have garnered one or two feigned-polite ah,-you're-a-foreigner-,aren't-you? looks from waiters in Oslo, when unthinkingly trying to pay a bill there.

    Australia's more of a mix between the UK and its adopted habits of the US, as is South Africa - where the preference (of the waiting staff) is that, more often than not, you leave a tip; but you're not obliged to do so. In France, Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands, you just toss some change on the table with your bill, and no one seems to care what percentage you've coughed-up as a gratuity.

    But come on!? Getting pinched by the law for refusing to pay a tip after having received woeful service? Talk about a disproportionate response and a gross overreaction!

    What next: being sent to Guantánamo Bay for jaywalking?

    Actually, if Bush and Cheney were still in power...?

    Salus populi suprema lex esto

    Salus populi suprema lex esto - "Let the good of the people be the supreme law" or "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law".

    At one time or another, everyone from Cicero to John Locke has waxed poetic about this phrase, and its intended reach and meaning; and you can perhaps see, prima facie, as a mandate, why it made it on to the state seal of Missouri and a clutch of other US states - and is the motto which appears on the coat of arms of The City of Salford - the reluctantly conjoined twin of The City of Manchester - but it leaves one question dangling rather precariously: who decides the definition of 'the good of the people'?

    If ever a term was left open to abuse, it is this.

    Thursday, 19 November 2009

    Mac vs PC: and the winner is...?


    Mickey Mouse now wears a Sarah Palin watch!

    Apparently, thick-as-a-whale-steak Sarah Palin is now bitching about the cover used by Newsweek (left), a picture for which she was clearly happy to pose: allegedly the picture is both "sexist" and "degrading" (although not so, seemingly, when she originally posed for it for some running magazine...).

    The double-standards on display here remind me of that great Grouch Marx aphorism: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

    Let's face it, Palin complaining about this Newsweek cover picture is like a guy complaining that a hooker took money off him to have sex. Disingenuous doesn't even begin to cover it (no pun intended) .

    I don't normally do this, but the following article, below, (nothing to do with the Newsweek cover or its corresponding article) is so good, that it's worth posting in its entirety. The author, David Greenberg, provides an excellent historical comparative study between Palin's chances and those of how her (actual) VP predecessors fared in the role. This article remains the © and property of David Greenberg at Slate.

    Sarah Palin = Dan Quayle

    There's no way she will be president.

    By David Greenberg - Updated Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, at 3:41 PM ET

    John F. Kennedy believed that being passed over for vice president by the Democratic convention in 1956 saved his political career. That year, Adlai Stevenson, the presidential nominee, had left the selection of his running mate to the convention delegates—the last time a nominee did so. The choice came down to Kennedy and his Senate colleague Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, who had lined up too much early support even for the attractive young war hero to overcome. In the end, Kennedy had it both ways. He benefited from the television exposure and was spared the blame—which as a Catholic, he would have shared—for Stevenson's walloping by President Eisenhower that November. As for Estes, except for crossword puzzlers, nobody much remembers him.

    Running and losing for vice president has never been a promising route to the Oval Office. Yet Sarah Palin, even before this week's book tour mediathon, has been touted by some as the heir apparent of the Republican Party, if not its de facto leader. Right-wing devotees cheer her on, liberals writhe in fear lest she come within 3,000 miles of the White House, and the news media lavish her with attention that's out of proportion to her actual chances of a political future. In fact, only one defeated vice presidential candidate ever achieved the feat that Palin would like to duplicate, and to date she shows no signs of resembling Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    FDR, as a young assistant secretary of the Navy, ran in 1920 as running mate to Ohio Gov. James Cox, in large part on the strength of his family name. But his was a fluke choice, a harbinger of the oncoming age of celebrity. (Moreover, he would conquer polio and serve as governor of New York before running in 1932.) Prior to that, the vice presidency itself—to say nothing of the running mate slot for the losing side—was a backwater. Before the passage of the 12th Amendment in 1804, a different system had helped Vice Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson become president, but the fate of understudies since then has been bleak. Only Martin Van Buren went from the No. 2 slot to winning election as president, and until Theodore Roosevelt broke the mold, even vice presidents who inherited the top office and logged time as chief executive didn't get their parties' nomination.

    If the vanquished vice presidential running mates who preceded FDR were largely anonymous, those who followed him were scarcely more august. A few achieved distinction, in particular, California Gov. Earl Warren, Thomas Dewey's partner in 1948. But neither Charles Bryan (1924) nor Joe Robinson (1928) nor Charles Curtis (1932) nor Frank Knox (1936) nor Charles McNary (1940) nor John Bricker (1944) nor John Sparkman (1952) nor Kefauver (1956) nor Henry Cabot Lodge (1960) was a presidential contender during the next cycle. Barry Goldwater's 1964 running mate, William Miller, cut one of the early American Express "Do you know me?" ads featuring pitchmen whose 15 minutes of fame had expired.

    Starting with Richard Nixon, Eisenhower's vice president for eight years, the veep took on additional responsibilities, as the sheer number of tasks assumed by the White House proliferated. Television began turning politicians into celebrities, and the sitting vice president gained in stature. The 22nd Amendment limiting the president to two terms also helped make the veep the default choice for his party's presidential nomination the next time around.

    But while sitting vice presidents have often secured their parties' nominations in modern times—Nixon (1960), Hubert Humphrey (1968), Walter Mondale (1984), George Bush Sr. (1988), Al Gore (2000)—of defeated vice presidential nominees, only Bob Dole did so (in 1996), and it took him 20 years. Joe Lieberman, Jack Kemp, Lloyd Bentsen, Geraldine Ferraro, Sargent Shriver—though not lightweights, these politicians weren't presidential timber in most people's eyes. Edmund Muskie in 1972 and John Edwards in 2008 did emerge from their failed vice presidential bids as plausible candidates, but even they couldn't go the distance.

    At any rate, Palin is self-evidently not of the caliber of a Muskie (who stepped into the role of secretary of state in 1979) or a Dole. According to an ABC News poll, only 38 percent of Americans consider her to be qualified to serve as president, and 60 percent consider her unqualified. (A CNN poll puts the qualified figure at 28 percent.) While many in the media made the mistake of underestimating her in the immediate aftermath of her selection as John McCain's running mate—she proved to have good political instincts and talent as a political performer—they are now overestimating her.

    Indeed, the losing vice presidential candidate Palin most resembles is none other than Dan Quayle. Handsome, young, popular with the right-wing base, self-styled champion of family values, scourge of the "liberal media" and embodiment of Heartland America, Quayle likewise confounded observers in 1988 when Bush Sr. tapped him as his No. 2. (Only after Americans' prolonged exposure to George W. Bush did it become clear what Poppy Bush saw in Quayle.) Moreover, both Palin and Quayle, perhaps not coincidentally, enjoyed critical support from the journalist-operative Bill Kristol, whom Jacob Weisberg dubbed "Quayle's Brain" when he served as the vice president's chief of staff, and who helped push Palin onto the McCain team's radar screen. Quayle, too, we should recall, hit the best-seller list with his 1994 memoir, Standing Firm. And like Quayle, Palin seems destined—if she even seeks the presidency in 2012—to bow out early on, perhaps after the 2011 Iowa straw poll.

    Losing in a vice presidential run can hamper aspirants for the top office in several ways. In the first place, running mates are usually chosen in calculations that are at least partly expedient—shoring up the lead candidates' weaknesses or otherwise enhancing their images. Those same calculations probably won't be relevant four years later. Up-and-coming politicians thrust into the spotlight also get subjected to intense media scrutiny that can expose unseen flaws. At the same time, as Kennedy appreciated, they might get saddled unfairly with the blame for losing. Worst of all, their vice presidential bids use up all the excitement associated with their novelty—a vital source of political capital in our day.

    All of which suggests to me that if we are really concerned with whom the Republicans will nominate in 2012, we are focusing on the wrong vice presidential nominee. Unlike Palin, Dick Cheney speaks with confidence and knowledge about national and international affairs, even as he also commands a loyal following among the Republican base. And while his appeal doesn't extend much beyond that base, it has been rising since he left office. Cheney himself, of course, has forsworn any presidential aspirations. But his daughter Liz—who has emerged in the last year as a leading conservative talking head, defender of the Bush-Cheney record, and "red state rock star"—has done no such thing. It was, after all, the scion of another former vice president who put an end to Quayle's career.
    Sarah Palin, watch your back.

    David Greenberg, a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers and author of three books of political history, has written the "History Lesson" column since 1998.

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    Wednesday, 18 November 2009

    The Week's Best Twitter Gags

    A "Palindrome" is a stadium that looks the same both ways... completely empty.

    Peter Serafinowicz

    Listening to my favorite Neil Young album, "You Make Me Neil So Young".

    Michael McKean

    I never liked Macaulay Culkin's early films, but that doesn't make me a homealonaphobe.

    Peter Serafinowicz

    I have never opened a Can of Whupass. I have however enjoyed a fine bottle of '82 Fell Down the Stairs.

    Michael McKean

    Am in LA. Passed a sign saying "Museum of Tolerance Next Exit."

    Armando Iannucci

    @AIannucci Go in. Test the receptionist. Try and make them take Euros. Test them. It's the Museum of Fucking Tolerance. Test them.

    David Schneider

    Recent ourbreaks of unintentional comedy

    And in one of his now bi-annual trips abroad, where he's permitted to wear long pants, mingle with proper adults, and those who practise actual forms of democracy, Robert Mugabe, president of the now bankrupt and benighted state of Zimbabwe, today attended The UN World Food Summit in Rome.

    Although snoring quite loudly, as he slept through the keynote speeches of the delegates from the UK, US, France and Germany,  in his own opening harangue to the assembly of world leaders and other UN dignitaries (or, "you bastards", as he phrased it), Mr Mugabe insisted that there was no link, whatsoever, between his policy of forcibly evicting all white farmers from their formerly profitable and economically-viable farmland, and it going to seed as a result of handing it over to teams of marauding machete-wielding 14 year old drunks - all of whom he alleges are "worthy war veterans from the battle for independence", which ended in 1980... Mr Mugabe further declined to answer questions as to the latter's suitability and qualification as farmers; and denied that there was any correlation between Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) once being acknowledged as being 'The Bread Basket of Africa', to nowadays being viewed as merely a basket-case in Africa.

    Blaming everyone in the room, including the somewhat bemused catering staff, for the now ruinous state into which Zimbabwe has been allowed to slide, in the 29 years since independence (during which he's been the country's sole dictator leader), Mr Mugabe demanded that the world "owed him a living" and, further, that he would not leave Rome without a signed promissory note for $900,000,000,000,000,000.00

    At this point, the other nations' delegates duly convened for a quick confab; before asking for a short adjournment, over lunch, to allow them a chance to discuss the matter in more depth, and to decide how best to proceed.

    On returning to the summit after lunch, the delegates were happy to announce that they had indeed reached an agreement; and on the precise figure which Mr Mugabe had demanded requested; and that they would be happy to see him leave the summit with the promissory note in his possession.

    And so, on hearing that Mr Mugabe's Ryanair flight had safely departed for home, the sum of $900,000,000,000,000,000.00 Zimbabwean dollars was duly transferred into his personal bank account.

    At time of going to press, Mr Mugabe's spokesman had yet to respond to media requests as to how he intends to spend the $6.98.


    Tuesday, 17 November 2009

    Scenes from the US healthcare debate

    Hands across the Herring Pond - a reply to Hoosierboy

    If you read my earlier piece, from November 03rd, on US Senator Orrin Hatch (Rep. Utah)'s nonsensical claims that any introduction of healthcare reforms  there would lead to the inevitable downfall of the two-party system of democracy in America, then you'll know that in the comments in response to it, one of the replies came from Hoosierboy; someone with whom I've exchanged on a number of blogs (including his own) in the past.

    To recap, 'Hoose' was good enough to offer the following points below (those in courier font) - and I promised him a fuller reply in the form of its own piece: so here goes; everyone please feel free to comment, for or against!

    Hoose, if it's OK with you, I'll quote each of your points in order before replying to them.
    I challenge you to find one person who is denied health care in this country. If you are poor and cannot afford treatment it will be provided free in any public hospital.
    A challenge, eh? Well OK, if you insist. 

    In reality, millions of people are denied healthcare every year in the US, when their HMOs & Insurers refuse, for whatever reason, to authorise/sanction/pay for the medical treatment they need, as this Reuters article makes crystal clear California's Insurers Deny 21% of Claims - here's the rub: 
    "From 2002 through June 30, 2009, the six largest insurers operating in California rejected 31.2 million claims for care - 21 percent of all claims."
    I think you'll agree that this Reuters piece makes for some pretty grim reading - and yet that's just California - so if we, as we must, extrapolate that across the entire US, then you can see just how many Americans are "denied health care..."

    And further to your assertion that "If you are poor and cannot afford treatment it will be provided free in any public hospital. " - I think it's fare to say that for the US to be basing its national healthcare policy upon mere charity is just a tad too Dickensian for the 21st century. What d'ya reckon?

    Lastly on your point about how "poor people" are treated under the current system, another thing I found pretty unsettling is this recent Harvard Study, reported on the AP wires within the last 24 hours, which illustrates that uninsured patients with traumatic injuries, such as car crashes, falls and gunshot wounds, were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital as similarly injured patients with health insurance. 

    With respect, Hoose, the "no one gets refused healthcare" line is just a popular myth in the US; and one, if we're being honest, usually punted by those on the more conservative Right (i.e. Republican) side of the political spectrum, and a myth which insists that everyone in the US, regardless of salary, can have free healthcare, simply by turning up at any hospital and asking for it. But what those punting this line choose to ignore (or omit) is the simple truth that not being able to afford healthcare insurance, or, worse, being declined its cover on the grounds of some "previous condition", is precisely the same as being "denied healthcare".

    Whilst opinions on the exact number of uninsured in the US may differ - and by that I mean uninsured through either being unable to afford it, or being refused cover, for whatever reason -   we're still talking in the region of between 40 and 45 million people in the US either without or denied medical insurance cover. And that figure is nothing short of a national disgrace for the US: doubly so when we consider that any discrepancy in these figures is down to nothing more substantial than political partisanship, ideology and a desire to suit their respective prejudices.

    So, where US medical healthcare (prior to any reform) is concerned, the message is clear: you cannot have what you can't afford - and if you can't afford (or are refused) it, then tough! And that's not a national healthcare system: instead, it's merely a pay-to-lay lottery.

    And there is one other aspect which you've not addressed in your reply; but I think it's worth raising, for completeness, if nothing else; and it involves that other rote-learned deflection, err... sorry, 'caveat': that there is a federal mandate in the US which states that "no one can be refused treatment in a hospital..."

    Sounds perfect, doesn't it? Even all-inclusive. But it fails in one chief criterion: its accuracy - in that it gives both an incomplete and (usually deliberately) misleading picture. 

    Yes, no one can be refused medical treatment in the US, but, conversely, they will also receive a bill for any treatment they do receive, whether they can afford to pay it or not; and then have the privilege of being continually harangued and harassed by HMOs and Insurers when they can't pay it - just adding to their overall stress - and as if adding insult to injury (no pun intended) weren't bad enough, that's when hospitals aren't checking patients' personal credit ratings, to boot. When insurers and HMOs are placed in charge of saying ye or nay to whether a patient may receive medical treatment or not, instead of doctors, then it's not a system of national healthcare: it's a country held hostage to finance companies and one which puts profits before people.

    And of course it's perhaps worth noting that, as this Harvard study shows, the paying of medical bills is behind over 60 percent of all U.S. personal bankruptcies. So you don't need me to tell you that the US has the most expensive healthcare - i.e. expensive to the end-user, the patient who needs it - in the Western industrialised world; and yet you still can't ensure that everyone - no questions asked - can receive the benefit of its coverage and treatment at point-of-need.

    This isn't medicine as recognised or practised anywhere else in the civilised and developed  world; as in the US, the provision of healthcare is held as being, first and foremost, a business, and not a social service or societal necessity, as it is in UK/Europe and the Antipodes.

    Is health care too expensive? Yes. Does it need reform? Yes. Can we get there without Universal Government provided health care? Yes.

    Is US healthcare too expensive? Yes, we're in broad agreement on that point, so no argument.

    Is it also, prior to any reform, and as currently run by the HMO's and Insurance companies, outrageously inefficient and wasteful (a charge usually levelled at "Big Gov't" run bodies by US conservatives), which in turn only drives up its user costs further for everyone - to the tune of $800bn a year, as Maggie Fox, the Science and Health Editor for Reuters reported only last week. So another rote objection of the Right holed beneath the waterline.

    Which just leaves us with one point which you've perhaps missed in your assertion above: "Can we get there without Universal Government provided health care? Yes" -  I think we can agree that there's a huge divergence in imperative between 'can we do so?' and 'will we do so (i.e. left to our own devices, and our reliance on, and in most cases subservience to, the stockholders of the HMOs, Big Medicine Lobbyists and the vagaries of a free-market which strains with every fibre of its being to prevent universal healthcare coverage being delivered in the US)?'


    Now, if anyone's reading this and still finding themselves in the "we can do this off our own bat with no prompting or obligation" school of quandary, let's have a quick look at where we have a  working 'would we-could we-should we?' parallel in US History.

    On what grounds were Ford forced into an urgent redesign of its Pinto range of cars, which had the nasty habit of simply exploding into flames when hit by another car, due to poor design and manufacture, killing thousands of Americans in the process?

    Does anyone still honestly believe that Ford made the necessary changes and redesigns off their own bat, based on nothing more than some good will initiative, or out of some desire to adhere to a moral code of "doing the right thing"? Or was it being obliged to do so, due to the repeated court battles and the gazillions of dollars in fines it had to keep paying out, to the families of its victims, in damages and lost legal cases?

    The record clearly shows that it was not merely Ford's beneficence and altruism which played a part in their decision to make corrective design changes to their vehicles to prevent further people being burnt alive in their cars. Their motive was having to explain to their stockholders why their profits were being made to look sick.

    So ask yourself: will the current HMO-run healthcare model self-rectify or get its house in order, if left purely to its own devices? No. It won't. Because the profit incentive is too strong to want to make any changes to the how things are today - hence the much needed, and soon to be introduced, reforms.
    To your point, whether we like it or not the Founders envisioned and designed a Nation with a limited Federal Government. That is not the case in the rest of the world, and frankly if Europe jumped off a clifff we are under no obligation to follow. Didn't your Mom teach you that?
    Actually, no, she didn't: but then again, neither did she need to.

    However, what she did teach me is that 300+ year old, Georgian-era concepts need not be religiously and blindly adhered to, or never refreshed or updated to suit the times in which we live, in order to meet the needs of the modern era. This insistence, by some in the US, of sticking to old ways and outdated thinking is what's got America into the healthcare mess it's in today - or, put another way, allow me to quote John Maynard Keynes:
    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
    Time moves on and thinking becomes more enlightened, and medical needs and practices are meant to keep-step and improve with them - and, as to your point about the US Founding Fathers, just as you now allow women and black people the vote in America (provision for neither of which appeared in either the US Constitution or The Bill of Rights; both were achieved - wait for it - by amendments!), the time has surely come to recognise that the medical and healthcare needs of all US citizens are just as important as clean drinking water and the right to laugh at Vanilla Ice.

    And when all is said and done, the Founding Fathers made no provision for any number of things: the Space Shuttle, automobiles & Interstates, the portable TV, Presidents sleeping (and having children) with their plantation slaves...

    Things change. Lord knows if we in the UK demanded to adhere to some of our oldest tenets and sacred cows, we'd still be allowed to kill a Welshman on sight!
    Strictly speaking, Congress has no authority to force anyone to buy health insurance. If you can find otherwise in the Constitution, I will be glad to listen and learn. In fact the 9th and 10th Amendments give that authority to the States. If Massachusetts wants universal healthcare they can have it (they do). If Utah does not, so be it. The powers of Congress are few and disntly spelled out in Atricle 1, Section 8.
    'Forcing' people to buy health insurance was one of Senator Hatch's lamentable ramblings, not one I suggested; but I think, for which suggested healthcare reforms make provision, if no one can be refused health insurance due to some previous condition, or be priced-out from affording it, then no one will be placed in a position where they are 'forced' into being unable to access health insurance, which can only be a good thing.
    BTW, I should also point out that NO WHERE in the Constitution can you find the phrase "Seperation of Church and State".
    Believe me Hoose, on this point, you are preaching to the converted (pun intended): I've been having this same debate with American friends for years: the actual wording used is so vague you can you can drive a coach and six through the gaps in it.

    Anywyay, I look forward to reading your (and anyone else's) reply mate.

    Take it easy and hopefully speak soon!



    Monday, 16 November 2009

    OUP America's 2009 word of the year: 'Unfriend'.

    So, without drum-roll, fireworks or further-a-fanfare, here it is! The Oxford University Press America's 2009 Word of the Year: 'unfriend'.
    unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.
    As in, “I decided to unfriend my roommate on Facebook after we had a fight.”

    Whilst at first glance a lazy construction, simply just gluing the prefix 'un' onto the noun - when to convey the meaning properly one would write "to remove from one's 'friends' list" -, no doubt it shall escape in the wider lexicon with as greater ease as it has assumed itself into the vernacular of the 'Yoot' and all Web2.0 applications, like Facebook, Twitter et al.

    Mind you, no doubt someone in Dr Johnson's time wrote precisely the same sentiment when the word 'deflower' first violated the dictionaries of English. Speaking of which, in his time, perhaps this new word would have then been rendered 'unbefriend'.


    The Ballad of Paul Clarke's Shotgun...

    In the last few days, places like Twitter and other blogging sites have been jumping with the news of, and subsequent discussion about, the treatment of one Paul Clarke: a former soldier in the British Army, who, apparently, found a discarded shotgun and handed it in to police. Sadly for him, neither the police to whom he took the gun, nor the Crown Prosecution Service*, believed his 'just found it' story at face value, and consequently arrested and prosecuted him for possession of an illegal (i.e. unlicensed) firearm.

    [*the CPS, the body responsible for recommending whether a case is in the public interest to warrant any prosecution or not - the US equivalent would be the District Attorney's Office].

    Not that I want to turn this into some for-or-against gun lobby affair, but some readers will already be aware of the (certainly by international comparison) draconian gun-ownership laws under which we operate here in the UK.

    In short, what this means is that, in applying for a firearms license, unless you can meet a long list of stringent safety and psychological interview & evaluation criteria - you aint getting a firearms licence; and being found to be in possession of one without a license renders said possession a criminal offence. These laws were introduced by successive UK governments after tragedies like the Hungerford Massacre, and that at Dunblane.

    No doubt, after reading the above local newspaper coverage of the case, you may feel Mr Clarke was harshly treated - opinions, certainly legal opinions, differ on this point; and so it's at times like this that I've found no better source of sifting through the voodoo and blather to cut the chase on a given case than Jack of Kent's blog on UK legal matters: an oasis of calm in the heat of "but what about...!" type debates and contentions.

    Finally, and pulled straight from Jack's blog on this very case, is the tale, as retold by 'Ivan', which perhaps more than anything gives a clear indication as to the straits faced by someone entering the UK whilst already being in possession of firearms, say from a country where obtaining a firearms license is a less taxing affair.


    ['Ivan' wrote]: A friend of mine once had approximately the following conversation with a work colleague who had just come to Britain from South Africa. This took place before the latest change in the law which brought in such draconian penalties for possession.

    (South African): "I hear on the grapevine you are quite a crack shot at clay pigeon. I wouldn't mind having a go at that."

    (My Friend): "Of course. I'll introduce you at the club, and you can hire a gun and have a go."

    "Well I could just bring my own. I've got a nice shotgun."

    "You've got a gun? How did you get that? It took me ages to get a licence."

    "I just put it in the container of furniture and other stuff I sent over from South Africa. How do I get a licence?"

    "I think what you should do is take the shotgun around to the police station, explain the situation, and they'll probably look after it for you while you install a gunsafe, apply for a licence, and all that."

    "Does that go for my handgun too?"

    "No. You aren't allowed to keep a handgun at home, but you can keep one at a gun club. Change my first idea. Don't take them to the police station. Call the police, and ask them to come round to you."

    "And my sub-machinegun?"

    "Oh dear. Better idea. Don't call the police at all. I'd go out after dark and drop them all into the canal if I were you."

    Saturday, 14 November 2009

    Z-list "slebs" on 'Reality TV': a rant

    Now how on earth did I missed this...?

    Jordan: apparently every inch the equal of Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart...

    For those of you reading who may not have heard of her, Jordan is a pneumatically-titted UK 'glamour model' with [purely ghost-written] literary pretensions - think Anna Nicole Smith, but without the MENSA credentials, talent or social grace, and you'll be in right neighbourhood.

    There are other differences, of course.

    Whereas you or I might have our car serviced every 10,000 miles or so, instead, she has another breast augmentation done, to her existing G-cup, at one of the many drive-thru von Zeppelin Maintenance Depots in LA - a habit now second only to her penchant for Botox touch-ups, collagen abuse and cosmetic surgery on those finicky bits behind the ears which no one else sees any way. They've even invented a genre and styling for her: 'Chav Chic'; and one to which Julie Burchill has duly managed to rattle-off a dozen tomes in praise. Mind you, our Julie knows about these things; what with her living in the tortured ghettos and mean streets of leafy Brighton & Hove...

    So what's wrong with Jordan?

    To the extent that she's made her entire reputation by selling her near-dirigible breasts as the sole reason to notice her, I guess nothing. It's hardly a new method of self-promotion, is it?

    No. The reason I mention her is that she's emblematic of all that is tragically samey and predictably uninspiring about the cheap populist, mass-produced and celeb-obsessed dross which has become the mainstay, and chief output, of UK commercial television; with it's stockpile of otherwise arresting titles like 'Celebrity Wife Re-grouting', 'Celebrity Goat Husbandry', 'Dancing with Celebrity G-Spots on Ice', 'Celebrity My Left Testicle Plays a Gershwin Medley Whilst Doing The Ironing' (actually, that would be one for which I'd stay in and watch), and other, seemingly endless talent-free fare.

    The depressing thing is, it is precisely that: endless; cheap to make and easy to sell to advertisers; with a ready and ever eager slew of viewers who've an apparently bottomless appetite for just about any old tat to which a 'reality' claim can be slapped. Couple that with a herd of 'slebs' so unassumingly famous that they've managed to remain under my radar for the duration of their entire careers and you've apparently the recipe for a 13 week fan-doting TV series. Or is that just a long-winded way of saying 'lowest common denominator TV'?

    But let's be honest for a minute - just how 'real' is so-called 'Reality TV', anyway - when, in reality, hardly any of it so much as skirts the circumference of being real. Should we have a quick think...? Hmmmm...?

    Well, unless you've either undergone SAS selection, or unfortunate enough to have been captured by the Khmer Rouge during the murderous reign of Pol Pot, when was the last time your life got so 'real' that you were gagged and bound, like some willing dominatrix fodder, before being nailed to a board, suspended beneath a helicopter, and then dragged upside-down through a crocodile-infested swamp in a jungle, whilst being force-fed worms and other items not normally found on a Michelin-starred menu? In all likelihood, probably never, right? In which case, surely there's a potential breach of the Trades Descriptions Act in that 'reality' claim somewhere?

    Are there exceptions to the rule? I'd be lying if I said no.

    I'll confess I'm one of those folks who enjoys watching annoying Z-list "slebs" make utter arses of themselves for the viewing masses; and all for the chance to reboot their all-but-moribund (otherwise they wouldn't be on the show in the first place) careers. If forced, I can watch it for, ooh... minutes, as this is the only time in their fleeting careers when we're ever, in all seriousness, going to get the chance to see them as they really are: warts and all, sans make-up, and without their standing coterie of fawning Green Room-gofers.

    Do I love seeing the expression on their faces change after being told that they can't have their own way? That they're not going to get any hot food for the next two days as a result of making a complete jakes of the tasks needed to win food-stuffs? Seeing them so paranoid because - heaven forfend - someone else in camp was "talking about me!"? And then, after only 20 minutes of being 'on set', on the first day, sat round a log fire, treating each other to their back-of-a-cereal-box cod-psychology & rhetorical mantras about "we've just got to remain positive, innit?", whilst giving each other pep-talks on the only jungle survival techniques their brains have managed to retain from the rushed briefing given to them by the programme's Production Assistant, only 15 minutes before being cast to nature's elements?

    Do I love it? Hell yeah!

    And now, after having already completed one tour-of-booty on the show in 2004, Jordan, whose breasts are so large they've been allowed their own post (zip) code and require their own seat when flying, embarks on her second course of "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" in the Australian jungle; the same place she met her now former husband, Peter Andre.

    So I'm wondering, in signing the contracts for appearing, whether she'll insist on a pre-emptive prenuptial divorce clause, prior to meeting any of the male members of the cast? Let's face it, it'll save time. Mind you, she's not really looking her best these days, after all 'the work' she's had done - no doubt it's a different kettle of fish for any potential jungle husband to see his bride-to-be without any of her usual caked-on warpaint and looking like a sulking Ethel Merman most of the day. I reckon it may just dampen their ardour a touch and see her leaving the show without a husband! What will Hello! magazine spend its budget on?! They've nothing in the diary, wedding-wise, until one of David and Victoria Beckham's kids ties the knot!

    There is an upside, though. The prospect of seeing another series of this starve-a-sleb on commercial TV makes me eternally grateful that I can now Sky+* the entire thing (is that a bona fide verb yet?): record it and then fast-forward through as much of this full-contact adult-crèche thing as I like, missing all those damned adverts (*for North American readers, think TiVo)! Happy days!

    Things are looking up already!

    Now, about that show where a left testicle plays Gershwin whilst doing the ironing...?

    'Prog Rock' explained in 5 minutes



    Friday, 13 November 2009

    Even more Twitter gags

    Russia launches a nationwide campaign 2 curb excessive drinking plaguing the country. Step One: Raise the legal drinking age from zero
    Saturday Night Live (SNL)

    20 years since the Wall came down. On this auspicious day our thoughts go out to every member of Pink Floyd
    David Schneider

    Michelle Obama on Sesame St 40th anniversary show. Gets a little tense as Bert & Ernie ask why her husband's dragging his feet on gay marriage
    Conan O'Brien

    I like to imagine that weird flattened parting in Simon's hair is created by a lackey violently farting across it backstage before each show.
    Charlie Brooker (on X-Factor's Simon Cowell)

    Investigative journalist help request No:2453. Anyone got a RT on their timeline of @GaryDelaney's "Old MacDonald had Tourette's ee-i ee-i c*nt"?
    David Schneider

    [Carrie] Prejean sez she's been "Palin-ized", which may be defined as "having been exposed as a self-worshiping nobody with delusions of adequacy".

    Michael McKean (Spinal Tap's 'David St Hubbins')

    "A mule kicked Uncle Bob once. Broke his ribs. He punched it in the face.. My point? You have an ingrown fucking toenail. Stop bitching."

    shitmydadsays ('Shit My Dad Says' - Justin Halpern)

    Catholic Priest in 'MILF' action!

    Is there a Web-acronym-savvy Copy Editor in the house?!

    Had to pass this on, and a shout-out goes to the all guys over at Canadian Cycnic - thanks for staying of top of things!

    Again, sometimes the comedy just writes itself - this from The Christian Science Monitor:


    Thursday, 12 November 2009

    Fox News proves to be unseasonably bad...

    Some of you may remember my earlier piece about this bastion of unvarnished fuckwittage: Can Fox News really be considered a 'News' entity?

    Well, in the form of Sean Hannity, it seems that they've now gone and added grist to the mill of those who frankly can't see them as anything other than the bigots' comedy-of-errors they are - as they've committed the cardinal sin for a 'news' channel, and become the news...

    So what was Hannity's mistake? Well, in the interests of accuracy, it wasn't really a 'mistake', as that implies some element of the accidental, or something not done purposely - which would be the polar opposite of what Hannity pulled.

    No, his actual mistake was in thinking that those damned pinko-liberal researchers on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show would miss a puff piece about Republican protesters "teabagging" (if only the Americans knew precisely what that means in UK slang!) in Washington DC; a piece which not only cobbled together footage of two different protests, whilst trying to pass it off as being one and the same event, but they even went to the lengths of trying to get viewers to believe that they were even in the same season. A leap, even for Fox - but one doing nothing to dispel the already solid reputation of its alter ego: Faux Noise.

    So, with Edward R Murrow doing cartwheels in his grave, and without further ado, here's Jon Stewart calling out Hannity's deliberate and dissembling misdirection (what in plain English is called simply 'propaganda'):

    And now, in a somewhat lame and palpably insincere attempt at a Rupert Murdoch-ordered rebuttal (to say nothing of epoch-redefining disingenuousness), here's Hannity back-pedalling like a JAMF!

    Now, the observant amongst you will have spotted how Hannity actually brokers a new use and sense of the adjective, inadvertent here - you'll have picked-up that he uses 'indavertent' in the sense of "I'm a lying gobshite who's now been caught out and saying any old guff to try and cover both mine, and the network's worthless arses..."

    All that from just one word - and let's be honest, you would have never had Hannity down as a closet philologist, would you? Mind you, if he can't even get his seasons right, what chance the language?

    Wednesday, 11 November 2009

    Twitter's shitmydadsays gets own TV show!

    For those of you who've perhaps not yet seen it, or don't use/bother with Twitter, you will have missed this.

    There is a 'Twitterer', Justin Halpern, whose Twitter profile name is '@shitmydadsays' (shit my dad says) and who, as the name suggests, posts the barbed retorts and sangfroid observations of his father - and it has to be said that these invariably deadpan and litotes-laden laments are, by and large, utter gems.

    Any way, it transpires that it's just been given it its own TV show on CBS in the States.

    Here's a selection of the Tweets:

    "Son, no one gives a shit about all the things your cell phone does. You didn't invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that."
    "Just pay the parking ticket. Don't be so outraged. You're not a freedom fighter in the civil rights movement. You double parked."

    "Does anyone your age know how to comb their fucking hair? It looks like two squirrels crawled on their head and started fucking."
    "I didn't live to be 73 years old so I could eat kale. Don't fix me your breakfast and pretend you're fixing mine."

    And here's a frank and funny interview with Justin Halpern, in which he explains the relationship and growing up with his father.

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