Monday, 31 May 2010

President Thin-Skin

It's lucky for Mr Barack Hussein Obama the he gets such a softpedalling from the press or he'd be having a major hissy fit by now.

Gypsy blogging

I'm writing this from a McDonald's playground. Could be worse, I suppose. I could have been reduced to texting this post from my cell phone. Since it will take up to a fortnight to get my Internet connection repaired, I suspect that I'm going to see a lot of libraries, cheap restaurants, and coffee houses before I'm done.

It's amazing how much we've come to depend on the Internet. I don't just mean for the obvious things like e-mail or banking, but things like software that hasn't anything to do with the Web, but goes into a conniption fit if it can't make a connection while you're working. For example, I figured that I'd fill some of the down time by doing site maintenance. Trouble is, my HTML editor keeps trying to load the adverts onto the pages I'm working on and goes into a sulk when it can't.

I've also discovered that I'm completely out of touch. I'm so used to getting my news by checking my RSS feeds while I work that I'm amazed how ignorant I am of the news now. I don't subscribe to any papers, I,ve long fallen out of the habit of watching television news, and I loathe American radio to the point where I pretty much confine myself to Radio 3 & 4 on the Intertubes, so my main sources of information now are conversations with passing tinkers and watching for signs of the masses fleeing for the hills. The latter is generally a reliable indicator that Something Is Up.

Then there are those tiny inputs that I never had ten years ago and don't noticenow until they're gone. What the weather like? Glance at the the weather widget. What's the definition of dysphemism? Dictionary widget? What's Russian for "My hovercraft is full of eels?" Translator widget. What are my appointments? calendar wideget. It becomes particularly annoying when I want to look something up because I no longer have the groaning huge stack of mouldy old reference books, so I can't look up this quote or that figure at two AM. In many ways, it's not so much being thrown back to the 1980s as it is to the Edwardian era--which is probably a lucky thing because under the reign of Edward VII the collars were more presentable.

Anyway, if the balloon goes up, would someone be good enough to send along a man with a message in a cleft stick? I'd hate for Armageddon to roll in and then miss out on it.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Service will be resumed shortly.

Ephemeral Isle, Chez Szondy, and my professional life in general is up the gum tree without a paddle. After a two days of erratic Internet service and an aggravating conversation with "Dave" whose cubicle is somewhere outside of New Delhi, I have discovered that my satellite modem is US. Worse, my service provider, with that lightning speed that one normally associates with a spavined tortoise in a Zimmer frame, can't get a replacement to me in less than a week. Since the nearest wifi connection is at the public library 15 miles away, I'm up against a logistical brick wall.

As you might have guessed, this means that postings will be a bit sparse and consist mainly of grumbling about why the deuce I should have to buy a cup of coffee at McDonald's when I just want to check my appointments. I've already discovered the joy of driving into town to send a couple of emails only to discover that I left the bit of paper with the addresses back on my desk.

Joy.

The Green Hornet - Chapter 6 - Highways Of Peril


The House on Haunted Hill


Friday, 28 May 2010

Another nail

John Prescott gets a peerage.

And thus the honours list is reduced to the status of a cigarette coupon.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

STEMinars

The Americans are poising the flint knife of Feminism over the breast of scientific preeminence. I don't know what's worse, the paranoid 1970's gender war assumptions of the proponents or their insistence on subjecting freeborn men and women to reeducation camps complete with Marxist kabuki theatre.

There used to be a saying that we're wealthy enough to be stupid.

Nobody is wealthy enough to be that stupid.

Democracy Russian style

The Russian Duma passes a drunk driving law 449 to 0. This is a pretty impressive vote when you realise that only 88 deputies were present. How did they manage it? By voting very, very quickly.

At least it keeps them fit.

Post-Modern post mortem

Victor Davis Hanson looks at the death of Post-Modernism and provides a fairly accurate assessment of Mr Barack Hussein Obama's goals,
The new world order as envisioned by Obama in January 2009 was, I think, supposed to look something like the following: A social-democratic America would come to emulate the successful welfare states in the European Union. These twin Western communitarian powers would together usher in a new world order in which no one nation was to be seen as preeminent. All the old nasty ideas of the 20th century -- military alliances, sovereign borders, independent international finance, nuclear arms, religious and cultural chauvinism -- would fall by the wayside, as the West was reinvented as part of the solution rather the problem it had been in its days of colonialism, imperialism, and exploitation. A new green transnationalism would assume the place of that bad old order, a transnationalism run by elite, highly educated, and socially conscious technocrats -- albeit themselves Western -- supported by a progressive press more interested in effecting social change than in merely reporting the tawdry news.
I agree with most of this assessment, except that I believe that Mr Obama is far more hazy on the details and most of those are more negative than positive–rather like a lefty sophomore student who's read too much cod Marxism and starts sneering about the "Bourgeoisie" without the faintest notion of who they are or what he'd replace them with. I'd say that Mr Obama comes closest to G K Chesteron's definition of bigotry:
In real life, the people who are most bigoted are the people who have no conviction at all.
Mr Obama believes passionately in something. He just isn't sure what it is.



Update: Like most Socialists, he's pretty good at mimicking the Ancien Regime.

The Prius of architecture

Paul de Ruiter Architects create a "temporary" building designed to stand only twenty years–unlike conventional buildings that are typically designed to last 35 years. It's quite a bold idea to build something intended to be temporary as opposed to permanent structures like the Crystal Palace, Eiffel Tower, tents, marquees, and pretty much anything else put up by the hand of man that wasn't meant to house a Pharaoh's bones.

But at least it's "green", being built of recyclable, sustainable materials. Much better than structures built of recyclable, sustainable steel and recyclable, sustainable concrete.

Muon

The Muon concept car; designed to keep you soothed and calm during your morning commute, such as in this scenario painted by the designer Taeho Yoon,
It's 7:30 a.m. Angela gets in Muon and grabs the steering wheel, which senses her pulse and checks her pupils to play a Bossa Nova music on the Internet sympathizing with her a bit depressive feeling. She has had the car optimally customized for her physical and psychological condition in the first place. Now the AI of the car has learned she loves Bossa Nova music when she feels under the weather like today. The 100% personalized thermo sensor and heating wire in her seat warm her body in the freezing cold weather in a winter morning of New York.
Somehow, I suspect that it will play out more like this.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Quatermass and the Pit


Another one of those awful days, so here's the original television version of Quatermass and the Pit just in case I can't get any more postings done today.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Lost in translation


They've finally flipped over all the cards on the pointless conundrum dramatic television series Lost and the Internet is abuzz with reviews by people who would apparently be entertained by a used bus ticket.

For those of you missed the entire serial, here is the basic writer's logic that was used by the producers. In fact, I suspect that this is the actual last episode. Or the first. Or the 32nd.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Junior Missilemen


You think the newsreel is scary, take a look at the manual. I had a copy of this when I was a boy and it's a wonder I survived to manhood without acquiring an eye patch and a hook.

Good times.

Martn Gardner (1914-2010)

Martin Gardner, whose columns in Scientific American, a magazine that has gone downhill since he left, introduced me to so many incredible mathematical concepts, has passed on at the age of 95.

Sleep well, sir.

A week at Chez Szondy

One thing I always loathe is when people complain about how humdrum and routine their lives are; how it's the same thing day in, day out without any variation except that which is induced by the passing of the seasons. And the odd war, flood, famine, plague, revolution, earthquake fire, shipwreck, recession, or inevitable zombie apocalypse. Or entropy working its way inexorably toward the heat death of the Universe. Otherwise, pretty samey.

I could do with a bit of routine. It would make for a nice change. What I wouldn't give sometimes to sit down at my desk in full confidence that when I stood up again I'd have 1500 words completed and a nice G &T to look forward to with supper to follow. What I actually have any confidence in is that if I sit down at my desk, I will be interrupted inside of five minutes by someone or something coming along and interrupt me. It may be something as prosaic as my daughter wanting to know what I'm doing or the appearance of a pair of cold, wet noses demanding attention. It might be the phone ringing to announce some emergency that requires my immediate attention, a chore that can't be put off any longer, or the power cutting out for some inexplicable reason. Mind you, with my life, it's equally likely to be a bear showing up in my front garden or a rain of toads in the living room. I am astonished at how I can leave a week open with nothing else to do except outline a novel, only to discover that the full Sunday to Sunday period has vanished down the plug hole without my even opening the bloody file.

Take last week, for example. Regular readers will have noticed that postings were a bit light. That's because instead of my usual frantic typing on the computer when I get a moment or two, things had got so chaotic that by Wednesday the only way I'd get a post up would have been to thumb it in on my cell phone while keeping one eye on the road while I barreled through the valley for the umpteenth time that day.

Monday vanished in a welter of errands that cropped up out of nowhere, an emergency trip to the post office to deal with a bundle of letters that hadn't been franked, and a frantic call from an old client who'd mislaid something I'd written over two years ago, but she was sure that I not only kept a copy of that sort of thing, but also stowed it someplace close at hand under an obvious file name so I could just fish it out and pop along in an email in the next half hour if that isn't too much a bother because we really, really need it yesterday.

It didn't help that I'd just started on a resolution not to work at all after 9:00 PM to avoid my routine of finishing "just one more thing" until it's 3:00 AM.

Tuesday, I took my wife to the dentist, which normally isn't a problem. In fact, it's a blessing in disguise because it gives me a three hour respite when I can hide in the waiting room with a cup of coffee and my notebook scribbling away. That is, if the receptionist doesn't notice that someone has cancelled their appointment, so I can get that cleaning done that I've been putting off for two months. So, instead of working on notes, I stagger out in the afternoon with a gums feeling like they've been lightly massaged by a pack of rabid French weasels using substandard cricket bats and clutching in my hand a bottle of prescription mouthwash that tastes of cherries–assuming that cherries were designed by a psychopath.

Wednesday was our wedding anniversary and the wife had a surprise arranged that was extremely welcome, but resulted in my losing another day's work that I tried to make up for on Thursday, but couldn't because the rain stopped and I had to take the rare opportunity to mow the lawn before the monsoons returned and finish the annual spring cleaning. That's the annual spring cleaning from 2008, so you can imagine what was involved.

Friday, our friends, who own Chez Szondy, came up from California to collect some things they'd stored in our garage. It's one of those occasions that I imagine will involve a bit of welcome catching up on things, then letting them get to it while I go get some work done with breaks to refresh my guests at intervals with coffee and pizza. It never does, however, and I spent the entire day in the garage and getting bugger all else done. I didn't mind a bit, but I was still scoring zero out of five on shortening the check list.

Perhaps I could catch up on Saturday. Sorry, Saturday is Family Day and it was compounded by the wife feeling under the weather, so it was her, me, the daughter, and two dogs all piled on the bed watching television all day. Even with a netbook, there is no way to do more than check the RSS feeds with a crush like that. I'd have had terminal cramp except that I'd completely forgotten about a birthday party that we'd been invited to and so, the wife still being poorly, the daughter and I ended up tearing twenty miles into Redmond to arrive almost three hours late. Good fun, though. The girl of honour had only turned two, so my daughter was by far the oldest and had the rare privilege of spending more time talking to the grown ups instead of the kids. Meanwhile, I chatted with people whom I hadn't seen in five years–some of whom I didn't recognise until I added the appropriate number of years and pounds to. Not that I was exactly Dorian Gray myself.

Aha! Sunday!

Nope. I had the week's shopping that I should have done earlier. Now that I was catching up on that and with my daughter in tow, I had to throw in a detour to a petting zoo, a book shop visit, and the purchase of a sea monkey aquarium.

Total score: Seven/nil, advantage distractions.

I suppose I should admit that other writers have had to deal with the world as well as the typewriter and that I'm merely grumbling, but I think I can say with some authority that whatever travails Shakespeare may have encountered, I doubt if he ever came face to face with setting up a sea monkey aquarium.

I looked it up. He hadn't.

Friday, 21 May 2010

NewBusted



Things have been crazy this week here at Chez Szondy, so I'll let Jodi Miller take up the slack.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Genocide on campus


Good thing she didn't say something really horrible such as that affirmative action is a bad idea or the University might have expelled her instead of shrugging their shoulders.

What our institutions of "higher" learning have become and why I gave up teaching at them.

Survival


Pay attention!


For sale

For Sale: Only one owner. Runs well. Some bullet damage. Batray works. Contact b.wayne@wayneindustries.com.
Well, I do need some new wheels...

Waste not, want not


Popular Science looks at how nuclear weapons are recycled. Here is one recycling effort in action.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Vidblog 180510


Automotive atrocities

Be afraid... Be very... Okay, how about incredulous?

A steak a day...

Health food

BBC headline:
'Sausage not steak' increases heart disease risk
And just to show what a health-conscious chap I am, I shall take their advice as often as possible. Preferably with a grilled lobster tail, baked potato with sour cream, fried onions & mushrooms, steamed asparagus, and a nice bottle of Chardy.

Come to think of it, I'd best throw in a pink gin and tonic, oysters on the half shell, pecan pie, a demitasse, cheese board, some tawny port, and finishing up with brandy and a nice cigar just in case any of these have hidden health-giving properties yet unknown to science.

Drat, I'd best lay in some cold steak and kidney pie and a couple of cans of draught Guinness in the event of a relapse in the middle of the night.

Can't be too careful.

New "Routemaster" unveiled


And, amazingly, it looks like a bus.

How did they let this slip by?

Monday, 17 May 2010

Hard to fight an enemy you won't name


US Attorney General Eric "Nation of Cowards" Holder loses his bottle.


Or maybe he's secretly one of the Knights of Nee.

Army ostriches.

Sir, our women, sorry, "female" soldiers are getting pregnant at a rate that exceeds combat casualties.

What should we do about it?

Well, sir, since these pregnancies do cause us manpower shortages at great expense, violate military regulations, put a burden on our limited resources that could be better spent winning the war, that the women don't contribute anything intrinsically to combat operations, that they detract from the war effort by their effect on morale and, of course, there is the moral objection, perhaps we should remove them from the combat zone.

We can't do that!

Why not, sir.

Because...

Yes, sir?

Oh, dash it all, I don't know. Tell them to use condoms and hope it all goes away.

Very good, sir.

QED

Space dog and chips

"Oh, my God! That's not the Chinese Premier; that's Gordon Ramsay!"

PLAAF Major General Yáng Lìwěi, commander of Red China's Shenzhou Five space mission in 2003, reveals that his spacecraft not only lofted the Chicom's first man into space, but also the first dog of any nation since 1966.

Unfortunately, he was in the galley.

Iron Sky


We didn't listen!

All out superpower confrontation

From the BBC:
Why New Zealand is a lifestyle superpower
"Lifestyle superpower" is something I've run across several times this week and it's fast becoming in need of some bud-nipping. Not only is it patronising and condescending, but it paints a picture of a beautiful interwar Paris filled with charming little cafes and the Champ Elysee lined with shade trees so the Germans won't have to march in the sun.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Superman


The Speckled Band


We've been getting complaints that the embed player was autoplaying in some browsers. Please click on the title link to listen.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Captain Peacock, call your service

There's been a stabbing incident involving two employees at an English department store.

I knew it was only a matter of time before Mr Humphries snapped.

Random thoughts on a rotten burough


Mr David Cameron announces the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

We now have the Cameron/Clegg coalition and for the past 24 hours I've been wracking my brains trying to come up with something to say about it other than "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" and hoping that I'll wake up. Unfortunately, I did this morning and they were still there.

What has happened over the past week is a perfect encapsulment of all that has gone rotten in British politics. For 13 years, Britain was governed by a party that acted like an occupying power hellbent on dismantling a hated enemy. It was a disaster so all-encompassing that a re-subtitled Downfall clip would have been far too appropriate to be funny. New Labour was such an amazing, transcendent screw up that the Conservatives should have conducted the election in their street clothes and come away with a majority so large that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats should have been replaced as the loyal opposition by the UKIP. Instead, Boy Cameron, who feels that the problem with Conservatives was all that conservatism, managed to run against a hated PM leading an imploding party and couldn't even reach the finish line.

Now, to add insult to injury, the Conservatives have formed a coalition with a party so insane that they haven't held power since the First World War. This isn't a coalition government; it's a stitch up between a hollow log and a joy buzzer. In order to make nice with each other they've had to jettison so much of their manifestos that neither can do anything except infuriate their own supporters and leave the entire country in a position like an alien abduction victim waiting for the anal probe.

A sane outcome of the election would have been a Prime Minister of some standing announcing a five-year programme of dismantling everything New Labour has ever done while giving Johnny Jihad a kick up the backside he'd never forget with an afternoon off to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972. Instead, we have two members of the parasitic new political class that replaced the Establishment who regard actually doing something about defence, immigration, the economy, and the general collapse of British society as too much of a distraction from playing with their train set and altering the electoral system so that another proper government will never be possible ever again.

Mr Cameron says that he will ask Parliament to rig the system so that there won't be another election until May 2015. Fat Chance–especially with the BBC acting as if the Liberal Democrats have broken their lefty little hearts.

Frankly, I give this Frankenstein's Monster of a coalition six months before it gets tossed back to the nation to go through the whole sorry mess again.

Tin ear award

In one of the more insane episodes in the Jihadist war, a community board in New York City has approved the construction of a mosque in the vicinity of Ground Zero.

After 9/11, they started talking about what should replace the fallen World Trade Center and I was often tempted to suggest a gigantic cathedral with a synagogue next to it because that would drive the Jihadists bonkers. I didn't do so, however, because I thought that would be in bad taste. And from me, that's saying something. Now we learn that this so-called board, in the name of "closer relations", approves the most abject example of dhimmitude since they whitewashed the Hagia Sophia.

God, we are in trouble.

Jet bike II: Revenge of the Death Bike


It looks as if the Jetbike we talked about earlier isn't a one-off. Top speed: 70 MPH, though I suspect that the last second and a half of your journey would be with the bike crumpled against a tree some distance behind you.

Though I do agree with Clarkson that if you are going to have a bike, this is the one to get.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Speech bubbles

Can't hear someone talking in a crowded night club with insipid music blaring out of oversized and under-engineered speakers of ear-shattering decibels that reduce every song to teeth-rattling thuds while the incessant strobes give you a blinding headache and the ludicrous fog machine makes you certain that you're going to suffocate, which would be a good thing because then it would at least allow you to escape the fug of stale sweat, cheap perfume, and fresh sick that the watery, overpriced drinks do nothing to dull the pain of? Why are you in that hellhole in the first place?

If you insist, then these "speech bubbles" may be the answer. However, like many great inventions, this one was thought up over forty years ago with predictable results.


Tuesday, 11 May 2010

RESULT!

Her Majesty has invited Mr David Cameron to become Prime Minister.

More on this development later. As for Mr Gordon Brown's resignation (However are they going to get the claw marks out of the door jamb?) and New Labour's finally getting the boot, let's put it this way.

Stereoscopy

An article on stereoscopic photography that includes a collection of hardcore Wang Chunging.



If you didn't get the pop culture reference, consider yourself lucky. Here's the video that was (no joke) banned by the BBC for health reasons.

Ford Xplor

The Ford Xplor concept SUV may look like a bread box on wheels, but with those mysterious outriggers for the front wheels it's more like a bread box on wheels with a pair of pincers to funnel hapless pedestrians into its maw. Mind you, since it's an electric and clearly designed by someone who doesn't think people should be driving cars anyway it probably has the top speed of a G-Wiz, so most pedestrians can outrun it if their Zimmer frames aren't actually nailed to the ground.

While the lack of any bumpers, towing gear, roof rack, or even side mirrors make me wonder how it rates the moniker "SUV", what I find particularly amusing is the Dvice report on the Xplor (We left out the Es and passed on the savings to YOU!):
While it looks like the SUV sector is just about dead due to eco-concerns, this is the kind of vehicle (despite its sci-fi design) that could actually revive the industry.
Dead? really? Small SUV sales may have fallen off, though scarcely from an outburst of Blessed Gaia worship, but the larger and luxury models are positively booming. Wishful thinking a bit, are we?

Question, meet answer

Popular Mechanics headline:
How to Win in a Wild West Shootout
Getting there five minutes early and hiding behind a rain barrel with a shotgun always works for me.

Tip of the day

Lifehacker looks at what you can do with leftover wine.

Leftover what? I'm sorry, it sounds like you're making words, but they don't make any sense.

ABJ Explorer

Introducing the BAe Systems and Design Q's ABJ Explorer; the luxury plane of the future. Always wanted an aeroplane that has a sundeck so you can have cocktails on the tarmac? Now you can.

For the adventurous, try deploying the deck while aloft so you can enjoy breathtaking sunsets from 50,00 feet. Also the 500 knot slipstream and a quick lesson in the definition of "snap roll".

Monday, 10 May 2010

Breaking: Mullah Omar captured

This is the stuff that rumours are made of, so keep the champagne on ice for now.

Red Square bashing

Ah, if only this were 1947 with Stalin in the brig.

Mark Steyn, human rights activist.

Given that "human rights" are supposed to be about protecting individuals against the power of the state and not subjecting them to it, I'd say that Mr Steyn is the first real "human rights activist" who actually fits the definition in a long time.

Robonormanbates


Scientists at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German aerospace agency look at what happens when robots get a bit "stabby".

Sarah Connor points out that robots prefer phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range, but it doesn't help to give the little tin psychos any ideas.

Louis Vuitton cigar cutter

Presenting the $500 luxury cigar cutter from Louis Vuitton.

Nice, but I have one that I bought at a tobacconist in Charing Cross Road for £1.50 that I managed to almost cut my thumb off with back in 2001 in a moment of absent-mindedness. Did the job just as well as the more expensive kind.

Living without money


Alexa von Tobel of New York City, who sounds like the sort of well-off nitwit who ends up starving to death in a power failure, noticed how much she was spending on taxis, lattes, delis, restaurants, drinks, etcetera, and decides to take the ultimate survival challenge and try to get through an entire day without spending money. She makes it sound like she's setting off to cross the Congo Basin with a machete. I could hardly contain myself as I read of her death-defying feat of cooking some penne pasta with tomato vodka sauce instead of eating out.

Not that I should sneer. After all, I've taken this challenge myself more than once. In fact, the last time was today.

It's called being skint.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Childhood's End Part 2




Clink on link in title if above player is acting funny.


Bonus feature.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Hung Parliament

I awoke this morning to discover that Britain has a hung parliament. I spent the time until lunch with a spring in my step and a song on my lips until the girl at the coffee stand pointed out that this did not involve an extremely large gallows. Gloom ensued.

Ah, well.

Update: Unfortunately, the means that Mr Gordon Brown stays on at Number 10. The reason given is, according to Professor Robert Hazell, from the Institute for Government,
We must always have a government, and until a new government can be formed the present government carries on.
Very true. If Britain ever found itself without a government, there is every chance that people would start to notice the improvements.

Venus & the pholgiston factor

Is the runaway greenhouse effect that heats Venus to the temperature of molten lead a warning to mankind about environmental irresponsibility or is it a load of old cobblers that Carl Sagan pulled out of his arse?

Robofootie


Yes, very nice, but can they run around the pitch with arms in the air shouting "GOOOOOAAAALL!" before being congratulated by fellow robots in a disturbingly homoerotic fashion?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

“Courageous Restraint” Award

NATO commanders want a new medal for soldiers in Afghanistan who don't fire their weapons even if their lives are in danger.

Might we suggest the above as a design appropriate to the spirit of the award?

Headline of the day

From CBS News:
Faisal Shahzad's Motive Shrouded in Mystery
In further developments, CBS News closed down today when their highly trained journalists were trapped in their offices because they were stumped by the large, obvious doorknobs.

Election day

It's election day in Britain and when Her Majesty dissolved Parliament I was sorely tempted to break a standing rule of EI and endorse one of the parties. My normal operating procedure when the country goes to the polls is to remind my readers of how much is at stake in the election and ask that they vote according to their consciences. However, New Labour has made such a pig's breakfast of Britain since 1997 that I felt compelled to stick my oar in. Something, I thought, had to be done.

Unfortunately, that's where I got stuck. I certainly couldn't endorse New Labour. Beyond their concerted attack on all of Britain's institutions, customs, history, religion, and even identity, Mr Gordon Brown et al by their own confession (boasting!) are traitors who made war against Britain by fomenting and aiding an invasion of the country. If you put a gun to my head and demanded my endorsement I'd tell you I wanted to see the bullets first and unless they were dum dums filled with cyanide I wouldn't even consider it. Even if they were, I'd make it a coin toss.

As for the Conservatives, I am amazed that they aren't being prosecuted under the Trades Descriptions Act for false labelling. This is no longer the party led by Sir Winston Churchill. This is not the party that stood against the Communists while the opposition preached decline, defeat, and surrender. This is not the party that tipped Marxism into its grave so that it now only survives in pest holes like North Korea and the faculty common room. This is the corpse of a party that's had its brains scooped out and replaced by a clockwork toy that periodically announces that the way to govern Britain is to do exactly what New Labour does only more efficiently. It's enough to make Lady Thatcher spin in her grave and since she isn't dead, it's a wonder that seeing Mr David Cameron as leader doesn't kill her.

The Liberal Democrats? Sorry, don't think so. I prefer a party, not a bag stuffed with every disaffected left-wing idea rejected by the two real parties. I can think of any number of idiotic things that can happen in an election, but replacing a government with a bran tub filled with whoopee cushions and fake turds is too much even for me to imagine.

UKIP? I've read their manifesto, agree with most of their goals, and wish them all the success possible. However, I cannot for the moment see how they hope to bridge the gap between aspiration and government until the electorate is given a massive dose of common sense. I find it highly unlikely that the voters will give the finger to all three major parties simultaneously no matter how nice a picture that may be.

The BNP I only mention because Fleet Street has a macro that inserts them every time you type in UKIP so that the latter always reminds the reader of the former. Beyond that, the notion of Roderick Spode standing in front of Number 10 in his black shorts gives me a fit of the giggles. Separatist parties I reject on the principle that you're elected to run the country, not dismantle it. As for the remainder like the Worker's Revolutionary Party, they should be shown a calendar and the door.

So, since Britain is actually ruled (I do not mean governed!) by a load of unelected dictators in Brussels who are answerable to no one, the Forward to Mars Party has long ago disbanded, and I can't seem to get my Feudalist Party off the ground for lack of royal approval regarding my plan use the next Queen's Speech to dispatch the entire House of Commons to the Tower and then sending a short note to the EU President that include "get" and "stuffed", I must tip my hat to the Official Raving Monster Looney Party.

Can't be any worse.

Where's the brandy?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Survivors (1975)-Review

This review is adapted from a new Tales of Future Past page that will go live in the near, um, future.

Survivors: An everyday story of post- apocalyptic country folk.

I've been rewatching it on Youtube lately and it's a pleasure to rediscover this half-forgotten classic. I mean that literally. All I could remember from seeing it 35 years ago was one scrap of dialogue and hazy memories of people in the near future running about on horseback.

Survivors* is a late entry in the "quiet catastrophe" stakes that follows a band of, well, survivors after a Red Chinese scientist accidentally unleashes a deadly biowarfare virus on the world. Quickly spread by modern air travel, the disease soon takes hold in every country on Earth and within three weeks the world's population has collapsed by a factor of 5000. In Britain, only 10,000 people remain alive out of a population of 50 million. The corpse-filled cities have become hopeless pockets of disease, leaving the survivors scattered and alone in the countryside.

From this atomised state, the remnants of mankind have to come together again to form new communities and rebuild society from scratch. What complicates this is that the passing of the old world took with it all the industrial infrastructure on which we all depend for our most basic needs. Before they realise it, the last Britons have been flung back into an agrarian world where simply getting enough food to eat is a daily struggle and a bar of soap is a luxury.

Created by writer Terry Nation (father of the Daleks) and aired on BBC1 from 1975 to 1977, Survivors initially followed Abby Grant, a banker's wife who loses her husband in the plague and sets off in search of her young son, whom she believes against all odds to be alive. Teaming up with engineer Greg Preston and young Jenny Richards, we are taken along as they encounter other survivors who are coping with the new world they've found themselves in; some trying to make a new start, others seeing it as a chance for power.

Eventually, our heroes abandon the search and settle down in a stately home surrounded by farm land that serves as the nucleus for a new community. As new people come and go and the community faces disasters such as a fire that forces those who survive it to move to new location, the stories revolve around the problems of not just staying alive, but how to deal with crime and criminals, fulfilling people's spiritual needs, the up-welling of superstition, and simple difficulties of holding the group together in the face of hardship and isolation.

But it isn't all grim. In fact, though it's rarely acknowledged, the post-Death world has a lot to offer. The bucolic existence that the survivors must adapt to is much more peaceful and even beautiful compared to the old days and for some it affords a new lease on life, though others literally pine to death remembering when there were football matches and families were intact.

In many ways, Survivors is one of hardest of hard science fiction futures ever imagined on television. Once the Death is out of the way, the problems faced are very solid and down to earth without a hint of fantasy. Viewers of the 21st century remake with its running about, intriguing politicians, mysterious scientists, overacting, and virus that acts like a Mexican jumping bean will be surprised at how many plots in the original revolve around where to keep the pigs and trying to buy rubber boots. Everything from potatoes to beer to salt poses problems for our heroes that they have to overcome and all of them involve solutions that wouldn't be out of place in a farmer's almanac and none include sinister helicopters and evil pharmaceutical executives in evil suits and evil ties.

At times, it's sort of a sombre version of The Good Life–which isn't surprising because both shows owe a lot to the self-sufficiency fad that cropped up in the wake of the Energy Crisis. The basic question of Survivors is, how would you carry on without our industrial world behind you? How would you make something as simple as a candle that we buy today in little boutiques for very large prices and take completely for granted? Could you make one from scratch, we're asked in this clip:


Actually, I could make a candle from scratch and out of several different materials, so the school master would have got a bit shirty with me.
"Okay, smart guy. Could you make this.. This pencil?"

"Well, since you ask..."

"A computer!" he'd cry. " One that could play noughts and crosses."

"Out of match boxes and marbles?"
At this point, I suspect he'd get that hunted look I see so often.

Granted, the writers do overestimate how fast the groceries will run out, but chalk that up to poetic licence and budget restrictions. They wanted to show a world forced to fall back on its most basic resources, but couldn't afford to show one that had declined for a generation and they couldn't realistically deal with characters a couple of decades divorced from our world and keep up the drama. Besides, it's the building rather than the decline that's the real story.

And well it should be.

(You can see whole episodes of Survivors here.)


*No, not the reality show or the laughable remake from 2008.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Spanking mad

From the BBC:
Parents should find ways of punishing children without smacking, says the deputy head of the Council of Europe.
In other news, the free men of Europe and the British Isles pointedly suggest that smacking should be extended to deputy heads of the Council of Europe who in a fit of hubris butt into sovereign nations' affairs.

Tale of two presidents

Barry Rubin at Pajamasmedia:
Whatever you think of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he is not a stupid man. On the contrary, and shocking as you might find this idea, he is a better strategist than his American counterpart, Barack Obama.
That's not saying much. Wylie Coyote is a better strategist.

Manhattan mujaheddin

A suspect has been arrested in the Times Square bombing. He is Shahzad Faisal; an American immigrant from Pakistan who spent several months recently in that country and has ties to Islamist terrorist groups. Whether or not he was wearing an I ♥ Osama tee shirt and was carrying an Al Qaeda Blue Crescent card is not certain at this time. The joke would be saying that his motives were "unclear", but that joke is already official policy.

8 years, 7 months, and 23 days ago, Civilisation got a wake up call when the crash of two skyscrapers in New York City told the world that there are barbarians abroad. These power-hungry, fanatical throwbacks to the 7th century had been for decades waging war against the West, their coreligionists, and anyone else who dared to stand in their way to world domination. Or, indeed, anyone who didn't timidly bow to their insane totalitarianism. It took the transformation of two of the greatest structures in the world into piles of rubble to tell all free men that their liberty was not guaranteed, but something to be fought for or surrendered in ignominy.

A war was launched against the barbarians, though this was tainted at the beginning by an American President who kept going on about the "religion of peace" until you expected him to convert and a British Prime Minister who cringed so long in his desire for political cover that it allowed the UN to toss off its unaccustomed courage in favour of a return to its default status of graft and cowardice. Despite seeing the enemy in the face, freeing tens of millions of people from tyranny and giving a benighted region its first glimmer of freedom since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the civilised world has gone back into its slumber. No matter how many Madrids, Beslans, Balis, Moscows, Londons, Fort Hoods, Washingtons, Kenyas, Kohbar Towers, Bombays–the list goes on and on–the governments of the West seem determined to close their eyes and wish that this war just goes away and that the people would stop banging on about things like mass immigration from the Umma.

Look at what happened in Manhattan. It was a replay of the 2007 Tiger Tiger bombing attempt in London right down to the botched detonator that prevented scores of lives from being lost. And what was the White House's response? A deep desire to treat it like a mere crime and a replay of the Fort Hood atrocity: "Nothing to see here. Not terrorism. No link to foreign groups. Lone nut job. White guy seen near the vehicle. Okay, maybe he wasn't. He's Pakistani. Al Qaeda? Uh... Ooo, look! Militias!"

The frightening thing is that this isn't an American government going off the rails. It's a US President falling happily in line with Europe and officially tossing all those inconvenient words like "terrorism", "Muslim", "Islam", and "Jihad" into the dustbin. Not to mention following a war strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan that smells suspiciously like trying not to lose it until after the 2012 elections. This makes me very afraid, but the fear is not that it will give the barbarians an opening that they are clearly exploiting at this very moment, which it does, but that it means that the United States, the lynch pin of Civilisation's defence, is no longer taking this war seriously. And, of course, there is a news media who don't seem at all bothered by this state of affairs, so they ignore it.

By this do I mean that I believe the barbarians will win? No, not in the least. What I do fear is that things will get far worse, needlessly so, before they get better and that the peoples of the West will become convinced that their governments have abandoned them to their enemies. If that perception takes hold, then the cure will be far worse than the disease.

Then, God help us and our children.

Update: Three more arrested trying to leave the country.

Update: And another one in Pakistan.

Update: From the BBC:
US President Barack Obama has vowed that Americans "will not cower in fear" following the failed car-bomb attack in New York's Times Square on Saturday.
Americans certainly will not "will not cower in fear", though their President will soft-pedal like mad while he prays that it all goes away.

Update: Lone wolf? Hah!

Update: Kiss any intelligence gathering goodbye; bomber suspect read his Miranda rights.

So much for treating this war like a war.

Update: And now, conclusion jumping!

Update: More on Mr "lone wolf".

Monday, 3 May 2010

Meds matters

You'll have to excuse me if posting gets a bit erratic today. I'm on a new round of blood pressure medication and one of the side effects is that it makes me a bit dizzy until I get used to it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to catch the door as it makes another pass.

Be prepared

How often has this happened to you? You're at the office when the zombie apocalypse strikes and you have to fend off the hordes of undead with only the contents of the stationary cupboard.

Fear not, because now you can learn how to construct a handy crossbow out of pencils, rubber bands, tape, and a biro. This could save your life.*

*In a highly improbable set of circumstances, I'll grant you, but it could.

Election special


And now we present our in-depth coverage of the general election.

Or it's ten minutes of paint drying. It's hard to tell the difference.

Jetbike

To quote the chief engineer, "WHHHOOOOOOSSSSSHHHH!!!!! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! CRASH!! tinkle. tinkle."

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Childhood's End Part 1




Google embed player has gone wonky again. Click on the title.