Tuesday, January 25, 2005

He's wearing red! 

Ah, we all remember a childhood spent playing Super Mario Brothers (well, not childhood for some); but did you ever realise that the game was secretly spreading Communist propaganda?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Taking the scenic route 

John B has found something rather lovely. The quickest way to get from Haugesund in Norway to Trondheim in Norway? Well, it's via Germany, Belgium, a little bit of France and England. Naturally.

This makes Virgin Trains' policy of taking five hours to get from Coventry to Oxford on a Sunday seem truly efficient...

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The beauty and impossibility of stroking 

Just as Norm reports on the health benefits of regular stroking (for women, anyway), I bumped into this soundbite - from Lenin, of all people - at The Voice Of The Turtle:

"I can’t listen to music often, it affects my nerves, makes me want to say silly compliments, stroke people on the head for living in this filthy hell and creating such beauty. But nowadays, you mustn’t stroke anybody on the head, or they’ll bite your hand off; you must beat them over their heads, beat them without any mercy, though in principle we’re against using violence on people."

So, stroke people for their benefit, beat them over the heads for the benefit of the world. A fitting suggestion for every member of the royal family, as Chris pretty much argues here.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Broadening and diluting good taste 

Having finally fixed up iTunes on my computer a couple of months ago, I've been abusing the myTunes addition to take songs from others on my network, something which they do in equal measure. The effect of this is to create a fairly substantial number of songs/artists which almost everyone owns in common, most of which is bland MOR rock or the latest indie/rock darlings, but there's also a good deal of country and alt. country, jazz, some classical, and various bits of weirdness.

All of this is quite heartening, as a lot of the people with this music aren't the sort who'd normally think of themselves as being 'into' music at all, and are probably listening to a lot more and broader stuff than they used to do. But on the downside, there's an equally marked tendency to listen to absolute crap. When not buying the music and, with more hard drive space, don't even have to think of the space it wastes, the willingness of otherwise self-respecting people to listen to Britney Spears, Eminem, Avril Lavigne etc. is astonishing, as is the tendency to download lots of 'nostalgic' crap from several decades - Snap, M People, ABBA, A-ha, Take That, Spandau Ballet etc.

I'm not immune from this, having a few of these on my own list, and it all suggests that the reach of mass produced pop is much further than one might expect, as even those who would never buy it in a million years are quite willing to listen to it and even enjoy it in their secrecy of their own rooms. The influence this gives the music industry in changing people's attitudes and tastes perhaps more than makes up for the loss of sales these programmes arguably produce.

New game 

[Via Norm] (I will return to substantial posting at some point...)

Norm's compiled two lists for this one, so I shall follow his. From another person's list, pick out the books you don't have on your shelves, and in bold put the ones you do.


1. Evelyn Waugh
2. Thomas Hardy
3. Yukio Mishima
4. Jane Austen
5. Haruki Murakami
6. Ian McEwan
7. Mikhail Bulgakov
8. P.G. Wodehouse
9. Fyodor Dostoevsky
10. William Shakespeare


1. David McLellan
2. Michael Warner
3. Ian Kershaw
4. Judith Butler
5. Primo Levi
6. Joseph de Maistre
7. Antonio Gramsci
8. Ralph Miliband
9. Brian Barry
10. Alisdair MacIntyre

Monday, January 03, 2005

Disruptive and Distracting 

It's the T-shirt Rebellion in Missouri! A gay student was sent home for wearing pride t-shirts, as were a group of his friends when they wore similar t-shirts in support a week or two later. The reasoning? These t-shirts were 'disruptive and distracting', and therefore broke the school's dress code, which stated:

"Dress and appearance must not present health or safety hazards, be indecent, disruptive, distracting, or inappropriate for the classroom."

(I'd say that some cheerleading-type outfits are very distracting, and I'd bet the people wearing those don't get sent home...)

The case is being taken to court, and the precedent for a good verdict (though it was narrow even then) is Tinker v. Des Moines in 1969, where three students were suspended for wearing black armbands to protest against the war in Vietnam. The court opinion for that case included these words:

"Students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of expression at the schoolhouse gates.”

Of course, these days they probably do...

Elephant Music?! 

Since Norm seems to be going a bit barking while waiting for entries, I thought I'd direct anyone reading this to his top songs of rock'n'roll poll. Recommend your favourites. Unless you prefer to rant about all this sort of thing being overrated. Then you might want to throw in your two pence worth here.

I don't know what I'm going for just yet. I like Dave's list, but won't go for most of them. To avoid the bias towards music made before the 70s in results to other of Norm's polls, I won't vote for anything like Dylan or The Beach Boys either. So it'll probably be songs by people like Bowie, Joy Division, Suede, The Ramones, Springsteen, Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths etc...

If you see one vote for Magazine's Song From Under The Floorboard, then that'll be me.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Corrupting the young 

[Via Michael Brooke] The office of the Director for Public Prosecutions has, over 75 years after the fact, released papers disclosing that Stanley Baldwin's government wanted to put Radclyffe Hall in prison for the novel The Well Of Loneliness. Good on them. It's appalling stuff.

One of the classic reviews at the time declared that "I would rather put a phial of prussic acid in the hands of a healthy girl or boy than the book in question", and the government's fear was that it would corrupt the young. I've no idea why, since the book is basically a several hundred page attempt to say how miserable it is to be homosexual (or transsexual, really, since the main character seems to be more that than gay), how most 'inverts' end up alcoholic druggies, and how they are ultimately likely to commit suicide from guilt for corrupting others. Seems like the best anti-homosexual propaganda possible.

But Hall should certainly have been imprisoned for forcing generations of lesbians to 'find themselves' in that drivel. That's really corrupting the young. I'm with Baldwin all the way on this one...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Amnesty Lectures 2005 

This year's Oxford Amnesty Lectures are on the subject of Land Rights:

The thirteenth annual Oxford Amnesty Lectures series explore the various ways in which claims on the land might be imagined, argued and, most importantly, resolved in the world of the 21st century. Indigenous peoples and governments, industrialists and ecologists all use – or have at some stage to confront - the language of land rights. But what does it mean for a person or a people to invoke their 'rights' to land? What assumptions - economic, political, legal, philosophical, anthropological - does such a language imply?

A very interesting area, though I've no idea what these speakers will make of it.

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