Tuesday, January 25, 2005

on being an angel

in November 1979, angered by American support for the Shah, who fled into exile in January 1979 and arrived in the United States in October for cancer treatment, a group of radical Iranian students stormed the American embassy in Tehran, and took everyone inside captive - a total of 52 diplomats and embassy staff.

the students demanded the Shah's return to stand trial for alleged crimes in office.

they had the backing of the Iranian government, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. but their demands for the Shah's extradition were foiled when he fled to Cairo.

President Carter ordered sanctions and the freezing of Iranian assets in the US in an attempt to force Tehran to release the hostages. the Iranian Government did not give in so he ordered a rescue attempt. but the effort, in April 1980, had to be aborted after a sandstorm damaged some of the helicopters and a troop carrier to be used in the evacuation. eight American servicemen lost their lives. in the end, the Iranian captors were forced to give way when the Shah died in exile in Egypt - and Iraq invaded Iran.

Iran finally agreed to release the hostages after the US said it would release the $12 billion of Iranian assets frozen in American and other banks, including the Bank of England, since the embassy was seized. this deal, brokered by Algeria, was signed on January 19th 1981.

the actual release of the prisoners was delayed until two days later - the day of Ronald Reagan's inauguration as president - in a final snub to President Carter.

on the morning of the same day this deal was being signed between the US and Iran in Algiers, a 23-year-old young woman looked out of her fifth-floor apartment window in the East Village onto the frozen streets of Manhattan and came to a decision. perhaps she saw herself as a hostage in some psychic drama that was all unravelling too fast to keep up with. but she wouldn't wait any longer for some liberator who was never going to come. she opened the window, stepped onto the ledge, and jumped.

it seems tragically to be the case that there is a kind of creative genius that obliges its hapless host to consume his or her days at a rate two or three times what's considered normal in those less affected.

the Mozart syndrome.

as a photographer, I wish I were a tenth as good as Francesca Woodman, but we mere artisans have to settle for the increasing dissatisfactions of survival, and count out our blessings in diurnal pennies instead of immortal nuggets. at least, we can say, we're alive. that's a start. we don't stock our shelves with memento mori any more. the skulls, the locks of hair, the grave art. who needs that, when we have the image - photographically frozen, if only in the imagination - of that endless falling moment of ending of a brilliant life lived too fast, too brilliantly.

wot - no more gunboats?

scenario 1: British soldiers, acting on local intelligence that they were acting suspiciously, take prisoner a dozen or so American tourists, transport them to a detention facility in the Falklands, torture them, and detain them without trial or access to a lawyer. result: the US declares war on Britain, at the very least. bombs Leeds and Milton Keynes in retaliation. invades the Falklands. deposes the Queen. occupies England. show trials all members of the cabinet prior to their execution, live on Fox. installs Posh and Becks as puppet King and Queen. demands reparations. etc.
scenario 2: American soldiers, acting on local intelligence, kidnap an unknown number of British citizens, transport them to a remote detention facility in Cuba, torture them, and detain them for three years without trial or access to a lawyer. result?
*tumbleweed drifts across the desert as the wind whistles in the telegraph wires*
what the FUCK is going on here?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

are we forgetting something?

I've been (perfectably justifiably) accused of perverse cynicism in responding to the news about all these tsunami relief concerts with less than due respect for the motives of those shameless egotists selfless celebrities who've so eagerly jumped on the free publicity bandwagon offered to do what little they could to boost their careers alleviate the suffering of those affected by this appalling catastrophe.

so I won't be commenting on that.

other than to mention that there's still one or two things happening out there in the world that seem to have slipped below the radar of the sexy news sniffers, such as:

• In northern Uganda, civilian attacks by anti-government forces have resulted in the abduction of thousands of children, many of whom are forced into combat and sexual slavery.

• In the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than a decade of fighting has killed an estimated 3 million people.

• In rural Colombia, civilians are caught in a decades-long battle between government and anti-government factions.

• Tuberculosis has become the most common opportunistic infection for those living with HIV/AIDS. Each year, about 8 million people develop active TB.

• Disasters, the disintegration of health care and 14 years of civil war plague Somalia.

• With war-related violence in Chechnya and border areas, the government has forced people to relocate to unsafe areas.

• In Burundi, a costly health care system excludes those who are not able to pay.

• North Korea is facing a hunger crisis so severe that most people can't afford basic food items.

• Droughts and a lack of farmland have led to a chronic food shortage in much of Ethiopia.

• A 15-year civil war has left the people of Liberia displaced from their homes.

these are extracts from the top ten list of most underreported humanitarian crisis stories of 2004 by medecin sans frontieres. note that no.9 on that list - Ethiopia - was the name on everyone's lips twenty years ago.

so that's alright then.

one more question:

Why such a blase response to the horror in Darfur?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

UK christian schools fail on tolerance

"Days after the head of Britain's education watchdog criticised Muslim schools for failing to promote tolerance, a report from his own agency said evangelical Christian schools have a worse record."
an unfortunate incident in Tal Afar
christian missionaries refuse hindu village tsunami aid

Thursday, January 20, 2005

normal service (will be) is resumed (as soon as possible)

the main site's down, so none of those links up there are working at the moment - just pass me the defibrillator and that 5mm allen key ....

nothing that a bit of plastic couldn't fix.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

no comment

Have ppl forgot about the way the british ppl of war were treated they got there heads cut off ect. Its different wen the british do sumet wrong the goverment have to make a sample of it. This country is wrong and needs to take a big look at its self
jeff, Walkden Manchester
19/01/2005 at 15:48

- from the comments on this story in today's ManchesterOnline

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

the invention of hysteria

david v goliath

apple is suing a student for publishing a rumour on his weblog about one of its new products.
or just sign the petition

Friday, January 14, 2005

Little Britain

what is it about Little Britain? apart from the fact that it's being hyped to the hypest, and that Matt Lucas is evidently starting to believe it. vomiting and farting jokes aside (my twelve-year-olds find that funny - same as South Park - so I guess that means it'll work in the disunited states, then) what's the funny? the screeching falsetto "but we're ladies!" from the two transvestites dressed in Edwardian has become playground anthemic, so that's working, in a "he's fallen in the water!" kind of way; the fawning floppy-haired PM's assistant was funny, the first couple of times; ditto the fake paraplegic, the gutter-mouthed teenage single mum from hell, the naked monstrosity of the permanent health spa resident, and the only gay in the village (pronounced villarge) - but is any of these characters sufficient to crack us up on a regular basis? apparently yes - that's what the BBC thinks, so that's what we get.
Lucas was wonderful as the drumming baby in the romper suit in Shooting Stars, but in Little Britain there's something distinctly rank beneath all those funny ladies costumes.
in truth, I've never understood drag. in one sense, I concede it's a pop culture way of exorcising those mother demons that every man is supposed to have - we love 'em, we hate 'em, blah blah, so in its more grotesque, pantomime dame form - well - *waggles hand* - music hall, comic history an all - different times, different mores. but the Danny la Rues, the Lily Savages - what's that all about? camp men dolled up as the 'glamorous' version of their mothers' generation (NB - never as women of their own generation). I've always thought they were just exposing a seriously sick problem they all share, which I'd rather they didn't share with me, although the really odd thing is not only that we straights are supposed to find a comic frisson in it, too, but that so many, evidently, do.
in Little Britain, though, Lucas seems to be on a roll with his depictions of seriously, irredeemably disgusting women. is it just me, or is there something fundamentally misogynistic being slipped to us here underneath the radar of the gay fascia? an awful lot of comedy now seems to be about making women look like tragic fools who smell bad but that's ok because we're gay and we don't fancy them and we're not a threat really are we and anyway they're great sports for agreeing to take part, and it's only a bit of fun, innit?
one of the longest nights of my life - dragged along with the promise that I was 'in for a treat' by my sister and brother-in-law - was spent a year or two ago in a Blackpool pub frequented by straights where the entertainment was all in drag, and the humour was as visceral as it was witless. the biggest thrill was evidently for a random girlfriend or fiançée to be selected for ritual humiliation of the 'if her cunt's as big as her mouth no wonder he's fingering his own arse' kind (cue squeals of mock outrage and roars of Whitbread-fuelled hilarity). and this wasn't some back alley sawdust-and-spit place, this was - by Blackpool standards - a high-class joint, the clientele being predominantly of the 'young professional' class - aspiring lawyers and estate agents and funeral directors out slumming.
so that's feminism trashed, then.
and for our next trick - the rehabilitation of the golliwog as a retro-ironic comic icon maybe?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

plus ça change...

"Officials running the election campaign of the coalition headed by Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, last night made light of the revelation that journalists attending its press conferences had been given envelopes containing a $100 note, calling the gift 'just hospitality'."


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

smug dad

I'm unconscionably proud of the fact that, earlier this evening, one boy was practising the bass line to Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' on the bass guitar he got for Christmas, and his twin was doing his homework whilst listening to Led Zeppelin III. how cool is that at 12-going-on-eighteen? I tried, whilst they were at school, to play that whomping bass riff from Radiohead's 'National Anthem', but it's actually more difficult than it sounds (one has to concede that Colin Greenwood's a rather more accomplished musician than oneself). damn!

not in front of the children

so the Sikhs and the Christians are offended. so? what's the use of art that doesn't offend?
what offends me is having, on principle, to defend patently crap art which I have neither seen nor have any desire to see against religious bigots ditto. it's a shame that the moral vacuum created by the demise of the obnoxious toffs who used to dictate what the little people could or couldn't read or see hasn't been filled by anything more useful than the tiresome hot air of the godmen.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


I see that those funny dentist people are pushing a new fad - not only are they stocking their own shelves with tongue-scrapers at ten quid a dozen, but they've persuaded those funny toothbrush-makers to include them (tongue-scrapers) in this new design.
yeah, right.
in any local museum you can always find the occasional corroded bronze item from some Roman or Anglo-Saxon dig stuck away in the corner of some remote display cabinet that gets labelled either 'ritual implement' or 'ear-wax remover' or 'tongue-scraper' whenever the archaeologist has run out of ideas - which sums up the value of the 'tongue-scraper'.
who are these people trying to kid?
just who do they think we are?
we've landed robots on Mars.
we've completed the human genome project.
we've resolved Fermat's last theorem.
and these 'dentists' are seriously trying to tell us that, so long as we use a fuggin tongue-scraper as part of our dental hygiene routine, we'll keep our teeth healthy and doozy and our breath smelling as sweet as a Swiss meadow.
because, according to them, we've scraped away all those evil bacteria, of course, those tiny little buggers (they like to call them 'germs') that hang about between our teeth and on our tongues and cause tooth decay and halitosis.
here is the news: the human body is a zoo. we're host to so many of these tiny little buggers you wouldn't believe. magnify your tongue to only x100 or so and you'll see a fraction of 'em - perfectly benign little buggers that have, over the years, developed a special relationship with the enzymes in your saliva that trades off their assistance in digesting various tricky (ie chemically complex) sugars for a morsel or two of nourishment for themselves. we're not designed to process sugars in quite the quantity we've come to ingest them in the past few years, though (one diet coke = a Neanderthal's lifetime consumption of honey), so they get a bit overwhelmed, and occasionally mutate into a less benign form of little bugger whose waste products tend to the acidic, and those acids, in sufficient quantity, then start attacking both the enamel at the base of your teeth and the benign bacteria as well, which in turn produces sulphides and proteins which interact and produce a cocktail of malodorous gases which - well, you get the picture.
here is more news: you can't scrape away bad breath from your tongue as if it were a layer of paint.
think about it (ie do what neither the dentists nor the toothpaste industry nor the confectionery industry nor the processed food industries want you to do): bacteria are seriously small. the scale of these little buggers is such that the chance of a fuggin tongue-scraper coming anywhere remotely near dislodging them from the crevices in your tongue is zilch, zero, as totally not possible as hoping for a rolling-pin dragged across a deep-pile carpet to dredge up a grain of rice. so what do they do? well - what do any of these things do? - they make it seem better. purely cosmetic. totally illusory. tongue yellow and furry? drag a tongue-scraper across it! chances are it'll scrape up a slurry of gunk that looks icky, and that, after you've spat it out, your tongue'll look and taste different - especially if you combine that 'treatment' with a mouthwash soused with chlorides to decimate everything that's living in there (which will then take all of a couple of days to replace, during which time you'll be totally defenceless against - you guessed it - all those sugars which started the problem in the first place). whoa! the miracle of twenty-first century dentistry.
the only miracle is how gullible we are when these jumped-up fairground entertainers in white face-masks tell us that we'd better do as we're told or else.
they'll be trying to persuade us fluoride is good for us next.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

tabula rasa

such an arbitrary event, a New Year, laden with such a disproportionate weight of expectations: this communal intake of breath before planting a first footstep into a future that, just in this moment, slightly intoxicated by that fleeting sense of connectedness, seems as alien as Mars - perfectly unknowable, and as challenging, dangerous, urgent, and thrilling as any journey into the unknown. for all I know - for all any of us knows - any one of these next 363 days could be my last. shame to waste it, then. best of luck to us all. let's go.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

in an imperfect world...

...we start as we mean to go on.