Thursday, September 24, 2009
Mikalogue: Kit contemplates evil plans
Mika: Is mornin in Mikaland! Feeeed!
Mika: Wake up, Mikalandians! Feed!
Kit: Don't want to get up. Didn't we just get up yesterday?
Mika: You nick that joke from Alison Bechdel. Stop plagiarising and feed Mika! Make self useful!
Kit: I guess it's time to get out of bed anyway.
Gareth: Is Her Maj at it again?
Kit: Yeah. I think we should stop feeding her the minute we get up; it's only positive reinforcing this habit of waking us.
Gareth: She's pretty clever at this, isn't she?
Kit: Yeah. We took to feeding her when she nagged us to stop positive-reinforcing her scratching the sofa, then we took to feeding her only three meals a day to stop positive-reinforcing her nagging, so now she's spotted that one of her meals comes first thing in the day so she's taken to making our day start as early as she wants.
Gareth: Okay, let's feed her on our way out instead of now.
Kit: You know what? She's due a flea treatment. Why don't we grab her while she's in here?
Gareth: Okay, you get the medicine. Come here, Mikatude...
Mika: Hey! Hey! This is not feedin! Hey!
Kit: Come on Mikabee, it's just a little drop on the back of your neck...
Mika: Woe and horridness! Stop it! Stop!!!!
Gareth: There you go, little puss. All done.
Mika: You suck! Mika asks for bread and you give her stone!
Gareth: You really wouldn't like it if you got fleas, darling. Here, let me pet you.
Mika: Oh no, is not fallin for that again. Run away!
Kit: Wow, a respite from the yelling. I wonder if we could do that more often?
Gareth: Hey, don't be mean.
Kit: It's all very well for you, but you can sleep through her yodelling on weekend mornings. I must give this some serious thought. Bwa ha hyawwwn....
Friday, September 11, 2009
Alan Turing again
Now this is interesting: I've just had an e-mail from Gordon Brown in response to my signing the petition to get an apology for Alan Turing. You can read the full thing here, but it does indeed appear to be an apology. An apology couched in self-congratulation for what a great country we are, which strikes me as a bit unseemly when apologising for doing something so shitty, but an apology nonetheless.
Here's the passage that interests me most:
While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.
Several things stand out.
1. He doesn't seem sure whether to call him 'Turing' or 'Alan'. Personally I'd go with 'Turing' or 'Alan Turing', or even for preference 'Mr Turing'; considering everything that was done to the poor man, a little respect seems appropriate, and given the era in which he lived I doubt Alan Turing would have felt respected by a stranger using his first name.
2. What's with 'While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time'? We all know that. It strikes me as wriggling, an equivocating attempt to emphasise that it wasn't Our Fault. Of course he was dealt with under the law of the time: that's the whole point. The law of the time was a stain on the nation's honour and a scourge to its citizens.
3. But having said that, he actually did go so far as to acknowledge that Alan Turing was not the only victim of this law. He doesn't quite apologise to them, but he accepts their existence - and he has the sense to realise that there were millions of them.
So, on the whole, a letter that strikes me as somewhat besmirched with that New Labour dislike of making a proper apology without pluming yourself and shirking as much responsibility as possible at the same time, but a letter that had something good in it nonetheless.
What does everyone else make of it?
Monday, September 07, 2009
And on the subject of politics...
Am I the only person who wants to whack James Murdoch with a copy of Atlas Shrugged nailed to George Bush's skull right now?
For those of us who haven't followed this story, you can get the gist on Wikipedia: James Murdoch has recently declared that the BBC - the beloved institution that has given our nation such irreplaceable treasures as two free TV channels with no adverts at all plus radio and internet, David Attenborough's nature documentaries and a tradition of news reporting brave and free-minded enough to challenge politicians directly, such as Jeremy Paxman's asking the then-Home Secretary Michael Howard the same question twelve times in succession - is 'state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision, which are so important for our democracy.'
Yep. Apparently Auntie is out to get us all.
Coming from the son of the man who gave us Fox News, this bleating about independent news provision goes beyond taking the biscuit to looking like a serious case of projection: the attitude of someone who finds it impossible to believe that news can't be propaganda. Or, more seriously, it looks like a recitation of that wacky ideology that the most accountable government in the world is still inseparable from tyranny and private ownership will result in fairy dust and a free jetpack for everybody, all possible evidence to the contrary.
Let's just address the question with the terseness it deserves. A news organisation owned by a dictatorial government is indeed of questionable neutrality. A news organisation owned by an elected government, control of which changes hands at regular intervals, is owned by the people. It is, consequently, in its best interests to pursue the truth, because lying about the guys who may be in charge of you come next election is never a good strategy.
A privately-owned news body, on the other hand, has no interest in pursuing the truth. Its main business is to make money. It will therefore be in its interests to promote whatever government will be sympathetic to its business aims - and as any news body large enough to have any influence will be owned by somebody extremely wealthy, guess which wing that will support?Barring eccentric socialist billionaires, a publicly-owned news body is a country's best hope for news that isn't slanted so far starboard it's about to crash into the nearest lighthouse.
What's really worrying is how hard this comes on the heels of America's recent attacks on the NHS - our beloved if creaky institution that works on the principle that medical treatment is a human right rather than a commodity, and consequently struggles, usually successfully, to provide decent medical care to everyone without charging anything. Suggestions got at their stupidest when some muppet claimed that Stephen Hawking would have been euthanised if he'd been unfortunate enough to come under the NHS - a delusion Professor Hawking politely corrected by pointing out that in fact he does come under the NHS and owes his life to it, and I can only chalk off to that bizarre quality of American right-wing extremism that views everything non-American with such dark suspicion that they find it almost impossible to believe an accomplished person could be foreign, or that a non-profit body could possibly be anything less than National Socialism on the march again. But on the whole, our public institutions seem alarmingly under fire just now from people whose bloody business it is not.
Look: we know America's struggling right now. We know that the moderate right-centrist changes Obama's pushing through are leading to a backlash of delusions about euthanising grannies and Nazi schemes and all the rest of it. We're sorry you're having to go through all that. And we really don't want it over here.
In the case of James Murdoch, the explanation is to be found right there in his Wikipedia biog:
James Murdoch (born 13 December 1972, United Kingdom) is the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch presently Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia, overseeing assets such as News International (British newspapers), SKY Italia (satellite television), and STAR TV (satellite television in Asia).
At News Corporation, he sits on the Board of Directors and is a member of the Office of the Chairman. He is also non-executive chairman of British Sky Broadcasting, in which News Corporation has a controlling minority stake.
Which is to say, the disingenuous blighter has a direct financial motivation to attack his publicly-owned competitor; his claim that the BBC is undemocratic is about as credible as a rival soap-maker claiming that Proctor and Gamble's logo represents Satan-worship.
But more generally: as a nation we have plenty of problems and we do plenty of things wrong. A publicly-owned news organisation and health service are among our greatest achievements. We owe the NHS our lives, and we owe the BBC a great deal of our freedom of speech and journalistic standing. We need these things.
So could everyone please just piss off and leave our great institutions alone? They are the cornerstone of our nation, as essential to our experience of ourselves as a nation as well as politically crucial: they are as British as Marmite on toast or rain at Wimbledon, and far less controversial. Nothing's perfect, but they work pretty well. They have done for decades. We like them: we, the people of Britain, whose institutions they are. Everyone's who's doing this: get your filthy mitts off our stuff.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
In other news...
I see that Ben and Jerry's ice cream have decided to celebrate Vermont's decision to allow same sex marriage in a most entertaining way: releasing some promotional 'Chubby Hubby' ice cream renamed 'Hubby Hubby.' Their chief executive calls the law 'certainly a step in the right direction and something worth celebrating with peace, love and plenty of ice cream'.
I think this calls for some Ben and Jerry's, don't you?
And before anyone says 'It's just a publicity stunt to promote their sales, so no' - well, of course it's a publicity stunt. One that might well lose them some red-state customers, in fact. But even if it is a publicity stunt, this is a good thing. They've chosen to link their stunts to human rights: they didn't have to do that, and if they wanted gay people to remain second-class citizens they wouldn't have; they could have released 'Hetero Hubby' instead.
More than that, a popular brand of ice cream is normal, mainstream, cosy. Those are exactly the things gay-bashers think gay people aren't. If the company wants to throw its mainstream weight behind supporting gay rights, that's great and I don't begrudge them extra sales. Sales are the capitalist equivalent of votes. If a company gets a sales spike by supporting civil rights, other companies will follow suit. It will become in institutions' interests to support civil rights, and that's a real motivator: that will mean money and publicity behind good causes, which will increase their chances of success.
Let's keep writing to our representatives and supporting activism - Protect Maine Equality / Alan Turing petition /write to your MP reminders inserted here - but I think we deserve to vote with our spoons from time to time as well.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Let's have some jokes
I'm cold and tired today and could do with a laugh. Here's my favourite joke:
A man wakes up one Saturday morning with a blinding hangover and no memory of the previous night. Pulling the pillow over his face in despair, he reflects that he's probably done something stupid and his wife is going to be very upset with him.
When he finally gathers the courage to open his eyes, though, he sees on the bedside table a glass of fresh water, two aspirin and a little note reading, 'Thought you might want these, honey. xxx'
Bewildered but grateful, he downs the aspirin, and, feeling a little better, staggers towards the bathroom to shower. In there, he finds his towel and dressing gown newly laundered and warming on the towel rack.
Seriously puzzled, he showers, dries himself on the fluffy towel, wraps himself in the cosy dressing gown and heads downstairs.
His son sits at the kitchen table eating his breakfast. There's another note: 'Sweetheart, I've gone to the market to get some steaks for dinner. There's freshly-squeezed juice in the fridge and croissants keeping warm in the oven. Love you.'
'What,' gasps our hero, collapsing at the table, 'on earth did I do last night?'
'Oh,' says his son around a mouthful of jam, 'it was really funny. You came crashing in at three in the morning singing a song about camels, fell over, broke the hall table and threw up on the floor. Then Mummy had to drag you upstairs, undress you and put you to bed.'
'But, but...' our hero stammers, 'I made a complete fool of myself! Why is she being so nice to me?'
'Oh,' says the son, taking another mouthful. 'When she started pulling your trousers off, you yelled, "Lady, leave me alone, I'm married!"'
Who here has a good joke to share?
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