Saturday, August 02, 2003
"let's cut straight to the main point you make, since I hardly know how to respond to the idea that it's "complacent" for a theatre critic to refuse to dismiss a whole Fringe full of shows without having seen a single one of them.
If I read you right, you're suggesting that the current political crisis is so intense that both the Fringe and official Festival programmes should be reflecting that fact, not only through the subject-matter of the shows - because many of them do deal with subjects relevant to the Iraq crisis - but through radical theatrical forms; you seek a kind of "public theatre" which not only deals directly with headline political issues, but is open and participatory in form, and is linked to direct action for social change."
Of course, then it runs off along wierd rails, but anyone with a luuvie bone in them should read it.
(BTW - I almost took a show to the Fringe once. It was written by one of the stars, and would have seen me playing an astounding number of odd roles. Pity it fell through really - it was my favourite play I've acted in. If "Curriculum Vitae, or The Time of Our Lives" ever resurfaces, I recommend going to see it.)
Well, it amused me. Via Harry's Place
"In Who Moved My Soap? The CEO’s Guide to Surviving Prison, Andy Borowitz, an American humourist and writer, combines ridiculous reality and scandalous fantasy with hilarious consequences.
As Borowitz observes: “Thanks to the rising tide of corporate scandals, former CEOs are pouring into America’s penitentiaries in record numbers, the biggest migration of white-collar criminals into the penal system since the fall of the Nixon Administration. Within the next five years, one out of four CEOs in the United States will be convicted and sent to jail, while another one out of four will flee the country in a single-engine plane with gold coins and priceless diamonds sewn into his underpants.”
Our protagonist is the former chief executive of Shamco International, a fictional (and now defunct) energy-telecoms-pharmaceutical giant created by the merger of KleptoCom, Larcenex and Fungible Data in the late 1990s. He is writing from his prison cell in Lomax, Alabama.
[Matters came to a head] as our narrator is throwing a no-expense-spared 26th birthday bash for his new bride, Conspicuosa, a former Miss Benelux. Two thousand senior Shamco vice-presidents are flown to Capri where they eat, drink and receive complimentary Botox injections. Celine Dion and Luciano Pavarotti sing happy birthday.
Our hero recalls: “Naked footmen, their glistening bodies painted with two coats of 24K platinum, waited on my inebriated executives hand and foot. A ten-foot-tall ice sculpture rendering of Eduard Munch’s The Scream spewed Cristal champagne from its gaping, horrifying mouth.”"
Should be a good book...
"Premise of the Hash House Harriers
One harrier (the hare) lays a trail of flour over a course (s)he chooses. The other harriers (the hounds) try to follow that trail to the end where they enjoy munchies and beer (or soft drinks). The typical hash is 3-5 miles over hill and dale, through suburbs, woods, malls, et al. The hash isn't a race, there are no prizes to the swift. Following the trail is the challenge, camaraderie and beverages are the rewards."
What fun. Though sadly probably not practical in the city.
And I can't be much of a catch given how few of the 50 things every man should know I have a grip on. I'm pretty sure I don't know one obscure baseball statistic, let alone three...
"The name “Jeddah Festival” might suggest that the event is open to all to enjoy. But the reality is that a very substantial part of Saudis and visitors are excluded. The result is that tourists and locals are resentful, revenue is lost, and the reputation Saudi Arabia is trying to establish as a tourist destination for gulf tourists is damaged.
“Most of the interesting activities are for families only. When I went with my friend to Jungle Land to take part in some of the activities advertised on TV and in newspapers, we were banned from entering. In order to enter, I had to go with my family. What would happen to someone if he came to Jeddah alone?” asked Hussein Al-Yami from Jeddah.
“I am very surprised at the type of festival you have in Jeddah. It is a festival that ignores a large portion of society,” said Ali Al-Khaldi, who had come on his own from Kuwait.
“I went to Home Plaza in Prince Sultan Street, and I was stopped from entering simply because I was single. We have festivals back in Kuwait and they are open for everybody. I do not know how young Saudis spend their free time if all activities are families-only.”
“At least young people should have some clubs open for them,” he said, commenting on the lack of organized activities for young people. “I did not enjoy any activities here in Jeddah, and I don’t think they should go for a repeat performance next year,” he said."
These aren't critiques from lewd Westerners - this is a Kuiwaiti visitor who's not too cheery about the "fun". Still, it makes picking my holiday next year easier...
Friday, August 01, 2003
"behaviour [ defined so broadly that it] could include common petting activities such as kissing and touching, through to full sexual intercourse.... This kind of sexual exploration is completely normal and an important part of adolescent development. If the bill is passed without any amendments, such activity could carry a prison sentence of up to five years."". I.e. any "sexual activity" by anyone under 16, even with their peers, is illegal.
""The criminal law has a very poor record for influencing consenting sexual behaviour," she said. "The bill devalues true abuse from desired sexual activity by failing to distinguish the two."
The Home Office accepted Ms Weyman's interpretation of the bill, but said there was no plan to change it."
Now, as I say, I'm not normally paranoid. But this strikes me as a gift to a
Perhaps jury nullification (a refusal to convict) might save kids maliciously prosecuted because of who their parents were, but any offenses sent to judge-only courts (coming to a mistrial near you soon....) would presumably lead to convictions, even with minimal sentences. And then a life-sentence of a "sex offender" registration.
Who'd oppose a government when they have a perfectly legal means to destroy your children's lives? What an incredibly stupid (and pernicious) idea. At least Stalin had to write his own laws, and install his own judges to hold show trials. Instead, injustice will be institutionalised, ready for use by future.
Though some might look forward to seeing some of Blair's children sent to jail - I assume an interested party could launch a private prosecution. I take it the traditional advice to your kids will in future also involve advising them not to go out with the children of your ideological enemies....
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
"A Philosophical Cowboy
On the Double Circle Range where the grass grows green
The cattle get wild and the broncs get mean
And the calves get bigger as the days go by,
So we got to keep a-rimming, boys, it's root hog or die.
If you ride them out of horses you've got to keep them shod
If you can't shoe them standing then lay them on the sod
You can tack the iron on them if you're a mind to try
So get busy, boys, for it's root hog or die.
In the morning after breakfast about daylight;
Throw your saddle on a horse and pull your cinches tight
Your bronc may jump crooked or he may jump high
But we all got to ride them, boys, it's root hog or die.
Oh, the hills are rough and rocky but we got to make the drive
When you start a bunch of cattle you better come alive
If you ever get a maverick you must get him on the fly
So you better take to them, boys, it's root hog or die.
When the long day is over you'll be glad to see the chief
With a pot of black coffee and another full of beef
And some sour dough biscuits to take the place of pie
When he hollers, "Come and git it," it's root hog or die.
In the middle of the night it is sometimes awful hard
To leave your warm blankets when you're called on guard
And you pass the weary moments while the stars are in the sky
Humming to the cattle, boys, it's root hog or die.
Sometimes it's dreadful stormy and sometimes it's pretty clear
You may work a month and you might work a year
But you can make a winning if you'll come alive and try
For the whole world over, boys, it's root hog or die. "
The date: we spent the first two hours sitting in a cinema watching a film about girls surfing — not really what I would have chosen to do on a boiling hot day. I was, however, amused by the pubescent squirming brought on by the scantily clad girls on screen. Hitting the skateboard park afterwards was much more interesting, although my date’s conversation was littered with so much youf-speak — “safe”, “chillin’”, “phat”, “homey” — that I had trouble understanding most of what he was saying. I think I got round it, though, by responding with a shrug and chanting “whatever” in a really bored tone.
Fun? Not quite sure — my maternal instinct got in the way.
Fanciability: give it 10 years
The date: we had arranged to meet at a trendyish club in the heart of London’s theatreland. I trotted up in a black knee-length pencil skirt, spaghetti-strapped top (in case of dancing), black cashmere shrug and Christian Louboutin stilettos (sexy but comfortable). My date was already there, and got up to greet me with a kiss on both cheeks. He was extremely attentive and funny, which made me feel rather girlie and flirtatious. Flirting is good for the soul, and when there’s no compulsion to follow through, perfectly harmless.
My date suggested dinner, and the conversation flowed, although we hit a blip when I mentioned a famous writer, now dead. A blank look filled his eyes. Still, he managed to be both interested and interesting, and made me laugh out loud. After dinner, we left for a club, where, if I’m honest, I felt a bit cradle-snatchy, but the friends of his we met were charming and nonjudgmental. I dropped him at his home at 3am and he sweetly suggested coffee ... I politely declined.
The date: things started badly, and got worse. My man was 30 minutes late, so I sat in the restaurant looking lost and feeling foolish. When he finally arrived, he launched straight into a lengthy — and frankly tedious — diatribe about a problem he was having at work. I poured him a drink and tried to steer him into calmer waters, but the conversation kept returning to his trauma. He regaled me with tales of his business and plans to retire at 45. “What will you do then?” I inquired. “Well, I’ll have kids, so I’ll spend time with them,” he replied. Warming to the theme, he told me he would be married at 40 and that his wife should give up work to have babies. However unreconstructed, thirtysomething man had a lot to prove.
The date: the antithesis of my thirtysomething thruster. He’d been there, done that and got the T-shirt — established business, money in the bank and a wife who left him for his best friend. He reminded me of a character from a Nick Hornby novel, and seemed genuinely befuddled by the way his life had unravelled. He even said “You never know when life is going to throw you a googly”, which nobody real has ever said to me before. Nonetheless, we had fun. We went to a movie, had takeaway pizza delivered to his flat, drank large amounts of red wine and sang songs from the 1970s. It all felt nicely spontaneous. Then, at about midnight, he started to get a bit maudlin, his sadness obviously unleashed by all that wine and nostalgia. As he began to unpack his emotional luggage, a drunken lunge signalled my cue to leave.
Fun? More like complicated, really.
The date: my fiftysomething was probably my favourite date, and the only one to compliment my outfit (a small thing, yet so effective). He picked me up in a flashy red car (women only ever remember the colour) and whisked me off to a French restaurant, where he removed my coat and pulled back my chair in the time it takes to say “Chivalry’s not dead”. He was extremely well read, and able to quote long passages from books we discussed — not in itself appealing, but it gave him a reassuring air of authority and confidence. The drawback was that he seemed to have his life so sorted that there was little room for chance.
We laughed a lot, and the time flew by before he suggested a nightcap at his “club”. I felt a teensy bit trophyish, and acutely aware of the fact that he must take most of his dates there. Still, when a man has such exquisite manners, who needs exclusivity?
Fun? Definitely, in a grown-up sort of way.
The date: sixtysomething man was taking me to a swanky dinner and, despite his advancing years, looked extremely dapper. I had chosen some rather over-the-top silver earrings to jazz up my all-black outfit, which he declared “funny and preposterous”. But it was all downhill from there. He spent most of the evening discussing property prices with the woman on his right, who was about his age. Any attention I did get was of the paternal variety, and he had an uncanny knack of making my efforts at discourse seem silly and shallow. Talking to him about popular culture was a little like conversing with a high-court judge. “Big Brother? You mean Orwell?” I couldn’t help noticing that by the time pudding was served, he was looking a little bleary. So I suggested we skip coffee. Dropping him off in the taxi, I had to wake him when we arrived at his flat.
Fun? No, dreary.
The date: the seventies is the point when the genders converge. Women sprout facial hair, men get upset if their routine is changed, and both sexes like to get to the airport/train station at least a day before they need to. Seventies man was obsessed with time, probably because of the painful awareness that it’s running out. That’s not to say he wasn’t charming. It’s just that once we had discussed the journey, the weather and a recent operation, it was time to go home.
Fun? Not at all.
So there you have it: twentysomethings are the most fun, though fiftysomethings are more sophisticated. If you want to inherit a lot of money, however, you might be better off dating a septuagenarian."
"Maybe a B.A. is worth real money because it signals to employers that the job candidate is capable. If so, there ought to be some way to send this signal without blowing $160,000 on four years of liberal arts courses. Think of all the savings to society if Yale were willing to sell, for a mere $16,000, a certificate saying that such-and-such an applicant was duly admitted but chose not to attend.
Yale won't do it? Okay, some entrepreneur could step in with a company called Virtual Sheepskin. Send off your SAT scores and an essay to Virtual, and get a piece of paper saying you are Ivy League material"
However, the signalling mechanism has several components.
1) It's cheap for companies, as universities will have done "pre-selection" for them on lower qualifications
2) It shows that there's stickativeness
3) It shows the ability to pass a certain intellectual hurdle (depending on what the qualification is)
4) In the States, and bar the reasonably well-off, it shows a certain commitment, the ability to work hard and borrow (I.e. work hard after) to hit a goal some distance off (in the UK, far more complex now)
5) The indebtedness must have some incentivising effects on students - if you give them a job that will let them pay off their debts, they're likely to want to keep it and stick around for a while....
The proposal would definitely cover (1) if it's to be of any value to anyone.
It meets (4) and (5) only to a much lower extent - after all, $16k could be saved up in advance, perhaps, or at least would be much easier to pay.
(2) is right out of there - it's a quick-fix
(3) is missed out, as at least some intellectual hurdles involved will be based on development of knowledge over time, though the certification could be to a harsher standard than any pre-university decision
And basically (4) and (5) are out of there.
So only one real signalling function is met: basically, the causes of drop-outs will be absent, and hence the signalling benefits of staying in can't be seen....
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
"Poor Gavyn Davies.... seems to have forgotten the basics of corporate governance. He quails before the thought of an external regulator, claiming that the BBC's board of governors comprise a sufficient set of regulation, relying on the governors' collective professional expertise. Compare the BBC to any plc."
OK, shall do (just in overview, and note this isn't exactly my usual thing, so very fuzzy).
The Combined Code isn't actually prescriptive: in general, the rule is you have to explain why you're not following it, rather than just buckle down. Though, in theory, if you don't have a good reason for some things, you can lose your stock-market listing. The main things are:
There should be an effective board (hmmmm)
The CEO and Chairman should be seperate (tick)
There should be a balance between executive and non-executive members of the boardand a mix of experience, etc) - let's stipulate that's met given the constraints of the Beeb's structure
There should be a timely flow of information to the directors (hard to tell)
There should be formal appointment procedures (not entirely clear this has been the case (e.g. with Greg Dyke) given the concerns about the influence of some "stakeholders" on the process)
Regular re-election (at least every three years) - not really met given 5 year appointments of the chairman, e.g.....
Not relevant to the topic, but the ususal about attracting appropriately skilled staff, formal processes, etc.
Relations with shareholders
There should be a dialogue with institutional investors (in this context, well, the Government - not really met in the present instance....)
They should make constructive use of the AGM (in this case, the annual report, which the Beeb has been accused of using as a puff piece, rather than a serious discussion with the broadcasting select committee, etc, on what's good and bad)
Accountability and Audit
The company should present a balanced assessment of its position (not really, given their last report was described as laden with "euphemistic phraseology": "The row was brought about by the rosy picture painted by the annual report, published yesterday. Gavyn Davies, the BBC chairman, said in his foreword that 2002-03 was a "very successful" year with "real progress made in delivering programmes of quality and distinction. ... By any standards it has been a remarkable year at all levels - global, national and local."")
Formal arrangements on applying Financial Reporting and Internal Control principles (not entirely relevant, but see controls below) and to deal properly with auditors (not really relevant, though they do have an audit committee)>
Institutional investors (the Government...) should make considered use of their votes, hold a dialogue with the company, and give weight to all known factors (not exactly happening, huh...).
There's also a report called the Turnbull report on the operation of the internal controls of a business. The key responsibilities are:
Establish business objectives (nation shall speak peace unto nation????)
Identify key associated risks (has this really been done - there's lots of lip service to independence and impartiality, but the level of criticism suggests the risk factors haven't really been identified properly.)
Agree controls to address the risks (these probably exist to address identified risks, but either don't exist to cover all risks or, as with most human processes, don't always function (e.g. local election coverage))
Set up a system to implement the controls, including regular feedback (unclear - identified control activities could fail because you've not implemented them, or because they're breaking down and no monitoring is taking place)
Directors (apart from saying what they're doing)
Set appropriate internal control policies (see above)
Seek regular assurance the system working (see above, but on-going problems suggest this may not be happening)
Review effectiveness of internal controls (hard to tell without minutes of private meetings)
Should implement board policies, and identify and evaluate risks faced by the company on an on-going basis (not really, given that problems seem to be emerging on a regular basis)....
Whilst there are a number of things going on that meet Combined Code/Turnbull goals, I think it has to be said that there are problems. If we assume the controls objectives are to produce programming that is:
Updated as new information emerges, and
then I think the weight of evidence is that the goals aren't met.
This could be because:
a) the objectives haven't been set (unlikely),
b) the risks (e.g. general attitude of correspondents, risk of balance in views in interviewees and other participants, etc) haven't been identified properly (possible, though the general dangers seem to have been noted),
c) proper controls for the risks haven't been set up (very likely, as one of the main controls is probably semi-informal professional habits)
d) controls are circumvented (very possible, with correspondents able to play their own line, as they're the ones who "know", particularly if operating far from White City)
e) breakdowns in controls aren't identified and followed up on (very likey, given the Beeb's habit of justifying itself in the immediate aftermath of any criticism)
f) other factors I haven't thought of yet...
So: I'd say that the Beeb would have trouble, with a straight face, claiming to comply with the governance standards for big companies in two areas: they don't deal well with major stakeholders, and they don't seem to have proper controls in place (though, as I say, very hard to know if this is the case).
Monday, July 28, 2003
"I can't imagine why it's taking them so long to accomplish a simple little matter like stabilizing that particular geopolitical region."
"Boy, the Iraqis better develop a fun pop culture with cute cartoon animals and grown women in schoolgirl uniforms, or this will be a complete waste."
"If our soldiers must be involved in a lengthy occupation, at least it's in a place without any dangerous weapons of mass destruction lying around."
"We know that you're too busy fighting off your biological urges and being l33t hax0rs to Get Involved, but politics is cool, m'kay?
Nobody ever seems to do anything for The Kids! All the decisions are made by suits, man. That's so lame!!! We know you think of yourselves as responsible citizens, but what you wanna do is turn that thought into an action, dudes.
Get involved - to the extreme!
The BBC politics for kids/teens site is, like, totally wacked! Ditto for the Parliament education site, which even has a section for younger yoof. Fanta-stick!
YoungGov is totally the business for having your say, and there are even wicked Youth Parliament sites for the UK, Scotland and Europe.
(Hey, chill with the anti-Europe vibes already! You totally won't be able to wear the word 'fcuk' on your shirt anymore if we break our connection with France, y'dig? ROFFLE!)
So, cut it with the bling bling and do something for the community, man. Join in and take action with any of the groovy sites we've listed, or just drop Tom a line for a quiet rap by the electronic e-mail. Tom's well-up on the Interwebnet, and he won't harsh your buzz or dis you down the line.
WARNING: Getting involved in politics may cause premature ageing and a sudden loss of friends."
(Yes, it's a spoof. Or so they now claim. Note that Private Eye this week has been taken in by the section....)
And now, a speech by the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair.
American viewers will also have the benefit of a translation, for the hard of understanding (cue picture of G.W.Bush in the corner of the screen).
We are bound together as never before. And this coming together provides us with unprecedented opportunity but also makes us uniquely vulnerable.
In the end, it is not our power alone that will defeat [the likes of Saddam Hussein]. Our ultimate weapon is not our guns, but our beliefs.
Bad man obliterfried
[Even if no weapons are found,] history will forgive [us.]
We won, end of story
Our responsibility does not end with... victory. [Fighting] the fight is not finishing the job.
Man that war got boring quick enough
[Our troops may be there for weeks, months or even years. But we will not abandon the people of Iraq.]
This will not be another Vienetta*
And if our spirit is right and our courage [is] firm, the world will be with us [, united behind us].
America kick butt. Last one to bomb Syria is a Frenchie"
* (a type of ice-cream)
"Bushism of the Day:
"The obligation of the United States government is to rapidly internationalize the effort in Iraq, get the target off of American troops, bring other people, particularly Muslim-speaking and Arab-speaking Muslim troops, into the region."
Do you speak Muslim? Has Bush discovered another language? The embarrassing misstatements keep coming! Er ... except that this one was from Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, not from Bush. But if Bush had said it it would have been a Bushism! [Stolen from Brothers Judd.] 1:23 A.M."
You see, this is the problem with copyright violations: once they begin, no-one wants to stop.
Vide a thought in Peter F. Hamilton's "Misspent Youth". The main character invented a data storage medium that revolutionised the net, leading the fast death of copyright due to the massive storage/transmission levels available.
This included the impact on free to air channels, such as the BBC, as no-one would pay their license fee once the Beeb, like everything else, was available on-line instantly and for free... Just a thought.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
"It is a pity Australia, for all its sporting achievements, has nothing remotely like the haka. We may be a successful, outward-looking culture, but we are also an inarticulate nation. Our TV sporting commentators are the worst in the English-speaking world, our crowds collectively never manage anything more imaginative than a roar, and our athletes rarely have anything of interest to say."
"Good evening. Reports that the former Italian leader Benito Mussolini is "dead" and "hanging" "upside down" at a petrol station were received with scepticism in Rome today. Our "reporter" - whoops, scrub the inverted commas round "reporter", the scare-quotes key on the typewriter's jammed again. Anyway our reporter Andrew "Gilligan" is "on" the scene "in" Milan. Andrew...
Andrew Gilligan: I'm leaning on a lamp post at the corner of the street in case a certain little duce swings by, and I don't see any dead dictators, John. But then the Allies have a history of making these premature announcements...
He's just above your head, Andrew. I know you don't like to do wide shots, but, if the camera pulls back, I think you'll find that's definitely a finger tickling the back of your ear...
AG: Well, there you are. He's not hanging from a petrol station, is he? He's hanging from a rope attached to a girder on the forecourt of a petrol station. We've become all too familiar with the Allies playing fast and loose with the facts.
Yes, indeed, Andrew. And contradictory reports that he was hanging from a lamp-post have led some observers to question the accuracy of the intelligence on which the "liberation" of Milan went ahead."
Dean's World: Famine, Lies and Justice: ""The Pulitzer Prize should be revoked from Walter Duranty," Jones' relatives wrote, "not just for his falsification of Stalin's ruthless execution of the Five Year Plan of Collectivization, but also for his complete disregard for journalistic integrity. Through abusing his position of authority as The New York Times' reporter in the Soviet Union, he villainously and publicly denigrated the truthful articles of my uncle, and ashamedly did so, whilst being fully aware of the on-going famine.""
--Grace, Principal's Secretary, FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF
I go now to dig out the video and watch it again...
"Australia's three league converts were given an up-close lesson in how the game is played last night as they were comprehensively out-pointed by a trio of All Black flyers.
The Wallabies' prize recruits ran on together from the kick-off for the first time, but with a few noticeable moments aside for Wendell Sailor, Mat Rogers and Lote Tuqiri, the three took a back seat as the New Zealand quicks put on a show.
After the match, Rogers indicated he was well aware of how wingers Joe Rokocoko and Doug Howlett and fullback Malili Muliaina were central to the All Blacks' record victory, and agreed the Wallaby backline had some way to go to match them.
"They probably do have a better understanding at the moment than us, they've played together all year, that makes life a little easier," Rogers said after the match. "They're just unreal. They're big, they're fast and they're strong ... but we aren't intimidated. We have to go out there and play smarter for 80 minutes.""
I believe I:
Had a very fat comic sit on my knee
Destroyed one guy's finale by putting him off: I nodded when he'd thought he'd brought up an idea too improbable to be real (should check the net more...)
Got accused of being "electricity man" (alter ego "power man")
Was invited to come on stage and perform certain acts with my next door neighbour (invitation rejected...>)
And had a song sung accusing me of being a tax consultant.
And there I was with a happy seat at the back....
Lesson learnt - don't be persuaded to move for nobody...
PS - The Chuckle Club does tend to be OK though, and the two who gave the most abuse were also the funniest of the night. During the summer, it's just £2 entry - in the rest of the year it's £10, and has three or four circuit comedians. It's worth going to.