October, 2002

Snipers

Well Michael Moore’s response to the (now captured) sniper attacks in the Washington area reflects my own.
Although I fell asleep during the course of the programme, I tried to watch last night’s NBC News on CNBC Europe last night, and was that an eye opener. The programme had, I think, EIGHT correspondents scattered around and looked like it was going to spend a good 20 of its 30 minutes duration (excluding ads) talking about the sniper capture. All fairly understandable, although only because we all “love” serial killer stories. But was there one feature on the fact that America has so many guns out there maybe being a contributory factor in this (or other) killings.
I don’t think that anyone asks that kind of question. Is it seen as unamerican?
I suppose I come from a different culture. A culture which, if there had been a sniper on the loose, would immediately ask why members of the public needed sniper rifles.

Daily Mail

I feel really guilty at the moment. There’s something I must confess to. I just have to get it off my chest.
I bought the Daily Mail on Saturday.
I know, I know. It was the TV ad that did it for me. It’s no defence, but they were giving away a pretty good sounding CD inside the paper on Saturday, and well, it’s only 60p… That’s no excuse. At least the paper was rubbish, but I still have to admit that I did it. Somehow I’d feel less guilty if I’d bought a porn mag or something.
Why this hatred of all things Daily Mail. Well frankly there is no moral justification for some of the things they’ve been doing recently.
1) Their campaign against the National Lottery Community Fund, and it’s chairwoman Lady Brittan. Frankly this campaign is racist. They’re selectively highlighting payments made to minority charities, while pointing out others that don’t get payments – the others tending to be ex-service charities and the like. They seem to object to overseas charities, and those that help the likes of asylum seekers. This has lead to Lady Britten being sent anti-semitic death threats. This is solely the responsibility of the Daily Mail and their publishers Associated Newspapers. There’s much talk of “charity begins at home” and the like, which somehow means that we don’t help others in countries where people are much much poorer than us. Asylum seekers are a cheap shot. We have lots of them, and they have a lot of publicity and are not popular. Yet are they being employed on the black market? Yes. Do we need people at all levels of society for it all to work? Yes. And why shouldn’t they seek a new life here, when in much of the former Yugoslavia, they face racism of far worse proportion.
2) They bought the rights to Jeffrey Archer’s latest opus. This is a man who is serving a prison sentence for perjury. He may not be profiting at the moment, but have no doubt he will. I don’t want to support a convicted felon in a financial manner.
3) They paid a South African woman for an interview when she alleged Sir Alex Ferguson assaulted her. The headlines showed that they believed her, even though the whole case was highly tendentious, and it has since been thrown out by South African police. I have no love for Fergie, but even I can see a malicious story when it’s thrown up.
Those are just the stories off the top of my head. Maybe another time, I’ll talk about how one of the most important regional evening papers has so diminished in recent years, not covering the stories Londoners care about…

My Secret War

Kim Philby died some years ago, but fortunately, his autobiography has just been republished in the States. (A quick note that I ordered this book from Amazon.com in the States some months ago before it had been published. Once it had been published, it shows up on Amazon.co.uk at a significantly cheaper price – particularly when postage is taken into account).
I decided to get it after watching the TV Play Philby, Burgess and Maclean on BBC Four a few months ago which was made in 1977.
Philby’s own story is quite interesting but sadly lacking in some of the necessary details. You’d want to hear more about the how’s, but of course he speaks nothing of that, nor details about how he passed on information to his handlers.
I suppose the most fascinating part is when he’s been effectively chucked out of the service, and yet he’s not arrested for treason. Then he works as a journalist in the Middle East for a number of years before finally, out of necessity, being spirited away. I really feel that I need to read a third party book about his effect on the service to gain some idea of the problems, and indeed, deaths he’ll have been responsible for.

Give Me Ten Seconds

John Sergeant’s autobiography is a thoroughly entertaining read, taking us on a whistlestop tour of his journalistic career, and his early start in comedy.
Sergeant’s career has taken him over the place, and he tells his story with humour and honesty. You can get some idea of the internal struggles he has as he tries to make his way in a political world, and you certainly get the picture that he was always on the career ladder. Must get around to reading John Cole’s book, as well as Michael Brunson’s.

XXX

Well I saw this last night, and I must admit that I went in knowing that it was not going to be exactly brilliant. Well I wasn’t short changed. So it was never going to be Oscar material, but I thought that it’d at least be an entertaining way of spending a couple of hours. How wrong can you be. It’s dreadful.
Vin Diesel is so monotone it’s dull, with barely a laugh to be had (and if he’s going to be a tough guy then he’d better have laughs along the way). For a film that is so obviously using Bond movies as its blueprint, the location work seems to stretch to Prague alone, where as we all know from Blade II, they’re all into nu-metal, just off Wencelas Square.
Even the denouement (which I shan’t spoil) had absolutely no dramatic tension. There was no doubt that the hero would succeed, and no-one else was left in any peril.
I could go on, but really, it’s not worth the effort.
Sadly I fear that it’s done well enough at the US box office to see a sequel rushed into production. Maybe they could combine it with the next Austin Powers.
Entertainingly, the film was preceded by a trailer for Day Another Day, this year’s Bond film.

Freehand

I’m trying to work teach myself Freehand 10 so I can put together the company’s weekend away magazine. Why is it always print settings that bugger me up? If I create a 300dpi image in Photoshop and then import it into a 300dpi Freehand document, shouldn’t it look good? It doesn’t.

3G

Interesting article in yesterday’s Guardian Online section about 3G’s slow eventual rollout now beginning.
I have some serious doubts about the whole thing, and the amount of money everyone spent. On the one hand I certainly don’t want the Treasury paying any of that money back – if I go mad at a Bargain Hunt antiques auction, I won’t get much sympathy for getting carried away in the heat of the moment. On the other hand, someone’s going to have to foot the bill for all this, and that must surely mean the consumer.
Now I’d love to be proven wrong, but I just can’t see consumers really going for it that much. The phone companies are all desperately trying to increase their revenues, but I firmly believe that there’s a maximum amount of cash consumers are prepared to spend on all their communication/entertainment needs. And in that I include, ISP subscriptions, Satellite/Cable costs, video/dvd spending, mobile phone bills, and video games. The only way one can increase their spend is for another to get less. So 3 who have Premiership football rights, have to really get us to spend less on our Sky Sports subs if we’re to pay for video downloads. I admit that I want to see Arsenal’s goals on a Saturday/Sunday/whenever, but with ITV’s The Premiership, Sky Sports News, BBC News footage and the like, I can easily get to see the goals. I’m not going to pay extra to see jerky video on a 2″x3″ screen.
I’ll leave aside all the technical issues of whether the system actually works, but there’s the cost of the phones, the poor battery life at the moment, the lack of 3G coverage and so on.
Mobiles are a fashion accessory now, but the real function is to carry speech, and they do this now, very successfully. I’d hate to be seen as a doomsayer who couldn’t see why television and the railways would take off, when there was no “demand” for them before. But I genuinely don’t think that beyond a few alert services etc. and some fun in sending photos (both currently doable with 2/2.5G phones), there’s not a whole lot more to needed. Video phones? Limited. Now prove me wrong!

Computer Woes

I didn’t realise how quickly I’d miss my computer when it broke down. Actually, let me put that another way. I didn’t realise how much I’d miss my computer. I know that I’m fortunate to have an old computer (and I do mean old) which lets me get on the net and get my email.
But what about video editing, cd-burning, audio editing, and the like? Aaargh. Just phoned up Mesh who collected the PC last Monday to find out how long it’d take. They said that it’s normally 12 working days. That takes me to next Wednesday (and of course I’m travelling to Sheringham on Thursday…).
I’ll just have to find other ways to entertain myself.

Arsenal on Top of the World

Somehow or other I’ve managed not to talk about Arsenal here! Let me right that wrong immediately. Quite simply the football is fantastic at the moment. Everyone knows they’ve broken loads of records – but here’s a link that helpfully lists them all for you!

War on Iraq – What the Bush Team Doesn’t Want You To Know

Well I could not have timed reading this book any better than I have. Written by William Rivers Pitt and based on an interview with former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter, this short booklet is about as well timed as it could possibly be. The interview that forms the heart of the book was given in the latter part of August this year.
Essentially, the book refutes many of the allegations that are being made by the Bush camp, as they try to win over American and world support for a war with Iraq. The raw facts seem to be these:
1) Saddam Hussein does not have nuclear weapons. If he did, we’d know about it. If he tried to buy the parts to build them, we’d know about. If he tried to develop them himself. we’d know about it. You can’t just build up lots of radioactive material without sensors detecting it.
2) The same really applies to chemical and biological weapons. We would know about it. Also, any chemical or biological weapons that were stockpiled, and kept hidden from investigators until they left in 1998, would be goo by now, since they decompose after 4/5 years.
So when Bush talks about Saddam Hussein’s “Arsenal of terrror” he’s really scaremongering. There may be new buildings going up, but that’s hardly surprising. Just because an engineering plant is “capable” of building parts, it doesn’t mean that they. And as soon as they actually start trying to manufacture nuclear elements, we’ll know about it.
The next problem is what we do if somehow Saddam Hussein is deposed. The majority population is actually Shi’a Muslims aligned to Iraq. And Iraq’s pretty anti-American, and much more extremist. Then there are the Kurds who form 23% of the population but who are really seeking an independent Kurdistan, not government of Iraq. Then there are minority Sunni Muslims who are the ruling class. They are lead by one family, of which Saddam Hussein is a memeber. If he were to be overthrown, the likely leadership would come from the same group of people. This would not be a democracy either.
Finally, why is Osama Bin Laden linked with Saddam Hussein. The two hate one another, since Bin Laden is an Islamic fundamentalist, and Hussein has spent 30 years declaring war on Islamic fundamentalism. The two have nothing in common. So where’s the link?
I cannot reccommend this booklet highly enough.
At least Americans, while supporting military action in the Middle East, want time for weapons inspectors to give it a go. This is imperative. If there has been a re-established weaponry programme, it can be stopped. “Taking out” Saddam is not the right option.