April 2007

30 April 2007
Many readers will be aware of the story currently doing the rounds about the conman who managed to convince thousands of Japanese women that sheep were in fact a rare breed of poodle.

It's a hoax.

But the fact that it has been taken up so widely - including, I might add, by the BBC's Have I Got News For You - does serve to illustrate that when it comes to Japan people in the West will believe anything.

23 April 2007
Challenger tank blown up

When I first read in Michael Yon’s article some two weeks ago that a Challenger 2 tank had been blown up in Iraq I was sceptical.  Surely it would have been mentioned on the news or at very least on the MoD website?  But no.  Coupled with a few other things in his report that didn’t ring true I assumed this was a typical bit of journalistic lilly gilding.

So imagine my surprise when it turned out that he was right all along.

The destruction of a Challenger 2 is big news.  To the best of my knowledge it is the first British tank of any description to be put out of action in half a century.  The new-found vulnerability of a vehicle with some of the most advanced armour in the world may - though I can’t be sure about this - I’d be surprised if it didn’t - have all sorts of implications for the way operations will in future be conducted.

So, why the delay?  Did the MSM not know?  Did they know but not understand the significance?  Were they told to keep schtum?  If so why - the BBC tells us that an Abrams goes skywards almost every other week?  If they were told to keep schtum what else has this been applied to? 

In other words, what else don’t we know?

20 April 2007
I have been meaning to mention indie band, The Arcade Fire, for some time but have never quite got round to it. Anyway, today I have the ideal excuse as they are subject to a half-hour special on BBC2 starting at 11.40pm BST.

One little gripe with the write up and Arcade Fire write ups generally. While it mentions their debut album, Funeral, it fails to mention the EP that preceded it. Both are exceptional - how often do you listen to a new work where every track is good? - it's just that the near-as-dammit-to-album-length EP is more so.

19 April 2007
The Telegraph profiles the Wurzels:

On May 5 1974, however, tragedy struck. Cutler was killed in a car crash on the way back from a gig in Hereford. As well as being personally bereaved, the Wurzels were now without their songwriter.

Like Joy Division after the death of Ian Curtis, they elected to keep going.

Words fail me.

Business goes bust - after 1,400 years. They must be feeling like a right bunch of charlies …link
Harry Lime was wrong - Italy was not nearly as violent and Switzerland not nearly as peaceful, or uninventive …link
10 April 2007
Natalie - is back. …link
05 April 2007
A couple of good quotes

“Bill Gates cost me about $3 billion,” Warren Buffett on his attempts to buy LTCM


“[W]hen you work with assholes, you don’t change them for the better, they change you into an asshole.” Bob Sutton

04 April 2007

There have been calls for the British government to apologize for the slave trade.

I think it is a crock but I still find the arguments interesting.

Norm thinks there should be an apology:

Simon Jenkins seems to have trouble with the idea of someone taking responsibility for actions of which they are not themselves guilty, particularly where this is on behalf of an organization or institution. But, as I argued here and here, it’s just because organizations and institutions are real entities - though this doesn’t mean they have metaphysical personalities, or could exist without the human persons that at any given time belong to them, act for them, and so on - that those in a position to speak on their behalf can make apology for wrongs of the past, where the organization or institution was responsible for these but the individuals actually making the apology aren’t. There is nothing mysterious about it.

It’s not as stupid as it sounds.  There are precedents for this.  For instance, who hasn’t heard something like this: “On behalf of South West Trains I would like to apologize for the late running of this service.”?

Medworth points out that there’s no one to apologize to.

Hannan reminds us that we are all descended from slaves.  That should make for an interesting one: “I, Tony Blair, on behalf of the British government apologize to myself.”

Wat Tyler reckons that demands for an apology are being used as a wedge for reparations before going on to suggest that the slave trade wasn’t really worth that much.

03 April 2007
Croziervision Podcast #3: Brian Micklethwait on Emmanuel Todd

Emmanuel Todd is a French historian and anthropologist.  His main achievement seems to have been in making a number of startlingly accurate predictions.  These include predicting the fall of the Soviet Union, the survival of Cuban communism, Nicaragua not going communist and the East Asian economic miracle.

Brian has referred to Todd many times over the years but it was only recently that he dedicated a number of blog postings to Todd’s works. 

At the time it seemed a good subject for a podcast but by the end we both agreed that we’d bitten off more than we could chew.  The implications of Todd’s theories about ideology and literacy are as far-reaching as they are controversial and neither of us felt at the time we had come anywhere near to doing them justice. 

As it happens, listening to it the whole way through, I was forced to revise that opinion.  I thought it was actually quite good.

You can download it here.

02 April 2007
I liked this piece on nurse training (via the BritMeds) in the early 1970s:
They knew exactly how to get the highest standard of nursing care out of us and sloppy habits (how we loved our sloppy habits) were just driven out of existence; humiliation worked a treat and it became pointless not to do a job properly first time. Always the first thing that was pointed out to you was that you had somehow endangered a child's life in the process. Even down to touching a swing door to open it, never touch a swing door, you push it with your backside...
Somehow I don't think it's like that nowadays.

01 April 2007
18 Doughty Street.  Why it won’t work and how it might be made to.

18 Doughty Street (sometimes known as Tory TV and 18DS for the rest of this article) is the attempt to bring some semblance of balance into the world of broadcasting by setting up an internet TV station and spending squillions of quid on it.

It’s been going for a few months now, so they’ve ironed out the early bugs and we can see it for what it’s worth. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re getting value for money - certainly not with the sort of money that they’re spending.

My frustrations with 18DS start from the moment I log on and never really end. 

For starters, there’s no TV on the front page. Why not? Is this a TV station or not?  There’s none on the second page either.  That’s reserved for a blog.  Now, modesty is a good thing in many ways but this is getting close to hiding your light under the grain production of Saskatchewan.

Eventually, after a bit of moderate hair pulling you land on the TV page.  And then your problems really start.  The navigation is atrocious.  There is little indication as to what you should or might want to be watching.  Eventually, you give in and just click a link in desperation.  TV starts. 

Oh, but woe betide you if you are using a decent browser ie, Opera.  The controls don’t work and even if you’re using IE7 they’re not that much use.  For instance, where’s the bar which lets you to jump around the clip?  It’s as if someone somewhere is saying: “I have composed this wonderful televisual symphony and now you’re going to listen to it all - the rubbish bits along with the good.  Peasant.”  Haven’t they heard of YouTube?

It’s not all bad.  I like the set - although they could do with looking into some echo reduction - and Iain Dale is a star.  He could just be the best host/interviewer in the country.  OK, so I’m pointing out a bright star in a dim universe, but he does ask the right questions and let his guests talk.

But the real problem is… well… that it’s television.  I - and I am far from alone in this - have more or less had it with television.  I can’t stand the demand that I give something my undivided attention without being able to add my tuppenny ha’penny.  Actually, it’s an effort tuppenny ha’penny or otherwise.

When I think about how 18DS could be made better I am reminded of Julie Walters in the title role in Educating Rita: “I’d put it on the radio”. I mean, think about it - what is the value of the visuals on 18DS?  Almost nothing.  It’s not as if they’re covering bombs, bloodshed or Something Actually Happening.  This is the Moral Maze without the advantage of darkness.

I see Al Gore (registration required) is trying something similar.  OK, so he’s made the category error of putting his internet TV on cable - you can kind of see why he lost that election to George Bush - but he does, at least, seem to understand that you need to draw upon a larger range of potential contributors.  This is, I would guess, the thinking behind a third of content being reserved to citizen-generated “pods”.


As you’ve probably noticed I’ve been doing a bit of tinkering to this site over recent weeks.  It was never the plan to swap the burgundy for this sort of metallic blue, but that’s what has happened.  That’s the problem with tinkering - when you start it becomes difficult to stop.