Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Saturday, April 30, 2005

Happy May Day

It's a bit dreich and dreary today, but I'm off shortly to the May Day rally at the Meadows. I hope there's more than the token 50 people I marched with last year (or was it the year before).

Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.



Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pet dreams

I'm far too happy today. Her Catness and I are both bathing in a pool of warm sunlight flooding my kitchen as I write. What's wrong with me?

I had two dreams last night, which I atypically remembered- a) a delicious sexy one about my BF and b) that I adopted two golden Lab puppies. My friend R hypothesises that the puppies represented my kids, but I think its more straightforward than that. I grew up with and adore dogs, and wish I could commit to one. In the dream, I adopted the puppies without telling my folks (who would worry about over-committment), but once they met them they fell in love and rescinded their disapproval. For the record, I'd never choose a pure-bred dog and probably never a puppy, given the older abandoned dogs that need homes, but it did speak of my desire for the canine companionship I grew up with. I'm not into dream symbolism apart from the obviously interpretable anxiety dreams most people get (eg the 'naked on the bus to work' scenario I get before every conference).

Her Catness is so crap she doesn't even purr, or at least not audibly, nor is she a lapcat, being far too haughty and superior to allow this. However, she does in her version of lovey-dovey moments sit next to me on the sofa and accept my appropriate adoration. In her really responsive moods, she'll ask for claps with a reprimanding touch of the paw, and respond with an inaudible but feelable vibration of the throat region, as she did last night. However, BF tells me that when I leave the house she often yowls at my absence. Why can't she tell me she likes me while I'm there?


Persistence of Vision message board

Quick plug for this new unreliable, off-topic and political message board, inhabited by old chums. I intend to post here when I can.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Nigel Wars 2

I hope that in return for a link here, the author/photoshopper(s) at edinburghsucks will allow me to nick their excellent culture-jam of Nigel Griffiths constituency office window. This is less dangerous for me than Philip C's incitement to commit criminal damage by bricking it, or son DoDo's suggestion that we sneak out in dead of night to appropriately alter his smug Nigel face with spraypaint- too many CCTVs.

Some may also enjoy edinburghsucks latest update on Nigel's election campaign shenanigans here, where he used photos with the moderator of the Church of Scotland on electioneering pamphlets without permission. Nigel has also used anti-LibDem quotes from Robin Harper (Scottish Green MSP) on his promotion material without permission, so this is quite a habit of his.

Is that enough links now, the Basa?


Also on election news, StonedWolf has taken issue with one of the few pamphlets we've received, that from the Save our Scottish Regiments Campaign. This recommended that to punish Nigel (which would give many great pleasure), we should instead vote for the Tory candidate for Edinburgh South, Gavin Brown. Here's the case SW posted at SOSRC website forum, which has failed to receive a single reply or explanation.


Not more than 5 minutes ago a "LAST CHANCE TO SAVE THE SCOTTISH REGIMENTS" letter dropped through my door in the Edinburgh South constituency. It states the campaign is cross-political, supporting SNP, Lib Dem, and Conservative candidates on a "most likely to win" evaluation.

My letter continues "... vote for Gavin Brown, the Conservative candidate, in Edinburgh South. Gavin is the only person in your area who can beat Labour and save the Royal Scots".

NOTHING would give me greater pleasure than seeing our sitting-creep Nigel Griffiths kicked out. What I cannot understand is why GAVIN BROWN is chosen by you instead of the Liberal Democrat candidate.

In 2001 the EDINBURGH SOUTH results were:

Nigel Griffiths, Labour. 15,671 votes (42.2%)
Marilyne MacLaren, Liberal Democrat. 10,172 votes (27.4%)
Gordon Buchan, Conservative. 6,172 votes (16.6%)
Heather Williams, SNP. 3,683 votes (9.9%)
Colin Fox, SSP. 933 votes, (2.5%)
Margaret Hendry, LC. 535 votes (1.4%)

Thus in the last General Election in the EDINBURGH SOUTH consistency the Liberal Democrat scored within five and a half thousand votes of victory. The Conservative needs around ten thousand to dislodge Griffiths. For those of you without degrees in Mathematics, that's almost double. Or to put it another way - just a couple of thousand disaffected votes from Labour and a couple from the Conservatives and a Labour constituency could turn Liberal Democrat.

Is there some secret formula as to why the Conservative was bizarrely selected for support? Is it the STSR campaign is simply inherrently Tory?

If so, that's fine, but whatever else you don't do yourselves justice by saying the Conservative has the slightest chance of victory. He does not. There is as much chance of that as Pink Unicorn being returned for Edinburgh South.

Stonedwolf at: 25/4/05 2:54 pm


Sunday, April 24, 2005

The latest flame

This has to be pretty sad, but the latest music I've bought are CD re-releases of early Fall albums. Really should make an effort to keep up with da contemporary yoof, but remain more interested in my own. Plus my kids' dad (may he be happy) got all the LPs and CDs from our 20-year relationship except the crap, admittedly in exchange for useful pieces of furniture. Since he also got the record deck (a 1960s vintage, heirloom valve-driven system from my folks), there wasn't much point in holding out for these. I got all the sad scratched LPs neither of us wanted, like Bowie, which can be obtained for free (buyer-collects basis) to any who'd appreciate these- need the storage space.

Anyway, back to the Fall, whose performance next weekend at the Liquid Rooms is much anticipated. Hope it'll be as good as the last one in 2004 at the Venue, when Mark E and colleagues cranked it out. The highlight of that gig for me was a mad, older,slightly pot-bellied moutachioed man going nuts singing soul-crazy on 'Big New Prinz'.

Researching back, the first Fall gig I saw was circa 1980 at the NiteClub (above the old Edinburgh Playhouse), hosted by the late John Peel. I can't find this gig listed but except to guess by the setlist and personal timing that it was prolly this 1980 gig. Though JP has deservedly become a modern-day icon, he was for a fact grooming my 14-yr old pal D at that time, and she wasn't the only one. That's been lost in the deification process. Have a faded memory of Mark E performing Rowche Rumble and stuff from 'Witch Trials', 'Totale's Turns' and 'Dragnet'.

I visited the local independent record shop today with the kids to replenish on CD some of my lost yoof, and the (relatively) very young counterworker told me that this 6-CD set of Fall John Peel sessions (1978-2004) is on release from Monday. He had his own pre-relaease copy, but declined to sell this to me today. If anyone wants to buy me an early birthday present, this is what I really, really want. Hint hint.

Never met Mark E, nor do I particularly wish to- just want him to keep on keeping on.

Photo from /

Composite lyrics from several version of my early favourite- 'Mess of My'

And note of your own choice, boys and girls

Inadequate planters, methadone stubbies
You got energy vampires
More hands on the tranquillisers

An unholy alliance
And jokes about faith
Give me another drink
You're as strong as your weakest link

A mess of my age
A mess of my race
A mess of our radio

I remember the times
This was a beginning
Of a permissive new age
But it's the same old cabbage

A mess of my age
A mess of our race
A mess of our our our our

[megaphone bit]

I don't look at myself
I have no health
Take no notice of me
I probably work for a record company

A mess of our age
A mess of my taste
A mess of our nervous systems

Cowering mockers
The company money's ran out
To longer hot properties
Get back in their closets

A mess of my age
A mess of my race
Fill the rest in yourself


Cat wars

This is a memoir from 18 months ago when, overcome by guilt about my cat's solitary and flat-bound existence, we adopted another female cat, Mimi. She was a well-loved, older long-haired smoky-grey cat whose owner had developed a physiological allergy to her dander, was loathe to let her go, but thought it for the best. Mimi was gorgeous although eczemous, and unlike resident cat Noushka had a purr and prediliction for sitting on laps. She was to our thinking an ideal foil and domestic balance to Nush's very independent nature.

Before we brought Mimi home, I had an arcadian vision of two catgirls curling up on the sofa together and enjoying an affectionate feline relationship. I knew enough that I didn't expect this bonding to happen overnight, and was prepared for a careful gradual introduction and a slow accommodation.

The cats were separated, and after petting Mimi would make every effort to dispense the same attention to Nush in her area. The problem was that Nush had a visceral response to the smell of other cats that made her tear at our hands and arms, so long as they smelled of Mimi. As time went on, she spent more and more time prowling outside poor Mimi's door yowling and growling. Not good, but we were prepared to be patient and continued with the vet-recommended gradual introduction prgram, involving opening the doors separating the cats just a crack to allow safe but gradual acclimitisation.

Nush was spending most of her time patrolling the threshold of Mimi's territory before we opened the door a crack, but as soon as we attempted this Noush became a furball of feline aggression and would hurl herself at the door to have a go even while Mimi, on the other side, retreated to the top of bookcases. Much time was spent calming Mimi with attention and claps (Scots for petting, which she appreciated), and the same to Nush, who became serially more aggressive towards any human contact whether it smelled of Mimi or not. We became used to washing hands between cat contacts, but this did nothing to assuage Nush's vitriol, and she became a creature obsessed, stalking poor Mimi's smell wherever she came across it, even though the two cats remained physically if not olfactorily isolated.

As expected from internet advice, there was no immediate bonding and Mimi's entrance evoked a powerful territorial response from Nush, who assumed a hissing spitting attitude as soon as Mimi's smell was sensed. Never mind, we thought- these things take time, and as suggested by vets kept the two cats isolated in separate ends of the house while they became acquainted with each other's smells, if not face to face contact. Mimi, a sedate dowager kitty, was quite happy to settle in to her bit of the house and appeared to be bonding with humans. However, Nush was incensed from the word go and despite extra individual time and attention, spent all her time hunting Mimi's smell as she does mice. It became an obsession, so Noush prowled and paced outside Mimi's door, awaiting an opportunity to pulp her. Both of them would growl and hiss at each othera' scents through the door, but Nush ws discernably the aggressor as home Top Cat.

After 2 weeks of this, it was time to take things further and allow limited physical contact, even if aggressive. And by God it was. As soon as the separating door was opened, Nush was in there like a vampire bat from hell looking for Mimi's blood. The first 5 minute encounter had Mimi demonstrating an athleticism never before witnessed in her arthritic older physique, to get to the highest and most inaccessible place. It wasn't a good auger, and of course the contact was immediately constrained to limit stress on both cats till later gradual introductions could be contemplated.

Contemplate we did, and several experiments of smell contact and cat contact were briefly attempted over the succeeding 2 weeks, to no avail. Mimi appeared to be open to a relationship of mutual ignorance and segregation, but Nush, incensed by territorial incursion, could *not get over it*. We tried repeatedly to have supervised open doors for the next month, but Nush was having none of it and never failed to register smell outrage and to aim for the jugular whenever presented an open opportunity for a catfight.

A further 2-3 weeks of limited introduction were attempted before we realised it wasn't going to work out. There was a real willingness on our (human) part to make it work, but Nush was a cat possessed, obsessed and intent on murder. There was also the duty to protect Mimi from a viscous hellcat, and after 4-6 weeks total it was clear it wasn't going to work out.

A Cat Protection friend who's adopted an integrated team of 4 mixed-gender housecats tells me that we might succeed better with a big tom who could physically (if not temperamentally) kick Nush's butt, but I have sincere doubts. Nush doesn't seem to want friends, and her psychology fixates on owning us, not being owned, perhaps our initial misconception. Plus, flat conditions limit the opportunities for separate territories as outdoor cats might negotiate. I reckon she's institutionally incapable of sharing, but if any others have advice for facilitating happy inter-cat relations, I'd be grateful to receive these. Meanwhile, some 18 months later, BF still sports a fetching scar the length of his forearm inflicted by Nush while attempting to separate the cats.


Kilroy Shit self-tanning product

I found this long-lost gem on my photobucket account, and it's too good not to post again. Thanks for the memories and a new take on the spray-on Fantasy tan. Buying this edition for scanning was the only time The Mirror has had my money since the 1990's. It was worth it for the priceless image of RKS covered in farm slurry. The assailant apparently also spattered Ruth Kelly in his deluge, but was conditionally discharged. I would've given him a Victoria Cross.


Friday, April 22, 2005


AJP posting at ML has provoked thought on the subject of happiness.

Dear Mr Humphreys,
In the course of your discussion with A L Kennedy, Toby Young and Julian Fellowes this morning, you suggested that voter turnout had dropped because as an electorate, we were “happier than ever before.” You may have been playing devils advocate or alternatively, this may be your genuine belief. Either way, it is a “fact” which we hear time and again, particularly in relation to falling election turnouts.

I am writing because I am always troubled when this proposition goes unchallenged. There is no evidence that we are happier now than we have ever been. There is a very large body of evidence to suggest that despite high levels of economic growth, people in a number of different industrialised nations are no happier than we were fifty or so years ago. Indeed, some of this evidence suggests that people are less happy. There is a clear link between growing inequality and unhappiness. As far as Britain is concerned, there is little or no evidence that people do not vote because they are “happy.” On the contrary polls reveal again and again that people in this country have very grave anxieties about our society and the wider world. The problem is that they do not believe that politicians will address these concerns and they do not think that their votes will make a difference since the policies of all the main parties are so similar. Furthermore, turnout tends to be lowest amongst poorer sections of the electorate but higher amongst the more wealthy.

In light of all this, I find it rather odd when we are told that we are a happier and more contented society than we have ever been. I have no doubt that the government would like this view propagated as widely as possible, but surely you do not see it as your job to do so?

Yours sincerely,

AJP as usual brings up interesting points. I'm quite bothered as happiness as a concept, a concern that's been developing over time. I don't know what it's objective qualities are (though I'm told these might be related to serotinergic and dopaminergic secretions) even though I've experienced these subjectively. Happiness, I'm told by psychologists and priests, is a quantum under my control, if only I had the cognitive skills, breadth and wisdom. However, that's not what I see in real life, and the happiness offered may not even be something I want.

I'm concerned and intrigued by some of happiness's paradoxical qualities. Happiness as a subjective mood state appears inversely correlated with wealth, westernisation and greed. The more we see and crave what we haven't got, the less we appreciate what we do posses. That's one reason why a life exchange with a poor Thai Buddhist tomorrow would probably not boost me from a present contented state to an ecstatic one. Another reason that a lifeswap might not give me miraculous boost of endorphins is that I've accrued knowledge of others' pain, deprivation and lack of rights, unavailable to most Thai peasants in their happy haze. My experience is that the happiest people I know are the least inquiring and informed. Paradoxically, my least overtly happy friends (demonstrated by their SSRI ingestion) are the most educated and economically privileged.

When working with neurologically disabled kids in the 80s, a staff aphorism held that the extent of parent distress was correlated not with the kid's disability but with parents' level of education. This did seem broadly true, on an anecdotal basis. Is stupidity good for you? And also, once you know of others' suffering, can you ever be happy again?


Edinburgh South hustings

The circus came to town last night when the local StTW group organised a hustings debate, chaired by a churchman (either St John's or Augustine's- sorry, nameless sir) for fairness. Our NuLab MP Nigel Griffiths, declined to attend fearing a biased meeting, yet all other candidates including the pro-war Tory attended.

Left to right: Graham Sutherland (SNP), Gavin Brown (Tory), Steve Burgess (Greens), reverend chair, Marilyne MacLaren (LibDem), Morag Robertson (SSP)

And here is the closest we got to meeting our MP Nigel Griffiths- his giant grinning head on his constituency office. He prefers that we would speak to this, or to the hand, because the person ain't listening.

Anyway, it was a very 'Edinburgh South' gathering- a polite, muffled audience listened to each candidate in turn, even the Tory, applauded them all, and didn't interrupt, much less heckle or hiss. Spotted the usual miscreants there, including Elaine and Toch from WordPower bookshop. Nothing could've been further from the hustings goings-on in Beffnow Green & Bow. Perhaps to aid this very restrained, moderated exchange, questions were collected from the audience and selected by the Rev chair.

There were a large number of questions submitted. My question 'Given the war on Iraq, what does democracy mean to each candidate?', was not asked, nor was this really expected as the audience appeared mostly people who value and believe in their vote.

However, there were very appropriate questions posed not just on local issues but on globalised capitalism, arms trading and nuclear weapons. The speeches by the SNP candidate, Graham Sutherland, and Marilyn MacLaren (LibDem pretender for the seat) were the most 'parliamentary' in character, and both have considerable campaigning experience, which showed. Steve Burgess, who is a researcher for the Greens at the Scottish Parliament, was modest but sincere. He doesn't use the bluster of the parliamentarians (maybe a good thing), presented well and appealed past winning this election to changing the world. Same for Morag Robertson, a teacher, who did well for the SSP and worked in good criticisms of Nigel's arms trading record, the war and immigration. The nearest we came to a stooshie at the hustings was at the end, when an unknown audience member asked for an Iraqi paediatrician to be allowed to speak. He was the only non-candidate given time, and turned out to be a pro-war proponent though it took 7 mins for him to get there.

The lack of even election leaflets much less door-stepping so far by candidates has been most disappointing, with only 2 weeks to go. I've had one leaflet (from the LibDems), and no opportunity whatsoever for the arguments on the threshold which I've enjoyed in the past. However, I live on the very last street still within the constituency boundary and it may be a while till they work their way out to me.

School news:
I have to check this, but I'm nearly certain that Edinburgh South candidate Graham Sutherland (SNP) is dear son DoDo's Modern Studies teacher at the local comprehensive, known to the kids as 'Sundo'. This tickled me pink, because he actually spoke very well for an SNP (I admit prejudice here), and has encouraged DoDo with excellent marks and discussion in class. From what DoDo says, 'Sundo' lets the kids tease him about his beloved cat, of whom he is inordinately fond, by steadfastly refusing to understand the kids' earnest enquiries. 'What colour is your pussy, Mr Sutherland?', 'Does your pussy like to be stroked, Mr Sutherland?', etc.

While I'm thinking of DoDo, I was also amused by a comment made of him by his English teacher, who is in the same dog-walking community at the Hermitage park, to my mum. "Strange boy- imaginative, daydreamer. Very large vocabulary." That about sums DoDo up, and unless 'Sundo' continues to give him good marks I'll spread school stories further. If I'm correct about Sundo's indentity, I have a spy in the SNP camp.

Pussy news:
I also include here at popular request from Sau and others some pussy photos. The first is her being haughty, the second completely whacked on catnip. Which type is preferred?

Haughty cat

Stoned cat

'Today' (R4) Watch:
'Listen again' to AL Kennedy (amongst other writers) speaking at the end of Today this morning on the election and lying (8.45 am on). She only gets in a few comments, but it's great to hear her voice.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Mission statement

I'm still feeling pummelled after the virus, one of the reasons I had a go at poor Ken for bringing up MedialensWatch at FallujaForum. Sorry Ken, whoever you are. It's not your fault, and that kind of overreaction is one of the reasons I suspended myself from Medialens after becoming detrimentally over-involved in internecine debates, the rhetorical battles, and the patterns of these.

Essentially I'm insufficiently sophisticated, organised or adept to contribute constructively to Medialens. I continue to support their aims, and am now tired of the criticisms and counter-criticisms, hence my poor humour on these matters. I may even go back someday, when I have a better voice. Their newly unveiled makeover is very clean, fresh and hygienic-feeling :).

I still don't have a mission statement for 'going blog' except for the advantage that it's more unidirectional and private, and I've found it more comfortable than the intensely political world out there. I don't know whether it's for politics, reading, family memories or what. Nevertheless, I've also been encouraging grime partner sau in this direction for the same constructive reasons.


Nigel Wars

Some gossip from a local political blog,, who have 4 posts on naughtiness by Nigel Griffiths, here. As if further reasons to vote against him are needed, on top of his voting record on the war, prevention of terrorism bill, id cards etc.

I've phoned the constituency office (note to self- must photograph Nigel's ballooned head on that window) to enquire whether Nigel will be participating in any hustings debate before May 5th, and they've helpfully supplied a few dates, mostly 2nd and 3rd May when he'll be attending public meetings. Two that were potentials for me were:
2nd May 7 pm Eric Liddell centre (Holy Corner, Bruntfield)
3rd May 7 pm Mayfield/Salisbury Church Centre (East Mayfield and Causewayside)

Photo from


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Popes R Us

Pharyngula has gone straight for the jugular with an atheist post on the appointment of our new Papa, Benedict. Go on yersel'.

Addenda- Newsnight (BBC2) reports tomorrow's Sunsensational headline as 'Papa Ratzi'- G-d help us. How long until puns on his name flood the net?


Griffiths Watch- Edinburgh South constituency

Closer to home than Rose Gentle's election opposition against Nu-Lab's Adam Killgram in East Kilbride is my local Edinburgh South constituency fight against sitting Nu-Lab MP Nigel Griffiths.

The Edinburgh South StTW branch has organised a hustings debate on Thursday at 7.30 pm at Gillespie's High School, Bruntsfield Links. The organisers have received acceptances from all the Edinburgh South candidates except dear Nigel, who was apparently fearful of a biased Chair, or perhaps a biased audience (i.e. his electorate).

As previously noted, I haven't a vote myself, but hope to attend (kids at their Dad's that night) to hear the SSP, SNP, Green and Tory candidates account for themselves.

Incidentally, dear Nigel's self-promoting website has no subsections for Election 2005, and no appointments as far as I can see for any other Hustings debate. And we're on a countdown of days now till May 5th. Talk to us, Nigel!


Scottish elections- Rose Gentle

Less than 3 weeks to go now, and as before I'm highlighting the East Kilbride constituency where Rose Gentle will be standing as an independent anti-war candidate against Adam Ingram, the Nu-Lab armed force minister.

This further publicity for Rose Gentle is sparked by a request from FallujaForum to try to help raise the profile and power of her anti-war election campaign. Therefore, other bloggers might also join in linking to her website.

Her campaign has the merit of allowing people to vote, as Monbiot today recommends, for something they believe in, instead of the ethically uncomfortable choice for a tactical vote, as recommended by Tariq Ali recently. In this, Gentle's campaign has positive reasons to be supported, and not just the negative reason (important as this is) of a punishment vote against Nu-Lab. Nothing would please me better than Rose Gentle jumping up from the leather benches of the House of Commons, giein' it laldy to Nu-Lab.

Lots of bloggers, inc Scots to my surprise, are linking to in order to take a quiz analysing your party identification for the upcoming elections. However, this tool only allows Tory, Nu-Lab, LibDem, Greens and UKIP as options. There's no option for nationalist (SNP, Plaid Cymru) or socialist (SSP, Respect) parties or, for that matter Reg Keys or Rose Gentle as anti-war candidates.

As previously remarked, the SSP has in the interest of collaboration stood down to allow Rose Gentle to stand unopposed against Adam Killgram. Reports at Socialist Worker and this week's Scottish Socialist Voice . It's now up to the SNP, closest contender for Killgram's seat, to take a similar constructive approach and allow *the* most important issue, The War, to take precedence in East Kilbride.

There are reasons to support Rose Gentle against Killgram whether you're distressed Labour, an anti-establishment Tory, an outraged nationalist, an SSP or a Green. And even if you're not a party political animal or a voter. The autonomous journalist Ewa Jasiewicz has been quoted at FallujaForum also supporting Rose Gentle. I take the liberty of reproducing/spell-correcting the statement here, since the link is not permanent.

Endorsement of the Rose Gentle campaign
By Ewa Jasiewicz

Rose Gentle reminds me of the tough-lipped and huge-hearted Palestinian mothers I met in Jenin and Nablus and all over the jailed land of Palestine. The heart bearing Gordon's face, black on gold, I have seen in plastic and real gold with a hundred Palestinian faces hung around the necks of mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers and best friends up and down Palestine. Martyrs, heroes, those who will live forever, those whose lives were claimed by staggering injustice. Rose's spirit is indominatable. She raised her family under gruelling circumstances, fighting the daily struggle fought all over Scotland, England, the world over by working class people trying to make ends meet, better the lives of their children, launch them into success, happiness, honesty and a healthy life lived much longer their own. Rose Gentle is an ideal peoples' representative. She has intimate experience of poverty, loss, injustice, the elements of the realities of working people's lives all over the country. Who better to relate to ordinary people and to understand the brutality, violence and manipulation of war than a mother who lost her son to a war for money, for capitalism. We need people like Rose Gentle to speak truth to power and fight against the interests of the few, the elite who play with our lives, both in the UK and Iraq, and force through their agenda on the backs of tanks, B52s, levelled homes and dead civilians and soldiers. We need people like Rose Gentle to stand up to that agenda, which values profit over people, greed over any good and which will hurl our planet into ecocide and 'endless war'. I can trust a woman like Rose Gentle, I can relate to a woman like Rose Gentle and I do and will stand by Rose Gentle when she runs against a man whose future allies are arms dealers and war criminals. As long as the theatre of politics plays on, better it be acted out by genuine, trustworthy, no-bullshit people who are capable of unmasking and undermining the farce and pathology of government. People like Rose Gentle who can echo our desires for change, an end to war and capitalism and a different kind of future based on justice and equality.

I'm an anarchist, I believe in human self-management on a local level based on co-operation and mutual aid without the government, without the state, this a reality practised all over the planet and it has been for thousands of years, but I'd play the game and vote for Rose Gentle, out of solidarity for her and the Justice for Gordon Gentle Campaign and all the lads and lassies out in Iraq craving home and dodging death, who need to come back. I'd also play the game and vote for Rose out of the need to kick the system-reproducing, war-stoking, ass-kissing, upper class Butt of Adam Ingram and all he and the political system he believes in and stands for. Yalla Get up and vote for Rose Gentle! For her, for Gordon, for the anti-war movement, to have one in the eye for the phoney career politicians and elitist power-hungry thieves who try to control us, and for some kind of glimmering, slim hope of change. She's yer woman.

( Ewa Jasiewicz is a British journalist, union activist and peace protestor who recently spent a year in occupied Iraq )


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Family matters

Edinburgh's attempt at its Spring Holiday this year is piss-poor, drizzly and overcast. It's also not a bloody holiday because I have to correct a student's thesis chapter this morning, take the bottles down the recycle place, and travel to a mega pet-store to buy Her Catness the overpriced meat nuggets made in lab conditions under vet supervision that pamper her kidneys, and the one brand of soft & moist meaty treats she'll accept.

Anyway, Mum dropped in over the weekend with the Passover supplement from the Jewish Chronicle (she knows we enjoy this kind of thing over here), and we got talking about family matters, including my step-paternal grandparents, Rebecca and Herman. Herman died in their Florida retirement home in 2001, a few days after stepDad's transplant, and their photos and documents are now under stepDad's care although I haven't seen these. Mum tells me though that Herman was born Hyman, and that our surname differs in spelling between his birth and marriage certificates. Another family mystery to which my mother gave a saucy spin was the 8 month gap between R&H's civil and religious marriages. R continued to live at home during the gap, according to Mum without her parents' knowledge of the civil wedding, before R&H moved in together after their religious wedding. While Mum thought this was evidence of R&H's modernity (which is doubtless, along with their devotedness and independence), I wonder if R&H were adopting or adapting an older Jewish tradition of a staged wedding. They were raised in conservative schules, and kept a kosher kitchen until both kids left home, certainly.

I hope to sit stepDad down to draw out some details, and ask if I can see the memory hoard. My sister also has some notes from chats with Rebecca in her last years about family that shouldn't be lost. She, I and cousin David are the only inheritors of R&H's line, and looks like I'm the only breeder amongst us. I'm also the sole repository of bioDad's heritage and genes, so there's responsibility involved here.*

As the product of a 'blended' family, I grew up with three sets of grandparents. But when I search for a handy PC tool to start logging my own family, all I can find are simple bifurcating, Mendelian tree structures. Are there malleable tree-diagram structured templates that can include for serial partnerships and progeny? Surely the Americans have dealt with this structural problem already on one of their 6,000 genealogy websites.

I don't really want to go there, to places promoting tartans for Pinkuses, or coats of arms for McPhees, but if of US origin there is/was a handy map tool from showing surname density at 1840, 1880 and 1920, which was most amusing. I'm not sure whether the maps have been withdrawn, or more likely that my free visits allocation was exceeded, as I'm now urged to subscribe.

Anyway, this picture below reminds me equally of kinship with its tree, and Mum, who still has Cranach prints in the house and always bore more than a passing resemblance to one of his almond-eyed redheads.

It gets worse in terms of my responsibility- my innocent kids and I are also the sole genetic/cultural conduits for my maternal grandparents and Mum's line, her sibs having remained childfree despite their many other adventures. These stories from the distaff side are amongst the best family histories I'm privileged to hold, and may also be chronicled in their turn, given time.


Musical gifts

A kind friend has sent me PJ Harvey and friends' 'Dance Hall at Louse Point', with which I wasn't familiar. A treasure to keep and not lose, as I recently managed with PJ's 'UH Huh Her' and three Fall CDs. Not only have I received new ear candy, but I recovered PJ's UHH and 2 Mark E Smith products from a dust-bunny inhabited corner of the sitting-room. Now I'm at least half-fulfilled, with something old and something new for music.

Listening to music instead of speech was a habit lost last year when my midi-system CD player died, yet is a refreshing change from speech. The bling-bling PC in the house has poundstretcher speakers, but the laptop's are quite good. I've included a few music links in the sidebar here in celebration.

And this is what my frail memory has Polly wearing in Glasgow last year, unless my memory's conflated and confabulated my concert experience with Sau's around the same time :). I could also be confusing this with images seen in real-life and on monitor of Karen O from the the YYYs. Could Karen and Polly share the same designer, by any chance?

Image from


Balanced reporting

Bless me father, for I have sinned

I'll start to feel better about that constituency election post below if I formally present the other reasonable candidates standing against Nigel Griffiths (Nu-Lab), apart from Marilyne MacLaren (LibDem). These are:
Steve Burgess for the Scottish Greens

Morag Robertson for the Scottish Socialist Party.


Friday, April 15, 2005

Quinsies and schmucks R Us

As well as viral meningitis, I also suffered recently (in my head only, you understand- I have no truck with clinics or hospitals) from a quinsy. This is a peritonsillar abscess, a rare complication of strep throat since antibiotics, but one which helped kill George Washington, along with his doctors' treatments.

You can find spectacular photos of tonsillitis and quinsies at this ENT specialist's website. If you like that sort of thing, which I sometimes do.

My already overactive imagination was pushed along the quinsy path when a bowl of hot and sour soup (food and medicine in one bowl) and a few glasses of wine brought on a feeling of parasthesia and swelling in my inflamed throat. This was hardly surprising, since the point of the exercise was to sterilise the area. But soon afterwards the homunculus in my sensory cortex grew an enormous ballooned uvula, flapping about in the back of my reddened, oedematous throat, and my speech became slathery and muffled. "Hot potato speech" is one of the clinical signs of a quinsy, of course, but was in my case due to wine and chilli, which by morning had worked their antiseptic magic.

I secretly wanted my quinsy for the quirky mediaeval-sounding word, lining up with other ancient maladies dropsy, palsy and apoplexy. Online Etymology finds quinsy in the 13th century, derived from a classical Greek term for 'dog-collar'. A fitting characterisation of an abscess that prevents eating, drinking, swallowing and can progress to epiglottitis and tracheal obstruction. Strangulation indeed.

While I'm on etymology, online etymology disagrees with Philip at the Curmudgeon about the origin of the Yiddish shmuck, a curse-word meaning 'dick' (penis pejorative).

Philip identified schmuck with the same German word meaning 'jewellery' (connotation 'hoard'), while the OE derivation places Yiddisher schmuck as a Slavic loan word meaning 'grass-snake or dragon'. Philip's derivation possesses the charm of Jewish mamas adoring their sons' tackle, but OE may be more in keeping with the cultural and semiotic characteristics of Yiddish shmuck, which is pejorative rather than affectionate. One could also speculate that vowel shifts of Yiddish should have flattened Germanic schmuck to something else.

More on Yiddish, its Germanic, Hebrew, Romance and Slavic influences and vowel shifts, and Ashkenazi migrations at wikipedia, and jewishvirtuallibrary.


Edinburgh South constituency electioneering

When I implied that Menzies Campbell was less undead than the others on QT last night, it was the buttering up for a dawning realisation. In an imaginary decision tree involving a) having a vote and b) using a vote, a Scottish Lib Dem vote in the South Edinburgh constituency could be a justified action.

South Edinburgh is a marginal seat, currently held by the fragrant Nigel Griffiths, a firmly pro-war Tony-true Nu-Lab instrument whose slavish voting record has been previously noted in these leaves. If ever there was reason for not backing Blair, Nigel epitomises this.

The Guardian gives the best all round accounts for him and his rivals, and more at BBC and Scotshit.

Here's the running for May 5th-

Name Party
Gavin Brown Conservative
Steve Burgess Scottish Green Party
Nigel Griffiths Labour
Marilyne MacLaren Liberal Democrat
Morag Robertson Scottish Socialist Party
Graham Sutherland SNP

Several useful UK Election 2005 tools for gamblers, the cynical and the tactical are highlighted at the right sidebar at Lenin's Tomb. Perhaps the most interesting of these are vote4peace (anti-war candidates) and, where one can salve one conscience and get more bang from your buck by vote-swapping. This arrangement interested me because it raised a Prisoner's Dilemma , from game theory. If you make a contract to swap votes with another from another constituency, can you trust them to comply? How does the relative value of the vote vary with compliance or not, and feedback of behaviour?

So Now How Do We Vote, allegedly a resource for 'dismayed labour voters' (perhaps akin to distressed gentlefolk) recommends that South Edinburgh is "A tough call...Vote labour?". Well, thanks but naaw. That's the one option that's absolutely out, at least in this constituency thanks to Nigel's clonelike and plastic qualities.

The options once Nu-Lab, SNP (a mess of porridge) and Tories are dismissed are Green, SSP or LibDem candidates. I could go Green or SSP without needing to slash my own throat, could I vote, but as Colin Fox (SSP) acknowledged last night on Scottish 500 such a protest vote has no realistic hope of electing a candidate. The most emetic of these Hobsons choices, the LibDem candidate Marilyne MacLaren, is not only anti-war but also the only realistic opposition. Her potential success in 2005 is boosted by boundary changes including a SLD/Tory district. If you buy into democracy, or at least its process, using it smart within the restrictions imposed could include voting for Marilyn.

I'll now retire to wash my mouth out with carbolic.


Why to get a Freeview box

I'm ashamed to admit it, but in my recent flu bout my Freeview box was my best friend, supplying a range of genres from talk shows, documentaries, drama and films. Trisha is the worst of it. I get BBC3 and 4 for previews of pieces that later migrate to BBC2.

Last night was particularly good, and I was channel-hopping (skimming) to cover the bases between-
Storyville on the McLibel case (Dave Morris and Helen Steel vs MuckDonalds)
Docu on Tom Hurndall's murder by the IDF in Rafah
Question Time with David Baddiel as the only decent representative against a wall of undead, including Ruth Kelly, Liam Fox, Janet Daley and (less so) Mingis Campbell.
Scotland's 500 with Colin Fox (Scottish Socialist Party)


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ricin, elections and ID cards

The conviction of Kamel Bourgess, an Algerian immigrant, of cop-killing and turrsm has sent the media into a frenzy, and just in time for the Election. Ricin! Al Qaeda! Muslim brown people! Plot to bomb Jewish centre! Sounds pretty scary, right? Right! As R4 Today covered this morning, it's a pressing argument for ID cards, right? Right!


Bourgess was the only one convicted of any charge among his 9 co-conspirators, no ricin was found, poison recipes were freely available through the internet and the evidence consisted of a handful of castor beans, a coffee grinder and a kitchen-sink recipe copied from the internet. His conviction was for 'conspiracy to commit a public nuisance'.

These articles by Duncan Campbell at the Guardian and George Smith (posted here at have detailed some of the doubts over the validity of the ricin plot, the Al Qaeda cell and the terrorist recipes found in Bourgess' possession. The NYTimes is also less than convinced by the turrsm spin. Bourgess does sound a little scary, and stabbed to death a special police officer who raided his flat, but any ideas he had for poisoning were frankly amateur.

So don't believe everything you hear on TV, or read in the papers. The Independent's swallowed the gumment propaganda hook, line and sinker and regurgitated this for readers as if straight from Blunkett's, errr.. Clarke's mouth.

For the record, I have a castor oil plant, a coffee grinder and also some kalonji black onion seeds in my house (these were removed as evidence in the Wood Green case). Arrest me.


A second article from George Smith at on the feeble 'chemical and biological weapons' that Bourgass might've attempted. Apple pips and cherry stones for cyanide, ricin at one tenth strength, Botulinum (Sun cliche- MOST TOXIC SUBSTANCE KNOWN TO MAN) from home-brewed meat'n'faeces. This is what 10 year old kids try to cook up. Meanwhile, over in Iraq some proper WMDs- DU (see Mr Ire here), cluster bombs, white phosphorus- have been freely used on civilian populations.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tales from the Sanitorium

Perhaps you can detect the weakness and faintness of my voice as I type this from my sickbed, while recovering from whatever virus I caught. That's an RNA-type virus, not the computer-code type, which has colonised my pharynx. I think it's pharyngitis because this was the locus of the more unpleasant sensations, when I woke yesterday in a world of pain.

As usual, everyone else's ailments are intensely boring, while mine are fascinating. But I think I'll live through this one, not least because it's almost certainly the same virus that struck dear son DoDo down on Sunday, and he was back at school today, perky as a chipmunk.

So yesterday was spent in a haze of tissues, Trisha, Sally Jessie Raphael and Judge Judy. And a really looong day because every doze ended within half an hour in a heart-pounding dizzy sweat, with all limbs and especially the inside of my head aching. The throat was only really sore when I swallowed, but the muscle aching was there all the time.

Where do the headache and muscle aches of a virus come from? I should know this, and shockingly I do not. It's likely to be connected to inflammatory and pyrexial responses, but exactly where I'm not sure. By exclusion I can try to pin it down, a bit.

It's unlikely that the muscle aches represent local infection (viral infestation) in my muscles, which are healthy and functional. Instead, the pain is more likely to be due to a) circulating inflammatory factors in the bloodstream irritating nerve tracts in the peripheral nervous system or b) inflammatory factors in the brain, acting centrally where pain is perceived. Situation b) sounds dramatic and hypochondriac, but a mild viral meningitis is quite common, usually benign and self-resolving. However, I'll pass on the diagnostic test for viral meningitis (lumbar puncture with cloudy cerebrospinal fluid, raised white cells but no bacteria), as the treatment would remain the same- nothing except rest, fluids and Trisha.

CSF samples:

Another potential intermediate cause of headache and myalgia after a viral infection is the fever response, which raises body and brain temperature. Some of the cerebral changes seen with systemic infection are increases in substance P and delta-sleep inducing peptide.

Here's one of the few items I can find online to explain situation a).

MadSci Network: Immunology


Re: Why do we get intense body aches when we have the flu?
Date: Fri Jul 6 17:39:15 2001
Common flu symptoms include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, shivers and cold sweats, etc. These symptoms are not caused by the virus itself but rather by our bodies' response to the the virus. The immune system mounts a two-fold response to the virus. The humoral response (antibody- mediated) produces antibodies that bind to influenza receptors, preventing further infection of uninfected cells. This is the primary means by which the influenza infection is arrested. The cellular response acts by destroying viral infected cells. This is where the nasty symptoms come from. T cells and macrophrages attack mucosal cells that have been altered by the virus and destroy them. The cells produce chemicals known as cytokines and interleukins that either destroy the abnormal cell or recruit other immune cells into the area that is infected. This cell- mediated response is intense and results in increased concentrations of the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interferon gamma (IFN), and interleukin 6 (IL-6), which have been shown to parallel disease severity in clinical studies.(Hayden FG, Treanor JJ, Betts RF, et al. Safety and efficacy of the neuraminidase inhibitor GG167 in experimental human influenza. JAMA 1996;275:195-199.)

The specific cause of body aches (myalgia) are the interleukins, which are primarily produced by the macrophages. These interleukins cause pain, body aches, hypersensitivity of the nerves, etc. Some of the interleukins (such as IL-2) cause the fever seen during the flu, and probably the headaches. Since these interleukins are produced in response many different kinds of bacterial and viral infections, symptoms such as fever, myalgia, and headaches can be seen in infections by many different etiologic agents.

Damn those interleukins! They're nearly as bad a Blogger template and Haloscan comments.

My throat:



Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Top 10 discoveries of life

New Scientist published this week 'Life's Top 10 Discoveries', which is a delightful read, and included considerable overlap with my thought-content.

1. Multicellularity
2. Eye
3. Brain
4. Language
5. Photosynthesis
6. Sex
7. Death
8. Parasitism
9. Superorganisms
10. Symbiosis

I would've mebbe added embryology, and collapsed parasitism with symbiosis, eye with brain, or multicellularity with sex (although we now know prokaryotes are good at exchanging genes too).


Friday, April 08, 2005

Popular jews

That 'jew's ear' fungus (Auricalareae) of a recent post started me on thinking of the other jews/jewishness embedded in common names, such as the jew's harp or wandering jew plant (Tradescentia spp) we called wandering sailor.

Here's some more:
Jew's mallow
Jew's frankincense
Jew's myrtle
Jew's pitch
jew plum
jew thorn
jew's apple
Jews' money, Jew's castles
- (ancient coins or ruins)

However, jewel and jewellery are not deemed cognate with jewishness, despite long traditions of artistry and trade in jewellery with the community. Etymological sources associate jewel (first mention 13th C), jewellery and jeweller with roots in French 'joue' (plaything, ornament) and Latin 'jocus' (joke). There's so little mention of the overlap between sound and trade in jeweller and Jew that I'm wondering if this is considered anti-semitic in some way that escapes me. My sketchy knowledge associates Jewish with jewellers in Salonika and in the Netherlands. And, come to think of it, lots of Jewish jewellers in the Josefov (jewish quarter) in Prague, where a community is said to date back to the 10thC CE.

There was an exception from a Greek travel website, of all places, which linked Jewishness and jewellery
The Jews learned professions that they could easily practice within any country, especially medical professions. Instead of buying land, they invested all their money in gold, jewels, and valuables of every kind so that at any given moment, they could pack their valuables and depart with a bag in hand. Incidentally, a large amount of diamonds, rubies, pearls and gold was handed over to the Germans by the Jews in Thessaloniki. Many Jews became bankers, lending money with high interest, auctioneers, and jewelers which might explain the word, "Jew". "Jew" might mean someone who deals with precious stones. Finally, in Chinese, the word, "zhu" means jewel.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Yes-Men film

Saw this excellent film last night, and if you get the chance to catch in a cinema or on DVD, you'll not regret it. Belly-larfs all-round as marketeers and accountants are taken in by subtle and not-so-subtle impersonators of representatives of the World Trade Organisation. Most of the audiences featured listened to outrageous exploitative bullshit as if it was acceptable, and made small talk afterwards. To their credit, the only audience of the Yes-Men's exploits that reacted were young US college agro-students, advised that recycling faeces as burgers was an economic approach.

The costume below shows the YesMen's conception of a manager's leisure suit of the future, demonstrated at a textile conference in Tampere, Finland. The inflatable penis has a video monitor allowing him to enjoy priapic surveillance of his workforce when off-duty

Here's visual instructions for anyone to become a Yes-(Hu)Man:

One of the front-of-house Yes-Men featured, Mike Bonnano, who is temporarily local, took questions after the screening, and most entertaining he was too. The collective is continuing to promote exploits and satire, most recently of Dow Chemicals last December, when they convinced several mainstream news agencies inc the BBC that Dow would properly comopensate victims of Bhopal. The BBC made a big deal about how they were victims of a hoax on this occasion, when it's Bhopal residents who should properly lay claim to this status. Irony in irony.


Elect Rose Gentle on 5th May

Rose Gentle is standing as an independent anti-war candidate for the East Kilbride constituency in the May 5th general election, against the Nu-Lab Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram. The SSP are supporting her and declining to oppose her. It's not clear if the Green Party's Kirsten Robb will continue to stand. I hope the Scottish Greens might reconsider this, like the SSP, in the light of a greater good.

Rose Gentle, for any who don't know, is the mother of the Scottish soldier Gordon Gentle, who died in road crash in Iraq in June last year. Since then, she's been working tirelessly to raise the issue of wasted lives in Iraq and campaigning to bring the UK troops home. If further reasons are needed to vote for her over sitting-MP Ingram, reflect that she was silenced by a MoD D-notice last year, refused entrance to the Scottish Nu-Lab conference in Dundee this March. You can get a taste of her viewpoint and arguments in the short CamcorderGuerrillas film Dear Mrs Blair.

I'll let her speak for herself:
“I am standing in this election because the government is not listening to us over Iraq. I still think that the war was based on lies and that British troops should be brought out of Iraq. Now is the time to do that. If Blair is so confident about the issues why doesn’t he publish the attorney general’s advice on going to war? want to make Iraq an issue in this election. The government wants to try to put it under the carpet. I have chosen to stand in East Kilbride because Adam Ingram has not given a damn about anybody. He’s still sending troops out to Iraq. He doesn’t care."

More links on Rose Gentle's campaign at BBC online and the Herald.

The prize for most-biased reporting goes, as usual, to Scotshit for this gem:
"Mr Ingram alleged that Mrs Gentle was being supported by the "Trots" (Trotskyites) of the Scottish Sociality Party... Flanked by an SSP member at a press conference in Glasgow, Mrs Gentle denied any link. She said: "I’m not a member of any party and I’ve not approached any party."
Scotshit © and Nu-Lab © (spot the difference) find it simplest to use tried-and-tested smears and labels.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Chinese mushrooms

I was trying to pin down these various wood ears, golden ears, straw mushrooms you see in recipes and the Chinese supermarket. Never knew Chinese mushrooms could be so proliferous, distinct and wide-ranging until so informed by Foodpia. East-Asian fungus foods include, gratifyingly, a lobster and a hedgehog mushroom. Lovely year planner for mushroom picking at Foodpia too. There's also an Asian mushroom cornucopia at the Cook's Thesaurus.

On a less savoury note, this guide to common names for species of the Auricularia genus features the epithet 'Jew's Ear' in more languages than you need to know, or alternatively as 'Judas Ear'. Wood and cloud ears are said to be the big and small Auriculariae, and we'll stick to those names in this house.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of multicellular, respiring and fermenting fungi, whose corpus lies in mycelia strung sometimes for miles through the soil substrate. I posted some about the biochem below, in relation to single-celled fungi like our yeast domesticates/commensuralists, essential to food production by brewing, cheese-making and baking.

And because it's off-topic and I like its creepy crypto-fascism, here's Plath's Mushrooms

Overnight, very whitely, discreetly, very quietly
Our toes, our noses take hold on the loam, acquire the air.
Nobody sees us, stops us, betrays us; the small grains make room.
Soft fists insist on heaving the needles, the leafy bedding,
Even the paving. Our hammers, our rams, earless and eyeless,
Perfectly voiceless, widen the crannies, shoulder through holes. We
Diet on water, on crumbs of shadow, bland-mannered, asking
Little or nothing. So many of us! So many of us!
We are shelves, we are tables, we are meek, we are edible,
Nudgers and shovers in spite of ourselves. Our kind multiplies:
We shall by morning inherit the earth. Our foot's in the door.


Recipe- hot and sour soup

This dish, a meal in a bowl, is nearly always my Chinese takeaway order, and this home version below has worked well. It's 'sposed to be good for your health if you have a cold, and it does indeed clear the sinuses. I keep tissues closeby when eating it.

Hot and sour soup

Minced garlic and ginger, sauteed
Miso stock
Glug of rice wine vinegar
White pepper (for a slow burn)

Substance: (simmered for 3-5 mins)
Bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, matchsticked
Chinese black fungus, soaked
Wood ear mushrooms, soaked and sliced
Green veg- peas/bok choi/sea vegetables/cabbage
Tofu, chunked
***Carnivorous additions:
Char sui pork, julienned
Baby shrimp

Shoyu to palate
Splash of loose cornstarch paste, stirred in till slightly viscous
***Ovolactarian addition:
Beaten, dropped egg; allowed to settle

Spring onion slices
Dash of sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds


Sunday, April 03, 2005


Not usually a problem for me (I love my sleep, and am good at it), but I was out late dancing to Northern Soul last night (i.e. Friday), slept too late and have fucked my circadian rhythm. I thought dancing was supposed to promote rhythm, not desynchronisation. But then I've never been a great dancer, though this doesn't stop me.

Some of the insomnia may issue from the fillum seen tonight, The Machinist. It's not a happy-ending, feelgood kinda movie, so don't go to see it if experiencing wobbly reality or the verge of a psychotic episode. But it did interest me because its principal plotline is that Our Man hasn't slept for a year, and I'm professionally and personally aware of how sleep deprivation can mess up your brain function. The protagonist, played by Christian Bale ( 'America Psycho') ate one tin of tuna and one apple per day to acheive a weight loss of 63 lbs (30 kg), rendering him Belsen-like. Without giving too much away, there's a mysterious ?hallucinatory character involved and the three of us who saw it all had a different explanation of what he represented, and what were the real or psychotic events. Thought-provoking, at any rate.

The plan is to see Ring 2 tomorrow, if up to it. The preview for Sean Penn's latest, to be released next week, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, (a trueish story) looked purty good too. What did he see in Madonna?

Other items, with no theme or agenda:
1. A UK men's clothing outlet (Officer's Club Ltd) is advertising a sale on 'pants' by which they mean trousers. This is highly offensive. If I wanted to to live in the USA, I would, so please spare me. The 'pants' advertised were 3/4 length, which makes the image provoked yet more preposterous.

2. Abu Ghraib has had a massive 'insurgent' attack (20 US troops wounded at the least) on the same day that Scotshit Publications speaks of an endgame on insurgency. Right....

3. Picked up the Jewish Chronicle today (sub required, so no link) to read David Aaronovitch's comments on an invitation (refused) to interview as Editor of JC. What struck me was some of the labelling language used to explain his rejection of this honour. The really very good Jews San Frontiers covers the main thrust, but I was pretty appalled at the generalisations that DA dived to to explain declining the invitation, including this:

'...Jews are just too rude. In fact they are incredibly, astonishingly rude... The idea of Jewish children not showing off and of their parents not making a fuss is, of course, absurd. Jews are disputatious, argumentative and obstreperous.'

Nice work, DA. Does that make you one of those 'self-hating types' like Finkelstein or Chomskers? I despair at the double standards.

4. Travellers/ Gypsies
Mad Mel's diary entry yesterday, 'Politically correct plods' was not I think an April Fool. MM has never struck me as suffering from excessive humour. She's right on Michael Howard's side.
The priority for the police appears no longer to prevent offences, but rather to prevent the giving of offence. Thus Cambridgeshire police have just spent £10,000 on CDs encouraging travellers to take legal action over incidents they claim are racist or discriminatory.

I've previously recommended Isabel Fonseca's 'Bury Me Standing' as an ethnographic study/journal of her contacts with middle European Roma/Cintii. I've also recently read these simple, human and moving autobiogs of two Scottish traveller girls, both storytellers, growing up a generation apart last century in Scotland: Betsy Whyte's 'The Yellow on the Broom' and Jessie Smith's 'Jessie's Journey'. Both had me in tears during the reading, which may reflect a degree of sentimentalism, but left me in no doubt (unlike Mad Mel) of the value of diversity of cultures, and not a monoculture like advertising trousers as pants. In fact, 'pants' is pants.