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March, 2010:

More Physics Smut

I meant to include this in this post but life (in the form of dinner) intervened. And I wasn’t quite sure how to squeeze it in. Fnarr! Fnarr!

Anyway, astrophysicists seem to relish a good knob joke as much as everyone else.

Now as I scrolled down the ribald smuttiness of that post I discovered that Peter Coles has a blog. I thought gotta be him. And it was him. He taught me Cosmology at Queen Mary, London. Then he got a Professorship at Nottingham (where I was an undergrad) and where astropixie currently works. Ironic that the science that deals with the biggest things in the Universe (and the Universe itself) is such a small world really. Nice guy Coles which is unusual for a theoretical cosmologist. And funny too… He’d just had a textbook out (my copy is… somewhere within the observable Universe) and told the class that his chapter on the “Hadron Era” had in the proofs contained the same typo as the Telegraph article. You see that’s why we call it a “Universe” – everything is linked in the end.

I have stolen from astropixie so I’ll give Prof Coles the same complement. This is hilarious but NSFW…

Int physics fuckin’ brilliant our kid!

I think “In the Dark” and “astropixie” might be blog-rolled if we ever get around to fixing up the utter mess to the right of this page. You might think the Gaza Strip looks in a bit of a 2 and 8 – it’s nowt to our blogroll…

I’m also thinking of largely quitting political blogging in favour of stuff like science, technology, humour, culture and vaguely philosphical pieces. Partly because of the deep realisation that the up-comming election leaves me completely apathetic and partly because other people do it better. Obviously this will still be at Counting Cats.

Jeremy has been sniffing the petrol (again)

We must always prepare for the next war. Not the one we’re fighting now. And who knows what the next war might involve?

There’s another reason it’s important for the navy to maintain its fleet of boomers*. Having a nuclear submarine in your arsenal is what makes a country important. Take that away and what is Britain left with?

Clarkson seems here to understand both truly strategic planning and the importance of an independent deterrent. Or maybe not. We shall see about this soon…

So. Problem. We have to have our boats for defence and for self-esteem. And we can’t afford them. And that’s why I was so pleased to hear the other day about an offer from the French, who are in the same boat, so to speak, to join forces.

Oh Gods, the super-plus unleaded has started to kick-in!

Of all the countries that we are likely to fight in the coming century, France must hover pretty close to the bottom of the list.

Huh, I thought you were for always being prepared? Wars tend to come like bolts from the blue. Who a mere decade ago would have predicted we’d be tear-assing round the ‘stan? Deep down I think this is just Clarkson’s noted Francophilia coming out of the closet again.

So it makes sense, financially and politically, for each of us to run two nuclear missile subs, and for us to take it in turns to be on patrol.

The only problem I can see is military.

Wow! I’m speechless. Perhaps Jezza ought to run that one past an admiral?

Because let’s just say the Argies get uppity again, and that this time we simply don’t have the ability to go down there and give them a bloody nose. And let’s just say, I don’t know, that I am in No 10 at the time. Frankly, I’d want to nuke them.

And here’s the tricky bit. If I rang the captain of a French submarine and asked him to destroy Buenos Aires, would he oblige? Similarly, would one of our chaps be happy to wipe Libya from the map if Nicolas Sarkozy decided his wife had run off with Colonel Gadaffi? This is the crucial question.

And the answer, I think, is probably no. But the important bit of that answer is “probably”. Uncertainty is what makes nuclear weapons work. Not knowing whether the response to your attack will come in the shape of a mushroom.

Britain being protected by Capitaine de la Mer, with his stripy jumper and his onions, makes the prospect of us being able to mount a nuclear response less likely. But it is still a threat. And that’s what matters.

This is complete and utter bollocks. Jezza is now totally away with the fairies. Since when in all of history have we ever profited from having the French onside?

Anyway, I don’t think the answer to his question is “probably no”. It’s absolutely, “Va chier!”. The idea that the French would make themselves international pariahs to an extent that makes the DPRK look like a happy and productive member of the family of nations over the defence of the last outpost of the British Empire is risible.

Moreover any offensive military operation is a gamble. So even if the French might help us out in an “affair Anglais” most of the nutters out there will most certainly fancy their chances. Essentially for a deterrent to be credible it has to be likely to be used so even if Clarkson’s “probably no” is right his argument is still wrong. History shows us that some of the most dangerous characters of all time have been the real high-odds gamblers. What was Operation Barbarosa if not a staggering gamble? I mean Hitler was already at war with the British Empire and the USA was easing into it by that stage. He shoved the whole of Germany onto the table against the three biggest players on the planet.

Nuclear deterrence works – to the extent that it does – when there is a clear command chain. If not there is always going to be someone bonkers in the nut enough to have a go. And what if the French (or British) decided to scrap their subs and missiles? The other party would be in a dilly of a pickle. They’d end-up with nuclear deterrence when there is an “r” in the month or something. And that doesn’t work. Nuclear deterrence is an absolute because of the unprecedented destructiveness of these things but it has to be absolute. Mutually Assured Destruction” has to be assured because there are some quite absurd chancers out there.

There’s something else a lot of people don’t get. It isn’t so much arms build-ups or races that result in wars but it’s military and policy changes – the risk is not so much in the value but in it’s first derivative so to speak. There is always someone out there ready to “start” who will read the runes and think, “Hey ho, let’s go!” Galtieri did in ’82 when he heard of John Nott’s defence review suggesting scrapping much of the Royal Navy. Saddam did in 1980 when he thought Iran would be in utter chaos in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution and Hitler did in ’41 thinking (with a certain level of justification it must be said) that the Red Army would still be in disarray following the ’37 purge of officers. Of course what he didn’t reckon on was that distance = time in invasions and that gave the Red Army breathing space to get it’s house in order, or the winter, or that given the geography the front would get wider as the Wehrmacht advanced, or the spring thaws, or the sheer bloody-mindedness of the Russian people…

Of course there is another, more important aspect to the French suggestion. We recently retreaded the entente cordial and there is much wittering about “joint EU rapid reaction forces”** (even an EU army) and also of a single EU permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This is a perfidious Froggie scheme to tie us permanently into the Union. They’ve snagged us politically. They have (so far) failed to snag us economically via the Euro but if they can snag us via the military and our ultimate weapons to boot then that’s it. That’s checkmate. This is a blatantly political move and the cost savings are just a little bonus. The nukes will ultimately be controlled from Brussels and that will be part of our contribution to EUMil or whatever dreadful name they’re going to call it. The Krauts will do the tanks (they’re good at that), the Italians will provide the catering corps and the Dutch will do the walking on by whenever there is a genocide going on. Brilliant!

Anyway, Jezza, stop talking rot and write a review of some motor that “sets your hair on fire” or amusingly blow something up with May and The Hamster and leave defence analysis to the likes of Lt Col NickM (Jane’s Fighting Armchairs).

*In case you don’t enjoy the fine prose of Tom Clancy, “POTUS said to CINLANT…” that’s a nuclear ballistic missile sub.
**An oxymoron?

Telegraph Cock Up Of The Day

It has alas now been fixed.

H/T astropixie.

British Airways – The World’s Favourite Way To Sit In T5 Forever…

BA is buggered. When archeologists of the future dig it up they’ll find mummified corpses clasping John Grisham novels and bags of boiled sweets. They might conclude this was an early C21st funeral rite. And they’d be right in a way.

You might remember their famous ad from a while back…

Try this…

Oh, and the failways (sic) are going on strike as well.

Now is the sping of our discontent made, yeah whatever, by that inglorious son of Bullingdon.

Really. These industrial disputes are not just discrete things over specific issues but indicitive of a wider malaise. We are all fucked off them to the n-th degree. All of them.

The Tories ought to be caning Labour in the polls but nah… We’re all wise to the fact they are just the same. In the early hours of May 7th I confidently expect iDave to lead a conga-line round Tory Central Office to the shouts of, “We’re all bloody useless, we’re all bloody useless! Da! Da! Da!”

H/T readers Permanentexpat and RAB.


Solution, if you don’t like traditions, don’t attend institutions which have them.

A group of students at Trinity University is lobbying trustees to drop a reference to "Our Lord" on their diplomas, arguing it does not respect the diversity of religions on campus.

"A diploma is a very personal item, and people want to proudly display it in their offices and homes," said Sidra Qureshi, president of Trinity Diversity Connection. "By having the phrase ‘In the Year of Our Lord,’ it is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ."

Qureshi, who is Muslim, has led the charge to tweak the wording

Diversity is so wonderful we must abolish it. Especially the non Islamic bits.

Update:    Thing is, if “The Year of Our Lord” is so unacceptable what is he doing attending a university named for a concept as repugnant to Islamic sensibilities as The Trinity?

Eternal Dim-Sun Out to Lunch

Given that all hell seems to be about to be unleashed on the Korean pennisula – great for me because electronic components prices are going to go through the effing roof – I thought I’d check out what the Norks are up to…

Eternal Sun

The Korean people celebrate April 15, birthday of President Kim Il Sung (1912-1994), as the Day of the Sun.

The President, founder of socialist Korea, is likened to the sun, as he possessed at the highest level with light, heat and attraction, attributes of the sun.

He illumined the way for humanity to follow in the era of independence.

It was a historic event which ushered in a new era in human history, an era of independence, that he authored the Juche idea, which asserts that the popular masses are the masters and driving force of the revolution and construction, i.e., they are the masters of their destiny and have the force to carve it out.

By the evolution of the Juche idea, the oppressed peoples, who had writhed in the agony as colonial slaves, could emerge as the masters of their destiny, and the strong current of independence swept across the world.

The Juche idea gripped the hearts of the people of the world over. Organizations for studying and propagating the idea have been formed in many countries—over 1, 100 such organizations in more than 100 countries, national committees in scores of countries, an institute in each continent and the permanent International Institute of the Juche Idea.

President Kim Il Sung, possessed with ardent love of people, administered benevolent politics throughout his life.

Regarding “The people are my God” as his lifetime motto, he always mixed with his people. He ensured that free medical care and education were enforced across the country and taxes were abolished once and for all. As the father of the grand family, i.e., Korean society, he took affectionate care of all the members of the family. It is fortuitous that the Korean people addressed him by the “fatherly leader” rather than by his official title in his lifetime.

He also showed warm benevolence to foreigners in disregard of nationality, ideology, political view and religious belief.

Apart from Brits, Americans, South Koreans, Japanese, Aussies… The list could go on. As does this cringeworthy article from the absolute nut-fest that is the KFA website. And I do mean on and on.

Why does Communism always feel the need to deify it’s leaders? Whether it’s Che Guevara T-Shirts or students in bedsits reading Mao’s Little Red Book* as though it was scripture or the endless Soviet statues of Lenin pointing the way to the glorious socialist future (or hailing a cab – it’s hard to tell).

Why? It seems paradoxical. Note that quote, “The people are my God” is completely pi radians the wrong way round.

My first guess is the obvious one: a personality cult helps retaining the reins of power in perpetuity and note the Great Leader is still, despite being dead, technically the President of the DPRK. Yes, ordinary dicators have themselves made Emperor or President for life. Kim went one better – he had himself declared Eternal President. It’s hard to fault the fella on the hubris score! But perhaps there is something more…

Communism at a deep level requires a “God” and of course that “God” must be of flesh. Christ may have risen from the dead but Lenin was embalmed. Best they could do I guess. My wife saw him when she was a student in Moscow, lying there in his natty little three-piece suit contemplating the infinite or mouldering or whatever. Communism is always a religion and religions need gods. Perhaps what the Great Leader really meant was, “My vision for my people is my God”. I caused a fair comment storm when I discussed atheism a bit back. I’m not sure the Cats server down in the gimp room and behind the cask of Amontillado ever quite recovered. Anyway, the thing is one of the reasons I’m not as hostile as must sincere unbelievers are to (some) religions is that it does seem to be involved with a quest to find truth and that that truth is external to the seeker. OK, it’s not my way but I’m a liberal kinda guy and as long as it doesn’t involve human sacrifice or flogging rape victims then knock yourselves out! Similarly, Communism seems to be concerned with truth but – and this is a crucial difference – it seeks to create truth. To me Orwell’s 1984 isn’t so much scary because of the horrible privations, the meaningless (perhaps non-existent) wars or the vile methods of physical represion but because of 2+2=5.

Perhaps that’s just because of my background in astrophysics but I don’t think so. I think it’s more general because if you can control “truth” at that level you can control everything and one who can do that is within there own terms of reference de facto “God”. It’s almost beyond personal hubris because it is an intrinsic element of the system. It may be counter-intuitive but collectivism of any stripe inevitably results in personality cults. Every ant-hill must have it’s queen afterall. They are called social insects for a reason. “Society” is always put first and that sort of society can only be sustained with the total compliance of it’s citizens. There is a limit to what can be done with clubs and thumb-screws but there is no limit to what can be done via the invention of “truth”. When you define your ontology in terms of the “good of society” rather than what acually is then inevitably you create false gods. It may well (and usually does) result in crimes against humanity but they are always predicated on crimes against reality.

It has off course been done since God or “God”** knows when. Islam’s Ummah has been there since well before Marx grew the first whickers on his chinny-chin-chin. If you were to ask me what the two fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity are I’d have to say that the first is that Christianity is primarily concerned with personal morality and Islam with societal morality. Hence Arabia gave us the burkha and Brazil gave us beach volleyball in very little***. In short Christianity argues that temptation ought to be overcome personally and Islam argues that it ought to be banned by the Caliphate. The second is the Islamic idea that Allah’s hand is not fettered (Qu’ran 5:64). This is an outright rejection of the idea of an ordered and rational Universe amenable to human (or other species) inquiry. Allah, Big Brother and Lenin share a remarkable capacity therefore to just make things up as they go along. This denial of reality, or rather an attempt to engineer a new one always leads to a Hell on Earth. Whether it be the moral bankruptcy of Shariah law or the depravity of the Gulag doesn’t matter because it amounts to the same thing. Quite how the ontology and morality connect is an interesting question. I think I have a partial answer though.

Pulling together is the aim of despots and tyrannies. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.

From our own sidebar and paraphrased by Cats from Sir Terry Pratchett.

You see if you set-up a collective it has to divine (interesting double meaning there) the will of the people and the only way that can be done is to have The Man in charge do it like Hobbes’ Leviathan and of course the only way to “justify” that is the fiction presented as the truth of a “religion” and the elevation of The Man to the status of “God”. If you recall (and this is a long post, sorry) the Juche stuff at the start that is blatently written in religious language but the Soviets did the same only more subtly by hiding their religiousity under the blanket of the pseudo-scientific language of dialectic materialism.

All tyrannies are essentially, despite their cruelty and evil based upon something even more fundamental. They are based upon lies or more exactly the most profound lie of all which is that truth is not what happens to be but is a means to an end. How else could Plato envisage a perfect state run by philosopher-kings seeking after true and exact knowledge that had at it’s heart a noble lie? Of course Plato’s noble lie was about eugenics. We ain’t made much progress have we folks!

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying religion is a method of social control per se but religion or “religion” certainly can and has been used as a highly effective one. Real gilt-edged, copper-bottomed tyranny requires belief. In his book “The God Delusion” Dawkins cites someone saying that to get good people to do bad things requires religion. I agree but I think it generally requires the religion in question to be either perverted for the ill cause or to be constructed expressly for it. It’s the later that really interests me. The former is a bit dull. The former is of course just rhetoric****. The later interests me because it is the construction of “truth” and to the true believer “truth” is true even if it is demonstrably false.

Such thinking always, however wishful or benign in origin, always leads to the gates of Hell. It does that because it invariably ignores a very obvious specific truth – we are individuals. The appreciation of that truth is why I’m a libertarian. It’s also why I studied physics and astrophysics. I wanted to discover rather than create if you see what I mean.

Anyway. This one has been longer than the extended special edition director’s cut box set of the Lord of the Rings. So… I leave you with a bit of fun:

Alas, I think that clip says everything I’ve tortured my fingers and your eyes with! The problem is not religion as such but “religion” in the hands of knaves like Marx, Muhammed and Plato. And make no mistake the only way to get away with such gross peversions of reality is to create your own reality and who better to create the Universe than God?

*In an ideal world it would have been a little read book.
**This is a very difficult post to write in terms of the scare quotes.
***Nick’s Grand Unified Theory of Lingerie/Bikinis – “the less it weighs the more you pays”. Hat’s off to the fashion designers. They have created an inverse commodity! One day they will create via nanotech something so unsubstantial that you’d require a medium-sized European country’s defence budget to buy it. They won’t do an Experian credit check on you. They’d call the IMF.
****I mean if you could make a brilliant speech pointing out how x might reduce property prices you could mobilise the readership of The Daily Mail to commit horrific acts that would make Rwanda look like a play-ground punch-up.


I turned the telly on to see news about the Moscow bombings and got “Gorgeous” George Osborne saying what he’d do as chancellor.

Well I’ll hand it to the boy George it was definitely conservative in the sense of not changing much. He’s going to tinker with a few things and not increase NI. Vote for change and all that. At the best the Tory promise seems to be along the lines of “We’re going to be 10% less dreadful than the current lot”. I follow a few essentially political blogs (and I write this drivel) so I guess I’m rather more savvy to politics than the average bear who probably has an interesting hobby such as trainspotting but I can’t think of one substantial policy difference between any of the major parties. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons for the rise of the likes of the Greens and the BNP – they at least have something to say. It might be barking mad but it’s not the same old tired nonsense endlessly re-treaded and sold as new. Well, for me the wheel has now definitely come off. It isn’t so much that I disagree with policies anymore – it’s that there just don’t seem to be any. I mean not increasing NI as a headline policy is… Just remembered I’ve got a new promenade deck seating plan I must post to the White Star Line… Well, it’s pathetic isn’t it?

Oh, just thought of one! They’re gonna bribe people tuppence ha’pennny off their tax to get married. Have they thought that one through? Everyone will get married. People in shared flats will be tying the knot. And I mean everyone because this will have to apply to gay and lesbian civil partnerships otherwise the Tatchellites will (with fair justification) throw a conniption fit.

I can’t see the Tories winning outright. They are not getting my vote, they are not getting my wife’s vote (apparently she’s thinking of voting Lib-Dem if she can remember who Nick Clegg is on May 6th) and we are exactly the sort of people they should be getting votes from. I’ll tell ya why they won’t win outright. By not offering anything different they are feeding the troll of apathy. I mean it’s come to a pretty pass when someone like me who has an interest in this sort of thing is going to be reduced to writing, “None of the above” on a ballot paper. From even a tactical point of view I find the Tories dismal especially considering iDave used to work in the media. By merely pissing about on the fringes they have enabled Labour to retain a level of initiative they should have lost years ago. Essentially their campaigning has been deeply negative in the sense that all they are saying is, “We’re not them”. That’s dismal and people know that it’s dismal. That is precisely why the Tory lead keeps shrinking. If you have a choice and no positive reason to go one way or the other then you might as well toss a coin. In essence that’s why I think we’re looking at a hung-parliament.

Of course there are people who still think iDave will win and at the climax of his victory speech will unzip his skin-suit and reveal a cloned Maggie Thatcher but… I feel sorry for these folks ’cause it ain’t gonna happen. As iDave’s leadership has rolled on and he’s said nothing to the purpose the number of such poor misguided people has diminished as they increasingly see iDave as reactive rather than proactive and a complete void of principle. You have to believe in something if you have the vaguest chance of persuading others to believe in you. That of course is another reason for the rise of the fringe parties: they actually believe in things. You can see the same sort of thing happening with our own dear old Church of England whilst various evangelical churches are doing well. In the unlikely event iDave reads this blog what he should have done is… Had some principles, defined a coherent set of policies based upon those principles, figured out how to implement those policies and then communicated all of this clearly. Political science is not rocket science.

A lot of comment I have heard (perhaps even from myself) is that this should be an interesting election because it’s so tight. Maybe overall but seat by seat we are looking at a very dull one. The level of apathy I feel in myself and detect in others is enough to convince me that there will be a very low tun-out amongst those that actually think about who to vote for so it will be determined by tribal-loyalty voting. You know the sort of, “Me Great Grandpappy voted for that nice Mr Disraeli…” sort of thing. Because for the likes of me who thinks about such things if there is no clear distinction between parties then what precisely is the point of it all?

I just hope the aftermath spurs some poltical wonk somewhere to say, “Hang on lads, I’ve got an idea!”

They Shot Down God!

I’d been musing on the 80s (as you can tell) and I then found this… I was back with my Speccy playing Manic Miner… The first Speccy game that managed by clever use of interupts to have music whilst things were happening. Anyway, Infidel753 reminded me a while back of this song…

That’s a rockin’ tune and like so much of the ’80s so optimistic, so positive. Or how about this:

Where did it go wrong? When did the new miserableness set-in? And where’s my fucking jet-pack?

It’s what I don’t get about so much contemporary political dialogue. Infidel753′s (he’s blog-rolled) tag-line is “If it’s not fun, what’s the point?”. Can’t we all just lighten-up for a minute? So a load of Greenies think the sky is falling and a load of bearded lunatics want to make 767s fall out of it on the way down. We have coped with worse. I mean the Nazis at least ran some things with competence.

The future is meant to be better and it can be if we just let it be.

PS The title is a ref to Philip K Dick.

Back to the whenever….

I hadn’t really noticed it before but yesterday in Sainsburys I noted that this year’s female swimwear collection is very ’50s.

I mean I’d noticed it at the high-end but seeing it in Sainsburys shows it has reached the “Taste the Difference” lasagne munching crowds like me.

Here is the interesting thing. I’ve heard a lot in the press about this decade being like the ’80s (I liked the ’80s) and the thing about that decade is that once the New Romantics ran out of mascara the ’80s went very ’50s in terms of style. Who can forget Nick Kamen in his 501s? It just strikes me as curious. If the ’80s ponced on the ’50s and now the 2010s (where’s my jetpack!) are poncing on the ’80s which of course ponced off the ’50s then…

Well, as a serious student of popular culture (I’m just pulling on the communication cord to prevent the arrival at Middle-Age Station), I’m curious. Is there a general re-capitulation of styles every thirty years? I mean is that the product cycle here?

Just call me Marty. I was pondering a big post on decadism but it’s Sunday so the hell with it!

Believe a word the MSN has to say? Are you insane?

Did you know Sarah Palin is on a bus tour of the USA? Protesting ObamaCare? A short clip from CNN on Ms Palin’s first stop, in Harry Reid’s back yard.

Hundreds of people, at least dozens of people - we haven’t gotten a count of how many people turned out there


Hundreds of people? Maybe dozens?

They sure about that?



Hey, it’s Sunday. In fact, it is not just Sunday but it is Sunday all day. That’s right ALL DAY.

Today, on this posting, comment is free. There is no off topic so comment away.

Bright Idea

More than 200 million free energy-saving light bulbs have been sent to households over the last two years by energy suppliers. The mass mail-out was caused by gas and electricity suppliers trying to hit Government targets to reduce carbon emissions.

However, Which?, the consumer watchdog has calculated that each household has ended paying £45 each through higher energy bills to fund the scheme, even though many consumers objected to being sent the bulbs. Many complained about having to go to the Post Office to collect what they thought was a parcel, only to find it was a bulb that did not even fit any of their lamps.

“Consumers unwittingly paid for them to help energy companies avoid fines,” the Which? report said.

The really big question here is why am I not in the slightest surprised. Surely five minutes of sober reflection by any of the parties involved here would have convinced them that spamming consumers stuff was not sensible. Having said that this lot act like sailors on pay day going “bonkers in Honkers”. Difference is the sailors are doing it with their own money. Well strictly speaking the sore-headed, clapped-out and empty pocketed Jack Tars don’t demand a pay rise because they’ve partied too hard is a better analogy.

Companies had various options of how they hit their targets to reduce carbon emissions, but if they failed to hit their targets they could be fined 10 per cent of their turnover. The companies were, crucially, allowed to pass on the costs of the scheme to customers.

Ofgem, the industry regulator, calcuated that £84 out of the average dual fuel bill of about £1,200 goes on environmental levies, of which £45 goes directly towards funding CERT [Carbon Emissions Reduction Taget].

Now we get to the true screaming insanity. The only ways a company running fossil fuel generating sets can reduce CO2 emissions is to either improve the efficiency of their plant, trade in their coal/oil/gas stations for nukes or sell less of it’s product. The latter is Watt the lightbulbs were about one assumes – or maybe not. Is it possible the energy companies knew this scheme wouldn’t work but would be just enough to get the government off their backs? I mean most businesses would do almost anything to avoid a 10% levy on turnover.

Oh, and it hardly needs to be pointed out that the end result of this environmental initiative was to have millions of CFLs full of nasty stuff land-filled without them ever having produced any light.

Full story here.

PS We can also have this one for the “free isn’t actually free” files.

Going to the cinema alone…

I’ve done it and it’s not a bad experience. But when I did it it was nothing quite like this…

Over its opening weekend at the beginning of March, only around a dozen people went to see Motherhood, a semi-autobiographical account of parenting in New York written and directed by Katherine Dieckmann.

The film took just £88 at the British box office on its opening weekend.

Sounds like a load of solipsistic chick-flickery about bugger-all but 88 quid is Ashoka*. It gets worse.

On its debut Sunday, takings at the box office were just £9 – the price of a ticket for one person.

Wow! But hey! She did buy popcorn and a hot-dog and a large Diet Coke so it’s not all bad. Aside. Is it just me or has a cinema trip become really pricey over the last few years? The Manchester Odeon Imax 3D is £12.50 for a decent seat and the food is outrageous**.

Only one British cinema was given permission to launch the film earlier this month, with the film’s producers hoping that exclusivity would generate a buzz and lead to box office success by word of mouth.

What marketing genius came up with that one? They ought to do the decent thing and fall on their sword. In Japan that would probably be expected quite literally.

Motherhood, which also stars Jodie Foster and Minnie Driver, is thought to have made only £40,000 when it opened in America last year, despite costing around £3.4 million to make.

Personally, I’d pay good money not to see the ludicrously monikered and lantern-jawed Minnie Driver. So, maybe it isn’t the marketing folks to blame. Maybe, just maybe, the film is utterly dreadful. It sounds sort of like an extended episode of Friends without the lads. I know what they can do! They can flog it to the US Military and they can show it at Gitmo. The jihadis will spill all the beans before the second reel and no need for the tedious old waterboarding.

When Jana Edelbaum, one of the producers, was told how badly it had fared at the British box office, she said: “You’re kidding? We must have broken a new record for grosses.”

But she defended the film, insisting that Metronome [marketing] was to blame and that she would demand a full explanation.

She said: “Think how much crap succeeds at the cinema. Motherhood is not bad. I’ve seen movies that are not half as good.”

That’s a spirited defence from the producer is it not? She’s basically saying, it’s not that crap, really. From the producer!

Barry Norman, the film critic, said: “I have never heard of anything like this before. This is not some small, independent movie. It’s astonishing that only about 11 people could be bothered to go and see Uma Thurman.

Now Barry I might have an explanation…

That’s Uma Thurman in Motherhood. This is how we are used to seeing Ms Thurman…

You decide. All I’ll say is that in the first picture Ms Thurman seems to have borrowed Cameron Diaz’s fright wig from Being John Malkovich and in the second picture… Well a beautiful woman with a sword and a gun does it for me.

We go to the cinema to be entertained. Not to hear Uma, Jodie and Minnie wittering on about the difficulties of finding affordable child care or some such nonsense. I want car chases, explosions, sexy birds, bad-ass leading men and fights. I want Bruce Willis in a dirty vest and Scarlett Johansson in as little as possible. And probably, Dear reader, so do you.

Full story here.

*Traditional Indian epic. Pronouced as though by a Celtic fan who has just seen his team go down 5-0 to Hamilton Academicals.
**Ashoka again but this time Rangers going down 9-0 to Stenhousemuir.


The Conservative Leadership Foundation has launched a campaign to recognise and celebrate “Human Achievement Hour”.

During Human Achievement Hour, people around the world will be recognising the incredible accomplishments of the human race.

Originally conceived by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in 2009, Human Achievement Hour coincides with the earth hour campaign but salutes those who keep the lights on and produce the energy that makes human achievement possible.

Millions of people around the world will be showing their support for human achievement by simply going about their daily lives. While earth hour activists will be left in the dark, Human Achievement Hour participants will be going to the cinema, enjoying a hot meal, driving their car or watching television.

There is really no limit to how you can support Human Achievement Hour just like there is no limit to what mankind can achieve.

Human Achievement Hour 2010 will be between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Saturday 27 March.

Do it! We have come a long way since Ugg first said to Ogg, “Wouldn’t it be a cunning plan to bring the fire into the cave?” Our species is brilliant as long as it doesn’t try not to be and descends into miserablism. Raise a glass to them all! To Watt and Stephenson and Tesla and all the rest!

Because this is what happens when the enemy win:

The righteous can shiver in the dark for an hour and fuck ‘em with a warp-factor 9 fuckulence driven by a nuclear storm-drive powered fuckulating machine because I want a spaceship and not a bastarding yurt.

Do you want to see C-Beams glitter off the Tannhäuser Gate or do you want to sit down to a mess of cold potage with Jonathon Porritt? If the later then you are a profound cunt of the first discharge and have neatly selected your own Hell. Enjoy it you masochistic twats! We’ll be in parking orbit around Enceladus having cocktails whilst watching outgassings that are almost as spectacular as a lentil-boiler’s farts.

Earth hour and human achievement hour presents a stark choice…


“Simples!” says that deeply annoying – ought to be kicked to death – car insurance meerkat*. I don’t just want to see attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I want to be the bugger wot dun it! Tree funerals! How absolutely, utterly, stupendously fucking gay is that?

Right, I’m now off to burn a staggering quantity of trash that has built-up since the effing council decided to go Keira Knightley on the bin collections. I’m doing my bit for carbon (re)cycling.

Per ardua ad astra!

From here and a tip of the titfer to Mr E.

*Admittedly not quite as annoying as that fat cunt from the Go Compare ads.


Schoolchildren suffered panic attacks and were left crying after a role-play event in which one of their teachers was “shot dead” in the playground.

The children, aged 10 to 13, were traumatised by the stunt, which was part of a science lesson, and were not told that it was a stunt for ten minutes.

Well I guess Zimbardo’s Hell was science too.

The exercise at Blackminster Middle School in Evesham, Worcestershire, began when pupils heard that there was a gun in the school. Five minutes later the alarm bell sounded and more than 300 were sent outside and saw three teachers running across the field.

They saw a “gunman” in the distance and heard what sounded like gunfire before seeing Mr Kent, a religious education teacher, fall to the ground. Colleagues appeared to attempt to resuscitate him.

I’m struggling here. The thing I’m really struggling with is that this whole demented caper must have been planned. Did no one say this is a really bad idea? And what if one of those kids had a mobile and texted the cops and an armed response unit had pitched-up to witness this particular tableau vivant? Wasting police time would be the least of their worries…

Parents claimed that the children were sent back to their classrooms and called into the assembly hall ten minutes later to see that Mr Kent was alive and uninjured. Some said that their children were so shaken by the exercise on Tuesday afternoon that they were sick in the toilets, suffered panic attacks and were still frightened when they got home.

The RE teacher back from the dead! Having said that, from my personal experience of RE teachers it would be hard to tell.

The Reichsfuhrer for children, that incredibly cunning stunt Ed Balls, has said that the Laughing and Grief are irrelevant these days. It would appear that these subjects are alive and well in Worcestershire under the leadership of Sillius Sodus.

Apparently the head teacher has written to parents and promised, “Any role-play activities in the future will be based on themes that are less controversial and non-violent”. Quite what role-play of any form has to do with science lessons is frankly beyond me. Call me old-fashioned but shouldn’t they be learning Ohm’s Law or melting ice in a bucket or something?

Read the whole thing here.

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