Archive for June, 2004

More filth for Rupert

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

I can’t scan in all of BSC, not least because the last few pages are missing from my the FWB’s tatty paperback of the Faber Book of Parodies. But the first few pages are below this fold.


Bond strikes camp

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

Cyril Conolly’s wonderful parody, Bond Strikes Camp is too long to scan all the way in. But there is a fragment — four pages — below the fold. Bond, dolled up in full drag, has just been picked up by his own secretary in a louche nightclub, and now abandons her for the charms of the man from the Jugoslav KGB


English summer

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

Or, why I find myself taking cloudscapes:



outlines in OOo

Monday, June 28th, 2004

One of the things that people miss most in Openoffice is an outline mode. In fact, there is a pretty good substitute, hidden behind a witless interface. By assigning heading level to text styles, you can then organise and manipulate text in the navigator pane, which shows the first line of text with a heading level (headings below a certian level can be arbitratrily hidden). This is useful, and relatively easy. However, it is almost impossible to stumble on, since heading levels aren’t applied to styles by default. To find them, you have to go into tools/outline numbering and them apply heading levels, but NOT numbering to the styles you want to use in an outline. You can give plain text a low heading level, and then the system works properly. But why is it so ludicrously well-hidden? It has nothing to do with numbering at all.

Death to veggies (2)

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

A naturally decaffeinated species of coffee plant has been discovered in Ethiopia. This disproves conclusively the argument from design.

Death to veggies (1)

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

When is this less than reassuring?

  • No Harmful chemicals.
  • Has not been tested on animals.

When you find these essertions on a bottle of organic anti-nit goo. I know perfectly well that it’s not going to work; but it is a little worrying to see this so clearly proclaimed on the packaging. The active ingredient, by the way, is vinegar.

the power of censorship

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

For the first few weeks there were never any ads on these pages except for hosting services. Suddenly there has been a rash of religious ads. This shows Google is checking the site. Unfortunately, two of them were from scientologists. I have now barred their sites from advertising here. A small, but gratifying exercise of power.

I’m never going to write anything

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

I don’t know whether it is depression or a sinus infection. I don’t know if it is both. but for the last fortnight I have been almost incredibly stupid, as if I were thinking through treacle, and looking at the world through a veil of snot. Every sentence has to be written three times and then spell checked. Nothing works. Nothing seems worthwhile. The world, of course, continues at its accustomed speed, jerking me along like a loosely coupled train, so after a fortnight feeling I have nothing to do, I now have a radio programme to make, a profile to write, and another book outline to do as well as the stories I knew I was working on. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I have to write down the simplest things to do before I forget them. Now I will go and look at my phone list, if I remember.

I’m never going to write these

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

I keep a scrap list in Ecco of things I really ought to blog about, or stick into a wormseye, or something. It has got out of control. So here are some things which provoked thought, without the thoughts I thought they had provoked.

  • Baiser and “make love”
    Some words get dirtier as they grow older. There is a priceless moment in a Richard Hannay book ( Mr Standfast ) when the hero’s skin crawls at the thought of the villain “making love to” the heroine. Made the FWB’s eyeballs swivel in her skull when she first read it. Similarly, baiser now means, in modern French, “to fuck”. When I grew up, aaargh, it meant “to kiss”, as it did to Voltaire. The effect of the change might please his dirty old ghost. “Ce n’est pas ma main qu’il faut baiser”, says the Pope’s experienced daughter when she rescues Candide from the Spanish Inquisition.
  • Captain Carrot as an archetype.
    When I met Terry Pratchett at the Aventis prize (did I mention I had met Terry Pratchett at the Aventis prize-giving?) No? Anyway, when I met Terry Pratchett at the Aventis Prize giving, I was able to tell him the story of how I preached on Small Gods in the chapel at Wadham College. But it occurred to me that his most successful religious creation is actually Captain Carrot. I was unable to articulat this, or anything much else, very well. But Carrot is actually the figure in the unconscious of every policeman and every criminal, who stands for justice, and who makes policing something more than the exercise of brute force. You could use the Carrot as the unit of legitimacy.
  • Q. Why did America prevail in Korea and not in Vietnam?
    A. Wouldn’t it be nice to know?
  • Pictures vs stories wrt W. Owen.
    Which is more effective in the long run? The photos from Abu Ghraib, or the word-picture of a gas attack in Dulce et Decorum est?
  • The bent prayer and fertility study.
  • There’s an entire page of witch-doctors advertising in Ms London.
    In fact there are 2 pages, split by a page of ads recruiting whores. So much for the enlightenment.
  • Batteries and digital rights as guarantors of obsolescence.
    Otherwise the economy stops. How come the battery in a Thinkpad dies after a year, while the battery in my phone will go on for ever?

Exterminate the brutes

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004

I’m writing up a big piece for G2 about creationists and their attempts, helped by the government, to get a foothold in the British educational system. What makes it possible is the appalling state of many comprehensive schools: the one being targeted in Doncaster has managed to improve its pass rate at GCSE to 32%, but ten years ago it was 15%. These are fantastically awful figures. They mean that some children leave the school scarcely able to read and write.

Obviously this are not wholly the fault of the teachers; probably not even mainly the teachers’ fault. Everyone in the community can contribute to a failure like this.

One thing that helps the creationist schools is that they can expel pupils if they want to. they claim to use this power sparingly, and I am inclined to believe them. But the decision, if they take it, is theirs alone. It is very very hard for local authority schools to expel pupils. They are fined, the teachers say,. £4000 for every child they permanently exclude. Obviously, an expelled pupil is an external cost. Instead of wandering round the school disrupting things, he is on the loose in the community, and cluttering up the unemployment figures as well. But I am not sure that the other pupils in a school should bear this cost.

Talking to the local Teachers’ Union representative, (also the head of science in the school) I was gobsmacked by his defence of the policy. To throw out the disruptive children, he said, would make the school less representative of the community, since they were a part of it. And I thought, christ! if my children are part of a community with bullies in it, I want the community improved by throwing the bullies out. Nobody should have the right to say things like that who doesn’t send their own children to the school in question.