LMWN Caption Competition:
Friday, 29 June 2007
Thursday, 28 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
In April the following rather pretty photos started appearing on UFO websites, including the website of the popular Coast to Coast radio show:
Last month (April 2007), my wife and I were on a walk when we noticed a very large, very strange "craft" in the sky. My wife took a picture with her cell phone camera (first photo below). A few days later a friend (and neighbor) lent me his camera and came with me to take photos of this "craft". We found it and took a number of very clear photos. Picture #4 is taken from right below this thing and I must give my friend credit as I was not brave enough to get close enough to take this picture myself!It was later claimed that the photos were of a UFO spotted in the Lake Tahoe area on the California/Nevada border.
Today a link to a website was posted on Digg. The site, written by someone calling themselves "Issac" is entitled Explanation of the Recent "Strange Craft" Sightings. It describes the CARET project (Commericial Applications Research for Extraterrestrial Applications) and Issac's involvement in this unlikely enterprise:
My story begins the same as it did for many of my co workers, with graduate and post-graduate work at university in electrical engineering. And I had always been interested in computer science, which was a very new field at the time, and my interest piqued with my first exposure to a Tixo during grad school. In the years following school I took a scenic route through the tech industry and worked for the kinds of companies you would expect, until I was offered a job at the Department of Defense and things took a very different turn.The rest of the page is well-written and reads like a short science fiction story. Issac goes onto descibe his reaction to the "reality" of ET life, his work reverse-engineering alien technology, the deciphering of the holographic language that allows UFOs to fly and finally how he smuggled secret documents out of the Palo Alto research facilty (modelled on Xerox PARC). Which brings us to the documents:There are plenty more on the site. Someone is very good with photoshop.
My time at the DoD was mostly uneventful but I was there for quite a while. I apparently proved myself to be reasonably intelligent and loyal. By 1984 these qualities along with my technical background made me a likely candidate for a new program they were recruiting for called “CARET”.
There is a long tradition within UFOlogy of leaks of supposedly classified documents. From the notorious MJ-12 documents to the Santilli autopsy movie to the laughable SERPO project, the leaks (need I say) always turn out to be hoaxes. Some have even suggested that the more credible "leaks" were cold-war disinformation designed to put the enemy off the scent of decidedly terrestrial military projects. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, hoaxes have been of a decidedly lower quality. The SERPO hoax mentioned above was particularly poor, featuring internally inconsistent documentation, farcical technical details and supposed whistle-blowers using English consistent with the average MySpace resident. Presumably, if the US Government used to leak fake UFO information, they have no need to now. Private individuals just haven't been able to match the quality of a CIA-funded effort.
But what about a global corporation? There is increasing speculation that the photos, documents and Issac's website are part of a viral marketing campaign to promote the Microsoft computer game Halo 3:
Using the Firefox browser, I went to the site mentioned above and clicked on View -> Page Source, and saw that the background was a file called "ar.jpg". When I entered 27.com/ar.jpg, lo and behold, up came a hazy but unmistakable image of a detail of the ubiquitous UFO's wing; that image is over to the right. Many of you have already leapt ahead, linking ar.jpg" to AR: Adjudant Reflex. That is the basis of the theory that these UFO images were seeded on the Internet to promote Halo 3.If this turns out to be correct, I have to congratulate Microsoft on the least irritating and most artistically pleasing viral marketing campaign that I've been infected with.
Also, the circular image with radiating lines that appears in a viral email would appear to match those visible on the UFO.
by Charles Pooter
by Edwin Hesselthwite
In the aims and values of our ever increasing reach, Little Man, What Now? has been endeavouring to find new markets and avenues for publicity. It is therefore with the greatest pleasure that I introduce our MySpace page:
It is currently in beta, has numerous errors throughout its template, and is a hideous formatting hack (described by Tobias as "having the air of newsprint hanging from a toilet-roll dispenser"). Nonetheless, it has been given the vote of the trustees, and is thus formally part of The Little Man Foundation.
Your "friendship" is welcomed with open arms.
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
Many will say he has no mandate. Many will note that he has been accused of control-freakery. Many will say that he is a centraliser, a puritan and an authoritarian. Some will note that he is Scot who depends on Scottish votes to rule England. They will despair and say that we now have an unelected bully as Prime Minister.
Not Little Man, What Now?
We will say simply this: Gordon Brown has been given an historic opportunity and we must give him a chance. We implore him to confound his critics and to fight against his own controlling instincts. We ask him look to the best in his party's history and to that philosophical strand of Labour thought that loves liberty and self-help. Mr Brown: you have an opportunity to usher in a new age of freedom, peace and prosperity. Don't mess it up.
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
“A flying machine, you mean?” Mallory paused. “You're not trying to tell me this vehicle of yours can fly, are you?”In Gibson and Sterling's flawed vision of an alternative Victorian England, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace helpded usher in an early information revolution. As in the real world, steam reigns supreme, but in the novel analytical engines have allowed engineers to create steam-powered automobiles. These “gurneys” are driven by the well-healed and the fastest models are entered into races.
The mechanics laughed politely. “No,” Godwin said, “and I can't say that all that airy Engine-spinning has come to much, directly. But we now understand certain matters having to do with the behavior of air in motion, the principles of atmospheric resistance. New principles, little-known as yet.”
“But we mechanics,” said Mr. Chesterton proudly, “ 'ave put 'em to practical use, sir, in the shaping of our Zephyr.”
“ ‘Line-streaming,’ we call it,” Tom said.
“So you've ‘line-streamed’ this gurney of yours, eh? That's why it looks so much like, er…”
“Like a fish,” Tom said.
“Exactly,” said Godwin. “A fish! It's all to do with the action of fluids, you see. Water. Air. Chaos and turbulence! It's all in the calculations.”
- from The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling
150 years later, fiction is becoming reality:
The British Steam Car Challenge was conceived with the twofold aim of breaking the Land Speed Record for steam powered vehicles as well as creating excitement in the arena of alternate fuels.More from Wired here.
Motive power is from a two-stage steam turbine, fed by a boiler fired on LPG. The turbine drives a gear train with a 5:1 ratio for a wheel speed of 3000 RPM at 200 MPH
Monday, 25 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
Our official RSS feed is:
If you are subscribed to us via any other address, please re-subscribe. If you do not, you will get old articles appearing in your feed quite often!
Sunday, 24 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
I know I've already mentioned Doctors recently, so I just want to say in advance that I haven't got a particular bee in my bonnet about them (well any more than I have about anyone else). One of the contributors to this blog is training to be a physician and he seems a thoroughly decent chap.
OK, now that's out of the way, on with the ranting. Dr Rant has criticised The Devil for his take-down of The British Medical Association who, as usual, are trying to get the Government to further restrict our liberty.
I left the following comment on both blogs:
“It is a bad enough that the quacks managed to get their little guild recognised by the state, thereby artificially restricting the supply of medical care (causing untold pain and misery) and artificially increasing the size of their pay packets. But to have these pompous bone technicians lecture us about how we may or may not ‘go to hell in our own way’ is intolerable.You can see the fallout from that comment here.
When the medical closed shop is ended, leading to a blossoming in the supply and diversity of medical care available; when quacks are effectively scrutinised and their services purchased at consortium prices by large friendly societies; and when doctors have to pay for their own training our of their own pockets—then they will be too busy competing with each other for work, like the rest of us have to, to have time to lecture us on how we live our lives.”
- End the last major closed shop in Britain (besides the legal racket) by abolishing the GMC and repealing all legislation regulating medicine.
- Split up the NHS and hand it over to local private mutual friendly societies with membership and voting rights to all citizens in that area.
- End all state funding of healthcare and medical training.
Friday, 22 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
I'm writing this article using Windows Live Writer, Microsoft's free blog writing tool. It seems pretty good and is apparently compatible with WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Moveable Type and Community Server, as well as Microsoft's own Live Spaces and Sharepoint blogs. The advantage of using a tool like this is that you can save drafts locally as well as to the Blogger web site. The Blogger editor is OK but it does have its idiosyncrasies, so hopefully this will be better. Here's some more about it from a review (primarily to test block-quoting):
“When you fire Writer up for the first time, it will show you a new, blank post ready for your WYSIWYG tinkering right within your blog style. That is, it downloaded your CSS and recreated a virtual version of your site so you can blog within it. However, I quickly learned that it was based on Internet Explorer rendering and the title was sucked up way too high and other IE bugs that I haven’t cared to address yet. If your site looks good or somewhat decent in Internet Explorer you shouldn’t have a problem with this - otherwise you might be confined to the Normal or HTML Code views.”
Ah, I've just tried to insert an image, which worked fine, but it won't let me upload the image as it doesn't support this with Blogger. I think I'll wait until the next version.
by Pritchard Buckminster
I have recently returned from a very pleasant sojourn to the Adriatic Coast of Italy where myself and Missus Buckminster sampled and thoroughly enjoyed the delightful pace of life there and the generally more relaxed and polite attitude of every single person.
Apart from one group.
Now normally one would rant and rave at this point about the “chav”, the “hooligan” and the “binge drinker” and their holiday antics. One would normally tut in a disparaging manner before commenting on the likelihood of their poor education or family background. One would observe fun being perpetrated in a raucous and all-inclusive manner and mutter that “it shouldn’t be allowed”. After all, fun? On holiday? Honestly.
But this group of malcontents left me with serious dental problems from molar grinding. Their complete indifference to the beautiful culture in which we were immersed. Their pompous and ridiculous belief in their own importance. Their refusal to learn even a few basic words of the local language. Oh my god, the arrogance of it all. Their ingrained belief that if you speak slowly and loudly then the poor victim of their ignorance will comprehend their ridiculous demands. And finally, their firm belief in their right to complain. Loudly, tediously and at great length on such subjects as (and I kid you not, these are all genuine quotes I heard in one week):
Why is it so far to Venice, they should organise it better!
Why can’t they get ‘proper’ milk here?
Why are all the menus in Italian?
I need more legroom ‘cause I might get a DTV (I’m guessing a deep vein thrombosis but honestly, who knows?)
It’s too hot. (In Italy, in summer. Who’d a thunk it?)
It’s not hot enough (From a man upon who’s stomach a boiled lobster could cheerfully have hidden).
And finally, my all time ‘favourite’….
Why don’t they speak proper English?
Immigration controls? We should have controls to stop people getting OUT of the country. It’s so embarrassing I could cry. How difficult is it to just learn a few phrases in the local language for Pete’s sake?
In case you haven’t guessed I am of course talking about the middle class, middle aged and upwards ambassadors of ignorance and rudeness. Sorry, England. I always get those two mixed up.
So pay attention, if anyone reading this is over 40, and try to remember that everyone can hear you, no-one cares what you think and most of all the reason that it’s different to England is mainly because ITS NOT FUCKING ENGLAND YOU POSOINOUS OLD TOAD!!!!!!!
Thursday, 21 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
Free societies depend on private property. Systems of private property, be they decided by custom, common law or statutes, allow individuals to decide who can make use of scarce resources without recourse to violence. Political theories that do not acknowledge the necessity of private property, if implemented, will cause misery and bloodshed. When states attempt to undermine the institution of private property, everyone suffers.
That said, it does not follow that the system of private property currently implemented is the most moral or economically rational.
Over at Devil's Kitchen, the Devil has been laying into the Milibot over his plans to extend the "right to roam" to all of Britain's coastline. Now I am sure the Milibot is just playing at cynical interest group politics here: throwing a bone to the ramblers at the expense of a few landowners. But even so, the proposal doesn't get me worked-up like it does the Devil. Here are a couple of my comments to his post. I apologise for their quality as they were rushed off pretty quickly, but I didn't want them to just languish in the ghetto of a comments page:
(in response to another comment):
“Who mentioned revolutions? And we all remember the anarchist paradise of Soviet Russia (what are you on?). We must build the new society (peacefully) within the shell of the old.Remittance Man responded:
Property is theft and property is freedom. A free society requires the right to justly acquired private property. How do you justly acquire land? In my opinion, you "homestead" it: that is, you mix your labour with the land. Not only that, but you must continue to exploit some aspect of that land to retain a right to that land. Not only that, but exploiting one aspect of land does not prevent someone else from exploiting another (for example someone who hunts on a bit of land should not automatically be able to exclude someone from mining below it).
I can see that if you grow some apples, you should own those apples. I can see that if you earn cash and buy a computer you should own that computer. I don't see, morally or economically, why putting a fence around a field entitles you to exclusive ownership in perpetuity backed up by the force of the state. Why should it allow you to exclude anyone else from that field, pass it on to your descendants and charge money to anyone who wants to, for example, build a house in that field?
It's worse than that though, because in Britain titles were granted on land that was already in use. Most of it was stolen from common community use in a process known as enclosure.
Also, economically, it is completely unjust that, whilst land is concentrated in the hands of the few, we all pay through taxes on our income the cost of enforcing these totally unjust exclusive land titles.
We all want a home to call our own and many may want a few acres to cultivate or space for running industrial enterprises. In a capitalist liberal society with a state: squatting, trespass and forceful invasion are prevented by the police, courts and prisons. If I own a one bedroom flat in Clapham and Alan Sugar owns half of North London, are we getting the same value from the state? Is it not true that I am paying for the police to protect Alan's "investments"? Isn't this a massive subsidy to large land owners? Isn't the cost of protection a cost that the landlord has externalised (to use economic jargon)?
Land is not like other property: it is finite and it requires no labour to take "ownership" of it. Therefore it is governed by different moral and economic rules.”
“So according to Charlie I must apply labour and "exploit" land to call it my own.To which I replied:
Okay, then I shall mow the lawn, prune the shrubs and dead head the roses. That should meet the definition of applying labour.
And as for "exploitation" I take this to mean deriving some benefit. Well my benefit is the enjoyment I get by sitting undisturbed upon my freshly mowed lawn beneath a newly pruned tree while supping a long glass of Pimms. A benefit that would be ruined by hordes of unsightly, dayglo-clad "ramblers" wandering past or even setting up camp to brew tea.
So who is now in the wrong, Charlie?”
“You don't get it. No one is suggesting your garden should be a free-for-all. You're making use of of it and I certainly would not want to be part of a community that didn't recognise the right of an individual or family to be secure in the freehold that they occupy. Even without a state, I would hope that the community would help enforce your claim against any aggressor. The common security of their own freeholds depends on such enforcement being fair and consistent.
But the moral claim of the Duke of Devonshire and his descendants (to take an example at random) to have exclusive right of access and enjoyment to half of Derbyshire just because one of his ancestors killed a Frenchman or bribed the King is very suspect. The granting of the original title was invalid because the land was probably enclosed commons land already in use and (even if we forgive historic injustice) the continued existence of the title is invalid because one individual (or family) cannot possibly exploit all aspects of such a large area of land.
Can you not see that there is a qualitative and well as quantitative difference between the moral and economic claim of an owner-occupier of a small freehold and the claim of an absentee landlord who has state-granted title to vast swathes of land?”
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
“A UK prisoner was admitted to hospital recently after he hid a mobile phone inside his body and was unable to expel it later. According to the tabloid newspaper, The Sun - Martin Mahoney, a convicted burglar had hidden the mobile phone inside his anus to hide it during a routine prison search. He had spent days trying to get it out, but was eventually forced to confess to guards.
He had to have over 200 internal stitches and the doctors had to remove part of his bladder. He is still recovering in hospital.”
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
by Edwin Hesselthwite
The remains of Brompton Road Tube station, image Copyleft Edwin Hesselthwite.
The London Underground, in all its dishevelled Art Deco glory, often causes people (including us) to wax poetic. The material result is often of extremely variable quality, from Neil Gaiman's superb Neverwhere to the worst and most insipid teenage ramblings (a close third topic amongst London youngsters to watching my girlfriend sleep and the indescribable beauty of a plastic bag in the wind, transcribed in detail across 7 pages). The grandeur of the place attracts those who somewhere, in their deepest heart, think Brandon Lee looked really cool in The Crow. The Underground's glory stems from its status as the worlds first (and therefore least logical) underground train system, and its nature as the essential means of navigating the city.
For those not acquainted with its history and intricacies, the LU was built by private money, using numerous technologies from cut-and-cover for the Circle line to complex insulation for those that pass beneath the Thames. The current integrated system is a massive kludge, and as a result of this there are numerous historical and incomprehensible features (it also will always annoy people by closing overnight, and remains inaccessible to wheelchairs). One of the most notable effects of this is the significant number of abandoned tube stations (here for a detailed history with photographs, here for the easier Wikipedia form) .
Its a topic with scope, to know that the city has a network of abandoned tunnels, that you can glimpse out of the train as it passes (British Museum is the most notable of these, still visible underground despite being demolished above), and those still present above with the red brick exteriors still recognisable in some form. The most famous abandoned stations are Aldwych (because it is still completely intact and used for filming), Down Street because it was used as a base for War Cabinet meetings and the Railway Executive during the Second World War (a story that was used as the basis for the extremely average movie Creep), and British Museum because if you have fantasies that any of them are haunted thats the one to obsess over.
This is the nature of London, continuous occupation and invention for 2000 years means that nothing, whatsoever, makes any sense without context. So, in the spirit of contingency, I give you a couple of photographs of some of the most intact disused tube stations, it took a pleasant Sunday afternoon urban stroll to acquire them.
One final note, in writing this article I came upon this site: Subterranea Britannica. An archive of underground Britain, fascinating.
Monday, 18 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
Otters at London Zoo
Meerkat on the lookout at London Zoo
He looked like he was going to dive in, but then he didn't (London Zoo)
Youngsters at London Zoo
Hungry, hungry hippo at Whipsnade
White rhino at Whipsnade
Rockhopper penguin at Whipsnade
Plenty of room for natives at Whipsnade
He just wouldn't keep still! (London Zoo)
Always on the lookout! (London Zoo)
by Charles Pooter
Does anyone know how to get Blogger RSS feeds to behave?
We want to be able to add tags or make slight aesthetic changes to old articles. But whenever we do this, the edited articles get re-published at the top of our RSS feed. For example, we recently created a "snooker" tag, so I hunted down all of Ted's old snooker articles and added the tag. This led to all these old posts going to the top of the feed, which was no doubt very confusing to our readers. Anyone know how to stop this happening?
Sunday, 17 June 2007
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
“There are nine million bicycles in BeijingMs. Melua's song would have been much better if she'd known this bit of trivia:
That's a fact
It's a thing we can't deny
Like the fact that I will love you 'til I die”
- Nine Million Bicycles by easy-listening warbler Katie Melua
“Current Chinese law states that children are only allowed take the surname from either their mother or father, but the lack of variety means there are now 93 million people in China with the family name ‘Wang’.Meanwhile, in Washington DC, a family with the comparably uncommon Chinese surname “Chung” are defending themselves in court against a man with the wrong trousers:
Under a new draft regulation released by the ministry of public security, parents will be able to combine their surnames for their children, a move that could open up 1.28 million new possibilities, the China Daily reported.”
“A judge had to leave the courtroom with tears running down his face Tuesday after recalling the lost pair of trousers that led to his $54 million lawsuit against a dry cleaner.Roy Pearson: What a wang you are!
[Administrative law judge Roy L. Pearson] alleges that Jin Chung, Soo Chung and Ki Chung, owners of the mom-and-pop business, committed fraud and misled consumers with signs that claimed 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' and 'Same Day Service.'
Pearson also called himself as a witness, saying his problems began in May 2005 when he brought in several suits for alterations. A pair of pants from a blue and maroon suit was missing when he requested it two days later. He said Soo Chung tried to give him a pair of charcoal gray pants.
As Pearson explained that those weren't the pants for the suit, he choked up and left the courtroom crying…”
by Charles Pooter
…or rather midwives. Doctor Jon Crippen comments on the appalling quality of care provided by some midwives in the NHS. I left the following comment on his post:
“I'm sure you're right Doc, but the thing is, ANY criticism of alternative healthcare providers by Doctors is inherently suspect. For over 100 years you and your fellow saw-bones have worked tirelessly to cement your guild's place as the only legally recognised medical suppliers. By doing so (and thus massively artificially reducing the supply of medical care) you have caused far more misery and pain than a few incompetent midwives ever could.”We will never really improve healthcare until we tackle the Doctors' violence-backed medical monopoly and the corrupt drug companies. Only after that can we start to talk sensibly about people having “choice” when it comes to medicine.
Friday, 8 June 2007
by Edwin Hesselthwite
“A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.”
- The first sentence of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
“A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory… From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”When I last visited it in spring 2006, The Red Lion of Soho was an absolutely terrible pub. The beer was generic and flavourless, the atmosphere was non-existent (battered oak fittings and tobacco stained walls) and the bar staff were surly. This was understandable, since Great Windmill Street is among the most disreputable neighbourhoods in Soho. And Soho, with it's artists, journalists, writers and actors thronging and urinating down it's streets, has a history of being disreputable in exactly the way that Paris's Montparnasse has tried so long and hard to be. A brief walk up Great Windmill Street will elicit numerous scantily clad invitations into dens of iniquity (the burlesque houses and peep shows are renowned), and more traditional theatres backstage entrances are blackened and littered. It has always seemed fitting to me that this disreputable little pub was the venue for an event that laid the course for the 20th century.
- Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech, with suspiciously similar cadence and phrasing.
Back in November through December of 1847 when this pub was called The Red Lion Hotel, it was the setting for the second meeting of The Communist League (the first organisation of international communists); a meeting which Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came across from Belgium to attend. Amongst the issues discussed, the meeting was to agree upon, edit, debate and confirm a drafted document, initially titled The Principles Of Communism, that had been submitted to it by Marx and Engels. This small, smoke filled, venue was burdened with a group of agitators and propagandists of world class significance, who were to rename this document The Communist Manifesto and mandate Marx to produce a final version for publication immediately.
1848 was to be a year of unprecedented revolutionary significance, as governments fell from France to Brazil, and the states of Europe (Hapsburg, Italian, Polish and German) collapsed in blood and whisky; so when it appeared that Marx was proving reticent in finallising their manifesto he was pushed by the organisation to finish it immediately, and it was in print (from a small publishing house on Liverpool Street) by February 1848. This pamphlet was to be read and studied in schools, homes and universities to a degree few other books can approach, and numerous governments have fallen in its name. In 1849 Marx moved permanently to London, and lived for much of his life in a 2 bedroom flat on Dean Street (a five minute walk away), for £22 a year. Here he lived with his wife, 5 children, and maid Lenchen, who then became pregnant with his child.
However one may feel about the outcome of totalitarian 20th Century Communism, these men were idealists and in many ways liberals. I don't wish to discuss Marx's influence here (he was obviously more interested in his ideas of historical inevitability than in designing an ideal world; applied communism is almost entirely rooted in Stalin and Lenin, not Marx), but I do wish to defend this idealism and its significance to subsequent history. Since autumn '89 the history of Communism has fallen out of favour, as the closure of the Soviet period causes it to lose its life and death significance. But in the greater story of the 20th Century, Communism is far more important than Hitler's Reich. This utopian ideal, first solidified in this short document, was the ideological underpinning of almost every political debate of the era, and the seed that led to the Cold War, and Mutually Assured Destruction.
This pub (never granted a blue plaque to underline its significance), was closed and boarded up in the summer of 2006. And it is only as I write this article now that it became clear to me that it is to be converted to luxury apartments. There have been numerous pub closures in Soho in the last year, as Westminster Borough Council refuses to allow any new late licenses to be permitted under the 2006 licensing liberalisation, forcing the hospitality industry to move further afield. Amidst the systematic slaughter of Soho's alcoholic heritage, the closure of a piece of global history has gone entirely unopposed.
“I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”
- Henry A. Kissinger
by Pritchard Buckminster
Snow Crash is a wonderfully schizophrenic book, careering wildly between hardcore technology based sci-fi, surrealist humour and Sumerian mythology. That Stephenson manages to tie such disparate elements together in to such a cohesive and entertaining story speaks of a rare mind, and probably not a person you would want to be stuck in a lift with.
Snow Crash follows the adventure of Samurai pizza deliveryman ‘Hiro Protagonist’ (Freelance hacker, Greatest swordsman in the World) as he finds himself in debt to the mafia (who are now a huge multi-national corporation due to the abolition of all laws), on the run from a crazed glass knife wielding homicidal Aleut (think the harpoonist from Moby Dick) and trying to solve a incredibly complex problem involving magic, VR and a real world drug all at once. Now I’m sorry but if all that doesn’t get your fingers tingling in anticipation then…well it should, that’s all I’m saying.
While this book is sometimes a slightly chaotic mix of styles, it’s main characters, Hiro, Y T and Uncle Enzo the Mafia Don to name just a few, carry it past these clashes beautifully. Neal Stephenson is obviously an ideas man and this shows in his rendering of the virtual world and how it might have existed in a pseudo-biological form thousands of years before. His backup explanations concerning Babel and Sumerian legend are possibly the only flaw in the book, like the aforementioned equations in The Cryptonomicon the extent of the historical data seems excessive, particularly as it is deployed as by a dry academic in the form of a librarian construct. However as he draws all the elements together I defy anyone not to gasp in wonder at the magnitude of the under-pinning idea.
If you like action, sci-fi, silliness, grandiose ideas or just an interesting well crafted tale, the like of which you probably will never have read before, then I heartily recommend this book.
Thursday, 7 June 2007
by Edwin Hesselthwite
Charles Pooter and I were walking down Piccadilly this Sunday when we came upon the above scene. This was the orange-turbaned leading edge of a Sikh demonstration, a demo whose placards and leaflets brought attention to the 4 days of anti-Sikh rioting (the word massacre is often used) that occurred in October 1984 after the assassination of Indira Gandhi at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards, and to the related Free Khalistan movement. We estimated the demonstration to number between 2000 and 4000 people.
I've written previously about separatism in Northern India, focusing on the politics of the region of Ladakh and its relation to the Sino-Indian war and the Kashmir conflict, but it's an illustration of the ethnic problems of that enormous country that Punjab, a state bordering Kashmir, has a third entirely separate ethnic divide.
Partition was particularly traumatic for India's Sikhs, because their main religious sites and largest communities were in the Punjab, a state that was split by the new border. So, while witnessing the loss of life on both sides, they were subjected to their community being severed between the new secular (but richly Hindu) and Muslim societies. Khalistan is their proposed Sikh – but secular – state encompassing parts of both countries.
The demonstration was impressive for its size and passion, Anti-War demonstrations have passed Piccadilly with less zeal, and the presence of religious weapons and formal turbans made the protesters particularly imposing. It is a pity that in fifteen minutes of searching, no web pages discussing this demonstration could be found to support this article.
Politics is nothing without publicity.
Photos are copyleft Charles Pooter, 2007. Click them to enlarge.
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
by Edwin Hesselthwite
Biblioliatry, a book-review blog written on the other side of the pond, is a favourite of mine that I have been meaning to advertise for a while.
As a male Bibliovore (I can play with Ancient Greek constructions too) I often feel a bit of an odd man out as a British consumer of fiction publishing. Fiction to me is very personal, I like to build a relationship with any book I enjoy, and I am always suspicious that publishers aim is much more social, targeting their books at book clubs and (the holy grail) television book societies... This has led me to distrust those little square Scandinavian style tables in Waterstones and Borders (such a subtle way of telling you what you ought to be reading), as they groan beneath the weight of tales of people heroically struggling against their limitations and overcoming their hurdles (ideally on a small mediterranean island while suffering from synesthesia). The tendency for heavy description and information dumping is far too obviously written with group-criticism in mind, where everyone must offer insight, conviction and show their appreciation of subtlety. The publishing world seems to view brevity, clarity and passion as a Hemingway-esque relic of the past.
I'll put it straight: modern literary fiction is not published with anyone like me in mind, and this makes me angry.
So, as I find myself steam-rolling through yet another pile of Gollancz's SF Masterworks, or another Eastern European inter-war text I unearthed in a second hand bookshop, it's reassuring to occasionally sit back and watch as an English teacher from Delaware ploughs through these modern future-classics. Her voracious appetite leaving their blood and gristle behind her, baking in the sun. I've watched as she slaughtered Coehlo's flaccid Alchemist, smiled as she did credit to Matheson's I Am Legend (although to say it wasn't scary enough was to entirely miss the point), and laughed as she rambled on about her desire to be a fluffy mammal in a Richard Adams novel. She also gave Don Delillo such a jackbooted kicking I would be amazed if he didn't need hospital treatment.
Its comforting to know there are people out there sustaining the publishing market (much as I may get angry about it, if you don't buy books first hand the publishing world cannot see you) who view books as a road to joy and enlightenment, without the requirement for them to sell their soul for nuance. So I'll stand back and observe as someone else does what I dread doing, and settles to my satisfaction the value of Anna Karenina.
Fiction should be a firestorm, not a fine wine.
A literary Chupacabra.
Tuesday, 5 June 2007
Monday, 4 June 2007
by Charles Pooter
The above image was shown on the BBC London News on BBC1 tonight. It was shown in a slideshow of viewers' designs submitted as an alternative to the atrocious logo chosen for the London Olympics in 2012. I'm sure it reminds me of something.
by Edwin Hesselthwite
As the drums beat louder for the approaching 2012 Olympics Lord Coe and the Olympic Commitee have been committing themselves to bringing the original spirit of the Games forward into the modern era.
The modern Games has a varied and intriguing history... Emerging in the late 1800's as a Western European attempt to cement the newly independent state of Greece (and help some French men recover from a chip on their shoulder about the Franco-Prussian war), the modern image of the Games owes its heritage almost exclusively to Leni Riefenstahl and the German regime of the 30's, who produced the classic documentary movie Olympia. Olympia was the first Olympic documentary, and one of many examples of its abiding influence would be Riefenstahl's idea for running a torch to light an "Olympic Flame".
The Games, with it's emphasis on the perfection of humanity, the body beautiful and its idealistic rejection of pragmatism (drugs aren't natural!) is very strongly influenced by the ideals of the Ubermensch. It is therefore commendable, and a show of real courage, for the 2012 Olympic Committee to reject modern fashions and decide to celebrate it's roots, in symbolism as well as in style.
So, as we watch our wallets thin, we can at least enjoy the new logo, released today... And look forward to the day when it is spread across our entire city.
The new 2012 Olympic Logo, soon to be seen across every wall and advertising sign in Old London Town
So, it is clear that Coe is doing his best to bring the mythic (and ultimately unfulfilled) aims of the Reich to that ancient and mythic City - London... The city of Hawksmoor, Spring-heeled Jack, a land with soil fertilised with the blood of Kings. It can be no coincidence that a man such as Lord Coe (a member of that eldritch society, the House Of Lords) should be involved in the process of choosing this icon. Soon this ancient Nordic symbol will be brazen on the sides of every Underground Train, as they carry its occult powers to the dark recesses of the Earth. Should this happen to result in some occult event, even the end of Age of Man... Well, I will be saluting you, Fuhrer Coe, as I fight against the dark presences that stumble through Marble Arch.