Monday, 30 June 2008

The Dead Party Sketch

by Charles Pooter

‘I wish to make a complaint!’

‘We're closin' for lunch.’

‘Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this party what I voted for not ten years ago.’

‘Oh yes, the, uh, the New Labour Party...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?’

‘I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. It's dead, that's what's wrong with it!’

‘No, no, it's uh,...it's resting.’

‘Look, matey, I know a dead party when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.’

‘No no it's not dead, it's, it's restin'! Remarkable party, New Labour, isn't it, ay? Beautiful logo!’

‘The logo don't enter into it. It's stone dead.’

‘Nononono, no, no! It's resting!’

‘All right then, if it's restin', I'll wake it up!

'Ello, Mister Brown! I've got a lovely fresh policy for you if you show...’

[party chairman hits the cage]

‘There, he moved!’

‘No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!’

‘I never!!’

‘Yes, you did!’

etc, etc.

Philistine

by Charles Pooter

English examiners have been told to award marks to pupils who write obscenities on their exam papers:

Pupils are being rewarded for writing obscenities in their GCSE English examinations even when it has nothing to do with the question.

One pupil who wrote “f*** off” was given marks for accurate spelling and conveying a meaning successfully.

His paper was marked by Peter Buckroyd, a chief examiner who has instructed fellow examiners to mark in the same way.
...
“It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for – like conveying some meaning and some spelling. It’s better than someone that doesn’t write anything at all. It shows more skills than somebody who leaves the page blank.”
Can you believe this guy? Has he not heard of Cage's 4′3″? What about the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square? By leaving an exam paper blank it may well be that the student is making an incisive statement about our inability to say anything new without descending into cliché. The student may also be making a relevant political statement, refusing to endorse the neo-liberal hegemony by taking part in the regime's examination system.

Clearly Buckroyd is a conservative reactionary who cannot recognise post-modern criticism when he sees it. He is a dinosaur, stuck in the late 20th Century, still clinging to his social realist certainties where a “fuck off” is better than a blank page. Who is he to attempt to transform his subjective judgements into objective statements of fact?

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Boris backs Little Man, What Now?

by Charles Pooter

We have just learnt that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has decided to reinstate the tidal flow system within the Blackwall Tunnel.

The Blackwall tunnel, which travels beneath the Thames linking North and South East London, is a busy route for motor traffic. Until recently the tunnel operated a "tidal flow" system. This added an extra Northbound lane in the usually Southbound tunnel in the morning rush hour, easing congestion and allowing a greater number of commuters to use the tunnels to reach their North London jobs from their South London homes. In April 2007 the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, ended the tidal flow system. The decision was made suddenly without any warning or consultation by Transport for London, who cited safety concerns.

Evidence for these concerns was scant and many were suspicious that Livingstone had an ulterior motive for ending the scheme. These suspicions were backed-up when an investigation by Little Man, What Now? uncovered a secret report commissioned by Transport for London.

Little Man, What Now? is proud to be a part of the reversal of this politically-motivated decision, which has increased congestion and resulted in longer travel times for London commuters. If Mr Johnson needs any other policy suggestions, we encourage him to search through our archives.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Quote of the Day

by Charles Pooter

From New Scientist's article about the contention that matter in the Universe is arranged in a fractal pattern:

Many cosmologists find fault with their analysis, largely because a fractal matter distribution out to such huge scales undermines the standard model of cosmology. According to the accepted story of cosmic evolution, there simply hasn't been enough time since the big bang nearly 14 billion years ago for gravity to build up such large structures.
In other words: "You must be wrong, otherwise it would mean we have been very wrong about everything for ages, which obviously cannot possibly be the case". This seems to be a standard rebuttal in science these days.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Bletchley Park Under Threat

by Charles Pooter

Bletchley Park is where Alan Turing and others successfully cracked the German Enigma code during WWII. The British Computer Society helped fund the reconstruction of the Bombe and Colossus code-breaking machines and these are now on display there. According to this petition, Bletchley Park may now be under threat.

From the petition:

The Bletchley Park Trust receives no external funding. It has been deemed ineligible for funding by the National Lottery, and turned down by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Please do not allow this crucial piece of both British and World culture to disappear. If ever an example were needed of Britain leading the world, this surely would be it. To allow it to fall into the hands of developers would be simply unconscionable.
Alan Turing and Bletchley Park will be familiar names to any Little Man readers who know the history of computer science or who have read Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Beware of Greeks Bearing Financial Instruments

by Charles Pooter

Synchronicity:

I came across this online comic via lowercase liberty. Here's an extract:

I hadn't heard of Thales or his olive presses until this week and then two references came along one after the other. The second was the above comic strip and the first was in Sean Gabb's long, but fascinating, discussion of ancient markets. Sean quoting Aristotle:

According to the story, he knew by his skill in the stars while it was yet winter that there would be a great harvest of olives in the coming year; so, having a little money, he gave deposits for the use of all the olive-presses in Chios and Miletus, which he hired at a low price because no one bid against him. When the harvest-time came, and many were wanted all at once and of a sudden, he let them out at any rate which he pleased, and made a quantity of money.
As Sean says, Thales did not buy olive presses, he took out options on them. This is one of the references that Sean uses to destroy the patently absurd idea that the ancients did not have any concept of a market economy.

So two lessons: Beware of Greeks bearing financial instruments and don't believe everything you read in comic strips or crypto-Marxist history books!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Book Review: Conspiracies of Rome by Richard Blake

by Charles Pooter

Conspiracies of Rome by Richard Blake

Review by Charles Pooter

Conspiracies of Rome is the debut novel of author Richard Blake. A historical thriller set in 609 AD, the book follows the adventures of Aelric, a lowly Saxon clerk, and his master Maximin the priest. Aelric is of noble extraction but has been deprived of his birthright by the local warlord and Maximin is a missionary priest from the Italian city of Ravenna who, with the help of Aelric and some Paul Daniels style trickery, has a knack for converting the local pagans to the Faith. On the run from the aforementioned warlord, the two head for Rome where they encounter murder and intrigue, all of which seems connected with the mysterious Column of Phocas.

The Rome of the 7th Century is no longer the glorious monument to Republic or Empire. It has gone well past decadent or decaying and is now decayed. The city is a nest of thieves, murderers and underground cults where the rump of the ancient aristocracy enjoy the remainder of their money in a wine-induced stupor. Power is divided between the local civil authorities, the Church and the distant Emporer. It is in this fascinating setting that the majority of the novel's action takes place.

Like all good historical novels, this book is didactic as well as entertaining. Obviously we get an insight into the geo-politics of the period as well as the tensions between the various civil and religious authorities, but besides this we get an education in such diverse subjects as book-binding and stock trading. I know more about futures markets now than I did before I read Conspiracies. It comes as no great surprise to learn from the dust jacket that Mr Blake is a lecturer as he imparts knowledge through the tale with enthusiasm and ease. But I wouldn't for a second want to suggest that this book is a staid, educational tome. It is in turns foul-mouthed, saucy and violent. Fans of literary sword-play and street fights will not be disappointed and the "anglo-saxon" makes it one to keep off a younger relative's Christmas list.

With the sad departure of George Macdonald Fraser, the time is ripe for a new author able to combine swashbuckling adventure, a cynical view of elites and their self-serving institutions, detailed historical research and—besides all this—an overrideing optimism about mankind. It is too early to tell if Blake will be the new Fraser, but Aelric certainly has the potential to be the new Flashman. In many ways Aelric is more interesting than Flashman: better educated, more canny and with a moral sense that more readily overrides his self-interest . This is not to say Aelric is a completely likeable hero: he is a sexual libertine (one who sleeps with people for personal gain), a ready profiteer and a willing killer. But I for one look forward to reading more tales of his shagging, fighting and looting - albeit as I learn something new about the Dark Ages at the same time.

Conpiracies of Rome will be re-issued as a Hodder and Stoughton paperback in November.

Buy used hardcover (new hardcover editions out of stock).
Pre-order new paperback.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Lock up your daughters...

by Charles Pooter

Harry is coming to town.

After Mr and Mrs Hoffman moved to Austin in Texas, Harry Knowles of venerable geek movie website Ain't It Cool News was relegated to Little Man, What Now?'s third favourite Austin resident. But I still have great affection for the interweb's grand old man of talking bollocks about films.

So it is good to hear that Mr Knowles has booked a seat (or two) on a plane to London:

Hey folks, Harry here... in Austin, for now. But tomorrow - I'm traveling via some sort of mechanical flying contraption... We're setting down early Sunday morning and will be staying in the Kensington area of London at the Radisson Vanderbilt.

Excellent, we'll keep a look out for you Harry. You're welcome to a pint on us.

The AICN "talkbackers" were quick to comment on Harry's upcoming trip:

london bridge is falling down
by 40ozToFreedom Jun 20th, 2008
07:07:44 PM
here comes harry

Harry and the Hendersons 2: Harry in London
by theredtoad Jun 20th, 2008
07:32:58 PM
ba-dum-chish!

Naw, it's true
by Trik_Ster Jun 20th, 2008
07:54:33 PM
My sources tell me that a certain hotel had special plumbing installed just for his visit.

Administrative Change

by Charles Pooter


OK, he's had long enough. There has been no particular "last straw", but it is way past time that this publication changed the "Brown Administration" tag to "Brown Regime". Done.

The Building Blocks of Tyranny

by Charles Pooter

Under English law it will be possible to be arrested for a crime that was not illegal when it was committed and then held for 42 days without charge. You can then be tried in a closed tribunal without a jury, which can hear evidence from anonymous accusers. Your silence in front of the police can be held against you in the trial. If you are not found guilty, it will be possible for you to be retried for the same offence in the future.

Now it may be true that not all these facts can apply to the same alleged offence, but does anyone really believe that this will remain the case once the principles have been conceded for a particular set of crimes?

The British Decathlon

by Charles Pooter



This was too good not to steal from b3ta. Click it to enlarge.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Incisions

by Edwin Hesselthwite

Somewhere in New Mexico, August 1947, two pathologists stand in full surgical attire.

“First incision to the right cranial socket, running to the occipital centre.”

“Excellent suggestion, how do you define the occipital centre?”

“The protrusion at the rear.”

“Ear to lump, understood.”




Some time later:

“Proceeding to remove fluid filled organ from the dextro-dorsal cavity, between the inner and outer carapace-type plating. Will begin by incision and sealing at the anterior to prevent fluid release, followed by posterior.”

“You know Jim, I've been wondering... Let's talk documentation.”

“Sure... Ahem, attending, can you light me a cigarette?”

“Well... We're drawing our subsets from four examples, and there are clearly at least two groups within them. If we send this to Nature, peer-review is going to crucify us for our limited sample size.”

“Unsettling, isn't it? That's not even taking into account sample 3, the charring is going to really interfere with generalisations about tissue structure.”

“Those Huxley brothers on the panel are going to be all over it. ‘Insufficient rigor’ and all that crap.”

“I know, I know, we'll have to talk about this with General Spatz... Tell him we wont fully document it unless he gets us another one.”

Pause.

“With organ removed, now moving down coronal plane to isolate left-medial elongate nodule, sealed consistency suggests a solid mass. Proceeding with central incision.”

Pause.

Fuck.


Thursday, 12 June 2008

On David Davis's Resignation

by Edwin Hesselthwite

Over on The Devil's Kitchen a vibrant debate is kicking off about David Davis's resignation and attempt to trigger a bi-election in his seat. I thought it worth posting my own commentary on the issue:

Ok, Let's look at this straight, despite all your flagwaving... Because Davis has totally dropped the ball.

David Davis has resigned in an extremely safe Conservative seat, one he is almost guaranteed to win back... By making this personal, he's shown that his admirable attitude to civil liberties is not mainstream frontbench opinion...

So, with all this flag waving about the glorious tradition of Magna Carta he has nonetheless undermined a significant Parliamentary tradition: MP's cannot resign. Their electorate own their asses. Under a system that runs back to the 16th century, MP's can only leave Parliament when an election comes around, or by being granted either The Stewardship Of The Chiltern Hundreds or The Stewardship of The Manor Of Northstead. In order to get either of these positions, you have to go begging to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who can permit you to leave. Boris currently holds Northstead, Tony holds Chiltern...

No one has ever pulled this stupid stunt before, because it goes against the spirit of Parliamentry tradition. So, he has to go begging to Alistair Darling to be allowed out, go begging to his own constituency party to give him the job, and then he has to have an election... This is assuming the Labour party even agree to field a candidate in this safe Tory seat.

Labour are now in the enviable position of being able to say "Bugger off, you can't resign", or "Good on you, now run against the BNP and UKIP"... This is a farce.

He's undermined his own career, undermined the impressive work he'd done on the Tory front bench, and given the ball right over to his enemies...

The man's a muppet.


So, he's defending Magna Carta by undermining a grand, and important, parliamentary tradition... Way to go David.