Shared posts

22 Dec 21:10

A new Van Dyke Parks single

by Michael Leddy
Van Dyke Parks has a new single out on the Bella Union label (also available from iTunes): “I’m History” b/w “Charm School.” “I’m History,” a lament for John F. Kennedy and lost hope, is a brilliant and moving song. It begins with a scene of Kennedy at the height of his Kennedyness, hosting a White House dinner for forty-nine Nobel Laureates:
When John F. Kennedy dined at the White House
he summoned the brightest and Nobel elite,
and he recalled the collection of talent
when Jefferson sat down alone there to eat.
He threw the laughter aside, said it can’t be denied,
there are those with no food at our feet.
That is history, brother and sister, to me, that’s history.
The song’s end, “in the dark before dawn,” evokes the 1932 Bonus Army and (less literally) the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign and the 2011 Occupy movement:
And in a city of tents those with no recompense
are encamped on the broad White House lawn.
The people, yes? Well, maybe. A voice says “Move on,” and the singer folds up:
And I could paint you from old Deuteronomy
a richer picture to fix your economy,
but I’d offend you my friend, I surrender, the end. I’m
    history.
There is an imperfect but intensely exciting live performance of “I’m History” on YouTube — voice, piano, and bass. The recording though gives us what might be called the Full Parks — the song scored for strings and woodwinds. I’d like to see a single with both conceptions: call them “I’m History” and ”I‘m History Too.”

“Charm School” (written with Ira Ingber) suggests tropical and western vistas. It is a instrumental full of delights — steel drums, strings playing piano-like figures, snatches of slide guitar. According to Van Dyke’s tweets, “Charm School” has been kicking around for twenty years. Like all worthwhile music, it knows no time but its own and sounds like nothing but itself.

[“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone”: John F. Kennedy, April 29, 1962.]

You’re reading a post from Michael Leddy’s blog Orange Crate Art. Your reader may not display this post as its writer intended.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.
20 Dec 17:34

On taking medication for anxiety.

by Site Owner
At times I'm quite all right,
and then again,
A vacuum cleaner, insecurely stowed,
Shifting in a cupboard under the stairs,
Pushing the door open from the inside,
Gradually, inexorably,
As they always come,
From out the grave,
Can make me shiver to the bone,
And jump, and fear.

Although I neither fear,
In theory, the dead,
Nor yet, the vacuum.
14 Dec 14:12

Nearest Election to a 3-way Split of Seats

by noreply@blogger.com (Alun Wyburn-Powell)
Today is the anniversary of the 1923 general election. The Conservatives won the most seats with 258, Labour had 191 and the Liberals (with the Asquith and Lloyd George wings recently reunited) won 159.

It was the nearest that the country has ever come to an equal three-way split of seats.

The Conservatives, who had been in power before the election, tried to form a minority government.
However, the Liberals and (unsurprisingly) Labour refused to support them on the King’s Speech.

Liberal leader, Asquith could potentially have formed a minority Liberal government, or a coalition with one of the other parties. Instead, he let Labour form their first administration with the words:

"There could be no safer conditions under which to make the experiment".

Asquith was right in the sense that the first Labour government was not dangerous - indeed it was safe, respectable, unadventurous and fairly unobjectionable, even to its opponents.

However, the experiment turned out to be worse than dangerous for the Liberals. Once Labour had become a party of government, the Liberals appeared to have lost their purpose and were punished at the next election, held less than a year later in October 1924. Labour lost office in 1924, but the Liberals lost almost three-quarters of their seats, crashing to only 40 MPs.

One conclusion could be that, given the chance, it is always better to be a party of government.
14 Dec 14:12

Conservative Support Goes South

by noreply@blogger.com (Alun Wyburn-Powell)


Conservative Party support is heading south and has been for over 50 years – I mean this literally, rather than metaphorically.

In the 1955 general election the Conservatives won over half the seats in Scotland. If you look at election maps from then and since, the Conservative blue patches have nearly disappeared from Scotland and much of northern England, while the rest of England has gradually become more and more solid blue.

In the Labour high point of the 1945 election, you could travel all the way from London to Liverpool without leaving a Labour-held constituency. After the even bigger Labour win in 1997 you would only have got as far as St Albans. The Conservative blue still dominated southern England even after the party’s serious defeat.

The Conservative drift to the south is reflected in the party’s choice of leader, which in turn reinforces the party’s southern image, which in turn means that there are fewer candidates for the leadership from outside southern England. The Conservative Party becomes more and more English, and southern English at that.

When you compare the three major parties, since 1945 the Conservative Party has had 11 leaders, Labour 10 and the Liberals/Lib Dems 9, demonstrating a surprising amount of equality and stability. On average a leader of any of the major parties remains in post for over seven years.

When you look at the seats represented by the leaders of each of the parties over this time though, an interesting geographical imbalance emerges.

Liberal/Lib Dem leaders’ seats since 1945

England  3
Scotland 5
Wales     1

Labour leaders’ seats since 1945

England  5
Scotland 2
Wales     3


Conservative leaders’ seats since 1945

England  10
Scotland  1

So, while the Labour and Liberal/Lib Dem leaders have included an over-representation of seats outside England (according to population), the Conservative Party has only had one leader representing a seat outside England. This was Alec Douglas-Home, who was only party leader for two years and that was half a century ago.

Tellingly, one Conservative MP described John Major as representing a ‘northern seat’. Huntingdon is not in the north of England on most people’s maps – it is not even north of Birmingham!
14 Dec 14:10

MPs should have their pay-rise - Oh, and it's 2.2% not 11%

by Mark Thompson
Having seen the almost uniformly negative coverage of this "11% MP pay rise" (even from MPs themselves) I feel that somebody has to stick up for them.

All the commentary I have seen has been along the lines of the rest of the country is suffering from austerity and public sector wage rises have been kept to 1% so WHY ON EARTH SHOULD MPs HAVE AN 11% PAY RISE??!!!

Well firstly the rise would not be 11%. At least not if you measure it fairly and in the same way that pay-rises are measured for everybody else, i.e. annually. The salary is currently £66,396 (since Apr this year). The proposal is to raise it to £74,000 in 2015. So this would be a rise of just under 5.6% per year from that baseline. But that isn't really fair either because between Apr 2009 and Apr 2013 MPs' salaries rose by 0.6% annually (when the historic average of the last decade has been more like 2.2%). And this current rise is at least partly designed to address this. So when you compare the Apr 2009 figure with the proposed 2015 one you get an average pay-rise of 2.2% across the 6 years. Which doesn't even keep pace with inflation.

"AH!" I hear you cry "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE 1%?". But there's more dear irate capitalised fictional reader. IPSA are actually proposing quite radical changes to the structure of MPs' (historically very generous) pensions and also ironing out some expenses anomalies. So the cost to the taxpayer of this latest rise would actually be cost neutral. That's right, it won't cost us anything more. Not that you'd particularly have been aware of that judging by much of the coverage.

It's also worth noting that IPSA is an entirely independent body. Many MPs hate IPSA although most are reluctant to criticise them publicly. This is not a case of MPs with their snouts in the trough trying to diddle the taxpayer. It is an independent group who have scrutinised the current settlement and proposed some changes that will be entirely cost-neutral whilst addressing the fact that MPs' pay has been slipping back in the last few years. It sort of makes me wonder how we are ever going to get to a position where the politics can be taken out of this issue.

Perhaps the proposal to have rises linked to average wage increases is the answer although there are bound to be some sectors that suffer in the future even though the average is much better and hence relatively MPs will appear to be living high on the hog. There is probably no answer to this.

And I have to say that I am not really interested in what cabinet ministers like Phillip Hammond, David Cameron and Danny Alexander have to say on the subject as they all earn well over £100K anyway and in many cases are already very independently wealthy anyway. Just because they can afford to refuse a pay increase does not mean all other MPs should be pressured to do so too. We need to be very careful about this. If this sort of thing carries on and MPs are continually forced through political pressure to refuse successive pay rises we will eventually end up with even higher numbers of MPs from wealthy backgrounds which is not good for politics. We have seen a similar dynamic recently with the whole "expenses saints" phenomenon where MPs who do not claim any expenses at all are lauded. Of course they are all independently wealthy and can afford to pay the expenses themselves. This should not afford them better career prospects but sadly it does seem to be doing so.

In the meantime, can we please stop comparing apples with oranges? Putting the 11% MP figure alongside the 1% public sector figure is completely distorting and unfair. It would be much fairer to compare it to the 2.2% figure for the average rise over the last few years. And it would also only be just to acknowledge that it is cost neutral.

Anything else is simply bullying our MPs and I really do fear where that will ultimately lead.

14 Dec 12:07

#466; In which Everyone loves the Freak

by David Malki !

Rudolph is a classic Mary Sue. But then again so is Jesus

This comic was originally published (in black & white) in 2008! The version above, colored by Anthony Clark, appears in my book Emperor of the Food Chain.

Click here to read the Scripture that accompanies it in the book.

13 Dec 17:41

The David Cameron paradox: His “little black book” could form both the CON and LD manifestos

by MikeSmithson

Cameron in SA

In an interview with Speccie editor, Fraser Nelson David Cameron gives an interesting insight into how his party will present itself at GE2015

“..The coalition is still strong and radical, he says, ‘but because of what I see as the problems facing Britain — and what I want to do next as Prime Minister — I feel very passionately that I want single party government’. It’s strange, I say, he doesn’t come across as a man held captive by the perfidious Liberal Democrats. ‘I don’t believe that you succeed in government by sitting around whingeing about what you can’t do,’ he says. ‘But I’m happy to tell you — and Spectator readers — privately that there’s a good list of things I have put in my little black book that I haven’t been able to do which will form the next Tory manifesto.

That’s fine except it is exactly the message that the Lib Dems will try to put over as well. For their main hope of beating off the CON threat to most of the seats they’ll be defending is that LAB>LD tactical voting to block the Tories continues.

    In this context the more Cameron highlights the things that the LDs have stopped his party doing the more that it makes the case for such anti-CON tactical voting.

The great hope of the Tories is that in the LAB>CON battlegrounds the 2010 LDs will stay with their allegiance and that in the CON>LD ones that LAB voters will stay with the red team.

Concerted tactical voting in both sets of marginal seats makes the CON majority aim that bit more difficult.

Mike Smithson

Blogging from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble since 2004

Follow @MSmithsonPB

12 Dec 01:38

Don’t Live For Your Obituary

by John Scalzi

Image borrowed from here.

Via Nick Mamatas,this article about writer Colin Wilson, who passed away in the last week, which begins: 

How dismayed the late Colin Wilson would have been if, through some of the occult powers in which he believed, he had been able to read his own obituaries.

The man whose first book The Outsider caused him to be lionised in 1956 by the literary greats of the day has been remembered in several blogs for his later novel Space Vampires, which inspired a famously trashy Hollywood film. In the broadsheets, the life of a self-proclaimed genius has been given the faintly amused treatment favoured by obituarists when dealing with a life of eccentricity or failed promise.

Yet there is sort of heroism in the way that Wilson, having been abandoned by those who once praised him, remained loyal to his own talent, living a life of writing, reading and thinking –probably in that order.

The article, which you might be able to tell from the excerpt, is playing both ends of the game with regard to Wilson (which is why Nick pointed it out, I suspect — to mock it). Wilson would be dismayed, but on the other hand he did what he wanted, but on the other other hand here’s a checklist of things to avoid if you want your obits to be properly reverential.

And, I don’t know. One, I think if Mr. Wilson is still sentient after his death, he’s got other, more interesting things to think about than his obits; I suspect at that point worrying about your obits would be like worrying about the end-of-year assessment of your kindergarten teacher once you were out of college (“Nice kid. Hopefully will figure out paste is not for eating.”).

Two, if Mr. Wilson had any sense at all — or any ego, which by all indications he certainly did — then he recognized (before he passed on, obviously) that to the extent he and his work will be remembered at all, obituaries, transient news stories that they are, are insignificant. He’ll be remembered for the work, and the status of the work in the context of history is not settled at the time of the obituary.

Salient example: Gaze, if you will, on the New York Times obituary for Philip K. Dick, on March 3, 1982. It is four graphs long (the final two graphs being two and one sentences long, respectively) — which for a science fiction writer is pretty damn good, when it comes to obits in America’s Paper of Record, but which, shall we say, does not really suggest that Dick’s notability would long survive him. Now, look at the voluminous record of writing about Dick in the NYT post-obit — an index of five pages of thumbsuckers. Pre-death, I find one note about Dick in the index, and it’s one of those Arts & Leisure preview bits.

So, yes. The obit was not the final word, because the work continues — or at least, can. In Dick’s case, the majority of his fame has come after his death, alas for him. He (nor any of us) would not know that from the four paragraphs in the NYT on 3/3/82.

I noted it before and will like do so again: As a creative person (or, really, any other sort of person), you have absolutely no control how history will know you, if indeed they know you at all. For most creative people, to the extent they are remembered at all, they will be remembered for one thing, because the culture at large only has so much space for any of us. You won’t get to choose which one thing for which you are remembered. If, for Wilson, the one thing he’s remembered for is Space Vampires rather than The Outsider, then that is still one more thing for which he is remembered than the billions of us who go to our graves and are swallowed up by them. So well done him.

But even then, the culture’s memory is not infinite. Wilson’s work, one way or another, is not likely to survive the vicious cultural culling that happens over the course of time; it’s unlikely to be remembered by anyone but academics in a hundred years, or even them long after that (nor, to be clear, will mine, or the unfathomably large majority of works being created today). The good news is the judgment of the obits will have passed from this world long before then. And in any event the sun is going to swell up into a red giant in five billion years and likely swallow up the planet, so that’ll be the end of all of it.

(Obit for the sun: “A long, pedestrian life followed by a brief illness; survived by Jupiter, three other planets and numerous moons and comets. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Orphaned Trans-Neptunian Objects Fund.”)

I don’t know Mr. Wilson to any degree — I am one of those who knew him best for creating the source material for Life Force, which was a terrible movie — but my wish for him was that he lived the sort of life where he didn’t actually care what his obits said, and instead enjoyed his life and left work that had the possibility of speaking for itself, over time. If you’re a creative (or indeed any other) person, let me suggest you don’t worry about your obits either. As well as you can, live the life you want to live and make the work you want to make. After you’re gone, it’ll all be sorted out or not. You won’t be around to worry about it. Focus on the parts you’re around for.


11 Dec 08:42

One Year Later

by noreply@blogger.com (Philip Sandifer)
Nearly one year on, these are the things I remember.

Going to my favorite breakfast restaurant the next morning and sitting next to a loudmouth man who talked about how he didn't even want to have Christmas anymore, but who, as he paid for his meal, tried to get the waitress to stop by his car dealership.

The town piling up all the toys people donated in the basement of the town hall and letting kids just pick freely from them. After Chirstmas they still had so many that they had to make expensive plans to get rid of the absurd mass of toys that people donated with no thought whatsoever as to whether they were comforting anyone but themselves.

The woman who set up an ad hoc memorial consisting of little Christmas trees, which she described as having "pink lights for the girl angels and blue lights for the boy angels," and my bafflement both at the fact that gender essentialism is somehow necessary after death and that the six adults got red lights.

The day it took an hour to drive the mile from my house to the comic shop because of the traffic around the church, not from people going to one of the funerals, but from news vans parked across the street filming people at the funeral.

The numbing awkwardness of meeting a bunch of Jill's family for the first time at a family Christmas party two days after, and having a half-dozen identical conversations, all of which begin with someone I've just met asking where in Connecticut we live, and which end precisely one sentence later.

How it was too soon to talk about the politics of gun control right up until the impetus to actually do anything had passed.

Reading an article in Salon that offered a deconstructive take on the name of the bar Nancy Lanza frequented - My Place - viewing it as the epitome of American capitalist culture. My Place added a bar no more than a decade ago, and anyone local knows it as one of the main local pizza places; I first ate there over twenty years ago.

The signs some presumably well-meaning people put up suggesting that everything is God's plan, and how I wanted to just drive out at 2am and tear them all down, along with the brightly colored signs comforting the town made by kids who had never been there and hung from every telephone pole, and all the other mawkish, brightly colored shit that consisted of nothing more than hollow platitudes trying to advance the sickening lie that there is anything OK about a world where one morning twenty first graders can be gunned down in their classroom. 
09 Dec 14:24

File Extensions

I have never been lied to by data in a .txt file which has been hand-aligned.
09 Dec 13:47

PSA: Why there won't be a third book in the Halting State trilogy

by Charlie Stross

I really wanted to make it a trilogy, you know? I mean, what could be cooler than a trilogy of near-future Scottish police procedurals about crimes that don't exist yet, written in multi-viewpoint second person? (Elizabeth Bear has a term for that kind of thing: she calls it "stunt writing".)

Unfortunately the NSA have done it again:

To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency's impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough. What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs.

Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games' tech-friendly users.

At this point, I'm clutching my head. "Halting State" wasn't intended to be predictive when I started writing it in 2006. Trouble is, about the only parts that haven't happened yet are Scottish Independence and the use of actual quantum computers for cracking public key encryption (and there's a big fat question mark over the latter—what else are the NSA up to?).

I'm throwing in the towel. I probably will write another near-future Scottish police procedural by and by, but it won't be a sequel to the first two except in the loosest sense. The science fictional universe of "Halting State" and "Rule 34" is teetering on the edge of turning into reality. Meanwhile, the financial crisis of 2007 forced me back to the drawing board for "Rule 34"; the Snowden revelations have systematically trashed all my ideas for the third book.

To make matters worse, Scotland is teetering on the edge of a political singularity. There is a Referendum on Scottish Independence coming up in September 2014. Then the UK (with or without Scotland) is expected to hold a referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU—a vote with consequences which are probably even more disruptive than the question of whether Scotland should separate from the Union. In just two years the map of the Scottish near future will have changed, unpredictably and drastically, from where it is now. I therefore conclude that there is simply no point in my starting to write a near-future politically astute crime thriller set in Scotland before I know the outcome of those votes (especially as it couldn't be published before mid-2016).

Sometimes I wish I'd stuck with the spaceships and bug-eyed monsters. Realism in fiction is over-rated.

PS:

If you're wondering what sort of near-future dystopian panopticon surveillance state/spy thriller I would be writing if I wasn't setting it in Scotland and writing in the second person, you'll get to see when I finish it. Ahem. Because that's the direction the trilogy provisionally titled "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation" is going in.

There will eventually be another near-future Scottish thriller, but I'm not going to start writing until after the votes are in. And it won't be in-series with the first two.

09 Dec 12:22

FOR MANDELA

by rkaveney@gmail.com
RESTRAINT

Some eulogize him who will never learn
from words or deeds or what he did not do.
-Six window bars, a sea more grey than blue.
White choke dust lime pit, where bright sun would burn

necks, and in winter hands numb from wet cold.
Told him the son he did not know was dead.
He wept. Three decades sitting on his bed
he taught young comrades still his comrades old,

who walked with him to freedom. Heard his voice
stern gentle. Helped him build. He gave his power
away and let successors have their hour,
yet bound their wills to this most anguished choice.

He was prepared to put men in their grave
whom, once they dropped their weapons, he forgave.
09 Dec 09:19

How to Find a Mutually Beneficial Solution

by Scott Meyer

Yeah, wrote this and sent it out to the subscribers over a month ago. In the time since, Monty Python has announced that they've reunited. In other news, it looks like they're makign another Beverly Hills Cop movie, so that's something.

Hey, just a reminder that any holiday gifts purchased through my Amazon Affiliate links (USUKCanada) would, in theory, throw a little money my way without costing you a dime extra! Just Sayin'.

08 Dec 21:23

Tributes have flooded in

by Mark Steel

I wonder if it was like this two thousand years ago. If it was, when Jesus died, Pontius Pilate would have appeared on Sky News moments after the cross was taken down and said “The world mourns today a man of great integrity. It was an honour to have known him, and even when I sentenced him to crucifixion, he showed great forgiveness, and that shows what a great figure he was.”

On the BBC the newsreader would say “With me here is one of his closest associates. Judas, what memories do you have of Jesus?”

And Judas would say he always displayed dignity and humility, and most importantly forgave those that betrayed him, and finish with an amusing anecdote, about how pernickety he could be about which bread to break at supper.

On Radio 5 live the moneylenders at the temple would say he was a heroic figure, who may have thrown over the moneylenders’ tables in the temple, but said he was sorry for the mess that was caused, which is the main thing, then every newspaper would tell us “Tributes have flooded in from across the Roman Empire, led by King Herod who said ‘It is a sad day for Nazareth, and a sad day for Rome’.”

Many of the official tributes to Nelson Mandela, such as the one from David Cameron, have emphasised his ability to forgive, and his apparent rejection of bitterness is part of what made him extraordinary. But the reason his capacity for forgiveness towards the rulers of apartheid mattered, was that he’d organised opposition to it, took up arms against it and overthrew it. If he hadn’t, if his notable side was forgiveness, he would simply have been a kindly chap who’d passed away with no one outside his family taking much notice.

Few people now defend apartheid, but someone must have liked it at the time or it wouldn’t have been such a nuisance to destroy. Margaret Thatcher, idol of many who made tributes to Mandela, bragged with a fervour that actually made her look drunk, that she’d rejected sanctions against the regime, as the ANC was a “typical terrorist organisation.” Many sportsmen and musicians broke the boycott, repeating the sentiments of Dennis Thatcher who said “we play our rugby where we like”. There were the ‘Hang Mandela’ t-shirts, and countless commentators and politicians who belittled the demonstrations and boycotts.

I visited Robben Island prison, where Mandela had been incarcerated, in 2003. To get my ticket I visited an office in Cape Town, with glossy posters on the wall, covered in flowery lower case jolly African writing, exclaiming your trip to South Africa wasn’t complete without taking the unique opportunity of a trip to the famous island. I got on a catamaran with Americans and Germans, who smothered themselves in sun cream and took pictures of each other as they held out their arms and giggled.

Had they turned the prison into a theme park, I wondered, maybe with a water-canon-slide, and a helter skelter shaped like a giant Desmond Tutu?

But tours of the prisons are conducted by ex-prisoners. As we wandered round the cells our guide explained how he and fellow convicts had been allotted different amounts of bread according to their race, and how they were made to work sixteen hours a day on the land.

“One day”, he said, “As I was digging, on the day of the month my father was due to visit, a guard called my name. I stood before him on that spot there and he said ‘Your father won’t be visiting today as he’s been shot. Now get back to work’.”

His father lived, it turned out, but never walked again, and the guide told us the three responsible for the attempted murder were free under the rules of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, and were now wealthy businessmen.

To my left a woman in shorts and a bright silk top, put her camera away and started sobbing onto her sun cream.

On another day I was taken around Soweto, by a friend of the family I was staying with. We toured the roads from which its residents hadn’t been allowed to leave without a pass, met countless children running along dusty tracks selling water, as if auditioning for a film that Morgan Freeman will probably be in, and went round the museum built where the schoolchildren were massacred.

My host was fascinated by England and cricket and the Premier League, and overflowing with tales of his youth, of plantains and preachers, and pondering why after apartheid there were still hundreds of thousands living in squalor, in the camps outside each town.
“What a memorable day”, I said when I got back to the people I was staying with. “Marvellous”, they said, “but you were lucky today. That lad you were with was arrested in the 1980s, and tortured by the police in the station at John Foster Square. He made such a noise they called him The Screamer, and whenever they brought in new prisoners, they would torture him again, so his screams would terrify them and make them talk. Sometimes he’s still a bit jittery but he was on good form today.”

So it was indeed remarkable that Nelson Mandela endured this regime and yet displayed no malice. But the real reason he was remarkable is that he took on its wealth and weaponry and brutality, its distinguished friends and its air of impregnable authority, he became the figure of a global movement and he beat it. The kids of Soweto not legally allowed past their street, the protestor throwing flour at rugby players, the student taking their twenty quid out of Barclays, the pensioner leaving South African grapes at the checkout, The Specials, the prisoners and the screamers and Nelson Mandela were united in opposition to this heavily armed barbarity and they won.

During the campaign against apartheid Nelson Mandela was a distant figure, locked away but a name on mugs, posters and student union halls, barely more real than Batman. But the De Klerks and Bothas were alarmingly real, an air of menace in their presence, like the bouncer that orders around the other bouncers.

Now the hazy figure is revered above all, and the defenders of apartheid have to scramble in his shadow for a space to declare that really they admired him, and the people they helped to torture.

The precise nature of his legacy will be debated for centuries. His capacity for forgiveness was impressive, and perhaps it isn’t surprising if that’s emphasised by some paying tribute, rather than his role in overturning inequality, as they’re now arranging inequality of their own.

Because surely his most important achievement was to prove that bastards and their bastard regimes can be overthrown, against seemingly impossible odds, by all of us, as no one knows which unsold grape was the one that finally brought down a tyranny.

08 Dec 16:41

Recommended Reading

by evanier
Andrew Hickey

I do hope not. I don't think I could stand it if I had to sit on a transatlantic flight listening to the kind of half-conversations I hear on the bus to work. It would, quite literally, drive me mad.

Joe Brancatelli, the man who knows more about airlines than anyone alive, doesn't think much will come of this proposal to allow passengers on flights to use their cell phones. At least, there won't be a lot of voice calls, sez Joe.

08 Dec 02:30

Ten lazy assumptions that are part of the mainstream political consensus.

Ten lazy assumptions that are part of the mainstream political consensus.
07 Dec 19:38

#987; In which Jeremy is Defeated

by David Malki !

WHAT'S THIS APPENDED TO MY PUNISHING SCREED??? ''Jeremy likes this.'' WHAT DOES IT MEEEAAANNNN

07 Dec 19:11

Lovebible.pl

by Charlie Stross

Michael Walker trained a Markov chain with the King James Bible and Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, a classic computer science textbook.

The result is King James Programming:

And Satan stood up against them in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the role of procedures in program design.

22:14 The mouth of strange women is a deep and wonderful property of computation.

In APL all data are represented as arrays, and there shall they see the Son of man, in whose sight I brought them out

This was not, obviously, silly enough for my tastes, so ...

Half an hour on CPAN and in vim, and then some discreet dumpster-diving in the nether reaches of the internet, brought me three things:

  • A dodgy copy of the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft
  • The text of the King James Version of the Bible
  • And the first code I've written in, oh, close to two years (please go easy on me)

Here it is:

    #!/usr/bin/perl 
    #===========================================================================
    #
    #         FILE:  lovebible.pl
    #
    #        USAGE:  ./lovebible.pl 
    #
    #      VERSION:  1.0
    #      CREATED:  05/12/2013 20:08:15 GMT
    #     REVISION:  ---
    #===========================================================================
    
    use strict;
    use warnings;
    use Algorithm::MarkovChain;
    use Path::Class;
    use autodie; # die if problem reading or writing a file

    my @inputs = qw(king_james_bible.txt lovecraft_complete.txt); 
    my $dir = dir(".");
    my $f = "";
    my @symbols = ();
    foreach $f (@inputs) {
        my $file = $dir->file($f);
    	my $lcounter = 0;
        my $wcounter = 0;
        my $file_handle = $file->openr();
        while( my $line = $file_handle->getline() ) {
    		chomp ($line);
    		my @words = split(' ', $line);
            push(@symbols, @words);
    		$lcounter++;
    		$wcounter += scalar(@words);
        }
    	print "$lcounter lines, $wcounter words read from $f\n";
    }   
    my $chain = Algorithm::MarkovChain::->new();
    $chain->seed(symbols => \@symbols, longest => 6);
    print "About to spew ...\n";
    print "---\n\n";
    foreach (1 .. 20) {
        my @newness = $chain->spew(length   => 40,
                                   complete => [ qw( the ) ]);
        print join (" ", @newness), ".\n\n";
    }
Yes, it's a Markov chain generator, seeded with the King James Bible and the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft. Sample output:

krina:markov charlie$ ./lovebible.pl 2> /dev/null
99820 lines, 821134 words read from king_james_bible.txt
16536 lines, 775603 words read from lovecraft_complete.txt
About to spew ...
---
    
    the backwoods folk -had glimpsed the battered mantel,
    rickety furniture, and ragged draperies. It spread over it a
    robber, a shedder of blood, when I listened with mad
    intentness. At last you know!At last to come to see me. Now
    Absalom.
    
    the absence of any real link with that of 598 Angell Street
    was as the old castle by the shallow crystal stream I saw
    unwonted ripples tipped with yellow light, as if those
    depths of their rhythm. The training saved them.
    
    the bed, and make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.
    1:12 While the case histories, to expect. As mental
    atmosphere. His eyes were pits of a hundred and fifty
    shekels, 30:24 And he laughed mockingly at the village
    summoning.
    
    the commandment of the room; then this. If this thing. 25:1
    If he had no way to turn either to the coyote - or to
    something was wrong. Marsh and Marceline represents. I am
    strong. 26:16 I also in me. 14:2.
    
    the ghouls, whose utter strangeness and their backsliding, I
    will love him, and have redeemed them, yet thou never gavest
    me a people: 8:11 And I said unto them, and I believe that
    the king doth behold the upright. 33:2 Thus.
    
    the gleaming sand, bobbing lanterns. The Philistines be upon
    thee, and because the famine in the heart proceed evil for
    Israel, with hesitancy, and which I had known it, to
    himself, he said, How shall depart from his house. 7:2 That.
    
    the results we learned that no harm him, and rent it. 7:22
    My face again no not to inform me, even all the heads of the
    unutterable consequences. It could tell, it thunders. The
    thing came out of Egypt. Who knoweth.
    
    the grass-grown line on the glassy, phantom bones. 50:18
    Therefore the children of Israel dedicated the sea, diverse
    and I hung an air of the war, to rest in my brother for
    nought, and the counsellor, and the cunning workman, and.
    
    the great hill that put bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for
    Tammuz. 8:15 As it fastened his body to the dead youth who
    would "go the king lifted up his Son of Professor George
    Saintsbury - "the criminal is securely strapped to.

As you can see, the output is pretty crude. Obviously this was a half-hour hack, not a properly finished product; but I think it shows promise — His eyes were pits of a hundred and fifty shekels — and a definite feel of familiarity — It spread over it a robber, a shedder of blood, when I listened with mad intentness.

Stuff to do: fine-tune the parameters of the Markov chain output, pick different seed words, possibly filter out chapter headers, titles, and verse numbers, possibly scan the output for sentence-shaped lexical chunks and top and tail them (capitalize and terminate properly).

I wonder: if I run it for long enough, will it emit a fully-formed draft of the Necronomicon?

07 Dec 13:42

Carter Country

by evanier

Here's a review of the Beyoncé show I attended. I pretty much agree with everything in it.

And here, for my own record if not your info, is the set list she performed: Run the World, End of Time, If I Were a Boy, Get Me Bodied, Baby Boy, Diva, Naughty Girl, Party, Freakum Dress, Why Don't You Love Me, 1+1, Irreplaceable, Love On Top, Survivor, Countdown, Crazy In Love, Grown Woman, I Was Here, I Will Always Love You, Halo. In that order.

I received an e-mail from someone who wrote "How could you stand that crap?" and a couple others from folks who said essentially the same thing, only nicer. Obviously, given the lady's popularity, I am hardly the only person on the planet who likes "that crap." I thought she was terrific…and I also took the POV that I was something of an alien presence there, enjoying the chance to observe native customs. I mean nothing racial in that. It's just that her show is not geared to 61-year-old guys who are not heavy into what she does or to R&B played at that volume.

beyonce02

So I guess I could have gone into Old Man mode and barked at these kids today and their music and how it's not like the old days and while you're at it, get the hell off my lawn! But I always feel a certain arrogance welling up within me when I go anywhere near there. It's like, "How dare there be entertainment not geared for my tastes?" And on some level, "How dare something I don't like be so successful?" I just found much there to admire and enjoy, including the sheer professionalism of the performance and the sense of audience connection and participation. Most of all, I thought this: How often do you get to be in a room with 18,000 people all having the best time of their lives and showing it?

There are people in this world who somehow feel threatened by the happiness of others. I'm thinking of one guy I occasionally encounter at conventions when I can't avoid him. He's got to be one of the unhappiest people on this planet. Whenever he runs into someone who's happy (or at least, seems happy to him) you can see it make him madder. It's like they've got something he can't seem to get. And those grins on their faces? That's them flaunting it just to make him feel worse.

I think the happiness of others is the best drug in the world. Well, not always. When your knee is hurting, as my left knee (the one I didn't have surgery on earlier this year) is now, a shot of cortisone is the best drug in the world and I got one today so I can do something over the weekend besides wince. But when your knee is not hurting, the happiness of others is the best drug and I got a good shot of that on Tuesday evening. I'd go again if she was here, I got another free ticket and I didn't have to stand for the whole show.

07 Dec 00:47

WHAT is GOING ON with your LIFE

Andrew Hickey

Important advice for Holly

archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - cute - search - about
← previous December 4th, 2013 next

December 4th, 2013: AUSTIN: last time I was there (to sign literally thousands and thousands of books) I loved it. So I'm coming back! Webcomics Rampage is this weekend in Austin, Texas! THAT IS WHERE I'M GONNA BE. Let us hang out! LET US DO THAT

One year ago today: sufficiently-advanced reindeer

– Ryan

06 Dec 23:45

#534 Air Drop

by noreply@blogger.com (treelobsters)
06 Dec 23:01

BADDIEL AND SKINNER AND THE LIGHTNING SEEDS – “Three Lions”

by Tom

#740, 1st June 1996

3LIONS On Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet, there’s a track called “Incident At 66.6 FM” – a 90-second cut-up of derisive, racist radio commentary on the band that brings you-the-listener right up to speed on why they felt besieged, and puts you on their side for the fightback. The first thirty seconds of “Three Lions” pull off a very similar trick for a rather less radical cause: England fans. It’s a compact, adroit bit of pop scene-setting. In the background, the low swell of a stadium rousing itself for battle. In the foreground, critics officiate at a funeral. “I think it’s BAD NEWS for the English game…not CREATIVE enough, not POSITIVE enough… we’ll GO ON getting bad results…”

Wait, though – even as these suited vultures gather, we hear another voice – lone and thin, but firm and honest, singing a song that is halfway to a prayer. “It’s coming home, it’s coming home… “ Against the ranks of pessimism, cynicism, analysis and fact, against their own better judgement, the fan can’t help but believe. Football is coming home.

It’s a magnificent bit of manipulation: the marketer in me swoons in admiration. The rest of “Three Lions” develops the theme but all you need to know is in that intro. Who, on hearing it, wouldn’t be on the side of the fan’s simple faith against the doomsayers? In half a minute “Three Lions” defined the English game’s sense of itself for the rest of the 90s, and the 00s too – sentimental belief against obstinate fact, with the former winning the moral victory every time.

Like all football number ones, “Three Lions” is an artefact from a changing game. Plenty of middle-class Brits had always liked football, but Italia 90 had cemented that audience as the game’s great new revenue stream, World Cup-weaned fans who liked heartbreak and tears and big stories with regular helpings of ‘glory’ and ‘passion’. At the club level this breakthrough demographic were well-served by Man United’s ascendancy and the Premier League’s early boom – but at an international level the development had been held back by the woeful performances of England ever since 1990.

Here was where “Three Lions” was truly clever. It didn’t just strike a chord with the new football market, it provided them with an invaluable primer on how to feel about England and history. The song – and I write as a part of that market – is a bluffer’s guide to fandom, an off the shelf attitude to the England team, a way of buying into history and resolving the anxiety of newbiedom – all thanks to the four toxic little words at the song’s heart.

Like all great marketing insights, “thirty years of hurt” is immediately evocative and immensely flexible and extensible. Like many, it’s also meanly prescriptive, telescoping the many possible conflicting feelings about crap performances – like anger, amusement, resignation, or sheer apathy – into one selfish, petulant word. Baddiel, Skinner and Ian Broudie sing “hurt” like they mean it – their performances are so sincere it’s almost mawkish: football fans as sad, big-eyed pups. But however they meant “hurt”, it was also a summary of the entitlement the English media began to show about international football – the shimmering history of the game since 1966 reduced to a barren stretch in which “we” didn’t win anything.

The cavalier treatment of history is characteristic of Sky-era sport – but it resonated more widely. “Three Lions” fit its pop moment as well as its football one, landing at a time when a chunk of Britain’s music talent seemed fixed on play-acting the 60s. “Three Lions” is a superior Britpop song, whatever else it is – too earnest and not as sharp or funny as the genre’s best, but Skinner and Baddiel’s rough voices have a folksy conviction and charm which a lot of minor Britpop bands lacked, and the Lightning Seeds could always sell a sappy tune.

Back in 1966, pop and football had little enough to do with one another. But in nostalgia’s lens the heights of pop creativity and England’s footballing powers had become linked, part of the same golden dream. So in the magical working that was Britpop, the Euro 96 tournament could be a sympathetic ritual replay of 1966 – and the climax of “Three Lions” comes when the singers unite on a line that seems to move beyond even prayer and into spell. “I know that was then – but it could be again.” At that moment the song stops, and it’s as if Baddiel and Skinner (and us, if we want to join in) have their eyes squeezed tight shut, willing time to unravel and the world to rewrite itself around our glorious past.

The song starts up again. The moment passes. Our brave lions (etc) go out on penalties against “the Germans”. The cycle continues.

POSTSCRIPT (A bit of Meta-Business).

In 2008 (42 years of hurt! And counting!) I wrote this: “I occasionally think of Popular as a three-act story: this [The Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen”] is the end of Act I, the false start of the second great age of singles, which was also the world that shaped me as a listener.” And this, for what it’s worth, is the end of Act II.

The relationship between the Pistols and this song probably seems rather obscure. It is rather obscure, if only because “Three Lions” is the product of a pop culture where the legends of punk had become part of the mainstream context of everything. “Three Lions” is in no sense a punk record. But the three men who made “Three Lions” were shaped by punk’s consequences, and so was the world it was released into. Broudie was a player on the Liverpool post-punk scene. Baddiel and Skinner were second-generation inheritors of “alternative comedy” and its sometimes conscious application of punky ideas and salesmanship to stand-up. The positioning of “Three Lions” – a more alternative, more authentic football single than previous official FA product – is classic indie ju-jitsu marketing, and as such also inherited from punk. Assume the underdog role and never let it go – even when you’re Number One.

“Three Lions” frames the problem of English football in a way that would become increasingly familiar. Football had lost its way, lost its hunger and passion and cheek, but with those it could go back to the golden age. It was an alluring story – and it was also the way Oasis had framed the problem of English pop. “I know that was then but it could be again”. This was one of the fatal promises of punk, or at least punk as the culture came to remember it – punk as a giant reset button on a stagnant scene. But once you had shown there might be a reset button, the lure of pressing it again became far stronger. Once you admit the possibility of going back to basics, moving forward, and working with what you have, becomes a lot harder. And the alternative – Jules Rimet still gleaming, England still dreaming – grows more and more seductive.

06 Dec 17:24

King James programming: a Markov chain trained on the bible and Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.

King James programming: a Markov chain trained on the bible and Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.
06 Dec 17:24

Telepathwords: preventing weak passwords by reading your mind.

Telepathwords: preventing weak passwords by reading your mind.
06 Dec 14:40

Nelson Mandela's statement from the dock, 1964

by Jonathan Calder
Nelson Mandela has died.

Let us remember him through his words from the dock at the opening of his trial in 1964 - you can read the whole statement on the African National Congress site:
In my youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambata, Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the charges made against me in this case. 
Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites. ... 
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Mandela's release from prison in 1990, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall they year before, marked the dawn of a hopeful decade in politics. Suddenly the good guys were winning.

That spirit did not survive 9/11, but that has more to do with the inadequacy of the West's leaders than it does with the objective threat from terrorism.

We must hope that South Africa's leaders will be up to maintaining Mandela's legacy.
06 Dec 14:22

Another Doctor Who book that you should read

by Mike Taylor

I’m actually a fortnight late, but I just noticed that Andrew Hickey’s Doctor Who book is out. It’s available as in paperback, hardback, Kindle (US and UK) and other e-book formats. I just bought my copy: paperback for £10, with free shipping using the “FREESHIP” coupon code.

Fifty stories for fifty years -- Andrew Hickey

Andrew’s book is very, very different from mine (so, you know, you should buy both). While I focussed very tightly on the Eleventh Doctor (the clue’s in the title), and hardly touch on anything pre-2010, Andrew covers the whole half-century history of Doctor Who, from An Unearthly Child onwards. He also covers all media: not just the TV show, but also the various series of books and audio plays.

If you want to get a sense of what’s in the book before plonking down your tenner, you can find most of the material in Andrew’s series of posts at The Mindless Ones. You’ll see that he has a habit of veering off-piste to dig out the most esoteric nuggets of information and make the most fascinating connections. Highly recommended.


06 Dec 11:42

The Problem with EULAs

by schneier

Some apps are being distributed with secret Bitcoin-mining software embedded in them. Coins found are sent back to the app owners, of course.

And to make it legal, it's part of the end-user license agreement (EULA):

COMPUTER CALCULATIONS, SECURITY: as part of downloading a Mutual Public, your computer may do mathematical calculations for our affiliated networks to confirm transactions and increase security. Any rewards or fees collected by WBT or our affiliates are the sole property of WBT and our affiliates.

This is a great example of why EULAs are bad. The stunt that resulted in 7,500 people giving Gamestation.co.uk their immortal souls a few years ago was funny, but hijacking users' computers for profit is actually bad.

05 Dec 23:52

The Web Planet

by Iain Coleman

Why question me? Surely you can see our movements.

Each of us has a characteristic repertoire of movements. You can recognise loved ones just by the way they walk. Actors use different styles of movement to create different characters. Some of these can become iconic, instantly triggering off a complex of ideas, emotions and cultural signifiers. There are basic, gross movements that are common to they way any man walks down a street, but if one of them is Charlie Chaplin twirling an umbrella and the other is John Travolta swinging a paint can, the different personalities are immediately recognisable, and the emotional and cultural connotations are widely different.

It’s important in science fiction drama too. If human actors are to represent alien beings, then finding new styles of movement suitable to the extraterrestrial race in question is essential, if they are not to look simply like a scattering of awkward suburbanites at an unsuccessful fetish party. Wise producers will hire choreographers to work with the actors, giving each species its own palette of movements unique to itself, making each group of aliens seem coherent in itself but distinct from any other.

But what is a style of movement? We can all recognise it, but can we break it down into its elements? Quantify it? Analyse it?

Beauchamp-Feuillet notation (image credit: Judith Appleby)

Beauchamp-Feuillet notation (image credit: Judith Appleby)

The first project to have a go at pinning down the component elements of dance was commissioned by Louis XIV in the late 17th century. There had been dance treatises before then, elaborate descriptions of how particular dances should be performed (sometimes with stroppy comments about how they should certainly not be performed), but the notation that ballet master Pierre Beauchamp devised for His Majesty was the first to use abstract symbols instead of prose descriptions accompanied by realistic drawings.

This Beauchamp-Feuillet notation, as it became known after Raoul Auger Feuillet popularised it in his many published books of choreography, was an elegant, if initially forbidding, system of swirling lines and sudden angles that represented the motions and transitions of dance just as a set of dots and lines can describe the notes and rhythms of music. It remained in widespread use for a century, before being superseded by a variety of alternative systems.

Benesh Movement Notation (image credit: Juliette Kando)

Benesh Movement Notation (image credit: Juliette Kando)

There are two in wide use today. The Benesh Movement Notation represents body positions on a five-line stave similar to that used in standard musical notation, allowing music and dance notation to be more easily integrated, while Rudolf Laban’s “Labanotation” looks more like geometric abstract art than music, but does have the advantage that it can be used to describe any kind of bodily movement in space and time, not just dance moves.

Rudolf Laban and his Labanotation

Rudolf Laban and his Labanotation

This idea has been developed further, in Eshkol-Wachman movement notation. Like its predecessors, this breaks down movements into primitive elements, but it uses an elaborate system of three-dimensional polar coordinates to locate these motions in space, with techniques for rotating and translating sequences of movements so that they can be directly compared. This allows the truly invariant characteristics of movements to be calculated.

The applications go far beyond the world of dance. It has been used in a host of animal studies, allowing scientists to establish the movements that are characteristic of particular animals, study how these movements change due to illness or injury, and compare the ways different species of animal move. In one example, Tammy Ivanco and her colleagues from the University of Lethbridge, Canada, used Eshkol-Wachman notation to quantify the different ways that rats and opossums reach for food, and were able to relate the more complex movements of the rats’ hands and arms to their relatively more elaborate brains and nervous systems.

It may even prove useful in studying the human brain. Autism is not generally diagnosed until a child is around three years old, while Asperger’s Syndrome is diagnosed much later – typically around the age of six or seven, but it can remain undiagnosed into the teenage years. Osnat Teitelbaum and her colleagues at the University of Florida analysed video recordings of infants moving about, and by using the Eshkol-Wachman system were able to determine certain movement styles that were characteristic of children who would later be diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. These were things like asymmetric crawling, where the infant would not crawl in the efficient manner of most babies, moving diagonally opposite limbs together, but would instead move in clumsier ways, such as with one foot stepping while another crawls, or a particular way of falling forward or back from a sitting position without using the reflexive motions of the arms that neurotypical infants would protect themselves with. This work led them to develop a simple motion-based test for autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in infants, whereby the child is held and the waist and slowly tilted from side to side. If the infant does not manage to keep their head vertical, an autistic spectrum disorder may be present.

A much simpler form of notation was devised recently by Amy LaViers, an engineering postgrad at the Georgia Institute of Technology. (That’s Georgia the US state, not Georgia the former Soviet republic.) Eschewing the complexity and power of the Eshkol-Wachman notation, LaVier’s system represents two legs, each of which can adopt one of ten different poses. The sequence of poses, and the transitions between them, describe the dance.

These ten discrete states are not chosen arbitrarily. Ballet dancers perform their warm-up exercises at the barre, a handrail that they hold on to for stability as they exercise each leg in turn. The ten barre exercises are the building blocks of ballet, and it is these movements that are captured in LaVier’s finite state automaton, a computer program that moves through these different poses to create sequences of dance.

There are constraints on the movements the automaton can perform. Some of these are physical – it cannot hover with both legs off the ground like some Jedi Cossack – but others are aesthetic. Specific mathematical constraints define the style and content of the dance, and as the automaton improvises within these constraints the audience perceives the character of its motion.

The aim of this work is not to create a ballet-dancing robot. Rather, it is to find ways to make robots move with particular styles and qualities. Non-verbal communication is expected to become an important element of the human-machine interface, as machines become more mobile and autonomous. A Predator drone may have no need to appear friendly (though for PR purposes I can imagine one of its successors might), but as robots increasingly interact with humans in non-lethal contexts, their body language may be the critical factor in putting people at their ease.

In this way, the robot engineers face the same sort of challenge as a choreographer on a science fiction show. They each have to define characteristic styles of movement that their performers – actors or robots – can work within, generating arbitrary sequences of movement that remain within strict aesthetic constraints. The difference is that the choreographer wants to make the actors seem as inhuman as possible, moving with a sense of the strange and uncanny, while the engineer wants the robots to seem as human, friendly and familiar as an automaton of motors and software can be.

05 Dec 23:07

Civil Partnerships: 8 Years Old Today

by noreply@blogger.com (Jae Kay)
Let's face it... I've never been very nice about civil partnerships. Even now I feel the bubbling of rage just beneath my skin at the mere thought of them. They were introduced by Labour because of the obvious need for some sort of partnership rights for same-sex couples. That can, really, only be seen as a good thing. But the fact is that, at the time of their introduction, the debate internationally had already moved on to marriage equality. Civil partnerships were, in hindsight, doomed to be considered obsolete within a few years of their introduction. 

And that is what really rankles me. In the years after their introduction Labour acted as if the matter was closed. My attempts to discuss equal marriage with LGBT Labour members were dismissed. Chris Bryant called me a numbskull for asking why he didn't even mention marriage as an option during the debates (and why he argued against equal marriage during them). Stonewall were so pleased with civil partnerships that they fought, briefly, tooth and nail to protect their uniqueness against any attempts to pursue marriage itself. And that was despite the multiple problems civil partnerships have

And now here we stand... the last anniversary of the introduction of civil partnerships that will fall before same-sex marriage comes into place in England and Wales. Isn't it time I just let it go? Forget it ever happened? I wish I could. 

But in their weird ideological defense of the obsolete Stonewall and Labour showed that LGBT freedom is nothing but a political game to some. Our attempts to seek liberty will be stymied by the self interest of political organisations and parties. We must never settle for second best and, when we accept second best as better than third best, we must at least state "this is not what we really want". No more politics, no more muddles like the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act, we must continue to argue for what is right. 

Civil partnerships were a sham. And whilst some may argue they were a stepping stone to same-sex marriage, I'd say that by becoming an idol (one that was to be defended at all costs) of the Westminster LGBT set it actually served to make this years hard won victory just that little more difficult.
04 Dec 10:55

I Don't Own a TV

Theory: Smugness is proportional to the negative second derivative of TV ownership rate with respect to time.