I'M READY FOR MY CLOSE UP Apparently I will be appearing on Radio National around 6.30am tomorrow morning Australian east coast time to explain why Australia may have to take over the job of running half the damn Pacific if things keep going to hell in a handbasket they way they have been for several years now. This is what happens when Di Martin drops by your office to get some background on Cyclone Zoe and Tikopia, and you run off at the mouth about the "arc of instability" to Australia's north and the long-term effects of aid dependency on cash-strapped island governments. Next time, I'll keep my big mouth shut. Anyone up at that ungodly hour is invited to listen in. UPDATE Well, that wasn't too horrible, aside from the ungodly hour. Although a transcript for today's program won't be ready for a few hours, when they are ready you will be able to find them here. If you're really lucky, it might be one of the items available in streaming audio as well.


ARRGH! THERE'S BEEN A LEAK! An anti-American protestor in Pakistan has clearly been reading the Secret Plans!

The protesters heard Islamic leaders denounce the American military build-up against Iraq. One of them, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said: ''The American attack on Iraq will be an attack on the Islamic world. If today we cannot stop America from attacking Iraq, then tomorrow they will attack Iran, and then it could be Pakistan."

Who told you? WHO TOLD YOU? Er, I mean, how ridiculous. Yeah, that's right, ridiculous. Heh heh...
SAURUMAN AND THE GLAMOUR OF EVIL NOTE: This post is part of the Tolkien Blogburst being hosted by Meryl Yourish, in honour of what would have been the Professor's Eleventy-first birthday Christopher Lee's Sauruman is, for me, the embodiment of the attractiveness of evil. You can see he has been seduced by evil, it's glamour has caught him, and he is revelling in his new-found sense of freedom. "A new power is rising" he intones, his pleasure almost palpable, seeming to draw strength from his army of Uruk-hai as they await his command/ When he says things like "Send out the warg riders" and "leave none alive", Christopher Lee says it as though he really means it. This wizard hasn't just gotten a little smudged - he's rolling in the muck for all he's worth. He's having FUN! But how is this possible? After all, he's a Wizard, one of the Maia, Chief of the Istari, former head of the White Council and someone who hasgazed on the Light of the Valar. How could someone like that fall into shadow? Obviously the point is that anyone can be corrupted, and evil can contaminate even the strongest heart. Remember that Sauruman starts off with the best of intentions. He has studied the Ring intensely over many years, and begins to desire it. Initially this is to ensure that Sauron does not find it first. But the Ring works its evil, and his desire turns to obsession. In the same way that Boromir wanted to use the ring to defend Gondor, Sauruman wants to use it to defeat Sauron. He initially uses the Palantir to spy on Sauron in an effort to discover what progrss the Dark Lord was making in finding it. Sauron, being Sauron, used the Palantir to increase Sauruman's desire for the Ring, knowing that by corrupting his initially positive desire to use it to defeat Mordor, he could eventually bend the Wizard to his will. And so when we see Sauruman in "The Two Towers", he's pretty far gone. He has entered into an alliance with Sauron, an alliance which of course neither side has any intention of keeping. Both intend to betray the other, and both probably realise this. But Sauruman is already starting to fade, to wither away, his will becoming less his own, and more Sauron's. Left alone for long enough, Sauruman would become a wizard version of one of the Nazgul, a withered husk of his former self. In fact, he has no chance against Sauron, who is merely using him as a useful tool for the moment. The desire to gain power and use it, for good perhaps, seems to be regarded with great scepticism by Tolkien. One of his points seems to be that those who work for the good can never triumph alone; those who work evil never wish to triumph any other way, though they may pretend to. I can see the headline now. Was Tolkien A Multilateralist? Possibly so. But what is the lesson of Sauruman's fall into Shadow for us today? I know, I know. Tolkien despised allegory and rightly so. But if there are things in his book worth learning, let's drag them out and see how they apply. Starting with this: This is the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman. I took this highly illegal photograph during an unauthorised visit to the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, having got in despite there being an alleged "100% badge check security lockdown maxiumum red alert anti-terror operation" in force at the time. I could tell you how I got in, together with Meryl Yourish, but there'd probably be a subsequent court-martial for a certain person who shall remain nameless. The Harry S. Truman is the centrepeice of one of the military wonder-weapons of our time - the Carrier Battle Group. These enable the US to project enormous destructive power over almost the entire globe. Each CV can carry as many as 12 squadrons of high-performance aircraft and helicopters. At Norfolk that day, we drove along the dock and passed at least three of these huge machines, plus several landing ships, each one capable of putting nearly 2,000 Marines ashore by hovercraft, with air support from Harrier jump jets. Looking down the row upon row of grey steel battlewagons, I realised that the US Navy posesses more firepower than Satan and more influence than God. A new power is rising indeed. Like Sauruman gazing down on his Uruk-hai, I couldn't help but feel a rush of blood to the head. These war machines were unstoppable. And as a citizen of a western, democratic nation, formally tied to the United States by a military alliance of long standing, in a very real sense they were there to protect ME. I felt like saying "Upon my command...unleash hell". And there's the danger. Hubris. Just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Oh, I know, we've all spent a bit of time since September 11th 2001 rearranging Middle Eastern political borders in our mind. It's fun. Saudi royal family to be destroyed or sent into exile in France. Jordan's Hashemite dynasty to expand its borders south along the coast to take over the Hejaz and the custodianship of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina. Eastern province to be independent. Najaf to be independent. Iraq to be partitioned into three states, Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, with Turkish right of veto on Kurdish borders. Syria out of Lebanon. Lebanese Christians to get their own mini-state. Syria to be occupied and democratised by force. A new Iranian revolution to be formented and assisted. Arafat out one way or another and a new Palestinian leadership to be found. It's an interesting mental exercise to imagine yourself as one of the impresarios of history, grandly shuffling armies and fleets across a map, re-drawing boundaries and putting the world to rights. Of course, if you actually had to make such decisions and live or die by the results, your blood would probably freeze in horror at the awful responsibility. But that is what is going to happen in the very near future. The colours on the maps will run in the rain, and decisions taken in the next few weeks and months are going to have repercussions that echo for deacades if not centuries. Are we Sauruman? Have we been seduced by our power? Are we sending out the warg riders? Shall we leave none alive? No. I do not believe it. We are defending our lives, and liberating people held in thrall by monstrous tyrants. But we must continue to ask ourselves such questions, because evil is attractive. Sauruman was among the greatest, and yet even he could not resist it's whispering glamour. What harm is there in using power for good purposes? Why not take the Ring and use it to defeat the Dark Lord? Is that not the best of causes? Use the Palantir and spy on him. Use his strength against him. Pretend to ally with him so you can find it first and then destroy him. Breed Uruk-hai so you can extend your reach. Some may suffer, but it's for a higher good after all. And so it goes. I was disappointed in The Two Towers in one respect. The hold that Grima Wormtongue had over King Theoden should not have been portrayed as a spell. In the book, it was simply words that did the trick, as they do today with similar liars and decievers such as Pilger, Fisk, Chomsky and anyone who works for the Guardian. Words and ideas can do infinitely more damage than any magic. If I ever see a Victor Davis Hanson essay in which he simply glorifies our power, without firmly rooting it in the western democratic tradition, I will know that he has become the seductive voice of Sauruman. But I very sincerely doubt that will happen. One of the reasons for our military success is that we are not mindless, unthinking minions of an all-powerful Leader. Free men and women, led by commanders accountable to the people, accustomed to freedom of expression and sceptical inquiry are simply better soldiers than any Orcish horde. It is our virtue that gives us our strength. If we ever lose the one, the other will inevitably be lost.
AMERICA THE FREE In the post immediately below this one, I make a pretty dumb joke about the founding figure of a major world religion. At almost any other time in world history, if I had made a similar comment in public, I would have been dragged out of my house and been torn to pieces by an enraged mob, assuming the court system wasn't able to get hold of me first so they could execute me in a more formal way. Guess what's going to happen to me? I'll tell you exactly what's going to happen to me. Nothing. And do you know why? No, it's not because modern Christians are candy-ass pussies, thank you, although Bishop Spong and the Archbishop of Canterbury are definitely something of a concern. It's because a very great man sat down in Richmond, Virginia and wrote some words on a peice of paper, words which were voted into law in 1785. I think it's worth quoting.

We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil rights.

That is the operative section of Thmas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and it's one of the finest pieces of writing you'll ever come across. There's an excellent preamble which you should go and read here, and a second section essentially telling future generations that if they try to amend this law, they'll probably be making a huge mistake. It's one of the founding documents of America, it had a big impact on modern western political thought even outside the United States, and naturally enough, this being the USA we're talking about, the place where it became law is now a car park! But it's nice that some at least bothered to commemorate the site with a sign. Meryl Yourish took the photo. I wonder what she thinks of the old capital site in Richmond being a car park? Anyway, the influence of Jefferson's law (which he insisted he was even prouder of that the US Constitution) has been so widespread in the western world that idiots like me can make stupid and offensive jokes about Jesus, change my religion from Christianity to Judaism, not turn up at religious services if I don't feel like it, and not pay taxes to support someone elses established church. Freedom. It's a beautiful thing. And if you live in America, you can support the cause by joining the Council For America's First Freedom as the sign at the car park suggests.
IF YOU ARE A WOMAN WHO IS RAPED IN AN ARAB COUNTRY... ...reporting it to the police is about the last thing you want to do.

A businesswoman who accused three men of gang rape has been arrested in the Arab emirate of Dubai and faces trial on charges of adultery. Touria Tiouli, 39, from Limoges, France, has had her passport confiscated and cannot leave Dubai after being charged under the emirate's Shariah law, according to her statement released by her friends back home. The Shariah law declares any sexual relationship outside marriage to be illegal.

But wait! How is this possible. Islam is the Religion of Peace, surely? I head the President say so on TV. And I keep hearing about how women have lots of rights under Islam. Certainly the Muslim Womens League says so.

Islam views rape as a violent crime against the victim, against society, and against God. The perpetrator has committed a crime and hence is morally and legally responsible. The victim is an unwilling partner in the sex act and thus bears neither blame nor stigma. To either ostracize or condemn the victim because she was compelled to engage in sexual intercourse is against the laws of Islam as the victim was an unwilling, and therefore, a blameless participant.

So what's the deal here? The Muslim Womens League and the government of Dubai both claim to have "Islamic" views, and yet they would seem to be utterly contradictory. What to do? As always, you should turn for guidance in the faith to your trusty On-Line Fatwa Bank, where you can find out what the great Islamic thinkers of the day have to say about such topics as "Adding water to Zam Zam", "Attending a non-Muslim's Burial", "Black Magic", and "Anal Sex" - although what "Continuous Urine" might be I'm not brave enough to ask, unless it's defined as "what happens every time Yasser Arafat opens his mouth". It's fun to use, and almost as much fun as having your hands chopped off! Ok, let's find out what well-known expert in Muslim jurisprudence Muhammad Ali Al-Hanooti has to say about rape. Here's the question, sent in by alert reader Jazak Allah Khairun: Does rape exist in Islam, ie. does Islam acknowledge that women have the right to say 'no'. Hmmm, that's a toughie. But Mr Al-Hanootie isn't stumped!

A rape that takes place between a man and a woman other than the husband is punishable. The punishment is left to the judge to consider it as perhaps being more than a crime of zina. It could be included in the category of corruption. In sura 5, Allah says, "Verily, the only punishment for those who fight against Allah and His messenger and endeavor to corrupt on the earth is to be killed, crucified, having their right hands and left feet cut off or being exiled from that territory." A rapist is considered to be a man of corrpution. We could say that he is an outlaw. The punishment will be assigned by the judge. It could execution, crucifiction, or the punishmenet of zina.

Cruxifixion! Crucifixion! Line on the left, one cross each! His blood be upon us and upon our children! Oh, no, hang on, it was this sort of chant that got us into a power of shit over the last nearly 2,000 years as I recall. When confronted by an indignant Christian fundamentalist holding one personally responsibe for the death of Jesus, my standard response has always been "Yeah! And we gave him a bloody good kicking first!" It always manages to raise a smile from the paramedics as I'm being rushed to the emergency ward. But wait! There's more.! Jazak Allah Khairun isn't finsihed, and has a doozy of a follow-up question: What is the difference between zina and being with a slave girl? Can a wife demand that her husband be only sexually invovled with her and no other slave girl? And Muhammad Ali Al-Hanooti responds thusly.

We don't have slaves. When we have slaves, we'll be able to answer your question.

When we have slaves? Oh, this will no doubt be after the Mujahadin overrun Palestine, seizing the Jewish women as booty to be distributed amongst themselves as spoils of war. Sorry, I forgot about that part. Carry on, please.

Have in mind that when you are a Muslim, you will have a question for knowledge rather than argument. This is because if the law is from Allah, we cannot put reason to judge that law. Reason is always under control of Qur'an and Sunnah. Any Muslim who wants to put reason as a dominant factor over Qur'an or Sunnah is getting out of Islam.

You sure got that right buddy. The prosecution rests.
HOW TO PRESS ALL MY BUTTONS AT ONCE Orla Guerin has just done one of her extremely rare "Israeli home front" items (largely so she can try to use it later to wriggle out of accusations of bias I imagine). She showed us a primary school in Israel where the children were being shown how to put on their newly-issued gas masks. Being Orla Guerin, she couldn't resist her impulse to bash Israel just a bit, and did so by asking one of the children who Saddam Hussein was. When he replied, hesitantly, that he was the man who sent out the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers, she was able to sneer about "confusion". Although it may turn out, once we've been able to go through the records at whatever's left of the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters, that the kid is in fact correct. But this is what completely unammed me. A little girl was shown holding her gas mask, and saying (invery good English) "Now I know how to use my gas mask, I'm not so scared anymore". A Jewish child in the 21st century has to be protected against a dictator who uses poison gas. At that point I wanted to march right out, go down to the recruting station, walk past the other guys on the Group W bench, go up to the guy in charge and say "Sarge! I want to kill!"
SBS NEWS SAYS NO WAR Leftoid idiotarians must love tuning in to SBS World News every night at 6.30pm here on Australia's East Coast. It's like a transmission from a bizzare alternate universe where all of their pet theories are actually true. I can't begin to count hiw many times they're reported that "The Bush administration is coming under increasing pressure tonight" or "Latest reports indicate that the US is finding itself increasingly isolated by world opinion" and of course " As we go to air, there are indications that America is backing away from its previous hawkish stance on Iraq". They've been banging on like since for months. With all the "increasing pressure", you'd imagine the White House must be ringed by Venezuelan tanks with the French Air Force landing Canadian special forces in the Rose Garden by now. How much "increasing pressure" can there be before either the President caves in the "world opinion", or thise who use the phrase admit they're just whisting in the dark to keep their spirits up? They keep repeating this shit like a mantra, perhaps to comfort themselves. In the face of all the mounting evidence that their world view is about to go the way of the Flat Earth Society, SBS World News must give them the illusion that the Left still matters. Mounting evidence like this:

The United States has ordered more than 11,000 desert-trained troops to the Persian Gulf while Western jets attacked Iraqi defence radar as pressure mounted on Baghdad to disarm. The movement of the 3rd Infantry Division, which includes tanks and attack helicopters, is the first deployment of a full US combat division to the area since the 1991 Gulf War.

Oh yeah, the US is backing away all right. Sending 11,000 troops is what always happens just before you cave in and surrender. Cling to your delusions you fools.


WE'RE DOOMED. DOOMED! That's it - war's off for sure this time, now that we can't count on the unstoppable military juggernaut that is the Belgian Army (Motto: "Clinging to the screen door of Europe since 1914").

"A high-level government official said Thursday Belgium would not participate in a war against Iraq under current circumstances," the Associated Press reports from Brussels.

Oh the pain...the pain of it all...
Zero points for originality
Phillipines Islamonazi-wannabees snatching hostages and demanding ransom. This bunch apparently didn't hear the -rest- of the story of the Abu Saaif Group's attempt at this sort of thing. Pretty soon, their going to get hungry and order a pizza delivery. These schmucks' learning curve is a flat line. Hopefully, the Phillipino military and police picked up a few pointers during the episode with the Burnhams, and this won't drag out into a year long Third World Keystone Kops melodrama.


Who are Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn?
Thanks to Russell for doing the background research to allow us to play a bit of Jeopardy here on SR. The answer? (in Computers and Technology for $1000, please Alex)
These two gentlemen authored the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, which became the standard for the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network on January 1, 1983
Yes, today is
the 20th Birthday of the Internet
in the basic form that we know it today. Funny, the Sydney Morning Herald article on the event failed to include Al Gore's name anywhere in the text. Wonder how they could have overlooked that? Sloppy journalism, that. Maybe Tom will march right down there and straighten those fellas out? Ok Murray, this is the point where you jump in and adamantly point out how the event in question was first pioneered by an obscure NZ farmer that demonstrated a working model of the idea, but gave it up because he lost interest in the bloody fool thing.
Hello, whats this?
Why its an interesting place, just outside the Windy City. I think I like quite a few of the things this fellow has to say (except the parts about a fascination for fall and winter - Omaha DID leave a mark). Have a look, and tell me if you agree.
Movie Review Time
Again. This review is brought to you courtesy of a reaction to Meryl's review of the remake of H.G. Well's "The Time Machine". To quickly sum up Meryl's review - hated it! Yep, the remake had issues, but some of the things that seemed to irk Meryl came across to me as some of the more notable parts of the effort. The revelation of the answer to Alexander's failure to grasp the paradoxes of time travel was fairly neat. The introduction of the Pshycically overdeveloped Super Morlock was useful for that purpose, if none other. The creature's description of a multi caste ubermind/worker drone structure also somehow seemed more sensible than just a homogenous grouping of otherwise doltish, carnivorous brutes that seem to keep a semi mechanical existence going, as presented in the original. In total agreement with most of Meryl's other assesments. The Eloi friendly temporal explosion, the annoying holo-image (I don't think I'd have power cycled him, but finding the re-boot button and threatening him with it probably would have been some sadistic fun), and the language thing. Aside from being visually spectacular, the underlying theme of the splintering moon angle seemed to be the worn out, 'enviro-friendly' don't screw with mom nature lecture, with graphics. puh-lease. It did look cool though. Also noted the comment of having empowered and uniformed 'do-gooders' running around acting important in the middle of an absolute catastrophy. In this example CHUNKS OF THE FUCKING MOON are de-orbiting, and these guys were rousting Alexander to run for cover somewhere. Where exactly the hell would that be? Overall, gave it about 5 or so on a scale of 10 (Video/DVD release). Still, glad that it didn't cost anything to get in to see it.
Another indication
Mommabear posted yet another indication of the growing groundswell of internal disgust for the Iranian Theocracy. These ladies sound absolutely pissed (American, vs UK/AU meaning), and rightly so. As Mommabear note - the author isn't asking for anything, just telling her audience whats about to happen. Faster, please. Update - Mommabear points out to me that I misidentified the authorship on this great post - credit belongs with Kathy Kinsley. My apologies, and again, my thanks for posting it.
OUR ALLY IN THE WAR ON TERROR The Pakistani's are so staunchly on our side that they're taking pot-shots at US troops. Er...but not for long!

U.S. military authorities announced today that a brief shootout erupted between U.S. and Pakistani troops along the Afghan border Sunday, prompting the U.S. forces to call in an F-16 warplane that dropped a 500-pound bomb on the Pakistanis to end the clash.

Hi, Colin, Condi here, look we've got a diplomatic problem on the Pak border, we'd like you to get onto Musharrraf and see if you can straighten out...hang on Colin, Rummy's on the other line...what's that Donald? I see. I see. Okay, right then. Listen Colin, false alarm, as you were. No, no, nothing to worry about. There was a problem, and now it's gone away. Relax. Take a vacation why don't you? Rummy seems to have things under control.

Reports from Pakistani officials in South Waziristan, the tribal administrative zone on the Pakistani side of the border, said at least two members of the Pakistani Border Scouts were killed in the bombing, which they said hit a Muslim religious school on the Pakistani side of the border in which some of the Border Scouts had taken refuge.

Obviously mud walls aren't entirely proof against 500-lb bombs. Nor is there any sanctuary in a madrassa. On the Pakistani side of the border. Splendid work! Carry on...
POP QUIZ - ANSWER Almost as soon as we had posed our question (Who said this and when?: "It has always seemed to me that in dealing with foreign countries we do not give ourselves a chance of success unless we try to understand their mentality, which is not always the same as our own, and it really is astonishing to contemplate how the identically same facts are regarded from two different angles.") our switchboard was flooded with a message! It was just Murray complaining that New Years Day might not be the optimum time to expect people's brains to be functioning at peak efficiency, but still - a response is a response. If you had quessed the quote was from Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Robert Fisk, George Galloway MP, George Monbiot, Michael Moore, Susan Sontag, Margo Kingston or any of the other deep thinkers whose response to Islamist aggression is to surrender without a fight...well, you'd get partial credit. The quite is in fact from a 1938 speech given by their direct spiritual ancestor, the man who doomed millions to an early grave and casually sacrificed an entire nation (Czechoslovakia) rather than get his wing collar mussed....ladies and gentlemen, MR NEVILLE CHAMBERLIN! "I have in my hands a piece of..shit"


I think these guys are really just trying to get laid
The whole thing looks so serious (and seriously dumb), and it looks like quite a few 'free spirits' are harkening to their idiotic moose bellow . A bit of a closer look, however, finds one place that they slipped up - promoting their 'gear' which will be available 'soon' (emphasis mine)
ID Card: This wallet sized card will come in handy at border crossings, military installations, presidential compounds, nightclubs, college dormitories, or anywhere else your relentless search takes you.
Rooting out evil? Rooting out a quickie is more like it. Another example of the originality of a snow bound Canadian Brain. If they truly want to do a service to mankind, how about inspecting why Molson's tastes like Moose piss... The 'sign up' seemed to work almost like a comments section, so I sent one in - but it appears they are being screened, as it never showed up, despite sending the 'confirmation'. Guess they didn't like my helpful suggestions. Such close minded zealots.
Anyone that has spent any appreciable amount of time whatsoever in the city of Birmingham, Alabama has seen him. A freestanding 56 foot tall, cast iron statue of the Roman God of the Forge, Vulcan, standing atop a pedestal at the summit of Red Mountain, overlooking the city (and mooning the community of Hoover with his bare backside). Living in the city, one had only to look up at the statue to tell if everyone had made it safely through the day on the local roadways - Vulcan held a 'torch' in his upraised right hand. It glowed green if all was well, but was switched to red if there had been a traffic fatality that day. Originally conceived and constructed as a show-off exhibit for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, Vulcan was disassembled and brought 'home' in pieces, and chucked out like a used dishwasher or refrigerator at the State Fairgrounds in the west end of own. A couple of years later, someone came up with the brilliant idea to actually re-assemble him, and thus he graced the midway for the fair going public. In the 30's a plan was hatched to move him to a more prominent spot for 'permanent' display. A site was selected and purchased at the crest of Red Mountain (actually a rather extended ridgeline that forms the southern edge of the city), at about the mid-point of the geographical long axis of town. A stone turret like tower was constructed, and Vulcan was hoisted upon it, looking out over the City in the valley below. Memories of that old tower from the 60's aren't all too pleasant. There wasn't a lot of financial expenditure on the upkeep of the grounds or the statue at that time, and it was pretty crude. Visitors could ascend a set of stairs inside the tower to an open air observation deck just below the top of the tower, at the base of the statue. This was not an altogether pleasant excursion for folks with even mild vertigo, looking 70 or 80 feet down to the waaay too close edge of the side of the ridge which dropped away steeply for several hundred more feet. Because of the sad state of the surrounding park, and the pretty weathered and worn appearance of the sandstone tower, a restoration/upgrade was commenced in 70-71. This was actually just a cosmetic facelift applied to the existing structure, and very little was done to the statue itself. But it did add an elevator, enclosed observation deck, and of course, a new gift shop. Somewhere along the line, someone came up with the bright idea of filling the thing with concrete to stabilize it on the pedestal. By the mid-90-s, the expansion and contraction of the concrete had begun to seriously damage the statue, to the point that chunks were beginning to fall off, and large cracks visible from the ground were evident. Faced with the prospect of the most visible symbol of the City possibly literally falling over, the City Government did their usual - they basically commissioned some studies, and then commissioned a couple more when the studies recommended they actually should do something about it. Soon. After chucking a lot of money for studies that were hemmed and hawed about, a final study was done by a US Park Service expert, who informed the City in no uncertain terms that if they didn't do something, soon, they could expect the statue to shed an arm or some other key piece in what would surely be an embarrassing and spectacular event. Much useless arguing and bickering and lack of funds wailing ensued (not unlike just about all other city business at the time). Eventually the park had to be closed by emergency order in March 1999, after people actually began to notice that yes, in fact, there were pieces of the statue falling off at random intervals. Fortunately, the city government wasn't the only group interested in saving the statue, and the private group set up to raise funding for the project (versus giving substantial sums away to friends in shady land deals or sham transfers of Water Works Assets) had enough capital to begin the restoration. Lots of good documentation about exactly what's being done, and how, as well as some pretty astonishing photos of where a couple of the engineers climbed out onto the rickety statue to survey it. So, something to look forward to for 2003. Vulcan, cleaned up, strengthened, and returned to his long time repose, mooning the city of Hoover.
Spam (real), Jello, Olives, and GM Foods Only Bill Cimino could cobble those ingredients into a coherent post. Really, much more tasty than it sounds.
Does this ring any bells? Humidity, little men on bicycles selling things, open stalls, 300 a side rugby, the imposibility of crossing the road to Aggies at 4 when the dock yard traffic is on the move, the worls most exoctic flowers going for about 5 cents each, prices at transit road that double when a yank ship is in, white buses, milk in triangular boxes left in the sun to "cure" before being given out, a rediculous number and varity of school holidays, parents dressed like rejects from "That 70's Show auditions. If you have answered yes to any of these questions you may be an ANZ Military Brat of Singapore! If you have no idea what that is you're not one and you have wasted your time reading this... bugger! If you are then go have a flash back at ANZ Military Brats of Singapore, or even join this group of 70's survivors by contacting Jo-Anne Rendle who formed this very exclusive yet not too fussy organisation since Bruce and I are both members. WARNING: Some of these people have admited liking the Carpenters music. AND who wants to see photos of Bruce at 13?
Vote Simon, Vote Often
Lets have some old Chicago Style, Daly Machine action out there to support Amish Tech Support in Michele's "most intriguing Blog of 2002 over at A Small Victory. Hey, if the judging for the ATS Dead Pool can resemble a bit of Bannana Republic Arbitrary Justicia, why not this here Poll? Admittedly, backing off from making a John Paul funny did hurt his candidacy, but who else causes quite the phenomena, not unlike rubbernecking at a reaaaaaly bad traffic accident, in the blogsphere? So, vote early, vote often. If Laurence doesn't garner the top spot, then the terrorists will have won. Don't forget to Think of the Children™, And vote Simon anyway.
This on the other hand...
Could be a gratuitous dick joke.
THE ANTI-MUSLIM BACKLASH... ...seems to me to be something of a myth. Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't doubt for a moment that drunken yobbos and ignorant racist shitheads are making themselves unpleasant when they see identifiably Muslim people, especially women. These have been several incidents, one of which I myself witnessed late one night in Swanston St in which two teenage Australian girls were abusing a group of Somali women. "Fuck off back where youse come from you black bitches! We don't want scum like youse in our country! You fucking smell!" Oh yes, it was a delightful advertisement for the Lucky Country. So stories of Muslim women getting their hijabs ripped off on the trams I can well believe. The same things happen to identifiably Jewish people in this city as well, often at the hands of Muslims, but as that doesn't suit the "Muslims as victims" angle, such events are seldom reported. But amidst the anger at the things that ARE happening, what about the things that AREN'T? Are Muslims being fired from their jobs? No. Are Muslims being advised not to identify their religion in public? No. Are Muslims being targeted by the organs of state security as potential risks? Only if individuals are suspected of involvement in terrorism. There is no blanket anti-Muslim government policy in this country, and there never will be. Individuals who attempt to harrass other Australian citizens on the basis of religion or ethnicity represent no-one but themselves. and speak for no part of society other than the drunk, the ignorant and the terminally stupid. The day we see anything resembling what happened to the Japanese in the United States during WWII happening to Muslims in Australia will be the day I start taking Pilger, Fisk and Chomsky seriously. I have every confidence in asserting that it will never happen. The US learned from it's mistakes with it's Japanese citizens. That's what democracies do. We make mistakes, but we tend not to repeat them.
POP QUIZ! Who said the following and when?

"It has always seemed to me that in dealing with foreign countries we do not give ourselves a chance of success unless we try to understand their mentality, which is not always the same as our own, and it really is astonishing to contemplate how the identically same facts are regarded from two different angles." […]

I'll post the answer in 24 hours. It probably won't surprise anyone.
Sick, just plain sick
No, this is not a dead baby or gratuitous dick joke. Channel 4 in the UK is apparently planning to air a program of 'performance artists' from China. Highlights to boost those ratings? Some guy eating a stillborn infant, and another guy drinking wine that was used to marinate a severed penis. Its taken someone a while, but it looks like somebody has finally topped the crucifix in urine for revoltingly disgusting. Not sure which is worse, the Chinese whack jobs that came up with this shit, or the British twits that want to televise it. Art may be in the eye of the beholder, but there's also the opinion that anyone that views this and thinks it is 'art' and not a ridiculously disgusting bid for attention through sheer shock value is seriously screwed in the noggin. Some people are just plain sick. Sick and wrong. ps. sort of makes puns at the pontiff's expense seem pretty vanilla....
Run that by me again
Did I read this right?
I just can't do it. It's the Pope, man. You just don't Limerick the Pope.
Wow. That's what I thought it said. Lets check that URL, maybe its a 'lookalike' site, run by Laurence's not-so-evil twin. Hmm...http://users2.ev1.net/~file13/blog/ Nope, seems to be the right address. Who is this and what have they done with or to Laurence? Is he being held hostage? Astonishing. Passing on the pontif. Wow. Are the cats Catholic, did they start to hiss and growl as he typed? Did thunderclouds suddenly start to form in a clear blue sky, with pre-rumbles of thunder foretelling of lightning to smite him? Guess it might be a good idea to look west for a possible sunrise. Update: As Meryl points out Laurence has "...animated gifs of Jesus that would offend an atheist, and you won't finish the Pope limerick?".
I think its post-traumatic guilt over the whole Santa number, but thats just a guess.
Happy New Year to Murray
From those of us still in 2002. Hopefully, in the New Year, Tom Paine will actually take the time to read the blog before he posts to it...althought this is in some strange way reminiscent of some sort of 'hive mind' phenomena...
Greetings from the future (good for 23 hours 59 minutes depending on your location) My quest for a world first continues with this First blog of 2003. Its nice here in 2003, 61 degrees, not a cloud in the sky. Feel free to join in. Of course the sound of the fireworks echoing up from Wellington sounds enough like a fire fight to make we want to dig a hole... but you can't have it all I guess.


CHRISTMAS PARTY BLOGGING Possum goes to his office Christmas party, and hi-jinks ensue.

I got a few more little knickknacks and doohickies and Tim was holding forth to someone about the various cheeses, and I heard one little gem fly out, “blahblahblah…yeah, it’s a real popular cheese with people because it doesn’t offer a big challenge…blahblahblah.” Well, gee-stinkin’-whiz, excuse ME! Don’t I have enough challenges in life without some derned bacteria-laden milk concoction making it worse! I DON’T WANT CHALLENGING CHEESE! I want cheese in a pressurized can, cheese whose ass I can whip, cheese that sits there quietly and takes orders from ME! HEY, you want challenging cheese, be my guest, but go all the way! How about some nice Gouda with blowfish poison sprinkles, huh!? There’s you a challenge! How about a nice U238/Camembert blend, feta with ricin, or a sultry Reggiano Parmigiano with the clap. I got yer challenging cheese RIGHT HERE, bub!

A TRUE SHAHEED Muslim martyrs die in the hope of killing others. Jewish and Christian martyrs die to save others. There's a difference. Today we honour a martyr of the Jewish people, a man who gave his life to save others. Staff Sergeant Noam Apter. He was working in the kitchen of a West Bank settlement called Otniel, when Palestinian terrorists entered it and srtarted shooting, The other yeshiva students were just sitting down to a shabbat dinner in the main dining hall. If the terrorists had managed to get through the door from the kitchen, they could have murdered an untold number of people. Noam had a pistol, but instead of drawing it and defending himself, he turned his back on the terrorists and locked the door so they could not get through. They shot him in the back. His selfless action saved many lives at the cost of his own. There are some moving tributes to him on the comments section of this story at Little Green Footballs. Possibly the best comes from Naomi Regan, and I will reproduce it here in full.

These are the people I live amongst: Shlomo Harel: who pushed a suicide bomber to the ground when he tried to explode himself in a Jerusalem coffee shop, pinning his arms to the floor. Mikhail Sarkisov, 31, a new immigrant from Turkmenistan, living in a trailor with no bathroom or refrigerator, who as a guard on Tel Aviv's beachfront Cafe Tayelet, armed with a fake pistol, threw himself bodily on a suicide bomber to prevent him from detonating, saving dozens of lives. Rami Mahmoud Mahameed, 17, a young Arab Israeli, who asked a suicide bomber waiting at a bus stop for his cell phone, and calmly called the police, who prevented the bomber from boarding a bus, but not from exploding. Rami was badly injured. Eli Federman, who, guarding a Tel Aviv disco, faced the speeding car of a suicide bomber heading straight for him, and the club, and coolly fired, blowing up the car before it could enter. Bus driver Baruch Neuman, who got off the bus to check a passenger who had fallen trying to board the bus from the back, only to find he was wired. He and another passenger held the bomber's hands down until the rest of the bus passengers could flee to safety. Others who paid for their heroism with their lives include Yossef Twitto, head of the response team in Itamar, who ran to save a family whose home had been entered by terrorists, terrorists who killed three sisters and brothers, wounded another two, before killing Yossef Twitto. And Mordechai Tomer, 19, who stopped a car from going into downtown Jerusalem and was blown up. And Tamir Matan, who helped stop a suicide bomber in a gas station from entering a busy cafeteria. He and two young soldiers who helped him, were blown up. This is the face of Israel. These are the people I live amongst. I live among them humbly, knowing that in any place, or time, in a random ten minute period, there are heroes cruising around, ready to give their precious lives for mine.

Yitgadal viyitkadash shmeh rabah...
Well, Dad was an Auburn Fan, too.
Terry, over at Possumblog just recently celebrated his one year blogaversary. Congrats Terry. While Meryl was greatly impressed with Terry's hilarious recounting of his office Christmas Party, it takes more than a story with collard greens and descriptions of French Cheese odors to grab my attention. Almost took off when I caught his reference to being one of THEM (an Auburn Fan), but then, gave him a pass because he did actually include the phrase ROLL TIDE on his blog, even if it was in reference to one of those Navy boat thingees. I came to realize that Terry is extremely gifted with the ability to recount life in general in wonderous terms with his description of the the washing machine/microwave adventure. It had everything - intrigue, suspense, a semi-romantic dalliance, a pickup truck, not one but two hardware stores, psuedo international relations, all without bloodshed or gratuitous violence involving the harming of small animals. Also, Terry, since you seem to be in the area, I'd recommend taking Jeff to lunch next time at Andrew's. If you're like Mac and don't get out much, see the directions I gave him earlier (in the comments). I have a feeling though, that if you know where Trussville is, you know where Andrews is, too.
Everybody Drink!
Not that it probably wouldn't be a good idea to consider this with a jaundiced eye, considering the NYT track record for peddling junk science, but... Evidence Mounting That Moderate Drinking Is Healthful. Have a beer everyone. Murray, you buying? Hoo Hooooo!
Nature abhors a vacuum
So, stepping into the huge void left in the 'read the future' arena left by the departure of Miss Cleo, and the shut down of the Psyhcic Friends network, none other than Tim Blair feeds a hungry, but aimless and seeking guidance world, a heapin helpin of insight into what 2003 will really be like. On the subject of who's still making money from the deal, I noticed that almost all the news articles on the subject were Yahoo Premium articles...


Oh, and while I'm reviewing the cinema
If you haven't Trekked out to see the latest Star Trek effort, "Nemesis", be advised that the relative entertainment value renders it well worth waiting for its broadcast television premier. Yes, Patrick Stewart can act, as has been mentioned in other reviews, but his ability didn't even create a bright spot in this latest installment. Beginning with a lame premise, then going downhill rapidly, this feature failed to live up to the expectations of even a mediocre mid season non-sweeps filler episode shot on a existing interior sets, with limited stock CGI shots and very few extra cast members. And they tanked how much money on this pig? Try buying a story instead of paying for the extra 3 minutes of CGI programming next time. Gawd it was awful. Walked out of the theater feeling ripped off - and I didn't have to pay to get in!
Tom Hanks, again
Just got the wonderful opportunity to see another example of why so many folks praise Tom Hanks' acting ability. Went to see "Catch Me If You Can". The story is supposedly based on true events, and is if anything, an engaging tale. Hanks is completely believeable as a priggish, uptight FBI Agent, whose life revolves around pursuing his quarry, whoever it may be. Unlike the other performances, Hanks' stood out - you could actually see the character he was playing, as opposed to, oh, there's Christopher Walken being creepy as usual, or, oh, its Leonardo DiCaprio being Leonardo DiCaprio, or oh, its James Brolin acting like a slimeball. The pace and timing of the film is pretty good - it keeps your attention. Solidly entertaining. This one might not jump off the marquee at you, but its worth the time and a ticket to give it a look see. Think I would have liked it, even if I'd had to pay to get in and see it.
Simon Sez gains popularity
Following the arbitrarily shifting rules example adopted by Laurence over at the ATS Dead Pool, Executives from Vegas and Atlantic City released the following announcement:
  • all one armed bandits will have the top prize icon removed from at least one of the reels,
  • the come/don't come bet is out in craps
  • Roulette will no longer offer a simple red/black bet
  • all Blackjack hands are an automatic 'do over' if the dealer draws a 12
  • the rules for Pai Gow Poker will be re-written to be even more confusing, but not posted at the tables.