September 30, 2003
Grits

Canada's Progressive Conservatives, like big-C Conservatives elsewhere in the Anglophonic world, have long held the nickname 'Tories'. It has long saddened me that their left-leaning opponents seem nicknameless. But fear not! For the Liberal Party of Canada does, indeed, bear a nickname of its own.

The Grits.

Huzzah!

I vote we start calling the Canadian Alliance 'the Beavers'. It's vaguely suspicious without, technically, being dirty. And it's very Canadian.

Posted by aloysius at 01:22 PM |
September 29, 2003
Jesus Fuck

BBC Wales claims it's going to bring Doctor Who back to television, in something scripted by Russell 'Queer as Folk' Davies, who penned one of Virgin's New Adventures spinoff novels in 1996, and of course littered Queer as Folk with all manner of fannish wanky references to warm a grown geek's heart. I derived intense satisfaction from his Damaged Goods when I was 17; it was filled with anti-Thatcherism, cocaine, and gay sexual exploits for the Doctor's blond, hunky, 30th century companion Chris. It was a little bit of my childhood calling out to me, 'Go snog blokes! You'll like it!' And at just the right time in my life, too.

Apparently, the BBC isn't kidding this time. Though probably--and I'm going out on a limb here--Davies won't get to throw any gay sex into the TV programme.

Well, piss my soul.

Provided they don't fuck up--and I'm willing to have some measure of faith in Davies--this could be a bit good. In 2005.

Catch all the geeky gossip as it gels!

Doctor Who fandom transcends time, space, age, waistlines, and political affiliations...Even Andrew Sullivan would pony up to his nemesis, the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation, for a new series.

Posted by aloysius at 10:40 PM |
Ray of Light

In these dark days of deceit and disaster, not to mention death, destruction, and doom, in this land where the president and his closest confidantes seem to feel they can stonewall any investigation into an outrageous and objectively pro-Saddam violation of the law by two of their number, in leaking to at least six journalists that the wife of former Ambassador Joe Wilson was an undercover CIA operative, perhaps as a shot across the bows of anyone else who might, like Wilson, use heretickal facts to deny the Gospel of Bush...In such times as these, I say, when the American right exposes itself as some kind of venomous cross between a serpent, a tapeworm, and a sport utility vehicle, poisoning the very bowels of our nation's political life while getting very little mileage...In such times as these, I say that I say once again, it may perhaps brighten Yankee hearts to look once more to the neighbourly north, and behold Canada, from which a great and brilliant light shines forth like a great shiny forth-shining light shining forthfully, where the national right is but a twisted and deformed little toad, croaking feebly upon the pavement before it is crushed beneath the wheels of the 1956 Cadillac Eldorado of History on a taco run...

'Unite the Right' talks between the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance have, in point of fact, broken down inconclusively, with each party blaming the other, and some rather bitter things being said all around. The PCs seem to think the Alliance would've just gobbled them up, and used their larger membership to pack the new party with Alliance figures and positions. This is because that is exactly what the Alliance would have done. The Alliance rather snippily replies that not uniting will hurt the Tories more than the Alliance; their House Leader made what I consider some profoundly shocking and awesome comments to CTV's Question Time, claiming that the next election now is liable to see the Alliance hang on to 40 to 50 seats, while the Tories are utterly annihilated. (That would actually involve both the Tories and the Alliance losing about the same number of seats.) Not even the Right itself thinks it has any remote shot at power. Together, they might possibly have been able to become a stronger opposition, perhaps at the expense of the NDP; a united right might scare leftist voters enough that they vote Liberal just to make sure a conservative doesn't get in, even if deep down they like the NDP more (and who doesn't? It was founded avowedly socialist!). Separately, they're going to be hit by a figurative and allegorical bus, and will be so beaten and chafed and raw they'll have to unite in the end anyhow or bleed to death. There's even speculation in the Star that the Alliance could lose its standing as the official opposition to the NDP in a meltdown of truly dialectical proportions.

That probably won't happen, it's true. Just yet. In time, though...? Just think of it! Within a decade, it is entirely possible that the dominant political dialectic in Canada will be of Center versus Left. And that is just as it should be. (As opposed to America now, where it is either Center versus Right or Right versus Ultimate Timeless Evil, depending on how charitable I feel.)

Until the Left eventually triumphs utterly and we enter into a bold new age of socialist utopia. Of course.

Oh, and as a bit of icing on the cake, the Tories are about to suffer a massive, humiliating defeat in the Ontario provincial elections. Polls have the Liberals with 47.5% of the vote, the Tories with only 31%, and the NDP with 17%. Perhaps this is because the Tory budget proposal is a crock of proverbial shit. Of course, Tory Premier Ernie Eves is still chanting 'I've had worse' and 'Just a flesh wound' as his political limbs are hacked off...

Bask in the warm, non-conservative glow.

Posted by aloysius at 08:35 PM |
September 28, 2003
Masks

These latex masks are intensely, profoundly, and abjectly creepy. Here are more of them. Blank, horrid, dead things...The almost-but-not-quite human is the most monstrous thing imaginable. I think I read a study on that, long ago. Maybe something to do with unsettling imagery in horror films? Ish?

If I were making a low-budget but atmospheric science fiction or horror film, I would use masks such as these. But I wouldn't sleep well.

Posted by aloysius at 11:42 PM |
September 26, 2003
Spam

Some fucking fucker just posted a spam comment flogging penis-enlargement pills to an old, old, old entry on this blog. The e-mail address is listed as davidradvinsky27@hotmail.com, with an IP address of 66.111.50.170. I hope this person, machine, or organisation suffers hideous, crippling gassy pains, and never mates.

Naturally, the comment has been deleted.

The anger is vast.

Posted by aloysius at 05:10 PM |
Little Creatures

Nothing political, mathematical, or phantasmagorical this time; just small mammals. Adorable, small mammals. There's a teddy bear hamster, a hedgehog named Machoman, a ferret in a spaghetti-sauce jar...Prepare to have your heart warmed.

(Not to be confused with the Talking Heads album 'Little Creatures', which is all about mating.)

Posted by aloysius at 12:10 PM |
September 24, 2003
Gormenghast: Dickens on Crack

Yesterday, with a clutch of fellow mathematicians, I watched Gormenghast, the BBC's miniseries adaptation of Mervyn Peake's novels Titus Groan and Gormenghast. Now, I've never read the books yet, to my shame, but they've been on my To-Do list for years; or they would have been, if I were the sort of person who kept a To-Do list, or was anything other than terminally absent-minded. I have a great and abiding love for the BBC's ventures into the fantastical, and the prospect of Gormenghast excited me greatly. Though, being a base and lowly American, it did not come to a television near me. But we live in an age of wonders, of miracles, and also of DVDs, and I very conveniently live about two blocks from that cathedral of cinema, On 15th Video. I was browsing around on a hunt for more Buffy when I spotted Gormenghast lurking baroquely upon a shelf, and I knew the time had come to see it.

It's fabulous! One of my fellows called it one of the best pieces of television he'd seen. The look of the thing alone...The costuming, the set design, fantastic and baroque and decayed, decadent, grotesque even. An archaic look powerfully laced with the Twentieth Century...The castle guards manage to look simultaneously very in keeping with a moldy old castle, and much like infantrymen of the World Wars. And what's done to the Secretarial offices in the fourth episode, with electric lights, a wall of grey filing cabinets, chittering typewriters, is positively shocking in contrast to the rest of Gormenghast, and helps convey the sense of dislocation felt by its inhabitants. (Not a design matter, but when clowning for Fuchsia near the very beginning, Steerpike pulls a Basil Fawlty and imitates Hitler.) Keep a close eye on the Bright Carvings, too, and other art-objects. Fun fact: the model shots of Gormenghast have a dreamy, weighty look because they were filmed underwater. It is indeed a taste sensation, for the eyes. Put all thoughts of wobbly cardboard from your head.

Wonderful acting. Only in Britain, I say. Only in Britain. My particular favourite--and this should come as no surprise to anyone--was John Sessions as Dr Prunesquallor, that delightful braying hot-bloodedly bisexual fop with a brain as yet unburnt. It'd be dreadfully easy for such a character, so full of off-putting tics, to come across on screen as, well, Jim Carrey. Sessions, however, while conveying countless nuances of Prunesquallor's grotesquerie, keeps him from charicaturedom: he's a weird, unnatural, fabulous monstrosity in his way, but one gets the impression that, cooped up in Gormenghast, he couldn't very well be anything else, that there are human dimensions to his weirdness. I found him quite likeable, even, and sympathetic. Sessions himself is said to be a great fan of Peake's work.

Sessions's love for Peake's work is so great he would probably have considered reconstructive surgery to play Prunesquallor. "I read it when I was a teenager," he recalls. "It fell into my generation's 'books you have to read' category. It is quite miraculous and utterly unique. It is like Dickens on crack. It touches on two plays of Shakespeare, Dickens, Balzac, and Tolstoy, and it is brought together in a way that is utterly original, that is not derivative of any of them."

He has endeared himself to me forever with the phrase 'Dickens on crack'.

Which is not to say that the other performances aren't equally stellar. Every actor and actress in it seemed almost unnaturally suited to their roles. Ian Richardson does a stunning turn as an owl. Warren Mitchell as Barquentine can shout with the best of them; watch his bit in the Making Of feature, to hear him describe Barquentine as a fundamentalist, who, if transposed into the real world, would probably be some kind of right-wing fundamentalist, mullah, or Pope. Speaking of shouting, the League of Gentlemen's Steve Pemberton turns up as Professor Mule, alongside Stephen Fry as Professor Bellgrove; Professor Mule gets to do some of the very best shouting, mostly 'Bastard' and 'Bugger', capping it off with a magnificent spasm. Such frothing would do any professor proud. And Stephen Fry, oh how he warms my heart!

Jonathan Rhys Meyers...What can one say? He is sex on wheels. Which brings me to relevance, actually! One of the pervasive themes seems to be frustrated sexuality. Poor Irma Prunesquallor, the Doctor's sister, is so pent-up she'll burst. The professors haven't seen women in 37 years. Fuchsia and Steerpike have chemistry, but never seem to consummate. Lord and Lady Groan in all probability have had sex exactly twice, the minimum required to produce their two children. Dr Prunesquallor flutters at Steerpike here, offers his anatomy to Fuchsia there, but gets, as they say, no play. Titus almost scores with the Wild Thing, and look what happens to her. People just don't get to fuck. The stifling atmosphere of Gormenghast, its changelessness and timelessness, is a denial of sexuality, and Steerpike's rebellion is in part a sexual rebellion, an offer of what is forbidden. Which is to say, he's hot. Very, very hot.

Definitely, Gormenghast is worth four hours of your precious life. I enjoyed it so thoroughly that immediately afterwards I leapt up and marched off to Twice-Sold Tales, which is overrun by indolent kitties acting as if they own the place (because they do), and bought the books, which I shall read now. This very moment. Just you watch.

Posted by aloysius at 05:55 PM |
Heroes

Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy is a big David Bowie fan.

And Bowie, he announced, is “my spiritual musical hero”. The audience, shocked to be hearing something not about Brent or Baghdad, burst into applause.

“I got to meet him once,” said Mr Kennedy, suddenly almost shy. There were some good points to his job, he added, and getting to meet David Bowie was one of them. “He’s certainly liberal,” he added. “I’m not sure he’s Liberal Democrat.”

Apparently Kennedy sang 'Heroes' at a Lib Dem conference.

How cool is that, hmm?

Posted by aloysius at 03:01 PM |
A sexed-up, over-egged cup of Horlicks

Details are emerging, as the newsmen might put it, of the Iraq Survey Group's upcoming report on the hunt for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

Downing Street branded the story "speculation about an unfinished draft of an interim report".

While this is indeed the case, the thrust of the report is unlikely to succumb to any last-minute revisions; they don't seem to be waffling much.

Mr Neil said, according to the source, the report will say its inspectors have not even unearthed "minute amounts of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons material".

They have also not uncovered any laboratories involved in deploying weapons of mass destruction and no delivery systems for the weapons.

Or, in short, the report will, as it were, report that Iraq did not, in point of fact, actually have weapons of mass destruction after all. Not even a little.

Fancy that.

It's only an interim report, it's true, but if any, and I do mean any, slightest trace of NBC (a far more informative acronym: nuclear, biological, and chemical) material had been found, the Powers That Be would be arsetrumpeting it from the rooftops. Especially poor Tony Blair, who genuinely seemed to think they'd turn up. Boy, is his face red.

Cor.

So all the intelligence was wrong, and all the dossiers were bollocks, and Britain and the US were led into the invasion of Iraq with a string of fabrications and fuckups.

Who knew?

Oh, and while I'm at it...

Guess what?

Andrew Gilligan's original story on the Today programme was, as it was planned, factually accurate after all. Gilligan just flubbed his lines. Hence referring to his source as the 'intelligence services' rather than 'experts'.

Critically, Mr Dingmans said the new evidence showed the BBC story "would have been absolutely correct as we now know from Bryan Jones and others".

Mr Jones is an intelligence officer who gave evidence during phase one of the inquiry, claiming parts of the dossier had been "overegged".

Well, bugger me.

Also, see the incomparable Calpundit and behold Colin Powell announcing in 2001 that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.

Well, piss my soul!

So I guess pretty much all the prominent Bushistas are lying, lying liars, lying lying liar-pantsed lying liarriffic liars. And they lied. It's hard to spin this into anything but a blanket condemnation of the entire run-up to war and everyone involved. The Bush administration systematically deceived the general public into supporting an untimely, poorly-thought-out war on fabricated grounds.

Well, twist my titties and call me Susan!

It all seems pretty conclusive to me. Does this make you angry? It should. It really and truly should. Phrases about 'new brooms' and 'sweeping all clean' float through my head. Also little catch-phrases like 'The Doctor is in' and 'Prescription for change', in reference, in case you hadn't heard, to that delightful Mister Governor Howard Dean, MD. I'm positive the time is ripe for a quip involving Bush and a rectal thermometer.

Posted by aloysius at 11:52 AM |
September 23, 2003
From the Guardian

Simon Hoggart presents: The Wind in the Fucking Willows.

Posted by aloysius at 01:01 PM |
September 22, 2003
Buffy III

Oh,Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

1. The first season's chief villain was called the Master. Although not every villain called 'the Master' turns out to be cool (see, for example, Eric Roberts), it's always nice to have one around. I liked him best in the alternate universe episode where Buffy never came to Sunnydale, and we see him sipping espresso and designing machines to juice humans like tasty, nutritious oranges grown on a small organic farm.

2. The juxtaposition of naughty, naughty supernatural evil with American high school life is inherently, to some degree, absurd, and I am very partial to absurdism. The characters have to do homework, sometimes get grounded, date, worry about fornication, feel rampantly insecure, and battle unspeakable eldritch forces from beyond space and time.

3. The Mayor. The Mayor--bear in mind I'm in the middle of Season 3 right now--seems to just encapsulate all the wonderful absurdity of the Buffyverse. He is of course some kind of utterly evil demon-worshipping prince of hell, yet he's also a hygeine-obsessed, prattling (he talks of 'loose cannon rocking the boat,' and then goes on to worry about whether he's mixing metaphors or not 'til he rationalises it all), golf aficionado. He'll talk of unleashing hordes of vampiric death while practicing his putts. You can imagine him asking his secretary to cancel his eleven o'clock disemboweling because he has an important brunch.

4. There's the cuteness factor. Chief among the sources of cuteness is Willow. She is cute incarnate. All insecure and geeky and fumbling and warm and fuzzy and excitable and so forth. Like a kitty. A geeky kitty. Maybe a geeky kitten. She's especially cute if you yourself were intelligent and not terribly popular when you were an adolescent. Unlike Doctor Who's Adric, who reminds one of all the worst, greasy, whiny, qualities you probably possessed--despite having a name that's an anagram of 'Dirac', which should've propelled him to greatness--Willow makes you think of the best, of innocence and enthusiasm and goodwill, and fluffy little bunnies having tea-parties with the Golem Queen, and so forth.

5. Anthony Stewart Head. He's English. Every programme needs at least one English actor. If I had my way, everyone on every show everywhere would be English. Well, British. The various British accents are, by and large, just easier to listen to than anyone else's. I may have been permanently warped to overexposure to public television as a small, impressionable child. But that is neither here nor there. Anthony Stewart Head plays the mature and worldly Watcher, Giles, an excellent counterweight to the other lead characters' youth and immaturity. Cool Giles Fact #784: Young Giles was part of an occult circle that summoned up demons to get high. Also he bonks Buffy's mum. Giles's hidden boozy, druggy, fornicatory past is I think a good influence on the youngsters.

6. Pointed social commentary. When Willow's mother finds out she's a witch, the dialogue (deliberately, I'm sure) sounds an awful lot like a coming out. As it did when Buffy's mum found out that she's the Slayer. Also, the intolerance of the masses is loathesome, and what is valued by the 'ordinary' mainstream folk is invariably not what is actually important. Bad things happen to good people, but the good fight must always be fought, in defense of nebulous but nevertheless potent ideals which will eventually triumph.

7. The swim team in Speedos.

8. Obvious Lovecraft influences.

Posted by aloysius at 11:54 PM |
Bizzarro

I had dinner at a restaurant called Bizzarro, in Wallingford, Sunday night.

I've seen stranger.

Posted by aloysius at 12:56 AM |
September 20, 2003
Cabin Fever

I saw Cabin Fever today, because I love bloody, gory horror. I'm now going to do anything in my power to erase that hour and a half from my mind. Electric shocks, blunt-instrument trauma, gin, clinical brain-death...Whatever it takes. It was so horrible. So very, very, very horrible. It wasn't horrifying. It wasn't shocking. It wasn't suspenseful. It wasn't remotely scary. It had nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, going for it. Just a bunch of characters you really, really wanted to die about a minute after you met them, who somehow managed to drag out their well-earned deaths a whole ninety minutes longer than they should've. It was so deeply, profoundly offensive...'Hey, these people are sick! Better smash 'em with a pick-axe! Har har har.' And the ending...Is that supposed to be a punchline? Is it supposed to be funny? Is it supposed to send some kind of message? I don't think so. It's just bad. Like the rest of the film. Utterly, utterly banal and uninspired, unimaginative, unjustified, unspeakable, devoid even of the low-level carnal joy blood and guts are supposed to bring in a horror flick. Just horrible people reacting in horrible ways to something not really horrifying, more sad. This is not entertainment; this is someone throwing up onto celluloid and calling it a film. This is someone's self-loathing and writer's block, for all the world to see. I am so angry I wasted those moments of my life watching that. I'm that much closer to death now, and all for what?

Go rent House of 1000 Corpses instead. Now that's entertainment. I couldn't stop laughing.

Grr. Anger!

Goddammit, there are real people with real problems out there. People getting sick and developing lesions aren't titillating. I should shove this whiny trite dull plague-paranoia flick up the director's ass.

Posted by aloysius at 08:17 PM |
Tea

I hear that if you drink twelve cups of tea in an hour, you see God.

And he's a giant crumpet. The size of Ganymede.

Then I'm pretty sure your bladder explodes and you die. But I'll bet it's worth it, just to see a crumpet that big.

Posted by aloysius at 01:57 PM |
Sarah Teather MP

'Are you local?'

Living outside the Brent constituency in which she was fighting for election provided ammunition for opposers - including former MP and now London Mayor Ken Livingstone - who accused her of not being as "local" as she claimed.

Sound, and vision. And stuff.

Posted by aloysius at 01:48 PM |
Section 28

That reprehensible Thatcherism Section 28 is being repealed, which demonstrates again that Britain is much better than the US. BBC News Online announces this with a very tasteful photo of two men snogging. The Telegraph article, on the other hand, concludes with a bizarre frothy santorum*-like passage claiming schoolchildren are being presented with hardcore wife-swapping S&M pornography in the guise of sex education. Go on, read it. I dare you.

Tory Baroness Blatch proposed the replacement clause allowing parents to veto sex education materials. Schoolchildren were being exposed to explicit "pornography" in the form of information supplied by health authorities and other organisations to teachers, she warned.

Children as young as 11 were being given details of sexual activities including anal sex, sado-masochism, use of pain, dressing up, tying up, multiple partners and partner swapping.

This** is why we need the BBC.
------
*Santorum: 'that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.' --Dan Savage

**This, and more of The League of Gentlemen.

Posted by aloysius at 01:04 PM |
Crisis Over

My unholy craving for Doritos has been slaked. You may return to your regularly-scheduled programming.

Posted by aloysius at 01:10 AM |
September 19, 2003
Wesley Crusher Clark

So, the big political news tidbit for those of us only now sobering up is that General Wesley Clark has officially thrown his medal-encrusted hat (a Pickelhaube?) into the Democratic ring. Will he be a loose cannon, rocking the establishment boat? Or all in all will he be just another brick in the wall?

The Washington Post had an article about him, which you can read here. Or not, depending. This single article constitutes most of what I know about Clark at this stage. Despite my complete lack of real information, I am compelled to pontificate: this is a blog, after all. I can't fail to talk about things simply because I'm grossly unqualified. (So teaches St Andy, patron of all blogs in Christendom.) Clark has been rousing a fair deal of excitement (excrement?) among some Democrats for quite a while now, as some people's Ideal Candidate...I've heard sentiments like 'I'm for Dean...For now. But if Clark comes into the race...' And I'll admit, the guy has some serious image going for him. Rhodes Scholar, general, commander of a major NATO military operation, CNN talking head, patrician but in that cute homey Southern way...It is true that Bush would likely shit himself if forced to debate national security with such a person, with more or less impeccable security credentials...And Clarkistas are right to giggle at the prospect.

But.

That seems to be the one thing you can point to about Clark and say, 'Yeah. This is why he's my man,' that image of Bush shitting himself on national television.

Now, don't get me wrong. I want to see Bush squirming in his own excrement as much as the next man. I'm just not convinced at this stage, with the Republican Attack Machine all geared up to grind challengers' bones to bake Bush's bread, that one befouling will be enough to bring Bush down.

This is not to say I think Clark couldn't do it. I really don't know enough to say at this stage. I don't think anyone does. He hasn't campaigned yet. He doesn't have...positions, or anything. He's just a pretty face. Maybe he'll be great. Maybe he won't. Who can say? If he can win the nomination, I'll support him. But I've seen nothing yet that makes me think he can pull that off. While, on the other hand, Howard Dean is still a motherfathering rock star.

Clark...

  • ...is a military man. I instinctively hate the military.
  • ...has not demonstrated an ability to raise mad cash.
  • ...may or may not win over the media; the Washington Post article seemed awfully skeptical about him.
  • ...is too tall.
  • ...Has no real positions yet, apart from being not-Bush and not-Dean.
  • ...wants to be nonpartisan. This is just silly. The Republicans are out to destroy the Democratic Party and all organised opposition to their Norquistian agenda. This is a fight for survival. (Don't take my word for it; take Paul Krugman's.) We need partisans. Like it or lump it, the war will be won or lost with highly partisan vicious backstabbery and bickering. That's politics. Healing and building bridges and so forth won't win any mileage at all. Clark's jerking off into a cup and calling it coconut.

On the other hand, Howard Dean has proved himself a really potent candidate already. Dean...


  • ...has established a firm base of fanatical supporters.
  • ...can raise money out the wazoo.
  • ...has made the media his bitches.
  • ...is king of the anti-war hill.
  • ...is sort of short.
  • ...knows how to go for the throat.
  • ...reminds me with his pugnaciousness of Giordano Bruno, slightly. Though you shouldn't carry the comparison too fear.
  • ...knows how to dominate the discourse.

Dean is hardcore. Dean is kicking bottom and taking names. At this point, it may well be that Clark is the only credible non-Dean candidate. But maybe not. Maybe Clark will prove himself. But maybe not. It's all going to come down to how well they can campaign; issues-wise, they both seem to be more or less centrists of some stripe, so I doubt that'll differentiate them much. We'll just wait and see.

My money's still on the Doctor.

Posted by aloysius at 09:38 PM |
September 18, 2003
Status Report

Blogger's current status: insanely drunk.

Howard Dean still rules.

Clark is a credible candidate, but I have seen nothing to make me swoon for him yet. Dean can call himself 'the Doctor'. What does Clark have? He was a major general! He can't even call himself 'the Brigadier'. And Karl Rove already has 'the Master' all tied up himself. What does Joe Lieberman honestly expect to market himself as? The Meddling Monk? Like that'll get him anywhere. And John Edwards? He's Chancellor Goth, at most. A one-episode wonder. Bob Graham is the War Chief. Carol Moseley-Braun is probably Susan; she isn't exciting enough to be Romana. Kerry? Kerry is the Valeyard. He could've been so goddamned cool, but just petered out into total lameness. Dick Gephardt is probably Borusa; his many years playing politics have warped his soul. Dear old Dennis Kucinich...He's so well-intentioned, yet so feeble; he's Azmael. And Al Sharpton is comic relief; I'd call him Drax. Now that's got to hurt.

Everyone knows the Doctor always wins.

Did I mention drunkenness? Prelims are all over now. All, all over. Ha!

Posted by aloysius at 11:49 PM |
September 17, 2003
Seifert-van Kampen

The Seifert-van Kampen Theorem is something to do with galaxies full of pork and beans exploding. (Well, that's what you get.)

Posted by aloysius at 07:23 PM |
Local News

Democracy triumphs, on a small scale. Seattle voters overwhelmingly defeated an Espresso Tax which would've tacked on 10 cents to the prices of lattes, cappucinos, Americanos, and their iced equivalents to pay for preschool and child-care programmes. And good riddance. While preschools and child care are good things and need to be funded, the tax itself was poorly-thought-out and regressive. Think of the bookkeeping headaches it would've caused for independent coffee-shops. And it's so arbitrary; why tax espresso? Why not tax SUVs? Or gasolene? Or crack whores? Or whatever-the-hell-else that isn't espresso? Espresso is such a dominant component of Seattle's image...It's like trying to tax shotguns and pickup trucks in Nashville. How could they have imagined such a thing could conceivably pass?

I don't drink coffee or espresso anyhow, so I have no personal stake in this. So you know.

And voters have resoundingly approved Initiative 75:

A. The Seattle Police Department and City Attorney's Office shall make the investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses, where the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the City's lowest law enforcement priority.

According to the Post-Intelligencer story, certain critics of I-75 were worried that passing the measure would send the message to young people that smoking marijuana was 'okay'. This is Seattle. That's like worrying that kids might somehow get the impression that the ocean is a bit damp. You can't swing a dead cat by the tail here without hitting someone smoking the reefer. (Not that I advocate swinging dead cats, by the tail or otherwise.) The War on Drugs is over, and drugs won. (As if there was ever any doubt.) Nothing anyone can do is going to stop people smoking marijuana, and it's time we acknowledged that and legalised it already. While it's largely symbolic, I think I-75 is a step in the right direction, a useful propaganda victory for the pro-legalisation cause. And it's still significantly less than (old news, I know) what Prime Minister Chretien has proposed for Canada.

Seattle takes pride in its liberal image; it's no wonder I love it so.

Also, and I know that, strictly speaking this isn't local, but it's at least on the same coast...Via SullyWatch, Bay Area Communists (Left Wing FC) and Anarchists (Kronstadt FC) recently faced off in an anti-imperialist soccer match on fields expropriated from the bourgeois. See their flier. Here are photos from the abortive August match, which tied 2-2. Mere days ago, the cheerleaders gave an 'A, A, A for Anarchy' and Kronstadt FC achieved the very non-hierarchial victory, 4-2. There's still time for the Communists to tie it up by taking the next match, very portentiously scheduled for some time in October; I think our valiant comrades can bring this one home. Win one for the Revolution!

Posted by aloysius at 04:49 PM |
Post-Prelim

You can be sure as heck that the integral of that analysis prelim converges, because I dominated it. Ha! I'm a riot. I'm 50,000 people running amok through Seattle in 1999 to protest the WTO.

I made that exam my bitch.

I went into it feeling pretty low, too. I jerked into wakefulness this morning to find I'd overslept by an hour, having somehow deactivated my alarm in my sleep, and barely made it to the exam on time, after feeling yesterday that the algebra exam had broken something in my head because nothing (mathematical) I tried to read made any sense...The contour integral problem seemed impenetrable, and I found out why: when the exam was 7/8 over, we were told that in fact there was a typo which made the problem impossible. There was screaming, yea, like unto all the damn'd souls of Hell. But on the bright side, we got an extra half hour. I needed four of the eight problems to pass; I blew my own mind and did six. Which means that even if I accidentally answered two of the questions with Sumerian pornography, I'll still pass. I am a happy man.

If--and I say if--I passed Monday's algebra exam, I am done with prelims for all time. That's a very nice thought. All warm and soft and cuddly, like a kitten. An adorable little kitten.

Three cheers for kittens!

Posted by aloysius at 04:02 PM |
September 15, 2003
Bowie

David Bowie's 'Sound and Vision' is slowly restoring my will to live.

Pss...Wanna-wa...Pss...Wanna-wa...

We can hear that one more time, I think.

What a great album Low is...

PS...Also 'All Saints' has a powerfully nifty groove. It's a bonus track on the Ryko release of Low, worth going to eBay for. The Rykos were far and away the best releases of old Bowies. You can also find it on the All Saints: Collected Instrumentals compilation from Virgin, which is probably dirt cheap.

I just love the tinkly bits.

Posted by aloysius at 05:41 PM |
Hell

Wow. A four-hour exam really gallops by when (you're made to feel as if) your entire future career depends on it.

I think I passed, barely.

It was a horrible exam. Even by prelim standards. Whoever wrote it had better feel awfully, awfully sorry for what they've done, and I'd hope they've learned their lesson and will never, ever do it again. One of the problems was so obscure it was just silly.

On the bright side, it's over now. Although I still have to take another one Wednesday. Also on the bright side, it's after noon, so it's acceptable for me to start drinking now and beat the rush.

PS...Pain.

PPS...Kill me*.

*But not until after I've found out if I actually passed or not. Unless you really just can't wait.

Posted by aloysius at 02:59 PM |
September 14, 2003
Prelims

I have an algebra prelim in eleven hours. Sweet Jesus' cock, I am going to fucking die*.

*Note I am not actually going to fucking die. I've been obsessively studying for this thing. I've done the last eleven years' worth of prelims. I can fart the Sylow Theorems in my sleep. I can compute Galois groups with one foot up my ass. By any objective standard, I'm pretty well-prepared. That doesn't change the fact that a horrific amount of pressure goes with these exams, or that what they test is essentially meaningless. At this level, the only sensible exams one could give are take-home things, to be done at one's leisure, with a certain amount of research and some nice cups of tea and raspberry-filled butter cookies. Something involving highly nontrivial results, not just tricksy applications of low-level theorems in ways that reward rote memorisation of old exams.

On the bright side, I totally know more than enough to teach something equivalent to my undergraduate abstract algebra class now. The structure theorem for modules over a PID is a natural for that setting.

I'm going to sleep now, on the grounds that the sooner I do, the sooner I can wake up, take this bitch, and get it all over with.

The world is a vampire**.

**Note*** the world is not actually a vampire.

***Do footnotes make you want to play Johnny Cash's cover of 'Hurt' over and over and over?****

****No, they don't. It's prelims that do that.

PS...Prelims.

Posted by aloysius at 10:58 PM |
Election Season

Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, is an 'evil reptilian kitten-eater from another planet,' declare the Conservatives. Conservative Premier Ernie Eves has refused to officially retract the accusation, and Dalton McGuinty himself has not denied the allegations, adding only that 'I like puppies too.'

The notion of the evil reptilian kitten-eater from another world is not a new one; it has a long and honourable tradition among loonies. According to schizo nut-job David Icke, reptilian aliens descended to Earth during the time of the Sumerians and began to mix their DNA with that of selected humans, producing the 'bluebloods' which have dominated the world ever since. (It is speculated by Mr Montalk that bluebloods do in fact have blue, copper-based blood. And that Queen Elizabeth II is one of the mightiest and most evil of them all, and may in fact be a necrophiliac cannibal.) Via the Illuminati and Charlemagne and so forth, these evil reptilians have dominated the world ever since. Oh, and they can change shapes. Icke accuses both George H. W. Bush and former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath of routinely transforming into reptilian aliens and nailing young children to their flesh to bathe in the blood. And he says that V was in fact deeply true to life. Which is probably where the kitten-eating thing comes from. (Though if I recall correctly the Visitors usually preferred guinea pigs...)

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a Canadian political figure has been accused of evil-reptilian-kitten-eater-dom.

What sort of TV ads might politicians trot out if this style of campaigning catches on? I can see the Conservative Alliance doing a spot with a giant Soviet flag fluttering in the background, and a voice-over chanting 'Jack Layton: faggo peacenik.' If John Manley hadn't dropped out of the Liberal leadership race (a couple of months ago; I didn't notice, either), he could've done a charming bit with Paul Martin's laughing visage superimposed over a crackling Satanic inferno, and the caption 'Paul Martin nailed your mom. To a puppy. And then he had sexual relations with her.' Maybe something simple and old-fashioned like 'If returned to power, Ralph Klein has promised to masturbate while pistol-whipping you, because he hates you in a very personal, one-on-one way.'

It's probably just an Ontario thing, though. Go read Larry Zolf. And lock up your kittens.

(Via the invaluable CalPundit.)

Posted by aloysius at 04:27 PM |
September 11, 2003
More Dirty Math

The finite simple group 2F4(2)' is also known as the Tits Group. If you run a Google search on Tits Group, your first hit will be an entry at Mathworld. Then will come a great deal of porno. I believe this group to be named after Jacques Tits, a Belgian mathematician who should never, ever have his own web page. Ever.

If one were to write a book about Jacques Tits' influence on module theory, one could call it Tits and Ass.

Posted by aloysius at 02:10 PM |
September 10, 2003
Time

As you no doubt have noticed, I haven't been blogging as much lately. I blame this on prelims. The UW Math Department's preliminary exams, known at some other institutions as qualifying exams, or 'quals' if you will, are next week. Four hours each. I'll be taking Algebra on Monday, and Complex Analysis on Wednesday. This imposes something of a gruelling schedule on me, as I make ready...Studying, watching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, exponentiating random matrices for a laugh, sleeping ten hours...It takes a toll on a chap. I'm all worn down to a frazzle. It'll all be over in another week...Either I shall triumph, or the ducks shall gnaw my bones on the ash-heap of History.

In the mean time, here is a duck. Amuse yourselves quietly.

Posted by aloysius at 01:47 PM |
September 07, 2003
Another Meaningless Personality Test

I am 28% beaver.

Posted by aloysius at 08:12 PM |
Creationists: Crazy, or Just Stupid?

Via Ken MacLeod, here is a good, solid argument for crazy. Or almost-crazy, at least. Dr Stephen Law points out something that makes perfect sense once I've heard it, that the reasoning patterns of creationists are very much like those of schizophrenics. Which is absolutely true. The endless cycle of rationalisations, steamrollering any attempt to disprove palpably silly conclusions with trifles like 'evidence' and 'logic'...The baroque, Rube Goldberg systems of thought...

The problem is that the only way children can be taught that creationism is true and supported by the available evidence is by instilling in them such twisted conceptions of logic and evidential support that they are likely to remain gullible idiots for the rest of their lives.

And what a good line!

Speaking of schizophrenics*, if you want to do a compare-and-contrast exercise of your own, you could look at the thinkers behind Cassiopaea.org, who are currently embroiled in a Conspiracy Theorist feud with my old chum, the proprietor of Montalk.net, whose account of said feud can be found here. Enjoy their completely potty theories, articles, arguments, and conclusions, marvel at the mental gymnastics involved, giggle when they take themselves seriously, note how closely it all resembles the reasoning used in 'creation science.'

If you wouldn't accept Montalk's reasoning and arguments, then you have no grounds for accepting creationism. It's the same type of argumentation.

Such a fine line, between theology and Conspiracy Theory.

~~~~
*: I am not a mental health professional. This should not be taken as a diagnosis. Or as grounds for a lawsuit. I'm sure the Cassiopaeans are charming people and not palpably deranged at all, not even a little. Really. Salt of the earth.

Posted by aloysius at 08:06 PM |
September 05, 2003
San Francisco

Wave Magazine has administered the Voight-Kampff Test to six candidates for the mayorality of San Francisco, because you can never be too careful. And it's a good thing, too. At least half of them are replicants. And at least one of them knows his Dick.

With Willie Brown finally leaving his gold (plated), diamond-encrusted throne, there has been no shortage of hats thrown into the mayoral ring. San Francisco politics are now a microcosm of California’s own, greater gubernatorial “challenges.” Rather than confuse you with endorsements, position papers and other outmoded means of political influence, we’ve decided to get to the bottom of the only question that matters: Is a particular candidate human or an insidious replicant, possessed of physical strength and computational abilities far exceeding our own, but lacking empathy and possibly even bent on our destruction as a species?

The only reliable method that we know of for sniffing out replicants is the Voight-Kampff Test, created by Phillip K. Dick in his book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and later used by Harrison Ford’s character, Deckard, in the film Blade Runner. The test uses a series of questions to evoke an emotional response which androids are incapable of having. By the candidates’ responses to this line of questioning, we feel we can say with some certainty whether or not they’re replicants. However, we’re stopping short of recommending that you vote for them or not. After all, though a replicant mayor may be more likely to gouge a supervisor’s eyes out with their thumbs, they have another quality that could be great in an elected official: a four year life span.

Posted by aloysius at 11:58 PM |
Terrible Math Riddles My Roommate Just Told Me

Q: What's yellow, and equivalent to the Axiom of Choice?
A: Zorn's Lemon.

Q: What's yellow, and complete?
A: A Bananach space.

Q: What's yellow, and has a convergent power series expansion?
A: A bananalytic function.

Q: What's purple, and commutes?
A: An abelian grape.

Q: What's purple, commutes, and is occasionally worshipped?
A: A finitely-venerated abelian grape.

Q: What's non-orientable, and lives in the ocean?
A: Möbius Dick.

Posted by aloysius at 11:45 PM |
September 04, 2003
Andrew Sullivan is Wrong Again, Part LXIV

...About the Hutton Inquiry, BBC, and Blair Government.

On the merits of this matter, the BBC is simply wrong and the Blair government right. And the Beeb's cover-up, of course, made matters far worse...End of story. End of the BBC? Not likely, but we can always hope. Along with the National Health Service, it's the institution most responsible at this point for holding Britain back from its true potential.

Now this is simply wrong. And when I say wrong, what I mean is not right. In the sense of not being an accurate representation of the actual events that have been transpiring in our small corner of the space-time continuum. That sort of wrong. The esteemed Mr Sullivan, who is more entertaining now that he's grown a spine again with respect to the Bush Administration (though he is still a lousy stylist), quotes a New York Times piece alleging no evidence had been found that 'intelligence chiefs' objected to the material in the 45 Minutes Dossier. This is misleading. There is a great deal of evidence that 'senior intelligence analysts' did, in fact, object, and did feel the information was questionable, and did think that spin doctors were manipulating intelligence. Check the Telegraph.

Downing Street faced explosive allegations yesterday that it interfered with the use of intelligence in its September dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction when senior intelligence analysts described to the Hutton Inquiry how their objections had been ignored.

Now, admittedly this story post-dates Sullivan's bit, but it's hardly a surprise. It dovetails quite neatly with evidence heard by the Hutton Inquiry way, way, way back on 11 August, which you can also read about in a 12 August story in the Telegraph.

Two intelligence officials formally complained about the wording of the dossier on Iraqi chemical and biological weapons that formed the Government's case for war, the inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly heard yesterday.

The Telegraph, I am sure we can all agree, is hardly a hotbed of left-wing Bolshevik subversion. I can't imagine how Sullivan overlooked this...

The Government spun the case against Iraq. Gilligan spun his Today story. However, almost everything the Government reported about Iraq has proven to be false. While Gilligan may have fudged the details, his thrust has proven accurate. Therein lies the difference.

And why this crusade against the BBC? It is a noble bulwark standing between news and the uttermost forces of nether darkness, as led by people like Rupert 'the Master' Murdoch and Conrad 'Arsebucket' Black. And it gave the world The League of Gentlemen.

Andrew Sullivan just has no taste at all.

UPDATE: After the Prime Minister, Alastair Campbell, and John Scarlett all insisted 'ownership' of the dossier lay with the Joint Intelligence Committee, the Hutton Inquiry today received this piece of evidence, a record of a meeting attended by John Scarlett and Downing Street spokesman Tom Kelly, among others, which some might interpret as conflicting somewhat with their testimony.

Ownership of the dossier
  • Ownership lay with No 10.

Well, then.

That irredeemably left-wing Bolshy anti-monarchist Guardian has a piece on this, pointing out that even if these minutes don't actually somehow or other mean 'ownership' when they say 'ownership', it's still a bit rummy that Scarlett never mentioned this, even in passing, in his testimony, no? I couldn't find anything on this on the Telegraph site.

By the way, is it just me, or are the BBC and Guardian sites much, much, much superior in basically every respect to other UK news outlets'?

BBC News Online is yet another Very Good Thing brought to you by dear old Auntie Beeb. Anyone who thinks it ought to be shut down should be publicly depantsed and laughed at cruelly.

Posted by aloysius at 12:09 PM |
September 03, 2003
Blah

I've been trying to move my site over to a different server, which is why I haven't been blogging much lately...Hopefully it shouldn't take too many more days now. So if you'd like, you can pretend I'm experiencing technical difficulties, and imagine a test pattern here for the moment.

Oh, a tiny piece of content...Monday's edition of Goats put me rather powerfully in mind of this short, not especially well-written story I devised some years ago. It's a pretty obvious premise, the Hellish Host shopping around for a website and so forth, in this modern information-happy world.

Posted by aloysius at 05:33 PM |