26 February 2010

The British Library wants to keep your blog forever and ever

The British Library wants to preserve disused UK websites before they disappear. The idea is that websites and blogs are the history of our time. They serve that same purpose as letters and personal papers served until recently.

The average life span of a website is seventy-five days. Current copyright law obliges the British Library to seek permission for every website it wants to preserve. The Library would like new government regulation that would enable them to save any publicly available website automatically using a webcrawl. A bit like the Library keeping one copy of every book published in Britain.

The UK web archive already has six thousand sites out of an estimated eight million.

Whilst understanding the interest from an archival point of view, do we really want everything we write online to be preserved? There is something about writing on paper that we acknowledge as being on a legal continuum. After all, we sign personal letters and are aware of the fact that they can be entered as evidence in court. Identity and accountability online are understood as being of a completely different nature. 

There are wondrous websites out there and they should be preserved but I have often written comments of the bottom of a webpage which were more like utterances written with little forethought or consciousness, as in conversation with friends over wine and dinner. Online "spurting out" stands in sharp contrast to what we would write in a proper letter or anything we know shall be preserved.

The ephemerality of all things online is part of what makes the internet what it is. If you take the internet freeze it and fix it in time, it becomes a completely different experience.

25 February 2010

A site with a view

My passion for the Himalayas has yet to manifest itself here partly because it's a real niche interest and partly because there are so many great writers on the subject who have actually been there. I will write about them one day.

Small as it is, my couch mountaineering is a door and one door opens others. This leads me my site of the week aptly called panoramas. 

So, a friend sent me a link to yet another Everest site, there are thousands of them. I reluctantly clicked on the link. The page loaded rather quickly and a moving camera showed me a 365 degrees view from the summit of Mount Everest. Clichés are sometimes true and the view literally took my breath away. I let the page go round and round the top of the world until I felt dizzy. 

It took me a while to explore the other panoramic views. Though not all as awe-inspiring, the site offers beautiful views from a multitude of sites, the Grand Canyon, Chichen Itza, Christ Redeemer, the Valley of the Kings. And so on.

24 February 2010

Edited blog: TIPS FOR WRITERS!!!!!

(apparently my original title for this blog "the lazies..." and the lack of a photo has drastically affected readership. This only proves The Guardian, The New Yorker and New York Magazine are right to capitalise of this "Tips for writers" racket)

Remember the good old days when a novel would become a movie, a movie would become a Broadway musical, the musical would become a cartoon only to lead to a Sports Illustrated issue — or sommit? 
We're used to the infinite multiplication of the same ideas and images under the guises of "franchise" and the internet does the same, though marketing has little to do with it. With blogging in particular, it's about leading your readers to links that interest the writer and pique their curiosity, but it's also about feeding the beast. One cardinal rule of blogging is to do it every day.
We at Comrade Bingo lead full lives outside of this blog. We are sometimes short of time and, let us be honest, inspiration. There are days when we are short on content and lead you to other people’s content. 
Nonetheless, I swear I wasn't going to link you to this Guardian article about tips for writing. Tips for writing are definitely low rent, a bit like "you too can become a billionnaire" seminars at the Learning Annex. Readerships are savvy and by now such "articles" come with an implied psychic-hotline warning, "for entertainment purposes only”. I write "articles" with quotation marks here because it's obvious The Guardian was short on time and inspiration when the editor commissioned this.
What I could be saying basically is that my idleness here is relying on The Guardian's except that I only decided to do this blog after reading not one but two well-regarded websites who are using The Guardian to pad their webpages.
The first in The New Yorker, a publication and website so intent on content they rightly do away with any excess of design and visual distractions. Here, Macy Halford links to The Guardian piece in which “The Guardian asked twenty-nine writers to list their rules for writing fiction”. She goes on to quote noteworthy tips and adds a couple of virtuoso paragraphs — try reading this without raised eyebrows: “Reading the piece, I kept thinking, These bytes are simply crying out to be mashed and wikied by the hive, endlessly worked over in the name of increasing the correctness or definitiveness of a master list (yes, I've been reading and enjoying Lanier despite certain overexuberances)”.
If this is about linking rather than providing content and why does Halford feel the need to flex her scrivener muscles and bore us with her ability to turn the word "wiki" into a verb and show off how cool she is for reading counter-cultural manifestos written by a white Rasta wannabes? I do the same. One feels guilty about giving you readers a simple wam, bam, thank you mam link and then going on with one's day job.

Hang on? I have an excuse but isn't Halford's link her day job? She actually gets paid for posting a link.
The New Yorker isn’t the only lofty publication that was rescued by The Guardian. This morning I see this Culture Vulture post in New York Magazine. Sam Anderson begins with “Few things are more addictive to writers than reading tips about writing.” Hang on, I think. I skim down and see NYmag is also cannibalising the same Guardian piece. 

(That being said, I adore the folks at New York Magazine and their links. Every link is padded with "content" often more hilarious than the link itself and often useful context. So, what is this? Simple envy.)
I’m not such a fan of tips for writers because I know there’s an entire, and entirely cynical, industry that’s making money out of people’s dreams of publishing a book. If I remember well, The Guardian was behind some fee paying writing seminars a couple of years ago. Although most of the writers in the Guardian article don’t need to resort to teaching anymore, many of them used to.
In the end, one wonders, after all the mining to original thought, what diamonds we shall find. Well, second hands one. I remember reading the same A.L. Kennedy writing tips in the article off her website six or seven years ago.

23 February 2010

Businessman to destroy artwork

Minor tourist attractions in Liverpool include a giant painting of a rat holding a machine, artwork of the internationally known graffiti artist Banksy. 

The work, painted on an old pub, was an official commission. Last Thursday a developer who purchased the building said he would paint over the work and turn the pub into luxury flats, reports the Telegraph.

Everything's turned into condos or Starbucks these days.

22 February 2010

Brittania, its limp-dick press and Westminster staff

(Last week, the British press desecrated Canadians and the Olympics with unrivalled venom and pettiness. For a moment, we did think some of version 28 Days Later had infected Jolly Ol’ as members of its press all seemed inexplicably rabid. Thus, this is perfect timing for giving our North American readers an idea of what’s going on in the British media one week later. And before you ask, yes, it’s always like this.)

British TV journalism is a career choice potentially paved with gold. You might recognise the names Andrew Marr, Jeremy Paxman, David Dimbleby and others from public television stations. They are examples of men (they’re always men) who have gone from political and news shows to lavishly produced series about politics, history, and the arts. Such series sell rights around the English-speaking world and are inevitably accompanied by luscious and pricey books. Not too shabby a way of padding what surely are already generous BBC wages and pensions.

But if written political journalism in Britain doesn’t offer the same visibility and, therefore, sales, the aura surrounding those who cover Westminster still resonates with a section of the British public. Few possibilities for international sales here but if you write a book full of anonymous and unverifiable insider information and spin it into a tale with a level of moral deprivation that would make Jackie Collins blush, your purse and your rep could benefit from the endeavour. The proof in is the pudding: as Alastair Campbell gave testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry last month, Andrew Gilligan was interviewed by just about every single media outlet seven years after he broke the “dodgy dossier” story. And the Gilligan story was just that, a news story. Imagine how much mileage one can get from an entire book.

Enter Andrew Rawnsley. With hair as voluminous as that of a Ken doll and with a Brian Mulroney-esque chin, Rawnsley possesses that combination of utterly-strange-yet-perfect-for-television-broadcasting looks. Nonetheless, after a short stint at the BBC in his salad days, Rawnsley has spent much of his career writing for the Guardian and the Observer, two publications which have been gradually and decidedly turning their backs on the left and the British Labour Party of late.

Andrew Rawnsley, author of The End of the Party

So, just in time for the next election (and it is very uncertain the Tory party will win this, despite the quasi-entirety of British press blatantly championing its leader David Cameron for the last two years), Rawnsley launches The End of the Party, a scathing book that portrays British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a bully.

There is a range of allegations in Rawnsley’s book, from Gordon Brown snarling “They are out to get me” (and he’s right, they are) to Brown insisting on being part of a meeting and then talking with Ed Balls during that meeting. “Was there ever a more demeaning scene in a prime minister's study?” decries Bruce Anderson of The Independent. This is the sort of infantile hyperbole broadsheet British journalists rely on to make careers for themselves these days.

Anybody who pays any attention to British politics has known of the book and its allegations for months now, but the British press orchestrated an onslaught of Rawnsley coverage this weekend and the papers have been abuzz — so much so that Gordon Brown issued a statement in which he assured the British people that he has never hit anybody. Not exactly reassuring but then again, Brown, unlike Blair, isn’t always surrounded by the best communications strategists.

Members of the Cabinet and Peter Mandelson came to the defence of Brown yesterday.

This show of support for Gordon Brown incensed a simple civilian named Christine Pratt. Head of a charity called the National Bullying Helpline, Pratt decided she couldn’t keep the confidentiality of her callers under wraps. This morning on the Today Programme, she claimed to have received at least two complaints from callers who said there was a culture of bullying at No. 10. No one claimed to have been bullied directly by Gordon Brown, said Pratt.

Quickier than you can say oh-my-God-why-does-she-remind-me-of-Linda-Tripp-? the Labour Party has come forth with complaints about Pratt’s charity which is apparently using the helpline to refer callers to paying professional services, including those of Christine Pratt’s husband, a man who has been accused of bullying customers for alleged non-payment of services.

In the U.S., the Republicans should have known before they pounced on Linda Tripp and here David Cameron can’t even learn from very recent history and has called for an inquiry into the Brown bullying matter. It’s true that Pratt isn’t the entire story here but Labour will be able to put the ramblings of this wholly unconvincing woman front and centre and discredit the entire critique of Brown.

The British press needs new people to talk about and after twelve years of writing about the Labour Party, the press is aggressively pushing for new blood at No. 10. And so this is why they are promoting a man who isn’t smart enough to run as fast as he can from this story. They want Cameron to rule Britain.

Beyond the British press, there are greater concerns at play. Children who are bullied should be protected. Women who are sexual harassed should have the right to sue. What we cannot do, however, is sink into a pervasive culture of victimhood.

We are talking about grown people here. Intelligent adults with resources and coping mechanisms. They chose a macho environment and a job that comes with all kinds of perks, expenses, generous pensions and a business world that will fall before their feet and offer blank cheque salaries and golden parachutes the moment they leave No. 10. What we likely have here are people who don’t like Gordon Brown in a society that gives opportunists a lot of latitude for claiming victimhood.

Yes, the times, they are a-changing. Compare and contrast:According to Rawnsley, O'Donnell was so disturbed by the effect on those in Downing Street that he took it upon himself to try "to calm down frightened duty clerks, badly treated phone operators and other bruised staff by telling them, 'Don't take it personally'".


During the Second World War, some transport arrangement went awry. It was in no way the driver's fault. This did not save him from a prime ministerial rocketing. When Churchill had stumped off harrumping, Anthony Eden went over to console the driver. "Don't worry, Sir," came the reply: "After all, it's not everyone who can say they've been blown up by the Great Man in person." Eden's reply was heartfelt: "Don't you believe it.".

Hitler shouldn’t have happened at all, but we should all be grateful he faced Churchill and and not Gordon’s staff. I cannot imagine my contemporaries whining to helplines about President Obama having been rude to them. But to be fair, nor can I imagine many of my contemporaries here or on the other side of the pond taking a beach at Normandy. 

And all the above takes it for granted the rumours are true. We know the corridors of powers are crowded with snakes. At this point in British history, with all the open treachery from within the Labour Party, the hissing is positively deafening. It isn't difficult to imagine one simple anecdote of, let's say, an inanimate object accidentally hurled to the floor in an abrupt moment and how it could be imagined into a multitude of abusive rampages.

Andrew Marr in the clip above and other journalists make it sound as though this was always known. If this has been known for twelve years, why are Rawnsley and the press making a story of it on the eve of these elections.

Remember all the venom the British press spewed at us Canadians last week? This is who they are. Don't believe the hype.

18 February 2010

GLAAD to honour funny lady Wanda Sykes

Nikki FInke of Deadline Hollywood is reporting that GLAAD is to honour Wanda Sykes. This ex-NSA officer is funny as hell. ?Her rise has been bumpy and her appearance as the featured entertainer for the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner didn't make unanimity. Last November, Fox started airing The Wanda Sykes Show. So, on this gloomy Thursday, Comrade Bingo offers you a few Wanda Sykes clips.

Racist dolphin. Yes, it's about a racist dolphin. Does attain the wildly pleasurable heights of absurdity Eddie Izzard attains, but it's up there:

Detachable vagina. Trust us, it's very funny.

In the wake of the much-anticipated Tiger Woods public appearance tomorrow, this Sykes skit became an instant classic:

Wanda on gay marriage:


17 February 2010

When women threaten to beat men at the Olympics

    Lindsey Van(left), the world's greatest ski jumper, can't take part in the Olympics because she's a woman

"Lindsey Van holds the record — among both men and women — for the longest jump off of Whistler, B.C.'s normal ski jump, built for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics," And yet, women's ski jumping remains excluded from the Olympics. Even though the IOC says women's ski jumping doesn't meet criteria for inclusion, such as the number of countries who would offer competitiors, reality belies their contentions. There are fewer women's bobsleigh teams and women's ski cross is a sport even less developed than women's ski jumping.

So why keep women ski jumpers excluded? Could it be that despite ski jumping being a macho sport, women being smaller and light often means they can fly higher and further?

Of course, by bringing case after to the British Columbia courts over the last two years, women ski jumpers haven't helped themselves in the eyes of some. Take this tidbit from an article in Time magazine 

So will the IOC approve women's ski jump for 2014? "We'll have to wait and see," IOC member Dick Pound said in an interview for an MSNBC.com documentary on women's ski jumping, Frozen Out of the Olympics. "If in the meantime you're making all kinds of allegations about the IOC and how it's discriminating on the basis of gender," he warned, "the IOC may say, 'Oh yeah, I remember them. They're the ones that embarrassed us and caused us a lot of trouble of trouble in Vancouver, maybe they should wait another four years or eight years.'"

Basically, girls, shut up, sit pretty and wait men to decide your fate.

Granted there is no great male conspiracy to hold women ski jumpers back. Yesterday, monitoring Twitter whilst watching snowboard cross, all I could see were men and women who were dazzled by the skiers battling fog and a very tough track. I'm not aware of sports call-in shows or website where men go to voice their outrage at women's ski jumping. But opposition has sprung where it most counts. The IOC's narrow mindedness and dodgy dealings has proved wide reaching over the decades. From corruption to resistance on drug testing, every step forward the IOC toward progress has been hard won. Of course, sometimes the IOC is no more reactionary than society at large and the IOC is not wholly responsible  for questionable issues having been raised around women athletes.

Take women's hockey. The media has been positively rabid over women's hockey being a "two-horse race". American and Canadian hockey players are faring too well against other teams and the North American players have been "on the defensive". 

The media seems to have forgotten a one horse race, the Dream Team, when NBA players were first allowed to join the Olympics. I have never ever seen men being asked to apologise for being too good. Some critics are even demanding that women's hockey be withdrawn as an Olympics discipline. One wonders why such drastic steps are being taken to keep woman out (ski) and why there are appeals (hockey) to exclude them.

Perhaps the best female athletes are just too formidable. It's not too surprising to learn that with sports like curling and volleyball, women are as good as men. The next logical step is to ask why there are no mixed volleyball and curling teams at the Olympics. One guesses that as long as women and men are segregated, women's ability to overpower men in games that rely on points rather than comparable data is no threat. 

With sky jumping, the situation is different. Imagine a sport's page results grid in a newspaper, a sport book or website with ski jumping results side by side and numbers showing that women are unequivocally better than men. That would be something new in the history of humanity, would it not?

Women's ski jumping isn't an easily dismissed anomaly. This is happening at a time in our history when physical dominance is the very last bastion of male superiority in our society. It's not a pedestal that will relinquished easily. And though ski jumping would be a small concession and one unlikely to have profound social consequences, we live in world largely ignorant of female physical strength. Why is it such a well-guarded secret that women are just as good as men, if not better, at ultramarathons and very long distance swimming? All our lives, we've been told that men are stronger than women. Isn't it big news when this accepted tenet turns out not to be entirely true?  

And when will those sports gain mainstream appeal and become Olympics sports? 

In the murky swamp of consumerism and scandals, it's difficult to know what the IOC and their really games stand for. If, however, human excellence is at the centre of Olympian values, there should be a push to include women everywhere and in some circumstances, allow them to compete against men. 

16 February 2010

Yet another cause of death for King Tut


He had a bone disease, no, he was murdered, no, it was malaria. Sounds like an episode of House? Not exactly.

I wanted to read a James Patterson book considering he just died recently. Ok, he didn't die, some other crime/thriller guy passed away in the last couple of months and when I chanced upon The Murder of King Tut last week, I thought Patterson was that man who died and I picked up a copy.

(Aside: and what is this King Tut talk? Is it like Les Miz because Americans can't be bothered to say the word "miserable". In my day, he was Tutankhamun. This Sarah-Pallinisation of the English language will not stand. I'm fine with Tut for texting or Tweeting, but, otherwise, Tutankhamun, please!)

I'm not going to review the book. Let's just say it's not literature. The narrative is split in three timelines: 14th century BC dramatising King Tut's life and (supposed) murder, 20th century AD discovery of the tomb by Howard Carter and Patterson himself talking to the reader about thinking on King Tut whilst playing golf on Donald Trump's course. The last odd narrative choice is meant to convince the reader how Patterson really believes Tutankhamun was murdered. Before Patterson, it was believed the boy had died of a bone disease. It's also clear Patterson wanted to cash in on the Tutankhamun exhibit that has been touring the world for the last few years and which is now in Toronto.

Just a couple of days after finishing The Murder of King Tut, the New York Times reports that scientists now believe the boy pharaoh likely died of malaria.


Roger Ebert: The Essential Man

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man

Posted using ShareThis

15 February 2010

Unprovoked Curtis Mayfield Post

No horns. No string section. Bad ASS.

OCD Heaven: The miniature photography of Michael Paul Smith

Make: magazine's Chris Connors posts a brief interviewette (sure, look it up in the dictionary, if that's how you get your kicks) with Michael Paul Smith, who builds extraordinary photographic scenes with scale car models and a $75 point-and-shoot digital camera.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Via Make:

A good family on Family Day


We all like time off but I'm not overly ecstatic over Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty instituting Family Day back in 2007. This contrived, way too right wing initiative is proof that not only Tory politicians try to brain wash up with nuclear family dogma. My family is my mother and I, a twosome which the likes of McGuinty, Harper and other single-mother haters would  not consider to be a real family.

From a western democratic state point-of-view, the nuclear family is a great thing to promote. Nuclear families surely cost less to the state. Parents shoulder all the care and cost of children and, hopefully, grandparents. The financial cost is disproportionately shouldered by the father and the care by the mother although the workplace and economics are changing fast and soon married women will be bearing all of conceivable facets of family burdens.

If the politicians cared about families, they would force employers to support their employees when they need to take care of ageing parents, for one. How about a minimum wage that's also a living wage? And when are we going to have that thirty-five hour work week?

Well, despite the odds, some people do seem to thrive and some of them happen to be members of a nuclear family.

Canadians are in love with the Bilodeau family today, the day after twenty-two year-old Alexandre Bilodeau won the gold medal for mogul skiing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. How could not we love them? It's true, Serge Bilodeau is a surgeon and the family is spared the economic hardship many endure. But it couldn't have been easy for the Bilodeaus when their first born, Frederic, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Several years later, the Bilodeaus had Alexandre and Béatrice, the latter is a future moguls champion hopeful. As the family grew up, the Bilodeaus would wait eating junk food in the hockey arena cafeteria where Alexandre played. One day, Sylvie Bilodeau told her son the family should take up a sport they could all do together. Frederic couldn't play hockey but he could ski (although the Bilodeaus had been told Frederic wouldn't be able to walk passed the age of ten, the twenty-nine year-old man can still walk and ski).

We've seen the Alexandre and Frederic branding. Alex and Frederic playing chess. Alex and Frederic sharing a laugh. Alexandre flaunts Frederic everywhere he goes. What's most extraordinary is how camera lens seem unable to cast an exploitative eye on the brothers. Both possess that quintessential Quebecois lack of self-consciousness. The ease and authenticity of every moment they share in the spotlight is moving and, at the same time, natural.

Think about it, it could be disastrous. It could have the whiff of an Oscar-friendly performance from a very bad film. But there's none of that here.

And last night, there was also a funny moment. The entire family was on CTV when some guy (no one bothered telling us he was) showed up with a bottle of champagne a glass for Frederic. "The first glass should go to your inspiration, Alexandre". Alexandre mentioned Frederic wasn't allowed alcohol but Frederic couldn't believe his luck. The smile on him as he gazed down the glass was priceless. A genuinely concerned Brian Williams tried to put a stop to this potentially dangerous development mentioning something to the effect that giving booze to a severely physically-challenged person who was barred from drinking alcohol might not be a good idea. Being no fool, Frederic was already downing his Moet & Chandon. (N.B.: Alexandre was back on CTV this morning and his brother's fine.)

Now, I don't understand this newfangled folly of having victory celebrations every night instead of a small medal ceremony after each competition but Alexandre is getting his medal this evening (more than twenty-four hours after his win). He hopes security will allow him to bring his brother to the podium — something he does every time he wins a competition his brother is able to attend.

I'm a cynic and I'd be able to see true the gloss of the Bilodeau family brand. What I see in Alexandre is pride but also the humility and attention Alex gives in every moment of his interviews. He treats every interviewer and person mentioned in an interview with respect. When another CTV journalist thanked him for saving Canada from a Dale Begg-Smith victory, instead of bashing the man or being overly diplomatic, Alexandre said: "Yes, the first Canadian winning a gold medal on Canadian soil but for the Australia. That would have been weird." The gold medallist, embraces his victory whilst stating how Canada's second gold medal will be just as sweet as the first. He has also said how there would have been no hope for a gold medal for him, had the competition taken later than in the first couple of days of the Games. He would have been too busy partying and cheering on other athletes. Bilodeau's focus doesn't seem to cast an oppressive pall on his life. He's twenty-two and will express his right to party for the next two weeks.

(what's that right to party song again?)

Not every nuclear family creates an Alexandre Bilodeau and we should also take this day to celebrate those who have succeeded in spite of their family situation, First Nations Olympic snowboarder, who stayed out as late as possible at night for fear she would find her intoxicated father had beaten up her mother again. We all deserve a happy and nourishing family environment from the cradle.

12 February 2010

My Wife's Valentine

(aside: Comrade Bingo is an Olympics free zone. There will be no enthusiasm about the Olympics. There will be no cynicism about the Olympics. There will be no criticism of those who are enthused or cynical about the Olympics. Nothing. Nada.)

You might have heard about this site which posts Pepy's Diary following the calendar along with Pepy's entries. Readers add annotations providing invaluable context. Comrade Bingo friend The Great Catriona, suggested a Valentine's Day entry for today's blog. The annotations explain the in Pepy's time, "it was the custom to choose someone to be one's Valentine for the day. 

Do go to the website, the hyperlinks greatly enhances one's enjoyment of the diary.

(Valentine’s day). I did this day purposely shun to be seen at Sir W. Batten’s, because I would not have his daughter to be my Valentine, as she was the last year, there being no great friendship between us now, as formerly. This morning in comes W. Bowyer, who was my wife’s Valentine, she having, at which I made good sport to myself, held her hands all the morning, that she might not see the paynters that were at work in gilding my chimney-piece and pictures in my diningroom. By and by she and I by coach with him to Westminster, by the way leaving at Tom’s and my wife’s father’s lodgings each of them some poor Jack, and some she carried to my father Bowyer’s, where she staid while I walked in the Hall, and there among others met with Serj’. Pierce, and I took him aside to drink a cup of ale, and he told me the basest thing of Mr. Montagu’s and his man Eschar’s going away in debt, that I am troubled and ashamed, but glad to be informed of. He thinks he has left 1000l. for my Lord to pay, and that he has not laid out 3,000l. Out of the 5,000l. for my Lord’s use, and is not able to make an account of any of the money. My wife and I to dinner to the Wardrobe, and then to talk with my Lady, and so by coach, it raining hard, home, and so to do business and to bed.

11 February 2010

Alexander McQueen: beauty.

The office of Alexander McQueen confirmed the fashion designer has taken his own life. He was forty years old.

We'll skip over the details which readers will be bombarded with from all sides. Here's a more personal view.

You won't read much about fashion on our pages. I, for one, know nothing about it. Don't care much for it. Well, I care about art and the Keats quote: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

I love beauty and chance led me to seeing Alexander McQueen's dresses and I fell in love with them.

In a very Seinfeld "it's all about me" reaction, it occurred to me McQueen would never design the dress when I marry Eddie Izzard (that would be one day after Izzard and I meet of course).

Alexander McQueen was openly gay and "the pink sheep of the family". Every life is complex and beyond comprehension. It is still true though that suicide rates amongst gay people are troubling.

Here's a view of some of my favourite McQueen dresses. I apologise for the lack for fashion-savvy language (not) accompanying them.

The problem with mothers

I remember watching one of those nauseating American news affairs show à la 60 Minutes years ago, except it was one of the worse ones, like 20/20 or Primetime. One story was about kids from South California going down to Mexico to party and the mothers who tried to stop them before they got to customs. They weren't the partying kids' mothers, they were just other kids' mothers telling other people's kids what to do. When the journalist tried to intimate that other people's kids over the age of eighteen were maybe none of their business, one conservative mother turned all Earth Mother (for one brief moment reminiscent of anti-choice groups and their temporary love for unborn babies) and proclaimed she was mother to all the earth's children.

Remember we are talking about the US here, the place where kids being allowed to drive at sixteen, own guns at eighteen, but drinking???? Wo, baby, hold this off until the age of... twenty-five! No, actually the legal drinking age is twenty-one, but either way is it any wonder American youths are off to Mexico for a bit a dancing and tequila?

By midnight the night the news story aired, I was at friends getting ready to go out clubbing. I told them about the story and we talked of creating a fictional, repressive, activist group to be called Concerned Mothers Against Fun©.

Of course, one understands the instinct toward conservatism as parenthood beckons. That pink/bronze/yellow bundle is frail and it needs protecting from all manner of temptation and evil. Of course, that's the beginning of fascism, but one can sympathise with the instinct to over protect. Protection though also comes from strength in numbers. Many parental/family/mother groups oppose gay marriage and gay adoption. That may make sense from a purely bigoted point-of-view but zero sense in the forming of a stable, safe, conservative (with a small "c") community.

Married people who have kids need space and often move to the suburbs, or, heck, the country. Suburban and country folks by and large don't remain as liberal as free wheeling city dwellers. Assimilating homosexuals into the mainstream is the best way to nudge them to the right. But right wings groups seems to lack any ability to grasp that concept.

Enter OneMillionMoms.com, a site for activist moms. Today, their website is waging a campaign against the television show, Two and a Half Men. Star of the show Charlie Sheen was recently arrested for beating his wife to pulp. It's true, OneMillionsMoms could have waited for the case will unfold. Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but, wait a minute, no.... OneMillionMoms wants Two and Half Men off the air because...

"this past episode included excessive alcohol consumption, sexual innuendos, the reference several times to male body parts and foul language. We are outraged when characters on the show who love one another say, "Go to hell!" and "Drop dead!" to each other. 

The sitcom starts off with the family discussing Charlie Sheen's character being engaged. He has become excessively jealous of his fiancée whom he lives with. Then he is made to sleep on the sofa like he does often after a fight. 

Charlie and his disrespectful, teen nephew have a brief discussion about his relationship and Charlie states, "I will not take advice from someone whose current girlfriend is a gym sock."

Because of Charlie's jealousy he gets drunk. The following day while in a coffee shop and recovering from a hangover, he tries to make up with his fiancée and ends up vomiting on a baby in a carriage nearby. This disgusting behavior is not funny."

It is the soiled baby carriage that clinched it? One shudders at what OMM would have to say about the Odessa Steps scene in Battleship Potemkin.

Of course, I have never seen more than one second of Two and a Half Men whilst switching over to another channel and this particular OMM campaign although ludicrous doesn't inspire much ire in me. It was a NYmag article about OMM criticising Armani's Share the Love campaign for Valentine's Day that alerted me to the group's existence. The ad campaign is a triptych, each panel with couple, two men, two women, one woman, one man. One could accuse the ad makers of being literally heterocentric since it is the heterosexual couple which is the central focus of the ad. One feels, however, that OMM would remained unmoved by such an argument.

"Malls, where teens hang out, have retailers whose window displays poison our children with 10-foot posters that are nothing but soft p*rn. In particular, Armani Exchange has recently displayed Valentine's posters with partially dressed "couples" holding one another. These couples consist of two men, a man and woman, and two women. The women are scantily dressed while it is questionable if the men have any clothes on at all. Two of these models are used a couple of times to represent bis*xuals. If it could get any worse the text written is "SHARE THE LOVE." (An asterisk '*' is used to ensure our emails get through to those who have signed up for our alerts. Otherwise specific words referenced would be blocked by some Internet filters.)

Not every local mall has an Armani Exchange, but we need to take a stand since A|X is one of the fashion leaders and this is becoming a popular trend. You may view these on their website at www.armaniexchange.com. WARNING! Pictures are offensive."

Erratum.: OMM isn't so against homosexuality, it's bis*xuality that troubles them. Well, that's better.

OMM thus follows in the oppressive footsteps of another group of mothers, MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The group has been lauded widely for having changed the culture when it comes to drunk driving and they were right. Just watch Mad Men and cringe. What's less acknowledged though is how the group doesn't stop at drunk driving.

MADD raged against PETA's anti-milk industry campaign, Got Beer. They get mad when a company that produces alcoholic beverages sponsors absolutely anything. Drinking and getting behind the wheels after having had a drink are two entirely different activities which MADD does not seem capable of discerning.

The question beckons, why can't activist moms be more like activist grandmas? Look at The Raging Grannies! Created by Canadian women of a certain age in the 1980's, raging grannies are fighting for peace, the environment and justice with chapters around the world. Just last week, as reported by The Advocate, the South Florida Raging Grannies wrote a no nonsense song to protest CBS airing the antigay ad by the group Focus on the Family during the Super Bowl.

In a way, it is fitting that the let-it-all-hang-out attitude belongs to the generation that is older and wiser whilst uptightness and control-freakdom rests with the mothers. One would hope though that (corset-less) mothers with cooler heads would reclaim motherhood from more repressive strata of mainstream activism.

Fascist moms, we're tired of your bullshit!

Sorry about the offensive language, I learned it from granny.

[The Advocate] [NYmag] [Got Beer

My new favourite thing on the Internets

I'm just delighted to find that the Muppets now own the internet.

Via Boing Boing

Muppets Studio Youtube channel.

10 February 2010

Our very French Valentine to you

Comrade Bingo is under the weather today and has decided to give you an early Valentine instead of a proper blog. The plan was to post this on Friday but this absolutely gorgeous film should inspire you to pull all the stops and give you enough time to set up a most romantic weekend.

Don't forget to click the full screen button. This short film is"Nuit blanche", directed by Arev Manoukian.

Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.

09 February 2010

Are you but a notch on your Facebook friends' bedpost?

Facebook has been in the news even more than usual lately. The site is getting its tenth facelift, working on a true email service, and it has been reported that Facebook and MySpace users are divided along class lines.

But there's a relatively recent phenomenon on Facebook that's been bothering me. It's not entirely new but it was not witnessed at the beginning. I remember in 2007, when Facebook would force me to tell it how I met a friend and meeting through another friend didn't cut it. Of course, both new friends could agree to lie, but you had to state how you knew that person. Now Facebook and online users have relaxed and meeting friends online is no longer the domain of those looking for love, playing WoW or seeking a S&M partner.

I still don't accept friendship requests from people I've never heard but I've noticed such request being more frequent. I have accepted requests from friends of friends, people I've seen commenting on my friends walls and who seemed of like mind. On a few occasions, I have changed my mind and swiftly clicked the "remove from friends" button but there are those who, although they haven't offended actively, have offended me by treating me like a cheap date.

You know who they are. They have hundreds, if not thousands of friends. You accept their friend request and you never hear from them again. You're just a number in their Facebook little black book. You said yes and they're not respecting you in the morning. 

Some FB flings are more complicated. I have a few Facebook friends who are far too busy to ever post anything on my wall but who will participate in convos on their on wall. It's a bit like having a popular friend who gives great parties but would never deign venturing to your neck of the woods and cross your threshold. I remember one friend who had a staggering six hundred friends when we became friends and he'd post on my wall sometimes. But now with over sixteen hundred "friends" (I mean, 1600. Really?), now, he would never be caught dead writing anything on my wall*. Is it possible the next thousand friends are more interesting than me? Although it is possible, I doubt it. I doubt it not because I'm fascinating but because I'm sure he has no idea who those thousand people are.

Then, there are the truly wam-bam-thank-you-maam Facebook friends. I have a couple of those. I had never interacted with them but we have several mutual friends in common. I've asked about them and was told they were nice. Um. I have found them to be nice in the way that people who don't hit me over the head with a polo mallet are nice. Negative niceness. There is one posh friend in particular, a woman of a certain age, who seems to collect friends like Fabergé eggs. As an experiment, because I saw her coming from a mile away, I have posted on her wall several times. Been nice, jokey, well wishing. Nothing. I'm part of a collection and collections should be seen, not heard.

So, I feel cheap. but mostly I feel sad because one common denominator of my notch-on-a-bedpost/Fabergé eggs Facebook friend is that they are grown adults. This phenomenon doesn't even raises to the level of high school popularity contest and this is what troubles me the most. The fact is that high school popularity contests have more substance and are based on far healthier psychological bases. They teach us about social interaction, who power is we encounter with our peers, not just our superiors. They teach about the difference between true and hollow friendship. You're meant to have learned those lessons by the age of sixteen. But imagine growing up and being so needy and childish. Imagine part of your self-worth being a number on a computer interface.

And the question beckons, why am I still friends with these false friends? I doubt that my absconding would be noticed but we're obviously dealing with fragile egos here and I was raised to be nice. They have given me no active reason to ditch them, although I must say, I have been thinking about scaling back to fewer friends. I mean, those people are surely on my Colbert notice board.

The only people who should have more than three hundred friends  (because FB used to be for students only and people would add their entire class) on Facebook are public figures and people who do business online. I have friends in sales and I understand why they'd have hundreds of Facebook friends. Apart from that, there are only a certain type of people who would legitimately pursue as many FB friends as possible. There's a reason why prostitutes befriend everybody on Twitter, and that, I guess, is just another sales job.

*BTW, Facebook sends a warning when folks are making too many friends. It says something to the effect that "you couldn't possibly be making so many friends so quickly". Duh. Of course, none of this is Facebook's business but I like the idea of an app is actually telling people "you're not fooling us, you're still a loser. You know it and we just wanted you to know we know it too".

08 February 2010

Karaoke "My Way" Murders


Interesting story out of the New York Times: in the Philippines, if you sing "My Way" out of tune, your life might in danger.

We all have friends who've taught English in Asia and have reported back on how serious Asian people can be about karaoke. The staggering number of at least six "My Way" related deaths still prove surprising.

John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is another song that has proved lethal in Asia, but there has also been violence in Seattle. It should be said though that the Seattle case involved the song "Yellow". Comrade Bingo understands why any song by Coldplay might give rise to violence.


05 February 2010

Checklists: surgeons, the mentally-challenged and me

It was a bit of a shock, all those years ago, channel surfing and falling on a checklist with items such as

wash your hands
bring keys
bring bus pass
make sure the door is locked
make sure your fly is up

Et cetera. "That's my list!" I thought. Ok, my list was a bit less basic but bringing key and bus pass were certainly in there.

The next few seconds filled me with pure dread. These lists were for mentally-challenged people deemed capable of living alone but who needed a little help with their forgetfulness.

I never made a "basic list" again. I continued making lists for groceries and particularly hectic days, but I was thoroughly and utterly shamed. Damn you Life network.

I later learned Albert Einstein was just as forgetful as I am but that factoid failed to provide any solace. It's not as though I forget my keys because my brain is too busy pushing boundaries in the world of physics. And I never read about Einstein having to resort to lists.

Enter Atul Gawande. He's been everywhere this week from the Today programme on the BBC to The Daily show with Jon Stewart, flogging his new book, The Checklist Manifesto.

One hundred thousand people die from post-surgeons complications in the U.S. each year. With the help of Boeing, Gawande and his team devised a two minute checklist for surgical teams to go use before every procedure. Gawande says the death rate from complications could be reduced by one third. Surgeons resisted at first, some still do.

It is believed that the checklists saved two hundred lives in a programme covering eight hospitals in the U.S.. When polled, eighty percent of surgeons from those hospitals said they loved the checklist, twenty percent said they hated it. When that twenty percent was asked whether they would want their surgeon to use the checklist if they were to be operated on, ninety four percent of them said yes.

I'm not sure one needs to shell out money to be told how to make checklists for everyday life, but Gawande certainly deserves a plug here for validating my need for lists. And basic steps such as "wash your hands" is on the surgeons' checklist.