September 2004 Archives
September 29, 2004
This made me laugh out loud:
Here's a blog that I found through a comment left here, and have been throughly enjoying ever since:
Give it a try.
I first visited Budapest some five years ago. Like this visit, it was a brief, two day stay on business. By coincidence I stayed in the same hotel both times, and the walkway between the river and the hotel became something of a marker for the progress in the city in that half decade. That walk, photographed last week, is on the right. (Click on image for a larger version.)
Back in 1999, the city was in the throes of opening itself up to outside investment for the first time. Human nature being what it is, the locals found every possible means of extracting money from people. I first became aware of this while flicking through the hotel magazine, and finding the back half of it stuffed with extremely unsubtle adverts for prostitutes.
The prevalence of the city's sex trade became obvious at the end of my first day there, when another journalist and I excused ourselves from post-dinner drinks in a restaurant in the city centre and walked along the river back to the hotel. Every five yards down that walk, we were propositioned. I was shocked, embarrassed and angered in turn. (I was much more callow five years ago than I am now.) The journalist walking with me, a man well into his middle age, was delighted and then disappointed, when he realised that he'd brought precious little money with him. It was just as well. Bringing back an STD as a souvenir of a work trip is almost certainly no fun at all.
Five years on, the scene had changed. The whoreverts had disappeared from the hotel magazine, and in all the city literature I could find, bar that given out by taxi touts at the airport and the official welcome pack from the city we got in our delegate bags. Clearly, the market has evolved. Minimise the street tarts, and target the wealthy businessmen who catch taxis and attend conferences. The evening certainly reinforced that impression. I sat outside the hotel, happily enjoying a beer in the surprisingly mild evening air, and noticed that there wasn't a single prostitute in sight. In an hour's observation, the only vaguely suspicious types were a couple of (fully-dresssed) young women who were lingering outside the hotel to the mixed amusement and annoyance of the doormen.
Five years. Long enough to gentrify the sex trade.
September 28, 2004
Nice piece on the slightly disturbing reaction of some comics industry professionals to the casting of the Fantastic Four movie:Comment: Film Four
In particular, the released image of Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman, has created a buzz of commentary, so of which borders on the offensive. I've thoughtfully added the image to this post, for the reference of discerning readers considering the issues.
Comics artist and writer John Byrne said this about it:
Personal prejudice: Hispanic and Latino women with blond hair look like hookers to me, no matter how clean or 'cute' they are.
There's far too much wrong in that one sentence for anyone's liking, I suspect.
September 27, 2004
Yes, I am still alive. The recent silence is the result of an insanely busy week and a half, which has left me not one single free evening in the whole of that time. I hope to be getting on with some of the Budapest pics and thoughts later on this evening.
In the meantime, it appears that I lost a reader, for DavidH says the following in a Casino Avenue comment:
Yes, 'One Man' does seem to have got a bit side-tracked from his usual decent standards with his fancy for the right to kill. Shame really - that's one bookmark less.
To be honest, if you're the sort of person who doesn't want to read this anymore simply because I expressed a viewpoint different to your own, well, farewell. You won't be missed. Democracy is about debate, about discussion of opposing viewpoints and about trying to understand other people's viewpoints. I'm not writing this merely to reinforce people's existing beliefs and I hold the ability to listen to others to be at least as important as the ability to express your own views.
September 21, 2004
Wow. Some conferences are really tightly scheduled. This was one of them. I've only had a couple of hours free in the last 48 hours to explore the city at all, and I spent most of it taking photos. They'll have to wait until I get back to Britain. I'll try to get a few up this evening, but don't hold your breath.
I don't know. When did they decide that conferences overseas should be work?
September 20, 2004
September 19, 2004
My busy weekend is finally over, and I'm a long way from where it started. I'm typing this in the Hotel Intercontinental in Budapest, which I'm delighted to learn has broadband net access. That's one way to keep a journalist happy.
I've really lucked out with this trip. I'm here covering the Corenet Global conference, and have been given a 9th floor room with a view overlooking the river and the palaces opposite. Pictures in the morning.....
I am a terrible air traveller, by the way. I hate flying with a passion, although I can distract myself from this fact with a really good book, if I try. The journey over was fairly painless, though. The drive to the airport was delayed by roadworks on the A12, but that was compensated for by a happy, chatty bus driver from the car park to the airport departures. "You're flying Hungarian Airlines are you? You'll be alright," he opined. "The pilot'll want to get home this time of night."
The guy was spot on. We arrived in Budapest airport early, and a chatty taxi driver whisked me in a Mercedes (!) to the hotel. He'd visited London, he revealed as he overtook a stream of traffic at 120 kph, before neatly slipping back into his own lane. "It was nice for a visit, a week or two, yah?"
"It is too busy. I would not like to live there."
He also, to be fair, hated the speed cameras that litter London's roads. The city would not suit his driving style at all.
Today is exactly three years since my father passed away, taken from us by cancer of the pancreas. That's why I'm here in Suffolk, as my family gather to remember him.
Blogging is likely to be light.
September 18, 2004
The normally-reliable Inspector Sands wins the award for the most unintentionally hilarious post in recent weeks, which you can enjoy here. It's all a conspiracy to bring down New Labour, can't you see it? Uh, no, sorry. It's just a bunch of people who are upset that Parliament is killing their hobby or job. While some of the miners' strike leaders might have been mainly concerned with bringing down the Tory government, but the vast majority were just concerned with the callous bull-dozing of their lives, livelihoods and communities. Same deal here.
Still, the quite breathtaking hypocrisy of some people on both sides of this debate has convinced me that this should be the last time I post on this topic for the time being.
Y'know, when I hear people ranting about how evil the Tories are and how they must never be in power again, all I can hear is my parents' generation saying the same thing about Labour after the disastrous Labour administration that preceded Mrs Thatcher. They were wrong then, and we ended up with the horror of the Major years of corruption, venality and incompetence as a result. The people who are saying the same thing about the Tories now are just as wrong.
Democracy is all about debate, changing views and shifts in power as opinions change. The exchange of government between the parties is what makes us a democracy and that people of whatever generation or political allegiance can't see that is really quite terrifying, because it doesn't take much thought to see where that reasoning could lead us….
There is no natural party of government, and there never will be. There's just whomever is more closely aligned with the current public thinking at any one time.
(Personal desire for next Government: Labour, with Gordon Brown as PM, with a change to Conservative or LibDem next time around)
A very pleasant morning with the family, this morning, spent wandering around a small Suffolk town. We sat in a coffee shop and read the papers (good to see The Independent's letters page full of outrage after Mr Hari's piece mentioned yesterday. The paper's clearly getting its money worth from him.).
In other news, I am now the faintly embarrassed guardian of a diesel-fuelled Skoda, which is standing in for my own car while she languishes in her third week of repair. Still, there is a quiet joy in driving something that sounds like a tractor while handling like a low-end family saloon.
De-stressing nicely, which is just as well given the reason I'm here. More on that tomorrow.
September 17, 2004
The Independent continues to delight me most days. Flipping through the pages covering the hunting debate, I was impressed by the paper's decision to give directly competeing views equal space, often opposite each other. A page showing how ordinary many of the protestors are was followed by one by Johann Hari, suggesting that the rural folk should all tug their forelocks and say "Yes, masser" to their urban benefectors, on the basis of the subsidies some rural area recieve. (Hari is so obviously writing as an agent provocateur these days, that it's almost impossible to take him seriously). A leader which condemned the protestors that broke into Parliament was follwed by an opinion piece from Robin Cook, celebrating the fact that at least some young people think that parliment is serious. The paper manages to infuriate me, delight me and then make me think all in the space of a few pages. Genuine debate in a national newspaper? Who'd have thought it?
I don't read it every day, to be fair. The Guardian gets my pennies on Mondays and Thursdays (Media jobs and the Online section, respectively). I occasionally pick up The Telegraph when The Guardian has made me so sick of the left wing that I need to be made sick of the right wing, too. But I do love reading different opinions in one paper. It's the one thing that separates our media from the Americans, and it's a damn shame that so many outlets are drifting away from it.
September 16, 2004
Today has been a very depressing day. I've seen an ugly, petty side of people that I'd rather not have known about.
How can we ever expect to wipe racial or religious prejudice from this country, when people are still quite happy to wallow in class prejudice? Prejudice is prejudice. There is no acceptable form of it. It's not acceptable to despise black people. It's not acceptable to despise Muslims. And it isn't acceptable to despise people for being posh, either. It's all prejudice. You can't pick and choose.
Still, humanity's always been good at rampant hypocrisy, hasn't it?
Another good reason for promoting recycling in Lewisham:
Watch the video.
I am not a hunter. I have never hunted, and in all probability will never hunt. I feel no desire to chase a fox to its death with hounds and horses.
However, I hate seen the prejudices of one group of people imposed on another. I hate seeing the urban majority impose their will on the rural minority. I have seeing liberties curtailed. And I hate seeing people's prejudices against what they perceive to be "posh" people and their ignorance of rural affairs manipulated in this blatant way.
Wake up. Look at the facts. Actually understand the debate.
For those of you naive enough to believe that this is all about the foxes, answer me this:
If this is about animal rights and the protection of animals, why are we still battery farming chickens?
Buy organic. Buy free range. And think about what this ban really represents.
September 15, 2004
The BBC mentions the invasion of the House and puts the number of invaders at five.
The report of the skrimishes outside the Houses of Parliament it interesting. It's symptomatic of a new divide opening up in British society, between the urbanite and the rural dweller, acted out as the Metropoliton police bash up the country folk up in town for the day. This will run and run.
Meanwhile, the estimates of the number of protestors are showing a predictable disparity:
Police estimate there are between 8,000 and 10,000 protesters but the organisers put it at 20,000.
The usual rule-of-thumb is that the true number is somewhere between the two: 15,000 in this case. Damn, I wish I was one of them.
One of the joys in having large plasma screens in our new offices, showing the 24 hour news channels, is that I've just seen four pro-hunt protesters get onto the floor of the Commons, startling Alun Michael. Labour seems determined to push the anti-hunting bill through, destroying people's livelihoods and crushing a way of life, simply because urban-dwelling MPs have deemed it distasteful, but at least they're been confronted with human anger and outrage at their actions.
For American readers who have no idea what I'm talking about, read this.
September 14, 2004
This is a quick test, to see if MT3.1's new time-based posting mechanism works. If it does, this post should suddenly appear on the blog while I'm travelling home from work.
In recent weeks One Woman and I have watched both Down With Love and The Man Who Wasn't There. While the former was an average movie redeemed by some great performances and the latter one of the weaker Cohen Brothers movies, both had a very distinct visual style that I could relish even with the sound turned down and my mind utterly disengaged from the plot. Why, I though, do so few movies attempt this degree of visual style? Even Tim Burton, whose earlier movies like, say, Edward Scissorhands or even Batman, had a very distinct visual style, seems to have gone off the boil. So, where the interesting new visual style in movies coming from?
Well, there's one very prominant example in production as we speak. Robert Rodriguez is filming Frank Miller's series of Sin City graphic novels and boy, does it look good. As Population One points out, there's a movie demonstrating how the visual style of the comic book has translated into film online. Go, look and enjoy. This is good stuff.
Y'know, one of the things that really brings home man's achievements in the areas of science, design and construction is a really awe-inspiring picture of a new office tower from the air. The amount of technology and creative human thought that allows that image to exist really is incredible, if you start thinking about it.
September 12, 2004
September 10, 2004
MediaGuardian.co.uk | Press&publishing | Second journalist 'drugged' by Russians [free registration required]
Frightening stuff. Blatant attacks on the press in this way are not the sign of a healthy democracy.
It appears that our little corner of South East London is not keeping its environmental end up:
The gist is that recycling in both Lewisham and Greenwich seems to nhave stalled at a pathetic 7% of waste. Now, I'm recycling around 60% of my home waste, but I'm one of the people that's committed enough to collect the stuff in pags and drag it to a recycling centre. What we need is a green box scheme!
A council spokesman said: "Our rate of recycling has increased each year from 2000. We have just extended the green box kerbside recycling scheme, providing the additional facility for householders to put out metal cans and glass bottles for collection."
We have one? You could have fooled me. As yet, I've heard nothing about any green box recycling scheme. My wife and I are still taking all our recycling to the local supermarket when we go. So, the scheme is either limited in scope, or woefully under-publicised.
Could do better.
September 9, 2004
Today has been hell, so I probably won't get a decent entry up. However, if you own an iPod and can use it at work, it can do wonders for your mood, especially if left on random play.
Try it. You won't regret it.
[UPDATE: On the other hand, I am deeply disturbed to discover that Louise covered Stuck In The Middle With You. The iPod just randomly chose it from Now 50.
September 8, 2004
I have 6 G-mail invites. Ask if you want 'em.
Oh, look. Deptford is the new Left Bank:
I'd have a whole lot more confidence in the story, though, if it didn't contain this line:
Hales Gallery, a go-ahead contemporary art venue, run by Paul Hedge and Paul Maslin (where celebrated Brit-artists Jake & Dinos Chapman launched their first show) and the Museum of Installation, dedicated to installation art, are also putting Deptford on London's cultural map.
That'll be the Hales Gallery that moved out and headed for the East End six months ago, right? Oh, dear.
And, now I think about it, what about that standfirst?
A creative revolution is taking place in Deptford, Del Boy's old stamping ground in south London
Now, wasn't Peckham Del Boy's preferred haunt? Never mind. Who expects research in a puff piece about £360,000 apartments in a converted mill?
Students of property marketing might also like to note this development's web address:
http://www.themillgreenwich.co.uk/. [Warning, annoying sound when site opens]
A rather frightening, yet enlightening, article about American journalism (and Fox in particular) can be found here. One line tells you all you need to know:
In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.[via Old Mother Chaos]
An interesting article on cleaning up the original Star Wars movies for DVD:
September 7, 2004
September 6, 2004
And so to Suffolk, on a train which smells suspiciously of damp. I've spent the last hour with my back curved slightly to avoid my hair coming in contact with the seat back just, 'y'know, in case.
It's a mixed business and pleasure trip this evening. I'm dropping in on my Mum this evening, and collecting the car from the garage where the pesky fault in the innards of the electrical system has been hunted down and squashed like the electron-driven irritation that is. Tomorrow I have a journalistic appointment in Ipswich, and a large pile of proofs to read and get back to base somehow.
So far Anglian is proving more capable of running a railway than the last time I travelled this way on a train, when I was horribly delayed, eventually forced off the train onto a bus only to discover that the bus driver had no idea where he was going. The only thing that made the journey tolerable was the company of a bunch of mentally disabled kids and their very patient teachers. The kids were so good-natured and friendly that they dispelled even the most vicious malevolence of stressed Londonites.
Still, with no sign of the kids, I hope we don't have a repeat performance this evening.
September 5, 2004
The very observant may have noticed that I swapped webhosts over the weekend. I'll go into the reasons why in another post, but I've just been poking around in the spanky webstats package that comes with the rather excellent hosting, and found that 75 people have visited me in the last 24 hours, not including search engine spiders and other such curiosities.
75 people... I always thought my readership was half a dozen locals, my mum and a rather bored duck. Even One Woman happily ignores this nonsense.