Sunday, December 31, 2006

For hardcore camera nerds only (really)

It's a sad fact of human nature that many people, possibly most people, derive a perverse sort of pleasure ogling things they can never reasonably expect to afford. Car buffs get off on torturing themselves by flipping through motoring magazines or attending trade shows and lusting after Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Camera nerds do exactly the same thing, more often than not with Leicas.

The fact that Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Leicas offer astonishingly poor value for money; costing ten times as much, yet delivering only a marginal improvement in performance, whilst being right buggers to use, in comparison with less exclusive products doesn't matter a jot. People are drawn to conspicuous consumption, and the notion that they can assert their individuality by spunking huge wads of cash, like lemmings are drawn to cliffs.

Well, Disney Lemmings anyway

And Leica has just brought out its new, top of the line, M8 digital rangefinder camera

The most entertaining user review of the Leica M8 that I have read to date can be found here -

The article really takes off about halfway down when the reviewer compares two pictures taken of the same heavily moustachioed man, one taken with the new Leica and one without, and discovers that the Leica has the magical property of rendering clothes made from man-made fabrics as various shades of purple, regardless of whether they actually are purple or not.

Well, that's saved me five large...

Leica M8 Body = £3,012.69
Leica SUMMILUX-M f/1.4/35mm Lens = £2,069
Bizarre colour casts in pictures of people in shellsuits and cheap business shirts = priceless

Not that a camera which makes people dressed in nylon appear to be bright purple doesn't have its attractions. It does but they are rather specialist,

And for any photo nerds out there who read and trust on-line camera reviews and forums posts, the peculiarly specialist, frequently obscure and occasionally pornographic photopoo site includes a tortuously detailed, and rather damning, account of how all the major on-line photographic sites managed to post gushing reviews of the M8 whilst somehow failing to notice the purple nasty thing, or the orange blob thing, or the fuzzy image quality thing, or the pisspoor build quality thing.

I've also just discovered that Google returns no results with the following word sequences:

Leica bollocks
Purple Leica bollocks
Over-priced purple Leica bollocks

An omission which I trust the busy little Google searchbots will rectify shortly

Aside from all this specialist photographic geekiness, the Leica M8 thing has also served to further reinforce a few hang-ups I nurture about people and the zany things they do

  • People are capable of astonishing levels of dissonance, especially when they have a lot invested in something, no matter how flawed it may be. What else can you say about someone who tests a £3,000 camera body, discovers that all the pictures come out the same colour as a Jimi Hendrix album cover and concludes, as this review does near the bottom, that 'this makes for an incredible black and white camera ... when shot with an M8 and converted to Black and White appropriately this can add a tonal depth and richness to an image which is quite remarkable'. Remarkable indeed
  • If reviews and forum posts in supposedly impartial sites are polluted with shills boosting iffy cameras, and they are, why should anyone think that producers of other goods, or services, or news stories, especially news stories, behave any differently? I don't


Obviously, generalisations about the essential unreliability of on-line photographic sites and forums could not possibly apply to the mighty Ken Rockwell's photography site. Ken's opinionated ravings and equipment reviews, his psychedelic take on what constitutes an acceptable degree of colour saturation, and his new found taste for posing his new born child with expensive optical equipment are a genuine and constant source of pleasure for me. The man is a Legend.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

For hardcore conspiracy buffs and Norm Chomsky fans only

Norm Chomsky on 9/11 and JFK Conspiracy Theories...

A twat-gatekeeper mumbles...

Fortunately the clip is less than five minutes long, as exposure to an intellect such as Chomsky’s for any longer would render the viewer blind and mute, possibly permanently.

As one adoring commentator put it

Superb. Again shows himself to be a real thought leader and truly unique intellect. If he speaks we should listen.

My favourite part of the clip is where he explains that ignoring information that doesn’t fit in with your preferred explanation for an event is the correct, scientific way to go about things.

Oh no, on second thoughts, maybe my favourite bit is the part where he concludes

And even if it were true (a 9/11 conspiracy), which is extremely unlikely, who cares?

That’s pretty good too

I am the proud owner of three of Chomsky’s most popular books and have never managed to reach anywhere like halfway through any of them. If I were younger and less self-confident I would be inclined to believe that the fault was mine and that I was incapable of keeping up with a genius’ train of thought. But I’m not, so I’m inclined to believe that it’s actually Chomsky’s fault because he really is a lousy communicator who really is full of crap...

A good day to bury bad news – and any surplus to requirement dictators…

The Idle Apprentice gets his just deserts - just like Saddam, only better organised

The really interesting thing about Saddam Hussein’s trial and execution is the fact than anyone with an IQ greater than a five year old’s, whether they were for the invasion of Iraq or not, must realise, maybe only subconsciously, what a farce this has all been.

Everything about the process – from the selection of the charges, the restrictions placed on the court, through to the ‘quickie' execution between Christmas and the New Year - was blatantly contrived to prevent any details of the US and UK’s complicity in Hussein’s crimes hitting the mainstream.

Those people with a bitterly cynical view of the state of politics and the media in the US and UK will be taking this shameless farce in their stride. They might even find the irony of subjecting a former dictator to a show trial and videotaped execution to be darkly comic. Those people who still harbour some residual Faith in our establishment are going to have a really hard fucking time kidding themselves, yet again, that their trust is warranted.

Expect to see politicians and media pundits playing a fun new holiday parlour game that involves trying to talk about Hussein’s execution non-stop for two minutes without accidentally using any of the following key words or phrases…

Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability…


Friday, December 29, 2006

Stunning new advance in AI

AI has finally come of age and reached a point where it can perform useful tasks...

Spookily accurate. Even when I picked someone who was a bit of both...

It read my mind...

Best picture I've seen of TB for a long time...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Corporate Fascism ... it's ludicrously tasty

For anyone who has ever asked the question, as I have done many times, ‘What if George Orwell had advertised breakfast cereal?’…

CCTV controlled traffic lanes for Crunchy Nutters only

Well, they are ludicrously tasty

The really funny part about this ad is the thought that many of the people watching it will think it is satirical. Those will be the kind of people who shop at lovely big supermarkets because parking is easier than their local high street, now that all those new parking restrictions were put in by the local council, just after the new supermarket was built...

It’s not a satire. It’s a fucking documentary

As my old mate Benito used to say after a few chiantis 'Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power'.

Admittedly, he didn't have hazle nut-encrusted, honey-coated cornflakes in mind when he said that but now that light-hearted ads about private companies controlling and manipulating our infrastructure have started popping up on TV I like to think he would have had a chuckle.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Have a Cheeky Christmas

The Cheeky Girls performing 'Have a Cheeky Christmas'...

The Cheeky Girls and Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik dancing along to 'Have a Cheeky Christmas'

A powerful piece with all the emotional resonance of Stephen Sondheim's later work plus a pair of malnourished Romanian slappers getting it on in short skirts.

See 'Cheeky Girls in action' courtesy of the BBC

What the fuck is it with our Members of Parliament anyway?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Have we all gone bonkers enough yet?

LONDON (Reuters) - Detectives said on Wednesday that a man wanted for questioning over the murder of a female police officer could have fled the country disguised as a Muslim woman wearing a full veil.

Mustaf Jama, 26, is thought by police to have escaped to his native Somalia at the end of last year after passing through security checks at Heathrow Airport wearing a niqab and using his sister's passport, according to newspaper reports.

'It is understood West Yorkshire Police regard the veil theory only as one of a number of possibilities...'

Asked whether Mustaf Jama had used a full Muslim veil to evade checks, a spokesman for West Yorkshire police said: "It's a possibility. He could have been wearing a pantomime horse outfit as well. But until we get him, we won't know for sure."

He was joking obviously. There’s no way Jama could have got through our stringent border controls dressed as a horse. That's just a silly thing to say

Unless he had an accomplice that is…

Time for some more Jarvis methinks

First, this video popped up on You Tube a few months ago...

and now there's this ...

Sheer bloody genius

Hmmm, with your crazy pop videos you are really spoiling us Mr Jarvis

and whilst I'm pasting up You Tube links...

Ben takes a photo of himself every day

Frog Juice Lady in Peru - Unfortunately, the frog in a blender meme turns out not to be an urban myth after all

The Final Scene from The Third Man - still IMHO arguably the best B&W movie of all time, and certainly the best B&W movie with a zither-based soundtrack of all time, in spite of some stiff competition...

Everyone loves a happy ending


edit: lurking in the post above I've included a link to the Italian version of the kitsch classic 'Ambassador, with these Ferrero Rocher you are really spoiling us' advert.

I've included the Italian version rather than the English one because die-hard Ferrero fans will note that in the Italian version the bloke who has a mini-orgasm whilst eating his chocolate says 'Excellent!', whereas in the English version he says 'Eccellente!', which makes for a nice change.


Underneath the You Tube clip somebody, somebody who I suspect comes from the North of England, has left one of the most erudite and perceptive artistic critiques I think I have ever read...

"ferrero roshay adverts ar so funny how they tri to make out that there supper posh but there shite"

William Shakespeare eat your heart out

Alas poor Yorick! ferrero roshay adverts ar so funny how they tri to make out there supper posh but there shite ...Horatio

Babelfish had real trouble translating that comment, complete with humorous spelling mistakes, into Italian...

"ar roshay degli annunci di ferrero così divertente come tri rendere fuori quel là supper posh ma là shite"

French ...

"ar roshay d'annonces de ferrero si drôle comment ils tri rendre dehors ce là dîner snob mais là shite"

and German...

"ferrero roshay Adverts ar so lustig, wie man sie Tri heraus dieses dort Abendessen posh aber dort shite bildet"

I am that glad that I never had to learn English as a foreign language

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Something's happening round here. What it is ain't exactly clear

Do you ever get the feeling that all your neighbours know something you don't?


Monday, December 18, 2006

December Link Roundup

A series of links (filched mostly from the b3ta message board) that I should have included in earlier posts but forgot…

Super Furry animals

  • A sad story about a pigeon cull in Surrey followed by the most entertaining series of user comments on the subject of pigeon extermination that I’ve seen for a long time

Evangelical Christians and End Time beliefs

  • A story about an evangelical preacher who drowned whilst trying to walk on water – whether he died because he didn’t have enough faith, placed his faith in the wrong entity or was punished by God for outright blasphemy is not made clear
And, in response to a comment that mentioned the hypothesis that the Book of Revelations was written by a monk off his face on mushrooms, a relink to an old favourite...
  • Badger! Badger! Badger! fans will be pleased to note that its producers have new stock of themed furry toys and have written a catchy new jingle and advertising video to commemorate the Good News

Nutters on public transport and the collapse of civil society

  • Trailer for Hot Fuzz the movie, from the people who brought you Shaun of the Dead. It’s looking quite good...



Seasonal on-line video games and festive fun

  • Attack of the Sprouts – an established classic, complete with its memorable opening music sequence. I actually don’t ever play it as I quite like sprouts – pop a little splash of vinegar on them first though, lovely

Something for the kids

A few months ago I came across a spoof flash animation called ‘Snuggly – The Security Bear

'We’re watching you because we love you'

I found it to be quite amusing and I thought no more of it. Being British I didn’t dream for a second that it was based on a real CIA cartoon bear character.

How wrong I was...

Ginger, the badly drawn CIA bear, is the star of the CIA for Kids webpage and gets up to all sorts of badly-illustrated adventures in CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia – walking in the garden, being issued with an entry pass, eating in the staff canteen…

Ginger checking out CIA Central, including that strange Kryptos thing

Ginger is only a little bear so he hasn’t been assigned any overseas missions yet – destabilising democratically elected Leftist governments, supervising extraordinary rendition and torture, stuff like that – or maybe he has but if he told us he’d have to kill us all with a fake heart attack afterwards.

Ginger explains...

When people think of the CIA, they think of people lurking around in trenchcoats, sending messages in code, and using cool tools to do their job. Well, to some extent that's true, but it's not the whole story. The Central Intelligence Agency's job is to help the President, the National Security Council, and all other government officials who make and carry out US national security policy. We do this in two ways:

We give accurate and timely intelligence (or information) on foreign threats to our security.

We conduct counterintelligence or other special activities relating to foreign intelligence and national security when the President asks us to.

Inspired by Ginger’s adventures I performed a few quick Google searches for other Security Agencies for Kids pages and was not disappointed -

There’s the NSA for Kids homepage featuring the adventures of the Cryptokids

Interestingly, the Cryptokids have been trademarked which opens the intriguing possibility that the US National Security Agency may be planning to diversify into the commercial cartoon business at some point.

And then there's the FBI for Kids homepage featuring Steve, Kim, Shirley and Darrell, as well as Special Undercover Agent 'Bobby Bureau' (not his real name)

Having worked through most of the activities sections in all these pages I have established that the FBI site features the best colouring-in pages and the NSA has the most challenging code-breaking puzzles – which is how things should be.

Sadly, once I started searching outside of the US I had considerably less luck. Neither MI6, Mossad, the FSB or the DGSE appear to have dedicated children’s pages. Scotland Yard has a Youth Section but it’s filled with boring stuff like features on drug-taking, violent assault and rape and, as far as I can tell, no cuddly cartoon characters, maze puzzles or photo-adventure stories

Very disappointing.

National Security in the 21st century is all about infowar and the winning of hearts and minds. And where better to start than with the young, the mentally weak and the barely literate in the way that American security agencies have done? As I’ve already mentioned in previous posts, the British should seriously consider following the US example…

Ollie the Spooky MI6 Owl (or is he a Transformer?) -

The bumbling adventures of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair as COBRA Commander -

And Graham the CO19 Golden Retriever -

'Hello Boys and Girls. Can you help me find the Dead Brazilian?'

Whilst on the subject of mental defectives and cute puppies, Barney the Dog’s new Christmas video ‘Barney’s Holiday Extravaganza’ is now available on the White House Homepage, along with a series of seasonal muzak MP3s performed by the USMC Band for free download.

And just in case anyone in the White House realises that producing a video of the Leader of the Free World talking to a dog about Christmas parties whilst his country is at war is just a little bit insensitive and takes it down, someone has also put a copy of the video up on You Tube for posterity...

My Master is a twat


Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Doomsday Code

Tony Robinson...


A bit too much of a luvvy for my personal tastes. Plus his CV includes such outstanding services to Humanity as supporting the New Labour government and the Make (Corporate) Poverty History campaign.

So, you couldn't really describe his judgement as being 100% sound.


He did present a rather interesting documentary on End Time believers and their influence on politics, particularly US foreign policy.

If you haven't seen it already it's currently up on Google Video here

It's over two hours long but the first hour is by far the strongest and worth watching, even if the full two hours present too much of a challenge.

One aspect of End Time beliefs that Robinson recognizes in the film but doesn't try to explain is, to me, the most interesting and pressing question about the entire business...

How can so many millions of people claim to be followers of Christ yet, to all intents and purposes, pay no attention to his teachings?

Rather than live a decent, compassionate life for its own sake and rewards they prefer instead to fixate on engineering human events in such a way that supposed prophecies, not made by Jesus himself, will come to pass leading to the death of billions of people in the process.

I really, really don't think Jesus would be too impressed with what these people are doing.

I just cannot see how anyone can describe what they believe as being Christianity at all and the influence End Timers have over politics in America and the Middle East should be scaring the crap out of the rest of us.

There are millions of people out there who have been indoctrinated to welcome every disaster, every atrocity and every loss of life as being a milestone on the road to their own personal salvation.

The expression 'self-fulfilling prophecy' does come to mind.

But, there again, that's what a lot of supposed prophecies really are - less of a prediction, more of a mission statement.

Having said all that I'm still sticking with my religion is not the cause of all wars mantra. And believers and non believers alike are being misdirected if they believe that it is. End Timers are dupes who have been sold a bill of goods crafted by Men, not God, designed to secure their support for very Earthly, very wicked, very, um..., anti-Christlike objectives.

Totally fucked up...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Faith in Accidents

Every now and again we get a day when we are treated to a suspicious plethora of news stories, all coming out at once, that seem to owe their coincidence more to design than to accident.

This kind of news management normally takes place on Thursdays.
Not being in the news trade myself, I’m not 100% sure why but I suspect it is something to do with the following day being Poets Day when everyone is thinking about the weekend and that by the time the heavyweight Sunday newspapers are printed Thursday's stories seem a little old.

What intrigues me about last Thursday is which of the many stories on offer was the one being ‘managed’? Or were they all?
  • Tony Blair being interviewed by police as part of their cash for peerages investigation
  • The announcement that the Serious Fraud Office has been instructed to drop its investigation into the multi-zillion pound Al Yamamah arms deals because, to quote the Attorney General "the wider public interest" … " had to be balanced against the rule of law"
  • News that PFI liabilities have risen from £142bn to £156bn since March. Ouch
  • Lord Stevens report into the death of Princess Diana concluding that no foul play was involved
  • George Clooney and Don Cheadle negotiating a relief package for Darfur with the Egyptian government
OK, the George and Don thing arguably lies outside of the scope of the UK news cycle but it was pretty surreal and it made my laugh. And not in a nice way. The BBC covered the story in the Entertainment section of its news site because, as I'm sure everyone can all agree, the situation in Darfur is very entertaining...

Channel 4’s
More4 news programme neatly dealt with the challenges presented by so many competing and significant news stories by the novel expedient of rattling through them very quickly, without favouring any single one over the others, then treating viewers to a nice long special feature on deer poaching in Cumbria instead.

That’s not exactly 100% fair. More4 News did bring on a psychology expert, the amusingly named
Cary Cooper, for a couple of minutes to answer the question

What is it about conspiracy theories that we all love so much? Many people will not be convinced that Diana's death was an accident. I've been talking to a psychologist about why many people would rather believe the conspiracy to the evidence.

Famous Psychologist

This is the same tired old, and heavily loaded question that is always trotted out at the end of any news item or documentary that claims to have put X, Y or Z ‘conspiracy theory’ to rest once and for all.

It’s all very Pavlovian

You like Pavlova You like Pavlova You like Pavlova...

And Mr Cooper didn’t disappoint ... ‘ya di ya di ya ya People cannot accept that some things happen by accident They need to believe that someone is controlling things ya di ya di ya ya’

There you go. Yet, again for the upteenth time, someone stuck a pseudo-scientist (so it must be true) on television to explain that anybody who suspects that politicians and the corporate media may be telling lies is mentally unwell.

And the difference between that and what they used to do in Soviet Russia is?

How about sticking someone on tele to explain the psychology of people who credulously accept everything they are told by proven liars because they can’t deal with even the slightest possibility that their lives are not their own and that they are actually controlled by a bunch of cunts?

Now that would be genuinely interesting and ground-breaking stuff.

Unsurprisingly, I’m one of those people who believes that the Stevens investigation into Diana’s death isn’t the end of the story; not because I’m mentally unwell but because the investigation was bollocks. And at £3.6m quite expensive bollocks at that.

Unlike the popular portrayal of ‘conspiracy theorists’ in the media there are a lot of people who have questions about events such a Diana’s death without having formulated fully-fleshed alternative accounts of what happened and why. They simply have questions about inconsistencies and irregularities in the mainstream account.

And, simply doing a hatchet job on a couple of selected alternative theories about what happened and why is not the same thing as answering inconsistencies and irregularities in the mainstream account.

Consequently, taking the Diana investigation as an example, whether she was pregnant or engaged is totally irrelevant. Even if she were that wouldn’t prove that there was foul play and certainly has no impact on the narrative of what was supposed to have happened on the night that she died. So why bother investigating it?

I haven’t read Lord Stevens' report yet but, based on the press coverage, I suspect that it has done relatively little to answer key questions about that night…

  • Why is there no CCTV footage? (and I’m mindful of the absence of footage from 9/11, 7/7 and the Stockwell Shooting)
  • Why was the tunnel cleaned straight after the crash?
  • Why did Diana’s bodyguard let a supposedly pissed man drive? And incidentally what’s all that crap about him losing the ability to communicate in the short term after the crash and his memory in the long term?
  • Why did it take over an hour for the ambulance to take Diana four miles to the hospital?
Plus special bonus questions that seem kind of relevant but outside the scope of any forensic examination of the night of the accident...
  • Who was leaking all the unattributed disinfo bullshit in the days after the crash and why – stuff about car speedos being frozen at high speed, horse shit like that?
  • Why has it taken ten years for an inquest to be held?
  • Why did the official coroner step down from the inquest?
  • What was the important announcement Diana told friends she was going to make the next day?
  • The aborted Burrell trial?!!

As it happens, I’m personally not too bothered if members of our ruling elite really are butchering each other. That’s one less Inbred, born to a life of undeserved, unearned privilege, as far as I’m concerned. What does concern me is that people cannot ask reasonable questions about what they are told without having corporate whores label them as being mentally defective.

There is also a lesson in all of this for people pressing for an inquiry into 7/7 and one that I think, in fairness, has already been learned by some. If something untoward really did take place on 7/7 the easiest way to piss in the pool would be to surreptitiously promote a whole mass of confusing and contradictory alternative accounts of what happened that day. And then a couple of years down the line it would be easy enough for a supposed independent inquiry into 7/7 to focus on a few of those bullshit theories rather than address the actual weakness (e.g. this little snippet) in the ‘Official Narrative’.

This is what happened with 9/11 and as US public scepticism of the official account of 9/11 has grown over the last five years, more and more bullshit has been fed into the mix.

And now that Lord Stevens has finally put all those conspiracy theories about Princess Diana to rest I presume he's available to head up the next fully independent inquiry that needs doing. Or maybe they'd get Lord Butler in. Or Lord Hutton..

The Hutton report.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Taking the piss

I was walking in East London with a friend the other day when I spotted what appeared to be a couple of bouncers standing outside the disused public toilets in front of Christchurch on Commercial Street.

Only the toilets weren’t disused any more

And they really were bouncers

Yup, retail property prices have got so bad in London that people are opening pubs in derelict underground lavatories…

Avoid hefty West End prices - spend your Saturday nights out in a toilet!

Welcome to ‘Public Life’, a new concept in socialising

As one review puts it...

Hidden away beneath the streets of Shoreditch with only a tiny glass awning and steep flight of stairs alerting passers-by to its presence, the bar’s well-disguised location means you avoid the hefty queues and hefty prices of most West End venues. It is small inside and fairly basic in terms of decor but a varied music policy (there’s usually something to suit every taste) and friendly, intimate vibe make it a popular choice for laid back lovers of drinking, dancing and... toilets!

And as further evidence that London has become Bizarro World, where money is more common than sense and the beautiful people dance in khazis, on the other side of town somebody else has just spent several hundred thousand pounds building a luxury public convenience that costs punters £5 a dump. The cleverly named WC1 has just opened to paying guests -

"Whether shopping, polishing up after work or simply taking five minutes to relax between meetings, WC1 provides all that a woman needs to transform herself from the inside out at any time of day.”

Thinking back to some of the lunatic business ideas idiots were putting money into in the late 1980s, people drinking and dancing in toilets and spanking a fiver to take a crap in something that looks like a bright pink nuclear bunker are just the sort of things that happen when you don't have enough economic recessions. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried... and would you want to?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Twelve Monkey Moment

I came across a fascinating old picture in a shoebox the other day. It’s got to be at least sixty or seventy years old…

I think I know where it was taken but I haven’t yet got a handle on who was being buried and why we have a copy.

What I love most about it is the detail. It was clearly taken on a big old plate camera and all those long dead faces are just frozen there - a moment in time captured for posterity...


But then I noticed the Spooky Thing, up in the left-hand corner of the frame. A curiously modern-looking profile, complete with shades...

And the question that has been plaguing me since I noticed that figure is this -

WTF is Adam Sandler doing in my old photo?

The Timelord of shite comedy?


Fourth Princess Diana Post in a Row – Mrs Merton’s out takes...

Your host - Mrs Merton

"So, what first led you to believe Princess Diana's death was accidental
Lord Stevens?"

"So, what first led you to believe David Kelly committed suicide Lord Hutton?"

"So, what first led you to believe our government genuinely thought Iraq had WMD Lord Butler


The DVD version of this post includes the following bonus features:

Hours of extensive research have enabled me to unearth this rare archive still of Lord Butler taken during his Logan's Run years...

Once a spare part always a spare part

and this image of the limited edition 9 inch tall Lord Butler inaction figure...

Whirr Click ... Nobody's responsible ... Click ... Nobody's responsible...

Fully independent 7/7 inquiry anyone?