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October, 2004

  1. George Bush, John Kerry, and Freddie Mercury

    October 31, 2004 by dafyd

    George Bush, John Kerry, and Freddie Mercury. And why not?Possibly my favourite Flash animation of the election so far – Bush 43 and John Kerry singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Absolutely classic!

    Make sure you watch it before it’s too late!

    Not quite as good, but certainly a brilliant animation nevertheless – The Timewarp (from the Rocky Horror Picture Show) US Election stylee. Check it out!

    Another brilliant one – Woody Guthrie’s song ‘This Land’ – I’m sure you can work out how it’s been manipulated. Watch out for a special guest appearance by the Governator.

    Seeing as we’re talking about the US election, it seems a worthy time for the return of my favourite photo EVER:

    HA! and that's all I have to say about that.

    Oh, and happy hallowe’en. I’m not sure when we started wishing people a happy hallowe’en – it’s something quite new for me. Anyway – Google had quite a good hallowe’en logo today:


    Over in the GoogleBlog, there are some photos of the hallowe’en costumes sighted around the GooglePlex – they obviously had quite a good time!

  2. The Grauniad: Operation Clark County

    October 30, 2004 by dafyd

    Operation Clark County - The GuardianThe Grauniad newspaper has, over the last few weeks, been running a feature whereby its British readers write to American voters in Clark County, Ohio, to try and influence the result of the Election next Tuesday.

    They launched the campaign as follows:

    …At the core of it is a unique scheme to match individual Guardian readers to individual American voters, giving you the opportunity to write a personal letter, citizen to citizen, explaining why this election matters to you, and which issues you think ought to matter to the US electorate. It may even be a chance to persuade somebody to use their vote at all.

    To maximise the likelihood of your efforts making a difference, we’ve zeroed in on one of the places where this year’s election truly will be decided: Clark County, Ohio, which is balanced on a razor’s edge between Republicans and Democrats. In the 2000 election, Al Gore won Clark County by 1% – equivalent to 324 votes – but George Bush won the state as a whole by just four percentage points. This time round, Ohio is one of the most crucial swing states: Kerry and Bush have been campaigning there tire lessly – they’ve visited Clark County itself – and the most recent Ohio poll shows, once again, a 1% difference between the two of them. The voters we will target in our letter-writing initiative are all Clark County residents, and they are all registered independents, which somewhat increases the chances of their being persuadable.

    From the UK, it seems that 14,000 readers were inspired to contact counterparts in Ohio, including the authors John Le Carré and Antonia Fraser and the scientist Richard Dawkins.

    Understandably, there was a variety of reactions from the States. I have included a few of the ‘best’ below:

    Consider this: stay out of American electoral politics. Unless you would like a company of US Navy Seals – Republican to a man – to descend upon the offices of the Guardian, bag the lot of you, and transport you to Guantanamo Bay, where you can share quarters with some lonely Taliban shepherd boys.

    Now a positive one:

    I am a student and life-long resident of Clark County, Ohio. I just wanted you to know that this is a wonderful idea you’ve initiated; people here love and respect the United Kingdom, especially the prime minister. I hope this campaign will be successful for your newspaper and for us voters.

    A quite vocally anti-Grauniad response:


    And a nice, subtle one from someone who oviously knows how international law works…

    Please be advised that I have forwarded this to the CIA and FBI.

    And finally, as featured on Have I Got News For You:

    Have you not noticed that Americans don’t give two shits what Europeans think of us? Each email someone gets from some arrogant Brit telling us why to NOT vote for George Bush is going to backfire, you stupid, yellow-toothed pansies … I don’t give a rat’s ass if our election is going to have an effect on your worthless little life. I really don’t. If you want to have a meaningful election in your crappy little island full of shitty food and yellow teeth, then maybe you should try not to sell your sovereignty out to Brussels and Berlin, dipshit. Oh, yeah – and brush your goddamned teeth, you filthy animals.

    So, it seems that Operation Clark County, although in theory a fantastic idea to subvert the American electoral process, has actually acheived the opposite effect to its aim: Americans being as they are, anyone who gets advice to vote for John Kerry will naturally go and vote for Bush 43. It can’t be helped. It’s how they are built.

    Oh, and it could also be something to do with the voting booths… (requires QuickTime)

  3. Happy Birthday Asterix

    October 29, 2004 by dafyd

    As you must know, I’m a huge fan of Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterix books. This year is the 45th birthday of Asterix the Gaul, and I have just discovered this most exciting news on the Official Asterix Website:

    Live from the village that still holds out against the invaders, our special correspondents have managed to shake down the natives and deliver the latest news flash, carved directly in menhir! Hear ye, hear ye, readers of the known world: Albert Uderzo has put the finishing touches to the latest Asterix album, the 33rd no less!!!! Both fans and Roman spies are going to try to make us spill the beans (loose lips sink ships…). By Doubleclix, this new story is going to raise those thatched roofs, not to mention eyebrows! This album is going to break the mould, so make sure to mark the release date in your calendar: if all goes well and the master holds to the schedule as well as he holds his pencil, it should hit the stands in October 2005. Now, no use threatening me, my lips are sealed! I’ll leave things at that… I! can see that I’m starting to get on someone’s nerves. Don’t you agree that this new work is a terrific gift? …a great way for Albert Uderzo to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the character he created with his friend and cohort, René Goscinny, back in 1959? Especially given that the event is to be celebrated in a number of ways.

    I can’t wait now…!

    2004 is also the 75th bithday of Tintin, the intrepid Belgian reporter. I found this quite interesting description of him on the official Tintin website:

    Tintin is probably the strangest character in the history of the strip cartoon. Unlike the majority of cartoon heroes, he has no particularly remarkable characteristic. True, he is intelligent, astute, quick-witted and almost invincible.. But when one examines him more closely, it is his unreality which is most startling. Take the name for a start. In neither French nor English does it mean anything. Is it a first name or a surname? Next look at his round face with only little dots for eyes and mouth and a small button of a nose. The only distinctive feature is the celebrated quiff. Then there is his profession, one which except in the very first book we never see him exercise. Tintin is not a typical reporter. He has no real age; sometimes he seems to be a child, at other times an adolescent, but generally he behaves like an adult. His sexlessness is also noteworthy. At no time does he have a girlfriend, or do marriage plans interfere with his adventures. Strictly speaking, he is characterless. This could be seen as a weakness, but that would be a basic misunderstanding of the great coherence of Hergé’s world. In fact this is the neutrality of the hero which is the key element of the books’ success. It is this lack of personality which enables him to change from having been a colonialist in 1930 to taking sides with guerillas in 1975 without any feeling of contradiction.

  4. Question Time in America

    October 28, 2004 by dafyd

    I’ve just watched Question Time on BBCi, which this week came from (of all places) Miami, Florida.

    The panel was a fantastic mix of views, with a Senior Advisor to Bill Clinton, the guy who invented the phrase ‘axis of evil’ for George Bush 43, and – best of all – Michael Moore. There was also a representative of the Miami-Dade Electoral Reform Coalition (Florida was where the scandal about vote-rigging came about in the 2000 election) and Richard “Look at me, I’m a cretin” Littlejohn, a columnist on the Sun.

    The audience, of course, was made up of Americans – and David Dimbleby was clearly uncomfortable presenting the programme. Whereas Question Time is usually a staid, debate-style affair, this programme had more than a touch of the Jerry Springers about it! The audience heckled the panellists and other questioners, often to the extent that one couldn’t hear what was happening – a pity, because the level of debate on this programme was probably considerably higher than at most other points in the presidential campaigns.

    My highlight: Michael Moore, explaining the alternatives to invading Iraq to get rid of Sadddam Hussein – I’ll hunt around to see if I can find a quote and post it here in a bit.

    EDIT: I can’t be bothered transcribing it – watch the programme, the bit in question is 32 minutes in.

    You can watch the programme on the Question Time website – you need RealPlayer.

  5. North-East’s own time zone?

    October 27, 2004 by dafyd

    I found this quite funny on BBC News:

    Generic image to do with time... Big Ben!

    Brussels has been “blamed” for bringing winter a week early to parts of the country. About 2,000 clocks on public buildings and railway stations across the UK have gone back an hour seven days too soon. An EU directive dictating clocks should change on the last Sunday of October has been blamed by clock makers. Traditionally, clocks changed on the fourth Sunday of October and most were pre-programmed to do so. There are five Sundays in October this year. Residents of Huddersfield and Darlington are among those baffled at the time change. Jim Foster, of clock works firm William Potts & Sons in Leeds, said his firm provided electronic chips for many of the timepieces. The chips have been programmed for British Summer Time ending on the traditional fourth Sunday of the month. “This is going to happen again next October,” he said. “We are making a different chip which can cope with the time change and offering it to our existing customers. “The only problem is that the commission meets again in 2006 so it could all change once more. “It has been a bit chaotic here over the last few days. But the situation will remedy itself next week when the time changes for real,” he said.

    The indignation of the presenter on the ITV Regional News was quite something…!

  6. Mandy en Bruxelles

    October 26, 2004 by dafyd

    Voila! C'est Mandy.The 15th October edition of Private Eye (which I finally received today … damn Royal Mail) contains a fantastic spoof of Peter Mandelson‘s first speech at the European Commission. (I hope the Editor won’t mind if I reproduce it here.)

    Bonjour matelots d’Europe! Je suis ‘Mandy’, le plus fameux medicin de spin du monde. Mais, ça c’est histoire. Maintenant, je suis Mandy l’Européan! Mandy, qui aime les croissants et le sauerkraut et les legendaire sprouts de Bruxelles! Au Monsieur Blair et Madame Cherie je dis ‘au revoir’! Salut à President Chirac et Chancellor Kohl et tous les autres, les noms de qui je ne souviens pas au moment! (Consults notes) Ah, oui, et aussi à mon nouveau colleague, Président Barroso de Portugal! Serieusement, mon agenda en Bruxelles est très simple! A bas la corruption! A bas le sleaze! A bas la Grande Bretagne! Vive l’Europe! Vive l’euro! Vive moi-même! Souvenez mon motto legendaire, ‘Je ne suis pas un quitter, je suis un combatant!’

    I would be proud to have written that!

    Oh, and the cartoon that appeared underneath it:

    Private Eye cartoon

  7. Alton Towers 2005

    October 25, 2004 by dafyd

    Alton TowersAs you may know, I’m a huge fan of Alton Towers. The coasters and rides there are, quite simply, fantastic!

    But a quick glance at an Alton Towers fan website such as Towers Times will tell you that many fans are unhappy. The park has got lax in its ways. Nemesis, the world’s most intense roller coaster, has been slowly decaying in its hole, and now isn’t anything like as good as it was 10 years ago when it opened. (It’s still one of the best rides on the planet, though!) Oblivion, the world’s first vertical drop roller coaster (stunning ride!) has had to be seriously changed because of a lawsuit from residents of Alton complaining about the noise. (Apparently, the voice at the top of the drop that says “Don’t look down” – an integral part of the ride – was too loud. Alton Towers have removed it, and now just advise riders to scream as loud as they can!)

    For the last 2 months half the park has been closed off, for no apparent reason. Cred Street, the area for little people, has been fenced-off. Ug Land, home to the park’s first roller coaster – the Corkscrew – has been completely closed off to guests. Understandably, fans haven’t been happy.

    The one and only NemesisBut to every cloud there is a silver lining. Or, in this case, a golden lining. Alton Towers has officialy announced that they are building a new roller coaster for the 2005 season. Codenamed RITA (don’t ask), it will be a launched roller coaster with a loop and heartline-roll – basically, you get blasted out of the station at 65mph, get flipped over a couple of times, get off, and do it again. The actual specifications of the ride are top secret, but from what people on Towers Times have found out, this seems a fairly good assumption. Alton Towers have launched a promotional website, Ride RITA (I said don’t ask), and have been heavily promoting the ride at events like the fireworks.

    But is that all there is to it? It seems that over the winter closed season, Alton Towers will be getting rid of the Black Hole. One of the oldest rides in the park, predating Nemesis by almost a decade, many people are up in arms at Alton Towers’ attempt to get rid of what they see as an old friend. Apparently, the tent won’t be going, just the ride. Nothing will go in the tent next year. But what about 2006? A stunning new dark ride, on the scale of Disney’s Space Mountains or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coasters? I hope so!

    It seems that Alton Towers have always codenamed their big new roller coasters as SWs (Secret Weapons) – air, for example, was SW5. The last new coaster, Spinball Whizzer, wasn’t an SW because it wasn’t considered big enough, it wasn’t a trademark ride. But RITA is a European first. Why is she (oh dear….) not a Secret Weapon? Could this be a very elaborate, very expensive, smokescreen? Could Alton Towers be distracting people’s attention from what they’re doing in the Black Hole tent? Many people, me included, think so.

    Let’s hope and see! If you want to keep up to date on what’s happening with RITA, the Black Hole, and other Alton Towers news, I really recommend you have a look at Towers Times and its forums.

  8. Giant Cadbury Fingers

    October 24, 2004 by dafyd

    How come I didn’t know about these? Has anyone tried one?

    They’ve got their own website, but unfortunately no pictures. I think I shall have to do some investigating…

  9. Just stuff

    October 23, 2004 by dafyd

    The SmurfsFirst off, Happy Birthday to The Smurfs – they’re 44 today! Thought you’d like to know.

    I was perusing the Grauniad website earlier today when I came across an old article from Christmas last year. It seems that the newspaper published a general knowledge quiz that is taken every year by pupils at King William’s College on the Isle of Wight. Apparently they’ve been doing it every year for the last 99.

    Now, I’d say I’m quite good at quizzes. I’ve captained the Nottingham High School quiz team to 3 national finals, at each of which we’ve been close runners-up. I can usually answer a fair few questions on University Challenge. So I was expecting this quiz to be a fairly easy general knowledge multiple-choice affair. Imagine my shock when I was confronted with a question like “In which town did Freeling’s Piet advance to Commisaris?” (The answer’s Amsterdam, if you were wondering – it refers to Nicolas Freeling‘s Van der Valk detective stories, of course…)

    Out of 180 questions, I was able to answer 23 on my first look through. That’s about 13%. Hmmph. My opinion of that school has rocketed upwards! (That said, the article in the Grauniad said that the average score at the school is 2 … so maybe I did quite well?!)

    Anyway, have a go at the quiz. It is a really well set collection of questions, which I will enjoy looking at over the next couple of weeks when I’ve got nothing to do.

    That’s it for today, I think. Oh, except to say that I so like the picture I posted yesterday that I’m going to post it here again: (I’m wasting the CIA‘s bandwidth, not mine, so I don’t care…)

    George Bush Center for Intelligence?!

  10. Slightly smaller than Oregon

    October 22, 2004 by dafyd

    As anyone who has talked to me on Messenger over the past couple of days knows, I have been virtually flicking through the fantastic resource that is the CIA World Factbook. The World Factbook is a guide to every country in the world (give or take a few that America thinks don’t count), providing in depth figures and data for each.

    A brief history of the World Factbook, taken from the CIA website:

    The CIA World Factbook cover

    The first classified Factbook was published in August 1962, and the first unclassified version was published in June 1971. The NIS (National Intelligence Survey – hah!) program was terminated in 1973 except for the Factbook, map, and gazetteer components. The 1975 Factbook was the first to be made available to the public with sales through the US Government Printing Office (GPO). The year 2004 marks the 57th anniversary of the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency and the 61st year of continuous basic intelligence support to the US Government by The World Factbook and its two predecessor programs.

    Anyway, just while reading through it I came across the entry for the United Kingdom. I looked through that one in detail, because I think it’s fairly important to know what’s going on in your country, especially from a CIA viewpoint. (Did you know that we have an ongoing dispute with Denmark and Iceland over ownership of the Rockall continental shelf? Did you care?) I spotted the UK entry for area, which reads “slightly smaller than Oregon”… good to know! If you’re interested, that’s the same size as Romania.

    My brother JJ spotted an interesting entry under the page for ‘World‘. Apparently the world has $6.421 trillion of exports per year. Where to? OK, we’re just being pedantic here (obviously we don’t export to aliens… or do we?), but the entry for imports shows $6.531 trillion. Where does the extra $100 billion come from? A magic stash somewhere? Or some problems with maths at the CIA? To quote a favorite phrase of correspondants to Private Eye, “I think we should be told!”

    While on the subject of the CIA, I came across the following photo. Ironic or what?