This blog is metamorphosing
As you may have seen, I haven't blogged much lately. Apart from a
drought of thoughts, I've had enough of HTML updating, Thingamablog
(good as it is) and being unable to update from anywhere other than my
own broadband connection.
So I'm off to wordpress.com for a trial period. It's a bit of a step
down being unable to customise my blog, and to have to use someone
else's look and feel, but if it's one I like then I don't really mind.
Besides, it gives me so many advantages - I don't have to worry about my
HTML code not working properly, I can write from anywhere, and
it's free. I can't run Wordpress myself because blueyonder don't provide
MySQL, and I'm a bit of a cheapskate, so it's the best I can do.
Old articles remain here, but for the meantime...
Consensus politics in action
The new, more open, "Have
Your Say" format on the BBC News website has turned into a
cesspool of idiots spouting received opinions, despite most discussions
supposedly being fully moderated. It's not quite unreadably crazy yet, but
it's getting there.
What's depressing is the kind of comments people are voting for - the
format provides a comments rating system that appears to be used by
people to bolster each other's stupid bollocks. The first sensible
comment out of all the highest ranked on this
bullying discussion is on page 3 - Mark Fairman pointing out that
bullying was in fact an accepted part of school life in the 1960s and
70s, from teacher down (see: Kes, Scum, Richard Branson's
and John Peel's autobiographies, your parent's recollections, much
of this b3ta discussion etc) and things are in fact getting better
in that bullying is now recognised as a problem. Of course, the kids are
still screwed anyway. Most of the rest of it is "bring back corporal
punishment! bring back borstal! bring back h...old fashioned punishment!
political correctness gone mad! revoke the Human Rights Act!" - all
absolute crap, but sadly believed by many.
It is this kind of consensus-jumping which caused the "TRAITORS!" front
page on the Sun, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the
truth. I know full well how little schools actually care about bullying;
one of my brothers recently had to spend a long period out of school
after being near strangled by someone that "no-one saw" (in a crowded
corridor, uh-huh), and I had a truly horrendous time at that very same
high school. I was attacked in a corridor in between the two papers of
my Higher English examination; I'm still amazed that I managed to keep
enough control in order to pass the thing. I've always suspected that
some of the stuff done to my brothers, who are all very different
individuals to me, was entirely because I was related to them; shit
filters down. Can't prove it, but I know.
The fact remains, though, that quite a lot of it is a "Code
of the Schoolyard" situation; the kind of thing that the Simpsons
skewered so well back in 1990, and not anything to do with the school's
(lack of an) anti-bullying policy. If no-one will talk, like in the case
of that assault on my brother (and other such assaults on both me and my
other brothers), then no-one can be punished - even in the best case
scenario, it's he said he said, and in the worst case scenario, it's
he's had to go to hospital for two days and stay out of school for a
fortnight but he doesn't know who his attacker is and no-one else will
even dare say anything happened, and it's this more than anything else
that stops people from going to teachers in the first place. Crappy
enforcement of existing rules, and wholesale ignoring of anti-bullying
policies, is definitely a problem, but bullying is an odd issue; this
enforced silence is a symptom of the fear that bullies cause and
administer, and of entrenched societal attitudes that are not being
confronted often enough.
And as for societal attitude, look no further than this
Guardian Weekend article on homophobic bullying - the type of
bullying that earns you a "Get Out Of Trouble Free" card. As the guy
from Stonewall points out in the article, you don't even have to be gay
to suffer from homophobic bullying; you just have to not be within
someone's Straight Stereotype. And since schools still think they're
working on a Section 28 agenda, if you get bullied that way
you're probably doomed.
I wrote a TV script some years ago, in a bout of depression related to
rememberances of my high school years, called School's Out;
conceived as a series of satirical sketches about the education system,
it instead evolved during writing into an interlinked venomous rant,
occasionally taking setting ideas from things like the deep-fat-fryer
torture scene from Spooks, aimed at no-one and everyone in
particular (and, cheerfully, bookended with a teenager committing
suicide to a Mogwai song; I was listening to "Happy Songs For
Happy People" a lot at the time). It's way too raw to even consider
sending it anywhere, but possibly with some toning down and serious
restructuring/rewriting it might at least become readable. So that's my
new writing project - making a School's Out serious revision that
I feel secure enough, at least, to post on here.
Probably won't happen, but I can always hope...
Return of the Jedi in 211K: <http://www.b3ta.com/board/5280332>
Further on unexpected MP3 releases: Madonna's Confessions on a
Dancefloor (release date: 14 November) has now leaked, in
crap-o-rama if-that-was-originally-192-I'd-be-very-surprised quality,
despite apparently not even having been sent out as a promo yet. Isn't
it time for the record companies to admit that they can't win?
Now got my Cineworld branded Unlimited Card, funnily enough with the old
Cineworld logo on it and not the one they've repainted all the doors
at my local with. Hmm.
Polanski's Oliver Twist is sadly underwhelming, especially
after The Pianist. V. nice set design, though.
Batman Begins is still the second best comic book movie of the
year (after Sin City).
Depeche Mode's Playing the Angel CD (haven't tried the DVD yet) has
the worst mastering I've ever heard on an electronic album - someone's
pushed the knobs way too high at mastering stage and the obviously
unintentional clipping sounds truly dire on my separates hi-fi. Even
with this taken into consideration, it is still the best thing they've
done since Songs of Faith and Devotion, because it has
something that Ultra and Exciter don't: actual tunes.
I still haven't listened to Aerial yet, except for "How To Be
Invisible" and the single. Yes, I am going to buy it...
I have, and always have had, an ex-directory phone line. I see
absolutely no need in having people know my phone number other than
those who actually want to contact it; it is, after all, courtesy.
Needless to say, this means an absence of telemarketer calls, but sadly
not entirely. I just got called by ICM doing a "music survey" in the
middle of cooking something intricate. Asking them exactly why they were
calling my phone number, the caller informed me of the method they use
for picking telephone numbers:
get the Phone Book
pull a number out the Phone Book
randomise the last digit
Wonder if they check it against the DMA list. I'm not on TPS - it just
lets them know who you are - but they really shouldn't do things like
that. People who put numbers on things like the TPS list or go
ex-directory are very unlikely to want to listen to "surveyors" or other
telescum. But they're so insistent that you need to listen to
them! (And apparently they get responses from ex-dir people too...
I told the surveyer, politely enough, that I don't respond to
unsolicited calls, and he hung up very curtly. Oh dear. At least
the food didn't spoil...
Never run an ATM on NT4
I've just had my debit card eaten by a Bank of Scotland ATM at the
Shandwick Place branch in Edinburgh (the second one as you head towards
Princes Street) and I'm not happy. Especially since the card in question
was from a completely different bank. Aaargh...
It was an interesting event, no doubt about it: I walked up to the ATM,
inserted said debit card into the machine, and watched as it failed to
put up the "Enter your PIN" screen, instead flashing to a Windows
desktop, logging off, shutting down to the sight of the NT4 Workstation
logo, rebooting for a suspiciously long time, loading an old McAfee
VirusScan and finally bringing up a "Sorry, this machine is out of
service" screen - all this while not even thinking about ejecting my
card (although whirring the cash motors during the reboot almost felt
like it was taunting me.) I thus rang the HBoS line, helpfully printed
on the front of the ATM, at this point, to be told there was no way the
machine would give me my card back, to go ring my bank's lost-and-stolen
cards line and get it cancelled, and that they really were so dreadfully
sorry. How infuriating.
Whilst the process of getting the card cancelled and reissued is just a
five-minute call to an 0870 number (although now I have to wait a week
for them to sent a new card back), it's still really annoying to have
this kind of thing happen to you because instead of using a fully
tested, reference platform environment (like, funnily enough, my bank's,
which has entirely text-based ATMs running on top of what appears to be
a custom operating system) NCR have just tacked some pretty pictures on
top of the now no-longer-supported-and-security-flawed-to-hell NT4, put
it on a local Intranet instead of a custom protocol just so they can
display "Buy Your Mortgage At HBoS" with graphics rather than text. I'm
sure custom-OS ATMs can crash too, but they seem a hell of a lot more
secure to me and at least they'll probably ask for my PIN first.
A short hiatus (to dial-up land)
At least two weeks, maybe three, and since I'm unable to update the site
properly from non-blueyonder space this means blog silence. However, I
will return in time for the new, incredible blog series:
Inquisitor At The Edinburgh International Film Festival 2005! Yes
- bigger and better than last year, hopefully.
Over the period from the 17th of August to the 27th of August, I will be
attending rather a lot of screenings - including both the opening and
closing night films, and the List surprise movie. (I know this because I
just bought the tickets. Get yours now!) I will not, afaik, be attending Serenity,
because all the tickets for that have gone already - although if any
turn up for Best of the Fest and aren't in the way of planned
screenings, I'll grab them.
Handy hint if you're booking tickets - if you have a Cineworld Unlimited
Card (no longer UGC, sigh, they've even rebranded the doors), and you
plan on booking before the start of the festival, head over to the desk
there between 5pm and 9:30pm and you get two-for-the-price-of-one if you
show your card. In case you're wondering, this has just saved me £30
(the cost of the Unlimited Card for three months). There's probably
something in this year's programme, if you pardon the cliche, for
everyone - Korean revenge thrillers, Scandinavian comedy, Spanish
weirdness, Land of the Dead, the lot.
And I will be reviewing, for this site, only a small fraction. But will
it be worth it? Almost certainly.
Apparently listeners to Planet Rock have better taste than I'd think they would...
...since, in a poll to vote for their ideal supergroup (with separate
polls for singer, guitarist, bassist and drummer), they
ended up voting for Led Zeppelin. Now, ain't that the truth!
I'm going to London on Thursday, by the way, and needless to say I will
be going by public transport. There's no reason not to, as far as I can
see it, and it's all been booked for weeks. So I'll be writing up my
experiences on Tuesday when I get back; needless to say, I won't have
access to blueyonder between Thursday and Monday, so only the haloscan
comments (if anything at all) will get updated. (Think I should switch
to enetation? Vote now!)
Whew, that was a scare...
Finally got the blog back up and running, and looking even better than
the adapted thingamablog layout - I binned the non-working-in-IE kludge
involving my layout, one of Movable Style's and a lot of HTML coding,
and instead worked from V2.0 pages and added in the thingamablog control
code in order to create templates from scratch, and it's working and
looking even better than ever. So call it ISX.networks/2.5, like the
Winamp dudes.This version is better for people with text browsers, too,
although I'm not sure I get that many people who need them.
Now it's possible for IE users to actually see my blog, welcome all!
Although I do recommend you get
Firefox anyway, just because (although if you're using
Safari/konqueror/Opera etc, there's no urgent need.)
Welcome to ISX.networks/3.0!
Courtesy of a piece of software called Thingamablog,
I am now in the progress of converting the weblog over to a more, um,
'organised' look and feel... It's still not as easy to update as, say, a
MT weblog, but it's also a lot more secure and at least I can keep my
look and feel. I'm going to shift over all the old articles, so it won't
be a problem. Also, the Time page is staying -
I'll move it over to the new look in due course.
In the meantime, enjoy RSS feeds, a proper working archival and category
system, and much much more!
Idiots Of The Week: National Rail Enquiries, Celtic 'fans' and more
Me: I hate National Rail Enquiries.
Ticket seller: Oh, we do too.
--- Verbatim conversation at a ticket office, somewhere in
So I've spent Christmas and New Year with my family, as you do, distributed
hauls of R3 copies of Hero,
The Bourne Supremacy etc. to my very pleased brothers, and the
university term looms. I decide, because of commitments, to stay up north
for as long a period as possible and head back on Saturday the 8th, i.e.
As the weather's
been kinda bad lately, I check up on First
ScotRail's site about an hour before the train's meant to come in. This advises me that due
to the weather situation, to only travel if necessary (my new term
starts tomorrow) and to call 08457 48 49 50 for further information,
not mentioning what the line actually is. I call it, and I get back
a "Thank you for calling National Rail Enquiries..."
NRE, after keeping me waiting for a fairly long time, tell me (after much
kerfuffle) that services on my line are suspended and a replacement
bus service is running. They cannot, of course, tell me whether the
bus service is even going to stop at my village railway station,
and I can't call either the terminus or Glasgow stations directly, so I end up
having to get lifted into town very quickly in order to catch said
replacement bus service.
Of course, NRE wasn't exactly telling the truth, since the line was open
for business and had been for some time. A big oops there.
Thankfully, the ticket inspector was understanding when he accepted
my ticket, technically invalid for the first part of the journey, after
I explained NRE's cockup.
Other railway people were rather understanding, too, as when I asked for
an address for which I could complain to them, and the ticket seller
at Queen Street could only get me a phone number (0191 269 0305, fact
Ticket seller: "They're useless."
Which pretty much says it all.
NRE can get away with being absolutely useless because they're the
only way, now, that a consumer can get information about the British
railway network - the telephone numbers of local stations were made
ex-directory some years ago, so all you see in the Phone Book is NRE.
This is despite the fact that to man the phone lines at a rural terminus
doesn't actually preclude you from doing other jobs at the same time.
Of course, you need to have a fairly similar amount of staff employed
to update the NRE system whenever, say, something like an extreme weather
situation happens, since the people you actually speak to are dumb
automatons in a call centre somewhere, but this doesn't figure to the
bureaucrats and plutocrats that run the British railway network nowadays.
If I had been able to call my local station, I'd have been able to
pick up the train at the village station and I wouldn't have forgotten
to pick up some of the DVDs I left behind. Grr.
Also see: out-of-hours GP phone numbers redirecting you to NHS
Direct (or the Scottish version, NHS 24), a call-centre helpline run
by nurses; banks making you call India instead of your local branch;
etc. It's all the same thing; idiot cost-cutting that doesn't actually
Admittedly, none of this was actually the fault of First ScotRail; they're
supposed to refer everyone to NRE, since it's the only Official Source
of this information. What wasn't the fault of First ScotRail either
was the gang of supposed football 'fans' that got on at the last stop
and were really, really loud, although they didn't exactly distinguish
themselves by attempting to control the situation either. By really
loud, I'm meaning "drowning out the music playing on my in-ear headphones"
loud. They were drunk when they got on the train, drank a lot whilst
on the train, and made the last fifteen minutes of my journey seem
like time spent in the very depths of Hell. What's more, these were
'fans' of the depressingly boorish, pissed, fucked-up, sectarian (pretty
sure I heard an IRA reference), and amazingly racist type ("There ain't
no black on the Union Jack! Sieg Heil!") that demonises Scottish
football - and this was the day before the Old Firm game, let me remind you.
I almost wished my Rio Karma had a record function so I could have posted it here -
this really was the kind of thing you never, ever wish to see or hear.
I lived in a Rangers area for a long period of time, really really hated the sectarian
aspects of it, and not liking football wasn't a way out of it. I ended up holding back
for a long time after the train stopped until I was pretty sure the
supposed 'fans' had dispersed; this was sensible plan, so I recovered
with the aid of a cup of coffee and set off for Edinburgh much more
And then I watched Jerry Springer: The Opera, or as it really is Jerry
Springer: The Musical. Which was really funny, by the way: pretty much from the first
pseudo-operatic aria ("chick with a dick") onward. It's also not
blasphemous at all: the appearance of the diaper-fetishist from previously as Jesus
(although not a diaper-fetishist Jesus) occurs simply because the whole 'Jesus vs.
Satan' thing is a hallucination created by Springer's mind before he ends up actually
dying, and the Virgin Mary herself doesn't sing the 'raped by an angel' line
(it's the chorus, shown to be orchestrated by Satan), unlike what some
of the media publicity would have had you believe. You can even take
the ending to be a Christian redemptive message, if you like. The thing had so many warnings
strewed on it - including Kirsty Wark before each act of the play, and BBC2 continuity -
that it was almost impossible to miss it.
Oh, and the swearing? All the seven (not 280, that's counting the chorus)
'cunt's in the show are directed at the guy in the Christian religion
to whom the term most deserves to be used - i.e., Satan - and in a
single song, and the 'fuck' count doesn't even reach that of, say, Goodfellas,
Reservoir Dogs or Casino (all shown uncut by Channel Four.)
Mediawatch should really employ someone's who's done at least,
say, GCSE Maths to see whether their figures are actually right.
All in all, a storm in a teacup, don't you think? And the BBC have got a
nice 1.7m viewer total out of it. Now, all we have to do is hope there
won't be a Whitehouse v. Gay News repeat (especially since the BBC
have more lawyers and money than Gay News did), with the so-called
Christian Voice's private prosecution, and things should be well...
Bloggerheads has a nice series
of articles on the neat little relationship between Mediawatch and
the Daily Mail, and the JS:TO 'controversy' in general, here,
Mail Watch has a good piece too,