Monday, April 28, 2008

My Library Sucks So Bad...

110 best books: The perfect library - Telegraph

I was wondering how well my own library and reading habits stacked up.

Pretty poorly it turns out. And I consider myself widely, if not well, read.

And yet this is how my results turn out. If I've read it, it's italicized. If I've got it, it's in bold. So this means?




The Iliad and The Odyssey



The Barchester Chronicles

Anthony Trollope


Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen


Gulliver's Travels

Jonathan Swift


Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë


War and Peace



David Copperfield

Charles Dickens


Vanity Fair

William Makepeace Thackeray


Madame Bovary

Gustave Flaubert



George Eliot





Divine Comedy



Canterbury Tales



The Prelude


William Wordsworth



John Keats


The Waste Land

T. S. Eliot


Paradise Lost

John Milton


Songs of Innocence and Experience

William Blake


Collected Poems

W. B. Yeats


Collected Poems

Ted Hughes


The Portrait of a Lady

Henry James


A la recherche du temps perdu




James Joyce

Has anybody actually read this? Liar

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway


Sword of Honour trilogy

Evelyn Waugh


The Ballad of Peckham Rye

Muriel Spark


Rabbit series

John Updike


One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel García Márquez



Toni Morrison


The Human Stain

Philip Roth

How 'bout Portnoy's Complaint instead?


Daphne du Maurier


Le Morte D'Arthur

Thomas Malory


Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Choderlos de Laclos


I, Claudius

Robert Graves


Alexander Trilogy

Mary Renault


Master and Commander

Patrick O'Brian


Gone with the Wind

Margaret Mitchell


Dr Zhivago

Boris Pasternak


Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy


The Plantagenet Saga

Jean Plaidy


Swallows and Amazons

Arthur Ransome


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

C.S. Lewis

The movie blew.

The Lord of the Rings

J.R. R. Tolkien

A dozen times.

His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman



Jean de Brunhoff


The Railway Children

E. Nesbit



A.A. Milne


Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling


The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame


Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson



Mary Shelley


The Time Machine

H.G. Wells


Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Jules Verne


Brave New World

Aldous Huxley



George Orwell


The Day of the Triffids

John Wyndham



Isaac Asimov


2001: A Space Odyssey

Arthur C. Clarke


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick



William Gibson


The Talented Mr Ripley

Patricia Highsmith


The Maltese Falcon

Dashiell Hammett


The Complete Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I've read a couple of them, but the complete?

The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

John le Carré


Red Dragon

Thomas Harris

Manhunter is one of my favourite movies.

Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie


The Murders in the Rue Morgue

Edgar Allan Poe


The Woman in White

Wilkie Collins



Elmore Leonard


Das Kapital

Karl Marx


The Rights of Man

Tom Paine


The Social Contract

Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Democracy in America

Alexis de Tocqueville


On War

Carl von Clausewitz


The Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli



Thomas Hobbes


On the Interpretation of Dreams

Sigmund Freud


On the Origin of Species

Charles Darwin



Diderot, et al


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert M. Pirsig


Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Richard Bach


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams


The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell


The Beauty Myth

Naomi Wolf


How to Cook

Delia Smith


A Year in Provence

Peter Mayle


A Child Called 'It'

Dave Pelzer


Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Lynne Truss

More language mavens. That's what we all need.

Schott's Original Miscellany

Ben Schott


The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Edward Gibbon


A History of the English-Speaking Peoples

Winston Churchill


A History of the Crusades

Steven Runciman

True classic.

The Histories



The History of the Peloponnesian War


Most of what we need to know about the modern nexus of politics and war, Thucydides said already.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

T. E. Lawrence


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle


A People's Tragedy

Orlando Figes


Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

Simon Schama


The Origins of the Second World War

A.J.P. Taylor



St Augustine


Lives of the Caesars



Lives of the Artists



If This is a Man

Primo Levi


Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man

Siegfried Sassoon


Eminent Victorians

Lytton Strachey


A Life of Charlotte Brontë

Elizabeth Gaskell


Goodbye to All That

Robert Graves


The Life of Dr Johnson




Alan Clark


So there you have it, a warning never to scan my bookshelves. Too bad there aren't more entries for Japanese-English dictionaries. I'd have made out a bit better.

'Resentment Over Darwin Evolves Into a Documentary' by NY Times -

Expelled has another review.


Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed - Movie - Review - The New York Times

Best line?

“Expelled” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It has smoking guns and drunken logic

Looks like I'll still be able to blog.

Hooray. Free wi-fi finally comes to the UK. And Coffee Republic is a lot cheaper than Starbucks.

Coffee Republic to offer free wi-fi - Retail & Leisure - Breaking Business and Technology News at
Latte lovers who like to surf and work from the comfort of a coffee shop will be able to get free wi-fi internet access at Coffee Republic cafes from May.

Coffee Republic will become the first UK coffee chain to provide free wi-fi to customers when it launches the service across the majority of its UK chain from 1 May 2008.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another Day, Another Unwarrented Hassling in the Nation of Suspects

As the week drags on, the reports dribble in about photography continuing is inexorable slide into illegality in the UK. It's little wonder that Mrs Gaijin is talking about packing it in an moving to Spain.
I'm half willing to learn Spanish and go. Combining this sort of thing with my hair-trigger indignation will not be pretty.

UK photographer chased down and detained for taking pix at fun fair - Boing Boing
Bill sez "Curly, a blogger and photographer from South Shields (in NE England) was pursued by police after they received an emergency 999 call from someone who saw him taking photos in a funfair where children were present. He ended up showing his pics to a policeman in order to be allowed to leave."

The original blog post is here:
Sex pictures shock! « Curly’s Corner Shop, the blog!
Curly taken for a ride

Did I mention something about being taken for ride in my last post?

Well I was, but I never imagined that a trip to the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park in South Shields would result in a ride in the back of a police car, being questioned about taking pictures of a sexual nature (and we are not talking of someone of Britney Spears age either!)

Have I ever mentioned CCTV cameras in the past?

Yes on numerous occasions.

Have I ever stated that we are becoming a nation of suspects in the past?

Yes, on numerous occasions.

Have I ever voiced the fear that we may quietly lurch towards a police state in the past?

Yes, on numerous occasions.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Duplicity? From the Bush Administration.

Jean Chretien, during the 1993 election campaign, once joked about his Bell's Palsy that at least 'e only talked out one side of his mouth, not both like a Tory.
So, Jean, what do you make of this?
Israelis Claim Secret Agreement With U.S. -
Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Well that's the best headline of the month.

Of course they did. Redux.

I've heard this. This time it doesn't look like they couldn't figure out if the country's name ended in Q or N so bomb 'em both. I guess that's something then.
BBC NEWS | Middle East | Syria 'had covert nuclear scheme'
The United States has accused North Korea of helping Syria build a nuclear reactor that "was not intended for peaceful purposes".

That's a slam dunk if I ever saw one.

From the note pad. Now with margin doodles!

I can't remember where I saw this. It's been a tab in my saved Firefox session for a half-dozen opens and closes this since last night.
The first draft versions show more character than the later, didactic versions, but aren't as refines. Think of them as the indie movie versions.

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: First Drafts of the Parables of Jesus.
At that time a man said unto Jesus, "Jesus! I do not understand the nature of the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them went astray. He left the 99 and looked for the one until he found it. When it was found, he said to the sheep, 'That you went astray is a clear sign that you misunderstand my instructions. You are nothing to me.' And then the shepherd turned the lost sheep into a pillar of salt, because the shepherd is God in this parable, and that's the sort of thing He does when people fail to understand His Word."

"Wait, what?" said the man,

And the man became a pillar of salt.

Even more on Expelled.

Expelled is still tanking. The worse part is that I liked Win Ben Stein's Money. Oh, how far the semi-great have fallen.
Talk Reason: arguments against creationism, intelligent design, and religious apologetics
Expelled Exposed: Midweek Roundup 04-23-2008 - The Panda's Thumb

Getting one step beyond the hype.

The surge is working so violence is up and we can't leave. If the surge had worked violence would have been reduced and we wouldn't be able to leave. The level of discourse related to violence in Iraq is pathetic. Somewhere out there, though, is Robert Pape, doing the actual stats and work showing that most of what you know about suicide bombing is wrong. Foreign Policy Watch: It's the Occupation, Stupid
Writing for The Independent, Robert Fisk notes that the Iraq invasion has spawned an incredible spike in suicide attacks. Since the war began, some 1,121 Muslims have blown themselves up. "On several days," Fisk writes, "six even nine suicide bombers have exploded themselves in Iraq in a display of almost Wal-Mart availability. If life in Iraq is cheap, death is cheaper." The numbers are particularly surprising, given the history. Between 1980 and 2003, there were 'just' 315 suicide attacks by terrorist groups around the world. In the past five years, those numbers have jumped severalfold.
Fisk relies on Pape for his article. Pape himself makes a good case in the NYT. Blowing Up an Assumption - New York Times
To make sense of this apparent contradiction, one has to understand the strategic logic of suicide terrorism. Since Muslim terrorists professing religious motives have perpetrated many of the attacks, it might seem obvious that Islamic fundamentalism is the central cause, and thus the wholesale transformation of Muslim societies into secular democracies, even at the barrel of a gun, is the obvious solution. However, the presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading, and it may spur American policies that are likely to worsen the situation.
If you have an iPod I believe that Pape's talks are still available from iTunes on the Cato Events podcasts or the Centre for Foreign Relations podcasts. He give basically the same talk in both forums.   Blowing Up an Assumption - New York Times
What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in seeking aid from abroad, but is rarely the root cause. Three general patterns in the data support these conclusions. First, nearly all suicide terrorist attacks - 301 of the 315 in the period I studied - took place as part of organized political or military campaigns. Second, democracies are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorists; America, France, India, Israel, Russia, Sri Lanka and Turkey have been the targets of almost every suicide attack of the past two decades. Third, suicide terrorist campaigns are directed toward a strategic objective: from Lebanon to Israel to Sri Lanka to Kashmir to Chechnya, the sponsors of every campaign - 18 organizations in all - are seeking to establish or maintain political self-determination. Before Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, there was no Hezbollah suicide terrorist campaign against Israel; indeed, Hezbollah came into existence only after this event. Before the Sri Lankan military began moving into the Tamil homelands of the island in 1987, the Tamil Tigers did not use suicide attacks. Before the huge increase in Jewish settlers on the West Bank in the 1980's, Palestinian groups did not use suicide terrorism.

Okay, so here's my proposal. When we talk about suicide bombers as individuals, we may talk about their individual motivations and religion might play a role there. But as we start talking about the war, bombing campaigns and the view from 30,000 feet as it were, religion has to come off the table. It's not part of the larger picture.

And if you say they hate us for our freedoms, I get to slap you. With a frying pan.

Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Kraus in Converstion

Where's George Bush's site?

Sez it all, doesn't it?
Condoleezza Rice Must GO
HT to No More Mr Nice Guy

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Few Days Away or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying that Everyone in Kyushu has Seen my Bag

Week before last my wife was struck by an idea. How about we get out of town for a few days, she suggested. It may have been to recover from the visit by the family, or that could just be how I interpreted it.  It would appear that having the little ones around can be truly draining. Her suggestion was to visit Kyushu, specifically the towns of Yufuin and Kurokawa Onsen. We also intended to climb to the top of Mt Aso, but more on that in a second.

We took the shinkansen to Hakata and a local commuter train to Yufuin. I love the shinkansen. By the way, it's not a translation of bullet train; that's just the English concept. It's best translated as New (Shin) Trunk (kan) Line (sen), intended to be the rail transport backbone across Japan. The shinkansen is wonderfully comfortable, generous with leg room and may be the best form of transport on the planet. The on-board coffee leaves something to be desired, flavour mostly.

At Hakata, we got on a relatively comfortable train that was similar enough to a tired version of a Southwest Trains. Although clean and well kept, it was obvious that the train was picked for the team well after the kid with the tape on his glasses. A sight seeing train in Japan has an obstacle to overcome though, the shear industrial quality of anything that's visible from a train car. It takes over an hour before I can truly be swayed by the scenery.

We went to Yufuin to start. Yufuin has a nice setting with mountains all around; in that way it reminded me of Banff, Alberta. The main street around the station is relatively picturesque but slightly artificial feeling. In this way as well it reminded me of Banff. There's also a rather heavily concrete-lined river running though the middle, heightening the artificiality, beautified by rows of cherry trees along the banks.


Yufuin is also rather small so walking from one end to the other doesn't take nearly as long as you guess when looking at the sightseeing map. Walking from the station, through the old quarter of town with it's assortment of artisan and handicraft shops to Kinrinko Lake probably takes no more than 35 minutes with an ice-cream stop.

We took the bus to Kurokawa Onsen the next day. Where Yufuin gives the impression of recent renovation, Kurokawa Onsen is traditional in look and feel.

Most of Kurokawa Onsen is nestled into a small river gorge. The craggy terrain with moss covered rocks and ample trees was a perfect setting for the traditional buildings and various rotemburo, or outdoor hot spring baths. There was one problem with the rotemburo at the ryokan we were staying at.


They were all kon`yoku. That`s mixed bathing to you and I. Gronk.

It appears that I have to start jogging again, if my bag is going to be well displayed for all genders and ages in Kyushu.

The return trip brought us to Mt Aso. It appears that the volcanic gas leaking out was enough to keep people from taking the cable car to the top to look around. Which was a narrow save for my wife, who loves cable cars the way cats love bath time. And reacts with the same amount hissing and scratching.

Of course it did.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Fight erupts in Jerusalem church
Israeli police had to break up a fist fight that erupted between Greek and Armenian Orthodox clergymen at one of Christianity's holiest sites.

The scuffles broke out at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Orthodox Palm Sunday.

More about Expelled

Via Bay of Fundie
Looks like more people are piling on Expelled. And who can blame them.
If you've seen Why do people laugh at creationists? on YouTube, you're already familiar with the formula.
By the way, Expelled is tanking.

Why Do People Laugh At Creationists? (pt. 23)
Pretty good stuff, eh?

Monday, April 21, 2008

And what do our friends at Reason Magazine think of Expelled?

Predictably they don't.

Reason Magazine - Flunk This Movie!
"This is not a religious argument," asserts Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman in conservative Hollywood gadfly Ben Stein's new anti-science propaganda film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie opens this Friday in 1,100 theaters, the largest theatrical release ever for a documentary, according to Expelled's producers.
They go on a bit further.
Yet despite its topic, the film is entirely free of scientific content—no scientific evidence against biological evolution and none for "intelligent design" (ID) theory is given. Which makes sense because biological evolution is amply supported by evidence from the fossil record, molecular biology, and morphology. For example, the younger the rocks in which fossils are found, the more closely they resemble species alive today, and the older the rocks, the less resemblance there is. In addition, molecular biology confirms that the more distantly related the fossil record suggests species lineages are, the more their genes differ.
Ouch. Is there a final word on the film, other than its really obvious badness?

Asked if the movie's makers expected any friendly interest from scientific journals, Ruloff noted that Scientific American had savaged Expelled, adding, "I would expect that any other 'science rag' would do exactly the same thing."

"What's happening here is politics," lamented the film's star, Ben Stein, at Heritage. "Politics in the halls of science and that needs to be stopped."

I couldn't agree more.

Nor for that matter could I.

This weeks Anti-Obama WTF Moment.

So now they're complaining that Obama was foretold in the Book of Revelations. Two words: As-fucking-if.
The claims are circulating that Revelations says the anti-christ will be a charming man in his 40s who is a Muslim.
I feel nostalgic for the days of Jack van Impe telling me that Gorbachev's birthmark was the mark of the beast. When I was in high school Revelations foretold of the anti-christ coming from the Soviet Union, you see?
As for Obama's Revelations link, how do I debunk thee? Let me count the ways.
PolitiFact | Complete distortion of the Bible
• The word “anti-christ” does not appear in the Book of Revelation.
• There’s no mention of a man of a certain age.
• There’s no mention of the word “Muslim.”

Do we all understand? Good. Now if I hear this sort of thing from you again I'll whack you on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

More Japan.

I was taking a Poli-Sci course at Uni long, long ago.
Part of the discussion in this one class turned to prejudice in society. One of the students proposed that when people have a common ethnic and cultural heritage there will be no prejudice. As an example she held up Japan.
Japan she said was over 80% homogeneous and had as a result no problems with racism.
Wipe the coffee off your computer screen and ponder that little tid-bit.
Being a prickly sort at times, I countered that Japan has a lot of problems dealing with foreigners and foreign residents, Koreans and Chinese to name two. Also, ask the Ainu if being a minority in Japan is that much fun. If you can find a couple. Finally, I patronized, the fewer others you have, the more you pick on little details within your own group, as the experience of the burakumin attests.
I wasn't too popular, but I was right.
If only I'd had Boing Boing at U of O.
Yes, there can be prejudice in Japan. Here's just a bit of proof.
Video of "Japanese Only" signs in Japan - Boing Boing
Here's a video of signs in Japan forbidding non-Japanese from entering businesses.

The View from Abroad...

Abroad from me, anyway.
So, I'm catching up on the blogs at The Guardian website and there's a few interesting points to be made.
First what is the next big fictional sport that'll become real-world popular:
Stranger than fiction - new sports for the 21st century | Sport | Guardian Unlimited
The planet is obviously screaming out for new sports. So I combed the annals of fiction for an admittedly incomplete but still fascinating list of the games that might just make the grade when the tired old Brit-invented warhorses of football, baseball, basketball and cricket finally get boiled down for glue.
Anbo-Jitsu (aka anbo-jytsu) From: Star Trek: The Next Generation. What is it: Staff-fighting with blindfolds. Chances of replacing an old Brit invented sport: 2%
Assassin's Guild Wall Game Disc World "A cross between squash, urban rock climbing and actual bodily harm." Chances: High, especially with suburban white kids who aren't racist but are desperately seeking out expensive new sports still free of rough blacks and working-class types.
But more importantly, what is the best title sequence in TV?
The number one spot is obvious:
Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog - TV & radio: Take 10: TV title sequences
1. The Simpsons. As explained - and displayed - above.
The YouTube highlight reel of Simpsons sofa gags is here.
And the here are the ten most important movies of the noughties (really is that still the best we've come up with for the name of the decade?
Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog - film: The noughties, cinema's decade of urgency
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
2. City of God (2002)
3. Lost in Translation (2003)
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
5. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
7. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
8. Caché (2005)
9. Borat (2006)
10. There Will Be Blood (2008)
In addition, there's a few Japanese moments that have been creeping onto my radar.
First of all, don't you find all of the western celebs who do incredibly bad ads for Japanese tv amusing. Well, let's just pretend that you do so I can finish the paragraph. Japander finds them funny, anyway. has a pretty comprehensive list of ads by faces you never thought you'd see in commercials.
And yes, they have the risible Harrison Ford cm's from when I first came to Japan. I remember watching them and thinking that I'd only been here for 8 minutes and could speak Japanese better than that. Pay me the half-million dollars!
That's a job: mangling a foreign language and drinking beer!
Oh, and something got into Hollywood's brain and thought this was a good idea:
Richard Gere to Star in Hachiko: A Dog's Story
Richard Gere will star in and produce Hachiko: A Dog's Story, a drama that will begin production in September, according to Variety.
The film will be fully financed by Inferno Entertainment, whose Bill Johnson and Vicky ShigekuniWong will produce with Gere. They are closing in on a director.
Gere will play a college professor who takes in a dog he finds abandoned. Both man and hound find their lives changed forever as they form an unbreakable bond.
Written by Stephen P. Lindsay, the project is based on a true story and inspired by the 1987 Japanese film Hachiko monogatari.

Check out the old Akira Kurosawa move Rhapsody in August to see how well Gere speaks Japanese.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wow. How do You Sell to the Cons and Cdesign proponentists Now?

HT to Pharygula

Fox, that bastion of journalistic integrity, has panned Expelled. I guess I should repeat that, Expelled panned by Fox. Which is like the Pope panning Mass.

We knew that Scientific American would say it was bullshit. And so would Michael Shermer.

But Fox. How inaccurate do you have to be for Fox to give you 2 minutes in the box?

Expelled. How do you make another pun on it? I'm pretty much out.

10 Random Songs While I Type Something Else

This will probably say extremely odd things about my taste in music and how dated everything on my iPod is. In my defence, I mostly just listen to news and science/skepticism podcasts.

  1. Don't It Make You Feel - The Headpins.
  2. Gift Shop - The Tragically Hip
  3. Suzanne - Peter Gabriel
  4. I Still Feel for You - Animal Logic
  5. Coldsweat - Sugarcubes
  6. I'm Not Waiting - Chris Isaak
  7. Sun - Tomonao Hara
  8. Aeroplane - Bjork
  9. Mr Bad Man - Tori Amos
  10. Masquerade - Vendemmian

I almost feel I have to justify some of this. Well, just the goth tune at the end. To be honest, I'm still a bit of a goth at heart though Sisters of Mercy would be highest on my list. Sing it with me: Twenty-five whores in the room next door, twenty-five floors and I need more...

Just me, hunh?

The Organic Food Movement Hits a New Height

I guess I should say good bye to Charlton Heston in my own way.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I don't know what to say.

I used to live in Kawasaki's Musashi Shinjo area, but I never got out to see the festival despite knowing that it was going on.
Do take a look at the pics here. Funny stuff

2000 Years of Deception: So if you HAVE to be religious . . .

And now from the great old world of "Just shut the hell up, already!"

Into the Diana fray we go.
About 10 years ago, a former member of the Royal Family, a divorcee with a new boyfriend, a rich woman with some respectable charity work on the side was killed in a car crash in Paris. A lot of people were sad out of proportion to the woman's impact on their lives.
And the story ends.
Except for one man - the boyfriend's father.
And he believes. Oh, how he believes. And it has grown and grown to monumental proportions. One man's grief and inability to come to terms with the death of his son have spun so far out of reason and probability, then eventually possibility. At first, years ago, I suspect it was just denial. After several years it slowly appeared that Al-Fayed was drinking his own Kool-aid and starting to believe his own stories.
Now, he's wandered off onto his own plane of existence.
BBC NEWS | UK | Fayed conspiracy claim collapses
He made up his mind the moment he was telephoned by the president of the Ritz Hotel to be told that the accident had occurred and that Dodi was dead and Diana injured.
"This is not an accident. It is a plot, an assassination." Those were Mr Al Fayed's words in the early hours of the morning of 31 August 1997. He has never wavered from that belief. The only modification he has made has been in the scale of the plot that he has alleged.

Belief is not truth. I believe myself to be a writer, someone whose opinions may make a difference. In reality I'm a dude in grungy sweat pants taking a break from internet porn to mouth off on something that I don't care to research. My dog believes he's feral enough to be sexy (a bit of ruff?) and a heroic adventurer. In reality he's a prissy meterosexual who hates what the rain does to his 'do and hides barking behind my wife if there's a noise in the basement. See what I mean.

How has this dissonance charted and grown for Al-Fayed?

From a very early stage he claimed the conspiracy had been instigated by Diana's former father-in-law, the Duke of Edinburgh.

But by the time Mr Al Fayed left the witness box in Court 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice on 18 February, the list of supposed conspirators had reached astonishing proportions - so astonishing, really, that the "conspiracy" appeared to have lost any connection with reality.

By the end of that day Mr Al Fayed had named the following as conspirators: the princess's former husband, the Prince of Wales; the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair; two former commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Condon and John Stevens; the Queen's former private secretary Lord Fellowes and the former British ambassador to Paris, Lord Jay.

But that was not all. According to Mr Al Fayed, Diana's elder sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale had been part of the cover-up. The Al Fayed bodyguard Trevor Rees who was severely injured in the crash had been described as a "crook" who had also, according to Mr Al Fayed, been part of the conspiracy.

Similar accusations had been levelled against the intelligence services of Britain, France and the United States, together with the French emergency, medical and judicial authorities.

All - according to Mohamed Al Fayed - had been part of the plot to carry out, or cover up, multiple murder.

This is the problem with conspiracy. Reality keeps testing it's cup until the nuts hurt and the story has to spin out of control just to keep facts at arms length. (I'm looking at you 9/11 Troofers. George W. Bush a conspriatorial, organizational genius? Seriously?)

The major difficulty for Mr Al Fayed and his many advisers and lawyers is that there is not, and indeed never has been, a shred of what could properly be described as evidence to support the central proposition that the deaths were the result of a plot, rather than the very much more prosaic alternative that the couple died in a tragic accident, caused by Henri Paul drinking too much and driving too fast as he tried to out-run the reckless pursuit of the Paris paparazzi.

It is true that the French made a mess of the first post-mortem examination carried out on the body of Mr Paul on the morning of Sunday 31 August.


But the French authorities realised the first set of blood and tissue samples were open to question, and went back three days later and took a second set in properly controlled and carefully supervised circumstances.


In contrast to the obvious honesty and authenticity of the majority of the nearly 250 witnesses, was the palpable unreliability and even dishonesty of a small group.

Unfortunately for Mr Al Fayed, the witnesses who spoke of a "blinding flash" in the tunnel and of sinister "men in black" on a motorcycle came, very definitely, in the latter category.


After nearly 90 days of exhaustive inquiry by the inquests, involving evidence from nearly 250 witnesses, the Al Fayed legal teams threw in the towel.
They accepted there was not a shred of evidence to support properly the central pillars of the conspiracy theory.
First, Al Fayed lawyers accepted that there was no direct evidence that either the Duke of Edinburgh or the secret intelligence service, MI6, had been involved in any murder conspiracy involving the princess or Dodi Al Fayed.

Equally without warning, a few days later in the course of further submissions without the jury, Michael Mansfield, the senior Al Fayed barrister, turned to the role of the white Fiat Uno - the untraced car that was struck a glancing blow by the Mercedes as it entered the Pont de l'Alma tunnel and which, for the past decade, has been one of the principal components of the supposed "conspiracy".

On Thursday 20 March, Mr Mansfield told the court: "The Fiat Uno was not the cause of any loss of control [by the Mercedes]. We are not suggesting its driver is guilty of anything."

By the time the jury was sent out to consider its verdicts there was, in reality, nothing left to the conspiracy theories.

It has taken six months and almost £7m of British taxpayers' money. That is the estimated cost of the inquests and the inquiry by the Metropolitan Police that preceded it.

But, finally, the conspiracy theories have been run to ground and shown for what they are - a fantasy borne of one man's anguished denial of the truth, and of the need of many to believe that a beloved princess must have been the victim of something more elaborate and malevolent than a reckless aberration by a single motorist.

I started this with a lot more snark in my system. It was gone by the end of the title line.
Loss is a terrible thing. Yes, we all have to deal with it and will eventually cause it as well. But its proliferation doesn't diminish its impact. All it takes is loss and a man whose psyche leans a little to the paranoid and you end up with a colossal waste of time and effort on the part of everyone involved, old wounds torn open and one man's attempt to bring peace to himself devolving into self-parody.
Draw a line under it and be done.

Some Days the Headline Says it All.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Without Comment, I Give You Something to Ponder. Wait. Does that Constitute a Comment? Dammit.

--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

A promising development in the UK. Alternate Medicine Pages at BBC bite the dust.

My faith in the NHS and other services in the UK goes up a notch.

BBC sees the light: removes Alternative Medicine Pages
In a wonderful demonstration of common sense, the BBC has removed all the alternative medicine pages from BBC Health web site. I expect that it was helped in making that decision by the many complaints it had received about statements on these pages that were simply not true, The existence of these pages was just not compatible with the BBC’s commitment to accuracy.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What amounts to a love letter to our home and native land...

I had a crap tech job in Ottawa for a while. One of the funny bits I remember was talking to a Yank from one of the border states who told me that he used to love coming up to Canada to go to concerts and such.
I asked him why.
He answered, "Canadians just know how to behave in public."
A similar experience happened when I took Mrs Gaijin to see a Sens vs Habs game at the Corel Centre. The Missus was amazed to see endless effort, on the parts of both the organizers and the fans, to make a hockey game a family-friendly event. I had a hard time deciding why this should be a surprise. Turns out that going to a sporting event in the UK is a risky thing indeed. If you aren't wearing the right shirt or fan scarf in the right section, well, that's a beating.
Here is an article by a sports writer on why he likes visiting Canada.

ESPN - O Canada, my home away from home - NHL
Tip o' the hat to the Rev.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Could there really be a better response than unabashed mocking?

Hero of the Week Nominee, Sanal Edamarku, challenged a tawddle peddler to put up or shut up. And he did. Well, he tried. What did you think would happen? Edamarku would be killed by magic?

Skeptic giggles on Indian national TV as mystic totally fails to curse him to death - Boing Boing
Pandit Surinder Sharma, a famous Indian tantrick (magician) was on a televised panel discussion when he claimed he could kill any man with black magic in under three minutes. Fellow panelist, Sanal Edamaruku, the president of Rationalist International, challenged the tantrick to kill him right then and there. Hilarity ensued as Sharma chanted the death mantra, and, when that failed, waved a knife and sprinkled water on him, as Edamarku laughed the entire time.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Game trailer mashup

I've played Assassin's Creed and am eagerly awaiting Metal Gear Solid 4.
Assassin's Creed was an immersive experience, highly evocative of the period. As someone interested in the Crusades, I deeply enjoyed but saw the flaws in the occasionally shaky frame-rates and repetitive gameplay.
Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 were, by comparison superlative game experiences. The game play was wonderful, the environments rich and graphics pushed the edge of what the PS2 platform could do. They were wordy in the Japanese style (I'm looking at you Ryuu ga Gotoku: Kenzan!) But they've set me up to really want Metal Gear Solid 4 on the PS3.
So I don't know what to do with this.

--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Finally, some good news in the world...

Fire up your BitTorrent client PVR or BBC iPlayer. Doctor Who returns to the world on Saturday. The show that taught a 2 generations of British children to watch TV from behind the sofa or through their fingers, that made wobbly-voiced pepper mills scary, and rightly showed that camp acting and noble ideas trumped shaky, shaky sets is back. The plans are to have the show go into hiatus after this series.
So, Donna (The Runaway Bride) is back, so is Rose (briefly) and the Sontarans.
From the gala preview article:
In the first of two episodes screened on Tuesday, the Doctor was seen being reunited with Donna Noble - Tate's character from 2006 Christmas special The Runaway Bride.
The second saw the pair transported to ancient Pompeii on the eve of Mount Vesuvius's eruption - impressively rendered in a computer-generated sequence Tennant called "gob-smacking".
And of course Russell T. Davies can't resist the call of the Daleks...
Tuesday's audience was treated to a sneak peak at future episodes that included a brief glimpse of a Dalek.
Asked if this heralded the return of legendary villain Davros, however, Tennant and Davies remained as tight-lipped as ever.
Speculation has been rife over who will play the Doctor's nemesis should he return to the show, with David Bowie and Sir Ben Kingsley just two of the names mooted.
"I'm sure we'll find someone marvellous to play him, if that were ever to happen," Tennant shrugged.
It's hard to resist the Daleks, but Davies really should. He's mined that out for the time being. But still, Ben Kingsley as Davros? Christ, that's what the licence fee is for.

The Eternal Gaijin
Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan
"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

As a member of the Pyjama Media...

...I always am concerned with whether I'm the one wearing clothes or not.

emperormetaphorwhatever.jpg (JPEG Image, 1097x911 pixels)

Let's face it, I haven't made fun of Phil recently.

How do you not love Prince Philip? Any list of the mild things he says makes a Dan Quayle Top Ten look like the combined writings of Isaac Asimov and Shakespeare combined. Lovely.
His son says things of blistering ignorance and un-informed-ness, but the lovely, old fashioned prejudice of a Prince Philip is a charm to himself. (It's okay, he's old. Times were different back then.)

Neatorama » Blog Archive » The Very Quotable Prince Philip: Not Exactly Prince Charming
Speaking to British students studying in China: "If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed."