Archive for June, 2008

Almost insightful

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The wonderful thing about the word “almost” is that, used artfully, it can be a barbed way of saying “not”. Heather Mills, for example, is almost endearing. Bob Dylan can almost sing.

I wonder, then, if that is what was meant by Mike Sullivan’s unnamed Scotland Yard source quoted in a piece in the Sun newspaper about “barmy Law Lords” unleashing anarchy by barring anonymous witnesses in court trials. Sullivan’s anonymous detective apparently believes that Britain could witness unrestrained violence like the slaughter in Zimbabwe. “You will have Zimbabwe UK on the streets,” the source said. “Gangsters will be able to kill almost with impunity…”

This is, of course, a monsoon downpour of crap. To take the most obvious point first, the violence in Zimbabwe is state-sponsored repression, not the result of the state granting defendants the right to know their accusers. The Zimbabwe analogy is peculiarly bad because agents of the state routinely exact punishment without any trial, let alone a trial that puts a defendant on an equal footing with those who denounce him.

But even if the copper’s analogy was merely a topical illustration of the amount of violence we should expect if criminals can intimidate witnesses into silence, it ignores the fact that other states manage to avoid anarchy without granting anonymity to witnesses.

Perhaps, then, the detective is not stupid, but a master of irony. What is killing “almost with impunity”? Is it, in fact, killing without impunity?

Brushes with celebrity

Monday, June 23, 2008

I went to bed last night laughing at the memory of my childhood encounter with Sue Lawley.

I saw her in a branch of Waitrose in south-west London when I was ten or so. I was in a bad mood for a reason I don’t recall and, as I passed by, I muttered audibly: “Hmph. Another Sue Lawley impersonator.”

I remember her smiling, which struck me as rather gracious given the scorn I had just poured upon her. It did not occur to me at the time (or indeed for another two decades) that she was amused by the sheer absurdity of my comment. It’s quite far-fetched to imagine that there is one Sue Lawley impersonator out there, let alone sufficent numbers to justify irritation with seeing yet another one.

(It is worth noting, however, that the market for look-alikes is staggeringly broad. I have whiled away many happy hours perusing the small ads at the back of The Stage newspaper, a terrific resource for impersonators of anyone from Posh Spice to Karl Marx.)

I was reminded of the incident by Tenuous ’08 – a blogger’s inspired competition to find people’s most tenuous connection to a celebrity. Last year’s winner was an absolute corker: “My cousin’s great grandmother was in the car crash with Sammy Davis Jr when he lost his left eye.” My Lawley story clearly wasn’t going to cut it, so I entered instead the time I was in Oddbins in Wapping, east London, to buy several crates of cava for a housewarming party. The bill was at least £100, and I remarked to the staff that it wasn’t a bad sale for them. “Not really,” the assistant said. “We just had Suzie Quattro in here. She bought so much that we had to run her card through twice.”

The webpage of the beast

Monday, June 9, 2008

My friend V came up with a fantastic piece of tittle-tattle recently: Tim Berners-Lee is Satan.


There be dragons

Sunday, June 8, 2008

komodo dragon photo taken by mark grapengater and used under creative commons licenceMuch excitement in the British press today about the stranded divers who escaped a 12-hour ordeal in shark-infested waters off Indonesia only to drag themselves onto an island infested with “deadly” komodo dragons. They survived the onslaught of the toothy lizards, which have been “known to kill humans“, by pelting them with rocks.

Gripping stuff, but just how ferocious are these dragons? Well, an eight-year-old boy was killed last year, but when was the last time an adult died as the result of a komodo dragon attack? Um… 1974.