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The War of The News of The World

So I'm finally reading War of The Worlds. I've never actually finished it. I remember trying to read it when I was about eight, with a dictionary on standby. Obviously I didn't get very far.

The other sunday the old George Pal version was on TV and me and Man gleefully sat down to watch and reminisce about just how loud we screamed when that Martian hand landed on Ann Robinson's shoulder. It started out quite well - incredibly Fifties. Bras were pointy and scientists were rock-jawed hotties in black leather and hornrimmed specs. Nice. Our heroine, Sylvia, practically creams herself when faced with the bulging parietal lobes of Professor Clayton Forrester and eagerly announces that she did her Masters degree on scientists. Then she invites him to a square-dance and they all happily do-see-doe while the Martians unscrew themselves from the meteorite and famously zap three well-meaning ninnies who decide to wave a white flag at the invaders.

Martians are dicks like that.

LONDON BUS FOUND ON MOON - aliens, tits and Rupert MurdochCollapse )

Jul. 6th, 2011

The BBC are doing a very bad job at masking their utter, knuckle-biting, wriggling schadenfreude at the ever deepening levels of shit piling up on the floors of the News International offices.

I can't exactly blame them.

It just keeps getting worse. By this time tomorrow it'll be more of a question of which bereaved families haven't been hacked by the News of the World. And no doubt there'll be a hot old time in the House tomorrow.

Nice friends you have there Dave.
Oops.

Or not so oops?

Psychics and associated fuckery have become something of a hobby of mine over the past couple of years. I've read way too many horrible, self-aggrandising autobiographies and if there's one thing I have taken away from them it's that many psychics appear to have personality traits in common.

The pertinent trait here is that many seem to have an interesting relationship with reality. Every single time I've read about a psychic working with law enforcement and solving kidnappings, murders etc I've duly Googled and found that the psychic has misinterpreted the situation, to put it kindly. You see, it works a little bit like this. If you want to claim you are a 'consultant' to the police then all you have to do to make this slightly true (True enough to print, basically.) is turn up at a police station and tell them about your psychic insights. Or send them an e-mail. They will be forced, in some capacity, to 'consult' with you, even if the substance of their consultation is more geared towards your meds and why you're off them rather than long unsolved crimes.

It doesn't actually mean the police listened to anything you said and it certainly doesn't mean that they paid you for your psychic insights, but if you say you were a 'consultant' it sounds kind of like they did, and then you can look even more saintly when you announce that you did it out of the goodness of your warm, sweet, intuitive ooey-gooey psychic heart. And that kind of thing can get you a show on LivingTV, if not another book deal.

In reality, of course, you were just another crazy person bothering the police with unsubstantiated claims and you were probably told to go away in no uncertain terms.

Of course, if it's a real tabloid monster of a crime then you, as a psychic, are golden. Hurl yourself into the nearest media scrum and announce you're a psychic, although be quick, especially if there are apple-cheeked youngsters missing. Whenever this happens veritable blizzards of unique snowflakes descend on the epicentre. They've all got crystal workshops and books to sell so you'd better be damned skippy about it. But if you're timely the hacks will, as illustrated by the case above, eat that shit up with a massive spoon. They will also faciliate meetings with the relatives of the victim so that you can demonstrate your psychic chops and before you know it you've got a double page spread in The Sun. Ker-fucking-ching, my dear.

And, you're there in the capacity as a 'police consultant'. In the same way you were a police consultant when you were writing mad e-mails to your local cop shop! Everyone wins, except for the police, who regard you as a sideshow at best and a serious hindrance at worst.

Oh, and perhaps the journalists. They lose a lot of credibility for reporting such crap in the first place and the public gets progressively dumber as the myth of Police Psychics is endlessly recycled.

And sometimes the family and friends of the victim, the people at the centre of the media frenzy, the people who jump every time the 'phone rings, the mothers and fathers who have to walk past their child's empty room with their eyes closed because they can't quite face that yet. The people who are facing their darkest hours - they might be subjected to unnecessary trauma and speculation at your hands.

So, not a lot of winners here. But you got your face in the papers and there are a couple of cable channels that are really interested. So well done you!

How to be psychic

The English language so far lacks a word for the feeling that must be experienced by a sitcom writer who thinks they've hit the jackpot when their comedy is optioned by the BBC and who subsequently gets a 'phone call saying "We love it! We think it'll be the perfect vehicle for Will Mellor."

Not a common experience, to be sure, but a painful one nonetheless. Mellored doesn't work, because Mellored could also be something that happens to you at the earthy hands of a large man in a potting shed, and being Mellored in that sense doesn't sound that bad. (Especially if said Mellors is an enormous Yorkshireman who looks like Sean Bean.)

I think I'll just add it to the growing list of Things I Do Not Get, along with Katy Perry, the current interest rate and why some people continue to claim that Ayn Rand's novels are not only readable but quite good. Or why Donald Trump thinks that combover/hairpiece/tribble arrangement on his bonce is in any way convincing or becoming. Some people just exist in a peculiar opposite-land, where psychics roam, astrology is taken seriously and Sarah Palin's name on a ballot paper provokes anything but gales of pant-moistening laughter.

I suppose we all experience some level of cognitive dissonance at some point in our lives. As a man with an impeccable sense of rhythm once said "If you believe in things that you don't understand then you'll suffer - 'cause superstition ain't the way," but it still doesn't stop me from saluting magpies, tossing spilled salt over my left shoulder and walking around ladders. I know these things are ridiculous and I usually manage to stop myself but once in a while I don't. And it's actually an effort to not do these things, to refrain from knocking on wood or to acknowledge a magpie as an actual bird and not some kind of omen of sorrow/joy/girls/boys/silver/gold/terrible things you'd never cop to depending entirely on the number of magpies. It's ridiculous but it's like a nervous tic, some deep rooted neurosis I'm not quite rational enough to shake off.

But never mind. Here are goodies. It's never been easy to get hold of the works of James Randi in print because sceptical publications just don't sell as well as their opposites. While Dawkins' 'God Delusion' shifted a respectable 1.5 million 'The Secret' clocked some six million. People apparently like being told that if they really, really, really want something all they have to do is clap their hands and believe in fairies (or a completely botched understanding of quantum physics) and it will magically land in their laps. Of course, once they've realised that it doesn't actually work the sales figures have already propelled the work of nonsense to the tops of every bestseller list on the globe.

But Randi's 'Flim Flam!' is now available as a Kindle book and in my opinion worth buying just to watch Randi apply his well-honed bullshit detecting skills to the affair of the Cottingley Fairies, some years before the girls (By then elderly ladies) had publically confessed to their prank.

He highlights some of the excuses and flawed reasonings applied in almost every single case of psychic phenomena ever documented and I found myself nodding along like one of those plastic dogs in the backs of cars.

For instance, sceptics are not welcome at demonstrations because their 'energies' may disrupt production of the phenomena. How many times have I heard that one? In the golden age of spiritualism seances were almost always conducted in the company of true believers. It was also very handy for the medium to be a guest of the house in which the seance was held - in that way even the most hardened sceptic was encouraged to respect the rules of politeness over the rules of science. It's no different these days. Watch any ghosty production, from Most Haunted to the ridiculous Extreme Paranormal (aka Men Who Swear At Ghosts) and watch the sceptic, if such a creature has been even been allowed on set. Most of the time the voice of reason is not even present. Most Haunted once had a sceptic in the studio while Yvette and Derek were prancing around Lancashire investigating the Pendle Witches for a Halloween special. I didn't catch the sceptic's name, although I think he may have been called Buttmonkey, as he was treated as such. He was expected to sit quiet while some member of the audience e-mailed a bad drawing of a cartoon witch that they had apparently executed under 'psychic influence'. Somehow this proved without a shadow of a doubt that the Demdikes and Devices were still cheerfully and spitefully witching shit up from beyond the grave.

The other time they let a sceptic on Most Haunted was when the show's parapsychologist Ciaran O'Keefe started inventing names out of nowhere and surreptitiously scribbling them on clipboards where he knew they might be spotted by medium Derek Acorah. Sure enough Derek was subsequently possessed by a highwayman named Rick Eels and a malevolent South African prison guard named Kreed Kafer. O'Keefe did this to be sure that Acorah was not 'hot-reading', which is basically the technique of looking shit up in advance before you pose as a medium. (Cold-reading is more like a game of twenty questions because you go in with no prior information. It's an impressive trick when done well.) Hot-reading used to be impressive in the days when people had to really work for information - they'd dig in family Bibles for dates of birth and death, acquire census data or simply create mailing lists. Flossy old Doris Stokes, the Barbara Cartland of Spiritualism, used to receive tens of thousands of letters and allegedly used these letters to mine information about her coming audience. It's said that if Doris was doing a show in Bolton then her entourage would sort through the mailbag and stack the letters from readers from Bolton, whereupon Doris would refresh her prodigious memory.

Of course nowadays hot-reading is so easy it's risible. This is why I find it impossible to take 'star psychic' Sally Morgan seriously. Am I honestly supposed to believe she knows nothing about the celebrities she's reading for? Five minutes on Wikipedia and you're done. You don't even have to do that if you've ever picked up a magazine in the hairdressers - you know what D-listers are like for spewing every tedious detail of their banal lives to anyone who will listen.

And we're all at it. In the age of blogs and Facebook hot-reading is just so easy it's no longer even fun. We're all telling our life stories online. Try it sometime. The next time you're introduced to a stranger at a party nip to the loo with your nearest electronic device, Google them and if they're on Facebook you've hit paydirt. Announce that you're psychic and give them a reading - the more banal details the better. If your subject has posted a picture of her Burmese cat (named Tiddles) sitting on her bed, which is covered with a polka dot duvet cover then 'see' that polka dot duvet cover in your reading. Tell her that her cat's name is Tiddles. The trick of psychic reading, whether hot or cold, is to hit on the tiny, incidental mundane details of everyone's lives that 'Nobody else could ever know'.

Unless you put said details on Facebook. Then everyone knows. Really - try it. Just be decent enough to tell them it was all a scam when you're done. You'll be doing them a favour, not least for making them think a bit more carefully about their internet privacy settings.

Why I Don't Heart Huckabee

American politics, at least to my British eyes, is an appallingly long and drawn out process. Obviously it makes a strange kind of sense because of the Croesian sums required for a presidential run and the Primaries do offer a fantastic opportunity to ogle the weirder specimens of American political life. And they're quite weird, to be fair. We have our share of howling nutters (Nadine Dorries immediately springs to mind) but like everything America's equivalent is scaled-up, louder, brasher and utterly, utterly mad.

The current crop of Republican definitelys and maybes also look like a somewhat unstable bunch, even by GOP standards. While Huckabee is definitely out I feel I should just take a moment to say that Mike Huckabee is a piece of shit.

http://learnourhistory.com/

I will put this here without tags so that you know exactly what you're clicking on but this wretched educational abortion is dear ole' avuncular Huck's latest enterprise. If you can watch the full opening address without feeling queasy then you have a stronger stomach than me. But here's the jist if you don't want to give him the website hits.

"When it comes to American history our nation is facing an epidemic. Schools across the country have turned their backs on our children by distorting facts, imposing political biases and changing the message behind the important lessons of our history."

Now watch any of Huck's terrible 'educational' cartoons and boggle as he does exactly that. Apparently it's not bias as long as it's biased in favour of our side.

How has this man managed to convince so many otherwise intelligent people that he's a nice person? Because he plays a bit of guitar and struggles with his weight and projects an aw-shucks everyman persona on his chat show? He's an appalling human being - he must be. Anyone who could produce or endorse a website like learnourhistory.com is not a nice person - he's the direct heir of Josef fucking Goebbels. I know that an evolution-denier like Huckabee is obviously cool with lying to children in the name of Jesus, but in the name of Reagan? Really?

One thing Huck is right about is that there are lessons we can learn from history - important lessons. They're never actually learned by the people in charge but they're there for the cannier souls to sigh over. Here's just three, for starters.

1. You'll never balance the books if you keep taxing the people WHO DON'T HAVE ANY FUCKING MONEY IN THE FIRST PLACE. Famously learned at the business end of the guillotine by Louis XVI and currently forgotten by countless governments. (Yes, Dave. I mean you - amongst others.)

2. Too much of your own way and you'll eventually become the thing you hated in the first place. This lesson is most unpleasantly illustrated by Stalinist Russia, when the tyranny of the Czars ended up looking like a sunlit, gin sodden picnic in the park compared to Joe's Siberian holiday camps. Most notably forgotten by the descendants of the pilgrims who landed smack on Plymouth Rock (as Cole Porter would have it) in search of religious freedom. One for you, Huckabee.

3. Never attempt to invade Russia without thermal underwear. Learned the hard way by Napoleon and (thankfully) forgotten by Hitler.

Perhaps the fourth lesson is People Will Always Make The Same Mistakes, leading to those echoes that resonate through the annals of history and get Simon Schama so very excited whenever he's on the telly.

And perhaps there's another lesson too. Bullshitters throughout history have almost always been busted. One of the fundamental lessons of history that all students should learn (Once they get too old for building Egyptian temples out of toilet roll tubes, dressing up as centurions and colouring in pictures of Henry VIII's wives.) is the lesson of bias. Once you're old enough to identify a primary source from a secondary source you're old enough to start sniffing out slant, slander and blatant untruths. Of course, this does not lend itself to a 'patriotic' interpretation of history or whatever Huck is driving at, which is maybe why Mike Huckabee is not entirely stupid. History, taught properly, hones the critical thinking skills like no other subject in the humanities stable.

If Huck knows this then he's not stupid. He is, however, unbelievably sinister.

I WILL END YOU

Urgf. So it's been about two years licking this book into a semblance of a final shape and holy shit I think I've just done it. Obviously there are a few more bits to do (Trim off some of the bloat - the literary equivalent of liposuction.) and some very very careful, squinty, head-ache inducing read-throughs to go before it's fit to really trouble some publishers, but the serious heavy lifting is done. (With more thanks than is humanly possible to mq_musings. Seriously. I don't think I could have done it without you.)

And I'm once again reminded of why I fucking hate writing synopses - perhaps even more than most writers. You see, this was all the synopis' fault. While I was writing the benighted thing it maliciously peered at my ending and went 'Hmm, you've got a lot of "People standing around talking," haven't you? Perhaps you need a bit more action? Of course, you'll have to write a whole new sub-plot for that but that's not my problem. I just exist to make your book look shit when you're trying to describe it to strangers.'

The worse thing? The vicious little bastard was right. Hate it when that happens.

Nessun dorma it ain't

But I can't sleep until I confess.

I actually really like that Eurovision Jedward song. And if I'm not wildly mistaken they were sort-of-maybe-possibly quite good?

It's all very odd. Probably something to do with that apocalypse that's supposed to happen next Saturday. And if Jedward win the Eurovision is that another sign of the End Times?

Tags:

I never learn

So, I picked up the latest Anita Blake from the library, presumably because I am completely fucking mad.

I'm on the right track baby, I was born this way.Collapse )
Now, I'm taking this (LJ link - won't take you anywhere dirty, if you know what I mean.) with a pillar of salt since it comes from the mendacious, pearl-clutching ninnies at the Daily Fail, but it's not entirely out of character for Dave and you know me; I can never resist an opportunity to take a pot-shot at the hollow, opinion-poll operated creature currently squatting in 10 Downing Street.

You see, Dave did make an election promise to make Britain the most 'Family Friendly country in Europe.'

If the words 'Family Friendly' cause you to twitch, shiver and slightly recoil then don't panic - this is perfectly normal. Perhaps it's because the words are so frequently spoken by the kind of people who think Family (with a capital F) means Mummy, Daddy, Timmy (12), Josie (9) and a highly photogenic golden labrador named Scruffs. There is no room in this picture for single parent families (That's probably what's wrong with me, by the way.), reconstituted families, unmarried parents or gay families.

I'm not sure what this report suggests for the children of single-sex couples. Presumably said children will be issued with blindfolds to shield them from the disgusting, steaming, innocence-robbing sapphic horror whenever Mommy kisses Mum goodbye when she departs for work in the morning.

Or maybe it doesn't suggest anything of the sort. Maybe it just simply but gently suggests that gay people should not exist before 9pm and if they could see their way to not ever doing gayness in front of children, thank you very much. Maybe, and maybe I'm overthinking this, maybe the whole document was written by balls-out homophobic fuckbags.

Presumably Dave is okay with this. And if he is okay with this, what does this *COUGH*SECTION28*COUGH* say about Dave's feelings about gay people?

Chills, thrills, POTATOES!

Spuds happened! This is all rather exciting. Due to the local economy being boned with a capital F-U-C-K we no longer have a greengrocers in town, so if you want vegetables then you have to pay a fortune at the CoOp or genuflect at the creepy corporate feet of Tesco. So I've been attempting to grow my own veggies.

The soil round these parts is pretty terrible and not much use for anything but ceramics but I've been shovelling in compost and sharp sand and hoping to make it more frangible. I was told potatoes had honeybadgerish tendencies when it came to soil and I thought the tubers and the root structure would help to break up the clay.

I knew from the start how things would unfold when Man developed Good Life tendencies. He'd bimble about looking concerned while my sexagenarian mother went crazy attacking vast plots of uncultured mud with spade, fork and hoe. And out of guilt and the obvious desire for my mother not to have a coronary I'd join in and he'd get the plot dug without having to do much at all. This all came to pass.

In addition he got to frown tenderly over the seed potatoes while they were chitting (The process of bunging the things in egg-boxes and waiting for them to spaff forth shoots in the time-honoured manner of untamed and neglected potatoes.) and all five foot three of me got to dig the fucking great trench to plant the things. At the time he was extremely busy apparently constructing a replica of the Crystal Palace using bamboo canes and pea netting. You can take the engineer out of the aircraft factory, etc...

So we planted the spuds and it has been drier than a nun's gusset. I don't think I've ever seen a hotter, drier April. Fortunately we have a hot tub.

Yes - me. I live in a house with a hot-tub. Me - the woman who doesn't even have to open her mouth to demonstrate that her ancestors were on the losing side in 1066. Of course, this being me it doesn't mean I get to do rich lady shit like hanging around in a leopard print bathing suit and a turban, sipping mai-tais at 4pm and dictating porn to a bored secretary. Fuck no. For a start the fucking hot tub doesn't work. And even if it did work I can't imagine ever filling the thing. It's about 10 feet long and 5 feet deep and if you ever tried to fill the bastard the dials on the water meter would be spinning like a fruit machine.

So it collects rainwater. I have a rainwater butt with a built in CD player.

I have spent most of this month leaning over the side of the thing, hauling up buckets of water by way of a cunning arrangement of bucket, mop handle and old washing line. Not so much Alexis Carrington as medieval peasant, minus the rickets, bad teeth and terrifyingly short life expectancy.

The frightening thing is that I seem to be quite good at it. Is mucky serfdom genetic? I'm certainly no princess and if there's a pea I'd sooner plant it than whinge about its presence beneath the mattress. Initially I had the idea of planting tons of tomatoes and car-booting the things around, relieving yuppies of their money in their pursuit of organic produce. Then I realised if I ever did want to make a business of such a thing I'd better learn about it first because this time last year I didn't know a tomato seed from my own arsehole. So, learn. After all, there are more painful things in life than learning.

Actually it's really good fun and excellent training for the zombie apocalypse (Man is very firm on this point.) and I never thought I'd ever get this excited over a potato plant, but I really did. Only the night before I'd been thinking "Oh, I probably planted them too deep and they'll never go," and then this morning I discovered the potato plants had all gone 'Nothing, nothing, nothing, more nothing...PO-TA-TOOOOOOO!!!"

I might actually end up with potatoes. I'm so easily impressed it's not even funny anymore.