2001 (HAL 9000 eye)

Thank you.

In response to ex-President Bush's claim that waterboarding of suspects helped thwart terror attacks and saved British lives, this quote from the Times...
These stories about waterboarding thwarting attacks — I’ve never seen anything to substantiate these claims. They are to be treated with great scepticism. This is the way our enemies behave. It’s not the way we’re supposed to behave.

— Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former Director of Public Prosecutions
2001 (HAL 9000 eye)

"...a really grand flaming pile of hysterically heraldic dung."

A.A. Gill goes to town in The Sunday Times today:
We all suffer from literary guilt, some great unread classic. For many it’s Proust or Tolstoy or Joyce. For me, I blushingly admit, it’s Follett. I keep meaning to read him. Every time I am in an airport I think maybe a flight to Sydney is the time to open up to Ken, but then inevitably I get seduced by the gaudy covers of Dostoyevsky or Baudelaire. So you can imagine my excitement at the promise of a lavish adaptation of his masterwork, The Pillars of the Earth. A cast of thousands, the panoramic sweep of sublime vistas, high drama, spittle-flecked deceit, nipple-coy romance, valour and duplicity, all set against the Anarchy, as the 19 years of civil war between Stephen and Matilda is known. It is a viciously fascinating moment in English history, which is rarely taught. This mini-series was made with a Hungarian crew and presumably Hungarian castles and Hungarian mud. There is a starry cast of resting actors who turned up to pay their mortgages. It has already been shown in America, I expect to sustained incomprehension.

Like the civil war itself, this production could have gone either way. Just as it seemed to be turning in Follett’s favour, on strode Donald Sutherland. Oh my God, that’s it. It was all over. Donald Sutherland has become a legendary actor. He is death for any series he appears in. Producers pay him protection money not to audition. He can with one mad eye and a gravelly inflection reduce any scene to a chaos of sniggering nonsense. He is fabulously, fantastically awful. But put him in a costume and give him a sword and he grows to be transcendingly dire, a real pleasure to watch, a masterclass in melodrama, a riderless motor mower. And if that weren’t enough, there was also Ian McShane as some sort of camp prelate streaming old-man Steptoe crossed with Max Wall and Rasputin. Together they were the Beavis and Butt-Head, the Bradford and Bingley, the pushmi-pullyu of historical character acting.

No crenellated epic could stand against the combined antitalents of these two colossuses of upstaging pantomime, and Ken’s script didn’t even try. It was a thatch of illogical unbelievability, wrapped in cliché and incomprehension. The dialogue was kept sparse, but what there was was memorable, inspiring great splutters of mocking laughter. This is a really grand flaming pile of hysterically heraldic dung. You have to see it. It’s a collector’s item. And just in case they don’t get round to it, Maude wins and we end up with Henry II and the Plantagenets, and a good run-up to the hundred years’ war and proper English history. If Stephen had come out best, we might have got Eustace I, and that would have been so embarrassing, we’d probably have had no more history at all, like Switzerland. I really must read Follett.

"Proper, bomb-humping, women-hating, backward freaks."

Hugo Rifkind in today's Times:
Do they have any idea, the Iranian regime? Do they grasp, at all, why the world is so frightened of them? Tehran, please, listen. It's not because you pose a lurking threat to our beloved US-dominated, Zionist hegemony. I know you like to think that, but genuinely, it isn't. It's because you're lunatics. Proper, bomb-humping, women-hating, backward freaks. Guys, you may be the heirs to six millennia of Persian civilisation, but you come across, no offence meant, like the compulsive loony on the bus.

You issue theological proclamations about haircuts, for God's sake. In almost any other situation in the world, this would be the behaviour of people who have lost their minds.

Auto-Tune: the news

"We have a market of people who are not interested in music, they are interested in grazing. Of course they use tuners on those programmes — those f***ing idiots couldn't sing their way out of a wet paper bag."
—Mark St. John, owner of Mobile Lane Studios, on the use of Auto-Tune by X-Factor and other "talent show" television programmes, as quoted in The Times
apocalypse now

RIP Lucifer (1995? – 2010)

My sister's cat Lucifer was diagnosed with stomach cancer last month; he's been growing steadily weaker and less interested in life (even in especially Lucifer-y things, like food) ever since, and she finally had him put to sleep this morning.

My Mum wrote yesterday:
...I remember the lovely naughty cat with attitude and that's all gone. He's just existing now.
...and my sister wrote:
...he's miserable and there's no reason for us to wait until he IS in pain to end his suffering. That's the good thing about not being a person.
This is my favourite photo of Lucifer, from Christmas 2007; he's staring broodingly out of shot, like Brando in a '50s movie, and the picture makes it look like there's a lot more going on inside his head than I suspect there ever actually was.  :-)  But such a pretty boy...

My most potent memory of him isn't from personal experience, thankfully: it's the report I got from my sister some years back, in which she explained that he'd figured out how to open the freezer door. Or, more precisely, how to open the freezer door, throw up in the freezer, and then shut the door again, leaving her a charming surprise for the next morning. At this point, I felt compelled — as I do now, in fact — to point out that I always said she should have named him "Gabriel", and that going with "Lucifer" was just asking for trouble.  :-)

Farewell, dear sweet naughty funny dumb lovely boy. I'm glad you're not suffering any longer, but I'll miss you.

Edit: Mum spoke this afternoon with my sister's boyfriend, who was there with my sister to hold L. at the end: "...he told me Lucifer died with the tip of his tongue sticking out, a favorite sleeping position. A small consolation..." I'll take the small consolation and hope that it really was just like going to sleep for him.