apocalypse now

No words can suffice.

From today's Times:
Three Taleban mullahs condemned a pregnant widow to be flogged and shot in public, in a remote part of western Afghanistan on Sunday, after convicting her of having an affair.

Mullah Daoud, a senior Taleban commander contacted by this newspaper, said that he had sat on the panel of three judges which reached the decision, in an area of Badghis province firmly under militant control.

“There were three mullahs that passed this verdict. I was one of them,” he said. “We gave this decision so that in future no one should have these illegal affairs. We whipped her in front of all the local people, to show them an example. Then we shot her.”
2001 (HAL 9000 eye)

Really? Why not "teh IntarWEBS?"

Dear me... I'm reading the ruling from the California judge who overturned the state's same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, and I'm entertained, frightened, and unsurprised (all at once!) at what the case revealed about some Prop 8 supporters:
Hak-Shing William Tam testified about his role in the Proposition 8 campaign. Tam spent substantial time, effort and resources campaigning for Proposition 8. Tam testified that he is the secretary of the America Return to God Prayer Movement, which operates the website 1man1woman.net.

1man1woman.net encouraged voters to support Proposition 8 on grounds that homosexuals are twelve times more likely to molest children... and because Proposition 8 will cause states one-by-one to fall into Satan's hands...

Tam identified NARTH (the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) as the source of information about homosexuality, because he "believe[s] in what they say."
...and the best part:
Tam identified "the internet" as the source of information connecting same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest.
Well, gosh. I can't see how anyone could dispute his sources: I mean, if you Google same-sex marriage polygamy incest, I'm sure you'll get results...

Addendum: Discussing the testimony of another Prop 8 supporter, the ruling notes:
Blankenhorn's... opinion is that recognizing same-sex marriage will lead to the deinstitutionalization of marriage. [He] described deinstitutionalization as a process through which previously stable patterns and rules forming an institution (like marriage) slowly erode or change.

Blankenhorn identified several manifestations of deinstitutionalization: out-of-wedlock childbearing, rising divorce rates, the rise of non-marital cohabitation, increasing use of assistive reproductive technologies and marriage for same-sex couples.
You see it already, don't you?  :-)
To the extent Blankenhorn believes that same-sex marriage is both a cause and a symptom of deinstitutionalization, his opinion is tautological.
2001 (HAL 9000 eye)

Good-bye, Little Frank...

RIP Frank Sidebottom (a.k.a. Chris Sievey), 1955–2010:


The Trouser Press Guide entry sums it up:
At first glance, Frank Sidebottom is just an idiotic soccer fan from Timperley (a town just outside Manchester) who performs inanely nasal renditions of popular songs — accompanying himself in various musical modes, from rock to acoustic piano to a rinkydink synthesizer approximation of '20s ragtime — while wearing an enormous painted papier-mâché head. But what Chris Sievey (former leader of the equally prolific punk-era Freshies) has done as Frank Sidebottom is so completely over the top, so singlemindedly weird, funny and charming that one has to marvel at the wit and intensity with which he pursues his bewildering career.
Well, quite. And anyone who puts out an album entitled Frank Sidebottom Salutes The Magic Of Freddie Mercury And Queen And Also Kylie Minogue (You Know, Her Off Neighbours) earns a place in my book.

That's not even counting his bloody-hysterical covers of "Summertime Blues" (as "Timperley Blues") and "Last Train to Clarksville" ("Next Train to Timperley", of course), or his "indie medley" which smooshes "Love Will Tear Us Apart", "How I Wrote Elastic Man", "Take the Skinheads Bowling", and "Bigmouth Strikes Again" into a single... uh, edifice.

The world will be less funny and less strange for his passing, and that's never a good thing.
Film reel

What's 12-and-a-half years between friends?

Back in January 1998, before I ever embarked on the Great DVD Experiment, when I was still a laserdisc collector, I made a brief wishlist of four brilliant films that either had sub-par laserdisc releases or else weren't available on disc at all in the USA. This was my "Criterion wishlist", since Criterion have made a long-standing habit of releasing films that bigger labels don't think are moneymakers (and of re-releasing other labels' films in superior licensed editions, à la their fantastic versions of Brazil and Ran).

Over the years, as DVD took a foothold in the market, three of these four films saw worthwhile releases on the new format, all of which I snapped up: Mike Nichols' Catch-22, Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense, and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. (None of these DVDs actually came out under Criterion's aegis, either, but I was content just to have decent-quality versions of the films.)

And now, a mere 12-and-a-half years later, the last film on my list is finally coming: Criterion is releasing Nagisa Oshima's brutal and brilliant Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence on Blu-ray and DVD in September. Hot *damn*.
2001 (HAL 9000 eye)

And people say politicians have no sense of humour...

David Cairns (Inverclyde, Labour):
For more than 20 years, Sky News has provided an excellent source of impartial news and analysis. Can the Prime Minister give a guarantee that, whoever ends up owning BSkyB, it will not be allowed to turn into Fox News, and that there is no room here for shouty, reactionary propaganda passing itself off as fair and balanced news?

David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative):
The very idea of shouty, reactionary propaganda being passed in the House of Commons is an appalling thought.

Prime Minister's Questions, 23 June 2010