Nouvelles Vagues

Thanks to Anchit for giving me this link... a French group called the Nouvells Vagues that reinterpret punk in a bossa nova style.

They receive four hats out of a possible five.




It's that man again...

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his hope that the various Christian traditions will join together and the desire for Judaism and Christianity to celebrate their 'joint spiritual heritage'.

Isn't that wonderful? Isn't it something to warm the cockles of your heart that this new Pope may not be the Rottweiler of the Vatican but has been misrepresented and is as nice and kind a man as you could hope for. He probably has a stash of Werther's Originals in his Pontifical robes to give to any cherubic children he may happen across.

No. It isn't. It is a manipulation, and a cynical manipulation at that. If you read the Nicene Creed, a creed popular in the Church of England, you will see a reference to 'one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church'. Catholic doesn't necessarily mean connected to the Roman Catholic Church, but that there is ultimately only one, universal Church for everyone, no matter what disagreements there may be between us.

So what, I hear you ask?

You would be pretty surprised if the Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior cleric in the Protestant Church of England, suddenly turned around and announced to the world that actually, the Roman Catholics were right. Aside from the swinish multitudes (to coin a phrase) that follow a religion, often with great fervour and dedication, because it happens to be inextricably linked with their culture (and yes, I know that's most of them), religious communities follow a particular religion because they believe it is correct/right/whatever. The Catholics think they're right, the Protestants think they're right, the Presbyterians, well, we're not quite sure about them, but they probably think they're right.

If you're going to have a union or understanding or accomodation between the Churches, you're going to have to accept that one - admittedly powerful - group can't impose its will on the others in return for a few sops. This situation is similar to alphabet soup left groups, but the first person to compare the SBL to the Protestants is going to be, well, it'll be unpleasant.

One of the objections made, particularly by the Orthodox Churches (who see themselves as the legitimate successors to the first Pope, St Peter), to Benedict XVI is that he refers to other Churches in mother/daughter rather than sister/sister terms - that in some way the Roman Catholic Church is 'better' or 'truer'. Of course they do. But everyone thinks that about their own group. A genuinely ecumenical movement is going to have to couch itself in a very different rhetoric. In any case, the rhetoric thus far suggests conflict with other churches in the future.

This would be bad not just for abstract religious reasons but because conflict with other Christian traditions would put the Holy See on a defensive footing with others from the beginning and would allow issues such as contraception to block effective charitable co-operation between Christian groups.

Nor should Benedict XVI's extension of the hand of friendship to Jews be seen as an unqualified good. The basis for this token is a shared history. There are three religions in the Abrahamic tradition and the third is Islam. We already know that the new Pope does not want Turkey to join the EU. I hope that his political opposition is not blinding him to Islam almost as much as I hope that I hope he does not see Muslims as invaders of some sort.



Sadly, the LibDems are shafted

Everyone seems to be expecting the Liberals to do well at the forthcoming election. The alternative to Labour, positive campaign, new baby and so on. The LibDems are split between the social democratic wing and the so-called 'Orange Book' group and at the moment it seems that the former are in the ascendance. Rather than libertarianesque policies you might expect from some parts of the LibDems (legalising drugs, for instance), we're seeing anti-war stuff (although not pushed to the fore), raising taxes and the LibDems trying, it would seem, to position themselves to the left of Labour - admittedly, not a terribly difficult feat.

There are only about a dozen Lib/Lab swing seats. If the LibDems are going to pick up seats in large numbers, they must take them from the Tories. Sorry, the Conservatives, as we must call them. For all the problems the Tories have, their vote is not about to collapse. They are going to return a decent number of MPs and even, in many of those seats, every single Labour voter is convinced and will vote for the LibDems, they will remain Tory. Not many Tory voters are going to vote for tax raises. Moreover, the LibDems are going to lose seats in Scotland, both to the SNP and because of boundary changes.

I heard someone saying that the Tories might be destroyed at this election. I think not; things are going to stay the same as they are, with Labour on top, with the Tories unresolved as to what they stand for and where they're going and the LibDems a close third.

It does seem to me, at times, that there are six major parties in Parliament - Old and New Labour, Orange Book LibDem and social democratic LibDem, neoliberal Tory and small-c conservative Tory.




The Tories' manifesto says 'we will ensure 24 hour surveillance at our ports'. It's later come out that it's only at 35 of the major air and sea ports. Fair enough, one might say; as Oliver Letwin said on the Today programme (yesterday, I think), if a container ship full of immigrants suddenly arrives at Lyme Regis people might notice, not least of all because a container ship would run aground some distance from the shore.

Explain to me, someone, why we need 24-hour surveillance at airports. There are no flights between about midnight and six o'clock at major airports. I would risk saying that there is bugger all point guarding Heathrow against immigration at those times of day when, unless immigrants are performing Icarean feats and crashing to earth in the western reaches of London, no-one is going to arrive when there are no planes landing.

Moving onto sea ports. If you look at a map of Spain, you will see that the southernmost point is a promontory pointing at Africa, southwest of Gibraltar, with a town called Tarifa on it. The actual southernmost point and supposed location of the northern pillar of Hercules is called Punta Paloma, or Dove Point. One of the most pathetic (by which I mean deserving of pathos) sights it has been my misfortune to witness was on a bus full of kids from the summer camp I was working on travelling to the beach at Punta Paloma. The car in front of us stopped as a man had walked up from the beach and collapsed onto the edge of the road and the people in that car were rendering him assistance while waiting for an ambulance. We found out later that he had just arrived from the northern coast of Africa. He had crossed the treacherous Straits of Gibraltar in a patera - little more than a rubber dinghy - and had collapsed from exposure and exhaustion. After being released from hospital, he was deported.

My point is this: people don't arrive en masse in roros. If people come to Britain (or anywhere else) by trying to slip past border controls unnoticed, they do so in small groups to small ports. Having 24 hour security at Southampton won't make any difference to illegal immigration. For starters, most people who are illegal immigrants are people overstaying tourist visas or temporary work permits (principally Antipodeans). There are very few arriving in a manner that would be stopped by more border controls. The difference it would make, I suspect, is in the public's view, as we would be Tough On Immigration, And Certainly Tougher Than The Other Lot.

Now, I think all this talk about immigration is poisonous. Apart from the fact that I want more immigration, it deeply worries me that the Tories are talking about immigration in such a patently uninformed way. Maybe I was being terribly naive and so on, but I was holding out hope that the Tories actually had looked into it and took a position that I just disagreed with. This really does seem like little more than base prejudice.

Thinking about it, that poor sod who collapsed on the road was not the most pathetic sight I have seen. If you saw Michael Palin's Sahara, it ended with a shot of a broken wooden fishing boat at Punta Paloma (it has been there for years - I have photos to prove it) with Palin's voiceover talking about pateras and illegal immigration across the Straits. All along that stretch of coast are similar looking vessels. The prize, I think, goes to one I saw that I thought was an truck tyre inner tube to begin with but was actually, it would seem, what someone entrusted their life and hope to.




Just briefly, some of my favourite OpenSource and similar links. All free...

Pretty much exactly the same as MS Office, but with added functionality. The extra features are varied, but the most useful is the ability to make PDFs. Not just read, but make.
Quite a few people know about Mozilla, the alternative to MS IE. The latest version is Mozilla Firefox to browse the internet and Mozilla Thunderbird to read email. Firefox, in my experience, is more stable and certainly 'truer' to W3C standards, as well as allowing tabbed browsing so you can have more than one page open in the same window and flick through them, saving a lot of space on the taskbar. If you already have Firefox or Mozilla, put about:mozilla into the address bar. and its various associated sites...
Dictionaries, encyclopaedias, books of quotations... a wiki is a website that allows users to add content, as on a forum or board, but also allows anyone to edit the content. Sound crazy? It works; have a look at some topics and the discussion that go with them.
Lots of free books, including many of the classics
Of course...



The new Pope

It is time for a return to tradition in the Catholic Church, and I see that the Chamberlain of the Vatican has started on the way by calling out the Pope's baptismal name three times to make sure he has popped his eternal clogs before smashing the fisherman's ring and papal seal to make sure no-one pretends to be John Paul II .Evidently, Fox News has secured the balcony with the prime view for the puff of white smoke that will announce that a new Pope has been elected.

These traditions should be upheld not because they are traditions but because they are vital to the security and transparency of the Papacy. These traditions have been crafted over the centuries and work without doing any harm. They must be upheld; what right does one generation have to strike the progress of so many preceeding Pontificates? I therefore demand, following millenia-old tradition, that on the new Pope's announcement, he sit on a commode and the Chamberlain of the Vatican grasp his testicles to make sure the new Pope is not a woman. Maybe Fox will pay for a prime view from beneath of what can only be called the Holy Handshake?

Who should be the new Pope? I offer a few candidates.

Michael Jackson
Satisfies the people who want a black Pope and the people who want a white Pope all at once!
Added bonus: already knows about kiddie fiddling.

The Dalai Lama
An authoritarian, feudal religious leader widely seen as being a man of peace and reconciliation - perfect!

Hulk Hogan
What the Catholic church needs is a Pope in spandex... he'll beat the unbelievers into shape and attract lots of Americans to the fold... too much growth among, er, the wrong sort of people...

Dr Who
It'd make it amusing when it came time for the doctor to regenerate... no, I am the Doctor. Sorry, Pope.



Karol Wojtyla

I'm not going to say much about the passing of the Pope as I don't know much about him, don't much care and, no doubt, the next few weeks will see the British general election pale into insignificance as every last damned pundit suddenly becomes an expert on the ins and outs of Vatican politics and the selection process for the new Pontiff.

Whether for good or ill, though, John Paul II believed in religion having a political role. That much is to be welcomed. When religion goes into politics, it can do so either for the greater glory of the religious institution and so play the game to its own benefit or it can go in with the intention of changing the field of play. I disagree wholeheartedly with a great deal of what John Paul II stood for and represented, but the manner in which he tried to change the political scene - by force of moral argument - is good. Morality does make people think. Certainly, the implementation and the bullshit that came out of some parts of the Catholic establishment probably did more harm than good, but if the new Pope, whoever he (and it will be a he...) is continues in John Paul II's vein but focusses on world poverty, as the latter had started to, and can bring people on side (not the billion Catholics but the 97 million in America) to, for instance, the Make Poverty History campaign and raise those issues rather than abortion, contraception and women (I'm sorry, but the Catholic Church is not going to be progressive on these issues for a long time, so we may as well hope they'll shut up about it instead), the Catholic Church may be able to make a real change. I apologise for the length of that sentence. Remember, though, that many religious people, Catholics, Protestants, whatever, are held up by many as examples of how we should live.



Photos in Trafalgar Square

So, I finally dragged myself out of the pit where I live to take some photos.

I wasn't feeling terrifically up to a long trek, so I went up to Trafalgar Square, armed with camera, film and tripod intending to take some pictures of the fountains. OK, probably doesn't sound terrifically interesting but I wanted to mess around with longer exposure settings and try for an interesting effect with the water.

Anyway, while I was setting up, some kids - I say kids... they were around 16, I should think - were messing around and jumping in the fountain and so on... just having a laugh. Randomly, they asked me to take some pictures of them. Not with any camera they might have had, you see, but with my camera. Anyway, I took some quick snaps of them and I'm going to stick them in the post to them. I suppose it'll give them a laugh.

There were some people dancing capoeira at the top of the Square in front of the National Gallery... I'm vaguely hopeful some of those might have come out well.

Anyway, over and out.



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