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June 4th 2009
So, Twitter. What's it all about, Alfie?
You will probably have come across Twitter (not least when Facebook completely copied the idea in its latest relaunch), in which users update, or 'tweet', in messages of 140 characters or less (don't shout at me. The 'less' refers to the message rather than the number of characters). This rather lends emphasis to the banal and the textspeak, as there's not that much you can get out there in 140 characters. Indeed, Twitter markets itself as the thing you update in between blog entries (and, y'know, actually talking to people face-to-face). It is gripping the nation, quite literally [note to self: check this], and has become the latest resource of lazy journalists trying to get a snippet for their newspaper gossip column. On this side of the pond its fiercest advocates are Stephen Fry (recently, delightfully, described as a stupid person's idea of what an intelligent person is like) and Jonathan Ross (I like him, OK?), while in the USA it's Demi Moore & Ashton Kutcher who lead the way. Indeed, there are a lot of celebrities and semi-celebrities on Twitter - most of British comedy seems to be on there - which is why I have an account. Worry not, people who read this page, I am not committing updating bigamy - I am only really there to spy on folk off the telly.
Perhaps it is the small, controllable nature of Twitter that leads famous folk to freely utilise the site: unlike Facebook, Myspace etc, the messages you receive from other users are displayed on their profiles, not yours. This means that Ashton Kutcher doesn't need to worry about weirdos cluttering up his site, and can focus on what he does best (answers on a postcard). And those celebrities who prefer the adulation to the quiet life can also get their fill - log on to Twitter, and I can guarantee that Jonathan Ross will have written something in the last 8 hours. He cannot be stopped.
Spying on famous folk is, perhaps, not the most admirable use of the internet, but I find peeking into their lives to be curiously interesting. Elizabeth Banks went to see 'Drag Me to Hell' the other day! Jimmy Carr likes taking photos of amusing signs! Hugh Jackman went to Mexico! Robert Llwellyn never, ever shuts up! This is gold, it really is. My biggest question is why Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman are not 'following' each other (er... it's kinda like being 'friends' on Facebook) - has there been a falling out? What over? Was it me?
Anyways, this was all bubbling over nicely until earlier this week, when I discovered that Matthew Perry is on Twitter! The genuine, real Matthew Perry, universally acclamied as the best actor of his generation [note to self: check this, too] writes sub-140-character messages to me, his loving public. I'll keep you posted. Though I probably won't, come to think of it.
Oh, I went to see Star Trek last night. Good fun. Scott was too much of a comic character (like Gimli was in weaker LotR moments), but Spock & Kirk were great. I've never seen any Star Trek before, so I can't comment on the accuracy... but it was an enjoyable film. Simon will never, ever see it.

Gaila: I love you.
James T. Kirk: That is so weird.
(Star Trek)

June 6th 2009
Happy birthday Powly! In other news, I like to keep up to date with current affairs, so let me comment on Michael Parkinson's interview with Meg Ryan - which took place in October 2003 (a couple of months before I began my online diary). I would imagine that a large chunk of my British readership (who am I kidding?) will have come acros this interview, either having watched it or having heard about it. Until this evening, I was in the latter camp (if I recall, The Premiership was on at the same time), so my understanding was that she was very difficult and monosyllabic, making it a tough interview for Parky. Pesky American actresses coming over here and insulting our beloved Yorkshiremen, etc etc - I had only Simon's comments that he was to blame to counter this view.
Well, I watched the interview on YouTube just a few minutes ago, and I can confirm that Simon was completely right - while Ryan does get a bit monosyllabic towards the end, this is only because Parkinson has been continually rude and difficult throughout the interview, and has just begun probing her about personal matters that he has no right to ask about.
Essentially, he attacks her repeatedly about the film she was promoting - and, absurdly, comments from the film's director that Ryan seemed never to have even heard before - deliberately misunderstanding her answers and being as awkward as he can be. When she says she doesn't find fashion 'empowering' - fair enough, neither do I - he retorts; "You don't care about it". That was their first dialogue, and set the tone for his thinly veiled browbeating and her increased confusion. Full credit to her, she maintained her dignity throughout and continued to give reasonable answers despite his coldness and complete lack of gentlemanlike behaviour.
What confuses me is why she is widely regarded as having been the difficult one; perhaps because he is a National Treasure, and she is Hollywood. Only the other day I heard a clip from a recent radio interview in which the interviewer told him rapturously that he came out of it much better, and I think that he honestly believes that to be the case. It's madness.
In completely other news, what would you say was the most obvious contravention of justice currently operating in the British judicial system? I would, for a long time, have said that the ASBO - in which someone is punished despite there being no crimes proved, or even charged, against them - takes pride of place. I've written here before about them. But now I have to say the victim impact statements have pipped them to the post.
Who on earth came up with the idea of victim impact statements? Who possibly thought they were a good idea? Justice has to be the same for everyone; has to be dispassionate and completely fair. If murder is the crime, then it should not make an iota of difference whether the victim was much-loved and much missed, or totally alone and uncared about. If the crime was against someone still living, the degree to which the victim is impacted - or, indeed, the eloquence with which they can describe this impact - is immaterial to the process of justice.
Justice, in fact, is widely misunderstood in this country (and, I guess, elsewhere... Wikipedia tells me that in Finland the victim can recommend a punishment different to the one recommended by the prosecution. Absurd). When a murderer is convicted, the family - and/or the media - say that they have got 'justice for [name]'. I'm sorry, but you cannot get justice for anyone - justice simply is; it stands alone, it is isolated from emotions or personal ownership. When justice is achieved, then champions of justice may rejoice, but for the victory of what is right rather than for their own victory. There is no justice for Tom, Dick or Harry - there can only be justice for the sake of justice.

Joel: I love you.
Clementine: Meet me in Montauk.
(Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

June 10th 2009
"It is not worth an intelligent man's time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that" - G H Hardy
"I shall not say you are mistaken ... I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know, that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own" - Mr Darcy, to Elizabeth

I was intending to leave those quotations unexplained, and plough on in writing about the European elections, but I think instead I shall clarify them. Firstly, let me say that I do not consider myself an intelligent man - at least, not in the way Hardy meant the term, for he would think very poorly of my mathematical ability, and not at all of any other abilities I may have. In his curiously intriguing tome, A Mathematician's Apology, he says that about 90% of the world cannot do anything well, and it is immaterial what careers they choose. Here I think he is being overly generous; by his understanding of doing something well, the true percentage is closer 99.9%.
However, having disowned intelligence, I will not waste my time in expressing a view that is already commonplace - the blogosphere does not need anyone else to complain about the BNP's racism and thuggery. My second quotation is, I fear, misleading and may teach you not to believe a word I say. Rest assured that I believe what I am writing; however, I could equally well argue against it with the same confidence. Simplistic commonplace views need to be challenged, but the challenge is often too simplistic as well.
And so, the BNP. You will probably have noticed that they now have two seats in that most pointless of organisations, the European Parliament (as a side note, can someone explain what UKIP intends to do with its seats, as its only policy is to be apart from Europe?). After their victory, Nick Griffin was pelted with eggs outside the Houses of Parliament, and prevented from making a speech. He was also recently stopped by protestors from getting out of his car, has in the past (as mentioned on this page) been stopped from debating at the Oxford Union by egg-wielding protestors, and was essentially forced to backtrack from attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace last month.
Nick Griffin is a democratically elected politician. He has been chosen by the electorate to represent them, and while many people may not agree with his views (I need hardly say that I am one of those people), it is no democracy that elects its members with one hand and attacks them with the other. He has the right to make a speech; he (as the guest of Richard Barnbrook) has the right to accept an invitation from Queen; he has the right to attend his own election victory. Those who protest against him doing any of these things are, essentially, protesting against the process of democracy - unless you believe that Northerners shouldn't get the vote, you can't argue with the men and women they choose.
There is another reason that the BNP should be given the oxygen of publicity; treat them as the political party they are, and it should soon become clear that their policies are as risibly unfeasible as they are nauseating. Quiz Nick Griffin on his views on education, health, tax - ask him about measures to stabilise inflation, or processes to ease congestion. Treating the BNP as a special case plays into their hands, because they can continue to be a group of misunderstood outsiders fighting the blind oppressors. Personally, I would love to see Nick Griffin debating with, say, Tony Blair or David Cameron - both because it is fair to a party leader to allow him to express his party's views (boycotting Griffin means we only hear the rumour and innuendo) and because he would be exposed.
When it comes to discussions over Britishness, 'tolerance' is usually given as one of our national characteristics. The truth, of course, is that we as a nation are only tolerant of the things that we think are acceptable, and thus the word loses all meaning. Johnny Public is 'tolerant' of Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses and a certain brand of inoffensive Christian. He is also 'tolerant' of sundry political affiliations, but he is not 'tolerant' of the BNP, and thus the idea of tolerance is reduced to simply a lower threshold for intolerance. If the BNP do not break the law - and, I guess, it's a big 'if', but since they're not all in jail we have to assume it's possible - then they have to be permitted the same rights as every other political party. This isn't even a 'freedom of speech' thing (so often quoted as a defence to the indefensible, ranging from slander to harrassment and, in one case, vandalism at RBS). Yes, I hate what I think the BNP believe in - I never claimed to be 'tolerant' - but the way to deal with this is not censorship or unofficial protest. Don't fight dirty; just give them enough rope to hang themselves.

June 30th 2009
I know, I know. I'll update properly soon - this last week I've been away with Simon, Youth Hostelling in Cornwall & Devon, so you should be hearing more about that when I find the time to write a proper update.
To pass the time, who's your favourite James Bond? Mine's Roger Moore.

what was I listening to?
Spider-man soundtrack
what was I reading?
How Low Can You Go? - Tom Chesshyre
what was I watching?
Star Trek
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