July 3rd 2007
Today: Change policemen (7)
Looks like I forgot to put up a crossword clue last time. Sorry! It must have been distracted by getting results... speaking of which, it's never much fun when you do really well, but your brother does badly, is it? Which is why it's a shame Simon failed his degree... only joking! (Or 'gagsworth', as I'm trying to pioneer it) - Simon surprised no one other than himself by getting a first class degree in English from Oxford. So congrats to him (even if it is only English) - and as he points out, his lowest mark (63%) was much better than my lowest mark (62.8%). Now, I don't want to bore you (or seem more arrogant than I am), but I do like statistics, so I thought I'd give you a little table of every module I did at Warwick, in order from best to worst. Enjoy. In other news, I've realised that Rob texted me the other day and I've yet to reply to him, so since I know he reads this page, I'll do it for all to see: I too was watching Rod Stewart playing at Diana's concert, but didn't see Ms Dunst anywhere in the audience. Is Kirsten a Rod Stewart fan? Possibly... her musical connections include dating (allegedly) Johnny Borrell, who I believe is the lead singer of some generic modern band (Razorlight?), and starring as Debbie Harry in an upcoming biopic of the Blondie singer. While I'm on the topic of Diana's concert, I've started to realise that it isn't she I particularly dislike (although the whole 'three people in this marriage' thing still sickens me, when the likes of Will Carling and James Hewitt are taken into account) - it is the Mail/Express style fanaticism over her, putting her on a pedestal she didn't desire and nobody deserves. Anyways, the concert was largely unspectacular (no one deserves Lily Allen or Kanye West singing to commemorate them, let alone both) and, in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I've got to say about that. In political news, I went to (indeed, partly catered for) a musical extravaganza at Norton-sub-Hamdon village hall, featuring Peter and the Wolf. And guess who was narrating it! The one and only Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, who went so far as to make a crack about Gordon that was rather unfunny, but got a massive laugh just to show we were politically aware. I think it may have gone over the heads of most of the kids playing. Anyways, that's enough from my exciting life for one day - except to let you know the snippet that I have too many books for the bookshelf space. What to do?
July 4th 2007
Today: Halt good man's work (4)
Change policemen (7)
In the last few days, there has been a lot in the news about the attack on Glasgow airport, coming just days after the botched attack on London. No one seems to be sure whether we should be celebrating the skills of the police and our fortunate escape, or panicking that the terrorists came so close to causing serious damage. Whichever it is, it has brought the word 'radicalised' right back into our news bulletins, alongside frequent references to 'extremism' and 'extremist Muslims'. I take great issue with the first of these, 'radicalised' - it implies that the terrorists are little more than puppets of a Svengali-like group of baddies, whereas in reality they have to be held responsible for their own actions and, indeed, beliefs. The term 'extremism' I similarly dislike, since by its very roots it suggests a logical continuation of ideas; an 'extremist Muslim' must hold the tenets of Islam, to the exclusion of all else - in other words, he must be a Muslim who actually follows Islamic teachings. Clearly, this is not what people mean when they say 'extremist Muslim' - they mean someone who has perverted the tenets of the religion. In fact, the phrase has presumably only arisen in order to avoid causing offence (or worse, unintentionally inciting retribution among others) towards those Muslims who do not wish to blow up themselves and others. In these curious times, it is not deemed acceptable to say that all Muslims are wrong in their beliefs (unless, like Richard Dawkins and - pointlessly - Christopher Hitchens, you tar all belief systems other than atheism with the same brush), so these terms are invented. Personally, my Christian beliefs include the fact that anyone who does not recognise Jesus Christ as Lord is wrong, pure and simple, so that includes all Muslims alongside Hindus, atheists, Scientologists... etc. But I can recognise the tenets of Islam, and while I disagree wholeheartedly with its basis, I'm confident that nowhere does it condone that mindless violence towards people whose religious convictions are not even known. So can we please drop this 'extremist' tag? Essentially I am an extremist Christian, since I'm not sure there can genuinely be any other kind - can you be a partly new creation? (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!") If you're not extremist, you're sitting on the fence and getting nowhere - Christianity cannot be a part of your life, it has to be your entire way of being, informing everything. And since (I apologise for over-simplifying, but Jesus did it first) Christianity boils down to love of God and love of man, any 'extremism' has to be founded on this basis. Say someone blew up an airport purporting to be an 'extremist Christian' - this would be a contradiction, since the action is not a logical extension of love. While Islam cannot be measured by the same yardstick, the same argument holds by and large.
July 6th 2007
Today: Revolutionary ship's game (5)
Halt good man's work (4)
Almost everyone will have noticed we have a new Prime Minister, I hope (apparently one of Simon's friends wasn't aware of the fact. I won't name names, because I can't remember who it was), and on Wednesday it was Gordon's first PMQs. In recent weeks I've become something of a cheerleader for Tony Blair on this page, and I'll add to the sycophancy (or is that sicko-fancy? Is that even a pun? Who knows, I'm not even sure that's using 'sycophancy' in the right context. Or spelling) by extolling his abilities in PMQs. He was darn good, almost always sounding assured, throwing in a little humour when required, and rarely being thrown by even the most obscure and challenging questions. William Hague was, I understand, pretty good too, and David Cameron's grown into it well. What I heard of Mr. Brown was distinctly less impressive; I'm informed I tuned in for his lowest moment, and it really was dire, with hesitation - quite long pauses, actually - and an inability to speak over even the mildest jeering. He then petered out into "I've only been in the job five days" which was lame, and out by two days anyhow. The question is, of course, does it matter? Should we have a PM who is good at PMQs? To be honest, the whole thing is more an exercise in preparation and not being made to look a fool, rather than actually answering genuine inquiries. Oh, and there's the talent of planting questions among the Labour bankbenches without making it seem too obvious. Essentially, we have a Prime Minister who has to be more bothered with seeming able than being able, hence all the studies in body language and fashion design - who cares if Gordon smiles or not? Anyways, it was his first time out, so we shall see how he adapts to it (or, indeed, how it adapts to him - will we get the focus on policies rather than presentation, as he clearly desires?). He was better than John Prescott, leastwise.
July 9th 2007
Today: Cut-back is hard for European (6)
Revolutionary ship's game (5)
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a dam. With that opening sentence I fear I may have alienated a large section of my readership; those who object to mild cursing, and those (presumably more sizeable) who cannot abide incorrect spelling. But before you all forage deep into the blogosphere, looking for weblogs whose grasp of courtesy and spelling is second to none, let me draw you back with a few words of reassurance. Because my opening sentence, although arguably entirely irrelevant, is one that derives from a 'dam', being a small Indian coin. And apparently - this nugget is in fact from my mother, her source being Colin Dexter, I think - it has always been so. There you go; an intriguing piece of information, and a nice way to break into the theme of today's entry, which is Johnny Foreigner - you may indeed have noticed this from today's crossword clue. Anyhow, my brother's newfound desire to watch everything Amanda Bynes has ever been in (while I'm embarrassing him, he was watching Big Brother online the other day. Sorry, Simon) has exposed me to the relatively watchable sitcom What I Like About You, repeated watchings of She's The Man (a film I saw and reviewed here over a year ago) and What A Girl Wants. This last film involves the lovely Amanda visiting her estranged father (played by the Dude List resident Colin Firth, who is indeed probably my favourite English actor) in England, resulting in a hilarious clash of cultures that owes little to fact and a great deal to Americans believing we all live in stately homes and refer to the phone as the 'dog and bone' at every opportunity. Basically, this film got me thinking (and not for the first time) about the relationship between we Britons and our American cousins - do they realise, I wonder, that we are simply and intrinsically better than them? That by happy accident of birth, we are superior people? In the same way that people in the South are just better than those in the North, of course. I'm going to pull up short here, because without vocal opportunities, I never know how much of what I write here is taken as genuine and how much is understood to be gentle self-mockery... if I were to write 'not' after sentences, or 'being sarcastic!!!:PLol' then maybe it would be easier. To sum up, I don't think Britons are superior to Americans (even if we have a Wimbledon winner at long, long last - three cheers for Jamie Murray!), but I do ponder the relationship on occasion, and I do get a little bit angered by our portrayal in films like What A Girl Wants. Hey, I've got a close friend who is soon to be married to an American lass, so I should take interest. That's enough from that corner of the globe; I also want to mention Ireland. Or, more specifically, Westlife - I was watching the video for Flying Without Wings yesterday (don't judge me - it was Bonnie Tyler's 48th favourite power ballad on whatever knock-off of MTV we get free here) and couldn't help but notice that they all have exceptionally blue eyes. Which looked fake. Do Irish people have eyes bluer than the shoreless sea, or was there some jiggery-pokery at hand? Someone who might be able to tell me is Becky, who is still a Westlife fan... which leads me nicely to the fact that Becky and Adam are engaged, which I'm not sure I mentioned previously. But it recently struck me that Adam is a rather humorous Christian who signed up for the MMath course at Warwick, but ended up on the 3 year maths BSc. He was also in Montenegro last Summer.
July 11th 2007
Today: Expensive letter-opener (4)
Cut-back is hard for European (6)
I read the other day that it is now illegal to give online instructions to making a bomb. This law seems pointless, since it is completely unenforcable, and also a trifle arbitrary, since it distinguishes between different methods of destruction. Anyways, I thought I'd test the new law to its limits:
How To Make A Bomb
1. Mix together potassium manganate, hydrochloric sulphate, balsamic vinegar, tequila sunrise and ravi shankar in a plastic bowl of no more than 30cm diameter
2. When the mixture is peaking, tease it with old spice and parboil for 3 hours.
4. While parboiling, demagnetise and remolecularise the mixture, adding 1,2,3,3-tetrachlorobenzene at regular intervals.
5. Leave under a flux capacitor for -4 hours, before preparing the workspace.
6. Finally, dust with iron filings.
In the hour or so since I posted the above, the police have not come knocking - I'll keep you up to date. But I'm wondering - perhaps only accurate instructions as to bomb manufacture are illegal? If so, how inaccurate does a set of instructions have to be before it becomes acceptable? Methinks there are loopholes.
July 14th 2007
Today: From memory, how Spooner acknowledges Homer's son (2,5)
Expensive letter-opener (4)
Today's diary entry is brought to you by a pre-eminent Shakespeare critic. OK, it's still me, and I cannot lay claim to any pre-eminence (or indeed post-eminence) other than a few years of English Lit at school, culminating in an A-Level in the thing. But I watched Romeo + Juliet again last night, the Leonardo DiCaprio & Claire Danes version, which is excellent, and it got me in the mood to write about the Bard. Actually, it was some time ago that I first mentioned Paris, and I think the point is good enough to repeat it; he is the character (played by Paul Rudd, later Mike in Friends) who becomes engaged to Juliet shortly before her 'death'. I don't know what traditional analysis of the play says, but I see him as being very much in love with Juliet, but with a love that is entirely unrequited. Much like Edgar Linton in Wuthering Heights (again, as I wrote before), his love is rather pathetic when compared to that of the lead; but in success rather than intensity. I think Romeo probably felt this, anyhow, as after killing Paris, he agrees to lay him with Juliet in the tomb (Paris's presence at this multiple death scene was completely removed from the film, as Baz clearly wanted to leave the unhappy couple alone). Anyways, think on't. In further Shakespearean conjecture, I was pondering the other day Lady Macbeth's line "Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him", ostensibly a reference to Duncan. Could this, I wonder, be also about Macbeth himself, and what he has become - 'blood' referring to some kind of horrible courage? I posed this query to our resident English graduand, but he was unable to confirm or contradict (do they do that any more?). Mother, on the other hand, pointed out that "Stiffen the sinews; summon the blood" uses 'blood' in a similar context, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility... In other news, I've been watching a fair bit of Alastair Campbell's "Blair Years" on BBC in the last few days, and have been very interested. In the early years of the Labour government, I didn't really follow what was going on in the political world - this is even more true in the build-up to government, the Clause 4 moment etc - so in some ways I was learning of events anew. But the programme also shed new light on events of which I already knew, and the relationship between Campbell and the media. It is not a new thought ("Oh, if there's an original idea out there, I could use it right now" - Bob Dylan), but I've realised just how much of our perception is shaped by the media. It would be a falsehood to claim that almost everything I know about Alastair Campbell has be garnered from the media - the truth it that everything has. And, particularly in his case, think of the bias - this is the man whose job entailed a great deal of 'bullying' the media, 'spinning'. I watched Newsnight Review talking about the diaries, and it was ludicrous to have a former Tory politician and three journalists (four if you count Kirsty Wark) dicussing the relationship between Campbell and the media. Since Campbell makes no secret of despising the British media, and the British media is keen to get its own back, this was an exercise in pointlessness - as has been every report or mention of Campbell in the media for the last decade. Of course, the whole question of 'spin' is very much one of 'he started it!' - I've read newspaper articles claiming that the media only attacks because they've been spun at; Campbell claims in his diaries (more accurately, I'm tempted to believe) that the Labour government used spin because it's the only way to keep some kind of control over a savage media that will stop at nothing to destroy political careers. Not because it's right or just; but because it sells papers. Tony Blair recently spoke about the 'feral beasts' of the media, which (as I may have mentioned before) formed part of an accurate and pertinent speech discussing the desire for impact, the contempt for truth and the lust for accusation ('It is not enough for someone to make an error. It has to be venal. Conspiratorial') that obsesses the media today. I invite you to read the speech here and see for yourself just how sensible and laudable it is. But, of course, the media could not accept it. Do the journalists realise how ironic it is that they latched onto the two words 'feral beasts', and merely ran stories about Tony's going over the top? In doing so - rather than discussing the full import of his words, and the ideas therein - they fulfilled his words;
'It is rare today to find balance in the media ... a criticism [is] "a savage attack"'
'There will often be as much interpretation of what a politician is saying as there is coverage of them actually saying it. In the interpretation, what matters is not what they mean; but what they could be taken to mean.'
'Of course the accuracy of a story matters. But it is secondary to impact ... Something that is interesting is less powerful than something that makes you angry or shocked'
'I've made this speech after much hesitation. I know it will be rubbished in certain quarters. But I also know this needed to be said'.
July 17th 2007
Today: Cockney's own greeting (3)
From memory, how Spooner acknowledges Homer's son (2,5)
Answer: by heart
The clue from last time was taken from The Times, so don't write me letters of thanks, even though it is a great clue. I make no apologies for the political nature of my last entry ('pontificating' as my mother has called it), since I'm interested by it, and I think it's worth mentioning. It also might make AXA think I'm smart, if they come across this page. Speaking of being smart, yesterday was graduation for me and several hundred other Warwick students, which was a fantastically enjoyable day. Ant, Christine, Dave & Rich were among those dressed up in hat and gown to receive their certificates and applause, so it was a great opportunity to see them again. It was also nice to have my family there (Simon claimes he 'woo'ed when I shook the hand of our Vice Chancellor, but I didn't hear it). There are lots of photos on facebook, for those of you who have access to my profile, but I will leave you with one here - but only one, because I'm very close to exceeding the amount of space I'm allowed here at Geocities.
It looks like you may all be able to see my photos, if this link works. Try it!
July 18th 2007
Today: Think on purpose (10)
Cockney's own greeting (3)
To commemorate the end of Uni, I thought an informal (and, for the most part, hastily ad libbed) awards ceremony was in order. Strictly Warwick students only. So here goes:
Most famous: Andy Prichard
Best musical taste: Rob Roe
Worst musical taste: Drew Craig
Best hair: Tom Buffham
Best name: Jackie Jones
Most unusual name: Roses Keal
Most unpronouncable name: Ville Kaampi
Most dangerous: Iain Foreman
Best nickname: David "The Fox" Lake
Best cruciverbalist: Ben Humphries
Worst cruciverbalist: Becky Gillies
Best radio DJ: James Lee
Best radio listener: Ben Ogborne
Smallest head: Anthony Clohesy
Best mathematician: Andi Glang
Best home county: Matt Shortman
Most Northern: Andy Giles
Most Southern: Will Warren
Most Midland-y: Ross Cowley
Best birthday: Becky Gillies & Phil Wallace
Most injured: Anthony Clohesy
Most political: AJ Brown
Most untidy: Richard Baldwin
Best game inventor: Richard Baldwin
Best facial hair: James Lee
Tallest: Andi Glang?
Shortest: Hazel Lancefield
Welshest: Sammy Davies
Least Welsh, considering he was born in Cardiff: Jason Taylor
Most likely to watch Neighbours: Becky Gillies
Least likely to watch Neighbours: Christine White
I think that'll do. I've decided to keep myself out of the awards (hence no prize for 'most shapely calves') even though I probably deserve some of these awards - best birthday, for example. But never mind. Congratulations to all our winners - expect lots of prizes in the post. But not from me.
July 19th 2007
Today: Move lips to greet spirit (11)
Think on purpose (10)
I decided to bite the bullet and begin my accommodation search in earnest. I can't work out whether I want to live alone or with others, so I've attempted to view one of each (the latter gave no number, so I had to email - they've not got back to me yet). Each has its advantages and disadvantages; I think it would be great to have a place alone, but it could be very lonely. I would also love to keep living with great people, but there's no telling who I'd end up with, and it's also important to maintain a Christian support. Ho-hum. In other news, I'm heading off to Momentum tomorrow, which is a Christian camp of some sort - I've never been to the like before, so it will be a very interesting experience, as well as a good opportunity to catch up with some Warwick folk. While I'm on this train of thought, I was wondering... is there anything you can't insert into 'The big [something] in the sky' to mean God or heaven? The big checkout in the sky, the big mechanic in the sky, the big screenwriter in the sky... think about it.
July 26th 2007
Today: Ludicrously, portray the Queen as a hero (5,6)
Move lips to greet spirit (11)
Apologies for my absence, but I have been at Momentum, a Christian camp under the wing of Soul Survivor, based in our very own Zummerzet - officially the only county in the UK still above sea level. And it was an intense week(ish) away, with some challenging talks and experiences, and a great deal of worshipping the Lord in the freedom of shared knowledge. Hopefully the after-effects of the time away will continue for a long time for all of us - it is not uncommon for such momentous (sorry) occasions to be isolated. But I'm sure this one won't be. Anyways, being away over the weekend meant that I missed the launch of the 7th and final Harry Potter book, and so it was only today that I finished it. In the knowledge that much of my readership will not have read the book yet (if, indeed, they plan to), my review of it will be devoid of usual depth, and I will endeavour to be entirely spoiler-free. Which will probably mean I'm wasting time writing anything, but no matter. I don't have any idea what the critical reception of the book is - to me, it was much the same as the previous installments, in that it captivated furtively; somehow, without many outstanding moments, the book calls you ahead. The phrase 'hold on for dear life' was actually used three times in the book, it dragged quite a lot for huge chunks, several characters were undeveloped or entirely ignored... and yet you don't really notice any of that when reading. Probably because of the characters, which are etched on the mind, and the fact that we truly care about what happens to some (if not all) of them. In the entire series, there have been only half a dozen or fewer moments that really stopped me in my tracks, and I don't think any of them come in the 7th book... Rowling admitted that it was going to be a bloodbath, and indeed it was - those who were in her target audience for the first book will be able to cope with it all, but I'm not sure the 10-year-olds coming to it now will find it so easy; every new book is described as being darker than previous ones, and while this is never as disturbing as, say, The Wheel of Time occasionally becomes, it is still much more than a Quidditch match in the park. Like Lord of the Rings after the Hobbit, you get a sense of an increase in scale; that the wrestlings over a philosopher's stone were small fry when compared to the endeavours here - even when it's not altogether clear what those endeavours are. The ending is well written, and probably my favourite part of the book. I'm not going to say any more - for now - partially because I haven't really thought it through properly yet, and partly because speaking in this vague manner is as useless as I thought it might be. So I'll change the subject (almost) entirely, and ponder - why is it that red hair is mocked and scorned? In recent weeks I've read of a family who've actually had to move because of bullying, graffiti etc due to their red hair, and of a red-headed woman who sued because of abuse. It's as blind a taunt as those others of the playground - glasses, intelligence, black skin, being fat - but it seems to be peculiar to the UK. In other parts of the world, the situation is more or less reversed - David has informed me that in Brazil, red hair is regarded as being exceptionally beautiful. Now, he cannot claim to be unbiased in the matter, but the point holds nonetheless - I feel that I am currently being swayed by Ginny Weasley (although it would be churlish to assume Mary-Jane Watson doesn't play some part here), but I think the Brazilians have a point. But, essentially, it's all very shallow, isn't it? Anyone who choses their prospective wives and girlfriends (I'm uncomfortable about both the order and the pluralisation in that clause, but can't be be bothered to change it) based on hair colour is quite, quite pathetic. But then again, perhaps my 'hmm... kinda brown, I guess' hair colour is clouding my judgment.