25 November 2010

The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled

I spend a lot of time on reddit (big love, yo!) and there have been a lot of links recently to stories about the Transportation Security Administration and their security screening procedures which seem to involve either a) being irradiated by a backscatter radar imager, or b) submitting to a full-body physical search that stops short of rectal probing but apparently does occasionally stray into statutory rape.

If I was Johnny Terrorist, I would be looking for a proper job because I have won. One successful major operation on September 11th, a couple of minor abortive attempts and a decade of largely patient inaction, and my target - "The West" - is doing my job for me.

I doubt the terrorists have the resources to wreak the havoc they would like. They therefore have to think laterally. And, thinking laterally, the most elegant solution is to make "The West" use it's considerable resources to wreak havoc upon itself.

Terrorists have managed to cause an auto-immune response. Auto-immune conditions trick the immune system into believing that healthy cells are infected and attacking them.

The above was written making the assumption that the terrorists are the root cause of this infringement of our liberties and, while that may be true, one could argue that the response is somewhat disproportionate to the cause.

Governments now frequently use the threat - real or imagined - of terrorism as the club with which to beat the baby seal of freedom and liberty because you can make people do anything if they're scared enough. So while terrorism is doubtless a problem, it is also a very useful tool, if you were so inclined, to manipulate and control your populace1.

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
I disagree. A much greater trick is to convince you that the Devil is you. And the Devil may not be who you think he is.

1 Looking at America's foreign policy through the lens of conspiracy theories about the ruling elite, it is not difficult to view America's approach to the rest of the world as merely providing a basis for making the elite even more so.

17 May 2010

My Half of The First Conversation with Jesus

Jesus who?
As in "The Son of God"-Jesus?
How did you get this number?
Sorry, I don't believe this is THE Jesus. I mean, I don't believe that you, or your Dad for that matter, even existed, so this is kinda weirding me out.
Are you sure you're not a telemarketer?
So you're not going to go "By the way, did you know you can get seven windows at 0% APR"?
OK, I'll go along with this. So, Jesus, what's up with you? Keeping busy?
Oh, so you do listen to peoples prayers, you just don't do anything about them? Yeah, we've got politicians who don't listen to us as well, and you how much we dislike politicians?
Yes, he's the illiterate monkey who runs the world1.
I assume you mean Mafia taken-care-of as supposed to Salvation Army taken-care-of?
Isn't that against the Commandment thingies?
So who did write them?
I always thought that bit sounded fishy. So what do you want me to do about it?
You mean, be the Right Hand of God sort of thing?
OK, the Right Pinkie Finger of God, then?
OK, even assuming you are The Son of God, and even assuming I was willing to kill him, which is another one of Moses' made-up Commandments, and one of the ones that caught on, by the way, people who kill and then say God made them do it aren't held in high esteem down here.
OK, but I assume the order came from the Big Fella?
A personal favour? Riiiight, but I would need some sort of protection afterwards. Plus, we should talk recompense.
I don't want to receive my reward in Heaven. I'm still not convinced you're not some nutjob trying to get me do their dirty work for them. You know what, this is a stupid conversation. I'm hanging up. If you call me again, I'm calling the Police.
No, not Sting. The actual Police.
OK, if you're Him, do something right now to make me Believe.
Yes, I know it's against your policy! Your brainless sheep down here are always banging on about Faith. I'm an Engineer! I need Proof! Faith gets people killed!
Really? How many people you think die each year because they get into arguments about who loves you most, hmmm? It's a lot. Doesn't that bother you? Do you think all those people who die would do anything different I they thought you were up there going "That's not what I meant at all"?
Really? For the Son of God, you haven't got any of his smarts. Forget Omnipresence and Omnipotence. The only things you two demonstrate the use of is Omnilaziness.
Are you in the huff now? Good. Go and have a long word with yourself, buck up your ideas, and if you want people do things properly, show them how its done and then, maybe, we can talk about your thing with Monkeyboy.
OK, bye bye now.

Who was that, dear?
Wrong number.

1 This was originally written back when George W "Monkeyboy" Bush was President.

16 May 2010

Run like you've got wind!

Emboldened by Seb's recent post, and by way of encouragement, I hereby submit an excerpt from my whatever-the-diminutive-is-of-magnum-opus. Unlike Blackadder's giant rollercoaster of a novel, mine is more of a small roundabout-type pamphlet. Enjoy?

“Run like you've got wind!"

Now, in these situations, when a phrase or joke hits you where you live (usually when you're in a Thursday afternoon place, mentally), you can usually relax as you convulse and snort milk down your nose while your eyes fill up. However, Tarsus did not have this luxury, being hotly pursued as he was. That he managed to locomote while all of the above occurred (apart from the milk bit) was more a testament to his visceral fear and loathing than to his coordination and determination.

Indeed, the convulsions were aiding his progress to some degree, although by some unknown process. They were also having some unpleasant side effects, odoriferously, as it were. In fact, their presence was in as much danger of being revealed by Tarsus’ trumps and burps as it was by his continued attempts to stifle that inner, moronic laugh that we all have but strive to take with us to the grave without its utterance ever having even once sullied our ears.

Presently they came to the forest and plunged inward without pause. Their rapid transit appeared to have caught the trees off their guard and they made it through the first few metres with little impediment. As he ran through the trees, Tarsus became aware that his body was moving with little conscious input from his brain. Look at me go! Watch out for that treeeeeooooo that was close! Their flight had tapped into an inner sliver of primordial, animal instinct in Tarsus’ mind, whose determination to endure was doing a fine job in ensuring that Tarsus, and hence his inner animal sliver, would prevail.

Pointy, on the other hand, did not appear to have such a sliver, nor have need of one. It appeared that the trees were getting out of his way. Leaving his body to do the running, Tarsus could see that Pointy had in his mouth a small whistle that was evidently blowing in concert with his breaths. Tarsus’ could not hear it, but the trees obviously could as they clapped their bows to their trunks as he approached. A few made pained attempts to foil his passage, but none came near.

Their pursuers, obviously confounded by their inability to best the combination of animal instinct and frantic whistling, release their own animals into the fray. Three hunting dogs were released and soon began gaining on the fleeing pair. Aided by the scent trail being left by Tarsus, they homed in with relentless ease.

This is one of those occasions, thought Tarsus, where, by some method, which is never fully explained, it would be useful to be rendered invisible. Or to suddenly find a hiding place so perfect as to allow instant concealment while simultaneously erasing any sign of ones presence. It would be useful, say, ooh, about now. He waited. The rendering invisible or perfect hiding place did not manifest itself. If only this was one of those convenient chases you read in books. Evasion opportunities are always more bountiful.

As his animal sliver continued to propel him forward, he chanced a look over his shoulder. He could not see much apart from a few trees aiming evil looks in his wake and a haze of dust and leaves that marked his passing. His inner sliver sensed the lack of immediate evisceration and suddenly and without due warning, relinquished command of Tarsus’ faculties.

It goes without saying that this is not the ideal command decision to encounter while looking over your shoulder, especially when involved in a serious, high speed and prospectively fatal pursuit situation. In the time it took for Tarsus to align his head to the path ahead and refocus his eyes, a tree appeared in his direction of travel. The effects of the animal sliver had not fully worn off and Tarsus was able to twist slightly to one side in order to avoid a potentially embarrassing running-into-a-stationary-tree event.

However, he suffered the possibly even more embarrassing running-into-a-tree-saw-it-at-the-last-moment-but-still-hit-it. It was, however, but a glancing blow. He was knocked off his feet but, and don’t ask how he managed it, Tarsus executed a forward roll, sprang to his feet and continued apace.

Pointy had witnessed this event because Tarsus had managed to gain ground on him, even encumbered by the lack of a tree-repelling whistle. He was about to offer a scathing yet congratulatory remark to Tarsus when, from a little too close for comfort behind them, there came a chilling howl.

They both looked behind them. Now clearly visible between the clawing boughs were three large hounds, black as night, with eyes glowing like coals in the fire. They bounded through the trees with powerful grace, without, it seemed, the need for whistle or sliver. The trees seemed as repulsed as Pointy and Tarsus were.

“What we need,” panted Tarsus between breaths “is a convenient hiding place or method of evasion that is never fully explained!”
“What?” shouted Pointy.
“Need Hide Knackered Soon Blisters Hounds Gaining Intestines Collar,“ replied Tarsus. “Too pretty to die horribly,” he added.
“With you on that one,” agreed Pointy, and promptly vanished.

For a few seconds Tarsus did not notice his colleague’s disappearance, the threat of imminent death occupying progressively increasing amounts of his thoughts. When it dawned on him that Pointy was not to be seen, he was overcome with grief. From deep within, Doggy once more rumbled into life. Tarsus stopped as quickly as his inappropriate footwear would allow, using a tree branch as a brake. The branch promptly snapped off, accompanied by distressed creaks from the dismembered tree. Tarsus ignored the complaints and, brandishing the bough, turned to face death like a man.

The lead hound was only a few meters away and was slowing down, a look of confusion in its ember eyes. As it drew close, Tarsus fetched it an almighty blow with the branch and the hound crumpled into a sharp black heap on the ground. The other hounds skidded to a stop nearby and looked around, the same look of confusion evident. The urge to kill still bright in his mind, Tarsus ran towards them, the bloodied branch held aloft. The two hounds spotted the onrushing weapon but barely had time to react to Tarsus’ piercing war-cry before the second hound lay bleeding and insensible on the needle-strewn floor of the forest. The remaining hound took one look at each of its defeated companions and, with a look of frantic desperation and despair, took off in the direction of the pursuing soldiers.

Tarsus, now firmly in the groove, was about to give chase when he heard Pointy calling to him from nearby.
“Tarsus, over here! Quickly!”
Tarsus made his way towards the sound of Pointy’s voice but could not locate his companion.

“Stop playing silly buggers! This really isn’t the time,” shouted Tarsus. Suddenly he felt a hand touch his arm and, without fully considering his actions, brought up the branch and swung round.
“Watch out; that nearly hit me, you moron!” came Pointy’s voice, from an indeterminable source in the vicinity.
“Where are you?” asked Tarsus.
“Beside you,” said Pointy in his ear.
“This is going to sound unusual, but I’m going to say it anyway. I can’t see you.”
“I can’t see you either. Unfortunate side-effect. Come on.” Tarsus felt Pointy take his hand. He briefly considered making a big song and dance about not being able to see him and how it wasn’t fair and how bad his day was and did he know what it was like but decided that it was not the time for such remonstrations.

“I am also a little concerned by my seeming inability to see myself. I have checked my eyes and they appear to be open and functioning normally. Now may be the time for soothing words before I have a psychotic episode,” said Tarsus in a level, if brittle, monotone.
“It’ll pass. Keep moving,” said Pointy.
“That is a relief,” said Tarsus sarcastically. “I don’t think we’re in a safe enough place to get into a philosophical discussion about how you can be sure you exist if you can’t see yourself. You may sense I am not entirely comfortable with being invisible,” he added.
“Deal with it. We have more pressing issues to worry about,” replied Pointy, his voice hard. Tarsus let it go.

Tarsus was beginning to get used to the idea of being led by the hand through a forest by a small, pointy, invisible man when said man began to appear.
“Hey, I can see you. Sort of. I can see a vague outline, shadowy. You look less pointy than normal,” he added.
The shadowy outline turned to Tarsus. “Yes, we’re both becoming visible. The effects are only temporary – about fifteen or so minutes.”
“Is it worth my asking you to fully explain this?” enquired Tarsus. “No.” said Pointy. “Right.” said, Tarsus, and left it at that.

13 May 2010

WTF: Pronunciation Help

Growing up to be a Champion for Freedom and Justice is a long, hard road. Obviously, people look at me and they see the chiselled jaw, the icy stare, the muscular ease with which I dual-wield the swords of Truth and Beauty. What they don't see is the many years of training and schooling it has taken to become....well, the personification of an ideal, let's be honest.

One of the many weapons in my armoury is the concise and eloquent use of language. I'll admit, English Language was not my best subject. If I stumbled over the pronuncation of a particularly cumbersome word, I was "invited" to improve by running ten laps of the moat in full armour. But enough about my schooldays.

By "pronunciation help", I mean the text they put in dictionaries after the word so that you know how to pronounce the word properly. By way of an example, I give you "koʊpərˈnɪsiəm"1 2.

So, to analyse. How do you pronounce "upside-down-omega"? How about "upside-down-e"? What about "small-capital-I"? To show how useless this is, here is the actual text from the Wikipedia entry for Copernicium:

Copernicium (pronounced /koʊpərˈnɪsiəm/ koe-pər-NIS-ee-əm, with the first C hard and the second soft)

So, immediately after the supposedly universally-understood pronunication runes, they've had to spell it out phonetically and follow that up with further instructions in plain language.

In order to use these runes, most normal people who aren't mystically imbued with the ability to parse runes would have to step through the word, syllable by syllable, using some glowing, arcane tome with metal hinges and pages made from thinly sliced first-born child and lex it back into a noise they can utter.

I've a good mind to write a book entirely in runes and watch it catastrophically NOT sell just to prove my point.

1 The above is the pronunication guide for "Copernicium", the name for Element 112 (which previously regaled under the moniker "Ununbium").

2 Turns out these runes are part of the International Phonic Alphabet

29 April 2010

"A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth"

I feel closer to Gordon Brown today than I ever have before. That we are still 20,000km apart is neither here nor there.

For the first time in a long time, I can actually identify with a politician. I've heard his actual opinion, what Gordon Brown: The Man really thinks, rather than what Gordon Brown: The Prime Minister is Meant To Say.

The sad thing about what has become "the turning point of the election" *yawn* is that he's right. Gillian Duffy is bigoted. And stupid. I mean, what kind of person doesn't know where Eastern Europeans come from? It's like Ronseal, love. It says so on the tin. She probably has never been wronged by one and is only outraged because the Daily Mail told her she should be.

I've complained before about how the election process is completely broken. Surely we're supposed to find out more about how our politicians are like us. So why does the election process present us with a small number of similarly grey men, all presenting what the media have decided is a prime ministerial facade?

Am I really meant to vote for one of three shades of grey, when the true colour of each man is either red, blue or yellow?

17 February 2010

The Earth has been Walked

From the undergrowth comes the sounds of cursing, hacking, some hammering and the furious oiling of hinges. Presently, there is a great crack following by some gargantuan and sinister creaking. There follows the sound of furious coughing that gently recedes, until a final colossal slamming brings silence back into the world.

It's been [checks; strewth!] well over a year since The Boy and I were cruelly and suddenly abducted by Scientologist Alien Terrorists and taken in stasis to their evil lair deep within Olympus Mons on Mars. There we were experimented upon for many gruelling hours; forced to watch daytime and reality TV for days on end, to eat nothing but McDonalds and Mars bars (not the same thing, btw) until we managed to escape their clutches.

We managed to lash together a pair of Mars rovers to make a space raft and, holding our breath, set course for Earth. Tragically, BoosterBoy took a meteorite to the face not two days out and was lost. No doubt he will turn up sooner or later; he was largely synthetic and oddly durable considering how little I paid for him.

The Palace had fallen into some disrepair during our incarceration, somewhat disproportionate to the period of time involved. It has taken some time to oil all the hinges and hack away the greenery and thorns that were choking the place.

More troubling was the state of the Twin Swords (of Beauty and Truth). Here, I took a leaf from the Book of Conan and after beating them off some rocks for a bit, they are now back to the lustrous and shiny best.

There has been some time for quite a lot of Unrighteousness to build up. So, let's to work.

Politics: What is it For? Why is it Broken?

Part 1: What is Politics For?

Sounds like a straightforward question, but I don't think it is. Let's break it down.

Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions, says Wikipedia, from Gk. politikos "of citizens or the state," from polites "citizen," from polis "city", or, paraphrasing presidential candidate Andre Marrou, poly many + tics blood-sucking parasites.

OK, so we can agree it's about groups of people, citizens of a city or country, making decisions. And politicians are, by derivation, people whose job it is to make decisions. The politicians are given this power by the electorate, who choose their politicians in the magical game of musical chairs that is an election.

The reason politicians exist is because if all 60m people in the country had to decide about every little item of running the country, nothing else would happen and we would all starve. So we choose the politician who, based on his campaign, we think stands for the same things we do and charge him with making these decisions for us.

When a decision needs made, the politician for a constituency votes for the course of action the majority of his constituents would have voted for. He doesn't need to check with them, as he has already been chosen based on his campaign, so he knows that his decision reflects the desires of those who elected him. Therefore, once all the politicians vote, the outcome is the one desired by the majority of people in the country.

Doesn't sounds familiar though, does it?

Part 2: Why is it Broken?

The reason it's broken is because politicians are utter bastards. Lying, deceitful, spineless, backstabbing, two-face bastards. That's the overriding reason. The sub-reasons are:

1) Politicians will say anthing to get elected,
2) Politicans will deny anything, even if it can be proven beyond doubt,
3) Politicans will ignore the wishes of their constituents and do what they want, or what they are told, or paid, to do,
4) I could go on,
5) And on and on,
6) But you get my drift,
7) They really are utter bastards, aren't they?

Despite their parents not being married, politicians are generally of human borne, or at least the byproduct of some sordid union twixt man and beast, which means they have mothers, which means they were probably raised well and received a good education. But somewhere along the line, something must go wrong in the brain. Something gives them the notion to become a politician.

It is probably a noble notion, a desire to better society and build a better world. They go to University and read Aristotle and Plato and the pure theory of politics. They join the local party and it is probably at this point that the apples turn bad.

Somewhere in the corridors of power between local party politics and the House of Commons, idealistic do-gooders go through some heinous process that strips all goodness from their souls and replaces it with something hewn from some jet black core of purest evil that glows and pulsates and turns Little Johnny from next door into Vlad, Minister of Impaling Babies1.

It is true that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Which means that, in order for politics, in its true form, to flourish and function, we need to get rid of the politicians and decide for ourselves: cut out the middlemen.

As usual, solutions arrived at through the medium of Rant are half-baked and flawed at best, but we're going to go with it. We will use this process in The Palace and if BoosterBoy and I get one vote each, we shall decide the matter by me impaling BoosterBoy on something sharp and I will get my way. Oh, yes, as Vlad is my witness, I will get my way...

1 Little Johnny: "Mummy, when I grow up, I want to be Minister for Impaling Babies."
Little Johnnies Human Foster Mother: "Well, you'll have to work hard in school. We can't all be Minister for Impaling Babies."