Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Moon King

From a sidebar in the paper some time last week:

Privates on parade

Prince Harry was forced to drop his trousers during a parade at the elite Sandhurst military academy to prove he did not have girlfriend Chels Davy's name tattooed on his royal rear, British newspaper The Sun says. Harry, 21, who is on an officer training course, was ordered to bare his behind after rumours spread about the tattoo. During a parade, a sergeant yelled: "Cadet Wales, drop your pants and show me your backside!" Harry said "Are you serious?" before being ordered: "Just get them off, I want to see if it's true." Harry had his trousers at his knees before the grinning sergeant relented.
A couple of notes:
  1. Try to imagine the reaction of the offspring of the New American Aristocracy to being placed in this situation. On second thoughts, don't bother; it's too much of a stretch imagining them in the armed forces in the first place.

  2. The old joke is no joke: the sergeant is God. These cadets will, once they graduate, outrank their sergeant - on paper. If they were paying attention during training, none will presume to test that.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Catblogging is for the weak!

The last refuge of the content-challenged...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


By the 1970s, the old Hutt Road couldn't cope with the traffic any more, so they finally ran the Hutt motorway through into the centre of town, cutting straight through the bottom of the old Bolton Street Cemetery. Not everybody was happy with that, but I guess you can't rest in peace in the path of progress.

Anyway, come the end of the decade, I was studying up at Victoria University, and if I had a late lecture the Kelburn cable car would have stopped running before I was out of there. It didn't matter - it was only a twenty minute walk to the trains, and downhill all the way - but come winter, it was well dark after six o'clock.

Usually I'd hike down The Terrace, but from time to time, just for a little variety, I'd find an alternate route, maybe skirting the Botanical Gardens and coming down Clifton Terrace. Whatever took my fancy. This one night, there was pretty close to a full moon and so I cut a big corner off my route by nipping through the remainder of the cemetery where it bordered the motorway.

It had been raining earlier in the day, and there was enough in the way of wet pine needles and the like to require care in where I put my feet as I came down the hillside. Fortunately, the ground was well lit in that strangely silver way, and the path was otherwise very well maintained. Traffic was a persistent muted roar, nothing more.

Another sound carried though. Higher pitched, sharper, a metallic tink, tink, tink. Close by, quite ordinary, but I couldn't place what it was at all. It grew louder as I descended; a few taps, a pause for a few seconds, then a few more taps. Repeat. I began casting round for the source. A side path led off to the right, and the sound was coming from that direction. As I moved closer, I could triangulate it. A few yards from the walkway, there was someone hunched beside one of the headstones. Quietly, I stepped a little closer, then my foot unexpectedly skidded off the slick, moss-covered surface of an exposed pohutukawa root.

I kept my balance but my feet hit the ground below the root with a very solid thump. The effect was electrifying: the crouching figure started up, dropping something as he lurched abruptly to its feet.

"Jesus!" an old man's voice exclaimed breathlessly.

"Sorry mate," I said, embarrassed at startling him, "Are you okay?"

I bent down to pick up the object I'd made him drop. It was a hefty chisel. As I handed it back to him, I could see that he'd kept his grip on a hammer in his other hand.

"Thanks," he said, taking it back from me. I had a closer look at him now. He was wearing a long, heavy greatcoat of some description, though what colour it was I couldn't tell. It wasn't light enough under the moon to distinguish anything beyond shades of grey. He had a particular look about him. The look you see at the Anzac Day dawn parade; the look you see at wreath-layings; the look you see at the table in the corner at the Returned Servicemen's Association with a full ashtray and a half-full jug of DB Draught. The left breast full of ribbons and medals was quite redundant.

I felt further apology was warranted.

"I didn't mean to frighten you."

"That's all right. I shouldn't be out here anyway." He hefted the chisel uneasily.

I took a couple of paces to the left, bringing the face of the headstone into view.

      1878 - 1956

Beneath that, in small lettering I had to strain to make out

       1899 - 1902

The lettering of the name appeared to have been picked out afresh, explaining the chipping sounds I'd heard, though he couldn't have done anything about the way it was off centre from the rest of the inscription. It seemed odd that the old boy felt like he had to do this under cover of darkness, but it hardly seemed my place to remark.

He spoke again. "Ya haven't got a fag, have ya?"

"No, sorry, I don't smoke."

"No worries. I shouldn't anyway."

Curiosity finally got the better of me.

"Look, I hope I'm not being rude, but why are you doing this?"

A look of irritation crossed his worn features, chased away by a resigned sigh.

"Had to fix it, didn't I."

"Fix what?"

"The buggers spelled my bloody name wrong."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A dissonant moment

U.S. rejects Katrina meals, offers them to others
WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - The United States on Friday offered needy countries more than 330,000 packaged meals donated by Britain to feed Hurricane Katrina victims but rejected due to a U.S. ban on British beef.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the "Meals Ready to Eat," or MREs, had been held in a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, for more than a month after U.S. Agriculture Department officials said they could not be distributed in the United States because they contained British beef products.

"We are certainly, for our part, looking to dispose of these MREs that were offered in the spirit of friendship and charity. We are looking to dispose of them in the same way," Ereli told a State Department briefing.
Here's a wee clue: the words "dispose" and "spirit of friendship and charity" should not, as a rule, appear quite so close together.


Democrat colours: white on blue

Republican colours: red on khaki

'nuff said?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Pushing buttons

This spam is a little more interesting than the usual. I've received it at three different and unrelated email addresses, both at work and at home. It seems to have a two-pronged attack: clicking the included "unsubscribe" link (inactive below for blindingly obvious reasons) confirms that your email address is valid, and also attempts to install a small downloader Trojan, which will then pull down a larger payload, the effect of which I am disinclined to experiment with. But that's not why I'm posting it here.

It has been requested that the following address:

recipient email address

should be added to the communism community mailing list.
You have been successfully subscribed to our mail list.

Thank you.

To unsubscribe from our mail list, just follow this link:

IP elided as public service/subs/unsub.php?email=recipient email address>

Click this link, or copy and paste the address into your browser.
I like they way the sender tries to trigger a knee-jerk dash to the malicious hyperlink. You have been "added to the communism community mailing list".




Commieeeeeeee. Baaaaaaaaaaad. Eeeeeeeeeek.

What a hoot.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Entertaining a thought

That is to say, I've been entertaining the thought for some time, but the thought doesn't entertain me one bit. Now this Andy Rooney piece brings my unease closer to the surface.
I'm not really clear how much a billion dollars is but the United States — our United States — is spending $5.6 billion a month fighting this war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into.

We still have 139,000 soldiers in Iraq today.

Almost 2,000 Americans have died there. For what?

Now we have the hurricanes to pay for. One way our government pays for a lot of things is by borrowing from countries like China.
Rooney goes on to compare US military spending ($455 billion in 2004) with that of other countries (Japan $42 billion, Italy $28 billion, Russia $19 billion) and suggest that instead of borrowing, the US should be looking to save money in this area. Lots of money.

The thing is, when your military budget almost equals the rest of the world's combined defence spending, where are you going to find a bailiff to collect on those loans? Considering the current US administration's track record — one big fat hubristic "fuck you" both at home and abroad (and literally, in Dick Cheney's case) — are they deranged enough to think that they can renege on payment, retreat into splendid isolation, and ride out the economic shitstorm that would ensue, safe in the knowledge that everyone else will be hurting worse? There's a lot of attention paid to Third World debt; maybe some of that attention belongs elsewhere.

In short: Does America expect to have to pay her debts?

Yes, this is a pretty immature speculation, but when did the White House last demonstrate any real maturity? Last millennium, wasn't it?