To all the American liberal bien-pensants who mock Bush for his pronunciation of nuclear here’s a question: how do you pronounce aluminium?
Archive for August, 2008
PC World has what it calls a Collect@Store deal for some of its offers. When I tried to pick up a Toshiba A300-1bz laptop, it turned out that the only laptops the offer applies to are ex-display or refurbished. The Currys website says that: the PC World website doesn’t, which is sharp practice at least and I’d call it dishonest.
Complaining to PC World’s Customer Services was, of course, a huge waste of time; if they bother training their staff at all, they train them to stonewall potential customers.
The company has a history of being found guilty of misleading the public. The Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint that PC World was advertising a notebook that it couldn’t supply, which is somewhat similar the problem I had today – their Customer Service department agreed that there wasn’t a single retail outlet in the UK that had one of these laptops in stock as new; and again, PC World’s parent company was found guilty of mis-selling computer equipment after a case brought by the Trading Standards Authority in which secondhand laptops were sold as new.
PC World is in the bottom10 in a survey asking shoppers to name the worst high street shops in the UK, according to The Independent.
So I bought a better laptop elsewhwere, paying several hundred pounds more – the price was never my only concern – and I’ll never, ever buy anything at all from PC World, Dixons, or Currys again. I’d advise everyone else not to deal with them while they do business in this way.
Thinking about our holiday hotels in the States reminds me of the town of Durango and the Days Inn. With the exception of the peculiar Craig Motel, The Durango Days Inn was by far and away the worst motel in which I’ve ever stayed in all of our trips to the US.
Of course you might like dimly lit, ochre-coloured rooms with cigaretter burns in dark green carpets. In which case, the Days Inn, Durango, is the place for you.
The 55-second clip, on Number 10′s YouTube site, was created after nearly 50,000 people backed a call for the Top Gear presenter to be prime minister.
a Downing Street spokesman stressed the film was a joke, and had not cost any extra money to make.
“A member of staff put it together in a spare half-hour.”
BBC, No 10′s Clarkson video a ‘joke’/p>
So the video was done in half an hour, by one person, outside of their normal work time, using their own software and resources: and approved outside of paid-for work hours by some manager with authority, who reviewed the video in time that was his, not ours. And it was added to the No.10 YouTube site in their own time, too. and everything took only half an hoar.
What lying fucking timewasters these people are.
When in the US recently I had a vague memory of a book I had thought I’d at least take a good look at, if not buy, and you know how it is when you’ve just finished reading a good book on holiday – I’d just put down ‘The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11‘ by Lawrence Wright – you immediately want another to fill that space.
The book I was remembering was, ‘American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville‘, by Bernard-Henri Levy, but I couldn’t find it in the bookshops of Boulder or Denver. Lucky me. I’ve just read some reviews:
Any American with a big urge to write a book explaining France to the French should read this book first, to get a sense of the hazards involved. Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French writer with a spatter-paint prose style and the grandiosity of a college sophomore; he rambled around this country at the behest of The Atlantic Monthly and now has worked up his notes into a sort of book. It is the classic Freaks, Fatties, Fanatics & Faux Culture Excursion beloved of European journalists for the past 50 years, with stops at Las Vegas to visit a lap-dancing club and a brothel; Beverly Hills; Dealey Plaza in Dallas; Bourbon Street in New Orleans; Graceland; a gun show in Fort Worth; a “partner-swapping club” in San Francisco with a drag queen with mammoth silicone breasts; the Iowa State Fair (“a festival of American kitsch”); Sun City (“gilded apartheid for the old”);a stock car race; the Mall of America; Mount Rushmore; a couple of evangelical megachurches; the Mormons of Salt Lake; some Amish; the 2004 national political conventions; Alcatraz – you get the idea. (For some reason he missed the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the adult video awards, the grave site of Warren G. Harding and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.) You meet Sharon Stone and John Kerry and a woman who once weighed 488 pounds and an obese couple carrying rifles, but there’s nobody here whom you recognize. In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You’ve lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don’t own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French.
The New York Times, On the Road Avec M. Lévy
Don’t think I’ll bwe bothering now.
When a colleague, himself recently returned from Las Vegas, asked about my holiday plans for touring Colorado and Utah he said, “I suppose you’ve booked all your hotels“.
Well, no. My partner Helen always takes on the bulk of planning and she books in advance only the first night’s hotel, because we’re always late in from the airport and on previous visits to the US we have been required to write down at least our first night’s address on the green entry cards (although I noticed on this most recent holiday we were allowed to write that we were touring). Helen usually also books the last, or last two nights, at the end of the holiday. The rest we leave to chance, wherever we go. Such a careless strategy always works and in the States anything else seems completely unnecessary and hardly ever regrettable.
So most of the nights are spent in inexpensive Holiday Inns and Days Inns and Comfort Inns and Super 8s, booked in the evening when we turn up in a town. Most US towns have a strip with the budget motels and fast-food chains and there’s nearly always room at the inn.
Except twice. In 2004, we were pushed to find a room in Visalia, CA after we’d spent an afternoon walking in the Sierra Nevada and arrived rather late in the evening. This year, after a fruitless trip to Dinosaur, Co (the previously-open dinosaur beds were closed to tourists) we drove on towards the Rocky Mountain National Parkbut decided to break the journey in the small, undistinguished town of Craig. In wasn’t too late and we didn’t expect any problem – except it was hunting season and Craig’s a base used by enthusiastic game hunters. Nearly everywhere was full except for the eponymous Craig Motel, to which we were referred by a helpful desk clerk at the Craig Holiday Inn
The Craig Motel, Craig, Colorado
We were welcomed into a ramshackle office by the owner, a Chinese woman who’d spent a few years in Birkenhead (UK) and escaped to the States as soon as she could. She was very pleasant but our rooms were dark and smelled of disinfectant and air freshener. The bathroom was fairly clean but the toilet slowly leaked water from the cistern to the bowl so every time we flushed, the first flush would be entirely dry and we had to wait for the cistern to fill again. Neighbours in the courtyard of ground-floor rooms were hunters or longer-term residents who seemed to have settled in with their families. On the other hand it was very, very cheap.
The Curtis Hotel, Denver, on 14th and Curtis
The prize for the most amusing hotel has to go to The Curtis, Denver, which we booked for our last two nights. Each floor of the Curtis is themed and ours, the 13th, was the horror floor. The lift spoke as it slowed to a stop: “Here’s Johnny“, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and opposite the lift door was a large photo of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The rooms themselves, thankfully, eased up on the theming and there were nice touches like an iPod holder and player, even if it was built into the radio alarm clock shaped like a VW Beetle Convertible…
Some evangelicals tout Obama’s family values. The contrast with the once-philandering, adulterous divorcé running for the GOP goes unstated:
Andrew Sullivan, Christianists For Obama
Sullivan usually has little time for evangelicals interfering in politics, despite his own obsession with politics and Catholicism. When it comes to evangelicals for Obama, though, Sullivan repeats their snide insinuations and adds his own bile.
The phrase used to describe McCain – a once-philandering, adulterous divorcé – is Sullivan’s alone but what could be Sullivan’s objection to a reformed philanderer? For Sullivan, who is so adamant that the Church of the famously hedonistic and sexually licentious Augustine can encompass his own homosexuality, objecting to McCain in this way invites clichéd responses about motes and beams and casting stones. It’s not only in his own sexual life that Sullivan finds himself at odds with his faith’s traditions and teaching.
The Denver Art Museum has on display a poorly executed but anthropologically interesting painting called, ‘The Cutting Scene, Mandan O-kee-pa Ceremony‘, by George Catlin:
Interior of a Mandan timber medicine lodge depicting the limp bodies of two young Native American males hoisted in the air with ropes attached to wooden splints inserted through the muscles in their shoulders and chest. Below tribe member seated around a small fire watch as the two young men adorned with shields, spears, and animal skulls slip into unconsciousness during the ceremony.
The Cutting Scene, Mandan O-kee-pa Ceremony, Art Inventories Catalog
You may have seen a film representation of the O-kee-pa ceremony in the 1970 movie, ‘A Man Called Horse‘. Richard Harris plays an aristocrat who is captured by Native Americans, eventually gaining the respect of his captors and tormentors and finally joining the tribe. As part of his initiation into tribal customs he undergoes the excruciatingly painful vertical suspension by hooks embedded in his chest.
Nobody, as far as I know, has objected to the ceremony’s depiction in , ‘A Man Called Horse‘; yet the Denver Art Museum claims Caitlin’s painting provokes controversy for its exploitation of the Native American religion; or because of its goggle-eyed sideshow approach to a sacred rite; or some other such reason.
In the American fashion of obeisance to all minority cultural and religious traditions, especially Native American ones, however silly or repugnant they may be, the Museum presents the work to visitors with an apology that labels it the most controversial painting in the collection and devotes adjacent wall space to an interactive display that gives the views of art lecturers, cultural historians and Native Americans, encouraging the public, especially schoolchildren, to contribute their own remarks, which are duly and unnecessarily apologetic for the imagined offence.
According to the Museum, the ‘the tribe feels it’s wrong for the sacred ceremony to be seen by outsiders’ – although, as the painter had been invited by the one of the tribe’s holy men to view the ritual, it seems that today’s tribal representatives (the last full-blooded Mandan died nearly forty years ago) are ignoring the wishes of other, long-dead inhabitants of North America, riding roughshod over their views of their religioun in an unhesitant act of cultural annexation. We all visit the past as foreigners: today’s 21st Centry Native Americans are barely connected to the 19th Century Mandan religious ceremonies or the 19th Century Mandans, or to the clearly expressed desire to share with Catlin this particular rite.
Further on in the gallery, a large canvas by a contemporary artist depicts a crucified naked woman. This reference to a sacred symbol of Western religion provokes from the Museum no similar, sensitive exposition of the meanings of the work, careful regard for the sensibilities of Christians, an acknowledgement of the possibility of giving offence, or interactive contrition for children. The accompanying blrub says,
Did Barbara Kruger make this image to offend? Possibly. Or it might be an ironic statement…to draw attention to our expectation that modern art is offensive
Like Serrano’s Piss Christ, the work is understood – as the postmodernists of the Denver Art Museum’s captioning team might have put it – as an articulation in the ongoing narrative of art and culture – against the background of a dying religion, clung to desperately – as Obama says – by hicks living in the flyover States. No need to apologise to them.
Here’s a useful observation: The Golden Ratio is roughly the same as the ratio between miles and kilometers. As successive terms in the Fibonacci sequence approximate the Golden Ratio, the sequence comes in handy for quick conversions.
Here are the first 20 terms:
Using the Fibonacci, we approximate 987 miles (F16) as 1597 km. Google’s conversion tells us that 987 miles equals 1,588 km.
Not bad, eh?