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Friday, December 17, 2004

Well, there’s this:

A school banned pencil sharpeners after a 10-year-old boy took one apart and used the blade to injure a classmate.

Punishment: two days off in front of the telly, and permanent expulsion; for the pencil sharpener that is.
And then there’s this:

A 14-year-old Hertfordshire student has been suspended from school for using topless pictures of the model Jordan in an English project

Punishment: one day suspension (though admittedly this included time in his bedroom “reconsidering” his project work).
Good to see that schools understand where to set their priorities: it’s only twice as bad to slash up someone’s face and possibly disfigure them for life than looking at boobs?

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This piece by David Brooks is quite interesting. In it it traces the rise of large families in the US, and the relationship between this phenomenon he calls “natalism” and wider social, cultural and even political forces. It’s certainly worth a read.
Here’s what got me thinking::

The fastest-growing regions of the country tend to have the highest concentrations of children. Young families move away from what they perceive as disorder, vulgarity and danger and move to places like Douglas County in Colorado (which is the fastest-growing county in the country and has one of the highest concentrations of kids).
Some people see these exurbs as sprawling, materialistic wastelands, but many natalists see them as clean, orderly and affordable places where they can nurture children. If you wanted a one-sentence explanation for the explosive growth of far-flung suburbs, it would be that when people get money, one of the first things they do is use it to try to protect their children from bad influences.

I think there may indeed be something to this. But perhaps it also works the other way round. If you live in a place or a society full of bad influences and the like, that is surely going to lower your desire to put children into that world. To give a slightly charicatured view, if Melanie Phillips’ observations of modern Britain are ten per cent accurate, who in his right mind would want to raise children in such a country. There is a certainly a wide-spread feeling in Britain, that something just isn’t right, even though it’s difficult to put the finger on what it is. Is that perhaps dampening the desire for offspring? I actually think that’s quite a convincing idea.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

The other day I subjected myself to viewing a short film entitled “Four”, made by none other than Yoko Ono, back in the heydays of 1969 New York. I was informed that it was making a statement for “peace”. It’s alternative title is “Bottoms”, and that was the programme too: numerous naked bums in close-up, wigglin’ around. Needless to say, it was a silent film of course; so not just all the bums, but also without any sound. For four minutes.
Well, I know it is art, but I know that I don’t like it.

If you want something artistic that in contrast is politically entirely despicable check out this collection of post-revolutionary Russian porcelain. Now, that is something I like, and some of the artwork presented here is quite impressive. If you’re puzzled by the innovative and modern touch the illustrations have, most items are from the earliest years of the Soviet regime when this sort of thing was considered the style of the moment. In later years Stalin's disapproval led to rather less inspiring “art”. *Shudder*
But generally speaking I often find that the 1920s were one the artistically pleasing decades ever.

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Well this was an interesting one brought up a couple of days ago: What would have happened if, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, Nazi Germany had declared war not on the US, but on Japan instead?


Saturday, December 11, 2004

I couple of days ago I bought myself the print edition of the Guardian. I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps I wanted to remind myself of the days when I was a daily reader (I stopped reading due to that fact that I’d have to pay for the paper myself now). Anyway, I was interrupted for several days in the middle of reading so I only got to the editorial page today. Leaving aside some of the disagreeable commentary found there, Steven Bell’s cartoon is an absolute cracker. Is this stretching it just that bit too far? I mean, honestly, are there people who can take anything about that serious? And yes, I know cartoons are not supposed to be all serious, but they are supposed to give pause for thought about something serious. But this time Bell has really overdone it and clouded any sense there could have been out into it. I mean, come on, Why doesn’t Bush have horns? Perhaps Condi should have forked tongue protruding from her mouth? And why the crosses? If he wants to go in for some Hitler-relativisation why didn’t he just use swastikas? If you asked me to make an over-the-top cartoon to parody the anti-Bush left, I’m not sure I could possibly have topped this. The only pause for thought it gives you is about the curious mentality of the kind of people who draw this and think it belongs on the editorial page of a major newspaper.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I have noticed that quite a number of bloggers who are situated in London have been writing about their foxes (see here, here or here). As for that last one I have to say I feel a little guilty about it now, after having one sidling up to my kitchen window with a hungry look on its face. Well I couldn’t help him out; to my knowledge foxes aren’t great fans of nudel and mushroom soup, he stayed hanging around the garden for a while before swiftly exiting the scene. But having a really close look at him, made me think that foxes can actually be sort of cute in a robust sort of way, so I think I shouldn’t have had such a laugh about my fox hunting neighbours.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

This report in the Telegraph on Syrian volunteers joining the Iraqi insurgency makes for disheartening reading.
But what struck me, when I reread it this morning, was that to some extent more able siplomacy could have cut back very much on the size of the problem. Here is a representative voice:

Like many Syrians, he is convinced that his country will be invaded next and that it is only by keeping the US bogged down in Iraq that Syria will be spared.
"All we know is that Syria is the next station in the American plan. The Americans are all Jews and unbelievers," said Abdullah.

Now, leave aside his rather surprising finding that the 97% of Americans who are not Jewish are apparently atheists, he is making a clear point about the Syrian regime’s sense of threat. This should have been avoidable to some extent, by making it clear that there was going to be no push into Damascus after the one into Baghdad. Of course that wouldn’t have eradicated this kind of activity of supporting the insurgency and passive support of the Assad regime, but it would have been substantially less. This would be something to look at: to get Syria to do a Gaddafi. It would help us with our troubles in Iraq, would make an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal easier and would be beneficial to Syria by avoiding potentially damaging confrontations with the West.

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