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    Tea totalling

    Posted by Sean at 22:09, July 21st, 2005

    If we don’t show solidarity with London by buying lots of stuff at Fortnum & Mason, the terrorists win. Take that, Islamofascists!

    And that!

    Mmmm…and maybe some of that.

    In all seriousness, I’m just very grateful that this week’s crew of bombers only succeeded in displaying their incompetence to a media-saturated world. The police are apparently marshalling all their brain powers to figure who–who on Earth–might be behind the failed bombings:

    Security analysts said the obvious carbon-copy attacks could have been masterminded either by the same group or by less sophisticated sympathisers — maybe young, disaffected Muslims.

    “There is a resonance here,” police chief Blair said, but he cautioned it would take time to tell who was to blame.

    Fine, let’s keep an open mind. But at this point, I’m thinking the probability that the bombers were not young, disaffected Muslims is pretty darned low.

    A propos of nothing: it was at the Shepherds Bush Empire that I saw Alison Moyet perform ten years ago. One of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I happened to stand next to a dyke couple who kept looking at me with expressions that clearly said, “Shouldn’t you be at a Madonna concert instead, Mary?” But it was great; it was the tour for Essex, and the songs were flatteringly toughened up a bit for live performance. It’s a shame Alison’s career never really, really ignited internationally (especially since Vince Clarke went on to find major success after hooking up with that grating, self-pitying, quivery, histrionic, braying gay donkey Andy Bell and forming Erasure), though it’s nice that she does well at home still.


    Buddhist art the Taliban failed to get its mitts on

    Posted by Sean at 21:33, July 21st, 2005

    This is good news:

    Japanese researchers discovered a colorful, centuries-old Buddhist mural in a stone cave in Afghanistan that somehow escaped the destructive rampage of the Taliban regime in 2001, officials in Tokyo said.

    The cave, about 3 meters wide, 3 meters deep and 2 meters high, is located at the west end of Bamiyan Valley, according to officials at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

    Parts of the mural are still covered with dust, but the painting is believed to cover all sides of the cave as well as the ceiling, the officials said.

    The west wall depicts Buddha and other sitting Buddhist deities drawn with bold strokes.

    We love bold strokes! The paintings could apparently help researchers determine how certain motifs in Buddhist art were transmitted through central Asia.


    No borders here

    Posted by Sean at 09:21, July 21st, 2005

    Congratulations, Canada:

    Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin signed the legislation making it law, hours after it was approved by the Senate late Tuesday night despite strong opposition from Conservatives and religious leaders.

    Churches have expressed concern that their clergy would be compelled to perform same sex ceremonies. The legislation, however, states that the bill only covers civil unions, not religious ones, and no clergy would be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies unless they choose to do so.

    Charles McVety, a spokesman for Defend Marriage Canada and president of Canada Christian College, said he was “very sad that the state has invaded the church, breached separation of church and state and redefined a religious word.”

    Well, buddy, this is what you get when the religious word in question is closely tied to a government goodie bag. I still think there’s reason for caution about a blanket extension of the legally designated category of marriage to cover gay relationships, but not all the opportunism in argument has been on the pro-gay side. And the sense of entitlement that has animated many gays in this debate is something that’s been picked up from the general culture, not invented by our team and foisted on it.


    London hit again?

    Posted by Sean at 08:51, July 21st, 2005

    More evacuations on the London Underground. Let’s hope no one’s been hurt.


    Heartbreaker

    Posted by Sean at 00:29, July 21st, 2005

    I’m not sure whether it’s the most depressing song ever, but Dolly Parton’s “Down from Dover” is one of those country songs that play on the emotions very cunningly. From the very first verse, you know exactly what’s going to happen:

    I know this dress I’m wearing doesn’t hide the secret I have tried concealing
    When he left he promised me that he’d be back by the time it was revealing
    The sun behind a cloud just casts a crawling shadow o’er the fields of clover
    And time is running out for me–I wish that he would hurry down from Dover

    It’s not just that the story is as old as time–it’s that Parton sets it in the autumn, when things begin to chill and die. Of course, real babies are born in fall all the time, but within the universe of symbols in the song, Parton’s choice of season is significant.

    He’s been gone so long–when he left the snow was deep upon the ground
    And I have seen a spring and summer pass, and now the leaves are turning brown
    And any time a tiny face will show itself ’cause waiting’s almost over
    But I won’t have a name to give it if he doesn’t hurry down from Dover

    My folks weren’t understanding–when they found out they sent me from the home place
    My daddy said if folks found out he’d be ashamed to ever show his face
    My mamma said I was a fool, and she did not believe it when I told her
    That everything would be all right ’cause soon he would be coming down from Dover

    I found a place to stay out on a farm taking care of an old lady
    She never asked me nothing, so I never talked to her about my baby
    I sent a message to my mom with a name and address of Miss Elvah Grover
    And to make sure he got that information when he came down from Dover

    I loved him more than anything, and I could not refuse him when he needed me
    He was the only one I’d loved, and I just can’t believe that he was using me
    He couldn’t leave me here like this–I know it can’t be so, it can’t be over
    He wouldn’t make me go through this alone, oh, he’ll be coming down from Dover

    My body aches, the time is here, it’s lonely in this place where I’m lying
    Our baby has been born, but something’s wrong–it’s much too still–I hear no crying
    I guess in some strange way she knew she’d never have a father’s arms to hold her
    And dying was her way of telling me he wasn’t coming down from Dover

    Look me dead in the pixels and tell me you’re not depressed. The fourth verse was omitted from the original version on The Fairest of Them All, but Parton reinserted it on her wonderful remake a few years ago on Little Sparrow. She changed the phrasing in places, too. In either version, the story is beautifully paced–each step at which the protagonist is further isolated from people and still doesn’t get what’s going on positively hurts to listen to. Dramatic irony at its most devastating. And unlike many of the old ballads from which Parton (among a lot of other country songwriters, of course) drew inspiration, the poor girl doesn’t end up dead and at least out of her misery.


    I hear no one ever dies there

    Posted by Sean at 21:01, July 20th, 2005

    This is one of the many reasons I love Susanna:

    I just don’t think they’re [leftists, of course] being very realistic about the threat, which is not the same as questioning their honesty, morality or intelligence. I know a lot of people who I consider exemplary on all three counts who disagree with me on the WOT, both liberals and conservatives. So it’s not that either. But there are a lot of liberals and leftists who do give cover – just consider any of your garden-variety pseudo-intellectual Hollywood types like, oh, Sean Penn, George Clooney, Susan Sarandon, etc. And consider the leadership of the Democratic party as well as the nattering leftists in the US and Europe, whose primary solidarity is built on anti-Americanism arising from their own sick envy. I consider them the rankest hypocrites, demanding the freedoms and excesses of the West while succoring the fascists of radical Islam whose first activity on taking over any country would be to end the freedoms and excesses Western civilization provides. And finally, I’m not parroting a party line – I’m a lot harsher than the party line tends to be.

    Yeah, we only wish the party line were that uncompromising. Susanna quotes Peter Tatchell’s statement on Unite Against Terror. In my opinion, Tatchell is one of the few lefty gay voices consistently worth listening to. He may stage wacko demonstrations and support “international socialism” [shiver], but he knows how to make arguments applicable to Earth and not Planet Clare.


    Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Canberra anymore

    Posted by Sean at 20:39, July 20th, 2005

    Re. US-Japan security ties, the Yomiuri reports that the Department of Defense has asked Japan to give us a heads-up if, say, the DPRK fires a missile at us:

    The United States, as part of its missile defense program, has asked the government to share any information obtained by advanced radar systems in Japan as soon as they detect a U.S.-targeted ballistic missile attack launched from such countries as North Korea, government sources said Tuesday.

    Any such missile launch would probably first be detected in Japan by an advanced early warning radar system known as FPS-XX.

    The next-generation high-performance radar system, which is in its final stage of development by the Defense Agency’s Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), will be a pivotal component of the nation’s missile defense system scheduled to be deployed 2007.

    The government is set to accept the U.S. requests for assistance saying there would be no problem in sharing information in the event of a missile attack on the United States, the sources said.

    The pattern for new gizmos with “next generation” attached to them is one of delayed roll-outs and lots of debugging after release, in my experience. Nevertheless, despite its trouble launching rockets and satellites, Japan’s ground-based surveillance is very good.

    Ambassador Thomas Schieffer has also asked Japan to extend the deployment of SDF personnel in Iraq again:

    Schieffer told reporters at the National Press Club of Japan that it is Tokyo’s decision, but countries in the multinational force are expected to make tough choices to help establish democracy in Iraq.

    “We know that that was a threshold to cross for the Japanese government and the Japanese people. It is not an easy thing for them to be there,” Schieffer said.

    “But we think that their contribution is making a difference, and it is a contribution that they can proudly say they are making on behalf of the international community, and not because the United States is there,” he said.

    “All of us have to do things that we would prefer not to do from time to time,” he added.

    Schieffer’s comments came as Tokyo and Washington have begun working quietly on how to interpret U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 to allow an extension beyond the Dec. 14 expiry stipulated under the basic dispatch plan approved last year by the Cabinet.

    With the brouhaha over Japan Post reform, other issues before the Diet and cabinet aren’t really getting much play in the news here. It seems unlikely that Koizumi will be inclined to pull out early.

    I still don’t really know what to make of Schieffer. He’s far less a media presence here than Howard Baker was. Not that the old ambassador was all over the society pages, or anything, but he was quoted very regularly in news reports. Schieffer is much quieter. Perhaps he’s getting his bearings–he’s not a really seasoned politician as Baker was. Or perhaps he simply finds it politic to shut up, given the topics there are to opine on lately: anti-Japan sentiment in China, friction over politicans’ pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, Japan’s push for permanent UN Security Council membership. These aren’t exactly easy shoals to navigate, and Schieffer has only been on duty here since April.


    I have run you down into the ground

    Posted by Sean at 20:18, July 20th, 2005

    Hmmm…. Morning…. Cup of strong tea, scrambled eggs with way too much butter…. Classical Values…. WHAT?! [splutter]

    Does this sick phenomenon called “outing” know no bounds? I mean, it’s bad enough to go after a politician for “hypocrisy” when his personal life runs afoul of his stated political views. But to go after a family member? This was the kneejerk reaction of certain Daily Kos regulars, who wasted no time in calling for an investigation to determine whether John Roberts’ son is gay.

    This is now being dismissed as absurd because, of course, the son happens to be four years old.

    Disgraceful. In fairness, two Kos commenters did have the decency to point out that going after Roberts’s son was at least ignorant. (I would have preferred to see them point out that it was outrageous, but you can’t have everything.)


    One and one and one make five

    Posted by Sean at 05:23, July 20th, 2005

    Frequent commenter John has had his own blog for a few months–it’s very good stuff.

    There have been a lot of posts about math education floating around lately. His two (here and here) are great additions to the pool. Something that he says that more people need to understand (and that is pertinent to comparisons of American and Japanese educational systems):

    So being Americans, and enamored of the idea that everyone can become a genius, we came out with systems that emphasized creativity over memorization, forgetting that in order to be creative you need at least a few facts in your head, otherwise you live in a world of make-believe.

    Somehow, the conviction that your progress in life needn’t be limited by the circumstances you were born into has changed into the belief that you can bluff your way through anything. (That actually doesn’t work much better in literary study than it does in math, BTW, as anyone who’s lost hours of life to an assigned “critical theory” reading of zero meaning can attest. It’s just less noticeable because there’s at least some fudge room in interpretation and criticism. And misinterpreting a poem doesn’t make bridges fall down.)


    USSC nominee

    Posted by Sean at 22:38, July 19th, 2005

    Bush’s nominee for the US Supreme Court seems to have surprised everyone. For those of us who don’t believe the Constitution is a mirror, he sounds like a great choice. The Washington Blade cites this AP report:

    “The court’s conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion … finds no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution,” the brief [from Roberts] said.

    In his defense, Roberts told senators during his 2003 confirmation hearing that he would be guided by legal precedent. “Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. … There is nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent.”

    Of course, the usual spokespersons are saying the usual things, and they’ll all be paraded across the news channels for the foreseeable future–I know some people like that aspect of politics, but I frankly find it wearying. One thing I would like to see, though, that I haven’t come across in the news reports yet: Arlen Specter’s reaction. He’s a triangulating moderate himself, and he was fond of Sandra Day O’Connor. I mean, obviously, he’s going to say something politic. When does he not? Still, Roberts looks more consistently conservative than he’d hoped for.