February 26th, 2003


Email Problems

I've been having webmail problems for the last 2 days. I lost several emails on Monday and Tuesday before getting things sorted out last night (or so I thought).

I just lost all of my emails sitting in my account - 36 of them. If you've sent me email in the last 24 hours and I haven't replied to it (or it was important) please send it again.

I'm now looking for a decent POP3 reading website. Any recommendations? I have to be able to read my email using it...

More reviews

(This one's been sitting there for about a week, as I consistently forgot to post it)

The world is a strange place. It's full of coincidences, strange occurences and people acting in irrational ways. Nobody you ever meet is entirely normal and sane and we all have our quirks.

The writer of Bandits is obviously highly aware of this and thus everyone we meet in the film is distinctly human in their own unique approach to life. You might get a hint from the fact that his previous credits include a stint on Twin Peaks.

The basic plot of the film concerns Billy Bob Thornton (I love that name) and Bruce Willis as bank robbers, escaping from prison, kidnapping Cate Blanchett and then going on a spree so that they can retire to Mexico.

Yes, based on that description, I avoided seeing it too. But I'm very thankful to the friend who insisted I watch it (thanks Jen!), because the sheer quirkiness of the three lead characters and the unnormal reality.

From the unusual opening sequence (starting present day and then flashing back 6 months through a sequence of tantalising flashbacks) to what would surely win "Best use of Bonnie Tyler in a seduction scene" should such an award exist, the film was speckled with slightly off-kilter goodness.

It's not perfect, certainly, but to anyone who likes the Coen Brothers take on reality will almost certainly like this as well.

Score: 8/10

Bank teller: Is this a joke?
Joe: No ma'am, this is a bank robbery.
Terry: You're insane!
Kate: I'm unhappy! It's not the same thing.

(no subject)

Just back from watching Rob Newman (of "Newman and Baddiel" and "Mary Whitehouse Experience" fame) give a talk called "Rob Newman: From Caliban to the Taliban - 500 Years of Humanitarian Intervention"

I learnt a few things, like the fact that The Tempest was inspired by the shipwrecking of mariners on Bermuda, that America's been in a pretty constant state of war for the last 200 years (except for 1892 apparently, when they invaded nobody - but did have a series of massive internal strikes) and that Iraq has been the cause of much fighting all the way back to the Berlin-Baghdad railway of 1903 (which was pretty much the cause of World War 1. 3 months after Baghdad fell to the British forces Germany surrendered).

The only real problem I had with the show (which was both witty and intelligent) was that it offered no real answers. I feel both reassured and dissapointed by people who show problems and don't offer pat solutions. On the one hand it seems entirely realistic for there not to be a simple answer (or any answer), on the other it seems awfully negative to say "This is not the answer, and neither is that and neither is that."

I was reminded of something I meant to write about a few weeks ago. I saw a graph of votes in the last US presidential election. Generally speaking (although not universally by any means) the urban, richer, more educated areas voted more liberally than the agrarian, poorer areas. This seems to be mainly down to the fact that people living in agrarian areas want low taxes and low government interference because they don't see any need for it, while urbanised populations are constantly surrounded by thousands of strangers who they must get on with.

America is still largely sparsely inhabited. The majority of the population are not urban or highly educated. This will change slowly, because technological civilisations have to educate their populations or they cannot maintain their technological lead. This leads to an increasing liberalism, especially combined with long periods of peace and prosperity. If you want a conservative population you need to keep them poor and paranoid. The US has a choice between educating the population and slipping leftwards, or losing its technological and economic lead. Tricky, tricky, tricky.

Europe is currently more prosperous and peaceful, insulated from the worst of the nastiness going on elsewhere. They've developed a different approach. Look at what's happening with the current expansion - vast amounts of human rights legislation has been passed in all of the countries looking for entry. The economic advantages are being used as a stick to beat the applicants into social upheaval. "You can join our club, but you have to play nice." This, to me, is the only tactic liable to work in the long term to bring peace. Once people have the prosperity and peace that the membership produces, theres no reason to go back to the bad old days. Of course, it's a snowball effect - the more people there are in the prosperous zone, the easier it is to add more. The better the technology, the easier it is to raise people from nowhere to somewhere.

Now, this is not a quick solution, by any means. Lots of bad things will happen before it reaches any kind of resolutin. Terrible events will continue to occur all over the world. But I really don't think there is a quick fix to the problems of world hunger and war and despotism. There's only the long, slow (and hopefully inevitable) march of education, prosperity and liberalism.