September 16th, 2014
Karl reMarks: We Give the Scottish Independence Referendum the Middle East Expert Treatment.
The English and the Scottish had a long-running rivalry throughout history, which partially explains the current animosity. The two nations often went to war against each other, but the rivalry came to an end with the Acts of Union 1707. (So called because it was signed at seven minutes past five in the afternoon.) Despite being part of the United Kingdom for hundreds of years, many Scots never felt comfortable and always wanted to seek independence so that they can enjoy their simple way of life in the mountains, drinking whisky and eating the local delicacy known as ‘fried Mars bars’.
The English however are intent on depriving the Scots from achieving this goal, not least because it would mean re-designing the flag and changing all the letterheads. (The English are pragmatic down-to-earth people, but they are notorious for their aversion to change, particularly when stationery is involved.) The English would also like to keep their hands on Scottish oil and gas reserves, because clearly as Middle East experts we feel obliged to stress the importance of oil regardless of context.
[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]
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August 4th, 2014
Chris Brooke has been reading The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark's book on the outbreak of the First World War.
[What…] I was repeatedly struck by were the sheer number of quite extraordinarily belligerent actors that I encountered along the way, and I ended up a bit surprised that continental war didn't break out much earlier than 1914. […]
[French diplomat…] Paul Cambon takes the prize:
Underpinning Cambon's exalted sense of self was the belief – shared by many of the senior ambassadors – that one did not merely represent France, one personified it. Though he was ambassador in London from 1898 until 1920, Cambon spoke not a word of English. During his meetings with [Foreign Secretary] Edward Grey (who spoke no French), he insisted every utterance be translated into French, including easily recognized words such as 'yes'. He firmly believed – like many members of the French elite – that French was the only language capable of articulating rational thought and he objected to the foundation of French schools in Britain on the eccentric grounds that French people raised in Britain tended to end up mentally retarded.
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June 30th, 2014
A quick note for UK-based readers: BBC4 are starting a repeat run for Edge of Darkness later tonight at 10pm 11pm. Not the Mel Gibson remake: the original miniseries with Bob Peck (never better), lashings of paranoia, a bit of fringe environmentalism, and more than a dash of of sheer weirdness. Quite possibly the best miniseries produced by British television in the 1980s, rivalled only by Boys from the Blackstuff and The Beiderbecke Affair (if you don't disqualify the latter from the category of miniseries for having two followup series.)
I haven't seen Edge of Darkness since the original broadcast, and I'm curious as to how it'll look almost 30 years on. I have a horrible feeling that the answer will be "prescient."
[Via The Guardian]
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June 29th, 2014
DataShine: Census provides a simple, map-based view of the UK's 2011 census data. I could browse this thing for hours….
The DataShine mapping platform is an output from an ESRC Future Research Leaders Project entitled "Big Open Data: Mining and Synthesis". The overall project seeks promote and develop the use of large and open datasets amongst the social science community. A key part of this initiative is the visualisation of these data in new and informative ways to inspire new uses and generate insights. Phase one has been to create the mapping platform with data from the 2011 Census. The next phases will work on important issues such as representing the uncertainty inherent in many population datasets and also developing tools that will enable the synthesis of data across multiple sources.
[Via Flowing Data]
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June 28th, 2014
Experience the thrill of Bounce Below at Llechwedd Slate Caverns:
Bounce Below is the first facility of its kind, a set of three enormous nets within the Llechwedd caverns in Wales – bringing trampolines to whole new terrain…literally. Bounce Below is an underground playground for both adults and children, set deep inside an old mining cavern that is twice the size of St. Paul's Cathedral. […] a cavern that is lit up by an incredible display of lights and to a collection of 3 trampolines that have been interconnected by stairways and slides – the biggest of which is a 60 foot slide that just adds to the already awesome experience.
I have no head for heights so I don't think this is for me, but it does look pretty amazing.
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May 14th, 2014
15 weird things that 9% of Britons say they believe:
If Labour are having a tough time in the polls, the Lib Dems are facing a European wipe out.
The latest YouGov figures on how people are intending to vote in the European Elections put Lib Dem support at 9%. Our friends at UsVsTh3m noticed this was significantly lower than the number of people who would be prepared to have sex with an android.
We wondered what other things more than 9% of the British public believe, would be prepared to do, or have done…
10. Eat testicles
Not just the preserve of Bushtucker Trials in I'm A Celeb, 9% of people in the UK said they would be prepared to eat animal testicles. Remember, that's the same amount of people who say they'll vote Lib Dem.
Gloating? Perhaps. But it's a welcome distraction from contemplating UKIP's polling numbers.
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May 5th, 2014
19 feet down and 9 feet to the west of the original site:
Like the Pentagon, its better-known counterpart in the United States, Britain's Ministry of Defence building is a fairly mundane, if gigantic, office block camouflaging a much more exciting subterranean realm of secret tunnels, bunkers, and – at least in the MoD's case – a perfectly preserved Tudor wine cellar. […]
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May 5th, 2014
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February 22nd, 2014
I'm indebted to Stu for reminding me of this perfect epilogue to Spaced, which I believe can be found on the DVD boxset:
[Via feeling listless]
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February 12th, 2014
From the [pen|keyboard] of The Yorkshire Ranter: Dave from PR in the French Revolution…
Being a Salmagundi from the Talking-Pointes of the late Sieur Davide du Camerone, Gentleman of the Privy and Counsellier upon the Fourth Estate to his most Catholic Majesty, the late King Louis XVI
An unexpectedly large forecast error in the Budget leads Finance Minister Necker to call an emergency Estates-General:
We’re all in this together. Only a balanced parliament reflecting the national consensus to deal with the debt can keep us from ending up like Spain. M. Colbert didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining, but His Majesty is determined to get our finances in surplus by 1792. That’s on a rolling five-year cash basis excluding interventions in North America and royal mistresses.
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