Friday, December 30, 2005

Alternate history of the world #1


Wikipedia lists following as "cascade effect" leading to the disastrous conflagration called World War I:
  • Austria Hungary threatens Serbia
  • Russian treaties with Serbia commit it to mobilise in Serbia's defense
  • France mobilises in sympathy with Russian ally
  • French mobilisation kick starts the Schlieffen Plan, and the eventual invasion of Belgium by Germany
  • Britain's treaty with Belgium commits it to defend Belgium from all aggressors
The Schlieffen Plan called for the German Army to strike through Belgium, swiftly knock out the French Army, and thereby secure Germany's Western flank; they would then be free to invade Russia, the real focus of their attention. A two front war was feared to be suicidal (as, indeed, it turned out to be - in WWI and WWII, as Hitler found out to great cost). It had the unwanted effect, however, of forcing

A two front war was a certainty because France had signed a mutual military assistance treaty with Russia in 1892. Britain also had a treaty with France (and later, Russia, creating the Triple Entente, which as I understand it constituted an alignment rather than an actual treaty), the Entente Cordiale - but this was not a mutual defense treaty, which is why the proximate cause of British entry into WWI was the invasion of Belgium (thereby violating the 1839 Treaty of London, which guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium), although that begs the question whether Britain would have entered the war anyway if Belgium had allowed Germany free congress in it's invasion of France.

Anyway, that's all the background. My question is, what if France had repudiated their treaty with Russia, leaving Germany free to fight the Russians on a single front? I sure we can all see multiple scenarios; one of course is that World War I takes place a little later in time and for different proximate reasons; but the nationalist tensions and grating empires would inevitably have led to a great war. The rest of the history of the 20th century continues not much changed (except that maybe the second world war occurs in the 1950s, featuring the nuclear-armed industrial juggernaut called the Germano-Russian Empire ...).

The second, more hopeful scenario is that a swift victory for Germany in Russia means the there is no Russian Revolution (I'm a quasi-socialist, but by no stretch of the imagination do I see the Russian Revolution as a good thing); no World War II; no holocaust (and thereby no Israel, no occupation, etc)... no cold war. On the flip side, the European empires last vastly longer than they do in our history - perhaps with no great wars to deplete the resources of the empires de-colonisation is fanciful idea (although the collapse of empire seems to be a historical inevitability - economically at least). Or would the socialist revolution happened later, just not in Russia, but maybe in a German Empire weakened by the cost of pacifying Russia (is revolution possible in an industrial society)?

Is it possible that a swift German victory in WWI would have made for a better world?

Or is there a certain amount of historical inevitability that things like the Cold War would occur - that the 20th century would necessarily create two (or more) nuclear armed superpowers or empires, that would necessarily view each other suspiciously purely because irrespective of ideology they were a potential threat to each other's dominance?

Can't we all just get along?


Before I start the second part of my magnum opus, I thought I'd address a subject dear to every man's heart: what they got for christmas (and because I had to ruin Christmas for my mother one year, my birthday).

Things started well with 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
, a gift from the Onslow Road Irregulars, along with Empire : Nozone IX by Nicholas Blechman. We then trotted off to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although there was some distinctly ropey CGI effects, what really set the movie apart was the acting - especially from Georgie Henley (playing Lucy), who I'm finding it hard to believe has never been in a movie before. I wouldn't go so far to call it a classic, but I'm sure it will find it's way into my DVD collection. As many people have noted, Liam Neeson was okay as Aslan, but why wasn't James Earl Jones called?

The next stage of Birthday madness was seeing Kong with my family, preceded by more gifts - Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins and a book of movie money, all important in this day and age when cinemas fuck a person up the ass and don't even have the goddamned common courtesy to give him a reacharound (points for reference). Kong was a fixed affair. It is too long, but it doesn't overtly suffer for that fact - it just means that a sore ass detracts from enjoyment of the movie. CG effects were very, very good, only getting ropey in a couple of segments, like the scene where the dinosaurs are runnings from the raptors. Andy Serkis deserves an oscar for bringing Kong to life, and Naomi Watts looked every inch the film star; but all that screaming was really frigging annoying. I know it's that kind of movie ... but surely they could have toned it down just a little? Another oscar should have gone to the Civic Theatre ... Anyway, aside from a few hokey lines, the film holds together a lot better than it ought to, and I enjoyed it immensely on the big screen ... but, it's strictly an event movie, and I don't think that I would bother buying the DVD (except maybe for the Peter Jackson/Fran Walsh/Philippa Boyens commentary).

The next day (Christmas Eve) was the day I'd been waiting for: two packages arrived from America; one held my ROCC, the other holding two Ringnecks and a Mean Dog. True, I'd paid for them lock, stock and barrel (vast amounts when you factor in exchange rate and shipping), but it sure felt like Christmas to me ...

Speaking of Christmas, here's my haul:

The Great War for Civilisation : The Conquest of the Middle East, By Robert Fisk
Thud!, by Terry Pratchett
The Muppet Show - Season One DVD
The Big Red One: The Reconstruction, directed by Samuel Fuller
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond (wasn't actually a gift, but bought with the copius whitcoulls gift vouchers I got)

I also was the recipient of some quite scrummy homemade chocolates from Span, which I am currently savouring over back episodes of CSI ...

Thud I finished reading on Boxing Day. I think I'll need to re-read it to say whether I liked it or not (or, at least, whether I liked it as much as other Terry Prachett books). It didn't really strike me as being as good as his last effort, Going Postal, but maybe time will tell.

The Muppet Show first season is not as great as I remember later series being ... it's probably not helped by the obscurity of some of the guest stars. But the Swedish chef is there, so I'm happy.

The Great War for Civilisation (TGWFC) is heavy going: at just over 1200 pages I'm going to be reading this well into the new year. Robert Fisk is a better column writer than he is a book writer, as opposed to someone like Gwynne Dyer, who seems to drift effortlessly between the two mediums (one of the best books in my bookshelf is War, written 25 years ago in the middle of the Cold War, but still fantastically relevant). But TGWFC would be heavy going whoever wrote it - Fisk's personal style makes the descriptions of the numerous wars, tortures and genocides all the more gruelling. At some point I'll have to pick up his book on Lebanon. While I'm at it, can anyone recommend a good history of Iran (pre-revolution)?

It's probably not helped that I'm reading Collapse at the same time. Jared Diamond is a very approachable writer, and the subject is fascinating, if somewhat terrifying.

Anyhoo. The latest patch for World of Warcraft (Uldum server) as recently finished downloading (all 287meg of it, bastards), so I'm off to bloody my sword. Watch out for my next installment of the torture debate, tentatively titled: No man is an Island, Hearts and Minds, and Torture makes the Baby Jesus Cry.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Things that make me believe in conspiracies

Read these 4 urban legend posts on

E-mail written by a paramedic details conditions in New Orleans.

E-mails by a volunteer relief worker detail behavior of New Orleans evacuees.

Evacuees verbally abused volunteers trying and trashed a rest stop in Waskom, TX.

Evacuees brought to Utah arrived bearing drugs and guns and immediately proceeded to sell drugs, attempt rapes, and rebuild street gangs.

All four posts purport to be eye-witness accounts of the relief effort after hurricane Katrina; all 4 go out of their way to demonise African-Americans victims of the disaster as greedy, ungrateful rude and violent. All appear to have spread far and wide over the internet.
And all four are of doubtful veracity (Snopes scores two as false and two as undetermined).

To my mind some, if not all of the posts sound as if they were written by the same person. All of which adds up to an interesting propaganda campaign IMHO ...

torturous logic

There's a fine line between busy and lazy; if you're charitable you believe me when I say I've been too tired to post from work stress and/or I've been really thinking hard about the subject of this post ... or if you're a realist you'll believe I've spent the last few weeks playing Battlefield 1942 and GTO: Vice City or watching the dvd boxsets of Criminal Intent, X-files season 3, and The Frighteners. Or all of the above may be true.

Anyway, I thought that I would take a moment from my normal programming to answer a question from Apathy Jack (from the comments):
"Thou shalt not torture"

To analogise this to popular culture, as is the style here:

Did you see that episode of Lost where Sayer was holding out on asthma medication that would save Shannon's life. Jack and Sayeed (indesputably the two alpha-heroes of the show) torture him for the location of the medicine.

On the one hand, it was acknowledged that what they did was wrong, but on the other hand, as they saw it, they didn't have a choice.

Is there ever a morally clear reason?

Good question. I'm of the school of philosophy (a school of philosophy, which, incidentally is newly part of my very own New Zealand Institute of Negotiable Affection, inquire within if you would like to be made the Dean of School) ... the school of philosophy that says that just about anything, no matter how repugnant, will be justifiable in some time or place. You name it, murder, theft, beastiality ... even (shudder) folk-dancing. Call me crazy. Or I can call you betty, but betty, when you call me, you can call me Al.

At root this is one of those Kantian vs Utilitarian moral arguments (grossly simplied. but you're on the internet and I'm not going to hold your hand). On one hand the importance is placed on means (Kant); on the other the ends (Utilitarianism). You may view torture as always and everywhere wrong, an unpardonable sin; or you may view torture as something that can be used where the benefit outweighs the cost. If you want a good practical discussion of the two different moral viewpoints then check out this argument about the morality of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (this is another snopes discussion): Japan offered surrender in WW2? (it takes a little while to get going, but it's worth the time spent).

But I'm getting way ahead of myself - it's probably best to start at the beginning and roll out a definition of torture. Plucked from

1. a. Infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion.
b. An instrument or a method for inflicting such pain.
2. Excruciating physical or mental pain; agony: the torture of waiting in suspense.
3. Something causing severe pain or anguish.

For today's discussion I'm only really interested in severe physical pain as a means of coercion. I'm guessing that most people are opposed to torture as a means of punishment, but even if you aren't that is an argument for another day. And I'm going to talk about torture in a semi-utilitarian way (if there are any torture-is-always-and-everywhere-wrong absolutists I'd like to hear from you).

So what I would like to talk about here is torture as a tool. That is, you wish for person X to perform an action or provide information. If person X refuses to do what you want then you will inflict severe physical pain until such time as you get what you want.

At the moment the debate about the use of torture is concentrated on its role in "The War on Terror", which so far has followed in the footsteps of its very successful older brother "The War on Drugs" (trust me: this would be a lot funnier if I had been snorting cocaine through hundred dollar bills when I wrote that, but whaddayaknow I'm clean out of hundred dollar bills. btw, speaking on TWOT, Jack made a funny here). The venerable United States of America uses torture to extract information and/or confessions from those it suspects of terrorism - btw I'm not going to pussyfoot around with semantics of whether the US actually perfoms the torture - asking someone else to do it for you just proves nothing more than that you are an arsehole and a lawyer.

The first argument against using torture is that you it has a reputation for being unreliable (No Right Turn has a good example of this). That is, you run a large risk that your torture victim will tell you what they think you want to hear in an effort to stop the torture; as Wikipedia puts it:

One well documented effect of torture is that with rare exceptions people will say or do anything to escape the situation, including untrue "confessions" and implication of others without genuine knowledge, who may well then be tortured in turn.
(FYI, the rest of the Wikipedia article is quite interesting too. If only I had time to visit the link entitled "Torture and the Ayn Rand Institute" - the mind boggles). Of course, if you are an efficient torturer you will not just relying on torture for information, you will be cross-referencing from other intelligence sources; which might lead you to believe that either you have to torture a lot of people to get a critical mass of data, or you can only indulge in torture in a data-rich environment. Complicating matters is the possibility of torturer bias: that, like we've found with over-zealous interviewers of potential child abuse victims, you run the very real risk of distorting your intelligence based on the prejudices of the people using your "tool".

The problem with trying to assess these factors, of course, is that torture is a fairly secretive business. We tend to hear from the victims rather than the perpetrators; therefore it seems to be rather difficult quantify the success or otherwise of the intelligence gathered. How many lives have been saved by the application of torture? Since the US and allies have such a difficult time admitting that they use torture, how can we assess the positive effect claimed for it?

It's now 11pm on a school night, so this is going to turn into another multi-part discussion ...

Book you should read even though it will probably confirm your worst prejudices about religion:
Under the Banner of Heaven : A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. Or my preferred title: When Strange Religions Go Really, Really Fucking Bad.

"In Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer tells the story of the killers and their crime but also explores the shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism from which the two emerged ... In an age where Westerners have trouble comprehending what drives Islamic fundamentalists to kill, Jon Krakauer advises us to look within America's own borders." --John Moe

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Did General Motors destroy the LA mass transit system?

Endlessly waiting ...

I hate waiting for packages to come from America: you never know when the buggers will turn up. Small packages (dvds, etc) can take anything from 1-3 weeks to turn up. Bigger items (over 5 pounds) can take anything from 2 weeks to 12. Upgrading to the more expensive shipping options is a bit of a crapshoot, so usually just not worth the extra expense.

Currently I'm waiting on this (warning - there are a lot of pictures so if you're on dial-up it'll take a while). I think we must be about at week 6 or 7. If it turns up in the next week it will definitely make my christmas :)

But enough about my secret shame. Now that I'm out of the closet you can read my next post when I talk about important shit.

Friday, November 25, 2005

what is wrong with the world part 2: moral philosphy comes from watching movies and tv

Short Intermission ...
God hates me. I know this because he conspired to take away my hot water the morning I'm flying to Wellington for a meeting with [Government Department who would prefer to remain nameless]. Cue 5:30am "shower" that involved a lot of wincing and muttered curses. Contrary to what you might think, cold showers don't really wake you up, they just mutate sleepiness into grumpiness. And they make you feel as if you aren't quite clean, which is not what you want when are going into a meeting full of impressive monkey-suited bureaucrats (I should point out I was in a monkey-suit too, but I only countenance to wear it to weddings, funerals, and meetings with bureaucrats-in-monkey-suits - I'm too low down the feeding chain to wear monkey suits on a regular basis). Praise be to landlords who fix these things by the time I get home.
Intermission Ends

So, to recap: Good guys in movies don't kill bad people in cold blood. Case in point - Seven. If you haven't seen Seven then I'm going to spoil the ending for you, but I'm not apologising because if you haven't seen Seven yet you deserve what's coming. At the end Detective Mills (played by Brad Pitt) is tricked into shooting serial killer John Doe (played by Kevin Spacey) while John Doe is tied up and kneeling in a field in the middle of nowhere. They are out in the middle of nowhere because John Doe is going to reveal the location of the remains of his seventh victim. The seventh victim turns out to be Mills' wife, that fact being revealed when a FedEx van arrives with her head in a sealed courier box. Mills, not surprisingly, kills John Doe. But before he kills him he actually agonises over it (and the agony is palpable - not a bad effort from Pitt; though the movie is really a tour de force for Morgan Freeman).

Now one of the reasons he agonises is because he knows that John Doe wants to be killed ... but more than that he agonises because he knows it is the wrong thing to do. It is the classic dichotomy that you see in a million cop dramas - the tension between duty and personal feelings - and while we sympathize with the personal feelings, we also understand that duty should win out, that the good cop holds to the law and follows duty, and the weak or bad cop does not.

Sorry if this is all beginning to sound a little Yoda-ish.

Now I should be careful to say that I am not equating good and bad with attractiveness. Let's face it - really good people, people who never bend the rules, never have a harsh word to say about anyone, and live pure and full of grace, those people make our teeth hurt, especially on film or TV. Hell, we hate the bastards for showing us up. And we often like bad people because they are able to do whatever the hell they like and damn the consequences (when you are raised a catholic you know for damn sure we are all very, very bad people, barely held in check by our baser instincts to rape, pillage, murder and seduce priests). But whilst we may be rooting for the bad guy (Robert De Niro's character in Heat comes to mind), we know that he is bad.

So good guys follow the rules or have a code. Where the code come from is a little hard to work out ... so I'm going to ignore that problem for a little while. I should point out that if you read Terry Pratchett (esp Night Watch), you probably already have an outline of the code in your head already.

Other bits of the code:

Thou shalt not torture, though you can threaten people with torture, and pretend to torture ... just never go through with the actual deed.
Thou shalt save women, children and small furry animals, at the risk of your own life, the lifes of others, and the entirety of western civilisation.

I'm sure you can all think of others, and that is what the comments box is for.

Golly. Looks like this is going to be a 3-part post. Lucky you. But before I go, I'd like to quote a conversation from one of my favorite comics - Cerebus (just in case you haven't come across Cerebus, it's a sword 'n sourcery piss-take, who's hero is a barbarian aardvark). Because it's going to have bearing on some stuff later:

Magician: The balance of good and evil is difficult to maintain ... with your co-operation I can create a mighty magical weapon that will tip the balance in favour of good ...
Cerebus: And how does Cerebus know that you aren't evil ... trying to trick him?
Magician: Because I am in tune with the universe! Because I seek growth and light! Because I endure all in my pursuit of a long and fruitful life!
Cerebus: So does the average tree.
Magician: (hmm! think! think!) Aha! I'm good because the magician I'm guarding against is EVIL!
Cerebus: But that's another question you can't answer ... what makes him evil?
Magician: What makes him evil?! He weras black all the time! He talks with his mouth full! He never brushes his teeth! He stays out all night! He never finishes his vegetables!
Cerebus: You don't need a magical weapon. What you need is a babysitter.
Magician: A magician's life-span is five or six thousand years ... either you help me or I'll keep you here debating until your fur turns white ...

Interesting Discussions:
US author lauds suicide bombers

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Was there really a fascist plot to overthrow the United States government?

Book currently giving me nightmares:
The Right Nation: Why America is different, by John Micklewait and Adrian Wooldridge. I'm not far enough into it to verify whether these guys are as non-partisan as they claim, but even if they are biased it's a bloody good history lesson so far.
Best quote:
The man who did most to transform neoconservatism from an impulse into a movement was Irving Kristol ... Kristol combined a sharp intellect with a wry sense of humour (he once defined a liberal as someone who thinks that it's alright for an eighteen-year-old girl to perfom in a pornographic film so long as she is paid the minimum wage) ...
golly. It's true too (if you don't believe me, swap "pornographic film" with prositution) ... should I feel bad? I should probably add that they should also get OSH inspections, redundency provisions and proper training (I am currently seeking sponsors to create The New Zealand Institute of Negotiable Affection; featuring classes in small business ownership, marketing, drama and, um, physical therapy. Apathy Jack will be the Vice Chancellor)

Blog set to the following tune(s):
The Best of Miami Vice - Jan Hammer
Unfortunately it is the remastered version, so I'm probably going to have to shell out for this as well, dagnabbit.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

what is wrong with the world - part 1: filtered through the lense of James Bond

Since I had the most amusing stomach bug last night (oh, how I laughed) I decided to take the day off and spent some time sleeping, reading and watching movies. And before you ask, no, the stomach bug wasn't related to my chicken dish - I last prepared that a week ago, so it's not guilty.

The movie I watched was Goldeneye - directed by Martin Campbell, who is coincidentally a New Zealander (Martin's film list is pretty light, but among the possible gems is one called "The Sex Thief" and another whose aka is "Sex Games of the Very Rich". Who knew a boy from NZ had it in him? Ahem). Goldeneye is, in my humble opinion, the best Pierce Brosnan bond-flick (unfortunately, they pretty much seem to have gotten worse as they went along, although you can't really fault Pierce for that), and definitely one of the better ones in the bond canon. It is very nicely shot, the action scenes are decently exciting (especially the beginning jump from the dam), and has a nice turn from Sean Bean as the villan, Alec Trevelyan - and as a bonus has one of the more delectable bond love interests, Izabella Scorupco. The main complaint I have is that the villan's plot ends up being pretty small cheese - hacking into bank computers and then setting off an EMP aimed at london to cover your tracks seems pretty small cheese compared with, say, trying to spark a nuclear war by space-jacking US and Russian spacecraft from your base in a Japanese mountain.

Anyway, Goldeneye, whilst a good film, has an interesting moment in it. Right at the end we have the obligatory bond-vs-villan-hand-to-hand-fight, where Bond gets his ass kicked until the very last second when he manages to get the upper hand. He kicks
Trevelyan, who then proceeds to fall off the very-high-off-the-ground antenna-array. Only Bond catches him. They exchange a few words (Trevelyan: "for England, James?"; Bond: "No. For me.") - and then Bond drops him.

I mention this because I think it violates one of the rules of being A Good Guy In A Movie. The first rule of being a good guy is: when you have your mortal enemy at your mercy, your mortal enemy who has very recently plotted the end of the world, killed your mother, eaten the hearts of several children, and, without sufficient cause, kicked your cat - when you have him/her at your mercy you do not summarily execute him. Nope, you take him/her back for a fair trial by a jury of their peers. Of course, all going well, your mortal enemy will reach for his hidden knife/gun/blunt instrument and try to kill you while your back is turned, at which point you can spin round and cap his ass with a clean conscience.

This has a point.

I am going somewhere with this. Tomorrow.

Interesting Discussions:
UK Independent: US forces 'used chemical weapons' during assault on city of Fallujah
cf No Right Turn's White Phosphorus in Fallujah and White Phosphorus is a chemical weapon
The snopes discussion brings up an interesting point about is it morally worse to die one way or another which is something I'd like to come back to at a later date, so this is just to remind me ...

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Operation Able Archer: Were the United States and the Soviet Union on the brink of nuclear war?

Recommended DVD:
Le Pacte des loups (The Brotherhood of the Wolf), directed by Christophe Gans (I know, I'd never heard of him before either). Makes the Matrix fight scenes look positively amateurish; fighting in the rain has never looked so damn cool. Add in crazy catholic cults, a weird monster, a Native American martial-arts practitioner? ... and the most beautiful girl in the entire world, Émilie Dequenne. Two words of warning: 1. some of the moster attacks are rather graphic and brutal - not for the faint-hearted; 2. Watch it in French with subtitles. The English dubbing is incredibly shit.

Book I'm Re-reading:
Sleep Walking Through History: America in the Reagan Years, by Haynes Johnson. George W. Bush learned alot from Reagan ...

Monday, November 21, 2005

The electric frypan of love

  • take 4 chicken thighs, skinless (boneless is a bonus, but not strictly necessary)
  • soak liberally in sweet chilli sauce
  • dip generously in a mixture of wholemeal breadcrumbs, lemon pepper, garlic salt, paprika for colour, and a dash of cayenne pepper (proportions: lots of breadcrumbs, a generous amount of lemon pepper, garlic salt to taste, a modicum of paprika, and just a little bit of cayenne because it kicks like a gorrdam mule)
  • cook slowly on well-oiled (covered) electric frypan for approx 45min-1hr, turning occasionally. If so inclined, turn up the heat at the end and crisp it up
  • if you have any leftover sweet chilli sauce and breadcrumb mixture, chuck them together and fry them in the pan with the chicken, for an extra sweet and crispy "gravy".
Addendum: instead of frying the leftover sauce/breadcrumbs, a recent innovation is chopping up half an onion and frying those in with the leftovers. If you really wanted to get crazy you could thinly dice some potato and add that too, but I can't be held responsible for the consequences ...

virgin on the ridiculous

.... because this is my first post - so be gentle. Virgin, of course meaning any of following (from

  1. Of, relating to, or being a virgin; chaste.
  2. Being in a pure or natural state; unsullied: virgin snow.
  3. Unused, uncultivated, or unexplored: virgin territory.
  4. Existing in native or raw form; not processed or refined.
... although possibly I'm stretching a little in describing myself as chaste.

But not, I should say, virgin in the sense of the town of Virgin, Utah. Those crazy Utahrians ... of course, if the pace of Virgin, Utah is a little too sedate for you, I reckon you should move on over to Scaggsville, Maryland. For the singles scene, of course. There's a lesson in this, which I think boils down to: never put your photo on the internet where bloggers can find it.

This, being my first post, is less than serious, and less than on topic. The topic of this blog, assuming I don't get sidetracked and start blogging about how my job drives me nuts and my collegues are fools (it doesn't, and they aren't, but I've got to crack someday) ... as I was saying, the topic of this blog will be my general mediations or meditations on being good and doing the right thing; because it's the thing I read about most, that will probably start with discussing U.S. foreign policy, but hopefully we won't just get bogged down in Iraq. My purpose is to test my own ideas, so comments are definitely most welcome.

My first loves are reading books, watching movies and finding interesting stuff on the internet, and so I'll try to remember to recommend stuff as I go along. For books and DVDs forgive me if I link often to - I'm an afficianardo rather than a reviewer, but Amazon usually has a wealth of good comments so you can make informed decisions. Personally I buy most of my DVDs from DVD Pacific because they are cheap and reliable and quote their prices in New Zealand dollars. But rest assured none of these sites is giving me money - worse luck. Note to any corporations listening - I am open to bribery, preferably in the form of DVDs, but I'll take money and/or women too.

Book I'm re-reading:
The Amber Spyglass, 3rd book in Philip Pullman's series His Dark Materials.

Recommended DVD:
Young Sherlock Holmes, directed by Barry Levinson (to be frank probably his best work) and written by Chris Columbus - who most recently directed and made a decent fist of the first two Harry Potter movies, but who should be more famous for writing two of the best movies of my childhood: The Goonies and Gremlins.

Interesting Discussion:
Five questions non-Muslims would like answered

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
When the zombies take over, how long till the electricity fails?

Blog set to the following tunes:
Chocolate - Snow Patrol
lyric -
Just because I'm sorry doesn't mean
I didn't enjoy it at the time

ps I was joking about accepting bribes in the form of women. Everyone knows the exchange rate is terrible.