Friday, December 20, 2002

Greetings From New Scroogeville!

James Lileks tears apart a couple of embittered, Christmas-hating Canadians in his screed:

After years of sending friends anti-Christmas cards, one of which featured a homeless Santa and another battered child angels, Valerie and Trevor Williams decided to "go big" this year.

Yes... I've got to admit, my first reaction was: they have friends? But okay. You can just picture the scene though:

"Oh look darling, it's a card from Valerie and Trevor"
"What have they done this year....ah, battered angels. How...."
"....Yes, yes. Mmmm. Sensitive."

This year, though, the not-so-happy couple have spent $1,200 putting up a giant billboard beside a Victoria highway reading: "Gluttony. Envy. Insincerity. Greed. Enjoy Your Christmas."

"In response to the growing onslaught of manufactured consumeristic Christmas cheer, we have decided to actively reject the capitalist ideology of Christmas. We refuse to spend one cent on buying into the consumer machine this year - no tinsel, no tree, no shiny balls, no Christmas cards, no presents, no wrapping paper, no turkey, no cranberry sauce, no candy canes, and no icicle lights," states the Williams's e-mail.

"Christmas will not be coming to this house.... Join us in our Christmas rebellion!"

It's simply not enough for them to be mean-spirited: they have to preach their message of cheerlessness and garner converts to their cause. It's the mark of every strident nutcase the world over. Mr. and Mrs. Williams, I decline.

Mrs. Williams is especially upset about The Man. The man in red and white, that is:

She says she doesn't know where the Christmas rebellion will go from here, but she's determined to keep fighting against Santa and all he represents.

"Who is Santa?" she asks heatedly. "He is the mall's puppet.... Children are taught to worship this white, heterosexual man who overeats. I mean, it's wrong."

Santa Claus and Michael Moore are both shit out of luck, then.

But they're not totally heartless:

Mrs. Williams admits it can be tough to explain her socio-political point of view to the children of friends. "At 12 they get it. I can explain why I don't like the consumerism and about how other religions are excluded, but for the younger children, I mean, I can't tell them Santa doesn't exist. It wouldn't be right for me to interfere in a family that way," she said.

Oh no no. There's no need. Not when the Reverend Rayfield will do it for you.

And all must have prizes...

Christopher Middleton in the Guardian has discovered alternative board games that seek to encourage co-operation instead of competition. Gaia Distribution markets a number of alternatives to popular games including monopoly:

Gaia's Garden, for example, can be played by one to six people, aged four and upwards. Whereas the rules for a game such as Monopoly can be summed up in one sentence - get rich and bankrupt your competitors - the instructions for Gaia's Garden take up a couple of pages and touch on horticultural compatibility and ecological interdependence.

The end of the game comes either when all the vegetable rows on the board are filled with crops that are complementary to each other - or else when the pests have become so prevalent that no more planting is possible. "In that case," concludes the rule book, "no one individual player wins or loses the game, and everybody is happy or disappointed with the work done."

Sounds like thrill a minute stuff. The age bracket sounds a tiny bit optimistic, though: when have six-year olds ever co-operated with anybody?

As for Cluedo, the Gaia alternative is called Nature Detective, in which you have to track down the mystery animal by piecing together the foods it likes. Whereas in Cluedo you finger Colonel Mustard as the culprit in the ballroom with the lead piping, in Nature Detective you deduce that it must be the squirrel with the nuts and berries in the oak tree.

I was imagining a politically correct Cluedo where you don't try to find out who the culprit is but instead determine what social malaise (poverty, violent childhood, bitter urban alienation) might have driven them to commit the murder.

Me? I'm waiting for an enlightened version of Kerplunk where the marbles, instead of plunging to their doom, are caught by a state-maintained "safety net".

The End of the Affair

Trent Lott has resigned his position as Republican leader (via Stephen Green), bringing an end to "segre-gate".

There's no need for triumphalism but I think the blogging community did help keep the fire stoked on this one.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Now that is real cruelty.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Art meets Anti-Art

Theatre producer (and presumably amateur art critic) Paul Kelleher walked out of court yesterday after a jury couldn't decide whether he is guilty of decapitating a marble statue of Margaret Thatcher. He faces a new trial in January:

Paul Kelleher denied criminal damage on July 3 but never disputed publicly beheading the 8ft-high Italian marble likeness of the former Prime Minister.

The father-of-one explained his defence involved his "artistic expression and my right to interact with this broken world".

A few years back avant-garde popsters KLF burned a million pounds in an act many called a work of art. Fair enough, but the cash they used was theirs to burn. Mr. Kelleher can't say the same thing about the subject of his "artistic expression" so it looks pretty much like an open and shut case to me.

But I've got to admit his bare-faced cheek did make me smile a bit.

Stephen Pollard isn't too happy with the BBC's reaction to the story. Yes, they might be letting their playfulness get the better of them, especially as the guy hasn't actually been acquitted.

Monday, December 16, 2002

A New Sheriff In Town?

Lord Bonomy's long-awaited report on practice and procedure in the High Court of Justiciary was published last week. It recommends increasing the sentencing power of sheriffs to five years and letting them deal with less serious robberies, assaults and drug-trafficking cases. The High Court will be left to deal with the most serious cases involving murders and rapes.

The report points out that in 2001, 39 percent of accused persons in the High Court ended up receiving a sentence that could have been handed down by a sheriff. This is combined with the year-on-year increase in the High Court's workload, with the number of indictments registered rising 23% between 1995 and 2001. Obviously something has to give.

The report is now in a four-month consultation period and it looks like legislation will be introduced in the next Parliamentary session to make some changes.

I see Sarge is counting the days too. Roll on Wednesday.

Brrrrr. Here's a tale for a cold winter's evening from Friday's Times:

A young motorist lay dead in his crashed car for five months until the wreck was seen by chance.

Hundreds of motorists a day passed within yards of the spot on the A3 outside Guildford, where the 21-year-old man’s body sat at the wheel of his car, which was hidden by trees and bushes.

His family, who live in West London, had reported him missing when he did not return home after going out one weekend in July.

Surrey and Metropolitan police officers arrived yesterday to break the news to them. Identification will be confirmed in the next few days from dental records.

Scientific tests and a post-mortem examination will also try to discover whether he died immediately in the accident or was left trapped in the car.

Other motorists may have passed the spot, also seen the wreck and assumed that police already knew all about it. Police checked the registration number and found a London address. When they asked Scotland Yard for more information, they were told that the owner was a missing person.

A passer-by only spotted the car when the trees lost their leaves and revealed the scene, and even then only by chance. It is possible that the young man could have remained undiscovered.

Maybe this story strikes a chord with me because conventional wisdom tells me that it's impossible, that we live in a tightly bound world increasingly without distance and we can't just get lost between the cracks - certainly not in a country this small.

Occasionally we hear of mountaineers being found months after they died, but only then in the most remote locations. The notion that we could be lost to the world just yards away from a busy road seems unimaginable. If this dreadful story wasn't true it would be the stuff of urban myth.

Imaginary Sea Sparrow Safe After All

Virginia Postrel has this correction from yesterday's New York Times Magazine:

An article on Nov. 10 about animal rights referred erroneously to an island in the Indian Ocean and to events there involving goats and endangered giant sea sparrows that could possibly lead to the killing of goats by environmental groups. Wrightson Island does not exist; both the island and the events are hypothetical figments from a book (also mentioned in the article), "Beginning Again," by David Ehrenfeld. No giant sea sparrow is known to be endangered by the eating habits of goats.

Um, okay. I'm relieved. I think.

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