Week In, Week Out
Created | Updated Jun 20, 2003
Monday February 7
I am horrified. I've just read a shocking article in one of Britain's ever-reliable tabloid newspapers on the subject of 'World-Wide Weed'. It seems there are now Web Sites based in Amsterdam from which you can order supplies of marijuana. All you do is log on to the web sites concerned, place your order, and within a couple of weeks a courier will arrive at your doorstep with the goods.
What is the world coming to, and what is cyberspace coming to? We all know (because politicians keep telling us so) that anyone who is even in the same building as any of that evil weed instantly becomes a heroin addict and is out on the streets mugging old ladies to feed their habit within minutes. For the purchase of the stuff to be made as easy as ordering a book or a CD on-line is scandalous, outrageous and... excuse me a moment, there's somebody at the door.
(Returns 10 minutes later).
Hi, everyone! Ooh, look at that floaty index thingy bobbing up and down!! Bouncy bouncy (collapses in giggles). You know, I'd never noticed before how beautiful that shade of blue on these pages is - and wow! That gorgeous swirly logo, Totally cosmic! I love it, and I love all of you too. We may never have met in, like, the physical plane, but spiritually we're all one, you know? Has anyone got any chocolate? I'm starting to feel, like, you know, a bit sleepy...
(Editor's note: the above line is believed to have occurred due to the Diarist falling asleep and his head hitting his computer keyboard.)
Tuesday, February 8
Today I am forced to phone The Samaritans. Not, I hasten to add, on my own behalf, but to express my concern over a large group of elderly men and women from the Westminster area who appear to me to be in the grip both of senile dementia and a collective death wish.
I refer, of course, to the inmates of the House Of Lords.
Amazingly and disgustingly, they have blocked a move to abolish one of the most poisonous and ridiculous pieces of legislation in the British statute book: Clause 28 of the Local Government Act, which bans schools from 'promoting' homosexuality or from teaching that gay and heterosexual lifestyles are morally equal.
Now, it occurs to me that many Researchers, especially non-Britons, may not be aware of the precise nature of the House of Lords; so let me try to explain it as best I can.
It has the power to delay legislation passed by the elected government for up to a year - yet no-one is ever elected to the Lords.
You can get there by being nominated by your political party's leader. This usually happens to ageing politicians who are no longer regarded as being fit for serious office. Alternatively, you can get there by being the UK leader of a major religion. Worst of all, you can get there because of whom your Dad was. A sizeable minority of the members of the House of Lords are hereditary peers, who got into Parliament by inheriting a title.
I do appreciate that if this is news to you, it probably sounds like one of Monty Python or Douglas Adams' wilder flights of fantasy. Sadly, however, it's all too true.
Recently, some people have been losing patience with this absurd state of affairs, and so the number of hereditary peers allowed to vote was radically reduced. The future of the Lords is still being fiercely debated.
It's this that makes me believe that the Lords have a death wish. How can they expect to be allowed to keep their power when they use it to make outrageous decisions like the one on Section 28 which, for now, has kept homophobia enshrined in British law?
Yep, definitely a case for The Samaritans; and the more I think about it the more I feel like I might call them on my own account after all.
I could say.
'I'm really depressed. I'm being governed by a bunch of ancient bigots...'
Wednesday, February 9
Oh dear. More trouble for the Tony Blair, this time in Wales. Alun Michael has been forced to resign from his position as First Minister of the Welsh Assembly after a majority of the Assembly's members made it clear that if he didn't resign, they'd pass a motion of no confidence in him. So the Assembly is in some turmoil, with no party enjoying an overall majority and a vacancy for a new leader.
Initial indications are that Rhodri Morgan is likely to be given the post. However, with due respect to Mr. Morgan, I feel that a more radical solution is called for, and I wish to suggest one.
The job must go to Tom Jones.
Think about it. What candidate could have a broader appeal? He is a national hero in Wales. He would particularly appeal to women voters of all ages. His famous voice would echo beautifully around the Assembly building. Furthermore, his recorded repertoire shows a great awareness of key social issues.
'Delilah' and 'The Green, Green Grass Of Home' both reveal a sharp grasp of the issues of crime and punishment, and the latter also reflects Tom's patriotism. 'What's New, Pussycat?' shows that he shares the Prime Minister's passion for all things new. 'It's Not Unusual' reveals his liberal, inclusive outlook - clearly, no way would Mr. Jones have voted for Clause 28.
Finally, Tom's recent duet hit duet with Cerys Matthews, 'Baby It's Cold Outside', makes it clear that Mr. Jones fully understands the importance of good quality housing.
Give the sex god the job. You know it makes sense, Mr. Blair.(I agree... ed.)
Thursday, February 10
I have abandoned my plans to send Valentine cards to Lady Thatcher, Tipper Gore and Ann Widdecombe MP. It would have been nice to tell them how much I care for them, but I have just remembered that it's illegal to send that kind of material through the post.
However, this seems a fitting time of year to nominate someone for the title of The World's Greatest Romantic. It simply has to be the Rev. Moon Sun-myung, founder and leader of the Unification Church - better known as 'The Moonies'.
I read today that the Rev. Moon is planning to marry 10,000 North Korean couples simultaneously in a ceremony in Seoul. Many of the couples were brought together by 'Moonie' officials after sending their pictures to the Unification Church's HQ and being, somehow or other, matched up into pairs.
The 'Moonies' are a controversial group, and I'm certainly not endorsing the Rev. Moon's teachings here. But say what you like about him - his lonely-hearts bureau certainly doesn't mess around when it comes to getting results.
One more point in the Rev. Moon's favour. He had his 80th birthday last week, and amongst the guests at his party was the noted American statesman and thinker Dan Quayle. So it can safely be said that the Reverend would not have been the stupidest person at the party.(hehehe!... ed)
Friday February 11
A momentous day for on-line life in Britain as the Prime Minister launches a new weekly Internet service direct from his official residence. Go to the 10 Downing Street web site - http://www.number-10.gov.uk - and you'll find a new state-of-the-nation speech from Tony Blair every Friday, available either as a sound file or in transcript form.
It's a good idea, and the fact that the PM is prepared to take the time and trouble to record a new speech each week is surely a sign of the importance of the Internet in contemporary life.
The only snag is that some things never change, and Mr. Blair's first offering is an archetypal politician's speech. It's packed with vague rhetoric and lofty ideals, and very short on practical details and specific proposals. It basically says that the education system in Britain is very important to the country and is doing quite well but could do even better.
Thanks for those penetrating revelations, Tony.
But there is one bit I like right at the start, where Mr. Blair admits to being a reformed technophobe.
'I'm sitting here at my desk in front of my PC terminal, which I'm just getting to use after many years of not really wanting to come to terms with the new computer technology. I did a course. I'm coming to terms with it.'
Which means that for years, Mr. Blair felt that he didn't really need anything that the Internet had to offer - but he changed his mind not long after h2g2 was launched. Coincidence?
Saturday February 12
The State of Missouri is suing the 'Benetton' clothing company over a series of advertisements featuring pictures of Death Row inmates from Missouri jails and the stark headline:
'Sentenced to death'.
Missouri officials are unhappy about the light the advertisements cast upon their State's judicial procedures, and claim that they believed that the prisoners were being interviewed for an educational project rather than for commercial purposes.
I am happy to try and set the record straight. I have checked the human rights organisation Amnesty International's web site, and have found that the State of Missouri uses two methods of execution: lethal injection and the gas chamber.
So... understand this, life-forms: if you are (rightly or wrongly) convicted of first-degree murder in Missouri, then that State's officials are likely to do one of two things. They will either pump you full of drugs that will make your lungs collapse, and then stop your heart beating, or they will suffocate you with fumes that stop oxygen reaching your brain.
But will they stand idly by if your face is used to sell clothes before they kill you? Hell, no! That would be disgusting and uncivilised!
Now, I wouldn't want to be accused of indiscriminate Yank-bashing, so I'd like to add that the State of Illinois' recent decision to begin a moratorium on capital punishment brings the number of US States not currently endorsing judicial killing up to 14. But that still, of course, means that, in most parts of the USA, the elected officials do see nothing wrong with killing one of their fellow citizens from time to time.
Frankly, I think that grim fact will come to my mind the very next time I hear an American politician posturing on about the USA's role as 'leader of the free world'.
Sunday, February 13
I spent a sleepless night worrying after hearing the terrible news that poor General Pinochet is suffering from depression.
How - er - tragic.
Fortunately, I then saw a heartwarming story to put me in the right frame of mind for Valentine's Day. The DeskTop Lawyer web site has picked February 14 for the launch of its new on-line service, with which couples will be able to draw up pre-nuptial contracts on the Internet.
Some might consider this to be rather inappropriate, since such contracts only come into play when a marriage breaks up. But Duncan Finlyson, Legal Services Director for DeskTop Lawyer, argues:
'It's a question of tempering romance with realism. The less people have to worry about, the more time they'll have to be romantic.'
Well, maybe. But I've always wondered how a prospective spouse ever manages to suggest such a contract to their intended. What do they say?
'Darling, I love you and I want to share the rest of my life with you. But please sign this because if we split up I don't want to have to share my CD collection with you...'
Ah well. Happy Valentine's Day.