...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, March 30, 2007

Day 2280: Without a Paddle


And the PRIZE for the WEIRDEST place from which someone has followed a link to my Very Fluffy Diary, so far, goes to…

Google search for

"how to build a dirigible in your own hat without a paddle"

where The Very Fluffy Diary of Millennium Dome, Elephant came out third!

This has been my 400th diary and is brought to you by the miracle of MyBlogLog!


Never mind that; read THIS!

Millennium points a fluffy foot – Daddy hops to it!


One day to go!

Day 2279: Home Office Split into New Ministries: Fear, Loathing and Las Vegas


This week's list of people who have been RAPPED OVER THE KNUCKLES:

Mr Balloon, for getting Cash for Access to his Commons Office[*],

Mrs Bucket, for getting No Cash for Farmers from their subsidies,

and Mr Balloon again, for not getting Planning Permission for his windmill.

Perhaps we need a new Ministry of Justice to set up a NAUGHTY CORNER for them to stand in!

Oh look, here comes Mr Dr John Reid who is the Home Secretary and Britain's OFFICIALLY nicest man!

He has come up with just the thing: a scheme that will let him keep all of the sexy, macho, hanging-about-with-men-in-flak-jackets parts of his job and get rid of all of that tedious mucking about in hyperspace re-education and reformation.

He has asked the Minister for Magical Accidents to perform his "SAWING A MINISTRY IN HALF" trick.

Nice Mr Dr Reid explained:

"WE will be taking over the security ministry, my precious, gollum, gollum…"

"…while WE will be good Sméagol, nice Sméagol, running the Justice ministry for the nice master, my precious."

A minister of justice, welcoming the news today

Posted by Picasa

Liberal Democrats have been in favour of cutting the Home Office down to size for some time. There are too many people trying to do too many – often contradictory – things. How can you focus on cutting bureaucracy for police people while simultaneously giving them a thousand new things to arrest people for every month? It is all too unwieldy for anyone to manage properly, and morale has been shot to pieces by the excessively KIND words of nice Mr Dr Reid telling them how USELESS and RUBBISH they all are.

The whims, pronouncements and reorganisations of each of Lord Blairimort's Home Secretaries over the years have left the Home Office overstretched, overloaded and undermined. The whole place needs fresh ideas, a fresh start and some good fresh air.

But "the Devil will be in the detail," says leading Liberal Democrat Mr Clogg (who clearly does not realise that the Devil will REALLY be in that Black Hole that Dr Who and Rose dropped him down last year!)

Of course, there are some DANGERS. There is the possibility of getting conflicting goals as the ministry for arresting people tries to arrest more and more people while the ministry for what to do with them after they are arrested tries to stop the prisons exploding. Or the risk of the ministry for making up new laws being just lawyers creating more work for lawyers when they stop having any input from the people who are on the streets trying to keep the peace. And of course there is the threat of EVEN MORE bureaucracy in order to send all of the new INTER-DEPARTMENTAL MEMOS that will now "need" to be written.

So, a cautious welcome then from Mr Clogg, but also a warning that he will be keeping an eye on what Mr Dr Reid decides to do to make sure it is not just another STUNT to try and secure Lord Blairimort's legacy.

On a more REASSURING note, the former berserk safety elephant, Mr Charles Clarke, has previously said that splitting up the Home Office would be a MISTAKE. Since he is always wrong about everything, this means it is almost certainly A GOOD IDEA.

Meanwhile, we have been watching the DELETED SCENES from SUPER CASINO ROYALE: it is the bit where Culture Secretary Ms Jessa Towell goes ALL IN to back the government's plans… only to find her hand beaten by a Full House of Lords.

There is NO TRUTH in reports that Mrs Towell was seen sipping a cocktail from Mr Le Chiffre mere moments before the vote.

"I am very much alive!" said Mrs Towell, hurrying for the emergency revival kit in her Austin Martin…

The Liberal Democrat who trumped Mrs Towell was Lord Clement Weather and today he welcomed the Liberal Democrat victory in the House of Lords Club.

But I am not so sure that this is a triumph. We are always (and QUITE RIGHTLY) critical of Mr Balloon for jumping on any old bandwagon – we need to be careful we are not doing the same.

Of course, the Conservatories were all for Super Casinos until they had a chance to embarrass the government… which is ODD because Mr Balloon normally tries to embarrass Lord Blairimort by voting WITH him. Poor Mr Balloon, he cannot even be CONSISTENTLY opportunist.

But is it really any of our business whether people gamble or not? Are we completely comfortable supporting the "down with this sort of thing" lobby? I am always NERVOUS when we end up on the same side as the BEARDY WEIRDY of Canterbury.

What this DOES mean is that for the moment there will be NO Super Casino at all. Which means that neither Manchester nor Blackpool are satisfied.

Here is MY solution: Manchester can have the new Super-Ministry of Justice, and Blackpool can have the Security Casino!

Will everyone be happy? Do not bet on it!

[*]Fluffy thanks to Mr Peter at the Liberal Review.


Two days to go!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Day 2278: DOCTOR WHO: The Price of Paradise


I am actually QUITE IMPRESSED: Daddy Richard has managed to finish all of the Doctor Who books that I gave him to read! To be fair, I DID have to lock him in the bathroom and feed him slices of cheese pushed under the door. Still that gave me and Daddy Alex time to watch the new series of THE APPRENTICE, with Mr Sir Alan and a new tribe of alien space lizards. I think one of them might have been a SLITHEEN!

Here are Daddy Richard’s thoughts on the final print adventure of Dr Who and Rose…
Like Mike Tucker, who wrote "The Nightmare of Black Isle", Colin Brake is new to the BBC's current range of Doctor Who adventures in book form, though, also like Mike Tucker, he has previously written for the BBC's spin off novels, in Colin's case holding the perhaps-dubious honour of writing "Escape Velocity" for the eighth Doctor, the climax-that-wasn't-a-climax at the end of the "Trapped on Earth" arc. In his "about the author" blurb at the end, he remarks that he was thwarted in his aim of taking over from Andrew Cartmel as script editor of Doctor Who in 1990. Instead, he got the same gig for '90s sci-fi-esque romp and Docklands run-around "Bugs". No, I'm still not grateful that the series was axed.

This is a plain and simple little eco-parable, about the benefits of living in harmony with nature and cleaning up after yourself.

The Doctor and Rose answer a distress call from a huma expedition led by the emotionally repressed Professor Shulough, and land on the beautiful planet of Laylora. The natives, kindly, gentle pre-colonial American tribespeople analogues, live in a balance with their world but are troubled by recent failings of crops, ground tremors in the world and the disappearance of three of their young people. Not to mention the local mythical monsters who have started wandering around. And that’s before the humans fell on them.

There are no more than two twists, both heavily telegraphed: those local monsters, the Witiku, are really – gasp – the natives transformed; the disasters besetting the planet are all caused by – gosh – the presence of the intruding humans. And that's telegraphed by the book's title! Once the Doctor has worked these things out his only difficulty is to round everyone up and ship them out.

So it's all a bit, well, thin.

As a paean to a simpler way of life it avoids almost all mention of any of the messier aspects of such a lifestyle: the only hint is the mention of "killing pits" for trapping wild pigs, not the we see any, much less any slaughtering and butchering. Goodness, no, it's all gathering the berries for a nice cup of jinnera, the local tea/coffee/horlicks analogue. And nobody ever, ever goes to the toilet!

There are a few little bits of character to fill out the pages. The Doctor ferrets out the Professor’s past to unravel her emotional withdrawal. Rose makes fiends with Rez, a local teenager who is a bit different because he's actually a human who arrived on the planet as a baby in a life pod. Raw recruits out of the academy Jonn Hespell and Ania Baker fall in love. Rather strangely, Jae Collins get set up as a bit of a wild card, with a dubious background and cool demeanour… only to be abruptly bumped off early on. Perhaps that dubious background was only there to make us think "It's okay that he died."

The natives, apart from Rez – who, it turns out, doesn't count according to Laylora's rules – are almost entirely a crowd of extras to fill out the background. The exceptions are Mother Jaelette who gets to be, er, motherly, and Brother Hugan who gets to be, er, the local mad cleric. Sister Kaylan looks like she might be a character early on, but in fact only gets to be a bit pouty about the way Rez reacts to Rose.

The Laylorans' religion is not much fleshed out. They worship their planet as a goddess (Laylora obviously) and possibly their sun as the god Saxik. Mainly because that is what primitive tribespeople do. It's stated that in the old days they used to practice human sacrifice… although that probably means Layloran sacrifice, unless the planet was in the habit of dropping human victims on them. Maybe it was, maybe the sacrifices were the old way of dealing with the planets over-reaction to their presence. We never find out why the old religion fell out of fashion. Maybe humans stopped falling on them.

There was plenty of potential backstory there to dig into, but unfortunately we didn’t. The natives were just, well, natives. I had wondered whether we were going to get some "Kinda"-esque reveal that they were really a post-technological society, that their extraordinary balance with their planet was engineered and that they had made their own paradise, abandoning their buildings for tepees and settling in to their carefully designed Eden.

There's a wee bit of a problem with the dating going on. The Doctor takes one look at the Professor Shulough's crashed spaceship, the Humphry Bogart (in case you hadn't got the vague African Queen references) and remarks that it must be the late twenty-fourth century, so the year 23-someting.

But the Professor also refers to the SS Armstrong, spaceship of the lost explorer Maurit Guillan, being found at the edge of Draconian space, meaning that the story must be set after first-contact with the Draconians in 2520 ("Frontier in Space"). Space soldier Kendle talks of "betting the Empire", which according to what the Doctor tells Jo in "The Mutants" was really only getting started in "Colony in Space", dated 2472.

Then, to make matters worse, the Humphry Bogart is powered by – and the SS Armstrong's hold had been full of – trisilicate, an important mineral the Doctor tells us. Trisilicate, found only on Mars and – it turns out – Peladon, is a much-valued resource in the time of the Galactic Federation, which is usually dated to the post-Empire period, maybe the thirty-ninth or fortieth centuries.

In fact, the important mineral of the early Empire period is Duralinium, used for construction as mentioned in "Colony in Space" and referenced in "The Nightmare of Black Island".

Astonishingly enough, trisilicate turns out to be abundant on Laylora too. It's supposed to be a power source, though it's never made clear how. To all appearances, Colin treats the stuff like some sort of clean burning super-coal. That is to say, it lies around in chunks and you power up the engines by just dropping a few lumps in.

On the other hand, it is stable enough to be worn as jewellery without ill effect, dropped casually in heaps and even shot with laser weapons without exploding. All of which is rather surprising for something that is supposed to provide more energy than a fusion reactor.

(Look, if pressed to make up an explanation, I'd probably plump for some sort of extra-dimensional structure to the crystal, trapping energy in hyperspace – which would be consistent with the hyperspace drives that starships of the era use.)

Where I do have a problem with his made up science is that he's picked out a "micro fusion" generator as a nasty source of pollution. This is a book aimed mainly at kids so if you are going to use real-world science terms then you ought to know what they mean, so that you don't use a powerful tool to misinform them. To the best of our current knowledge, fusion – the nuclear process that powers the sun – is a clean source of energy. If you can actually make it work, you put Hydrogen in one end and get helium and energy out the other. Or you put water in the top end and get helium, oxygen and energy out the other. If there is a pollutant it is in the form of excess neutrons being released. What you do not get is toxic yellow bile.

(My guess would be that Colin has read of the Doctor using a "micro fusion grenade" in "The Also People" and assumed that "micro fusion" means "particularly nasty" when in fact it actually means "miniature H-Bomb". This is on a par with Mike Tucker using the term Warp Core – as heard all the time in "Star Trek" to mean "the central part of our engines" – as the name of a weapon. If you've heard it somewhere else, boys, it's not just cool words: it probably means something.)

By all means describe a fission reactor as polluting, because that leaves you with radioactive waste products that indeed would be harmful to flush out the back of your ship. Or just make up a word – after all your nice clean technology is based on another made up word, even if it was made up by someone else for a story thirty years ago.

While we're on the subject of dodgy science – and I'm just going to gloss over the whole were-Witiku thing because that's obviously "magic", not even a nod to the energy for the transformation coming from the trisilicate jewellery – the entire premise of the book is that Laylora is in such perfect balance that the presence of one alien boy upsets everything and causes earthquakes, storms and possibly the end of the world. And it gets worse as he grows up.

Well, in the first place as Rez grows up – where exactly does his body get the fuel and materials to grow from? Essentially, he is just reorganising a very tiny part of Laylora into the form of his own body. He lives as a member of the tribe, he doesn't change any of their practices and does his bit in living in harmony. So how can he possibly be damaging the planet?

Obviously, nothing of Rez will be actual alien matter any more anyway, after fifteen years of his body replacing itself, although the skin, sweat, hair and waste shed when he was a baby will all still remain in the environment. Though that should have long since been broken down into its constituent elements, and recycled though the Layloran insects and plants.

In fact, the elements that Rez is composed of, mainly hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, will all be abundant in the planet anyway. If they weren't he would be unable to gain nutrition from the food or breath the air. So how exactly does Laylora tell which bits of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen belong to the planet and which don't?

And, of course, your average planet has literally tonnes of alien matter fall on all the time, in the form of space dust, meteors and matter blasted off the surface of its local star. This falling dust is how planets form in the first place.

You could make a case – although Colin doesn't – that the Laylorans are kept in an exact number by the balancing processes of the planet – one born if and only if another has died – and Rez has thrown that number out of whack. Though of course, there is quite some difference between the environmental impact of a baby and an adult and an elder. And anyway, Laylora doesn’t seem to have a problem replacing a small native with a large Witiku at the drop of a jinnera bean.

But all of that is to overlook the sheer scale of the planet compared to the tribe.

Earth has a surface area of over five-hundred million square kilometres. Or five-hundred trillion (five-hundred million million) square metres. In comparison, your skin has a surface area of probably about two square metres. Asleep, lying down no more than half out you would be on the ground and standing up, even less of you would be in actual contact with the planet’s surface. You are an unnoticeable dot.

Laylora is probably a little smaller than Earth: the gravity is described as a little less than Earth normal and the nights appear to be short suggesting a rapid rotation. But it can't be that much smaller or it would be impossible for the Earth-like-but-just-that-bit-better conditions to apply, after all it is human explorers who described it as a "paradise".

Actually, that does raise another point – how much of Laylora is paradise? We only see a tiny area – Rose estimates that the crashed ship the natives' village and the ruined temple are all equidistant about five kilometres apart. Which also means that the humans were incredibly lucky to land so close to the one other human on the surface of the planet, though that sort of coincidence is always happening in Doctor Who. But presumably when Guillan's expedition found the planet fifty years ago – before human intrusion, so when it wasn't all grumpy – they were able to scan it and arrive at the conclusion that it was all rather nice. In which case how exactly does that work? Earth has lots of different climates and environments all caused by the geography of the planet. Even if you were to carefully terraform the entire world to be tropical islands, you would still have some dramatic variations in outcome from the poles to the temperate zones to the equator.

(George Lucas, of course, has exactly the same problem – dessert world and ice world you can sort of get away with, one is too hot and the other is too cold, but deciduous forest world?)

Anyway, if we can eliminate any physical reason why the planet is "alergic" to humans, what is the cause of its distress?

It seems that what really irritates the goddess-planet must be Rez's soul. Or if you prefer the "electro-psychic field generated by a human" (which is the same gobbledygook dressed up differently). Humans are a fallen species and as such are not to be re-admitted to Eden. Ultimately Rez is kicked out of the only home he's ever known for no more than being who he is.

And never mind the science, for a Doctor Who story that's a bit rubbish.

There's also the question of quite when to set these three book within the timeline of the series. There aren't any particularly useful clues.

The logical inference is that – like the books set in the 2005 season – the first three are in a gap early in the year (say between "Tooth and Claw" and "School Reunion") and the second three are set in a gap in the latter half of the season.

In "The Art of Destruction", Rose took a moment to say she'd seen enough of Hell recently, which might suggest that it comes after "The Satan Pit". Or it might just refer to the fact she's in the middle of a huge and terrible battlefield with a war going on around her.

Here, Rose recalls Mickey, remarks on Rez's Mickey-ness, but irritatingly doesn't think about Mickey being lost in a parallel universe, so we cannot really tell if this is supposed to be before or after "The Age of Steel". Nor can we take any clue from Rose fancying Rez – even when Mickey was still around that never stopped her.

She also remembers her "recent adventures in Ancient Rome", clearly a reference to "The Stone Rose". But what constitutes "recent"? This would seem to indicate – against all expectations – that all six books take place quite close together, perhaps in the same early season gap.

But then late on she quotes "you can trust me on this," and thinks of her father (obviously she means the Pete from Pete's World, but we also know that Rose is a bit confused about him being/not being her dad). So this story at least does have to be set after "The Age of Steel" after all.

If we assume that the Beast is actually right about Rose "dying in battle, so very soon" (even if she doesn't actually die), or at least that He is referring to "Doomsday" then we should also assume that the Doctor and Rose don't have many adventures between "The Satan Pit" and "Army of Ghosts" apart from "Fear Her" (which, with its "there's a storm coming" ending might actually lead straight in).

So, the best placement is probably between "The Idiot's Lantern" and "The Impossible Planet".


Three days to go!

Day 2277: Toff of the Pots


Last night, Mr Peter Chickens, fish-faced editor of "Ten things I Hate about Dave" and brother of Mr Christopher Chickens, was on the telly having a go about Mr Balloon on Channel Furore.

His programme was called "Toff at the Top", which is a PUN – because Mr Balloon is not REALLY at the TOP!

In his programme, Mr Chickens broke the complete non-news that Mr Balloon probably does not believe in anything except valet-driven shoes, which way the wind is blowing and the divine right of the Notting Hill set.

Well DUH!

In fact, the biggest revelation was that the normally FRIGHTENINGLY on-the-ball Mr Michael Groove can be a complete MAROON sometimes.

Apparently Mr Balloon (in the years before he stuck on one his own roof) called wind turbines BIRD BLENDERS.

"What does this say about his commitment to his environmental policies?" asked Mr Chickens.

"It says that Dave has a sense of humour," replied Mr Groove.

"So what does this humorously say his commitment to his environmental policies?" asked Mr Chickens.

"It says that he has a sense of humour," replied Mr Groove. Again.

Well, at least Mr Groove knows that Conservatory green policies are a JOKE!

Mr Chickens took a stroll though Mr Balloon's biography clearly hoping to dig up some new dirt. But since he couldn't be bothered to put in any new RESEARCH he only found all the old dirt that Mr Balloon has already gotten away with fully explained and received the forgiveness of the saints for i.e. being raised on a country estate the size of Luxemburg; belonging to the Oxford Club for hyper-rich Old Etonians to, er, get a bit blotto (or get a bit Boris, as they called it in Mr Balloon’s day); and doing the PR for ITV digital while it went down with all hands.

One thing that I DID learn was that Mr Balloon could not even get a job at Conservatory headquarters on his own MERIT and had to rely on a phone call from the QUEEN'S EQUERRY. And YOU thought that PATRONAGE and CORRUPTION only extended as far as Lord Blairimort! Even the QUEEN is in on it! If this is not proof that they are BAD THINGS then I do not know what is!

Once he WAS in the Conservatory Central Office, Mr Balloon quickly became chums with… well all his OLD chums from Eton and Oxford. They formed a CLIQUE. Apparently they would all sit around and worship Mrs Thatcher. They used to call her MOTHER!

(Yuck, sick, vomit, vomit!)

Mr Balloon is fond of CHUMS. As everyone knows he has set up his special A-Team in order to help those who have a problem, who nobody else can help. Yes, Conservatory candidates.

But everyone on the A-Team come from Mr Balloon's neighbourhood of Kensington and Chelsea, or K&C as they call it. Or was that KFC – at least that ought to please Mr Chickens. It didn't though!

"This plan to make the Conservatory Party all modern and diverse is REALLY ROTTEN," said Mr Chickens. "And what's more, look how all this diversity has made all our candidates the same!"

Some people are just never happy!

Then Mr Chickens turned his fishy-eyes to look at Mr Balloon's electoral record. These are all the things that he claimed that he believed in when he was trying to get a job in the House of Commons. (Because his proper job had just gone bankrupt, see above!)

No doubt Mr Jonny will be DISTRESSED to learn that Mr Balloon did not always want to "Hug a Hoodie". No, indeed. In fact, he used to say that Hoodies should be ELECTROCUTED TO DEATH! And then given a THOUSAND YEARS HARD LABOUR. With bricks thrown at them!

And on some of his election literature, Mr Balloon had included the accusation that the Labour were "promoting homosexuality" by scrapping the Conservatory LEGALISED HATE OF GAY DADDIES that was Section 28.

This was VERY BAD and I am shocked that the modern hoodie-hugging gay-daddy-embracing softie Mr Balloon could ever have said such HORRID things. How does this square with his current all-inclusive stance?

Back to Mr Groove: "sometimes, when you're standing for election, you just have to go along with what the party is saying, even if you don't endorse every word yourself."

Well, THAT'S no excuse – after all, this was NOT some off-the-cuff remark when challenged to defend the party line. Oh no! This was what he said AT LENGTH in free op-ed pieces in the local paper.

In other words, they said to him: "You can write us a piece about anything you like. Anything in the world. What do you want to say to your voters?" And Mr Balloon CHOSE to use these words. He was deliberately picking a BUZZ PHRASE to appeal to a certain TYPE of voter. The EVIL type!

Remember, Mr Balloon went on to be the man chosen to write the Conservatory 2005 manifesto: also known as the SHORTEST SUICIDE NOTE IN HISTORY!

"Ah!" Mr Groove again, "It was Mr Something of the Night and Mr Davis David who were REALLY in charge. Dave was just following orders."

Daddy says I should look up the NUREMBURG DEFENCE!

In fact, Mr Something of the Night and Mr Davis David are both still SENIOR FIGURES in Mr Balloon's Conservatory Party. If he has repudiated them and all they stand for would he not get rid of them? Would THEY not quit? Something does not ADD UP – and it is not just Mr Boy George's attempts to work out the budget, either!

All of the evidence seems to point to Mr Balloon having some kind of MIRACULOUS CONVERSION, probably some time during the year 2005 just at the point when he wanted to become a MEDIA DARLING. Which was handy.

Mr Chickens talked to Mr Dapper Derek, who used to be a SPIN DOCTOR for the Labour, and who had a good idea what caused Mr Balloon to change his mind about everything he ever claimed to believe in ever.

"Yes, I knew Dave," said Mr Dapper. "He and his Knitting Hill Club used to hang out with us all the time. They didn't care about us being the Labour or our policies; they just wanted to know what it was we did in order to win."

"And what made him change from an olds-school Thatchianity-ist into a Liberal Conservatory?"

"I just told you: they just wanted to know what it was we did in order to win."

Can ANYONE really say that they are SURPRISED by the "revelations" Mr Chickens makes?

Ooh, Mr Balloon he'll say anything to get elected.

We ALREADY know this! And a lot of people are thinking of voting for him ANYWAY, even though he is JUST LIKE the other feller! Mr Chickens says that if the Conservatory Party won't actually propose any policies or do anything different from the Labour then we are robbed of CHOICE and FREEDOM.

But to be FAIR, the electorate seem to have made it pretty clear what it is that they want – a moderately right-of centre free-market Thatcherite economy that spends a fortune on health care. So both of the big parties are trying to give them that. And the only real point in choosing between them is to get a fresh Thatcherite face blinking in the flashbulbs on the Number Ten doorstep.

Of course, our unfair, broken First-Pass-the-Port electoral system really only gives that choice to a TINY MINORITY of people: the swing voters in the marginal constituencies.

That is what Mr Balloon offers, "New Shroom Washing Powder – exactly the same as the old stuff, but NEW!"

And unless someone digs up a document proving he is going to ban newspapers or sell the BBC to Roger Stavro Moredick, then the media will continue to treat him AS their darling and give him free publicity every time he so much as lets one go.

Which, of course, is TERRIBLE.

Lord Blairimort's mantra used to be "There's no point in being in politics if you aren't in power." And there is a bit of truth to that. But the reverse is ALSO true: There is no point in being in POWER if you haven't any POLITICS.

Sorry, WHAT was Mr Balloon for?


Four days to go!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Day 2276: DOCTOR WHO: The Art of Destruction


As I said before, I have told Daddy Richard that he has got to finish all the Doctor Who books before Saturday or I will not let him watch "Smith and Jones". (Although I WOULD let him REALLY!) He is therefore cracking on, and has now read the next-to-last of them.

Here is what he thought:
I have to confess to some disappointment. After Steve Cole's previous Doctor Who book, "The Feast of the Drowned" I had high expectations for this one and I'm sorry to say that they weren't met.

Although there are a scattering of good ideas, the sheer events of the story rather get in the way of the plot.

Where the previous book provided an intriguing mystery that built gradually to a desperate struggle, this one ramps up the peril so quickly that there is no time to get into the story before everyone is running for their lives from unstoppable implacable foes.

There are some similarities: "Feast" was a story of water-based monsters and was set in and around the waters of the Thames; "Art" is build around a gold-based monster, the Magma-form Guardians that emerge from the lava tubes of Ghanaian volcano Mount Tarsus.

(The fact that events are triggered by a character named Solomon does in fact mean that this is the gold of Solomon's mines.)

When the magma-form touches a living creature, it turns the creature into a golden statue which later comes to life as a hideous golden mutant parody of its former self, monsters the Doctor refers to as golems, unthinking servants animated from mud, or in this case magma.

With the first victim, unfortunate agricultural technician Kanjuchi, this process is a terrifying and horrific transformation, but all too quickly Steve is throwing golden vultures, golden bats, golden driver ants*, not to mention various golden people, and eventually golden hyenas, golden scorpions and golden spiders (oh and golden fungus) at us, a never-ending stream of perils that leaves you breathless but undermines the horror.

(*actually, although he makes a big thing of the driver ants emerging, they only reappear briefly as an end-of-chapter threat that just goes away again. As though Steve thought of something really cool early on and then forgot to do anything with it.)

And of course he makes the same mistake as last time – he has Rose caught and transformed by the magma-form, immediately proving that the process will be reversible, and robbing it of any threat value. The fact that the Doctor's cure arises from the miracle-fungus being developed in the agricultural unit is neither surprising nor an amusing reference to "The Green Death", it's just old.

But golden death is not the only threat to stalk the volcanic tunnels: that would be too simple. So for the first half of the book there are armed rebels on their way to steel the agri-unit's food production, aided by double-dealing insider Adiel who has her own agenda to in fact lead the rebels into a trap and destroy them. This leads to our heroes being caught between these minor baddies and the magma-forms in various different combinations.

Then a hideous alien turns up, only to be revealed as an extra-terrestrial art-dealer in an ugly suit. And then (with the perils still escalating beyond ludicrous into stratospheric) the site is invaded by giant space worms. Or Wurms, as they are called.

This, it turns out, is why the magma-form has been converting anything that moves into a golem – the Guardians have been placed here (apparently) to protect a storehouse of art treasures left behind by a race called the Valnaxi who once fought a long and ruinous war against the Wurms to defend their homeworld but who in the end lost.

So the second half of the novel turns the entire volcano into a war zone as the battle rages between golems and Wurms, quickly wiping out the now-not-interesting-enough rebels.

There are side plots: Solomon's desire to help his old village; project director Fynn's obsession with saving the world at any cost; Adiel's motivation to either destroy the rebels or ruin Fynn's reputation or to find the truth about what happened to her parents (Fynn used them as fertiliser). But rather than emerging in order to add development to the characters as we come to know them, they have to be squeezed into the brief pauses between running away from magma-forms/golems/rebels/space worms.

There's another problem with the book if you happen to be a Doctor Who fan. It is set in 2116 in a world where little has changed since 2007: the world is desperately short of food, Africa is still downtrodden, people are surprised and disbelieving at the idea of aliens. All fine if this were a stand-alone novel, but this is set in the Doctor Who universe, a place where the twenty-first century sees mankind encountering aliens, be they Cybermen or Ice Warriors, and conquering famine through first the Suncatcher developed by second Doctor lookie-likey Ramon Salamander ("The Enemy of the World") and then achieving full weather control through the use of the Gravitron from 2050 ("The Moonbase").

By the 21-teens people are supposed to be routinely taking package holidays to other star systems and collecting menageries of alien animals ("Nightmare of Eden"). You might think that a new series author could happily ignore some old Tom Baker story, but Cole then bothers to reference the Kilbracken Technique from "The Invisible Enemy" which is even by the same author, Bob Baker.

For goodness sake we're only fifty years before the Dalek Invasion, and if there's one bit of history that even the Time War can't have wiped out then it's that!

Oh, and if I'm being critical, then putting your sample bat-golem inside a lead box means that you really can't x-ray the box to see how the little feller is developing.

The Wurms are probably the most successful part of the book. Described almost exactly as you would expect them to be if you had ever seen the computer game, they nonetheless have a deliciously icky biological technology that deserves a better explanation. And apparently they use Wirrrn shells as stretchers. On the other hand the "we don't understand art so we're going to destroy it all" motivation is rather less inspired. To have them destroying world in order to acquire art might have had a more kill-the-goose-that-lays-the-golden-eggs moral. As they are, they are just philistines. And philistines without any real characters, to boot.

On the other hand, alien art historian Faltato – David Starkey with a hundred legs – has entirely too much character, being a rather ill-judged comic relief in the middle of all the mutating into golems, dissolving skeletons and general slaughter. His extraordinary appearance – summarised by Rose as cactus-crab-hairbrush – is almost impossible to realise on the page and as such rather unsatisfying. Doctor Who on television has often made use of the very visual nature of the medium to realise some marvellously different monster forms. But that's harder on the page and so you can understand why the books have often had a tendency to have dog-like, cat-like, rhino-like aliens: you can get a picture of them instantly from a very slight description.

So at least with the Wurms you know what worms look like, even if these are bionic worms with attached weaponry. And they are great fun as they squish around, firing their cow-pat guns and ordering humans to ambulate or fold down (kneel!).

There are also some mildly pleasing (if heavily telegraphed) revelations in the closing chapters when it turns out that the Valnaxi have set the whole thing up as a trap. Although their race is dead, their spirits live on aboard the starship they've got hidden under the volcano. Yes, more dead things looking to return!

The revelation that Solomon has become caught up in the workings isn't a surprise either, obvious really from his non-death scene (where he unlike everybody else is taken rather than turned gold on the spot); and from the way the golems unexpectedly turn their attentions away from the surviving humans, something which allows the Wurms to gain the upper hand by using literal human shields.

The Valnaxi had planned to lure the Wurms to them so that they could sample their DNA and create new bodies for themselves, bodies that would allow them to return to their now-Wurm-infested homeworld and once there rediscover their muse and make new art.

At last, someone with a motivation you can care about. This should have been a larger part of the book, as the Doctor has the opportunity for a good moral confrontation. It is sadly cut short as they were only keeping him talking while his immunity to their magma-form wore off.

Sadly, by this point the war between Wurms and golems is over and the Wurms invade the starship. The Doctor though finds a handy "blast the plot into space" button and launches the ship, carrying the remaining Wurms and the Valnaxi into deep space never to return.

And luckily, the Wurms' own spaceship managed, er, to heavily fertilise the agri-project during its, er, "graphic" landing while Faltato takes the ship itself and the surviving art to make a new life for himself. So happy endings for anyone still alive after the slaughter of almost every living thing for miles around.

As Alex remarked to me, then, the story – like the car that Peter Davison's character in "Fear Stress & Anger" bought the other week – is a cut'n'shut: the front end is a serious body horror chase around lava tunnels with double- and triple-crossing going on in a fight for survival with dangerous rebels. The back end is a war movie between the golem army of undead artists and a battalion of evil space worms. And – again, like Peter Davison's car – it is liable to snap when it goes over the bumps.


Five days to go!

Day 2275: Shut Your Trap


This was RUBBISH.

What, you want MORE?

OK: Mr Charlie Brooker does not often make mistakes, but when he advised us to watch a TV series by Mr Madam Adam Curtis called "The Trap: How We Learned to Stop Worrying About Freedom and Love the no that's not right…" it was a STINKER.

Madam Adam's technique is to tell you what to think whilst playing a MONTAGE of clips and LOTS of SCARY music so that you know that it is all REALLY TERRIFYING STUFF. And then say: "It's all true – now you have to do what I say!"

So it was a sort of HORROR ANTHOLOGY in three parts, a series of MADE UP STORIES to frighten you! Goodness knows why it was billed as a DOCUMENTARY though; probably some sort of mix up at the RadioTimes!

The first part was called "BAD WORD you, Buddy!", though it might as well have been called "The Ghost of Freedom Past".

It was set in the Nineteen Seventies, and it told two stories about two DUMB ideas and how they took hold of two institutions.

The first idea was GAME THEORY: the idea that you can fight a war by treating it like a game of BATTLESHIPS. This idea so impressed the Pentagon that they used it extensively in order to LOSE the VIETNAM WAR. The problem with Game Theory being that you have to ASSUME what the other side's winning conditions actually are. If you measure winning by "how many body bags we have filled" and the other side measures winning by "are the American public so SICKENED by this slaughter that they make the army give up and go home" you may find that your sums do not add up. Computer says "No", as they say.

On the DOWN SIDE, it turned out that Game Theory was invented by a man called Mr John Nash who was unfortunately MAD.

This, however, segued nicely into the second story!

The second idea was that you could measure whether someone was BONKERS or not by getting them to fill in a questionnaire.

Here is an example of one such questionnaire:

"Question One: Are you Lord Blairimort?"

If you answer "yes" then it is off to the Soft-Wall Hilton for you, you LOONY!

Now, to be fair to the head-shrinkers that came up with this idea, psychology had gone a bit WRONG, because psychologists could not tell the difference between people who were mad and people who just SAID that they were mad. This was PROVED by Mr R D Laing and his Rosenhan Experiment where he successfully got himself and a dozen other people incarcerated in a MENTAL INSTITUTION and then found he could not get out again. What a NUTTER. Which is what the people running the mental institution had said.

So at least they were at least tying to make things BETTER, which is more than can be said of the pinheads and the Pentagon, who already had a pretty successful technique for EXPLODING PEOPLE.

Of course, the problem should have been obvious. And certainly, SOMEONE should have spotted it the moment that they tested the whole of America and found that 51% of Americans were clinically CRACKERS.

The tests did not test whether you were mentally ill or not – they only tested whether you conformed to a pre-determined definition of "normal" or not. And all abnormals were declared "ill".

(Funnily enough, we say that the SOVIET UNION was BAD for saying that people who didn't fit in were mental cases.)

It should not take a fluffy elephant to point out that the attempt to take the FALLIBLE human psychologist out of the diagnosis process was DOOMED to failure. Because OBVIOUSLY the tests were still being written by FALLIBLE human psychologists. Mechanising the process did not AVOID misdiagnosis; it merely enabled the person writing the test to misdiagnose THOUSANDS of people ALL AT ONCE!

So what linked these two ideas and their TERRIFYING consequences?

Well, says Madam Curtis, it is the idea that you can stop thinking about people AS people and reduce their behaviour to simple, easy to predict, numerical models, based on the assumption that everyone will behave in the way that is best for themselves.

Or, to put it bluntly, everyone is totally SELFISH.

The title for the second part was "The Ghost of Christmas Prozac". In this episode, Madam Adam told us that all the SCARY things that he had told us about in part one were now being applied to the way that the government ran the country.

This started with another idea, called "Public Choice Theory" or "Yes, Prime Minister," when it was made for television. This was the idea that there is no such thing as the PUBLIC INTEREST. No wonder it was Lady Thatcher's favourite TV show!

This idea, said Madam Curtis, came out of the OTHER ideas of Game Theory and treating people as checklists of behaviours. The Game Theory idea says that civil servants do not try to do good things for other people but instead act in their own interests, building little empires, defending their right to count the paper-clips, that sort of thing.

It is not a very NICE view of people, but it appeared to explain the almighty bureaucratic cock-up that we had made of government since the end of World War Part Two.

Of course, another explanation would be that bureaucracies tend to get bigger – it is always easier to hire new people to try and get a job done than to fire the existing people who are not doing it.

And the larger an organisation gets, the more BYZANTINE (isn't THAT a good word!) the more BYZANTINE its internal processes become. People still JOIN the civil service because they want to do GOOD, but they get trapped in the labyrinth of PROCEDURE and CUSTOM.

Still, if you have an authoritarian viewpoint and do not really trust people, it would be easy to see MUDDLE and CONFUSION as deliberate obfuscation and selfishness.

Did I mention it was Lady Thatcher's favourite TV show?

The governments of Britain and America came up with two different policy approaches in response to this idea. In Britain, Mr Minor, the caretaker Prime Monster while Lady Thatcher was REGENERATING into Lord Blairimort, came up with the Citizens' Charter, the Internal Market for the NHS and the Cones Hotline. In America, President Billary-Hillary came up with the idea of doing NOTHING and letting the market sort itself out.

Obviously Mr Minor's idea of coming up with a whole load of completely arbitrary targets completely failed to deliver what people WANTED. Instead it rewarded the service providers for ticking the right boxes. Just like the psychologists' checklists, the targets set were not based on any real measure of anything, and so only multiplied the random errors of the people in the centre setting them. And meanwhile, those psychologists' checklists that had proved half the world was potty, led the psychologists to dose half of everyone with Prozac and blitz them into blissed-out zombiedom.

America, on the other fluffy foot, had the biggest economic boom in history.

Obviously, said Madam Curtis, something was going wrong… in America.

Stepping back a moment, in order to provide evidence, the advocates of the idea looked to the work of an ANTHROPOLOGIST who had studied the BIG FIGHTS of the Yanomamo tribes-people. He said that if you looked carefully, the people in the fights always worked with the other tribes-people that they were closest related to. This, he said, proved that people always behave selfishly.

Madam Curtis even linked this to the work of my FAVOURITE time travelling scientist, Professor Richard Dawkins. Or possibly Madam Curtis said that the psychologists OF THE TIME linked their idea to the work of Professor Richard. It was not clear when he was making an argument and when he was reporting someone else's.

In either case, I think that this is UNFAIR. The title of Professor Richard's book "The Selfish Gene" does NOT mean that the gene makes PEOPLE be selfish! In fact it does not even mean that the genes themselves behave SELFISHLY; it is about looking at the process that selects genes on the basis of the gene acting in its own SELF-INTEREST because they cause animals to have the best strategies for survival. In fact cooperation is often the BEST STRATEGY so that is the strategy that promotes survival in the great game of Darwinian Evolution for the genes that cause it.

Anyway, some OTHER anthropologist then said, if you look at the fight EVEN MORE CLOSELY you will see that the fight is ACTUALLY between the tribes-people that the first anthropologist has given axes to and the ones that he hasn't who are trying to get some. The first anthropologist was asked about this in an interview… at which point he stormed out.


Back in the REAL WORLD – or rather, the bit of CRAZY-TOWN inhabited by Lord Blairimort – 1997 came around and Mr Minor was dumped out of Number Ten in favour of the Labour. Things could only get better. At least if you were an out-of-control meme with a plan to ruin the world.

The Labour's obsession with DELIVERY, said Madam Adam, led to them setting EVEN MORE TARGETS – targets for everything from achieving Wold Peace 5% sooner to increasing the joy of birdsong by ten points on a scale of Dawn Chorus to Dawn Primarolo.

Guess how THIS worked out!

In fact, rather than spreading good things to everybody, the Labour made it easier for people who already had good things – or at least lots of money – to make sure that they got all the better things: school league tables made it easier to find the good schools so rich parents could move there and ensure that their children had the best education; poor people were squeezed out so less of a chance for their kids to escape poverty. Social mobility in Britain ground to a halt under EGALITARIAN Lord Blairimort.

Meanwhile, in America, the Monkey-in-Chief was elected and decided to blow the whole of Billary-Hillary's budget surplus on CRAZY ARMS SPENDING. And the value of shares on Wall Street was blown to bits by the collapse of the Dot-Com bubble and a series of SCANDALS from Enron to WorldCom that the accountants had been covering up for years.

Look, cried Madam Adam, look: the free market it’s SOOOOO evil.

Now, my daddies had been becoming increasingly SUSPICIOUS of this series already, mostly because it was using so much INCIDENTAL MUSIC to MANIPULATE the emotions that they were feeling. An HONEST documentary should not need SINISTER music to make you feel that certain events are SINISTER. Nor should it need to JUXTAPOSE disparate events from around the world in order to try and present them as a pattern of BADNESS.

My daddies' suspicions were that Madam Adam may have AN AGENDA.

But it took Mr Tom Papworth – who has taken this series to pieces in some considerable detail – to be first to point out the CON TRICK that Madam Curtis is perpetrating here.

The American ECONOMY, vigorously free market, bounced back even when the STOCK MARKET was taking a pummelling.

And the Labour's insane target culture of total control from the centre has NOTHING TO DO with a Free Market Economy.

In fact, what Madam Adam is doing is TURNING LOGIC on its head.

Because the Labour CLAIM to be a Free Market party, when they do COMMAND ECONOMY things (and CALL it "market solutions") then Madam Adam BLAMES the Free Market.

More of this, and LESS SUBTLE, was to follow.

The third and final part was "The Ghost of Christmas Future, Back to the Past and Mostly the Present Again and Sideways into Bizarro World". In this, Madam Adam took and TOTALLY DISTORTED the ideas of famous LIBERAL PHILOSOPHER and MUSICAL COMPOSER Mr Irving Berlin (not to be confused with that OTHER famous Berlin – the capital of Germany).

Mr Berlin had looked at the concept of LIBERTY and decided that there were TWO sorts: he called them Positive Freedom and Negative Freedom.

Positive Freedom is the sort that espouses BIG IDEAS: let us overthrown the monarchy! Let us make all citizens equal! Let us have free sticky buns on Tuesdays!

The PROBLEM with Positive Freedom, saw Mr Berlin, is that it is about having ANSWERS. "TRUTH" with a capital "TRUTH"! Which means, if you have the absolute "TRUTH!", then you are justified in doing ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING to impose that Freedom on everybody else. Even if that means imposing that Freedom on them TO DEATH!

This is why, said Mr Berlin, revolutions like the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution that begin with such high-minded ideals end up in such a shoddy, bloody, corrupt, mess. If you think that the ends justify the means then you are wrong.

Madam Curtis calls this a PROPHECY that Positive Freedom WILL go wrong – but people who believe in ETERNAL TRUTHS tend to talk about stuff like PROPHECIES. Really it is a WARNING that it COULD go wrong, that you need to keep a beady eye on anyone who starts spouting Positive Freedom ideas and not let them start IMPOSING on people.

Instead, he said, there is ANOTHER kind of Freedom, which he called Negative Freedom, the freedom to do what you want without let or hindrance from the government or anybody else so long as you are not imposing on THEIR freedom either.

So if you WANT to have sticky buns on Tuesdays, NOBODY should stop you.

This idea is the basis of Western Democracy, and of our WAY OF LIFE here in the United Kingdom. It is a GOOD idea, and there is nothing wrong with ENCOURAGING other people to think so. If they decide to try it out for themselves then they might find that they enjoy it too.

But it is not an idea that you can EXPLODE people into adopting. Not least because then it becomes the OPPOSITE thing: you think that you have an absolute answer and it has become Positive Freedom.

Remember that for later.

Anyway, Madam Adam starts his last part by telling us about this, and by playing a clip of Mr Berlin warning against just such a possibility of imposing freedom.

Then he tells us all about the horror stories that can arise from Positive Freedom, starting with the French Philosopher and nutter Jean-Paul Sartre who thought it would be a good idea to have a violent revolution to IMPROVE people. His ideas were taken up by all sorts of baddies from all over the world, including Che Guevara in Latin American and Islamic Revolutionaries in Iran. They were taken to the extreme though by the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot who thoroughly trashed Cambodia with their evil ideas.

All of this revolutionary violence led to America taking action in return. Herald of the Death of Satire, Henry Kissinger instigated a policy of supporting anyone who was on "their side" even if they were horrible dictators. These were people like President Marcos of the Philippines, President Pinochet of Chile and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Remember him?

Unfortunately, in the end this just didn't work as was shown when America's man in Persia, the Shah of Iran, was toppled by the Islamic Revolution. This led to something of a RETHINK in the US and the result was "Project Democracy", led by – yes I was ASTONISHED TOO – the NEO-CONSERVATORIES!

They realised that DICTATORSHIPS were essentially a BAD idea. People would be better off if they could make up their own minds without being bossed around – have a bit of the negative freedom, Mr Berlin talked about.

So in the Philippines and in Chile, the old dictators were persuaded to give it a bit of a rest, retire and let the people have some democracy.

"Ah ah!" says Madam Adam, "but it was a LIMITED sort of democracy, an American sort of democracy, not the sort of democracy that I like AT ALL!"


Democracy is a thing that just keeps growing and improving. Once it's started, people keep refining it, trying to work it out, get it right, make it better. Britain did not get it right all at once. It took AGES! Just look at the House of Lords Club! Actually, better not.

Look it REALLY takes something for my Daddy Richard to start being sympathetic to President Ray-gun. And yes, this WAS that something!

Chile and the Philippines may not be perfect places – yet – but neither have they fallen back into dictatorships. They are making their own faltering way, but it is THEIR way to make!

But "Project Democracy" went A BIT WRONG. The Neo-Cons stopped just letting the old dictators retire, they started trying to REPLACE the "wrong" kind of democracy with the "right" kind of democracy. The right-WING kind, that is. And it all ended up with the sort of mess that has you selling GUNS to the fruitloops in Iran and giving the profits to the fascist rebels in Nicaragua. And then, if you are President, FORGETTING everything that happened.

Maybe they got impatient. Maybe they weren't REALLY interested in democracy so much as what they are USUALLY interested in: American economic self-interest. American foreign policy hasn't changed in two hundred years – whatever is good for business is good for America.

Of course, Madam Curtis reads it ANOTHER WAY – he claims that giving people choice and freedom is JUST THE SAME as imposing your own ideas on them. He CONFLATES spreading the Negative Freedom with the new mutant form of Positive Freedom. Which is handy for his argument, but only if no one notices that it is NOT TRUE.

Rather fortunately – from almost everyone's point of view – at that point Communism IMPLODED and lots of people all across Eastern Europe discovered a whole lot of Negative Freedom all at once. People in the West started talking about the END OF HISTORY like they meant it and then – says Madam Curtis – a bunch of wunderkind rode in with all the same ideas of market reform.

Russia's new revolution involved giving away the entire Russian economy to the people, only doing it at JUST the point where they were all starving and would sell it on to some DODGY GEEZERS for a shot of vodka and some stale battenburg. This is what the advisors called shock tactics. And the DODGY GEEZERS were quickly rich enough to be called posh names like OLIGARCHS instead. Reacting against this, the Russian people elected scary Vladimir Putin who promised to bring back ORDER to the country.

Now what Madam Curtis FAILS to point out here is that Mr Putin's vision of order is yet another Positive Freedom: he will free the people from hunger and chaos… so long as they do EXACTLY what he says.

Where Madam Adam portrays this as a CONSEQUENCE of Negative Freedom, in fact it is a FAILURE to avoid the drift into Positive Freedom.

And, of course, he does ever so slightly OVERLOOK all of the OTHER countries from Eastern Europe that used to be Communist Satellites, but are now being welcomed into the European Union where they are pleased to enjoy as much Negative Freedom as they can get.

The FINAL FOLLY of America – so far, I am sorry to have to say – is Iraq. By now, the Monkey-in-Chief was convinced that GOD was talking to him. (Or "the Intercom" as most people today call it.) And what did GOD say? He said: "George? Dick here. Let's us try and spread some freedom and democracy to a Middle Eastern country by bombing it flat." Oddly enough this MAY not have worked. Oddly enough, the "voice of GOD" may not entirely CARE! Madam Curtis said that after the invasion, the same wunderkind arrived in Iraq with the same plan: shock tactics too, you might say. On the other fluffy foot, giving the entire county to Darth Cheney's old pals in HALLIBURTON was not ENTIRELY the same plan as happened in Russia. Still, it was SHOCKING, I will give you that.

How were the governments of America able to get away with all of these schemes to IMPOSE their will on innocent countries over the years? Well, Madam Curtis explains – playing some SCARY MUSIC – they did it by SCARING PEOPLE.

Oooh, PROPAGANDA. Like THAT'S never been used before! In fact, I can remember quite a few Positive Freedom people who were REALLY into the INSPIRATIONAL POSTER or the GOVERNMENT SPONSORED MOVIE.

Iraq, of course, reminds us of our very own SUPREME POODLE, Lord Blairimort. Finally, Madam Curtis turned his myopia on the New Labour project.

This was all the fault of Negative Freedom, he kept reminding us, Lord Blairimort's promises that he could free us from the fear of terrorism by imposing his new anti-elephant Glorification of Terrorism laws, detention without trial and without end, I.Diot cards and Big Brother surveillance on us.

Lord Blairimort is, in many ways, the End of Freedom altogether.

Hang on; I think I see a FLAW here.

Freedom from something by imposing something else, knowing all the answers… this is NOT Negative Freedom! This is not ANY kind of Freedom AT ALL! This is just another believer in POSITIVE FREEDOM gone BAD.

We should be LISTENING to Mr Berlin's warnings, not DISSING them!

This whole show is a FRAUD!

"No," cried Madman Curtis, "No, it is Negative Freedom, I tell you. Negative Freedom is the Evil! There are NO SUCH THING AS MACRA! Negative Freedom has failed! Crush the WRONG THINKERS! It is time to try positive freedom again. Obey me! Obey me! Obey MEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

And with that, the programme ended.

Goodnight children, everywhere.


As I am only a FLUFFY ELEPHANT, it turns out that I am NOT the first person to spot that this was HOKUM.

Those who got there first include:

My Daddy Alex

Mr Tom of Liberal Polemic who has done an IN DEPTH look at Part One, Part Two and Part Three and done a Conclusion overall too

Mr Cicero of Ancient Greece

Mr Joe of the Extra Bold Political Blog

and Mr Jonathan of Liberal England

It turns out that you cannot fool ANY of the people ALL of the time, Madam Adam!


Six days to go!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Day 2274: DOCTOR WHO: The Nightmare of Black Island


It is POSSIBLE that you may have heard that the BBC are to revive their OLD SERIES of DOCTOR WHO.

Well, in order to him get back in the MOOD, I have told Daddy Richard that he must read the last three Doctor Who books staring Dr Who and Rose, before the Doctor's new lady friend Ms Martha arrives!

So here we go…
Mike Tucker, in addition to providing a lot of the special effects model work for Doctor Who on the television, is the author of several previous BBC books, most of them featuring Sylvester McCoy's seventh Doctor and his friend Ace, as played by Sophie Aldred. And you can safely say that as an author he makes a great special effects guy.

No, that's not entirely fair. He's perfectly capable of writing a decent turn of phrase, his most telling faults being the bulldozing of the New Adventures continuity in favour of his own (less interesting) Ace story arc – never nice behaviour in a shared universe – and an inability to avoid egregious sci-fi cliché. ("Terminator"-style time paradoxes, giant ants, invasion from another dimension, a cameo from James Dean… and that was all in one novel!)

On the other hand, his good grasp of basic narrative and pace and his simple and colourful writing style make him well suited to the current BBC range, with its aim sighted more on the younger audience.

The titular Black Island, or Ynys Du, is a coastal village in Wales, where the locals cower in their homes after dark because that is when the monsters come out. This is the perfect opening for an in-joke ("Who would come to Wales to give children nightmares?" wonders the Doctor. Personally, I thought the "Kklak" on the following page was much funnier.) But the real surprise is that the Doctor and Rose arrive in the TARDIS before Captain Jack can get there in the Torchwood-mobile.

There isn't, in fact, any Torchwood mention at all – in spite of this being practically in their lap – so loses points there, and also loses points for the utterly crass drop in of a reference to "The Invisible Detective" (written by Doctor Who range consultant Justin Richards, like you didn't know – or "please read my boss's books").

The opening scene (or pre-title sequence, as it comes before Chapter One) is both genuinely terrifying and strongly traditional Who, as a lonely fisher is haunted on the cliff path before a horrible monster appears to devour him!

Rose, however, dreams the incident, only to find she and the Doctor have materialised in the exact location of her dream. So far so spooky.

But within a chapter Rose and the Doctor are under attack from all manner of monsters as they try to get to the village, saved only by a (turn the cliché counter up to eleven) full on Godzilla versus Rodan (or insert as appropriate here) monster fight breaking out while they make their get away.

Then we are into rather more Scooby Doo territory as the village-under-siege locals from central casting (aggressive pub landlord™, worried mum™, hostile harbour master™, dithery vicar™) go quickly from suspicious of the Doctor to welcoming before the local nutty old woman™ fingers recently arrived retirement home of sinister industrialist™ Nathanial Morton. "Oh don't listen to her," say all the villagers, so of course she is spot on.

From here on, the story becomes a game of breaking in and out of the Crumbling Old Rectory™ where Morton and his associate have made their base. Unsurprisingly, Norton's secretary, Miss Payne, and his gang of masked surgeons turn out to be aliens. And yes, they are responsible for making the monsters.

Doctor Who's 2006 season, in stories like "School Reunion", "The Idiot's Lantern" and "Fear Her", featured roles for children more than has been usual in the series before, and in this, "The Nightmare of Black Island" fits in well, when we are introduced to Ali, ten-year-old daughter of aggressive pub landlord™ and worried mum™, and her little gang of friends. There is also the presence of "Jimmy" and a significant event for eight children some fifty years ago.

Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, the children turn out to be no less ciphers than their parents. The older boy who's not so brave; the younger boy who clearly fancies Ali a bit; and Ali herself is no more than Rose's Mini-Me. It's all very well to have Rose pressing down her fears to sneak around the spooky rectory, but then you get Ali doing pretty much the same. She is only ten; she could occasionally be allowed to scream.

Of course, the astute – or even the not so astute – observer will quickly put together the book's title, Rose's dream and Ali's difficulty getting to sleep and work out where the "nightmare" monsters are coming from. To be fair, the Doctor works things out quite sharply too, and it only takes a quick boat trip to the lighthouse on the eponymous isle to find the aliens' machinery that is behind it all. In fact it is so obvious, that Tucker feels the need to throw in some remarks about the machine also suppressing the villagers' natural curiosity lest anyone think that matters could have been worked out before the Doctor even arrived.

The aliens' actual objective is to use the power of the children's nightmares to re-create a new body for their god, which picks up on another theme of the 2006 series, dead things coming back, as well as the generally dim view of gods that the series has taken since it returned.

Alien stormtroopers as religious cultists could have been good for some interesting characterisation, but this lot are really just your usual conquer-the-galaxy, crush-the-lesser-species lot dressed up. In fact, only Payne gets any real character, or indeed lines, and she's just a ranty megalomaniac; the others remain faceless with or without their surgeon's masks – this despite a great reveal scene, very X-Files, and with another in-joke, but this time a good one, about cutting costs on prosthetic makeup for background characters.

In fact, even though it is only days since reading it, I'm finding it hard to remember any real character moments even for the series regulars, other than the Doctor being a bit wacky or Rose being very brave. The book is all incident with no story, just a progression of set piece special effects. As it were.

Obviously the aliens' plans go tits up. Actually, they would have gone awry anyway, as Payne has – a little carelessly you may think – failed to collect all of her deity's marbles and rather than the dark god Balor, she gets a rather cross beastie with no self-control. Fortunately the Doctor is on hand to put a stop to it and – after the obligatory King Kong™ moment atop the rectory – that is what he does. The Doctor's reverse-the-polarity solution may finally blow the dial off the cliché counter but it does have the benefit of being child's-eye-view-of-adults funny, as the beast is dispelled less by nightmares and more by the power of mundane worries.

There may not be any real surprises, but it makes for a decent little read. Not exactly cracking but at least the pages keep on turning. But if his thesis is that only children have the imagination to come up with a decent scary monster… well he makes his own point, doesn't he.


Seven days to go!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Day 2273: The Landslide of Androzani


Hot BY-ELECTION news from the SIRIUS SYSTEM: Liberal Democrat JASON ANDROZANI has had a MAJOR victory over the Labour androids of Blairius Jek.

Here is the news as it was reported:

Close Vote(!), says Ed Maxfield.

Labour annihilated, says Matt Davies.

Another Huge Lib Dem Victory, declares Liberal Action.


Sutton (Notts) By-election, raves Alex Foster on Lib Dem Voice!

Oooh, steady on there, Mr Alex!

Lift engineer Trau Balloon is reported to have been shot by his employers!

(This diary is dedicated to Mr Will, since he is the ONLY person who will get it!)


Eight days to go!

Day 2272: Mysteries of Doctor Who #8: Logopolis… what's THAT all about?


Daddy is waxing lyrical…

Logopolis is described as the keystone of the universe, and similarly "Logopolis" is the keystone of Doctor Who's eighteenth season, with its story arc of CHANGE AND DECAY.

Script editor and, for this story, author Christopher H. Bidmead wanted to base Doctor Who's stories on sound science again.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is NOT technobabble: it's not just words put together to "sound" like they mean real science. It IS real science. The entire story, the entire SEASON is building up to this one point: things fall apart; EVERYTHING DIES.

But it is more than that, because "Logopolis" is also telling us a story though art as well as science.

Where Season Seventeen gauchely name-drops Leonardo Da Vinci and juggles a half-dozen Mona Lisas, Season Eighteen quietly but confidently shows us the series as a different form of art for four serials in a row: "Warriors' Gate" is a German expressionist piece after La Belle et La Bette; "The Keeper of Traken" is all velvet Shakespearean play; and "Castrovalva" is most famously an etching by Escher.

Between these, we have the Greek tragedy that is "Logopolis": the Doctor as protagonist, the Master as antagonist, and a chorus of companions all step out onto a sparse stage to tell us a sad story of the ending of things. The Doctor gets to be his own deus ex machina too, literally depending from the great machine as he intervenes to overcome the forces of evil. "Logopolis" ends, not with the inevitable triumph of entropy, but by overturning the message of all the season: not everything dies: the Universe lives and the Doctor is reborn.

The regeneration at the end – when the Doctor doesn't die, but actually becomes YOUNGER – is such a triumph, a real rage against the dying of the light moment.

Still, it does raise one or two rather puzzling points.

The obvious one is just what DOES he think he's doing: flooding the TARDIS to get rid of the Master?

But then, and rather more worrying, is it possible that the Doctor might actually be responsible for the destruction of a good third of the Universe?

To take the obvious point first: the Doctor has learned that the Master has hidden his own time machine somewhere inside the Doctor's. He was able to do this by predicting that the Doctor would go to Earth and materialise the TARDIS around a genuine police box and by getting there first.

This poses a bit of a problem for the Doctor: not only is the Master already aboard, it seems likely that any plan that the Doctor can concoct can also just as easily be predicted by his rival.

"He's a Time Lord. In many ways we have the same mind," he tells Adric.

So, how can he outwit the Master?

Well possibly, he realises that what he needs is an unpredictable – random almost – course of action. This is not without precedent, since he previously tried navigating the TARDIS out of E-Space using the I-Ching, and with some success too. So maybe he decides to do just whatever it is that Adric says next.

He first gets the idea to materialise the TARDIS under water just after confessing that the Master can effectively read his mind and Adric's reply is:

"Can't we flush him out?"

So maybe he tries that because, knowing it's bonkers, he also knows it's not something the Master will be remotely expecting.

Of course, he never actually does it, because another random factor intervenes, and instead he ends up heading off to Logopolis with the Master still ensconced.

Laurence Miles and Tat Wood's "About Time 5" suggests that by doing this the Doctor is, at least in some part, responsible for the devastation that ensues.

They also say that despite this being almost certainly the single highest body count of the entire series, there appear to be no consequences to the timelime.

Or are there?

Well for starters, Earth's galaxy is described as having several hours left… by the end of which the Doctor and the Master have stabilised the Cassiopeia CVE and saved the Universe. So in local "galactic" terms the events of "Logopolis" may not affect us or any of our neighbours, so it would be difficult to tell.

Although, in fact, it's notable that although the Seventies are rather busy on the invading the Earth front, there's a sudden halt to hostilities in 1980. (At least until the Cybermen start bothering us, and they come from the Solar System anyway.) Maybe even the nearby aliens noticed something we missed.

But what about powers outside of our galaxy?

Well, the Dominators claim to be masters of ten galaxies but are never heard of again. Is that just because they are rubbish villains, or could it be because their ten galaxies are among those annihilated by the entropy wave?

But ignoring such trivial figures, there are two major forces from outside Earth's galaxy.

In the first case, there's the Daleks. It's always the Daleks.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth takes place in the Twenty-Second Century. Any Daleks on Earth earlier than that ("Evil of the Daleks", "Day of the Daleks", "Resurrection of the Daleks", or "Remembrance of the Daleks", never mind "The Chase" and "The Daleks' Master Plan") are always quite obviously established as time travellers.

(Only "Power of the Daleks" with its near-Earth colony Vulcan poses a question here, though it seems very likely that the Dalek factory – apparently dimensionally transcendent – is a Dalek time machine. Or just fix the dating of "Power…" to sometime around the Dalek Invasion.)

Actually, this raises the vexed question of whether Skaro is in our galaxy or not. On the whole, the evidence is that it isn't: "The Daleks' Master Plan" sees the Daleks forming an alliance of the Outer Galaxies against Earth and the Solar System, suggestive at the very least, and they also establish a base of operations on a planet that is in Earth's galaxy (in this case Kembel) – something they do again in "Planet of the Daleks" (Spiridon) – which would also imply that their own home is extra-galactic; "Destiny of the Daleks" sees the Daleks' enemies the Movellans travel in a ship that Romana identifies as having intergalactic drive – so Skaro is probably in a different galaxy to the Movellans, if not to Earth. "The Parting of the Ways" has Captain Jack describe them as the most dangerous force in the universe, not just the galaxy, and as a time traveller he should know.

Maybe of most significance, there's the discussion between the Doctor and Kaled scientist Ronson in "Genesis of the Daleks". Ronson informs the Doctor that "Davros has proved that there is no other intelligent life in the nine galaxies". The Doctor's response is interesting: he says, "it is also a fact that there are more than nine galaxies". He doesn't flat out deny Davros' evidence, so perhaps Skaro really is isolated in a distant galactic group – isolated, that is, until something wipes out large chunks of the intervening universe and suddenly unleashing the Daleks on an unsuspecting Milky Way.

But even if a sudden "shrinking" of the universe doesn't bring them into contact with Earth, it would appear that the Daleks don't interact with Humans until well after the events of Logopolis.

The other big extra-galactic force, actually a pair of forces, is the endless war between the Rutan Host and the Sontarans.

The Milky Way seems to be of little strategic importance to either side most of the time, but now and again the front lines pass through our galaxy. There may be a battle front nearby during the twelfth century ("The Time Warrior") although Larry and Tat convincingly argue that the Sontaran Linx may be a time traveller (it would certainly explain the title).

In that case, the first major development that we know about is the series of strategic withdrawals made by the Rutan during the early twentieth century, Earth time ("Horror of Fang Rock"). But then the next thing we know is the Sontarans considering whether to occupy the Milky Way sometime at least fifteen thousand years in the future ("The Sontaran Experiment").

So what held up the Sontaran advance? Why wasn't the galaxy ravaged in the meantime by the war? Could it be the unexpected wiping out of great chunks of their own (and the Rutan) territories suddenly rendered Earth's galaxy right off the war map?

(Of course, another explanation would be that the Daleks barrelling into the Milky Way from the other side rather put off both Sontaran and Rutan armadas!)

It might be seen, then, that in both cases there is a significant change in our relationship with an inter-galactic power in the millennium following the Logopolis catastrophe.

But the main question is one of responsibility.

The Doctor is adamantly against going to Logopolis with the Master aboard the TARDIS until he talks to the Watcher, and then suddenly he changes his mind entirely. (Perhaps another instance of being able to get around the Master's mind reading because he's following an unpredictable external suggestion.) And here he talks about "a chain of events that lead to the unravelling of the Universe itself".

Incidentally, it seems with hindsight that the Watcher may only speak to the dead. Here he talks to the Doctor, and later, in the TARDIS, he speaks to Adric – who has a date with destiny in "Earthshock" – alone, rather than to him and Nyssa together. (Nyssa does say at one point: "he said he was a friend of the Doctor" but we never see him actually talking to her – maybe he approached Consul Katura, doomed with Traken, and spoke to her and it was she told Nyssa). Is it significant that Auntie Vanessa sees the Watcher across the Barnet bypass when Tegan doesn't? Mind you, everyone is likely to die sometime, so perhaps it's not so significant.

The Master is clearly familiar with Logopolis, enough to know it holds a single great secret. Also, it may be Adric who ends up in his Hadron Power Web in the next story, but the fact that the Master has it ready – and his easy familiarity with the potential uses of Block Transfer Computation – suggest that he was planning on plugging in a Logopolitan. Perhaps his original plan, before Entropy turned it all to dust, involved kidnapping the Monitor. The Doctor is clearly quite right when he realises that Logopolis (rather than himself) is the Master's target.

Consider also: the Master has trapped Tegan aboard the TARDIS, rather than killing her (see how he indulges himself with Auntie Vanessa because she is extraneous to his plans) – if he's not just bonkers then he has a reason, and it is probably so that he can kill her later to prove to the Doctor that he means business, and still have Adric as hostage.

But the Doctor's decision gets the Master to Logopolis for free and without the Doctor finding himself held at the business end of the Tissue Compression Eliminator.

Essentially, the Watcher's message may be that it is inevitable that the Master will get to Logopolis, it is his intention and he has the means to force the Doctor to take him. And once there – though his lack of understanding – the consequence will be the release of the Entropy and the actual end of not a third but the entire universe.

This is the Doctor's choice then: go to Logopolis now, even though it means his own death – the Watcher's presence proves that – and have a chance to save something, or else end up being forced there with no choices and die anyway.

"Castrovalva" is only more explicit about having the power to make choices and defy pre-destination. "If" can be the most powerful word in the English language, Tegan says.

The Doctor gives up his life for the biggest "if" in the Universe.

No, he's not responsible for the death of a third of creation; he's responsible for saving two-thirds of it.

Episode Four of "Logopolis" was first broadcast on 21st of March 1981, so 2007 is its 26th anniversary!


Nine days to go!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Day 2271: General Election to be November 2007


Mr Frown will grab every headline with his surprise 2p tax cut.

Never mind that it all has to be paid for, and the abolition of the 10p rate actually makes this a 10p tax RISE for many low paid workers, the simple easy to understand numbers of the headline rate cut are all that will be remembered. It is the perfect set up to launch Mr Frown PRIME MONSTER! And the perfect launch for a GENERAL ELECTION campaign.

As Daddy Alex says: it has always worked for Tory Chancellors before!

Hang on though! With Mr Balloon leading in the polls by 10% – or even 15% if you believe the Cassandras at the Grauniad – then surely it would be MADNESS for the Labour to throw away another two-and-a-half years of this parliament. What on Earth would make Mr Frown, whose first middle and last name are all PRUDENCE – yes, he's really Mr Prudence Gordon Prudence Frown-Prudence – what could make him take the biggest gamble ever?

Well, fair enough, Mr Frown gets to erase the memory of yesterday's UNPLEASANTNESS. He can BASK in the glow of generosity, and at the same time SHOOT the Conservatories' FOX. In fact, not just shoot their fox, but also MACHINE GUN their whole pack of hounds, and then STEAL their hunting pink and leave them NAKED in the Countryside. It is NOT a pretty sight!

Certainly Mr Balloon was left with nothing to say but his pre-prepared Stalin gag.

He spluttered on: "You've got a deep hole in your policies" he accused the Chancellor. "That hole is OUR policy!" he added.

Even his BEST MATE Mr Nick "Mate-of-Dave" Robinson, spinning like topsy on the BBC Ten O'clock News, was compelled to agree that Mr Balloon had MISSED the OBVIOUS when he WELCOMED what the Conservatory Leader described as a "tax CUT".

Mr Frown was actually CRYING with laughter as Mr Balloon humiliated himself.

All very funny.

Sir Mr the Merciless was the one to spot the cruel catch: that the Chancellor was robbing the poor to pay to the rich.

Or as Mr "Mate-of-Dave" spun it: "The Chancellor's tax cut was a con, and Sir Mr the Merciless agrees." As if it Mr "Mate-of-Dave" Robinson wasn't the one agreeing with Sir Mr the Merciless!

So what was Mr Frowns personal message to us in his Budget Address on the telly later?

"I've cut tax to reward hardworking families. We're on your side. This is a budget for Britain's future. This is a Budget for families."


But there is also some RISK. A DEFERRED tax cut does not put the money into anyone's wallet, at least not yet. And will they remember your future largess before it happens? With inflation still above your target range is this the time to inject cash into the economy? With a huge trade gap is this the time to stimulate consumer demand for imports? Plus you've still got to pay for it and when it comes around people may end up rather less chuffed than the headlines implied they would be. As Mr Will has worked out.

Never mind the fact that the Labour are FAR TOO BANKRUPT to pay for a General Election.

And yet, a 2p tax cut is EXACTLY what you would do if your plan is to take the BOUNCE in the polls from dumping Lord Blairimort as a springboard to go for your own mandate in that narrow HONEYMOON window before everyone realises nothing has changed.

It is certainly an indication that the Labour are putting themselves on a WAR FOOTING.

So why would Mr Frown do it?

Unless, of course he happens to have a SECRET ATOMIC WEAPON in his back pocket.

Just suppose that there is something SERIOUS that Mr Balloon still has not told us. Yes, yes, we all know that the CANNABIS AT ETON shock and the BOOZING WITH THE BULLINGDON horror stories have broken, and he has told us how that was all in the past and that we can't talk about it now. But there are STILL all these RUMOURS about Britain's top toff, no doubt all completely FALSE and DEFAMATORY and not a SNIFF of truth to them. But just suppose that Mr Frown discovered that he could prove one of them TRUE.

Then we might have a scenario of, say, an EXCLUSIVE in the Scum, perhaps during the Conservatory Party conference week, Mr Balloon forced to resign, Conservatories in total disarray, still no polices, snap general election and Mr Frown romps home…


It is MUCH more likely that Mr Frown just got a bit GIDDY on TIZER and put the tax cut in at the end as a joke.

Day 2270: Sing to the Motherland, Home of the Frown[*]


Surprising news comes that happy-go-lucky sprite o'the glen Mr Frown may in fact be a bit of a TYRANT!

It seems, one of the most SENIOR Civil Servants has compared our own Iron Chancellor, Gordon Blairimortovich with Uncle Joe Stalin, the Soviet Man of Steel.

In further bad news for the Prime Minister in waiting-and-waiting-and-waiting, now Lord Blairimort has come out in his support!

Comparing Mr Frown to Stalin is a BIT HARSH. I mean we should not forget the thirty year reign of terror, the purges, the disappearances, the secret executions and the show trials. It is not as though Stalin was sitting on his hands sulking until Lenin would let him have a go, now was it!

On the other fluffy foot, Cuddly Uncle Joe never had the urge to try to disown his Russianness in order to get English people to like him more. Generally, if people did not like him, Cuddly Uncle Joe had them shot.

The Times, who are probably feeling a bit SILLY about it now, described this as a "Black Tuesday" for the Chancellor.

No doubt they were DELIBERATELY trying to remind people of that day when Mr Balloon was special advisor to the BADGER that drove the British economy over a cliff and out of the ERM.

In fact, they were trying to round up a cadre of retired apparatchiks to denounce Mr Frown as being a bit UNPLEASANT. Oddly enough, I do not have much sympathy for a bunch of mandarins whose complaint amounts to "WE used to have all that power!" I imagine that the nobles of the Tsar's court felt pretty much the same.

Of course, being called RUTHLESS is hardly an INSULT to most politicians. In fact, they revel in it: it did the Iron LADY good for years when all of the cartoonists and satirists portrayed her as the one in the TROUSERS.

As Mr Ian Hislop says, it was only when they started saying she was BONKERS that people started to turn against her.

Mind you, Mr Frown has been THERE too, and laughed it off.

In unrelated news, Mr Peter Mandleson has been warned to stay away from ICE PICKS.

[*] obscure Soviet National Anthem jokes я us

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Day 2269: This is Just Happy Slapping with Hawk Jets


To commemorate the fourth anniversary of Lord Blairimort invading a Middle Eastern country, the BBC tonight presented the Ten O'clock News from Iraq. Or more precisely from inside heavily defended military installations inside or floating just off of Iraq.

While Mr Huw was stood in a dusty desert CAR PARK being drowned out by TANKS as they drove off to go and do tank stuff in the night, Mr Jeremy Bowen was reporting live from the USS Eisenhower in the Gulf, apparently being filmed by one of the fighter pilots on his mobile phone.

Which is where Daddy came in.

I do wonder what is the POINT of all of this PRESENTING the news from Basra. If you want to stand in a car park there is one at Television Centre. It seems a rather extravagant and, may I say, MACHO way of going about things. And it puts your news presentation entirely in the hands of whichever army/navy/airforce/AT-AT crew on whom you are relying upon for protection. The army call it "embedding"; I wonder if it isn't "keeping under our thumb".

In fact, the only person not surrounded by HEAVY METAL and a FLAK JACKET was Mr John Simpson who was dressed in casual slacks and a shirt reporting from a market place in Sadr City. He was safe there because he was being protected by the Mardi Army rather than by the Americans. His terribly sad news was that the insurgency has not gone away – they are just waiting patiently until the Americans declare peace and go home – probably some time this summer. Then it will be business as usual all over again.

Mr John gave us a better feel for what is going on in Iraq than any number of no doubt impressively exciting pictures of Mr Huw surrounded by tanks. These anecdotes reflect the figures from the BBC's opinion poll that shows a dwindling of optimism among the Iraqi people as the years grind on and their country remains BROKEN.

The BBC have also produced this GRAPHIC MAP of death and destruction in order to show all of the terrible explosions that have blasted Baghdad apart over the years. Well, I say "all of" but actually it only shows explosions where more than ten people have been exploded. Smaller explosions are either too numerous or just not newsworthy enough. As Mr John remarks: "To get on the news, or the front page of the newspapers nowadays, a lot of people have to die. I would say the current figure is 60 or 70; and it certainly wouldn't be the lead."

Even worse, though, is the Ethnic Areas maps that show how a once mixed cosmopolitan city has become segregated by a wave of ethnic cleansing, polarising it into religious factions.

Deep wounds have been caused to Baghdad, and to the rest of Iraq, wounds that will take years to heal.

We were promised that we were going into Iraq to create a "beacon of hope and democracy" that would lead inspire countries in the region. As Mr Bowen put it in another report, this time from the border with Saudi Arabia: "No country wants to be like Iraq today."