The Politician: Boris Johnson, Tory MP and Spectator editor
24 May 2005: Morning folks. Boris Johnson, your absconding blogger, reporting for duty.
We went out to the cinema the other night, and all we could see was something called The Interpreter, which imagined an assassination attempt on a Robert Mugabe-figure at the UN. It was interesting to see how Hollywood coped with the theme and how director Sydney Pollack tiptoed towards reality but funked it in the end. We were told the old dictator had once been a revolutionary hero, feted in the West. We were shown the degradation of his regime, the corpses in the football stadium. We were told that Nicole Kidman's family had been killed by a landmine, and we were given the tiniest of hints that it had been tough to be a white inhabitant of this troubled country "in Africa's south-central belt". But on the main point - the heart of the modern Zimbabwean tragedy - the film was eloquently silent.
Sydney Pollack did not have the nerve to address the wholesale theft of white farmers' land by Zanu-PF thugs. Why? Because the vicious Mugabe land-grab is supported by most of black Africa; and even if America makes ritual denunciations of Mugabe, it just would not have been possible - or compatible with Hollywood's PC values - for Pollack to make a film upholding the right of white colonial settlers to their land. I'm not saying the film was all bad: it was good to see a thriller about African politics. But it was a cop-out.
The Pop Star: Moby, Musician and singer
30 July, 2005: I have a question. Why are Europe and Asia considered two different continents? I understand why North and South America are two different continents. And I understand why Africa is a continent, (or "the nation of Africa" as our esteemed leader Mr G W Bush once said...) But why are Europe and Asia considered two different continents? Look at a map, it's essentially one giant land mass. You could theoretically walk blindfolded in one straight line from the French coast on the Atlantic ocean to the Chinese coast on the Pacific Ocean (although it might take a while.)
A continent is a "principle land mass", right? And don't Europe and Asia sort of occupy one gigantic principle land mass?
I wonder how it would effect the way in which citizens of Europe and Asia perceive themselves if, instead of Europe and Asia, you had Eurasia or Asiope (although "Eurasia" seems to be a bit more mellifluous)?
In other news, I'm here in Tokyo now, getting ready to drive up to Fuji Rock (where we're playing in between the Beach Boys and Primal Scream).
The Teacher: James Hampton, English teacher in China
22 July 2005: Ok. So, first things first. The 'o' 'p' and '9' keys on my computer aren't working. You see them here thanks to the beauty and simplicity of "cut and paste.
It's a pain in the arse but it's of course trivial compared to so many other things going on. My social commentary on my life goes something like this:
A few years back, I was a bit of a drinker. In England, that's what people of my age did/do. Maybe we did go a bit excessive sometimes, but it was all good fun. I needed to get out of that life. Alcohol was a substitute for facing life for me.
I don't drink anywhere near so much now - not since I met my girlfriend - but tonight I feel the old lure of the beer. It's not a problem-solver, but it sure is a great problem anaesthetic.
I hate caring. I hate getting hurt and I care a lot about too many things. I have no control over the majority of them - but I still care about them. Sometimes I wish I could switch this "care" for "pure hate". I think it would be so much easier. Just screw everything else. Hate the world. I wish I could. I can't.
The Call Girl: Belle de Jour, Anonymous prostitute
20 September, 2004: The foot fetishists, they are top. I don't understand their fetish, I don't see the appeal myself - feet are nice enough, but not that nice. But boy can I cater to it and they certainly seem to like me.
Despite altogether too large a fraction of my life spent in stilettos, my feet are in good shape. Fine-boned, high-arched, uncalloused and blessed with nicely-shaped toes and toenails. Of my physical features, I would rate my feet rather highly..
I met "S" earlier than my normal appointments. Mid-afternoon at a central hotel. He had requested no stockings, and "pretty" shoes. Non-specific. Not a shoe fetishist, then, I wagered. I wore the violet peep-toed ones.
There is always the moment of doubt on meeting a client - will this work? Is he nice? Is this even the right person? On meeting "S", he smiled, looked me in the eyes and his gaze dropped immediately to the floor. I knew we were on.
The Digresser: Anonymous woman
30 July 2005: "It'll come in a bunch of five, I'll tell you that much." Is something my fat geography teacher used to say. She was a nasty piece of work, with a chip on her shoulder as big as her enormous arse, which was also the cause of the chip on the shoulder. She ended each lesson with a threat of violence and humiliated anyone who happened, through no obvious fault of their own, to be stupid, clever, pretty, ugly or just pretty ugly.
I could never work out how geography could bring out such strong emotion in a person. This was geography of Danish bacon and how rain was made ... i.e. bloody boring. Yet there she stood twice a week, wearing brown clinging jumpers and brown nylon extremely clingy and enormous trousers... (why did geography teachers always wear brown clothes?) demanding that one of us tell her how butter production was useful to the pig deliverers or some other uninteresting bollocks or "I'll give you a bunch of fives in a minute"... or "I'll wallop you in a minute if you don't know the answer". She was horrible.
The Dog Lover: Kristina Cooper, Canadian pet lover
31 July 2005: Dogs in Cars NOT a good idea! With record summer temperatures this summer, I am amazed at how many people are still leaving their dogs unattended in the car while they are shopping!
In case you are not aware, this is extremely dangerous! Temperatures rise very quickly. Think about it... how does it feel this time of year when you get into your car? Something like a sauna? Well imagine feeling that but with a fur coat on!
Dogs, unlike their human counterparts, can't sweat and have to rely on panting to release excess heat. Leaving your dog (or any pet for that matter) in the car, even if the windows are open, can cause heat stroke and possibly death... even if its only for a few minutes.
Pets can also develop heat stroke if left outside to long in the heat and humidity or even living in un-airconditioned homes. Those breeds that are most at risk are those with long dense coats (e.g. shelties, samoyeds) and those with pushed in faces (e.g. bulldogs, boston terriers).
Signs of heat stroke can include: excessive panting, red gums ( may turn blue), fast pulse, salivation, lack of co-ordination, muscle tremors, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures, glazed over stare or anxious and coma.
Heat stroke can lead to liver and kidney failure. If you think you dog may be suffering from heat stroke contact your vet immediately!
The Cat Lover: Donald Kinney, Owner of Kitty, a cat
July 30, 2005: Kittyland is usually a quiet place, but yesterday was an exception We had a roofing crew banging around next door and the water company decided they needed to jackhammer a hole in the street ... What a din! Fortunately, everything quieted down late in the day and Kitty was finally able to find a quiet place in the garden to get horizontal...
The Ornithologist: Birdman, Anonymous ornithologist
3 August 2005: Hurray. It's raining. I want it to rain really hard and long. The ground's too hard for the birds to get food and there's very little water in the beck. Our birds have got through two big bags of sunflower seeds already this week.(Make sure you keep your feeders stocked please - or go out and buy one. It's very important).
The goldfinches have stopped arguing with one another; the great spotted woodpecker is back on the nuts and the baby greenfinches and sparrows let you get really close to them on our upstairs windowsill feeder.
So too does the robin. If the tray is inadvertently empty, he stands on the top of the feeder and complains loudly with a loud tut-tutting noise.
The Journalist: Stephen Pollard, Newspaper columnist
1 August 2005: Here's what can happen to you when try to do a favour to a stranger. I was walking along the street this morning, when I saw a lorry smash into the side of a parked car. And then - as is their wont - drive off.
So I wrote down the lorry's registration number, and the name and phone number of the company on the side of the lorry, and left a note on the windscreen of the parked car. And I also left my phone number should the driver want to call to have described what happened.
Ten minutes later, the phone rings. "Are you the owner of xxxxxx (reg number)?"
"No, I was passing by when I saw it being hit so I left the note from which you have got my phone number."
"We need the car moved. It's on a yellow line and it shouldn't be here."
"Well I'm sorry, but it's nothing to do with me. I was a passer by and I have no connection with the car."
"If you don't come and move it we'll call the police."
"I have nothing to do with the car. It is not my car."
"Of course it's your car. How else did I get your number?"
"I was passing by, saw it being hit, and left a note for the owner."
"You are the owner."
"No, I'm not, and I am going to put the phone down now."
Which I did. Ten minutes later the phone rings again. This time, it's the owner of the shop outside which the car is parked (I have no idea who the first person was to whom I spoke). We then have almost exactly the same conversation. And at the end, he says "Come and move your fucking car or I will smash into it myself."
I then explain for the umpteenth time that I have no connection with the car. To which he then replies, "Right, that's it. I'm going the police now". And puts the phone down.
I cannot imagine what delights now await me. Kafka, eat your heart out.
The Hollywood Star: Barbra Streisand Singer and film star
28 April 2005: America was profoundly changed after the 11 September attacks. We went from a country motivated by hope to a country controlled by fear. For the last several years, feeling neither safe nor secure, Americans have lived in extreme anxiety of another impending terrorist attack. I think that, as a result, most Americans sought out their faith and reaffirmed their conviction in God.
President Bush and the Religious Right's greatest political weapon has been perpetuating fear. Because of the heightened climate of anxiety coupled with religious fervour, they have been successful in stripping Americans of their personal freedoms, suppressing dissent and winning elections based on moral values. I also think the unfathomable fear of being a victim of another terrorist attack has allowed for the crumbling of the wall between church and state, which is a vital part of our historical, legal and political heritage.
By allowing personal religious beliefs to infiltrate our political framework, we have enabled this administration to wage a war on women's reproductive rights, squelch scientific advancement, take away our freedom of speech and fill important positions within government and possibly the nation's highest courts with religious extremists.
We must not let fear cripple our democracy.
The Celebrity Chef: Jamie Oliver, Chef and restaurateur
Tuesday 26 July 2005: A waxwork me! Hi guys. If you fancy a laugh, pop along to Madame Tussauds - they unveiled their waxwork model of me last week!
For those of you who haven't heard of them, Madame Tussauds is a big museum in London where they make funny little models of people.
Check out these photos...
Love Jamie O xxx
The Iraqi: Salam Pax, Baghdad Blogger
23 March, 2005: Two Years... We've completed two years since the beginning of the war. These last two years have felt like two decades, but I can remember the war itself like it was yesterday.
The sky was lit with flashes of red and white and the ground rocked with explosions on 21 March, 2003. The bombing had actually begun on the dawn of the 20th of March, but it got really heavy on the 21st. I remember being caught upstairs when the heavier bombing first began.
I was struggling to drag down a heavy cotton mattress from my room for an aunt who was spending a couple of weeks with us and I suddenly heard a faraway "whiiiiiiiiiiiiiz" that sounded like it might be getting closer.
I began to rush then - pulling and pushing at the heavy mattress; trying to half throw, half haul it down stairs. I got stuck halfway down the staircase and, at that point, the whizzing sound had grown so loud, it felt like it was coming out of my head.
What followed was almost a month of heavy bombing. We try to put it out of our heads but it comes back anyway. We sit around sometimes, when there's no electricity, or when we're gathered for lunch or dinner and someone will say, "Remember two years ago when..."
Remember when they bombed Mansur, a residential area... When they started burning the cars in the streets with Apaches... When they hit the airport with that bomb that lit up half of the city... When the American tanks started rolling into Baghdad? Remember when the fear was still fresh - and the terror was relatively new- and it was possible to be shocked and awed in Iraq?
The Baby: Matthew David Surrey, 7-month-old baby in Hertfordshire
3 August 2005: Ouch. I fell off the sofa yesterday
Mummy was in front of me and we were playing, so I couldn't fall off, but then I threw my teddy on the floor and it was just out of Mummy's reach. She only stood up for a second, but I turned to see where she had gone and I fell head first on to the floor! It felt like a long way but was really only about 10 inches.
I cried and cried, but I didn't hurt myself, I think it was the shock more than anything. Mummy gave me a big bottle of milk to make me feel better, and I soon felt as right as rain and was laughing and joking as usual.
I heard Mummy say to Daddy that she got up and checked on me several times in the night, but I slept really well and didn't hear her. Mummy feels very bad that she let it happen but I know it was an accident. I shouldn't be so nosy and try to see what she's doing should I!
The Concerned Mother: Stefania Butler
3 August, 2005: Trampolines are increasingly becoming a popular backyard toy but they can be dangerous, especially for young children. Following a few simple guidelines can ensure that your kids have fun - and stay safe - this summer. Precautions include setting up the trampoline in a hole so falling distance is not as great; keeping it free of fences and trees; and ensuring that springs, hooks, and the frame are all covered by padding.
It is recommended cushioning such as tan bark or other padding be placed around the trampoline to protect against falls. Only one person should use it at a time and children should be supervised at all times. Children under six should not use them.
The Author: Peter David
29 July, 2005: A Kenyan City Councilman has offered 40 goats and 20 cows to Bill Clinton in exchange for Chelsea's hand in marriage.
Hey... don't laugh. I have four daughters, and I very much doubt I'm going to get an offer anywhere near as good for them.
"Mr David, I'd like to ask you for the hand of your daughter (Shana/Gwen/Ariel/Caroline) in marriage." And if I say, "Yeah? How many goats we talking about? How many cows?", the guy'll probably just give me a weird look while the daughter in question rolls her eyes and tells her intended, "Just ignore him. I told you he'd be like this".
I bet I don't get any livestock at all. The guy'll just say: "Don't have a cow, man," and think it's all a joke, and I'll be lucky if I wind up with a coupon for a free Big Mac. Plus I have to pay for the wedding to boot.
Anyone have that Kenyan guy's phone number? I wonder if he's the one who's been writing to me about trying to get $5m into the country if I just give him my bank account info.
The Actress: Gillian Anderson
18 March, 2005: Okay. I know it has been a long time but heh, I've been busy.
My mouse is not working, or my computer is not working, or something anyway, that I cannot figure out in my narrow understanding of all things technical and so I am sitting in the dark at my husband's computer frustratingly still jetlagged from my recent trip West and thought that it might be an appropriate time to say something and nothing.
What on earth have I been up to? Well, I started work on Bleak House for the BBC which has been tremendously rewarding and has made me fall in love with the craft of acting all over again.
I have been polishing up Speed Of Light and am close, finally, to letting it see the light of day. So to speak.
I have been unloading my house in Vancouver which I finally sold after over 10 years of history there which was bitter sweet and a heck of a lot of work.
And we have finally found a writer for our Martha Gellhorn project which is very exciting and a long time coming.
Still waiting for a couple of projects which I love, to get full financing and go into production and otherwise enjoying my life and seeing the world and enjoying being married.
And that really is basically it; always busy, never sitting still for as long as I know would be good for me.
The Foodie: Anonymous
3 August: Ricotta Maison. The minute I read Heidi's post about making your own ricotta and her comment "this ricotta tastes and smells like the milk it is made from so use the best and freshest dairy you can find", I instantly thought what a perfect use it would be for the bottle of raw milk that Christoph and Susanne gave me for my birthday as part of their superb farm-fresh gift basket.
I set to work in late afternoon the next day, slightly incredulous as to whether this would actually work: I mean, heat up some milk and surely what you get is hot milk, not cheese, right?
I must say I am pretty baffled by my own tendency to be the ST Thomas of food chemistry - I'll believe it when I see it. Where does that come from? I shall write myself a prescription to carefully read the revised work of both Harold McGee and Alton Brown.
And sure enough, everything went according to plan. When the combined milk and fermented milk reached the magic temperature (I was merrily using the candy thermometer I acquired months ago and never used, not even once), curds started to gather at the surface: this was my cheese! I carefully ladled first the whey then the curds into the prepared dishcloth and sieve, waited a bit, gathered the dishcloth into a bunch, tied it to the faucet with a string and a shoelace knot, waited some more, and reopened the dishcloth to collect my pretty ball of fresh ricotta. Does it get any easier? I think not.
The Fading Star: Rosie O'Donnell. American. Former talk show host and actress
29 June 2005: Famous. Its hard to be famous. That sounds so bad but it's true. I was super famous for a few years in my 30's. I am now 43 not as famous as I was. I have used the word famous four times already.Reuse content