Friday, February 29, 2008

The Day Today - 29th February 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Science writing of the year - from the Ministry of the Bleeding Obvious.

Pulsars are the dense cores left over after stars of a certain mass explode into supernovae. Weighing as much or more than the sun but only as big as asteroids, they can rotate tens or even hundreds of times a second (versus once a day for Earth). Sky surveys have identified about 1800 pulsars within the Milky Way, most of which emit pulsing radio signals that rise and fall as the pulsars spin.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, this is one of the best opening paragraphs I have read in a while.

Amateur political-astrophysicists in Labour have, since the rising star of John Key put their party in the shade, made a compelling case for a kind of conservative dark matter.

I wonder if I could have a go at this...

If New Zealand's political mileu were scaled up to the cosmic level, Helen Clark would be the Sun and John Key the Gegenschein, a faint opposing glow of whichever of her policies strike the dust of public opinion just right. leave it to the professionals.

Dr Seuss. Why was, and is, he so good?

The idea, which now seems obvious, was that children would best learn to read using absorbing, entertaining books composed in a simple, limited vocabulary.

Reading should be absorbing and entertaining, a truth borne out by all great children's writers, including Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling (although I don't care for Rowling much myself, seeing kids queue for books gladdens my heart).

Even if we all go back to living in caves, the earth will warm up. Fortunately - even though it's not for 7.6 billion years - we're working on an out. Every 6,000 years we'll use the extra pull of a passing asteroid to move the Earth out a bit. Quite the survival instinct we have!

Current affairs corner, as The Economist points out Cubans have had a rotten deal from a miserable regime—and they know it. but what form will their climb towards freedom take?

More current affairs, and more from The Economist, why is Kosovo so special that its independence is recognised above others?

George Friedman on the "Good War" in Afghanistan - no-one cares because it isn't important.

Hot and Cold at the same time.

It may be hard to picture a world with both sweltering temperatures and expanding ice sheets. But to Norris, the counterintuitive result just underscores the complexity of climate science. He says that his team’s research overturns “simplistic notions that you make the planet warmer, and all the ice goes away.”

In fact, says Norris, “Very warm conditions are actually kind of nice for growing ice sheets, as long as you have a cold enough spot someplace on the planet.” Warm global temperatures mean that a lot of water is evaporating, and this water can return to the earth as rain or, in cold areas, as snow. If these snowy areas stay cold enough year-round, the snow will accumulate over time.

Is there any way to stop the traffic jams on the way back to work on Monday? Probably not.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

So, it turns out South Park did a concise little summary of the beliefs of Scientology which can be found here.

This is useful background when you look at the war on Scientology declared by a group calling itself Anonymous. They don’t like L Ron Hubbard’s acolytes, and initially outlined their displeasure in a public statement here. They followed that up with a statement to the members of the church, where they explained that it wasn’t personal, but needed to be done.

They called on the public to join them in protest on the tenth of February this year – protests many attended wearing Guy Fawkes masks, ala the titular character from the excellent movie (and better graphic novel) V for Vendetta. These protests happened in several countries. Here is footage from the action in England.

There are two reasons I like the twenty-first century:

Firstly; a “religion” that is right out of a science-fiction movie (or, more specifically, created by a science-fiction author) is getting uppity, so a group of mysterious underground anarchists release ominous messages over the internet calling free-thinking people to join them in public displays of freedom of speech, which leads to hundreds of masked figures making the ultimate point of not giving in to a force that would demand unquestioning obedience. That is what the twenty-first century is supposed to be like.

Secondly; I fired up the laptop school has given me, plugged it into the data projector that hangs from the ceiling of my classroom, streamed the above videos from and youtube; and used them to kick-start a discussion on the broad social issues raised by V for Vendetta (which is this year’s film study), and that was that was Period 4 English for yesterday done.

And no, that isn’t proof that I’m indoctrinating my students into anarcho-socialism.

Getting them to write a response to an article entitled How To Build A Dirty Bomb last period today is proof that I’m indoctrinating my students into anarcho-socialism...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

wats this about u passing a book 2 me
Special Topics in Calamity Physics – just something to exercise your brain. Also, Tricia said she’d beaten you to some of the good library books recently, so I offered to pass on some books that were more your speed than hers.
Yes, damn tricia and that idiot library. Thanks 4 the favour. And i loved that book notes from the underground, its like that guy knew me in another life. If that makes sense. But that was big 4 me.
I’m pleased you liked it – it sums up a lot of my (and, as it happens, The Creator’s) perspectives. And I like giving people books – expect more.
Yay – 4 making me read good books and because i feel smart because u and the creator hav sum same thoughts as me.
That’s not necessarily good news – it means you might grow up to be like us...
Oh, your not that bad... wait, i might have spoken 2 soon. Anyway: u will come back to Hoodrat nxt year.
I’m afraid that’s not how it works... I miss you guys more than you know, but I don’t miss Hoodrat High, if you know what I mean.
I know. It’s just that our new teachers aren’t like u or the creator
Very few people are... I’ve heard encouraging things about one of the replacements, though...
Yeah, the one who’s my English teacher and form teacher is really great. I think she expects more from me, because she looked at my results. But shes really unrealistic with her expectations
I dunno – my expectations of you are pretty unrealistic, but I think you’ll live up to or exceed them.
You know, it really helps my self esteem wen u say stuff like that. As well as making me panic.
The first response is good. The second response is... acceptable.
Are you cynical or an optimist? I can never tell
I am both. I have almost no faith in humanity as a whole, but a lot of faith in individual humans. Have you ever read ‘Candide’?
No. Tell me about it.
18th Century philosophical satire of optimism. An optimist travels the world assuming things will turn out for the best, despite the unendingly horrible things that keep happening to him.
God, thats depressing.


Just in case you missed the moral of that: I got a sixteen year old to read Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground, and interested in Voltaire’s Candide.

I Win at Teaching.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Day Today - 26th February 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Anthropologists as spies - the expert local knowledge of methodological researchers has been put to martial use since world war two. "Almost two decades later, during the Gulf War, proposals by conservatives in the AAA that its members assist allied efforts against Iraq provoked only minor opposition."

Conservatives in the AAA? Stunning. But anthropologists are now being used more covertly in both the War on Terror and War in Iraq...

A look at what Physicists are thinking about time at the moment.

"The natural effect of commerce is to lead to peace." wrote Montesquieu, and he's right - inflicting violence on your customers is a bad business strategy. And new research seems to be confirming this.

Aaaah, Toqueville on America.

Long before the appointed moment arrives, the election becomes the greatest and so to speak sole business preoccupying minds. The factions at that time redouble their ardor; in that moment all the factitious passion that the imagination can create in a happy and tranquil country become agitated in broad daylight. . . .

The entire nation falls into a feverish state; the election is then the daily text of the public papers, the subject of particular conversations, the goal of all reasoning, the object of all thoughts, the sole interest of the present.

...and, when discussing what form despotism might take in a democracy, on New Zealand!

It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living? . . . [This power] extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.

'Twas Darwin Day on the 14th, and I completely forgot. Here's his great-great-grandson visiting America - just like Toqueville.

And Martin Heidegger wrote a little on Time - just like the physicists.

Apathy Jack writes:

Anyone paying attention will have noticed that my taste in music videos leans to the creepier end of the spectrum – I like things that are a little disturbing. However, today, I have something that is truly terrifying. I’m not scared of the Aphex Twin teaming with Chris Cunningham, and while Mogwai CGI-ing freaks throwing animals off buildings is upsetting, it doesn’t keep me up at nights.

A world where people go out of their way to make Henry Rollins angry, though, is a frightening, frightening proposition. To see what that would look like, I present Disconnect, by The Rollins Band.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Day Today - 25th February 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

A book review in Reason magazine on how Latin Americans view the world, foretelling the current situation, and explaining why the evil leaders that beguile the continent are so popular.

Greece, like the South American, prone to being a bit "past-heavy"

Your science comes courtesy of Craig Venter and Richard Dawkins.

Roger Scruton gives an opinion the the accidental nature of things British.

A really awful article arguing that artefacts should not return to the countries they were stolen from. I mean, look at some of this guy's arguments

"In many cases the nations asserting rights to artifacts have little in common, culturally, religiously, artistically, or even ethnically, with the civilizations buried beneath them."

So what? Does that mean I can nick the television under your house because you don't wear flares anymore?

This look at economics by has been doing the rounds on the left, blogs and up blogs. Here's an earlier take with extra anecdotes. For what it is worth, facts like these, that people are sometimes or even often irrational, only strengthen my libertarian convictions. If we are wrong, then it is far worse if that error is made and imposed on all by a government than if that error is made by a far more isolated individual or company.

Take something like the mortgage crisis in the U.S.A. or finance companies here. Yes, if you are involved it is no doubt awful to lose your life's savings, but the whole economy of the United States or New Zealand won't collapse because of it meaning that those involved have at least some chance of recouping their losses elsewhere. On the other hand, in places like North Korea where the government has taken it upon itself to make all the decisions for everyone, you have famine (at the very least). It's called putting all your eggs in one basket, and is not a good idea.

Finally, an excellent music video for Nick Cave's "Love Letter".

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Random things involving teaching:

Apathy Jack writes:


It turns out there’s a shortage of decent teachers. That counts as news? I don't understand why talented people don't want to go into teaching, I mean, just look at the Ministry’s latest recruitment slogan:

Sandwich yourself into a room where the children outnumber the desks and text books are from the late seventies. There you do a job which everyone else in the entire world thinks they know how to do better than you, and for the privilege of doing so, we’ll pay you literally half of what your friends in IT get, and make sure that we vilify you in the press when, once a decade, you ask that your pay scale be brought into line with the inflation rate.

Doesn’t that sound like fun, you ungrateful bastards? I don’t see a queue forming...


On a related note, the article Teacher Shortage Raises Alarm Bells, which is notable for the following line:

One in three schools have not got extra teachers - or haven't planned to get them - for when new rules for smaller entrant class sizes begin in May, a survey by the country's biggest teacher union shows.

I like that. Schools “haven’t planned to get” new staff to cover the short falls created by the new rules for teacher/student ratios.

I “haven’t planned to get” a house in Auckland and a brand new car (and some driving lessons) and a pair of those Armani dungarees I’ve had my eye on for a while. I would like those things, but the thing is, no bugger will give them to me for free.

Even a first year teacher who you can get away with grossly underpaying is going to suck almost forty thousand dollars out that sock the Board of Trustees keeps under its mattress. Nice, though, how the local press makes it sound like negligence on the part of the schools in question.


Author Charlie Stross on The Youth of Today; specifically what the world looks like to them. This is something I discuss with people, that surprises them more than I always think it will: whenever I tell the students that the poster on my wall is of Big Brother I have to explain to them (slowly, and in small words) that it has nothing to do with reality TV; that the name came from a book (and a movie, from which the poster comes). The fact that the book is called 1984 means, to them, a "boring history" book. The oldest of my kids were born when I was in third form, seven years after that book was set.

The children are routinely horrified when they find out that I didn't have an email address until I was twenty, and they're genuinely shocked to find out that this is because no one really had the internet in their homes until I was in my very late teens - I wasn't even unfashionably late to the trend...

And finally:

It's like they've actually put a camera in my class:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Walking into the hall behind my form class; going into an assembly. As I pass the Head Girl, she sticks out her hand.
“Where’s my chocolate?” She demands.
“Oi,” I reply, belligerently. “The only time I want to see you holding your hand out is when there’s chocolate for me in it.”
She uses one hand to raise the lapel of her blazer to her mouth as she looks over my head, and gestures with her other hand.
“Security, we’ve got an intruder.”

I like some of these students...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today’s video, the deeply upsetting Hunted By A Freak, by Mogwai. I’m not sure quite what’s going on, but this video gets more disturbing every time I see it. I keep thinking I’ll get desensitised by further re-watching, but all that happens is that I notice messed up things I missed the previous times I watched it, and I get sad...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

"Sir, could you look after my wallet while I go to class photos?"
"Don't lose it."
"I won't lose it. I will steal it, but it won't be lost."
"It has my condoms in it, Sir. You wouldn't want me to be without those, would you?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 42 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Sleeping Arrangements by Laura Shaine Cunningham

There is much precedent in the family for pretending that the dead have not died but are living in other cities. Practicing a form of emotional etiquette, it is considered good form to spare elderly relatives sad news. Whenever we attend family reunions, the uncles give me a quick refresher course in who’s officially dead and who’s not. It would be helpful to maintain a cross-index, because some elderly aunts know while others don’t know. Great-aunt Becky believes she has a nephew in Alaska, while her sister, Berta, knows that nephew died of heart failure three years ago. Entire sections of the family (the Kroll branch) have expired, but their surviving sister, my grandmother, has been told the whole group “moved to California.” (When a cousin actually did move to California, no one believed it – the other cousins all believed this was a euphemism for the much-longer journey.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 41 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

The Straw Men by Michael Marshall

Every now and then you’ll see a tattered piece of 1950s signage, something exuberant that harks back to flash bulbs and frozen glamour. Most have been torn down now, replaced by brutal information boards stamped out in Helvetica, the official typeface of purgatory. Helvetica isn’t designed to make you feel anything good, to promise adventure or gladden the heart. Helvetica is for telling you that profits are down, that the photocopier needs servicing and by the way, you’ve been fired.


This book was recommended to me by an old student, and I liked it enough that I’ve immediately started on the sequel, which contains the following piece of wisdom:

Forests in the day are friendly places. They remind you of Sunday walks, swooshing leaves, holding a parent’s big, warm hand, or providing that hand yourself. At night the woods take the gloves off and remind you why you’re nervous in the dark. Night forests say “Go find a cave, monkey-boy, this place is not for you.”

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Day Today - 8th February 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

We return to conspiracies. I posted a review of Richard "Face on Mars" Hoagland on January 17th, here's another debunking of his theories. What I found stunning was the following quote.

This isn’t just some remote corner of an intellectual ghetto on the Internet—the book came within one tick mark of making it onto the New York Times bestsellers list for paperback non-fiction (it reached #21 nationwide).

Let alone that it is classed as "non-fiction", there were only twenty non-fiction books ahead of it! Over to the professionals with the extraordinarily fascinating Matthew Dentith being interviewed on Bfm. the young lady was taken with our Matthew, she tries to wind up the interview put can't stop asking questions.

It's BBQ season - my count for this week alone shall be three by this evening - and you can't have a BBQ without a pool. On Waitangi Day, Josh had a BBQ, and a pool, for our enjoyment. Onw of the day's running gags was "What Would Anne Coulter Do?" - after Ben's shirt, and in relation to the pool I told the following story to Ewen from a book review in the Economist.

The book starts with a poignant story from 1951 of a victorious children's baseball team that wanted to celebrate by swimming at a municipal pool in Youngstown, Ohio. But one team member, Al Bright, was black. Initially the pool attendants denied him admittance. After many protests, the supervisor relented. The “negro” was allowed to enter the pool so long as all other swimmers left the water, and he sat on a rubber raft. As his teammates looked on, a life-guard pushed him once round the pool, reminding him, “whatever you do, don't touch the water.”

A look at the fundamentalist / evangelical intellectual tradition in America.

Something for those who watched the documentary on nuclear power on Sunday night. James Lovelock is for it as well.

"I can envisage somewhere about 2050, when the greenhouse really begins to bite, when people will start looking back and saying: whose fault was all this? And they will settle on the Greens and say: 'if those damn people hadn't stopped us building nuclear power stations we wouldn't be in this mess'. And I think it is true. The real dangers to humanity and the ecosystems of the earth from nuclear power are almost negligible. You get things like Chernobyl but what happens? Thirty-odd brave firemen died who needn't have died but its general effect on the world population is almost negligible.

"What has it done to wild life? All around Chernobyl, where people are not allowed to go because the ground is too radioactive, well, the wildlife doesn't care about radiation. It has come flooding in. It is one of the richest ecosystems in the region. And then they say: what shall we do with nuclear waste?" Lovelock has an answer for that, too. Stick it in some precious wilderness, he says. If you wanted to preserve the biodiversity of rainforest, drop pockets of nuclear waste into it to keep the developers out. The lifespans of the wild things might be shortened a bit, but the animals wouldn't know, or care. Natural selection would take care of the mutations. Life would go on.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Further to the book I was talking about yesterday: I am a card-carrying communist in all areas except that of crime and punishment. My attitude towards crime is pretty much summed up in the following excerpt from Wasting Police Time (which is, I admit, an attack on “liberals” – of which I pretty much am one – so substitute the word ‘liberals’ with ‘people who disagree with Jack, so are Wrong’...)


Jail is totally misunderstood by liberals. ‘Look at the reoffending rate,’ they say.
Yes, criminals reoffend (though they reoffend more after community sentences than prison). They reoffend because they are criminals. They are greedy and lazy people who enjoy breaking the law.
If someone is thrown in jail and they don’t reoffend when they come back out, great.
If they do reoffend, put them in jail again – only, this time, for longer.
Honest people go out day after day and earn a pittance without breaking the law. Why don’t liberals try to ‘understand’ this behaviour?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 40 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Wasting Police Time by PC David Copperfield

The most predictable thing about being involved in violent incidents is that they are completely unpredictable.
If I respond to a report of thirty youths fighting in the street with baseball bats, I can be fairly certain that on my arrival they will have dispersed and that a subsequent area search will prove negative.
On the other hand, if the local library assistant rings up to report a problem customer returning a book late, you just know that you’re going to end up rolling around on the floor somewhere between Late Medieval History and Local Walks.


This book is an edited and tidied up version of coppersblog (see above link), which is just what it sounds like. The pseudonymous David Copperfield is a bit older than me, but out-curmudgeons me and makes it look easy: he is an old fashioned conservative, who believes the main problem with the justice system is that the prisons insist on releasing people after set lengths of time, instead of throwing away the key and letting them rot. Of course, given that my one major swing to the right is on the issue of crime, I pretty much agree with him. (That having been said; he does suffer from that particular myopia common to the middle classes of a certain age, of seeing crime committed by the young and/or poor as more serious than, you know, “small” crime; for example, he thinks that drunk and disorderly behaviour - more often than not committed by young morons - should be punished not with community service or periodic detention, rather with a jail sentence of no less than a year, but he also thinks that the punishment for drunk driving – essentially demerit points – is overly harsh on people who need their cars to go to work or to ferry their kids around...)

Wasting Police Time has a bunch of opinions I don’t agree with (cocooning those few that I do), but is a funny read, and does highlight many problems with policing in England – in fact, after the first edition of the book was released, questions were raised in Parliament by Opposition MPs who mentioned the book by name. And if nothing else, it possesses the following piece of wisdom:
Drugs are fun and they make you feel good, and that’s the extent of it. They do not ‘cause’ crime, though, any more than the existence of DVD players causes burglary, or the existence of short, ginger children causes bullying.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 39 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Truth And Consequences by Keith Olbermann

In four simple words last Friday, the president brought into sharp focus what has been only vaguely clear these past five and a half years, the way terrain at night is perceptible only during an angry flash of lightning, and then, a second later, all again is dark.
“It’s unacceptable to think,” he said.
It is never unacceptable to think.
And when a president says thinking is unacceptable, even on one topic, even in the heat of the moment, even in the turning of a phrase extracted from its context, he takes us toward a new and fearful path – one heretofore the realm of science fiction authors and apocalyptic visionaries.
That flash of lightning freezes at the distant horizon, and we can just make out a world in which authority can actually suggest it has become unacceptable to think.


This is a collection of the ‘Special Comments’ given by Keith Olbermann on his show Countdown. The show is stream-able here, and I cannot recommend highly enough that you watch it.

Also, here is his most recent special comment, from last week, about the Bush administration’s policy on warrant-less wire-tapping:

Monday, February 04, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 38 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert

Childrearing is arguably the most important of my core values. I believe in it, I practice it, and I ceaselessly promote it to my friends and followers. That said, generally speaking, I’m against children.

What’s the matter? Did I shake you up?

See, I’m not against the conception of children; like I said, they’re the only permissible reason for intercourse. And I’m not against pregnancy – in fact, if you ask me, there’s nothing more beautiful than a third-trimester mother-to-be in full maternity regalia. Maybe it’s the elastic, I don’t know. But the effect is stunning.

No, my problem is the children themselves. They may be cute, but they are here to replace us. Need proof? Ever catch one walking around in your shoes? That’s a chilling moment, like finding an empty body snatcher pod in the basement.

“But children are out future!” Yes, but does that not also mean that we are their past? I don’t understand why we’re helping them. You don’t see union factory workers throwing a benefit for robots.


Colbert is, of course, host of The Colbert Report, which airs after the Daily Show in the ‘States. Fortunately, they stream a bunch of it here. If you’re not watching it regularly, you should be.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Hanging out with Goths as I do, there’s a trend that comes and goes sporadically (or, more accurately, that I notice on and off – I don’t presume it stops when I cease to pay attention): People whose dogs have run away and whose girlfriends have dumped them and whose grandmothers have died, declare “I am suffering from Clinical Depression™” and get themselves a prescription of whatever’s popular at the local druggist that day.

(Actually, last time this phenomenon swept the city’s goth clubs – well, club – well, basement – it wasn’t the goths themselves who were mainly falling prey, rather the Goth Moths; weirdoes who hang out at goth events in an attempt to score some Spookybooty™ - in short: people like me. But I got me some Spookybooty, so am unrepentant.)

Taking brain-altering drugs because one’s brain is wired wrong is sensible – it’s no different from splinting a broken leg or suturing torn skin. Taking brain-altering drugs because you’re sad and too lazy to process your issues, too spineless to confront your demons, or too cheap to buy a helmet - that’s just annoying.

But anyway, others have said this better than me, including Elizabeth Wurtzel in Prozac Nation which I just finished reading, so instead of me bleating on at you about it, here she is:


As Prozac becomes viewed as a silly drug for crybabies, an instrument of what Dr. Kramer calls “cosmetic pharmacology”, the people whom it might really help – the ones who need it – will start to think that Prozac won’t help them. In the rape-crisis debate that currently rages, many feminists argue that too loose a definition of rape results in not taking “real” rape seriously, while others claim that anyone who feels violated was violated – and what tends to get lost in all the screaming and yelling is that there are all these real people who are raped and are in terrible pain. It seems entirely possible to me now, given the tone of so many of the articles about Prozac, that people will forget how severe, crippling, and awful depression really is.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today, Enemy, by Sevendust. This is just great. A music video that is a pretty direct retelling of the graphic novel Romp, which is about... actually, you should probably just watch the video – it would take too long to explain.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 37 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

What I Do: More True Tales Of Everyday Craziness, by Jon Ronson

Monday night. People keep telling me that everybody in North Pole loves Christmas. But I’ve found someone who doesn’t. In fact she hates Christmas. Her name is Jessie Desmond. I found her via Myspace.
‘Christmas is a super big deal around here,’ she emailed me before I set off for Alaska, ‘but for me it is a general hate. Please don’t go off me about that.’
We meet in a non-Christmassy bar of her choice on the edge of town. She’s in her early twenties. She was educated at the middle school, and is now trying to make her way as a comic book artist. She has a Batman logo tattooed on her hand.
‘Christmas really grates on me, all the time, in the back of my head,’ she tells me. ‘Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. It drives me nuts.’
‘But there must be something you do like about North Pole,’ I say.
Jessie thinks about this. ‘Well, if you get into an accident or something, everyone’s willing to help you,’ she eventually shrugs.
I decide it’s safe to ask Jessie – being anti-Christmas – about the mass-murder plot.
‘Do you know the boys?’ I ask her.
She shakes her head.
‘Apparently they drew up a list,’ I say.
‘Well I have a hate list on my wall too,’ Jessie replies.
‘Yes,’ I say, ‘but I’m sure you don’t have access to weapons.’
‘I have a revolver in my bedroom,’ Jessie says.
‘Do you stand in front of the mirror with it and shout “Freeze!” and imagine what it’s like to kill your enemies?’ I ask.
There’s a silence.
‘I might,’ says Jessie, finally.


This is the second collection of Ronson’s Guardian columns, and is, to my mind, better than the first

Oh, and just in case anyone wants to get into my head, then they just need to read the first half of this book, because that is, in essence, me. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or punch someone in the back of the head when Ronson details his rage at an admitted mostly imagined slight from several years earlier, that has him so riled that he is ranting about it to a stranger he meets in a bar, who asks him:
‘How can you find room in your life to harbour such anger against this person?’
I looked at her, perplexed, and replied, ‘I can find the time. Don’t worry.’

(For those keeping count, I decided to punch someone in the back of the head.)