Hutton a whitewash, Dyke gone – what next?

As always Manic has his finger on the pulse…

So – what happened here exactly? We all knew that we’d gone to war on a lie and then suddenly the BBC thought that it had found proof. So it went with it, and when Alistair Campbell et al came out all guns blazing the BBC, high on knowing they were right, stood up tall and fought back. And then David Kelly committed suicide. And then Hutton was a whitewash. And suddenly all the media can focus on is the mistakes made by the BBC.

Fundamentally though… We still went to war on a lie, we’re still embroiled in Iraq where more coalition troops have died since the “end” of the war than during it and the Government still cannot be trusted. This has the whiff of a Prime Minister with too much power. To me it smells all too similar to Thatcher and the Miners or Thatcher and the Students. For God’s sake don’t let them break the BBC.

Please, God, he has to be joking

I don’t have a category for sick, but this one nearly made me create one… I’m sure this a joke from Overclockers, because surely no-one (and I mean not even the most evil little hax0r) would do this to a G5.

It�s a good thing my parents don�t know anything about computers, because I�m sure they would be really angry if they knew what I did. I have to say that I’m happy – I can keep on using XP.

The site’s very slow at the moment – I imagine because the world and his wife are staring in disbelief…

Rather neat trick

url2png.php does exactly what it says on the tin – you give it a URL and it returns a PNG interpretation of the page… Nice.

Quite some time ago I was looking for a tool that did this for a sort of searchy/portal type thing that we were working on. At the time it seemed almost impossible. Now you can do it in PHP. Whoosh.

Testament of Yves Gundron by Emily Barton

This is a highly imaginative fable about a village called Mandragora on an island somewhere off the coast of Scotland that has been cut off from society at large for an untold number of years. The inhabitants (of which Yves is one) have remained stuck in a rut, with hardly any change to their basic ways of farming for hundreds of years. Yves and his brother (Mandrik) are considered weird and otherly for the fact that they think outside the usual traditions, yet it is Yves and Mandrik who ultimately hold the village’s way of life most dear.

The hardness of life in the village is all too real – horses aren’t named because they die so frequently, children are only named when they reach a certain age, and Yves himself says at one point “Wives and children are so fragile, how can expect these two to outlive me?” It is within this world that Yves manages to find some time to invent. His first invention is a harness for the horses – previously the one wheeled carts were pulled by horses with ropes directly around their necks. The impact of this invention is enormous – suddenly horses live long enough to be named and life in Mandragora starts to change.

Soon after this invention a stranger reaches the village from The Beyond. Ruth Bloom is an anthropologist from Boston, MA and she has followed her mother’s bedside stories to find the lost village of Mandragora. Following all the best traditions of her trade she tries not to influence her subjects, but it is not long before she becomes inextricably bound into the ways of the village…

I could go on about this book for hours… The imagination that has created the novel’s world is extraordinary – the complete otherness combined with the total coherence make Mandragora and its inhabitants utterly real. The beautiful density of the language is utterly compelling – every scene holds a new surprise, a new tiny detail or a heartstopping insight into the Mandragoran’s world view.

Ultimately it’s a fable about progress vs. tradition, about status quo vs. change and about the preservation of innocence. I’ve read a couple of reviews of this book that suggest that the author punishes her characters for not holding on to their traditions hard enough. I don’t agree, but then this book is very carefully written to ensure that it’s open to interpretation. Personally I took a much more optimistic view of it – the inevitability of change was perfectly matched against village life.

Whatever – I was gobsmacked by this book. I found myself reading it at every possible opportunity, overlooking other things to make sure that I could get another fix and immerse myself in the villagers’ lives. It’s whimsical, surprising and incredibly imaginative. This is yet another great book from Canongate and one that I can’t recommend highly enough.