Saturday, February 26, 2005

Tarzan of the Apes.

Seeing Tarzan goes to India on Channel 5 today, I was reminded of the astonishing lengths to which the studios went to keep black faces off the screen. The movie scripts always showed Tarzan as a white man who, even dissociated from colonial resources, was still the only one who could tame Africa, or defend it. Africans, when they appear, are portrayed as child-like; to be befriended or punished as they deserved.
It occurred to me that all the films should really be remade (the original text notwithstanding) with a black actor in the lead role.
Jane can still be white, if you like.
Then again, a portrayal of a black man, straight out of the jungle, raised by a family of apes, who goes about with his shirt off, carrying a knife and shacking up with white women might attract unlooked-for criticism.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Wacky Race for Number 10

It looks very much as if the Great Election Race has begun. The usual cast are all there lined up and yearning to be First Past the Post. But it looks like being a rather wacky race thus far. Picture the cartoon: there's Michael Howard in the Creepy Coupe, engine sputtering and knocking; there's Charlie Kennedy in the Ring-a-Ding Convert-a-Car, with Professor Pat Pending at the wheel.

But where are Dick Dastardly, and his loyal Media Advisor 'Muttley'? They have made a cunning head start, in a helicopter no less, by cleverly not telling anyone else the race has started. Last seen passing through Gateshead.

Of course nothing prevents Howard and Kennedy hawking their wares around the popular media and hanging out with June Sarpong (if only someone would ask them, dammit!) but Labour 's rush for the starting line has left the other mob looking distinctly stalled.

Of course, by contrast, the only certainty in the original was that Dick Dastardly would not win.

Taking the PPP

Talk of PFI puts me in mind of the occasion when, upon returning to primary school in the New Year, one of my cohort airily announced that he had received a sweet-making machine for Christmas.

We were agog.

The prospect of a limitless supply of sweets, unfettered by the ineffable agenda of one’s parents was a heady one. How did it work? We were dying to know.

Well,’ he explained, his face contorted with the effort of recollection. ‘You put sweets in at the top…’

At which point I felt that I had spotted the flaw in the whole concept, especially when he seemed unclear as to whether one need also insert sweets in the bottom.

Public services are still funded from the same pool of tax revenue. No more money is actually injected in to the system by PPP. Under the publicly owned system you have, theoretically, an organisation who's raison d'etre is to provide the optimum level of service at the most sustainable cost and value for taxpayers' money. Under a privately owned system, you have an organisation who's raison d'etre is to divert the greatest amount feasible of taxpayers' money into it's shareholders' pockets. Under the public system, a provider must fund from their budget facilities, staff, development and contingencies. The Private system must extract - from the same amount of money – all of the aforementioned, with the addition of a dividend to shareholders and inflated private sector Directors' salaries. The maths is not hard: something has to be squeezed to achieve this and, if reports of poor hygeine maintenance in our hospitals are to be believed, we can see this happening already.

Even if the government were now to grant a cash transfusion to our anaemic public services, it would only be after 'investors' had hollow fangs sunk firmly into their deepest veins.

More sanity here.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Linux for the home user

I'm annoyed that Linux is so difficult. Much twaddle has been bandied about in the popular computing press about Linux as a replacement for Windows for the home user. "There is no reason you should ever need to open the console or mess with any DOS-like weirdness" they're saying. True enough, straight from the box, many Linux distros will give you all the office and media tools that you will regularly need. It's great in a corporate environment, where hardware has been chosen with Linux in mind, there is noodle-for-hire on retainer and everyone connects to the web over a LAN. For the untrained home user, who is perforce his own SysOp, it is a different animal. You just try getting your USB ADSL modem or cheap inkjet printer working! 3D acceleration? dream on.

Now don't misunderstand me. I enjoy being patronised by Microsoft's 'helpful' and friendly interface as much as the next thinking person. What Windoze does have in it's favour, though, is a huge library of drivers that will probably run just about any PC you install it on. When you do need to download a driver from the manufacturer's site, you need merely double-click on the filename and it extracts itself and installs. Not so, Linux. For example, SuSE 9.0 has in its library drivers for the ATi Radeon 9000, 9200, 9300, 9400, 9500 and 9700. Guess which model I own? Where it is possible to find Linux drivers for your hardware, they will not be supported by the manufacturers, who may go as far as denying their existence, even when you've just downloaded them from their website. There will be instructions, of course, posted on the many Linux fora. Many many instructions, each new set subtly or radically at odds with last. And there will indeed be much DOS-like weirdness.

I look forward to the coming of the day when a non-Microsoft OS is my boot-up of choice - I so loathe homogeneity - but Linux is still too much of a wild frontier for anyone who cannot commit the time and head space required to learn its obscure secrets.