Entries by Malcolm Lambe (16)

Saturday
Feb252006

Takes My Breath Away

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my last dying breath
"Everyone is born with it. A desire to be near the ones we care about most. And we find ways to remember them when they're away. A lock of hair. Letters. An old photo. And now there's Breath Capture™. Capture the breath of a loved one or friend and keep them close. Forever."

Oh puh-lease! What a load of shite. breathcapture.com is the name of this mob (American? Couldn't see an address on their webshite). It's sort of a step up from fart in a Fanta bottle isn't it? But what if the loved one had smelly breath eh, eh?

"Not sure about Breath Capture™?

Try this test.

Focus all your energy on visualizing your loved one's (peter)breath in this breath holder. Think of their breath in it. Visualize their breath in it. Feel their breath in it. It may take a minute or two.

Once you get that feeling"

....you'll probably want to throw up.

This reminds me of my story on Funny Smells over on that commercial blogsite.

Tuesday
Feb142006

Rate my Camel Toe

camel toeCamel Toe? Hey y'all. I've just been on the web looking for camel gifs to illustrate this story and I came across a site called ratemycameltoe. And I thought WTF? You heard of that before? You learn something every day.

So Georgia-sweetie's in Dubai. I've run a piece elsewhere on the blog (weeks ago) about Palm Jumeirah and the nightmare traffic. But I came across this in the Guardian today. Seems like Georgia's in a happening place. Sheikh my booty.

"The fastest-growing city on earth, Dubai is spending mind-boggling sums on construction and is about to swallow up P&O in its bid to be a global maritime power. Given the scale of its ambition, could it become the most important place on the planet? Adam Nicolson reports from 'Mushroom City'

It looks like a hot Grozny. On the vast invented islands offshore and in the even vaster building sites that stretch in a wide band the whole length of Dubai's now famous riviera, acre on acre of grey-faced, concrete, hollow-eyed buildings, fenced in with scaffolding and overhung by tower cranes, stare at each other across the sands. Tower blocks look abandoned rather than half-made. It is said that a fifth of the world's cranes are now at work here. An army of some 250,000 men, largely from India and Pakistan, are labouring to create the new glimmer fantasy, earning on average £150 a month, and living in camps, four to a room, 12ft by 12ft, hidden away in the industrial quarters of al Quoz. One night in one of the luxury hotels would cost six months' wages of one of the men who built it. Below and around their work sites, the new streets are chaotic with rubble and piles of steel.

The traffic is already as bad as Los Angeles. The city authorities are now giving priority to new roads, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on bridges across the Dubai Creek, five lanes in each direction, but still a taxi ride that might take 10 minutes at midday lasts an hour at either end of it. If you ask a driver to take you to some places, he laughs. "Do you want to have a very long talk?" he says.

Dubai is growing faster than any city on earth. "Mushroom City", Ravi Piyush, a plumply content dealer in the Gold Souk, said to me. "Nothing today, everything tomorrow." The World Bank reckons that the reconstruction of Iraq is going to cost $53bn. Here, along the strip of footballer-friendly sand that stretches 25 miles or so along the shores of the Persian Gulf, there is, at a rough estimate, about $100bn worth of projects either underway or planned for the near future. That is a numbing figure, ungraspable. It is the equivalent of every single dollar invested in the United States from abroad last year; almost twice the foreign investment in China.

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Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
There are the three famous offshore "palms", man-made peninsulas laden with more hotels and more "signature villas" than the entire Premiership might ever dream of. The 7,000-man workforce on one of them is too large to get on to the palm each morning without creating its own traffic jam: they are shipped in by sea from further along the coast. There's to be a Giorgio Armani Hotel and a Palazzo Versace. There's the tallest building in the world under construction, Burj Dubai, costing $800m and expected to be 800m tall when complete, but the precise figure is being kept secret in case New York's new Freedom Tower tries to top it. A billboard the size of Piccadilly Circus stands out in the desert showing the pencil-thin rocket of a tower alongside a simple rubric: "History Rising." The biggest shopping mall in the world is already here. Another, bigger, the world's largest retail development, is under construction.

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Hydropolis, Dubai
There's to be an underwater hotel ($500m). One indoor ski resort, with real snow and its own black run, exists already, a weird, looming presence on the city's southern skyline. There is to be a second, with a revolving mountain. Plans are mooted for a Chess City, with 32 tower blocks of 64 floors, each in the form of a chess piece. There's to be a 60-floor apartment block in the shape of Big Ben. One company selling flats is giving away a free Jag with each one. There will be a pyramid and a building called Atlantis that will cost $600m and include a "swim-with-the-dolphins encounter programme". An Aviation City and a Cargo Village, an Aid City and a Humanitarian Free Zone, an Exhibition City and a Festival City, a Healthcare City and a Flower City, a $4bn extension to the airport and another entirely new airport along the coast towards Abu Dhabi, for which no figures are available but you can take a guess at a few billion: six runways, annual capacity 120 million passengers, 12 million tonnes of cargo.

Next to it, as the Dubai government's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing puts it, "There will be several smaller cities that will cater to the financial, industrial, service and tourism industries." To fill these airports, Emirates, the national airline, has just placed the biggest order that Boeing has ever had: $9.7bn for 42 777s, each capable of carrying 300 passengers non-stop more than 9,000 miles across the world. They have also ordered a fleet of the biggest Airbuses on offer, each capable of carrying 555 people.

The Middle East's answer to Disneyland, called Dubailand, which is far larger than Monaco, is costing $4.5bn. It will employ 300,000 people in the various joylands, servicing 15 million visitors. A new urban railway, with 37 stops, begins construction soon. Dubai is to have its own Silicon Oasis ($1.7bn) for computer companies. A mixed development called Dubai Waterfront/Arabian Canal covers an area larger than Barbados and will house, when completed ($6bn), more people than Paris.

There's another side to Dubai. Drive south along the Gulf, away from the glamour zone of the great hotels, past the giant malls and the huge gas-fired power stations, almost to the western border of Dubai, and you come to the largest man-made harbour in the world. The unapproachably vast quays of the modern port at Jebel Ali were dredged out of the desert sands in 1979 at a place where the present emir's father, Sheikh Rashid, used to come for evenings camping with his friends. Abdulla bin Damithan, one of the port managers, showed me around in his red Audi. (This was a replacement; the BMW was in for service.) The 1.5 mile-long quays are so enormous that to look the length of them is to stare into a desert haze. Halfway along, the metal bodies of the ships and cranes disappear like mirages.

But it is no dreamy place: every minute, every towering gantry crane lifts another container off the high-stacked decks of the bulbous ships alongside, lowers it to a waiting truck that delivers it to another part of the site, or transfers it from the unimaginably huge motherships, which travel the world oceans, to the slightly less huge feeder ships that service the Gulf, the Indian trade and the Mediterranean. Nothing interrupts the movements, day and night, 365 days a year, even in July at 90% humidity, an air temperature usually over 49C and when even the seawater in the docks approaches 38C. No one works outside. More than seven million containers are moved here in the course of the year, a figure that grew 23% last year, and is set to triple within the next six years, serving a market of two billion people. It's like looking at the guts of the world, the usually hidden machinery by which things actually happen. Over on the other side of the harbour, two diminutive destroyers are tied up, the stars and stripes hanging off their sterns. This is where the American carrier battle groups patrolling the Gulf come for service - and shopping. It's the port most visited by the US navy outside the United States.

Like almost everything of any significance in Dubai, the port system belongs to the state, or to the Maktoums, the ruling family. The two are indistinguishable, and in some ways, Dubai is like Poundbury writ large - and rich: a princely vision of how the world might be. The Maktoums came here as Bedouin chieftains in the 1820s, to a small, palm-fringed trading creek, where political control was in the hands of the British. Only in 1971 did Dubai gain independence as part of the United Arab Emirates. It was already known that Abu Dhabi, by far the biggest and richest of the Emirates, was sitting on a vast mineral reserve. At current rates of production, Abu Dhabi has more than 120 years' supply of oil and gas still untapped. Dubai is nothing like so well endowed, and so from the 1960s onwards, the Maktoums have been consciously shaping Dubai as the trading and financial motor of the Emirates, and the Dubai ports system is central to their vision.

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Burj al Arab, Dubai - The World's Tallest Hotel
Dubai sits on the all-important strategic routeway of the modern world: China, India, Middle East, Europe and the US. That is where the money is going to be. China has just become the third biggest economy in the world and it is the fastest growing. India is set for its own acceleration. The Maktoum plan is to make Dubai the centre of a global strategic network of port facilities to rival Singapore and the huge Hong Kong-based conglomerate of Hutchison-Whampoa. They have been acquiring hard and fast and now control massive facilities in China, Hong Kong, Australia, South Korea, India, Yemen, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Romania, Germany and Latin America. In a profoundly symbolic move, Dubai Ports are now manoeuvring to make a bid for the great harbours in southern Iraq.

They want more, and that desire for global control is what lies behind their bidding war for P&O, the British ports and shipping combine, which has a powerful European presence (including the giant London Gateway, planned to be Britain's biggest container port at Thurrock on the Thames), exactly what Dubai wants. Singapore wanted it too and the two commercial city states' rival bids drove up the price, adding 80% to the value of P&O's shares and valuing the company at a reported $6.8bn (just short of £4bn), an unprecedented 40 times P&O's profits last year. At the weekend, Singapore pulled out and all the signs are that when P&O's shareholders vote today, they will accept Dubai's offer. This bid alone is a measure of the hunger, the money and the drive of what is happening in the emirate. And the Arab world has backed the bid. When Dubai Ports issued a bond for $2.8bn last month to help it buy P&O, it found itself drowning in $11.4bn of subscriptions.

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The World, Dubai
Why is Dubai doing this? And why so fast? What can the hunger be traced to? I spent a morning on The World, one of the big prestige projects, consisting of 300 artificial islands made of sand dredged from the sea floor and either dumped or pumped into forms that vaguely mimic the shape of the world's continents. Every week between five and 10m cubic metres of sand are delivered to the site. The islands will cost up to $30m each, and that is for the sand alone. Making the lumps habitable for the world's island-hungry rich will cost half as much again.

I was somewhere in Greenland with Hamza Mustafa, the man who is running it for Nakheel, the state-owned developer. It was another invented moment: we were there for a photo. Vijay Singh, the Fijian golfer, was going to fire some shots from Greenland over a narrow channel to Iceland, still nothing but sand, on which one of Nakheel's PR men had put a golf flag. There were helicopters, artificial grass, English marketing girls, Singh's personal trainer in shorts, his agent in shades, two photographers, their assistants, cooks, waiters and barmen, boatmen, people from a Nakheel golf development and Singh's personal course designer, who told me in detail how sewage makes courses greener. It's a perfect symbiosis: houses need golf courses and golf courses need the sewage the houses produce. How happy is that? "As long as it's got the nutrients, grass loves sand," he said.

While Singh stood beneath the chopper firing his shots, I talked to Mustafa, in the sleek Arab-modernist villa he's had built on Greenland. He has already sold 30% of the $3bn project, mostly to "local money, from the region", the rest, he says, to British and Americans. Australasia has been sold to a developer from Kuwait. Why are they buying? "No tax, good weather, an easy life, a comfortable life, affordable. I don't have to push the sales. I've got 10 islands left of the ones I want to sell at the moment. They are clamouring for them. And then I'll stop for a while. We don't want a glut." He smiled, complicit, knowing as well as I did what sales talk amounts to. "By 2015, there will be 250,000 people living here. It'll be like Venice."

I asked him why Dubai was going through this world-busting surge. One might have expected the straightforward business answer, which goes something like this: Dubai, unlike other parts of the Gulf, has little of its own oil or gas. A great deal of Arab money, invested in the US, came back from there after 9/11 and needed an outlet. The fact that oil is now pushing $70 a barrel means that the Gulf is awash with liquidity. There is clearly a role for a strategic financial centre in the Middle East: Beirut played it once, Dubai could do so now. Money has been draining out of Iran for years and Dubai, just across the Gulf, has always been a traditional place for Iranians to put their money to work. Mohammed Noor Taleb, a 75-year-old textile trader I spoke to in the souk, who had lived with his mother as a child in a tent made of palm leaves and now owned a business in Indian cottons turning over $5.2m a year, told me an old Dubai joke. A young boy is asked by his father "What is two add two?" "Am I buying or am I selling?" the boy says. Commerce is in the blood.

But Mustafa's reply came from another place entirely, evidence of the extraordinary hybridisation of cultures that is going on here: traditionalist, modernist, Arabist, internationalist, market-based, bowing to authority. For Mustafa, it all stems from the Emir of Dubai himself, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Mohammed only became Emir on January 4, when his elder brother Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, died after a long illness. But Mohammed has had his hand on the tiller for years. "Sheikh Mohammed has had a vision," Mustafa said, "which is that Dubai should become a fully developed city, with the best life of any city that has ever been created. The whole city is growing as a single organism. We have planned this, very carefully, he is a leader who has bestowed a great vision on us, so that in time Dubai is going to become the first ever Arab modern metropolis." Was this really about an Arabist dream of perfection? "No, this is not Arab nationalism. But what Dubai is trying to do is set an example of how Arabs should be represented. After 9/11, Arabs suffered from a lot of bad publicity. Dubai is trying to come back with the right kind of publicity. It will be a fully modern state. It will be setting the standards. It will be a place that people will look up to."

You might have to take that with a few bucketloads of salt. There is no hint of democracy in Dubai. There is a consultative council whose members are nominated by the ruling family. A group of five old Arab families control the entire emirate. The working and living conditions of the construction labourers and the domestic servants from south Asia are notoriously bad. Thirty-nine building workers died on sites last year, 22 of them simply by falling, as provision of slings and ropes is inadequate. The Dubai press is full of stories criticising companies for late payment, no payment, the confiscation of passports, imposition of penalties for minor infringements, the manoeuvrings of loan sharks and all the other expectable abuses of a poorly regulated employment system. The property laws are explicitly racist: no non-UAE national can own land outside the designated free zones. No foreign company can operate in the country without paying a UAE "sponsor" to be their local representative. No one except UAE nationals can get one of the plum jobs in a government department. Education and healthcare are free for all UAE nationals but no one else. The local press will never be seen to criticise the government and when, for example, I tried to interview the director of strategic planning in the offices of Dubai municipality, I was told I could only do so "if we have checked you out first and seen that what you will write will be favourable". Not much hybridisation there.

And yet it is not Saudi Arabia. Brokeback Mountain is soon to open in Dubai cinemas, which it never could in Saudi Arabia. There is no problem with bikinis and sunbathing on the beaches. And on a more substantial level, there is a determined effort to de-monopolise the economy, to make market competition the driver for this new model world. Local customs must be respected: no loud music during Ramadan, no eating in front of Muslims on fast days, no possibility of making a political claim on the direction of the state. And in return for those limits, the state delivers a sense of wellbeing. That is the trade-off on which Dubai is relying. A booming market, with a consciously courteous social culture and a tight police system (panic buttons in the thousand gold shops in old Dubai bring the police in two minutes) deliver a better wage than would be available at home - all this in return for surrendering anything resembling a political right.

Eduardo Ferrari, an Argentinian cameraman who has lived in Dubai for the last eight years, says he couldn't "give a damn for democracy. I live here in the most democratic country in the world. Why? Because the economy is taking you by the tip of your head and pulling you up. Every year I have more and more. In Argentina, every year I have less and less." Vishal Khemani, a 26-year-old from Mumbai, who imports Indian and Japanese textiles for Dubai wholesalers, says he loves Dubai simply because it is "very disciplined, very neat, very clean. Everything is going to timetable. I have a good job, good food. It is a cheap country." And extremely safe. There has been no hint, so far, of any terrorist attack, although you would have thought it was due for one. A western businessman, surveying the most luxurious of the Jumeirah beach hotels, said simply to me: "Everything about this place smells of western women, right? It looks like an al-Qaida target to me." There are rumours in Dubai that a terror plot was foiled last year but the processes of government are so opaque that there is no confirming that. It may be that the levels of government control in Dubai are high enough to make any terrorist operations very difficult.

Bob Gogel, CEO of Liberata, an international company specialising in the outsourcing of financial services, probably speaks for the business community as a whole. "Dubai is an unpolished gem polishing itself very quickly. You could look at it as a CD compilation - the best of London, Sydney, Miami, Las Vegas - and you have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Where else in the Middle East is going to do it? Turkey? Saudi Arabia? Lebanon? Egypt? Kuwait? You can't see it. Nowhere in the world do you get such good service. Certainly not in London. And business people like that. They've got a good plan, it's tightly controlled, they've managed to pull in some good people, they've got the oil money, and that price is not going to drop very far. The property market in Dubai is probably overheated and the Dubai stock market is due for a correction. But you try poking holes and I have trouble poking that big a hole."

This is the Dubai sandwich: at the bottom, cheap and exploited Asian labour; in the middle, white northern professional services, plus tourist hunger for glamour in the sun and, increasingly, a de-monopolised western market system; at the top, enormous quantities of invested oil money, combined with fearsome social and political control and a drive to establish another model of what modern Arabia might mean in the post-9/11 world. That is the intriguing question: can Dubai do what Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or almost anywhere else in the Arab world you might like to mention, have failed to do? Is Dubai, in fact, the fulcrum of the future global trading and financial system? Is it, in embryo, what London was to the 19th century and Manhattan to the 20th? Not the modern centre of the Arab world but, more than that, the Arab centre of the modern world."

Thursday
Feb022006

The Chips are Down and there's Money to Burn

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Medium rare moolah
Big Brother is watching you and your cash, man.
US and European money has been embedded with RFID - Radio Frequency Identification tags - high-tech tracking devices as part of the new-reality surveillance society.

Invented in 1969 and patented in 1973, but only now becoming commercially and technologically viable, RFID tags are essentially microchips, the tinier the better. Some are only 1/3 of a millimeter across. These chips act as transponders (transmitters/responders), always listening for a radio signal sent by transceivers, or RFID readers. When a transponder receives a certain radio query, it responds by transmitting its unique ID code, perhaps a 128-bit number, back to the transceiver. Most RFID tags don't have batteries. Instead, they are powered by the radio signal that wakes them up and requests an answer.

Most of these "broadcasts" are designed to be read between a few inches and several feet away, depending on the size of the antenna and the power driving the RFID tags. However, it is possible to increase that distance if you build a more sensitive RFID receiver.

Ostensibly RFID tagged money has come about as an anti-counterfeit measure. But it also means your cash can be tracked, baby. Unless you fry the chip in a microwave like these guys did - Here for money to burn

Pets are already tagged with RFID chips. What's next? RFID tags on every citizen? More on this scary technology and its implications -

Here at the register.co.uk

Wednesday
Feb012006

The Oak Island Treasure

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Treasure Island
One for the Mousehead - "One summer day in 1795 Daniel McGinnis, then a teenager, was wandering about Oak Island, Nova Scotia when he came across a curious circular depression in the ground. Standing over this depression was a tree whose branches had been cut in a way which looked like it had been used as a pulley. Having heard tales of pirates in the area he decided to return home to get friends and return later to investigate the hole.

Over the next several days McGinnis, along with friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughan, worked the hole. What they found astonished them. Two feet below the surface they came across of layer of flagstones covering the pit. At 10 feet down they ran into a layer of oak logs spanning the pit. Again at 20 feet and 30 feet they found the same thing, a layer of logs. Not being able to continue alone from here, they went home, but with plans of returning to search more.

It took the three discoverers 8 years, but they did return. Along with The Onslow Company (owned by Simeon Lynds, a wealthy business man from the mainland), formed for the purpose of the search, they began digging again. They quickly got back to 30 foot point that had been reached 8 years ago.

They continued down to 90 feet, finding a layer of oak logs at every 10 foot interval. Besides the boards, at 40 feet a layer of charcoal was found, at 50 feet a layer of putty, and at 60 feet a layer of coconut fiber.

At 90 feet one of the most puzzling clues was found - a stone inscribed with mysterious writing. The translation by the Halifax professor was:"Forty Feet below two million pounds are buried". This translation makes a lot of sense. It turns out to be a simple substitution cipher where each unique symbol corresponds to a unique letter in the alphabet."231239-261365-thumbnail.jpg
"if you can read this"
More here - oak island mystery

Saturday
Jan282006

The Rip-Off of Iraq's Oil Wealth

231239-258298-thumbnail.jpg"While the Iraqi people struggle to define their future amid political chaos and violence, the fate of their most valuable economic asset, oil, is being decided behind closed doors."

This report from Global Policy Forum* reveals how an oil policy with origins in the US State Department is on course to be adopted in Iraq, soon after the December elections, with no public debate and at enormous potential cost. The policy allocates the majority of Iraq’s oilfields – accounting for at least 64% of the country’s oil reserves – for development by multinational oil companies.

Iraqi public opinion is strongly opposed to handing control over oil development to foreign companies. But with the active involvement of the US and British governments a group of powerful Iraqi politicians and technocrats is pushing for a system of long term contracts with foreign oil companies which will be beyond the reach of Iraqi courts, public scrutiny or democratic control.

COSTING IRAQ BILLIONS

Economic projections published here for the first time show that the model of oil development that is being proposed will cost Iraq hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue, while providing foreign companies with enormous profits.

Key findings are:

At an oil price of $40 per barrel, Iraq stands to lose between $74 billion and $194 billion over the lifetime of the proposed contracts, from only the first 12 oilfields to be developed. These estimates, based on conservative assumptions, represent between two and seven times the current Iraqi government budget.

Under the likely terms of the contracts, oil company rates of return from investing in Iraq would range from 42% to 162%, far in excess of usual industry minimum target of around 12% return on investment........................

"....under the influence of the US and the UK, powerful politicians and technocrats in the Iraqi Oil Ministry are pushing to hand all of Iraq’s undeveloped fields to multinational oil companies, to be developed under production sharing agreements. They aim to do this in the early part of 2006.

The results for Iraq would be devastating:

Iraq would lose an enormous amount of revenue (making it conversely highly profitable for the foreign companies);

The terms of the contracts would be agreed while the Iraqi state is very weak and still under occupation, but be fixed for 25-40 years;

PSAs would deny Iraq the ability to regulate or plan its oil industry, leaving foreign companies’ operations immune from future legislation;

PSAs would shift decisions on any disputes out of Iraq into international arbitration courts, where the Iraqi constitution, body of law and national interest are simply not relevant.
Yet, Iraq has other options for obtaining investment in its oil sector, including:

Direct financing from government budgets;

Government/state oil company borrowing; or

Less damaging contracts with multinational oil companies, such as buybacks or risk service agreements.
These decisions should be made with the full participation of the Iraqi people, not in secret by unaccountable elites. Care should be taken not to take major irreversible steps that would later be regretted.

Getting these decisions right is vital for the future of Iraq."

More here from global policy forum

* Global Policy Forum's mission is to monitor policy making at the United Nations, promote accountability of global decisions, educate and mobilize for global citizen participation, and advocate on vital issues of international peace and justice.

GPF is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, with consultative status at the UN. Founded in 1993 by an international group of concerned citizens, GPF works with partners around the world to strengthen international law and create a more equitable and sustainable global society.

Thursday
Jan262006

Mercenaries Making Moolah in Iraq

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Dinars anyone?
"Troops Are Demoralized Due To Unequal Pay
Soldiers often find themselves working next to contractors who make ten times more money than the troops. The average enlisted service member makes roughly $25,000 a year compared to a civilian contractor, who can make up to $200,000 a year. This is unfair. Considering that soldiers often struggle to support their families back home, it is frustrating and demoralizing for troops to witness such a salary discrepancy. Low morale can significantly reduce the combat effectiveness of these army units."

More here - iraq & afghanistan veterans of america

including the "fiddling the figures" of wounded & disabled - "Many soldiers who would have previously died of their injuries are now living with severe disabilities. Although media attention is regularly given to the rising death toll in Iraq, far less scrutiny has been given to the number of troops wounded, and often permanently disabled, in the war effort." In short, Uncle Sam is not looking after its veterans and this is already impacting on their enlistment figures.

The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive how the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."

George Washington

Wednesday
Dec072005

Teahupoo Master Drowns

malik-joyeux-rip300.jpgVale Malik Joyeux. Final wipe-out at the Pipe.Full story at SURFERMAG.COM

Saturday
Oct292005

How To Talk To Pussy

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click for a bigger pussy
Saturday Night in Paris

I've been catching up on my reading. Been working my way through The Daily Torygraph when this largish display ad. in the News Section jumped off the page at me - "How To Talk To Pussy" it said. You liar Lambe. No it didn't. It said "How To Talk To Your Cat" which is something I've always wanted to do, haven't you?

"Listen! Your cat is talking to you - she's telling you how much she loves you. Watch! - the special friend who shares your life has so much to say to you about her feelings and needs...if only you knew how to listen and what to look for."

I put the newspaper down and looked at the cat. The cat looked back at me. I read on.

"YOUR TALKING CAT" - this book can really help you...especially when it comes to understanding what your cat is actually saying - not just what you think she is saying.

That's incredible!

"...there's a lot more to cat talk than just "meow". And each has its own special meaning!...Cats have a lot more going for them than most people realise...for example, they are scientifically proven to possess certain telepathic powers for "reading" the true mind-set of a human companion within seconds of observation."

I knew it!

The Advertisment cut to the chase with -

"YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED"

  • Why your cat rubs you to show affection...and how best to show her yours.
  • Why your cat circles in your lap before settling down.
  • Why your cat blinks.
  • How many different ways your cat purrs...and why.
  • How your cat sizes up your friends.
  • Why your cat always seems to come over when you're reading or doing paperwork...and the ultimate toy to distract her.
  • Why your cat doesn't like to be stared at...yet sometimes stares at you.
  • How your cat knows, long before people, when a disaster is about to take place.

And this handy little tome can be yours, postage paid, for the special price of just £11.90 (order within 5 days and receive a FREE catmint)

Then it hit me! This isn't about cats at all. There's a misprint - a typo. Printers gremlins have been at work. The word "cat" needs to be replaced by "girlfriend". Don't you see? Then it all makes sense.

Like this -

"Listen! Your girlfriend is talking to you - she's telling you how much she loves you. Watch! - the special friend who shares your life has so much to say to you about her feelings and needs...if only you knew how to listen and what to look for."

"Girlfriends have a lot more going for them than most people realise...for example, they are scientifically proven to possess certain telepathic powers for "reading" the true mind-set of a companion within seconds of observation!" ( In other words they know when you're lying through your teeth about that night you rooted your secretary after the office Drinks Party )

"Why your girlfriend rubs you to show affection...and how best to show her yours." ( If you don't know I'm not gonna tell you )

"Why your girlfriend circles in your lap before settling down." ( She's had a few bongs )

"Why your girlfriend blinks." ( She's dumb )

"How many different ways your girlfriend purrs...and why." ( you just hit the G spot )

"How your girlfriend sizes up your friends." ( And they reckon size isn't important? )

"Why your girlfriend always seems to come over when you're reading or doing paperwork...and the ultimate toy to distract her." ( I'm leaving that one alone but let's just say it comes with batteries. )

"Why your girlfriend doesn't like to be stared at." ( well if you had a hickey that big on your nose, would you?)

"How your girlfriend knows long before anyone else when a disaster is about to take place. ( she's into Voodoo...I'd get rid of her...especially if you find little dolls with pins in them lying around the place )

So the real title of the book is "HOW TO TALK TO YOUR GIRLFRIEND" which I'm absolutely sure will be a best-seller.

Thursday
Oct272005

The World's Heaviest Wave

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click to enlarge
Thursday October 27
Paris

Yes it's Teahupoo in Tahiti. Pronounced "Chop-oo". And have I surfed it? No. Would I? Not these days. I'm off the pace. But 20 years ago I would've had a crack. I was there for the Billabong Pro 2003. You can watch the action from a boat right next to the Drop Zone. Costs about 10 bucks for an hour. Great fun. And yes it's awesome. Big mutha of a left closing out over a reef. So if you fuck up...you fuck up BIG TIME. As in "Hasta la Vista" baby. Teahupoo is literally at the "end of the road". It's a sleepy little unspoiled fishing village. Kinda like Bali used to be in the Seventies. You can get basic Backpacker-style accom nearby. Go HERE to Pension Bonjouir, the surfers camp. But if you're not used to big fast, close-out waves - forget it. Do Indo or Hawaii first before taking on Teahupoo. And pay your dues to the locals. They are mostly good guys but you need to earn your place in the line-up. I was mainly surfing Taapuna - the left near Papeete. It's a prick of a paddle out and can get crowded but it's a great wave. Respect the locals. And if you're a KOOK...don't even think about surfing here. You could paddle out and hang off to the side near the channel and watch. Any closer and you'll be in everybody's way. If you go, say hello to a local Legend, Terai Tehaa, who's a giant Kahuna switchfooter riding a mini-mal. He loves to do Tow-In while high on Scotch! Serious. I got the following info from SURFLINE

Teahupoo

This isn't your father's perfect wave, and unless seeing your next birthday doesn't rank on your list of priorities, it isn't yours either. Tahiti's Teahupoo (pronounced cho-pu) is essentially a glorified closeout -- a hideous, deadly barrel promising a heap of trouble for even the most capable of surfers. In recent years, professional contests and high-profile tow-ins have bombarded us with images of her seemingly flawless barrels, but no other surf spot extracts a higher toll than Teahupoo, the heaviest wave in the world.

The quiet town of Teahupoo rests along the southwest corner of the smaller of Tahiti's two dormant volcanoes, Tahiti Iti, separated from the larger by the Isthmus of Taravao. Literally translated as "the hot head," King Teahupoo's son once avenged his father's death by feasting on the fresh brain of the son of his murderer. The town of Teahupoo has vehemently retained its native culture, despite the influx of tourists, who are confronted with an array of local crafts but not a single McDonald's. Recognized as a surf destination since the '60s, the island is ringed with coral atolls receiving abundant swell via the roaring 40s. No land stands in its way, so Tahiti enjoys Hawaiian power during our summer months, providing an off-season challenge comparable to the North Shore. Finding a suitable reef pass is the only job.

Ages ago, freshwater from the mountains flowed into the ocean, eroding the reef and creating what is known today as Passe Havae. The pass is located where the town's paved road ends, thus its early name, "The End of the Road." The channel at Teahupoo isn't actually a channel at all, as the wave bends and races along into a below sea level dry reef closeout. A 15-minute paddle from land, Teahupoo's severe shape results from a drastic change in gradient as powerful swells leave a gently sloping bottom and are hurled forward by the reef. The lip -- as thick as it is tall -- pitches with such velocity that one must take off under it to avoid being launched. Guts alone may cut it at some big-wave venues, but here they'll get you killed. An iron sack must be accompanied by finesse in negotiating a wave that has relegated Pipeline to mere warm-up status.

Tahitian Thierry Vernaudon claims he was the first to ride Teahupoo in 1985 with a few other locals, but the small waves they surfed were hardly the beasts we've come to know. Bodyboarders Mike Stewart and Ben Severson stumbled upon the End of the Road the following year, and it soon became something of an underground spot for psychotic bodyboarders. A handful of pro surfers rode Teahupoo through the early '90s, but it took a contest situation before they really charged. After a WQS event in 1997 failed to deliver a serious swell, the 1998 event proved to be a coming-out party for the heaviest wave in the world. The Gotcha Tahiti Pro, a four-star qualifier, opened the world's eyes to Teahupoo, but it was only the beginning.

Gotcha bumped its event up to WCT-status in 1999, and the surf bumped up to unimaginable proportions. The world's best surfers stared into the heart of the beast and many wanted no part of it. All the horrifying stories they'd heard were true; the barrel at Teahupoo did make Pipeline look tame. With the channel flooded with paparazzi and peers, there was no escaping the spotlight. Mark Occhilupo won the event, putting him on track for his improbable comeback world title, while Floridians Cory Lopez and C.J. Hobgood established reputations as fledgling hellmen.

The 2000 event was notable not for its surf (which ranged from perfect for the trials to huge and stormy for the early rounds to small and playful for the finals) but for the tragic death of local surfer Briece Taerea a week earlier. Taerea attempted to duck-dive a macker, hit the reef and spent two days in a coma before passing away, casting a shadow over the contest. Kelly Slater went on to win, but not before Andy Irons could leave his mark as the King of Teahupoo.

As it turned out, every surfer and every wave ridden to that point was just the ante; the heavy betting would take place August 17, 2000. Tow-in pioneer and unrivaled hellman Laird Hamilton was pulled into a wave that by all accounts was the heaviest ever ridden. On his backhand, Hamilton got in early, set his line and rocketed through the Lincoln Tunnel, an experience so moving it would bring him to tears trying to describe it. One mistake, and he certainly would have died.

It's hard to imagine Teahupoo one day seeming bland and being relieved of its "heaviest wave in the world" status by some other, more horrific spot. Unexplored reefs dwindle in number each day and the chances are reduced. The wave in front of the sleepy little town of Teahupoo may just be the end of the road. -- Jason Borte, January 2001

For the latest report from some heavy tow-ins at Teahupoo three weeks ago (Oct 2)go to "Sunday Bloody Sunday" at SURFERMAG Biggest waves ever ridden at Teahupoo! I freak just looking at the photos.

Monday
Oct242005

A Bit of Gratuitous Gore

Monday October 24
Paris

"After writing farewell letters to his wife and baby daughter, and showing more concern on the scaffold for the psychological trauma suffered by his fellow condemned prisoner, Cooke was briefly hanged; his genitals were sliced off and shown to him; a hot corkscrew-like implement was inserted in his anus and used to withdraw his bowels, which were then put to the torch and slowly burned before his eyes; and finally his pumping heart was extracted and his body beheaded and quartered."

Mmmm...yummy eh? It's from a newly-published book by Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. titled "The Tyrannicide Brief: the Story of the Man who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold" published by Chatto & Windus. Can't wait to read it. Love the smell of blood in the morning...don't you?231239-195439-thumbnail.jpg
Click to enlarge Sweetie
Illustration from Charles Burns graphic novel "Black Hole" published by Jonathon Cape and out now. Both reviewed at www.arts.telegraph.co.uk