July 2004

Big Brother 2004

The Big Brother Awards

Each year, the national members and affiliated organizations of Privacy International present the Big Brother awards to the government and private sector organisations which have done the most to threaten personal privacy in their countries. Since 1998, over forty ceremonies have been held in sixteen countries and have given out hundreds of awards to some of the most powerful government agencies, individuals and corporations in those countries.

Big Brother awards are presented to the government agencies, companies and initiatives which have done most to invade personal privacy. A lifetime menace award is also presented.

Awards are also given to individuals and organizations which have made an outstanding contribution to the protection of privacy.

And the winners are

Worst Public Servant: The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Minister of State for Children

Margaret Hodge has received numerous nominations because of her patronage of the controversial tracking provisions in the Children Bill and for her determination to develop a wide spectrum of intrusive databases and information systems. Her success in reaching the shortlist reflects the judges concern stemming from their decision in 2002 to give the Department for Education Skills the Most Heinous Government Organisation award for its invasive activities.

Most Invasive Company: British Gas

For its unfounded and cowardly claim that the Data Protection Act was the reason why an elderly couple died after British Gas had disconnected their gas supply. The hypothermia and absence of any duty of care apparently were secondary factors.

Most Appalling Project: The NHS National Programme for IT

The NHS won a Most Heinous Government Organisation award in 2000 because of its plans to computerise all patient records in a way that is both insecure and dangerous to patient privacy. Its nomination again this year reflects the gravity of concerns over these continuing plans.

Most Heinous Government Organisation: The Office of National Statistics

For its development of the Citizen Information Project that will collate and share unprecedented amounts of data on the entire population.

Lifetime Menace: The US VISIT Programme

Privacy International has taken the unusual step of shortlisting a US initiative for the UK awards because of the almost total silence in the US over this programme. US VISIT will fingerprint all visitors to the US from September of this year. The scheme is offensive and invasive, and has been undertaken with little or no debate or scrutiny. Nor has the requirement taken any account of the special relationship between the UK and the US. The UK government has been silent about the programme and has capitulated every step of the way.

Slay that mail!

At last, someone with an attitude to corporate email similar to my own:

My e-mail strategy at work is easy to execute, yet deceptively complex: I save roughly 1 percent of all e-mails I receive. I act on e-mails when they arrive, deleting or printing them right then. My inbox never contains more than 25 e-mails. And I delete recklessly: I am extremely optimistic that I will never need certain types of e-mails again.

Granted, I allow my inbox to get a little bigger - 34 emails. Any more than this and Id have to start scrolling to see them all. Also, I dont know what percentage of emails I hang on to, but I only keep the ones directly relating to projects that I am currently working on, and once the project is completed I start deleting.

The other thing Ive found with Outlook is that I can get it to colour code which emails are sent to me and which ones I am cced on. I tend to read the cc emails last.

There is an incredible amount of unnecessary email flying around inside companies. Local announcements sent to the entire company, for example, or the ever growing thread in which each person who replies feels the need to include an extra couple of people.

And then there are the bloody chain letters, like the one I received yesterday warning me about mobile phones igniting petrol fumes - which is of particular interest as I dont have a car. I really wish that people would learn to use Snopes.

Weak joke of the day

Simpsons to reveal gay character

A character from The Simpsons is to be revealed as gay, sparking a mystery among fans over who it will be.

My moneys on Homer.

Weak joke of the day

Simpsons to reveal gay character

A character from The Simpsons is to be revealed as gay, sparking a mystery among fans over who it will be.

My moneys on Homer.

The Chap

The Chap is a quarterly serving of advice on personal grooming, revolutionary etiquette and common courtesy, offering guidance to those cast adrift in a world of increasing vulgarity. If you are alarmed at the sartorial standards exhibited by todays youth and seek instruction in the subtle arts of hat doffing and cufflink appreciation; or if your life is already dedicated to the pleasures of the Dry Martini and the briar pipe - The Chap cordially invites you to take a leisurely stroll along the electronic boulevards herein.

Well, it made me laugh.

On the subject of truth being stranger than fiction

Guantanamo Bay loses least worst place status - Navy

Times, however, change, and when a new commanding officer for the [Guantanamo Bay] prison - Captain Les McCoy - took over near the end of 2003, he ordered a Photoshop job on the least worst place banner, removing the slogan all together.

The removal was ordered because the commanding officer did not feel it accurately reflected his vision of the base, said Navy spokesman Lieutenant Mike Kafka.

(Yes, youre reading that correctly. A man named Kafka has been deployed to field questions about a prison where the criminals are only vaguely charged with crimes, cant speak to lawyers and likely will never get out.)


Manga Mary Poppins

According to Midnight Eyes review, Shimotsuma monogatari (Kamikaze Girls in English)

[Elevates] kitsch to hitherto undreamt of levels in a pastel-hued, pop-cultural pot-pourri that comes at you fists flying like a self-conscious riposte to the fanboy idolatry of Quentin Tarantinos Kill Bill filtered through the doey-eyed aesthetic of a world far closer to home, the shojo manga (or girls comic).

Just watch the trailer.

Church of SpongeBob

Are you in a joyless, faithless void?

Have you rummaged through the spiritual offerings of a planet that is so morally bankrupt, little seems good? Honest? Reliable?

Have you battered your way through churches that make you feel guilty? Offer little for introspection or personal edification beyond worship? Attract followers by hating others?

Maybe its time for The Church of SpongeBob Squarepants.

It has to be said, many of their Tenets and Principles make a lot more sense than those of more orthodox religions.


Go visit Satans Playground

Dante Tomaselli is one of the more interesting/intelligent horror directors to come out of the US in recent years. His first two films, Desecration and Horror are surrealistic nightmares which really do have to be seen to be believed.

Not surprisingly, I am really looking forward to seeing his next film, Satans Playground. The sound mixing for this film started a couple of weeks ago and the whole project should be completed in about four weeks time.

But more immediately, the official website for the film is now online at www.satansplaygroundthemovie.com, and if you sign up now, you will start receiving vacation postcards from The Vacation from Hell in your inbox.

While Im on the subject here are a few related links
An interview with Dante Tomaselli
Another interview with Dante Tomaselli
An interview with Christie Sanford