Thursday, 20 May 2010

Coalition? House of cards?

I'm watching the stunningly dull collective news conference of the senior coalition members. So far, Clegg, May, Cable, Osborne and Cameron have said absolutely nothing.
It has been a bland blend of empty cliches.
And it should be pointed out that Vince Cable sounded as though he had been blackmailed, so limp was his enthusiasm.
This is just like Nick Clegg's announcement that his political reforms would be the greatest since the 1832 Reform Act. All that proved is that he has no idea about history and he has every idea to dress up an announcement that was a repetition of announcements from last week. And none of those were really great surprises.
So, in the national interest (yawn), stop playing the spin game so soon. Stop stay how great you will be and just get on with it.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

You call this news?

What is it about the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday that makes me so angry?

Well, I'll take this morning's edition as an example. It has run a story about some insulting remarks made by the man in charge of the Football Association's 2018 World Cup bid.

Now, what he said was insulting. What he said was stupid, it was offensive. However, he was engaged in a private conversation with a former employee who was also, according to the story, a former lover. The private conversation was, lo and behold, recording in order to sold to the paper.

It's a honey trap, it's disgusting and it's self-defeating. Does the Mail hate foreigners so much that it doesn't want them visiting England in 2018? Is the Mail worried about the English team losing to foreigners on home soil, about being shown up in our own backyard?

Of course not. It all boils down to one thing, the man in charge of the World Cup bid is a Labour Lord.

In the interest of petty party politics and vain self-interest, the Daily Mail has done more harm to the World Cup bid than any individual could ever do. When we fail to win the bid we should not blame the FA, we should not blame Lord Treisman, we should blame the Daily Mail.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

While we are on the subject

Has nobody talked about this crazy expressions, "a new politics" yet? Has nobody told the people using it that it doesn't make sense?

A new political code, a new political system, a new way of conducting political life. All of those has some sort of meaning.

"A new politics" sounds like it's referring to a make of East German car. It's an empty phrase that means nothing. This helps to explain its current popularity.

And currently, the media need something. There was much hilarity when Dave Cameron was reminded of his joke about Nick Clegg. However the headlines in the Express and Mail after the first debate ought to come back to haunt them. In one, he was virtually accused of being a Nazi.

Earlier this week, the Sun (yes, I know) had individual photographs of the new cabinet. Under all the Tory members were the details of their husbands, wives and the number of children they have. The details under the Lib Dem were grudging to say the least. Poor old David Laws and Nick Clegg were the only ones with no mention of their wives. We were told that Vince Cable wears the wedding rings of all his wives, even the one that died.

Through the press, we already know that Clegg is married (although the Sun no doubt enjoyed pointing out that he has foreign ancestry). We now know that Cable is a serial groom and that Laws has a really good degree!

Is the average Sun reader so sophisticated that they can pick up on the assumptions made about the Lib Dems in the cabinet. Nick Clegg is foreign. Vince Cable can't make his mind up about who is married to and Laws might still be single. Possibly in the Edward Heath sense.

On the other hand, all the Tories are wonderful family men and women and devoted parents too. Bless.

So much for the new politics. It's the same old nudges and hints. It takes more than a vacuous expression to change things around here.

Better late than never

Approaching 38, I am taking my driving test this Thursday.

This is only the second time I've taken driving lessons. The first was when I was 21. I failed the test and had no motivation for trying again.

I'm not sure what my motivation is this time but I'm doing it anyway. I'm cheating slightly by taking the test in an automatic. That doesn't bother me. If there's an easier option, one that cuts down on the time spent learning then do it.

I have brought the test forward by a week. I was originally due to take it the day before our holiday to France. We're supposed to be flying to Nice. The combination of BA strikes and volcanic ash means that we might have to take the car. I do not want my first experience as a fully licensed driver to be on a French motorway, thank you very much.

Assuming I pass, of course.

It's a minor point but important.

Sky News: giving it to you straight

Sky News has one of its breaking news banners at the moment stating that 22 people have been killed in the current Thai protests. The banner ends with the words:

No foreigners killed.

That's all right then.

Sky News, making Chris Morris look like a genius with every passing second.

It's been a long time coming

At last, after 13 years of hurt and pain, it's over. I can relax and look forward to the future without fear.

Yes, after 13 years of a Labour government, it's safe for me to watch and listen to satire.

For too long I've had to squirm as the party I voted for didn't do enough to get their message across and committed some fairly basic publicity gaffes.

So, listening to the News Quiz on Radio 4 was an absolute joy this week as the first ten minutes of the programme were given over to ridiculing the new Tory and Lib Dem coalition. Even the references to Gordon Brown were mostly sweet and gentle by comparison to those he has received for the last three years.

The first sign of this renaissance came on Thursday when Lucy Mangan wrote her list of 101 reasons to love our Tory government. Those who do not follow the link should know that she only got as far as 19.

It's called looking on the bright side. It'll get me through the next few weeks, at least.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Follow up and follow through

I promised myself a long time ago that I would get rid of my Facebook account. I finally managed it yesterday.
The reason for going in the end was the realisation that I could boost the number of friends quite easily but they would not be people I really know. Old acquaintances. Friends of friends. People you kind of know and add to boost your own numbers.
My real friends who are on Facebook, don’t really use it to communicate. The status updates and comment on my own were mostly coming from a handful of people. And a couple of those I don’t really know that well.
So I found myself getting upset by a couple of their comments about the election and took it badly. I flounced. I left. I quit.
I don’t need to know what these people are up to. If I’m interested, I’ll ask.
There’s something so irritatingly vain and needy about Facebook that I simply loathe.
Whereas blogging, on the other hand, there’s nothing vain about that (cough). Honest.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Control this

Three more deaths that would not have occurred if strict gun controls were in place.

BBC report of Alabama shootings

This is not a poor black man in a gang related shoot out. This is not the act of a robbery gone wrong.

This is a university professor denied a promotion. A university professor denied a promotion. It really is worth repeating.

Anyone who thinks their freedom would be curtailed because they don't have to right to shoot someone after being denied a promotion, is an idiot.

The right to bear arms is about stopping a foreign power from invading, not settling employment disputes. Get over it and move on.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Irony is.. (2)

Sixteen teams are left in the FA Cup. Four of them are clubs with the biggest financial problems of all.

Cardiff and Portsmouth are still in huge trouble with HMRC. Portsmouth are technically insolvent and only the benevolent nature of the Premier League will prevent them going out of business.

The last owners of Notts County managed to run up a £1.6 million debt in under a year and liabilities that might drive that higher.

Crystal Palace are in administration with £30 million in debts.

All are likely to go out of the cup this weekend. However, it offers hope that the cup still gives clubs a chance to shine when everything else is gloom (wow, that sentence was tortured). You could also argue that it shows up the competition's decline that teams which such huge problems are able to go so far.

Given that the draw also includes two of the wealthiest teams in the land, it's hard to draw a conclusion.

Saturday, 13 February 2010
Bolton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea v Cardiff
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa
Derby County v Birmingham
Fulham v Notts County
Man City v Stoke
Reading v West Brom
Southampton v Portsmouth

Irony is.. (1)

A sports team representing France calling an Irish team cheats. Given the nonsense talked about comparative intelligence of rugby players compared to footballers, you'd have thought that Morgan Parra might have thought twice before opening his mouth.

Of course, he might have been misquoted. But then Ireland might have been going to the World Cup in South Africa this year.

Monday, 1 February 2010


So, no one bothers about John Terry when he had a previous affair. Now, because he has an affair with the girlfriend of team mate, suddenly it's a problem.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Down in the trenches

Tony Blair. The Iraq Inquiry. Six hours of questions and answers that was utterly fascinating.

Here's the problem, it's another lack of awareness thing. Those who are opposed to Blair and the war in Iraq are just as entrenched as Blair himself. Nothing he could ever have said would have persuaded them to change even one thought in their minds.

They complain that he is a liar. I'm not convinced. He is absolutely certain that what he says is the truth. Who are we to judge who were not there? The decisions may have been wrong but that does not make him a liar.

It has become a cause celebre, so much so that it has lost all sense of perspective and judgement. What do the protesters now hope to achieve? I suspect it's more a battle for history, a battle to define Blair's legacy.

Those on the left should be just as concerned about trying to define Blair's domestic legacy. By seeking to ingrain the longest serving Labour prime minister as a lying, cheating war criminal, they could be doing untold damage to the future of the party.

The irony is that the very opponents of Blair, tend to come from the political wing that should have been backing him. The opposition to him now does not come from the right.

There are semi-regular reports in the British newspapers about financial decisions coming back to haunt executives of American companies. It seems that if a large company fails, there is the real possibility of criminal charges being brought. This might explain why American politics is all about not making decisions but tweaking the status quo.

Well, Blair made a decision. I didn't like it then, I don't like it now. But I don't for one second believe it was a criminal decision, just a bad one. Are we so entrenched as to believe that anyone who makes a decision we don't agree with must be prosecuted? Even one that costs lives? Every political decision effects lives. Attempting a citizens arrest or a prosecution as a war criminal opens up a scary precedent.

People now need to step away from their beliefs and think about what they really want to gain from this. And, where that might lead them.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Which end of the stick do I grab?

Owen Coyle, manager of Burnley, sorry, Bolton Wanderers FC is complaining about the abuse dished out by football fans. He has a point.

He, unfortunately, has the wrong point.

He calls the baiting of managers and coaches "a social problem". I can see his point. What he is complaining about is the abuse he received from Burnley fans when they played Bolton on Tuesday. Until two weeks ago, he had been the manager of Burnley.

Burnley fans were upset that he left, during the course of a season, to manage a rival club. Now, here's the real point. Of course they're going to be upset. Of course, they are going to show their resentment. Did they go too far? Probably. But there was an underlying reason for doing.

Speaking out like this is self-serving. It attempts to deflect criticism away from himself. The trouble is, it also deflects criticism away from the football fans who hurl abuse for absolutely no reason. Here, I'm referring specifically to racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments. The racist ones are less common in British football now, although they do occur.

Lumping the abuse towards Coyle for leaving a club in the lurch to pursue his own agenda with homophobia is egotistical nonsense. It denigrates the unwarranted abuse dished out. Coyle should be rightly upset by the abuse he received. However, he ought to take it on board and remember it when it comes to choosing the timing of his next appointment. If he's still with Bolton, he'd do better to wait until the end of the season and be open and polite about what he's doing.

It's not the same Owen. If you were black, gay or female you'd be insulted that you attempted to suggest that it might be.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Freedom shouldn't be like this

Jon Gaunt has won the right to appeal against his dismissal from Talksport for calling the head of children's services at Redbridge Council a Nazi live on air.

Gaunt says "It goes back to Magna Carta – as an Englishman, I have a right to say what I feel."

In that case, I have the right to say what I feel. You're a cock. You're a fool. You're an idiot. You're the epitome of everything that is wrong with a particular type of Englishman. You live in a past that never existed. You think you are always right. You lack respect for diversity of opinion. You do not create debate, you stifle it by ensuring that opposition is shouted down and ridiculed.

You deny free speech by abusing it. You Nazi.

Friday, 22 January 2010

They should know better - no.47

This week, the British Film Institute.

The BFI is normally the bastion of interesting cinema. It chooses diversity in a way that no other cinema in Britain is able to do.

It is no surprise that it supports women filmmakers by putting on a festival to highlight their work.

It is a surprise to find it's called "Birds Eye View".

Something went wrong at that meeting.

This is not philanthropy

Cowell, estimated fortune, £100 million.
McCartney, £825 million.
Stewart, £100 million.
Barlow, £30 million.
Williams, £75 million.

Other wealthy people are involved are involved in Chairman Cowell's charity cavalcade. These are just names mentioned in this article from the BBC. Some of the other names do not yet have multi-million pound fortunes.

I do not have a fortune in the multi-millions, millions, hundreds of thousands or thousands. Nor, I suspect do the people who may be tempted to buy the charity single.

I still have absolutely no idea why people need a product in order to make them give. Or why those who have are not tempted to give money without demonstrating their piety.

According to the BBC, Band Aid raised £75 million between January 1985 and November 2004. Comparisons between era are usually difficult but even if we put a figure of £100 million on it, those involved could save themselves the bother and just give the money themselves.

Of course, they shouldn't have to. But then neither should we. Can I suggest a compromise. I'll get together ten of my friends. We'll record a single and then the 50 wealthiest people in the country can buy it for £1 million each.

Then at least we might be spared the posturing of Mr Cowell and Co. Bless 'em, they'll raise lots of money. Jolly well done. But this is not philanthropy.

So far, £38 million has already been raised by the British public in under a week. That speaks volumes. Superstar charity should go through the traditional route.

Cowell and co should give here, give often and without publicity:

DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Has the world gone completely mad?

What do these things have in common?

John Grisham's novel The Associate
Sit-com Modern Family
Irish folk-pop duo The Lost Brothers


I have no idea what the basis of their popularity is.

The Associate is the only Grisham novel I've read so I can't be harsh about his whole back catalogue. But this book goes nowhere. It has no end and it's a deliberate non-ending in an attempt to be threatening. However, it's just plain pointless. Mind you, I stopped caring a long time before. There were no reasons to emphasise with the protagonist in the first place.

But maybe that was the point. Somehow, I don't think he's that clever.

Modern Family. Over-acted. Under-written. Very well marketed. But I've written about that before.

The Lost Brothers are a new one for me. Last Friday, Diana and I went to see a band called the Swell Season. They were perfectly fine. It was a good night. However, one of the support acts were a, gulp, wannabe Proclaimers. Two guys, guitars, harmonies and truly awful lyrics with rhymes straight out of the advanced Noel Gallagher series of look/book/cook.

It was funny. Simple melodies, very simple lyrics and seemingly synchronised movements.

And lo and behold, they only closed the Culture Show on BBC2 tonight. What is going on?

Yet another instalment of:

Has the world gone completely mad?

Oh, by the way, this is a little unfortunate.

Heard on radio this afternoon.

A BBC reporter in Haiti was talking about the huge number of amputations the doctors are getting through. He described the number as "staggering".

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Welcome to my world

1 Watching English speaking actors, playing Germans only works if they learn to speak German. Doing the old Allo Allo trick just doesn't wash anymore. The Reader is currently showing on Sky. It looks all well and good but the speaking English with a German accent is frankly ridiculous. This is something that critic Mark Kermode has been harping on about for a while and having watched parts of The Reader and remember Kristen Scott Thomas' pitch perfect French in, amongst others, Tell No One, I agree.

Of course, it's made worse by the use of a young German actor in one of the lead roles, speaking in English. At least his accent is genuine.

2 The aforementioned Mark Kermode has written a book that is due out in February. He is, by some considerable distance, the most interesting of the current crop of film critics. I only ever get a sense of his pandering to someone else's cause when he has to review a film involving someone he is interviewing.

There is an obvious social awkwardness involved. Just before the Paris peace conference in 1960, the Soviet's shot down an American U-2 spy plane. Obviously angry, Kruschev is reputed to have said to the Americans "you don't shit where you're about to eat". And I guess that's a long winded way of saying that I understand why Kermode only accentuates the positive when reviews films in front of their makers.

Anyway, The Observer carried a preview of his book. It looks like regular followers of Kermode will have a problem. The excerpt was of the day Werner Herzog was shot whilst being interviewed by Kermode, a story very familiar to his listeners. But if you listen to him a lot, you tend to hear his stories repeated. It's the peril of doing a live radio show. The record of what you said is aural rather than written and you're less likely to refer back to a recording.

3 Pat Robertson is an idiot. Obviously. At least he clarified his remarks. In the end it turns out that they are only moderately offensive. He repeated a myth about Haiti's revolt against France rather than making a claim about the earthquake. Well done him.

So, instead of saying that the earthquake was the fault of a godless nation, he said emphasised that a nation of slaves could only throw off the might of the white man through a pact with the devil.

That's not offensive at all, is it Pat? You want to think about that one for a moment?

But never let fairness get in the way of a good argument.

4 It's only been a year folks. Just slow down in your haste to judge.

5 Kate Winslett has the scariest blue contact lenses in this film. Really. It looks like she has no pupils at all.

6 I mean, what can you actually do in a year when you're working in a system with so many checks and balances that if you have to fulfill a promise you have to make fifty more?

7 Football has many cliches. My favourite at the moment is the old "football is a cruel mistress" one.

The potential saviours of Crystal Palace have bought West Ham instead.

No one has any money at all. Sol Campbell, knowing how badly in debt his old club Portsmouth are, has decided to sue them for £1.7 million in lost bonuses and image rights. Image rights? This truly is a crazy world. Does he not realise that ever pound he adds to their debt ensures that small businesses will not get paid? When is enough, enough? He's just resigned for Arsenal. I would imagine he's probably going to be getting more than £10,000 a weak (a very conservative estimate)

Man Utd are £716 million in debt and this is no reason to panic because it is broadly in line with expectation. Man City reported an annual loss of £92.6 million last year.

8 I have this theory that I'm working on. It's related to the momentum that is gathering, in technology, politics and the media for example. We are hurtling towards a world of instant gratification and judgment where considered thought and logical reactions are not required, where fear and brash opinion is the main driver.

Anyway, some of what's gone before relates to that. I'm still working on it. I'll let you know later.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Wrong, wrong, wrong

The British newspaper culture is both wonderful and desperate at the same time.

Here's an example of how pathetic it can be.

I am a fan of Crystal Palace, although not much of a fan at the moment which is ok because it's not much of a club at the moment.

A month ago, the club were served with a winding up petition by the HM Revenue and Customs. This is, effectively, notification that unless tax debts are paid, the club will be wound up and forced to cease trading. The petition comes first. If the debts are not paid it becomes a winding up order.

Are we clear?

The petition was lodged in December.

If debts are not paid by 27 January, the courts will issue are winding up order.

Explain this story, posted last night:Well, done the Daily Mirror. Not only have you got the wrong terminology but you've used it a month after it actually happened.


But do you know what the real problem is? It's crappy journalism like this that allows fan to develop a mindless "them against us" mentality. It's lazy, shoddy, cliched journalism like this that really prevents the fans from interrogating what is happening at their club.

Palace fans are starting to do this but the current chairman has been given far too much breathing room for too long. The club is losing more money than it earns. Something drastic has to happen before it gets better.

The trouble is, you can rely on most papers to cover it in cliches and soundbites. And David Conn of the Guardian is too busy pulling apart the finances of Notts County, Portsmouth Man Utd, Liverpool and the rest to really notice the utter mess Palace is in. He's about the only one who can do the scenario justice.

By the way, feeling free to read the Mirror article here.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

It's a great upsetment


Three into two does not go

Mum has moved house after thirty five years. She's moved from a three-bed semi to a nice two-bed end of terrace. Over the last six months she has recylced and thrown/given away around a third of her possessions.

This may sound like philanthropy, however she was drowning in a sea of possessions, many of which were there just because they were there.

Well, after half an hour of unloading the lorry, the dining room looked like this:

An hour later and it was hard to tell if there was a dining room at all:

It may take a few days to sort through it all (well, maybe a week or two). However, the sheer volume of boxes has driven home how much more there is to be thrown away.

The size of the house will dictate the level of things within it. In order not to drown, mum knows she needs to downsize further. Downsizing on property programmes is all about the building but it has more to do with the things.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Standard measurements update

For many years the English have had standard measurement units.

Something pretty big is described at being the size of (or a multiple of) a London bus. This is also interchangeable with the whale.

Something really big is usually the size of (or a multiple of) Wales. This is never interchangeable with the whale.

Over the last eight days, a new measurement has been adopted. The inch. Whilst the inch has been a standard measurement of 2.54cms, it has now become whatever the hell we want it to be.

So, when someone says we've had four inches of snow overnight, what they mean is "I am look for a reason to stay indoors today". A modest dusting of snow automatically counts as two inches because it sounds more impressive. Under no circumstances whatsoever should these measurements ever be take accurately. The disappointment that follows will be crushing. Half an inch is nothing to write home about, especially if it's your reason for saying you're stuck in it.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Er, excuse me? He said what?

Shock news from the world of entertainment where Simon Cowell is quitting American Idol to develop his own X Factor show in the States.

Said Cowell, "I wanted to do something different. I wanted a new challenge".

The new challenge is, apparently to persuade anyone that there is anything other than cosmetic differences between the two. Oh, and to work out where he is going to invest all that extra money that comes with being an executive producer as well as the talent.

Isn't life lovely?

If the glove fits...

Mum is moving house this Friday after 35 years. I went over today to see what help I could be. She's been working towards this move for a few months now but with 35 years of accumulated stuff, it's taking a while.

And stuff is the appropriate word. There are so many things that will end up going into packing boxes marked "misc" and so many things that in the long run will not be kept.

I opened up a box of shoes to pack and at the bottom were a couple of plastic rain jackets. One, I seem to remember belonged to either my brother or myself around the time we were still holidaying in France as a family. Well, that all stopped around 1988 and the last time my brother came was, I think, in 1986.

The other coat belonged to our grandmother and she died in 1988. In fact, it was a pale blue plastic mac that she bought on a trip to Australia to see my uncle. I think she went around 1982.

With these coats were a pair of my dad's gloves. A good, lined winter pair. They fit. I wore them home. Even though the big freeze of 2010™ is nearly over, they may still come in (oh dear, I backed myself into a pun corner) handy (sorry).

Dad died in 2007. There are still lots of things from that and other eras. I know mum is looking forward to getting the move over and done with. I guess then she'll be able to look forward and make better decisions about what to keep.

She'll be moving to a similar sized house to our own, one significantly smaller than the one she's in. The best advice I can give, and I have, is to be ruthless about what she keeps. To select things that will help her to cherish the memories she has but to get rid of anything that is simply clutter.

She'll be happier with a clean slate and it will be easier to make those decisions when they are not so intrinsically tied to the bricks and mortar around her.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Nobody died today

Before Christmas, the newspapers start getting a little on the thin side. With last Christmas being on a Friday, the broadsheets were reducing depth from the Monday before.

On one of those days I managed to miss the obituaries altogether in The Guardian and pictured a world in which no one had the day before. A pre-Christmas amnesty, if you like.

Sadly, I had just managed to skip through the paper a touch too quickly. The obituaries were there. Six of them in total.

On further inspection, there had obviously been a lack of notable people dying. All the obituaries were drawn from the month prior. It seems a little odd that editors can take a view on the importance of someone's death. I guess it depends on whether the paper has an obituary ready.

If it does not, then either the person has died suddenly, well ahead of time and it therefore has a certain news value that warrants a swift appearance in the paper. If, on the other hand, it comes under the category of worthy but not well known then the paper will need to do some research and put it in a pile of obituaries to be inserted when other, more notable people cunningly foil death.

Even after death there is a pecking order.

Gone but not forgotten

In place of:


For those mourning Wogan, tune into Channel 4 each day a five pm for his utterly pointless game show, Wogan's Perfect Recall (spot the gag in the title).

Actually, the strange thing is, it's more of the same all round. However, on the bright side, Sarah Kennedy's show has been curtailed as Evans seems to like getting up and starting work whereas Wogan ran the shortest show in radio.

Besides, I'm sure there'll be plenty ofradio phone-ins allowing Wogan's former listeners to let off steam.

I'll let off some steam. In order to replace Evans, Radio 2 have employed Simon Mayo who for the last eight years has been broadcasting a (mostly) wonderful afternoon show on FiveLive. In order to replace Mayo comes Richard Bacon who, sadly, just reminds me of how much preparation Mayo used to do.

Whilst it's not exactly the toughest job in the world, Mayo was the hardest working man in it. He's a sad loss, especially as now, he gets less time to interrogate issues because he's back to being a drivetime host on a music station.

Evans and Mayo had very similar, very odd openings. They were both determined to talk about their choice of first record and then to "introduce the team". How very American.

Evans' tone was the same as always (which is fine) whilst Mayo has switched to a more upbeat pitch, more hurried than on his news/talk programme. Perhaps he's just aware of how much there is to fit in between the records.

The point about all of this is simple, the BBC still produces the best radio programmes in this country. Radios 2, 4, 5live, 6 music and 7 are shining lights of the medium (well those are the ones I listen to, the others could be pretty good too). Any change is potentially a weakening of the quality.

I think of the BBC as a sandcastle. It's a brilliant creation but vulnerable to attacks. And the attacks are often completely and utterly pointless. Changes to the schedule make the BBC the news story. With the Ross resignation, the BBC has been the story a little too often recently. I hope that the tide recedes quickly (see what I did there) and we can all carry on like we did before, hating commercial radio and hoping Chris Moyles gets a job in it as soon as possible.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

To cap it all off

As I'm working from home at the moment, heading out during the current wintry weather has not been a priority (especially as our freezer is particularly, and surprisingly, well stocked at the moment).

Today, being a little stir crazy, I walked up the hill, into town, to pick up some supplies. Nothing out of the ordinary there although there is still a lot of snow around.

Waiting in line at the check-out, I had one of those "I've turned into my dad" moments. Wearing a £3 beanie and not having shaved for a couple of days, I realised I was presenting myself in the same manner that dad used to, and mum used to complain about.

When we got out later (just round to a neighbour's house, but it counts as out) I will have shaved and be hatless. Contact lenses will also be worn. I have learned my lesson.

Er, you know if you'd thought about it for more than five seconds...

The bus carrying the Togo football team has been attacked in Angola on its way to the Africa, Cup of Nations.

It's very sad. It was also very avoidable.

Why? Organisers say the team should not have travelled by bus, that teams were requested not to travel by bus.

On the other hand:

The bus travelling from the Republic of Congo had just entered the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, where separatists have waged a three-decade long war, when it came under heavy gunfire. The driver was killed and nine others were wounded.
(from The Independent)

So, on the one hand they should not have taken the bus.

On the other, a major football tournament is taking place in country where separatists have waged a three-decade long war.

Which do you think had more to do with the incident?

The grass is always greener

I work from home at the moment. It's actually quite tough.

I know, I can hear the violins playing at the moment.

When watching property programmes, the hosts tend to make a lot of office space even it's just a converted cupboard. My how I scoffed at such delusional nonsense.

Only now I think I hanker for such delusional nonsense. A bit of space, set aside for a specific purpose would be great. We are a couple in a two-bedroom so the second bedroom would make sense. However, we like to have people come over to stay, so we have a bed that takes up most of the space (it is a small house).

Diana's solution is a summer house. In the depths of winter, the idea is a summer house where we currently have a shed.

The thing is, it's a great idea.

And it's what, in DIY terms, you could call a project. We could probably just about afford to buy one at the moment. Running electricity and kitting it out might be another thing. But as long as the wireless network goes that far then there's no reason why a laptop wouldn't work.

An extra room at the end of the garden.

All I need to do now is clear the shed, knock it down and get rid of the wood.

By the time that's done, it might actually be summer.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The view from on high

I love this picture.
And I love the confusion it causes. Because there are those who think that it obviously proves there is no such thing as global warming.

Well, the BBC should be able to put them right. A surprisingly interesting piece on the news reminded us that there is a difference between weather and climate.

Think about it. I dare you.

Also, a few years ago, the BBC showed an episode of Horizon, it's defunct science documentary programme. One episode pointed out that a change to the climate could bring us colder winters due the effect on the Gulf Stream. A shift in its position, for example, would bring freezing winters.

Now whilst I'm not suggesting that this cold winter is the result of global warming, no one should assume that this cold winter proves the non-existence of climate change.
They obviously weren't watc

Oxymoronic, without the oxy

Modern Family.

Very, old style sit-com.

Is this really the best on offer?

Is it a post-modern satire on one dimensional stereotypes collated from the shallow grammar of other one dimensional sit-coms?

No. It's just a re-hash with the added throw-in of a documentary format. If it was on ITV, it might pass as sophisticated but only by their standards.

Know your Onions

Graham Onions.


By the way, I was quite impressed by Ian Bell too only I can't quite bring myself to say that too loudly.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Almost there

The great hope and expectation of the British public. The two sides of the psyche.

For those of us in the south of England, today has been a day of hope and expectation. The news reports tell us that somewhere between 20 and 40cm of snow may fall in the next twenty four hours.

Those of us who care are either hoping the reports are wrong or praying they are correct depending on whether we do or do not want to go to work. The news reports will be cliched. Cars will be skidding, people will be stuck but children will be playing. Some people will be astonishingly angry of the "why don't the government and the council sort it out?" variety. Others will be grateful for snow and the chance to stay home.

Either way, it guarantees more evidence of our obsession. I work from home but I've been checking the Met Office website on a regular basis. Mind you, the wife probably wont be able to get to work tomorrow and so there will be a culture clash in our small house. She will be keen to relax and do nothing. I will struggle to get something done.

See, I'm doing it now. God bless the weather and our attitude towards it.

Mind you, those in the rest of the country are probably, and quite rightly, wondering why it only becomes big news when snow hits the south.

I've just seen a status update from an American friend, living in London which states that she didn't sign up for below freezing temps and up to 7 inches of snow when she moved to London.

See, it doesn't take long for everyone to pick up the obsession.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Oh so rotten

Football as we know it has been dying for some time. This is further proof.

Basically, Portsmouth FC has debts "estimated" at around £60 million. Quite whether this figure is accurate, I can't say, especially if it includes a possible £28 million to previous owner but one.

However, included in the creditors will be a large number of small business. However, within football, other football clubs get preferred creditor status. Consequently, the whole bloated mess can carry on whilst others can go to the wall. Portsmouth's television money will be diverted to other football clubs rather than the businesses that really need it.

Further proof of the obscene nature of being a football creditor can be found in the galling site of a relatively healthy Leeds United defeating Man United on Sunday. The chairman, Ken Bates, took the club into administration and bought it straight back off the administrators. This magically wiped out millions of pounds in debt. I would write something further here but why should I when David Conn of The Guardian expresses it so much better:

Leeds owed HM Revenue and Customs £7m, West Yorkshire ambulance service £8,997, St John Ambulance £165, and Bates's backers' first offer, accepted by the administrator, KPMG, was to pay those creditors 1p in the pound. The former players still owed money from Peter Ridsdale's dream time all had to be paid in full, including, for example, Danny Mills, owed £217,000 on a contract which had ended three years earlier.
Non-football creditors got 1p in the pound. Football creditors were paid in full.

Football is once again confused by it's own sense of self-importance. It pains me to say it but it's probably time one of these clubs went out of business altogether. There's an outside chance that the others might start to sit up and take notice. The pathetic ego driven desire to have the best league with the most expensive well paid players is driving the game into the dirt.

Let it go. Let the players go abroad if they want, if someone else can pay them similar amounts of money. Anyway, it's about time clubs stopped buying and started coaching.

The wit and wisdom of... (number 1)

Ray Winstone

"I'm a bit of a binge drinker – once I'm on it, I'm on it".

'They (drugs) are the biggest problem in the world today, and one of the reasons the troops are in Afghanistan. There are countries paying off national deficits over them and we've got kids dying every day thanks to drugs".

It's just a thought, but the man who says that drugs are the world's number one problem but also seems to revel in being a binge drinker, is a steaming hypocrite.

Politically he's slightly out about Afghanistan. He has probably forgotten that the Bush administration paid the Taliban over $40 million in 2001 for suppressing the drugs trade. Actually, what he says makes next to no sense. Perhaps he was a little addled when he said it.

When someone bleats about deaths caused by drugs but glamorises drinking, he is a buffoon. In 2007 there were 8,724 alcohol-related deaths in the UK. Perhaps we should be invading the vinyards of France.

And this was after a wonderful piece of populist nonsense in Psychologies in which he described himself as a rebel and followed it up with:

I don’t take any shit, especially from politicians. I’m sick to death of these so-called intellectuals running my life, taking money off me, and being taxed on top of tax. I don’t mind Boris Johnson. He’s off the wall, but I prefer him to that other gangster, Livingstone. He’s a complete liar. A wrong ‘un.
Now, I'm not saying that there's no such thing as a conservative rebel, nor am I suggesting that Ken Livingstone was the nearest thing to a saint, but the language he uses is so obviously short-sighted. It's "man of the people" nonsense. It's sounds plausible but doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Ahh, celebrity, how we listen to you views and take them at face value. Ahh, celebrity, how we love it when you project your personality.

But, to start with, you say you don't take any shit and then complain that they are shitting on you through the medium of taxation. And why is there this insistence on using intellectuals as a pejorative term? All this macho nonsense. All this snap judgment of politics is exactly what the problem is. It's this kind of populist idiocy that means that any decision made by the so-called intellectuals is based on how it plays with the country rather than whether it's a good decision.

Short-termism is the new black.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

It may broaden the mind but think about what it does to the wallet

During an advert break at half-time in the Manchester United - Leeds United game, ITV showed a trailer for its wonderful winter schedule.

The three progreammes advertised all involve "celebrities" (for the sake of decency I can't use the word I wanted to about Piers Morgan) travelling to far off places, experiencing things on our behalf and then telling us what it's like. Well, thanks.

And this is reason number 74 for not watching ITV. This style of programming is smug and utterly self-centred, "look at me, I'm doing this for you".

Just saying, that's all

With reference to this, for Graham Thorpe, read Alistair Cook.

The people may have changed but for once, the story stays the same. Ok, to be technically accurate, when I checked the score whilst waiting for the bag at the airport he'd only scored 97, but presumably he got there soon enough after. The fault was in my timing not his.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Leather, sweat and tears

Just watching the '68 comeback special. You know, the one where Elvis proves he's a good egg.

And he is. However, for all the effort he puts in, you'd struggle to work that out from the audience reaction. It's so strangely polite. You want them to go nuts at the end of the one or two songs where he lets rip in a genuinely thrilling manner.

The version of Lawdy Miss Clawdy is tremendous fun and tingling. The audience reaction is that of a tea dance. It only lacks a polite cry of 'jolly well done'.

Not so much intimate, as inanimate.

But it probably doesn't help that it appears to have been staged in a studio lacking in atmosphere. And design.

Friday, 1 January 2010

TIme goes with a bang

New year was spent in Munich.

If it actually meant anything, I'd say that Munich is now my favourite city! There you go, stick that on your tourist literature. I'm sure it will bring the crowds flooding in.

It was a smooth trip all round and the first one we've taken that didn't involve BA for around two years. All hail Lufthansa whose staff were polite, friendly and helpful. They even managed to arrange our return to London without the aid of the usual Heathrow stack.

All hail Deutches Bahn. How wonderful to be a on a rail network that organises connections with efficiency. On the train from Fussen to Munich, we had to change trains twice and had to wait on platforms for a total of two minutes.

And all hail the people who helped, without being asked, when we looked confused or uncertain. This was normal at the ticket machines at stations but also when my "guten tag" was met with a detailed response in German. Apparently my guten tag is quite convincing. It's a good job my "sprechen sie Englisch?" is quite useful too.

All hail the Hofbrauhaus. I know it's a tourist trap but it's a damn fine one. And while I'm at it, all hail the dunkel and the radler. The dark beer is incredibly drinkable. The shandy is what it is. And that's a good thing because I now have a picture of my wife with a litre of beer in front of her (even if we both know that it's half beer, half lemonade). But it's all a reminder of the low quality of the varieties of lager on sale in the UK.

All hail the dumplings, the saurkraut, the kartoffelsalat, the gloriously soft pork, the many sausages, the brezen, the sweet mustard and the spinach strudel. It is perfectly possible to eat well in Munich whilst being a vegetarian. But if you don't eat bread as well, you're in really trouble.

So what is Munich lacking? Well, it's missing a slight and subtle sense of madness, a madness apparent in Berlin. And why should hat be? Well, four years ago in Berlin, I witnessed thousands of Berliners of all ages, letting off fireworks from their arms. They would rest rockets against their arm, light the fuse and point in whatever direction they wanted it to go. New Year's Eve had many of the same features, thousands of people and thousands of fireworks, normal people both sober and drunk, carrying fireworks, throwing bangers on to the floor. Disappointly there was a lot of lighting the blue touchpaper and retreating to a safe distance. Ok, so the fireworks were being shot from champagne bottles (nice touch) in roads, on pavements and in crowds. But because there was less risk of limbs being damaged on firing, the whole thing was a bit less threatening.

Still enormous fun though. Hopefully some pictures will follow!