Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Cracking The Nuts

A news story of a fairly common type was to be found in the Telegraph today:

'Lawyers have told the Roman Catholic Church that it cannot sack a Catholic headmaster who has entered a civil partnership with a male teacher.

The Archdiocese of Liverpool has been unable to take action against Charles Coyne, the head of St Cecilia's primary school, who has registered a partnership with Richard Jones, who is believed to work at a nearby school.

. . .

Local Catholics and family campaigners have urged the authorities to take action over the "scandal".

One churchgoer said: "Senior officials are aware of this yet they have done nothing. It's unacceptable."

Norman Wells, the director of the Family Education Trust, said: "It is not unreasonable for parents sending their children to a faith school to expect the headteacher to be living according to that faith."

. . .

A spokesman for the archdiocese said senior officials, including Fr Michael O'Dowd, the episcopal vicar for schools and colleges, had discussed the case as issues of employment law were involved.

"Legal advice was sought," the spokesman said. "The Church was advised that in this case nothing could be done, despite the fact that the head was acting contrary to Church teaching."

. . .

The bishop said each case was different, and added that it was possible for male friends to share a house together without breaching Catholic moral teaching.

. . .

The Rev Richard Kirker, the general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, predicted that Mr Coyne's "courageous" step would be followed by others in senior posts.

"This will be very helpful to everybody who expects the Catholic Church to be open and honest," he said.'

Oh, how the religious tie themselves into knots. There are three primary factions in this argument, and it's quite hard to tell which the most deluded is. On the one hand are the lay complainants, who appear not to have realised that modern anti-discrimination laws mean no-one gives a hoot about their personal moral reaction to one mans sexual orientation. Apparently, nobody was concerned about Mr Coyne's teaching ability until now. Quite obviously underpinning the complainants grievances is the ugly assumption that merely by being around children Mr Coyne is somehow 'teaching' them homosexuality, as if being gay were rather like being a leper, and only quarantine can guarantee public safety.

On the other side of the argument are the 'Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement', who look suspiciously like the proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas, almost as if they are unaware that reinforcing the status quo will lead to precisely the same situation being repeated in just a few weeks time, just as the last one was only a few weeks ago.

And in between these two greasy buns, as it were, is the fetid sausage of the church hierarchy, torn as ever between anti-discrimination legislation that cannot be beaten on the one hand, and a congregation baying for blood on the other. The situation is apparently so desperate that one bishop can issue a statement saying that it's okay for male friends to share a house together in Catholic teaching (duh!), as if pretending that the men are doing no more than playing Scrabble or grumbling at the newspaper is likely to remove the tangible facts of their homosexuality, and their congregations intolerance, from the mix.

Lost, out of all consideration, is Mr Coyne and his partner, whose personal lives have been quietly torn apart by a public media tussle over something that has absolutely nothing to do with them personally, and everything to do with the egos of its various participants. Good luck finding another profession, eh lads?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Media Snapshots

On the radio the other day, BBC political analyst John Pienaar interviewed some Labour Party activists in Salford after Blair had handed over leadership of the party. He asked them about Blair's legacy. The first activist puffed up Blair's achievements, and then Pienaar butted in and chimed him for being partisan. Then he asked the second, and she responded by talking about Thatcher's failings. Pienaar again interrupted, asking her to be less partisan. I swtiched the radio off. At no point did it seem to occur to Mr Pienaar that there was something of an irony in a supposedly neutral political analyst questionning two party activists about a subject they clearly had an interest in being partisan about and then chiding them for not being neutral political analysts.

If all this politics is too much for you, you should try the news when politics isn't on it. Here's what was on the last fifteen minutes of Five's lunchtime news last Friday:

1) A viewer had sent in a homemade video clip of a downhill wheelchair race.
2) The 'news' was announced that a 'scientist' had announced that that day was the happiest day of the year. A wholly subjective equation was shown on screen, which even the presenter seemed embarrassed to be explaining. This was followed by a conversation with professional prankster Tony Hawks about how he stays happy. The interview had almost no relation to the 'news', although it did prove an opportune moment for both interviewer and guest to mention Hawks' books (which I've already read) and his participation in the (doubtless very worthy) 'Tennis for Free' charity campaign.
3) The news switched to an old standard - 'it's raining at Glastonbury!' An incredibly chirpy female reporter, who, hilariously, seemed to be actually high, reported from a slightly-muddy field, showed a five-second interview with an organiser in front of a drainage ditch, and spent the rest of the segment discussing which celebrities she'd met, how much fun she was having, and pulling her mac down over her face. It was actually quite amusing, though frankly I'm worried her bosses may have cringed a little.
4) The reporter turned to Daily Mail and Observer film critic Jason Solomons, and asked him about the three main releases of the week. He didn't like two of them, but did like 'La vie en rose', the Edith Piaf biography.

Amazing stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Of course, there's not always a lot of choice on the other channels. Browsing around today, I came upon a channel called 'the HITS', which is another music video channel. The segment was called 'The 20 Pioneers of Love', and the video was Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing'. I had no idea that Marvin Gaye invented romance. The video, which can be seen here, seemed almost laughably po-faced. In these post-Michel Gondry, post-ironic days, it usually seems that modern music videos have to be held at a creative distance from the songs subject matter. Consequently, a song about a sunny afternoon of contemplative love-making will usually feature badly-filmed, hyper-edited, colour-saturated footage of a riot in an old people's home, or a claymation video of a rat crawling through a drainpipe. By contrast, Gaye's video is from a simpler time. Halfway through, it switches to a made-up film called 'Midnight Love', in which the clearly perfectly-well Gaye is rushed to hospital in dire need of 'sexual healing', which appears to come about through his perving over a nurse with a plump rump, the ingestion of 'Midnight Love Potion' from a distinctly un-medicine looking blue bottle, and the use of a thermometer apparently borrowed from a 1970s sex comedy. I really don't know which I prefer.

Monday, June 11, 2007



I don't understand the fuss about the 2012 Olympic logo.

It's not that I think the logo is amazing, it's that I have no idea what a 'good' logo would look like. I am also prepared to speculate that if those complaining loudest about it now had been honestly polled a fortnight ago, they would have been fairly apathetic about the issue. The logo controversy is part of a wider problem in Britain - people feel passionately about the Olympics, both for and against hosting it, but because there was no debate about whether applying would be a good idea at the time the decision was made, totally irrelevant and unimportant decisions like how the logo should look become disproportionately important as people with a vested interest in doing so use them as a stick with which to beat the government. Maybe there is a good case for demand-revealing referenda here. Personally, I suspect the government is not so much guilty of 'bad logo' as 'bad press relations' - would anyone really have cared if the logo had just emerged, quietly and unannounced, on official literature, as a fait accompli, instead of being trumpeted as a major achievement on the evening news?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Jon Of Cant

I went to the barbers yesterday, and while there, did something I almost never do; I picked up 'The Sun'. In it was a column by Jon 'Gaunty' Gaunt, which contains so much wrong-headedness it needs to be seen to be believed. By the way, I didn't make up his nickname - his email address is gaunty@the-sun.co.uk. If you're as amazed by his penmanship as I, why not drop him a congratulatory line?

Starting off small, our man moans about Banksy. 'I know that he is talented but I am afraid he is also a vandal and there is no way we should be celebrating or promoting the painting and defacing of other people's property. Other less talented yobs follow the example of this "anonymous rebel" and have made our cities hell-holes to live in as they spray their "tags" like feral cats across every available wall or train carriage.'

One - whatever happened to the humble comma?
Two - how hilariously po-faced is this?
Three - I've never seen a feral cat spray a "tag", and I don't believe they're capable of doing so.
Four - not to nitpick, but surely if Banksy is 'talented', then he very much isn't a 'pain in the art'.

Example No 2: (Later In The Same Column)
A complaint about 'Jocks'*. 'While we're on the subject of the awards, I was also dismayed that three of my Scottish colleagues decided not to stand up with the rest of the audience to give David Beckham a standing ovation. They laughed and giggled while we paid this great BRITON the respect he deserved for all his charity work with young kids. When I asked them why they sat on their hands, their reply was: "It would be just wrong - he's English." I replied: "I know but he's also a Brit and we were celebrating Britain." Why the hell do Jocks who come from such a very, very small country carry such a huge chip? Grow up.'

I have two complaints here. Firstly, he doesn't seem to realise that when it comes to football (which is, after all, what Beckham is famous for), England and Scotland are separate nations with separate football associations and a long and bitter rivalry. (Incidentally, this situation - multiple FIFA nations that are actually all part of a bigger nation - explicitly contravenes FIFA rules. Any other semi-autonomous region in the world - say, Transnistria for instance - would be rejected if it tried to apply). I lied above. Clearly he must know that they are bitter rivals, so why the phony outrage? Secondly, how dim do you have to be to not see the irony in going to an award ceremony celebrating Britishness and then write a column about it insulting 'chippy' 'Jocks' from a 'very very small country'?

Example No 3: 'A HARD LESSON'
Hear dear Jon starts getting serious, and the trouble really starts. Writing about the disappearance of 'Maddie' McCann (and on a day in which it looks increasingly likely that she will either never be found or not be found alive), he intones: 'I have enormous sympathy for their loss but I am afraid they were wrong to leave the kids. They were wrong not to use the childcare facilities. They were wrong not to leave the door unlocked. Wrong to leave them unchecked for 50 minutes and wrong to take the "hundred million to one" chance of this happening. They and the Press are also wrong to criticise those of us who have had the balls to voice astonishment that middle-class parents would do such a thing. Since being the first columnist to make this point, my mailbag has been full of support for my stance and I have yet to meet a parent who disagrees with me.'

Oh dear oh dear. Let us ignore for the moment the crass insensitivity of writing this at this point in time, and instead focus on the nightmarish world 'Gaunty' imagines for us - in which parents must be by their childrens sides, every minute of every day, forever panicking about even taking their eyes off them. Of course, this position fits nicely with the Paedogeddon view of modern life all Sun columnists are contractually obliged to take. Also note his 'astonishment that middle-class parents would do such a thing', casually implying he wouldn't be surprised at all if working-class parents did. Finally, he states that he has 'yet to meet a parent who disagrees with me'. He may not have met any parents who disagree, but a simple glance at the Times would have revealed a Mick Hume (parent) 'Notebook' column bemoaning 'crusaders [who] blame the Portuguese for not sharing Britain’s heightened state of paedophile-phobia. Others question why the British parents dared to leave their children asleep in a locked apartment while having dinner.' (Note the disagreement over whether it was locked or not). Obviously not everybody is going to agree with such a paranoid worldview, but why acknowledge nuance when you can allege unanimous support instead?

And now finally, we get to the worst column of all (titled 'Shut up, Hain') which is just repellent. Let's take a look:

'Just whose side is that perma-tanned prat Peter Hain really on?'

One sentence in and we are asked to choose between good and evil (perma-tans obviously hinting at evil, though with the obvious exception for Robert Kilroy-Silk).

'I only ask because his hysterical and irresponsible reaction to yesterday's suggestion that the police need tougher stop-and-search laws was worthy of the ranting of some scruffy anti-war marcher.'

Yeah, because we all know how wrong those scruffy anti-war marchers turned out to be!

'Why the hell is a man who wants to be deputy leader of this country siding with the hand-wringing human rights brigade?' (emphasis in original)

Oh, I don't know. Political conviction? A respect for civil liberties? A knowledge that extensive, racially targeted use of stop-and-search powers has led to race riots in the past?

'These are the politically correct fools who stopped the Government detaining suspicious individuals and instead forced them to come up with the ridiculous idea of control orders for suspected terrorists.'

This is a novel interpretation of history. The BBC News website has its first story on control orders for suspected terrorists on 2nd February 2005; the 90-day detention debate took place on 9th November 2005. It was really hard proving that lie wrong! Also, the civil liberties lobby didn't 'force' the Government to do anything - quite apart from the historically unprecedented third term majority the Government enjoys, and the fact that they have consistently ignored the civil liberties lobby for years, I would think that lobby would prefer neither measure to be in force.

'Which at least five madmen have ignored and run away from and are hell-bent on killing our boys in uniform.'

How does he know?

'The old cliche that if you've got nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear has never been truer.'

Quite a lot of people make arguments based on old cliches, but it's pretty rare to read a columnist boasting about it.

'What's the alternative? Do nothing? Appease the madmen?'

Like most of the column, this is the argumentative fallacy of false dilemma.

'As a result of this, more young Asians are going to be stopped. But to suggest that this will drive a wedge between them and the authorities is nonsense and just gives succour to the enemies within.'

Police abuse of sus laws is generally regarded to have been a contributing factor in the Toxteth and Brixton riots in 1981, mostly because the Police were stopping and harrassing disproportionately large numbers of young black men, and often appeared to be doing so for no reason other than malice and the pleasure of disrupting people. This is fairly recent history - presumably Mr Gaunt is aware of it, but of course thinking back to a recent historical example of stop-and-search powers being abused to harrass young men leading to conflict and rioting helps purvey the 'nonsense' view that the Police might abuse new stop-and-search powers to harrass young men, leading to conflict and rioting.

'Hain is almost becoming the Islamist Lord Haw-Haw.'

That would be an accurate analogy, because of course one sees Mr Hain on al-Arabiya making propaganda broadcasts on behalf of Osama all the time.

'He's doing the enemy's propaganda work for them.'

Yeah, because by sticking up for civil liberties, Hain is really playing into the hands of Taliban-style Islamists who famously really respect civil . . . wait, something's not quite right with this argument . . .

'If that means they get stopped more often they will have to live with it and realise that it is a necessary evil until we defeat the terrorist scum who want to blow us all up regardless of our faith.'

Note the delight with which the 'necessary evil' is being propagandised. One might almost believe he doesn't think it an evil at all! Note too the language used - just 'have to live with it' - the sort of language an exasperated spouse would use to refer to a partners head cold.

'He should forget about the human rights of the enemy . . .'

Since human rights, by definition, apply to all humans, that might be difficult. Also note the sly rhetorical elision - by implication, all of the people stopped by the Police under these powers will be 'the enemy', and the Police will never make a mistake, ever.

'. . . and start protecting the decent tax-paying Brits who pay his wages.'

Here confusion takes over. Having been bust discussing the 'enemy within', Gaunt now contrasts that enemy with 'decent tax-paying Brits', although all the suicide bombers had British passports and paid taxes. Of course, in reality, 'Brits' in this context is synonymous with 'whites', as we can see in the line 'as a result of this, more young Asians are going to be stopped.' Whether by accident of design, Gaunt lets the guard down a moment and admits the obvious racial element to these new Police powers. Telling.

Jon of Gaunt: Purveyore of moste respectable cante for readers of 'The Fierie Cellestial Orbe' newspapere.

At the end of 'Richard II', Shakespeare gives the historical figure John of Gaunt the most famous speech:

'This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth . . .'

By contrast, here is the 1st Duke of Lancaster's near-namesake enlivening the national dialectic several centuries later:

'Yesterday's picture in The Sun of the 75-stone hog that was shot by the young lad in Alabama, and it's comparison to Porky Prescott, was unfair, unkind and a real insult to . . .'

What's that coming over the hill, is it a punchline, is it a punchline?

'. . . to the pig.'

Oh, be still, my aching sides.

It would seem that history does repeat itself. John of Gaunt was Richard II's uncle, and effectively acted as Regent during his period as King when he was a minor. In the modern day, it would seem that Richard 'the Blackheart' Littlejohn has provided a nice 'intellectual' regency for 'King' Jon to follow on. I only hope he loses his crown jewels in the wash. Better still, he might be able to follow on exactly in Littlejohn's footsteps, and write an allegedly execrable novel that did at least inspire the funniest debate ever on Five Live and the funniest book review I've ever read.

*Note for American readers: 'Jocks' in this context is a derogatory insult for Scottish people, not somebody who is good at sports.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Hooking The Punters

The following review - by Matt Glasby - almost made me want to go and see 'Zizek!', a documentary about Slovenian cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek:

'If you only watch one film about an insane Slovenian boffin with a weighty god complex and an even weightier speech impediment, make sure it's this one.'

You've got to admit, that's a good one.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Ten More Years For Tony!

It's hard to understand what possessed Neil Clark to write this piece, in which he looks back upon the ten glorious years of Tony's premiership - Tony Benn's, that is. It's well worth reading, if only to boggle at a man who has managed to get a bizarre piece of adolescent wish-fulfilment on to what is supposed to be Britain's premier group blog. It's unintentionally very funny indeed. I was going to try and parody it, but alas, I haven't the skill.

Apparently, 'the renationalisation of the railways, carried out in the first months of the Benn government, has been a great success', which is good to hear. Still, that achievement pales into insignificance when compared to 'Britain's implacable opposition to Nato military action that led to a peaceful solution to the incipient civil war in Kosovo'. Yeah, I hear everyone in Kosovo was hanging on to every word of the debate in Britain before committing themselves.

Tom Hamilton is of course right when he states that this mythical Prime Minister, 'unlike every Prime Minister in my lifetime . . . just gets to do whatever the hell they feel like, without ever having any need to make political compromises or take unpopular decisions, and without ever being placed in a position where bad consequences are inevitable whatever they choose', and that this is wholly unmoored from reality, as surely a child could divine. The real question is not why Clark wants Tony Benn to be Prime Minister, but how such nonsense can possibly appear on a blog like Comment Is Free, which is in theory supposed to be a sort of Brains Trust of the finest minds in the land turning out quality and well considered blog posts. Fat chance.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Temporary Exodus

Just to save you the trouble of having to check back here every few days, I would like to warn the few readers still clinging on to this sinking ship that there will be no new content for several weeks - probably about four, at a rough guess.

In the meantime, those familiar with Unreal Tournament might conceivably find this faintly amusing.

PS: Thank you for your continued support. It really is much appreciated. I'm sorry I've been lax in answering comments recently - it's all due to how busy I've been. I fully anticipate getting this thing back to normal in the fullness of time - don't delete me off your blogrolls yet!

Monday, February 26, 2007



I seem to be missing the boat on the latest trend, which is bashing the Conservapedia.

The Conservapedia is an attempt to produce an 'online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America.' Hilarity ensues. It apparently isn't a parody site - it was set up by the son of far-right writer Phyllis Sclafly - but inevitably the parodists are moving in. I wish they wouldn't; most of the stuff is funnier serious. I can't believe the entry on the unicorn is in earnest (via, S,N!):

'The existence of unicorns is controversial. Secular opinion is that they are mythical. However, they are referred to in the Bible nine times,[1] which provides an unimpeachable de facto argument for their once having been in existence . . .'

'Post-Noachian references to unicorns have led some researchers to argue that unicorns are still alive today. At the very least, it is likely that they were taken aboard the Ark prior to the Great Flood.'


I just did a random search on the site, and came up with this:

'Christopher Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria, ran aground on the island of Haiti on Christmas eve, Dec. 24, 1492. Columbus named the settlement la Navidad. Leaving 40 men, Columbus then departed and promised to return the next year.'

'Columbus wrote this to Spain's monarchs: "In all the world there can be no better or gentler people. Your Highnesses should feel great joy, because presently they will be Christians, and instructed in the good manners of your realms."'

No more, no less. After this event, of course, the settlers settled down with the natives for a nice cup of tea and a game of Monopoly. Actually, that last part might be figuratively true.

My personal favourite comes from a debate page on BC/AD vs CE/BCE:

'England no longer has an established church and the United States never had one.'

Erm, really?

Anyway, I want the parodists and jokers to back off. Why waste a natural source of buffoonery? It's not subverting; it's vandalising.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


A Little Comment Goes A Long Way . . .

It's been far too long since we last checked out what the great and the good of modern Britain are saying:

Shorter Jeremy Leggett: We're being invaded by carbon dioxide, so we should take up war positions. Bagsy I get to do the sniping.

Shorter Bronislaw Geremek: French and Dutch voters weren't rejecting the European Constitution when they voted 'no' in a referendum on the constitution, which means we should carry on full speed ahead!

Shorter Matthew Yglesias: I've caught Hillary Clinton not telling the whole truth when she says she wasn't in favour of a "pre-emptive war" against Iraq and . . . what do you mean, I haven't mentioned my own initial support for Iraq either?

Shorter Norman Geras: I'd like to beg people not to misread Nick Cohen's new book.

Shorter Andrew Murray: I really disagree with everything in Nick Cohen's new book.

Shorter Nick Cohen: It would seem that people are misreading my new book.

Shorter Peter Wilby: It turns out that David Cameron isn't a single mother from Huddersfielfd after all.

Shorter Mark Vernon: It turns out that fundamentalist Christians love the planet because God made it. Huh, looks like the God Squad could be useful for something yet!

Shorter Felicity Lawrence: Peel away all the layers of globalisation, and what do we find driving it all? Poultry, obviously!

Shorter Edward Pearce: "Robert Walpole - You might consider him a detestable prime minister, but at least he wouldn't have invaded Iraq." [that's the by-line. Seriously. I can't make anything up that's better than that - ed.]

Shorter Natalie Bennett: All of human history and culture may very well collapse, and all that will last is plastic bags.

Shorter Morven Crumlish: I hate Amazon for providing me with a list of similar products to the one I've bought that might be worth a browse. How could they?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Wagamama Is Shit

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was, in fact, not written by me, but by my good friend Mike, who has no blog or Blogger ID. I would just like to take this opportunity to say that if anyone who has no blog wants to email me something they've written, I will happily publish it, and I won't steal the credit. Honest.

I’ve been to Wagamama twice and both times it’s been depressing. I’ll take you through two examples I encountered on the menu:

Chilli Beef Ramen: Translation - Steak in a bowl of watery soup.
Menu Entry: Mmmmmmmm the steak tastes like it’s been boiled and the soup tastes like watery diarrhea after a night of drinking and vindaloo. All for the head hurtingly reasonable price of £9.95. Yay.

The person I was with at the time got this:

Chicken Katsu Curry: Translation - Rice, chip shop curry sauce and chicken nuggets.
Menu Description: As you eat you feel a sense of self loathing for just spending £7.50 on chicken nuggets, curry sauce and rice that has just been cooked for you by someone who, if he didn't work here, could be cooking the same chicken nuggets and curry sauce in your local chippy. You then realise the only reason it could ever justifiably cost this much is if the nicely shaped piles of rice are fashioned by a specially trained artist hedgehog who makes self-portraits.

Wagamma is described as fusion cooking… It’s a fusion of really easy to cook food, made badly, with rice or noodles, uncomfortable primary school benches and a crap name… Well done.


Instead buy some chicken nuggets (at most £2 if you want Captain Birdseye’s good stuff) some curry sauce (50p) and rice (fuck all) and then spend about £1.50 hiring someone for 10mins to cook it for you. Go sit on a bus shelter bench near a busy road during rush hour and eat it. It's that quality Wagamana experience recreated exactly, for less.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Radio Silence? If Only

My dad drove me back to the station the other day, and he did something I haven't done in quite a long time. He switched on a commercial radio station. Me, I only ever listen to Five Live these days, since the hours I tend to want to listen are around 1 until 4 in the afternoon, coincidentally the time that nice Simon Mayo is on.

The station he listened to was Kerrang, or perhaps I should say KERRRANNNGG!!!!, since the purpose of the station appeared to be as loud as possible. It's been quite a while since I used to listen to metal music, and I'd forgotten quite how proud of their own stupidity its followers are. The experience was very funny, I have to say.

First of all, a caller rang in with a request. They didn't have it. So he requested something else. They didn't have that. He requested another two or three things, all of which they didn't have. I should point out that these might have been album tracks, but they were by bands that even I had heard of, and I know nothing about any music that isn't house, electro or techno. It was becoming painfully obvious that they only have about one hundred tracks that they can actually play. So the caller requested something else. They couldn't play that because it had been on an hour earlier. So he requested something else, and they didn't have that.

'This is a joke, isn't it? I mean, this is a wind-up?' asked the bewildered caller.

'No', replied the DJ, trying to save what little face he could at this point.

'Oh well, keep on rocking'.

Then they played a song by Avril Lavigne, and then, after a few minutes of appropriately dreadful commercials (seriously, radio commercials are the absolute nadir of existence) they played a trail. It went something like this:

'We'd rather live in sex slavery in Manchester than ever play a bad song'.

The next track was the debut single of Sum 41. There was an irony in this that I suspect might have passed unnoticed by the station producers.

The whole thing reminded me of the parody radio station V-Rock that was on GTA: Vice City, but with worse music and slightly lower standards of professionalism. Certainly that trail was just as hilarious, though unintentionally, as anything from the parody.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Grumpy Redux

I watched 'Grumpy Old Men' the other night - for the first time since my rant, and I'm sad to say that, if anything, the situation has deteriorated. The 'grumpies' were busy complaining that they are now more famous for their appearances on the whinge-a-thon than they are for whatever else it was made them semi-famous in the first place. You may imagine my eyes boggling somewhat at this point, as I tried to process the fact that these men were trying to enlist my sympathy. This, I take it, is deified grumbling being given a postmodern edge, Grumbling 2.0 as it were. You see, expressing their annoyances has created a whole host of annoyances in itself!

Now, to most other people, this could be written off as Sod's Law, or as the price you have to pay for being indulged in the narcissistic fantasy that the programme constructs around its contributors. However, this is a programme on its last legs, with an ever-dwindling number of contributors, and the BBC is trying to drain the last milk out of the udders of this erstwhile cash cow, so there are no boundaries left to observe, no point at which a producer would step from behind the camera and say, 'hold on, do we really imagine anyone cares about this any more?'

The problem is it attempts to recast middle-aged men in the role of victim, but since its contributors are presumably comfortably off and living a life that must seem fortunate, if not glamorous, to many of the programme's potential viewers, it cannot help but seem like a trivial exercise in empty narcissistic self-indulgence. In Nick Hornby's 'How To Be Good', the protagonist's husband is a local newspaper opinion columnist entitled 'The Angriest Man In Holloway' or some such. Lacking much in the way of material deprivation to bemoan, and being rather shallow and self-centred, his columns complain most frequently about such trivialities as the small tubs of ice cream that you get in the interval at the theatre. He pours out invective far beyond proportion to the (mostly imagined) offence, and as a result, Hornby suggests, becomes a vain, empty, cynical shell of a man. Such, it would seem, is the fate of the 'grumpies', searching ever lower in the unwritten rules and roles of modern British life to find untapped material.

For I could almost forgiven the programme its cynicism and its relentless negativity if it weren't for its banality. This angered me previously:

'The programme cleverly frames its arguments in such a way that if you only half watch it, you find yourself vacantly nodding in agreement, but in reality their arguments don't stand a moments consideration. For instance, they spent five minutes going on about what a 'con' bottled water is. All of them admitted to buying it. Here's a radical idea - instead of whining, why don't you just stop buying it?'

Yet if bottled water was bad, the edition that aired last night, which I will charitably assume has been screened before, reached so far into the barrel of cliche that they complained about peoples enthusiasm for Tim Henman, and Wimbledon devotees' apparently counter-intuitive willingness to cheer on 'Tiger Tim' despite the fact that he loses (used to lose) in the quarter or semi finals every year. This is such a frequently repeated meme in popular culture that it was passe even before it became irrelevant (Andy Murray is now the crowd-drawer at Wimbledon). There is simply no way in which observations on this subject can be presented as new or fresh, and wholly unsurprisingly, these banalities disguise the cynical negativism of attitudes that Britain must always be an also-ran in sporting events. I couldn't care less about rugby, but you never heard the 'grumpies' praise England's win the rugby World Cup - of course not, because the very title of the programme insists that every utterance must be negative, must be accusatory.

There was one other grumble I saw before my friend switched the channel in disgust - the 'grumpies' complained that the liquid that comes out of coffee-machines tastes the same no matter what button you press. Those with even a faint recollection of the works of Douglas Adams will recall that he made a similar observation in 'The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy', which entered the public domain 29 years ago. Typically, Adams fictionalised observations are a million times more humorous, as Arthur Dent is forced to explain to the alien drinks machine that refuses to give him a decent cup of tea, all about Ceylon, the East India Company, the British empire, tea on the lawn and so forth. Dent's exchange with the machine is one of the highlights of the novel, a microcosm of the bureaucratic obstructionism that is the novels key theme. Contrast that with some playwright I'd never heard of saying that he thought these cups of tea might be made of cat-shit. Arf Arf.

Somebody, please put this lame programme out of its misery.


A Bad Doctor Joke

Would you believe it, I was actually considering giving up blogging, but then I switched on the radio today and a very joyous sound emerged. It was the sound of self-proclaimed "PR Guru" Max Clifford beating a hasty retreat.

For those not British, Max Clifford is a very famous publicist. He is very good at getting celebrity clients into newspapers or out of them depending on their mood. He is extremely good at his job. He is also a horrible, sleazy little man, famous for representing some not exactly wonderful people, like OJ Simpson.

However, most of my personal distaste for the man comes on a more abstract level. To demonstrate, let me quote a sentence from his Wikipedia entry:

'In light of Clifford's view of the deteriorating state of the NHS, and the moral difference with members of the John Major Government, Clifford worked to expose stories to help the Labour government in to power.'

Unfortunately, the personal views of this man end up being troublingly important in national life. I don't suppose he has a greater idea about the state of the NHS than I do, but obviously, if He thinks so, then it must be true, and the stars must be re-ordered to give the heavens a new look.

One of the not-too-nice people Max Clifford represents is 'Dr' Gillian McKeith, who is a snake-oil salesman television nutritionist. Her programme consists of her volubly berating fat people for their poor lifestyle choices, and dressing up a certain amount of common sense diet advice (eat more fruit and vegetables, eat less crisps and meat, that sort of thing) with a whole host of pseudo-scientific nonsense about chlorophyll in your intestines and the belief that complex dietary information can be gleaned from examining facial pimples or the tongue, or, most famously, by examining her subjects' fecal matter.

What so annoyed Mr Clifford today is that Mrs McKeith is no longer allowed to call herself a doctor in her advertising materials (don't suppose she'll change her URL though), owing to somebody complaining about her questionable 'academic' qualifications to the Advertising Standards Authority. Obviously, I don't hold with things like that, but to the extent that it appears to be causing a wider debate about the worthlessness of her advice, with a four-page demolition of her by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian today, I'm happy as can be.

My personal reason for disliking Mrs McKeith is that she is part of a new television trend that not only allows bullying and humiliation, but positively encourages it. Every week on her show, various fat people are cajoled into denouncing themselves and their lifestyles, with the shrewish Mrs McKeith loudly chiding them for all their transgressions. It is sanctimonious, nasty viewing, and the fact that much of it is wholly unscientific only compounds matters.

It is somewhat ironic that Mrs McKeith specialises in examining people's shit - though whether doing so is much more accurate than reading the future from tea leaves is up for debate - since she is represented by Mr Clifford, who is of course something of a turd himself. Their dual misfortune cheered me up immensely.


Monday, February 05, 2007


First, Get Your Own House In Order . . .

Back in Stourbridge to watch the Super Bowl, and found an advert in my parents' for a company called Richards Roofline Ltd. They may, for all I know, be the best roofing contractors in the Midlands. What I do know, however, is that the front of the advert is mostly made up of a list of local addresses the company has recently fitted stuff at. One of these addresses is 94 Wassell Road. At the top of the advert, in very small lettering, it says:

Reg Office:
94 Wassell Road

Is it not perhaps not a tiny bit disingenuous to list any repairs you, as a building contractor, have done on your own property as some kind of CV-boosting achievement?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


A Joke That'll Move Your World

I was playing my mate at pool the other day. I accidentally potted the white, so he had two shots. He potted on the first, and missed on the second. He turned to me to ask if it was still his turn at the table.

'Do you play carry?' he asked.

To which I replied: 'I did once try playing 'Carrie', but she kept moving the balls.'

This would have been an amazing joke if he'd ever fucking heard of it. Sometimes, my wit is my own worst enemy.


Friday, January 26, 2007


Aunty Knows Best?

Paul Dacre, the editor of The Daily Mail, has claimed that the BBC is 'culturally Marxist'. No-one seems to be quite sure what he means - least of all, I'm tempted to suggest, himself - however, reading between the lines, he seems to be levelling a charge of collective left-liberal groupthink at the organisation. There is a fairly clear argument that this, at least, is not a wholly unfair charge. One need only look here for those disgruntled at the Beeb for this bias, and that blog features fairly prominently an article by Andrew Marr in which he admits that this is his impression too.

None of which should matter. I don't personally care what the opinions of BBC newsreaders are, and I reckon most people are intelligent enough to work out for themselves whatever their opinion on a story is, without having to be spoon-fed it. The trouble is, we are forced to care by the way the BBC is funded, through a mandatory, non-means-tested licence fee.

The licence fee system of funding has just been renewed for another ten years, but it gets increasingly hard to justify this. Matt C reveals, while making another point, that '[only] 2.6% of the national audience . . . are in the icy grip of BBCs 3, 4, News 24, Parliament and CBeebies.' All BBC channels put together only make up just over a quarter of television viewing. What's more, The Economist showed that:

'Poorer, less educated viewers seem to be turning away, too. Serious material suffers most when people move to multi-channel television, says Ofcom, and particularly in poorer households. The BBC's “Correspondent”, “Newsnight” and “Horizon”, all current-events programmes, are watched by only half as many multichannel homes as by terrestrial-only homes. ITV's “Pop Idol” is watched by only 16% fewer. The drop in “Newsnight” viewing was 17 percentage points greater among poorer viewers than among richer ones. Soap operas, light entertainment, daytime TV, sport and lottery programmes attract a much higher proportion of poorer viewers, the corporation notes.'

'The result, says a BBC executive, is that “we are over-serving white middle-class 55-year-olds.” The BBC is trying to do something to widen its audience. In 2002, for example, realising that it was hardly reaching young black people, it launched a digital radio station called 1Xtra, modelled on pirate radio.'

Even if it weren't the case that the licence fee was deeply unfair on sheer economic terms, it certainly is unfair in a multichannel world. Unable to attract younger and poorer viewers - despite what I suspect many would argue is trying too hard - the corporation is failing in its public service remit. The licence fee is a tax levied by those who can most afford it and get most out of it on those who can least afford it and get least out of it. It should be ditched as soon as possible - those ten years can't go quickly enough.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007



EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was, in fact, not written by me, but by my good friend Mike, who has no blog or Blogger ID. I would just like to take this opportunity to say that if anyone who has no blog wants to email me something they've written, I will happily publish it, and I won't steal the credit. Honest.

On my way home from University I concluded two thing. The first after overhearing someone one a bus say "I’m going to hit the books, then hit bed".

I think that all people that use hit before an object to say that they are going to do something involving the object should be hit in the face with that object. This should be enforced much in the same way as the tango adverts of old.

My second revelation was far more profound and wide reaching and could solve two major problems of modern society. Chavs or scallies, call them what you will are a pain in the arse. Always beating people up robbing houses, spitting (if you’re a chav reading this I don’t mean like a “grangsta rappper spittin lyrics”, I mean how everyone else uses the word) and breaking things. Bastards.

Emo kids are the second, less in your face but equally irritating, group who spend there time crying and whining about life being so hard. Boohoo.

A government enforced policy of breeding of the two together would lead to well rounded individuals who are neither annoyingly whiny or try to attack because you “looked at them wrong”. The whininess and agressiveness would balance each other out.

This equation proves it:

Chavy aggression + Emo whininess = Normal individual.

Problem solved…

Although on a small minority of cases there is a chance that this could lead to the worst of both worlds, a chavmo. This “person” would beat the shit out of you for no reason then cry about it while playing shitty, whiny music near your pummelled remains which would be infinitely worse then either one on its own.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Cameron Chameleon

Compare and contrast:

'Politicians 'should meddle' in family life'


'I am Thatcher's heir!'

Sounds to me like the worst of both worlds. In fact, the corruption is maybe even more relevant - 'the worth of boast worlds'.

I've decided my advice for the next election already - 'vote Loony, vote often'.

By the way, chameleons generally don't change their colour to camouflage themselves - that's something of a myth. They actually change them when there is a change in their physical or psychological wellbeing. So there.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Ha, World - In Your Face!

Well, it turns out I was right after all. After being wrong. However, let's focus on the fact that I was right in the end.

You may recall that a while ago Sony brought out an advert for their Bravia television featuring thousands upon thousands of coloured balls bouncing down the hilly streets of San Francisco.

I initially argued that practical reasons made this impossible, and that it must have been painstakingly CGI-ed. Boy, was I wrong, as these beautiful photos show.

Well, they proceeded to do a sequel with paint, which you are sure to have seen. Having been once burned, I proceeded to argue against everybody I knew that the advert was accomplished wholly without CGI. Nobody believed me - and they were all wrong:

'Our latest TV ad - featuring massive paint explosions - took 10 days and 250 people to film. Huge quantities of paint were needed to accomplish this, which had to be delivered in 1 tonne trucks and mixed on-site by 20 people.

The effect was stunning, but afterwards a major clean-up operation was required to clear away all that paint!

The cleaning took 5 days and 60 people. Thankfully, the use of a special water-based paint made it easy to scrape-up once the water had evaporated.'

Looks like I was right after all. More cracking photos here.

I apologise unreservedly for the infantile nature of this post. Can I have a free TV now Sony?

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Blogger The Weird

I hadn't used the draft function before - apparently it slots posts halfway down the page if you've written things in the more recent past, so I feel I should point out that I haven't totally abandoned you, I have been beavering away (as if!) on this. If you have comments, please comment under that post!

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