Saturday, April 29, 2006


Popular Guy!

I was particularly chuffed this morning to find my 'Grumpy Old Men' rant has appeared on the official BBC webpage for the programme, which I think is rather sporting of them given the extent of my tirade.

I tell you, one of these days, the Beeb will appoint me head of programming, and then we'll see what's what. One thing's definitely for sure - 'Strictly Dance Fever' will bite the dust.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Total Naming Solutions

Critical news from the Vauxhall Masterfit Retailers Welsh Premier Division, as newly crowned champions Total Network Solutions FC hold an internet auction to find a new name for the club.

This is, to my knowledge, the first time in history a football club have put the future of their own name on eBay (temporary link). The club, who changed their name from Llansantffraid in 1997, and who have since merged with Oswestry Town, have had to change their name because Total Network Solutions (the company) has been bought by BT.

They aren't the only team in the Welsh Premier with a corporate name, though they were the first, as Airbus UK have only recently been promoted. These are indeed exciting times for Total Network Solutions, or TNS as their fans call them, as by finishing first in the VMRWPD they have earned a place in the first qualifying round for the Champions League.

Actually, I'm not sure I approve of all this. I know that teams this tiny, in leagues this small, need every shilling they can lay their hands on, but isn't having a corporate name just going too far? I went to see my own team, Chester City, last Saturday, for the first time in over a year, and I was somewhat saddened to see that the ground, which used to called the Deva Stadium, which did at least make sense even if it was a little pompous - the Romans have been gone quite a while now - can currently be found bearing the name 'Saunders Honda Stadium'. How long before the corporate trend makes its way into the English non-leagues, and then maybe even the league itself?

On Five Live, the interviewer was asking the chairman if he was worried that the winner of the eBay auction would have an 'embarrassing' name. He replied that people don't set up companies with embarrassing names. Well, no, but I still don't think Total Network Solutions is a particularly great name for a football team.

Still, one shouldn't expect much from the Welsh Premier Division, which before being sponsored by Vauxhall Masterfit Retailers was called the J T Hughes Mitsubishi Welsh Premier Division. Great stuff.

Steven Gerrard scoring against TNS during their Champions League qualifying game last year.


In other sporting news, I see Grandstand is being axed. I think I speak for almost everybody by saying I shall miss the theme tune and nothing else.


Re-Appraising The 'Lotto Lout'

Tonight brought us 'Michael Carroll: King Of Chavs' on Channel 4. It was presented by 'Fat Les' member and 'Shallow Grave' murder victim Keith Allen, who was actually trying to give a reasonably fair look at a man who has been consistently attacked and vilified in the British tabloids for the last three years.

For the handful who don't know, Michael Carroll is the former dustbin-man who won the lottery three years ago, netting a cool £9.7 million. Carroll, who had had several previous court appearances before this win, proceeded to buy an enormous mansion, buy loads of cars, which he then banger raced with, split up with his fiancee and lost contact with his two year-old daughter, had a succession of court appearances related to drugs and public order offences, got himself a posse and gave himself the moniker 'King Of Chavs.' An eventful three years then.

Carroll has consistently been portrayed as an exemplar of the dangers of 'the wrong sort' coming into the money. Detractors of the lottery, and mouth-pieces of the outraged middle-classes, particularly the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, love nothing more than to run articles on him as a sideways attempt to batter the lottery. Allen had even found a clip, which appeared to be a respectable sounding journalist with a received pronunciation accent, asking 'should people like this be allowed to win such large amounts of money?'

The lottery is just that - a game of chance. The Mail and its ilk love to denigrate the lottery, attacking some of the more outre 'good causes' it gives money to, and gleefully pointing out 'undeserving' winners, including Carroll and the convicted rapist Iorworth Hoare. However, they consistently refuse to tackle the lottery head on, and in reality, the lottery enjoys widespread support in Britain. One of the handful of sensible things Tessa Jowell has said during her time in office is the following:

'Over the last 10 years the National Lottery has become part of the fabric of life in this country. It has raised nearly £17bn for good causes and funded over 190,000 projects, changing the face of the UK forever.'

'Lottery money is not Government money. It's not distributors' money. It belongs to the people of Britain who play the Lottery. It is venture capital for their communities.'

So the Mail and the Express don't attack the lottery directly because they know they are on a hiding to nothing. Carroll has become a proxy for everything that they dislike about it, its possibility of social mobility and that the people who win aren't always the nicest bunch. Yet the press routinely misrepresent the truth, even about Carroll - they write of neighbours complaining about the noise from his banger racing, yet always conveniently fail to note that the constantly busy A47 arterial road runs next to his house, and that fighter jets regularly fly overhead. One newspaper wrote a story about him swinging from a chandelier in a posh London hotel - it was a total fabrication.

It really does beggar belief how much the press seem to wish to batter the man. Even his Wikipedia entry is unfairly biased against him. Why, for instance, did the New York Times see fit to write a story about him? Incidentally, that story repeats the fallacy about him swinging from a chandelier.

Keith Allen made a fascinating argument - Carroll, he said, has made a Faustian pact with the press. He loves the publicity (his number plate is L111 OUT), and they love the cheap chav-bashing opportunity it gives them. So steadily his behaviour gets worse and worse, and their outrage gets louder and louder, and they both win. Although, as Allen pointed out - Carroll doesn't. He's now down to his last million, and clearly rather hopes to lose it all. The situation is taking it's toll on him, and he doesn't get to see his daughter, who he genuinely seems to miss.

I don't believe for a minute that Michael Carroll is a particularly nice man. A nice man might not, for instance, have a tattoo of the Ulster Defence Force. Still, he serves as an important example of the pointless and nasty habit of snide Middle Englanders to attack working class people through the proxy creation of the chav (see 'Little Britain' and the Kaiser Chiefs for details).

In an ideal world, the press would ignore the unimportant personal dramas of Carroll's life. This would remove the oxygen of publicity that feeds his bad behaviour, and would stop the inevitable confrontations that his ostentatious display of wealth provides.

The 'lotto lout' gives us the 'Swaffham salute'.


Immediately following was 'The Godfather And The Mob', a fascinating documentary about the troubled production of one of the greatest films ever made, 'The Godfather'. The whole story was deeply engrossing, but my favourite anecdote came right at the end, as we were told by a former FBI man that the first thing they noticed after the films runaway success was that New York's real godfathers started to ape Marlon Brando's mannerisms. They began kissing when they met, kissing each other's rings, and generally behaving in a more genteel manner in front of each other. This had me laughing out loud.

Single-handedly refined America's criminal fraternity.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Beyond Good And Ebdon

Has anyone else been watching the snooker? It's been on a fair bit in the hovel simply because it's incredibly relaxing. I love the hushed voices of the commentary, the crisp suits of the referees, the fact that someone was thrown out of the arena yesterday for sneezing as Matthew Stevens was about to attempt a pot.

One thing my mate and I have noticed is that Peter Ebdon, who has just demolished David Gray (no, not the singer) in a most humiliating fashion, really looks incredibly evil.

I can't stop seeing him stroking a cat, Blofeld-like.

Apparently, he has recently relocated to Dubai. Asked why by the caricaturist that the BBC have hired to add a level of human interest to the sport, he replied that people in his tax bracket are just taxed way too much in Britain, and that good old Dubai is tax-free, and therefore wonderful.

I don't believe this is the only explanation. He's developing his own game out there, called EbdonBall, and he will take over the world with it, one snooker hall at a time, just you wait and see. Opponents he defeats will surely be vanquished.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


It's A Rich Moyles World

So over the last week, some busy, public-minded mole in the BBC has been leaking the slaries of its top radio presenters. They are, well, extraordinarily large. Suffice to say, when I was fourteen, and was guest host on one hour of hospital radio, had I known the Elysian fields of fortune that lie at the end of that particular rainbow, I might have tried harder not to say 'shit' live on air.

You want the juice? Well, why not:

Terry Wogan - £800,000
Chris Moyles - £630,000
Chris Evans - £540,000
Jonathan Ross - £530,000
Steve Wright - £440,000

Blimey. Not bad for about ten hours work a week, is it?

Terry Wogan's annual salary is equivalent to nearly six and a half thousand licence fees by itself. That apparently doesn't include whatever he earns for TV spots, like his voiceover for the Eurovision Song Contest, which must be a nice little side earner.

Chris Moyles seems to be doing rather nicely for himself too. I used to listen almost religiously to his afternoon show, but I can't listen to his, or any body else's, breakfast show, because I have a pathological hatred of music in the morning. The last thing I need when I'm groggy-headed and wiping conjunctival fluid from my eyelashes is some tuneless R&B dirge. No thanks, brother. I wouldn't mind if it was upbeat, but it almost never is. I should think his Radio 1 fellow DJ Jo Whiley is immensely pissed off with her measly quarter of a million annual salary. Quite apart from anything else, she's been at the station for four more years than Moyles. Maybe that's why she always sounds so dejected.

See, I remember the days of 'Viaduct' and 'Blobbusters'. Happy days . . .

I leave it to my readers to decide for themselves whether they reckon I view this as value for money.

Friday, April 21, 2006


A Bum Rap

Via Mark Holland, I see that the folks at 'The Sun' are busy doing what they do best - starting diplomatic crises.

Still, at least it's over something worthwile. For those not in the know, on Tuesday they printed a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel changing clothes on the beach. Excellent!

Apparently, the Germans are none too happy. The newspaper 'Bild' wrote this:

“The English are mocking our Chancellor. Where does this hatred come from?”

Uuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmm . . .

So, at the risk of being invaded (oh, come on, I've got to have one Germans-love-starting-land-wars-in-Europe joke, it is World Cup year), here is Frau Merkel:

Actually, for a lady of fifty-odd, I think she has a perfectly acceptable arse. I'd certainly far rather see hers than Tony's, let's put it that way.

I suppose I shall likely be hounded out of the country for saying this, but I tend to want Germany to do well in football tournaments. Don't ask me why; I don't honestly know. Still, there you go. I'm a mystery.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Ask A Censor

A while back, I brought you news of fines levied against American network TV stations for airing 'obscene' programmes. One of the principle reasons for the large number of complaints had turned out to be a ComplainBot run by a group called 'The Parents Television Council'.

This pressure group is run by a man named L Brent Bozell, which might just be the funniest name I've heard this week, and I was somewhat surprised - probably naively - to discover that he has a political column. How wonderful it was to have my prejudices about censors reinforced so thoroughly. The man is an odious wretch.

Shorter Brent Bozell: 'I really enjoyed reading 'Catch-22' in college, so wouldn't it be fun to turn illegal immigrants existences into a live-action version?'

Meanwhile, his site continues to be unintentionally hilarious. Consider this, from their recommendtions list (sorry, that should say 'Worst Of The Week'. Freudian slip):

'More than the other incarnations of Law and Order, SVU continues to distinguish itself as being the most violent and upsetting. The terrible images of the brutally murdered boy and graphic descriptions of torture and sadism are tremendously disturbing and too intense for just about anyone to handle, let alone children.'

Too hot to handle, eh? 'Let alone children?' Erm, you could try sending them to bed. Or how about:

'While the lives of the characters on The O.C. certainly have little to do with that of the average teenager, their behavior can be influential. The average teenager is not physically or emotionally developed enough to handle the responsibility or potential consequences of a sexual relationship and the complexity of Summer and Seth’s coupled with the recklessness of Ryan and Marissa makes for programming that does a serious disservice to its audience.'

Wow! You mean to say that most American teenagers don't get to spend all day lounging around in the pool house pouting? I'd never have guessed. Teenagers aren't physically developed enough? Lady, people can get married at sixteen. Baffling.

L Brent Bozell seems a particularly detestable character, for his constant interfering, prurient interest in sex and violence, and above all his ghastly facial hair.

I had to do it. After all, 'the children' might be looking.


While on censorship news, I meant to mention that eBay deserve a black mark. Someone there decided to arbitrarily end auctions for 'Box of the Banned' DVDs, an Anchor Bay box set that contains some of the better - or at least more noteworthy - 'video nasties'.

Quite apart from the fact that, as the update on that Melonfarmers post points out, eBay let no end of violent stuff get sold on the site (including a current auction for an uncut version of 'Anthropophagus' that must presumably fall foul of the Obscene Publications Act), the 'Box of the Banned' can be bought not only from Amazon, but also from Virgin and HMV. What, really, is the point of blocking sales of that, but not of items that are actually illegal?

Illicit materials.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The Lost World Of Alison Graham

I managed to catch most of 'The Lost World Of Friese-Greene' on BBC2 tonight. For those who didn't see it, Dan Cruikshank, everyone's favourite panama-hat wearing, avuncular figure, was driving through Britain in an old, 1920s car. He was re-tracing the route of Claude Friese-Greene, who in 1924 drove from Lands End to John O'Groats in just such a car, filming much of what he saw along the way. What's more, he did it in colour, allowing those of us somewhat younger than the first days of colour TV a rare chance to see the world before it in all its glory.

Interesting stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. In many respects, the programme was a delight, although also a slow and contemplative one, as Cruikshank, never one to hurry, busied himself with stopping at vegetable stalls to talk to venerable old boys and examining vintage postcards. Nothing was blown up, let's put it that way.

However, as with everything in my life, I can't enjoy something without an attendant niggle. In her otherwise perfectly reasonable praise of the programme in the Radio Times, reviewer Alison Graham wrote the following:

''The Lost World' is a delightful peek into a Britain that now seems so very far away, in every possible sense. (And is it just me, or did people seem to enjoy themselves so much more back then?) Though of course Friese-Greene wasn't to know this, the fact that the idyll would end with the looming Depression and later, with the Second World War, makes it all the more affecting.'

Got that? People didn't enjoy themselves more, or a bit more, or that much more, they enjoyed themselves 'so much more'. Really? I don't believe it. Graham is busy being nostalgic for an age that she never knew on the basis of pretty thin evidence, if you ask me.

Remember, in 1924, the First World War had only been over half a decade, and together with a flu outbreak that really was a pandemic, Europe's population had been considerably more than decimated. Most people were incredibly poor by today's standards. My grandparents weren't quite born, and it would be another thirty years before they didn't have livestock living in their back yard (I use that term advisedly). None of this is to say that people weren't happy - as if it were possible to measure such a nebulous concept anyway - but merely to point out that this 'golden age' had its own problems too. Graham really bases her judgement on nothing more than the fact that people were smiling for the camera. However, it seems to me that this reaction is more likely to be predicated upon their happiness at being filmed, when this was an incredibly novel experience, at a time when cinemas were just becoming more widespread, rather than because they were all totally satisfied about everything.

Admire the footage for what it is, Ms Graham. There's no need for dreamy, speculative nostalgia. After all, you've never had it so good.

Uncle Arnold didn't realise the danger of sitting near working parts on his combine harvester.

Saturday, April 15, 2006



Well, I'm off on holiday for a few days. I shall probably be back Tuesday evening. In the meantime, please have a browse through any recent posts you may have missed, and comment! If I wanted to talk to myself, I could do it from the comfort of my own bed, without the wanker's cramp, hunchback and squinty eyes that are the inevitable concomitants of me sitting in front of a keyboard. Other than that, have a nice Easter.

Oh, and if you get fed up of all the Godliness and stuff, you could always have a watch of 'Forklift Driver Klaus', arguably the best, and certainly the most succesful, short film ever made. It's ostensibly a safety video, but ends up being drenched in gore as Klaus totally screws up his first day at his new job. Quality stuff. Does cost £1.99, but trust me, you'll never spend two quid in quite such an entertaining way again.

Not the most succesful at his job.


Grumpy Old Me

So I'm back, safely ensconced, at my parent's house for a short while. This comes with myriad frustrations. Take last night, for instance.

For reasons that I can't be arsed to go into, only one television in the house picks up digital. So at ten o'clock last night, I got myself a beer, picked my favourite seat, and plonked myself down. On E4, after all, was 'Ghost Busters', a film of which I have cherishably fond memories. Now, I know it really isn't cool for anyone who professes to like films to like 'Ghost Busters' - it is a bit naff, to be fair - but hey, it was one of the first films I ever saw and it does have some great one-liners.

Problems. My parents had gone out somewhere, doing whatever it is old people do on Friday nights, but my dad had taped 'Grumpy Old Men'. For those of you who have the good fortune not to be acquainted with this programme, it features middle aged (almost uniformly white and upper middle class) men, who happen to be moderately famous, whinging about everything under the sun. Unfortunately, it was on at the same time, and this particular television will only display the channel that is being taped.

Well, you might imagine my language. It was, I admit, intemperate. I flung cushions at the television. I swore like Ball Bag. I tore whole tufts of hair out of my head. Here I was, trying to watch a film, and instead I had to listen to these fucking tedious, superannuated old twats droning miserably on about all life's minor irritations, as if anyone really gives a shit what John O'Farrell thinks about anything whatsoever. 'Oh, oh, they don't play the national anthem after films at the cinema any more'. Who gives a shit? Grow up and act like you've got a pair!

Then, in one of the singularly most frustrating moments of irony ever to occur, they started having a go at Bill Murray, star of the very film I was trying to watch! One particular geriatric duffer who was such a non-celebrity I didn't even recognise him, was having a go about basically everything Murray has done for the last five years.



What is even the point of 'Grumpy Old Men'? 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?

Then they started moaning about how confusing it is when the gas board provide you with electricity. Not for anyone with more than 80 IQ points it isn't. One of them even complained that he just wanted companies to provide their original services, and only to have a choice of one for everything. In other words, he wanted to nationalise everything. 'I don't mind paying a few quid more', he said. Well you want to try living like I do then mate, struggling to pay the bills from quarter to quarter, and then you'd understand why some of us like it if the gas board can provide the electricity for a cheaper rate and don't care if it's what they're 'supposed' to do. Fucking pompous twat. Oh, it's alright for those with the money, who can sit there nodding in agreement, because twenty quid a quarter doesn't make any difference to them, with their nice media salaries. They can all fuck right off.

Everyone else in life just shrugs off the minor irritations of life like bottled water and confusing bills. Why do these people get a special platform to whinge? And while I'm on the subject, can Geoffrey Palmer please stop pretending in his narration that it is 'brave' and 'transgressive' to hear the worldview of pompous, liberal, urbanite, upper middle class white males, given that this demographic also produces most of the nation's news readers, politicians, judges, op ed columnists, think tank members and general, all-round opinion formers?

The day I care what Des Lynam thinks about anything will be the day the world stops turning, hell freezes over, and Ashlee Simpson starts singing in live television performances.


I've been Pooterlanched! Welcome Pootergeek readers. I've put the kettle on, make yourselves at home - just don't put your feet on the sofa.

Friday, April 14, 2006



I have been busy enjoying the highlife recently. I've started a course of reflexology. That link contains all sorts of assertions by skeptics that it's useless, but I really don't care - I've never been as relaxed in my life. Seriously, it is the most blissful feeling ever. Highly recommended (though not cheap).



I have also posted here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Navel Glazing

TV schedulers at it again. Tonight, for the second week running, I was faced with the choice of 'The Apprentice' or 'Grand Designs.' For the second week running, I plumped for the latter - well, after all, if we middle classes can't watch aspirational property programmes, then what can we watch?

I haven't yet seen any of this series of 'The Apprentice'. Anyone know if it's any good? I loved what I saw of the last series, though I can't remember it very well, but the timings of this series have conspired against me.

What I have been watching, on afterwards, is 'The Armstrongs'. What a fantastic programme. I never saw the programme from which they sprang, but I have watched almost all the episodes of this series, sadly finished tonight. For those who don't know, it follows the exploits of the husband and wife team managing Coventry's third largest double glazing company. Oh, and it definitely isn't a fake - which is probably reasonable, when you think about it; it's too just too bizarre to have been imagined.

John Armstrong is quoted by the Guardian as saying:

'"Our creed is making money," says John, pumping ketchup onto a Ginsters Peppered Steak Slice.'

'"Shocked? Let me put it this way. Would you be surprised if you took loads of Eskimos and put them in the zoo and they shot all the seals through the fucking head? No? Exactly. We're the Armstrongs and if there's an opportunity, we'll get fucking money out of it. That's what Thatcher's done to me, the bitch. She's brainwashed me. Do you think I want to be in double-glazing? I love it. I LOVE IT. But do I want be doing it for the next 16 years of my fucking life?"'

It's hard to know what to say to that, isn't it? Rob Lyons drew a parallel between the Armstongs and Neil and Christine Hamilton in this column, and there is a similarity there, both couples being apparently utterly devoid of self-awareness.

John, in particular, clearly loves being forthright. The series was full of staff walk-outs, disagreements, and the memorable decision by the management to cancel the Christmas party at the last minute. John didn't appear too bothered about what his staff thought of him, but the cause is there for all to see. To quote the Guardian again:

'What do they think of their staff? "Twats," says John. All of them? "They're all equal in terms of twattishness." Surely some have been likable? "We like them. But you can like ice cream and it'll still make you fat. Do you like being fat? I don't," he says, grabbing his stomach with both packed antechamber throbs the hands [sic sic sic sic sic sic!]. "But I love ice cream."'

It's been a bizarre viewing experience. I have spent as much time watching through my hands, or shouting 'You twat! How could you possibly think that's a good idea?' as I have being forced by John to pontificate on the weightier issues the programme, perhaps inadvertantly, raises. Just tonight, the humour quotient was high indeed. They set up a sign-making business, which consisted of luminescent paints being back-lit by blacklight - not a bad idea, as these things go. They decided to take it to an exhibition in Las Vegas. Quite apart from their side-splittingly funny decision to both wear turquoise shoes, John was employing yet more bafflingly inappropriate business analogies.

'It's like turning up at King Arthur's court with a napalm bomb', he enthused. Almost nobody had shown any interest in their stall. 'It's like going to medieval jousting with a machine-gun, and they all put down their broadswords, 'cos I've got a machine-gun.' Or something like that, anyway. Later, he compared himself to Attila the Hun. Actually, given the way John treats his staff, that comparison might not be too far wide of the mark.

I particularly like the way the programme was filmed. In between scenes, we were constantly given shots of the grim, wet, hopeless Coventry skyline, or close-ups of fag butts in the car park. 'The Armstrongs' captures the post-industrial Midlands perfectly. Even the staff looked the epitome of hopelessness, especially in the dental hygiene department. John can treat his staff like crap, and still they will stay, because where else can they go? The workers there would have been working in the car plants years ago, but they are gone, in the case of Jaguar, and going, in the case of Peugeot.

I don't know whether we shall see the Armstrongs again. I certainly hope so, although now, according to the Guardian article, they are made people, moving at least part time to the south of France. Let's leave the final words to John, shall we?

'"I want to make pop videos. I want to be in Heat. I want to get into politics and bee-keeping. I want to touch bees. Bond with them. I'm going to write a poem about an old man who keeps bees. He dies. The bees are devastated."'

What else is there to say?

As my mate would put it, 'mad as toast.'

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


What A Terri-ble Idea

Remember Terri Schiavo?

I certainly remember the bitter feelings and arguments that ended up in this thread. I was pretty bored by the story at the time - she was dead either way, get over it everyone - and unfortunately, everyone with an opinion now has a second chance to shout it from the roof-tops. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

'Terri Schiavo: The Movie'

Think I'm joking? I'm not. To quote the link:

'According to Marvin Minoff, Farrell's partner and another of the producers, "The story is almost Shakespearean in the warring of the families and the great love story between the [couple] ... It starts off so beautifully and then ends so chaotically."'

Yes, that is kind of the point. It's not quite Romeo and Juliet, though, is it? In true American fashion, Michael Schiavo wiped the tears from his cheeks, stood up straight, manly and tall, and thought to himself - how can I make money out of this? So he wrote a book, which is now going to be a movie, and it's going to cause everybody who threw their one-cent's worth in last time to do the same again.

I can't wait.

Me? Cashing in? Never!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Festival Of Reading

Goodness me, what a shitty day. It is absolutely pissing it down outside my window, and it's well windy, too, so there's sheets of water flying about.

I'm supposed to be ringing recruitment agencies today to see of anyone wants to give me a job, but I don't want to work, I want to carry on lying on my bed reading 'Cloud Atlas' and pretending I'm intellectual, except I only heard about because of the Simon Mayo book reviews, and anyway Richard & Judy recommend it, so how clever can it really be?

I should be reading something more worthy. Joseph Joubert once said:

'The worst thing about reading new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.'

True that.

I've been thinking about books today, as a result of visiting Hutton and Bogol, who link to these book reviews, by 'Nanx Hedwerp', which are bloody funny. A sample for your delectation:

'Of Grammatology' by Jacques Derrida:

'There are a number of books on the market whose titles begin with "Of" ("Of Mice and Men," "Of Course I Can Cook") and I have generally enjoyed them. This particular work is less satisfying on a number of levels, not the least of which is its rather uncompromising use of the letter "P." Still, the plotting is exciting, the characters vivid and their portraits poignant. But in the end, can it really be said that the structures of perception inherent in our language can reveal parallel structures of domination and oppression in the political world? More importantly, can it really be said without using the letter "P" quite so much?'

'Readers who are interested in this subject matter may want to investigate some of the later works of Sean Hannity and Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose treatises on language and morality used a much richer selection of hard consonants.'

'The Stranger (Vintage International)' by Albert Camus:

'This was the best book I read that takes place in a warm climate since "The South Beach Diet," which was a little better. Not to knock this one.'

Well funny! They're all well worth reading.

Perhaps the best ever book review for humour comes from Ivan the Terrible, who brought us news of a review of the book 'How To Avoid Huge Ships' (apparently serious) that said:

'Lacks criteria for discerning between huge ships and merely really big ships… Some well-designed lists, charts or colorful pop-up sections would have been nice for readers who were unsure what size of ship they were avoiding'

Terry from Wisconsin.

Anyhoo, catch up with y'all later, I've got a job to get.

Friday, April 07, 2006


I Was Alone In 'The Dark', And I Was Frightened!

Toddled off this afternoon to watch 'The Dark', which was a surprisingly good no budget horror film. Mom (Maria Bello) and daughter (Sophie Stuckey) go to visit dad (Sean Bean) on the Welsh coast. Sadly, daughter cops it pretty early on, getting herself drowned, the silly fool. Then she starts appearing outside the house, and mom, in trying to find her, uncovers a bizarre, but actually very clever plotline featuring everything from suicidal sheep to the Celtic afterlife. This, needless to say, was everything I need in an afternoon's entertainment.

Then, disaster struck. During one of the films quieter moments, probably one featuring Sean Bean being nice (seriously, is it even possible to dislike Sean Bean?) I tried to move to a more comfortable position. I couldn't! My right foot was actually stuck to the floor. I won't say that panic took hold, but lets say I was more than mildly peturbed. There could only be one explanation - 'the dark', the evil that had taken over the film, that the characters were trying to remove by trepanning, had taken over my body, and given my lower right leg rigor mortis.

This presented no end of problems, not the least of which was that I don't want anyone to drill a hole in the top of my skull to remove my demonic possession. I panicked for a couple of minutes. Then, with one final heave, my shoe left the floor with a terrific ripping sound, like a thousand people all undoing velcro shoes at the same moment.

Closer inspection revealed that I had merely been glued to the earth by twenty years of spilled soft drinks. I was fucking glad to be free, nonetheless. To be honest, that's how I expect to go, stuck, alone, watching a matinee performance of an under-appreciated horror film, unable to move due to molten Ice Blasts. Somehow, it actually seems a rather fitting end to my life so far.

On a rather different note, the DVD for 'The Dark' has just been released in America with almost no special features. The distributors must be more mental than a suicidal sheep. Harken to me, distributors! If you watch a comedy ten times, the same jokes, if they were good the first time, will still be funny. If you watch a horror ten times, you won't be frightened at all. Therefore, the DVD extras are more or less the only reason to buy a horror film, unless it's an absolute classic. By the time it's released in the UK, I hope that one or two treats will be installed for genre fans like me. Please!

Sean Bean contemplates a hillside full of dead sheep. I can't quite explain why, but the sheer number of dead sheep in this film made me laugh. Am I a terrible person?

Thursday, April 06, 2006


You Can Say What You Like On YourSpace, As Long As Rupert Murdoch Agrees With It

I was more or less totally unaware of the phenomenon that is MySpace until yesterday, when commenter Happyviolet told me about it.

Is there much point to it? I welcome your input on this. It just seems like a place for people to spend hours and hours mooching around the profiles of people they don't know, and probably wouldn't like, in order to strategically place such fascinating comments as 'lol' and 'wow' there.

Apparently, you have to sign a contract when you join. This contract stipulates that:

'Harassment, hate speech and inappropriate content should be reported. If you feel someone's behaviour is inappropriate, react. Talk with a trusted adult, or report it to MySpace or the authorities.'

It would seem that roughly 200,000 profiles have fallen foul of this ruling. The trouble is, it seems to me, that these are particularly poorly defined categories. After all, one man's great joke is another man's 'inappropraite content.' I suppose it's an attempt to keep soft porn off the site, but it would seem that it is possible to campaign to have individual profiles removed by continually reporting them to the moderator.

The other thing that baffles me is this notion that having hundreds of people you'll never meet signing up to be a cyberfriend somehow shows how cool you are. Alfina describes it as being 'like a ceaseless dick-measuring contest in a middle school locker room', and that sounds about right to me.

So, readers, this is your challenge - sell MySpace to me! If any of your manage to win me over, i promise to add you to my 'friends' list.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


'Our House, In The Middle Of Our Street, Our House, That Was Where We Used To Sleep, Our House'*

So I have moved back to my home town of Stourbridge. I was absolutely astonished - perhaps naively - to discover that it has a Wikipedia entry. Want to know about it?

'Much of the town is made up of Suburban streets, broken by green spaces. Stourbridge borders on green belt land, and is often suprisingly close to unspoiled countryside . . . It has been said that you could go west from Stourbridge and not encounter another built-up area until past the border with Wales.'

'It remains part of Worcestershire for postal and cricket purposes; a significant minority in the town still consider themselves to live in Worcestershire.'

I love that 'for postal and cricket purposes.' There are, of course, no other important purposes to consider. I also love the 'significant minority', as if they were a bizarre political grouping, like ETA or the Cornish separatists (and by the way, isn't 'Cornish separatists' just the most endearingly hopeless political grouping one could possibly belong to?)

It also mentions that Johnny Briggs, who was or is Mike Baldwin in 'Coronation Street' lives in the town. I can go one better than that. He actually lives about 1000 yards from where I'm writing this now. Isn't that mildly interesting?

One fact it doesn't mention is that if you stand on top of the nearby Clent Hills, if you could attach some kind of jet pack that moved you at exactly the same altitude exactly east, you would not bump into solid land until you hit the Urals. Don't say that I never teach you anything!

You might be thinking; nice place to bunk down, Steve! You would be wrong. I came back home from the pub tonight with a plan - tomorrow, I was going to go and see 'The Three Burials Of Melquaides Estrada.' This film, allegedly excellent, has been on my 'desperate to watch' list for ages - it won 'Best Actor' and 'Best Screenplay' at Cannes.

Sadly, no cinema within 100 miles is showing it. Finally, desperate, I looked it up on the BBC Cinema finder, and guess what? The nearest cinema showing it is Cornerhouse in Manchester, 30 minutes away from where I live normally.


In between writing that sentence and writing this one, I spent five minutes stapling my nose in frustration. Just thought you ought to know.

This film appears to have everything a man could want in a film - dust, prostitutes, and Tommy Lee Jones in a cowboy hat. How could all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune hit me at one moment?

*Madness, 'Our House'.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Sex and Rape - Identitical Twins Or Distant Cousins?

First of all, let me apologise for yet another (very long) serious post. I shall try and get back to what this blog is really about soon, I promise. However, a post on the new 'Comment Is Free' blog has exercised me inordinately.

The post, by Guardian science correspondent Alok Jha, obviously taking time out from his taxing day job that involves, amongst other things, doing the Atkins diet, pontificating upon the value of urine, and misrepresenting routine press releases, plunges into the murky world of sexual politics.

Jha's post, 'Lad culture corrupts men as much as it debases women', is a response to the Home Office's new campaign of 'rape awareness' posters. First of all, credit where it is due - it is well-written, and I believe well-intentioned. Unfortunately, I also believe it to be badly, badly wrong, on a level far more important than that of the quibbling about 'lad's mags' that occasionally ends up on this blog. In order to state why, I intend to do a thorough deconstruction of it. So let us begin:

'It's a typically British way of doing things. Too shy, lacking in confidence or plain incapable of working up the courage to talk to someone you fancy, you fall back on the standard social back-up plan: get drunk. Then perhaps a snog, and you pass out, waking up the next morning with a headache and questions of, er, should we maybe, er, go out sometime? You can always blame the booze if things get too embarrassing.'

This is supposedly an example of how a young man thinks. By using the formulation 'typically British', Jha immediately brings the piece to a personal note - you may have experienced this, you may have been in this situation. It is the first step on the long, rocky mountain path to the pinnacle of self-loathing that you are likely to find yourself at by the end of the post.

'But alcohol-fuelled nights don't always end with clumsy kisses and promises to call. Two-for-one deals on extra-strength cocktails and clumsy machismo can end in a messy confusion of intentions where lack of communication isn't just an endearing sideshow, but morphs into tacit permission for men to have sex with women, no matter how drunk.'

Like all good liberals, Jha starts looking for the 'root causes' of rape. He identifies two - alcohol, and 'clumsy machismo', which we soon come to see means lad's mags, yet again. Already, the eventual logical unravelling of his piece has started. We are told these root causes. We are being told, effectively, that rapists have some form of diminished responsibility. He may not even mean this, but look at the phrase 'messy confusion of intentions.' The man in our scenario needs to keep his macho image, so he's boozed up and going to have her, whether she wants it or not. It isn't wholly his fault for getting into this mental state, though, it is at least partly down to cultural phenomena. This is a dangerous road to go down.

'"If you don't get a yes, you don't have sex" - the new Home Office campaign warning young men about the consequences of date rape is a no-holds-barred assault on such behaviour. Young men might see the advertising as yet another finger pointed at them by a society that already characterises them as hooligans responsible for the drunken skirmishes outside pubs every closing time. Now their list of shameful behaviours has grown: all young men are potentially guilty of rape until proven innocent the (hungover) morning after. Even murderers aren't treated like that.'

Here, he correctly identifies a typical reaction of a young adult male to the new Home Office campaign. Indeed, it is similar to the argument I approved of here.

'So what positive impact can the Home Office hope to achieve? The problem is that the adverts, for all their finger-pointing, do not go far enough.'

We should go even further in characterising young men as drunken, hooliganistic rapists perhaps?

'Start with the images. To a bunch of advertising executives, the image of a woman's crotch wearing skimpy underwear with a coy no-entry symbol must have seemed inspired in its simplicity.'

This is the image he is talking about:

There are some very sensible points made about it here, so I won't bother now.

'To a bunch of drunk and horny men, it's just a woman in pants, as likely to excite as to force them to thoughtfully consider their actions.'

I've been looking at that picture for about five minutes now, and I can't say I find it remotely erotic. I don't suppose I should find it so were I drunk, either. Notice, too, the lazy assumptions not followed through to their logical conclusions - after all, if young blokes are going to get frisky from a picture of a woman in pants, imagine how they'll react to a real woman in a low-cut top! There is, actually, behind the feminist frontage to this piece, a strong current of Puritan thought (not that the two are always, or indeed often, that far apart). For instance, Jha clearly has a particularly negative view of human nature. Men are all potential rapists, just waiting to be excited into action by the right (or wrong) image.

'And there is something more systematic to consider: many men have been brainwashed by lad culture and its promises of easy sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Shaking them out of this will take more than a mildly titillating government advert.'

See what I mean? Young men are seen as impulsive creatures, intellectually and emotionally weak and easily manipulated - notice the use of the loaded word 'brainwashed.'

'Take any young man fresh from school, and I'll show you someone racked with confusion about how to behave around women: someone old enough to have wildly insistent sexual urges, but too young to have developed the emotional sense to know how best to deal with them; old enough to have heard of feminism, but too inexperienced to know whether this means that holding doors open and basic chivalry are no longer required.'

To me, even if this were true (and it isn't - 'any young man?' Excuse me!!!) it would suggest a need for better sex education, and for kids to be taught feminism in school. He goes a different route, and blames the old standards:

'No wonder men in their late teens and early 20s lap up magazines such as Loaded, Maxim and FHM, the publications that heralded lad culture and continue to fuel it alongside their more recent counterparts, Nuts and Zoo. They exist ostensibly to give young men a voice, reflect their passions and, crucially, tell them how to attract women.'

'But what lad culture has actually done over the past decade is to distance young men from real life by forcing them into an alluring straitjacket. It tells young men they can get all the girls they want - down some of this drink, spray on some of that deodorant, and watch the girls fall at your feet.'

They are lifestyle magazines. They sell a lifestyle. In this, they do exactly the same as magazines as varied as 'Top Gear' and 'Cosmopolitan, 'Gardener's World' and 'Woman & Home.' They just sell a different lifestyle, that is all. Young men can, contrary to what he is saying here, distinguish between the real world and a Lynx advert.

'These magazines explain in detail how to work out what women think. Fingers, elbows, shoes and anything else pointy pointing at you? She likes you. She plays with her hair? Even better. She comes home with you? Result. She says no? She's playing hard to get. She says no again? She doesn't want to come across too easy. She says no a third time? What are you, a man or not ... take control of the situation, she'll love that.'

Where to start with this? First of all, magazines telling you how to read the opposite sex is certainly not limited to lad's mags. When I was in Spain last year, with two female friends, they had a copy of 'Cosmopolitan', and it did precisely that. Editors want to sell magazines. People want sex. It doesn't take a genius to realise that if you offer tips on how to read the opposite sex in your mag, circulation will go up. However, that is a far, far cry from the insinuation at the end of this paragraph that lad's magazines encourage men to commit sexual assault, even if only tacitly.

'Add to this prescription peer pressure, rampaging hormones and a bottle or three of alcohol, and the promises of lad culture can easily overwhelm the semi-formed nougat that is the brain of the early-20s male.'

This is the part that revolts me so. How patronising can you be? Excuse me, but my brain is not 'semi-formed nougat.' Indeed, I appear to have approached this subject with far greater intellectual clarity than you yourself have managed, Mr Jha. Does he not remember being this age himself? How would he have reacted to being talked down to as if he were nothing but an imbecile, an animal with a veneer of civilisation, just stepped out of 'The Last House On The Left?'

'These magazines claim to give young men the confidence they need: an insight into the skills they require to navigate a path through their romantic lives and an understanding of the qualities that women find attractive. Instead, impressionable young men have been sold a distorted image of who women are and what masculinity is about - an image that does nothing but frustrate, degrade and humiliate them.'

I find it astounding that he can accuse lad's magazines of 'degrading' and 'humiliating' young blokes just two sentences after accusing them of being literally soft in the head. Say what you like about lad's magazines, but at least they talk to their readership as equals, rather than sub-literate cretins.

'For all the faults in its execution, the Home Office campaign does mark an interesting departure. While it is principally about protecting women, the principles behind it could help young men find a way out of a culture that requires an unchecked reliance on alcohol and machismo to have a good time.'

He is just making exactly the same lazy assumptions as he correctly negatively identified in the third quote. He doesn't even make any distinctions - all young men all want to get hammered and impress their mates. That's it. There's no acknowledgement that people rise above this crude, reactionary stereotype. You can see why Josie Appleton claimed his post spoke 'as if a culture of Puritan restraint were the only check on rape.'

'Someone needs to shout as loud as the proponents of lad culture: drink, go out, have a laugh, but, through it all, don't feel you have to bow down to the rules and ideals set down by magazines that want nothing from you but your money and dignity. Never before has there been any consistent public message that the have-it-all and take-it-all ideas behind lad culture need to be tempered with common sense and decency.'

'If the campaign encourages young men to acknowledge some of the more shocking consequences of lad culture - to recognise that they are being sold down the river by the magazines they aspire to - and if it makes a few young men stop to think when they're alone with a woman who's passed out drunk in front of them, then it will have been worth it.'

Ah, the upbeat ending. However, yet again we are being sold the same negative picture of men, who apparently are sufficiently stupid that they need 'Wise One' Jha to tell them who is and who isn't worth listening to, and behind that is still that same assumption that men aren't really capable of managing their emotions and feelings, that they need a Home Office advert to tell them not to rape.


Sadly - and I really mean that, because it is 2 in the morning and I want to go to bed - the saga doesn't end there. The comments to the post reveal the madness goes still further.

'What Alok's saying is that young men too are being exploited and patronised. Admittedly, not all men will heed the messages thrust at them, but they're everywhere, it takes constant filtering to ignore it all.'

Because without the constant filtering, the primitive within, hiding behind that civilised veneer, will take up the cudgels that are his natural station. How can anyone want to believe that this is true? Why does this view of human nature appeal so?

'Despite the Home Office's gallant efforts to tackle the (im)moral values regarding sexuality dominating our hegemonic culture, it's efforts are futile when it is considered how embedded these values are in the less obviously exploitative symbols of this culture, such as the almost universal use of female sexuality in advertising. Any attempted to tackle such universally accepted methods of advertisting would no doubt be seen (perhaps rightly) as an affront to free speech in this county.'

That would be an attack on freedom of speech. Well done. However, is the use of female sexuality in advertising 'less obviously exploitative?' How little perception are we plebs supposed to have?

A quick break for praise:

'We've also created an obvious niche for the lad mags to fill - there's just about nowhere else in the media where young men aren't bombarded with guilt about the fact they're young men. Sex, crime, education, road safety - young men? all your fault. Everyone else, feel smug and don't worry about your own behaviour. Any group that can't get the respect of society at large is going to settle for the respect of its peers, hence lad culture.'

YES! Can we make Alok Jha tattoo this somewhere on his body please?

'Whilst there may be no (provable) evidence of a correlation between lads' magazines (or, for arguments' sake, 'ladette's' magazines either) and rape crime/reported rapes, there has been - without doubt - a DECREASE in the amount of convictions of men accused of rape:,,1742641,00.html According to this article, 33% of reported rapes resulted in a conviction in 1977; it decreased to only 5.29% by 2004. One must ask, what kind of society are we living in now, where it is so permissable for men who commit sexual violence to get away with it? Why are so few rapes reported? Why are so few men convicted?'

There are dozens of answers to that. Let's turn to the Josie Appleton piece:

'Rape convictions are indeed very low compared to other crimes. This is in part because rape is difficult to prove - there are often no witnesses, little physical evidence, and it's a matter of his word against hers. Over the past few years the rape conviction rate has fallen further - the numbers of rape cases have shot up while successful convictions increased only marginally - but this is largely the result of the government's redefinition of rape. More cases are reaching court that no sensible man or woman would call rape: drunken students who woke up the morning after and couldn't remember what they had done, for example.'

In other words: because rape has been re-defined so that sex is now rape unless you have active consent - not just the absence of active dissent - lots of cases are arriving in court where there is no evidence of force, for perhaps little or none has been committed. As a result, because courts presume people innocent until proven guilty (for now), these cases can, and frequently will, fail. Appleton makes another excellent point:

'The government last week announced new measures to 'increase rape convictions'. Not to improve evidence gathering or social services, but to increase convictions, a demand that is normally restricted to totalitarian states. In the ensuing debate, everybody seemed to assume that nearly all defendants are guilty - they talked of 'rapist' and 'victim' not 'defendant' and 'witness' - and the question was simply how to lock more men up.'

Rape is exceptionally difficuly because it is so hard to prove, and it is genuinely sad that actual, real rapists can be found not guilty due to lack of evidence. However, overturning centuries of legal precedent of 'innocent until proven guilty', which is under attack by these Home Office pronouncements, will only lead further into a culture of mistrust and suspicion where people can be tried by public opinion.

One more point about this commenter. She has a blog. This blog, which is subtitled 'Diary Of A Sex Fiend', is more or less entirely about her sexual conquests. It stuns me, frankly, that she can complain about the sexualisation of culture with a straight face. I would also point out that in this post, she includes a picture of herself, minus face, wearing a revealing top. If anyone would like to explain how this is in any way different to the Home Office poster, with the exception of the fact that the Home Office poster can at least lay claim to some redeeming social importance, then I would be fascinated to hear it.

Finally, one last piece of praise:

'If "lad magazines" inspire young men to rape, would a massive influx of conservative columnists to The Guardian make its readers vote Tory? Or would they head to a different paper? Do we read The Guardian because we're broadly liberal or did The Guardian make us do it? There seems an immense cultural and class arrogance in the attitude that THEIR readers are brain dead and easily manipulated, (to rape no less) while WE are all far too clever to be affected by our reading material.'

Whew. Done.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Good Cod, I've Haddock Enough Of This Plaice!*

I have before me a copy of Thursday's 'Metro' (I know I'm way past the reasonable day to still be angry about this, but bear with me okay, I've been busy) and a couple of parts of it got me pretty riled up:

1) From the 'Letters' page:

'I can't believe Bev Bishop (Metro, Wed) blames seals for endangering Atlantic cod. Cod are being wiped out by human over-fishing, not seals. We would do much better to cull humans (the least endangered species of all, with a growth from 1.7 billion in 1900 to 6 billion in 2000) if we don't want humans to be the only animals left on the planet 100 years from now.'
Simon Smith, London SE13

I am literally fascinated with the cognitive process Mr Smith had to go through to get to his conclusion here.

First of all, he had to be bothered enough by an admittedly naive letter in a tatty, free newspaper to actually write in at all, something that most of us, even those who agree with his first point, wouldn't do. It also has to be said that his point is in some doubt - even this writer, aiming to prove that seals do not represent a danger to cod stocks, is forced to admit that there is evidence either way - so it mightn't have done him any harm to research his argument before commiting pen to paper.

Now it starts to get bizarre. He next had to measure man against whitefish - and find man wanting. I personally suspect this bizarre predilection for our piscine cousins will end when his girlfriend finds him humping the Friday night halibut, but even if there isn't something faintly perverted about this preference, it's still sickening.

I'll give you three guesses as to why this one's looking so surprised. Oh, and you've got something on your lip mate . . .

Finally, he has to measure his dislike of the human race, and, apparently without qualm or qualification, advocate genocide as an appropriate means of protecting cod stocks.

Even his last point might not be true. Humans probably aren't 'the least endangered species of all.' I should think that the rat, which produces ten offspring that will live long enough to breed per female, is probably just as secure.

I suspect that the reason people are getting tired of animal rights protesters (see, for instance, the Oxford demo) is not because of any dislike amongst Britons for animals (remember the whale?). Britons love animals. The NSPCC was founded long after the RSPCA, and it was only an offshoot organisation of the latter. Instead, what we are getting tired of is their misanthropy. Their love for animals is fine, but do they have to hate humans so much?

2) This was much less annoying, but it still grated a bit. From a report on the Grand National, where Paul and Nina Carberry will both be racing:

'When you were younger, didn't you just hate it when your little sister followed you everywhere?'

'But did she ever tag along with a whip in her hand on a big horse?'

'Spare a thought then for Irish jockey Paul Carberry, who will be up against his younger sister Nina in the Grand National at Aintree next month.'

Now, I appreciate that this is just an attempt to use a familiar register in order to engage with the readers, but don't you think it's just a little patronising? The language is positively loaded with phrases - 'little sister', 'followed', 'tag along', 'big horse' - that, maybe unintentionally, give the impression that she is nothing but a helpless little girl with no real right to be there. In fact, she is riding a horse at 40-1, while her older brother is riding one at 33-1, so really, the punters think she has nearly as much chance of winning (although odds are almost meaningless in the National).

Hopefully, the 'Metro' journalists will remember to give her a glass of warm milk and a hug before she joins the men at work.

*Please don't shoot me for that.


The Knives Are Out

'The use of metal detectors to catch people carrying knives is to be extended by British Transport Police across the UK, the BBC has learned.'

'Operation Shield was launched in London two months ago to target those carrying knives on the Tube network and trains.'

(from BBC News)

This is the latest big idea - airport style security checks for people before they can board trains, ostensibly in order to catch people carrying knives. The scheme has been tried, and has been declared 'extremely succesful' by Alastair Darling, the Transport Secretary.

It hardly needs saying that I think this is an extraordinarily bad idea. To dispense with the disclaimer - obviously, no one, including me, wants people to get stabbed. Of course. However, this latest idea, like so many of the governments other ideas, treats the nation's citizens as criminals yet to commit a crime. 10,000 people were inconvenienced in the London trials, resulting in the capture of only 68 knives. This means that 68 or less - probably less, because I bet several people were carrying more than one knife - were potentially a risk, compared to an enormous number who weren't.

However, arguing about numbers is a politicians game. I am not a politician, nor could I bear to be one, so let us talk on a more ideological plane, for I would still argue against this measure if 680 or 6800 knives had been confiscated. I have a real problem with the entire idea of a nation's populace being seen as criminals-in-waiting. Brendan O'Neill touched on this in a recent article in the Speccie (subscription required - I think):

'Under the Blair terror, you can’t even take a piss in peace. The other day, standing at a urinal in a plush cinema in north London, I found myself staring at a notice on the wall in front of me. ‘Relax, go ahead and read’, it said. ‘No one knows you’re a wife-beater. You don’t look like someone who would hit a woman.’ The ad further advised that I should not flee the setting in which I had apparently been battering my partner, because ‘we will track you down’ and ‘punish you’.'

If you have been to a pub, club, restaurant, cinema, or motorway service station any time in the last few years, and needed the loo, then you'll know exactly what sort of signs he means. O'Neill finishes his article with this:

'There was a time when public information was about, well, providing information to the public. Now much of it seems dedicated to telling us how disgusting we are. These posters show us as volatile, stupid, thoughtless and diseased; women are warned to be wary of men, men to be wary of the police, and all of us to be wary of drinking one too many. There could be no more suitable setting for such an expression of suspicion and loathing of the public than in a stinking loo.'

Both the government and the police have no end of contempt for the public. We are all just one step away from being their next problem, and boy, do they want us to know it. Frankly, I think their attitude will only make the situation worse in the long run - after all, if you treat citizens like criminals, you can hardly be surprised if they start to act like them.

The most depressing part about it is that the Conservatives are only worse:

'Conservative homeland security spokesman Patrick Mercer welcomed the move but said detecting potential bombers should be a top priority.'

'"We welcome any attempt to lessen crime on our transport system but the fact remains that 53 people were killed in the London bombings last year and we currently have no equipment of any sort anywhere in England that can detect explosives."'

So if they get in, not only will we all be potential stabbers, but potential suicide bombers as well. I can't wait.


An Offer I Can't Refuse

I always enjoy reading the Normblog profiles, even if I've never heard of, or don't really care about, the people he's profiling, since I always find it interesting to see what sort of person wastes their life blogging.

This Friday, I was particularly struck by one of the replies given, by a blogger I'd never heard of:

Q: If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose?
A: I prefer no American to George W. Bush. But can we have Tony Blair, please?

Yes! Yes, you can! Please, dear God, let something happen that makes him finally piss off and understand that he isn't wanted! For fuck's sake, he's supposed to have been on political life support for about three years now. 'Any day now', we keep being told. Well, make it happen!

A symbolic representation of 'Dear Leader' swatting away the inconveniences of parliamentary democrcy and civil liberties.

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