Friday, February 07, 2014

Sochi Olympic anthem

There lives a certain man in Russia today
He's big and strong, some of his best friends are gay
He confuses gayness and paedophilia
But to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear
He can rig elections like in North Korea
The untouchable liar
But he's also the kind of leader
All men would desire

Vlad, Vlad, Vlad Putin
Pictured topless yet again
You protest far too much
Vlad, Vlad, Vlad Putin
Wrestling a bear again
You're so handsome, you're so butch.

He rules the Russian land as if he was the czar
He often poses for photos without a bra
Always posing by raging waterfalls
Inviting the Russian people to admire his balls.
A political Machiavelli
He's cunning as a fox
But he can't laugh from the belly
Because of all the botox

Vlad, Vlad, Vlad Putin
Swimming in a lake again
It's the love that daren't speak it's name
Vlad, Vlad, Vlad Putin
Playing soldiers yet again
Deny at will, but we all know you're game

Vlad, Vlad, Vlad Putin
Poisoning the tea again
He holds no truck with dissenting ways
Vlad, Vlad, Vlad Putin
Tits out on a horse again
A total icon to all of the gays

With apologies

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Thoughts on maths education

Today sees the publication of the latest Pisa report about maths, science and reading education in OECD countries. Now, I'm not an educationalist, so I'm not going to pontificate about teaching methods or best practice - there but there are two main points that won't be made in the debate over this report that won't be that I think are worth mentioning.

The first is that the Education Secretary, who is still Michael Gove for some reason, is likely to say that these results are likely to be a reflection on the previous government's education policies. He'll say that his ideas will only be judged after a decade or so of operation. Now therein lies the problem.
Even if you are one of the few that think Gove's policies are good for the youth of today, they won't get a decade. No system ever has - at least not in my lifetime. No single cohort goes through their whole school life under a single system, so no judgement can ever be made on anyone's education policies.
Over the last 30 years, we've only had two changes of government, so it's not even that under an 18-year Conservative regime we had a single system, nor in the 13 Labour years that followed. Each minister with the education brief changes things and the member responsible changes every couple of years or so. No system is ever given a chance to work so no single set of exam results can ever be taken to justify or blame anyone for anything.

The big issue with maths teaching and, more importantly, maths learning in this country is cultural. It remains acceptable to laugh and say "oh I'm terrible with numbers, me" when failing to perform a simple addition or subtraction. This ought to be unacceptable. Innumeracy should be on a par with illiteracy. Instead, it is normal. Stupidity, especially when it comes to numbers, seems almost to be a source of pride. It's not enough to say how terrible you are with numbers and brush it off as just one of those things you can't do, like juggling or snooker. If you want to juggle or play snooker, what do you do? Learn the techniques and practise a lot. So why not maths?
Until the attitude changes - until children aren't brought up by people who revel in their innumeracy - maths results aren't likely to change greatly. Until we, as a society, stop paying too much heed to the chronically stupid - and I'm thinking here of recent snippets of 'I'm slightly famous, pay me to shove a kangaroo's bollock in my gob' I've accidentally seen - then we're always going to be on the back foot.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Top 10: Things badgers can't move

The badger cull is not going well. And you know whose fault that is, right? Yep, badgers. Accused of moving the goalposts after seeking time extensions to kill the minimum required numbers, environment secretary Owen Paterson said "I am not moving anything - the badgers are moving the goalposts.
With that in mind, here are the top ten things badgers can't move:

10. Any mountain

9. It

8. A piano

7. India's intransigent position on using the DRS

6. You to tears

5. Like Margot Fonteyn

4. Like Jagger

3. It's money to an offshore tax haven

2. On from lost love

1. Goalposts

Friday, October 04, 2013

How do you feel?

How do you feel?

It's a simple enough question.

What I want to say is;
I ache.
Not physically, but every time I think, it hurts.
I feel empty.
I've nothing left to give.
My self-confidence is shot to bits.
I constantly question my own abilities in all walks of life.
I haven't slept properly in months, maybe years.
Going outside is scary.
People bother me.
Some days I wake up with a crushing sensation in my chest, pinning me down in bed.
I fly off the handle at the smallest thing, sometimes at nothing.
What I portray as sarcasm is often the bitterness I actually feel within.
I can't concentrate.
Can't focus.
Tasks which used to be simple aren't any more.
I want to kick things
Because anger is all I've got now
And violence is the only way I can think to express it.
My attention span has reduced to...
Nothing makes me happy any more.
Things I used to do for fun bore me, feel like chores.
I've no drive, no enthusiasm, no energy.
I hate getting older.
I hate being me.
I hate everything.
I feel so alone, even in a big group of people,
Even surrounded by people who I know care about me.
I want to run away, hide and cry.
And I know it's irrational - that's the most frustrating thing.
I know it becomes self-fulfilling,
That believing it will get worse will ensure that it does.
And I can't stop it,
Can't just switch it off and back on again.

But that's a bit much, so instead I reply;
I'm OK - just a bit tired.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The devaluation of the currency of apology

Apologies are not what they used to be.


BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner recently apologised for doing what he's paid to do, i.e. report the news. This arose in a discussion on Radio 4's Today programme about the impending deportation to the USA of Abu Hamza where Gardner revealed that the Queen had expressed surprise and disappointment that the hook-handed loon could not have been arrested earlier. Anything the royal family have to do with politics should be reported - the forthcoming release of memos from Prince Charles to various government departments is part of this too. Someone whose job is to report the news should not apologise for doing exactly that.

Andrew Mitchell further served to devalue the currency of apologies by saying sorry for losing his rag, but not for calling public servants "fucking plebs" and the general air of entitlement that a lot of the current government give off whenever they're faced by someone without the same privileged upbringing as they enjoyed. Likewise Nick Clegg, whose apology for making a pledge rather than the subsequent breaking of it, was as wide of the mark as it's possible to get. It was one of those very modern apologies which uses words like 'sorry' and 'contrite' but doesn't address the actual thing that's got people's backs up.

The more common one is for apologising if people have taken offence to something rather than for causing the offence in the first place, thereby shifting the blame away from oneself and onto the subjects of your abhorrent comments or actions. In the world of the modern, media-trained career politician, the saying sorry is seen as being a person of the people, but heaven forfend that the apology is actually related to the thing that the clamour for apology is actually about. That would be admitting a wrong, and that would never do.

We're a nation of bad apologisers. Routinely, we apologise when someone else stands on our foot in a crowded bar. But the real tipping point that has irrevocably devalued the currency of the apology came in the world of public transport. There is no apology worth less than a pre-recorded one informing you of the late running of trains. But the worst, the absolute most heinous of all the guilty parties is the otherwise humble bus.

If a bus is not in service, all that needs to be done is display the legend 'not in service'. But no. Instead, the bus companies determined at some point that the bus should also apologise for it's out-of-serviceness by adding 'sorry, I'm' to the front of 'not in service'. In the most egregious of circumstances, this is followed up with a sad face. By adding the 'I'm', they infantilise the whole of society as well as devalue the apology.

The endangered and devalued apology must be saved. So I urge you to stop apologising for things other people have done, don't apologise for the sake of it, ensure you are apologising for the thing you're actually sorry about and if you're not sorry, don't do it.

I'm sorry if this is controversial, but it's just the way I feel.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Dan le Sac - Space Between The Words

Formerly known as the ranty noise-maker behind poet/rapper Scroobius Pip, Dan le Sac's debut album was released last week.

After two albums as a duo – Angles in 2008 and Logic of Chance two years later – both let themselves off the leash with solo projects, Pip with Distraction Pieces last year and now this, Space Between The Words, where le Sac collaborates with a range of artists to produce something unique and stylish.

On Distraction Pieces, Pip takes a turn for the dark side, but his producer proves to be quite the magpie, flitting from style to style, artist to artist with ease and a deftness of touch that certainly wasn't present on Angles. Clearly he wasn't about to start singing, but the range and quality of the artists he's been able to work with on this album speaks volumes for the regard he's held in as a producer. There's a clear trust that he's not about to butcher their babies, their songs.

The two tracks released to the world ahead of the album are the most obvious singles. Play Along, featuring Sarah Williams White, has the air of Lily Allen's evil twin sister about it. Pip collaborator B Dolan voices Caretaker, an intelligent piece lyrically with the chart appeal of something like Gangster's Paradise. Perhaps it needs adding to a film soundtrack to push it over the top – there's certainly plenty on here that would not sounds out of place in a cinematic environment.

Memorial is reminiscent of early Portishead, Emmy the Great's sounding uncannily like Beth Gibbons, while the thumping beat – with vocals to match from Joshua Idehen – of Tuning is a foot-stomping floor-filler.

But the masterpiece is saved to last and it's the album in microcosm. Cherubs begins like a Sigur Ros record, all floaty and ethereal with an idiosyncratic percussion track. Then Pete Hefferan's vocals – he of Pete and the Pirates – kick in with a Robert Smith quality lending a Cure vibe to things, though never enough to overwhelm the unique sound Dan has been able to infuse the whole album with.

Comparisons are inevitable, but putting that to one side, this is a mightily impressive piece of work. So often, producer-led projects can sound cold, clinical, just too damn efficient. Not this; this is varied, warm and engaging. Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music seems a life lesson well lived.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's good for the goose

Prime Ministers Questions today, and what a horrible thing that has become with the sneering public-school bullies on the government front bench. The topic of strikes was brought up in carefully placed questions by backbench lackeys with designs on a proper job, to which the Prime Minister said:
"Most of them did not vote for this. Only a quarter of union members backed industrial action"

Now. Some maths. Turnout at the last election was 65% - which wasn't bad actually, especially given the mess the Commons was in after expenses and all that. The Conservatives polled 36.1% of votes cast which means that 23.47% of all registered voters considered them their preference. That's less than a quarter. So by that logic, should the oft-mooted idea of making strike ballots illegitimate unless there's a minimum of 50% of registered voters back it - as opposed to a simple majority at present - then the same should apply when electing our governments. But wait, that was what AV was all about and who was the biggest voice against that? Oh yes, the Conservative party.

Also, the hated NHS bill wasn't in anyone's manifesto at the last election, so therefore absolutely NOBODY voted for that, but it seems it's headed for the statute book anyway. Yay for democracy!

Elsewhere in his denunciation of the rights of workers to withdraw their labour as a last resort in an industrial dispute, Cameron urged members to defy the strikes to avoid inflicting "pain" on hardworking people "who pay your wages". This is a common rhetorical ruse to make it sound like public sector workers don't pay tax and are all take, take, take. We don't "pay their wages", we pay general taxation, some of which goes towards paying for public services - things which are for the support and betterment of society - and those people who are paid to provide those services are also paying into the same general taxation pot. The completely unaccountable Taxpayers Alliance are big fans of this rhetoric as are many on the right, but the use of the pejorative figure, "The Taxpayer", has entered common parlance these days, as if everything that comes out of the public purse is the responsibility of a person rather than society as a whole. It's a cheap trick, but sadly it seems to work.