Monday, July 31, 2006

Friday, July 28, 2006

Beatrix Pothead

I had the tremendous privilege of baby-sitting my nephew Dominic last night. What a lovely young chap he's gradually growing up to be.
Anyway, after his bath, he didn't want to watch TV. He wanted to read a book, so we let him pick a few out and he chose the Beatrix Potter book The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. What an enormous pile of tripe. The prose is over-flowery and frankly I don't know what she was driving at in terms of a plot. Nutkin's riddles don't make a lick of sense. It's just the outpourings of a drug-addled mind. Childrens classic my arse.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"Is it wrong to agree with Malcolm Rifkind?"

That was the question put to me yesterday evening by my friend Harry. The question arises from an article penned by Rifkind in the Independent, lambasting Blair's unquestioning backing of American foreign policy and pointing out that previous disagreements (he cites Wilson refusing LBJ's request for troops in Vietnam, Thatcher clashing with Reagan over Grenada and Major with Clinton regarding Bosnia) have not irreparably damaged Anglo-US relations. Indeed, in some ways those disagreements may have forged bonds closer while also keeping the domestic voters onside re Britain's growing reputation as the 51st state.
The resultant debate between Harry and myself came to the following conclusion. Yes it is fundamentally wrong to disagree with Malcolm Rifkind even though he makes good points in the article. However he didn't go far enough as the lack of terms such as "wannabe despot" or "bit of a tosser" weren't used. Harry then decided to cleanse his conscience, scarred by agreeing with such a right winger's right winger as Rifkind, by going to do something more liberal, by which he didn't mean partaking in scatological acts with rent boys.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Worrying headline of the year

Bush remains opposed to Mideast ceasefire.

Because downing guns, stopping launching rockets at civilians and talking to each other would be ridiculous, presumably.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cinéma véritably poor

I wouldn't say I'm a film buff, but I do like a good picture once in a while. I like to widen my horizons beyond the norm as well - tricky when you only have Odeon in town, but I'll come back to that - and take in foreign stuff as well as more offbeat American/British cinema. Basically I'll watch anything and not tie myself down to any one particular genre. Watched a film last night: The Double Life Of Véronique. I've never been one for reviewing films, but I might do it sporadically and I may as well start with this one. So here goes:

Polish bird can sing a bit. Goes to Krakow with no intention to pursue it, but ends up doing anyway. Sees her doppelganger - a French bird played by the same person - on a bus. "Ooooooh", she thinks. Then dies on stage whilst singing, for reasons we know not. French bird goes home, gets a sense of loss for reasons she can't fathom. She gets stalked, bizarrely meets her stalker and invites him up to her hotel room. He wants to know stuff about her and finds a picture of the Polish doppelganger and French bird realises she's dead, but she gets a shag off stalker bloke so it ain't all bad eh? That's it, nobody cares, it finishes and we can all go and do something more worthwhile with our lives than waste 90 minutes watching that drivel, like go to the pub or watch the boxing on Sky.

24 hour party people

Some months ago, last December in fact, following the relaxation of the licensing laws in Britain, I wrote an article on the subject for the quite excellent Modern Drunkard Magazine (an American organ, so bear that in mind for what follows). It didn't get published, so I might as well stick it on here as someone might find it interesting: you never know. There are more things I'd like to address in this manner in future in regards to drink and drinking culture. Maybe one day I'll get one of them published.
Anyway, in it's entirety:

Just over a week ago, the UK's draconian licensing laws were swept away and a new era dawned. Adults are finally being treated like grown ups and pubs, clubs and bars can open and close pretty much when they like as Victorian era laws have made way for a more liberal attitude to drinking.

With apologies to people in the know, it used to work like this: pubs couldn't open before 11am and had to shut by 11pm Monday-Saturday. Sunday was 12pm-10.30pm. Shops couldn't sell alcohol before 10am. These laws were brought in in 1914, presumably to maintain a semblance of a sober population in a time of war. Even up to the early '90s, pubs were shut between 3pm and 7pm before that restriction was abolished.

Now licensed premises can open and close when they like, potentially allowing a pub to stay open 24 hours a day. In reality, few places have done this. Most bars have gone for extended hours - maybe up to midnight/1am weekdays and more at the weekend - and, in the early stages at least, that is flexible enough for the vast majority.

It's been a protracted political battle to remove the old laws from the statute and introduce more liberal rules. The right wing press were on the offensive from the outset. It was going to lead to chaos on the streets. The police would be overrun, the cells would be full. Read some of these newspapers and you would think it was doomsday. The term 'binge drinking' is a regular feature in British news. Believe all you read and you'd think that people were being forced to down as much booze as was physically possible in a short space of time. To a degree, you could argue that this was true. Having to finish up by 11pm could be considered to engender a mindset where throwing as much alcohol down your neck up to that point seemed like a reasonable idea. This is surely the point of opening up the laws - to bring in a more continental European attitude and a more relaxed approach to drinking.

Needless to say, the reality has been totally different from the nightmare scenario the right wing of the country presented. In a rare move for the ruling Labour Party, the British public have been trusted. You don't see the big queues for taxis - always a flashpoint in big urban areas. You don't need to be in town for 8pm and back out by 11. Go out when you like, drink until you don't want to any more and then go home. It makes so much sense, I struggle to work out why it's taken over 90 years to change. The whole point the right wing press missed is that nobody is being forced into drinking for longer. People are being given the freedom to drink when they want to, not only at proscribed times.

Of course, this one change has not created a utopia at a stroke of a pen. It may take years, maybe even a generation, to fully change the public's attitude to drink and drinking, but it is a hugely important and long overdue step in the right direction.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cricket: good news and bad

First the good. It seems as if South African cricket has really come of age. 14 and a bit years after their reintroduction to the Test arena, South Africa will be led by Ashwell Prince in their upcoming Tests against Sri Lanka. I do think this is an occasion worth celebrating. He is there purely on merit - none of this quota bullshit that's been going on previously, allegations of positive discrimination which 'forced' Kevin Pietersen to pursue an international career with England. Memo to Pietersen: You may have three lions tatooed on your arm, but you are still actually South African.

Bad news next. Martin Crowe is a big hypocrite. In this article on the revised throwing rules, he tucks down the leg-side a comment that Bangladesh aren't worthy of Test status because in 6 years and 44 Tests they have only won one. Compare that to a certain fledgling nation a while back who went 44 Tests over a 26-year period before winning a match. Martin; you may know which country of which I speak. It's New Zealand. I'd like to ask Crowe how he would develop the game worldwide if we were to dump countries willy-nilly as he seems to suggest. He has the forum to do so here, as anyone else reading this does.

Speaking of hypocrites, what about Pelé? The World Cup was, according to him, nothing but an excuse to sell overpriced boots to kids. Doesn't stop him from a) turning up at the opening ceremony and b) appearing in a series of Puma adverts designed to... errr.... sell overpriced footy boots to kids. I assume he wasn't being hypocritical with the erectile dysfunction ads, but that really is just guesswork.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I get my TV, phone and internet through ntl. When I logged on - not intending to add to this blog, but here we are - I was accosted by a survey from ntl. I answered all the questions quite honestly, but then they made a fatal error. There was a free-text block that asked for any other points I may wish to raise. Here, word for word, is what I wrote:

"ntl are shit. ntl's one saving grace is that they're not BT. Base your advertising round that. In fact, may I recommend a slogan: "ntl. We're shit, but we're not as shit as BT".
I think it would be a winner for you. I'm happy to help and I expect my commission to be deducted from my next bill"


I hope beyond all hope that reports today that the introduction of ID cards in Britain is to be delayed prove correct.
I'd explain my reasoning for being anti, but Henry Porter in today's Guardian has done it all for me. Must be nice to be that eloquent.

Say no to ID.

Friday, July 07, 2006

One year on

A year ago today, something terrible happened. A suicide bomb attack was acted out on London. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be involved and I don't particularly want to either. It was a terrible event. Let me be clear about this: I do not sympathise with the bombers actions or motives. If you want to kick back against America waging what can be perceived as a war on Islam, there are better ways to do it than blow up London commuters.

There are, however, things that bother me today.
I don't like the reference to the date. Same with the World Trade Center (sic). These things have always been referred to by location before (e.g. Warrington, Madrid or the Arndale Centre). Giving it the date almost forces you into the mawkish commemorations we see today.
I do not think a commemoration is warranted or helpful. If anything, what it highlights is the abject failure to do anything about the perceived threat from future suicide bombers bar shoot an innocent Brazilian electrician seven times in the head at Stockwell tube station and antagonise most of the Muslim community in London by barging mob-handed into a house in Forest Gate and shooting someone without prior identification of the shooter being a police officer. Oh, and blaming it on the gloves he was wearing.
But what really sticks in the craw are attempts to score petty political points over it all or trumpeting police successes.

I will not be observing any silences today. I fail to see the point. It was done a year ago - all of it.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Suspect everyone

Having seen the proposal to detain terrorist suspects without charge for up to 90 days thrown out and a compromise reached to double existing limits to 28 days last time this was debated, it seems 90 days is now back on the agenda.
Tie this in to my previous ramblings on criminal justice and it's all too easy to feel that we're no longer citizens, but suspects. And with ID cards looming large in the distance, suspects with a number.
I tried writing to my MP about my concerns over the 90 day proposal after seeing him toeing the government line on Newsnight prior to the vote and got a reply back that didn't really say a lot. It makes me question whether it'd be worth doing it again if it comes to the table once more.

We're all suspects and we all will soon be required to prove our innocence - not the other way round. Especially if you are of a dusky complexion.