Friday, September 29, 2006

Impressionists

Saying "Hi, I'm [insert name of person you're attempting to mimic here]" at the start of the impression marks you out as a really bad impressionist. So maybe change careers eh?

BNP: "We're not racist"

According to today's Examiner - that's Huddersfield's local rag - the leader of the BNP group on Kirklees council - and I still say to those who voted for them "you bunch of fucking morons" - has defended the party on it's anti-racism credentials. Councillor David Exley said "I would defy anyone to come round and say to me you're a racist party". OK then David, here we go.
You are a racist party.
You have racist policies (such that they are policies at all).
You lie along racist lines in your electoral pamphlets to push your racist bollocks onto people.
You yourself are a racist, if only by association to the racist tossers you represent in chambers.


I've said it once on here and I'll say it again: the BNP are idiot scummers.

Prescott's apology

The Labour party conference closed yesterday and one of the 'highlights' was John Prescott's speech in which he apologised for letting his wife down, himself down and the party down over the last year.
Just last year John?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cashpoint flashpoint

People of Britain; heed my call. Here follows a simple list of instructions for the use of a cashpoint, or ATM if you will.

  1. Approach cashpoint, withdrawing card on approach
  2. Introduce card to slot
  3. Having many months previously committed PIN number to memory, enter PIN
  4. Withdraw as much cash as you like WITHOUT getting a receipt
  5. Retrieve notes
  6. Leave
So very simple a procedure.
Here, by way of contrast, are several do-nots, particularly pertinent during the archetypal office lunch hour:

  1. Wait in queue
  2. When at front of queue, proceed to rummage in Pandora's Handbag for the appropriate card
  3. On locating card, return to Pandora's Handbag for the slip of paper with the relevant PIN written on it
  4. Enter PIN
  5. Realise it was the wrong slip of paper
  6. Enter PIN
  7. Realise it's the same PIN as previously and rummage once again in Pandora's Handbag for the correct slip of paper with a 4-digit number written on it
  8. Repeat as necessary until PIN accepted
  9. Check balance
  10. Get a receipt for checking the balance
  11. Repeat steps 3-9
  12. Extract smallest currency machine able to dispense
  13. Get receipt
  14. Check receipt
  15. Return all the paraphernalia required to perform previous steps to Pandora's Handbag
  16. Check you've not left card/receipt/medication/shoes in/on machine
  17. Leave

I'm all for new ATM protocols. Between the hours of 11:30am and 1:30pm in city centres, no receipts should be allowed to be printed, one PIN failure and your card gets swallowed, anyone wanting anything other than cash gets an electric shock of no less than 50,000V.

Citizenship

Apparently, according to today's news, Britain's pupils are being failed. This would be serious stuff. I would assume that the decline in science and engineering graduates would be where this was pointing to, but no. It's about 'citizenship'.
I don't know much about this 'citizenship' lark. Sounds like a pile of unmitigated rubbish to me. Anyway, I solicited the opinion of a teacher who has taught this on occasion to help me grasp the thinking behind it. She says:
"The thinking is woolly, the subject of a knee-jerk, Blair-inspired crock of shit expecting teachers to make students better human beings by teaching self-obsessed, immature kids about ethics and community. It's bollocks [because] the only lessons they are emotionally able to cope with are the ones on animal welfare (animals are good, anyone who hurts them is bad) and children's rights."
This isn't a scientific survey by any stretch of the imagination, but I can understand why only a minority of schools teach the subject "with enthusiasm".
I'm not enthused by the push to train 1200 new citizenship teachers that the DfES has given itself 2 years to achieve. Are these people teachers who are being diverted from other subjects, is it a special recruitment programme or is just an aim they've set themselves? My correspondent continues:
"There aren't enough to teach it already. So schmucks like me have to teach it. It doesn't surprise me though. Ethics are creeping into every subject. Even science. No more teaching of facts, now it's all geared to 'imagine you've been told your unborn child has a genetic disorder, what would you do?' And only a handful of kids are able to see the shades of grey and not the black/white version. Not that I'm against encouraging them to think."

The aims as it says in that BBC article are noble. Re-enfranchising a generation in the political process is a vaulable ideal, but I don't think it's up to our teachers to be doing it, especially given the factors pointed out by my correspondent. Political enfranchisement has to come from politicians (and I don't mean terrible photo-opportunities in urban areas or name-checking the Arctic Monkeys), the media and from parents. Trouble is, the generation of new parents are also of a politically unaware generation themselves - blame Thatcher, I do - which puts more emphasis on the politicians and media.

Saving humanity

Ken Livingstone seems to have assumed the mantle of Britain's Al Gore in terms of attempting to save the world from itself. Today's gripe is about air travel. Livingstone, on today's Today programme, accepted that Britain had met it's Kyoto targets for emission reduction, but the reduction has been more than taken up by the increase in air traffic. Which is a fair point. A popular idea, one which Livingstone among many others subscribes to, is to increase tax on air travel so that it properly reflects the true cost to the planet of a flight. Earlier in the year I took a trip to the south of France on a flight which cost me 5p. Five of your English pennies. That's ridiculous and I felt terribly guilty about it as I hit the 'buy now' button on the airline's website...
It's not just air travel though. I'm not 'anti-car', but I don't believe that the cost of running a car properly reflects the cost to the environment. Adding tax to bring that into line is a fine idea, but that would require there to be a viable integrated public transport system alternative. There is not as yet - very, very far from it as anyone who commutes any sort of distance by bus or rail will testify - so levying tax on the motorist right now would be nothing other than a shameless revenue gathering technique as opposed to a step towards extending the life of the planet.
Either way, it's high time the prevaricating around the bush stopped and steps were taken.

Lily Allen

Her crimes are small, but very irritating. Rhyming 'al fresco' with 'Tesco' in her ditty 'LDN' (that's shorthand for 'London' apparently, a small village of no great importance in the south-east of the country) is pretty bad. Also in aforementioned madrigal is the line "why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else" (I know far too much of this song, but it's becoming unavoidable honest it is). Here's a suggestion. Because it's a grimy impersonal shithole. Now go and warble at someone else.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

NHS staff on strike

Today sees the second of two 24-hour strikes by NHS workers over the transfer of NHS Logistics to courier firm DHL. It is privatisation of sorts, but not so much 'by the back door' as the cliché goes, more by driving a large truck through the front gates. And that's not what the NHS is or should be about.
But a more fundamental point... DHL??? Expect deliveries of the items they're expected to courier to turn up several days late on a day you've not arranged to be in, turning up in Carlisle when they're supposed to be in Oxford, or left in bins if no-one is in to collect.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Half Man Half Biscuit at the Holmfirth Picturedrome

I've never been a big one for going to gigs. Prior to this particular evening, I could number the gigs I'd attended on the fingers of two fingers (The Stranglers, who were rubbish because they wouldn't play any old stuff, and The Skatalites, who were great because they did, if you're interested), but one band I've always wanted to see live are this mob - noted Birkenhead slackers and folk heroes Half Man Half Biscuit.
And bloody marvellous they were too. Every song - and I apologise for going over old ground for any other afficionados out there - is packed with spot-on cultural references and social comment. The song titles tell you that much.

As Nigel made his way to the front to begin and muttered "Holmfirth eh? Y'alright Gromit" the crowd knew it would be a good one. The old ones - everyone shouting "Fuckin' 'ell it's Fred Titmus" together was a highlight - were mixed in with the newer stuff. On at 9 (we stayed in the pub while the support was on. Couldn't even tell you who it was. Some local chancers, no doubt), off by eleven, no-one felt short-changed including my brother in-law who was a late stand-in for the spare ticket I ended up with and who didn't know anything about them prior to the gig. He's a convert now, needless to say.


And the legendary caravan guitar made an appearance for the encore.
John Peel once called them "a national treasure". Not for the only time, he was bang on.

The venue's a tidy little job. The name Picturedrome should give away the fact that it's day job is as a cinema. Remove a few rows of seats down the front for a reasonable sized standing area-cum-moshpit while the remaining seats are of usual cinema comfort standards, extend a bit of a stage and Bob's your uncle. It's small but effective and has a decent bar. And Billy Bragg plays there in December, which I quite fancy going to. It still functions as a cinema but it's never going to get the numbers through the doors for films. Fair play for the diversification.


Picture courtesy of Jim, my brother in-law, over at Wassocks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Strongbow

Last night I sat for my 2-year old nephew. Lovely lad. We had a great time. However, before I put him to bed, I needed to change his nappy, which he'd wet and demanded changing as is his wont.
Job (eventually) done, I retired to the drawing room to watch a film and have a drink. Sadly, my brother in-law is on a bit of a cider kick at the moment, so it was Strongbow or bust. A cider man I am not. On supping a can of Strongbow, I could not help but notice that baby piss and Strongbow smell exactly the same.

Modern childhood is rubbish

That's the general impression we've been getting this week with all sorts of pronouncements from all sorts of people saying how kids grow up too quickly these days and how modern technology is robbing the young of their formative years.
All this faux-nostalgia gets on my nerves. It wasn't better in the old days. It was probably wasn't worse either.
If it really was better back in the day, send 'em all up the chimneys again.

A brief theology

The furore over the Pope's recent anti-Islamist outburst continues apace. Whilst he may have been quoting a 400-year old text, why he did it really does leave me wondering why.
I was brought up in a pretty religious household - two different varieties of Christianity on tap - and the Catholic schools I went to taught us lots about other religions. Now I renounced my religion - any religion - a long time ago for many reasons which I'm not going to go into here. But one reason was because Bill and Ted put it better than any religion could do - be cool to each other. And that gets lost in all this petty, pathetic bickering about who said what to whom and which deity is the right one.

Crap fashion trends

Given the recent trend women seemed to fall into for those crappy shorts that look like skirts, I confidently predict the next 'big thing' will be skirts that look like crappy shorts.
And that the next new black will no longer be blue, brown, green or anything other than black. Unless it's black with a hint of black.

Lazy mispronunciations

A headline on the back of today's Metro - the free rag that gets left on trains and buses - stirred up deep seated annoyance at the laziness of the average man in the average British street to not even attempt to pronounce foreign words properly. The headline in question read "Kuyt flies high in Liverpool win" (or words to that effect. The "Kuyt flies high" bit is important here). This refers to Dutch footballer Dirk Kuyt who now plies his trade at Liverpool and scored for them last night. The Metro sub-editors seem to be under the misapprehension that Kuyt's surname sounds like the fabric and string-based flying toy, the kite. No. It rhymes with 'flout' as even a tiny modicum of research would have let anybody find out. I despaired when Tomas Rosicky signed for Arsenal. It's not 'roz-icky', it's more like 'roz-it-ski'.
These are just two examples. Back in the day, it would only be when an English club took on an exotic foreign side in European competition that this would be an issue or England played away in eastern Europe. Now that there are players from all over the world in British football, there's no excuse.
It's not always possible for a native English speaker to get round the nuances of other languages with the variety of accents, but at least make a bleeding effort to get as close as you can. It's not that hard.

And memo to Kevin Keegan: Juventus is not pronounced with a hard 'j'.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Slovenia/Slovakia

Just had a quick scan over new and promising news satire site NewsBiscuit.com - heir apparent to the dear, departed Brains Trust along with Bent & Twisted - and among the many amusing articles is the headline "Slovakia and Slovenia are different countries - official. More soon" and it reminded me of an incident from a while back.
Working for Yorkshire Electricity at the time (other energy suppliers are available), we had a big meter monitoring project to roll out and as each region completed, we took the engineers out for some grub, a beer and stuff. In Hull we organised a bowling night, as was the style at the time, and as part of the 'fun' there were occasional quiz questions for which the first person to answer correctly got some free drinks. Among the questions was "which two countries were formed from the break-up of Czechoslovakia?" 'Easy', I thought and as no-one else seemed to be going up to the desk to offer the answer, went for it myself.
"Czech Republic and Slovakia" I said, fully expecting my reward.
"No, sorry" said the youth. Obviously I wasn't going to take this lying down.
"Yes it is"
"No, that's not what it says here"
"So what does it say?"
"I can't tell you that"
"Look. CZECH. SLOVAKIA. Czechoslovakia" I insisted with exaggerated hand movements to express how the two 'new' nations could conceivably come together to form Czechoslovakia.
Another chap came up to the desk in the meantime and said "Is it the Czech Republic and Slovenia?"
"Correct!" said the youth.
"No he isn't" I started to say before realising I was pissing in the wind.

And it still irks me....

Monday, September 18, 2006

Organ donation

I carry a donor card. I encourage everyone to do so. I'm not bothered which bits of my body get harvested once I've died - I'll be dead, so what will I care? There's one modification I would like to see to the card though. Across the bottom of the card, there's a line that says "I want to help others live in the event of my death". I'd like to see this extended to include the words "except Pete Doherty".

Tyrells tell Tesco to stick it

Tyrell's crisps are lovely. Definitely at the 'poncy' end of the market what with traditional salt and vinegar not being good enough - it's sea salt and cider vinegar dontcha know. Anyway, they're fiercely independent and have told Tesco to shove it, which is brilliant. More power to their elbow.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Infamy, infamy...

...they've all got it in for me!

Battling racism in football

Recent years have seen what feels like a return to the darkest days of the '80s in and around football in terms of racist chanting. Monkey chants directed towards black players in Spain were met with desultory fines in the region of a couple of thousand Euro. Spanish national team head coach Luis Aragonés famously called Thierry Henry a "black shit" and got precious little by way of brickbats for it. Indeed, UEFA's stance on this seems to be to describe the blatant racism as 'part of the culture' in those areas it regularly occurs, which is simply unacceptable. Similar occurences across Italy and the Balkan region went similarly unpunished. Now it's reared it's head in Germany where Hansa Rostock have been fined a token amount (also worrying in that article is the reported upsurge in far-right support in that part of Germany. A bigger issue which I may well return to in due course).
If the football authorities are serious about this issue, then they have a very odd way of showing it.

Whilst criticising, I should also balance it with praise where due. England's recent Euro 2008 qualifier in Macedonia was not marred with the sort of disgusting chanting that the same fixture three years ago played witness to.

Written in the tsars

I do not understand this government's obsession with tsars. There's a tsar for bloody everything - drugs tsar, ASBO tsar, illiteracy tsar etc etc and now an anti-terrorism tsar. I'd like to know how one applies to become a tsar of something. I quite fancy being a tsar, although I'm not 100% sure what I'd like to be a tsar of. Anti-semitism tsar has a nice ring to it. I thnk I shall compose a short note to this effect to number 10.

1Gb iPod

Got an e-mither from Amazon this afternoon alerting me to the availability of a 1Gb iPod. For £55. I got a 2Gb memory card for my mp3-compatible phone for less than that, so what's the frigging point? What's the point of a 1Gb iPod in general, come to think of it?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Adam Sandler

Not funny.

First rule of football

It's a simple rule: never sign Brazilian defenders.
The facts bear me out on this. Watching the Champions League over the last couple of nights, there were many Brazilians plying their trade around the continent: Ronaldinho, Kaka, Juninho Pernambucaño - wonderfully gifted players who contribute much to the game - prime among them.
Dynamo Kiev seemed to have a fair amount of Brazilians on the team including a couple of chaps, Rodolfo and Rodrigo, at the centre of the defence. And they were bloody awful. Even the more celebrated Brazilian defenders like Roberto Carlos and Cafu are really frustrated attackers, as their raids up the flanks become the norm as opposed to the odd occasion. Roqué Junior played for the national side but was an utter laughing stock at Leeds and at Bayer Leverkusen. And the aptly named former Celtic player Rafael Scheidt was voted 2nd biggest waste of money in football history. Ever.
Defending just goes against that samba style of football we have all come to know and love. I imagine a scene in a Brazilian household with a 16-year old son saying to his father "Dad, I want to be a defender". "I have no son!"

Banksy and patronising art coverage

Listening to the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, there was a snippet about former graffiti artist gone legit known as Bansky who has an exhibition opening in LA this week. Among the exhibits is an elephant - yes, a proper living, breathing elephant - painted like wallpaper positioned in a room of wallpaper the same pattern. The correspondent on the scene couldn't make head nor tail of it, as he relished pointing out to us, and neither could the talking head he spoke to. I thought it was pretty obvious. Sometimes it helps to have interpretation available for an artwork, but this "oh it's art and therefore I don't understand and neither should you" style of coverage is patronising and therefore not helpful.
I'm developing a liking for Banksy's art. He's come a long way since scrawling on London walls. I very much liked the Disneyland stunt and the Paris Hilton CD blag was superb. Another item in the LA exhibition is a clear plastic box with a bunch of cockroaches and a Paris Hilton CD inside. He's obviously a fan. Even our Today programme correspondent could work out what he was trying to say with that.

The deadening of York

York - historic city and my home town. Former railway industry centre, home of three large confectioners, it now runs the risk of becoming a big sink estate.
The railways left. The dissolution of British Rail and, more specifically, the selling off of their engineering wing to Swiss company ABB saw the initial decline and then wholesale move of one of the mainstays of the local economy.
As far as confection is concerned, Craven's moved out in my youth, Rowntree's was taken over by Nestlé while Terry's has had many owners before the current owners - Kraft Foods - shut the plant down, swiftly followed by the removal of the "of York" bit of the "Terry's of York" legend on the packaging. Rowntree is beng scaled back and the York site is rumoured to be shutting to become a hospital.
So what's left? Not a lot. Norwich Union and shops that sell tea towels to American tourists. And now Norwich Union are leaving. This once great city is rapidly becoming, at best, a commuter town for Leeds. There's lots of flats going up, but why would anyone want them if there's no work in the vicinity for them to do?
I'm not really sure what my point is with this, but it doesn't feel like a positive for the city and without further research on my part, I'm not sure if this is reflected in other similar sized towns and cities. So I guess you can call this more of a lament than a rant.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Advent

Went shopping on Monday and there on display in my local supermarket were advent calendars. In early September.
I despair.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

2 weeks off

Just back at work after 2 weeks off with a gammy knee. 7am is a bloody stupid time to get out of bed. And aren't we all supposed to be working from home by now anyway?

Monday, September 11, 2006

BUPA

I cannot stand the way BUPA advertise their services. They imply that the NHS deliberately obstruct quick access to specialists and deliberately mucky up the hospitals. I'm amazed no-one with responsibility in the NHS has complained about it. In fact, stuff it. Where's the Advertising Standards Agency address?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Not a sport

World Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso declared that he no longer considers it a sport. Tell us something we don't know? I used to love it when I was a nipper. Derring do by really committed and brave drivers was the order of the day 16 times a year back then. Now it's a procession of cigarette advertising hoardings not overtaking each other. The tracks are bland and don't allow for passing, the cars are so narrow that there's no draft to be gained in order to pass. It's utterly dull.
My reasons for not watching it are different from Alonso's argument, but the penalty he's received utterly stinks. Monza is the fastest track out there with big, wide, long straights to fully test the top end of the engines and drafting is everything, so Pat Symonds assertion that "Massa got a good draft" is, to my mind, perfectly legitimate. If you get penalised for inadvertently helping an opponent, then we're all screwed.
Not a sport. Hasn't been for nigh on 20 years.

Bad journalism

What do I mean by bad journalism? Taking a story and trying to fit it to a knee-jerkers charter is one example. Take this story that appeared today on the BBC and the headline 'Web helped my son kill himself'. That looks like a quote and yet nowhere in the body of the article does anyone say anything of the sort. In fact, here's an actual quote from the father of the dead boy that says the opposite of what the headline suggests: "I am not saying if he had not been on the internet he would not have done it".
So what is this story telling us? To me it's saying that if you're suicidal and want to kill yourself but aren't sure how to go about it, you can find this stuff out in the wide world of the interweb. Hardly a revelation. Would the story have appeared if the lad in question had taken a couple of books about suicide out of his local library? Somehow I doubt it. The story is that a young lad suffering from depression - a cruely overlooked illness - has taken his own life and that's a tragedy. The internet is neither here nor there. It's bad journalism.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Curtis Woodhouse

I like my boxing. I also like my football. But in sporting terms, Curtis Woodhouse's decision to chuck in the latter in order to take up the former came as something of a shock. Last night, he made his debut in the squared circle. In the build-up, he gave some candid interviews such as this in the Guardian (and having lived in Driffield, I back his comments about the casual racism there 100%. I found it quite disturbing) and this for the BBC.
He scored a comfortable win last night and I look forward to following his career from here, hopefully getting to see him in action soon.
All the best Curtis.

Last night of the Proms

It's tonight, apparently. I've no problem with there being an annual festival of classical music, despite the fact that reruns of old Avengers episodes are shifted to make way for it on BBC4. Quite the reverse, I welcome it. My musical tastes are fairly eclectic, but I'm shamefully uneducated when it comes to classical stuff and occasionally dip into Radio 3's coverage of the Proms.
But the last night thereof makes me sick. A horrible display of upper-class twittery and flag-waving nonsense. If we want a classless society, releasing Sarin into the Albert Hall tonight would be a good place to start.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Counter-intuitive software

Had a couple of new (to me) packages to use recently that are totally not obvious in their usage; iTunes and Lotus Notes. I don't understand how companies can attempt to sell stuff that is counter-intuitive and I understand even less how and why, in the case of Lotus Notes, fuckwitted IT purchasers inflict them upon staff.

R'n'B

Can we be clear on this. R'n'B stands for rhythm 'n' blues, which largely consists of an angry old feller with a guitar and a chip on his shoulder and not (to borrow a line from Andy Kershaw) the "bland, beige dance music" it's been hijacked by.

Disappointing headline of the year

"Thatcher facing new police probe" screams the Guardian.

Is Mark Thatcher facing new charges in relation to the Equatorial Guinea coup plot? Maybe Madge Thatcher is finally going to be charged for killing society/killing the mining industry/sinking the Belgrano?

Sadly not. It's further repercussions about Ben Thatcher's elbow.
Dammit

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Diet colas

"Maximum cola taste with half/none/whatever of the sugar" go the popular straplines. Given that ~85% of that cola taste is from the sugar, this is patently bollocks. Market it as "brown diuretic water" and you're a lot nearer the mark.

Cure AIDS, the South African way

The cure to AIDS is simple. I'm shocked that no-one has done more work in this area. Garlic and beetroot, according to South African health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Obvious when you think about it.
South Africa has a massive responsibility in this area. As a driver of African social and economic policy, it needs to lead so that other African nations can follow and HIV and AIDS is possibly the most critical issue the continent has to deal with right now. Of course economies of scale are going to be a massive factor for most - if not all - African governments to deal with the pandemic, but admitting that and opening up dialogue with the international community in how to tackle this might be better than clasping your hands over your ears, shutting your eyes and repeating "la la la la if I can't see it it's not happening la la la la la".

Not that Tshabalala-Msimang is the first minister in Mbeki's government to have strange ideas about the transmission of HIV and AIDS. Disgraced ex-deputy President Jacob Zuma was alleged to have raped a woman he knew to have HIV, but he made sure he didn't get it by having a shower afterwards.
With the people at the top publicly spouting these bizarre theories, you get the impression that the general populous doesn't stand a chance.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Creationists

You're wrong.

Got the fear?

"All the stunts on Fear Factor", goes the trail, "are created by experts, supervised by professionals and completely, totally safe".
So where's the fear?

A right Royal pain in the arse

An inquiry into the death of that bird who used to be married to the heir to the throne is to be launched. Allow me to save everyone's time and acres of Daily Express newsprint.
Driver, too fast, lost control, crashed, no seatbelt, death.
That's that sorted. Send me the cheque now.


And I learn that the new world three-day eventing champion is Zara Phillips. Isn't it heartwarming to see someone drag themselves up and achieve in the face of extreme adversity? Sad thing is that in this year of British sporting mediocrity, she'll probably get the BBC Sports Personality award.

The French had the right idea re royalty

Crocodile hunter

The death of Steve Irwin should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with his work. Routinely annoying dangerous animals with sticks is not the sort of occupation that is conducive to a long retirement. And so it came to pass that a stingray stung him, fatally. One wonders how big a stick he had to use to cause the stingray to get so grumpy as to go for him.
But he died doing what he loved, which is fair enough I suppose. And utter crackpot he may have been, he was passionate about his subject and bloody entertaining.