Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fin d'année

Every media outlet has been doing end of the year/decade bits for a while now. Not being one to not follow a trend, I may as well join in.
Well I've been busy pretty much all year, so haven't been paying a huge amount of attention. Silvio Berlusconi has been as depressingly entertaining as usual, but accounts of repeated bombings in Peshawar described by a local as "normal" was chilling as it was disturbing. Musically, I'm as out of touch more than ever and reckon the best album of the year is the cricket themed Duckworth Lewis Method and that, inevitably, leads to my sphere of knowledge: sport.
Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann were both brilliant throughout the year and ride high in the world rankings as a result. Not many great bowlers remain and these two could be around for a while yet. As will Thomas Bosc who scored one of the great tries of this and any other years in the big derby down in Perpignan, sadly not on youtube. Having spent so much time watching European football, one cannot fail to be impressed by Yoann Gourcuff's brilliance against PSG, but the highlight of the year was the final nail in Bayern's coffin away at eventual Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg. Gooooooollllllllll



I've some exciting things in the pipeline for next year, but we'll see how that pans out before getting too carried away. Happy new year all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's left to believe in?

This decade in sport has been largely defined by massive amounts of sometimes hugely elaborate cheating. Balco, fake blood, deliberately crashing cars into walls at ridiculous speeds, the whole gamut of cheating in sport has been taken to extremes over the past ten years. There is no 2000 Olympic women's 100m gold medallist either, given Marion Jones's involvement with Balco and the woman who came second, Katherina Thanou, not getting the upgrade thanks to her own drug-related incident from Athens four years later.

I thought the nadir had been reached when it was revealed earlier this year that the New Zealand lawn bowls team were embroiled in a match-fixing row. They didn't even have cash from a Malaysian betting syndicate riding on it, rather they took a dive so that Canada couldn't qualify for the next round. But the biscuit was well and truly taken this week by the rows surrounding the world pie-eating championships. First, the use of non-Wigan pies has caused outrage among competition veterans, but the big story is in the banning of gravy for this year's event. Apparently, competitors had been adding cough medicine to their own gravy in order to make it easy to ram as much pasty/meat combo down your gullet as quickly as possible.

If you can't trust people to eat pies in stupidly short times with honesty and as much dignity as it's possible to have in such circumstances, then what is there left to believe in?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Disturbing headline

There's a headline on the BBC News website that says "Will [Simon] Cowell bring the X factor to the General Election campaign?"
Let's hope not. The last thing we want is politicians recycling old material like some sort of political karaoke and less than 30% of available numbers to participate. The very fact anyone is even talking about Simon Cowell and the forthcoming election in the same context is deeply disturbing.

Smacked in the leathery face

A 73-year old man was assaulted in Milan on Sunday, suffering broken teeth and a fracture to the nose. This would normally be bad news and one that could lead to discussions about societal decline and all that malarkey.

This is different, however, as the 73-year old in question is Silvio Berlusconi. That man is a sympathy vacuum, as well as being a crook of quite incredible proportions. It would be striking how little the expression on his face seemed to have changed after being smacked in the face, but he's so botoxed up these days that it comes as no surprise. Indeed, he probably didn't feel anything anyway.

He was hit in the face by a souvenir model of Milan cathedral, which in itself has to mean something. The assailant must explain himself, otherwise we'll have to assume he's an architecture fan who was vehement in his views that the sheer majesty of the building strikes you right between the eyes.

Giving the tough interviews

Tony Blair: remember him? Sadly for most of us, the answer is yes. And he's doing his best to remind the rest of us by doing the TV interview circuit. Yesterday, he was on the BBC answering all the tough questions as he faced down one of the country's top interviewers. Tougher than Paxman or Humphreys, he opted to tell all to Fern Britton, former host of This Morning.

In this interview, he revealed that he would have gone to war in Iraq no matter what the evidence on weapons of mass destruction saying he would have found another excuse if needed. Oh boy. Where does one start?

Here's a good place to start: he did need another excuse as the weapons one was very quickly revealed to be the horse manure that it smelled of. Over-ruling Hans Blix stank at the time and so it proved. "I'm a pretty straight kind of guy", Blair once told the world's media. If so, then he may at least have had the balls to tell Fern Britton that as soon as Bush junior started appointing his daddy's old golfing buddies in key roles - roles they served when Bush senior first had a crack at Iraq - the it was pretty much fait accompli.

But what is more interesting is the reaction of the country's media. It's been a deafening silence with the only voices striving to be heard by people involved in the Blair administration who are scrambling to distance themselves from any fallout that may yet arise as the Chilcott inquiry rumbles on. Everybody else seems to be of an opinion that can best be summed up as "yeah, we worked that out years ago".

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lazy

I like a bit of Kraftwerk. So does my cat, actually. She was transfixed by the video to Radioactivity when it was on TV the other day. I prefer this one myself.
However, the following performance is the equivalent of a DJ putting on a 13-minute remix while he nips out for a fag and a drink.

Adequate

It's a simple word is 'adequate'. Quite adequately, it sums up what it is to be of an acceptable level. Except in government circles, that is.
Today, it's reported that one in four care homes for the elderly is rated adequate. Any normal person would think that's OK, but with obvious room for improvement. Not so. Criticism for being merely adequate rages, not just in care, but also education where teachers receiving an adequate rating are made to feel bottom of the tree.
I'm not arguing that standards shouldn't be pushed up, but use terms that mean what they say. If things are sub-standard, say so. Don't call them adequate if what you mean is that they're not. I'm making a stand for language.

RBS: Regal Bull Shit

On the news this morning, it was suggested by RBS directors that they'd be forced to resign en masse should government - the 80+% owner of the bank - tells it not to pay out the £1.5bn in bonuses that the bank is planning. Vince Cable said that if he were chancellor, he'd be accepting those resignations as they arrived, politician speak for "well fuck right off then". And rightly so. Profits are only being maintained thanks to the recapitalisation process, a process which has cost the nation's purse tens of billions of pounds. If you can reward folk for driving their bank into the biggest pile of financial horse shit in living memory, the I don't fully understand the concept.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dubai-bye

I can't help feeling a sense of schadenfreude about the demise of Dubai. Unlike it's fellow Emirates in the UAE, it doesn't have any oil. It doesn't really have anything except gaudy baubles built by labour verging on, if not beyond, slavery, a dubious - at best - record on human rights and only a flimsy relationship with democracy and press freedom.
The feeling of satisfaction that the house of cards is falling is tempered by the treatment of imported labour now going unpaid and unable to leave the place. Just don't expect any of the host of international celebrities with property out there to bring it up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Floody hell

It doesn't look great up Cumbria. Up to their necks in water, bridges washed out and all the other associated fun and games that come with winter floods have been making life a misery for a week or so now. The problem now lies that the main issues are only just beginning.

Houses take a long time to dry out and only then can work begin to put things right, but that time is as nothing compared to the agonising wait you can have for insurers. I was working in Hull today, a city which was underwater about three years ago. Some folk are still not back in their houses, according to the front page of the local rag, and one person I visited is still waiting for work doing on her house, though it is at least habitable.

Good luck with all that's coming in the next weeks and months, Cumbrians. Let's hope it's not years, but brace yourselves.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Don't write about nothing

Hello again.

My ire has been spiked enough that the 140 characters available on Twitter don't seem enough.
On leafing through the paper today, I noticed an advert for a large high street retailer which was advertising Miley Cyrus's autobiography. It really does exist.

My problem is not with Mme Cyrus herself. Here's the thing: she's sixteen. Sixteen years of age. There is no way that anyone has done enough by that age to warrant an entire book. Maybe Mozart, but he's very much an exception.

The only way this will work as a book is if every page has written upon it "I haven't really done anything yet".

Monday, June 08, 2009

Trying to calm down

The elections last week were amazingly depressing. Despite their share of teh vote going down a little bit, nazi twats the BNP managed to get two MEPs as tens of thousands of people simply failed to vote. Cheers for that. Really appreciate it. Yorkshire and Humber is one of the regions that will be represented in Brussels by a fascist, Andrew Brons, noted former member of the National Front. Last time around, we were represented by Ukip, a whole other set of cranks and loons with an utter knob for a leader, but they're as nothing to this set of tossers.

In order to calm down, I went and sat on the sea front at Hornsea and watched the waves for a while. It worked for me, and maybe it will for you:

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Use your vote, please

It's election day tomorrow. The last time we had European elections, the turnout was 22%. If it gets within five points of that tomorrow, it'll be a minor miracle, such is the disillusionment felt across the country in the light of the expenses row that's pretty much hamstrung politics for a couple of weeks or more now (oh god please make it stop).

And that resultant apathy is completely understandable and reasonable and I expect the turnout to reflect it. However... There's always a however. When you get tiny turnouts, it means those on the fringes of serious politics suddenly get a louder voice than would otherwise be the case. Yes, the fascist twats of the BNP have been pushing their filth through letterboxes across the country and while I don't think Britain will actually return a jackbooted tosser to Brussels, any significant proportion of the vote will give them the oxygen of publicity that we could all do without. The oxygen of oxygen is too good for them, but there's not much that you or I can do about that. The publicity thing, however, we can. Please get out and vote. It is important, and any vote for someone other than the fascists is a vote for the freedoms we all hold dear.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Dear Manchester

Hello Manchester. How you doing?

Now I know we've not always got on, mainly because it always bloody rains over by you, but I'd like you to hear me out. Later this year, you'll have the option to register interest for an ID card. Can I ask that you don't?

Here's what happens. You register an interest on a website and will then be told how to go about getting your card. Then you'll need to submit fingerprints and a photo and cough up some cash. This is capped at £30 for two years, but after that, don't worry. The home secretary says the final price will be "competitive". Difficult to see how she reaches that conclusion. If it's compulsory, then it's not very competitive at all, as there'd be no choice. If it's voluntary, then I'd suggest not getting a card would be more competitive as that would cost sod all.

If the scheme is ultimately to be voluntary, then there is no point anybody having a card, no matter what the reasoning behind the idea. And therein lies another point: just what are they for? The government quickly backed down from the counter-terrorism argument when it was pointed out that it was bollocks, so instead it's been marketed as an easier way to get hold of public services. But I don't believe that for one minute as this government, like others before it and no doubt many others after it as well, proposes these things for one purpose and ends up doing something completely different with them. Like using anti-terrorism laws to restrict peaceful protest or check up on families trying to get their kids into specific schools. Basically, I'd always check a calendar if someone in the government told me today was Wednesday (though in a Bank Holiday week, I always find it useful to check anyway, as you're always a bit disoriented by the Monday off).

Anyway, Manchester, the onus is on you. You're the guinea pig in this and if you do start signing up for this madcap scheme that's already cost us all billions, we're all going to have it inflicted upon us. So please don't.

Next, it's students opening bank accounts that will be offered them. Same goes for you, students. Please don't.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

UK ends bilateral military aid to Colombia

Britain has quietly ended nearly a decade of military aid to Colombia's armed forces after accusations of gross violations of human rights, including the murder of civilians who were shot and reported as guerrillas killed in combat.

The Colombian government was "extremely surprised" by the decision to cut off the bilateral cooperation programmes, the deputy defence minister, Sergio Jaramillo, told the Guardian.

Jaramillo didn't go on by not saying "I am very surprised. After all, Colombia's human rights record has been abysmal for decades, so why now? Britain did nothing when it was clear the Colombian government were in collusion with paramilitaries to stamp out trade unionism, so this move comes as something of a shock".

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Load of old scrap

One of the very, very few giveaways in last week's budget was the £2000 scrappage allowance, whereby owners of cars over ten years old, with a valid MoT and proof of ownership for at least a year can trade in their old motor for a new one whilst getting a grand off the government and a grand off the manufacturer of their new ride.

This is a very cunning way of looking like you're doing something to stimulate the car industry while actually costing next to bugger all.

As I see it, there are three main groups of people who own cars which are over ten years old.
There are those that buy new and run their cars into the ground before changing. These are probably the greenest of the bunch, what with being less responsible for the enormous energy costs of making cars than someone who continually trades in. This group may be swayed by the £2k on offer.
There are those who can only afford - or who choose - to buy second hand and, if their current whip is ten years old, would only be looking at something three/four years old as a replacement.
There are those whose ten-year old car was bought for what it is, a classic, say. For instance, the wife would dearly love an old MG. I'd quite like a late 70s/early 80s BMW. No scrappage scheme is going to tempt owners of stuff like that to trade in for a bland new Eurobox.

Besides, reports are already emerging that dealers have been steadily raising prices to cover their portion of the £2000 in anticipation of the scheme. So it's bollocks, really.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The hard life of the advertising creative

It must be a hard life being a creative in advertising. I mean, all those hours trawling YouTube for a video you can pass off as your own - like the Berocca ad that is a pure rip-off of OK Go's video for Here It Goes Again - or tossing it off by saying "drumming gorilla" or some other random nonsense and hoping it will fly.

Anyway, I feel it my duty to point out that what was once the wonderful Magical Trevor is now a sad plug for Yellow Pages. For shame.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

While I'm here...

...and in the mood for some video action, here's a cracking version of a pretty good tune as it was with a suitably stylish video, clipped from Bande A Part.
Nouvelle Vague. Dance With Me.

Poets day

Yes, today I finally get to go and see the legend that is John Cooper Clarke perform live. Having missed him a while back at Holmfirth, it's off to the Lawrence Batley Theatre to see the great man. I know I've gone about him before, but it's a decent excuse for a Saturday video:



That was off the Innes Book Of Records, Neil Innes being another underrated performer by the general populous.

Also on a poetry theme, I see that the poet laureate of Leeds, Mik Artistik, is soon to be playing in sunny Huddersfield on June 10. Quite looking forward to that too and here's why:

Friday, March 06, 2009

Economics

Filled the van up a few moments ago and, as I was paying, there was a chap in the shop whining about the current financially straitened times we're experiencing and banging on about how hard it all is. Tip for you mate. Get rid of the AMG SL55 and try something more frugal and less like a dick substitute instead.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

No superwoman

A new billboard ad campaign features overrated Welsh chanteuse Duffy with a can of diet coke and the caption "I'm no superwoman".
No love, of course you're not. You're a corporate whore.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Torn

It's worth supping in certain bars for the entertainment provided.

Best shoot-out ever

It's York v Kiddy in the FA Trophy. The first game finished 1-1. So did the replay and the extra half hour didn't produce any more goals. Then this.



Awesome.
Tell me that penalties are a lottery. Go on. I dare you.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Best shopping list ever

Supermarket shopping, as we all know, is easily identified with Danté's fifth circle of hell. Hence, I rarely subject myself to the misery. However, with the wife laid up with a broken toe, I had to go today. I made it clear I wasn't happy about it and needed a clear and exhaustive list of what we need and, if at all possible, in the order in which I'd go past the relevant items. And so I received this:



which is awesome.
All shopping lists should be like this.

(you may need to click on the picture to enlarge it in order to get the full effect)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Tastes like sick

Having taken one bite from the sandwich lovingly prepared for me by my wife, I can inform you all that paté and pickle sandwiches taste like sick. Not quite as much like sick as the gobfuls of bile I endured after taking that one bite, but very, very similar. I am reliably informed that this was not the taste sensation she was aiming for when preparing said sandwich.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Makes me mad

It's complete and utter arse gravy like this that made me recant my Catholicism. Words fail me

Proportionality

The major issue over Israel's recent incursion - after months of blockades - into Gaza was the disproportionality of the response. At least they're being open about it now, but this is just going to go on and on. There's no apparent will to end it and that's frankly depressing.

Protesting about the wrong thing

The spate of walkouts up and down the land has drawn plenty of comment, some of it justified and most of it borderline xenophobia. Everywhere I've heard it reported it's been that the protests are in opposition of foreign workers. That's not how it started and missing the point of what they ought to be protesting about. An Italian firm won a major construction contract at an oil refinery in Lincolnshire and said at the time that they wouldn't consider UK workers. That's the thing that's wrong, not the fact that foreign labour is being used at all.
Obviously, with folk being laid off all over the country, the issue is highlighted to a much larger degree than would otherwise be the case, but to have it turn into a debate over whether any foreign workers should be allowed into the country isn't helpful to anyone.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Andy Murray

I've been out of the country for a few days, but can I safely presume that Andy Murray is back to being Scottish now?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The rise and fall of the fall and rise...

It seems that UK Gold has been rebranded, unless G.O.L.D. is a completely new thing. Anyway, I chanced upon't the other day whilst at a loose end and settled down for a couple of episodes of the iconic Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin. It's brilliant. It was then and it is now. Leonard Rossiter was fantastic, the writing sharp and I'm eternally grateful to my dad for letting me watch it when I was a kid.
And now I hear it's to be remade. With Martin Clunes. Nothing is sacred.

Another series that was supposed to be remade recently was The Prisoner. Utterly bonkers, but I love it. Sadly, Patrick McGoohan has died today. For shame.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dear Iggy Pop

What the hell happened? Are things so bad that you had to take that swiftcover ad? These straitened times must really be biting in the Pop household.
Where's you dignity man?

Friday, January 09, 2009

In 2008 I...

...didn't hear Paul McCartney's 'Simply having a wonderful christmas time' at all. Not even once. I claim the record and hope to make it back-to-back abomination-free years.

Literal algebra

If no win = no fee, then it follows that win = fee.
I think all ambulance chasers should be forced to add an extra line to their adverts. When they say 'no win, no fee', they must add 'win, fee'. Simple algebraic logic.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

That's Conference!

Despite the economic doom, gloom and gloomy doom, £20m still buys you a lot of stuff. It buys you almost all of Robbie Keane, for one. As the following video shows, especially the misses at 0:30 and 1:28, that means it buys you a striker who, at the moment at least, would look out of place in any league side.



Robbie Keane. That's Conference!
Meanwhile, York keeper Michael Ingham shows you what Conference football is really all about. Which is great because he's actually one of the better keepers in the division. He's a full international.

Had an accident in the last six months?

Many years ago on long-since-defunct comedy website jinx.co.uk, they ran a series of spoof adverts. One favourite was for Macaulay Culkin's financial products for straight mortgage owners. The Home Alone no homo home owner loan. And there was the one pictured on the left here.

Well yes, I have had an accident. Within the last three weeks, in fact. The latter point does apply to me, but, sadly, it wasn't my fault, so despite Billy Murray's pleadings on any cable channel at least three times per ad break, Injury Lawyers 4 You will remain unphoned by me, whether they're real lawyers or not. Oh, and what does '100% lawyers, 100% compensation' even mean? I digress.
Travelling between hostelries on a recent Saturday night, I waved at a mate who was on the other side of the road, diverting my attention from the path I was travelling in - a path that was shortly to collide with a wall. I hit said wall, my glasses smashed and sliced my face to bits. There goes the Armani contract... I refuse to blame drink. I wasn't looking where I was going and even then, if my glasses hadn't shattered then there'd not have been a problem.
A trip to Huddersfield A&E was followed by a trip to Bradford maxilo-facial unit to get it all put back together. Here's a picture taken at A&E by the missus who was almost too patient with me. I think this will be my first album cover.
The stitches (12) came out last week, leaving a scar like an inverted F just under my right eye. It's a mess, but considering how close to my eye it was and how hard my cheekbone slammed into the wall, it could have been much, much worse.

Ninja Warrior

We all remember the completely brilliant episode of Doctor Who that was Blink, don't we? I'll take that as a yes. Well it's not just weeping angels you want to be scared of. Try ninja warrior cats: