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


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.


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.