Saturday, October 11, 2003

And now for a break

I'm off to Malvern for the weekend. See you Monday.

Update: OK, that didn't happen. Ever had one of those days where everything seems to go wrong? The portents aren't good for England's chances tonight, really.

Friday, October 10, 2003

A thought on IDS

Now, there's been enough detailed coverage of Iain Duncan Smith's speech yesterday that it doesn't need me to break it all down again - besides, I'm not sure I could keep a straight face if I was to analyse it too closely - but there was one sentence in it that he seemed to completely misread.

When he said 'The Quiet Man is turning up the volume' was it just me or did he, if anything, actually get quieter to the end of the sentence? Maybe it was just the fabled Iain Duncan Cough returning at the worst moment, but surely, when you're making an oratorical point like that it's imperative to, well, turn up the volume?

End of the pier show

Early contenders

The Ig Nobel awards might only have been awarded a couple of weeks ago, but I think we've got a contender for next year:
Anyone who has been jilted will know that love can hurt. Now scientists have established just how much. According to their research, a broken heart may be as painful as a broken leg...And suffering a snub from friends or being stood up on a date may produce a similar feeling of distress to when you stub your toe.
Of course, the research that supposedly 'proved' this, wasn't quite the heartless testing you might imagine - they didn't circle towns looking for the newly-dumped, then leap on them, break a bone or two and start asking 'which hurts more?'

A bit late

Some poetry I missed yesterday - British Spin is possessed by the spirit of Kipling, Vivienne gives us a take on the Tory Party Conference and Peter Black features a poet from Swansea who's not Dylan Thomas. Let me know if I'm missing anyone else!

Update: And here's something from Marc Mulholland.

And to round it all off...

The Oxford Hysteria of English Poetry

It seemed like poetry had been safely tucked up for the night.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Even more...

Some more poetry - Auden and Browning from Nicholas at Wallposter and a few words on 'death, booze, Augustinianism, commodification. You know, the things that matter' from Chris Brooke.

And more...

Razorhead and Rochenko (which sounds like a bizarre Vegas magic act, but that's a discussion for another time) contribute two of their favourites, and here's another bit of Mitchell that reminds me of Wolfie, who died a couple of months ago - December Cat:
Among the scribbled tangle
of the branches of that garden tree
only about two hundred
lime-coloured leaves still shudder

but the hunting cat
perched in the middle of the scribble
believes he's invisible
to the few sparrows visiting
the tips of the tree

like a giant soldier
standing in a grey street at noon
wearing a bright ginger uniform
hung with guns
hung with grenades
who holds a sprig of heather up
as he shouts to the houses:
Come out! It's all right,
I'm only a hillside!

More poetry

A few more contributions for National Poetry Day - Josie has some information about events and a poem by Ethna McKiernan, Paul Richards adds a little ditty about Iain Duncan Smith in the comments and that seems a good cue to link to a slightly older Thribbite tribute to Edward Said from D-Squared Digest.

And another from me: Adrian Mitchell's Icarus Schmicarus:
If you never spend your money
you know you'll always have some cash.
If you stay cool and never burn
you'll never turn to ash.
If you lick the boots that kick you
then you'll never feel the lash
and if you crawl along the ground
at least you'll never crash.
So why why why -

Poetry Day

Well, it's after midnight, which means it must be Thursday, so let's get the blogging version of National Poetry Day going!

A couple of people are out of the blocks with their contributions already - Nick of 4Glengate tells us of his favourite piece by Bertolt Brecht and Alison has one she made earlier.

And the first of the day from me, asking the question we may all have wondered at some point - What Is Poetry? by Adrian Mitchell:
Look at those naked words dancing together!
Everyone's very embarrassed
Only one thing to do about it -
Off with your clothes
And join in the dance.
Naked words and people dancing together.
There's going to be trouble.
Here comes the Poetry Police!

Keep dancing.
Update: Green Fairy joins in, and also reminds me of my crimes against Betjeman. Let's just say I'm doing this as community service for punishment.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003


And now there's talk that the England squad may decide amongst themselves not to travel to Turkey for Saturday's game, because the right of players to forget they're meant to be attending a drug test has to be defended at all, that can't be it, it must be something else. Surely, they wouldn't be so stupid? Oh yes, they're footballers, used to getting their way over everything, so why should any of them be punished for breaking the rules?

Anyway, should they decide not to play, they might want to get a flight somewhere on Saturday. I have a feeling that staying in this country might not be a good idea. Lucrative transfers to Celtic and Rangers all round, no doubt!

Hobbits, Meat Loaf and other strange things

Bill Bailey's blog.

The world is doomed. Doomed, I tell you! (via that Jez feller)

Thank you, Daniel Davies

From Crooked Timber, the other day:
If you think that you can prove that Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has an alcohol problem, you should say so and risk being sued. If you canít prove it, you should shut up about the subject. But either way, please spare us the current round of innuendo, jokes and photographs of the man with a glass in his hand. Itís childish, itís dishonest and itís unfair to your readers (like me) who end up without a clue as to whether this is a piece of common knowledge within Westminster thatís being hushed up, or just a piece of fairly childish and malicious injokery. Youíre the bloody British press, not popbitch.

Theatre of Shame

Oliver Holt has a wonderful bit of spleen-venting in today's Mirror:
Let's get one thing straight before we go on: Ferdinand failed to take a routine drug test administered by UK Sport one day last month. End of story.

So he took it 36 hours later and it was clear. So what? It is an insult to the intelligence to pretend that this makes everything all right. That's the whole point about a drugs test. You do it on the spot, before you've had the opportunity to flush offending substances out of your system. You do it when they want you to do it, not when you want to do it.

Of course we all want to presume Rio is innocent because no one would wish this on him. Of course we understand the agonies his United team- mates are going through because of his ordeal.

But what would you say if a Chinese swimmer drove off at high speed one day when the testers came calling? Would you presume her innocence, would you say she was obviously preoccupied about doing the laundry, or would you think she had something to hide?

Would you think that if the drugs testers dropped in on Paula Radcliffe she'd tell them she's just nipping out to Tesco, then she and the hubby are going to the movies and would it be okay if they do the drug thing tomorrow?
The whole thing's worth a read, as is Holt's column most weeks.

Border troubles

A long-running, but relatively unknown outside the two countries involved, border dispute has now been resolved - China now recognises that Sikkim is a province of India, not an independent country.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


The FA have come under a lot of stick for their decision to withdraw Rio Ferdinand from the England squad for the crucial game against Turkey on Saturday after he failed to attend a random drugs test. While I can understand why people are angry at the FA, I think that they have (for once) made a sensible, if difficult, decision.

Consider this scenario: Ferdinand plays on Saturday, England get the result (a draw or a win) to qualify for Euro 2004, but later the decision is made to ban Ferdinand for not attending the test. The Turkish FA then call on UEFA to nullify the result of the match, given that England fielded a player who they knew to be in breach of the drug testing regulations (confirmed by the ban he receives). UEFA concur with the Turkish view, the result on the night is stricken from the books and Turkey instead qualify automatically with England sent to the playoffs, or perhaps even disqualified for the infraction.

It may not be the most likely scenario, but I feel it has to be a possibility the FA have considered and, knowing that their financial position means missing out on Euro 2004 would be a disaster, they've acted to prevent it from happening. Besides, with John Terry and Sol Campbell both fit, the loss of Ferdinand from the side isn't that damaging to the team. At least, not as damaging as the likely absence of Michael Owen will be.

The power of Yorkshire

Can anyone stop the runaway Jez? Last week, his Deportivo La Yorkshire led in the UK Bloggers Fantasy League came under threat, so he responds in style with another 70+ points in a week to stretch the lead back to over 20 points. Having a team called 'Deportivo' is obviously a boost - the overall leader of the 130,000+ teams on Yahoo is called 'Deportivo Lamb Bhuna'.

Early pacesetter British Spin returns to blogging and form this week, top scoring for the week with over 80 points to hold himelf in third place, just ahead of my fast-improving Disposable Heroes who gain another place, obviously inspired by Wolves' win on Saturday.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Russian Roulette

I was going to write about Derren Brown's game of Russian Roulette last night, but Green Fairy's already said pretty much all I'd say and she rants a whole lot better than me.

Actually, I thought the build up to the actual 'roulette' was more interesting than the stunt itself. I think what makes Brown interesting is that he doesn't really claim to be a 'magician' as such and always points out that his 'tricks' are based on psychology, suggestion and manipulation. It's not necessarily what he does that's most interesting, but the speed and accuracy with which he can do it.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

What does blogging rhyme with?

I discovered that it's National Poetry Day this Thursday and I thought 'why not try and extend it to blogging?' After all, blogging is primarily a written medium, poems are made out of words, so why not try and bring them together, just for a day?

So, here's my idea - let's have a poetic blogburst on Thursday. I'm going to post a few poems by one of my favourite poets, and I invite you to do the same. Or, if you've written poetry yourself then see this as your chance to share them with the world. If you don't like poetry, write a post about why. Find sites that contain poems, or sites about poetry and tell us about them, even if it's just a collection of The Best Of Vogon Poetry. Whatever you want to do, if it's vaguely poetry-related then post it, tell me about and I'll link to it on Thursday.

Even though it's National Poetry Day, and is limited to Britain in the real world, I have no objection to anyone from beyond these shores taking part. The theme for the day is 'Britain' so you could choose a poem about Britain, or written by someone from Britain, or just something that reminds you of Britain, but I'm not going to impose any limits.

If you're interested, let me know either via the comments or email. If you want to know more about National Poetry Day and the other events that are going on that day, click on the link above to find out more. It won't take much time or effort to join in, and maybe we can make the world of blogging just a little poetic on Thursday. Whether it's poems you write, or just poems you like, it doesn't really matter. After all, even Donald Rumsfeld can have a book of poems published.

Update (28/9/2004): If you've just discovered this post (I've found out in comes out quite highly in a Yahoo! search for National Poetry Day), something similar will be happening this year. See this post for more details.

The sporting Nobel nominees

In amongst all the tales of greed, violence and other sundry sleaziness that characterises global football nowadays, Kevin Mitchell has an uplifting story in today's Observer about the Kenyan team Mathare United, who have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize:
Mathare Valley spreads north from Kenya's capital, a running sore of poverty covered in corrugated iron, where street children use machetes and guns to survive in an environment of murder, rape, TB and cholera. Mathare - a shanty town housing 600,000 of the world's poorest people - and other Nairobi slums account for 80 per cent of Kenya's Aids victims, 700 of whom die every day.

Only two in 10 adults have legitimate employment. There is little formal education for the youth, and alcoholism, fuelled by the illicit stills that turn out fiery chang'aa, is rife.

But MYSA resolved 16 years ago to fight the tide of deprivation. It was then that a Canadian United Nations official, Bob Munro, saw local kids having a kickabout with a jwala, a polythene-bag-and-twine football. He offered to referee if they helped clean the area of litter, setting in motion an unstoppable process of mutual cooperation.

From this 'pay-it-back' approach sprung leagues for 14,000 children. In return for the facilities and organisation, the players keep their neighbourhood clean, plant trees and attend Aids, pregnancy and drug-awareness classes.

There are scholarships, too, for photography, music and drama. Teams get points for their work as well as their football.

My colleague Tom Templeton has been there. He reports: 'It's an awesome sight as, on pitches of hard, red mud dotted around the slum borrowed from the police and churches [MYSA own only one], hundreds of kids watch intense 11-a-side matches of barefoot kids, awaiting their turn.'

Munro stresses that this is not 'a white man in Africa story'. He points out that the 63 staff who run the scheme are all former or current slum-dwellers who played in the leagues.

'So far,' says Peter Serry, the director of MYSA, 'the scheme has made life more bearable and broken down many of the tribal, territorial and prejudicial barriers of life in Kenya.'

MYSA's youth teams have won several international tournaments, and this season the under-16s beat Ajax Amsterdam twice in Norway. 'They were tougher than us, and stronger,' says the captain Nelson Ngari, 'but we were more determined.'