Saturday, November 15, 2003

Lost in translation

A few weeks ago I watched the German film Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run) - which is well worth watching, should you get the chance - and in the introduction to the film the phrase 'The ball is round and the match lasts 90 minutes.' is used. I'd just assumed that was a line in the script to imply that some rules are fixed, while others are more changeable depending on circumstance (it makes sense in terms of the film) but what I hadn't realised was that these lines had a cultural significance in Germany. As I discovered from reading this article about a new German film that details their victory in the 1954 World Cup, they were actually spoken by Sepp Herberger, the German manager, at a press conference during the tournament. It's probably akin to an English film using the phrase 'they think it's all over...it is now!' - something that's a reference to an important moment in the national culture with the deeper meaning or reference not necessarily obvious to a foreign viewer.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Fifteen minutes and counting...

Oh dear. Tony Blair's admitted to liking The Darkness, lowering him another notch in my estimation. The problem with The Darkness is that if they are a joke, apart from going on for way too long, they're nowhere near as funny as Spinal Tap and if they are serious, then they're just rubbish. And I say this as someone who used to be a heavy metal kid (you want embarrassing personal revelations on a blog? The first gig I went to was Whitesnake at the Birmingham NEC) and knows for sure that there were (and probably still are) a large number of bands who can make music that's a hell of a lot better than anything from The Darkness, but they've been ironically dubbed cool by the NME so everyone says they like them this week.

Bernard and Manny and Fran, oh my!

Just checking out Bill Bailey's blog, and amongst all the talk of savoury jazz scones and soap abuse at Moat House hotels there was the following snippet:
now plunge headlong into the madness that is Black Books for the next few weeks, so communication may be erratic.
Woo-hoo! A new series of Black Books! Now all we need is a new series of Spaced to go with it.

More ID

Richard Allan has an interesting post on ID cards from the IT perspective:
A classic scenario for an information technology project doomed to failure is for people to identify a solution they want to implement without properly defining the problem they are trying to address. The Government’s proposals to introduce an identity card sit firmly in this category.
I can remember ID cards being trumpeted as the solution to many 'problems' over the years (anyone else remember the proposed ID cards for football supporters that were going to stop hooliganism in the 80s?) and this is just their latest incarnation.

A thought about ID cards

Here's a scenario that came to my mind last night. Let's suppose that ID Cards are introuduced, and after the years of problems of implementing them (including removing EDS/Capita/Serco/Crazy Bob's ID Services from the running of them at a cost of billions) they're now fully functional.

Now, suppose I'm in a situation where someone requires to see my ID Card to prove my identity for something or other. What happens if, before I show him my card, I demand to see his card so he can prove he is who he says he is and has the right to ask me to see my card? Of course, assuming he chooses to show me his card, then I'll have to ask him to accompany me to the nearest police station (or other nearby approved biometric data testing station) to be sure his card is a real one and not a forgery. But, of course, how do I know I can trust the data given me by the approved biometric data testing system? And so on, and so forth...

But, if we can't be trusted to be who we say we are, why should we trust that anyone or anything else is who they say they are? And thus do all political questions become existential philosophy.

Party time

Don't know if I'll be able to make it yet, but you might like to know that the UK Webloggers Christmas Party is taking place on November 29th.

And on the subject of parties, I've still not heard any reports from Harry Hatchet's bash last night, so I'm assuming it was either very good and all attendees are still recovering or it was very bad in a 'no one shall ever blog of this again' kind of way.

Virtually marching

If you can't make it to any protests in London next week, or just don't want to take the risk of being shot at on the streets of London or forced into a 'Free Speech Zone', Our World Our Say are organising a Virtual March on the US Embassy on November 20th.

Free parking

I had to go visit a friend in hospital last night and it made me think of a policy that would probably be a vote winner for any party that adopted it. It's quite simple - abolish car parking charges at hospitals.

I've been lucky and not had to visit hositals too regularly - last night was probably my first visit to one in over five years - so this is one thing that's slipped under the radar for me. The hospital I was at last night was charging around £1 an hour for parking, which is comparable to what NCP charge for parking in Birmingham City Centre and, while I can understand hospitals not wanting their car parks to be overrun by people using it for something else, preventing patients and their families from parking, is it really necessary to charge that much for parking when the hospital isn't in an area where parking is in high demand? It seems to me that this is a method being used to gather revenue for the hospital from people using the car park, many of whom can ill afford it.

The principle behind this is simple - the NHS is supposed to be free at the point of the use, and charging people to park there does come extremely close to charging someone to use the service. From what I can see, the charges for parking were not just for visitors but for people visiting A&E which must introudce a dilemma for patients. Suppose I've been able to drive myself or someone else to A&E, how long should I be paying for parking for? Do I have to treage myself or my friend to determine how long it'll take them to be seen and discharged so I don't end up paying for too little parking and getting clamped?

So, propose abolishing parking charges except when they're strictly necessary and I think it'll get votes. Not just because people will benefit from the move itself, but also because it declares an intent to stop what I suppose you could call 'stealth charging' in the NHS.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

He's back

Ken Livingstone is set to rejoin the Labour Party, according to a report in the Times. While the reort centres on talk of making a deal between Livingstone, the Party and Nicky Gavron (currently Labour's candidate for Mayor next year) I wonder if there's been much discussion of what happens further down the road. For instance, assuming Livingstone is re-elected next year, will he still be the candidate in 2008? If not, would the party accept him back as an MP (or even a member of the Lords!) or has he agreed to grow old gracefully? One never knows with Ken.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Separated at print?

Has anyone else noticed the resemblance between this post by Matthew Turner, this post by Harry Hatchet and the article entitled 'The Future Of Politics' on page 7 of the latest Private Eye (issue 1093)?

Are they by any chance related? I think we should be told.

Top, top, top of the league

Modesty should prevent me from telling you who the new leader of the UK Bloggers Fantasy League is. However, I don't feel like being modest so I'll let you all know that the long reign of Jez's Deportivo La Yorkshire at the top of the table has finally been ended and I've replaced him, with Dr Rock's Turned Out Nice Again Rovers pushing the Yorkshire lads into an unaccustomed third place in the table.

I shall enjoy this glory while I can - it's all downhill from here.

More encompassing

Tim Lambert has now started a collection of bloggers' scores from Chris Lightfoot's political survey, to go along with his earlier collection of scores from the original Political Compass. I did want to write a post about the meaning of these scores and various issues that come out from that, but it'll have to wait until I have a) the time to write it and b) a head that's not filled with nasty little cold viruses (or is it virii? I have no idea right now).

Another reason not to buy the Times

It now has Julie Burchill writing for it. I used to really like her column, but it's now just become something to skim over. It's not because I disagreed with her on the war (though she was annoyingly shrill while writing about it) more that her column had changed from 'here's what I think, I don't care if it offends you' to 'whatever offends the stereotypical Guardian reader in my head is what I think, regardless of whether it makes sense or not'.

Still, whatever happens, there's always the Julie Burchill Random Recycler whose commentary will not be hidden behind a subscription firewall:
Having grown up working class, universities were for not-quite-first-rate bourgeois unlike my wussy compadres. I will, of course, welcome the attention.

For anyone who's ever wondered why I don't blog about my personal life

Here:
"Really, the blog is just a record of what I think about the world and how I spend my free time," Widmar said. "In other words, exactly the sort of information that no 30-year-old wants his mom to have access to."
Update: Blogger's official stance on what to do if your Mom discovers your blog is quite funny too.

Back

Yes, I'm back, but with a lovely cold that I've managed to pick up somewhere on my travels which ihas currently turned my thinking processes to mush (no change there, of course, before someone makes the obvious comment) so I really don't feel like blogging, except to point out that what with all the amazing things a National ID Card is supposed to achieve I'm waiting for Blunkett to announce that it'll make the tea, balance your chequebook, parallel park your car, clear litter off the street and still respect you in the morning.