Saturday, November 29, 2003

Oops

While listening to the football this afternoon, I realised I hadn't provided an update for the UK Bloggers Fantasy League this week - honestly, it was because I forgot, not because I'm in some sort of sulk at being knocked off the top.

British Spin and Real Politik return to the top for the first time since the start of the season, if I remember correctly, with Jez's Deportivo La Yorkshire close behind in second place, knocking me into third place, with The Moose and AFC Wibblington filling the final place of the revolutionary football vanguard at the head of the league.

Meanwhile, the real interest is at the bottom of the league with commentators and analysts all wondering if the late-starting Riverside Dogs can pull themselves off the bottom at any time this year. The ongoing poor performance of the Pomo Pornstars XI is definitely giving hope to their fans.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Fun for all the strangely angled family

Bored? Mr Picassohead is a fun way to fill a few moments, minutes or hours, depending on your artistic ability and boredom threshold. (found via Green Fairy)

Questions, questions

I'm trying to decide - is Conservative Commentary the Black and White Minstrel Show of the 21st century, or is Peter Cuthbertson the new Jim Davidson?

Or is he just an ignorant fool?

You can read the real Benjamin Zephaniah here.

When Sully met Garry...in the mirror

Backword Dave may have found the most disturbing 'Separated at Birth' yet.
So, Michael Howard has proposed to make "Tax Freedom Day" a bank holiday. Writing in the Times, Peter Riddell points out some of the flaws:
Yet Tax Freedom Day is also a deeply flawed concept. Mr Howard’s reference to “the day when you stop working for the taxman, and start working for yourself” is both revealing and misleading. It implies that no one benefits from the money they pay in taxes and, by implication, that this money is wasted (an implicit Tory theme). Do taxpayers get no benefit from the NHS or defence spending? Moreover, it is impossible to discuss tax without also considering public expenditure.

The political debate should be about the balance between the two. Focusing only on tax distorts the real choice.

Mr Howard and Oliver Letwin are right to give warning about the dangers of rising taxes, especially when they are hidden. But it is bogus to talk about holding down taxes, or even cutting them (where Mr Howard is cautious) unless you have first shown how you intend to reduce the size of the state. Most of the Tories’ recent promises — on abolishing tuition fees, raising pensions in line with earnings, and patient and parent “passports” or vouchers — involve substantial extra expenditure. Broadening the choice of public services does not save money in the short term.
To be honest, I much prefer Matthew Turner's suggestion of a Work Freedom Day that marks the average day on which people have finished their work for the year. But, at least the Tories are proposing that we should be getting an extra day off a year. Except, of course, they're not:
The idea of creating a new bank holiday in the spring, when Britain already enjoys a series of breaks, is likely to alarm business leaders. Aides to the Tory leader said they would be sensitive to such concerns and might consider scrapping the May Day bank holiday at the beginning of the month or the second break at the end of the month.
The idea of getting rid of May Day because we 'have too many bank holidays in a short space of time' has been floated around for several years - I can remember hearing of plans by the last Conservative government to get rid of it in favour of something in October/November instead - but it's all a bit ironic, really. After all, we keep getting told that Labour want to destroy all our ancient traditions in the name of modernity, yet now here are the Tories proposing to get rid of either May Day, which has been a day of celebration since time immemorial, in favour of making some political point of a holiday instead. It's political incorrectness gone mad...

Update: Matthew Turner has some more objections to the idea.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

More Mayoral news

Edward Lord, Deputy Campaign Director of Steve Norris's campaign has resigned from the Tories to join the Liberal Democrats. (via James) I actually met Edward Lord a few years ago when he was the sole Conservative member of the NUS National Executive in the mid-90s (I believe he was the first Conservative to be elected to the NEC for over 10 years, though someone will no doubt correct me on that) From what I recall, he was quite a respected member of the NEC, one who worked hard at his job and, I think, did attract some animosity from a few of the more fringe Conservative Students as he was quite moderate, even then.

As James says, the momentum does seem to be with the Hughes campaign at the moment, but I'm still doubtful that he'll beat Livingstone. However this news, in addition to Norris' new role at Jarvis does make me think that Hughes is currently the favourite to be in the run-off part of the election with Livingstone. As far as I'm aware, there haven't been any polls for the election recently and it'll be interesting to see where they place the candidates when they start appearing.

Turning down the honour

Benjamin Zephaniah has publically turned down the offer of an OBE. Many of the stories mentioning this have mentioned some others who've turned it down, which reminds me of something I heard on the radio a while ago.

Tom Courtenay was being interviewed on Five Live (I believe it was by Simon Mayo) shortly after he'd received his knighthood. While discussing other actors who'd become Sirs or Dames, the conversation turned to Albert Finney who starred with Courtenay in the excellent A Rather English Marriage. Mayo expressed surprise that Finney hadn't received a knighthood to which Courtenay responded (I may be paraphrasing slightly) 'Ah, but that doesn't mean he's not been offered one'.

'Hugh Grant is not in every British film'

It's a nice headline, but I can't help wishing it was a story in The Onion rather than this mildly interesting story from the Christian Science Monitor.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Like an axis of evil, but slightly curved

Can't resolve that pub dispute over whether Zelda from Terrahawks is more or less evil than Henry Kelly or Jeremy Beadle? Not sure who's the most good - Keira Knightley, David Hasslehoff or William G Stewart? Never fear, let your argument be easily settled by the Funjunkie Horseshoe of Purity!

Come fly the bloated skies

Just been reading about the Airbus A380 plane, and how it's going to change air travel and all that. And, I must admit, when you read stuff like this, it's pretty impressive, with all the talk of what they're going to put in the extra space. It's just when you read this that your view changes:
However, Airbus said some Japanese airlines planned to fill the planes with economy class seats, fitting 800 passengers on board. A proposed "stretched" version would accommodate 900 seats.
How long before 'some Japanese airlines' becomes 'pretty much every airline', do you think?

Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, as one would hope that the cost of flying on an A380 with 8-900 passengers onboard would be significantly cheaper than flying on a current in service aircraft. It may even be that there'll be significant variation between airlines' configurations on the planes and that'll be part of their competition - pay less, and be squuezed in with 800 others on SuperEconoEasyJet or pay more and have extra facilities to pass the time on Virgin, Emirates and the like.

However, the official Airbus website for the A380 says I don't have the right version of Flash so I can't view it. Well, looks like I won't be buying one for myself if they're not interested in customers with less features on their browsers.

Today we learned...

Not to let breakfast radio presenters discuss controversial items in the news. Can you say 'contempt of court' and 'planned item so spectacularly stupid I'm not going to mention it here just in case it gets me into trouble', children?

But they'll still have Rod Stewart...

New jukeboxes with access to over 2 million tracks are about to be introduced to pubs in Britain. Anyone else interested in a few rounds of finding the most obscure song that's available on them?

Pay to play

The Guardian pulled off a little coup this week, by having bought exclusive extracts from Martin Johnson's autobiography. It's pretty much your standard sports star autobiography, clearly done by a ghostwriter, but there are some interesting bits in it, like today where he explains why players won't play for their country for free nowadays:
The whole issue of paying players in the first place is, in some ways, a tricky subject. Lots of people say things like, "I'd walk over broken glass to represent my country" and "I'd play for England for nothing". I understand these sentiments, but people forget that many of us, including me, have played for England for nothing. We virtually have walked over broken glass, too.

The fact is we would go through all the pain for nothing again if we had to. But if you want us to do it for nothing, don't charge £50 a ticket at Test matches, don't demand millions in TV revenue and don't look for massive sponsorship using us. Just cover your costs and stage the games.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Dick Van Dyke syndrome

One thing I wonder about while reading this story of the American woman who developed a British accent after a stroke is whether anyone British has actually listened to her voice to say what the accent is. From the article, it's clear that some Americans think she has a British accent, but coming from the land that gave us Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, I think I'm justified in wanting a second opinion.

Xmas TV choices

On BBC One, you have:
the EastEnders Christmas Party will feature Liberty X, Lulu, Jo Brand, Suggs, Greg Rusedski and Richard E Grant, with Shane Richie (Alfie Moon) hosting and Mike Reid (Frank Butcher) pulling pints behind the bar.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 will be live from Mars. I wonder which one will get the higher ratings?

Teachers TV

Yes, there's going to be a 'Teachers TV' channel launched 'developing quality programmes for school workers'.

The teachers I know would just prefer a channel that broadcast Channel 4's Teachers continually, I think. From what I hear, it's closer to their experience in school than this:
Proposed programming includes Against the Odds, a series where teachers tell the story of how their school overcame serious problems and crises; a fly-on-the-wall clasroom analysis show giving tips and advice; as well as a regular education news bulletin.

A thought

I've realised how to deal with people who don't like and/or criticize Doctor Who - ignore them. It's clear to me that these people are objectively pro-Master, and thus not worth debating with.

Monday, November 24, 2003

And in the future, everything will be done on the internet!

I was reading this BBC News Magazine piece about 'Internet Refuseniks', mainly in the hope of it containing some horribly libellous statements about people who refuse to use the internet, on the grounds that they'd never see them and be able to sue over them.

However, there was one quote in there to point and laugh at:
"I think the internet will eventually become like running water - the idea that someone does not have running water is seen as bad.(")
Yes, there are so many parallels between the internet and running water. One's an essential thing necessary for life, and providing simple access to it for people in their homes helps prevent disease and the other's a useful tool, though one you can live quite happily without (I know those last seven words may seem quite shocking to some of you, but I'm assured it's true by the several billion people in this world who do without it).

So please, if you're going to make analogies, think about what you're saying, or just remember that there are still people in this country, let alone elsewhere in the world, who don't have phones or televisions and seem to be doing perfectly well without.

'A victory for Europe?'

Now, some people have been using Chirac's description (in a letter to Tony Blair) of England's World Cup win as a 'victory for Europe' as an excuse for the predictable France and/or Euro bashing, without actually thinking about what he said, or trying to put it into any sort of context.

I can't find a transcript of the full letter (though it's likely to appear on the Elysee's official site at some point in the future) but the reports I've seen, plus the use of the word 'also' before 'a victory for Europe' imply to me that this was a statement made towards the end of the letter, and Chirac's point was that England's victory was confirmation of how European rugby has moved ahead of the Southern Hemisphere. It wasn't saying that it was Europe's victory rather than England's, but a statement that, as many others have noted, the European Cup is producing better players than the Super 12 and the Six Nations is producing stronger teams than the Tri-Nations.

But hey, who cares about the facts when you can do a bit of the old Frog-bashing?

Update: Just in case you thought I was alone in thinking of the North as better than the south, Australia's coach Eddie Jones feels the same. And while we shouldn't get complacent, note that they're talking about changes that need to be made to the Super 12 rather than the European Cup

Protest marketing

Just looking at this little picture of Sedgefield's very own Free Speech Zone gave me an idea - reversible protest placards. Something that shows you're a moral, decent, fully upstanding member of society who's clearly doubleplusgood and should be allowed to have your (approved) say anywhere on the one side, then when you're allowed to wander freely it can be easily turned around to show your true moral degenerate doubleplusungood self. Well, for the thirty seconds or so before you get caught and then sent back to the Free Speech Zone with the rest of the proles.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Strange bedfellows

Next year's election for London Mayor may be about to get interesting, if this report for the Observer's Pendennis column proves accurate:
It would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago but top sources at Northcliffe House say the London Evening Standard will back the Lib Dem Simon Hughes in next year's London mayoral contest. The volte-face for the avowedly Tory/Ken-hating paper comes after what Northcliffe sources say was a 'friendly and very productive' meeting between Hughes, Viscount Rothermere and the paper's editor, Veronica Wadley. Apparently, the Tories' candidate, the love-god who is Stephen Norris, no longer cuts the mustard at the Standard - leaving the way open for Hughes who will be pro lots of things and anti-nothing. Genius.
I don't think it reflects any real move on the Standard's part if it does happen, just a reflection of the reality that the electoral mathematics mean Hughes is probably the only candidate who can beat Livingstone. Why do I think that? Because of the two-preference system London uses to vote.

Consider this. As Livingstone is now likely to be Labour's candidate, there are going to be only three major candidates in the race - Livingstone, Hughes and Norris - with the second preference votes of the third place candidate deciding who wins out of the two leaders. The polls I've seen indicate that Livingstone is going to have a healthy lead on first votes, with Norris and Hughes in a battle for second.. So, whoever finishes second is going to need to get a healthy majority of the third place candidate's votes to beat Livingstone. Hughes' voters are, I would think, more likely to give their second preferences to Livingstone than Norris, whereas Norris' are more likely to go for Hughes than Livingstone. Thus, while Livingstone is the favourite, and I think he's likely to win regardless of who comes second, Hughes is more likely to have the opportunity to beat him than Norris. This is why the Standard, which has been strongly anti-Livingstone, might back Hughes, on the grounds that he has the better (although slim) chance of winning than Norris.