Saturday, May 29, 2004

Your choice

In an alternate universe, I am Bono

Oh dear. This sounds rather like much of my teenage years, except the band I was in (supposedly as lead vocalist, mainly because I couldn't play any instruments) was called Who Cares? (a name that summed up just about everything about us, including our attitude to such things as musical ability) and we never got beyond the taping on a portable tape recorder at a friend's house stage.

I can still remember the lyrics to our Chas'n'Dave-go-Metal song, 'Give Us A Drink', but I'll refrain from posting them. Still, I can always say 'I was in a band once' in conversations, should the topic come up.

Goths: The hidden menace

I can't think of much a comment here, except to p[oint out that this is just weird:
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - Almost half of a $273,000 grant awarded in 2002 to fight the Goth culture in Blue Springs has been returned because of a lack of interest — and the absence of a real problem.

Blue Springs received the grant two years ago from the Youth Outreach Unit, money the city and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves trumpeted proudly as a way to fight a perceived Goth problem.

But $132,000 of the grant was returned because officials never found much of a problem with the Goth culture, which some students called a fad that most people eventually outgrow.

(via General JC Christian)

I hope they're temporary ones

Just reading this Reuters blurb on the new Big Brother series (unofficial slogal: 'if you don't start shagging this year, we're going to break your legs') and I came across one of the most disturbing images I've encountered in a long time. So, I thought I'd share the scariness with all of you so I don't have to suffer alone:
Newspapers said among the failed applicants was a man sporting 17 tattoos of his favourite pop band -- S Club

Care in the Community - working for you, and keeping ironic tattooists in business at the same time.

Conspiracy theories, updated

Given the seeming success of the Iranian intelligence services in manipulating the US over Iraq, does this mean that mean that those conspiracy theorists who don't, for whatever reasons, attribute everything to Mossad and it's associated organisations now have someone to blame for everything?

Friday, May 28, 2004

Another one bites the dust

Telford United - one of the most famous non-league football clubs - have gone into liquidation, bringing 132 years of football history to an end though fans are hoping, in the style of Aldershot and Wimbledon, to create a new club - AFC Telford United - to compete at a lower level next year.

It's a real shame for Telford to go, as they were one of the dominant non-league sides of the 1980s - even reaching the 5th round of the FA Cup once - and if the automatic promotion from the Conference to the Football League had come into place a few years earlier, it's quite likely they'd be a league club by now. Hopefully, the new club will be able to repeat the successes of the old one.

Twas ever thus

Chris Lightfoot brings us the latest Government cock-up news - and this time it's a three-for-the-price-of-one special.

There's always the possibility that at some point, some Minister or Civil Servant may read one of these analyses of their inability to hit a cow's arse with a banjo and it might persuade them that maybe, just maybe, these plans are unworkable and they'll take that thought to David Blunkett.

Of course at that point Blunkett, a master of the use of dementedly positive thinking to overcome any potential obstacles to his increasingly unhinged ideas, will wish them into the cornfield.

RIP

Leicester South Labour MP Jim Marshall has died. This, of course, means there'll have to be a by-election there. Along with the possible by-elections in Reading East and Birmingham Hodge Hill, there could be a tricky few months ahead for the Government. (via Jonathan Calder)

Thursday, May 27, 2004

...and gone

Nasser Hussain has retired from all cricket - domestic and international.

Always leave them wanting more, I guess.

Mostly not harmless

It's already provoked some discussion over at Matt's, and Johann Hari's article about the UKIP is now available on his website:
Indeed, UKIP routinely denounces Edward Heath, John Major and Tony Blair - who, whatever you think of them, have dedicated their lives to serving Britain - as "traitors". It seems strangely appropriate that Joan Collins has joined the Party. Their view of the EU and of our political leaders is like something from a Dynasty plot-line: cartoonish motivations, evil scheming and dastardly foreigners. If Romano Prodi as described by UKIP had bigger shoulder-pads and classier ball-gowns, he could easily be a partner in ColbyCo.

But beneath the layers of bigotry and silliness, it is important to note the appeal of UKIP's arguments. Large numbers of British people - more than 40 per cent in some polls - want to withdraw from the EU. Many are decent people tempted by the UKIP argument that after withdrawing from the EU, we could still engage in full trade with our European partners. It seems like we could cherry-pick the best of the EU - access to European markets - without the political entanglements of belonging to the Union itself. The Withdrawal Brigade points to Switzerland and Norway as models of a post-EU future. These two countries trade with the EU without having to adhere to its rules, UKIP boasts.

There's only one problem with this neat vision: it isn't true. Many of my relatives live in Switzerland, and it is a simple fact that Swiss people have to follow the vast majority of EU regulations. If almost all your products are sold within the EU, then you have to meet EU rules at almost every step of the production and distribution of goods.

After withdrawal, Britain would still, in practice, be bound by EU regulations. The only difference would be we would have absolutely no say in formulating those regulations. They would be made without us. Britain wouldn't even be shouting from the sidelines, as we so often are today. Our government would be outside the stadium, yelling in an empty street. They could more accurately be named the UK Isolation Party.

Tony Blair: Warblogger

Remember, when asked a question you don't know the answer to, or might present your cause in a bad light, use mt-badsaddam to automatically generate a few lines of 'Saddam was a bad bad man' style text, as that wins all arguments:
Q5. [175603] Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Does the Prime Minister know where Saddam Hussein is and whether he is still alive? Is he aware what measures the Americans are taking to encourage Saddam Hussein to reveal the whereabouts of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?

The Prime Minister: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I know where Saddam Hussein is not: he is not in a presidential palace running Iraq; he is not brutalising his people; he is not threatening the security of his region, and this world is a safer, better place without him in government.

After all, why should you answer any questions, when Saddam was a bad bad man?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Meaningless statistics update

I think I'm going to treasure my placing of number 44 in this list (created by Troubled Diva) for as long as it lasts - something tells me that there are more than 6 unlisted British blogs with more incoming links than me.

Still, I'm above Spin.

Three-way blog comedy cage match

In the red corner, the Mighty Reason Man channels Steven Den Beste:
(4,000 words which display a broad range of knowledge spanning a number of subjects, combined with smart analysis and interesting insights, leading up to-)

It is then impossible to escape the conclusion that we must invoke NATO's Article V and conduct a global war against France.

(Sound of thousands of readers interested by preceding technical discussion simultaneously going "Wait- what the fuck?")

In the blue corner, Dave Weeden on Norman Mailer:

Warm up your traitor tattoos, people! Our country needs uncompromising leaders, like Bush and Cheney, who, anticipating their future ranks, kept themselves safer than even General Haig did, not equivocators who may have faced enemy fire in the cause of democracy. Futhermore, Bush is dim, as are most of the electorate. Mailer is some kind of ubermensch, who’s read Neech-thing, that Kraut guy with the big moustache. It would shame the average KKK Southerner to have such a guy anywhere near power, even as mayor of some limp-wristed liberal wasteland like New York. Let’s have someone we can identify with. Bring me Jeff Jarvis with that jutting chin and “Let me go three rounds with a wet paper bag” bravura or James Lileks, the man you’d back when mano a mano with a dead ocelot. These guys, heroic Americans to the surface, naturally fought their way to the recruiting offices on September 12, 2001. They were turned back by Sergeant-Majors who politely told them the country need slavish propagandists, and pissed themselves laughing when they left. Only by the ceaseless effort of the keyboard squadron can al-Qaeda be kept at bay, even though they’ll never read the diatribes against the BBC or the praises of frogspawn or whatever Li-Lets calls his sprog. And if the enemy ever invade, we always have Christopher Hitchens, armed with a cellar of empty whisky bottles, waiting for them.

And in the tangerine corner, we have the reigning champion, The Poor Man:

If you have any questions, I will be machine-gunning myself to death. I've been falling behind in this department recently.

Let's get it on!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Time to go?

The saying goes that all political careers end in failure. Sporting careers are usually different in that they most often end in mediocrity, that gradual process of slipping away from your prime, still desperately hoping for that one shining moment when everything comes back to how it used to be. There are exceptions to the rule, as there are to any aphorism, but it generally holds - you don't generally see sporting tributes lingering on the later years of someone's career.

Fate, with just a little bit of that final shining moment, seems to have conspired to give Nasser Hussain the perfect moment to end his England career. While I don't think anyone would begrudge him continuing following his excellent match-winning century yesterday, it does seem as though he may choose this moment to finally drop out of the side and end his time in the England squad. While most of the papers seem to take his post-match statement as evidence of his wish to retire, I think Angus Fraser, writing in The Independent, has the most perceptive analysis. He's one of the few cricket writers who has played with Hussain for any period of time so he's well-placed to interpret Hussain's exit from the pitch yesterday:
After scoring his 14th Test hundred and securing England's joint fifth-highest run chase the former England captain walked from the home of cricket with his hands held high, acknowledging each corner of the ground. His passionate nature has always ensured each century is greeted in memorable fashion, but with the applause of the 20,000 spectators ringing in his ears he seemed to be saying goodbye.

Personally, I think Hussain will go. As with his decision to give up the captaincy in favour of Michael Vaughan last year, he seems to have a sense of knowing when it's a good time to take matters into your own hands rather than waiting for the selectors to make it up for you. While he's often been referred to as a rather self-obsessed player, his time as captain has made him sensitive to knowing what's best for the team and if he judges that this is the best time both for him and the team to go, he'll take it, knowing that Andrew Strauss has already proved himself to be an adequate replacement. Besides, with both Paul Collingwood and (from September) Kevin Pietersen both pressing for places in the eleven, his time is almost over, even if England decide to play seven batsmen.

No batsman ever retires completely undefeated, but to end your career with a not-out century has to come close. There's no risk of an ignominious dismissal to end that last innings, no chance of being caught on the wrong end of a run out. He won't get his century of England caps, but sometimes it's the innings that don't make the landmarks that are remembered more than the big ones.

And, he does have one little achievement that he might not be aware of: he's one of that very rare breed - a cricketer whose name is known to Americans. I watched the end of the game yesterday with an American friend who recognised his name. Why? Because he's mentioned in Bend It Like Beckham.

Boring technical details and all that

For those of you interested in, or affected by, such things, the Boundary Committee for England has just published its recommendations for the structure of unitary councils in the North-East, North-West and Yorkshire & the Humber if the Regional Assemblies are approved in the referendums this Autumn.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Monaco GP review

So, Monte Carlo provided its usual combination of race, endurance test and demolition derby and also helped me to make a nice little profit as well. I don't think you can rate Monaco in the same way as other races - you know it's going to be a tactical race with little or no overtaking before it starts, so you don't feel that you've been cheated out of anything when positions change frequently.

Trulli was a worthy winner - keeping his head when all around him were losing theirs and, when it mattered, being damn quick round the trickiest circuit of the lot. It'll be interesting to see what sort of boost this gives him for the rest of the season as, for the first time in a while, he's not just outqualified but outraced Alonso and can now see the dizzy heights of second or third place in the championship beckoning him.

One thing that needs to be stated before revisionist Ferrari historians start claiming that Montoya cost them a win (because brake testing in the darkness of the tunnel is perfectly safe, of course) is that after Alonso's crash, there was no way Schumacher was going to win. At the time of his crash, Schumacher was leading, but he still had to make one more pit stop, whereas Trulli and Button had both made their final stop as soon as the safety car came out. Someone at Ferrari made a big mistake in not calling Michael into the pits the moment Alonso crashed and for once they were out-reacted by BAR and Renault calling their drivers in.

My question of the week is, given the abysmal level of his performaces this year, topped off with a De Cesaris-like mobile chicane weekend, why would Toyota even be considering getting Ralf Schumacher to drive for them, let alone pay him to it?

So, time for the ratings:

Good Race:
Renault: They were in with a chance of a 1-2 before Alonso crashed, and this weekend the blue cars were the ones to be in. If they can just squeeze some more power out of that engine then they could become a real threat to Ferrari for the rest of the season.
BAR: Didn't have the lucky breaks that could have got them a first win, but still very strong. Sato's starting to develop a worrying trend of blowing engines though, which needs to be investigated.
Toyota: Pretty much unnoticed, but the only team to get two cars to the finish in the points.
Average Race:
Sauber: Would probably have got a good race if fate hadn't stuck Fisichella into Sato's big cloud of smoke just after the start. A good run to 5th by Massa.
Jordan: Points! Precious, precious points! Now, can the prize money be used to pay for eye tests for Nick Heidfeld? He seems to have trouble noticing blue flags in front of him.
McLaren: Just on the cusp with 'bad' but a good qualifying performance might indicate them turning the corner, finally sorting out the new car's handling. Coulthard was unlucky to go out early.
Williams: Also just scraping into average, but only because of Montoya's 4th place. Someone really needs to get a grip in this team, and fast.
Bad Race:
Ferrari: On the back foot throughout the weekend, outraced by Renault, out-thought at the critical moments, a silly mistake from Schumacher and Barrichello nursing a failing car to the end. By their standards, that's a bad weekend.
Jaguar: They came, they started, they'd packed up and gone home before the race reached half distance.
Minardi: Embarrasingly slow, and desperately glad the 107% rule doesn't apply in qualifying anymore. Still, being that slow does guarantee camera time as they're constantly being lapped.

But, as I've said, I made a nice tidy profit on the race basically by spotting some good value in the odds earlier in the week. Both Renault drivers were available at such good odds (Alonso at 16/1, Trulli at 25/1) that an each-way bet on both of them meant I was guaranteed a small payout if just one of them finished in the top three. Given that they're the second-best team this year, and the Renault's historically been the best-handling of all the cars, it seemed good value, and proved to be excellent value, paying out at the equivalent of 7/1 when Trulli won.

Lazy

Apologies for there being no updates for the last day or so. New stuff, including my Monaco GP review, will be up tomorrow. Right now though, I've had a few drinks to celebrate the fact I backed Jarno Trulli to win earlier in the week...at 25/1. I'm attributing part of the fact that he won to my not bragging about finding these excellent odds.