Saturday, September 18, 2004

How tragic it is to achieve one's potential

Just caught the end of BBC Two's documentary about Peter Cook. Having not seen any TV listings today, I didn't know it was on, so missed most of the start and I'm hoping it gets repeated again sometime. I'll give an eye on the BBC Four schedules, but if anyone does happen to see a repeat scheduled, let me know.

I was thinking about Cook recently, mainly because the absurd list of top British comedians missed him entirely and I was thinking about writing about him. Like most of my planned posts, it hasn't come to fruition, mainly because words (or at least, my words) seem inadequate and painfully useless when it comes to writing about a man for whom the much-overused phrase 'comic genius' is an understatement. It's interesting to hear about how some of his creations came to be, and the story of his life with all its ups, downs and empty bottles is interesting enough, but its his words we pay attention to and you can find many of them in Tragically I Was An Only Twin.

The one omission from the documentary was any mention of one of Cook's final pieces of work. From the documentary, one would assume that the edition of Clive Anderson Talks Back where he played a series of characters, all being interviewed by Anderson ('motication, motivation, motivation - the three Ms'), was his final major work when it was actually followed by the even funnier collaboration with Chris Morris, Why Bother?. But then Morris is notoriously reluctant to give interviews and especially to appear on TV as himself, not as a character, so it would probably have been hard to feature it, as Why Bother? was created entirely by Morris and Cook, mostly in improvisation as well.

I'm sure I've said this here before, but if you haen't heard it, then go out and get hold of a copy right now (Amazon appear to have it on offer at the moment). Cook's in some of his finest improvisational form, but Morris is an active part of the creative process, not just letting Cook run on with material but playing through it with him, asking the questions that lead it to new dimensions of surreality. Apparently, the final product (5 10 minute shows) was edited down from several hours of original material. I'm sure there's quite a lot of dud (though not Dud) material in there, but it would be interesting to hear should it still exist and someone be willing to release it.

Breaking silence

I've just done my first piece for a while on Fistful - just a short blurb about the Ryder Cup.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Polling news

Didn't see anyone mention this poll (pdf file, sorry John) earlier in the week, so just to bring it to your attention, here's a few snippets from it:

Asking 'Do you think X is doing well or badly as (his job)?' Blair gets 41% saying 'very well' or 'fairly well' against 57% saying 'very badly' or 'fairly badly', Howard scores 38% well against 47% badly, Kennedy gets 53% well against 30% badly and Gordon Brown gets 57% well against 33% badly.

49% think the US and Britain were wrong to take military action against Iraq, compared to 39% who thought they were right.

35% of people think the Conservatives have an excellent or fairly good chance of forming the next government against 59% who think they have a not very good or not at all good chance.

Perhaps most interestingly, more people think the Conservatives are united (30%) than think Labour are united (18%) - the question wasn't asked about the Liberal Democrats, but I'm sure that won't stop the usual suspects going on about the 'Liberal Democrat Civil War'.

Finally, just to prove it's a survey for the Mail on Sunday there are quite a few questions about house prices. There weren't any voting intention questions asked.

Talking of yobs

This is an interesting approach to debates in Hartlepool. From Google's number 1 result for Hartlepool Labour. Well, when their own website only appears to be available for a few minutes every day, what do they expect?

Update: Just noticed Peter's comment on Jody Dunn's blog (10.58am on Friday 17th). When will someone from the Labour campaign criticise their own candidate? After all "Ian Wright does nothing else but insult the town: he says it is full of teen gangs, drug abusers, crack houses, anti-social drunks."

Ah, but who will be the new Cromwell?

In the spirit of extrapolative lunacy, Matthew Turner gets out his crystal ball and plots the course of the Britain's forthcoming Civil War (copyright the Daily Mail). The comments are worth reading as well.


Given Anthony's comments about how pollsters work, which I presume is similar in the US to here, I'm not sure that this columnn - claiming all US Presidential polls are inaccurate because they don't include cellphone (mobile) users in the phone samples - is on very solid ground. Presuming that the US polling organisations weight their samples in the same way as British ones, I'd assume it's not necessarily as important as the column makes it to be. Still, worth mentionng so I can appear prescient on November 3rd if circumstances permit. (found via the Electoral Vote Predictor)

Not at home to Mr Cock-Up?

Both Guacamoleville and Comical Tommy inform me that Labour's candidate in Hartlepool now has a website, so it must be true.

So, can anyone tell me if it's just me who finds that the website seems to consist entirely of a horrendously punning title ('Wright on your side') with the rest of the page just an advert for Domains R Forever, a company who seem to be based outside of the blessed locality known as Hartlepool?

Update: It does seem to be working now, but as Simon suggests in the comments, the heavy use of the word 'local' does imply a League Of Gentlemen-inspired spoof. And I'm sure Keir Hardie would agree that 'Shop-a-Yob' was just what he established the Labour Party for. Someone may want to report this group of troublemakers to their local vigilantes Labour Party. After all, they've already been warned by the police.

We are all Stoppers now

Harry seems to finally coming closer to defining just what a 'Stopper' is, beyond being a catch-all term for anyone he dislikes who is 'anti-liberation'. It now includes anyone who went on a demonstration against the war, it seems. Unless, of course, he has some secret sources (or maybe magic psychic voices in his head) that tell him exactly what someone believes about everything based on these two sentences:
I recall going to London for a demonstration with about a million others. There was no trouble whatsoever.

Even Googling the name of the writer doesn't seem to bring up his name on the Official List Of All Stoppers Everywhere that I presume Harry maintains to keep up with actions of this nefarious bunch.

Ah, but that was long ago. That was in the future.

(Title nicked from a poem that has absolutely no connection to this post)

Asking the question:
IS THE Independent, with its aggressively anti-war stance, going to support the anti-war party, the Liberal Democrats?

To which the answer is 'wouldn't it be more of a surprise if it didn't?', The Scotsman either gets its tenses mixed up, or reveals that the entire Liberal Democrat Conference is so stage-managed it's already happened:

Editor Simon Kelner appeared on the first day of the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth on Monday, to chair a Q&A with Charles Kennedy.

Which will no doubt have very little effect on the plans of everyone I know who's heading down to Bournemouth next week. After all, the conference itself only gets in the way of that important 'networking'.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

What goes up, must come down

From the Wall Street Journal:
The Harris poll, conducted by telephone Sept. 9-13, shows Sen. Kerry leading Mr. Bush 48% to 47% among likely voters nationwide. The poll also found that a slender 51% to 45% majority doesn't believe that Mr. Bush deserves to be re-elected.

Meanwhile, getting run over on a zebra crossing near you

Here's a lovely bit of logic from the 'Surrey branch of Class War' (thanks to Alister for that, and the link):
Todays' massive Alliance demonstration outside Parliament against a hunting ban is not about hunting, Chief Executive Simon Hart has said.

Which helps to prove point 1 of the lovely little rant here:

Your spokespeople all suck. They are evidently not capable of constructing a fair and reasoned argument


Getting to the point, Tbogg:
You see, the [Main Stream Media] (a pejorative used by the ankle-snappers who would kill for a paying media gig) actually employs people who leave the comfort of their home office (also known as the spare bedroom) and go to real offices where they make calls, or they interview people where they ask questions, or even to the scene of the crime where they see things and then, using their expertise, they assemble these details (which we will call "facts") into a coherent storyline that the average yokel can understand while eating his Frosted Mini-Wheats. ...

Just like Penthouse Forum was a collection of phony stroke stories designed to give teenagers hope and older white men false memories, blogs are like newspapers made up entirely of op-eds for the likeminded. Critical thinking is rarely the price of admission, and, speaking of admission, how many blogs would you pay to read?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Political matchmaking foiled

I found this (via Bob Piper on the UK Political Blogs feed) and was instantly struck by the writing style. That insistence that all muslims are evil, that strange feeling of a keyboard being drooled over as it was written, the reference to Tom Clancy and I thought 'this is Adam Yoshida's perfect woman'. Sadly, the course of true love never runs smooth, and it turns out she's already married, so Adam will just have to find some other willing American to marry him so he can finally get the citizenship he craves so much.

A rare event

For once, I have to congratulate the Tories on something - they've managed to resist the marketing drones and kept a logo that's distinctive, rather than replacing it with some multi-million pound coffee stain/plughole type of logo.

Though I do wonder if there'll be a gradual process of revealoing the rest of the figure holding the torch. There's been a hand there for years, now we get the rest the rest of the arm, so when do we get the the rest of the shoulder? The torso? The head? And is it really Mrs Thatcher as Britannia holding the torch?


Interesting discovery via Perspective that Dougray Scott, the latest actor the tabloids have told us is definitely, positively, absolutely, going to be the new James Bond is a supporter of the Scottish Socialist Party. The previous Scotsman in the role supports a different party, of course. So, given that the Liberal Democrats are represented by Pussy Galore, how do the others break down? Roger Moore has the air of an old Tory who's thinking about following Joan Collins into UKIP while Timothy Dalton could well be a Luvvie for labour. But on what side of Irish politics does Pierce Brosnan land? And does anyone, even in Australia, care how George Lazenby votes?

Happy endings

Via just about everyone comes this story:
"We were going back to work from break, and my manager told me that Phil said to remove the (Kerry/Edwards) sticker off my car or I was fired," she said. "I told him that Phil couldn't tell me who to vote for. He said, 'Go tell him.' "

She went to Gaddis' office, knocked on the door and entered on his orders.

"Phil and another man who works there were there," she said. "I asked him if he said to remove the sticker and he said, 'Yes, I did.' I told him he couldn't tell me who to vote for. When I told him that, he told me, 'I own this place.' I told him he still couldn't tell me who to vote for."

Gobbell said Gaddis told her to "get out of here."

"I asked him if I was fired and he told me he was thinking about it," she said. "I said, 'Well, am I fired?' He hollered and said, 'Get out of here and shut the door.' "

She said her manager was standing in another room and she asked him if that meant for her to go back to work or go home. The manager told her to go back to work, but he came back a few minutes later and said, " 'I reckon you're fired. You could either work for him or John Kerry,' " Gobbell said.

Well, you'll be glad to know that she got to make that choice:

By this morning, Geddes, who has declined to comment publicly on the matter, had apparently had enough of the bad publicity. Through an intermediary, he offered Gobbell an apology and said she could have her old job back. But Gobbell said she wouldn't return without some written guarantee that Geddes wouldn't turn around and fire her once he was out of the spotlight. Then, late this afternoon, Kerry himself phoned Gobbell. "He was telling me how proud he was that I stood up," Gobbell told me. "He'd read the part where Phil said I could either work for him or work for John Kerry. He said, 'you let him know you're working for me as of today.' I was just so shocked."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Michael was talking about some of his strange top placings in Google. Well, I'm now number 1 for 'essex stereotypical labour mp'. What more can I say?

Moral clarity

Via Alison, this collection of covers from 50s pulp novels is rather good. Some of you may find the Juvenile Deliquency section rather familiar, but I'm assured that Labour aren't planning on using them for leaflets again.

Gone (but will she change her mind this time?)

Two questions prompted by Estelle Morris' announcement that she won't be standing at the next election:
1) Is she the first Labour MP to jump before she gets pushed out by the Liberal Democrats? John Hemming only needs a 4.4% swing in Birmingham Yardley to take the seat next time.

2) Is the timing of her announcement such that it'll be the Labour Party nationally, rather than her local party, who decide the Labour candidate for the next election? I'm not sure of the details, but I know there is a cut off date (2 years before the last possible date of the next election?) after which these decisions go to the NEC rather than the local party.

Answers on a postcard, or in the comments box, whichever you prefer.

Let the carping commence

Some of you may be interested to know that the Liberal Democrats pre-manifesto is available as a pdf file. Keeping in line with this blog's reputation as the Lib Dem blog that's last to cover any Lib Dem news - I believe there was a party Presidential election recently? - I haven't read it yet, though I might take a look at it on the train tonight, if I don't decide to finish reading A Clubbable Woman instead, which is much more interesting than I expected it to be. There may be a post on one or both of them tomorrow.

Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds

I presume this means that Harry's Place will be introducing their own 'corrections and clarifications' feature?

Oh, silly me, I forgot that they're always right about everything. Maybe it'll just be a 'criticisms by Stoppers you can just ignore because they, like the Guardian (which we know is all they, and only they, ever read) are never right' column instead.


This could be an interesting little twist in the US Presidential election, if the 'liberal media' manages to find the time to look into it, though I understand their next couple of months are full of hard-hitting interviews with people who once stood in the same room as John Kerry when he didn't scream about the pain he was suffering from a shrapnel wound which therefore 'proves' how he's not fit to be President.

Meanwhile, though, someone's been doing some actual investigation and reporting:
In 1994, George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas by a whisker. By that time, Barnes had left office to become a big time corporate lobbyist. To an influence peddler like Barnes, having damning information on a sitting governor is worth its weight in gold – or, more precisely, there’s a value in keeping the info secret.

Barnes appears to have made lucrative use of his knowledge of our President’s slithering out of the draft as a lever to protect a multi-billion dollar contract for a client. That's the information in a confidential letter buried deep in the files of the US Justice Department that fell into my hands at BBC television.

Here's what happened. Just after Bush's election, Barnes' client GTech Corp., due to allegations of corruption, was about to lose its license to print money: its contract to run the Texas state lottery. Barnes, says the Justice Department document, made a call to the newly elected governor's office and saved GTech's state contract.
Move along, citizen, nothing to see here. No, there's nothing to see here, what are you, some friend of the terrorists? (via Pandagon)

Get rich quick - and be on TV at the same time

Via John B, there's the shocking discovery that blogging is unlikely to make any of us really rich. I would dispute that, but the average 25c a day I'm making from the Google ads is probably proving it.

In fact, it seems that being in the audience for Oprah is more likely to get you material rewards.

Monday, September 13, 2004


A political party in an Arab nation has fired one of its members for visiting Israel. I'm expecting the usual denunciations from the usual suspects, especially Christopher Hitchens. I mean, I'm sure the fact that it's Ahmed Chalabi's party that's done this won't stop them. (via Atrios)

Because everyone has a blog nowadays

For information on which rooftops are currently in vogue for protests, this Fathers 4 Justice blog might be of interest to some of you.

He's got form, sarge

A quick Googling reveals that jason hatch, the Buckingham Palace Batman, has been up on a building before and was also involved in chaining up court buildings.

Yet apparently, he was able to get into Buckingham Palace when "He legged it past the armed guards" which makes you wonder just what might happen if one of these terrorists we hear so much about decided to do something similar. Very little, it would seem.

As you were

The devolution referendum in the North East will proceed as an all-postal ballot but "the form and timing of votes in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber had yet to be decided" though the Government is "absolutely committed" to them going ahead.

Someone's about to lose their job...

As a Fathers4Justice protestor manages to get to one of Buckingham Palace's balconies, how long will it be before the relevant Metropolitan Police officers hand in their resignations?

And now F4J have managed both this and flour-bombimg the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, are they going to give up on the grounds that there's no way to top this? And what does it say about our supposedly heightened security that they can manage this? And how long before Blunkett or onw of his minions states in all seriousness that identity cards would stop this and make us all safer?

Update: According to Sky News, the protestor, dressed as Batman used a ladder to get access to the balcony. Leavign aside the questions of what happened to the Batrope, just what do you have to do to be regarded as suspicious and possibly worthy of being stopped by Royal security?

Update 2: Apparently, the protestor - Jason Hatch - has said he's got enough supplies to remain on the balcony for days. Insert your own joke about how all men claim to be able to stay up for much longer than they're actually can.

Update 3: Doesn't look like he's going to get his days up there, though, as they're sending in a mobile crane right now to get him down.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

All the saturday night options

The alert amongst you may have spotted a lack of the usual posts from me last night, because for once I wasn't working on a Saturday night but instead watching Julian Cope performing at Colchester Arts Centre. Interestingly, while many acts like to remark that the Arts Centre is a deconsecrated church (St Mary's), Cope was one of the few who didn't comment on it (on stage, at least).

Still, the billing didn't lie when it said 'Julian Cope', as that's exactly what we got - just the old Arch-Drude himself with a guitar and a microphone. He's certainly calmed down since the last time I saw him about ten years ago at the Phoenix Festival, but then its hard to top coming on stage in a furry animal costume, then stripping out of that to reveal just a neon yellow posing pouch and trying to climb the rigging at the side of the stage. Still, it was a rather good gig, though I'd have liked to be standing near the front where someone got given a copy of his new book, The Megalithic European - it's a sequel to the rather good Modern Antiquarian, this time covering the standing stones and ancient temples of mainland Europe.

Anyway, during the gig I got to musing about alternate rock stars and realized that you probably wouldn't have to do too much tinkering with established musical history to swap Cope and the Teardrop Explodes with Bono and U2. One can easily imagine a world where Bono and The Edge fall out, while Cope and Bill Drummod don't so while Bono gets to retreat back to Dublin and produce weird solo stuff, Cope gets to ally his unique talent with Drummond's insane pop genius. Somewhere out there is a universe with a mixture of Jehovahkill and The White Room on release. It's probably very fun.