30 July 2009

Shock News

Jay Hunt is a woman?

Seriously how did I miss that one...

This is news?

Isn't this the whole point of Ramsey's American shows?

If you have ever watched them you'll know every single one of Hell's Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares US ends up with a very angry yank somewhere along the line - but the Mail decide that this guy is his 'match', because he's a marine

Big headline - I was expecting a giant Stephen Seagal figure but the guy was pretty skinny and Ramsey is a big bloke, not saying the marine probably couldn't deck him, but I doubt Ramsey was intimidated

So in reality this is no different to any other episode and is further proof of the complete pointlessness of the conventional media, who peddle unimportant bilge and fabricate stories to fill their pages

But it did get me thinking - why are the Americans always so much more emotional? When I actually bother to watch the show, the highlight for me is the inevitable flare up as some arrogant yank gets in a mighty strop and requests to go outside

Now far be it for me to promote the stiff-upper-lip stereotype - the producers may well deliberately pick complete nutjobs and edit the show differently (that's the 18 mins of actual content in the hour, not the various shots of the outside and 5-minute recaps) but regardless there is a definite difference in tone - either they actually do it, or they just want to see it

It is a rather different mood to the British versions, where Ramsey used to try and start fights just as readily, but rarely got a real rise out of people, there were a few notable cases, but usually the worst offenders simply ignored him and then just deliberately disobeyed him rather than shouting their mouths off

Are we a much more quiet and reserved people? It's not really about what's 'better' - of course I prefer the British self-derision and dry humour in the face of conflict, because I am a Brit myself and I hate the heart-on-the-sleeve attitude of the yanks and their faux-politeness, again, because I am a Brit (and they have no sense of humour) - I'm as biased as anyone

I merely just find it interesting that there is quite a different mentality to the way that two cultures, with pretty similar roots, behave, particularly in public

29 July 2009

Is it obvious?

Looking over this report on the widening social gap which has been doing the rounds of late, I can't help feeling there's a very obvious answer to the issue

As an example, the report shows that doctors and lawyers who are in their late-30s today are drawn from a more affluent slice of society than their colleagues in their 50s.

Why should this be the case? Why should the gap be widening

At the risk of being labelled a Tory elitist I'm going to say this - Grammar schools anyone?

It does seem to be a noticeable trend that those educated during or prior to the 70s are from a wider section of society than those in their thirties - i.e. educated in the 80s - more or less consistent with the removal of Grammar schools

I don't claim this is the only factor, I am merely noticing a rather obvious correlation between the decline of Grammar schools and the increase in privilege in the professional classes - it may be nothing to do with it, but I think it's hard to ignore when it was such an important change in schooling

I can understand some of the arguments against them, even if I don't agree - but it's pretty clear that all forcing the poor and bright into comprehensives did was worsen their chances and left the opportunities to only the wealthy...the Grammar school system may not have been perfect but simply removing them made it worse if you ask me

I never got the chance to go to Grammar school, I only had the option of my two local comps - fortunately I was eligible for the Grammar school replacement - the Assisted Places Scheme, which basically gave those who would pass the 11+ a subsidised or free entry to independent schools

Had I been a year younger I would not have been eligible for this, because Tony Blair scrapped it because it was 'elitist' (this...from a Fettes man) - so I would have gone to one of those comps

Now I'm not knocking state education as a whole, there are many excellent comps - just none of them happened to be where I lived, I would've been sent to one of the underachieving pits where my local friends went, none of whom did A-levels or went to university, only one teacher was ever murdered though..

It does sound elitist, I admit - but the government are insistent on giving the poorest of us better chances, I don't see how forcing us to go to the local comps did that - unless of course the removal of both Grammar schools and the AP scheme meant that state education considerably improved - and I'm not aware that it did?

From the few socialists that I've met they seem to think that the complete removal of private schools and total use of state education would somehow create a better system - it's a pipedream, and the rich would still use their influence to play the postcode lottery, go abroad, or hire tutors - you can never remove the influence of the wealthy, unless we head down the communist route...

All that happened was the brightest were sent to the comps, while the richest got the best education - in principle maybe it was unfair to pay for the brightest to go to 'posh' schools, but the reality was it was a much more effective system than some grandiose dream about brilliant state education - all that has happened is the rich now get more opportunities while the rest of us form part of the mediocre average

Basically the government want more people from poor backgrounds to have the best they can achieve, i.e. on merit - and yet to classify people by their intelligence (a fairly big part of 'merit' if you ask me) is 'elitist' - seems a bit of a conundrum to me - they would rather just get more poor people in, regardless of talent, to fill their quotas - seems like another form of discrimination to me, just as bad as the rich paying for their kids achievements

Two things stand out to me: Firstly look at the last two Tory Prime Ministers: both Grammar school educated and with working-class origins, now compare that to the current Tory leader and his band of Eton educated cronies, from a demographic coincidentally educated mostly in the late 70s and 80s - maybe it's nothing to do with it, but I always find it quite a striking comparison (and I didn't even need to swing at Labour's last two)

Then, on a more personal note, and I can give no evidence of this, note my school's performance after my year group - it dipped considerably and the few long-term teachers I occasionally see whinge no end about falling standards - I accept that this may well be down to the growing class sizes in the school's pursuit of money, and also the fact that my teachers are old and naturally regard everything as being worse now - but I choose to see the decline as having a link to the removal of academic qualification and the allowing of all those whose parents merely pay up, in

I don't claim it's a valid study, I may well be wrong, but that's my life experience and I'll stick to it until otherwise proved

Atheist Brainwashing Bootcamp!!@1!!1!!!

The Mail asks should we be worried about Britain's first atheist summer camp?

Well, ummm, no, not really - why should we be worried about it when most camps are already run by Church groups or the Christian Scouts/Guides?

Are we particularly worried about camps run by those with a specific religious agenda attempting to place their ideas about God and what-not on our kids?

Not really...so why should I be any more worried about one that doesn't preach any religious dogma?

Even if a case is made that they do promote an agenda, how is it any different from what Christian (or other faith) camps do?

As far as I'm concerned this is just a feeble defence from the Christian-minded who think their religion should be the only viewpoint allowed

In fact it's such a weak jibe that I don't even need to rant about it, which is a shame really because I need a good rant...

27 July 2009

A Comedic Dilemma?

Upon hearing the news that the Beeb are in a bit of a pickle over pre-watershed comedy on BBC One (via From the North) it got me thinking: how can you make good comedy for the general audience?

I suddenly started thinking of current good comedies - Lead Balloon, Gavin and Stacey, even Saxondale - almost all decent comedies are on after 9pm, or on BBC2

The only shows praised have been Outnumbered, which is brilliant, and curiously, My Family - which I think went stale years ago

But that is what they actually want - banal comedy that your mum or grandparents will happily sit down and watch with the younger kids - the BBC still produces very good comedy (such as Mock the Week) - but invariably good comedies are rarely suitable for pre-watershed slots

Even Gavin and Stacey, which is(/possibly was) an excellent family comedy, is too edgy for the watershed - so basically the task of comedy at BBC One is to find an innocuous, mildly funny show that doesn't offend anyone - preferably comparable to Only Fools and Horses

The ironic thing is, finding this rather bland style of programme is incredibly hard - harder than finding the best comedies, because decent comedy doesn't have huge numbers of restrictions placed upon it

So what we have now is tripe like The Green, Green Grass, and After You've Gone (weirdly both linked to OFAH) - propped up by the strangely popular My Family - and apparently it simply isn't good enough...

But here is the problem - you cannot experiment with comedy on BBC One (pre-watershed anyway) - for if you were to show one of the odd pilots you get on BBC3 people would not be impressed, the flagship channel has standards, you know

Throw in the fact that viewers of the other channels will not be impressed by lame sitcoms with no swearing or sexual references and we have a right dilemma - BBC One cannot take the risk and 2 and 3 don't have the audience

So where do you find these sitcoms? Well the truth is, unlike with good comedy, where you gamble recklessly, you play it cautious - stick to established writers and performers and use a familiar concept - My Family is a continuation of 2point4 Children and it's no coincidence that primetime comedies feature well-known faces such as Nicholas Lyndhurst and a spin-off from OFAH, nor is it surprising that these shows go on for years - because they are inane drivel

But to find good inane drivel is an artform and a very hard ask in this day and age - it seems to be mostly luck - finding a show that jumps through enough hoops to not be a risk in the evening slot on the flagship channel and then be found funny by those odd people who actually watch primetime comedy - it's no wonder they want at least 10 years out of one when they find it

19 July 2009

My First Century

Woo, I've written 100 rants about various topics

I could use this as a reflection, but I'd rather ignore this special occasion to point out how arbitrary it all is to mark randomly assigned numbers and dates

So anyway, with all this nonsense over apparent ageism, Sarah Sands has written an excellent piece - pointing out that we all must go at some point and that Baby Boomers are the most evil of generations

It's true, they are the ones with the sense of self-entitlement, we young are a cynical and resentful mobile workforce

So what if Arlene Philips was sacked? Apparently if you sack a 66-year old it's always for the wrong reasons and the equalities minister has to stick her oar in

We are talking about a show already presented by a 103-year old here, but then it's sexism because it's a woman thing - men don't need to be pretty or young

So the logical conclusion is to never sack anyone over the age of 40...and certainly not over the mandatory retirement age - which I might add the employer has the ultimate right to enforce (although not for much longer)

As the Beeb rightfully point out - the remaining judges are 65, 53 (Bruno is 53??) and 44 - if anything that show could do with some equality below the middle-age mark, but equality doesn't work like that does it?

16 July 2009

Hang on...didn't he quit?

Apparently Tony Blair will be our 'official' candidate for the formal position of 'EU president'

The point that nobody got a chance to vote on this issue, and even when the Irish did they were told to go back and do it again, is by-the-by here

But why does a man who willingly quit his elected position for no actual reason feel he should be the unelected president of the EU? 'I can't run a state...but I can run a super-state'

And why should I trust a man who was elected on a lie (I will serve a full third term...) - slippery bastard

And to top it all off sodding 'Mrs. unelectable Kinnock' is the one who announces it...I know politics has always been about jobs for the boys, but even the vague facade of democracy is just being sidelined by this lot

In related news, this is a clearly pro-government headline from the no.2 spot:

The government is expected to announce a scaled-down version of its grand plan to create up to 10 "eco towns".

Not at all condescending...

10 July 2009

A very messy affair

Another big smear-gate story!!

But this time it's about the Tories! And the Guardian have it!!1!1!

I don't know about you but I have this image of the Guardian as the poor kid who has picked up another's discarded toy and thinks it's the bee's knees

It's all incredibly exciting, the left think they have got the Tories stitched up like they did them with McBride...Unfortunately they haven't

As the Guardian are quick to point out, they have nothing on Coulson himself, just a lot of suspicion surrounding him and his former paper

No doubt this is a legitimate story, but there is no 'smoking gun' as it were - no e-mail telling McPoison what a good smear campaign he was running

In actual fact the McBride saga was completely about public opinion, there was no criminal act - which is ironic because it was far more damaging politically than the criminality of the NoW saga

McBride was seen to be completely underhand and dirty and was offloaded for the sake of image, Coulson has only been implicated in a potentially criminal act involving his underlings a few years ago - there won't be an email saying he was involved

Now that doesn't mean he won't be up against it - this still has the potential to damage the Tories by association and he may be forced out, 'spin doctors shouldn't be the news etc' but this seems unlikely to be as damaging as the McBride affair - that was a story about how the government was conducting itself, this is a skeleton in the closet for someone employed by the Tory party - in that sense this doesn't look anywhere near as damaging

He may well lose his job, but the Guardian should tread carefully because they already look like they've gone overboard here - this may begin to look like a hatchet job on the Tories by the left-wing media

*And no I'm not being put up to this - I don't even vote Tory

09 July 2009

Johnson says something useful

I'm beginning to like Alan Johnson, here he is promoting proportional representation

Already he is a marked improvement on Jackboots - first a climb down on ID cards and now support for electoral reform, and I haven't noticed him making nonsensical arguments for destroying our liberties - I feel so much safer these days

But of course the cynic in me refuses to trust a politician - perhaps the whole reason he's there is to improve Labour's image, which couldn't be done with the fascist stylings of Smith without looking hypocritical

Maybe we are being abused, that's what politicians do - but I have a creeping belief that Johnson actually means these things, he's a bit of a reformer and has some actual politics in him, unlike Smith who was politically inexperienced and purely a tool of the party, AJ actually has opinions

Note at the end he admits his colleagues do not particularly endorse his ramblings - so don't expect anything out of Labour, despite Brown's pledges to be a reformer, there have been none, and nor will there be any

Whether this is him setting his stall for personal benefit, or an attempt by Labour to butter up the increasingly reform minded public is debatable

On the one hand I think John Rentoul is right - it makes sense to appeal to the gay, Liberal Democrat vicars, like me, that read the Indie, while not actually making any commitment to policy - it's a no loss situation

But then I remember just how bad Labour are at these things - Brown and Balls are as about as agile as a twenty ton truck, they don't change gear, and when they do you can watch it in painstakingly slow-motion from several angles, and there is nothing else to suggest that the bunker mentality has changed much

So that leads me to naturally believe that this is Johnson's work - he plays his cards too close to know whether this is for him or the party, regardless, it's working on people like me

Now it doesn't mean I would actually vote Labour if Johnson were in charge, so no jumping the gun, I'm going to be biased towards Johnson over Brown anyway - but I wouldn't be quite so rabidly anti-Labour if they had a leader who had a shred of decency and one who I know has reformist leanings

That doesn't mean I actually trust him, politics is always about compromise - and in my compromise if I had to accept another Labour government I'd be a lot happier with the postie than the...ummm...whatever he was....researcher, the same way that I would be a lot happier with David Davis than smarmy Cameron, and the same in which I would rather the Tories over Labour, despite not remotely being a Tory

It's a sad, cynical world, but there it is - either way I think right now Labour should take the advice of the media and fall back on Johnson, politically it would be best for them to have him while they're in opposition - I doubt I'll trust Labour for at least many decades, but he's their best chance in my eyes, maybe the Tories will be dire and I'll be forced to back Labour, Johnson would certainly help get the swingers like me on board

06 July 2009

No I.Didn't


"To scrap the scheme now, as the motion demands, would be an extremely expensive mistake which would deny the British people the practical and pragmatic step which they voted for in 2005 and have supported ever since."

I love how politicians can lie and say what we want...is it based on some old poll or something? Latest research definitely shows the public is very anti-ID

Then there's 'the British people voted for it' - and you can't deny the people, right? Well in actual fact, considering both opposition parties are against it that means 14.7 million people voted against it, only 9.5 million voted for it

That may not be our system, but start bringing in those voting arguments then you're going to get the inevitable reply - the government do not have majority support and cannot say the voters support anything, all they can say is they have enough seats - you can't deny a representative system in one hand and then try to use it for your own justification in the other

Chicken Soup

I've been a bit quiet the last week or so, laid down with the flu - yep, real flu, never had that before - it is in fact an outbreak down under and is actually physically worse than swine flu, but whatever, it doesn't get the reader numbers up

Anyway, I'm mostly recovered now - I did notice Guido was having his own story with swine flu, he really shouldn't worry - it's complete bollocks, it's milder than real flu and almost completely harmless, half of me only thinks the governments responded because the media liked it (by 'half' I mean all of me)

Missed a fair bit so I'll work my way in slowly - the one issue that's got me is this ridiculous gay 'issue' - it's all gesturing, I never realised how much the gay vote was worth, must be nice to be a wanted demographic - but Labour are the dogs for attacking the Tories first with a completely underhanded swipe

Once again it showed off their true colours, trying to smear the Tories with emotive labels and make them seem nasty, when they're the ones doing all the name-calling - this ridiculous battle-line idea Brown is clinging to is shameful

But the bit that really got me - saying 'to oppose the Equalities bill is to oppose equality' - cheap underhand trick, mark my words give it five years and all our legislation, such as a dodgy terrorism measure, will have titles like the 'saving puppies' bill - so if you oppose it you're nasty - 'who opposes saving puppies!?'

Sounds daft, but this is already what they're doing

02 July 2009

Pay for your own life

The Mail is always good for a laugh, here we can see princess Beatrice's uni quarters

Now, typically I don't trust a word they say, currently they have an agenda to show the Queen as brilliant and her eldest son, and every one else in the family as a useless waster - maybe it's true, but for now I reserve judgement as it's based on bugger-all

But they do make a point - we shouldn't be paying for minor royals, who have no worth to the nation

Why does she get to opt out of uni digs like the rest of us? I know she's always going to be privileged, but why should the state have to fund anything on top of that?

I am of course bitter because no doubt this privileged princess will go on to find a lucrative media 'job' with one of the royal's companies, while us graduates of much better unis than Goldsmith's, because she has the traditional intelligence of a royal, will spend the next few years in misery