28 August 2009

This is the best they've got at the Guardian?

As I've said before, I rarely bother with the Guardian anymore, and here's a prime example of why:

'Compare the Meerkat ad is racist'

Right, so to parody an accent is racist...

Even if Peter Jones' 'Ukranian girlfriend' is offended it doesn't matter - should we always listen when somebody is offended? Bollocks should we, we'd never be able to speak, let alone have media - and there's a pathetically flimsy argument being used here

Meanwhile he says TV would never use Indian or Caribbean accents in such a way - wouldn't they? There are lines to be drawn (such as drawing an Indian as smelly perhaps) but using an accent is not generally regarded as offensive is it? In what way is this accent being used - is it saying Russians are meerkats? Wear smoking jackets? It's a meerkat with a Russian accent, if it had a French accent would it be a problem...and would the French be offended? (He also says Meerkat is how 'Eastern Europeans' commonly mispronounce market - do they? The Russian Meerkat himself does a pretty good job of separating the two)

I don't particularly like the way British accents are portrayed abroad - either as toffs or cockney geezers and I would argue seeing an anthropomorphic animal with one of my nation's many accents would probably offend me less than the usual portrayal of stereotypical British behaviour, simply using an accent does not imply anything and therefore his whole case is based on mocking a dialect for not being able to pronounce a word, something I have yet to be shown is even remotely true - I hope he had a go at Team America's 'So Ronery' song, which actually did what he seems to take offence at

It's just a silly parody - and as for we don't allow accents to be mocked - I give you the Lilt advert and of course, Apu from the Simpsons - voiced by white guy Hank Azaria, which must surely be far worse than a bloody meerkat with an accent

And then there's this gem:

[The ASA] said it had not had any other complaints.

I asked my girlfriend why that might be. She told me that people from eastern Europe were brought up in a society where it was not normal to complain, especially to such sectors as the government and the media....they would not know of the existence of the ASA and the power to demand that an advert was taken off television. It is also the case that...they would not want to be seen to be causing trouble. It then dawned on me that this ad was targeting a sector of the population who would be unlikely to fight back.

Right, that's not at all specious reasoning - because no-one has complained those offended must be too scared to complain...this, based on two incidences of unverified anecdotal evidence - that in itself is enough to can this article for poor analysis

Just read the comments for what people thought of this bilge, I just hope his girlfriend was worth it...

Hat-tip: Guido

27 August 2009

Labour don't understand non-conformity

Whoops...now Dan Hannan is praising Enoch Powell

Labour, in the form of Mandelson, immediately jumped on it describing the Tories as 'two-faced'

That seems a little extreme to me - are you not allowed opinions any more? Simply because one renegade MEP says something does that mean Dave Cameron secretly agrees with it?

Are you seriously telling me that all 349 Labour MPs (and their 13 MEPs) agree with Brown and his chums? There must still be a few proper socialists in there, and is Frank Field 'on message'?

Like hell he is - and dissent is an excellent thing in a rigidly controlled party system, and so yet again, despite Hannan doing something pretty controversial, to the moderate like myself Labour come off looking worse by not supporting dissenting opinion within their own ranks (and lying about it to boot)

This is how Labour think - yet another reason not to vote for them (not that I'm supporting Dave, but he is doing an excellent job at letting Labour do all their own demolition work)

24 August 2009

Some musings

While I was at the Times reading for that last post, I found a few articles that piqued my interest

First Dominic Lawson argues to stop the segregation of men and women in sport - somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but centred on the gender issue of South African 800m winner, Caster Semenya - wherein lies the problem of 'females' who have extra chromosomes or genetic conditions that give them extra testosterone (not to say that Semenya actually has anything, but it raises the issue)

It is somewhat of a grey area - are they really women? Quite a dilemma, and I think he's right that in true meritocratic style we should let women try to get in men's teams - why not? We'd get the best performers regardless of sex

But oh no, men's natural advantage (which they don't have...) would be a handicap to the women, and they would unfairly be kept down

Now I do happen to think women should be able to play sports, segregation is the only way you'll achieve that - however I wish the feminists would shut up about giving female sports equal coverage, they are not going to be able to match the men in sports simply because men have more muscle - it's not a competitor, nor is it equal and they have been given a chance to do the same things at a lower level, they shouldn't be whinging for equal television and news coverage

You never hear men complaining they are under-represented in the shopping industry...


Then there's this, a review of a show called '16: too young to vote?'

It's not much of a debate starter, as it's just a bland review of a BBC3 show, despite being linked from the politics page, but it's always a good question

Should they vote? Part of me knows that 16 year-olds are a fair bit more immature than even 18-year-olds, some are better than others, but generally they're still children

But that said, maybe I'm getting old and will probably soon start thinking 21 year-olds are too immature, and after that 25-year olds, 30 year-olds - considering I have always viewed this derision by the older generations as arrogant I don't really think maturity is a valid concern

The same goes for intelligence - the capabilities of our brain and behaviour don't bar anyone else from voting so why should they suffer? I know some right idiots who are well over 18

Then it must come down to where we draw the line - we have to say where the child becomes an adult, clearly a 5-year-old doesn't have an informed opinion, although it's somewhat strange logic when you think most voters don't have an informed opinion anyway - but regardless, they couldn't care for themselves

An adult is 18 - this is where you can do anything you want, buy alcohol, see any film you wish, marry without consent, and now you can even buy fags, and with Labour's new rules on leaving education it's becoming increasingly clear that adulthood is 18, not 16 - you can hold a job, but it's likely to be a part-time one while you remain in education under the newest laws

But nevertheless you are a taxpayer, with enough responsibility to hold a job, clearly you have a case for some political engagement

And some 16 year-olds are very into it, you couldn't really deny them the vote on maturity grounds - and again, a hell of a lot of adults don't care, so if there's some who really do care then why not let them vote?

The situation also barely affects people - it will matter to a minority of people, assuming this government takes the maximum five years then they have a 60% chance of being either 15 or above 18 (as I was, I got to vote at 19) - but I suppose more regularly it would be half of them, but two years out of a lifetime is hardly a huge issue - but then...I keep asking myself 'why not?' - I see no harm in it, just a few more wasted votes in the pot

But then, I think those under 18 get more political representation anyway - they get the youth parliament, who actually get to sit in parliament on occasion, once they're over the 18 mark their representation will turn to zilch as they realise politics is monopolised by those over 30 and the 'youth' vote is meaningless

So, my view: I have no problem lowering the voting age, but frankly the kids are better off sticking with it at 18

Beckett doesn't get it either

Well there's no news (it's still August...) - thank God for the Kelly report, from which we can look at what all our MPs think about their 'remuneration'

Margaret Beckett found her way to the top of the pile - saying

"Political campaigns, by-elections, public functions or conferences, prizes, sponsorships and donations incur costs, not just in hundreds but probably totalling thousands of pounds, from the MP's own pocket."

Now remind me, which of these things are Parliamentary duties?

Campaigns...nope, by-elections are exactly the same, functions and conferences - forgive me but are not all these party commitments, NOT the work of an MP?

So an MP should be paid more to campaign for re-election? So sorry, but a person who already has the strongest position as an incumbent should get their campaign factored into their salary? What about those other little candidates? They don't get anything, and major party candidates get funding from the party - that's the whole point!

Does she not realise how ridiculous she sounds? This is a typically Labour view* that the party is paramount, no consideration for independents or the fact that party business should not be a salaried part of an MP's job

As for prizes and sponsorships - what? What do MPs give out prizes for? They hand out prizes at schools and stuff, I wasn't aware they actually bought the schoolchildren prizes as well (I can't find a thing on this, if someone wishes to enlighten me)

And donations?? That would be the mandatory donations to your own party?? Do I even need to bother with that?

But this is hardly surprising from the woman who:

claimed £72,537 for her Derby South constituency cottage between 2004 and 2008, despite having no mortgage or rent to pay

— This included £711 to paint her summer house, shed and pergola; £600 on plants for hanging baskets, tubs, pots and planters; £57 to prune an apple tree; £190 to rebuild a rockery; £1,421 for “tree and hedge works”.

(From the Times)

Do not believe a word of the pity pleas that come out of their mouths - I am a fair man and do not wish a 'blight on all their houses', but they really are taking the biscuit with some of these 'poor me' claims - they are disconnected from reality and have ridiculous expectations of their own worth

*In the interests of balance, a typical Tory view is that they would be earning far more in the outside world and are therefore worthy of more, usually feeling only they are capable of occupying large 19th century leather chairs and smoking cigars (slight improv from this in the Times) - I have a suggestion for them: stay in the bloody outside world if you want to earn more, taking a pay cut doesn't entitle you to fiddle the books

21 August 2009

Food from your garden is still food!

Dear God the Mail never tire of getting irate at non-issues

A man placed waste apples FROM HIS GARDEN, into THE GARDEN WHEELIE-BIN and the big scary men at the council had a go at him (actually they stuck a sticker on the bin and didn't empty it)

This of course equates to:

Officials at Flintshire County Council in North Wales decreed that just because something is waste and comes from the garden, it doesn't necessarily qualify as garden waste

Yes, the Stalinist overlords decreed it...

Now I'm not one to normally stick up for government but doesn't this seem entirely sensible? There are rules on which bins are for what - garden waste is rather different to food waste - it refers to branches, leaves, cuttings, flowers, grass and so on - plant material which can be used for mulch and other stuff, it's also a helpful way of getting rid of bits of cumbersome tree when you do some gardening - rather than take it to that special bin at the dump (yes, the special bin full of branches where you wouldn't be throwing apples, would you??) - think of it as like council gardeners who trim back hedges and trees, they only take away this sort of stuff

Apples meanwhile are food, which may or may not have come from the shop, do you really expect the bin-men to ask? Most people are aware that you don't put the compost in the garden bin (it's usually written on it!), like they should be aware that you shouldn't put lemons in a compost bin (too acidic) - but not in Mail world, instructions must be more explicit and nothing must be done to correct the faultless citizens who get it wrong, that's communism...

Now in the simple world of Mail readers, because it comes from the GARDEN, it must go in the 'garden bin', so presumably any crappy fruit and veg from your veggie patch should be going in there? Rather than in compost or general waste....(keen gardener in question was of course using composting already and had filled it, thus making him immune to criticism) - these are two rather different bins going to different places for different purposes, I have an 'organic material only' bin - shall I throw in my leftover organic chicken?? This is thinking worthy of Neanderthals

Dear lord people, these are quite clearly different processes - the only crime here is that the council have clearly thought too highly of these idiots

I know it's silly season...but this is regular fare for the Mail, they fill their pages full of crap about pretty women and their boobs and still they can't find a real issue to whinge about

Update: the comments are fun as always - worst rated are the sensible ones, top rated are the ones spewing forth hatred at councils (and somehow they've got onto uncooked meat) - good to know even the mail online sticks to type

Being Obtuse

I have a somewhat spurious suggestion - what would you say if Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi was British and had been held in Libya?

Different circumstances perhaps - you may not respect the governance or legal system of a country such as Libya, but they are nevertheless a recognised nation of people

Imagine if there was a British man held abroad for terrorism charges that we refused to believe - wouldn't you be happy to see him return home? You may have a lack of respect for the laws in the Islamic country, but no doubt they have an equal lack of respect for us, why should we regard ourselves as somehow 'better'?

20 August 2009

Tax hikes to save your soul

Ahh, the Tories have announced a policy!

They plan to raise taxes on alcohol to stop binge-drinking - these taxes will of course only apply to 'strong' alcohol - i.e. cheap ciders and beers, and alcopops, which aren't strong, but are evil

Now I have already had experience with this policy - they introduced it in Australia over a year ago (albeit with a ridiculous amount of legislative dithering, but still, at least they have a legislative) and it doesn't appear to have done much - it's too early to tell, but there's still a media panic over violence outside pubs and some pretty tough legislation aimed at it - which would indicate the soft option of taxation is doing squat

Now what I don't get is why don't countries follow the example of others? I understand why they won't accept the Netherlands' version of prostitution (or New Zealand's, or Australia's, or the USA's...) but when it comes to more regular legislative moves why don't they look at how other countries have fared? In Australia they started talking about selling school land to finance the state budget - meanwhile I'm suddenly thinking 'has no-one heard of Thatcher?', this is a country that loves sporting achievement, thinking about doing one of the things that went a good way to nearly wrecking British sports

I do of course know the answer to my question - it's politics. they don't care about long-term benefits, only short-term solutions and easy votes

So with that in mind is it any wonder that this tax hike will see cheap, strong, supermarket-brand alcohol rise in price while traditional alcohol (beer and wine, and presumably spirits) will 'fall in price' (according to the mail) and therefore 'save our pubs!!' Thus appealing to that broad group which is the conservative middle classes

Election won! And with a rise in tax to boot!

It's not that I particularly mind attacking crappy alcohol - but one) don't dress it up as for public benefit and two) also admit it's an easy revenue raiser, which it is, and there's nothing wrong with that

The fact is, alcohol will still be cheap enough - even if white lightning becomes more expensive than Cristal people will still drink to excess, I used to do it on regular beer, as do most students - a few pence here or there makes no real difference

The Mail justify this action by saying this legislation in Australia and Germany has reduced consumption of the worst alcohol by 'as much as fifty per cent' - yes, consumption...nothing in that article about crime or violence - all they did was screw over a few breweries while people drink whatever is cheaper

Have you ever seen someone who binge drinks stick to a budget? No, you will see them go out with twenty quid saying they'll only spend that, only to go out and have a rather cold and wet trip to the cashpoint an hour into the session, then wake up the next morning another fifty quid lighter - unless all alcohol (except perhaps Sherry) costs the Earth then young, naughty people will drink, because at the heart of the matter is that the government still want regular 'decent' people to drink freely and so will always ensure alcohol is affordable

You want to control people, then you have to actually control them - restart the temperance movement, enforce a 3-drink maximum across the country, but don't pretend that aiming at the cheapest, roughest booze will do anything but soothe your conscience

By all means aim at the young - you can address the problem of under-18s with tougher action, and should, but a pretty feeble attempt at social manipulation of young adults will do nothing - people always forget that most alcohol related violence is still perpetrated by adults, even if they are 'young'

Like I say, I don't have a huge problem with the action itself (which is probably why it's such a clever idea - who's going to protest?) - I just think it's virtually pointless and a cheap gimmick to gain votes, it's shameless more than anything

19 August 2009


Here we go again...why do they do it?

These veteran Tories really do not understand how out of touch they are, Patrick Cormack wants MPs' pay to be doubled in exchange for scrapping expenses, meanwhile Hogg (he of the moat) wants a six-figure salary, and expenses

and they say the young feel entitled

These fools really do think they are worth it, their heads are so far up their own arses they can practically see daylight - what justification is there for this? They give the impression that they have always occupied a world where they have earned mega-bucks and really don't understand that all those who earn less than 64k are not the unemployed masses

Cormack thinks it needs to be as high as this to attract the professional and business classes - right...he thinks the professional and business classes only make up the top 5% of earners? What he is proposing is within the top 1% - that is only a normal wage for the top barrister and company director - the only sort of people worthy of being an MP in his eyes no doubt

On a factual note, both my parents are 'professional class' and neither earn 64k, and they live pretty comfortably, and as for my opinion - I don't believe in paying MPs exceptional amounts just so they won't cheat is right

I've gone on about this so many times, but the sheer arrogance of some of these people is extraordinary - we need a better, less-entitled type of politician, who happens to think £64k is a huge amount for doing what is probably less work than an average worker, we aren't going to get that by giving the political classes even more

Update: Guido says it better than me, as always

18 August 2009

Why Bother with Judges?

The police are so brilliant, let's let them issue on-the-spot fines for rape, murder, negligence, no need for judges or juries in the modern world

OK, I'm being slightly melodramatic - but have you heard the quiet news that the police are to be given powers to fine you on-the-spot for dangerous driving?

Now it's one thing to be done for drink driving - that involves facts, but dangerous driving? How would you define that? Careering across the road? Mounting the kerb? Slightly swaying over a motorway line? All this and more can be added to the list if an officer is feeling particularly over-zealous, or if the police need some revenue

Because to be 'driving dangerously' is subjective - it's open for debate, and there are no strict rules, like having a blood alcohol level, so the police can do what they like

This is why we have courts! To ensure justice, it is not the police's job to sentence people, the police respond by saying:

"it can result in a reduction in the amount of time that police officers spend completing paperwork and attending court"

No sh*t, Sherlock, taking the courts out of the legal system will always reduce the time spent in court...there does have to be a logical point at which you can't cut public services, otherwise we should just be cutting the police and courts completely

It would be much quicker to simply accuse suspects of murder and then stick them in prison, none of that gathering evidence or trial business - I sound mad, but it's the same logic, giving the police this level of power undermines the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary

I seriously can't believe Labour would actually do this, giving police free rein over the roads is ridiculous even by their standards, and I haven't even gone into how they'll use it for revenue (there's that independent judiciary thing again)

I'm angry...rahhh!

Can the Lib dems get a swing?

Reading Vince Cable's regular column I got to thinking - would the support of the Mail give the Lib Dems a big boost?

He only has a column, and it's pretty much the only sane one in there, but it is nonetheless an endorsement of liberal politics, no doubt they are also capitalising on Cable's natural popularity, but isn't that what politics is all about? People like him, Mail readers must like his message, to an extent

The Mail may not be a liberal media outlet but the issues of civil liberties and individual freedom are ones where the hard-headed conservative and 'real' liberal share common ground, and while the Tories refuse to adopt any conservative policies, or any policies at all, it seems the Lib Dems have been left as the sole voice of freedom

This is to me, an opportunity - the political landscape is just begging for a party with actual policies to come in, rather than a bunch of chinless wonders who think they are destined for power, I know Tories who openly admit they offer nothing except for 'not being Labour' - but we need the media to back this change in our heavily-stacked system

There is of course one teensy-weensy problem: while the 'hard' liberal Cable strikes a note with a lot of people, and he clearly does a lot of the work in driving policy, there is still the elephant in the room: the EU - while they support the EU, moderate conservatives will not go near them

Why not drop support for it? Just pledge a referendum and be done with it, you'll never get in while supporting it, and what's the point saying good things if you can't get power? Just sacrifice the EU for the cause, I know that would be opportunism but is it really worth sticking to one principle if it's going to stop you ever putting the others in? In any case why support something that is deeply unpopular? This is their clause IV moment, or it should be

(It's not like you have to actually pull out...the Tories get away with it after all)

17 August 2009

They still don't get it

Following on from the Alan Duncan 'Rations' story, the broadsheets are of course falling over themselves to defend the political classes from what some might call, reverse snobbery

Now I really have no beef with Duncan himself - he, like Vince Cable, has a background in oil and is pretty valuable compared to a lot of MPs

My frustration is aimed at the broadsheet journos who defend the culture - what's wrong with being a barrister, city trader or lord of the manor

Well nothing really, as Matthew Parris points out - you wouldn't begrudge a doctor, teacher, nurse, fireman etc still doing a bit of their own work to keep in touch with constituents - but direct a company...

The difference is of course perception, a company director is an overpaid lump, a trader has no other purpose but to make money, you don't need to be working to understand the City

But it is a fair point - to earn thousands of pounds for a few hours talking to a major company board, probably to further some political aim, is cynical and of little help to the constituents, working as a GP involves treating real people in the community, even if the pay is large

Something that I'll never understand is the defence of those who want more money - so what if they have to take a pay-cut? They can't afford the lifestyle they've become accustomed to...

So? Going down to a mere £64k a year may be a pittance to some people, but why can't they understand that it's a hell of a lot more than most people and if they don't like it, don't bother

Instead they felt that effectively stealing money (or perhaps 'cooking the books') was the correct course to take so that they earned what they felt they deserved?

Do they really think they are worth so much to us? Why do we want so many privileged elites from wealthy backgrounds ruling over us? They have already proved they're not exactly good at their jobs

Parris is right - let them work in real industries and charities, but he overlooks the crucial problem - there are too many career politicians in there, too many people who come from wealth and are from the select group allowed into politics (bar the trade-union route, and even that's becoming hereditary)

The problem is not that they have second jobs, it is that they are the political class - if we actually had more teachers and nurses as MPs we could go down this route, but we don't - we have our MPs drawn from the top per cent of society - money and power circles keep the ordinary folk out of politics, and when they are seen to cheat and steal, then whinge about their conditions how do you expect people to react?

And the journalists are just as bad - they are an extension of the political class (Parris is a close friend of Duncan) - cosseted in the same world, where people like Dominic Lawson, son of the Lawson, feel they have some enlightened opinion, when they are part of the same problem

I'd love more real people in politics - but it's not going to happen by controlling the MPs with rules, which they brought on themselves by being gutless cheats, but nor is it going to happen by giving them their second jobs - that's just the status quo

What we need is politics reopened to the people (something which the conservative types seriously detest) - it is manipulated by the party machine, who choose the candidates they like, trusting that the electorate will only ever vote on the colour of rosette

The political class do not get it, nor do they want to - they have the power, their friends have the power, there is no need to change the people in Parliament

But they do not appreciate that the pendulum has swung too far, there have always been career politicians - in fact there's nothing wrong with it, both Gladstone and Disraeli, our first democratically elected PMs (of sorts) were lifelong politicians - different times, but they were excellent politicians, they were popular with the public, they were wanted. What we have now are not really career politicians, we have cronies - the Millibands, Balls and Osbournes of this world, not there through any particular skill at public speaking or politics, but through their background and contacts - and Parliament is chock-full of them, useless lumps who represent no-one, real career politicians are people like Hague - who made his name making political speeches, and there's nothing wrong with having them as Parliamentarians.

Too many politicians are there through the backrooms of their parties - Cameron, Osbourne, Brown and almost all of the Labour front bench - these are not people who have been engaging with the public for years, but just random people there thanks to their connections, deciding who should go into the chamber, but they have no authority or respect from the people - there is a space in Parliament for those who speak to the people, the dare I say it: Blairs of this world, who talk to a national audience, these are the actual politicians - and then there are those who work for their constituents, but the rest are just bumpf, there for the power and to prop up the machine

People have become fed up with it - but they do not realise they are at fault, yes the system is rigged against change, but people only fuel it by allowing the parties a free ride - they need to wake up and vote with their heads - we need a revolution, and I'd rather it were peaceful

12 August 2009

Would like to meet

...The cashier who refused to sell a PG film to a 28 year old bank manager

It's PG - there isn't even an age restriction!! I seriously would love to meet the numpty who did this

Would you sell such a restricted item to this man?

Tess, Toby and Teabag

Seen the news about the children's' book about travellers? Probably not, only the Mail regard a book choice as news

But they don't like travellers very much, neither do I really, but there is a line..somewhere

So Littlejohn went for his usual vileness, and I actually nearly agreed with him - I think most of us have experienced 'travellers' and it's never nice - but that's his trick, identify the broad sentiment and then take it to the extreme, but my object of criticism is more subtle than that - I would never shut up about the hateful bloke if I chose to write whenever I disagree with him

Where I found the bullsh*t was here:

Once upon a time there was Janet and John, who lived with their mummy and daddy in a neat suburban house. Their harmless adventures helped millions of children to read.

The perfect existence

Needless to say, Tess, Toby and Teabag lead an airbrushed, romanticised existence. This well-scrubbed trio roam the land, attending traditional gipsy dances, horse fairs and even an eco-camp.
Now pray tell, were not Janet and John rather romanticised? A perfect upbringing, father off to work in an office, mother at the sink, nice garden - in short a perfect suburban life

So we're allowed to venerate a romantic version of middle-class living, (which belongs in the 50s) to help us read, but not allowed to gloss over the existence of travellers

Now bad as the gipsies may be, the middle classes have plenty of their own foibles - the behaviour of their youths, indebtedness, affairs, domestic violence, and quite often - two working parents!

So we should aspire to this glossy romantic version of middle-class life where everything is rosy, but it's somehow wrong to do exactly the same thing to travellers? It would appear there is only one 'right' way to live, and it looks like a second world war poster

Then there's this:

Nowhere is there any mention of Toby's father. Tess is a strong, capable single mum who can turn her hand to anything, including mending a flat tyre on their caravan.

The 'diversity' brigade can't bring themselves to acknowledge that fathers have any part to play in bringing up children.

'Single parenting is wrong!!' Apparently we shouldn't be promoting this image to children...

Right - I appreciate that the Mail believe there should be two parents, and I think most would agree, but to not accept that single-parent families happen, for whatever reason, is ludicrous (I will concede his point that travellers are actually a bastion of the nuclear family, however)

What purpose would it serve to always make a child in a children's' book have two parents - does the image of a single parent make those kids want to grow up and get a child just for themselves? Or is it far more beneficial to show real-life situations and show them to kids who may grow up in that same situation? I have no intention of deliberately following my mother, and I suppose Neighbours were wrong to kill off new-mother Bridget and leave a single-father, nothing bad happens to real people, after all (sorry if I spoiled any plots there)

As far as I can tell all their policy does is tell children that there is something wrong with their home, as it always presents a two-parent situation as the norm and leaves single-parent kids left out

That's very much wrong - similarly they had a go at books about black and Asian children (they dared to include a minority in a 2001 revamp of the J+J books), as it was 'excessive for a mainly-white nation' - again they are saying that white is somehow better, the ideal - and again all this does is leave people feeling different - the best kids' shows and books have always strived to include a variety of races (see: Sesame Street) - this helps kids to understand some people look different to them, rather than growing up in a totally white environment where they could become hostile to things that are different later in life - I'm being speculative, but I fail to see any problem with the alternative anyway

The Mail may want a perfect, white, middle-class existence for all but the underclass, but this is not reality and nor do their ideas on conformity address the issues they want to fix - it just sweeps them under the carpet, and at worst - breeds hatred

p.s. Women changing tyres is wrong!!


A follow up from my story about Mandy's plan to help poor students - I am actually agreeing with Dominic Lawson

It would appear there are very few sections of the press supportive of this idea, although I've given up on the Guardian lately

11 August 2009

Is feminism an anachronism?

I've been reading across the feminist debate the past day or two, why? Mainly because the other (political) news is boring, and I came across this debate in the Times

Now I'm sorry but I cannot address the issues of sexualisation and the influence of the rise of 'normalised porn' (lads' mags, lap dancing clubs, the internet etc) - it simply doesn't work on my level

As far as I'm concerned I'm a liberal and believe in freedom of opportunity and a broadly free market, I don't like people who want to stop consenting adults doing what they like, and nor am I interested in how society affects the behaviour of girls and if it's bad - it's of little interest to me

What does interest me is politics, if I believe in freedom I cannot believe in discrimination and gender balancing - so as long as women have an equal opportunity to succeed that's fine by me, the outcome only interests me if there clearly is an impediment based on sex, which I struggle to see

On this point Janice Turner points out, briefly:

These are truly boomtime girls, part of that first generation to beat boys at A level, outnumber them at university and often out-earn them in the workplace. A decade of national prosperity won them that feminist ideal: economic equality.

That for me, is it - that's the goal, and in my view, today, girls are no more discriminated against than boys - if anything the system is weighted towards them - I have yet to find a young woman who feels held back by their gender

It seems pretty clear that most of the issues regarding opportunity come out of those educated prior to the 80s - I know and appreciate that my mother was discriminated against and it prevented her getting very far, but she was educated in the 60s and 70s - there's very little we can do about that now, she still has over a decade left til retirement and so remains a discriminated part of the workforce

And yet still people like Harman push on with these plans and their (dodgy) stats - their plans will only 'benefit' future generations, not those people still in the workforce who did have it worse

Why can't people like her appreciate that? You won't change working habits in the over-50s, those who were denied an education in sciences and told to be secretaries - you should surely be looking at the under 30s and 40s - how are they doing? As Janice points out, it's clear to all that young women are doing pretty well, given an advantage in education, given preferential treatment in the best graduate jobs

But still they persist with their agenda - trying to balance a gender gap that still exists in the cold war, there is no study of age groups used in their publications - which show that younger single women are virtually the same as the males (if anyone would like to wade in with stats, feel free) - and yet they address the gender gap so evident in the older workers by focusing on education and university leavers...

It boggles the mind - it just seems to me that it's common sense to say, 'look at the women coming out of education today' and note that there's obviously going to be a 40-year lag on this issue

And that is also why feminism is pretty much dead - women know that their daughters are facing no real hurdles, all the barriers have gone, they did win, and now people like Janice Turner want to focus on abstract issues about sexualisation and morality - the common person has never really taken to academic debate and it's unlikely the average woman will concern herself with such theories, that's for the chattering classes, for people with too much time on their hands (like me!)

Feminism will continue to exist in academic circles, as pretty much every line of thought does - but it is no longer necessary for the masses, because it has no tangible aims, and that is why Hattie looks absolutely raving, because most women know she's at least 20 years late

10 August 2009

Equality and 'equality' are not the same thing

Hear the news that Mandy wants to give poorer students a two-grade advantage? - in essence those from bad schools or under performing areas will be given an advantage over their privately educated (or even grammar school educated...) peers

A scheme used by some universities (like Leeds) is based on achieving a higher than average score - i.e. therefore you are the pick of your school and could do better in a top school

It's a reasonable idea - but it has flaws, for starters just because you are a good performer at a bad school does not mean you match up to AAA students at private schools (or especially grammar schools), nor is it a solid fact that a bad school or being 'poor' will affect your achievement - I'm clever, poor, went to a private school (on the AP scheme I might add, which already puts me in the top 10% of applicants) and was lazy, so I got Bs - I could've got As, but when you only revise for the subject you might get a C in it kind of limits your potential - my point is that I had potential beyond what I got, why not give lazy, intelligent people a leg up? Start doing it by intelligence tests, because that's basically what they're doing, just for poor people

In effect they are undermining their own standardised testing system - flawed as it is, but saying, 'oh it's because you're deprived' (based on very broad statistics) and then lowering expectations, it's just asking for trouble - maybe they were just lazy, like me? Now they have an advantage - and of course, now what you will get is people abusing the postcode lottery to go to bad schools

I'll stop short of expecting degree standards to sink any further because of this - at least in important areas like medicine - they will get wheedled out at some stage if they can't handle it, but it's certainly opening the door for this sort of thing

I can understand the logic - there is an issue to address, a better background does quite clearly provide an advantage against those with talent who are poorer - but this social engineering is just an acceptance of the status quo

It is a misguided attempt to make the stats look 'right' - a good healthy number of working class people in the best degrees and jobs - only that doesn't address the real social issues at the root of this: the bad schools, it's just accepting them and lowering the standards for all concerned

It will make the equality nuts in government very happy, but they are just dressing up the situation - hiding behind their feel-good figures while the education system rots - this should only be a short term measure to help those who are suffering now - the long term aim should be to provide good education to all, not tolerate poor education, that will help no-one in the long run

(nicely balanced article from the Beeb if you ask me...will it show up in certain people's comprehensive review of BBC bias? We shall see)


Meanwhile, Mark Easton has again gone for the jugular with Hattie's mad ravings

He points out the alarming misuse of statistics, as witnessed by the ONS - this has nothing to do with my views, or Easton's, on equality, but the way in which the government manipulate figures to promote an agenda and basically lie to us - think what you want about the feminist argument, but the figures being used by the government are outright lies and it's criminal - frankly I would still care if it was the other way round, or about harmless things like soil types or some other drudgery

You know, I can understand a government trying to bury bad news with fudged statistics - governments can't admit wrong - they should, because we'd benefit, but that's the sad reality of it - this however, is just lying to make a situation look worse and get away with your own crazy ideas


Oh and Janet Street Porter has gone feminist

Attacks on women are always personal...attacks on the fat, lazy, idiotic, northern-loudmouth who is Prescott are completely valid politically, however

p.s. Minette Marrin at the Times says it better than I ever could

08 August 2009

There are no 'great' generations

Nicely put by Terence Blacker today

He points out the bizarreness with which society (or certain parts of it) venerate those who fought the First World War as the 'greatest generation' and look down on the rest of us born since the war (essentially all of us now)

It is of course, much to do with guilt, I remember great-grandparents going on about the period between the wars - it didn't help that the suffering wasn't just limited to the ten years of conflict, but to the Great Depression as well, it's not surprising the people of today, who have never been without electricity, water and food, feel a pang of guilt when looking at those who lived through decades of horror

But of course, that's all it is - were they 'greater' than us? Not really, no more than Victorians or Georgians were greater than them, or indeed, us - it's just militarism and nostalgia

They were just ordinary people, like pretty much all of us, in a situation they had no control over - the vast majority of those killed were under 25, a fact usually ignored by the media when they attack the youth (just as they forget it is always the youngest who die in battle, yet always the youth who are destroying society) - and primary documents show that they were no more angelic than any other generation, they were just regular young men, who had to be sacrificed before they were worth anything to the people who idolise them so

Which is what Harry Patch himself said - the reason why Harry Patch was so important, in my view, was that he couldn't be used by the right-wing zealots - he was the only one left with any authority on the issue, and the only one who could get away with taking a 'Blackadder goes forth' attitude to it without being labelled a coward (or Marxist)

He could not be ignored, and unlike the members of the younger generations who view the first world war as futile, he could not be shouted down by the vile right-wing press

It's a bit like you can only shut a feminist up by getting a woman to argue the point - were Harry Patch supporting all the usual bollocks that comes out of the Mail or Express it would be old hat - but here was a man helping to support the view held by many people who would be shouted down in the public arena with highly emotive sentiments

To some this is the pacifist 'narrative' - the narrative of course that is completely opposed by the biggest newspapers in the country...

It riles them to hear someone who is supposed to bemoan social decay and hark back to a greater time of Empire to spout this 'leftist' nonsense, he has much more respect and weight than them, and of course, he lived through it - his was a voice of common sense that had no romanticism attached to war

It's a shame that we have lost this great voice, but hopefully his views will help prevent too many people from falling for the militaristic 'narrative' too soon - or else we'll end up right back in 1914

07 August 2009

At least she likes one man

The Union-leading husband of the rabid feminist we call Hattie is apparently to be gifted a safe seat

He will be given the seat for apparently supporting Gordon (although this is the Mail we're talking about here)

Like her or not, this ain't right - people shouldn't be being placed in Parliament because of who they know, that's not democracy

Well, in actuality the whole concept of a 'safe seat' is thoroughly repulsive to democracy, and I'm certainly not naive, I know it's how almost all of them got there - but as this is the 'equalities minister' we're talking about it seems fair for me to be a little idealistic

When even the resident feminist is getting jobs for the boys you really do have to wonder if our Parliament will ever regain some authority

Furthermore, he's getting this for supporting one of the worst Prime Ministers in history, who will soon be defeated and drag down scores of real MPs - this isn't even in the interest of the party, let alone the country (I have long since abandoned that ideal)

Politics at its worst

06 August 2009

Slow news day

I must say it does seem a little odd that BBC are trumpeting the news that Wogan just pipped Moyles...again

A slow news day? Or their response to the attacks from the Tories and the right wing press? Over 7 million people listen to the channel, just try it, Vaizey

Meanwhile, the great news is that ITV have sold Friends Reunited for £25million - only a loss of £150 million then - but their decline is all down to the state broadcaster...the economy etc...

Also, Murdoch has pushed ahead with his arrogant view that he can squeeze money out of online content - the man has lost it

He thinks he can get Brits to pay for the Sun online?

"Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting," he said.

In order to stop readers from moving to the huge number of free news websites, Mr Murdoch said News Corp would simply make its content "better and differentiate it from other people".

He seriously can't mean the Sun...

BERRY nice to see you again, FRANCOISE.

The 28H beauty graces our screens once more to mark the new edition of RIO FERDINAND's online mag, #5.

The stunner hardly goes unnoticed since the Man Utd ace signed her up to be the face of his new venture.

And, as all can see, she hasn't lost any of her fruitiness.

Treasure chest ... Francoise Boufhal

As well as Francoise, other stars featured in the latest edition include ROBINHO, ROGER FEDERER and USAIN BOLT.

Plus there is video of Rio's phone call with MICHAEL JACKSON.

You can watch it by clicking below.

High quaity indeed...

Vicious hate campaign? No, not us, guv

I must admit the Mail do seem to be rather excessive with their attacks on Strictly...

Now another dancer has been sacked - but it's not an age thing this time (she's 28) - so that really makes it newsworthy then? Oh, but it was by e-mail! - This is a show that frequently changes dancers and only offers the contracts on a yearly basis, oh and the email was actually through her agent

Then there was this little nugget:

It is the latest setback to hit the successful ballroom dancing show.

05 August 2009

Harman is the worst kind of bigot

That being 'one with power'

I promised myself I wouldn't go too mad on this, she's 'in charge' for two weeks and is doing whatever she wants, we all knew this would happen, and plenty of others out there are whinging about it, I don't need to lose sleep over it

But dear god, she's mad!!

Railroading changes to rape law, sticking wife-beating issues into the national curriculum, making hypocritical remarks about men-only leadership

All in the face of the mostly moderate British public, this is a woman with a massive agenda, blinded by her own warped ideas on the world - but it's nothing new, I just wished to express my exasperation

The good news is she'll never be electable and will be gone within the year, but Alice Thomson puts a different spin on it - at least she's sparking debate, even if we do all hate her

I'm not sure what to think - yes, it's been awful having such a pathetic excuse for a government and it's far more fun to get angry at Harman's 'conviction' politics, it's nice to hear some actual views for once, no matter how insane

Only, my concern is that she actually has power - fine, start debate - but this is not just starting debate, this is starting debate by controlling government with your agenda when you have no democratic right to do so - right-wing fascists start debate, would you like to put one in charge of government so we all take notice?

No, I thought not - it's dangerous, and while it may be more entertaining, there is a real crime here - our government are so bad that we actually have people supporting having this looney in charge just for the fun of it

*And in that link, the Mail win this week's Gruniad award:
The Government claims that violanguagelence against women is costing Britain an astonishing £40billion.

**I would also like to lend weight to the theory that this is part of Brown's plot - we'll all be begging for him back by the end of next week

04 August 2009

Sterilise, or not sterilise?

A rather interesting, if somewhat alarming, debate has sprung up about the mother who has had 13 kids taken away from her and is expecting her 14th, Theresa Winters

In the article, A N Wilson makes a fairly well-pitched, emotive argument that sterilisation would be an appropriate response to such drains on the state purse (yes, she and her partner live on benefit)

It's an obvious solution - I have oft heard this argument from people, even my own parents, in response to the irresponsible 'Vicky Pollards' of the world, usually from hyped up cases in the Mail, sometimes from the real-world - 'sterilise 'em all'

Whether or not they would actually agree with state-forced sterilisation is another matter, were the state to actually suggest it I think they would be less sure about their flippant remarks, but anyway, it's a perfectly valid debate

Wilson makes a good, if obvious argument - if people are abusing the state, i.e. the rest of us, in such a way then they should be stopped - the simplest solution would be an enforcement of sterilisation

It's true, nobody agrees with this sponging off the state, and it would be the simplest solution...but then 'simple' doesn't necessarily mean right - normally the simplest solution refers to trampling all over someone else rights to maintain law and order for those who decree what good order is, with liberty comes a degree of disorder, after all

To enforce this rule, first you must decide who shall be sterilised, no doubt Winters is exceptional, otherwise she wouldn't be in the news - but how many babies is wrong? She's had thirteen, but should it be ten? Five? Three-strikes-and-you're-out? Maybe just one? Bear in mind all of these will become a burden on the state, so where do you draw the line - this case of thirteen is an exceptional and emotive issue - it would be pointless to draw up legislation based on someone who has achieved the fairly monumental task of carrying fourteen kids (or at least thirteen to term)

Maybe three-strikes sounds reasonably fair - you've been warned after all, now you get sterilised - but what is the criteria? Should this relate to just benefit claimants who have their children taken away? Or how about benefit claimants who just have a lot of kids? They're a burden too, less foster care involved, but still paid for by the state, or what about tax-paying workers who have kids taken into care? - It happens, they're sending kids into state care as well

Sounds a bit like a 'slippery slope' argument - well seeing as this is an argument from the right, who are the owners of 'slippery slope', I think it's fair game - and besides, I am merely asking where it's fair to draw the line, there seems little to rationalise here - and while Wilson admits this line of debate he doesn't even try to deny these obvious ramifications, he is merely starting a 'debate' in that particular paragraph, however the debate seems rather one-sided throughout the rest of the article, based on assumptions such as

No school will ever educate them. No employer will ever want to pay them wages. Future generations of honest, taxpaying citizens will have to carry them - and all the social problems they will bring with them - as an unwanted, indeed hated, burden.

As individuals, stuffing their faces with junk food, blowing what passes for minds with alcohol or drugs, they are unlikely to have an interesting thought, do a useful deed, or have a relationship which is not abusive or damaging to others.

Those are rather strong words, yes the statistics show that these children are unlikely to fare very well, but statistics also show that those born to single parents are also likely to turn to crime and have worse education - yet here I am, I'd hate to think if some statistic had prevented me from being born - using statistics for such a purpose is going down a very dangerous road

Wilson makes the assumption that all these children will end up being criminals - again this is emotive, she has had thirteen kids - but several have had genetic and other disabilities, one died as a baby, three have been disabled

Now it's my turn to make assumptions - do disabled children tend to turn to crime? I haven't noticed many gangsters with Cerebral Palsy, and one would think they get better care and schooling than a healthy child (ironic in some ways) - making this assumption, we are now left with nine children who will be the scum-of-the-Earth Wilson so detests, not thirteen - he would have helped his argument somewhat by factoring this in when she started raving about prison-fodder when 30% of the 13 kids in the headline are unlikely to be even near criminals

Of course, they are still a burden on the state - but Wilson deliberately brings in the criminal aspect and uses it throughout the article, it needs some balance

As far as I can tell, this is a broadside on all those who leech off the state - I find little reason to attack Winters more than a feckless youth with merely one child, in that case forced sterilisation of any who claim benefits seems appropriate - some might say we are heading into the realms of totalitarian control with that sort of programme

Would it perhaps not be a better solution to reform the benefits system rather than give benefits out and then sterilise people for abusing the system? If we wish to live in a welfare state there are always going to be those who rely on it - workers are always going to pay for those who don't work as hard, there is probably a tipping point at which there are too many takers, but inevitably if you can't tolerate people sliding into real poverty then there will be people who live off hand-outs, a certain degree of social conscience must exist in a welfare state - perhaps it would be better to reduce the state intervention before we ramp it up any further

It would be less effective, yes, but probably a lot safer

03 August 2009

Long live public broadcasting (for the over 40s)

Here we go again, 'I don't like something on the BBC so it should go'

Now the Tories are proposing (i.e. it won't happen, but it's a shameless vote-winner) to sell Radio 1

Why, pray tell? Seemingly because Radio 1 doesn't do enough to attract the younger listener, it's average (possibly median, I forget) is 33 - when it's aimed at 15-29 year olds, now why exactly a 29-year-old is closer to a 15-year-old than a 33-year-old I've never understood, but regardless it's failing it's mission

This of course means 'sell it!' - don't stop to think about it, it's not like I've yet to meet a teenager who actually listens to the radio through their ipod or anything - it's not like there is bugger all out their for 30-somethings on radio 2 - who are apparently, alone amongst all society, supposed to listen to commercial radio instead

Radio 1 is the only channel that provides 'popular' music - therefore it's the only one that actually competes with commercial so it does have some issues

But I seem to remember that the BBC is supposed to cater to all of us - we all pay for it you know - what BBC radio output would the under-40s want to listen to without radio 1? It would mean the only place popular music was available would be dreadful commercial radio, that hardly seems fair while oldies get their easy listening from radio 2 without ads, and their classical from radio 3 - sure I can listen to football on Fivelive, or might like something on Radio 4 - but any new music will be on commercial - hardly seems fair

I seem to remember the BBC created Radio 1 in the 60s specifically because the young needed their music played somewhere - now those very people who were young in the 60s want to get rid of something they dislike - can you imagine if I said classical music lovers should bugger off to Classic FM? Ironically they would suffer less than those who would suffer if radio 1 went

There would be no quality content delivered to the large group of people under 40 who like radio 1, and that to me seems unfair, based on some arbitrary demographic banding that targets a group that are highly unlikely to be attracted to radio

Can you imagine if the BBC were told to ship ratings juggernauts like Eastenders and Strictly... - they could be on ITV quite happily, but the BBC is still supposed to make things for the mainstream, competitive market - for some reason this doesn't apply to music

I know I'm jumping the gun here, but this is all part of the Mail's plan, in collusion with some Tories, to demonise the young and get rid of what they don't like - well I don't like Antiques Roadshow, so get it off

Lazy, greedy, hypocrites who think anything they don't like shouldn't be paid for by them

Also, while we're on the Mail's hate campaign - regarding this 'cult of youth' thing - just how many 'young' people dominate the airwaves? I love how this 'row' is about a show hosted by an 81 year old with a bunch of judges all above 40 (two in their 60s) - I want to see how bad this problem exactly is - show me the hordes of young people replacing people like Wogan and Humphrys

I can think of Jake from Newsround, who annoys me no end, popping up everywhere, but who else - the only ever name I hear is Alesha Dixon - one sole case on a show dominated by the old

So let's have a look - let's see what's on the BBC (we'll stick to terrestrial TV for ease) today

BBC1: 6am - Breakfast: Bill Turnbull (53), Kate Silverton (39), Chris Hollins (38) (they're today's main hosts, I'm not delving into a 3 hour show)
9.15am - Heir Hunters: Lisa Faulkner (36)
10am - Escape to the Country: Alastair Appleton (39), Denise Nurse (early 30s), Jules Hudson (late 30s - 40?)
11am - Homes Under the Hammer: Lucy Alexander (39), Martin Roberts (40s)
11.30am - Trash to Cash (seriously what is the daytime obsession with wealth?): Lorne Spicer (43)
12.15pm - Cash in the Attic: umm..Lorne Spicer (43) again
1pm - The news! Louise Minchin (40s)
1.45pm - Doctors: ah crap a soap - plenty of all types, three main characters in their 50s, no doubt many little old lady extras
2.15 - Murder, she wrote: hmmm - an average age for this 84 year old, Angela Lansbury (65)
3pm - news
3.05pm - Mister Maker (we are now in kids TV).............
4.35pm - Animals at Work: John Barrowman (42)
5pm - Newsround: Sonali Shah (25), Ore Oduba (20s?) (why is it with kids TV we suddenly see our first people who aren't white? Is it a demographic thing? Is it deliberately aimed at the young, or is it they aren't aimed are aimed at the old?)
5.15pm - The Weakest Link: Anne Robinson of course (64)
6pm - News: George Alagiah (53)
7pm - The One show: Chiles (42) Christine Bleakley (hottie - 28)
7.30pm - Bang goes the Theory...hmm should I count this?: Liz Bonnin (32), Dallas Campbell (38)
8pm - Eastenders: No way, but June Brown is still there at 72
8.30pm - Panaorama: Jeremy Vine (44)
9pm - The Street - tonight is Joseph Mawle (34), but has featured Hoskins (66), Broadbent (60), Johnston (65), and Spall (52) - all big names
10pm - News: Huw! (47)

That'll do for now, the next show is about kids in Asia, couldn't find a presenter

6am - Kids TV, must be summer...
1pm - Open Gardens: Joe Swift (44)
1.30 - Animal Park: Ben Fogle (noooo!!) (35), Kate Humble (40)
2.15 - Some drivel: Angela Rippon (64)
3pm - Monk: Tony Shalhoub (55)
3.45 - Flog it: Paul Martin (50)
4.30 - More drivel, unknown hosy
5.15 - More Cash in the Attic! (Celebrity version...) Jennie Bond (58) - oh Jennie, why?
6pm - Eggheads: Dermot (51)
6.30 - Knowitalls: Gyles Brandreth (61)
7pm - Top Gear: Clarkson (49) , Hamster (39), May (46)
8pm - University Challenge: Paxman (59)
8.30 - What to Eat Now: Valentine Warner (37)
9pm - Docu on criminal girls, I guess they're young...
10pm - BBC3 sitcom (20s)
10.30 - Newsnight: Wark (54)

So what does that tell us? Well bugger all really, it was hardly comprehensive - but do you see any particular invasion of youth? Unless you count late 30s as 'youth', most presenters are between there and the mid-50s - you can also see a progression, the presenters in their 30s are mostly stuck in dreary daytime TV, the older ones have climbed up to the bigger and better shows - nothing wrong with career progression, but in terms of weight the old definitely get the better shows

Granted we don't see many over 65s presenting, but as they aren't even working population, should we? Two of the biggest names spring to mind - Wogan is 71, Forsyth is 81

Other big names at the BBC are Wossy (48), Norton (46), Humphrys (65), Dimbleby (64), Neil (60), Marr (49), Fry (51), Lineker (48), Hansen (54), Shearer (38), Lawro (52), Robinson (45), Peston (49), Barker (53)

Or how about some comedy names - Hislop (49), Merton (52), O'Briain (37), Hugh Dennis (47), Frankie (36), Andy Parsons (32), Russell (29) - even the Top Gear team average mid-40s

Radio: Moyles (35), and Wogan obviously

I was pulling at straws to even find the under-30 Russell Howard, he's hardly a big player, but he's on a big show - otherwise the 'youngsters' are made up by Alan Shearer and the rest of the Mock the Week team, who don't exactly run the corporation and Chris Moyles, probably the only major player in his thirties - so there you go, dominated by 40-60 year olds, with a fair sprinkling of the over-60s

What I will say is there's a pretty obvious lack of women in the big names - and most of the women seem to be the younger side of middle-age, the only real exception is Sue Barker - the rest seem to be pretty faces to go alongside their older male hosts (think Tess Daly, Christine Bleakley, that bird off the Daily Politics)

I don't think there's any ageism with regards to have a 'cult of youth', if anything the major channels are dominated by the older generations, but when it comes to the women they do seem to have a shelf-life that the men don't, that is pretty bad in my opinion - whether or not this relates to Arlene Philips I can't say, and to crudely say this is about the young is bordering on crazy - it's sexism if anything (or perhaps pretty-ism), not ageism

The BBC should be addressing why there are so few women in major roles over the age of 50 - but there is certainly plenty of older (male) presenters for the growing older generations, who we apparently should be catering to, to relate to (re: Ben Bradshaw) - not like it's about appealing to the old for their powerful votes or anything though...

Oh, to be young again...

I must digress once again, from my rants at the political class and the commentariat and conduct a review - this time of the new Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Do not judge me too harshly - I won the tickets... and I feel I must review any worthy film that I happen to see

Broadly speaking, this was a good jaunt - probably the best in the series (for what it's worth) and there was nothing major to complain about

Now, there is little point comparing the film to the book itself - to stick too closely to a large novel such as this will just create a poor viewing experience, the minor plot points and infinite set-ups that can be created in an open book are just too unwieldy to slot into a film (even if it is two and a half hours long)

As such, I don't care if some things were dropped, or characters were switched, or even scenes were invented - it's all artistic licence, the point is to create a good film while sticking to the story

As such, director David Yates opted for the teen romance angle - and in my view this was a good idea - having realised the main objective of HP6 was to be a page-turning mystery there was little point in recreating am on-screen mystery that we all know the end to (see: Da Vinci Code) - we all know Dumbledore dies, that Snape is the Prince, that Malfoy is a death-eater, hell, we all know the end to the whole series

So instead it must be about the journey, the experience - Yates wastes no time trying to make us guess what Malfoy is up to, in the book it is a big revelation in the finale, here we are witness to his scheme right from the start and we get an excellent new angle from which to view Malfoy as he struggles throughout the film, it is one of the highlights, and it is representative of the film's successes and failures - where scenes are properly re-worked for the screen they are excellent, when they are mimics of the book they fall flat

As I said, the teenage romance angle is the thrust of the film - again this works better, focusing on the trials and tribulations of lovelorn teenagers is far more enjoyable to watch play out, and arguably they made a better stab at it than Rowling did - especially Harry and Ginny, which felt somewhat tacked on in the novel, here it is the primary plot and is worked in to most events

Also, Jim Broadbent in the Slughorn role is surprisingly well done - the character being fleshed out a bit and also sticking quite faithfully to the book made his storyline one of the highlights

But where the film falls down a bit is the other references to the book - where Slughorn is well-developed, others are cast as cameos and make the film feel jumpy and shallow - in particular I note Lupin and Tonks, reduced to almost one scene that's makes a quick reference to their relationship - there seemed little point in doing this, as there was no development and therefore little emotion can be attached when the characters die in the next installment. They should have been simply ditched, like Dobby (which again is unfortunate considering his death is one of the most moving of the series) - if they are keeping the characters in for their death at the end of the next chapter then they shouldn't bother, or should've developed them - instead I fear we'll be getting a rather redundant 'cameo death'

It is these scenes that cheapen the film for me, and they ruin the flow of a perfectly good film - the references to the book are crammed in and yet they are haphazard - some are rather deliberately placed, while others are completely trampled over - they would have done better to stick to the trampling, the fans who insist on literary references would be offended enough by the massive changes anyway, and yet we still get a reminder of the gimmickry that made the first few films so bad

It also does not help that the film has so many things to do - while placing a great deal more emphasis on the love angle there were still things that simply had to be done to keep the plot moving - namely Harry and Dumbledore's trips down memory lane, which make up a good chunk of the book - here we are subject to only two of the memories - while some shortening obviously had to be done, I felt they could have done a better job on developing Voldemort and visualising some of the more interesting memories, which is one of the most obvious points of the book

Like I say - too many things going on, the memories were essential to the plot, but were limited by the amount of space given over to character interaction, the 'new' plot as it were - this was not helped by the addition of those trivial cameos that I mentioned, as well as some extra scenes that seemed a little frivolous

Why, for example, did we need to see the Burrow burnt down? I appreciate the moment it created, as well as it being something that shocked the audience, but it seemed unnecessary in such a busy film - in seemed to be for the purpose of creating some extra action in a rather actionless plot, as though the audience can't handle half an hour without an explosion

This was at the expense of some fairly major plot devices - notably the ministry does not even exist in this film - I wonder to what extent they can drop it from the final installment(s), as it was reasonably important and the sixth book did a good job of continuing the thread of the ministry from the fifth book (where it was a major player) - they must surely make the brave decision to drop the ministry scenes from the next films or else make the film series look decidedly patchy - true the ministry was left to tick over in the book, but it was a decent, if small contribution, to the plot - to ignore it would have made the continuity in the books seem rather ropey

A worry is that this 'series' of films will barely feel like a series, the sixth and seventh books were essentially one book, with the first being mostly set up and the latter being the action - I hope that the film's producers have the foresight to marry the two as well

It is this apparent apprehension from moving away from the book that stops the film being 'very' good, they made a good stab at combing love, humour and dark mystery but it really was trying to do too much in the end

Other points that are more personal to me - I felt the Death Eaters, who were given a slightly extended role in the film, were rather flimsy - there were only four of them, and while I'm happy to give Helena Bonham Carter as much screen time as she wishes in this role, they really do nothing - their major scene at the end is taken out, making the build-up throughout the film end in rather anti-climatic fashion - as they get into the castle, then watch Dumbledore get killed, and then run away - all very pointless in my view

This books have too many characters in for film adaptations already, and there was little point adding in a barely-speaking Fenrir Greyback, yet another pointless cameo - more room could have been given to Snape or Riddle

Another point of mine, that will be rather contentious, is Gambon as Dumbledore - I don't like it, sorry but I don't - it's not that Gambon is bad, he's not, he's a great actor, but he plays the role rather differently from the book, I know I said I wasn't comparing to the book, but that's not really my problem - it's that he's different, but then goes on to spout line-for-line quotes from the book - they don't really fit with his more stern Dumbledore - he seems to dart from stern authority figure, to the wizened old softie of the book

It may well be Rowling's fault, for massively developing a character that is probably incredibly hard for an actor to reproduce, but regardless I would rather he was a softer figure, I know that's a comparison with the book so, OK - I'd rather he dropped the airier lines from the book altogether as they don't fit his portrayal - now tell me, is that even possible with such a big character? Probably not, so I'd rather he was a bit softer

But all in all, this was a reasonably good film - it's not a classic in any sense of the word, but it's enjoyable fare, certainly better than the previous entries the series and is well worth seeing

Finito, it's out of my brain

01 August 2009

Sweet Jesus

How on Earth do you work over 100 hours a week

I used to work 7 day weeks, 9 hour shifts - that's *only* 63 hours, and believe me that's taxing - if only from the point of view that you're never at home

Doctors may have a far more rewarding job but 100 hours is basically work, then sleep - 6 hours a night is 42 hours a week asleep, leaves barely 20 hours outside work

To be honest, despite getting double the amount of free time they do (in 'some' cases admittedly) I barely remember free time - the occasional hour in the morning involves feeding yourself, as does much of the evening - that's no life

It's an important job no doubt, but 100 hours hardly seems a healthy lifestyle - I would've guessed junior doctors worked between 60 and 80 hours, I can't even contemplate over a hundred

I lol'd

I just had to post this:

(From the Indie)

Quick...look busy

What depths will the government sink to to create positive news?

Now they are funding 500 places on Operation Raleigh for graduate bums like me who can't find a job

Now while I am somewhat irked that I once again would've been rewarded by hanging around in Britain as a 'NEET' I can't help but laugh - 500 spots?

The Times lends it weight to the idea that it's to massage the figures - but frankly what's is 500 in the 100,000+ unemployed graduate pool? Not to mention the 2 million+ unemployed

No, this is a cheap gimmick to make a headline and make it look like they are being productive and doing something positive in the recession - I already went on a bloody gap year, because as the Times pointed out: "Careers experts say that 80,000 will hunt in vain for work this summer" - this is just rewarding people who aren't smart enough to have decided on a gap year yet - as always you have to be dim to get any help off the state

Depressing times...as always