Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Grand Theft Auto 4

The IT geeks at work were even more excited than usual today. I thought that maybe one of them had actually got a girlfriend or there was a new Star Wars movie coming out but it transpired that today was the release of Grand Theft Auto 4.
The PS-3 was set up and i spent my lunchtime perched on a box of computer parts in a crowded IT room watching this game until the smell of calamine lotion got too strong but i had seen enough.
The game has been rightly battered for its gruesome violence and crime and having played the Vice City version, it really should be kept out of the hands of under eighteens and anyone with a flaky disposition.
That said, and if you can manage to forget about that side of the game, it really is a remarkable piece of computing.
I have no idea about computer graphics but it wasn't that long ago that Space Invaders and Pacman were the height of computer game technology and less than 3 decades later we are producing games like this which are breathtaking in their beauty.
As the character moves around the City the background and detail are stunning but it is hard to appreciate such leaps in this field when you keep being constantly returned to the violent nature of the game itself.
I guess you don't have to play the missions and can happily just drive around the scenery listening to the radio stations which feature real-life bands but it might be a waste of your £40.
I was unexpectedly very impressed by the look of the game even if the morals in the game are highly debatable.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Burn Baby Burn

News of a second bank in as many weeks running around with it's head up its own backside in panic as the Halifax Bank of Scotland goes off to round up £4b to keep it afloat. Last week it was the Royal Bank of Scotland going cap in hand to its investors to ask for £12b.
Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the money lenders and my initial cackling of "burn you bastards, burn" was on reflection a tad hasty.
Everyone who has ever been charged £35 for a letter to tell you that you have overdrawn on your overdraft or have had to pay at a cashpoint machine to withdraw your own money may be rejoicing also at the thought of their bank undergoing some karmic style financial suffering.
I would like to see the banking system collapse into some unpredictable bloody carnage as much as the next person who has spent far too many lunchtimes queuing and listening to god-awful bank music but of course, if the banks do fail it will not be the top people who will suffer. They will be OK.
There does seem to be a rumour that if your bank goes to the wall your mortgage, loan or debit card debt will be written off which of course is not true. It will just be taken over by another lender and the only difference you will see is another name at the top of your letters.
With only the first £31,000 of your savings guaranteed, anyone with savings over that amount could well be downsizing that retirement dream home in Spain to a one bedroom flat in Grimsby.
Yes, we want to see the banks and their pompous little managers getting a good old kicking in the goolies for how they have treated us and i have no sympathy for them so if you hear news that the place that you bank with is in trouble, you are OK if you have under £31,000 in your account. Alternatively, you can withdraw your money and start a run on the bank and really make it sweat because they have not the slightest compunction in looking out for number one and they would hang you out to dry in a second so don't feel sorry for the snivelling little swindlers.
Serves them right but remember the redundancies will be from the lower order, not the big earners who made such a hash of the situation in the first place.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Workers Of The World Unite

In 2003, after years of complaining about the lack of a decent water supply to their homes, the women of the Turkish village of Sirt went on a sex strike. Within days the local council granted emergency planning permission and work on a new pipeline began.
The thought of men not having any sex leads obviously to our Labour Government and Gordon Brown in particular who's wife may or may not be still leading him gently by the hand to the bedroom but the only spanking the Prime Minister is getting these days is from his angry workers.
The men at the Grangemouth oil refinery may not be able to withold conjugal rights to the Scotsman but they can withdraw their labour which is what they have done as yet another industry mans the picket lines and tells Gordy to get his well padded derriere into gear and sort out a decent pension plan for them.
The Oil workers follow hard on the heels of the Prison Workers, Teachers, Civil Servants, Fire Brigade, Rail staff, Judges, Postal staff and Police force who have all stayed away from work at some point in the last 12 months protesting against pay increases, or lack of them.
The Government announced a below-inflation pay rise of 2.5% for public-sector workers last year and then squirmed uncomfortably when the MLA panel, who recommend politicians pay, set their pay increase at 16%. Oops.
The closure of the Grangemouth plant will soon begin to be felt at petrol stations as it delivers around 40% of Britain's daily output and outlets are already limiting customers to a maximum of £20 per purchase although key workers such as nurses and the police are allowed to continue filling their vehicles as usual.
I am all for workers going on strike when they think they are getting shafted, we have very little power except the withholding of our labour and it really does focus the minds of those who control the purse-strings.
Shamefully, the Marx quote about workers of the world having nothing to lose but their chains is as pertinent today as it was when the German stopped combing his beard long enough to write it over 150 years ago.

Friday, 25 April 2008

What's In It For America?

It is a subject that was touched upon here in light of Hillary's words concerning the obliteration of Iran and has always had me wondering just why every American administration is so protective of Israel. What is in it for them?
It obviously isn't anything of a military nature as the Israel Defense Force is one of the most powerful and modern military's in the World with top-of-the-range weapons consisting of over 4000 tanks, 130 attack helicopters and 60-80 nuclear warheads. Israel currently receives an annual $2.4 billion military aid from America so Israel is not in any danger of being invaded anytime soon.
Israel is not some backward basket case of a nation stricken by poverty.
The IMF placed Israel 52nd in the GDP league table which puts it one below Ireland but above the likes of Finland, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. In terms of GDP per capita (GDP divided by population), Israel is above some western nations such as Spain and and is on a par with France and Germany.
So if it isn't military or financial support, why else are American Presidents so keen to look after Israel?
The 5.2m Jews in the United States account for 1.3% of the 300m population which is not a large enough number to make a significant impact on an election and dwarfed by the 14.1% who say they are non-religious who hold greater sway over who wins an election.
Even in it's own backyard, Israel is hardly on nodding terms with it's neighbours and is very much a pariah in the Middle East and is blamed for most of the tensions in the area and by association, so is America. Bin Laden and others have cited the close relationship between the two countries on many occasions to justify their actions so there is no political leverage in the area from such an alliance.
There is no oil in Israel and no other natural resources that America needs so again, i am stumped on what America gets out of being so intrinsically linked to a small country virtually the same size as Wales.
It really does seem a one sided relationship which gives all the headaches, costs the US taxpayers billions and has no real military, financial or political benefit or am i missing something here?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Being English

"There'll always be an England" goes the song which must really tick off the French who have had more than there fair share of attempts to rid the World of the despicable Rosbifs.
So two fingers to France because here we are waving our Flag of St. George until we get tired and then we will probably sit down and have a nice cup of tea.
Today is St George's Day so we put aside all our negative comments about this country and the fools who run it and concentrating on the things that define the inhabitants of this little island off the coast of Northern France and to the left of Holland.
There are a few things that make us English unique among the rest of the planets population with the most obvious being our weird sense of humour.
Other nations have a time and a place for humour but with us, it's the default setting. Whatever the situation, we are there with with a joke like when the Queen Mother died and in the book of remembrance someone wrote "I remember one time she visited my school and I asked her if she would like to visit the bathroom before she left. 'No' she replied, 'I didn't give in to the Nazis and I won't give in to the bladder'. That's how she was, a fighter, who refused to be beaten by anything. She pissed herself later though, it was sickening".
That's how we are, making everything into a joke with the possible exception of any script Hugh Grant gets his hands on.
Our island status has saved us from multiple invasions while encouraging our men to go out and inflict them on others, leaving those who stayed at home to brew an irrational fear of all things more than 3 miles from our coast. If we do venture outside of our own orbit we insist that whatever country we visit, they speak English and if they don't understand us, we just speak English slower and louder while tutting and rolling our eyes at their ignorance.
Nobody is as self-deprecating as us Englanders and nobody is as afraid of standing out from the crowd. The English people would rather cut out their own eyes than brag about themselves and we can expect to be thrown off a tall building to shouts of "Nobody likes a showoff" if we tried it.
Closely linked is the good old fashioned 'Stiff Upper Lip' so God forbid anyone go see a therapist because you will be mocked, handed a cup of tea and told to pull yourself together.
Yes, making fun of dead Royalty, berating Johnny foreigner and being emotionally stunted is what makes us what we are. Here's to St George (just don't tell anyone here that he was probably Turkish).

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Hillary's Chances Obliterated

One Middle East but two very different views on the way to deal with its problems, one from an ex-President and one from a Presidential pretender.
Jimmy Carter flew out to the area to sit down with the main players and actively seeks bringing peace to the region while Hillary is pledging to obliterate a large part of it.
Ex-President Carter has been given a rough ride for his trip to the Middle East where he has met with Hamas leaders to try and broker some kind of peace in the conflict between Palestine and Israel that has dragged on for over 40 years. As the only other alternative is a continuation of the killing, i cannot give the man enough credit for trying and shake my head in confusion at anyone who attacks him for it.
While Carter was speaking of being encouraged by his talks with Hamas leaders, crass and idiotic statements like those that issued from Hillary Clinton today just make us realise how important this upcoming US election is for all of us.
When asked in an interview with ABC News what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons Clinton responded "I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."
Am i the only one that finds her words chilling and very disturbing?
Despite no evidence whatsoever that Iran has any intention of attacking Israel or possesses nuclear weapons, a potential President of a nuclear power threatens to obliterate an entire nation and it 70 million inhabitants.
I realise that this is meant for home consumption but does she really think that considering the current debacle in the Middle East by the current President, she will gather votes from the Democratic voters with more of the same hyperbole?
What if Israel attacks Iran first and Iran retaliates? Israeli government ministers have already threatened a pre-emptive attack on Iran and Israel have an excellent previous record of attacking its neighbours pre-emptively. Would Clinton then be bound by her words to retaliate massively against Iran though Israel was the aggressor? How more of a green light would they need to stoke it up?
During a debate last week Obama was asked about Iran's nuclear ambitions and his plans for dealing with them.
His reply was "I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearly for them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable. I believe that we can offer them carrots and sticks, but we've got to directly engage and make absolutely clear to them what our posture is."
It is clear to me which one should be kept as far away as possible from red phones in the Oval Office no matter what time of the day or night it was.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/23/hillaryclinton.iran

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Did Psychics Forsee This?

I was fortunate to find myself in the company of the famous magician and paranormal sceptic James Randi one afternoon. The Canadian is so certain that anyone who professes psychic or paranormal powers is a charlatan, that he offers a prize of one million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate a supernatural ability under scientific conditions.
As yet nobody has managed to progress past the preliminary test which is agreed upon by the applicant.
I have spoken with a few mediums and psychics and not one has been able to tell me my Grandfathers middle name despite them professing to be talking to him at the time.
As things stand, anybody can set themselves up as a psychic or spiritual healer but, and they really should of seen this one coming, the EU is cracking down on psychics under the new Consumer Protection Act.
Promises of riches, where Uncle Albert hid the family gold or healing through the laying on of hands are all at risk of legal action from disgruntled customers not happy with the service they have received and Spiritualists are arguing that they will be forced to issue disclaimers stating that the results cannot be guaranteed.
With the psychic industry a multi-million pound venture in Britain, anyone charging or accepting cash in exchange for the service will be bound by the new regulations. Mediums currently charge for seances, Tarot, psychic readings and clairvoyance with another tidy sum being generated by Psychic telephone services, online and TV channels.
The Spiritualist Workers Association's website is warning that 'The changes in the legislation are a minefield. We have to fight it.'
Of course they do because when this new law comes into effect in May, you don't need to be fortune teller to see that the cheery little scam the psychics, healers and clairvoyants have been running for decades will be brought to a screeching halt.
Of course if any psychics out there can conjure up my Grandfathers middle name i will happily retract that last sentence and will drop James Randi an email.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Chinese Ship Turned Away

You sell someone a weapon, you know it only has one function and what it will be used for. You sell someone 77 tonnes of weapons you can fully expect a slaughter.
A ship carrying arms and ammunition from China to Zimbabwe has been forced to move away from a South African port after workers refused to unload it.
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) said it would not unload the weapons because they fear Robert Mugabe would use them to crack down on election opponents.
Three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket propelled grenades and more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes are among the cargo on the Chinese ship.
The shipment was due to dock in the port of Durban where the weapons would be transported through the country to landlocked Zimbabwe.
Shocked by the thought of this volume of weapons in Mugabe's hands, the workers stuck to their principles and the ship remained anchored outside the port before sailing away.
It is great to see the the shipment of arms being blocked by something called Humanity, something that all our Governments, not just the Chinese, give very little consideration to when it sells its weapons to despots, tyrants and countries that don't think twice about who they are aiming those weapons at.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Brown Meets Bush

Americans, don't be alarmed because that shabby looking Scotsman following your President about is actually with us. We sent Gordon over to you with the hope of being able to change the locks before he came back but we have all been too busy shaking our heads and tutting that he can't even arrange a trip to the States without landing slap bang in the middle of a papal visit. The dullard.
These trips take months to set up and I find it hard to believe that at some point someone didn't realise that a birthday celebrating Pope was going to be around at the same time as our Prime Minister and that is where my theory begins that far from being some sort of plank, Brown has actually managed to pull off a sly, but brilliantly clever, coup.
To a World leader, Bush is what kryptonite was to Superman. To actively be seen mixing with the man is enough to send your ratings into a fatal nosedive as Tony Blair, John Howard and José Aznar found out.
On his first visit to George's side last year, Gordon was generally praised in the UK media for his lack of gushing and refusal to return the platitudes Bush bestowed upon him. But that was then.
Brown couldn't be so cold and standoffish this time around and he knew it but he would be committing political suicide if he cosied up to one of the the most unpopular American Presidents to ever grace the White House, not only with his own party who dumped Blair for those same reasons but also with whoever finally takes over from Bush.
So he chose the one time that he can slip quietly in and slip back out again relatively unnoticed and while the focus is on the Pope rattling off apologies about paedophile priests and other churchly matters.
Nobody was really interested when Brown said that 'the world owed Bush a great deal of gratitude for helping to root out terrorism' or were paying that much attention when he stated that he stood 'shoulder to shoulder with the president in the battle against terrorism.'
Downing Street said that the Prime Minister's trip has been a great success and officials are laughing off suggestions that the prime minister was upstaged by the Pope but i agree that for Brown it has been a huge success.
He managed to get in, say the things that would see him metaphorically hung drawn and quartered any other time and get out again while everybody was looking the other way.
Not as dumb as some seem to think our Prime Minister.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Why Sympathy For The Home Owner?

We live in a Capitalist consumer society, look out your window. That's consumer capitalism out there as far as the eye can see. If it annoys you then we'll have to have a revolution, which I'm well up for.
So what has pressed my buttons this time? The constant news of house prices dropping and how it is perceived to be a bad thing, that's what.
The news has been full of miserable looking people having a moan because there property is worth less than they expected.
My heart bled for that investor on the BBC News 24 who was crestfallen that the £200,000 he paid for his house in 2003 was only worth £275,000 now five years later. I was all ready to organise a whip round for the poor fella so down on his luck. Keep your chin up pal.
As the credit crunch begins to bite the poor souls who's properties prices are not climbing as expected, are lining up to bitch and moan to anyone who listens so call me heartless, but i fail to harbour any sympathy for someone who owns there own home and are still going to make on their investment regardless albeit maybe not as much as they would like if they sold it now.
What we didn't hear when the times were good for one side of the equation was how a large majority of people couldn't even get on the property ladder because the house prices were out of their reach. It doesn't take a genius to do the maths.

Average 2 bed house £200,000
Average annual wage £22,000
Bank mortgage = Annual Wage x 3

That leaves a huge proportion of the country unable to afford to buy their own home and living in alternative accommodation so i am sorry Mr and Mrs Homeowner, you had your time revelling in other peoples misfortune and at the very least you are going to break even or make a modest profit if you really have to sell up now, but don't expect all of us to feel sorry for you.
Your reversal in fortunes is music to many other peoples ears and they are praying that your plight worsens so their home owning dream is back within reach again.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Ce Qui Sera, Sera

It seems that no matter what it does, France is destined to forever be the worlds whipping boy.
The country has had had more boots stuck in it than Imedla Marcos's shoe cupboard and even the Chinese are joining in now with calls to blacklist French goods over its treatment of the Olympic torch last week.
Some of the incidents in the French capital, especially an attempt by a demonstrator to seize the flame from a Chinese woman in a wheelchair, have been shown repeatedly on Chinese TV and the tabloid Global Times is leading protests to boycott French luxury goods, such as cognac, wine and perfumes, whose sales are booming in China.
Ignoring events in London and San Francisco, it seems the Chinese want to punish the French but that won't be anything new to our Channel Tunnel sharing partners, it seems that everyone wants to have a pop at them regardless.
Pretty much all the nations in Europe have taken a swipe at them at some point and even after helping a young and tottering America beat the British in the battle of Independence and giving it a big concrete woman to stand in New York Harbour, the yanks still deliver a swift kick to it's Gallics whenever possible.
The Simpson's coined a new derogatory term with the 'Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys' jibe and the abuse hit new levels when France refused to support the Iraq War in the UN along with Germany, Russia and China but it was the French and most notably their fries, that got the critical treatment.
France has a bit of respite With George Bush in the White House and America on the end of a global shoeing but with him on the way out and no other obvious candidate, it is going to be back to fulfilling the Duke of Wellington dream that: "We always have been, we are, and I hope that we always shall be, detested in France.'
Yep, i think we probably shall be.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Naked Politics

It is a fact that elections campaigns can be boring and a woman can only take Gordon Brown lecturing us on fiscal policy for so long before our minds start wandering. Don't tell me that i am the only one who has sat staring at John Prescott and wondered what he would look like naked.
What's that? It was only me? Bugga.
Anyway, politics in Italy are a bit different to elsewhere. Firstly you don't have to wonder anymore because one of the candidates is porn star Milly D'Abbraccio and her campaign poster doesn't focus on her analytical skills or grip of political theory, it's all about her backside.
Shamelessly targeting her brown paper bag wielding fan base, the star of such classics as 'Imperial Nymphomaniac' has plastered images of her derriere all around Rome in a bid to win a seat in the city hall.
"People don't want to see these politicians' faces anymore," she said and you know what, the lady may have a point because there really are some pretty ugly cats running our world.
I can't concentrate when Kim Jong Il comes on the television and as much as i like and admire what Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuela, the guy had had more than his fair share of falls down the ugly tree. Our own Gordon Brown has the sort of face only a mother...actually, probably not even her.
The outgoing Russian Putin and France's Nicolas Sarkozy are not too shabby but otherwise there really is not much eye candy for us girls in politics so perhaps it would be better if politicians did begin using their butts for photo opportunities.
After all, it is where most of them speak from anyway.

Marathon Man

If you read any guide to a long and healthy life, it is a fair bet that it wouldn't recommend taking up smoking just after your seventh birthday and necking pints of bitter although if 101 year old Buster Martin wrote it, it may well do.
Not only is he still working as a van cleaner but he is set to compete in this weekends London Marathon after recently completing a half marathon.
In true stubborn old person style, he is refusing to change his lifestyle in preparation for the 26 mile Marathon and is continuing to smoke which he started aged seven and will not forgo his regular trips to the pub for his pints of bitter.
As someone who gets out of puff just typing the word marathon, i wish him well and suggest that the ideal preparation to running 26 miles is to pop in the pub beforehand and sink a few of those pints. If the urge to run persists, you haven't drank enough.

Military Human Rights

A High Court Judge has ruled that sending British soldiers into battle with defective equipment could breach their human rights.

Our caring Government is appealing against the decision arguing that it is impossible to give soldiers on active service the benefits of the Human Rights Act.

Just a thought but maybe if the military was protected against warmongering heads of governments craving the natural resources of foreign countries and needlessly provoking wars against countries that are no threat to us, the military and everyone else would be a great deal safer in the first place.
Just saying.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Boycotting China

After events concerning the Olympic torch relay in London, Paris and today in San Francisco, China can be in little doubt what the World thinks of it's decision to host the Olympics this summer.
My sympathy goes to the torch carriers, nobody wants to see an innocent person in one of the greatest moments of their life terrified by protesters but the message is loud and clear, we don't approve of the IOC's choice of host after recent events.
With less than four months to go before the opening ceremony in Beijing, the previously whispered word "boycott" is being mentioned more confidently.
The Europeans are contemplating sending their athletes but keeping their heads of Government at home on the opening night formalities but some people are calling for a complete boycott to drive home the message.
As numerous other Olympic boycotts have previously shown, they achieve nothing except penalising the athletes. If a nation's leadership is prepared to cut short the highlight of an athletes career, then they had better be prepared to take a long hard look at their economic relations with China afterwards and take other measures that indicate their stand is not just political posturing and they really are concerned with human rights in that part of the World.
With China poised to become the global power, it is proving a real headache for some Premiers who will go all out not to upset the Chinese and would rather not have to deal with such potentially thorny issues and the UK has the added tricky situation of hosting the next Olympic games and know that any action by Britain will be greeted by likewise retaliation in 2012.
The best people to pull a boycott would be the likes of Olympic sponsors Coca Cola, Kodak, Adidas and McDonald's but we all know how likely that is so the next best option is to keep the leaders away from the opening and closing nights, don't stop the athletes doing their stuff and keep the politics in the political arena, not in the sporting one.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Could You Repeat That Address Please?

The people of Lunt in Merseyside have had enough of outsiders making use of black tape on their town signs and are seeking to change its name to Launt.
"We are all painfully aware of the repeated times our village sign is defaced by yobs. Drive in every day and you see a very offensive word" snorted a local but the Lunts should count themselves lucky because there are some worse named places to live.
I imagine the people of Shag Harbour in Newfoundland and Knob Lick in Kentucky get there fair share of sniggers when they have to give their address and it can't be much fun admitting you are a Big Knobber like the citizens of Big Knob in Kentucky.
Then there are the villagers of Sugartit also in Kentucky, Bastard in Ontario, Pratts Bottom in England and it is not hard to imagine that the movers and shakers keep it quiet about being big in Poopoo, Hawaii.
It is unlikely that the people of Oregon say they fancy a day out to Poop Creek or to Climax in Saskatchewan and the mind boggles how Dildo in Newfoundland got its name. You could always move to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales or just swallow your pride and accept your lot. It can't be that bad and you never hear the people from Fucking in Austria complain.

Pay Packet Musings

Those Socialists types have an ideal where everyone, regardless of position, is paid the same. Whether you are the cleaner or the Chief Executive, your pay packet would weigh no different in your back pocket.
Depending what side of the fence you sit upon, it is either crazy or a great idea and something that cropped up in a Q & A session with an industry bod today.
"Would you do a stressful managers job if you could get paid the same for mopping the toilets? What sort of brain-dead idiot would do that?" he sneered to one of my more politically astute students after an exchange of views over the minimum wage had edged that way.
"Yes because i would put personal ambition above money" she answered before adding mischievously, "I am guessing by your answer that your personal ambition would have you sweeping out toilets then." Que the mocking cheers and a bod sipping his water and trying and failing to find a snappy comeback.
So would everyone getting paid the same work in reality?
The most obvious allure would be that people would be attracted to the job rather than the salary so you would get workers who actually want to be in those positions rather than someone who couldn't care less but want the money. How many times have we heard people moan about there job but end it with "but the moneys good".
Another plus would be an end to the equality of someone on minimum wage working all the hours just to further line the pockets of someone else who already earns many times more.
The third obvious advantage would be those who don't want to, or are unable to, pull their weight, do the 'easier' jobs such as cleaning the toilets. Doesn't matter to the rest of us because someone will be toilet cleaning and if someone is happy to do it it takes us back to the first attraction.
Would make for a happier work force certainly and solve a few of the other equality problems Capitalism brings with it and increase employment which would increase tax revenues for the country which in turn would...hang about, i think we could be onto something here.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Before Mugabe

Of course watching any leader as corrupt as Robert Mugabe get his backside kicked out of office is to be celebrated but Zimbabwe's problems did not start with the man and they will not end with him shuffling off of centre stage.
As is usual, Britain and its brutal and bloody history of empire building laid the foundations for everything that enveloped the country years later.
Look back to the late 19th Century and there is the British taking control of Zimbabwe by force, renaming it Rhodesia and flooding it with white settlers in the expectation of finding gold there and incorporated into the British Empire.
Rebellions against the white settlers were ruthlessly crushed by the British
and on discovering that the gold wasn't as abundant as first thought, instead took all the best farmland, which ended with the settlers owning 70% of the country.
Seventy years later and as colonial rule was ending throughout the continent,
the white-minority Rhodesia government declared Independence from the United Kingdom.
As violent opposition grew against the ruling whites, they opened negotiations with the leader of their most dangerous opposition, Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) for elections.
Rebel leader Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party won a landslide victory that ended the minority rule in Zimbabwe’s first free elections in 1980.
That's where everyone else seems to join the party with the removal of White farmers, corrupt elections and inflation at 1,500.00 % but as usual in most of today's trouble spots, us Brits historically played our shameful part although we don't tend to mention it much for some reason. Can't think why. Maybe it is just far more easier to blame everything on someone else and keep quiet about the part we played.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Cigarettes & Coffee & Chocolate

Every year my new year resolutions are to cut back on smoking, drinking coffee and eating chocolate or rather i should say my old new year resolutions because a new study by a US team for the Journal of Neuroinflammation have found that coffee could play an important part in preventing neurological disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's.
That's a third of my guilt banished so as i pour myself another mug of Nescafe, let's see what we can do about the other two.
Eating dark chocolate could help control diabetes and blood pressure, Italian experts say. Wahey. Researchers found eating dark chocolate each day for 15 days lowered blood pressure.
Ok, this is going to be a toughie but any benefits from smoking doctor?
According to a report in the journal of Psychopharmacology, nicotine absorbed from cigarette smoke shortens reaction time and improves short term memory in a wide variety of cognitive tasks.
There we go, i am not just drinking coffee, eating chocolate and smoking from now on but actively improving my short term memory, reducing my blood pressure and taking preventive action against neurological disorders.
Ok, so i am also spotty, wheezy and twitch constantly but it is a cross i must bear for my new health regime.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Haven't You Faded Away Yet?

As i turned 39 over the last few days my mind has turned to the CD collection in my car and wondering if i should be changing the punk influenced guitar bands that dominate and settle into a more easy listening sound that more reflects my age.
Then i contemplate the horror of a car journey listening to the Rolling Stones and realise that i'm 39, not in a coma.
Why am i picking on the great grandads of pop you may ask, because i have never seen the attraction i would answer before mumbling under my breath what a damn cheek you have for questioning me.
The Stones have a film out apparently so the wrinkly ones have been clogging up our TV screens to promote the damn thing.
Formed in 1962, they have been hanging about for 46 years and have released 22 studio albums, eight concert albums and have had 32 singles in the top 10 but i would struggle to name a handful that i could actually admit to liking.
Sympathy for the Devil, I Can't get no Satisfaction, Brown Sugar and It's Only Rock N Roll i like but that's a pretty bad return for over four decades worth of material.
Maybe its me and i am guilty of being ignorant of the musical talents of the band or maybe they have just been around for so long that nobody wants to point out that actually, they suck and have sucked for a long time.
The band have had 8 UK number ones and all of them were in the 60s so i take it upon myself to stand up and say to Jagger et al, "Hey! You! Get off of my Cloud, Cd Player and Cinema Screen."
Who's with me??

Can We Fix It? Err...Nope

The British lag behind the World at many things but without doubt when it comes to building things on time, on budget and fully functioning, we really do have a record more stony than a biblical execution.
The latest feat of engineering to have us shaking our heads and asking for our
money back is the shiny new Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport.
Costing £4.6b and boasting that it's luggage handling system could move our bags through the terminal faster than you could move yourself through it, it inevitably creaked, wheezed and gave up the ghost on its opening morning resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of flights. At the time of writing the luggage system is working at a reduced rate and still 50 flights a day are being cancelled.
What is really surprising about the Heathrow delays is that anybody is surprised because we are notoriously rubbish at grand scale construction projects.
Jon Bon Jovi was forced to cancel wearing nut crushingly tight trousers at
Wembley Stadium after it rolled up 2 years late and almost £650m more than the £185m originally planned which was still quicker than the British Library which was ten years late and costing £511 million, as opposed to the £32 million predicted.
Alternatively, consider the Scottish Assembly building in Edinburgh, which, when it finally opened, three years off schedule, had cost £431 million, a tenfold increase on the original budget.
Our nadir was the turn of century when we foolishly set about building some great structures which resulted in my two favourite construction debacles.
The project planning for the Millennium Tower in Portsmouth began in 1995 with an opening date of 1999 and was finally unveiled in 2005 and hastily renamed the Spinnaker Tower while the Millennium Bridge in London is a magnificent feat of embarrassment. It had to be closed thirty minutes after it opened because it swayed dangerously when people walked on it because the designers had not adequately wondered about what would happen if people ever walked on it.
I just hope the world isn't expecting to see an Olympics in 2012 because as we are hosting it, we can expect the stadiums to be ready around 2020 if you don't mind waiting.