Sunday, 30 May 2010

Last Again

If you consider Germany for a second, you think of decent cars, mullet haircuts and men in leiderhosen slapping each other around the face. What you do not think of is their musical pedigree.
Regardless of this the good people of Europe have decided that Germany is this years musical powerhouse and voted it the Eurovision champions.
To be fair it was a halfway decent song, a bit quirky but not the usual Eurovision fare which is usually a song about us all loving each other and peace on earth which is commendable but does not usually make for a banging tune.
So it's all off to Berlin next year and a perfectly functional evening.
The United Kingdom came stone cold bottom and off we go blaming everything else except the fact that it was a rubbish song and the singer was no great shakes either.
We bleat about how ridiculous it is all after all we gave the World the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and and the Who and forget that we also inflicted Timmy Mallet and Mick Hucknell upon it.
If we want to stand a chance of finishing above Belarus next time, we should do what most of them seem to do now and put forward one of our major artists.
We should say 'There you are johnny foreigner, you give us the million album selling MaNga and we give you Leona Lewis or Muse so stick that up your 1980's style jumper'.
Personally, i was a massive admirer of the Armenian entrant and believe that she should have won.
No idea what the song was like or even how well she sang it. Who cares how she sounds when she looks like that.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Updating the curriculum

As much as it surprises me to say it, the new Government seem to be making a good fist of things so far.
The reforms they are declaring seem to be mostly Lib Dem ideas but nothing there at the moment that seems too scary and pretty much all i agree with.
The latest wheeze is a slimmed down curriculum for schools although no decision yet on what subjects will be axed so maybe i can suggest a few.

Metalwork: As much fun as it is to spend a year making a set of nutcrackers, when will this ever be applicable in later life unless you wash up on a nut laden desert island with only a set of precision tools and a lathe?

Shakespeare: The only time Shakespeare comes in handy is when you want to out smart-arse a smart-arse by continuing their Shakespeare quote they only used in the first place to be a smart-arse.

Historic Royals: Unless you are on a quiz show, you will never, ever, ever have to recall who was the reigning monarch in 1477. As long as you recognise the present one so you don't get arrested for passing on fake bank notes, that's all you need to know.

Square Roots: I have never met anyone who has had a moment when they have cursed themselves for having forgotten how to work out the square root of a number.

Religious Education: Be good go to heaven. Be bad and spend eternity being forked up the backside by the devil.Why take a year to say that? The form teacher could slip it in one morning before taking the register.

Periodic Table: The amount of times i have had cause to regret not knowing the chemical symbol for Nobelium or Ununpentium? Nil.

If you are still at school and you find your nutcrackers are wonky, have no idea who King Edward I married or are panicking over what the chemical symbol for Potassium is, don't worry. You won't ever need to know them anyway.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Handling Kim Jong il

The film Team America World Police has completely ruined Kim Jong Il for me. As he prepares his armed forces to do whatever he has in mind to South Korea, i just picture him sitting in his palace singing about how ronery he is.
There is a serious situation brewing over there with a nuclear armed North Korea run by a lunatic and big pals with China and South Korea with 25,000 American troops protecting it. I should be worried but all i can think of is Mr Jong trying to say the word inevitable.
North Korea has been blamed for sinking a South Korean ship although they deny any involvement and has warned retaliation by their neighbours would mean war.
What makes this even more tense is that North Korea is no Iraq or Afghanistan. It has a massive military and although it obviously could not withstand an American attack, it would take large swathes of South Korea and the surrounding countries with it and with nuclear weapons that can reach the American West coast, Californians may want to upgrade their insurance policies.
The military might, and especially the nuclear threat, is what has saved North Korea from the recent trend of forcing democracy on countries whether they want it or not. That and the wild card, China.
If China decide, as they did previously, to back North Korea against the Western forces then we are all in for a bumpy ride.
What worries me most is the fact that Kim Jong Il is old and by all accounts the recipient of a couple of strokes recently. He may just be thinking in that crazy mind of his that he wants to go out with a bang before his heart jolts him one last time.
The Americans, in that way of theirs, cannot be threatening or make demands because Kim is not a bluffer. When they previously condemned him for test launching a long range missile, he just tested another by sending it straight over Japan.
Kids gloves and a cool head is needed, not Hillary Clinton riding into town shouting her mouth off making demands.
Kim is obviously a maniac but maybe he is just ronery, so terribry ronery. Damn that film!!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Who Loves England Then?

It seems that you can't pick up a newspaper or magazine lately without a World Cup wallchart falling into your lap. All the media pundits are predicting who will beat who and which nation will walk away with the trophy.
Taking a quick glance it seems perfectly set up for a Spain v Brazil final with both avoiding each other until the last game.
As for England, we should comfortably get out of our group and there is a possibility that we would meet the Aussies in the next round if they finish second so i may find myself in the shocking position of actually cheering on the socceroos if only so we can have the pleasure of knocking them out.
As there are only 32 countries being represented, that leaves a lot of the globe with no home team to support so how many of them will adopt England as the team to cheer for?
Our closest friends, the Welsh, Scots and both sets of the Irish will be urging on anyone we play and the places that have now tenuous links to England, namely the Australians and Americans, are there with us so no St George flag waving there.
As we share a queen with Canada, they may be tempted to urge on Walcott and his boys if a ice hockey game isn't on at the time.
The Eurovision song contest has proven time and again that we have no real friends in Europe and Argentina and Brazil have the South American vote all tied up.
The Africans have a choice of countries from their own continent to choose from and thanks to Mr Blair, we would be seriously wasting our time looking towards the Middle East for support.
Nope, it seems that nobody loves us although we can guarantee our National Anthem will be greeted with admiration and pride in Liechtenstein. The tune of their national anthem is exactly the same as ours.
It's you and us Lichtenstein against the World!!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Venter & Nobel

Much in the news recently concerning J. Craig Venter and his synthetic life form. Nerds in white coats have been excitedly polishing their test tubes and telling us how astounding a leap this is for mankind.
Perhaps it is, i can't pretend to know what Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 means but it has been reported that the technology could be applied in biofuels, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, clean water projects and food products.
The emphasis is on the word 'could' because we all know that what it 'will' end be being used for is to kill people in far away countries.
We have a terrible track record of inventing something useful and then using it to kill people with.
When we came up with Gunpowder, some bright spark piped up how we could use it to propel bullets at high velocity into people. Same story with splitting atoms and dynamite.
Ventner himself has admitted that his discovery could be used for 'dual purposes' and the head of the National Farmers Union(NFU) said it may lead to 'troublesome, enduring consequences' and called it 'a risk for humankind'.
The military must be rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of a new biological weapon with unlimited possibilities they can use to kill even more people.
Maybe in future years J Craig Venter will be so shocked at what his discovery is being used for that he will follow Nobel and set up an award to try and counterbalance what he unleashed.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Well done Elvis

It isn't very often we get to applaud musicians for their moral stance but Elvis Costello deserves a huge pat on the back for taking a stand on political grounds.

'It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.
I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.

Good for him and it would be nice if a few more countries showed the same backbone in their dealings with Israel. Hopefully other entertainers will join Elvis in a boycott as they did against South Africa in the 80's and Israel will get the idea.
Now if only Costello would apologise for everything he has done since the Armed Forces album.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Greece Burning

Andy Warhol said that everybody had their 15 minutes of fame and the same is true for countries. At some point or other in history one country stood out above the others. Unfortunately for Greece their slot at being top dog was almost two and a half thousand years ago when they gave us Plato, Aristotle and Alexander the Great but can now only rustle up a bottle of Ouzo and a plastic souvenir Acropolis with wonky columns.
As we see on the news, Greece is burning and the cost of being bailed out by the other European countries in the Eurozone (the ones that also aren't skint themselves anyway) is billions of pounds worth of public cuts.
Do the Greeks not like that so they scraped together what little they had, purchased petrol, a box of matches and some empty bottles and throw it at the police instead.
The most alarming thing about the whole mess is the expert comments that Britain could be the next Greece.
As one, we all spluttered on our cream scones, rose up and shouted, "not bloody likely".
Not that i have anything against Greece but we could never be another Greece. For one we are not hairy enough and we don't shout and wave our arms around like a windmill in a gale when we talk.
If we are going to be like another country, why can't we be like one of those nice Scandinavians countries who are the equivalent of the retired gentleman tending his own patch of garden and tutting at the youngsters zipping about having wars and recessions.
Being such a volatile bunch, the Greeks will probably still be rioting over this when we go into the next recession but us Brits are a different breed altogether and we have something they don't. The Elgin marbles.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Wrong organ donation debate

Every few years the subject of organ donations crops up and we have a bit of a debate about it and then it goes back to how it was at the start of the debate with a person having to not only own a donor card but be carrying it about their person when they die.
As much as i dislike the idea of anyone removing bits of me during my trip from the mortuary to the grave, it seems very selfish to deny someone else the chance to live after we have died.
How much simpler it would be for the surgeons to assume consent and take what is needed rather than them having to break the sad news to a relative and ask them if they may remove their parts all in the space of the same breath.
From listening to the debates on the television, a feeling i do share, is not the actual act of removing the organs, but making sure you are dead in the first place.
Fair enough if you are involved in an accident and you arrive at the hospital in two separate ambulances, but otherwise the fear is you will either be 'hurried along' to throw off the mortal coil by waiting hospital staff hanging around like vultures or you would still not quite be ready to meet your maker when they get busy with the scalpel.
Rather than concentrate on the sympathy angle, they should absolutely guarantee that they would make sure a patient was completely stone cold dead 100% before wielding the knife because that's the reason people are concerned, not the act of organ donation itself and the debate will go around in circles forever until then.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Labour Legacy

The 13 years of Labour rule will probably not be looked back at with much fondness by history. The Iraq War will dominate closely followed by the massive billion pound bail out handed to the banks resulting in a breath taking deficit that will echo for a generation.
What we must remember is the time before the Iraq War and what the Labour Party did for the lower end of society.
The minimum wage was resisted by the then ruling Conservatives and business refused to introduce it but one of the first laws Labour bought in was the minimum a person could be paid for an hours work.
Much howling of protest followed but businesses didn't close and the unemployment queue didn't expand and people were actually paid a decent wage.
The other thing Labour should be thanked for is the introduction of Tax Credits which topped up the wages of anyone on low earnings. The two worked alongside each other and made millions of families financially better off.
Shamefully, these innovations both came in the first of Labour's three Parliaments and then they got bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq which dominated the rest of their time in power.
Labour did much wrong and post 9/11, Tony Blair's true face was revealed as extremely ugly, but these two things alone show that before it all became about Blair, expenses, wars, leadership battles, G W Bush, bankers, Iraq inquires, and helicopters in Afghanistan, the Labour Party was doing a good job of making the less well off a little more comfortable.
It should reflect on missed opportunities but the test of any leader is the question, 'Are we any better off at the end of their time then we were at the beginning?' Many in this country are but this will be lost in the Labour legacy of Iraq which was such a monumental mistake, it deserves to be.

Anarchy in the UK

In only slightly less than the time it took England and France to settle the 100-Year War, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have reached an agreement and it seems that Britain will be going to bed tonight with a new Prime Minister.
Due to the pomp and tradition that surrounds anything to do with Parliament, the old leader has to go to the Queen and over a cream doughnut and a cup of tea, officially resign and name his successor. She accepts it and calls for the new guy who turns up and takes over the reins.
Interestingly, there is 60 mins between one going and one taking over when the nation is officially in a period of anarchy with nobody in charge.
Anarchists have a bad press because they are associated with the bottle throwing and bank window smashing hordes that descend on events like the G8 but any philosophy that has Lemmy and Johnny Rotten advocating it has to be worth a go.
The irony is that if Gordon Brown had handed in his resignation before the General Election, the Labour Party would have performed better and although they still may not have beaten the Conservatives, they would have gained enough seats to have reached the 326 needed with the Lib Dems but he didn't and now he is off for the last cuppa with Liz.
While he does, the Sex Pistols wish for Anarchy in the UK has come true, if only for an hour anyway.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Lab Lib Con

Bad news for Labour supporters but good news for the mechanic who gets paid to modify the suspension on Ken Clarke's Government car as it looks as though David Cameron and the Conservatives are going to get their grubby little hands on the keys to number 10.
The whole election thing was all a bit of an anti-climax really as nobody gained enough votes to rule outright and it all comes down to backroom deals to see who can get the 326 seats needed to make a Government.
The Liberal Democrats support tanked to 4 seats less although they actually got more votes than last time and the Labour Party shed almost 100 seats to finish a long way behind the posh boy's party.
As much as i wouldn't like to see a Conservative party back in power to continue the great sell off that they began last time, a deal that would see the much more central Lib Dem's sharing power would actually suit me.
The Iraq war lost any chance of me voting Labour until the instigators such as Brown and Straw are well away from the scene of their crime and the Libs would temper any manic right wing intentions the Conservatives held.
I'm quite content with that and it would be highly unfair if the Labour and Liberal parties, who came 2nd and 3rd, stitched it up between them when the voters obviously didn't think either was good enough to win the thing.
A weakened Conservative Party in power with Vince Cable, an actual economist in charge of the economy, fancy that, and Ken Clarke the Foreign Secretary i can swallow.
Hopefully, five years on, Labour will have purged itself of the morons who have been running it and we can have our Labour Party back again.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Iran v USA

If any country in the World was going to boast of it's record when it comes to wars and conflicts, unless it was Switzerland, they would be asking for a swift whack around the head with a history book.
Recent history is not Hillary Clinton's strong point obviously as she and the Iranian President clashed at the United Nations over Iran's nuclear facilities.
Hillary Clinton said Iran's nuclear ambitions are putting the world at risk and Ahmadinejad retaliated by saying the government of the United States had no evidence his country was seeking nuclear weapons and the USA had not only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such weapons against other countries.
Mrs Clinton hit back stating "Iran will do whatever it can to divert attention away from its own record and to attempt to evade accountability," she said.
Now i don't know how far into history Clinton was going but since the Iran Iraq war which we were continually told Saddam began, America has had Gulf War 2 (illegal), Afghanistan (very iffy), Gulf War 1 (dodgy) and Kosovo (misguided).
Hillary would do well to climb down off that high horse of morality because only Israel could challenge that record and nobody is rushing to defend that place as a hot bed of military restraint.
Ahmadinejad should just say 'I believe the US are trying to create an excuse to invade my country and here is the evidence supporting my case.'
Clinton should just say 'I believe Iran is building a nuclear bomb and here is the evidence supporting my case' and let's see who the international crowd believe.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Ark lark

You do have to have a degree of sympathy for the bible cradling religious folk today. Back in history it would have been much easier to believe in a God who created the universe and everything in it and is sat down somewhere weeding out the sinners and helping American athletes win at the Olympics.
As we progressed, the Copernicus and Darwin crowd gouged huge chunks out of the religious argument so now all the modern day believers have is a vain attempt to reinterpret the Bible and say actually, we never actually meant there was a Garden of Eden or men begetting children aged 864, it was all an analogy.
Weak argument i agree but occasionally they start jangling their rosary beads all excitedly because finally, they may have some evidence that it isn't all a load of nonsense.
This has happened once again this week with the announcement by a group of Christians that they were 99.9 percent sure they had found Noah's Ark.
In the story, God observed, in a kind and caring way obviously, that the earth was corrupted with violence and decided to destroy all life upon it. He chose the 600 year old Noah to build an ark and gather up the required animals before he unleashed death and destruction on the planet. Lovingly because God is love remember.
God decreed that 'the length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
A cubit is the distance between an adults elbow and tip of the finger, generally 18-inches. This means that the ark would have been 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Must have been pretty cramped for two of every unclean animal and 7 of every clean sort and all the food needed for 40 days and nights.
It turns out that like so many Ark discoveries before it, this particular find was a hoax but keep the faith religious types because one day, somebody may find that first scrap of evidence that backs up your argument.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Another BP accident

Apart from the big banks and financial institutions, the oil industry is probably the next most disliked industry. Apart from the environmental damage it causes getting the stuff out the ground and earning billions in profits while doing it and it funds the anti-environmental lobby to muddy the waters while they continue polluting the waters.
The news shows pictures of the huge oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico that has been leaking from the oil rig that exploded last week and is beginning to reach the shores of the southern American states with devastating consequences. The bad news is that last year it took 10 weeks to plug a leak in the same circumstances when an oil rig exploded off the coast of Australia. That spewed 400 barrels a day into the Timor Sea, the US Coast Guard has said that as many as 1,000 barrels of oil a day are being pumped into the Gulf of Mexico.
BP does seem to have a worrying history of 'accidents'. A BP refinery explosion in Texas, 2005, killed 15 and injuring dozens of others. BP was fined a record $87 million in 2009 for failing to correct the safety hazards that had caused the explosion.
In 2006 a BP leak blamed on 'negligence' led to one of the largest oil spill in Alaskan history and a $20m fine although that amount pales into insignificance compared to the $303 million fine it received for price manipulation.
I saw Obama today saying that the bill for the clean-up is going to land on BP's doormat and i hope it is closely followed by a massive fine and compensation for the families of the 11 workers killed. If it is also found that it was an accident through negligence or lack of safety procedures, i'd like to see BP shut down permanently.
Accidents happens but it seems that accidents happen a bit more to some firms than others.