Wednesday, 28 April 2010

UK Celebrity Voters

The UK election has a week left to run and still large swathes of the country are undecided as to cast their vote for the posh one, the one nobody knew a week ago or the one that was Tony Blair's mate so as usual it comes down to the public asking, ' Who is that woman off of Countdown voting for?'
As it is so tight, the celebrity World is stepping in to try and sway us because heaven knows i lay awake at night wondering what Frank Bruno makes of the plans to increase British manufacturing output.
In the red corner, backing Gordon Brown and the Labour party are JK Rowling, David Tennant, Eddie Izzard, Patrick Stewart and Chris Evans.
Backing the Conservatives are Cilla Black, Chris Rea, Frank Bruno, Joan Collins, Nick Faldo, Michael Caine and Carol Vorderman.
Pulling for the Liberal Democrats are Colin Firth, Jane Goldman, Chris Martin, Kate Winslett, Daniel Radcliffe and John Cleese.
While none of them look particular attractive, if an invite to a dinner party with celebrity guests dropped through my door from all the parties, i would choose to go to the Liberal Democrat one if they promised Chris Martin wouldn't be providing the entertainment.
The Tory line up looks like an invite from hell and the odds of being sat within hearing distance of Chris Evans spoils the chance to meet Eddie Izzard or David Tennant at the Labour Party shindig.
All in all a rather poor sprinkling of celebrity dust over proceedings although with a week to go their is still the chance of the famous 'if Labour/Conservative/Lib Dem win i'm leaving the country' quotes to flow forth from a washed up actor or singer.
Now that sort of celebrity endorsement will sway our votes because i guarantee if Victoria Beckham said it, the party she said would force her out would win by a landslide.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Who I like

I know it is not right to make sweeping generalisations about countries and its populations but we all have our opinions coloured by our experiences while on holiday there or what we read or see on the television or for the most trivial of reasons and everything gets cranked up a couple of notches on the internet anyway so putting aside footballing reasons and just concentrating on the country, here is the countries competing in the World Cup this summer that i would like to see win it, those i hope they get knocked out straight away and those that i just don't particular care about one way or the other.

Being English, i of course want to see England take it but if they get knocked out i would like to see either France, Argentina, USA, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, N Zealand, Spain or Switzerland win it because for various reasons, these are countries i like.

What would ruin my summer would be if anyone from S Africa, Greece, Australia, Italy, Brazil or Portugal won it because these are countries that i dislike.

The old Spitting Image song about not finding a nice South African is true, i have yet to meet one and i had a torrid two weeks holiday in Greece a few years back so they can bugger off as well. It always gives me a warm feeling inside to see the loudmouth Aussies getting beaten at anything and almost every Italian i have ever met has been arrogant, smarmy and instantly punchable. Brazil always win it and i hate Ronaldo with a passion so want to see him, and therefore Portugal, out quickly .

All the rest i don't like or dislike for any reason and would greet any World Cup victory with a nonchalant shrug and the knowledge that nobody from my dislike list won it.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

BBC poll: Who we like

The BBC World Service run an annual poll taken from 28 countries to decide which nation is viewed most favourably.
America, for the first time, is viewed as more positive than negative although my suspicions are that has more to do with George W Bush leaving office than anything Obama has done on the global stage which doesn't seem that much to me.
The most favourably viewed country was Germany followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada and France.
The nation viewed least favourably is Iran, then Pakistan, North Korea and then Israel.
I can see the attraction of Germany and Japan, both countries that seem to have learnt from their history, but as the UK has followed Bush's America around like a lovesick puppy for the best part of a decade, i can't see why we are sailing so high in the poll.
Likewise, i wouldn't fancy visiting any of those countries at the bottom of the pile. Iran and Pakistan are just about ready to explode while North Korea is a basket case of a country and Israel are the worlds pariahs for a very good reason.
The superpowers, America, Russia and China are all sat around the middle with a fairly neutral view but superpowers are always going to divide opinion anyway.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Making space on a crowded island

Immigration seems to be a topic we avoid for fear of being branded racist. I take the view that all are welcome here as long as they benefit the country.
This is different to asylum seekers who come here for their own safety. Admittedly it was us who were making the places dangerous as in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq so we had a moral duty to invite them here, especially if we are raining bombs on their neighbourhood from thousands of feet up.
Sorry just didn't seem to cut it somehow.
The problem we have is that Britain is a cramped little island and so have little room to expand and so as the population grows, the infrastructure doesn't keep up.
It is obvious that more people means we require more schools, hospitals, prisons and houses. But where to build them? Slowly we are creeping into land previously designated as green belt and ring fenced as places not to be built on. They are now redefining large swathes of it brown belt and calling in the builders.
One of the housing solutions is to renovate buildings into homes, with any unused office block or pub rubbed down, sold off and turned into flats.
There are some certain buildings that we never see converted although they hardly get any use at all.
Controversially, these places are churches and probably have some sort of legal protection dating back to Oliver Cromwell that renders them safe but i say we are surrounded by the damned things, let's rip some down and build on the plot.
Apart from on Sunday mornings when three men and a dog wander by, these places are largely empty and each city has many of these buildings of various size within a shake of a collection tin of each other.
Not only must they cost the local authorities a fortune to run and maintain, they are only used by a tiny percentage of the population who would only suffer the indignation of an extra 10 minute walk to the next nearest church.
They are a relic of a by-gone age, take up more than their fair share of land and mostly stand empty so tear up that ancient law (if there is such a thing) and let's have less Bishops and more builders.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Why Keep Trident?

I have strong feelings that sometimes the Governments of our countries don't give us a say on some policies because they know they wouldn't like the answer.
I would be very confident in predicting that if there was a referendum on the return of the death penalty, they would be erecting gallows in prison yards by the weekend.
Same with handing the bankers billions. A referendum would have said a firm no and many high street banks would now be occupied by Poundland shops.
That's why i think Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has hit a very plump nail square on the head with his plan, if elected, to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons.
Short of revenge if we attacked by a nuclear armed country, it is hard to think of a reason why we keep on pumping billions into keeping our nuclear arsenal and to be honest, the odds of us being attacked by one of the other 6 nuclear powers is remote in the extreme.
While it is true that we don't know what the future brings, it is also true that while we are making people redundant and closing public services, it seems folly to pay out billions for something just because of some event that is unlikely to happen at some unspecified time in the future.
By scrapping Trident, we free up £100 billion that would make things very much more comfortable now and more than half the £180 billion debt our country is currently struggling under.
The real problem seems to be that we would lose our seat at the top table with the big boys because we have very little else to offer apart from being in the nuclear club.
I don't know how much a comfort it is that we have nuclear missiles when you are clearing out your desk but i wouldn't have thought it crosses many peoples mind and it seems almost criminal to keep ploughing money into Trident when the country is desperate for funds.
And that's why we won't get a choice of whether to keep or scrap it.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Why not under the sea?

We have long been able to take any form of transport and move holiday makers around the planet.
In the air with planes and airships and over land on trains and motorised vehicles and even over sea with ships, hovercrafts and boats.
One area that we don't seem eager to exploit is under the sea although we have long had the technology.
Submarines skim along under the water and are not affected by erupting volcanoes, high winds or snow yet apart from military purposes, we have not yet had anyone that has taken the submarine idea and turned it into a method to offer travellers to get from one point to another.
Possibly it is too expensive or there are other unseen reasons i have not considered why this has not been thought of but i see a great opportunity for someone to introduce a new form of transport that moves along beneath the waves.
If they do, remember who mentioned it first and i expect a mention in the history books.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Iceland Erupting

There has been a long list of people who, while during difficult times, have burnt down there premises in order to claim on the insurance and clear themselves of debt.
Is it merely a coincidence that bankrupt Iceland now finds itself a burning mass of smoke and ash?
The biggest complication due to Iceland burning down is that the ash is being blown directly over Britain and most of western Europe forcing our planes to sit idly on the tarmac which is probably a good thing for air quality if it wasn't for the mass of volcanic outpouring filling the atmosphere instead.
Another drawback is that as no flights can get out or in, we are finding Brits stuck abroad and lots of other nationalities knocking about here moaning they can't get home.
The ferries are fully booked and the Eurotunnel is at capacity so unless you can get to mainland Europe and make your way to Spain or Southern France where the planes are still going, you are stuck here with us on this green and pleasant land for at least another couple of days.
It should be no problem for Americans because our television is pretty much full of American shows anyway and stranded Canadians can feel at home in any of the local zoo's which all have a seal enclosure. Please resist the urge to club them almost to death and skin them.
Any homesick Australians can just wander into any of our public houses and get as drunk as they would at home and Israelis can go along to White Hart Lane which has a large Jewish community and on most Saturdays you can also get to see a very shaky defensive wall just like you have back home.
Enjoy your time here and remember that the bit at the top and to the east are not England.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Boring Debate #1

We have their toast, sticks and letters so i guess we may as well have France's Presidential debates as well and although i watched it, i'm not really sure what use they were.
The three politicians had their answers so polished they almost gleamed as they smiled in the right places and said the right things to the pre-picked questions.
Interestingly the programme that followed was Question Time where the audience get to fire questions at the politicians and generally give them a hard time which is much more informative to the viewer then the sterile talking shop we got.
Why Gordon Brown agreed to it is any ones guess because presentation is not his strongest point. He has the type of dour delivery that he makes everything sound like a particular boring shipping forecast.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg was always going to seem more interesting stood beside him, not because they are anymore entertaining, just by virtue of being alive.
The general consensus was that Liberal Democrat Clegg won the night with Gordon Brown a distant third although much of that was because while the Labour and Conservatives concentrated on trying to trip each other up, the cactus burning Clegg stood at the end and got away relatively unscathed.
As a sop to Rupert Murdoch, the next debate is on Sky TV which means the viewing figures for the second show will be disappointing although i do question how much use there is to watching the three of them repeat parrot fashion lines that they have been practising since the debate idea was first mentioned.
All i learnt was that when it comes to questioning members of Parliament, the public given a free hand, do it much better.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Listen to Liam

When i was younger i would sit in the kitchen with my finger hovering over the pause button of the tape deck while Radio 1 played the Top 40. For most of my youth all my cassettes had songs with Gary Davis speaking on the end of them.
To me, this is exactly the same as downloading MP3's off the internet and i have never bought into the downloading is killing music shtick. Almost every record i paid for in the pre-digital era had a warning that home taping was killing music and as far as i can tell it never did.
Kids will grab free music anyway they can, we all did, whether it was taken off the radio or by swapping the Frankie Goes to Hollywood album for your friends Madness one so you can tape it.
This view brings me into an uneasy alliance with Liam Gallagher who today launched into a rant at stars who moan about illegal file sharing.
He said: ‘Downloading's the same as what I used to do - I used to tape the charts of the songs I liked (from the radio). I don't mind it. I hate all these big, silly rock stars who moan - at least they're f**king downloading your music, you c**t, and paying attention, know what I mean? You should f**king appreciate that - what are you moaning about? You've got f**king five big houses, so shut up.’
Not exactly eloquent but his gist is a lot more sweary version of how i feel.
The record companies are making massive profits and the stars are ridiculously well paid so why begrudge some kid getting their music for free rather than paying the 79p to download it of which the star would only make a tiny fraction of with the lions share going to the record company?
Yes Liam is a royal prat, but i'm with him on this one.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Arresting the Pope

In one of his series of lectures, Mark Steel tells of a 14th poll tax introduced by the monarchy of the day to pay for their ongoing wars with France.
The tax was levied on each person in England over the age of 14 but as the tax collectors didn't know how many people were in each household, a rule was passed so the tax collectors could decide if a person was over 14 by checking if they had pubic hair and to allay any fears, all checks carried out by the local Catholic priests.
Move on 650 years or so and it seems that the Priests are still doing it which is why the Catholic Church, and the Pope, finds itself under such attack today and rightly so.
Dismissed initially as petty gossip, a letter from Pope Benedict, then plain old Joseph Ratzinger and deputy at the Vatican doctrinal office, has emerged where he told Wisconsin Bishops to drop a Church trial for a priest with a record of molesting children to protect the reputation of the Church for which it would have grave significance if it become public.
Now Ratzinger has the top job and the pressure is on him to resign which of course he won't so i truly hope that the attempt by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to have the Pope arrested and put on trial for the covering-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church when he lands here in September succeeds.
The Vatican has already suggested the pope is immune from prosecution because he is a head of state but the duo are arguing that because he is not the head of a state with full United Nations membership (the Vatican has only observer status), he does not hold immunity and can be arrested.
As a German and former Nazi youth of the Third Reich, he should be fully aware that as an officer of state he is responsible for all actions carried out by those under his authority.
It should make it an entertaining September this year.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Cause or solution?

Unless i am very much mistaken, the purpose of Capitalism is the use of wealth to create more wealth.
Of course this is most beneficial to the people who have wealth in the first place and a bit more of a struggle if you haven't got the proverbial pot to go in to start with.
The general idea is that the money will trickle down from the top and everyone will benefit, even those at the bottom.
Nice idea in theory but due to human nature which is basically selfish, it would be safe to say this hasn't really been happening and the trickle down has been at the minimum the wealth owners could get away with.
A classic example is the minimum wage here in the United Kingdom which was fought against tooth and nail by the bosses who refused to introduce it voluntarily until forced to by the incoming 1997 Labour Government.
The collapse of industry and wholesale closures that we had been warned would occur if a minimum wage was introduced didn't happen and now it is accepted that bosses can no longer offer insulting wages in the knowledge that they would still fill the vacancy.
What this shows is that we cannot trust businessmen to look out for the best interests of us and they need to be watched. The banks are finally being bought to book after years of treating their customers as cash cows with extortionate fees and the mis-selling of protection plans.
The bottom line is the same as my first line, the purpose is to use their wealth to create more wealth.
At some point there will be a crunch because as more of the money continues to go upwards, there will be less left to go downwards and we are already in a position where people are actually dying because they can't afford to heat their homes in winter and scandalously, we are not rioting in the streets about it, just seem to accept and see where we can trim back to accommodate the hike in our utilities.
Maybe Capitalism has run its course and although it lifted many out of poverty initially, it seems that it now is the cause of more problems than it solves as it chases bigger profits at the expense of those benefiting from Capitalism the least.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

No going back to vinyl

There seems to be a constant lament from music lovers of my generation for the demise of the vinyl record hence the Record Store Day where Parlophone are releasing 7" versions of some of their biggest bands.
Maybe i am alone but i had built up quite a large stock of vinyl records throughout my youth and i don't think i had a single one that didn't jump, hiss or stick at some point and it would drive me crazy.
My friend showed me that by blu-tacking a 2p coin to the top of the stylus, you could avoid all but the most deepest of scratches but it always seemed that no matter how careful you were, you would somehow get a nick on the surface and have to lift the needle over that part of the song.
I was more than happy when vinyl was replaced by Compact Discs where the sound was much crisper and i could actually listen to Two Tribes without hearing Holly Johnson stutter about how a point is all that you can sc-sc-sc-sc-sc-sc-sc-sc...
I put this down to selective memory from those wallowing in nostalgia for vinyl records. In practise they were clumsy things you had to cradle lovingly in order to work properly and no teenage bedroom was complete without these black circles thrown haphazardly around the place beneath discarded jeans, trainers and cereal bowls.
Just like the computers with cassette tapes and those large clunky VHS video recorders, you may look back fondly at them but you wouldn't want to swap your laptop or your DVD player for them.
Let's leave vinyl back in the past and stop pretending it was in anyway superior to today's formats.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

UK election decisions

The Queen has spoken and the UK election is finally underway sparking reams of items about how Labour is out on its ear or doing really well depending on which newspaper you read.
By nature i'm a Labour voter but since the Iraq War, i can't bring myself to vote for them until all remnants of that tainted cabinet have been expunged. It really irks me how they speak out afterwards but went along with it at the time. Good riddance i say.
David Cameron has sent everyone in my city a letter explaining just how great the Conservative candidate is and why we should vote for her but in the same postbag, a letter from the current Liberal Democrat candidate setting how just what he has done for the city during the last 5 years and why we should keep him. Labour are a distant third and the candidate doesn't even bother contesting it very hard.
It's all very confusing because i am of the opinion that they are all a bunch of shysters but i have to vote for one of them and politics is such a bad way that we are having to choose from which party has been the least corrupt and sleazy. The best of a bad lot where even the best is still rotten, but possibly not as rotten.
After the first term, Labour has been a disaster and Cameron strikes me as a Thatcher clone who will look after his rich pals before anyone else and the Liberal Democrats are just there to make up the numbers really.
What we need is a none of the above on our voting slips but the sad truth is one of them will be making the decisions for the next five years and i don't trust any of them to do it.
Democracy sucks when the only choices are between continuing to get shafted by one guy or to get shafted by the new guy.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Who is the real enemy?

In the Metro newspaper today, on the same page are two stories. At the top of the page is the headline, Seven killed in Taliban attack on US consulate. Below that story the headline, Ten dead in NATO attack.
Seems that when it comes to killing civilians, we are just a bit better at it than the Taliban.
Of course, the argument goes that the Taliban deliberately target civilians while our killings are horrible mistakes although that theory flies out the window with the video being played on Sky News that shows Americans in an Apache helicopter opening fire on a group of innocent Iraqi civilians, killing 12.
I'm not sure how seeing this would make an Iraqi feel but i'm not an Iraqi and i get angry as i watch it i wish there was somebody there with a RPG to take out the damned helicopter and stop the madmen with their machine guns.
The problem has been from the very start of both Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the invaders (us and America) just don't seem to have any regard for the people we went there to protect, bring democracy or whatever the reasons we were told we went there for.
We bomb from so far up, or away in the case of the drones, that it is inevitable we will kill many civilians and we have read countless reports on us killing civilians at wedding parties or firing upon houses because we assume some Taliban leader is holed up there only to later find he had nicked off earlier and the only people we killed were innocent bystanders.
I don't know the numbers but i would guess that we have killed just as many civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan as Al Qeauda and the Taliban in there respective countries since the whole mess began.
This is why both these tragic and misguided wars are unwinnable, because how can you get people to support you when you keep killing them?
Not only should we not be there, we are doing even more damage by sticking around.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Lance Corporal Beharry

Well done a big pat on the back to the figure of restraint that is Lance Corporal Beharry who has been telling of how he wanted to 'knock out' the Prime Minister for not showing enough respect for the armed forces.
It seems that the Prime Minister had the temerity to fidget during a two minute silence which so raised the ire of the obviously in control former soldier that he felt compelled to reach for the physical violence option.
What this intelligent and highly articulated response shows is that people like Lance Corporal Beharry are the last people we should be handing powerful weapons to and letting loose among other nations.
If he can't keep it together because somebody dared to fidget, then i'm sure he would be an amazing asset with such a cool head during a conflict.
The Sun newspaper, with it's tales of how Gordon Brown has broken Britain and it's scouring of the land for bad news to highlight, has now given it's front page to a violent thug who just happens to be a Lance Corporal.
If this came from any other profession, the Sun would be holding them up as an example of chav culture or violent Britain but then Rupert Murdoch must be getting a little worried because he threw his lot in with the Conservatives just as it's popularity plummeted.
It can't rag him over Iraq because the newspaper backed him, or rather Blair, at the time so it is having to get other people to fight their battles such as the very articulate Lance Corporal Beharry who has either been misquoted, has been wearing his helmet too tight or is presently handing out Chinese burns to anyone who doesn't move quick enough in the queue in Tesco.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter

Easter is always a strange sort of holiday. At Christmas we have carols, turkey, trees with presents under them and a whole host of traditions but Easter is just a bunny and chocolate eggs.
I imagine the religious sorts pop along to the Church and do their thing with a candle and a bit of incense but for the rest of us it's a bit of a non-event.
Not that i'm complaining about the four day weekend for religious reasons (i'm not religious but i'd happily play the hypocrite and mumble a few hallelujahs if it meant a long weekend) nor am i moaning about all the chocolate filling the lower shelf of my refrigerator.
My only complaint would be that Jesus couldn't have laid low for a few more days after he was crucified, dragged it out for a week possibly so we got even more time off work but i'm nit-picking.
I don't even mind all the shops being closed because of someone else's beliefs, i had a long walk this morning to a garage to buy the newspaper and walk off the Cadbury Easter Egg i had for breakfast.
The television is rubbish as usual with The Sound of Music happily ignored and any films with the words Jesus or Christ in the title skilfully avoided because we all know how those films end up. The Romans put him up on a cross and he died and came back a couple of days later and 2010 years on we all eat chocolate eggs and bemoan the fact that he didn't keep his head down to at least the following Wednesday.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Are there any other famous Germans?

This summer, i will make myself available to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to our shores as long as there is no grass to watch growing or some paint to watch dry but for the rosary clutching portion of this island, they seem very excited about it.
I was extremely nonchalant about the whole thing until news leaked out that it is costing us £20 million.
How much? We could have got a full blown Nazi for that and not just a Nazi youth!!
Catholics have had a hard time recently what with the child sex abuse cover up and relying on the rhythm method as a form of contraception so far be it from me to deny them the chance to wave at an old man driving past in a silly car but i have to ask, isn't there a better German we could be waving at for our money?
For a country that gave us the petrol powered car (Karl Benz), decent jeans (Levi Strauss) and the MP3 (Karlheinz Brandenburg), there are slim picking in the depleted field of decent Germans around now.
I was a big fan of tennis players Steffi Graf and Boris Becker back in the day and i could be persuaded to grin like an idiot at Claudia Schiffer but there is one German who i didn't even know was German, who i would happily replace the head of the Catholic Church with in the Pope mobile.
I had always assumed Sandra Bullock was an American until she won her Oscar and it came out that her husband was following the Tiger Woods example of how to have a successful marriage. Then during some show about her life, it drifted out that she was from Nuremberg and lived there until she was 12.
So i put forward a movement that rather than cheering at a bloke who oversaw and buried news of the largest paedophile rings in history and not to mention a position that is directly responsible for the continued spread of AIDS, we shove £20 million at Sandra Bullock and drive her around the City of London instead.
If she is busy has someone got Kraftwerks number? They would do it for a tenner.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Say goodbye to Hollywood Madrid

It seems that Hollywood is threatening to boycott Spain due to its terrible record of illegal downloading.
"People are downloading movies in such large quantities that Spain is on the brink of no longer being a viable home entertainment market for us" said the chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Obviously this won't be a problem in Spain because they are all downloading them for free anyway but before other countries give a whoop and crack open the bit-torrent client, can i at least get to see a film that promises to be a great first. You can fill your boots then.
In the early eighties when all the cool kids were watching Evil Dead and Raiders of the Lost Ark, i was sat with the other spotty, wheezy kids watching Clash of the Titans. The chatter in class was all about how the Nazi guys face melted and everyone ignored my talk of Medusa with the snake hair or the scary Kraken monster.
Hollywood does seem to have fallen into a habit of rehashing old films or just churning out sequels but once in a while it does put out a decent film for those of us who don't much care for a cartoony, moody and ugly monster falling in love although i'm sure Keanu Reeves is a lovely guy off-screen.
Like 300, i am expecting a rip-roaring epic with cutting edge animation and graphics but i am afraid what we will get for our £10 Vue ticket is a weak imitation of a classic film.
Me and my fellow geeks will rise up, and actually not do much because we are still wheezy and a bit nerdy, but we won't be happy.
Alternatively, i can nip over to Spain and watch it for nothing.