Friday 31 December 2010


I wrote some time ago on the nature of faith and on the whole I was happy with the balance. It was at least a start, but unable to sleep last night I remembered another more earthly bound inspiration; the need to be of use. Perhaps this is a common denominator.

However I’m sure it’s a combination of sometimes competing factors that give us reason, though I suspect we are ill-suited to maintain our grasp on all those applicable; more likely the existence of one compensates for the lack of another. And that’s probably just as well. What of a future where mankind becomes extinct not through famine or war, but through reaching a zenith in securing the source of happiness and having nothing left to achieve.

Thursday 30 December 2010

The love of human beings

Helen says to Jane “you think too much of the love of human beings” and though I understand the context in which this is said it stays in the mind of this non-believer (I still find it difficult to say atheist), I suspect until long after I finish. On the Wikipedia page for Jane Eyre are listed numerous adaptations; missing the one of which I am most familiar and noting another being released next year. I’ve seen several and though the religious element is there I’ve never felt it forced; maybe I’m making allowances for the time or my psyche provides a natural filter, or perhaps such elements as they are have been downplayed for more modern sensibilities.

Any Human Heart television series
It contrasted with a scene in William Boyd’s recent adaptation of his own novel, Any Human Heart, in which an irritating member of the clergy who after having been earlier rebuffed by a declaration of atheism is finally told to “fuck off”. That jarred a little; I thought it at first a rather clumsy and unnecessary scene, a sop to atheists, since I’ve never met a religious practitioner quite as inept. Yet Logan Mountstuart was the antithesis to that ghastly picture of a perfect human being; it is what makes his story so interesting - it is why we care. His reaction demonstrated not superiority but his ability to strike out, his flawed humanity. Jane describes it well in a ‘victory’ of her own:
Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavour, metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned.

Tuesday 28 December 2010


Since I have some time free before returning to work, a week no less, I am resolved to lock myself in a room where I cannot be disturbed and do something useful with my life: read a book. Since this will fail I am resolved to allocate some time to myself during each day in which to read. Since this will also fail I can only hope that the resolve I showed last night in actually switching off the television will be maintained for the short time I have left – before I start making excuses again.

Last evening’s sacrifice was to skip the opportunity to complete the Die Hard experience with Die Hard 4.0; a film that is from all accounts awful but something I need to see for what I believe is called closure. Come to think of it, though I enjoy the original there’s a particularly nasty scene near the end where John McClane’s new friend Al, deskbound because of an accidental shooting, learns how to kill again. I was sure I’d written about that in the past but a quick search on my blog reveals that I haven’t – either that or the search isn’t working.

Instead I read, and of all things I have started with Jane Eyre. I confess my choice was encouraged by the knowledge that classic literature on an eBook reader is free, and if nothing else I am cheap. It’s good; I’m already on chapter ten and though the chapters are pretty short, let’s accentuate the positive.

Santa bought me a Kindle - I didn’t want one but now I have one I quite like it. I figure 30 to 40 more classics will cover the cost; parsimony will make me a more rounded person!

Jane’s friend, Helen Burns, is dead; and I’m sure there’s something I wanted to say, prompted by her instruction concerning the nature of love. Similarly I was struck by the numerous adaptations of this story compared to a recent adaptation of Any Human Heart, the portrayal of religion and such, but I must save that for another time, gather my thoughts if I’m able and do them justice. That'll be the day.

Sunday 26 December 2010

The friendly beasts

I put it down to weariness. A series of weights that alone we can lift, but together cause us to buckle; maybe it’s the other way around. I am glad for Christmas, and my relief that my daughter retains the magic is tangible, but I am so tired. The day before Christmas Eve my Mum had her long overdue operation and she wasn't discharged until today, Boxing Day. I’m thinking I should have bought more drink.

I coast along on the kindness of others; the Tesco till attendant, the girl in the bookshop who admires the colour of my calendar, I have a feeling I gave the same one last year, the Starbucks barista whilst waiting on John Lewis. Or the family pet that sidles up and nudges you with his nose... he doesn’t know any better, but he looks happy.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Accent this day

A blog is good for many things, though I'm not sure what makes a good blog. One moment I decry the tribalism of political life, the next I'm all too happy putting the boot in. Last night I had a dig at those complaining about Russell Crowe's accent, today I say the following:
...except for the accents in Oliver Stone's Alexander; those were terrible.
They were rubbish; which unfortunately says as much about me as it does the film.

Feared by the bad, loved by the good

What an odd film the new Robin Hood turned out to be. I’ve no complaint about the accents, it strikes me that any such reviews are rather puerile, but I’ve not seen a film nosedive that badly since I Am Legend or maybe Lady in the Water.

It was a film with possibilities, it had Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett in the leading roles and Ridley Scott threw them away - or did he lose interest? Despite the worrying subplot involving Maid Marian and the lost boys of Sherwood Forest I thought it redeemable - and then just as the pace picked up the script bottled it. As if in sudden memory of the (from all accounts) Kevin Costner helmed comic-book predecessor we were ambushed with a few hammy one-liners and it was downhill from there, culminating with the absurd sight of Marian and her mini friends arriving in time to give battle to the French. What a waste.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Which of you shall say you love me most?

I am not a fan of Vince Cable; which is a polite way of saying I think he’s a bit rubbish. Neither however am I fan of The Telegraph; which is a polite way of saying I think it’s a bit shit. Contrary to popular belief I don’t think it handled the MPs expenses scandal at all well, stirring up public contempt without any constructive comment has resulted in the waste of public money that is IPSA. Yesterday’s entrapment of the Business Secretary wasn’t to uncover any illegal activity, merely to discover the extent of any tension between the coalition partners.

To see his very public ‘will he, won’t he’ performance on the recent vote to raise tuition fees (he did) was to witness someone trying to balance his job with a desperate need to be liked, an all too common failing in our parliamentary representatives; thus Vince Cable becomes a fair target. I suspect my mistrust is a reaction to the ‘economic guru’ status he acquired by virtue of having had a job in the real world - as an economist, no less – but the feeling remains that he doesn’t appreciate the responsibilities of someone in his position, though given the revelations today of his 'declaration of war' on Rupert Murdoch he may not have that problem for much longer.

As bad, however, has been the behaviour of The Telegraph who ‘revealed’ that people in different political parties have different opinions and argue as a result, also that Vince Cable has a rather inflated view of his own importance. In fairness it was a good read but the method used to obtain this story, posing as Liberal Democrat voters to a Liberal Democrat MP, does no one any favours. The result will be politicians even less inclined to be open with the very people they are supposed to represent. It’s another tale of a politician who thinks a little too much of him/herself ‘exposed’ by a newspaper wielding its destructive power to the detriment of the people – quelle surprise!

Monday 20 December 2010

There and back again

My penultimate working day of the year was a drive to the office, followed by some documentation and then, once it was obvious the snow was going to be a problem, an early and very slow drive home again. There was a moment when I reached 30mph on the one clear-ish lane on the motorway - whoosh!

Thursday 16 December 2010

Idea of the week

It's the kind of misleading headline I get so angry about - ‘Idea of the week’. Am I about to reproduce something special? That would depend on your definition of ‘special’ or to put it another way, “No”. This week’s idea is courtesy of the Labour party’s fresh ideas website. Since it would appear to have no policies of its own, or as it puts it a “two year blank piece of paper”, it has invited the general public to make suggestions and after careful vetting the best… er… ideas appear in the comments section:
Unemployment payments to u25's should be increased for those with better academic qualifications. This might cement into place the idea of how important education is especially to those 14-16 year olds.
Words fail me - which is probably just as well.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Boggis and Bunce and Bean and Ruse

Boggis and Bunce and Bean and Ruse
One fat, one short, one lean, one obtuse
Three with the money
The other not funny
“He came out of nowhere” his excuse
Despite earlier protestations it turns out I could kill an animal. Goodbye Mr Fox; you were fantastic – until I hit you with my car.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

No one puts baby in a corner

I think I should be congratulated for steering clear of two ‘big’ political issues, or to be more accurate I am congratulating myself on steering clear of two ‘big’ political issues. The other day I wrote an ‘up front disclaimer’ to presage an oncoming rant on either AV or the subject of tuition fees but wouldn’t you know it, either the anger dissipated or the apathy kicked in. Hooray for me!

So do I dare disturb the universe? As if I could, the presumption! Even as I write I am engaged in a Twitter discussion, if such a thing is possible, that illustrates my predicament; several tweets questioning the intelligence or honesty of one side of an argument, followed by a tweet bemoaning that side’s negative campaign tactics, followed by this: logical reason to support <other position> beyond selfishness has been presented to me
And I am not immune to this pattern of argument myself. Not so long ago on a blog rightly critical of the “Tories take pleasure in punishing the poor” narrative, I applauded the critique whilst describing the left as “sinister”, thus revealing myself to be... well, a little bit stupid too. Whoops.

But isn’t that what a blog is for, to have a not-always-coherent rant at whatever happens to annoy? It’s not the only use, occasionally we may wish to make a cogent point, but as a vent for our frustration it really comes into its own. Unfortunately it’s easier too and it’s when we confuse the two that we come unstuck; for no matter the righteousness of our cause, who was ever persuaded through being boxed in and called an idiot?

Saturday 4 December 2010

I grow old

Up front disclaimer: apart from the aches I rather like growing old. And the worsening eyesight, the need for sleep, I never use to need sleep, apart from these things. And losing my train of thought, the sense that I’ve not always been the person I once imagined I would be. I know I haven’t. Not keen on death either, or more accurately the pain that often precedes it. And I’m trying to be less judgemental. But this thing about getting more so as you get older is complete bollocks. I think that must be my favourite swear word – in that I seem to use it a lot. On this blog anyway. But it is you know, bollocks, though you’re right to point out I would say that, wouldn’t I.

Thursday 25 November 2010

When I was younger, so much younger

The stage and screen actor, Victor Spinetti, tells a story of how during the filming of Help, the Beatles appeared on a balcony in Austria and gave the Nazi salute to thousands of adoring fans below. Naturally they screamed their appreciation at the stupidity of the gesture. Imagine what the reaction would be today.

Sometimes I think we’re more prudish, but then there was Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” comment kicking off a huge fuss at the time that would now be unlikely to elicit anything more than a few raised eyebrows. The changing relevance of the subject or perhaps our changing fear on what the subject represents plays a part, however the feeling persists that in some ways we have become more puritanical; throwing morality into the mix and passing laws accordingly.

For example, when I was younger the solution to my dislike of fox hunting appeared obvious - ban it – but much as I abhor making sport from such an activity, I find suspect this idea that we can legislate people into becoming ‘better’ human beings. More than that, it demonstrates intolerance; we have failed to persuade so we impose our belief.

And I am guilty too, for in just over four weeks I will have animals killed for my enjoyment of a Christmas meal. I’m not sure where this sits on the shifting moral compass, though since I could never kill an animal myself I am at the very least a hypocrite.

Tuesday 23 November 2010


This weekend I managed three. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so good they split it into two films. Well… it was better than most of the Potter films (Azkaban being the best) though still a little too long. Also, and I only realised this after the film, it is dominated by Harry and/or his two chums appearing in nearly every scene, normally you bring in other characters if only for dramatic relief. I wonder if that’s really the case or my memory playing tricks? All will be forgiven if they address the balance in part two, but long emotional farewells will not be tolerated.

The Iron Giant on the other hand is a short film that could have been longer. Easily one of the best animations around, it may not have the technological marvel of a Pixar production but like that studio it understands that a good story is the key.

However the worst film of the weekend - by far - was Goal! I can think of only three decent films on football. One is The Damned United, which I saw recently. Another is Fever Pitch, which culminates with a famous Arsenal victory over Liverpool; I remember watching that game and the Michael Thomas goal which stole the title away. The other film is Mike Bassett: England Manager, a none-too-subtle but very funny satire on the state of the English game; almost as funny as the running joke in Goal! where we’re supposed to believe in a Newcastle team challenging for a place in the Champions League. Comedy gold!

Friday 19 November 2010

There goes the holiday

When this is over I shall console myself with the thought that, not allowed to carry the days forward, I was using up holiday. The truth is that when Mrs R mentioned another Church course I was very keen that she should go, and then when she fell ill I rather selfishly rued the missed opportunity. I did get to see No Country for Old Men and The Damned United, both good films but it’s a poor return for a three day break. Add to that the school run, meals in the evening, cleaning up, badly, not sleeping well, trying to change the car battery, failing, it’s all a bit of a mess.

Friday 12 November 2010

Joking aside

It’s not been a very good week has it? Paul Chambers had his conviction upheld for a bit of nonsense written on Twitter, and on the same day councillor Gareth Compton was arrested for posting the following:
Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really. #R5L
I smiled when I read this because I guessed the context in which the statement had been made. Without context it’s incitement, ‘with’ and you have something we call a joke. It’s not very nice but, you know what, sometimes jokes can be a little bit nasty. For example there’s this from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown herself when questioning our former Prime Minister:
Are they not children, Mr Brown? You still cry for your own baby, who died so young.
Oh no wait, that’s just nasty.

Compton’s post was in response to an interview on the radio (he even tags his tweet to indicate this) in which Alibhai-Brown said that British politicians had no right to comment on human rights abuses in countries such as China and Iran; this apparently includes the stoning to death of women. Such a ludicrous position deserves to be lampooned but I’d suggest politicians leave the task to more accomplished satirists. Chris Morris made a film about four suicide bombers not so long ago and I don’t think they’ve locked him up... yet.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

There are four lights

It was Anthony Burgess in a television interview that first impressed upon me the power of language, though at the time I didn’t appreciate the significance. I only thought of the positive, the “beauty is truth, truth beauty” though I’ve never really understood those two lines of Keats. I was a huge Bruce Springsteen fan back then:
When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, not the fact.
This dangerous aphorism from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was used in the introduction to a Springsteen biography I read many years ago, but the timing was unfortunate; right about the time I was reading the final chapters, describing in loving detail his marriage to Julianne Phillips, the news broke of his relationship with backing singer Patti Scialfa. It served as an early warning that passion, whether written, music or any other form, has little bearing on that truth that exists outside of art.

I sometimes think of this when I read the comments section in The Guardian or, if I’m feeling really brave, an article in The New Statesman.

For whilst I remember the 1980’s as a time of great upheaval, terrible hardship for some and excessive greed by a few, I also remember the Free Nelson Mandela concert, Live Aid, Children in Need and unprecedented levels of charity. It turned out that given economic freedom most were more than willing to do the right thing, yet much of the recent ‘history’ paints a colourful picture of cartoon villainy; beware the evil Thatcher beast that would ‘cheerfully’ destroy communities and ‘gladly attack’ the poor. A litany repeated whilst staring down those who would point out the folly of this thinking seems designed to silence the critics - for who would be associated with such monsters?

I would. I have my truth. What's yours?

Sunday 7 November 2010

Bonfire night: special edition

Last night was dry, which made a change from the previous day where every time I looked up I got a face full of water. It’s not easy watching fireworks in the rain, but we had a good time and knew we had the main show the following day. We didn’t stay for the whole display, it was good but it was incidental. Little Miss R got her overpriced piece of plastic flashing crap and smiled a lot, so I smiled a lot. It’s the sense of occasion we look forward to and possibly for my daughter the knowledge that I’d carry her home. My shoulders ache but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday 5 November 2010

Ending the week

I’m tired. I’ve spent the home part of my week adapting to the school run, housework, cooking the dinner and trying to watch re-runs of Star Trek: DS9. I’ve spent the work part of my week grappling with legacy code, though in the absence of an environment in which to ask questions or generate ideas it’s a solitary experience. That’s not a criticism, merely acknowledging the realities of working in such a small office. It’s not dissimilar to my first job in which I spent six years with ever-decreasing staff numbers before deciding to take a peek at the world outside. This time we are at least connected, you and I, though whether we’ll ever understand each other. The internet brings us together and emphasises the distance between, provides answers and a constant reminder of how little I know.

So I looked forward to the supporting act to this weekend’s firework displays. Little Miss R and I forsook the car and umbrellas and instead took a short walk to watch a quick display of very loud bangs and dazzling colour. It tipped down. We had a lot of fun.

Sunday 31 October 2010

‘Tis the season for mucus and mucous

I was laid low for a second time last Thursday so I should be full of antibodies – nothing can overcome me now! On this occasion it was a nasty cold; the following day I went in only to feel crap sat at my desk. On balance it was the right thing to do as I got a bit of work done and I don’t think I was contagious, but I did wonder whether the cost to British business from people ‘taking a sickie’ - often estimated in the billions each year - might be matched by the cost of sick people coming into work when they should have stayed at home. I’m pretty sure of having ‘taken out’ a few colleagues myself in this manner.

My road to recovery was aided yesterday by the heroic Harriet Harman who, put out by Polly Toynbee’s tilt at the title, decided to grab some of the glory by taking a swing at Danny Alexander. I’m guessing the message from the dear leader on being serious about politics doesn’t apply to party get-togethers though it makes you wonder when it does apply. ‘Ginger rodent’ is hardly the nastiest thing I’ve heard (Nye Bevan referred to the Conservatives as ‘vermin’) but as with all insults it’s counterproductive, there is no progression of ideas and it raises the thorny issue of when is it ever acceptable to prefix an insult with a reference to the person’s appearance. I’m pretty sure of being guilty of this too but just in case you’re wondering Harriet, the answer is NEVER!

Tuesday 26 October 2010

A difference of opinion

Last week's comprehensive spending review has resulted in a disappointing but predictable rehash of ‘Conservatives out to destroy the poor’-type headlines that I first remember reading during the 1980’s. Regardless of your political outlook they didn’t make a lot of sense then and they certainly don’t now. Logically, why would a ruling party set out to deliberately alienate a large section of the voting public? The answer is simple, they wouldn’t; they might not do a very good job but they wouldn’t intentionally do a bad one. There, I’ve stated the bleeding obvious but, you know, just in case…

I suspect we’ll always be assaulted with this sort of nonsense of which there’s no better practitioner than Polly Toynbee. Polly, who I only read for the comedy, outdid herself on Monday by holding forth on the Conservatives ‘final solution’ for housing the poor. Come to think of it, it’s not that funny, perhaps I should be insulted and that might be the intention, but after the pleasure of seeing her make an idiot of herself there’s the sigh at another act playing to the home crowd. Points on for winding up the Tories but points off for losing the neutrals and more points off if the intention was to help the poor, for invective rarely changes and often entrenches opinion. There's also the suspicion that such talk isn’t just to rally the faithful but to keep them in line. Can you imagine what would happen to the poor bastard brave enough to put up his hand and suggest:
Maybe they just have a different point of view?

Friday 22 October 2010

Anything but

It just goes to show how much personal experience can influence opinion and not necessarily in the right direction, because whilst Internet Explorer 6 is a stinky browser I can understand (there’s a lot of understanding in this post) how it got there. Back in the day Microsoft were quite an innovative company and IE was an innovative product - oh yes it was! As Obi Wan in my obligatory Star Wars reference might say, it’s “true, from a certain point of view”. Forging ahead instead of waiting for consensus from newly emerging standards bodies can be seen as perfectly valid when there’s only you and Netscape on the scene. Unfortunately Microsoft carried on in this vein right up to, and some would argue beyond, version 6. God help us all.

Tobias wrote a challenging post a while back explaining why he temporarily switched off IE access to one page on his site. Though it struck me at the time as being a little severe I understood the frustration, mainly because it wasn’t the first time I’d heard people complain. I only recollect this as I recently found myself writing a little code - ‘code’ as in tinkering with the blog because I don’t have a life - and hit the ‘it looks fine in everything but’ problem with Microsoft’s browser. I think that was when I really understood the frustration – ‘understood’ as in wanting to burn Internet Explorer, more specifically IE6, to the ground; too severe, right?

Friday 15 October 2010


When I was young or to put it another way, a long time ago, I was prone to excessive maudlin episodes that were often punctuated by my Dad telling me to “smile” or “cheer up”, to which I would grimace and mutter something ungrateful under my breath. Later, much later I remember seeing Janet Street Porter interviewed by a group of teenagers complaining that the world wasn’t fluffy enough, to which they were told to stop whining; thus introducing me to the genuinely new experience of liking Janet Street Porter. If only I could figure out what happened in-between...

Saturday 9 October 2010

A subsidy by any other name

Previously I said George Osborne was talking nonsense when it came to describing child benefit as an example of the poor subsidising the rich. However my response was less to do with what he was saying and more with why he was saying it; what I should have said is that I agree with him.

There are two main criticisms against removing child benefit from high earners. The first is that universal benefits are cheaper to administer than means-testing – which is correct and why the government settled on an imperfect solution of using the income tax system as a cheap and easy test. The second is that as a result, a couple who are each on an income in the standard tax bracket will be able to keep the benefit even though their combined salaries could exceed that of a couple who lose out because one of their salaries is in the higher tax bracket. This is unfair, but no more so than the idiosyncrasy that already exists with a progressive tax system where a couple earning £30,000 each will pay far less tax than a couple with a single wage of £60,000. Fix this anomaly (if you dare) and everything falls into place.

If we ensure the cost of administration remains comparatively cheap there is no justification for universal benefits. That the better off more than pay their way isn’t in dispute, however it isn’t relevant. What’s important is the simple logic reminding us that an increased tax liability from giving a benefit to the rich (or indeed anyone) is paid for through the taxation of everyone else. To quote Harold Wilson:
One man's wage rise is another man's price increase.
Avoid the word subsidy if you wish, call it an entitlement if you must, but the poor will definitely pay.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Not so fine

Damn it, I have been laid low by a Tesco finest steak pie or possibly a bug that I’ve caught from Mrs R – it’s safer to blame Tesco. It was a rubbish pie though, I’d have preferred a steak bake from Greggs and I base this seemingly harsh judgement on a globby bit of fat that left me unable to eat the rest. A reminder that if I want really good food I should skip the supermarket convenience and make the most of the farmer’s market, though it only visits twice a month. To top it off the re-packaged Tesco vanilla cheesecake to which they’ve added a hint more vanilla essence, the word “finest” and an extra thirty pence, is no better than the previous version. Why am I surprised?

Tuesday 5 October 2010

A rant on all your taxes

Universal benefits, what are they good for? I’d have said “absolutely nothing” but such benefits have become a mutated refund from a labyrinthine tax system, one that leaves us unable to calculate our actual tax burden or even an estimated average that you can trust. I like Paul Waugh’s description of child benefit as a token rebate for those where the benefit is their only ‘take’ from the state.

Judging any tax in isolation is completely pointless but it won’t stop childless people complaining that they subsidise the rest, or George Osborne on a similar tack telling us that it’s ‘unfair’ for the poor to subsidise the rich; I admire his chutzpah but he's talking complete bollocks. The chancellor is doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons and his real reason of course is to make any subsequent cuts more palatable. Such nonsense reminds me of the good old days of another kind of cut, a tax cut, and the obligatory interview with your average family who would lament “it’s not fair for others that we’re being given this money”. You’re not being given anything you idiots, they’re taking less away!

You can’t judge a tax by its name. No one believes that vehicle tax and petrol tax is spent on road maintenance or that it discourages us from driving. Despite this we’ve had numerous attempts at introducing another ‘green’ tax, a road tax; that would be three taxes that I’d have to pay to be able to do one thing - drive to work – all so I can pay more tax.

Contributing according to my means is a duty I gladly accept but I object to a deliberate obfuscation of how much I’m paying, whether it's through the creation of new taxes or additional taxes on something that is already taxed, and then throwing in populist ad-hoc universal rebates such as child benefit or even the winter fuel allowance. Removing the universality of child benefit is one tiny step in the right direction and a simplified universal credit system may prove to be another. Let me at least understand my liability rather than hide me from the truth.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Something something something dark side

Inspired by Mark Pack who generated a Wordle for Ed Miliband's speech at the Labour party conference, I decided to generate one for my blog. The new leader’s predominant word was “generation”, mine was… “something”. Surely something’s amiss?

Monday 27 September 2010


In the end I have to confess to getting a little confused distinguishing between David and Edward Miliband but then I was hardly a stakeholder in what happened. Is it a good result for the Conservatives? At first I wasn’t as sure, David Miliband was a known quantity and whenever I thought of him I thought of Tony Blair and not in a positive way. Ed on the other hand is less well known and unknown equates to dangerous.

But I can see why the Conservatives prefer Ed to David, for all David’s association with the past this was hardly something that the Conservatives could use effectively against him, this was something that worked against him for those in his own party. Ed Miliband on the other hand had the support of the unions, even better he was elected thanks to the votes of union members, members who don’t even have to belong to the Labour party yet can have a say in who leads it. This is something that works against him for those outside the party; you might as well paint a bull’s-eye.

I browsed a few left-leaning forums today to gauge the mood and rather typically those daring to suggest a weakness were being slapped down rather than engaged in debate. I have no problem with Unions donating to the Labour party but the incongruity of an organisation being able to use funding to buy votes for its membership - which is how it will be portrayed - isn’t something that can be easily explained away. This ought to please me as it makes them less electable, yet strangely it doesn’t because whilst they continue to live in their bubble world I continue to be denied a credible choice.

Friday 24 September 2010

Sent from my Nokia

My sister-in-law came to visit not so long ago and to keep her children occupied I switched on the PC. The eldest daughter (who was only nine) asks “What operating system is it?”

“Windows”, I replied.

To which she shuddered and went “EUW!”

You see, their parents are Apple… enthusiasts, and the brainwashing starts so early these days. I repeat: I would possibly (probably?) buy an iMac if I could afford one; because when I mentioned this episode the other day I got the impression I’d inadvertently come out as anything-but-Apple - a heretic if you like. This is grossly unfair, I would never disrespect anyone’s software/hardware proclivities, though I’d like to know the difference between the new Shuffle, at £39, and the new Nano at £129, beyond the ability to see what it is you’re playing.

Friday 17 September 2010


I wanted Wave to succeed because, of the big three, I like Google the most – or should that be I dislike them the least? There’s something sad about Microsoft compared to how it once was. I can’t afford a new PC so I’ll not see Windows 7 for a while yet I’ve heard good things. In other areas though they remind me of IBM in the 1970’s; using FUD and the threat of legal action to coerce companies into paying for a licence to protect them from patents that they may (or may not) have infringed. It’s cheaper to pay up than defend yourself – which makes Microsoft sound less like IBM and more like the mafia.

Of course if I had the money I’d skip the PC altogether, buy an Apple Mac and sync my iPhone to it over and over again, if I could afford an iPhone. They're so lovely, but there’s something not quite right and it’s not the control freakery or the fanboys… no, that’s not true, it is those things. Years from now someone will find a decaying Apple II in the attic of Steve Jobs’ mansion and then we’ll discover the awful truth. It’s rather like the sinister and incredibly popular series Friends, everyone looks perfect and you’d like to copy the look but you know things will turn ugly if you dare to sit on that sofa. God help you if you bring your own chair.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Say hello, wave goodbye

I’ve hardly been idle but I need a break from thinking about work whenever I look at the screen, hence I found myself playing around with the ‘share’ options on the blog, again. After adding in the Facebook button I’ve been contemplating Google Buzz; who uses it? I never post to it and rarely read from it, I’m not sure what to do with it; apart from a few short conversations all it does for me is aggregate feeds which makes me think I’m missing something, or maybe it’s missing something. How many ‘buzz’ but don’t ‘tweet’ anyway?

I know Google are serious about social networking since Google Me is in the pipelines and every now and then they buy up some media-related company - they’re up to something, massing their forces, and I'm thinking that the conversation of which I had so few may be the differentiator. So it’s hello to Buzz and goodbye to Google Wave, for which I also had an account and similarly never used; at least in this respect my apathy was shared. I had this suspicion it was less a product and more a framework, a new paradigm for sharing, or something, and I wanted it to succeed - despite not really knowing what it was.

Monday 13 September 2010

They’re moving in herds

When I was in school and involved in one of those teacher-inspired debates about nuclear disarmament and disarmament in general, and generally upsetting our teachers by saying it was a bad thing, one of the questions raised asked what would happen to the thousands employed in the defence industry. I always regarded this as a duff question but the answer given was every bit as naff. The honest answer would have been “they’ll have to find jobs elsewhere”, the answer proffered, by a teacher, was that they could make something like tractors instead. This is why upsetting teachers can be a good thing.

Fast forward to the present day and the TUC conference, where various delegates show every sign of inhabiting the same land of make believe. Apparently what we need to do is invest, though it’s a little unclear as to what with (since we don’t have any money) and what we’re supposed to invest in. People probably, that’s suitably vague.

One could argue that a strong and vibrant economy does far more to protect employee rights, as it requires employers to compete for their services, but in less certain times a Union can play a vital role against employer excess; those, for example, who might be tempted to sack their workforce on a Friday and re-employ them on a Monday at less favourable terms. However, I have no time for Unions promoting a fantasy world that makes product for the sake of making it, regardless of whether anyone wants or needs it. The private sector can’t afford such nonsense, you either make money or you don’t and you go out of business. But how does one objectively measure value in the public sector? The answer is you can’t, hence it becomes easier to indulge.

We have school classroom sizes of around 30 not because this is ideal, we’d like them smaller, but because that is what we can afford. I’d suggest we pay for all public services this way. Since what we can afford fluctuates, our spending might sometimes adjust accordingly. I have the greatest respect for many working in the public sector, some do a job the difficulty of which I can barely comprehend, but contrary to what we hear the cuts won’t bring an unfair burden; this is a burden that those in the private sector have had to bear alone for the past twelve months. Pay cuts, redundancies, employer pension contributions stopped. Welcome to the real world.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Phil Ruse vs. the World

Judging from my blog statistics, or at least those I can understand, which isn’t a lot, I need to calm down a little lest I come over as some kind of Dwight Schrute-like right-wing reactionary crazy. I’ve noticed a worrying tendency creeping in; taking myself and the world around me far too seriously - that'll never do. There are real problems and they bear discussion but there’s also fun to be had or at least that’s what I heard. I’m not finding much ‘fun’ at the moment and maybe that’s why I’ve slipped into ‘negative me’ a little too often. Letting off steam has a purpose but large doses of cynicism are so defeatist, so unattractive, so difficult to maintain. Constructive criticism on the other hand… I like the challenge of writing a few sentences without inducing torpor.

Torpor is the least likely reaction when watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a film adaptation of a series of graphic novels (Question: what’s the difference between a graphic novel and a comic?) it couldn't be accused of taking life too seriously. The scenes are cut so frenetically it takes a while to gain a sense of flow or feeling for the characters, but I caught up and ended up enjoying it - stupid but a lot of fun. I learnt a lot about myself too; mainly that Kieran Culkin is a good looking guy in an odd kind of way and I really like girls who dye their hair.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Some of my best friends are socialist

Take one Conservative politician and a statement of affairs (for want of a better word) on more than one subject. The first deals with accusations of an improper relationship, the ‘evidence’ for which is staying overnight with his special advisor in a twin-bed hotel room. The second deals with rumours of marital problems; my wife has had a number of miscarriages, is the response, and this has put a strain on our marriage but we are working through it.

Now sit back and watch the ensuing confusion on the Labour left. They can question what qualifications his special advisor has for the job but, as has been pointed out elsewhere, such a role has no specific qualification and anyway, why have his critics waited until now to raise this?

They can hardly criticise someone for staying in a room with another of the same sex; why, some of their best friends are gay. This non-story is therefore problematic but the target so tempting that they have entered into an unintentional and some might say unholy alliance with of all newspapers, The Daily Mail.

We have left-wing wannabe politicos determined to destroy a Tory politician, a right wing newspaper out to destroy any politician, and a common straw man line of attack; that an attempt to start a family is no proof of heterosexuality. Well ‘duh’, you don’t say? Whoever said it was - certainly not the politician being examined.

I can understand though despise the antics of some newspapers in playing to their readership’s homophobia. Perhaps more despicable though are the antics of those on the left who lack the moral courage to see the wider issue and denounce out of hand as irrelevant the issue of any person’s sexuality, or indeed the state of their marriage. Instead they take an opportunist swipe at the old enemy, never mind the consequences.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

In the middle

We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.
Such is the importance of his role in the creation of the National Health Service that the idea of criticising Aneurin Bevan is equivalent in my psyche to that of criticising Winston Churchill. Shamefully I know little about this lifelong adversary of Churchill except for a few choice quotes, including the one above though it’s not a comment I care for. Voltaire said “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too”, but I find it difficult to square this message of tolerance with Bevan’s warning on indecision. I read it as more of a threat; get out of the way (or else) whilst we give battle to the Tory “vermin”.

Many years ago I saw an interview with a young member of an anti-fascist group; he use to be a fascist, he explained, but now he hated them. Commendable perhaps, but at the time I wondered whether it was hatred that continued to fuel his day, and the behaviour of numerous direct action groups since has done little to dispel this suspicion. They were different times and I suppose it’s not so much Bevan’s comment that concerns me; it’s the decision of others to revere it today. I much prefer “The purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away”, it sounds almost Thatcherite.

Saturday 28 August 2010

…and on the way home I saw the sun

After a week at work most Fridays end with me slumped in the sofa late evening and falling asleep in front of the television. This week was a short family holiday that ended with me slumped in the sofa late evening and falling asleep in front of the television. I have fallen out of love, if it ever was love, with CenterParcs. Aside from a hint of blue sky on the Tuesday afternoon it wasn’t until I drove home that I finally got to see the sun. The rest of the time it rained… and rained... and rained.

Of course this is hardly the fault of my hosts, but just as good weather can excuse, the poor weather exposed the faults. Because when things are a bit shit you kind of want to make up for it at the end of the day with, for example, a half-decent meal. Alternatively you could try eating at Hucks, an American themed diner offering a ‘Juniors buffet’ for £5.50; or as my daughter found out, five empty hot plates. I tell myself, so long as my daughter enjoys herself then nothing else really matters, and lack of food notwithstanding she did. But I didn’t.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Terminator versus work colleague

It says much about my day that when I described someone as “like the Terminator” and then added “a psychopathic killing machine”, I subsequently spent several minutes analysing why that was the wrong thing to say.

Then I realised it’s because the Terminator isn’t a psychopath. A psychopath has an abnormal lack of empathy whereas a lack of understanding is de rigueur for your average T-800. Besides being more impressed than I should be for writing ‘de rigueur’ in a discourse on the true nature of cybernetic organisms, it got me to thinking again about the nature of evil itself. Which is worse – doing a bad thing and knowing it’s wrong or doing an evil thing and not knowing? Or is evil defined by an understanding that what is being done is wrong and not caring? Or are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ hollow constructs we place on what is an essentially meaningless world?

I started this train of thought whilst watching Terminator Salvation, starring the very angry Christian Bale. I liked the acknowledgement to its predecessors – “come with me if you want to live” and even the traditional “I’ll be back” – though I groaned at the old “if we act like them then we’re no better than machines” chestnut. It was probably about that time my mind wandered to the other films and how I’d never really rated Judgement Day, also known as “Cool, my own terminator”, and how Rise of the Machines was so much better (I really mean that) and Nick Stahl, who played John Conner in that film, also played the boy in The Man Without a Face and that must mean that Mel Gibson is really old now and maybe that’s why he’s so angry. It’s a fear of death.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Everybody in the house say

I am recovered from reminiscing about home computer games of the past, an exercise in nostalgia and depression, and I’m over the short-lived relevance (Google fixed the widget shortly afterwards) of my one and only technical blog. It wasn’t long before I found something to distract me.
Has it ever occurred to anyone that when the electorate doesn't make up its mind, it might actually *want* a second election?
5:12 AM Aug 13th
Tom Harris is a Labour MP from north of the border and a Doctor Who fan – so he’s not all bad, and he is at least in ‘good’ company for such a nonsense comment. The BBC have a track record for meaningless generalisations, “black Americans” and “white Americans” is one that still rankles - though that was more insulting than silly.

The electorate didn’t vote for a hung parliament, that was the result. The majority of people who voted Conservative or Labour did so in the hope that their choice would win the election outright. Those who voted Liberal Democratic wanted a hung parliament not out of some altruistic let’s-all-pull-together notion but the realisation that this was their only chance of Government.

Some might argue this is semantics but for me it’s more than that. To me the notion of a collective consciousness also allows for the idea that those who choose to think differently are in some way an anomaly that can be ignored, or maybe even a problem that must be addressed, and that makes me a little uncomfortable.

Thursday 12 August 2010

To search, or not to search

If there’s one function you expect Blogger to nail it’s 'search'. Blogger after all is owned by Google whose raison d'ĂȘtre is the search engine. So in addition to the long standing query over whether blog searches reliably return all they should, I’m bemused that for the last few days the search widget they provide has failed to load. It’s a “known problem” apparently and Google are “working on a fix”, though I got fed up waiting and had to search for one myself. Thanks to Vagabundia the problem with the search widget was solved by signing up for an AJAX search API key then adding the following script into the head of my blog:
<script src="" type="text/javascript"></script>
An alternative to the widget, and something that works like the search function in the Blogger Navbar, would be to add an HTML/JavaScript gadget and write a little code of your own:
<form id="search-this" action="BLOG_URL/search" style="display:inline;" method="get">
<input id="search-query" maxlength="255" name="q" size="19" type="text" />
<input id="search-btn" value="Search" type="submit" />
Should I feel inclined it’s an option that allows me to style the display to my own ‘taste’ but personally I prefer the output from the widget - when it works.

Game over

I miss Arcadians, or Galaxians if you will; life was simple. A collection of blue, yellow or red pixels would swoop down in a jagged pattern whilst you timed your highly advanced one-shot cannon to take the little bastard out; miss and you were in a world of pain. You knew exactly what to expect, each level getting quicker until finally you were overwhelmed. Today the game offers an illusion of movement in all directions, tantalising players with a hope of victory. Back then it was more honest, day after day, more and more of the same and the sure knowledge that you would never ever win.

Thursday 5 August 2010


I may have written a few times that I’m not religious, and about my annoyance I should feel the need to state this before writing anything that touches on religion. I shouldn’t now but those practicing atheists annoy me every time I think about them, which of course is every time I write on the subject. Maybe I’ll go back to labelling myself agnostic (the world loves a label) so as to divorce myself from the Dawkins sect – in a non-judgemental way of course.

I wonder how many atheists watched Rev? OK, sorry, no more – I wonder how many avoided Rev due to its religious context? That’s a fair question since I almost missed it myself; having endured a lifetime exposure to some awful caricature I thought why put myself through any more? It’s probably the dog collar that invites such lazy writing, or maybe television is generally crap and I notice it more when a ‘person of the cloth’ is involved. That’s not to mention The Vicar of Dibley

Rev on the other hand is brilliant, though I’m finding it hard to pinpoint exactly why I liked it so much. It’s full of the usual comedy ‘characters’ and normally that’s enough to have me reaching for the remote. There’s the successful wife who is the rock of the relationship, the heavy drinking homeless guy, the prudish reserve Reverend (what are they called?), the overly enthusiastic member of the congregation and the scary figure of authority in the Archdeacon. There’s an air of decay under which these people live their lives and I think it wins because it feels authentic. It’s a world going to seed yet full of warmth and kindness, people who actually care for each other. Oh, and it has real humour too. But I like how Tom Hollander put it in a recent interview:
...they’re just funny jokes, aren’t they? And they’re said with love.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Happy slapped by the database

I had a good day yesterday - I managed to get two, maybe even three things working! I could see a hazy distant light only for it to cloud over today; not even a chorizo sausage baguette could cheer me up. The change request database stopped working for no apparent reason and then after lunch started to behave itself - again for no apparent reason. It vexes me greatly. I am making progress but it is slow. I have a holiday soon. I am looking forward to it.

A fun holiday might stop mistakes such as letting my daughter watch the The IT crowd on replay. It was the best episode of the recent and occasionally misfiring series; Italian for Beginners. Roy has a new girlfriend and learns that her parents died in a tragic fire at a "Sea Parks" during a sea lion show. Unfortunately the line that made me laugh the loudest was Roy’s explanation when his girlfriend walks in whilst he’s checking out her story on the internet. Cue one of those awkward pauses whilst I grapple for an answer to my daughter's inevitable question.

Monday 2 August 2010

Up in the air

I had very little planned for the weekend, yet still managed to avoid doing any of it. I got up late, exercised, and then watched a film; Up in the Air. It was entirely predictable but a story told with flair, no wonder since it featured the annoyingly likeable George Clooney. My criticism would be that like Juno, also directed by Jason Reitman, it was far too easy to see through its supposed hard exterior. Clooney played Ryan Bingham, a man hired to fire people when employers are too coward to do their job. It was possibly not the best film to watch given the last 12 months, but I manage not to think about those possibilities too much; to the extent that I was a little disappointed when the filmmakers lost their bottle towards the end. The ‘interviewees’ discussing what was really important in their lives was a little difficult to stomach, since it’s easy to find the people who survive. But I can forgive that and the inevitable romantic entanglement, since Bingham himself finishes the film as he should; it’s a little sad but a good ending can forgive so much. I should really dislike this film, instead I’ll probably buy the DVD.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Kill the BBC: Part two

No I don’t want to kill the BBC, it was an involuntary shudder when the reaction three years ago to removing the RPI link to the license fee was “disappointing” from the director-general, and “catastrophic” from the unions; this despite a guaranteed increase in the fee for the following six years - you can always trust the unions for a balanced response. I find the left-wing bias tiresome but I recognise it as an inevitable result for any publicly funded body immune from economic reality. It’s not dissimilar to the media studies teacher who despises your middle class background safe in the knowledge that before too long you’ll be paying his wages.

The problem for the BBC is that its popular programming could just as easily be shown by other broadcasters, and this invites the query as to why the remainder should be funded by the taxpayer at all. Once you list all the quality television produced elsewhere and the not so good from the state broadcaster you begin to realise that its only real purpose is as a mechanism for Government initiatives, such as the digital switchover, and to act as a counterweight to the excesses of Sky and ITV. This doesn’t require a £3 billion budget.

I like the BBC, but our assessment should be based not on whether we like what we watch, but on whether it is right for others to pay. When good, it innovates, leading the way for the commercial sector to follow. It still provides valuable public service broadcasting and it has a role as a standard-bearer for British television, but it has become bloated, stifling private enterprise operating in the same sphere and yes, that is a bad thing. You’d have to be “immune from economic reality” to think otherwise.

Tuesday 27 July 2010


More tinkering with my blog on the weekend and for a short while I hit something approaching euphoria, helped along by a large slice of vanilla cheesecake, before later concluding that actually the header still looks a bit shit, I don’t really like the Georgia font and reaching the shocking conclusion that maybe a grey colour scheme isn’t terribly exciting; I am no nearer to layout nirvana. I really must get out more.

Instead I stayed in and watched Sherlock, a modern re-working of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve never warmed to the Baker Street detective but it was a terrific opener from Steven Moffat. It’ll be interesting to see whether the remaining two episodes maintain the standard but given that one is written by Mark Gatiss, who along with Moffat created this series for the BBC, I will be holding my breath and hoping for the best. Gatiss was unfortunately responsible for the duff episode in the recent and otherwise excellent series of Doctor Who, which coincidentally in a separate episode dredged up one of my least favourite quotes:
When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
-- Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle must have rather liked this quote as he seems to have used it or a variation thereof a number of times and, judging from how often it makes an appearance elsewhere, his fans are rather fond of it too. Holmes, I’ll assume but I could easily be wrong, makes his statement to illustrate a point rather than pronounce; it’s a shame therefore that his following have taken it so literally. In Doctor Who it is a child but it didn’t stop me from rolling my eyes and adding “or there’s something you haven’t thought of”. For such a statement excludes the possibility of error, that fallibility that makes us human and against which perfection is so boring.

Monday 19 July 2010

Kill the BBC

Now there’s a headline worthy of BBC Online, in that it doesn’t represent what I want to say and is designed purely for effect. No of course I don’t want to kill the BBC; it’s my inevitable knee jerk response to the obsequious #proudofthebbc hashtag currently trending on Twitter. It’s even more annoying than the #ilovethenhs tag, whose proponents bristled at any criticism of that beloved institution. It’s more annoying because whilst the NHS is undoubtedly overly bureaucratic and most definitely rations patient care, I can at least love the principle without always being enamoured of the reality.

It’s far more annoying because whilst the NHS provides an essential service I’m struggling to think of much about the BBC that could be described in the same way. Public finances are under severe pressure, Government departments are facing possible cuts of up to 40% and much of what it presents is made by external companies and would be produced irrespective of the existence of the broadcaster itself. Is the publicly funded BBC really to be immune from this reality?

Friday 16 July 2010

Some people dance

Some people spend their spare time catching up on reading for work; others use it reading for leisure. Some work around the house, if they’re able, others in the garden, if they’re willing. Then there are those who, lest they be struck by lightning, use what little time they may have, sat on a comfy sofa, moving every once in a while to change the DVD.

This time I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on a television with a working contrast and incidentally on Blu Ray. I say ‘incidentally’ because if you’re noticing things like how black the blacks are then how good can a film be? It was beautiful, intimate and terribly sad; but then it’s based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. I know I will love this film many years from now.

Much as I do Doctor Zhivago, which I watched on Tuesday for the first time in a very long time. Were it made today it would be derided by critics, as I believe it was when first released; but the public loved it – good for them. It’s a mix of stilted English and faux Russian accents and some typically gorgeous set pieces but at well over three hours it was long enough for the faults to melt away. There are “two kinds of women” says Komarovsky, and I once briefly wondered if that was the message, but really it’s about two kinds of love. In the past I was never convinced by the passion for Lara, preferring the selfless love of Zhivago’s wife, Tonya. I’m still not, but it was easier to love the right things back then.

Some people love, some question, others live for the thrill. Some change the DVD. It would be churlish to say I didn’t enjoy Avatar, I’ll be happy to watch it again, I’m sure I’d enjoy the 3-D experience should it be re-shown in the cinema and I may even take my daughter. Because ultimately it’s a fair ground ride or a fast food ‘treat’ and there’s nothing wrong with this except that it’s also deluded, perhaps even dishonest. I can forgive the occasionally crap dialogue and the lazy use of a voiceover, but the none-too-subtle environmental message was opportunistic, lacking any sincerity. I don’t mind eating a burger - but it really pisses me off when someone tells me it’s a steak.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

In bed with JavaScript

Option A.
If only I’d had more time I could have given my daughter that holiday, mowed the lawn, cleared out the garage, read that JavaScript book… when you’re as ill as I was last week you start making all sorts of rash promises. The JavaScript pledge came not only as a result of my near death experience, but my tinkering with the blog and the acceptance that fun though it can be, “try it and see” isn’t always the most effective way to learn.

Option B.
I’ve been playing around with a “Tweet this” function for a while and plugged in Tweetmeme, though I’d looked at Topsy and for a short while implemented Blogger’s own share buttons. Being me, despite everything working fine as it was I decided to change it all around and spent an age “rolling my own”. Hence the thought that tucked away on my shelf were a few books that might explain what it was I was playing with.

But do I start on these or after a month-long cessation of hostilities resume the war on Troy? Having started as a challenge it was proving to be a really good read until I managed to distract myself with work. It’s early in the story; Paris has been rescued from death at the hands of Menelaus and spirited away to have his way with Helen, whilst the armies give battle outside the walls of the city. So it’s a choice between thousands who live or die at the whim of the Gods, or one developer who will live or die at the whim of JavaScript. Maybe I’m overselling it?

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Run for your lives!

So when did they start allowing girls into the Scouts? For some reason I haven't quite fathomed I'm quite pleased that Little Miss R decided on Cubs rather than Brownies. Having said that I've noticed each meeting is preceded with the boys having a game of god-only-knows-what, usually involving a ball, whilst the girls choose to take the register. Oh well, small steps. It was 'science night' on Monday and I was the designated parent helper for the evening. Simple things such as the demonstration of air pressure with a piece of paper and an upside down jar of water; I'd forgotten how much fun science could be. I'd also forgotten how frightening children can be, especially when they run in packs.

Then there's been the World Cup. I love how you can say 'World Cup' and unless you're American you know it means football and the biggest single sporting event on the planet. England are out - deep breath - there I got that out the way and managed to avoid swearing. Naturally I'm disappointed; as I was four years ago and four years before that. It's inevitable. We were dreadful from the start but whilst we limped on there was always hope. Thankfully Little Miss R remains interested due in no small part to the dedication of her teacher who organised the sweepstake at her school. I'm told he supports West Ham. A teacher and a West Ham supporter - how brave is that?

Saturday 26 June 2010

Compassion fatigue

Some months ago I watched an episode of the English language version of Wallander in which one of the characters described compassion fatigue. I was unaware it had been given a name. That's not to say I wasn't moved by events in the news, at that time the earthquake in Haiti, it's more that I was conscious of recognising the signs. I can't remember if this was supposed to be 'normal' but a recent exchange of comments on another blog had me thinking about this again.

My offense was to question whether there was any context in which not knowing a person, for example in another country, should stop one from caring for their predicament. Their response was that I didn't care, that no-one really cares about people far away and I was admonished for being a 'smug twat'; perhaps they were right. Such a robust reply can sometimes curtail rather than encourage debate, but that's a subject for another day; I need to consider what 'care' really means, what it's worth, for the simple reason that sometimes I switch off. I don't imagine I'm alone in this, heartbreak occurs every day, we can't possibly respond to every tragedy but how do we choose those to which we do?

Sunday 20 June 2010

The boo Rooneys

Actually, no, I don’t care that you’ve travelled thousands of miles or how much the objects of your derision earn. How does spending any amount of money afford the right to treat other people like shit? It’s not only an inability to tell the difference between not trying and not being any good, it’s the endemic response to failure that irritates. It’s the culture that celebrates bullying chefs, which encourages us to dispense with those who fall short of another’s subjective view of perfection; they’re only human beings, plenty more where they came from. Shout abuse at those who disappoint and applaud the arrogant but talented pricks, ability is all that matters… when I see all this it reminds me that sometimes I don’t like you very much.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

From the office of bad comparisons

I am trying very hard to get over my disappointment in the recent behaviour of the U.S President. I am failing. Serves me right for being swept along in the general euphoria but I guess I'm no different from the billions of other dolts who populate this planet; I want something or someone to believe in.

It took until today for Barack Obama to even suggest an environmental impact as the inevitable risk of our search for the black gold, to oh-so cautiously encourage people to think about their addiction. Not that he put it that way of course. It's far easier to spew out the nonsense of yesterday; comparing the psychological impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to that of the 9/11 attacks. Those would be the events in which 3000 people lost their lives and countless more in the aftermath. What a tit.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Mister Furious

President Obama is furious. I know this because he said it twice; but this was stage-managed fury so it wasn't terribly convincing. I've little time, nor (I hoped) had he, for people who would vent rather than act, but since the U.S government is unable to do anything he expends much of his energy on that favourite political pastime, making sure we know who to blame. That'd be British Petroleum, formerly BP but helpfully renamed by the White House so the xenophobes know which b*stard foreigners to hate. No one doubts who is responsible but just in case, hint that British Petroleum are withholding all the facts, or better still that they're not working with the necessary sense of urgency. Because when people are emotional they'll swallow any old sh*t.

Monday 7 June 2010

Love is all

Back in the 1980's when AIDS first entered the popular consciousness the main television channels played their part by running a number of prime time awareness programs. Those I recollect featured an assortment of pop stars talking about safe sex. The irony escaped me at the time but the reason I remember was that half way through one of these shows, after various demonstrations of how to put a condom on a banana, I think it was Jon Moss of Culture Club who made a remark to the effect that the most important element in a relationship was love. I will always admire him for that.

Some years later I saw a documentary on transgender reassignment and if I am to be completely honest I didn't find it comfortable viewing. But again it was one particular comment that stays in the mind; a woman having undergone a procedure tearfully hoping for nothing more than to be loved for who she was. It sounds a bit 'Richard Curtis' but I'm embarrassed to say it was only then that I was able to properly connect. I've thought about that moment a lot. I hope she's O.K.

Despite being a term apparently in use for over a decade it's only in the last year I've heard the initialism LGBT, referring to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. Perhaps one reason for my lack of awareness is that it never occurred to me to group people in such a way. It's not the exclusion that bothers but the negative inference. Sexual orientation seems a completely separate issue to gender identity; the commonality appears to be based on what people are not, rather than who they are. In truth I am uncomfortable with any form of segregation, no matter how well intentioned, but that's an easy stance for a white heterosexual to take. So I tell myself that the need for such organisations is as much a failure on my part to embrace all that is different and wonderful as it is an instinctive search for identity.

Nevertheless I look forward to the day when we generalise, if we must, not according to physical preference but the content of our hearts, and I propose a new alliance based on the following three principles:
  1. It doesn't matter what sex a person wants to be.
  2. It doesn't matter what sex a person wants to have.
  3. Love is all that matters.
That's right I said "love" - I don’t want to make it too easy.