Saturday 23 June 2012

Bella bella

FIFA rankings June 2012
In sports journalism parlance the only difference between “honest” and “crap” is the result. Last Tuesday England put in one of their more honest performances; one suspects they’ll need an extraordinarily sincere performance to come through against the Italians on Sunday; applause for the Italian player who claimed - with a straight face - that England would start as favourites. If by some miracle England beat Italy they meet Germany in the semi-final, and we all know what happens then. Yet there’s always hope, were Italy really that good against Spain or were Spain starting slow? And when I think about it, for 60 or so minutes Germany didn’t look too convincing against the whipping boys Greece until, remembering they were “in it to win it”, they started to play like their usual selves. But first things first, let’s concentrate on tomorrow’s game; I find England are ranked sixth and their opponents twelfth... that makes us twice as good... we ARE the favourites. These are the FIFA world rankings - where dreams can come true.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Bad medicine

There is a deficit in this country that can be tackled through a mixture of cuts and taxes; the latter not being particularly good for growth, attention has focused on the former. This is nothing that the private sector hasn’t already experienced; whether through pay cuts, redundancies or the cutting of employer pension contributions. A similar exercise is underway for public sector workers whose own pensions tend to be more generous, and the decision made that proportionally more of the burden would fall on those most able to pay; it’s not a label I particularly care for, but this is often called ‘progressive’. Over several months there have been strikes from various public sectors, each convinced that someone else should pay. Today it was the turn of doctors; their own unintentionally amusing take is that they are disproportionally affected. It’s as if they’re not aware - not even the liberals amongst them, of whom I know a few - that this is the whole point.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Not totally crap

Cristiano Ronaldo cockerel
Spot the difference.
It must have been the excitement of Sunday’s Netherlands versus Portugal game, a game where I found myself hoping both protagonists would lose; the Netherlands because they’re the Netherlands and Portugal because they’re Ronaldo, and for a short time - when Denmark took the lead against Germany - this was possible. Or maybe it was confusion from all the above. I put them on the chair, went into the kitchen (I can’t even remember what for), returned to the living room and sat on my glasses. They’re ‘designed’ to come apart when pulled out of shape but I'm a little too much. Anyway, I am several years late to the opticians; thanks to the adjustable font size on my Kindle it wasn’t until I read The Handmaid’s Tale in classical format (previously known as a book) that I realised quite how bad my eyesight had become, or rather it was then I resolved to do something about it. That was several months ago, to leave it any longer would be pushing it; there’s only so much trust I can place in Sellotape.

And if I thought two teams I don’t care for was exciting, how exciting will it be to see England beat Ukraine tonight? They are fighting, lest we forget, for the right to be beaten by Spain or Italy in the quarter-finals. England have impressed by being not totally crap, except for 15 minutes in the 2nd half against Sweden when they were totally crap. Not even Harry Redknapp’s desperate attempt to keep himself on the back-page - by mouthing off even more than normal and getting himself fired - can deflect from the euphoria of still being in a competition over a week after it’s started.

Wednesday 13 June 2012


Margaret Thatcher - The Musical, it’s only a matter of time. Not actually what I wanted to scribble but a random thought on the “is she or isn’t she (a feminist icon)” maelstrom that was. The film however was an age ago; the arguments, stale, packed away awaiting their final outing. I’ll not wait; on this subject I need to scratch an itch, though it’s hardly original. The answer to the question is “yes”. Those who answer “no” seem to fall into a number of groups:
  1. Those who miss the question. A person needn’t be a feminist to be a feminist icon; in the same way one needn’t be gay to be a gay icon.
  2. Those with the dogma, the syllogistic fallacies common to student-level politics; socialists are feminists therefore feminists have to be socialists. Oh dear.
  3. Those lacking a sense of history. Some might find the misogyny of today’s “lads mags” and the “girl power” message of not so long ago phony and dispiriting; I know I do, but it’s a breeze compared to the 1970’s.
The answer to the question is “yes”, albeit in a historical context and understanding the meaning behind a core creed of gender equality. This isn’t, as popularly stated, a belief that women are every bit as good as men, but that women are every bit as capable. ‘Good’ to my mind encourages unhelpful boxing of positive attributes to one’s own political beliefs. Equality demands impartiality, ‘capable’ allows neutrality. Whether for good or bad, irrespective of policy or her own conviction, the UK’s first - and to date, only - female Prime Minister, symbolised the possibility that a woman could reach the pinnacle of her chosen career, and at a time when “a woman’s place” could be spoken of without any sense of irony. If that doesn’t make her a feminist icon, I don’t know what does.

Sunday 3 June 2012

The 110%'ers

I put it down to poor use of a thesaurus; desire begot passion, and passion won out over professionalism, which suffered through being less easy to fake and having too many syllables. But who am I to talk? Two comments annoyed me last week; quite why I’ve been so irritable or these particular remarks I don’t know, they’re hardly the silliest. I’m beginning to think I have a specific dislike for good points badly made, or good subjects undercut by an over-the-top zeal.
Why are so many businesses down on discussion with emotion and passion? Gotta harness them and focus on a good final outcome.
New Yorker cartoon - Enthusiasm by William Haefeli
This is easy to answer; they’re not. Are you one of those people who whoop and holler when the audio engineer checks the microphone, or is it the result of hearing something really good? Yes, I know this analogy is shaky, but the point I’m trying to make, badly, is quality, commitment, a clear vision, and so on, will result in those other signals that indicate success. There’s nothing quite so dispiriting for some as enforced jollity, the ‘spontaneous’ applause at the end of every stand-up. It’s cyclical, you don’t create good product by getting excited about it, you get excited at the prospect of creating good product, and this requires those old fashioned virtues we seemingly only whisper. Then there was this:
If you’re not outside your comfort zone, you’re doing it wrong.
No, no, no; you’re trying too hard - change the word “not” to “never” and I’d be a lot more... erm... you know, though not that much. I’ve had enough of these false prophets, those 110%’ers who’d have us believe that anything less is to fail. This particular example might not seem so bad on reflection, yet it is, tending to an authoritarian school that inflicts us all; I’m always tempted to respond “is this evidence based?” because such slippery-worded nonsense defies proof. Imagine the reaction to “I’m not very comfortable with this new release but, hey, you know what they say.” What the comment should be trying to convey is the advantage in stepping outside your comfort zone every so often, pushing the envelope occasionally or whatever cliché floats your boat, challenging commonly held assumptions; which is a little different from permanently living on the edge. False dilemmas such as the one above lead to a suspicion their purpose is more self-validation than advice.

Saturday 2 June 2012

Philosophy and spirituality and the whole damn thing

The diagram that follows is wrong. In a recent discussion, a friend’s description of religion sounded - or so I thought - like philosophy, later I decided spirituality, which led me to wonder, as most do, on the relationship between the three. I am not completely happy with any of it, meaning I’m partially happy with some of it; and then I added atheism, lest I forget, to skewer my ideas completely. Canon Giles Fraser pointed out to Richard Dawkins not so long ago the questionable merit of pronouncing on someone else’s belief. Hence my own notions can only ever suit my own imperfect ideas. I think of it as a start to a more internal discussion.
Religion Atheism Philosophy Spirituality