Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Today's topic is : How to get ulcers

Most Mondays I work as a media studies tutor at a media centre. The courses are optional, meaning that several schools use us as a resource. There is no obligation for them to use us and, unlike in a school, there is no legal obligation on anyone's part. We can refuse to accept students or the school can refuse them access to our courses.

Today I observed another teacher lead a lesson. Miss Lucas comes every week with a group because her school feels that some of the students need extra support, and she asked if she could lead the classes for a few weeks. She was pretty capable, considering she only started her career four months ago. Knowing what I know it looked like she had spent maybe half an hour preparing for an hour long session. There were photocopies and she had carefully thought through the learning objectives and how to achieve them.

I stood at the back most of the time, although chipped in occasionally to help the 15 and 16 year old students, who are but 3 months away from their final assessments.

Here's the thing. One of the sections of the session was a group discussion. The teacher led a brainstorming of ideas, prompting the students to come up with suggestions, review their knowledge and fill in the gaps. She had them come out to the front and write their ideas on the screen.

In the group there are some capable and affable teenagers. They can be lively and sometimes distracted, but are generally enthusiastic and fun. Last week I took them for an hour and for some reason they were in a bad mood. Most of the time everyone worked quite hard, although there was an air of sullenness about them. One of the students, Ricky, for no discernible reason, began an argument with me and then, despite my best efforts, escalated it to a point where he could threaten me, hurl some obscene abuse and then storm out. Apparently people in authority at his school had spoken to Ricky. He was under threat of being disbarred from attending our centre.

During this question and answer session, which lasted 20 or so minutes, I decided to focus on Ricky's demeanour. I stood at the back and counted the number of times he interrupted his hard-working, intelligent, professional teacher. Some of his interruptions were simply designed to make him centre of attention. He shouted out supposedly humourous comments, began distracting side-conversations with other students around him. When he had a real, appropriate answer, he didn't wait until he was called upon but simply shouted it out. When Miss L tried to get him to hold back, he ignored her directions and requests and simply repeated what he was saying louder and louder until he was satisfied everyone had taken notice of him. Ricky totally dominated the whole session. He shouted down other students and, when, once, he was given the light pen to write on the screen, refused to give it back.

In total he interrupted the teacher 91 times in 20 minutes. More disturbingly, many of his interjections were designed to simply undermine her authority. At one point she asked him to be quiet, which he was, but as soon as she began speaking he shouted over the top of her. She stopped, he apologised. She then spoke again only for him to shout over her first word. He told her how to conduct the session, he tried to influence the topic and one or two of his 'funny' comments were even offensive to his classmates. The teacher had a untucked blouse. Because she was working so hard the bottom button became undone. She flashed a tiny bit of abdomen for a moment. Ricky pointed at her and accused her of flashing him. "I can see your c*nt!" he shouted.

At the end of the session she spoke to me. The school's solution to Ricky is to move him from class to class. He is on track to achieve the golden C grades in several subjects and she had been told that there was no way the school was going to get rid of him. She had inherited him from her own boss. After all, Ricky was leaving in a few months. She also mentioned that his parents were difficult. They are fairly affluent and well-educated compared to most other parents of students in this inner-city school, and convinced that their son is a child-genius. She said that their attitude was that any trouble he got into was the fault of his teachers because he is actually cleverer then them. She's tried ejecting him from class, only to find him agreeing a behaviour contract with his 'pastoral leader' and returning the next day to continue where he left off. "After a while, you just decide to put up with it," she said. I should know. In my first year I got ulcers, for starters.

But here's the kicker for me. I tried to talk to Ricky, to inform him that he had interrupted the class roughly once every ten seconds. He became pretty aggressive and defensive. "You can't put me into trouble. I have behavioural difficulties," was his excuse. "And what are are you doing about that?" was my response, which left him mumbling insults.

There are two issues that arise. Firstly, everyone has let Ricky down ( not to mention the other students he disrupts). His parents who refuse to accept the reality of his behavious, the school that caves in to their need for grades, the special needs experts who have provided him with the excuse of behavioural difficulties but clearly not worked on how he can address them, the teachers who have passed him on to their junior colleagues. Ricky is basically a bully, and everyone has facilitated him. He bullies the entire system.

Secondly, this is the hidden side of teaching. The bit that those who complain about the education system and teachers fail to see or mention. Ricky is not an unusual case. Almost every class has one, sometimes more. The student who literally wastes a third of everyones' time, who vacuums up resources and attention, who scuppers all your weekend planning and carefully considered lesson content, whom the system refuses to deal with. If it is students with special needs the system seems incapable of doing any more than coping - and often not even that. If it someone who is simply ornery and selfish, there are too many people who shirk and seemed scared of grasping the nettle. They let the students and parents bully them. Meanwhile, in her first year of being a public servant, Miss Lucas has to face Ricky and his ilk. Every lesson, every day, week after week, as well as putting in 60 hours and getting paid for 30 ,she's expected to shrug off the insults, threats and violence and just get on with it. After all, this is what thew authorities call low-level disruption.

Oh, apropos of nothing, I also read today that 15% of new teachers leave the profession within a year, and 50% leave within 3 years.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Todays topic is: More Liberals

I feel sorry for Simon Hughes, I really do. I think I would like him to become the first openly gay party leader in Britain. It might not be fun for him, but it would test the resolve of both the press and other politicians. Would they be able to resist outing themselves as homophobes? How long would it be before puns are drawn in both headlines and the chamber?

In fact Mr Hughes has, since he 'admitted' to batting for both teams , been criticised from all sides. Not only has he been slated by some for his sexual preferences, but his integrity has been called into question because he didn't come out earlier. In other words, he wasn't gay enough. Apparently, gay people, whatever their personality or circumstances are impelled to come out, loud and proud. If they don't then it is a betrayal. His ability to deceive was also cited as a reason he couldn't be trusted (And there was me thinking that ability to lie convincingly was pretty much a prerequisite for a politician). Yesterday, the not gay enough argument came from both gay campaigners and others (plenty of politicans and commentators starting their comments and answers with "I'm not gay myself, but...")

Simon Hughes is in his early fifties. This means that he was well into his teens until homosexuality was actually legal in this country. He was in his thirties when gay people were routinely being stung by the cops and hung out to dry by the press. He was about 30 when Bronski Beat released Smalltown Boy. At 50-whatever he is still in a society that is pretty laid back about sexuality compared to some places. Many people tolerate and even love 'pantomime poofs' like Graham Norton and Dale Winton, but are often profoundly uncomfortable when unheterosexuality appears in real world contexts.

Gay people surely are like other people, they encompass a range of experience. I know at least two gay men who waited to be open about it until their mothers died. One told me that he actually enjoyed having a 'normal' life with a wife and kids and an 'illicit' lifestyle of poppers, Liza Minelli albums and cottaging. I have read about people struggling with their sexuality, filled with self loathing about it, others who are flamboyantly out from an early age. I once spoke to a woman who was quite open about moving to and from hetero & lesbian relationships and experiences. I asked her if she was bisexual and her answer was that she didn't think she was definitely anything.

Simon Hughes should be allowed to stay in or come out as he pleases. He should be allowed to sidestep being labelled. He should even - heaven forbid - be allowed to be confused, embarrassed or even ashamed of his sexuality, allowed to worry what people might think and allowed to deflect press interest in who he gets jiggy with. If everyone was really as (liberal and) tolerant as they think they are, they would allow him to just be who he is sexually, and move on to talk about the weather or something.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Today's topic is : The Dying Sven

It's a cliche, but this is the best picture of Sven that I've seen recently. Although he is obviously an idiot in many ways, I feel he has always been the subject of a racist/xenophobic agenda. The press just didn't like the fact that he is a foreigner and some of them have been after him whatever he did. But being hounded out of your job is the lot of every England manager. Nobody has simply resigned and moved on since Alf Ramsay 'resigned' 30 years or so ago. Robson was hounded to resign before Italia 1990, Taylor during the campaign for USA 94,Venables just after England 1996, Hoddle for failing in France, Keegan for losing to Germany, and now Erikkson for not doing much wrong really apart from not winning anything yet. He even made those 'invisible' spectacles rather fashionable.

It will be interesting to see who gets in the race to be his replacement. Not only is it an attractive job in itself, but you work for an employer who pays very well and keeps on increasing your pay and extending your contract for no discernable reason whatsoever.


Although the cartoon is well up to Steve Bell's high standard and beautifully cutting, the Guardian editorial pretty much covers what I would say about Incapacity Benefit.

Today's topic is : Tax is cool. Really it is.

I won't bore you with the details of how it happened but the hospital messed up my appointment last week. My new shoes didn't arrive and they only called to tell me an hour before, when I'd already left the house. Taking in a little shopping on the way, I took the call standing in the crime fiction section of Borders and, I can tell you, was annoyed enough to end up in the true crime section- as a subject. They rescheduled for today.

I have a disability - talipes plus the usual complications - that is pretty painful and, as I have reached an advanced age merely 'coping' with being crippled, the bespoke shoes are part of a little programme to try and improve my lot.

Okay, so they messed up the appointment. But the fact remains that we in Britain are pretty lucky. Even when the NHS doesn't operate as we'd like, we still have universal free coverage, which is more than any American has. Of course, it isn't really free - we pay for it indirectly throught tax.

As far as I can gather, Americans hate tax. We can't disavow the fact that taxation was a pretty important kicker in The War of Independence, but lots of Americans seem to fear and hate tax more than than they fear and hate life's other certainty, death.

If you Google it, there are hundreds of websites and articles that list all the waste and unnecessary expenditure. Where do your tax dollars go? How many are thrown away or spent on things that you wouldn't yourself buy? All this anti-tax complaining assumes two things.
1. That government seems to be held to different standards than individuals and companies when it comes to wasteful expenditure. (This thought came to me as I hung another shirt on my year-old exercise bike.)
2. That your tax dollars are spent only on pointless modern arts programs and other things people don't like.

But the thing that the Tax Freedom Day kind of people forget to mention is that lots of tax is spent on stuff that is pretty useful and sometimes excellent. Roads, for example, are generally thought to be pretty useful (A quick straw pll amongst my friends concluded that 3 out of 3 - 100% thought they were crucial or essential and useful at worst)If there was no government and no tax then road building would be left to individuals. If you wanted to drive to Walmart, you could build yourself a road. Hmmm. I guess for convenience, people might get together to pay for a road that goes past all their houses, and then because it's time-consuming and a hassle to actually build and maintain the thing, I guess they might pay someone else to build and manage it for them. Everyone could contribute a bit of the cost and everyone could then enjoy the benefits of driving to Walmart. In fact, given time, people wouldn't worry about roads, they'd kind of just expect them to be there. Coo-el! And armies and police? We are all scaredy cats, but it might be prohibitively expensive for everyone to hire a bodyguard. So people could share them. But then again, wouldn't it be better to have a group of bodyguards that everyone could share? Tell you what, it's time consuming and a little tiresome dealing one on one or two on one with our bodyguards. How about we get someone else to actually deal with recruiting, paying, housing, training and equipping them and we all contribute a percentage of the cost? That'd be cheaper and less time consuming, surely.

And bespoke shoes. Hypothetically speaking, what if someone needed some bespoke shoes because of an injury or a disability but just this month couldn't pay for them? How about we all put a bit of our income in a big savings account, and then when someone needed something pretty essential they could dip into the account and get it when they needed it? I mean, you never know when you might get ill. It'll be like an insurance policy that everyone puts into. What a splendid idea.

Of course it could be more efficient - couldn't everything? But lets not be too down on tax. It's okay really. Honestly, you haven't got the time or the energy to exercise your 'greater choice'. Everyone knows that if it was a toss up between a shiny new 46 inch plasma TV and 12 feet of new sewer, you'd get the plasma everytime.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Today's topic is : The Bartlet Legacy

So, The West Wing will finally end this season. It's not a surprise. One of it's stars has died, another of the main players is scootering his way to jail, and in the past two seasons, many have simply disappeared. Charlie-gone (last seeing playing poker), Zoey-possibly kidnapped again (she couldn't even make it to her own Sister's wedding), Ginger and those woman in the secretarial pen, Lily Tomlin, Carol with the toothy smile from the communications office, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Nancy, most of Congress and lots of Secret Service people. In fact, rather than the familiar hustle and bustle cameraman running backwards chaos, the West Wing itself seems rather sedate and empty these days, like everyone is working on a Sunday (because sure as hell, no-one is at home watching the WW). Of course there have been disappearances in the past. Mandy simply vanished and then, after being embraced so warmly, Ainsley Hayes suddenly flew away-reputedly to Miami, Sam went and then Mallory left 'cos she had nobody to flirt with. There was a moment back there where Winnie from the Wonder Years threatened to become a regular, but even she fizzled out, despite her superb mathlete/porn-star style character name of Elsie Snuffin.

My thoughts are what will happen between now and the final episode. I guess Santos has to win, given that we saw that in flash-forward, along with CJ and Danny (who I still think of as Elliott) clearly a couple. But who will be his Veep? In the first real hint of office romance ever, will voracious Kate Harper (who I still think of as Justine) and hapless Will (who I still think of as hapless Jeremy) get it together? Will Kristin Chenoweth break out into a rendition of The Boy Next Door? And finally, and most importantly, will the producers have the imagination to complete the Josh and Donna arc to anyone's satisfaction. It's gone cold since he nearly knocked on her hotel room door sometime in season 6. It's a problem. They clearly can't shag and then both work in the Santos White House together. This would be unfair on Donna since she struggled so hard to get a credible career and also got blown up in order to ensure wound equality: easily matching his bullet to the chest by a fresh-faced white supremacist with lower limb paralysis and pulmonary embolism caused by real terrorists. Josh can't leave politics to take up organic Yak farming or golf, but then again he actually can't function properly without her. My guess is a Joey/Dawson ending, where they end up dealing with their volcanic emotions but not together. But I wouldn't cringe if they did finally realise that they are the perfect match. After all, they could spend many an intimate hour comparing scars.

Me, I look forward to my next visit to Manchester NH, where I'll be dropping in to browse the Bartlet Presidential library.

Today's topic is : The Anti-War President

So, Bush is anti-war. After you stop laughing this becomes quite a statement for Laura snr to make. Maybe it is the final proof that nobody really knows anybody, least of all those who are supposed to be our nearest and dearest.

But maybe he is actually anti-war. It, of course, is dead easy to caricature him as some kind of hand-rubbing evil psychopath. Yet throughout history I guess there were few leaders who launched wars just because they enjoyed death and destruction. Take Hitler. There is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that he believed what he was doing was necessary, which doesn't help the victims or make it any less horrendous, but is subtly different than gleefully killing anyone for killing's sake.

If Bush is anti-war, then why did he start not one, but three (Afghanistan, Iraq and the "War on Terror")? The evidence is, at the moment scant and contradictory. There are lots of theories. Control of oil reserves and pipelines fits well, kneejerk revenge for 9/11 fits too, finishing Daddy's unfinished business in Iraq is also believable, as is following a simplistic neocon agenda of creating enemies, and then there's putting the country on a war footing to guard against economic recession. Yup, a definite possibility.

Or maybe, it's just old fashioned do one thing, say another, hypocrisy.

I'm ready to accept that Bush might be anti-war. I don't think he wanks himself stupid over pictures of dead Iraqi babies or orders a Cruise missile strike just to see the pretty lights in the sky or feel the rush of adrenalin as the jets power overhead. But like all of his ilk, Bush is very definitely pro-power and the appropriation of power. Because that's the thing about Right Wing politicians - they are in only the game for self interest and never conscience. They are scared of losing what they have - like Wayne and Garth they fear change. At their heart they are by nature hypocritical. They claim they are trying to change things for the better for everyone when they are only trying desperately maintain the status quo for themselves. They are like vegetarians who can't resist a bacon sarnie, conscience is trumped by appetite.

I guess we will never know why Bush went to war. I recently read Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack, which given that Woodward has a reputation for carefully sourcing his work, is about as reliable a source as I can find about the whys and wherefores. There are big holes in the story. Runsfeld, especially seems to be suffering early onset Alzheimers and, on the record, can't seem to remember an awful lot. There is also a shady CIA figure called Saul who ends up with all the blame for the bad intelligence. Saul strikes me as convenient. I suspect he is the big boy who did it and ran away. Another thing that struck me is how soon the plans began rolling after 9/11. It's as if they were almost waiting for a reason, as if there was an idea hanging in the air ready to fall to earth. For a President who is so anti-war, the very thing his wife says he is against was his first recourse. It's like a PETA member who feels a bit cold and, in a shop full of fleeces and hollow-fibre puffa-jackets, buys a fur coat.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Todays Topic is : A Message to The Kaiser Chiefs

I am proud of the Kaiser Chiefs. They are from my hometown of Leeds (well, Ossett near Leeds, where I once had a job in a fibreglass fabrication factory. It was the second worst job I ever had, like having 24-hour whole body psoriasis) and they look, talk and behave like many of my friends. I can imagine knowing them in the sixth form at my school, or even being in their gang. When they talk, they talk about the places and streets that I know. I am also fairly certain that they recycle, visit their Mums when they can, are kind to animals and do stuff like drop into local Primary Schools to give out certificates. Let’s put it this way, I can identify with them way more than I can identify with, for example Mariah Carey or GG Allin.

I also really like their songs. Some people have dismissed them as second rate Blur impersonators, but I disagree. Their music is energetic and uplifting. They have their own voice that fits into that defiantly British strand that encompasses bands like The Members, The Kinks, Blur, Suede and The Smiths.

Good for them. They are a bit like the local sports team. Even if you don’t actually obsessively support them you kinda like it when they win. So when The Chiefs were the opening act of Live 8 in Philadelphia I felt a bit of a sense of civic pride. Those were our boys rocking the CoBL.

But now I want them to go away. I haven’t listened to their album for about five months and am teetering on the verge of being heartily sick of them.

Again, I don’t blame them at all for cashing in on their success and selling lots of records. They produced a whole song – I Predict a Riot – that, throughout 2005, acted as an alternative national anthem. This is much more than the 14 words that made Gram’ma Funk famous. But they are in grave danger of outstaying their welcome. I turn on the TV, it’s the Kaiser Chiefs, I get in the car and click the face onto the stereo. The radio fades in and it is the Kaiser Chiefs. I am currently listening to a football commentary (it’s Everton 1 Arsenal 0 at the moment) and the half time infill featured some trailers and previews for other matches soundtracked by The Kaiser Chiefs. AAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!

It’s Morning Glory syndrome all over again, it’s the Stone Roses first album. Both fine and deserving records, but even today, years and years later, I don't want to listen to them again. I had my fill.

So, Kaisers. Please piss off for a bit, possibly a year. Write another album. Put your feet up and enjoy your PRS cheques. Buy your Mums a new Lazy Boy. Spend time in the pub. Even get a job in the local fibreglass fabrication factory.

Today's Topic is : Fame and Fortune

In my profession: school teacher, I inevitably have to play some role in helping the youngsters of today decide what they want to do or be tomorrow. Inevitably, every single teenager I ever ask declares that they want to be rich and famous. They have as much idea about how this is going to occur as they do about how to fly a space shuttle, and I remind them that they are about as likely to become famous as they are to win the lottery. But of course, this is the other ambition that everyone shares. I am often impressed and appalled at how impassioned they are about their impending fame and fortune. Without having any discernable talent, looks or ideas I have seen young people in tears of insistence that they will, some day, join a boy/girl band or somehow, anyhow, get on TV. The worrying thing is that when I ask them what they will do if, just by chance and bad luck, that doesn’t happen, they have no answer. There is no plan B. When Pokemon cards were around I was especially depressed by a young lad who, by using the kind of Maths that lots of dotcom investors used, insisted that his Pokemon card collection would be worth millions in years to come. I tried explaining to him that, for complex economic reasons that even economists don't understand, this would simply not happen. He carried on collecting them long after the fad was over, believing that since people were now literally giving him their previously precious collections for nothing, it would only increase his future profits.

I guess everyone has fantasies about being rich and famous. My friend Graham emailed me today to tell me he'd come across a copy of his long forgotten album. It was a four track demo that he wrote and I produced many moons ago. I particularly remember one track which was very delicate and ballady for a bit and then exploded into a 7 minute face-melter of a guitar solo that I still consider my finest recorded work. Even while we were doing it we kind of knew it was never going to strike us gold, but you never know.

My ambition was always to have one monster hit and then retire. I actually know someone who managed this trick, a singer whose hit I sometimes, fifteen or so years after it was ubiquitous, hear on the radio. The royalties are still trickling in, I guess. I am not her accountant but it seems she is able to live quite comfortably from the proceeds of her nine months of fame. Good for her.

But it took my friend a lot of lead up work to achieve a global hit record. And that won’t do. Like the youngsters that I encounter my real ambition is to become wealthy and famous for doing hardly anything at all. I want it now. I want to be Gram’ma Funk.

Everybody knows Gram’ma funk because she wrote and spoke just fourteen words. As far as I can gather, Gram’ma funk’s career is still going strong after several years on the back of these words. You may be baffled, asking “Who the hell is Gram’ma Funk?” Well, you surely know seven of the words very well, perhaps all fourteen. They are: ‘I see you baby shakin’ that ass’ and ‘this is the house that funk built’. The second seven aren’t even original, but a pretty common phrase with one word changed.

Now, I have no idea about Gram’ma Funk’s royalty deals or copyright on these 14 words, but even if she has one tenth of a penny for each time they are used commercially, then she is probably doing alright. Firstly there are the records themselves, the remixes and the rereleased remixes. But possibly more lucrative, there are the fees she must get for use of her words on advertising, radio and TV. In the UK her words have been used on a car commercial for a car that has a slightly unusual behind and, in a world where TV producers seem to slather their shows with endless incidental music, anything buttockular or ass-related from workouts to clothing to dancing is inevitably soundtracked by her voice intoning those deadly seven words. It is almost as much of a cliché as using ‘Come Fly With Me’ to soundtrack anything to do with holidays or aeroplanes.

And then there’s MTV Cribs. Four times in each show we hear the words This is The House That Funk Built. Extensive research by me (i.e. I am guessing) suggests that Cribs is shown in lots and lots of countries, therefore Gram’ma Funk must air hundreds times a day world-wide.

It must be close to the least amount of work for the most amount of exposure in music history. It even trumps Warhol’s prediction. He should have said “In the future, some people will be famous for fourteen words.”

Friday, January 20, 2006

Today's topic is: Men are now obselete

Bad news, boys. We are obselete. Finished, kaputt. How did this happen? I hear you ask, we know that over recent times women have become more economically independent and we didn't do very well at hiding the fact that they can think for themselves and live lives that aren’t purely about supplication to our every wish, but obselescence? That’s pretty extreme. Well, it happened. And the final nail in the coffin of masculinity is…shampoo.

I don't have much to do with shampoo these days. What little hair I have left tends to be kept very short and consequently can be treated as if it is merely skin. Most of the time I simply run soapy water over my head and bingo, in a triumph of multi-tasking, both skin and hair become cleansed. This has been going on for several years and, as such, I am aware that I am well behind the curve when it comes to shampoo development. I do, however, know from my keen powers of observation, that many women are obsessed about shampoo and spend up to three quarters of their income on it, and other bathroom related products.

I also realise that this is extremely important and not in any way a frivolous waste of money. I can’t say that I have ever suffered the nightmare of dry and damaged hair, lack of colour sheen, nor the trauma of split ends. But it is serious. I once knew a young woman who would actually set fire to her hair to purge her split ends. If you are willing to flambe your own head in order to deal with split ends then they must be a pretty drastic problem.

But I never realised that shampoo technology had moved on so far in recent times. Settling down to watch Tyra yesterday (a show where Tyra and her many sponsors did what the DHS and the combined forces of the United States government are struggling to do ie. with the help of a 6 foot 4 high-heel wearing transvestite and a marketing representative from Rimmel, rebuild the whole of the Gulf Coast, and give tips on disguising cellulite) I was presented with the awful truth. I, and my gender, are now obselete.

Y’see, it appears that shampoo technology has moved beyond the simple cleaning and conditioning of hair, repair of dry/damaged/treated hair, the provision of extra lustre and shine and a noticeable increase in the vibrancy of colour (according to 74 of the 98 women asked). Apparently Herbal Essences shampoo can now provide women with instant multiple orgasms.

For reasons which I forget, I own some of this shampoo. I hardly ever use it, mainly because the consistency of it means it takes quite an effort of co-ordination to actually get it out of the bottle. A split second mismatch between the bottle squeezing hand and the receiving hand means that before you can get it to your head, with a quiet farting noise, the blob of shampoo that has emerged from the nozzle is slurped back up into the bottle. It seems that Herbal Essences shampoo has fallen prey to the cult of thickness. This covers lots of products that were perfectly serviceable for many decades but have since been thickened, mainly because of the pressure to come up with a ‘new improved’ version every so often to boost sales and the manufacturers ran out of new flavours to add to them. Heinz Cream of Chicken soup was thickened so much that they should have renamed it Heinz Chicken Non-drip Emulsion Paint. HP sauce was thickened to the point where it simply refused to come out the bottle, like a sulking teenager refusing to come out of their room.

Anyway, back to the issue in hand. An advert came on the TV. It featured a pretty young woman washing her hair in a hotel bathroom and, due to the fact that they have reached their dotage without ever encountering, practising, or even knowing about the existence of sex, an elderly couple in the next door room showing outrage at the sheer immoral debauchery of what was happening through the wall. The poor girl couldn’t help it. It seems that, not only did she have the independent income to pay for a hotel room and such tremendous co-ordination that she could extract the shampoo from the bottle without assistance, but the instant it touched her head she was thrown into an uncontrollable earth-shattering orgasmic rapture.

Extensive research by me (well, a visit to ASDA) has shown that Herbal Essences isn’t even very expensive. It’s actually one of the cheaper shampoos available. The Lord only knows what the 9.99 a bottle stuff does.

So, boys, we may as well give up. We can not even pretend anymore that we are even mechanically useful. That trusty old line “I may be five feet two balding, overweight, drive a rusty ten year old Nissan and have few prospects, but I know a few, ahem, tricks,” is as useless and out of date as we are.

It’s not like we can even claim to smell lightly of Rosemary and Camomile.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Today's Topic is : Why The Liberal Democrats Matter

Charles Kennedy’s recent semi-admission that he is an alcoholic was unfortunate. I think, as politicians go, he is entertaining and likeable and comes over as sincere in his policies and ideas. Which he always can, given that he would, even clean and sober, never really wield any power.

But now the LibDems are in the process of choosing a new leader. It is really important that they choose the right person. I am not a Liberal Democrat voter, and actually know little about the candidates. But this isn’t really relevant. What is relevant is that Liberal Democrats are crucially important to British politics, and must remain so.

Imagine if, in the United States, there was a historically credible, organised and high profile third party that held somewhere between a sixth and a quarter of the electoral numbers. American politics would be a completely different beast. In fact it would be MUCH better.

There are plenty of reasons why British politics works quite well. There are also plenty of reasons why it doesn’t, but I don’t want to focus on that just now.

One of the main reasons that it works quite well, is that, like it or not, the checks and balances system that exists in the parliamentary process succeeds way more than it fails. The local constituency system allows a broad mix of party apparatchiks and independent thinkers to stand under similar banners. For example, the Labour Party has Frank Field (economic liberal reformer) and Dennis Skinner (old fashioned socialist firebrand). Sometimes the system allows true Independents and mavericks to get elected. George Galloway is an MP, as was former war correspondant Martin Bell.

The House of Lords frustrates many people, me included. Why should hereditary titles entitle people to be part of the governmental process we cry? Those interests ultimately only protect themselves and their power. But the Lords also does genuinely contain groupings of wise and experienced politicians who act, often crucially, as a brake on whichever government is in power. In our cosy world we tend to forget that Radicalism can come from both left and right. I would rather have a chamber who put the brakes on the occasional left wing reform proposal than a system without brakes that allows extreme right wing proposals to sail through unopposed.

But I think the Liberal Democrats are just as, if not more, important that the system itself.

They act as a moderator of political extremes and a cushion against the way that fashionable ideologies can so easily grip a party institution to the detriment of common sense. Each time one of the major parties is weak in opposition, it is the Liberal Democrats who provide a safety net of calling the government on policy and providing a voting alternative. You can use them to register a protest vote without actually putting them in power and you can vote for them if you agree with what they are saying. They are a party for all eventualities.

All that really matters about Liberal policy is that it is, by nature, unextreme and based in ideas rather than some hermetically sealed ideology. Rigid ideology is always dangerous and often disastrous, because it is never far from becoming cultish and dogmatic. The vast majority of people want things to get better, but are profoundly uncomfortable at the speed of change. People like improvement to happen in increments, so they can digest, deal with and judge it before moving onto the next change.

Each time one of the major parties threatens to be engulfed by ideology it does one of two things to the other major party. Either it pushes the other party further to the opposite wing, or it drags the opposite party closer to the centre. Thankfully, the Liberals tend to stop the first from happening by acting as a mediator and buffer. The genuine electoral threat provided by a party that historically takes between 15 and 20 percent of the vote mean that all parties are reluctant to stray too far from the centre ground, for fear of their centre-ground support defecting come election time.The parties tend to remain equidistant on the political spectrum and tiptoe towards left, right or centre as group. The only time in recent history that this failed to happen is when the Liberals went chasing power and cosied up to left-wing Labour government of Jim Callaghan in the late 1970’s. They lost their way and eventually split. People often forget that when Thatcher was torching Argentine ships, clubbing coal miners and planning to put copies of ‘Free to Choose’ in every hotel bedroom, she could get away with it because Labour wasn’t the only opposition party that was weak and in disarray.

It is important that Liberal party remains true to both its ideas and function as it moves to elect a new leader. It would be a disaster if it chooses a leader who is nakedly focussed on power, and forgets that the real nature of the party lies in its ability to influence.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Todays topic is : Linguistics, I guess.

So anyway I was going to write this whole thing about America’s cultural colonialism. But I won’t just now as, after parking my car outside next a Chevrolet, I am just about to eat some KFC and watch a Dawson’s Creek rerun.

But earlier today I noticed something. The BBC radio newsreader did something, which was then later repeated by both the Sky News and BBC TV News presenters.

They pronounced the word Baghdad with the accent on the first syllable. BAG-dad. What’s more the kind of softened the second ‘a’, putting a kind of ‘y’ sound in there. BAG-dayad.

For a moment I thought I’d accidentally tuned into WAGA channel 5 in Atlanta.

The rest of the news went as normal, featuring the pleasantly moderated regional British accents that are a traditional feature of our little nation's news coverage.

Today's second topic is: Friday Last Lesson

Abduls # 1 & 2 Ashman and Rahman

“Can I do a picture of a Subaru?” said Hussain.

“What?” I looked up from the mess of reports on my desk. There were 173 of them. I’d been given 173 blank sheets just the day before. They were supposed to be done for today. No-one knew who had issued them only a day before the deadline; they acted like writing 173 reports with one days notice was normal, which in fact it was. There used to be a complex and lovingly crafted timeline on the wall of the staff-room that mysteriously disappeared to be re-jigged and replaced as soon as the first parents evening was cancelled and the the first issue of reports was delayed due to unspecified ‘technical problems’ i.e. nobody had bothered to save the template from last year and nobody designed a new one. It never returned.

“I want to do a picture of a Subaru.”


“Because we’re drawing today…erm…My Uncle’s got one” Pick a logical argument.

“Yes, Hussain, but the thing is…we’re drawing a poster of Martin Luther King. Don’t you remember about ten minutes ago when I went through it all on the board and showed you what I wanted? Look.” I pointed to the board. “Put your paper portrait way, do bubble writing at the top that says I Have A Dream, sketch Martin Luther King and then do a border. Make the border really colourful and interesting.” Making the border interesting is code for ‘spend as much time as possible colouring the border – don’t worry too much about the middle bit, because it’s Friday. By the time you have finished the border then the bell will go and I throw your sketch in the bin and go home.’ “The colours are there.” I pointed again to where the colours had been just a few minutes ago.

“Where are the colours Hussain?”

“Ashman put them in his bag sir,” said Hussain, matter-of-factly, “can I do a car then?”


I looked up at the class. Abdul #1 was lying backwards on a chair. His head was touching the ground and his legs were in the air. His jumper and shirt had slipped down his torso. Three of the others were drawing on his exposed stomach with biros.


Ashman stared out of the window looking like he’d just stolen yet more school equipment. Ashman regularly went home with colours, rulers, pencils, pens, reams of paper (and probably overhead projectors, videos and maybe the odd minibus) in his grubby Hi-Tec pump bag.

I stood up. Standing up is a prerequisite for gaining control of the room. They tell you that in college. Well, actually, I don’t think they did tell me that in college but trust me it is.

“Right lads! Put down your pens and look this way…”

“Is this okay? I’ve finished,” shouted Kasim. He ignored my masterful control of the class, leapt out of his chair and waved a piece of paper in my face.

“Sit down Kasim.” I snatched the paper from him. He looked disappointed that I wasn’t immediately praising him for his work and made no effort to sit down.


“Shut up Kasim!”

For a moment Kasim looked like he was about to cry. Then he sat down. The class, momentarily shocked by me shouting at Kasim, quietened, apart from Munib and Ali, who continued to jabber across the passive and possibly comatose Mr Fallows at each other, or more specifically, at each others’ sisters. Ashman furtively took the colours out of his bag and placed them on the desk.

“Get out your planners out please,” I said.

Another thing they forgot to teach me at college, but I worked out within about half an hour of walking into this school, is that writing usually shuts up a rowdy class. You get the pupils to write something - anything - in their books. Keep making them write more and more so that they can never catch up. Threaten homework if they don’t finish in time. Write long convoluted sentences that completely contradict your own lessons on simple and clear sentence construction on the board for them to copy. Keep on writing. When they start complaining that their arms hurt, give them a pompous lecture about the lack of stamina among youngsters today and get them to write some more. Remember that adults can write quicker than kids. The more sentences and the more convoluted the better. With a bit of luck you can keep going until the bell goes.

Abdul: “Sir, I-I-I-I’ve lost my planner sir. I-I-I-I’m going to buy a new planner tomorrow sir. Shall I-I-I-I write it in my book?”

Me: “Abdul, you lost your planner in February. It is now June the ninth. Write it on your hand, or the desk, or anywhere. Why don’t you write it on your stomach next the sketches.”

Abdul: “Can I-I-I borrow a pen?”

Me: “Why haven’t you got a pen?”

Abdul: “I-I-I lost it in Maths sir.”

Me: “In February?”

Abdul: “I’ll write it in my book.”

Me: “Yes, Abdul. Do that.”

Abdul: “Sir, I-I-I lost my book. I-I-I think I-I left it in Maths. Someone nicked it.”

I ignored Abdul. His behaviour was all just a tactic to be let off writing, which was ironic since with his stammer written communication, for him, was often less effort than spoken

. “Okay class, here’s your homework.”

“I’ve got to go to my auntie’s,” interjected Raman from the back, by way of excusing his lack of homework two days before he failed to produce it.

“Take it with you Raman. I’m sure your auntie will be delighted you are doing your homework,” I told him, knowing that if he took it he would arrive on Monday announcing that he had left it in Science, until I reminded him he went to his Auntie’s, which would help him remember that he actually didn’t leave it in Science but now he remembers he left it at his Auntie’s, whom of course, he never actually visited because she lives somewhere outside of Islamabad. I turned to the board and wrote several long, convoluted sentences that, roughly translated, meant ‘finish your work at home’. There was some movement while my back was turned. I finished the last sentence and turned around. As if by magic three-quarters of the class had their coats on and were packing away their books.

“What are you doing?” I asked them.

“It’s home time.” Abdul #2 said.

“No it isn’t.”

“But you gave us homework.”

“Abdul, look at the clock. What does it say?”

Abdul #2 looked embarrassed. Abdul #1 helped him out.

“It’s 40 past 2.”

“And the lesson ends at…?”

“When the bell goes.” Said Kasim, with unerring logic.

I glared at him with as much psychotic violence as I could muster.

“Five to three. The lesson ends at five to three. It’s ended at five to three for the past two years. Every day you’ve been to school for the last one-hundred weeks the lesson has ended at five to three!” There was a moment of silence while people got to grips with this mathematical revelation and wondered why I was shouting again.

“Can we go early then?” said Abdul #2


“But I’ve finished,” said Kasim, rather proudly. I remembered I had Kasim’s paper in my hand. I looked at it. It was a rather rudimentary sketch, done in ballpoint pen, of a face with a Nike baseball cap on. In the mouth of the face was an oversized spliff. I knew it was a spliff because the word SPLIF was written on it. Where the words I Have A Dream should have been were three other words, scrawled semi-legibly with a fading brown felt tip in Abdul#2’s distinctive scrawl…. Shag you mum!

Everything was lost. I had to fill fifteen minutes of nothingness at the end of a Friday with some activity. I fell back on the old-early-finish-Friday trick of tidying my classroom.

“Right everyone. I will let you get out early, but only after you’ve helped me tidy the room.”

Abdul #1 liked tidying. In fact it was probably his favourite thing in the world. He’d told me before that they used to ask him to tidy all the time in Primary School. Almost every day he helped out in the library, helped put up and take down displays, helped the caretaker move stuff and tidied the book boxes. I figured that it was probably an excuse to get him out of the classroom. In fact, his reading, writing, social and learning skills betrayed the fact that he probably spent pretty much of his entire Primary School career tidying. It was unfortunate for him that tidying was not examined at SATs GCSE A/S or A level, although someone, somewhere, probably offers a degree course in it.

It was such a shame that he was absolutely useless at it. For Abdul practice would never mean perfect. Abdul’s favourite job was using the staple grabber to grab staples from the walls. It took him about five minutes to dig a huge divot in the wall around a staple, leaving the staple itself standing proud and defiant.

Ten minutes later Ashman and Raman were fighting.

You see, tidying doesn’t really work as a time-wasting tactic. Abdul#2 and Munib were just two examples of students to whom tidying is totally anathema. When the jobs are divvied out to each member of the class Abdul#2 and Munib are just two of the students who use the following techniques to avoid tidying.

1. Completely ignore the instruction and hope the teacher will go away.

2. Serial Protesting. Protest against the fact that you were given poster removal, suggest that you are eminently qualified to spruce up the book boxes instead, when you are granted your wish, protest against this too because someone else is straightening tables and if you’d known you’d have volunteered to that. REPEAT ad nauseum.

3. Fake it. ‘Help’ with a task that four people are doing already. You do this by hovering near others who are tidying, without actually doing anything.

4. Group hopping. Move from group to group appearing to help with each but actually help with none.

5. Ignore the teacher’s further instructions, hoping they will be so caught up in organizing the protestors or the group-hoppers that they will forget you.

6. Planned incompetence. Begin a task but be so appallingly bad at it that you are quickly relieved of your responsibilities.

7. Sit or stand around doing nothing but simply will yourself to be invisible.

The problem for the teacher is this: the devil makes work for idle hands, especially idle hands that ostensibly are working but actually aren’t. Pupils who do not see the dignity in labour and refuse to involve themselves in it at all costs eventually get bored. This takes about two minutes. The teacher is quite happy if half the class take up option 7 but option 7 doesn’t work. Within two minutes the option 7 students will engage in bickering, petty vandalism, bullying of other students, shouting out of the window, trying to sneak out or generally being awkward and annoying.

Ashman and Raman fought because Ashman was Faking It and Raman was Group Hopping. Eventually the two met and continued an argument that apparently broke out several days ago and had been neither forgotten or resolved. Ashman and Raman lived by this motto: ALWAYS let the sun go down on an argument.

Five minutes to go. Mr Fallows, the classroom assistant, did the thing he does and left. Mr Fallows rarely spoke, either to the teacher or the pupils he was supervising. Most of the time he simply sat there, as if he was working out complex mathematical equations in his head and the noise and activity around him was a mild, but not fatal, distraction. He always left the room early. Sometimes as early as about ten minutes into the lesson. He never explained, or made any other verbal overtures before he went. Technically, I think he should have asked permission, even in that soft way that elicits your approval without appearing less powerful than you. But he didn’t. He would stand up and make a gesture that was kind of half-way between “oops I forgot to turn the gas off!” and “I’ll be back in a mo’”. And then he disappeared. Everyone (including his boss) knew that he had a secret coop at the back of the stage where he sat and read the paper. Sometimes people peaked in and caught him snoozing amongst the old papier mache scenery and musty moth-eaten costumes.

I didn’t blame him. He was essentially paid peanuts to take on the role of mother to Ashman and Raman for six hours a day, whilst I only had to put up with them for a measly four hours a week.

Which were nearly over for this week. I mentally surrendered, and, ignoring the increasing uproar from the corridor where Mrs Jones’s class had executed a Friday early breakout and were running up and down shouting, and the increasing restlessness from inside my room, where the boys had never quite worked out how to commit an Friday early breakout but were annoyed they weren’t also running up and down the corridor shouting, I began to collect the books and paper.

The bell went and the boys stampeded for the door, arriving in a wedge that jammed them together and caused Rahman and Ashman to fall on top of each other into the corridor, where they were trampled by Kasim and a couple of the others. I swore quietly to myself and, looking up, was faced with Abdul #1.

“I-I-I-ll help you t-t-tidy sir,” he said.

Thanks Abdul,” I replied, pointing to the pile of sketches. Abdul picked them up, shuffled them together, curled them into a tube and casually put them straight into the bin.

Today's topic is : Class

Here are some phrases that I hardly ever hear these days, and when I do, even to my ears, they seem a bit old fashioned. "Working Class", "Middle Class", "Ruling Class".

Two things made me think about this. Firstly, after deliberately not reading it for a couple of years, I am reading Tom Wolfe’s novel I am Charlotte Simmons ( I was going to review the reviews of this book, as they are illuminating in themselves). Secondly, I watched a documentary on the BBC celebrating the tenth anniversary of Pulp’s song Common People.
(the lyrics are here: http://www.paradise-engineering.com/quotation/commonpeople.html).
Both the book and the song are impassioned and relevant dissections of class difference, yet both seem a little outdated. Whatever happened to class?

It’s not like it went away. The ruling class still rules, the working class still works and the middle classes are still in the middle. So what happened?

It seems that the discourse surrounding class has dried up.

I was reading up on the neocons (forgive me but sometimes I get my Wolfowitzes confused with my Horowitzes) the other week and kept coming across this claim that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher won the Cold War. I won’t list the reasons why this is a ridiculous claim but simply set a quiz.

Q. What was the reason for the fall of Communism?*

Was it…

  1. Defeated by the combined might of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher? or
  2. Amongst other reasons, as an complex and idealistic social experiment communism was corrupted by leaders who confused power with violence and attempted to impose a too rigid and unbending ideological system on a massive swathe of people, many of whom were neither informed about the project or interested in it. Ultimately, the experiment failed because the imposition of ideology pretty much always leads to tyranny, and, like any religious or political project the ideal which drove it in the first place is implemented by imperfect and often evil people who seemingly cannot help but bow to their own desire for power (hence the fact that lots of fervently religious people who claim to live their lives according to The Bible seem to own misprinted copies that omit the word “not” from the text of the first Commandment,). This is especially bad for an ideology that is anti-materialist, because materialism is a pretty good expression of someone’s belief that they are more powerful than someone else – hence, for example, Ceaucescu’s numerous palaces, Atari video consoles, Porsche Carreras, Sony Walkmans and big hairstyles for Mrs Ceausescu (it was the 80s remember). Also, the Communists made a big mistake – they failed to operate on a balanced budget and whilst supposedly operating a controlled and managed economy were about as good at controlling it and managing it as the average sociology student at a party college is at controlling theirs. For a student, this means that they have to smoke roll-ups and call Mom and Dad for a bail out to prevent them from living on Pot Noodles and beans on toast. For the Communists, this meant that several million perfectly innocent people starved to death. Also the Communists weren’t too happy about people who didn’t want to be Communists. Or even people who were Communists but pointed out that Communism could perhaps be run a bit better. I have done this at work sometimes and the consequence of it was that my bosses didn’t like being criticised and I was passed over for promotion. For people in Communist countries it meant they were passed over for survival. Anyway, eventually the whole thing, which was too big a project in the first place (Communist motto: “Act Global, oppress and murder local”) became unsustainable, because the leaders of Communism didn’t learn from history. You cannot make people agree with you by telling them they should, and perhaps more importantly, an unusual moustache, flamboyant and pompous hat collection and endless military parades does not make you into a good leader. Communism fell apart, a little like a shoddily managed small business whose boss shouts a lot, wears a comical fur hat, overestimates the broad appeal of its products and eventually runs out of overdraft facilities?

Around the time of Communism’s disintegration, I remember some people declaring that that was it – the struggle was over and history was finished. And I think this is one reason why class has become a non-topic. The idea that ‘we’ had won was very appealing to lots of people, and by dint of the fact that class is basically a Marxist concept, the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.

It was the same time as two other political things happened. In Britain John Major declared that he wanted to see a classless society, an idea that was joyfully embraced by the middle class liberal media, most of whom, through no fault of their own, had never really experienced class differences up close (The middle class suffers from this problem, in that the middle class is pretty broad. At one end people are so desperate not be working class that they will do anything to avoid the working class, and at the other end people just don't have anything to do with the working class. The middle class hardly ever suffer from or are punished for their status). The idea of a classless society in Britain is very appealing, it makes everyone feel better. To help, Labour threw out the Trotskyite brothers with their Marxist ideology, those pesky donkey-jacketed chip-eating miners could no longer cause anyone any class-focussed strife and, despite the stockmarket crash and a recession the media centre of the country i.e. London, continued to surf the waves of money that were made when the Tories rocked the tax boat so vigorously at the end of the eighties.

In America Clinton got in. Now, I realise that my idea of class is a British one. In some ways America is a classless society. It says so in their constitution. However, the irony is that it is probably the most class-ridden society the earth has ever seen. Within a society based on the revolutionary principles of equality, elitists have had to work so much harder to establish the fact that they are, in fact, elite. They work really hard at it, they are obsessed. But Clinton was an exception. Firstly, he was from the South. The South I ask you?! Secondly (and by the way it doesn’t matter whether any of this is true, it’s about the perception of him not being an eastern seaboard blue-blood) he came from a place called Hope (which is near a place called Hot Springs). He was the modern embodiment of the kid who grew up in a log-cabin and ended up as Prez. Hurrah! America is the perfect mythical classless society and he is the proof. Rather conveniently, he also sorted out the budget deficit and everyone had lots of jobs and prosperity. People didn’t suffer as much for their status under him, and if they did – as surely they did – they weren’t punished. In fact, he apologised and promised he’d make it better for them. Even as they died in emergency rooms for lack of insurance, they died smiling. Staring off into an optimistic future.

All these things pushed class off the agenda. It withered and died.

Which worried me. Instead of working class these days, we have Chavs. Chavs aren’t a political concept, they are a consumer group. Perhaps this indicates another reason why class is such a taboo topic for discourse. The mysterious and mythical ‘they’ don’t want us to think in political terms because it’s bad for business. Pretty much, if everyone is to be a consumer, everyone has to be some kind of middle class. For those who are poor and traditionally working class you just change the name. You treat them like aspirant bourgeoisie and they respond by behaving like aspirant bourgeoisie. You create special categories of consumer goods to make them aspire to. Often this involves the word “Jeans”. Calvin Klein Jeans, Dolce and Gabbana Jeans, Paul Smith Jeans. In these cases Jeans is shorthand for ‘just, but only just, within your price-range. So save up your minimum wage, suckers.’

So who benefits? The ruling class, of course. As Verbal Kimt suggested : “the greatest trick the devil played was to convince everyone that he didn't exist.”

*The answer is 2, by the way.

In other news,
Half of me is horrified by this story and half of me is amused.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

today's topic is : feeling ill

There is nothing like watching Man Utd get beaten to make you feel a teensy bit better.

However, at the risk of sounding like a stereotypical male, I woke up this morning feeling ill. Not ill enough to not function, not ill enough to revel in the horror of my symptoms and actually enjoy the endless rounds of chicken soup and hallucinatory dreaming, but ill enough to be mildly frustrated that I don't feel better. Ill enough to complain just a little bit.

I blame aeroplanes and people who travel. Time was that your parents made sure that you you were exposed to illnesses and germs when you were a baby so you could develop immunity to all the nasty diseases that were floating around your local area. But these days it doesn't work. There is no such thing as a local area. Everybody travels around the world all the time and, as time goes on, people travel further and more often. Longer times spent on planes means more opportunities for germs to be circulated in the air conditioning. Hanging around in airports means more chance to be exposed to germs from all over the world. Which are then spread all around where I am working or shopping or whatever.

In my job - education - it is even worse than for normal people. In the past parents used to look after their poor pustulating, phlegm swamped brats when they were ill. Now everyone has to spend 22 hours a day in the office and they send their ill kids to school to get rid of them. I spend my time in roomfuls of sputtering, fevered, nasally dribbling brats and it only takes one of them to have 'adventurous' parents who went to Korea or Paraguay on a highly educational adventure holiday to infect us all with obscure diseases that our immune systems have never seen before.

Parents: Face it, your kids are not interested in Temples and are almost fatally bored by anything other than GTA. crystal meth, or flourescent crystal meth driven cartoons. Take them camping or send them to the park. Oh, and by the way, your child's fetid snot is not cute. It's not just a little sniffle. It's a tropical bloody disease that is destined to spoil MY weekend.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s1464100.htm -turns out I was wrong about the planes

today's topic is : the first post

Having a blog is old hat. Worse than that, it's
ancient hat. I read some other blogs and they were generally in four categories.
  1. Quite fun but with a limited audience. These are blogs that stick to one topic almost obessively. There's something reassuring about other peoples' obsessions.
  2. Autobiographical. These are almost always boring.
  3. Occasionally interesting, but generally very specific. Lots of academic blogs are like this. People having endless competitive discussions about obscure topics with the three people in the world who know enough about said topics to competitively discuss them with.
  4. Blogs that just copy off other blogs.
Time is, of course, a factor. When do some people find the time to write all this stuff? It seems that even people with proper jobs spend almost all their time at work not actually working at all, but writing blogs and such other activities. I imagine that lots of people give up on their bloggin because they have no time.

I think the virgin blogger's next problem is believing that what you have to say is remotely interesting to anyone else. It's a confidence question, I guess. I think this is also a reason why people give up blogging. Like the songwriter who has one great album in them, they simply run out of interesting things to say.