Sunday, July 30, 2006

today : I get involved in a drugs scandal or Medication's What You Need.

Following my world record attempt the other day I really believed that I had set the global mark for the shortest blog entry of all time

However, I must announce today that the record may be invalidated because I failed a drugs test. It seems that when rigorously tested, the initial samples indicate that I was riddled with banned substances, namely:

Head and Shoulders
Hawaiian Tropic Factor 25
The hint of lime that was in my bottled water
and Rennies.

Dick Pound (surely a made up name), Head of the World Anti-Doping Agency was unavailable for comment at the time of writing, but it is not looking good. My record may be wiped from the book before it is even validated. I apologise. It looks like I have let down my fans and supporters, the world of blogging and most importantly myself.

I now plan to switch to Baseball.

today : burnt out, fading away

My first Top of the Pops memory was probably a false one. I recall seeing Stevie Wonder performing I Wish and Bob Marley perfoming Jammin' on an episode when I was about 10 or 11. Both seemed as if they came from another galaxy, which they kind of did. And that was the beauty of the Pops. It was essentially crap because it reflected the popular taste of the day and in the seventies at least was not prejudiced against novelty slush. But this created juxtapositions that you simply could not make up. Peter Skellern accompanied by a brass band followed immediately by some gushingly moronic centre-parted DJs and then Pan's People trying to interpret Donna Summer's I Feel Love. Donna's song was number one for nine weeks and she never bothered to get on a plane and appear. Neither was there even a rudimentary video. You could almost sense the frustration amongst the TOTP honchos. Week after week they relied on Pan's People (who were everything you could wish for in a dance troupe APART from sexy) and some rudimentary video feedback effects to interpret the futuristic sounds of Moroder's bouncing and stuttering synths. They needn't have been frustrated because somewhere in the North of England there was a teenage lad who was struggling to understand this fantastic sound that was beamed from the tinny speaker in our TV directly from outer space. It wasn't even music really. Not as I understood it.

Niche marketing killed top of the pops. MTV base, Smash Hits TV, The Kerrang Channel, MTV and the general strive for archness and edginess amongst the explosion of competing pop shows that grew up in the past 10 years. It's no longer acceptable to jam Brian and Michael alongside Gloria Gaynor, followed by Lindisfarne and the Undertones. This worked for decades because Totp was the only music show that you could see on normal telly (The Whistle Test was tucked away at 11pm on BBC2). It was the place where music met popular culture. An iconic Totp performance guaranteed a place in history, at least until Friday night. It was where you got your fix of both the music and the genuine otherworldly idols who made it

But gradually pop music ate pop culture and now it is everywhere - to the point of saturation, which renders the function of TOTP obsolete. These days you can watch music for 24 hours a day on TV and listen to music for 24 hours a day without making any effort at all. There's so much music around that you don't even have to turn on the radio or put a record on to hear it. It pours out of the TV, out of other peoples' cars. It bleeds from strangers' headphones. It accompanies you in the chemists shop, the supermarket and, I found out recently, in the Accident and Emergency waiting room. Your favourite pop star is no longer aloof and unreachable. They probably have their own reality show and you can even talk to them on myspace. Who needs a half-hour window on a Thursday night?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

today : Don't stop me now

The whole world, I sense, is pretty baffled as to reluctance of the US and UK governments to call for cease fire in the Middle East. Why is that? It flies in the face of every accepted diplomatic protocol and just appears bizarre.

But if you think about it it doesn't seem so strange. All the evidence proves that neither Blair or Bush seem to think like most normal people. While the rest of the world hates and despises war and would do anything to avoid it, they see it as just another tactic to use. After all, they used it in Iraq as a political and business tool. Lebanon apparently doesn't have any oil or things to give away to Halliburton. It seems actually to be a war between people who want to kill each other. And remember, even if B+B aren't happy that people get killed, they certainly don't mind it. Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are men of conscience perhaps they are like those guys in gangster movies or spy shows whose first murder is just a rites of passage. It's often said that your first one is the worst one. After that it gets quite easy. Blair and Bush found that blowing up Afghan wedding parties and Baghdadi primary schools wasn't so bad after all - in fact it was all a bit like a video game. And when their opinion polls went up because of it...

I am assuming that The US especially is pretty happy for other people to take on problematic states and groupings in the middle east. It saves having to draft reservists and send them instead. Let's let the Israelis send their reservists to do the fighting. They are pretty keen and let's face it, they kind of owe us one.

It's odd logic where war is concerned but not without precedence. America has a habit of getting into foreign conflicts and refusing to accept that they might not win - hence Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.

However, eventually a cease fire will happen. It will even be brokered by the US and UK. But not yet. I just have a feeling that the truth is simpler than most people have assumed.

Recently my sister bought a Digital Cable Box, DVD player and VCR the other week, all for less than a hundred quid. What a bargain! Yesterday, I went to buy a box set of one of my favourite TV shows. After months of it being 25 quid I found that the price has doubled in every store. It was now 50 quid - twice as much as my sister's DVD player cost. This is the principle of corporate share price driven selling. There is no real money made in single item purchases like DVD players or Printers. The real cash is made in selling the repeat items. The software.

And the same counts for weapons manufacturers. It's all very well to sell a missile launcher, but your share price will suffer if the customer doesn't come back for more. You have to use the ink in your overpriced cartridge in order to have to buy another one. Ink, laser guided bombs, bullets, artillery shells. Whatever.

A cease fire too soon will mean less ordnance -software - used. Less profit and less orders for new, bigger better stuff. Let them empty out the warehouses a bit before we try to stop it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

today : sorry Elisha, but it's a no

I apologise. I am not usually the sort of person who will set out to hurt anyone's feelings. especially not in public. But I have decided today to announce that I am never ever going on a date with Elisha Cuthbert. Not for anything.

The reason I am having to disappoint the sometime blond, bow-lipped beauty of American Tv and film is little to do with the fact that I am decades older than her, do not move in Hollywood circles or play Ice Hockey to professional standard (If she thinks these reasons aren't enough already) but, having only recently caught up and watched the first two seasons of 24 I have decided that the girl is simply too risky to spend time around.

So far she has been kidnapped three times, arrested at half-hourly intervals, implicated in drug dealing, witnessed 4 murders at close hand - commiting one of them and being charged with another, caused her (then) boyfriend to have his leg amputated, almost drowned, been under threat from a nuclear bomb, been abducted in a home made nuclear bunker by Johnny Drama and then an accidental burglar-come-murderer in a liquor store, almost eaten by cougars and nearly been shot, stabbed, blown up, tortured or beaten to death too many times to count. And that's just in two days! As well as that, her father is a really serious hard-case who knows all about torturing people and will kill you as much as look at you. I ask you. Is that the sort of young lady you would take on a date even if she wouldn't stop pestering you? I think not. I mean, everyone likes a little danger in a relationship but most of the people she speaks to seem to meet some kind of grisly end fairly rapidly after first contact. And that's not a chance I'm willing to take. To paraphrase Jack, I am going to do everything in my power to ensure my own safety.

So it's a good job that she's so toughened by all these experiences, because, let's face it, there is no way of letting someone down gently. Rejection always feels like a hammer blow.

I am sorry Elisha, but whatever you thought could happen between us, can't.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Today : Ooh la la!

One of my favourite film directors is Frenchman Patrice Leconte, event though it is quite a while since any of his movies have been widely released in Britain. In fact, some of his recent movies such as Rue des Plaisirs, Confidences trop intimes, FĂ©lix et Lola, Une chance sur deux and a couple of others are either not available on DVD or only available in Region 1 coding only. It's frustrating for someone like me, who is not good enough at French to watch french movies without subtitles (my French is of a level where I can function verbally when in the fair land of wine and shrugs and read it slowly, decoding laboriously as I go along, but to follow the nuances of screen performance. That'd be a "Non!" "Pas de chance!")

So, anyway, I was bored the other day and went to my local Borders in the hope of finding an interesting fillum to watch. I began by looking for a copy of l'Homme du Train, which I fancied watching.

Of course I couldn't find it. What I could find was shelf full of 'World Cinema'. Ai No Corrida, Annabelle Partegee, A Ma Soeur, Romance, La belle Noiseuse, Baise-Moi, The Piano Teacher, Audition. Can you see a theme?

In the seventies 'foreign' films were synonymous with 'mucky' films. Everyone knew that Brigitte Bardot would shed her clothes at a moments notice and without any prompting at all. Similarly, the legacy of European Art movies such as I am Curious, Yellow left their whiff of controversy in the air. IACY featured a woman touching (whisper) a gentleman's thingy! The general population, when they thought of French films didn't think of Albert Lamorisse's (he died, interestingly, by falling out of a helicopter) enchanting 1956 short The Red Balloon (which was endlessly shown on schools TV throughout the 70s), M. Hulot's Holiday or Jour de Fette. They thought of films where sexy nubile actresses appeared without any clothes and frequently looked like they might really be doing it. Certainly in the provinces they were rarely released, and often ended up playing in picture houses in the seedy end of town.

The fact that foreign films were synonymous with 'filth' was reinforced in 1986 when Channel 4 introduced its 'Red Triangle' series of films, essentiually selling art cinema as something controversial and racy. So, the films of Hector Babenco, Jean Jacques Beneix and Claude Foraldo, amongst others, were branded as 'adult'.

In the past decade, after the retirement of long term chief James Ferman, the BBFC have relaxed their guidelines somewhat, especially where the screen depiction of fantasy sex and violence is concerned. Ferman was the product of a pre video and video game culture and a time where Mary Whitehouse and her ilk actually had influence. The new guys took a more sensible view of things, allowing adults more choice over what they watched, and parents more choice over what their children could see.

Yet even with the advent of video and DVD 'French' films are still seen and marketed as dirty. sexy things. Clearly some of them are and are enjoyable and entertaining because of it. I have no problems watching, par example, Ludivine Sagnier gallivanting around in the altogether. But I cannot think of a British director who would make a seven hour film about a nude painting (actually maybe Michael Winterbottom might), much less a high profile mainstream actress equivalant to Emmanuelle Beart, who would appear in it, avec totally no clothes for six and a half hours of it (okay, earlier in her career Tara Fitzgerald might, given her reputation for getting her kit off). Seriously, though, La Belle Noiseuse is a movie that could only really be conceived of in France. And simple nudity in some eyes isn't dirty at all. Baise moi is, intentionally so. Kind of like a heterosexual Greg Araki movie, which has its place in any country's film production schedule.

Occasionally, of course, DVD releasing schedules will be affected when a foreign language film hits and creates some interest in the film-maker or the star. The most recent recipient of this interest is Audrey Tautou, whose pre-Amelie work is now widely available (apart from, strangely, Le Libertin - the one film where she acts like a 'french' actress i.e. having accidentally forgotten to wear any clothing). I doubt Venus Beauty Institute would have got a release outside of France had it not been for the Tautou name.

Now I realise that subtitling is a laborious and difficult job and that the release of a DVD is an expensive business that needs to justify itself financially. But I cannot, surely, be the only English speaking person who is interested in non-English films that don't necessarily feature lashings of 'controversial' nudity and sex. Let's have the chance to see more fillums with less flesh please.

btw, although it hasn't been verified, I am pretty sure that my entry of yesterday DID in fact set a world record for the shortest blog entry. Yaaay!

Sunday, July 23, 2006


today: dedication's what you need

Apart from keeping David Frost in a job long after he had given up with the satire and hard hitting interviews and had yet to settle on the genteel pointlessness of Through The Keyhole, I never could really see the point of World Records. I had a Guiness book in about 1978 and, in retrospect, I found it pretty boring. Last night on TV I watched a few minutes of a TV show where people set out to break some world records. Baton twirling, breakdancing and the like. My question is....why? Listing records strikes me as a childish macho attempt to control the world by statitics, another version of re-alphabetising your footie programmes collection whilst waiting for your airfix models to dry.

Of course, everyone who grew up in the same era as me has memories of Roy Castle and Record Breakers. Whilst Roy was busy turning a diused fridge into a trumpet, Norris McWhirter was put on the spot and was asked questions by the children in the audience. Norris, as befits any extreme right politican, answered every question with a politicians gift for obfuscation, dissembling and, if none of that worked, simply changing the subject. Norris was supposed to have and eidetic memory but didn't really (mainly because the notion of an eidetic memory is complete rubbish). A typical exhange went thus:

Rosy cheeked Sylvia Young Theatre school kid : My question is what is the largest bowl of custard in the world?
Norris : That's a very interesting question. During the largest custard pie fight in the world, that took place in Chorley in the North of England in 1976, where 212 residents managed to throw 748 custard pies in a minute, I imagine that they filled the pies from a pretty large bowl of custard.

It wasn't even complicated. Anyone can lie to a child.

So anyway, just to prove how pointless this world-record breaking thing is, I am currently limbering up for my very own attempt. The record is a pretty challenging one - The World's shortest blog entry. I shall be attempting it later today, or maybe tomorrow.

Wish me luck and Godspeed.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

today : partners in war

Listening to the radio the other night (I really must post a tribute to the best radio broadcaster in the world, Mr Rhod Sharp) I heard an interesting interview with a Middle East commentator. The subject was, of course, the current nightmare situation in Isreal/Lebanon/Palestine.

In his second language English the commentator referred to Isreal and Hezbollah as 'partners in war'. Perhaps he didn't mean it, perhaps he was struggling for vocabulary that he didn't quite have. But that phrase "partners in war" resonated with me as highly appropriate. These people like fighting, they love war, they need each other to fight against to justify their ideologies. They are not interested in peace. The sooner we realise this then the better we will be able to deal with whatever death and chaos they cause throughout the world.

And we could probably take this further. Rarely is any war fought that is a simple case of good versus evil, right triumphing over might. Most wars and countries behind them are driven by political agendas and are quite deliberate in their violence.Which leaves me even more at a loss about how to respond.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

today : Phew! What a Scorcher

So anyway, apart from the fact that British fridges are just NOT BLOODY COLD ENOUGH, I am enjoying our mini-heatwave.

Today is supposed to be the hottest day that our fair isles have EVER had. Personally I get the impression that it is the South East of the country that is going to be hottest. And of course, the London-based media are all going loony over it. The poor people of the former Londinium are going to have to spend all day at work in unbearable heat reaching upwards of 75 degrees. That means getting on the tube or a bus, going to the office and all those other horrendously difficult things that they do. All in unbearable heat. Aww diddums.

We are getting warnings about how to avoid death, which basically summed up are:
1. Waft yourself with a newspaper
2. Don't wear Damart.
3. Remember to drink water.

The red-tops always despatch a photographer or seven to Brighton Beach to take 'news' photos of topless women on the very pebbly and uncomfortable looking nude beach there The Sun is here, The Mirror here and The Star is here). Even the TV news uses a peak of sunshine to show 'news' footage of office ladies sunbathing next to the Serpentine. Somewhere in the nation a local TV reporter will actually try and fry an egg on the pavement. It's pathetic. The projected temperature is going to be 95 degrees, according to, the same temperature the fair people of New Orleans and Dubai are experiencing even as I speak In Austin TX it is 100 degrees today. In Death Valley it is currently 115 degrees.


The problem we have in this country is that we are just not set up for weather. It's like we have a weather blind spot. No heaters in Winter, no air conditioning in Summer. For a country that has such an unpredictable weather pattern we always panic when weather actually happens. We build houses on flood plains and then act surprised when they flood, one inch of snow causes the entire nation to grind to a halt and now a little bit of heat IN THE SUMMER is all too much to bear.

Monday, July 17, 2006

today : things you will never read

Big business, MPs and human rights campaigners united to condemn the Government’s new extradition policy with the US after The Blackburn Three lost a landmark High Court battle to avoid being extradited to America on conspiracy charges.

Lord Justice Laws ruled that it would be “unduly simplistic” to treat the case as a purely English affair and that he could not refuse the request to extradite Mohammed Khan, Sarfraz Mohammed and Akhtar Hussain for trial.

American prosecutors allege that the trio conspired with U.S. suspects in the USA to plan damage to U.S. interests

The judgment drew widespread fury from critics, who insisted it was a British case and should be tried in this country.

The CBI said that the ruling set a worrying precedent under which UK citizens could be extradited without proof that there was a case to answer.

Under the 2003 Extradition Act, America is able to demand a Briton’s extradition without having to provide any evidence. However, Britain has to prove its case in a US court to extradite US citizens to the UK.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesman, described the Extradition Act yesterday as “appalling” and “dreadfully one sided”.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the human rights group, said Britain was “trading away the freedoms” of its citizens. “If we are wrong that this is a violation of fundamental rights, why will the US Government not allow similar traffic for its own citizens in the other direction?”
from The Times


At the 11th hour, the extradition battle involving the three Pakistani immigrant suspects known as The Blackburn Three has taken a genuinely shocking turn. The apparent suicide of Abbas Mohammed - a colleague of Mohammed Khan, Sarfraz Mohammed and Akhtar Hussain, and potentially a key witness in the case against them - transforms the dynamics of this complex and sinister affair.

His death was announced just as MPs were debating the case (all credit to the Liberal Democrats for bringing it before the Commons) and the three accused were preparing to bid farewell to their families before this morning's flight to custody in a Texan jail. Surely this is the moment to stay the extradition and take stock.

The case against their forced removal to the United States remains unanswerable. The 2003 Extradition Act (which has not even been ratified by Congress yet) allows British citizens to be extradited to America without prima facie evidence. This makes the reciprocal arrangement dangerously one-sided.

In the Commons yesterday, Tony Blair disingenuously claimed the burden of proof is "roughly analogous" on both sides of the Atlantic. Legal experts say otherwise, warning that grave injustices could be done when America can request extradition without providing any evidence against a suspect.

The case of the Blackburn Three is another depressing example of Mr Blair's craven eagerness to do Washington's bidding. The treaty has led to many more British citizens being extradited to the United States to face trial (and yes, the majority of them have not been charged with terrorism) than American citizens being extradited to this country.

This country may have a feeble reputation for dealing with crime, but allowing the accused men - who vehemently protest their innocence - to be hauled off to await trial in custody for a year or more both delays justice and denies them the proper opportunity to prepare their defence.

In the Commons yesterday, the Government was roundly defeated on the arguments. Ministers from Mr Blair down simply appear desperate to wash their hands of the case. This is shabby behaviour. The Blackburn Three may well have a case to answer, but should be able to do so in this country, where the crime, if any, was committed.

from The Daily Telegraph

The only thing I changed here were the names and the accusations

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

today : time off

photo by me 2006

I am planning to take time off for a few days. Its cool to just leave everything and go do something else. I reccommend it (esp to Mr GW Bush of Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC, amongst others).

Monday, July 10, 2006

today's classic footie scrap is..

...zizi vs Materazzi

today : why it never rains in zurich or berlin

I must admit that I watch less and less TV when it is actually on. I tend to catch up with stuff later, watching box sets of things I like. That is how I missed Alias. I ignored it at first because it appeared far too Buffy for my liking, but last year picked up season one on DVD for a tenner. It's been sitting there forlornly on the shelf for a year.

For reasons that are too boring to go into, I was laid up last week and decided to watch it. And do you know what? It's pretty good.

Jennifer Garner is kind of perfect for the role of Sydney. She has a chameleonic face that seems to sway between very young and old and takes make up well. She is pretty but somehow unintimidating with it. Even when she dresses up as a dominatrix, she gives the impression that she is only kidding and would rather be wearing fluffy pajamas with bunny rabbits on them, indulging in nothing more wicked than a tub of chunky monkey.

Anyway, as well as being kind of gripping in a light and watchable way, Alias has thrown up several questions and observations.

1. Is there a policy that you should only shoot someone if you can't tranquilise them or even better, kick-box them into submission? Surely it's better, and more cost-effective to kill the baddies if you get the chance.
2. Does this CIA policy extend to the evil SD6? Seems so.
3. Why bother spending time and money tracking terrorists and other evil-types throughout the world anyway? All you really have to do is bug every nightclub that plays not-very-loud techno music.
4. If Sidney is such a genius, why does she not seem to know that every man within about 100 miles of her just wants to get into her pants? Actually it's worse than that. They LURVE her. This is ironic, because at least once in every episode she deliberately uses this knowledge to gain access to secret operations centres and reel in lecherous villains.
5. If your life is already a tissue of lies, deceit and secrets why even have a room-mate to complicate things further. As well as causing yet more tension lies deceit and the need for secrecy, it's obvious that at some point they will be exploited by the enemy and replaced with a genetically altered evil twin.
6. In Aliasworld, male age is denoted by shaving. Young men don't shave, but once you reach about 40 then it is compulsory.
7. Geeks don't count in this, so Marshall and Weiss are clean shaven. Actually now I think of it Sloane sports grey whiskers constantly. So scrub that whole theory.
8. In order to secretly infiltrate the nightclubs playing not very loud techno music, it seems that Sydney needs to wear elaborate disguises - most often including a swish and sexy outfit that's rather impractical for kick-boxing lecherous villains into submission and a radical, often oddly coloured, hairstyle. Yet her male companion agents dress the same as they always did and are never recognised.
9. If somebody would just shoot Sloane and Stark then everyone's problems would be solved. It's not like nobody ever had the chance.
10. Whatever exotic and faraway places the CIA goes in the world to mount an operation, it never rains.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

today : Portugese men o' floor

Goodbye, farewell, auf wiedersehen adieu to Portugal. Nobody will miss them for one reason and one reason only. They are cheats. Which is a shame because they have some marvelously skilfull players and are capable of some pretty moments of attractive football.

Yesterday's display against France was close to a new low of diving, play acting and sheer bad sportsmanship. And they deserved to lose. The prime example of this is their attitude to the penalty that won France the game. It was a penalty. Henry skined Carvalho who brought him down. Perhaps Henry, realising he'd been fouled, exaggerated his fall a little, but contact was made and there is nothing Carvalho could have done. He is prone to being pretty reckless in the tackle and he was just beaten by a moment of vavavoom from Henry.

Yet the Portugese players seemed convinced that he had dived. Even to the point where Scolari felt the need to blame the ref for his team's defeat.
Here's the news Phil : your team lost because they never really tried to score a goal. Your team lost because you instructed them to systematically try and cheat. You are the vicitm only of your own foolishness and arrogance.

As against England, the Portugese didn't just dive. They took it further, exploiting the 'sporting' action of kicking the ball out when a player is injured. They are the prime exponents of this. After executing a dive their players stay down pretending to be injured and the game is stopped. On more than one occasion this happened in order to break up the game and stop the opposition's attacking momentum.

The scene that sums up their aproach came last night. Late on in the game Simao, the sub winger got down the left and put over a splendid cross towards the six yard box where two attackers faced two defenders. As the ball came over both Portugese attackers threw themselves to the ground in bids to get a penalty, and the ball trickled away to safety. They never even tried to score a goal by using skill, guile, pace and wit. Their only intention was to cheat. Which coming from players who appear to have the skill, guile , pace and wit to win games by outplaying the opposition is pretty disheartening for fans of the game.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

today : make mine a lukewarm one.

Summer is here. I know this because last night at 9pm the thermometer in my kitchen said 83 degrees. And unlike many of my compatriots I actually enjoy the heat. It'

But one thing about the British Summer gets me going

If you visit a country like The United States or Spain or Italy the problem does not arise. They have it sorted and consequently their quality of Summer life is much, much higher.

The thing is: English fridges are simply not bloody cold enough. There you are, strolling along (or toddling, if you're a toddler and not a stroller) in your Eric Morecambe style shorts, proudly displaying white veined legs, knobbly knees and your rather suave-looking knotted hankie hat. It is 85 degrees outside and the sun is blazing down. Life is glorious. You sneak admiring glances as girls wander by, showing off their bulging, barbecued red shoulders, equally pale and veined fleshy legs (but with added cheap self-tan streaks) and garish flip-flops.

But then you feel a bit thirsty and pop (or bob, if you're a bobber rather than a popper, I myself prefer pop, especially if I am buying pop, because that means that I can pop in to get pop and then pop out again) into a shop to buy a cold drink. Except it's not cold. It hardly even classifies as lukewarm. In fact it's barely less warm than the ambient air-temperature. In Death Valley.

In Mississipi or Malfi, California or Corfu, the freezing glass of a cold drink is one of the great sensuous delights of Summer. They even make 'sexy' adverts where bronzed models hold cold glass bottles, slightly sweating with condensation, against their (slightly sweating with....sweat) faces (or thighs or whatever) and make pouty expressions of delight (kind of a step down from the Herbal Shampoo Orgasm face).

In England, this is impossible. Because THE FRIDGES ARE NOT BLOODY COLD ENOUGH! They are crap. In some countries you could get away with selling British shop fridges as industrial slow-cookers.

Why? I wonder. Is it the actual construction of the fridges - those rickety, open fronted, wheezing devices, seemingly in situ serving chilled goods to fractious coach parties on their way to grey and decrepit tourist attractions since the First War? Or is it the tight-fisted shopkeepers who, like a nation of mean-spirited Martin Bryces set their fridges at one degree below boiling hot in an attempt to pinch a few pennies (and also seemingly in situ since the First War).

When WalMart (part of the Walmart family) bought Asda (also part of the Walmart family) I was happy. Well, obviously not happy about the anti-union stance, poor wages, sweatshops, starving farmers and all the general scumsucking corporate evil greed, but happy that we at last would have fridges like those in the U.S. Fridges that not only kept drinks cold in warm weather., but did it with pride, relish and wisps of dry ice like something from a Sisters of Mercy video. But even my local Asda (in case you're a goldfish or Guy Pearce in that backwards film and forgot, part of the Walmart family) has warm fridges. Damn. What the hell is going on?

So my conclusion is that it must just be a geo-physical thing. Like if you go to Australia the water goes down the plug-hole the other way. When you install a fridge in England, a specific uncontrollable, geographical, gravity based feature of the nation causes them to be unable to cool anything to below about a gazillion degrees.

today : alex/white flames/green wave/confused man

photographs by me 2006

today : a word of thanks

Like you want to know, but I'm telling you anyway. Recently I have had a pretty terrible time - probably the worst few months of my life thus far. Everything kinda went into flux and I was facing a real danger of life meltdown. Today it was over. That danger was suddenly gone.

And this is exactly the kind of time when you disover who your friends are, and the true mettle of your family. Because, let's face it, the two are more or less the same thing. They say that your friends are the family you choose. In some ways that's true. They serve similar functions, sharing the good and the bad times. I am lucky that my family is the type to stick together circle the wagons when trouble calls.

But at the risk of sounding like an excruciating Oscars speech, the last four months or so would have been nigh on impossible without four specific friends who nailed their colours to the mast and offered me unquestioning and unconditional support. They know who they are and they deserve thanks. But actually the best I, or anyone, can do is to try and reciprocate should the need arise.

On one condition. I would like them to hold off getting in any trouble until this damned headache wears off and there are no more World Cup matches to watch.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

today : relief

photo montage by me june 2006

today : a false accusation

A teacher friend of mine was recently the subject of a false accusation. It was upsetting for him, because he is a diligent and kind teacher who goes out of his way to approach his students with care and respect.

What he did was, in a lesson about smoking, illutsrate a statistic by using the class as a kind of human pie chart. Imagine this room represents all teenagers then these two tables over here would be the smokers. Of course, this led to some mirth. Some of the students at those three tables mimed lighting up, students from other tables pretended to waft smoke away from their faces and wagged their fingers at 'the smokers'. It was the kind of humourous, slightly silly moment that makes such lessons kinda fun.

A few days later he was called in to see the Head Teacher. One of the girls in his class has complained to her mother that he had picked her out in the lesson, accused her of smoking and encouraged the rest of the class to ridicule and insult her for being so. All of this was confirmed by the girl's best friend. Without approaching my friend (who makes a point of being approachable by giving his home phone number and email to all parents) the Mother wrote to both the Head and the School Governors threatening legal action if 'something wasn't done'. My friend was pretty distressed. Firstly, the accusation was a lie. Secondly, the Mother had decided to jump on her high horse without realising what damage she might cause.

Thankfully, he took control. He phoned the Mother and talked to the girl, who, when she realised that nobody in the class but her best friend was willing to support her story, admitted that she had exaggerated the situation. She said her behaviour was because she was upset because of problems at home. The situation was resolved.The Mother agreed that she had acted in haste. However, even then, the girl went around telling people that her Mum wasn't taking any further action because he had apologised, which of course, he hadn't. He'd done nothing wrong.

During the course of investigating what had happened, my friend discovered that this girl had a record of habitually accusing teachers of picking on her and that her Mother had a similar record of demanding 'something be done'. Nobody had addressed the fact that he spent many hours investigating and resolving the situation, when he could have been doing his job, that he suffered potential damage to his career and was put through a week of anxiety and upset that he completely did not deserve. The girl will do it again to someone else. It was simply my friend's turn this time.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

today : how to improve sport

Sport is cool. Whether it's the world cup or whichever play-offs you might follow. They are one of the few glues that can hold communities together in these fragmented, postmodern times. The commentator for the Germans victory against Argentina today pointed out that this event was probably the first time that Germany was united in a real way since WW2. I would suggest since ever, given that Germany, like many modern countries, is a kind of nebulous concept created on a map.

Anyway, I digress. Sport is cool. However, I believe it can be even further improved. So here are my suggestions for improving it.

1.Ignore injuries and allow the trainers on the field during play. Only stop the game if someone is really badly hurt. This used to be the norm, but nowadays the game stops for anyone who rolls around a bit. And that's most players, most of the time.
2. If your team concedes 3 yellow cards (or one red and one yellow), then the other team automatically gets a penalty.
3.If someone gets sent off, disallow substitutions for 10 minutes to give the non-offending team a tactical advantage.
4. No sub goalies.
5. Get rid of automatic yellows. Let the ref decide. So if it's a grudge match then let the players play with a grudge and only book them if they do something they could be jailed for. This used to happen in the 70s and it was much better.
6. In penalty shootouts, allow the goalie to move off the line.
7. Give a bonus point for scoring more than three goals.
8. Players should be paid according to the bizarreness and sheer stupidity of their hairstyles. The more bizarre and the more sheerly stupid the hairstyle, the more they get paid This would make Carlos Valderama a gazillionaire and who could disagree with that?

1. In a limited overs game, such as 20-20, split the game into four innings, so that the good batters get two goes and hit more runs.

American Contact Sports
1. Disallow body armour and too much protection. We actually want a little more blood and heroism.
2. Speed it up. In American football especially, limit the number of players on each team and only allow a few short seconds between plays.
3. Hockey. Nobody wears a helmet.

Rugby Union.
1. Ban kicking straight into touch from behind the 20 metre line. The punishment, a differential penalty to the other team from where the ball was kicked.

1. One serve only allowed. Women to play the same length matches as men.

1. Reinstate the rule that says the best person in each country can enter because the world is boring without Eric the Eel Moussambanis and Eddie The Eagle Edwards's.