Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Voice Of The People

I saw this cover on British rag The Sun this week. It revealed the results of a phone poll as part of its campaign to kickstart an open, honest debate in society about how best to boost sales of The Sun. Oh, and whether to reinstate the death penalty.

It's got me thinking about the actual usefulness of phone polls. I remember the results of one on TV, two weeks after the end of the Iraq war... FOX News was asking its listeners how the United States should deal with the Iranians.

Tehran - Is It Time For Talking ...Or TOMAHAWKING?

Talking 3%
Tomahawking 96%
Don't Know 1%

Forget the idiocy - what kind of goggle-eyed, honking tool phones a 24-hour news channel to say they don't know what the answer is?

Still, The Sun drew 100,000 callers to their poll, so they must appreciate the chance to have their say. I'll leave it to you to assess the results on the merits.

But if they're polling their readership, why not go the whole hog and poll your readers on all their interests? We're talking premium rate lines, here.

Click to enlarge.

For a considered, well-argued bit of analysis on this, go read Obsolete, whose images I have shamelessly plundered.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yet More Lies From The BBC

It seems there's no end to the alarmism of the British media, as the BBC warn us of the grave threat that killer ladybirds pose to Scotland.

This is, simply, scaremongering nonsense and a clear breach of the BBC's duty to inform its viewers responsibly. I've seen them in my mum's garden, and I'm confident that I could take a ladybird in a square-go, no matter how pissed off it is.

If these cocksure, insect thugs did start rampaging about the country hassling kids and old people, I'd be glad to personally travel the entire nation kicking each one's gaily-patterned arse into next week. I'll take them ten at a time, to speed up the process.

Honestly, the media... Always overreacting. There was a programme on TV the other day about how gorillas are threatened. Well, if you ask me, anyone stupid enough to threaten a gorilla deserves everything they get, and I have no sympathy.

Whatever happened to simple common sense, for God's sake?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Doesn't It Make Your Heart Swell?

Regular readers will be sick of me touting my blue collar bona fides by talking about the years I spent working in shitty bars and restaurants, and can skip this bit.

Pardon me for repeating myself, but Britain is largely full of decent people who try to be polite and pleasant, even when provoked. Sadly, it's also blighted by a sizeable minority of spectacular curmudgeons who tend to throng together in great gaggles of pricklish indignation and spite.

In that spirit, I'll offer a hearty Good work, mate to the waiter who presented torn-faced diners with the following bill...

I realise it's possible that the diners themselves were the very soul of decorum, but I'm inclined to take their story with a pinch of salt, and I urge you to trust me on this. In my experience, when reasonable people in busy restaurants have to wait to be fed, they're usually happy to accept an honest apology and some free coffees.

Fuck-Faces, on the other hand, possess watches that count three times as fast as standard clocks, and take great delight in shouting at length about it. In a perfect world they would all be told to Suck our Dicks on a regular basis.

So I salute you, sir. You are an example to all of us too timid to risk our livelihoods for a moment's fleeting satisfaction. Mind you, I would've charged her a quid for the privilege, just to rub it in...

Friday, February 15, 2008


A few people have noticed that it's five years today since the main anti-Iraq war protests of 2003, and a struggle for the legacy is underway. You can go looking yourselves, but I'll summarise the arguments being deployed thusly...

Subsequent events have proven that the protests were a wonderful success/laughable failure, and that I was right all along.

Well, there were lots of lessons to be learned, for those prepared to look - Matt Taibbi has written extensively on the subject, although his conclusions didn't fit anyone's political agenda and he's taken nothing but abuse for them.

I never made the main event in London - never even visited the place 'til 2005, in fact. I was at the Glasgow march, a little-noticed sideshow which finished up right next to the Labour Party conference, where Tony Blair had rescheduled his speech to allow him to be in and out before the protesters arrived. If I recall, the crowd were addressed by a gaggle of tedious no-marks and cynical opportunists, as these things tend to be.

Let's just say, I have mixed feelings about it...

1. Large public demonstrations don't work, and are essentially pointless

Demonstrations are good for raising awareness of low profile issues, a sense of occasion for small, dispersed movements and nothing else. Richard Nixon spent his evenings casting nervous glances out of the White House window because the protests were unprecedented then, and looked like going on indefinitely. I'd be surprised if Tony Blair lost a wink of sleep.

Short of criminal actions, the state has adapted to and absorbed anything peaceful protest movements can throw at them. Governments know full well that protesters will show up, have their say then politely go home to sit on their backsides until election day. A glance at the last big May Day parade would show that the police can deal with crowds, and a whole raft of illiberal laws are in place to make sure that the foot of the state will connect with your arse with bone-jarring force if you step out of line.

That's why the Prime Minister's response was to stand up, announce that he was pleased that Tha Protesterz Was Free to Protess, Innit, Not Like Them Irakkys wiv Saddamz LOL... and that was it.

Of the main points of the marchers - that the war was a stupid idea argued for by proven liars and it was certain to get very large numbers of people killed - not a peep.

2. It's the 21st century - ditch the stilts, dipshit

In the 60's, Britain and America were such conformist, drab boxes of polite expectation that one person standing up and shouting Bullshit! was enough to shake the system. When nice middle class kids decided that they didn't fancy knuckling down to a life of painfully embarrassed professionalism, but wanted to grow their hair and play the bongos instead, it was treated like the apocalypse.

That's no longer true, and it's a disaster for a generation raised on Oliver Stone movies and street raves against the Tory government's anti-party legislation. Whatever your alternative lifestyle choices, idiosyncratic fashions or rebellious political opinions, it's already on offer on the High Street at very competitive prices. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is alarmed by any combination of stilts, dreadlocks, piercings, hair dye, puppets, tattoos, mohawks, facial hair, sexual orientation or capoeira dancing, because...

3. The press is the enemy of modern protest

Don't be deceived by the Indie and the Grauniad - they're preaching to the converted. The media have known how to deal with inconvenient political protests since the miners' strikes at least, and a massive one against a war that the entire apparatus of the state is dead-set on is about as inconvenient as it gets. That's why the images in the papers and on the TV that I remember now are the flamboyant hippies and the bare-chested drummers, not the huge crowds.

Trust me, to the great majority of Brits who stayed away, that's exactly how the whole day looked. A great, roiling mass of atomised freaks and student twats playing acoustic guitars and mugging up to the cameras. The press exists to give the public what it wants to see, after all.

You don't have to be a mind-reader to work out how this went down in the Times or the Torygraph, far less the response of the tabloids. The real story of the day should've been about the largest marches in British history, drawing support from all classes and all over the political spectrum... the story most people read was Large number of irrelevant, metrosexual tossers congregate in London.

But on the upside...

4. The marches were a fantastic shithead detector

No need to list the main offenders, but let's put Ian McEwan, say, forty third.

If this seems depressing and cynical, well, it is. Whatever George bloody Galloway has to say, the anti-war movement was disorganised, ineffectual and failed utterly to achieve its aim - to keep Britain out of a catastrophic war.

The point I'm trying to make is that protest is going to have to change to be useful in future. Our political and economic systems are massive, impersonal behemoths that give not one shit for our opinions on their behaviour, and will press on unabashed with any deranged schemes they have in mind.

And the people? They go home, arse around on the internet, watch football, go to work and go about their lives. Governments know that if they ignore protests, they will go away.

I'll let Taibbi say what has to be said...

"The people who run this country are not afraid of much when it comes to the population, but there are a few things that worry them. They are afraid we will stop working, afraid we will stop buying, and afraid we will break things. Interruption of commerce and any rattling of the cage of profit - that is where this system is vulnerable. That means boycotts and strikes at the very least, and these things require vision, discipline and organisation.

The 1960's were a historical anomaly. It was an era when political power could also be an acid party, a felicitous situation in which fun also happened to be a threat. We still listen to that old fun on the radio, we buy it in reconstituted clothing stores, we watch it in countless movies and documentaries. Society has kept the "fun" alive, or at least a dubious facsimile of it.

But no one anywhere is teaching us about how to be a threat. That is something we have to learn all over again for ourselves, from scratch, with new rules."

No shit.

Monday, February 11, 2008

New Additions To The Cannon

Cheers to Professor Norm, who alerts me to an ongoing controversy that had passed me by - apparently, some think that the use of modern technology is blunting people's ability to read and appreciate novels.

Well, I have to say that this seems like a rather Luddite take on the issue. I've studied English for years, and fancy myself rather well-read and erudite. I'm a holy terror to trees... I can't tolerate travelling, sitting around or even a quick cigarette outside without something to read.

Now, it's fair to say that the distractions of my new Playstation 3 and broadband connection have cut into my reading time, but with the world's media at my fingertips I'm as voracious as ever and I'm constantly learning. In just the first three months after I bought my laptop, I estimate that I learned roughly 1500 separate terms for male and female genitalia, and around ten thousand for eye-popping uses to which they can be put.

Not only that, but I discovered all kinds of exciting stuff, like - did you know that NASA never actually landed a man on the moon? It was totally all, like, shot in this studio in the Nevada desert, and that's why they framed OJ Simpson for those murders, because he was in Capricorn One and was totally trying to expose the conspiracy.

Plus, 9/11 was an inside job, and it was the same plane that hit both towers.

Anyway, new technology opens up a whole world of exceptional literature. I've been fragging motherfuckers all day on Call of Duty 4 and now I totally appreciate the dramatic tension, tender poeticism and kickass throat-ripping action of Bravo Two-Zero.

I think Shakespeare would approve.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Danny Don't Like It

Wee Danny Finkelstein is kicking off in the Times again, and you'll be stunned to hear he's having a go at the Muslims for a change. You know, just to mix it up.

Apparently, the mosque in Oxford wants to broadcast the call to prayer through loudspeakers, and have written a nice letter to the council asking if they can. Danny disapproves, because this would fundamentally change Britain's Christian character.

Well, thanks to my appreciation of our Christian heritage, I'm in complete agreement with him. I used to be woken every Sunday by the sound of the Christians calling the faithful to prayer by throwing tons of scaffolding off the roof of the church next door, so I have little time for pious cacophonies.

Oh, sure, they said they were ringing church bells, but having spent half an hour every Sunday listening to their incessant clanging and clattering, I'm certain it was scaffolding.

Now, if that mosque, or any nearer me for that matter, wished to plonk some guy outside and have him wail his lungs out on a Friday night, that's no bother at all - this is Scotland, and bearded guys bellowing incoherently in the street is a local tradition. I draw the line at loudspeakers, however - if it's necessary to cajole the faithful, perhaps they could go for semaphore, or text messaging?

Carrier pigeons are cheap and make a good hobby for the elderly, for instance.

Personally, I treat all religious people with the same respect and consideration - I believe they all have the right to worship their invisible, intergalactic superheroes however they see fit, provided they do it quietly and don't annoy the sane.

Quite frankly, I have a hard enough time concentrating on all this sin, drunkenness and fornication without having people chuffing on about the glory of God in my earhole.

As for Danny's contention that Britain's Christian heritage must be respected - I was in a church the other week that's been converted into a Hammer Horror tribute pub complete with animatronic Frankenstein and dark, satanic organ music. The clientele were a gaggle of half-dressed, tottering seventeen year olds guzzling alcopops like they were being paid by the bottle and pastel-shirted acne-casualties telling each other lies about their sexual conquests.

I think it's about time that we confessed that Britain's values can be calculated and printed on a price tag, don't you?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Week in Review - Light-Fingered Politicians

The nation crumples its newspaper in rage over the case of Derek Conway, a Tory MP who paid massive sums out of the public purse to his wife and kids.

Things have come to a pretty pass when elected officials can get up to this kind of thing for so long. I say we need an independent figure who can investigate and clamp down on the following behaviours in public figures...

- Vast sums of cash going to family members for doing absolutely nothing.

- Taxpayer subsidised or bought housing in various parts of the country.

- Taxpayer-funded "official visits" to foreign countries that are nothing more than junkets

- The acceptance of untaxed gifts from foreign parties.

- Special exemptions from taxation.

All of the above offend the traditional British sense of fair play, which holds that nobody should be coddled in the lap of luxury simply because of an accident of birth, without ever doing a day's work. The idea that someone's shiftless offspring should be handed a living on a plate just because of who their parents are has infuriated the country.

Hey, maybe we could get the Queen to look into this elitist outrage. Her or that babbling, unemployable numbnuts Charles - it's not like they're doing anything else, is it?