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Friday, December 22, 2006

My brain is melting

'TV talent show supremo Simon Cowell is to make a series searching for the leads for a new production of Grease.
The show follows the success of BBC One's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria which saw Connie Fisher starring in the Sound of Music.

It will go against the BBC's own follow-up which will uncover a lead for Joseph and his Techincolour Dreamcoat.'

Television is over. It's official.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Tell me - no, really, tell me - how does this happen?

'Detectives said on Wednesday that a man wanted for questioning over the murder of a female police officer could have fled the country disguised as a Muslim woman wearing a full veil.'

Merry Christmas

Clockwise from bottom left:

This (Does it matter which one?) is having sex with this. Who used to sleep with this.

That is all I have to say.

Andrew and His Amazing Televisual Pisstake

'The lead in a new West End production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be found by a television search show, the BBC has announced. The new search follows Connie Fisher's success as Maria in The Sound of Music after she won a BBC1 show. The show, called Any Dream will Do, will search for a Joseph for the new Andrew Lloyd Webber production.'

I don’t know about anyone else, but personally I find there’s nothing that pleases me more than paying £120-odd quid a year in a license fee to give the multi-millionaire pug-face Andrew Lloyd Webber a masturbatory slot on prime time national television, to pay for his casting sessions, and to provide him with acres and acres of (unwatchably awful) free publicity for his vomit-inducing musicals.

Nothing, I tell you.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Now, I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but...

...if this is a ruse, the man deserves a medal for sheer genius:

'A man who lost his sexual inhibitions after suffering a severe head injury at work has won more than £3m... London's High Court awarded him £3.1m, saying his sexual and behavioural problems had ended his marriage and led to him needing professional care.

Judge Michael Harris said because of Mr Tame's behaviour and two acts of infidelity, his marriage to 30-year-old Sarah had become strained. The judge said Mr Tame was disinhibited in that he said embarrassing things in the company of others, misbehaved in the presence of females and wound people up by butting in on conversations. He watched pornographic videos and websites and rang sex-lines.'

Ruth Kelly’s bright idea

‘A new scheme aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence is set to be unveiled by ministers. The "sanctuary scheme" will provide money to create a room in which women can be secure within their own homes and be able to call the police. Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly is to announce £74m will fund the provision of rooms equipped with alarms and CCTV.’

Oh, dear dear dear. Well done Ruth, once again!

Am I the only person who thinks that the onus or responsibility for protecting women against male violence ought not to be placed entirely in the hands of...erm... Women?

Male neanderthal judges might well have started to get their heads around the idea that wearing a short skirt does not mean that a woman is responsible for getting raped, and well done for that, but don’t be fooled into thinking that anything much has changed since the “she asked for it” days. We are still facing the same kind of misogynistic presumptions every single day, and this story does a fine job of proving the point.

Two women a week are killed by violent partners or ex-partners, you say? One in four women in the UK has suffered from violence at the hands of a partner?

Alright then.

Let’s not bother trying to change the culture of violence against women. Nah. Let’s give battered women a room in their house with CCTV in it. Their partners will barely notice it’s there, I’m sure, and as long as the next time they’re attacked (as – let’s be clear here - we are accepting that they will be), it happens within, what, 2 feet of the ‘safe’ room, they’ll be perfectly alright. (Until the police arrive, arrest the violent partner and let him go two days later, that is).
Hurrah! Problem solved.

Crazed killers are out there attacking drug-addicted prostitutes?
Well, now, this is an easy one.
If these women weren’t heroin addicts, they wouldn’t be prostitutes. Which means they wouldn’t be on the streets. Which means they wouldn’t be ‘putting themselves in danger’.
So it’s the DRUGS that killed them! Yes. It must be Kate Moss and Pete Doherty’s fault for ‘glamourising’ drug use. Course it is. Problem solved again.

Never mind that, like Jack the Ripper and Peter Sutcliffe and thousands of other men before them (let’s not forget that prostitutes get murdered by men an average of once a month in this country without anyone batting an eyelid), the Ipswich murders are attacks against women who, due to their selling sex, are effectively an overt representation of female sexuality. To a certain kind of man (and I mean those that beat up their partners as much as those that strangle prostitutes) there’s nothing scarier.
Make no mistake: if you’re female, whether you’re selling it or not, you can be pretty sure that you could become a victim of male violence as easily as the next woman.
£74m and a f**king ‘safe’ room isn’t ever going to change that fact.

Innocent until The Sun says otherwise

So, they’ve arrested a second suspect in the Ipswich murders case, have they? What a turnup. Tell you what, though, it’s just lucky they haven’t plastered the name and photograph of the first (as-yet-uncharged) suspect all over the papers and the television news, isn't it?


Monday, December 18, 2006

Pot discusses Kettle

‘Prime Minister Tony Blair is to hold talks with political leaders in Israel and the Palestinian territories as he seeks to inject new momentum into the stalled Middle East peace process.
Mr Blair will use talks with Mr Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to try to encourage a return to the negotiating table after a long stalemate since Hamas's election victory in January.‘

Erm….isn’t Tony Blair holding middle east peace talks a little bit like Cynthia Payne giving a talk on sexual abstinence?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Childish, yes. Funny, indeedy.

In yesterday’s Independent (since WHEN did the Indie become the best newspaper on the market?! That crept up on me, and no mistake) there was a really quite amazing story about circumcision, and about how circumcised men were less likely to contract the AIDS virus.

Now, given that those sort of pseudo-medical articles are ten a penny in your more craptastic freebies like Metro and thelondonpaper (otherwise known as theludicrouslytitled), you could be forgiven for skipping the page and dismissing it as yet another ‘does birdshit give you cancer?’ yawnfest.

But no. Wait a moment.

They (being the science folks) have done two parallel tests, one in the US and one in South Africa, and they’ve found that circumcision reduces a man’s risk of contracting AIDS by between 48 and 60 per cent.

That’s 60 per cent.

Which given that there are, what, 28m people in Africa with AIDS, lots of whom I’m reckoning are men (I’m positively Columbo when it comes to examining the evidence in front of me, clearly), well…that’s a lot of lives that stand to be saved, isn’t it? Millions, potentially.
A very exciting news story.
Well done, science folk.

But despite the potential importance of the story, and the seriousness of the subject material, I couldn’t help but be pitifully amused by the name of the WHO operative in charge of the HIV and AIDS research division. Buried in the last para – like a beautifully placed punchline, as was clearly intended – there he was.

Mr Kevin De Cock.

Admit it, you laughed too.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Royal Shenanigans

‘A long-awaited report into the death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash due out Thursday is expected to refute theories of a plot by British intelligence targeting her, and confirm a French probe that said it was an accident.’

Very good. But wait: how was this emphatic denial of conspiracy headlined?
“Diana – death or accident?”

Jesus. Let it GO. It was an accident, how MANY times do you need to hear it? That’s the point of the report. Question mark no longer needed, yes?

I mean, be serious for a second. People are getting bumped off for political reasons all over the shop – Russian KGB defectors, Hamas opponents (and the small children of Hamas opponents), Lebanese politicians – and horrible though each of these killings are, they make some sort of political sense.

Even the other famous conspiracy theories have elements of credence about them: John and Bobby Kennedy, for example, (don’t mess with the Mafia is, I think, the moral of that story) and if it’s a tragic blonde you’re after, Marilyn Monroe.

But Princess Diana? Do me a favour. The woman was a vacuous, entirely inconsequential woman who liked going to parties, tarting about on yachts and sleeping with arab surgeons and other people’s husbands. Now, she may well have been a pleasant woman, and I’m sure she was a great treat to have around at parties - she did scrub up well in glamorous frocks - but a political threat? A threat to the future of the monarchy? I don’t bloody think so. Prince Phillip presents more of a threat to the monarchy every time he opens his mouth than she did in an entire lifetime.

I mean, take a look at the other stories around the monarchy: Prince Andrew hassling a smack-addled Courtney Love for women to bed, Prince Charles likening his prune-faced mistress to a tampon and then marrying her, Prince Harry groping the breasts of dozy tarts in nightclubs while knocking back champagne and smoking cigarettes with (it must be said) admirable enthusiasm….I mean, what with that and the longstanding rumours of upstairs downstairs bottom sex, they’ve long been doing a fine job at bringing down the monarchy all by themselves.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sisterly love

'When the bodies of five women turn up in the space of 10 days, it is bound to send a shudder of fear through any town. All five were working as prostitutes but the shock and anxiety has spread to the wider community in Ipswich.
"Every woman is now asking themselves the same question - what if he runs out of prostitutes and starts attacking other women?" said Jean, who works in a petrol station near the Portman Road red light district.'

Yes, Christ, we couldn’t have THAT, could we Jean? Then it’d REALLY be a problem that dead women are turning up all over your town. “Runs out of prostitutes”? Jesus, it’s like the woman is talking about toilet tissue.

Wonder whether people would be more horrified if the women in question had all been accountants, or nannies? Let me think: I suspect they might. Or how about if the press simply referred to the murdered women as ‘women’ with no ‘but…’?
Peter Sutcliffe (to whom this killer is being compared) was routinely referred to as having both ‘innocent’ and ‘prostitute’ victims, a distinction that was not only morally abhorrent, but was part of a pervasive attitude within the West Yorkshire police force that actually delayed his capture.
Sutcliffe hasn’t – thank god – been in a position to murder anyone since the early 80s but rather worryingly for the women of Ipswich (all of them), it doesn’t seem that our essentially misogynistic society has moved on at all since then.

Dragged up proper

'Teenagers need lessons in how to speak properly because so many youngsters now sound like Vicky Pollard, a report found. Professor Tony McEnery's study warned that the Little Britain stereotype was becoming increasingly accurate as schools fail to teach verbal communication skills.'

Sorry, what? Schools need to teach teenagers to speak properly now?

So on top of teaching other people’s kids English, Maths and Science and a list of other actual school subjects, on top of their piles of paperwork and tedious parents evenings and after-school clubs, teachers are responsible for making sure kids eat the right foods, for ensuring that they take the right kind of exercise to prevent obesity, for educating them about sexual matters and preventing them getting pregnant, for teaching them ‘life’ skills such as managing money and cooking food…

For what, I wonder, are the parents responsible?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bah Humbug

'The government's Sure Start programme - which Gordon Brown devised to raise educational standards among poorer families - funds playgroups and pre-school education groups across the country. But there is no national policy on Christmas, and staff running individual groups are left to produce their own programme of events. Sheffield's Gleadless Valley Sure Start Centre did not use the word 'Christmas' when promoting its "winter celebration" in a newsletter.'

Now I KNOW this is a classic “Are A levels getting easier?” type of story that they whip out every year, and as such should be ignored, but what the hell. I’ll bite.
Of course it is ludicrous to suggest that non-Christians would be upset about celebrating a seemingly overtly ‘Christian’ festival.
I mean, for one thing, 25th December was actually a pagan festival that was hijacked by Christianity in the first place as Jesus’s ‘birthday’. So, like most things about Christian celebration in this country, it’s actually a mishmash of lots of different customs and traditions that quite often pre-date Christianity.
I suppose that in itself suggests that calling Christmas a ‘winter’ festival is technically more accurate, if you really want to be a great big pedant. However, I don’t think that’s quite the idea.
One presumes ‘the idea’ (if there is one) is that people are worried that super-sensitive members of the other two major monotheistic faiths in our society, Judaism and Islam, are deeply offended by the sight of a Christmas tree in their school playground or office foyer.

Course they’re bloody not. Any more than a Christian would be offended by people celebrating Hannukah or Eid. (which, last I checked, they hadn’t tried to ban). Jewish members of my family are celebrating Christmas this year, as they do every year, and while they’re not planning on settling down to a pork supper, they’re certainly not planning on missing out on a socially all-encompassing eat-and-drink-yourself-stupid free-for-all any more than the next man. The lucky bastards just get to do Hannukah as well.

And frankly, that brings me to my next point: if Christmas is for Christians (and as such ought not to be imposed on non-Christian people), then the vast majority of British society wouldn’t celebrate it. We’re a nation of agnostics, for Christ’s sake (yes, I see the irony in the sentence). Hardly anyone goes to church in this country, and those that do are mostly middle class parents worried about getting Jocasta or Timothy into the right school.

So what does that make Christmas? Simple. A highly commercialised annual ‘winter’ festival (with Christian overtones) that everyone enjoys and everyone – including the non-orthodox members of other faiths – celebrates. We celebrate it because it’s fun, it's a holiday, it makes retailers a lot of money, and is sponsored by Coca Cola. Oh, and we get to get pissed a lot.
Nobody’s upset and nobody really cares what you call it. So if you’re listening Mr and Mrs politically-correct civil servant, don’t do daft things like ban Christmas in schools. All you do is get Daily Mail readers all riled about the perceived erosion of Britain's social fabric, incite racism and, frankly, make yourself look bloody stupid.
Now pass the port…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rebel without a Clue

Comedian Russell Brand has made a hoax call to police during a live stage show. The 31-year-old rang Kent Police CID about the theft of a statue he had read about in a local paper.


The conversation, during which he gave a false name, is reported to have been piped to a sell-out crowd at Tunbridge Wells' Assembly Hall Theatre by loudspeaker.


A police source said: "He was on stage. Apparently he uses a local paper as a feature of his stage act. There was an article about the theft of a statue in a park. It had the number to ring on the bottom. The number goes into the CID office at Tonbridge police station."


He said the call lasted a matter of seconds before Brand hung up. The source added: "The officer knew straight away it wasn't a genuine call so he wasn't too perturbed about it. He didn't waste any time on it."


Money Talks. Unfortunately.

I’m not normally one to prattle on about stuff on the telly, on the grounds that I’m not a TV reviewer, and I couldn’t be as funny as Charlie Brooker if I wanted to be, but I’m making an exception for last night’s Secret Millionaire.

This was, without doubt, one of the most offensive and insulting pieces of television I’ve seen in a very long time.

Channel Four has always been good at giving airtime to people with socially unpleasant attitudes – the recent 100% English documentary, in which the programme-makers were threatened with legal action by an English bigot whose DNA was proved to be, to her obvious horror, Romany gypsy – is a great case in point. However, the purpose of that programme was to show its subjects the error of their ways, to prick their pomposity.
In Secret Millionaire, things couldn’t be more different. The concept of the show is this: a wealthy person goes ‘undercover’ in a poor community, in order to judge which of the people they meet they regard as ‘worthy’ of their financial help. Yes, really.

So what you get – or certainly what we got last night in north east businessman John Elliott – is the wholly uncomfortable sight of a bigoted,narrow-minded curmudgeon being given an entirely non-critical platform to vocalise his ill-thought-out prejudices. Instead of gently dissuading the man of his illogical and offensive beliefs however (as Andrew Graham Dixon did so effectively in 100% English), Elliott is actually supposed to be congratulated for his efforts, on the grounds that he makes a paltry £17K donation at the end of the show (from what they tell us is a personal wealth of £60m. £60m and he still chooses to drive a BMW. Draw your own conclusions). It makes me nauseous.

This is a man who goes to a centre for asylum seekers and, despite cheerfully admitting to knowing nothing about their lives, nonetheless expresses his surprise when what he finds there is – gasp! – actual real life asylum seekers, and not, as he puts it, “scroungers”. He meets a man from Kenya, a qualified accountant (“I don’t know whether he can’t get a job because of racism, or because he’s just not good enough,” muses John in one of his least offensive monologues) who politely explains that the reason he is living in England is because he was persecuted in Kenya, and imprisoned, for organising pro-democracy student demonstrations. “Ah, so you were a bit of a troublemaker?” asks John, with all the political sophistication of a small wet whelk.

This is a man who gets invited round for dinner at the home of a local family and, having had a plate of home-cooked food placed in front of him, proceeds to ask questions such as, “so, how many adults do you have living in this house?” in an almost painfully earnest, clodhopping and insensitive manner. I was quite surprised he didn’t ask whether they were forced to pee in a bucket in the yard and eat coal for breakfast. So clunky was his approach, in fact, that I swear the daughter of the house rumbled him: one “we have two children and we can’t afford the deposit for a house” conversation later, and she has her deposit, thus proving inaccurate Elliott’s seeming assumption that poverty and intelligence are mutually exclusive things.

This is a man who doesn’t even have the emotional or intellectual sophistication to examine the concept of ‘deserving and undeserving rich’ alongside his entirely immoveable belief in the notion of ‘deserving and undeserving poor’ - although what’s perhaps more amazing about that is that the programme-makers don’t even force him to. Throughout the programme, Elliott does several short pieces to camera, in which he by turn bemoans the fact that there aren’t enough cap-doffing, lickspittle proles around upon which to shower his meager offerings (the idea that a person could be both poor and proud doesn’t seem to have occurred to him), and expresses his surprise upon finding that immigrants are not all hunchbacked thieves and urchins. Who’d have thunk it! However, not once does the programme suggest that some contrition on his part might be in order. He’s RICH, remember, he doesn’t have to apologise for anything!

Secret Millionaire (at least judging by this episode) is, in conclusion, a horribly obsequious programme, about the kind of people who see nothing even vaguely unpleasant about wanting to ‘vet’ a person’s worthiness of charity before they’re prepared to put their hands in their pockets. I don’t seem to remember Bill Gates, Ted Turner or even Anita Roddick insisting on personally checking people’s charity-worthiness before committing billions to helping those who need it. I mean, it’d probably be a bit impractical for Bill and Melinda to assess whether or not each AIDS sufferer or African farmer that they help support is “deserving” or whether they could be “doing more to help themselves”, after all.

Everyone knows that a large part of people’s motivation for donating to charity is to feel good about themselves, and to assuage their guilt at being on the favourable side of a grotesquely unequal world. However, to give a man with such tedious Daily Mail views as John Elliott’s his own ‘I’m a great guy I am!” show, to allow him to prance about like Father Christmas, ‘revealing’ that he’s got a few quid to spare, and basking in the resultant adoration of his selected recipients? Ugh. Grotesque. Channel Four, really, you must try harder.
Oh, and how sizeable was Elliott’s “helping change people’s lives” cheque for the asylum centre, you ask?
£7.5K for a voluntary-funded asylum charity, John? You want to be hailed a hero for £7.5K? Sadly, the centre is desperate for cash and so was forced to gratefully accept your paltry handout-with-conditions-attached. Shame – the only way this programme could’ve ended with any dignity at all would’ve been if they’d have filmed the centre manager sticking the cheque up your pompous, overfed arse.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ain’t life grand?

Harrods boss Mohammed Fayed has just paid himself £72m. Not bad for a year’s work.
Except it doesn’t actually reflect a year’s work. Because Harrods actually made £22.3m this year. Oh, and it has debts of £279m.

Now, I’m obviously not an economist, but isn’t that all a little bit mental?
And more to the point, wasn’t the £39m he paid himself last year enough? Wouldn’t it stretch to this year too? What does the man eat - gold?

Ah, now when you examine things a little more closely, it all starts to make a lot more sense. What we’re seeing here is not true economics at work, it’s “screwing the workers” economics.

Closure of the Harrods pension scheme!
£90m pensions deficit!
Staff threatening strike action!

Still, comfortingly, it seems Mohammed is oblivious. As far as he is concerned, his staff don’t mind in the least that he needs to top up his dwindling personal fortune of…erm…£426m. I mean, at 73 years of age, he’s going to need a few quid for his pensionable years, isn’t he?

“The year has gone very well. We continue to reap the benefits from ongoing investment and improved product offers across all divisions. We are excited about the prospect of a very successful year with our key Christmas and January sale periods still to unfold,” he says, between stuffing wads of fifties into his car boot.

She doesn’t know why people hate her

Jake Shears says…
"I found Heather Mills to have her nose really stuck up in the air. I met her once with Sir Paul and, honestly, she didn't give me the time of day. You'd expect someone to be a little gracious or just pleasant when you meet them for the first time, but Heather was nothing like that. Then someone must have told her who I was and suddenly it was a completely different situation. She couldn't have been more charming. But by then my mind was made up."

The Mirror newspaper…
reports on Heather's annoyance when the wheelchair she'd booked at Gatwick Airport turned out to be... a wheelchair, rather than a swish electric buggy.
"Have you got it in for me?" she reportedly told staff. "This is vile! Why are you doing this to me? Don't you know I have only one leg? Why are you treating me like this?"

Born in the UK. So what?

I had a minor and pointless online squabble with an American lady this morning about her belief that a person’s nationality ought to be considered a ‘gift’ or ‘blessing’. It got me to thinking about patriotism, and how curious a concept it actually is.

What is it? What does it mean to be American, or English, French or Guatemalan? I genuinely don’t think it really means anything at all, personally. Why should I feel PROUD about something that is in no way an achievement? That is, quite literally, an accident of birth?

If there is a reason why should I take some sort of credit for a nation’s past glories and achievements because I was born in the place, I really don’t know what that reason might be. If I'm going to be proud of England's achievements, I'd have to be ashamed of its faults, and the only faults I can be held responsible for are my own. I don't see why I should take responsibility for a nation's past mistakes, given that they were acts perpetrated by other people. I personally no more raped and pillaged in Scotland in the 1300s than I bought and sold African slaves (talking of which, Tony Blair stopping short of an apology for Britain's part in eighteenth century slavery was entirely understandable, given that he hasn't apologised for 21st Century Iraq and Afghanistan). Nor do I blame others for their nation's past: I don't mutter 'Auschwitz' like a peculiar Tourettes sufferer whenever I meet anyone from Hamburg, for example (I do have an inexplicably poor record with the Swiss, but let us draw a veil over that).

Would I feel more impressed with Alfred Einstein if he was English? Conversely, would it be expected of me to feel more ashamed of Hitler if I had happened to have been born in Austria?

If I had joined a Russian family as a baby, would that make me Russian? Or would I be intrinsically English and only superficially Russian? And if it is our sincere wish to consider ourselves multicultural and multifaith societies, doesn’t that mean that anyone living in England is English and anyone in France becomes French (even if they’re Somalian or Australian by birth)? Or would that make people, say, Somalian first, French second? And if so, where does that leave their patriotic ‘loyalty’?

Do you see how this becomes an unworkable absurdity when you try and unravel it?

On a purely practical level, I’d much rather live in England than in sub-Saharan Africa (if I was the latter, I’d have a 79% chance of having HIV, which is clearly far from ideal), and I wouldn’t like to be living in Baghdad at the moment, cos I’m not particularly partial to being kidnapped, shot or bombed, but that’s really all there is to it. I don’t think there’s anything fabulous about me because I was born in England. Just as there’s nothing admirable about being from anywhere. So why do people wave a national flag around as a symbol of pride for something they haven’t actually achieved?

Patriotism is adding yet another layer of social differentiation to people’s lives that we could really do without. I simply don’t understand it, I really don’t.

Celebrity Chivalry

"We're not together any more and I don't know whose that child is until it comes out and has a blood test."

So says Eddie Murphy. Of his pregnant girlfriend. On television.

Not since David Gest accused Liza Minnelli of giving him herpes and Heather Mills began her torrential abuse of the rubbish Beatle has it been so nasty.

Oh. Oh dear.

“Jude Law tries romantic comedy”

This is not, really NOT, a good idea.
That is all I have to say on the matter.


“Singer Pete Doherty has been fined for five counts of possessing drugs, including crack cocaine and heroin.”

This is not, really NOT, news.

Marvellous, marvellous stuff.*

Sometimes, just sometimes, worlds collide in ways that make me extremely happy:

ROCKER Courtney Love claims Prince Andrew turned up at her Hollywood home to "look for chicks". Love said the Duke of York arrived unannounced with a bodyguard. "He'd come to Hollywood to look for chicks," she said. "I don't know what he expected at my house."

Splendid. Even more bizarrely:

A spokesman for the Prince admitted he had visited the home - but it was "nonsense" he went there looking for girls.

I see. And what exactly, I wonder, did the spokesman say that Prince Andrew was doing at one in the morning at the LA home of a smack-addled rock musician? Looking for directions?

If anyone can bring down the monarchy, Courtney can. Cue “I am Prince Philip’s lovechild” revelations.

*courtesy of one eagle-eyed Courtney fan, Ms A. Gregson.

Talking of throwaway celebrity culture…

Who Knew?

'Fans have named David Tennant the best ever Doctor Who in a poll, beating Tom Baker into second place.'

Sigh. Of COURSE they have.
While I myself am something of a fan of the wee twinkly-eyed Scottish loveliness that is David Tennant, and while I consider Russell T's Doctor Who to be a televisual Bentley to past Who's Citroen 2CV, this strikes me as rather less an “incredible result for David, [showing] how quickly viewers have taken to him”, and rather more an illustration of the changing nature of the relationship between the celebrity and the no-longer-expected-to-think viewer.
We live in an entirely throwaway celebrity culture, in which people’s memory-span is akin to that of a goldfish. Guaranteed that they like Billie Piper best too. Oh, look:

'Readers also voted Billie Piper as their favourite Doctor Who assistant, in the role of Rose Tyler.'

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Number crunchie

BBC, 5th December 2006:
'Some of the worst performing schools in London show "dramatic" improvements, the education watchdog says. Ofsted said 89% of the worst schools in the capital are seeing more pupils get five good GCSEs compared with 73% of the worst schools nationally. And 59% of London schools were rated good for overall effectiveness in 2005-06, against 49% nationally.'

BBC, 25th November 2006:
'The headlines in some newspapers were shocking: "More than half of secondary schools are failing pupils".
In its annual report, Ofsted judged that 13% of secondary schools were "inadequate". Additionally it said a further 38% were only "satisfactory", with the rest either "good" or "outstanding".'

Good to see that government bodies have – as promised last year – stopped trying to baffle us with meaningless, illogical or misleading educational statistics.

Design Fault of the Year: contender II

Following hard on the heels of the magnet-sensitive pacemaker comes the Saudi-justice-inspired grass trimmer:

‘An Oxfordshire company has been fined £175,000 for selling a grass collector, which chopped off the hands of two of its users. Agricultural machinery firm Kubota UK was warned in 1999 that its bladed grass collector had injured a man. But the Thame-based company continued to supply the product unaltered until it was forced to stop in May 2004.’

Porcine Pleasures

It’s all a bit odd, this one, and perhaps I’d be safer not to mention it, but: George Clooney’s pig has died. As most people know, the man owned a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. What most people didn’t perhaps know, until now, is that the 45-year-old, strangely perennially-single Clooney often “shared his bed” with the creature.

That’s correct: George Clooney shared his bed with a 300lb pot-bellied pig called Max (not, despite Ms Snowdon’s increasingly desperate protestations to the contrary, called Lisa).
Moreover, in his own words, George said he had enjoyed the longest 'relationship' of his life with the pig, with whom he lived for 18 years.

‘Clooney, 45, added that he had no plans to replace the pet. "I think Max covered all my pig needs," he said.’

Yep, I think we’ll just leave that there, eh?

Quote of the Day

"If you let Ronnie get on top of you it can be demoralising."

Jimmy White

Friday, December 01, 2006

Road Rage

‘Motorists should be asked to pay to drive on the nation's road network, a report commissioned by the government has recommended. The report identifies three strategic transport priorities - congested and growing city catchments, "inter-urban" corridors and important international gateways showing signs of congestion and unreliability.’

See how you like it now, all you tertiary-town-residing, drive-to-work “Isn’t it nice and quiet on London’s roads now there’s the congestion charge?” fuckers!

"Love me, DO!"

In her fourth public statement in ten days, Heather Mills says again that she can’t understand why people dislike her. She says that she has neither done nor said anything to engender disapproval, that her conduct throughout her separation from her husband has been exemplary and that she has sought no publicity.

That’ll be Heather “I’d rather you chopped off all my limbs” Mills, will it? The same woman who, purely in an effort to secure herself a multi-million pound divorce settlement, has accused her husband of alcoholism, domestic violence (against both herself and his late – i.e. unable to defend herself – wife who she’d never met), drug addiction, verbal and mental cruelty, and countless other offences designed to humiliate him and his family? Having never previously intimated that any of the above were true, either publicly or privately?

That’s the Heather that went on to claim in an internationally-screened television interview that she had been madly in love with the man, father of her child? (Causing many people to reach for the dictionary in order to look up the new definition of the word ‘love’)…?

The woman who is allegedly (and oh so believably) obsessed with Princess Diana, herself a well-known limelight shunner prior to having taken a 120 mph saunter down a tunnel? Who believes herself to be similarly “misunderstood”?

Whose cack-handed, cynical and unpleasant attempts to use her disability to garner public sympathy are painful to watch? (The latest: people are trying to kill her but she hasn’t got any money to pay for bodyguards… "I've felt severely upset and severely depressed through these six months, but when I lost my leg I didn't")…?

And finally, who – entirely through her own actions – has virtually guaranteed her young daughter her own couch in the child therapist’s office in years to come?

Yes, that Heather Mills.

Nope, you’re right love, I just can’t see it either.


Thumbs-aloft McCartney’s only public statement on the matter?

"Remember that it is a private affair and that way [acting with dignity] you will probably get through it better, you will put less noses out of joint and I think it's a more dignified way to go about it, so that's what I try to do."

It’s still boring

You know those occasions when the press pick up on a news item that is a total non-story and run with it until you’re at the stage where you’d grate your own head rather than hear more about it?

'The schoolgirl Misbah Rana has said that she will not leave Pakistan to go back to the UK as ordered by a court. In an interview with the BBC following a judge's decision at the high court in Lahore, the 12-year-old said she was "angry" and "scared".'


Scottish schoolgirl runs away from home, where she lives with her legal guardian and mother, to live with her father in Pakistan, where he’s a resident.
She would prefer to be in Pakistan.
Righto. She’s 12 years old, therefore a minor, and therefore the legal responsibility of her mother. (Who I believe I mentioned is her legal guardian).

Sane response: girl rightfully returned to Scotland to attend a fair court hearing with both parents, wherein some change in guardianship or shared custody is agreed if that is the will of the child. The End.

But no: for some unfathomable reason (and it sure as hell isn’t because the child is cute and TV-friendly, she looks like an anaemic potato) this story is played out in the media circus for nearly six months…

Someone – anyone – please make it stop.

Don’t stand too close

If you’ve got a pacemaker, you’ll be very pleased to know that that cute Nessie-shaped fridge magnet you brought back from your summer trip to Scotland, or it’s hilarious neighbour, the mini pair of plastic magnet breasts purchased on Blackpool seafront, may actually kill you:

'Fridge magnets and decorative jewellery could be a killer if you have a weak heart, experts warn. A strong type of magnet used in many new commercial products can interfere with pacemakers and implanted heart devices with deadly consequences. Close contact - within about 3cm - with a neodymium magnet is enough to destabilise these life-saving heart devices, Heart Rhythm journal reports.
Because of their high magnetic field strength and low production costs, the magnets are being used in computer hard drives, headphones and hi-fi speakers, as well as toys, jewellery and even clothes.'

Now THAT’S what I call a design fault.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


'A naked man was saved from the jaws of a 12-foot (3.6-metre) alligator by Florida deputies after reports of a man screaming in a lake in the early hours. Four members of the Polk County Sheriff department waded through waist-deep mud in the dark to reach Adrian Apgar, 45, and pull him free from the alligator. Mr Apgar was later described as critically ill in hospital.'

How does that happen, you ask yourself?

'Police said it was unclear why he was in the water in the early hours, but he had admitted taking crack cocaine.'

Ah. Not really so ‘unclear’ then, is it?

Meat. In a tin.

In the name of Lucifer, what the hell IS this stuff all about?

Buckle Up

Seriously though, just how many investigations do they have to hold into the deaths of three people nigh on a decade ago to work out that, actually, they’re all still dead?

‘Mohammed Al Fayed has mounted a legal challenge over plans to make key decisions about the inquest of Princess Diana and his son Dodi in private. He says the initial inquest hearings into the death of the pair in a car crash in 1997 will be held behind closed doors in January.’

Back in September 2005, the cost of what has become an inexplicable series of ‘investigations’ was already put at over £2.5m. Well, you know, I never liked the woman, but I think at this point even she’d prefer to see that kind of money invested in anti-mine or children’s charities, which she apparently supported so enthusiastically in her ample spare time.

Still, if we’re in the mood for calling for public enquiries…

How you know when your career’s really in trouble

When Mel ‘Sugar Tits’ Gibson is leaping to your defence, it’s time to just turn in your celebrity dancing shoes, I think…

‘Actor Mel Gibson has said he feels "really badly" for ex-Seinfeld star Michael Richards, who racially abused two hecklers in a comedy club. Gibson, who apologised for making anti-Semitic remarks made after a drink driving incident in July said Richards was "obviously in a state of stress".’

And talking of Mel, I missed this at the time (I don’t wake up to Good Morning America) but I’ve since read the transcript of what was, apparently, his televised ‘apology’ for his not-even-remotely-sincerely-believed anti-semitic position.

It seems that Mel is a Jew-hater because Lebanon and Israel were “at it” the day that he went and got himself utterly spangled on mescal. Confused? Well…

‘Mel told Good Morning America this week that his assertion that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” was “fear related, OK? So, you know, you have your own fears about these things. Since I was a kid in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and now in the new millennium, you can read of an ever-escalating kind of conflagration over there in the Middle East that … I remember thinking when I was 20, man, that place is going to drag us all into the black hole, you know, just the … the difficulty over there. You start thinking will I ever see my grandchildren grow up? … What’s going to become of the world? What’s going to press the button?”’

Yes, that’s right. Wade through that grammar-averse babble slowly, and it appears to suggest that Mel hates “all f**king Jews” because he’s scared of their bringing about the annihilation of modern society as we know it. He was scared, see.

Remember, this is an apology aimed at the worldwide followers of Judaism (not violence-endorsing Zionists exclusively) – which makes it all the more spectacular that he ultimately about-faces and declares that “they’re not blameless”, apparently in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

‘Interviewer Diane Sawyer pointed out there is a difference from feeling that the Middle East is a “tinderbox” to saying that the Jews were responsible for all war. Mel replied: “Well, strictly speaking, that’s … that’s not true [but] it takes two to tango.”
“What are they responsible for? I think that they’re not blameless in the conflict. There’s been aggression, and retaliation and aggression. It’s just part of being in conflict, and being at war. So, they’re not blameless.”’

It’s interesting to ponder whether Mel’s alcoholic sins would’ve been so quickly forgotten, in the current political climate, had he stated on national television that all followers of Islam are “not blameless” for the September 11th attacks, done, as is assumed, in the name of Islamic fundamentalism?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Off the rails

27th November 2006:

'The firm that runs the UK's railway tracks and signals, Network Rail, has made a £747m profit for the first time. The company has no shareholders and must invest profits into the infrastructure.
Network Rail chairman Ian McAllister said punctuality had improved: "From being a basket case a few years ago, rail is now a success story. We've taken over a billion pounds out of the cost of running the railway, which is good news for the taxpayer and the fact that we're now making money means that we can use that to invest in building the railway.”'

28th November 2006:

‘THERE was outrage last night that Britain’s rail chiefs are in line for massive pay bonuses. The rail unions said the revelation that executives of the not-for-profit company which replaced Railtrack could receive bonuses of up to 80 per cent of their basic salaries was a return to the "fat cat" era.
Its chief executive, John Armitt, is receiving an annual salary of £450,000. The other executives entitled to bonuses for the six months to March 2003 are the deputy chief engineer, Iain Coucher (whose salary is £400,000 a year), the group finance director, Ron Henderson (£300,000), the project and engineering director, Peter Henderson (£300,000), and safety and compliance director, Chris Leah (£300,000).’

(N.B: Network Rail replaced private firm Railtrack in 2002 and receives about £4bn a year in government subsidy.)

29th November 2006:

‘Passengers face above-inflation price hikes for rail tickets from January, train companies have announced. Unregulated fares, which companies are able to set themselves and cover tickets such as cheap day returns, will increase by between 3% and 7%.
The Association of Train Operating Companies said the money was needed to pay for ongoing service improvements.
Atoc director general George Muir said: "While no-one likes to pay more for their travel, we need the revenue to pay for the ongoing improvements to the railways that passengers expect. Train operators will continue to raise their game, delivering further improvements to the railway and enhancing the travel experience of passengers."’

If anyone can work out how all these pieces fit together in one neat little “squeeze the punters till their eyeballs bleed” package, you’ll win an annual season ticket for Southeast Trains, now worth £74,600.09p.

Animal Biscuit

There’s a fella, right, called Stephen Clark, who is apparently a professor of philosophy at the University of Liverpool. It seems he has also advised the government on animal testing. Jesus. I read an article by him today ( and given that I found it in the Independent I’m not convinced that it’s a joke, but I’d bloody hope it is. Otherwise I’m fairly sure Liverpool Uni isn’t becoming a leading centre of excellence in the world of philosophy any time soon…

“People disapprove of causing animals pain, but they think killing animals is OK. We're not remotely consistent about this. If killing animals was morally neutral we wouldn't disapprove of someone killing their pets, but we do.”

Uh huh. Not exactly an earth shattering statement of controversy, that, but fair enough, a valid point…

“We don't need to kill animals for meat. All that is unnecessary suffering. We only do it on the assumption that animals are there for us, material for not just our needs but our wishes, because of a superstitious belief that human life is radically different from animal life.”

Yeah, you’re right there, Stephen. I remember David Attenborough telling me only the other night that, in the animal world, creatures don’t kill each other for meat. His commentary was accompanied by a cute shot of a lion enjoying a banana smoothie on the Serangeti, as I recall.

“The place where there are difficult problems is in the field of medical experimentation.”

Ooh, hello, we’re getting to the heart of the matter now.

“Of course, as members of the first world we've gained enormously from trying things out on creatures. That doesn't mean it's OK. We shouldn't expect disease-free lives. It's a mirage. It's part of a fantasy of immortality. Struggling to get it at the expense of other creatures is silly. As soon as we solve some problems other problems come up… We have to accept that part of living in this fascinating cosmos means having a limited stay. Demanding more is a mistake.”


While I don’t have a problem with people’s right to object to vivisection (to be specific, I don’t want to be attacked by the caring, sharing, peace-and-furry-creature-lovin’ grave-robbing, petrol-bombing animal liberation front), but attacking animal testing on the grounds that we have NO RIGHT to attempt to find cures for killer diseases? That's 'killer', as opposed to exclusively 'first world' diseases, by the way. That’s….well, it’s certainly a new one on me.

“Some tests are not necessary, some are dubious. And even if human beings are saved it's still probably wrong. These tests would be done much more effectively on a human. Would you do that? There are plenty of human creatures around that we could forcibly experiment on.”

See, this is where I began to suspect spoofery. Or alternatively, the beyond-the-grave voice of Josef Mengele.

“There are human creatures who are less reasonable than a beagle,” rambles Stephen.

Yep. After reading this gibberish, I’d say that’s true. And you know what? It’s a comfort that, in 500-odd words, I found at least one statement I could bring myself to agree with.

Hold the Front Page

It says something, does it not, when NHS funding actually going where it’s needed is considered a national news story?

‘A detailed breakdown of NHS spending shows money is reaching key health priorities, the government says. Spending is rising in line with the increase in the overall budget for cancer and mental health treatment, Department of Health figures indicate.
The data was compiled last year from spending by local primary care trusts, which control £63bn of spending - 75% of the NHS budget in England…’

A tragedy, definitely, but…

…can you imagine how disappointing it would be to meet your maker courtesy of a giant inflatable?

‘An artist who created an inflatable sculpture that burst free from its moorings killing two people has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.
The 2,500sq m Dreamspace artwork was thrown 100ft into the air by a freak gust of wind. Elizabeth Collings, 68, and Claire Furmedge, 38, died in the tragedy at the Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, on 23 July. Several others were hurt.’

Madonna and Child, Part VIII

'A judge in Malawi has allowed a coalition of human rights groups to proceed with a legal challenge to pop star Madonna's adoption of a baby boy.
The alliance of 67 Malawian groups lodged a petition before the court last month, saying existing legislation did not allow for intra-country adoptions.
Madonna was granted an 18-month interim custody order which enabled her to take one-year-old David Banda out of Malawi.
The adoption of the boy sparked heated debate around the globe.
Judge Andrew Nyirenda in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, ruled that the groups could be regarded as "friends of the court" and so could pursue their application for a full review of the interim custody order.
"The applications from both applicants are accordingly granted and they are both joined as amicus curiae," said the judgement, according to the AFP news agency.'

Blimey. Not bad for a country with "no known laws".

Toilet Paper

So this morning, against my better judgement (and due to a criminal and unprecendented lack of a book in my pocket) I picked up a copy of The Metro.
Good god, that’s a depressing rag.

Not only was its full colour, five photograph front page lead essentially a down-page gossip page item (Mick Jagger’s dad’s funeral), but the thing was – in a not especially quiet news week - littered with weeks old, press released pseudo-science guff that they probably got the work experience kid to write in his lunch hour.

You know the kind of thing: ‘Eating rotting celery cures haemorroids’, ‘Euston Station is made from Fossilised dinosaurs’ ‘Cigar smoking latest craze among Pygmy newborns’, and so forth.

Now, I know that the paper is free, and is probably written by a skeleton staff in a portakabin in Stoke, but given that it now has umpteen competitors – you know, the purple-clad irritants that stand in the middle of the pavement, legs akimbo, hurling unwanted newspapers at uninterested passersby, like London’s very own festering human fungus – wouldn’t you think they’d have upped their game?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wedding Belles

You really do have to love divorcing-again Pammie Anderson.

And there was me thinking that Britney Spears won the prize for California’s most blasé attitude towards the institution of marriage. I’m not counting her 52 hour Vegas one (bright lights of a casino, a bathtub full of tequila, could’ve happened to anyone), but the most recent dumping of her husband a positively flippant two months after giving birth.

The news that Pamela has ditched her husband after four months comes as no real surprise; the fact that she got married, bless her, in a white thong bikini and cowboy boots suggested that she wasn’t taking it enormously seriously. (Oh, and then there was the problem of her husband looking like an oversized rodent with bad skin.)
What’s brilliantly mental about it, however, is the fact that they managed to actually have three wedding ceremonies. THREE. In four months.

‘The couple married in July on a yacht in France, and then went on to have two more weddings to mark their marriage. One was held at a courthouse in Beverly Hills, California and the third ceremony took place in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, the former Baywatch star described the couple as "super happy newlyweds".’

They do say that newly-married brides sometimes struggle to adjust to normality after having been in the blinding glare of wedding-related attention for months and months, so maybe that’s what happened. Pam must have realised that simply repeating the experiment every five weeks was going to get very expensive very quickly. Even when you’re only wearing a bikini.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Lording it

So, Peter Jackson isn’t going to get to make The Hobbit movie, because he’s in the middle of sueing the studio that’s making the film.

Well, I ‘m not a fan of The Lord of the Rings, and I concede that the news would be considerably more devastating if I was, but what the hell did he expect? Regardless of whether or not he’s in the right over his legal case, as well he might be, did he really think that he was important enough to hold the studio to ransom?

“Jackson refused to discuss working on the Hobbit until a DVD royalty dispute with New Line Cinema was settled. But New Line said it had only "limited time" to make the film and was proceeding without the Oscar-winning director.”

He wanted to make the movie – or perhaps more accurately, believed they couldn’t make the movie without him – but he wants to sue them first, shake hands and then get to work? Hmmm. A touch of the ‘ego out of control’ going on there, if you ask me.

The Lord of the Rings movies were huge, blockbuster beasts that made ridiculous sums of money for all concerned, and while that does give Jackson considerable clout, it doesn’t necessarily make him Teflon-coated. In the modern cinematic landscape – in which, increasingly, you don’t need eyeball-bleedingly huge budgets and internationally known ‘star’ names to make yourself a hit movie – no diva is entirely dispensible. Just ask Tom Cruise.

In a fair and just world…

(i.e. If Sarah Doukas hadn’t been at the airport that fateful day…)

Model Kate Moss has appeared in a stage version of TV comedy hit Little Britain in aid of Comic Relief, playing opposite Matt Lucas' character Vicky Pollard as her sister, Katie.
During the act, Vicky said: "I'm the pretty one."
Moss' character, Katie added: "I'm the easy one."

It's too easy, really…

Spot the Difference II

Oh, for the love of God. How clever this artist is – see, what he’s done is taken Karl Stieler’s extremely famous image of Ludwig van Beethoven, right, and simply superimposed it onto the body of an identically posed ‘modern day’ person, who appears to be wearing Top Gear’s James May’s Sunday outfit along with an extremely Eton schoolboy syrup.
Because, see, that’s how he’d look if he were alive today! Yes!
Or, maybe, no.
According to the wisdom of Gramophone magazine’s editorial department (who obviously thought about this long and hard, for about 12 minutes down the Rat & Parrot), “Beethoven's modern-day equivalent is U2 singer Bono”.

Of course it is. Of COURSE.

I mean, compare and contrast:

Ludwig van Beethoven:

Plays piano for an audience including Mozart as a child
Is widely recognised as a musical virtuoso by his teens
Studies music in Vienna with Joseph Haydn and Antonio Salieri among others
Begins to go deaf in his mid-20s, to no noticeable detriment to his musical talent or productivity
Is “…generally regarded as one of the greatest composers in the history of music, and was the predominant figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music”

Paul Hewson:

Changes name to Bono, after a Grafton Street hearing aid shop (see, there’s a deaf connection)
Wears silly hat
Wears ridiculous sunglasses
The End

If this is the best that the magazine could come up with in its attempt to enrage the classical music world and garner itself some delicious 'at any cost' publicity, it's a hideously poor and pathetically transparently effort.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Sporting Lie

"We've cut out all the people who have got a track record in the past of screwing these things up”

So says Ken Livingstone (who is himself still on the Olympic committee), speaking about the London Olympic Games on The Today Programme.


P.S. “Unforeseen” Olympic expenses apparently (and poetically) include a previously unbudgeted £400m fee to hire a private firm to bring the Olympic Games in on time and within budget,


An increase in the cost of transport.
Yes, that’s right: Ken Livingstone, the man who has overseen a teeth-grindingly obscene 200% hike in London Underground prices since last taking the job as “mayor” of London. The man who has single-handedly given London the most expensive city transport system in Europe (with tickets now costing well over double those in the second priciest city). That man apparently did not take into account an increase in transport costs when he first wrote down the Olympic budget.

On the back of an envelope.

In Crayon.

The lowest estimate of what this Olympic farce is going to cost you, my London friends, is £20 a year, for 25 years. The lowest estimate.

Are you really going to vote for this man of the people next time around? ARE YOU?

Ganesh, or Medusa?

This is simply extraordinary.

The woman’s personality defects are none of my concern (frankly, being a ropey-faced, delusional and money-hungry old tart doesn’t exactly distinguish her from the average manufactured girl-band-member or testicle-masticating celebrity jungle-dweller), and the more ridiculous she makes the boggle-eyed thumbs-aloft buffoon that is her estranged husband, the more she will go up in my estimation.
What is slightly worrying however is Heather’s grasp of the basics of medical science…

Heather Mills has said she would rather lose the rest of her limbs than repeat the trauma of her marriage breakdown.
"I would rather someone come up and chop off all my limbs than go through what I went through," she said. "It's a fact because if your limbs are chopped off you ... get another limb and there's light at the end of the tunnel.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

And in further "unexpected" news...

"Tessa Jowell, the Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, refused to confirm to MPs that London council tax-payers would have to pick up some of the bill.

Londoners are already being forced to stump up £625 million towards the Olympic venue costs, with an additional £1.75 billion coming from the National Lottery.

Ms Jowell said there under the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed with Mr Livingstone extra cash could be sought from both the taxpayer and the National Lottery, but she refused to give a definitive answer when asked whether council taxes would rise..."

Righto then, I feel thoroughly reassured.

Like most Londoners, I didn't want the sodding Olympics here in the first place, for obvious reasons (if you want to know what happens to these ludicrously overpriced Olympic "regenerated" areas once the steroid abusers have gone home, just ask the residents of Athens, Barcelona, or indeed, the taxpayers of Sydney):

S'alright, it's only the east end, and everyone knows the east end is a shithole anyway, yes? We didn't actually WANT those green spaces they're planning on bulldozing and covering in concrete, did we? After all, we only ever used them for playing SPORT on, didn't we? Didn't we??

Londoners, don't be fooled. We are now being told by Tessa Jowell - a woman so financially-savvy that she has claimed to be entirely unaware of her own husband's money-laundering and tax fraud activities - that we're going to be personally liable for an even bigger bill for this nonsense than we'd originally suspected.

Well, screw the Olympic torch, get me a petrol bomb and I'll show you what I think of that.

From Russia

I adore this story (much more than I would if I was potentially dying from being poisoned, obviously, but don’t call me callous)…

A former Russian security agent, midway through investigating the allegedly state-sponsored killing of a government-critical journalist, has a RADIOACTIVE poison slipped into his coffee? I don’t even like Bond movies and find that pant-wettingly exciting:

Former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko remains seriously ill in intensive care as Britain's counter terrorism police continue to hunt for the men behind his suspected poisoning.
The 41-year-old is receiving treatment under police guard at University College Hospital in London, three weeks to the day after he was allegedly given the deadly toxin thallium while in the capital.
In a statement on Tuesday, the hospital said: "Mr Litvinenko's condition remains unchanged from yesterday. "He remains in a serious condition in intensive care."
Pictures of Mr Litvinenko in his hospital bed have revealed the extent of his illness. He has lost almost all his hair and is clearly emaciated and weak.

What’s particularly darkly amusing is the Kremlin’s line on the whole matter – it’s “nonsense”, they say. As if radioactive thallium accidentally gets slipped into people’s beverages every day…

Gordon Brown and his “unexpected” VAT

Anyone, anywhere, who has ever had any construction work done by a professional builder knows that you must take whatever is quoted to you at the beginning of the job and double it to get anything close to the real cost of the work.
If you live in London, you can safely treble that sum.
And if you, the client, are a public sector body and need a job finished by a specific deadline, you might as well just print out a blank cheque and hand it over.

So, given how depressingly predictable this story is (is Wembley Stadium even open yet??), why is anyone in the government even pretending to be surprised?

"Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell is being grilled by MPs about the London Olympics, after organisers said costs could rise £1.5bn to £5bn. Ms Jowell is being questioned by the Commons culture, media and sport committee about an unexpected VAT bill for building costs.
The Tories said the budget had gone "disastrously wrong". But Chancellor Gordon Brown said the government was "committed" to making the Games work."

Teenage Fanclub

“An enhanced sex education programme for teenagers has proved no better than conventional teaching in cutting unwanted pregnancies or abortions, a detailed research study said yesterday.”

Well blow me down with a feather, who’d have thought that?

“The programme was based on an intensive £900 training course for teachers that was then delivered to 15-year-olds over three years. The programme and research was devised and supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Education Board for Scotland, now Health Scotland. The study found that one fifth of 15- to 20-year-olds had at least one pregnancy and that one in 10 had at least one abortion. Abortion rates were not significantly different from rates in England and Wales, said Dr Marion Henderson, the MRC researcher who led the study.”

I’m ordinarily the last person to stick up for today’s youth (frankly, if you’re 14 and sitting next to me on the bus, there’s a 95% chance I’m fantasising about stabbing you with a pair of scissors) but I’m tired of the ever-popular Daily Mail-inspired notion that young people are opinion-less, personality-less vacuums.
When I was 16 I didn’t require society’s guidance on every aspect of my life in order to stick to the moral path chosen for me by those in authority, therefore I don’t think that today’s 16 year olds need it either. Teenagers have just as much chance of (and as much right to) get things right and wrong as anyone else, so why the hell they should they be criticised for their f**k ups any more than the rest of us is quite beyond me.

It is human nature to make decisions based on your own views and based on what you feel is right for you, whatever your age. It is also human nature to make mistakes. If a 40 year old man in the desperate grip of a midlife crisis buys himself a Harley Davidson and runs off with the nanny, that’s probably a mistake. If a drunk woman sleeps with her best mate’s husband after a night on the Lambrini, chances are that’s a mistake as well. If a Prime Minister accidentally declares war in the Middle East, that’s almost certainly an error of judgement, but in each of those cases we don’t point at the people in question and hysterically screech about their behaviour being somehow indicative of a collapse of society (OK, maybe the last one we might).

On that basis, if a teenage girl makes a drunken error and either has a baby or (god help us) an abortion as a result, is that not, in the same way, her own business? Is it not just her own mistake? And if we don’t like what the teenage pregnancy figures say about social inequality, surely we need to deal with the causes and realities of that inequality, rather than patronise teenage girls for screwing things up in much the same manner as everyone else?

Could it (whisper it) truly be possible that teenagers and young people are actually capable of making autonomous independent decisions regardless of the opinions of others? And could it be that attending “How to live a blameless existence” class has the same effect on teenagers as it would on the rest of us?

I need a f**king drink

You know those Monday mornings when you get up and look around you and think, “What, really, is the point? What is my purpose? What little can I say I have achieved in my shallow, tiny and inconsequential existence?”
(No? That’s just me then?)…

On such days, you may now be able to take some comfort from the thought that, however pointless your conscious-hours activities, however little you’re achieving during the slow march toward certain death, you’ve NEVER committed any of your precious time to producing ANYTHING quite as pointless and intellectually-flatulent as this….

Scientists believe they have worked out a formula to calculate how "beer goggles" affect a drinker's vision.

An = number of units of alcohol consumed
S = smokiness of the room (graded from 0-10, where 0 clear air; 10 extremely smoky)
L = luminance of 'person of interest' (candelas per square metre; typically 1 pitch black; 150 as seen in normal room lighting)
Vo = Snellen visual acuity (6/6 normal; 6/12 just meets driving standard)
d = distance from 'person of interest' (metres; 0.5 to 3 metres)

No need to thank me.

Countryfile with Ian Brady

You could be forgiven for thinking that the latest series of ‘Celebrities Go Insane in the Jungle’, currently on our screens, marks the point of no return for popular culture. After all, it isn’t just the absolute epitome of bad taste telly, but is the clearest sign yet that celebrity - the very notion of it – is dead. Distorted beyond repair.

After all, this is a programme in which a pensionable inflato-breasted non-entity has been seen whipping the arse off another pudgy non-entity while he whimpers “Yes Mistress” at her in a suspiciously practiced manner (less than a week into the sordid little experiment); in which the image of an unknown ex-children’s television presenter pissing in the bushes is not only televised and cheerfully debated by an off-site audience, but is reprinted in the country’s biggest-selling daily newspaper; which features the crazed half-sister of the spouse of our country’s elected leader (the country’s leader, people) for no better reason than genetic accident, and in which (sweet lord) Liza Minelli’s terrifying, melted-rubber-faced ex-husband is THE MOST LIKEABLE PERSON ON THE SHOW.

You could be forgiven for thinking that.
You would, however, be wrong.

The final apolcalypse for popular culture – now postponed, you’ll be pleased to know – was to come in the form of an (unsurprisingly) Fox Broadcasting-generated vehicle for the ever-cuddly sportsman-turned-film-star-turned-psychotic-killer O J Simpson.

The working title, I kid you not, was “If I Did It”:

"The family of one of the victims in the OJ Simpson murder case have welcomed the decision to cancel a controversial TV interview with the former football legend. The infamous star had planned to describe "how he would have killed" Ron Goldman and his own ex-wife Nicole in 1995. News Corp, which owns both Fox and publisher HarperCollins, said the publication of OJ Simpson's book, If I Did It, had also been called off. Simpson was sensationally cleared of murdering Nicole and Mr Goldman in a case that gripped the world. However, he was later found liable for their deaths in a civil court."

Short of screening ‘Celebrity Supernanny’ with Myra Hindley, or installing Harold Shipman as the presenter of ‘City Hospital’, I really can’t see that there’s anything more offensive left to smear onto our screens.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Crabs for Capitalism

The US government is very upset at the moment, apparently, about the fact that it gave a shed-load of cash to Cuban dissidents in Miami to promote capitalism back home, and they spent it on Gameboys, mountain bikes, crabmeat and chocolate. (Otherwise known as ‘consumer goods’, those many and various shiny things that capitalist culture teaches us is our right to purchase, cheaply, constantly, and in surfeit to our needs).

A scathing congressional audit of democracy-assistance programmes found “questionable expenditure” by several groups funded by Washington in opposition to President Fidel Castro’s rule on the communist Caribbean island. The Miami-based Acción Democrática Cubana spent money on a chainsaw, Nintendo Game Boys and Sony PlayStations, mountain bikes, leather coats and Godiva chocolates, which the group says were all sent to Cuba. “These people are going hungry. They never get any chocolate there,” Juan Carlos Acosta, the group’s executive director, told the Miami Herald.

Yep, sounds to me like a highly “questionable” demonstration of US consumer values, that….

Personally, I don’t see what the problem is. As previously noted (see yesterday’s entry on chocolate covered fat, stale bread, garlic and vodka) Communism is hardly the culinary world’s greatest friend, is it? On that basis, what more effective way is there to show your former compatriots the true value of democracy than by sending them a bit of fresh crab and a couple of boxes of Quality Street?

“Screw the opium of the people, taste that!”

I mean really: what did they want them to do, use the money to produce a lengthy political treatise expounding on the values of capitalism and the free market?
If I was offered a choice between eating Eastern European-style ‘salo’ or seafood salad and chocolate mousse (or let’s face it, even Double Whoppers and KFC) for the rest of my natural, you can be pretty sure I’d be voting Republican before you could utter the words “diabetes” and “cholesterol”.

Rattle & Scum

Unless – and dear God I hope so – there’s a seething, sordid underbelly to this story (the woman possesses photographic evidence of Paul “you can call me Bono” Hewson licking the armpit of Chris “whingeing student” Martin while Bob Geldof dances around them wearing only his underpants and a hat made of Ethiopian Orphan-skin, let’s say), I’d be tempted to call this the most ugly example of celebrity egomania you’re ever likely to see…

Rock group U2 have won a legal battle against their former stylist, forcing her to hand over a cowboy hat and clothes she took from them in 1987… U2 had been fighting with Ms Cashman over the ownership of a Stetson hat, a pair of metal hooped earrings, a green sweatshirt and a pair of black trousers.
They were also trying to retrieve a number of other items which had been seen in her flat, including a video tape and monitor, rosary beads and hundreds of photographs.

BBC News Insanity

Breaking news from the BBC:

A tsunami is expected to hit the north and east coasts of Japan, the country's meteorological agency says. The agency says the tsumami will be at least two metres (6.5 feet) high and could hit Hokkaido and Honshu islands after 1210 GMT. Warnings are being broadcast on all TV channels and radio stations advising people to move to higher ground. It comes after an earthquake of at least 7.7 magnitude hit the Kuril Islands, north of Japan.

They’ve followed it up with one of their almost legendarily pathetic pleas to their readers for ‘interactive’ content – remember, it’s not lazy but is in fact cutting edge to get should-know-better members of the public to do your job for you:

“Are you in Hokkaido? Have you been affected by the tsunami warning? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below,” begs the newly-graduated internet-yokel being underpaid to churn out this nonsense in between bites of his morning bagel (you can practically hear the choking excitement from here).

Erm, is it just me, or shouldn’t a responsible news broadcaster be encouraging people in Hokkaido to follow the earlier-stated advice to “flee to higher ground”, rather than pleading with them to send pointless “where’s all that water coming from?” emails to the BBC’s website?

If I didn’t know better I’d honestly believe this story was a spoof: “There’s a tidal wave a’coming, folks. Don’t worry about inflating the dinghy, just sit tight and tell Auntie all about it”…

The really rough guide

Northern Ireland has made the grade as one of the world’s top tourist sites, for the very first time since Gerry Adams stopped being voiced by a Yorkshireman:

Lonely Planet co-founder Maureen Wheeler, who grew up in Belfast, was full of praise for her homeland. "I love the city, its grittiness, its resilience and its beauty and I love how Belfast people turn every social interaction into an excuse for a party," she said. "The landscape of Northern Ireland is astonishingly beautiful, the people are warm and genuine, and yet it is still relatively undiscovered which makes it the perfect destination."

All very true. Most of Ireland, truth be told, is worth seeing, and quite frankly, the risks of getting shot in the head (or the more traditional kneecaps, if you like) are probably as great in South London as they are in South Armagh (provided you take the precaution of removing your bowler hat and orange scarf before taking a bracing countryside stroll).

I myself have an unexplainable penchant for former warzones and – in tabloid parlance – ‘trouble spots’: this year alone I have given serious consideration to visiting Sarejevo, Istanbul and Jordan (the latter two a mere day or so after agitated gunmen had taken potshots at tourists. Maybe that says more about the luck of my timing than it does anything else).

In any case, when you find out that Beirut (last seen remodelled, as above, by the not-at-all-reactionary Israeli armed forces) also makes the Lonely Planet’s top 30 of the world’s most desirable tourist locations, you’ve nevertheless got to start wondering what the hell is going on.

What’s next, Kabul? Fallujah?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Warming to my theme somewhat, I am rather saddened to see that the latest in Mockney-unfriendly cuisine comes not from Inverness but from Kiev. Tis lovely, mind. 'ave a look, why don't you:

Forget deep-fried Mars bar. One of the unhealthiest snacks in the world can now be found in Ukraine. For years people here have loved pork fat, known as salo. Normally, small slices of the white fat are eaten with black bread, raw garlic and vodka. But this new twist is designed to appeal to Ukraine's love of all things fatty. For the equivalent of £1 you can now get four small sticks of salo covered in chocolate at Kiev's poshest Ukrainian restaurant.

Allow me to reiterate: it's fat, covered in chocolate. Personally I'd be far more inclined to go with the black bread, raw garlic and vodka accompaniment option, but then I'm an anti-social bastard, so that makes complete sense.

Not sure that the sales patter is really as sophisticated as it might be, mind:

"Young girl, come and try my tasty salo, it's super salo," Katya Feschenko shouts to me. Katya is the salo queen at Kiev's busy Bessarabska Market. Slabs of white fat sit next to spare ribs and hunks of bacon on her stall.

Altogether now....mmmmmmmm.

"A fat person in England isn't the same as a fat person in America”

Do you know, sometimes the extent of Mockney Oliver’s wisdom truly surprises.
Oh hang on, it doesn’t, does it…

Not content with patronising and insulting British parents, the teaching profession, people who don’t eat in Fifteen, people who don’t shop at Sainsbury’s (and everyone else left over who has ever had occasion to consume food), Mockney has now taken to lecturing US politicians on their country's impressive lard consumption.

Apparently, according to Jamie, America has something of an obesity problem due to all the fast food and Krispy Kremes that people there shovel into their faces while watching Oprah.
Fancy that! Americans! Fat!

"England's the most unhealthy country in Europe and America is the most unhealthy country in the world”, revealed Jamie breathlessly, with all the purpose and intelligence of an overly exciteable baboon scratching its own arse. (Not ACTUALLY true, but then, Mockney isn't ACTUALLY an authority on the subject, so that's alright.) He doesn’t stop at page one of his manifesto (working title, Stating the f**king obvious) though. Oh no.
Mockney has important advice to offer the hapless low-level politicians who’d been wheeled out to be photographed with the fat-tongued one, all of whom I’d bet were wearing “who in the hell told this greasy Essex boy he could touch me?” expressions throughout the junket.

“Oliver said U.S. politicians should "stop being so subservient" to "junk food companies" and that the country should cut down on junk and fatty foods, which would help reduce future health costs.”

Tell you what Jamie, you’re like a one man public service announcement, you really are.
Oh no, I mean a filthy, shameless one-man self-publicity machine, don’t I?

“Oliver's latest book "Jamie's Italy" was released in U.S. bookstores earlier this month and his television series "Jamie Oliver's Great Italian escape" will debut in the United States this month.”

Maker’s Mark misanthropy

Now, I have been known in my time to enjoy – as I am sure have many others – the odd libation. In so doing, I have on occasion been known to utter (a variation on the theme of) “Goodness, had I not imbibed so enthusiastically yester-eve, I might not now be experiencing sensations of stomach churning and mild regret at this juncture” the following day.

Never, however, have I mused gently on the regrettable demise of slavery and later blamed it on the fact that someone made me drink too much - as did a bunch of South Carolina frat boys stitched up recently in the Borat movie:

The plaintiffs -- listed as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 -- were allegedly assured the film would not be shown in the U.S. and their identities would not be revealed.
They were both selected to appear in the movie and, according to the suit, taken "to a drinking establishment 'to loosen up' and provided alcoholic beverages." They claim they signed the movie releases after "heavy drinking."

The suit claims both men were then taken to a motor home where they were filmed, all the while "encouraged to continue drinking."
The plaintiffs claim they suffered "humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community..." because the movie was indeed released in the U.S.

Whatever happens to people when they’re drunk or otherwise intoxicated – and let’s be honest, unfortunate things sometimes will happen – alcohol is not, in most cases, capable of performing a total personality bypass on the human brain (although I'm told it can do very odd things when you mess with the air pressure. Stay away from the Gordon’s on longhaul flights, is all I'm saying).
Point is, I simply don’t believe that people start spouting utter drivel entirely removed from their actual opinions when they’ve had a few. There has to be a morsel of truth hiding in there somewhere, even when it is expressed in less than professional terms. On some small level, in other words, what you say when totally poleaxed will be what you think.

These boys essentially made numpties of themselves on film, and that’s nobody else’s fault but their own. Rather than sueing they’d be far better off trying to let the whole affair die down and thereafter go back to their lives. (Even if they have to move to Alaska or Mongolia to do it).

See, that Mel Gibson has a lot to answer for. Not only has he been responsible for such accuracy-phobic, hyperbolic nonsense as Braveheart (Scotland is an independent nation, the English monarch was secretly the illegitimate offspring of William Wallace, and Edward II’s boyfriend was pushed out of a window by his dad? Right you are, then…) and The Patriot (OK, so it was the Nazis that locked the innocents in the church and burned them alive in 1940s France, and nothing to do with the English in the US, but who’s counting?) but he appears to have made it entirely acceptable for people to excuse any manner of putrid xenophobic and generally socially unpleasant nonsense on having swilled down one too many Ribenas. For shame, Mel.

Cold, headless turkey

I’ve been trying to get my fuzzy and unwell mind around the absurdity of this story since yesterday evening, when I watched it break on the evening news, slackjawed in astonishment.
The longer I spend trying to think of something amusing, witty or at the very least cynical and withering to say about it, the harder it gets to come up with something funnier than the bare bones of the story itself in all its unremarked, unfettered glory.
So on that note, I'm just going to copy and paste this from the BBC News website. Remember, that’s the BBC News website, not The Onion, yes?

Payments totalling £750,000 will go to 197 prisoners and former inmates forced to stop taking drugs by going "cold turkey" in jail.
The damages, approved by a High Court judge, follow their claims that the practice amounted to an assault and breach of human rights.

Friday, November 10, 2006

An obvious gag, but I don't care

According to the University of Stirling, which has conducted one of those pointless 'merging of 1000 features' publicity exercises designed to fill pages in toilet rags like the Metro and thelondonpaper, the picture above (left) is the 'ultimate comedy face':

"Scientists have used computer software to come up with what they say is the perfect comedy face. The University of Stirling team blended together 179 different facial aspects of 20 top comedians. They said soft and feminine features, typified by Ricky Gervais, were more likely to make people laugh."

That's told the rest of us who had assumed that such a coveted prize would go to the face pictured on the right.

Brand Awareness

Now, while he does nothing for me, I understand that the shockheaded twiglet known as Russell Brand is deemed attractive by a greater number of women than is strictly reasonable (it’s the mockney shrieking that puts me off – he claims it’s part of some ludicrously constructed ‘Victorian Dandy’ persona, but I’m fairly sure even Jamie Oliver would be embarrassed).

Got no problem with that, or with how many of said women he claims to have bedded (while one does question any man’s need for the world to know how urgently virile he is, it’s still an entirely different topic). I’ve got no problem with him as a radio DJ either: clearly he has the ability to both raise heckles and think quickly, which are obviously key to his kind of presentation style. But he didn’t really translate to TV, did he?

OK, so his Big Brother thing was a success. That is because:
a. to Big Brother audiences (who are so easily entertained that they’re prepared to watch wall-to-wall nightshots of people asleep) anyone who can string a sentence together is practically Chekhov,
b. it was only expected to get about 12 viewers in the first instance, and
c. his competition was Davina McCall.

However, his own show (Russell Brand's Got Issues - oh dear) started with great fanfare but last I heard, E4 had admitted that it was a flop, being beaten by shows on all the main rival channels (most of which hadn’t benefited from expensive promotional campaigns).

So tell me, what’s this all about?

“Comedian and presenter Russell Brand is to go head to head with Jonathan Ross after landing his own Channel 4 show. The Russell Brand Show will feature celebrity interviews, comedy sketches and live music performances. Channel 4's Factual entertainment editor Angela Jain said: "[Brand's] undoubtedly the man of the moment."

Wasn’t Charlotte Church the woman of the moment about 12 seconds ago?

When are television executives going to realise that the reality television they (but seemingly nobody else) are so keen on HASN’T transformed TV into an entirely throwaway medium? That you can’t just transform people into instant television ‘stars’ because they’ve impressed for approximately 3 weeks elsewhere?

Jonathan Ross is, whether you like him or not, an accomplished and at times very funny television presenter. That is because he has been doing it for QUITE A LONG TIME. The early stuff he did was, in all honesty, pretty rubbish, but so what? He was allowed to cut his teeth on the lighterweight stuff, hence he learned, he got better, and here he now is, the highest paid man in British television.

The Brands and the Churches of this world are both clearly talented people, but shoe-horning them into ridiculously hastily put-together and ill thought out formats for which they are inadequately experienced, then sticking them up against a highly accomplished performer is an almost guaranteed recipe for failure which neither of them deserve.

Why can’t we do as we did in the days of Jonathan Ross’s early career and let people develop properly into their personas, instead of setting them up for a slating and a likely future of unjustified television obscurity? In TV-Land as in any other, instant gratification means, more often than not, no gratification at all.

Hissy fits

Why on earth don’t people just admit it when they’ve had a tantrum?

“Actress” Denise Richards – famous, as far as I can tell, only for nicking ‘pop-her-in-your-pocket’ Heather Locklear’s husband – has had a barney with a couple of paparazzi photographers in Canada. She ended up lobbing a computer off a balcony, which hit a couple of women standing below. (They’re not the victims here, obviously, Denise is)…

“While trying to stop the paparazzi, Denise Richards was involved in an altercation. To protect her safety she instinctively knocked the paparazzo's laptops off a ledge. Royal Canadian Mounted Police were called to the scene as a precaution and the case was soon closed. No charges were filed against Ms Richards.”

What the hell were the MOUNTIES doing wasting their time over a bit of kit being “instinctively knocked” off a balcony in an act of self-protection?
Do me a favour.
Is that like when Naomi Campbell “instinctively” punches her personal assistants in the face for accidentally double-booking her AA and NA meetings?

Thursday, November 09, 2006


This: neway

What IS that? I see it everywhere on tinterweb, and I have come to the conclusion that it means 'anyway'. I've even seen (shudder) "neways...". Once I even spied "Neways dude hope u aight", but I came to the conclusion that the chap in question was midway through having a stroke, and I don't believe in mocking the injured or otherwise afflicted.


In all seriousness, English is a great language. It's brilliantly expressive and often very amusing. Why butcher it purely because you're a lazy typist?
I'm all for the language evolving and adapting to social change - English as a language has had more foreign influences absorbed within it than any of the world's major languages, after all, and mostly to its benefit. But adapting something is different to diminishing it. 'Neways' does not in any way add anything, improve clarity or alter meaning in a valuable way. Nor does 'nite', u instead of you, b instead of be, or any of the other tedious little text message witticisms.

If you're going to adapt the English language, do so in a way that adds value, rather than in a way that takes it backwards. Otherwise, please, for all our sakes, LEARN TO BLOODY SPELL.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Under the circumstances,

I think this might be worth a repeat airing:

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."

D. Rumsfeld

The Music Man

Oh for god's sake. It may be because I'm feeling sick and grumpy, but reading this has made me INORDINATELY agitated.

Simon Cowell, who is something big in the manufactured music industry (and who looks like an overweight version of the bloke off the Mr Muscle ads, but I don't think the two things are related) recently made me laugh by commenting that he didn't understand how Pete Doherty - singer of the perfectly inoffensive band Babyshambles -has enjoyed any success, on the grounds that he couldn't sing.
"He'd never get anywhere on X Factor", pronounced Simon, sagely. (Or as sagely as one can when one has the vocal range of a castrated rodent).

Very true, Mr Cowell. Very well observed indeed.

Except, when you think through that logic, not being desperate enough to perform like a singing monkey on a rigged TV show doesn't really mean that a musician is "not very good", does it? I mean, let's think about all the people who "wouldn't get anywhere" on X Factor.

Dame David Bowie. Kurt Cobain. The Clash. Morrissey. Iggy Pop (although I would give everything I own to see him try). You see where I'm going with this, Simon, you intellectually-neutered adulterator of popular culture?

And now, it seems, he's at it again.

Apparently, Simon is helplessly incapable of imagining a musical world beyond reality television.
Amost tragically, X Factor - the tedious little bubble of manufactured sub-Eurovision pop poison Simon created in order to line his already-bulging pockets - is all that exists for the raisin-faced talent trampler. If it isn't up to the standards of Michelle McManus or Steve Brookstein (no, me neither), it simply don't exist.

Which is why we get this:

'Simon Cowell has branded the city of Seattle, Washington as "totally miserable." Cowell's talent-finding visit to the city was unsuccessful, with the British music mogul lamenting the lack of decent Seattle-based singers. He tells USA Today, "Seattle is going to be known for something other than coffee this year. They had the worst bunch of miserable singers that I've ever met in my life. It was two days of total misery. And the weather was bad, as well."'

Oh yes, that's right, Cowell. Seattle is WELL KNOWN for it's lack of musical talent, isn't it? Never had anything APPROACHING a music scene, has it? Unless, of course, you count Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney.... Yep. Narry a room-filler among them. None of them were ever any good, were they?

Oh no, wait, according to your logic, they weren't.

What the hell's wrong with a marquee?

Oh deary, deary me.

Tom Cruise is apparently marrying his rent-a-bride at the Castello Odescalchi on the Bracciano lake near Rome.
I know the place. It's lovely. I like it there.

Does this mean that the area (largely ignored, happily, by tourists at present) will be subsequently overrun with unimaginative people taking bridal package holidays as a result? I do hope not.

I love a good castle, me. The two above (Warkworth Castle in Northumberland and Berkeley Castle - site of Edward II's infamous demise) are my favourites. In case you should ever wonder.