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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.