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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Children make you sick: Official

I realise that this is a dangerously contentious subject to comment upon, but rather than clambering upon a Daily Mail high horse, I’m simply a bit confused.

Here’s the thing.

‘The Office for National Statistics estimates there are 1.69m lone parents with dependent children in the UK . Britain has one of the lowest levels of lone parent employment in Europe, with almost half on benefits. He said up to a third of lone parents move on to incapacity benefit once their child benefit ends as their youngest reaches 16.’

So: there are 1.69 million single parents in this country, around half of whom are on benefits. Well, to be fair, if you are a single parent of young children it is not entirely surprising that you would require welfare assistance (although respect is due to the single parents who work and don’t claim). What I don’t understand is what happens to these same parents once they are no longer needed at home to care for their children:

‘Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton says he does not want lone parents moving "seamlessly" on to incapacity benefit once their child benefits stop. He said he has evidence that up to a third of lone parents move on to incapacity benefit once their child benefit ends, as their youngest reaches 16. Mr Hutton has already unveiled plans to to get one million incapacity benefit claimants back into work over the next 10 years, saving £7bn a year.’

What, pray, is this ‘incapacity benefit’?

A cursory glance at the trusty tinterweb tells me that:

‘If you are suffering from short or long-term illness, you may be eligible to receive the Incapacity Benefit. The benefit is not means tested and in most cases depends on your record of National Insurance Contributions. You must be unable to work because of disability or ill health, cannot claim statutory sick pay, and have been paid or credited with a minimum amount of National Insurance Contributions in one of the last two tax years.’

Right. Incapacity Benefit is something you receive if, as the label suggests, you are incapable of working through ill health.

So that’s half of all single parents who claim benefits. Around 845,000 people, say.
And a third of those then become too sick to work?

Over 281,000 people rendered ‘too sick to work’ after at least 16 unemployed years of being a parent?

If that’s what having children does to you, I’m even less interested than I thought I was.

Monday, January 29, 2007

It’s certainly Perky

Check this out: it’s Rasputin of the waterworld!

‘A duck that survived being shot and spending two days in a refrigerator has now overcome major surgery - despite briefly dying on the operating table.
Florida vets working to repair gunshot damage to Perky's wing panicked when the duck twice stopped breathing.
But they managed to resuscitate the bird, who leapt to fame when she was found alive in a hunter's fridge two days after being shot.’


It’s like a living breathing contraceptive...

'A woman in Brazil has given birth to a "giant baby" weighing 17lb (8kg) - twice the size of an average newborn. Ademilton dos Santos is the heaviest boy ever born in Brazil, says the Brazilian Gynaecological Association.
Paediatrician Luiz Sena Azul said Ademilton "could truly be considered a giant baby, for he was born weighing what a six-month-old-baby normally weighs".'

Apparently, the kid was born by caesarean section.

You do surprise me…

Judging a book by its bald psychotic cover

Now this is a terribly unpleasant story: an ex-soldier brutally slaughtered his entire family in a house in Benwell. He wasn’t, apparently, very well in the head:

'A former soldier has admitted the manslaughter of four members of his family, who were found shot dead at the home they shared in Newcastle.
David Bradley, 41, was originally charged with the murders of his uncle Peter Purcell, aunt Josie, both 70, and their sons Keith, 44, and Glen, 41.'

Look at the picture though: I don’t mean to be rude, but the man looks like the kind of Photofit image they routinely run in the tabloids, alongside various arrangements of the words ‘chilling’, ‘psychopath’ and ‘killer eyes’.
He’s like a cartoon villain made flesh. You can’t help thinking that he’d have had a struggle in life if he’d wanted to be a primary school teacher instead of a multiple murderer.

Tis the season


Have a look at this: our nation’s children are so fat and greedy it’s almost comical!

They consume ‘more sweets and fizzy drinks than any others in Europe’, according to somesuch survey.
£128.40’s worth every year, in fact.
So far so blah. ‘Cept the clearly-bored minion who put this survey together has taken the time to break this figure down into a set of considerably more humorous and interesting statistics: this is apparently 'equivalent to 1,167 two-finger KitKat bars, or almost 400 Cadbury Creme Eggs'.

Allow me to repeat that: British kids eat 400 crème eggsworth of crap every year!
It’s a sign: it truly is scotch crème egg season. There’s a market out there…

And while we’re on the subject of wholesome nutrition, an organisation called CASH – Consensus Action on Salt and Health – whose entire existence appears to be discouraging people from eating salt in excess, has released figures explaining how much salt is too much salt, and where exactly one can find it.

I tell you what, it’s quite disturbing. Did you know, for example, that a bowl of CORNFLAKES contains virtually the same amount of salt as sea water? I kid you not:

‘Among the products with high levels of salt is a Sainsbury's product - Oat and Bran Flakes - with 2.4g of salt per 100g, compared with 2.5g of salt per 100g in Atlantic salt water.’

And while you get over that, it might interest you to know that Pepperami – those funny skinny little sausage sticks advertised by a disturbingly psychotic anthropomorphised salami character – contain 4g of salt per 100g. That’s 4g, compared to 2.5g in a gobful of sea water.

Best stick to the crème eggs.

Big Brother turns Superman

The government reckons it’s got criminal activity licked with the latest breed of CCTV cameras. Apparently, they’re X-ray. Like in superhero movies. As in, they can see through clothes.

Honestly. It says so in the paper. Unless I’ve been reading the Beano again in error (The Sun/The Beano – easy mistake to make):

‘According to a leaked memo seen by The Sun, "detection of weapons and explosives will become easier" if the scheme drawn up by Home Office officials is adopted. However, officials acknowledged that it would be highly controversial as the cameras can "see" through clothing.
"The social acceptability of routine intrusive detection measures and the operational response required in the event of an alarm are likely to be limiting factors," the memo warned.’

Learning to be a good citizen

Apparently, British schools are going to start teaching British history, in history lessons, in British classrooms. I tell you what, it’s revolutionary, but it just might work…

However, before you get ahead of yourself and start thinking that British historical knowledge is probably kind of important in its own right for all people living in Britain, as a way of extending their general understanding of their environment (or, indeed, before you start wondering how in the hell British history came to be removed from history lessons in the first place), you ought to know that this extraordinarily daring move is not about the government’s understanding of the intrinsic value of knowledge, but is being introduced specifically for ‘citizenship’ and ‘diversity’ purposes.

History classes have not been compulsory for children over the age of 14 since 1990, but instead of bringing back compulsory history, the government is introducing a brand new compulsory GCSE in ‘Citizenship’.
So that’s alright then.

Get yourself top marks in ‘tolerance, respect and justice’ classes, and Alan Johnson just might come round personally to pat you on the head and give you a sugar lump.

‘Secondary schools in England are to be forced to teach more British history to help pupils have a better understanding of their own identity and Britain's religious, racial, social and political diversity.
Lessons on the Commonwealth and empire, the slave trade and conflicts such as those in Northern Ireland are to be made a keystone of revamped citizenship education. Other issues such as migration will be made central to the curriculum. Pupils will be expected to learn core "British" values such as tolerance, respect, freedom of speech and justice and learn of "the shared British heritage"…
The education secretary, Alan Johnson, said yesterday that schools "can and should play a lead role in creating greater cohesion. The values our children learn will shape the kind of country Britain becomes. We are a nation built from and by people from other countries. We should celebrate our history and how it has created today's diversity, recognising the role played by immigrants in our success."
Mr Johnson has accepted recommendations from Sir Keith Ajegbo, a former London headteacher, that a new strand about living together in the UK should be added to compulsory citizenship lessons.’

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Getting Satisfaction

Surely the surprise here is the revelation that 42% of 20-30 year old graduates are happy with the state of their careers… Things must be improving.

'Graduates who take a gap year abroad after university are facing a "career crisis", according to research released today. Uncertain of the career they want to pursue, they are taking low-paid administration jobs when they return home, says the Training Development Agency for Schools. It found that almost one in four graduates aged between 20 and 30 was struggling to find the right career, with more than half (58 per cent) doing a job they disliked.'

TV dinners

What the hell is this all about? Watch television while you eat your school lunch because the food is boring? That sounds almost as sensible as making kids stay in secondary education for seven years because they’re not being taught properly in the currently required five.

‘Pupils should be allowed to watch TV while they tuck into school meals, a minister said yesterday. Parmjit Dhanda claimed it would encourage healthier eating by taking kids’ minds off boring food.’


I should be up in arms about this – outrageous sale of the concept of democracy, corporatisation of free speech, disturbing lack of political passion in modern society, and so on – but tragically, I just find it funny:

‘Young, good-looking, and available for around 150 euros (£100), more than 300 would-be protesters are marketing themselves on a German rental website. They feature next to cars, DVDs, office furniture and holiday homes…Their descriptions read like those on a dating site.
Next to a black and white posed picture, Melanie lists her details from her jeans size to her shoe size and tells potential protest organisers that she is willing to be deployed up to 100km around Berlin. Six hours of Melanie bearing your banner or shouting your slogan will set you back 145 euros.’

Wall-to-wall marketing genius

This story is entirely unremarkable – director of conflict diamond movie rejects half-baked attempt by industry to deflect criticism (yawn) – except for one rather splendid thing: apparently, the ‘Right Hand Ring for Africa’ campaign by the DIC is even more ill-thought-out than its painfully poorly-constructed name would suggest:

‘The director of Hollywood film Blood Diamond has attacked a campaign to get stars to display gems at awards events. The US diamond industry is donating $10,000 (£5,000) to African charities for each star raising a hand with a ring at events including the Oscars.
The Diamond Information Center (DIC) marketing organisation and diamond retailers are hoping to raise $100,000 (£50,000) with the Raise Your Right Hand Ring for Africa campaign. Conflict diamonds have been linked to armed struggles in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
At a press conference, Mr Zwick pointed out "the cruel irony... that the raising of one's hand and the using of one's hand to vote was the prompt for the Revolutionary United Front to chop off hands in Sierra Leone".’

"I don't know who by but they are high-up people"

'Disgraced Celebrity Big Brother star Jade Goody is to tour India in attempt to rehabilitate her public image. She revealed her plan for a trip to India in an effort to build race relations during a television interview.
She also spoke about how she had endured attacks on her home since she invoked widespread public condemnation after she was accused of racist bullying towards Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty.
She told channel Five's The Wright Stuff: "I'm thinking about going over there
because I've been invited over there. I don't know who by but they are high-up people."'

Sorry, what? Are you telling me that a team of the most experienced media marketing minds in the business are working overtime to rescue the career of this, their most sorry-arsed, manky-feathered golden goose, and a race relations ‘trip to India’ is the best they can come up with?

Deary me.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Racism: the new ratings draw!

‘Channel 4 has become embroiled in a new race row after complaints about racist comments on reality show Shipwrecked. A contestant made offensive remarks about black people, as well as gay and fat people.
Media watchdog Ofcom said it received 46 complaints about the programme, in which young people compete on two desert islands in the South Pacific.
Public schoolgirl Lucy Buchanan, 18, from York, praised slavery and said she would get a black person to do her "slave work".
It follows 45,000 complaints over alleged racist bullying on C4's other reality show Celebrity Big Brother.’

Be sure to tune in for next season’s reality TV special, “KKK: The Survival Show”. Contestants who make it through a fortnight in a specially-constructed bunker in South Carolina without being lynched win their very own Sports Utility Vehicle! (A white one, of course).

45,000 complaints for ‘Poppadom, a staggering 46 for endorsing “slave work”?
How peculiar.
Here’s a clue: Jade “Beast of Bermondsey” Goody vs. Lucy “Public Schoolgirl” Buchanan. The message here is as clear as it’s ever been: working class fat girls are only allowed to be famous when we’re laughing at them…

Shaun Murphy can sod right off

Friday, January 19, 2007


On fire, I tell you, ON FIRE...

Bono has a lot to answer for

It really is time for half-arsed pop ‘stars’ to back away from issues and concentrate on being superficial and dispensible again, isn’t it?

'US pop star Pink has backed away from a campaign to boycott Australian wool organised by pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The singer angered Australian farmers in December when branded the practice of sheep "mulesing" as "sadistic". She made the comments about the practice - cutting slices of flesh from lambs' rumps to prevent maggot infestation - in a video for Peta.
But Pink has admitted on Australian TV that she did not do enough research. She told Australia's Nine Network television she had not been fully informed when she agreed to take part in the campaign. "I probably could have been a lot more researched, on my own. That's the lesson I'm taking from this," she said.'

Crystal clear

Bloody hell, am I the only person who didn’t know that crystal meth wasn’t a class A drug? And is the timing of this announcement in any way related to the recent death of the Godfather of Soul? (It MUST be dangerous – it took nearly 30 years to kill him!):

'The "euphoric" sex and dance culture drug crystal meth will become a class A drug to avert widespread use in the UK . People who use methamphetamine - its proper name - now face up to seven years in jail and an unlimited fine, while dealers could be jailed for life.'

More Big Bitch nonsense

Seriously though, a ‘Lord of the Flies’-style gang of filthy dimwitted scrubbers, jealously attacking a successful and beautiful Indian woman over her ‘filthy’ eating habits (i.e. eating with her fingers), calling her ‘the Indian’ and telling her to "get back to the slums", to “fuck off home” on the grounds that “she can’t even speak English properly” : THIS is something that a national television channel is airing, and defending as NOT being racist?

Apparently, what we are dealing with is merely, "undoubtedly…a cultural and class clash between her and three of the British females in the house."

What, as in she’s got some culture and class and they’re a hideous collective of rancid old trolls?

It’s a shame it makes such poor viewing, really, but on the plus side, it ought to finally spell the long overdue end of Jade Goody's preposterous 'career', which can only be deemed a good thing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Big Brother Balls

All this brouhaha (how I have longed to use that word) about mentally-retarded schoolgirl bitching and bullying in the Big Brother house is quite interesting. If only because it reveals the decidedly peculiar relationship that Channel Four executives seem to have with the concept of 'offensive'. Apparently, calling someone a 'paki' is offensive, on the grounds that it is racist, but calling that same person a 'c**t' is...well...not.
Not only that, but calling someone a 'paki' is apparently illustrative of the personality of the name-caller and ought to be included in the show. Calling the same woman a 'c**t', however, doesn't tell us anything about the kind of person you are, it seems, and therefore must be bleeped out of the broadcast.
So it's OK to say paki on telly but not to say c**t. Or is it OK to say c**t and not say paki? I'm lost.

Whatever. With a bit of luck Charlie Dunstone will come good on his damage-limitation-exercise threats, and actually pull the plug on Carphone's sponsorship. Someone somewhere needs to put the sordid and sorry spectacle of Big Brother out of its misery.

Still, it's nice to see we're keeping a strong sense of perspective on the issue, in any case:

'Ofcom has received 7,600 complaints by telephone and e-mail about alleged racism towards Shetty -- about 200 times the number of complaints received over broadcast clips of the hanging of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.'

Monday, January 15, 2007


‘Iraqi government officials have shown journalists video of the hanging of two of Saddam Hussein's aides, during which one of the men was decapitated.’

What, as a kind of “here’s how to not do it” lesson in killing?

How long is a piece of rope?

Goodness. The Iraqi government really isn’t very good at hanging people, is it? I mean, you’ve had to have measured your rope pretty badly if it’s long enough to actually take a man’s head off:

'Two of Saddam Hussein's key aides have been hanged in Baghdad, two weeks after the chaotic execution of the former Iraqi president. There were "no violations" this time, officials said, but Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, was decapitated as he was hanged. Government officials said the decapitation of Barzan was not abnormal, although it was rare for the head to be severed during hanging. One described it as "an act of God".'

It’s a most peculiar thing, isn’t it? You’d think that the Iraqi nation had really got enough problems on its plate as it is, without going around bumping off members of its toppled government.

Still, it’s comforting to know that this appalling mess has been created not by the shocking ineptitude and political arrogance of America and Britain’s leadership, but by our country’s newspapers. According to Tony, the problems in Iraq were not caused (to any extent) by their deliberately misjudged and misrepresented actions in Iraq, or those of previous US and UK administrations, but are the fault of the press, for having the sheer outrageous audacity to publish photographs of the results of their Middle Eastern occupation (e.g. children with no arms, Abu Ghraib prisoners being tortured, kidnapped aide workers having their heads cut off, and soldiers and civilians being brutally murdered):

‘Tony Blair has turned the blame for his disastrous military campaigns in the Middle East on anti-war dissidents and the media. Warning it would take the West another 20 years to defeat Islamic terrorism, the Prime Minister used a wide-ranging "swansong" lecture on defence to denounce critics and the media who have been a thorn in his side since the invasion of Iraq.
Acknowledging the public backlash against the Iraq war, Mr Blair said: "Public opinion will be divided, feel that the cost is too great, the campaign too long, and be unnerved by the absence of 'victory' in the normal way they would reckon it.
But the Prime Minister added: "They will be constantly bombarded by the propaganda of the enemy, often quite sympathetically treated by their own media, to the effect that it's really all 'our', that is the West's fault. That, in turn, impacts on the feelings of our armed forces. They want public opinion not just behind them but behind their mission."

See, the thing that upsets Tony is not, it would appear, that these things are happening, that they are a FACT, but that newspapers have “distorted the truth” by showing the British public the results of our government’s actions.
This woolly thinking he couples with a continuing insistence that it matters not what the REALITY of his actions might be, so long as the ‘belief’, or the ‘intention’ that drove them was well-intended.

For a political leader to hold his hands up and essentially say, “none of this is my fault because I thought it was a good idea at the time” is deeply frustrating and ultimately childish, because it is an argument intended largely to deliver him from the spotlight of public criticism over a war we never wanted (how can we possibly be mean about that nice Mr Blair when really he just meant well?).
Still, as a man who has concerned himself more than any of his recent predecessors with the health of his own public image and saleability (his saleability being the principle reason he was made PM instead of Gordon in the first place), the superficiality of Tony’s thinking is thoroughly depressing, but not, sadly, remotely surprising.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Big Fat Cheque

David Beckham reckons that his £128m move to an LA football team (hilariously called LA Galaxy - they really don’t get it, bless ‘em, do they?) is NOT motivated by money alone.
Probably not: his wife fancies herself as a celebrity, she’s stick thin (de rigeur in that vacuous city) and they’re after a particular standard of living they think they’ll get over there. In short, they like it in Los Angeles, and want to live there. Fair do.

The point, though, is this: so what if his move IS motivated entirely by money? It’s £128 million we’re talking about here, not 50 quid’s worth of luncheon vouchers and a packet of Cadbury’s buttons. Who wouldn’t be tempted?
Or perhaps the bigger question: what is it about the British national psyche that makes us regard the pursuit (and enjoyment) of wealth to be somehow ‘common’ and shameful?

School’s out

‘The school leaving age is to be raised for the first time in nearly half a century, The Times has learnt. With full encouragement from Gordon Brown, Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, has set up a team to organise the lifting of the age at which children must be at school, in training or in an apprenticeship from 16 to 18 by 2013. The change, which will affect around 330,000 teenagers, will help to tackle rising youth unemployment, with unskilled school leavers finding it increasingly difficult to get a job.’

What kind of a madness is this? If a kid wants to leave school at 16 to do something else, why shouldn’t they be able to? To insist that they stay in school longer is illogical in the extreme: it will mean that a woman can be officially considered old enough to be a parent, but must legally still be at school. It also degrades the rights of late teenagers to be considered autonomous free-thinking adults; I can still (just) recall how I might’ve reacted at the age of 16 if someone had suddenly decided on my behalf that I was still to be deemed a dependent ‘child’ with no right to options of my own for an extra two years.

Moreover, it misses the point completely: we’ve just been told that half of school-going kids today don’t pass basic GCSE exams, rendering them underqualified and virtually useless in the workplace. The solution to that problem, I would think QUITE CLEARLY, is to do a better bloody job teaching kids in the many years they’re already obliged to be at school, not just extend those years until the job gets done.

Imagine that approach being taken in the real world: you’re a magazine advertising salesman trying to hit your target within deadline, let’s say.
Unfortunately you’re a shit salesman.
Would your boss delay the publication of the magazine for an extra month or two to make sure that you sell enough ads? No, course she sodding wouldn’t. She’d make sure that her salesmen were properly trained and up to the job in the time available, and she’d sack the shit ones.

Should be the same in schools. If teachers aren’t doing a good enough job at providing children with the most basic of their educational rights, surely the government should fix the core problem and demand better teaching, not give rubbish teachers more time in which to fuck up?

Fencing nonsense

Charlotte Church has been annoying her neighbours, it seems. And not by vomiting cheeky vimto into their herbaceous borders, more’s the pity. They’ve got the right hump, apparently, because she’s built a big old wooden fence outside her house.
Now, it pains me to say anything bad about the lovely Charlotte, but have a look at it. It’s the ugliest bloody thing I’ve ever seen.
To be entirely fair, if she’d stuck that up anywhere near my abode, I’d almost certainly have torched the thing within minutes.

Rampaging Ego Elf

Hahahahahaha. I don’t know quite why this story pleases me so much, but it really does:

'The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has been ruled out of making The Hobbit, the head of film studio New Line has said…New Line co-chairman Bob Shaye said Jackson would never make The Hobbit "during my watch".
"He's got a quarter of a billion dollars paid to him so far, justifiably, according to contract, completely right. And this guy... turns around without wanting to have a discussion with us and sues us and refused to discuss it unless we just give in to his plan.
"I don't want to work with that guy any more. Why would I? So the answer is he will never make any movie with New Line Cinema again while I'm still working at the company."'

“We were basically creating the laws as we went”

These people really do exist in a different world to the rest of us, don’t they? What part of flying to Africa, dropping £3m, and thereafter immediately having a little black baby smuggled out of the country in a private aeroplane was “difficult”, exactly? I've had sneezes more difficult than that. She wants difficult, she should try going through the two-year process of adopting one of the many babies that need “rescuing” from Hackney or Tower Hamlets. You know, like mere mortals tend to do.

If she doesn’t shut up soon, I really do think I may have to kill her.

‘Madonna has called for more people to adopt children from Africa despite the controversy surrounding her own moves to take custody of a Malawian child. The singer told US talk show host David Letterman she was "saving a life" by taking the one-year-old to the UK. She admitted she had been warned it might be difficult but had not expected so much criticism. The 48-year-old suggested laws needed to change because a million children in Malawi needed to be "rescued".’

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Peppermint-thieving Gestapo-knacker

Now, it might just be me, but I reckon old Felipe here sounds just the sort of boy you'd want to take out for a glass of port.

After having been hobbled by septic police (and having his peppermints confiscated!), then transported in a "filthy, foetid paddy wagon" to a police cell for eight hours, he still has a sense of humour suave enough to compare himself to a Rambo/Perry Mason hybrid.

Marvellous stuff, it really is:

'Distinguished historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto tried to cross the road while in Atlanta for the conference of the American Historical Association, only to find himself in handcuffs and surrounded by armed police.

The bespectacled professor says he didn't realise the "rather intrusive young man" shouting that he shouldn't cross there was a policeman. "I thanked him for his advice and went on."

The officer asked for identification. The professor asked for his,
(oh I'd love to have seen that) after which Officer Leonpacher told him he was under arrest and, the professor claims, kicked his legs from under him, pinned him to the ground and confiscated his box of peppermints.'


'...his colleagues now regard him as "as a combination of Rambo, because it took five cops to pin me to the ground, and Perry Mason, because my eloquence before a judge obtained my immediate release".'

Rule Britannia

According to a new survey, we are the most apathetic voters in Europe, with only 61% of people voting in the last election. We are twice as fat as the Germans (the GERMANS), we waste more energy than any other European nation, we consume the most porn, take the most cocaine, and are the most violent of any of the continent’s peoples.

Aahhh. It fair brings a tear to the eye, don’t it?

Now there's a shocker

‘Dozens of good schools are to be converted into city academies despite Government claims that the initiative is aimed at failing schools. Only six of the 67 schools earmarked by the Department for Education and Skills to be re-launched as "independent" academies, backed by sponsors, are in special measures – the Ofsted category that follows a failed report. Critics said last night that huge amounts of money were being wasted to repackage good schools in an attempt to ensure the success of the £5 billion policy that Tony Blair hopes will be his education legacy.’

Does anyone want to tell me who, exactly, is supposed to be surprised by this ‘revelation’?

Say no to extra time

I know times have changed a little since I was at school – doing PE in your knickers is apparently largely frowned upon, the SPAM fritter is, tragically, no more, and I believe they even have heating now – but since when did being an academic high achiever mean that you had to go to extra bloody lessons?! What’s the point in doing well if all it means is that you’ve got to do more work than everyone else? ON THE WEEKEND? Eh?

‘The most “gifted and talented” pupils in all English schools are to receive vouchers to spend on extra lessons, as part of a national talent search, reports the Daily Telegraph. Pupils will be able to use the credits to buy places on additional courses, including weekend and summer schools at universities.’

In my day we called that 'detention’.

Twice might be considered careless…

OK, so not a typical subject for a little light reading, but I thought it was worth noting that – for a woman who is largely unshockable – I was really quite surprised by what I read here:

'More than a hundred teenage girls a month go into a hospital or clinic to have an abortion for the second time, figures from the Department of Health reveal. They include at least one girl under 18 who has had at least six abortions.'

Six? AT LEAST six, you say? Count ‘em. I mean, accidents do happen and all that, but what is this girl, the world’s most fertile fuckwit? I know they say that abortions don’t affect a person’s gynaecological health, but all that undercarriage hoovering really can’t be good for a person who isn’t even old enough to drive.

Somebody somewhere really ought to tell this girl about the birds and the bees. And the pill. And condoms. And, for what it’s worth, abstention…

Shite ‘n’ Chips

'Since September, 100 pupils at Chineham Park Primary School in Basingstoke, Hampshire, have been taking part in an experiment to change their behaviour by changing the way they eat. The project, devised by nutritionist Patrick Holford and initiated by the school's headteacher, Gwen Clifford, involved changing the pupils' lunches and snacks and teaching the importance of healthy eating at home. The results have been almost miraculous.'

Almost miraculous”? Well, no. Not really. Let’s have a look at this incredible phenomenon in more detail:

‘At the start of this school year, single mum Claire Bax was at her wits' end. Her three youngest children were unruly, uncooperative and incredibly difficult to care for. At school, their grades were terrible and at home, if Claire so much as tried to read to her seven-year-old son, Joshua, he'd storm off. Meanwhile, 10-year-old Abbie's eczema was so bad she hid her PE kit so her classmates wouldn't see her skin.
Now, after school each day Abbie, Joshua and eight-year-old Megan sit and study without fuss. Their teachers are singing their praises and Abbie's eczema has almost disappeared. The reason for this almost miraculous transformation? Their diet.’

I see. Forgive me a moment, but if you’ve got a kid with a serious skin problem like eczema, and a kid with the attention span of a neutered rodent, it really shouldn’t take much of a leap of the imagination for you to connect it in some way to the fact that you’re feeding them Bernard Matthew’s shite ‘n’ chips for their tea every night, should it? So, you feed them properly and their health improved? Knock me down with a chicken nugget, it never did…

"It's amazing to have positive feedback from the children," she says. "Joshua and Megan now enjoy reading and doing their homework. Abbie's skin is almost clear and all three concentrate better."

And, while I’m on the subject, I don’t think that dozy half-baked parents like that should be able to get away with saying patently inaccurate things like, "I was full of guilt. I'd given them lots of processed and fried food like pizza and chips. I only have a budget of £50 a week to spend on us all, and processed foods tend to be cheaper."

Now, I don’t want to get all Jamie “you’re all a bunch of wankers” Oliver about this, but that’s just not true, is it love? I myself don’t have a lot of money, and I consider myself more than averagely capable when it comes to eating healthily on a frugal budget. Which is one of the many and various reasons why I don’t buy overpriced prepackaged goods: they’re NOT cheaper, they’re just EASIER. If you want to feed your kids properly on meat, fish, pulses and vegetables, I can guarantee you it’ll cost less than buying pizza and chips. Guarantee it.

My advice? If, as the article says, you’re a stay-at-home mum, I’d suggest that you find the time in your day – while the kids are at school – to learn how to bloody cook.

Comedy child abuse

‘A junior school was forced to apologise yesterday after one of its teachers did the delicate job usually left to parents when she taught a lesson revealing that Santa was a myth and letters addressed to him were actually dealt with by the Royal Mail.’

Well done that teacher. Can you imagine how much fun that must have been? Almost makes it worth becoming a teacher. Almost.

And in a second heartwarming example of humorous child-baiting:

‘It sounds like the perfect way to get your child out of school for a bargain break. A holiday club’s “education programme” promises to help pupil study while their parents bask in the sunshine.’

Can you imagine how delicious that would be? You take your snotty, noisy and expensive offspring on holiday, only to spend a fortnight drinking tequila cocktails, taking dips in the pool, and for true entertainment, watching them struggle over algebra in the blazing sunshine. Again, almost makes it worth having children. Almost.

I’m with stupid

I know I’m in danger of becoming (even more) boring where this subject is concerned, but honestly: I truly do not understand how it is possible that less than HALF of the kids in school are capable of passing their GCSE English and Maths. I mean, it’s not like they're sodding difficult, is it? I had some proper rubbish teachers in my time, and I’m sure that there are still quite a number of them out there, but even so, it really does defy belief:

'The majority of teenagers are leaving secondary school without gaining an acceptable standard of education, according to new-style Government league tables to be published next week. It will show that 58 per cent of pupils left school with five A* to C grades last summer, but the proportion plummets to only 45 per cent when English and maths is added.'

Mind you, in a world in which Jade Goody’s crack-addled, monosyllabic child-abusing mother is feted as a ‘celebrity’, and in which her mind-bogglingly stupid offspring can become a multi-millionaire off the back of being ‘amusingly’ retarded, is it any wonder that kids believe education is unnecessary?

Private Affairs

I deliberately chose not to mention the lovely Ruth Kelly’s suicidal decision to send her kid to private school, but I’ve just read something I never noticed in the initial press reports that has caused me spit out my Frosties:

‘Ms Kelly emphasised that her three other children were in the state system, that she intended her son to return to the state secondary sector, and that none of the cost of the private schooling would fall to the taxpayer.’

None of the cost of the private schooling would fall to the taxpayer? Oh Ruth, you do spoil us! You know, it hadn’t even occurred to us taxpayers that you would take the obscene liberty of charging us for your political hypocrisy, strangely enough. Still, now that you’ve cleared that up for me, I feel much, much better.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dirty, dirty wrongness

This is Lembit Opik, trying really not very hard at all not to sound smug that he's rodgering a Bela Lugosi-faced Romanian scrubber instead of the plasticine-and-botox-faced weather bint he'd been doing for the four years previous:

"Not wishing to be cheeky, Mr Speaker, I thank the House for being so happy that I am so very, very lucky. And I should point out that the other sister is still single," he added.

Urgh, Christ...
Yes, it really does make the skin crawl, doesn't it? Only, here's the thing: this wasn't said in the PUB, i.e. the acceptable location for such "I'm getting it I am" pomposity, typical of such hideously ugly men as Opik. This was in the HOUSE OF COMMONS. The heart of our political fucking system.

I don't think it needs saying, but Lembit Opik (who apparently has no notion of how painfully ridiculous he actually is) belongs to the same political party as one Mark Oaten.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Please, please, please let me get what I want

I can genuinely see the headlines now: “Mancunian miserablist saves national pride”…

Morrissey has hinted his services may be on offer for the next Eurovision song contest, should the organisers be so kind as to ask.The former Smiths singer said he was "horrified" by the United Kingdom's latest poor result in the competition.
As a result of said trauma, Morrissey has been left troubled, with one issue in particular on his mind: "There is one question that I keep on asking: 'why didn't they ask me?' That question keeps going round my head."

Oh, isn’t it the stuff that dreams are made of?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Get A Life

Duran Duran had a ‘virtual’ gig on it, Radio 1 pays money to be part of it, and there are people who actually make a real living by selling things they’ve ‘created’ for the game. The problem is, on the one occasion when I took a look at this Second Life guff, I found myself in a horribly badly executed ‘world’ that looked worse than a cheap ZX Spectrum game, and in which all people appeared to be doing was fulfilling their fantasies about having sex with children. (Truly).
Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly convinced that this was evidence of some strange and exciting, computer-generated brave new world.

And now this??

‘Stand-up comedian Jimmy Carr is to stage a gig before an invited audience in the virtual world of Second Life. His performance at a venue in London on 3 February will be simultaneously delivered within the online community. He will be turned into a 3D character - an "avatar" - with performers tracing his movements in real-life so they can be replicated on computer screens.'

I really – REALLY – don’t get it.


Apparently, a Malaysian businessman is launching a new long-haul budget airline. All well and good so far:

‘Malaysian aviation tycoon Tony Fernandes has unveiled a new no-frills long-haul airline, Air Asia X. The venture - a tie-up between Air Asia and Fly Asian Express (FAX) - will launch in July and fly to destinations in India, China and Europe. The new airline aims to carry half a million passengers in its first year, Mr Fernandes said.’

My only question is, whose idea was it to give a carrier called ‘Air Asia X’ the marketing slogan, ‘Xtra Long, Like Never Before’?
Richard Desmond?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Joined-up service

'A union has criticised plans to cut hundreds of cleaners' jobs on London Underground (LU). The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union warned one in four workers at a leading contractor face being laid off in the next few months.
It called on London mayor Ken Livingstone and LU to step in and halt the 200 planned job losses by Tube Lines contractor ISS. Tube Lines said it was "refocusing resources" for station cleaning.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said workers were "stunned and furious" when they were told their jobs may be axed. "There is no way that levels of station and train cleanliness can be maintained on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines with a loss of 27% of the cleaning workforce," he said.
"But there are also serious safety and security issues involved in cutting cleaning staff, not least at a time when tonnes of newsprint are being dumped in stations and on trains every day.'

Whatever you might want to think about Ken 'pickpocket' Livingstone and his infantile understanding of public finance economics, you really have to stop and question this kind of crap from those in public office. It's the kind of masterstroke of which the public relations industry in all its satanistic glory should be so proud...

I mean, by all means put the price of a single tube fare up to FOUR POUNDS (FOUR POUNDS!) if you so choose, you already know we can't do a damn thing to stop you, but unless you really TRULY want to mug off every single tranport-using person in London, don't for christ's sake then go and announce something like this two days later...

Disrespecting the Pie

'Supermarket giant Morrisons have been fined £11,000 for selling a mouldy meat pie from its store in Grantham.
A woman who took a bite of the pie after buying it from the Lincolnshire store was sick, magistrates were told.
The supermarket chain admitted a breach in food regulations and said the mistake was the result of a one-off lapse by an individual member of staff.'

Quite right too. Anyone who can show such a flagrant lack of reverence for the holy pie deserves to be slapped with a major fine. Jesus, have a look at it.

Bloody Morrisons. You just can't get decent pie out of Yorkshire folk. Or, it would seem, the staff in Lincolnshire.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Roadside Rage

‘Roadside restaurant chain Little Chef is set to make an announcement about its future, BBC business editor Robert Peston says. It was reported on Tuesday that the firm, said to be losing up to £3m a year, was involved in takeover talks. The Financial Times says Israeli property firm Arazim and private equity company RCapital will buy Little Chef and close 40 of its 234 restaurants. More than 20 million people visit Little Chef outlets every year.'

The fact that Little Chef is losing £3m a year comes as no surprise to anyone, I wouldn’t have thought, but who the FUCK are the 20 million people eating in the place every year? WHO, I ask you? I have myself entered into a Little Chef once in my 30-odd years, and that was entirely against my will. I have never willingly repeated the experience (largely because one can only really survive daylight robbery and e-coli in one sitting on a single occasion…£5.50 for a filled jacket potato, anyone?). I realise that we are a nation of culinary philistines, but 20 million a year? That’s very, very depressing.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Old-School Charidee

‘TV host Oprah Winfrey is due to open a new school she has funded in South Africa to give an education to girls from poor families.
The school - in the small town of Henley-on-Klip south of Johannesburg - cost $40m (£20m) to build.
Ms Winfrey herself interviewed many of the 3,500 South African girls from low income families who applied for an initial 150 places at the school.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy will eventually cater for 450 girls who show outstanding promise but whose families cannot support their education.’

Fancy that: Oprah’s using her vast wealth to help poor African children. And she doesn’t even want her own take-home-and-keep kid in exchange. How novel.