Perfect location casting

A couple of years ago, TLW & I had cause to go on a bit of a mission to the darkest North West of England for a family do. The accommodation was arranged for us; we just got given an address to turn up to and check in. We did so, and then (as tradition demands) we headed to the bar of the accommodation for a pint.

The place was very strange; a motel in the arsehole of nowhere, with strange acts on and a strange clientele. We all felt that it was kind of phoenix nights meets grab-a-granny, but without any of the charm. In short, it was very depressing.

Last week, I started watching Utopia, a new and strange show on Channel 4. Early on in the first show, they needed to have a location where a man on the edge would go, where they could contemplate ending their life as bits of it threatened to fall down around them.


They seem to have found the perfect motel in the arsehole of nowhere, wouldn’t you agree?

I don’t think that No 48 applies to me

By some metrics, the Daily Mail website is the most read newspaper website on t’internet. This is a surprise to many. including me; it’s a very strange place to navigate and, if I’m honest, it’s not exactly in possession of the sanest editorial policy in the world. But then I often find myself reading things on it that have been linked to by others. Such as this article, sent by TLW.

If you wash up straight after a meal, know how to bleed a radiator and your mother has started asking for your advice, then you can truly claim to have grown up.

Other key signs of adulthood are more obvious, such as having a mortgage, being married?.?.?.? and wearing sensible shoes.

They are all listed among 50 benchmarks that researchers say mark someone out as a grown-up.

The list is hardly comprehensive, and a lot of them aren’t exactly grown up in their priorities. Budgeting every month is a pretty sensible one, yes, but Being sensible enough to remove make up before bedtime is (a) not relevant to a huge number of people and (b) a sign more of mitigating juvenile behaviour (such as being too tipsy to take off warpaint before sleep) than of being outright adult. But some are quite sensible and the like: keeping track of interest rates, having a joint bank account, owning a lawn mower, all are quite grown up.

Incidentally, apparently I’m 43/50 “grown up”. Any guesses as to which ones I missed?

A good event, all round

If you’ve not been reading the papers, or watching the news, or listening to any radio that features news, you may have missed the small kerfuffle about unrest in Bahrain. About the state there brutally suppressing said unrest. And about a number of very highly paid people driving very expensive cars around a track there.

First off, the race was very entertaining. Well, the bits of it that I saw on BBC were; under the new broadcast setup I didn’t get to watch it live but did catch the 2/3s of it that Auntie got. There was lots of decent racing, a few very good overtaking moves and a hard fought win by a boring driver from a very exciting (and slightly insane) driver. All good, and a race worth having.

But that’s been an aside to the main story, which has been HOW DARE THEY RUN A RACE THERE DON’T THEY KNOW PEOPLE ARE DYING OH MY GOD THE HORROR.

And it is horrible; yes, there are many nasty things going on in that small country. Yes, the F1 race is a large advert not for the country but for the ruling elite. Yes, the people behind F1 are quite easily painted as mercenary friends of the oppressive rulers of such countries. But, the same things were true last year when the race was cancelled, and the nasty things have continued since, despite the race being cancelled. It’s just that we didn’t hear about it because the news moved on after the decision was taken not to race.

This time round, there has been a fortnight where Bahrain hasn’t been out of the news, and not for reasons that any ruling clique would like. There have been images of the unrest; the news of the man dying over the weekend has been broadcast worldwide; there have been debates carried out publicly about security; the leaders of the parts of the free world that watch Formula 1 have been speaking about events.

In short, the decision to run the race has brought the attention of the world to what’s going on. Maybe that’ll help more than last years strategy (the same people taking their ball and going home, allowing all of us to forget about it).


Yesterday, as you may know, there was a fairly large (pointless strike. It didn’t seem to have the desired effect; the country struggled on and lots of people lost a days pay. The world continued to turn.

But you’d think that such a thing would still be the main news item on the national news, wouldn’t you. And it is, generally. The BBC front page is all about it; as are the local stations and the grown-up BBC radio stations.

Not so Newsbeat on Radio1. No, news-for-spanners has spent the time concentrating instead on calls for state regulation of hairdressers

Priorities are brilliant there, guys. Plus, state regulation of non-essential industries is to be filed under NOT ON YOUR FUCKING NELLIE. We don’t want a licensing system for hairdressers; it’s the first step towards government control of scissors and nobody wants that…

Why the jubilation?

So, the Jackson death trial. There’s something about it that just sits very wrongly with me.

It’s not the verdict; I can see why it was so. It’s not the media, for you can count on them to be fucktards given the slightest opportunity. It’s not the prosecutors, for much the same reason.

It’s the complete loons outside, who were dancing in the street and announcing that “justice had been done”. No, it hasn’t. The wheels of the justice system have turned, and someone who is probably guilty of being bloody stupid has been caught and punished for it. But that’s not the same as justice; justice would be getting all the people who surrounded Jackson, who were catering to his every whim, who put him in a place of being in terrible pain and having to prepare for a show that clearly he wasn’t capable of doing. Justice would be letting the world know the cost of being a media creature for your entire life, and trying to stop it happening again.

Justice, in fact, would be demystifying the poor man. And getting the nutters on the street to move on. But they’re not going to dance to celebrate that, are they?

Bloody local newspapers

I’ve long been a fan of dogs, and I’ve long been a non-fan of stupid laws. Which means that I have fairly strong feelings towards the Dangerous Dogs Act, which is both a bad/stupid law in an of itself, and bad because of the way it treats dogs and their owners.

But worse that said stupid law is the way that people try and tell you that it’s bad because it’s not stupid enough. Like my local free newspaper, the Lewisham & Catford edition of the News Shopper. Which is currently running a really annoying campaign called SHOP A DOG.

News Shopper is running a series of features on dangerous dogs and we need YOUR help to get the law changed to make our parks and neighbourhoods safer for everyone.

SHOP A DOG is News Shopper’s new campaign to bring justice to the victims of dog attacks and help prevent further maulings across south-east London and north Kent.

According to NHS statistics, at least 163 people have been injured by dogs in the News Shopper area in the last two years, leaving some victims with horrific wounds while many irresponsible dog owners have got off scott free.


Don’t get me wrong; being attacked by a dog cannot be a good thing. But pressing for new laws is not the answer; the last dangerous dog around here was dealt with entirely legally: it ended up being shot repeatedly with a shotgun. If the law allows the police to shoot dogs that they have contained within a house in a residential street, I suspect that the law is probably tough enough.

But the News Shopper doesn’t end with wanting a harsher law, they want the following:

- Increase the sentence for owning a banned dog – in line with carrying a knife.

– Extend the law to include dog attacks on private land – therefore protecting workers such as postmen and carers.

– Increase the prison sentences for owners convicted of allowing their dog to attack humans.

– Force all Staffordshire Bull Terriers to wear a muzzle in public.

– Simplify the court process so that banned dogs can be destroyed immediately.

Shall I deal with those one by one?

  1. Part the first, the rules for carrying knives are ridiculous, so calling for other laws to match them marks you out as a bit of a fool. Part the second, the definition of a banned dog is so lax as to require a dog suspected of being banned to be investigated by experts, which can’t be done on the spot. So, twice foolish. Plus, dog racism. Me no likee.
  2. You can fuck off with extending the [bad] law to cover my dog on my premises. As a responsible dog owner, I take responsibility for my dog, but extending the law would require me to keep my dog muzzled in my own damn house.
  3. Increasing the prison sentence for allowing a dog to attack a human? Again, fuck off – if it’s serious and intentional, then the laws are plenty harsh and go all the way up to murder.
  4. I don’t like people who get down on Staffies. Considering how popular they are (they make up probably a third of the dogs I see on my morning walk), five attacks by them over three years in an area with a population of over a million is not justification for a new law. Especially when the damn News Shopper article says that 163 people have been injured by dogs in the last two years in the same area; that’s not exactly a massive percentage caused by SBTs, is it?
  5. Simplify the court process to allow all banned dogs to be destroyed immediately. Awesome. You have some instant test to prove that a dog is of a banned breed? You have a way of bringing the dog back to life if a mistake is made? Or are you going to compensate the owner in a sensible way? If the News Shopper is confused, might I refer them to the (still in force) Clause 29 of the Magna Carta.

In short, I think that each and every aim of their campaign is either stupid, abhorrent, or both. So I condemn their paper to being used for bedding for my beloved pooch. Which is not, by law, a Staffie, so she’ll be fine.

Fuck you, News Shopper.

So disappointing

I’ve tried watching 10 O’Clock Live over the past number of weeks. I’ve really tried. I thought that it would be an irreverent take on the news, with a slight bite to it.

I was wrong. It’s turned out to be a very reverent take on the Guardian, with a lot of bile in it.

The first week I watched it, I tried to see what I’d improve in it.

  • First off, I’d drop Lauren Laverne. Or at least have less of her in the show. She’s just not particularly suited to the style I’d like the show to have, and while the others have at least made me laugh once or twice I’ve not had more than a wry grin when Laverne is trying her hardest.
  • I’d change the timings considerably. More time for David Mitchell, for example, to do his interviews since that’s really the only time you’ll get a politician saying something they might not on other programmes. Less time for the round-table conference. Less time for Jimmy Carr to do anything other than his introductory stand up routine. One less of Charlie Brooker’s segments from the desk, because he’s clearly a bit of a broken record.
  • I’d try and make the audience listen to what some of the people on it are saying. A few weeks ago, for example, Mitchell was going on about how the deficit wasn’t that much of a problem, it being just like a mortgage and everyone had one of those and was OK. The politicio he was interviewing then explained that the debt was like a mortgage and, yes, having a debt is OK. But the deficit is how much we’re adding to the debt every year, and surely that shouldn’t be too massive for too long? Cue moments of revelation that were promptly forgotten when Mr Brooker did his next routine about how cuts are the worst thing ever…

As I say, I’ve tried. Five episodes I’ve sat through. But I think from here on I’ll give up and maybe just catch the Mitchell bits on YouTube after the fact. It’d be a simple way to get the funny hit without all the surrounding shit.

Go figure…

One thing from the BBC webshite that has been interesting me over the last months has been the Go Figure column, wherein a Beeb journalist throws statistics around and shows the reality behind them.

The latest column touches on something that interests me: how the news spends so much time talking about things that are pretty much statistically never going to happen again and ignores things that happen everyday.

I’ve named the phenomenon after the BBC’s Roger Harrabin, who puts it like this: “When considering societal problems over the long term, news-worthiness is often in inverse proportion to frequency. If problems become commonplace, they are not new – so do not qualify as ‘news’. This means the media often guides politicians to focus on less serious acute problems at the expense of more serious systemic problems.”

So we hear lots and lots about strikes and protests at the moment because there are so few of them; we don’t hear about the people saying “well, we have to get on with it because the last government spent our money like drunken sailors” precisely because so many people are saying that.

We hear about accidents in aviation and on the trains because they don’t happen every day, but car crashes do so they’re not newsworthy.

Personally, I think that the news you have to dig for is the interesting stuff: the things that aren’t considered newsworthy because they happen so often. The stuff that’s thrown on every front page is pretty boring after a day.

The fly in the ointment is celebrity and reality TV coverage, which apparently counts as major news despite proving that talentless oiks haven’t changed. I don’t know how we’ve arrived at a place where that is considered proper news on a daily basis.

Sums, a la BBC

What with the Age of Austerity that’s upon us, the BBC has its wonderful way of dealing with numbers out in force.

My personal favourite is the do it yourself cul-ulator. Which lets you choose what to cut in percentage terms and then tells you what your cut means. I doubt some of its honesty though, for one or two reasons.

Reason 1: Defence

According to the BBC, if you cut defence by 30%, you’d be getting rid of 261,690 service personnel. Which is interesting, because apparently there are only 175,690 service personnel in the armed forces. To me, that arithmetic sounds weird: cutting 30% of funding shouldn’t really cut 150% of the armed forces, should it?

Reason 2: Public Order & Safety

Again, the 30% cut has a massive effect on manpower: in this instance, you would have 235,650 fewer police officers. Out of a total of 165,876. So taking away 30% of the money takes away 142% of the police. Which seems somewhat unlikely.

Reason 3: Welfare

Apparently taking 30% from the welfare budget would save £58.8 billion, which would be roughly £30 per week off the pension. But do the maths: 58,800,000,000 / (30 * 52) = a very unlikely 37.7 million pensioners. Which would put us right at the top of the ageing population chart, don’t you think.

Those are the three that immediately stuck out at me. Does anybody want to have a crack at seeing if the other categories add up any better? Because I’d guess they don’t. And I’d also guess that the BBC don’t care, as long as they show that any and all cuts are bad and will cause untold damage etc etc etc.

I expect another spectacular end

Many moons ago, when the identity of Black Stig came out (in a book, fittingly enough), said Stig was ejected from Top Gear in a sensible and fitting fashion.

They said that he drove off the front of HMS Invincible, and the last we saw of him was his glove floating on the top of the ocean.

Black Stig had been there for two seasons, and they borrowed the flagship of the Royal Navy to get rid of him. White Stig has been in place for 13 seasons – what will they have to do to get rid of him when his identity comes out?

I can’t wait to find out…

Subtitle: up yours

What to do when a newspaper photographer is banned from a football match, meaning that the local newspaper is faced with either having no photographs of a match or (likely expensive and needlessly flattering) official club photos?

Simple: go with the traditional two fingered salute and throw a few quid at a cartoonist. Who will then produce some most excellent 40s style Roy of the Rovers action for your publication.


Ah, Bozza

Question: do people think that Boris is the way he is deliberately, or is the madcap actually real? I tend to think that it’s real, but that he likes to be a bit mischievous knowing that people will let him away with it.

Hell, I think that most of us would like to get away with double-entendres like that on national TV. But very few people would be given the leeway that Boris is.

Hobbits wanted

Blimey. This whole Game of Thrones thing is getting serious.

Starstruck amputees are being offered a golden opportunity to be on television.

A Northern Ireland casting company is looking for amputees to take part in epic fantasy adventure series, Game of Thrones, which is being filmed in Belfast.

Local company, Extras NI, also wants a lot of dark, hairy people for the production to begin in July.

US broadcaster HBO, the company that produced the Sopranos, Sex and the City and Rome, is behind the project based on the books by George R R Martin.

The casting instructions are clear; men who want a part as an extra should keep growing their hair and their facial hair immediately and be prepared to leave it that way until January 2011.

I’d be well up for it, except that I’m not in a position to try growing facial hair for the rest of the year. Apparently I have to try and looking good in photos at some point before then. Wish me luck.

How to diffuse a situation

As long as I remember, politicians and media organisations have been sending people in chicken costumes to embarrass their opponents. It happened in the Thatcher years, it happened in most elections since. Hell, it even happened in the West Wing. But I’ve not actually seen anyone properly counter the tactic, not even in the carefully scripted Sorkin show.

Until last evening, when this happened.

Mr Cameron came face to face with the bird – sent by a national newspaper which claims the Tory leader has failed to answer its questions on the peer Lord Ashcroft.

But Mr Cameron appeared to be expecting the confrontation, and gave the chicken a hug, before removing its head to ask him face to face and asking him what question he wanted to ask.


I used to read the Mirror most days, but I hadn’t really read it in many years. Random circumstances in the last couple of weeks have had me read the rag a couple of times, and I have to say that I’m quite surprised how pathetically they’re toeing the Brownite line. So seeing this little bird of theirs come a cropper was mighty entertaining.

Very exciting

Well, isn’t it nice that HBO are doing their bit for the NIrish economy?

US broadcaster HBO is to begin filming its epic fantasy adventure series Game of Thrones in Belfast in June.

The series pilot was filmed at locations around the city.

Nine more programmes based on the first book of George R.R. Martin’s multi-volume A Song of Fire and Ice series have now been commissioned.

Yes, they’re making a TV series of the first of the Song of Ice and Fire books, which could be very interesting. It’s a most excellent (if fucking complicated) series of books, and if any TV company could make it work, then my money is on HBO doing it properly.

The only problem is that if they plan on making the whole series of books into shows, then they’ll have to get Mr Martin to hurry up. I mean, it’s been five years since the last instalment, and he’s running the risk of never finishing the damn thing. Which would be bad. As I’ve been saying for most of those five years:


Fighting the silly fight

There’s something about the campaign to save 6music that annoys me.

It may be the way that people keep bringing out the platitude that the BBC is doing things that nobody else does, ignoring the fact that pirate radio is nothing but DJs playing what they want; playlists only happen in the UK because the BBC want them to, so it’s hardly a big thing that one twentieth of their output on one twentieth of their stations isn’t playlisted.

It may be that the people who are campaigning for it to be kept seemingly outnumber the people who actually listen to it; it’s the same as the Daily Mail outrage scandal things where fifty people complain about something that only three people witnessed.

Or it may be that the BBC is going for the Red Arrows defence; when faced with the prospect of budget cuts, the RAF always said that the Red Arrows would be the first thing to go, and no government would want to say that they killed the Red Arrows. So the BBC may be trying to get a big enough momentum in front of them to make sure that nothing is cut in the end.

The thing is, I don’t care about 6music, or most of the BBC stations. I think that out of the five main national BBC radio stations, there is really only enough content for two or three. So cuts need to be made, and someone needs to decide where. In the face of a world where we can all decide when we’ll listen to the radio, having stations that are on 24 hours a day is unnecessary.

So cut something, and stop with the worthy play-acting. It’s getting vexing.

Missing the point

Don’t you just love how the BBC can spend their time (and our money) looking in depth at something and totally not getting it?

Last year, in a series of “town-hall meetings” across the country, Americans got the chance to debate President Obama’s proposed healthcare reforms.

What happened was an explosion of rage and barely suppressed violence.

Polling evidence suggests that the numbers who think the reforms go too far are nearly matched by those who think they do not go far enough.

But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform – the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state – are often the ones it seems designed to help.

The problem, of course, is that the assumption of the article is that the proposed healthcare reform, by dint of being the idea of St Obama and the Democratic party, is good for people. That is not necessarily the case.

And they then decide that no matter what the objections, people are being bamboozled by a lack of numbers on the part of the Republicans, and that they’re definitely voting against their own interest. Which is both annoying and patronising, and thusly entirely in keeping with the BBC…

A genuine scandal. How exciting.

Oh dear. The poor Norn Irish press have been handed a genuine political scandal, and they’re a little bit lost about how to deal with it.

Over here (and it still seems a bit odd to say that about England), there would be hundreds of press camped outside the houses of everyone involved. There would be rolling news. There would be claims about the end of the political world as we know it. Hell, when you think about the Cash-for-Questions events – which dealt with around £2,000 per question – this is much larger. When you think about Robin Cook doing the dirt with his secretary, there was much more coverage.

But now, with sums of £50,000, an MP and MLA taking up with someone fully a third of her age, the First Minister’s financial and moral judgement being called into question, and there’s nothing like the same level of intrusion. There are jokes, there are news stories, but they don’t seem to be on the same scale.

It’s not that the press at home is better behaved than their cousins across the Irish Sea; recently I’ve seen photographers lying on the floor of a church to catch an action shot of me carrying a coffin, so I know they’re not exactly discrete. So why are they being more polite here? Deference to the politicians? That doesn’t sound likely.

The only thing I can think of is that they’re like rabbits in the headlights – this is a genuine, non-violent, political scandal. And it’s so far from their usual fare that they don’t know how to do anything with it.

I suspect that they’ll learn quite quickly, though…

Not how I remember it

Do you recall all that fuss about reclassifying cannabis a while back? One of the few liberal things that the government of Blair had done (downgrading cannabis to a Class C drug) was then undone by Brown. Who has never knowingly done a liberal act in his life.

I remember at the time thinking that it was nothing more than Gordon’s version of puritanism at work, what with him not being a scientist and consistently dismissing the opinion of scientists when the decision was made. Seems I’m not the only one.

The row over the reclassification of cannabis has been reignited after the government’s chief drug adviser accused ministers of “distorting” the evidence.

Professor David Nutt, who heads the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, says it does not cause major health problems.

He accused ex-home secretary Jacqui Smith, who reclassified the drug, of “devaluing” scientific research.

So far, so sensible. But wait, there’s more:

Public concern over the links between high-strength cannabis, known as skunk, and mental illness led the government to reclassify cannabis to Class B from C last year.

Hold on a minute, that isn’t how I recall it. I must have forgotten the massive criminalise cannabis marches and the talking heads demanding stiffer penalties.

Oh wait, no, I didn’t forget. That just didn’t happen. The concern was driven by government and by government’s fake charities, and by one or two newspapers. It was not taken up by the public and it was not driven by scientific opinion. It was governmental concern, and that was it.

But the BBC doesn’t seem to think that the government and the public can be treated as different things. Funny, that.

Full disclosure: don’t use, never have, can’t be bothered. But the principle doesn’t change if you smoke dope or don’t – it’s still a nonsense to have it criminalised.

Random and damn odd. But it worked, mostly.

Last evening, TLF and I, and some others, went to see one of the random BBC Electric Proms performances. Don’t worry, I took the opportunity to point out that it was silly that the BBC were doing such things, and that they shouldn’t be involved etc etc etc, but since one of the characters involved in the singing was a mate, I thought i should go anyway.

And it was surprisingly good. Better when the Choir stopped being treated as a sideline to a full Doves gig and started being properly involved, because surely the randomness of having 40 Bulgarians doing odd things to the song was the whole point. The random dude on the sitar was also worth seeing. Magazine, less so.

Plus, on the bonus front, at one point yer man Jarvis Cocker (still bearing an uncanny resemblance) was hanging about eighteen inches from us. Which was nice, although he left before one of the girls had an opportunity to pimp out their friends to him.

And now, I’m heading off to St Pancras (again), this time for a tour of bits of Belgium that have recently featured in some comedy dwarf filmage. Should be fun.

from the inbox

Wish me luck…