Real Romance…

31 07 2008

I just don’t get it. The continuing story in the news for the past month has been Ronaldo. Cristiano this, Cristiano that. It has become a tad annoying, especially in light of recent statements from his club, Manchester United.

But what gets me more is Real Madrid. I cannot really see the appeal (in footballing terms) of moving to Madrid. Ok, so the city might be great and the weather, well, dry and sunny most of the year, but in terms of football, I feel, as many do, that La Liga falls a long way short of being anywhere near as entertaining as the Premiership (which, as we should all know, is not anywhere near as entertaining as the Championship). La Liga is a league dominated by two teams, Madrid and Barcelona. The other teams almost seem to recognise the fact that they will start the new season as ‘also-rans’, rather than being able to compete successfully for the entireity of a season.

Ok, so there are parallels with the Premiership (the dominance of big teams, the absurdity of wealth) but there are also significant differences. I genuniely believe that the Premiership is a better league than La Liga, Serie A or indeed the Bundesliga. It is probably the best league in the world in terms of entertainment, drama, excitement and passion. Which is why it is so lucrative to be in it.

All this brings me back to me intial point, why do footballers get drawn in by teh bright lights of Madrid like moths to a flame? What is the appeal? Ok, so Madrid won La Liga last term, but they failed in the Champions League, again, and are no longer a team of ‘galacticos’ that was once famously assembled for big cash. No, I feel Madrid are struggling amid the weight of their own glorious history. Gone are the days when they can win league after league, cup after cup. Somewhat ironically, Man Utd do not seem to have this weight of history. That is not to say there is not a weight, of course there is, but they do not seem to be as overawed by it. The club itself is much more ‘down-to-earth’, or as close as you can get a huge multi-national commercial venture. The Munich air-crash was remembered last season, but the past glories and the anniversary of the tragedy did not hamper the team as they won the double, including the Champions League. History indeed was important, but the current Man Utd team seem more intent on making their own.

Which is why I am no nearer to understanding why Ronaldo wants so desperately to move to Madrid. I am highly doubtful it is the football, United played some of the most attractive stuff anywhere last year. I am equally doubtful it is that the club ‘lacks ambition’ as some footballers would have you believe as they move. I’m afraid in the stark reality that is modern football, the only reason for him wanting a move is money. Which is a pity, because he is one of the few footballers who can raise a stadium single handedly.


Heroes, they don’t mean a thing to you…

25 07 2008

I haven’t written much recently, partly because I’ve been surprisingly busy for someone unemployed, and partly because I’ve just been lazy. As if to continue this laziness theme, I was reading The Times today, and one of the opinion columns. Written by Hugo Rifkind (already a good name!), I was thoroughly engaged, so thought I would share his piece with you. He makes some very pertinant points and ones which I believe to be well worth considering. Anyway:

Batman. Again. Since I was a child, I have been annoyed by Batman. Not, please understand, in a personal way. Batman did not sit behind me in class, flicking my ears. His searchlight does not disturb my sleep. No, I’m annoyed by the very essence. His handle. In a nutshell, I am annoyed by his glaring failure, in any way, to resemble a bat.

Batman, Batman, does absolutely nothing that a bat can. He’s a fraud. He can’t fly, he can’t hang upside down, he can’t navigate around a darkened room by going “eeep”, nothing. He’s bugger all like a bat. He just has those stupid bloody ears, that aren’t even plumbed into his head. And it’s not even consistent. The Dark Knight? A knight bat? A bat on a horse? What?

Hey, credit where it is due. At least Christian Bale’s stupid bat-costume lets him look over his shoulder. Most others don’t. Watching Michael Keaton fight hammy thugs in a rainy alleyway, you might have thought that Gotham City was being defended by Jools Holland. Why? Bats have necks. That’s basically all they are from the teeth down; necks with wings and feet. Why take away Batman’s neck? It’s as bizarre as his weaponry. At least give the man fangs, for God’s sake. A belt? You’re putting a bat in a belt? Is somebody drunk?

Even Catwoman had claws. The only excuse Batman could possibly have for being called Batman would be if he were actually biologically a bat, but with mannish characteristics, as opposed to (allegedly) the reverse. And even then, he ought to be Manbat. But he’s not a bat. He’s nothing like a bat. I’m sick of it.

All that said, I still really want to see the new movie, if not for Heath Ledger’s star turn then for the return of Two-face.

Oh, and for bonus points, who can tell me where the title line to this post comes from? I’ll be kind a give you a clue, it’s a song.

In other news…

21 07 2008

It’s nice to see that David Blunkett has landed on his feet. Mr Blunkett, ever one for helping young people, can now be seen presenting “Banged Up” on Channel 5 on Monday evenings. The series follows a group of youths spending ten days in prison learning about what life is like behind bars.

It seems Mr Blunkett was ahead of home secretary Jacqui Smith on this matter then…

Speeding up…

21 07 2008

So even if the Tories at Westminster are failing to impress despite the apparent failings of Gordon Brown’s Labour government, at local level, it appears, all is going well in terms of attracting new voters. Especially if you live in Swindon.

Allow me to elaborate. Swindon councillor, Peter Greenhalgh has this week come out in favour of reducing the number of speed cameras in his area. He apparently has conducted extensive research and has found that cameras amount to nothing more than “a blatant tax on the motorist”. It seems refreshing to see that someone with some common sense has finally said something about the ridiculous number of cameras which are littering the side of roads.

The response to his claims came from Anne Snelgrove, Labour MP for South Swindon who claimed, somewhat idealistically, “safety cameras are there to save lives not to make money”. If you believe that then you will, apparently, believe anything. It is just a convenient thing that in 2003-4 the government were able to make £113,549,240 from the cameras, apparently keeping £21,700,396 of that for the treasury, and reinvesting the rest. But of course, the cameras are there to save lives. Alastair Darling’s report into the matter in 2005 found that this may be true (a copy of which is here), but carefully strives to avoid mentioning how much money the government make out of them. The money is just a nice by-product of the government trying to ensure our safety. Obviously.

Whatever you wish to call these cameras (I opt for ‘speed’ cameras as opposed to ‘safety’ cameras) it is clear that they have become a bane for motorists up and down the country. I know of many cameras which are placed strategically, not for the benefits of safety, because there are none; but instead to catch motorists out. These cameras do not keep either pedestrians or motorists safe, in fact I know of at least one which does the opposite, it causes dangerous driving by being placed on a corner going up (or coming down) a steep hill. I would go as far as to suggest cameras actually cause more erratic driving speeds. Cars now slow down and speed up between the cameras, yo-yo-ing speeds in a more dangerous manner. Can this be considered safe? I remain unconvinced. Which is why it is nice to see someone making a stand against these machines. Hopefully we can start to remove some of the yellow boxes from roadsides and begin to reduce the amount that they are making from motorists travelling a fraction over the 30mph limit.

Car Thinking…

11 07 2008

Whilst taking an unplanned excursion around the north side of Manchester earlier on this afternoon, my mind wandered to more important things than where the diversion was actually taking us. Things such as time. Allow me to elaborate…

My initial thought was that time is fundamentally broken. By broken, I mean wrong. It has to be wrong in the sense that we have to have ‘leap years’ to catch up with time we have somehow lost. We know how long one orbit of the sun takes, yet our time systems mean that we cannot change the problem of having, technically, 365 and a quarter days each year. As a consequence, we have to add a day every fourth year to get ourselves back into the loop.

To me, this leads to the bigger question of how to ensure that we do not have to add a day to get ourselves back in balance. That is the problem, and, as far as I can see, the only solution is to redesign the whole time system we currently have. That is, scrap the 24 hour clock, scrap 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. Get rid of it all, and start again. I do not want to go as far as decimalising time, but something along those lines would work better, and would ensure we do not have the remainder at the end of three in every four years. Create something where it all just, well, fits. The system we currently have is, at best, a crude guesstimate of roughly how long a year lasts made by someone a very very very long time ago. We can now though work out exactly how long our orbit takes, exactly how many minutes one such orbit takes, and on this basis, we can work from there.

The basic units need not change, just what they are composed of. We can still have hours, minutes, days, months etc, but there should no longer be 60 minutes in an hour, or seven days in a week. It’s all too haphazard, to random. What is the significance of these numbers, 24 hours a day, 52 weeks a year, 7 days a week? To me there is nothing, other than mere chance. Would it not be easier to say, there are, for example, 100 minutes in an hour, 50 weeks in a year?

Perhaps not, as to do this, we would have to work out how ‘long’ a second, a minute, an hour is. And that would require restructuring time absolutely completely. Something which is obviously impossible.

Added to my ponderings came another thought. Nature is full of symmetry and balance, butterflies wings, ladybirds shells, night and day. To me, it seems that there should be a balance between the longest and shortest days in a year. It makes sense to me that the shortest (or indeed the longest) should mark the beginning of change, that is, a new year. As it is, we are a week out of sync. The shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, December 23, occurs roughly a week before the new year starts. This seems, unbalanced to me. If the new years began with the shortest day, and its middle point was the longest day, time would be balanced much better in my opinion.

Of course though, this is looking at things from my perspective in Britain, how would such changes affect the rest of the world? What woud happen, say, within the tropics, where days are much more of a regular length (12 hours day, 12 hours night)? The answer is, I do not know, but it would be interesting to find out.

All of which brought me to catching up with the final episode of the latest series of Dr Who. If you can hide 27 planets and a whole army one second out of sync with the rest of the universe, imagine what you could do with whole days. Perhaps my idea of restructuring time could be some sort of storyline for the new writer to sink his teeth into now that Russell T has bowed out (almost) in a quite brilliant manner…

Break a Leg…

3 07 2008

Whilst filling in yet another application form for a job, I was struck by a bit of the small print (which you should always read folks). It said “If you have a disability you are guarenteed an interview if you meet the essential requirements of the job as set out in the person specification”. This really annoyed me.

Looking through the person specification, the essential bits are comparatively simple things: “A good level of education”, “Experience of using local websites” and “Experience of working directly with the public”. As I read these things, I knew that I could tick all the boxes. However, because I am not disabled, I am not guarenteed an interview, and therefore may not be selected for the role. Which I think is hugely unfair.

Would it not be better to say something along the lines of, “if you can prove you fulfill all these requirements, we will guarentee you an interview”? With all application forms, there is a section about discrimination, you have to say what ethnicity you are, and whether you have a disability, as well as providing your gender. Now I understand why this is needed, but when there is small print like the above one, you cannot help but wonder if this whole idea of ensuring equality perhaps is having an adverse effect, and is actually serving to perhaps discriminate against those run-of-the-mill type individuals such as myself? Why can I not be guarenteed an interview if I fulfill all the criteria, but those with disabilities can? I almost feel as though I’m the one being discriminated against because I am not disabled in any way, shape or form.