Bricks and Beachwood…

31 10 2008

Forget the credit crunch. Ignore the presidential elections. Forget, if you can, Brand and Ross (made much easier now if you don’t watch or listen to the BBC).

Instead there is something sinister lurking on our coastlines. Something big. Something dangerous. Something with a highly unusual message. And it’s yellow.

Yes, today, down on the south coast, a huge apparition has emerged from the sea. The creature, sporting clothing (unconfirmed at this point, it may be skin) with a bizarre message scrawled on it, has appeared from nowhere. Whilst some are speculating it may be part of a Russian terrorist plot (possibly akin to the Trojan Horse), others are wondering if the end is really nigh. Indeed there is photographic evidence of a creature attempting to kill, maim or befriend an innocent bystander.

The creature disappeared as quickly as it came, either returning to its presumed habitat or taken to the British equivalent of Area 51, based, I’m reliably informed, just miles to the east of the location the creature was discovered.

It has been rumoured that the British ‘Creature’ is similar to one found in Holland recently. It has sparked massive debate amongst scientists as to whether there is another intelligent creature, able to use the spoken and written word, on this planet. Sporting the same message, but wearing different attire (the British one was green), some have speculated that they may be part of a family, or that the colours are representative of gender.

More bizarre than its origins though is the message the creature has brought with it. People are confused as to whether to take this as a warning, a sign that, following the downturn in the markets and snow in October, the apocalypse is really on its way. Others though see the creature as a beacon of hope, here to remind people of the bigger picture in life.

Critics have attacked the poor English that the creature uses, and have warned people not to take it seriously until it can construct a proper sentence, but those in the art community have praised the ambiguous message, with someone sporting a slanted beret commenting “this is just, wow. I mean, it’s taken everything we thought we knew about art and…well…made it bigger“. It’s hard to argue. Another commented that “the smile is so significant in art, first we had the Mona Lisa, now we have this. It’s incredible.

The abrupt disappearance of the creature, coupled with its thoughtful message and the lack of governmental comment deepens this in mystery further. Whatever the true story of the yellow man, I’m sure we will find out from Channel 5 in roughly a month. Meanwhile, the photographic evidence of the creature:


Telephone Calls…

30 10 2008

As the row about Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’ antics rumbles on, I am beginning to feel sorry for the pair. Slightly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not condone their activities, but to my mind they were just part of a flawed set-up now being scrupulously exploited by the press. I maintain that Brand was always more likely to walk than Ross, simply because, lets face it, Ross is to the BBC what Ant and Dec are to ITV, the bedrock of the entertainment. Brand himself didn’t have to walk, but chose to knowing he had other successful exploits elsewhere to fall back on.

I am willing to be critical of their comments, and critical of the guys who let the show be broadcast. I am critical of the paper who seized upon the story almost a week after the show was aired. I am also critical of the 30,000 or so people who have subsequently complained (jumping on the band-wagon never looked so much fun. Apparently).

Yet today I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry because of this story, appearing in the rag that is the Sun. Their comments were so offensive, apparently, that Ms Baillie is willing to open up to some tabloid nobody about her sexual antics with Brand. For what gain? Revenge? Maybe, partly. Money? Definately.

If closure was wanted in this story, as we were led to believe, why today are we getting interviews which fan the flames even more? In her fifteen minutes, it seems, Baillie wants to cash in as much as possible on her relationship with Brand. It isn’t enough to attempt to destroy a career, but she seems intent on taking his humility as well.

Now I’m not a fan of Russell Brand, I don’t think he is funny, I do think he is a pretentious actor, a fake on screen and a repulsive person off. Yet I do appreciate that the guy has dignity. At least he did. Sort of. Baillie is ensuring that he is quickly losing the respect of fans and fellow celebs alike.

It remains to be seen what Ross’ future is with the Beeb, but rest assured, we won’t be seeing his smiling mug on the TV for a while.

Pure Class…

29 10 2008

I sat down to watch John Prescott’s programme on class yesterday on IPlayer in the hope that he would bring something constructive to the discussion about class. It was a fools hope though, as I became increasingly bored of good old JP reciting his own personal history and his utter damnation of the upper classes (and to a lesser extent the middle classes). The programme, rather than being a useful tool to stimulate discussion (as it had the potential to be), actually proved to be a vehicle for him to waste an hour of BBC scheduling time with left-wing working-class rhetoric.

When the trailers for the programme appeared on our TV’s a couple of weeks ago, my Dad remarked to me “why would anyone want to watch that drivel, we’ve all had enough of him“. Indeed the programme itself seemed to reinforce the point, with low levels of people queueing up to get signed copies of his autobiography in Asda, Hull, his home town.

His insistance on repeating that he was still very much working class, despite his manor and croquet playing tendancies throughout the course of the programme was a major irritation to me, as was his apparently closed minded approach to the topic. Whereas the programme should have been posing questions such as “is class still relevant to today’s society?” or “how much of a class divide still exists in Britain where most would define themselves as middle-class?” it instead followed ‘Prezza’ as he visited various examples of the different classes and used them as a microcosm of society. This in itself was a flawed approach, the examples chosen were as close as possible to social stereotypes, picked, very deliberately, to paint a picture of Britain that Prescott himself was happy to criticise. Whereas to my mind it would have been much more worthwhile for him to have visited more communal places, with a wider demographic, instead the programme makers chose to pick lunch with an Earl, a meeting with three young girls who were very definately not chavs (apparently), and a meeting with a couple of young men at a private school to help Prescott vent his spleen about why class is bad.

The trouble the programme had was that it never really tried to define what class was, it worked on pre-supposed ideas of the viewers, all the time influencing thought with outlandish examples of the various classes, “oh the upper classes must all live in manors, with butlers and posh crockery” or “the working class must all be completely ignorant of the world around them because society has failed them“.

The trouble with stereotypes is the familiarity with them that society has. Hence, I suppose, why they are stereotypes. No-one dares challenge them, they are accepted. They are, by social ignorance, the ‘truth’. The programme makers capitalised upon this, and ran with it. Not once did they appear to think that perhaps the stereotypes were maybe not a fair reflection of todays multi-cultural society. Such thinking would have made the programme much more watchable and interesting, but would have obviously contradicted the point of having Prescott as the front man, the selling point.

If some unknown presenter had run with it then the programme would have been infinitely better as we would have been able to have some degree of impartiality. With Prescott though we were always likely to have him plugging left-wing commentary, given his history.

Needless to say I shall not be tuning back in to watch the second part. It barely seems worth my time to listen to Prescott’s agenda for another hour. There is much more to be said about class and the current state of Britain’s class system, but it is too contentious a topic for the BBC to cover adequately in an hour. Perhaps Channel 4 could do a better job…

It’s Remembrance Day dammit…

28 10 2008

This will be short and to the point. I was in the petrol station this morning. Whilst I was there in walked a mother with her daughter who must have been about 5 or 6. It was reasonably busy in the shop. As they wandered around I heard the daughter ask her mother, “why are people wearing those flowers?

The mother’s response was “I don’t really know, but it’s what people do at this time of year.

I was disgusted. I felt like giving the mother a slapping and were it not for the fear of being arrested I think I might have.

The Death…

25 10 2008

As football continues its own self-destruction (I see this week that Richard “Bright-Ideas” Scudamore is still very much thinking about game 39), today is particularly disappointing.

As a traditionalist in footballing terms, I remain convinced that all fixtures should occur at 3pm on Saturdays, or 7.45pm on Tuesdays. I accept that money talks and that various tv companies can show different matches at different times, but I don’t like it.

Take today for example. There are four premier league matches. Only one of them kicks off at 3pm (and it’s the WBA vs Hull match – presumably because Sky and Setanta thought it would be a rubbish match). The three others have all kicked off at different times. Everton vs Man Utd kicked off at midday. Sunderland vs Newcastle at 12:45pm. Blackburn vs Middlesborough will kick off at 5:30pm.

There are therefore six games tomorrow. Of which three are televised. Meaning that the others are kicking off at 3pm for no reason other than because they can. So why can these games, for the sake of the fans, not be played on a Saturday afternoon?

Now there are occasions when the police recommend that the matches should be played at a different time due to previous crowd problems, but these are rare, and occur usually when there is a derby match. There are two derby matches this weekend. One was the Sunderland vs Newcastle match today. The other is the West Ham vs Arsenal match tomorrow (which is televised anyway). The games which begin at 3pm are not, therefore, derbys. In other words, there is no reason for them to be played at this time. So why not play them on Saturday? If only I knew.

The fans are the ones who suffer in all this. Sundays, traditionally, are a day of rest. Most people like to unwind and relax on Sunday, irrespective of their faith. When the schedulers decide to play these matches on Sunday, they are effectively removing this day of rest as fans usually have to travel to the matches (tomorrow Liverpool fans are going to London to see the Chelsea match – a long round trip for most fans). In days gone by, fans knew that on Saturday they would be able to go to the match at 3pm. Not anymore, and this is hugely frustrating.

Role Models…

23 10 2008

I must admit, when I heard the news that Joey Barton, the footballer, wanted to act as a role model for young people, I was hugely skeptical about the whole idea. I mean, what parent in their right mind would want to leave their kid in the company of someone who has, on more than one occasion, assaulted people and done jail time for it? I don’t think I would ever have called Barton a role model. There are many things that he is, violent, dangerous, unpredictable, short-tempered. But not a role model. This is, remember, the guy who stabbed a lit cigarette into the eye of a younger professional at a christmas party.

So what sort of role model could he be? “Here’s how to get banged up. I’m a footballer, I can get away with it, but you kids won’t. You’ll do longer sentences because you aren’t famous.” Hmm. Truly inspiring. It’s not like the guy is particularly renowned for his speaking abilities either (some footballers, incidentally, are, Beckham for example, after all these years, is still as rubbish as he ever was, but Steven Gerrard, despite being a scouser, does speak well to the press I feel). No, Barton is just not role model material.

He is someone who has been given so many ‘second chances’ that he must be nearer his one-hundred-and-second chance than his second. Barton was, and, I believe, will remain a thug, both on and off the football pitch. You get them in all walks of life, the playground bully, the office bully, the coffee shop bullies if you remember Friends, the wife-beaters (or indeed husband), children-beaters. Bullies are not uncommon in the world. Barton is just a public bully. Except that he isn’t just a public bully at all. He is a public bully who keeps getting away with it. Which is very definately worse. What sort of example is that to set to young people? What sort of mis-representation will that give of our legal system, which for all its flaws, still does not resort to execution as a means to an end?

There is the argument that Barton himself is trotting out, running along the lines of ‘changed man’. Which is interesting. Rudyard Kipling told us that the leopard could not change its spots. Nor indeed the Ethiopian for that matter. I don’t think Barton will either, despite time in jail, and despite vowing to be a different person.

Citing his experience in jail as one of the reasons people can connect with him, Barton has told reporters that he hopes to reach those who were unreachable before. Hmm. Despite my reservations, no, my complete dislike, of Barton I think he may have a point. There are many people who feel footballers do belong in a different, squeaky-clean world full of celebrity culture and the high life. Those who shun such attention (Paul Scholes and Micheal Owen for example) have the reputations of being well-mannered, polite family men. Which is a far cry from the growing gang culture of major cities. At least Barton can try to connect with people from shared experience (alcohol abuse, violent conduct, jail time) and try to help them improve their lives. Just as he is, apparently, trying to improve his. It remains to be seen how successful Barton is during his career (at 26 time is on his side as a professional sportsman), but I think of more concern to everyone is how successful Barton is in his own life.


21 10 2008

In life you must always prioritise things. Usually, as a student, that involves completing a piece of work before going out to the pub. There are frequent occasions when it is hard to justify doing something ahead of something else, one piece of work against another, for example.

There are though some things which are easy to prioritise. Family especially. Which is why I am delighted to be reading about Barack Obama taking time out of his hectic campaign to visit his sick grandmother in Hawaii. We all know that this is a critical time for Obama, just weeks before the elections begin, but it is, I think, good to know that even a man clear in the polls for the most important job on the planet, still has his priorities in order.

The beeb reports that his absence will “make his staff nervous“. I think I disagree with this, if anything, the demonstration by Obama that his priorities are his family first and foremost, will appeal to the American public, especially the unconvinced swing voters. The public are quick to forget that politicians are human too. They are prone to emotions, and are as concerned with their families as much as they are with saving the economy. To my mind, showing you are human is an important trait in a society which elevates people to ‘super’ human, above and beyond trivial matters such as emotion. In the age of celebrity the media and public expect certain people to be idyllic images of contentment and perfection. In visiting his sick grandmother, I believe Obama is showing that he is human, and he knows what his priorities are.