Honourable Mentions…

31 12 2008

As this years New Years Honours List is released to the public, so we get an opportunity to digest those deemed worthy by the Royal Family for knighthoods, or a variant of the BE award.

As I was returning from my wanderings around the Merry Hell Centre this lunch-time, I tuned into Jeremy Vine’s show on Radio 2. The topic under discussion was whether those who were given such honours actually deserved the award. It was an interesting question, especially given some of the people awarded. On the list were the likes of Lewis Hamilton (MBE), Rebecca Adlington (OBE) and Eleanor Simmonds (MBE). The BBC happily pronounces that “Sports stars lead New Years Honours”, as recognition for a successful Olympic games filters through to those who have decided upon the list.

I picked those three above as I think these most clearly indicate the counter-argument to the honours. Whilst it is undeniable that all three have had hugely successful years in their sporting disciplines, it is, I think, questionable as to whether they really deserve to be given such an award. All are under 25, indeed, Simmonds is just 14, yet all have been recognised, presumably “for services to sport” in this list. Chris Hoy has also been recognised, despite winning his first Olympic medal in 2004. Hoy has gone on to proving himself over the course of time in his sport. Sir Steven Redgrave was only knighted after winning his fifth gold medal. These people have proven themselves over the course of time in their disciplines. Hamilton, Adlington et al have yet to achieve such sporting dominance in their fields, despite success this year.

This is not the first time we have been quick to knight sports stars, the whole England cricket team were knighted after winning the Ashes in 2005, yet failed to follow up such a victory with any sort of dominance. The same happened with the England rugby team in 2003. As a nation we are keen to praise those who do well, and this is fine, but there is surely a limit to our praise? Surely people such as those mentioned above should be content to do well in their sport, and be rewarded with a knighthood if they maintain such performances?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the idea of our honours system, I think it is right that people who work for the good of the nation get rewarded by the nation. Soldiers have always been honoured with medals for bravery. Doctors, nurses, and bin-men alike all help the country, yet when was the last time a bin-man got a knighthood? The trend of rewarding celebrities with knighthoods is a growing one it seems, and this seems somehow wrong.





Superheroes…

24 12 2008

I was re-watching Kill Bill Part II last week for what felt like the hundredth time, and whilst I was sat there thinking that the second offering is in many ways inferior to the first, I am always fascinated by Bill’s monologue towards the end where he critiques Superman as a character. Whilst it is simply a vehicle to air the views of Tarantino, the monologue raises some interesting thoughts.

I returned to thinking about Superheroes this afternoon as I drifted in and out of sleep, following yet another early start at work. They are such interesting things, they are not simply ‘heroes’ but there is something extra-ordinary about them. They are, in effect, what we would have created had we created ourselves. The ability to fly, the ability to move at super-speeds, or have incredible strength, or to stop time or anything else you can consider would have made this world of ours a hugely different place. There would be less need for vehicles, thus less carbon emmissions from cars or lorries. There would be less need for industrialisation (born, in reality, out of a need to mass produce things with various metals in), as anyone with super strength could bend the metal, and anyone with flame-power could melt it.

Above all though, super-heroes are what people aspire to be like. As a species we want to make a difference, those who argue against global warming use such a line to explain that such occurrances happen anyway, and that it is an incredibly self-centred thing to think that we are making a significant impact (I don’t really buy such an argument). Humans want to help people, they want to do good and make an impact on the world around them. They also want to be different, take hippies, goths, and the like who try to be different as examples of this. No-one aspires to be the sheep in the crowd. This is, I believe the state of the human in its purest form.

Yet somewhere this has been corrupted, broken and altered. The humans that we see in the shops approaching Christmas are not ones who care for the people around them, they are cut-throat self-centred sheep. They know what they want, and care little for those around them. They would do nothing to stand out from the crowd. The people who insist on vandalising public property are not good examples of the human race. Those who steal, con or attack are deviations, corruptions, of the human race. No-one aspires to be a thief when asked the question when they are ten. Yet somewhere between the ages of innocence and experience the person is broken. It happens in any social circle too. Laziness, a bad trait in itself, is now recognised as part and parcel of our society. People want the maximum output from the minimum effort. People want to take the esculator instead of the stairs, people want to take the quickest route to somewhere, people want answers in front of them when they ask the questions (hence, I suppose, the internet).

The human, in the modern world, has been morphed into something further and further from the superhero we would like to be. Heroes, in society are also more infrequent than we would like to think, hence why there is always news coverage when they do emerge. We have created a world where laziness is encouraged, rewarded, and promoted. We are constantly looking for the easiest or quickest way to do things, why sail across the sea in five weeks when you can fly in 20 hours? Why take a horse when you can drive in half the time? As history has gone on we have strived to find quicker, easier ways of doing things, and whilst this could be praised as technological development, the reality is that it is slowly corroding the part of the human that desires to be the superhero with the super powers. We call it comfort in our society (using a TV remote rather than manually changing the channel), but this is a self-deceiving word for laziness.

The trouble is that there is no escaping from the reality, unless you indulge yourself in escapist notions of superheroes in capes flying the skies, or bad guys with insanely crippling deformities trying to get back at the world for the rough hand they have been dealt.

I’m left wondering if it is some sort of sadistic catch-22. In aspiring to make the world better and realise human potential, we are slowly having the opposite effect, and whilst our technological innovations are brilliant, they naturally have a cost. The human, it seems, is destined to go on trying to improve its lot whilst simultaneously destroying itself somewhere else.

A cheery Christmas thought for you. Have a good Christmas period.





The Twelve Foods of Christmas…

20 12 2008

I’m fed up of the Christmas songs and tunes. They are always the same, boring, and repeated too frequently. So here’s my take on the famous song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”…with food… judge me not, I’m bored.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a flaming figgy pudding…

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me  four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five soggy sprouts, four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog, and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six types of cheese, five soggy sprouts, four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog, and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven roast potatoes, six types of cheese, five soggy sprouts, four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight pounds of turkey, seven roast potatoes, six types of cheese, five soggy sprouts, four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine onion bhajis, eight pounds of turkey, seven roast potatoes, six types of cheese, five soggy sprouts, four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten warm mince pies, nine onion bhajis, eight pounds of turkey, seven roast potatoes, six types of cheese, five soggy sprouts, four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven mini pork pies, ten warm mince pies, nine onion bhajis, eight pounds of turkey, seven roast potatoes, six types of cheese, five soggy sprouts, four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve cans of lager, eleven mini pork pies, ten warm mince pies, nine onion bhajis, eight pounds of turkey, seven roast potatoes, six types of cheese, five soggy sprouts, four sausage rolls, three christmas chocolates, two mugs of egg nog and a flaming figgy pudding…

Merry Christmas…!





Slated…

17 12 2008

2008 has been an interesting year punctuated by various disappointments. Here I will look at the things which I have been disappointed with over the course of the past year.

Slated Film: –

Quantum of Solace. Whilst there may have been worse films, this is, I feel, one of the biggest let-downs. Whilst Daniel Criag was praised by critics for reinventing Bond in Casino Royale, Sean Bean’s quip in Goldeneye seems apt in regard to the latest offering: “No glib remark? No pithy comeback?”. The point is that whilst Craig has made Bond into some super-strength hero, he has lost what made Bond special. Bond is a womaniser, a chauvinist, loyal and intelligent; that’s why the public love him. Craig’s Bond is lacking in the very dislikable qualities which make Bond so likeable in the first place. Craig is very much more like Jason Bourne than James Bond. We want him to order a Vodka Martini, “shaken, not stirred”. We want him to sleep with the Bond girl, and we want him to save the day, with some quick witted remarks laced with innuendo thrown in for good measure. We don’t want him fighting his way through an hour and a half for the sake of drama, some plot is better than none at all. Oh, and we want an insane meglomaniac bad-guy too, not some wet-behind-the-ears foreigner as Dominic Greene was. I think we have learned now that a rolling plot through films hasn’t worked, and sticking to the tried and tested formula of a new plot for each film is still the way to go.

Slated Album:-

Perfect Symmetry – Keane. As a huge Keane fan, I will admit that I have been left a little disappointed by their new album. The mournful songs of ‘Under the Iron Sea’ and ‘Hopes and Fears’ have been replaced with bouncier tunes, and this isn’t a good thing in my opinion. The first single, “Spiralling” is a grower, and whilst my opinion of it has improved, I would still rather listen to “Bedshaped” or “The Frog Prince”. There are a few good songs on the album, but this doesn’t compensate for the album as a whole.

Slated Single:-

I could slate many many songs, anything by any TV manufactured band, anything by a gangster rapper, anything remixed into a dance tune. I won’t as that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Instead my slated song is “Rockstar” by Nickleback. As someone who owns the two first Nickleback albums (the first bought on the merit of “How You Remind Me” alone), I have grown so hugely frustrated by a lot of their new releases. They seem to be everywhere at the moment. The trouble is that you can barely distinguish between songs, and Chad Kroeger’s voice is very grating. This song pips others in my opinion due to the fact it has become the noise of a sofa advert too. Which makes it even more annoying than it was already.

Slated Sporting Moment:-

As England failed to qualify for the European Championships last year, my sporting moment is closer to home. In May the Wolves finished 7th in the Championship, which itself was a disappointment given the finish of the previous season, but to lose out on goal difference was all the more galling. To lose out by a goal difference of 1 to “Hoofball” Watford was very difficult to stomach.

Slated News Story:-

The recession. As a recent graduate, finding a job in an economic climate that is going down the pan was hard work. Keeping the landlord off my back, and food in my stomach has proven to be hard work. The economic climate has affected the world, and I’m feeling the pinch.





Rated…

16 12 2008

As 2008 draws towards its close, and various different polls pop up with the best or worst things from the year, I thought I too would add my thoughts as to the ‘best’ things from the year that was. There will be a ‘slated’ later in the week.

Best Film:-

The Dark Knight. Which is odd given I was really disappointed by the ending. There was a real opportunity to develop Two-Face into a serious bad-guy in a subsequent film but instead the writers and directors tagged an additional half an hour onto the end and killed him straight away. This aside, I think this film was pretty good, Ledger’s turn as the Joker was impressive, Bale has that cold calmness required of a Batman actor, and generally anything with Morgan Freeman should be considered good. Rumours abound of Johnny Depp playing the Riddler in the next film, which should be pretty impressive.

Best Album:-

Slipway Fires by Razorlight. I haven’t bought many albums this year, but this one has just been on repeat in my car pretty much since I got it. It might be a short album, but musically and lyrically I have to say I am loving the third offering from Borrell and co. Opening with Wire to Wire and closing with The House, the whole album is pretty damn good. Go get it if you haven’t already.

Best Single:-

Parallel Worlds by Elliot Minor. Played an awful lot by Kerrang, this song has something really catchy about it, be it the lyrics or the music. Well worth a listen, as is some of their other stuff.

Best Sporting Moment:-

There were a fair few this year, as SPOTY pointed out on Sunday (which I will admit I was wrong about).  For me though the sheer drama of Lewis Hamilton’s win in Brazil was second to nothing. It had everything you want from a good sporting contest, unpredictability, drama, tension, excitement. I’m not a huge fan of Formula 1 normally, but found myself glued to the TV screen as the race unfolded, biting my nails down to the knuckle.

Best News Story:-

This one. Having watched a repeat of Top Gear recently where this was highlighted, I then preceeded to have a discussion with my housemate about cameras. Fortunately for me, he doesn’t drive, so his argument of “if you weren’t breaking the law there would be no problem” held little weight.





What Price a Broken Democracy?

10 12 2008

I am going to write about my experience yesterday, but due to various ongoing legal ramifications, it is better if I don’t mention names. For those who know me, I ask you not to mention any names either.

My parents are currently involved in an ongoing saga which is proving to be a real pain. Yesterday there was a meeting in which various councillors got together, plus representatives from the Rights of Way committee, to discuss our issue plus others. The process was as such: The chair ran through various bits of information left over from the last meeting, before inviting the RoW representative to talk, for as long as they like,  about the issue at hand. The discussion is then opened to the public gallery, and various people with different interests get to talk, for three minutes only,  about the issues. The discussion is then passed back to the councillors who get to discuss the matter for as long as they want, asking questions of the RoW people. The ‘public’ ie the people who have stood up to talk, do not get another say. When the issues have been understood the councillors vote to accept or reject the RoW’s proposals regarding any given case.

As I sat there, I found myself laughing at the complete nonsensical manner in which the meeting (which could be, and in our case is, costing a lot both in terms of lost working hours and legal costs) was run. As I see it there was so many things which were not democratic about this process:

1. Those whom the issue affects only get one opportunity to put forward their case, and this is in a tight time limit.

2. The RoW people get the opportunity to talk as much as they want (therefore pushing their case much more).

3. The public cannot respond to any debatable issues which the RoW people raise.

4. The councillors worked on the premise (false in this case) that the RoW people are the “experts” in the case.

These are just the issues in the running order, there are many more. The RoW is meant to be impartial, so in paperwork produced before the meeting, both sides of the case should be highlighted for the councillors benefit. This was not the case.

The councillors themselves should be impartial. Again this was not the case, with one obviously left-wing muppet passing some hugely irrelevant comment about the issue being indicative of the attitudes of the landed gentry.

The councillors should be consistant. One of the later cases was dismissed on grounds completely counter to what had been argued for our case. There was not a degree of consistancy.

The Chair should have a vague idea of what was happening. He didn’t. Time and time again he had to be corrected by various councillors and the clerk. If he cannot do his job properly, what chance is there for anyone else?

Frequently the RoW case reports were questioned by councillors as to their meaning, but no-one connected the repeated failings with incompetence. Instead the councillors remained adament that the RoW people were the best for the job.

There should be no conflicts of interest. The RoW person investigating our case was a member of the British Horse Society, who are arguing counter to us already. There will be much more about this soon I’m sure (I know other people in the process have wised up to this). Due to this conflict of interest, she did not present against us, but her supervisor did, who knew little of the case beyond the ‘facts’ in front of her.

The RoW people explained that in such cases only two types of evidence can be used, ‘historical’ and ‘user’. They cannot be used together. ‘User’ evidence is from people who have frequently used the path in question in the past 20 years. In our case there is none. Historical evidence is self explanatory, but in our case the evidence is debatable in interpretation. It is my feeling that the absence of one of these types of evidence should be a strong indication of the absence of the path, but due to the RoW’s self imposed regulations, this is not the case. If one is lacking, they explore the other type, building a case around poor evidence, but due to the problem highlighted earlier, they get the opportunity to plug this case as much as they want.

Despite these failings we won this round. Due to the constitution, the matter will now be brought back to the next meeting, and the RoW people get to present the same thing again. In effect they could keep coming back until they get a vote in their favour. I wrote down during the meeting the following phrase “A hugely frustrating display of incompetance and irrationality”. I feel this sums up the whole experience very well. To my mind the evidence is clear, the system is not just broken, it is completely destroyed. There needs to be a radical overhauling of such “democratic” processes as it is painfully apparent that the current ones are totally corrupt and useless. This won’t be the last you will hear on this issue, I assure you.





An Interesting Comparison…

8 12 2008

I was watching Long Way Down with Euan McGregor and Charlie Boorman last night for the first time. They had reached central Africa on their second journey and it was an interesting watch as they visited Ugandan rehab camps for child soldiers. It was though the visit they made to the war-torn country of Rwanda that was of more interest though. I will admit that other than knowing of the genocide, I knew little of the state of affairs of Rwanda over the course of the past half a century. The impression from the programme was that Rwanda was recovering very well after such a tragic happening (put into context by another stat I heard this weekend: there was more killed in Rwanda than there were British deaths in the First World War). People were cheerful and looking forward (this despite accusations of War Crimes in direction to their president) and the nature of the country was that it was hard to imagine such acts (albeit the presentation in the programme demonstrated it as such).

More noteworthy though was the attitude towards education. The children wanted to learn, to get educated and to give themselves the best possible start. My experience of Africa is similar, as children and adults alike are keen to learn a much as they can. It was my mum though that made a good point, comparing such desire for education in Africa to the apparent lack of interest in children of Britain at the moment.

Whilst it is too easy to suggest that more kids don’t care about education than do, it is not a stretch, I feel, to suggest that there is nowhere near the same fervour for education amongst those in Britain.

It is examples such as these which makes me think that we can become too easily forgetful of what we have in Britain. We are lucky to be able to get an education, to build our lives, and not be fearful of war of genocide tearing apart our society. Watching programmes such as these serves to help us remember our own situation and appreciate how fortunate we are.