Friday, June 29, 2007

Smokers, There Is Still Hope!

A legal challenge to the Government's ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces is being put forward to the High Court. The group pushing the claim say the new law contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically Article One which assures the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions and Article Eight which covers the right to privacy.

Good luck!


Bye Fopp!

It is with sadness that I must report the closure of the Fopp chain. This was my favourite place to buy CDs in London, and its book department was also pretty good for the odd bargain.

Obviously my previous exhortations to use this place have fallen on deaf ears, as the firm are claiming the slump in CD purchases as the main reason for the closure. And is so often the case, the staff have been told to expect no salary for their last month.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Three Fat Brides

Decided to watch the Gillian McKeith programme on Channel 4 yesterday and it was probably as bad as I was expecting it to be. Which is quite spectacular as I was expecting it to be pretty awful.

Three brides - one a born again Christian saving herself for her wedding night, one a second timer after a brief first marriage, and a Welsh lass who was marrying a footballer - all competed to see who had lost the most weight and the most number of inches around their waistline in the eight week McKeith challenge.

Now, I'm not a dietitian or a psychologist (nor do I play one on TV) but I'm fairly sure I could have pointed out a few things that would have improved the lives of the "contestants" and I wouldn't have been quite as irritating as McKeith while doing it, nor would I have been as interested in their stool samples.

Bride One basically lived on takeaways and had a very low level of self-esteem (which is probably why she became a born again Christian). If this programme had been about saving money, then stopping her and her husband-to-be from eating takeaways every night of the week would have also been the main thrust of the improvement process. Getting her to appreciate that people liked her would probably have been more helpful than having McKeith shouting at her.

Bride Two loved butter. On everything. Digestives mainly, but pretty much on everything. She was in her 40s and seemed to have the most normal personality (apart from wanting to be on TV, natch) and funnily enough was the strongest mentally when listening to her fellow Scot, McKeith. Medically, she really needed to do something as she was very likely to get diabetes, so had quite a large impetus to take part.

Bride Three just drank too much. Then craved crap food after her binge drinking session. She didn't stay on the McKeith wagon, but unusually didn't fall off for a night of binge drinking (and I would drink heavily if I had to have McKeith in my life for 8 weeks) but for some pizza and some trifle. She was ratted out by Bride Two to McKeith who showed her a wedding dress in a coffin and then poured trifle on it. Seriously.

All three brides lost about 28 pounds in 8 weeks of the McKeith regime. Which is quite a spectacular amount. Not entirely sure it's healthy to lose that much weight that quickly, but then again, I'm not sure McKeith knows that either. Seeing as she's not medically trained or anything.

Bride Two won the dress, by the way. But did have to suffer having McKeith turn up on her wedding day. So not really "winning" in the traditional sense of the word.

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First up, congratulations to Jim & Kate on the birth of their second child - who I reckon should be called Plato - on Saturday morning. Both mother and daughter are apparently doing fine, although Jim did try to persuade me that his daughter was 8 stone 12 pounds: a weight that would make her heavier than her mother normally is.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gillian McKeith, Why Aren't You Dead?

Witch-faced scottish coprophiliac food-nazi (but to be fair to her at least she's stopped calling herself Doctor) Gillian McKeith isn't my favourite person by any stretch of the imagination. She has, however excelled herself this time by actually irritating the shit out of me (which she would no doubt examine very closely for no obvious reason) before the programme has been broadcast.

"Three Fat Brides & One Thin Dress" irks me by its title alone. The concept however is even more nauseating. McKeith chastises three overweight women who are planning to get married in the near future, to lose a spectacular amount of weight in order to win a free wedding dress that they can't currently fit into. And she decides which one of them "deserves" the dress. How very considerate and condescending of you Gillian, helping all these poor fat people, you money making freak.

I'd personally like to volunteer to make the wedding cake for any of the would-be brides that punch her in the face, or shit on her, or both. And I don't care how much you weigh on your wedding day - as long as you're happy, good luck to you. The person you're marrying obviously doesn't care, so why should I?

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Liam Byrne You're A Cunt

For those of you lucky enough not to be in England, Liam Byrne is the Home Office Immigration Minister, who can be found here holding up a wall he's just sprayed some graffiti on.

He's announced in a speech today that the Identity Card scheme will become "a great British institution" on a par with the railways in the 19th Century. That'll be the same railways that were ripped asunder by a subsequent Government (Beeching in 1961) and left to fall apart after subsequent privatisation.

Good. Fucking. God. What were you thinking man?

It gets worse! Byrne said "In 20 years time, I suspect that the National Identity Scheme will be just a normal part of British life - another great British institution without which modern life, whatever it looks like in 2020, would be quite unthinkable" as it would avoid "a proliferation of plastic, passwords and PINs".

Now call me paranoid - as some of you already do - but I'd prefer to have lots of bits of plastic, several different passwords and a selection of PINs as I'd be the one choosing the passwords and PINs. If I was stupid enough to use the same numbers or passwords, then that's my own fault if someone gets hold of my information. If the Home Office decides to encrypt all my information on one card and then someone cracks that, then I'm fucked through no fault of my own.

This would be the same Home Office that was declared "unfit for purpose" by John Reid MP only last year. The same Home Office that is, according to Phil Booth, from the anti-ID card campaign group No2ID, "the department of cock-up and cover-up. These are the last people on earth you should trust to keep your information safe."

As I have mentioned previously, I fear the Government.

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Pearl Jam At Wembley Arena

Went to see Pearl Jam last night and I have to say I was underwhelmed at the very least. So underwhelmed in fact that we left before 10pm.

Got into the venue at bang on 9pm and saw some lot on stage sounding ropey in the extreme and apparently with a drop cloth behind them. "Support Band" I thought, so sat down. Song after song I didn't recognise went by and I eventually realised that this was actually Pearl Jam.

I only truly twigged it was them when they got a roadie on stage and he was introduced as being "from Cornwall so give him a big cheer". In Pearl Jam world, Cornwall's right next to London I can only assume. The guitar the roadie had brought on was strummed once, was out of tune, and another one tried instead. Which captured in microcosm the problem with the gig: how it sounded.

Now, if you've been in Wembley Arena, you'll not be surprised the sound was crap. But I'd been there about a month ago to see the Lostprophets and the sound had been brilliant, so I'd assumed (stupidly in retrospect) that they'd ironed out the problems that had previously dogged the place - particularly by moving the stage to the opposite end of the venue.

But no, the sound was as awful as I've ever heard it. Screechingly loud top end, precious little bass and a very muddy sounding middle. Oh and feedback, lots of feedback. "Wow" I thought "the sound position must be in a really bad location if they can't hear how bad this is" so I looked, and there wasn't a desk in sight anywhere in the Arena! So I can only assume the guy was mixing it from the car park. Probably something to do with the fact you can no longer smoke anywhere in Wembley Arena.

Oh, and if you're going to play at Wembley Arena, have the decency to have some sort of video screens somewhere, could you please? Thanks. I might have realised you weren't the support band if I could've seen your chubby face Vedder.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Identity Cards - American Style!

Anyone who's been following my rants about the introduction of Identity Cards in the UK may be interested - and yet not surprised - to know that the Bush administration has been pushing for a similar system to be introduced in the USA.

Unfortunately for him, there are at least four states who are planning to rebel against the Real ID Act due to the privacy concerns of having that much personal information held on multiple databases. This is one of the concerns about the UK system and how that information will slide from one area to another as and when the Government deem it necessary.

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Government Dumbing Down Of Education

From the ever entertaining The Register comes a story about a Physics teacher at the end of his tether about the way Physics is taught and examined in the UK.

If you happen to have done O Level Physics in the 1980s like I did, the questions on the current paper - which he quotes on his open letter to the Department of Education - will stun you.

As the Government are the ones who set the syllabus and the ones who appoint the people who set the exams, it seems only fair to assume that it is that very same Government who are trying to dumb down the education system in this country.

Now why would that be? Little Jack, son of a middle class couple, struggles with tricky subjects like Physics and Math, but obviously he can't just be dumb as a post so there must be something wrong with the way it was taught. So let's change it. And, while we're at it, let's make it more political and/or politically correct as well.

This point is also raised by Civitas here

Dear the Government, fuck off out of the everyday lives of the population of this country. And stop trying to appeal to the middle class at every single turn.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

That God, He's A Cunt Isn't He?

I've been reading the stunningly well-argued "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Now, I realise that he's obviously cherry-picked his arguments in much the same way as the religious fundamentalists do, but there are some fabulous examples from the bible of god's lack of, well, niceness.

For example; Genesis 19: 7-8 where Lot is spared for being the only "good" man in Sodom. Lot extols "I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two young daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you and you do ye to them as is good in your eyes" (and remember, these are Sodomites), and god spares him? That's nice, isn't it? You offer your daughters up for gang rape/buggery and you're *spared*?

Worse yet is to befall Lot's somewhat put upon daughters, when - after the death of their mother for having the temerity to watch the city of Sodom being destroyed - they live with him in a cave. And being denied access to any other men (the raping of Sodom obviously not enough for them) they get their father drunk so that he doesn't recognise them and get pregnant by him (Genesis 19: 31-36).

And this is the family god *saves* from Sodom? Wow. Doesn't really say a lot about the other residents, does it? Or indeed, god's moral compass in matters of bringing up a 'normal' family.

I shall return to this book soon.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Halifax Bank Of Scotland Customer?

Let's just hope you're not. Especially if you were one of the 62,000 customers whose personal details were on an unencrypted(!) disk sent via the Royal Mail(!!!) and unsurprisingly lost. HBOS blamed "human error" and suspect the disk was actually "lost and not stolen" although I'm not sure why they would assume this.

This continues a great year for HBOS in their attempts to lose customers and/or their personal details. In March HBOS, along with ten other banks, were shamed by the Information Commissioner for chucking out customer statements into pavement bins, and in January, sent the details of 75,000 customers to a woman from Aberdeen who'd asked for a copy of her statement.


Chuzzle Chuzzle Vision!

Not that I am gloating in the slightest....


I Fear The Government

The BBC is reporting on John Reid's latest attempts to remove democracy from the UK.

Despite having the powers to hold suspects for 28 days, the Government is pushing to extend that. When they last tried - to extend it to 90 days - Tony Blair experienced his first defeat in the House of Commons.

Now, while I understand the claims that there are exceptional circumstances whereby the police are unable to ascertain whether or not someone is a criminal in 28 days, I worry about a situation where the Government can basically identify anyone as a potential terrorist and get them locked up for an indefinite period of time without charging them.

Disagree with the Government? Terrorist. Look likely to be popular enough to get elected? Terrorist. Believe that you have the right to demonstrate? Terrorist. Wish to keep a modicum of privacy in your life? Obviously you have something to hide, terrorist!

Fortunately, the opposition parties aren't falling into the trap of thinking they'll look "weak" on crime and blindly agreeing with these proposals, so it will be interesting to see if and how the Government pushes them into law.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Marks & Spencers/Persimmon Homes

I'm posting this because I've had two emails from people and I want to save the Persimmon mailservers any further grief.

If you get the following email, reply to the person who sent it and tell them it's a hoax.

"Dear All,

Marks & Spencers, in conjunction with Persimmon Homes, are giving away
free vouchers. Marks & Spencers are trying word-of-mouth advertising
to introduce its products and the reward you receive for advertising
for them is free non-refundable vouchers to be used in any M&S store.

To receive your free vouchers by e-mail all you have to do is to send
this email out to 8 people (for £100 of free vouchers) or 20 people
(for £500 of free vouchers). Within 2 weeks you will receive an e-mail
with your vouchers attached.

They will contact you through your e-mail address.

Please mark a copy to:"

Basically, if it sounds like it's too good to be true, then it usually is.


Remembering Rebecca "Bob" Kaye

As you will probably know, my friend (and ex-girlfriend circa 1992) died last week. Today is her cremation, and her ashes will be scattered at her favourite place on Bodmin Moor. I don't want this to sound too emotional or sad, as I don't think she would've liked that sort of thing: the service today won't be like that, so neither will this.

Bob, as I knew her - because I saw an envelope her family had sent where she was named Bobo - moved into the room I'd lived in in Sassoon Hall at Middlesex University the previous year. She was a Performing Arts student; lively, loud, full of life and dressed in bright and quirky clothing.

We started going out about a month or so into her first year and were together pretty much constantly for a couple of years - meeting both sets of parents and siblings in the process - and although we did drift apart when she started her final year, we remained good friends.

The last I saw her in London was just after I moved into a new flat in 1993. She had short blue hair and was wearing what was commonly known as "that purple jumper" and Doc Marten boots. Our new neighbours were convinced they'd had punks move in next to them. Which is entertaining as Bob liked to listen to Elvis and the songs from musicals.

I got an email last year from Donna Goddard (another one of the ex-BAPAs who had moved down to Cornwall with her to set up a theatre in education company) saying that Bob had been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma the previous year. The rest of the that story can be read on the BeccaBob blog so I won't go over it here.

Me and Emma Stirland drove down to see her in September last year and she was in good spirits despite everything, determined to beat this cancer inside of her. It was lovely to see her, her parents Bet & Pete and her new bloke, Kevin, and when we left, Emma and I both agreed that she had been looking a lot better than we'd expected.

Looks can be deceptive however, and she'd actually been incredibly ill for the next few days after our visit. To give the appearance of not being as ill as she was, had taken so much out of her. You couldn't take the performer out of her.

In mid-January, me and Suzi went down to Cornwall and popped in to see everyone. Bob still looked well, if a little more frail, but still seemed to have the confidence of beating the cancer. That was the last time I saw her alive. It seems that she lost some of that confidence soon afterwards, and despite fighting on until nearly June, she was too tired and too sore to keep going any longer.

Bob, you were a stunning girl, I'm glad I could count you as a friend. You are hugely missed.


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