Monday, 29 December 2008

Skiing in a winter wonderland

Well that was a fun holiday! Maybe the best Christmas ever, just beating last year’s trip to New Zealand, sorry I’m just showing off now. As usual I have a few complaints… firstly, the weather was pretty terrible for most of the week: driving wind, snow, bloody cold, terrible visibility. You literally could not see a thing for the first three days, which sucked a bit. It also made skiing pretty hard because, as anyone who has skied before can attest to, when there is no direct sunlight you can't see where the snow is piled up so things can get a bit tricky. It does however make for some pretty hilarious crashes though, so it's not all bad. Fortunately the sun did come out all day on Friday so I was able to get some very nice photos, which I’ll show you later.

It would probably be a good idea to tell you where I went now. We were based in a place called Obertauern in Austria, just south of Salzburg. It is a massive skiing area, with about 100km of ski runs. Plenty of easy runs for the physically inept, my mum for example, and plenty of much harder ones for the rest of us. It was my 3rd week skiing, so I’m pretty good without being amazing and there was more then enough skiing at about my standard. In fact I managed to do quite a few black sloped during the week, which was fun although very tiring, so tiring in fact that they made my older brother, who is build like a brick shithouse, start feeling it. Pussy.

While it was a really good holiday, there were a few things that got a little annoying; our hotel was really far away from the main town – about a kilometre, which believe me is pretty far when it’s cold and snowing, so we didn’t really go up into town in the evenings and do ‘après-ski’, which is the most ridiculous sounding thing ever. For the uninitiated, it’s when everyone gets together after a day of skiing and gets drunk, well there’s a little more to it than that obviously or else I wouldn’t be ruing the fact that we didn’t do it very much.

Although we were over there over Christmas, , they didn’t really make anything of itapart from Christmas Eve; there were a few decorations and the odd Christmas song in the restaurants, but apart from that it could’ve been any time of the year. This isn’t really a compliant though given that I get sick of all the hype of Christmas, in fact it was quite refreshing. On Christmas Eve however they did kinda go all out. In the evening we had a meal that was about 8 courses and lasted for several hours, after which we were not as full as you might think due to the fact that each course could easily have fitted onto the palm of a new born babies hand.

Along with writing, reading, playing rugby, being cynical and surfing endlessly around half-dead Internet forums, I quite enjoy photography. As will all the other things I’m not exactly good at it, apart from reading obviously, because any retard with one functional eye and half a brain could read competently. Anyway, I’d like to think some of the photos I took in Austria are actually half decent.

I know you're probably wondering why the sky is blue when a minute ago I was complaining that the weather was crap, well I took these on the one day that there was nice weather. Anyway, this was our winter wonderland for the week, pretty nice huh?
This one is of Obertauern, it's not all that big as you can see and it's pretty much just hotels, bars and ski schools. Suffice to say that, were it not for the skiing, it would be little more than a few ramshackle buildings, if that.

I quite like this one with the cable car in the foreground. It was taken coming down from one of the highest points in the area and as you can see the mountain range stretched back for a good long way, as you'd expect given that it's the alps. Just look at the photo damnit!
I think it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in my live, some of the views were truly stunning.
this one I'm particularly proud of because what you can see in the top of the photo is the sun. Any of you who've tried photography will know that it is generally pretty difficult to take a photo into the sun like this, so I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Although its quality may be more of a testament to the quality of my camera rather than the quality of my photography.
This one is similar to the last one, and to be honest I'm running out fo things to say about them...
One thing I did discover on holiday; the best thing to listen to while drifting off to sleep is Pink Floyd. Psychedelic Rock just sounds so much better when you are half asleep, I don't know why and I don't know that relates to this photo, but in any case, Pink Floyd are amazing and you all need to listen to them more. See you next week.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Bar Humbug and all that

With Christmas just round the corner it’s tempting to be cynical about the whole thing. Actually that does sound fun… no! I promised myself I would cut the cynicism somewhat. Although a few weeks ago I was shouting ‘bar humbug’ from the top of my lungs with genuine enthusiasm (yes I was getting enthusiastically cynical, or is it cynically enthusiastic?), as the 25th gets closer and closer I am actually quite looking forward to it this year. The fact that I am going skiing tomorrow (hence why this is early this week) may have something to do with that.

The thing that does rather get on my nerves is the fact that Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier every year. By mid-October we have advertisements for Christmas offers and gaudy, ugly and absurd Christmas lights adorning people’s houses in some mad disregard for all standards of taste and reserve. I don’t mind people getting together and having a bit of fun in the bleak mid-winter, but it seems that we are taking this whole exercise of social engineering a little too far. I think Christmas would actually be improved if we held back a little and actually started thinking about Christmas a little later, rather than beginning the long tedious build up in mid-autumn so that by the time the 25th does come about we are not all bored stiff of the hysteria.

Well that is the first dose of cynicism out the way. I do actually quite like Christmas; while it is a completely absurd and transparent piece of social engineering designed by an utter genius a few too many thousand years ago to make us all happy when it’s cold and wet and crappy, I do find it works rather well. I quite enjoy waking round my sleepy village in the middle of nowhere delivering Christmas cards to random houses hoping that the name on the card corresponds to the name of the person who receives it. I wish random people a Merry Christmas and generally get to feel good about myself despite being cold and wet.

Christmas presents too are good fun, especially when you know exactly what you are getting. My family has done away with the façade of surprises at Christmas time and have taken to ordering our own presents on Amazon and faking surprise when we open them. We have not yet taken to wrapping our own presents, but I’m sure the time will come. We are not even bothering to open Christmas presents on Christmas day this year; we are moving it forwards to this evening in a complete abandonment of tradition and the generally accepted formula. This is not a whimsical eccentricity on our part (if you’ll excuse the sheer pretentiousness of that statement); as we are going skiing over Christmas (sorry did I not mention that, oh no, of course I did. I‘m so sorry), we will not be here on Christmas day and it would take the weight of our luggage over the limit if we were to try to take all our presents over to Austria with us (which is where we’re going skiing, obviously).

One thing that has always worried me about Christmas is the myth of Santa Claus (oh sorry, did you not realise he wasn’t real… I’m sorry you had to find out this way. Please stop crying. I guess this would be a bad time to say that the Easter Bunny and God don’t exist either huh? Yeah, I though so). As far as I can tell, Christmas is the only time when we think that the idea of a fat old man climbing down our chimney and giving our kids presents is a good thing. Normally we would be phoning the police faster than you can sing jingle bells.

Another thing that I find amusing is the fact that people take the religious part of Christmas so seriously. Has it not occurred to them that Jesus probably wasn’t born on the 25th of December and the Church just decided to hijack the midwinter festival I order to make the new religious more acceptable to the pagans of the Roman Empire? If anything we should be praying to the powers that be to make sure the days start getting longer rather than continuing to shorten until we are left with eternal darkness and hence the end of the world, which isn’t going to happen by the way so put the goat down and step away from the alter.

In fact the Christian story of the birth of Jesus has long perplexed me. A woman claims to have been impregnated by the Holy Spirit? And no one thought this a tad bit unlikely? No one cried wolf an accused Joseph of screwing Mary a little before the wedding? Either the people of first century Nazareth were monumentally gullible or our sources miss out a large part of the story. Exactly what census demands that you return to the place where your father was born anyway? Which socially repressed retard out of touch with the real world decided that the best way of counting how many people there were was to make half of them temporarily move to a different town? How spastic do you have to think that is a good idea?

So anyway, away from all the religious bullshit and absurd myths, Christmas is fun, ‘tis a season to be merry and all the cliché stuff. Go be happy or something. I’m gonna go to Austria and ski. Bye! Next weeks blog will be a little late as I don’t get back until Saturday and you can fuck off if you think I’m gonna write a blog the moment I get back. So anyway, see you next Sunday and have a very merry Christmas, and don’t drink too much…

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Plane Stupid

On Monday the 8th of December; so on Monday, a bunch of retards camped out on the runway of Stanstead Airport; London’s third airport, which no-one has ever heard of. It would have been funnier if they’d just walked onto the runway, thinking that it was a park made completely of concrete or something suitably retarded, unfortunately they were there as part of a protest to stop climate change.

The group was called ‘plane stupid’ which sums themselves up rather well I suppose, I mean they can even spell ‘plain’ for fuck sake… anyway, they decided that a great way to stop climate change would be to plant themselves on the runway and construct a security fence around themselves. What they failed to notice was that a plane would most likely be undeterred by a flimsy security fence and plough through it fairly easily. Disappointingly no pilot was given clearance to do this, as it would have made for a much more amusing blog.

In any case the group managed to stop planes taking off from the airport for a full three hours, from 5 ‘til 8 in the morning and managed to stop a massive 52 planes from landing and taking off from Stanstead, forcing the inbound flights to fly even further to find an alternative landing spot, I think these people may have failed to think their plan through.

In fact there are several times, when reading a report on the protest (from this website), where it seems the protester didn’t really think their plan through. That claim to by trying to ‘stop as many tonnes of CO2 as [they] can’, by sitting on the runway of the third largest airport in Britain, really early in the morning. I’m sure that is really the most efficient use of their time. Apparently they want to ‘stop climate change by whatever peaceful means [they] have left.’ Obviously their imagination is not all that vivid if the most effective means of stopping climate change they can think of is to park in front of a few planes. That is plane stupid.

The protesters were indignant when they were attacked by security staff armed with a snowplough. “I was terrified. You don't expect to be attacked with a snowplough on a peaceful protest.” Said one of the protesters. I can sort of sympathise; a snowplough is not exactly the textbook weapon for dealing with protests, it is a pretty original and not particularly professional way of handling the situation. I can’t imagine it would be all that effective against a security fence either; a plane would be better.

The whole episode is a hilarious series of absurd events that underlie the sheer ineptitude of everyone involved. For a start they should never have been able to get into the airport in the first place; they could just of easily have been terrorists intent on planting a bomb into one of the planes, good security. It then took them 5 hours to remover them from the runway (they got there 2 hours before the runway reopened after some overnight maintenance); it’s a bunch of hobo’s and students with a security fence and nothing better to do, how hard can it be to arrest them? The protest itself was all very futile and, while it was front-page news for one day, it has not been mentioned again all week, apart from by me, reflecting how ineffective an awareness stunt it actually was.

Not only was it hopelessly futile and a catalogue of cock-ups, it was also very misguided. I understand the whole climate change thing and how we need to use less fuel, but the solution is not to stop flying, or to park ourselves on runways to stop other people flying, or disadvantage ourselves in any way; what we need to do it invest in finding alternative ways of providing us with the energy we need and being more efficient with the energy we do use. Buying a more efficient car, or using a renewable source of energy will, in the long run, be cheaper, help stop global climate change and make the world a slightly more beautiful place. One wonders then why people don’t invest in renewable energy, rather than waste theirs and everyone else’s time by sitting on a runway in the early hours of the morning. Whatever floats your boat I suppose.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Chinese Democracy

As promised, this week I have been listening to Chinese Democracy. Now it’s tempting to garble on about how long this album has been in the pipeline and how much money has gone into it and… actually that is kinda tempting.

The album is GnR’s first album of new material for 17 years, has cost about $11 million and featured about a gazillion different guitarists. Woo for facts, now onto the album.

Yeah it’s pretty good.

Of course with all the time and money that has gone into this thing you would expect it to be pretty fucking awesome so ‘pretty good’ is not exactly ringing praise. The guitar playing is amazing in places, but to be honest, having no musical talent whatsoever, I am not qualified to talk about the actual music, which makes reviewing an album really hard! Nonetheless I will try; I think perhaps I should stick to what I can understand; words.

Some of the lyrics are pretty screwed up. The whole album just seems to be a mix of moral indignation at all the injustice in the world and mopey, self-justifying and clichéd love-song. Lets look in some more detail shall we?

Song 1, ‘Chinese Democracy’ (inevitably about how china has no democracy… no shit dude, maybe 10 years ago this was something to get worked up over, but I have a funny feeling we have more pressing concerns in this millennium, like two ruinous wars.)

I know that I'm a classic case
Watch my disenchanted face
Blame it on
the Falun Gong
They see the hand and you can't hold on now
Cause it
would take a lot more hate than you
To stop the fascination Even with an
iron fist
More than you got to rule the nation
When all I got is
precious time

Pretty good to be fair, got some actual meaning which is nice, did they need to follow it up with the second song about the very same thing?

I've got a funny feeling there's something wrong today
I've got a funny
feeling and it won't go away
I've got an itchy finger and there'll be hell
to pay
I'm gonna pull the trigger and blow them all away

Yeah, the world’s a messed up place, we got that from the first song. Not as bad as what is to come though.

The tone now changes, for the worse.
No one ever told me when I was alone
They just thought I'd know better… better...
No one ever told me when I
was alone
They just thought I'd know better… better...

Oh dear Axle, alone with all that money? How will you cope? It’s pretty hard to sympathise with this; the guy is in his forties for Christ sake, grow up! That is the kinda shit angsty teens and twenty-something’s write. I preferred the moral indignation; at least that had some dignity.
And he keeps raining the self-pity down on us with the next track, ‘Street of Dreams’.

All the love in the world couldn't save you
All the innocence inside
know I tried so hard to make you
Ooo I wanna make you change your mind
And it hurts too much to see you
And how you left yourself behind
You know I wouldn't want to be you
Now there's a hell I cant describe
Oh no, his girlfriend left him. Maybe she decided that all the money was not enough to make her put with this his massive ego.

And like hell does it stop. The next song is just as bad.

If the world would end today,
All the dreams we had would all just drift
You know there’s nothing more to say,
If the world would end would
our love slip away
Oh...I never knew the way that you looked at me,
Would ever mean so much to me,
In my heart I found the feelings that
I've never shown
Now they've got the best of me,
Blerg! Sounds like the sort of pretentious crap emos put in valentines cards to each other. Why not go slit your wrists and write it in blood to complete the romantic retardation.

The next song on the album is called ‘There was a Time’, which has the acronym ‘TWAT’. Rather fitting given that Axle wrote it. Anyway, this is actually quite a good song, made even better for the fact that it moves away from angsty love poetry.

This lyric made me smile though.

It was a long time for you,
It was a long time for me,
It’d be a long
time for anyone,
But looks like it's meant to be.
Hmm, I can possibly imagine what he’s getting at here. Full marks for subtlety Axle.

The next song is the best in the album, Catcher in the Rye. It is one of the few songs on the album, which is not a soppy love song; thank God! This is the peak of the album, but it stays pretty decent from now on.

The next one I called ‘Scraped’.

Don’t you try to stop us now
I just refuse
Don’t you try to stop us now
‘Cause I just won’t let youSometimes I feel like
The world is on top of
meBreaking me down with
An endless monotony
Sometimes I feel likeThere’s
nothing that’s stopping me
All things are possible
I am unstoppable
Well I suppose you have to excuse an element of pretension; it is poetry after all, the second most pretension art form behind art itself. It is a good song, not as good as Catcher in the Rye, but far better than most of the rest of them.

I can’t be bothered to comment on the lyrics of the next few songs. ‘Riyadh ‘n the Bedouins’ is a really good track with some actually pretty decent lyrics. ‘Sorry’ is a depressing dip back into the angsty bullshit of earlier in the album, but it at least retains a little more dignity than the others. ‘IRS’ is bizarre, but not in a particularly good way. Madagascar is very good, but one has to wonder whether the spoken bits in the solo are a little over the top, nonetheless a very worthwhile song. ‘This I love’ is a nice little Power Ballard. Ok the lyrics are pretty ansgty, but the song is done in a way that can actually carry it off, although the piano part does sounds a little too much like walking in the air for my liking. Finally ‘Prostitute’ is a really nice ending to the album.

So then, to sum up, not worth the wait or the $11 Million, but worth getting, even though some songs are pretty crap. They are all quite catchy, which means that the album has immediate appeal, but after a while it grows stale; the quality is only skin deep. While I think an entire album of moral indignation would have been very dull, it would have been better than half an album of angst fuelled self-loathing. Some more thematic variety would have been nice.

I suppose we should be glad it came out at all, at one point it seemed about as likely as…no I can’t bring myself to crack the ‘Chinese Democracy’ gag. That grew old about a year after the band announced the title of the album.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Wednesday's a nerd's day

I was hoping to review ‘Chinese Democracy’ today, but I think I need to listen to it a little more before passing judgment. So instead I’m gonna ramble on about nothing in particular and hope that you don’t notice that I’m just killing time because I have nothing else to talk about. In fact I’m going to tell you all about the incredibly nerdy day I had on Wednesday.

The classics department at my school (and you know it’s gonna be nerdy as soon as you read that it was organised by the classics department) organised a trip down to London to see Oedipus at the National Theatre. They decided to make a day of it, so we visited the British Museum and National Gallery as well. Yes I was all cultured out by the end of it.

We had about one hundred hours too few in the British Museum, the National Theatre is a concrete monstrosity and the National Gallery is so horrifically pretentious that I nearly threw up. Other than that it was a really good day out and well worth £25. Yeah, I can’t go anywhere without moaning about something, it is a testament to the awesomeness of the British Museum that my only complain was that we did not have nearly enough time in there. Free entry to one of the finest museums in the world? At times you have to admit socialism has its bonuses… NO! Stop! Get in character damnit!!!! Socialism sucks ass.

The play itself (the reason we went down in the first place) was pretty good. I wont bore you with the details of the performance, but I want to mention a few things I didn’t like so much. For one it took a long time to get going, especially Ralph Fiennes (better knows as Lord Voldemort), who pretty much carried the entire thing – as you might expect from a main character. The play is of course a Tragedy – written originally by Sophocles (as if that information will get you anywhere in life), so you expect a fair amount of dramatic wailing, but at times the actors got a little carried away and there was little one could do but laugh at the over-dramaticism (and word is telling my that dramatisicm is not a word… well it damn well should be). The last thing that got on my nerves was the fact that all the cast looked like city executives; they were all wearing black suits and ties. Seriously, could they not afford authentic Greek costumes? I don’t know if it was meant to be some subtle political point or just laziness on the part of the costuming department, but either way it was pretty bewildering, especially when the play was in no way re-written to fit a modern context. Other than that, I really liked it. Shame it was I such a pathetically dull building.

As you can see from the picture it has 1960’s written all over it. Clearly concrete was the in thing when this was built. Granted they try to liven it up at night by lighting in a rather pleasing way, but you can polish a turd all you want, it’s still a turd. The most bewildering thing is that they didn’t even bother to decorate the interior! Most of the wall is still just bare concrete, full marks for originality I suppose. The theatre itself was rather better than the building in which it was situated, which was nice.

Last on our whistle-stop tour of the cultural attractions of London was the National Art Gallery. Suffice to say we decided to abort our tour round the place as we approached the modern art; we were all Classicists or Ancient Historians, so venturing past 1000 AD was an adventure in itself. I mentioned before that it was the definition of pretentious and I wasn’t kidding. Half the security guards were French, one was balding and still had a ponytail and several were more than a little camp. Not that I’m stereotyping or anything. The art itself was nice, but the place seemed very full of itself (yes I’m aware of both the hypocrisy and the fact that the Gallery is inanimate and therefore cannot be full of itself, it’s a turn of phrase you arse.). Even the Café was pretensions; it was all weird flavoured smoothies and organic fruit. I suppose they’re just appealing to their customer.

Right, so that was my cultured and very nerdy Wednesday. I think I’ve managed to garble on long enough to distract from the fact that I have nothing much to say. Next weekend is hectic, but I shall endeavour to write a review of Chinese Democracy and get it up as some point…

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Failout

Anyone who has paid any attention to anything over his or her lifetime will no doubt recognize the fact that anything the government touches ends up being wrapped in so much red tape that it resembles a poorly wrapped gift that is so hard to unwrap that you end up breaking it before you get inside. Many have been rubbing their hand in glee at the recent financial crisis, claiming that is a deathblow for the Free Market, but when you look at the details of the events in the financial market in the run up to the crisis you will see the fingerprints of government all over the place.

To be fair to the government, they are trying to fix the fuck up they’ve created, although they’re doing it with borrowed money, so government debt has gone sky high, debt that the taxpayer will only have to pay off later.

But the purpose of today’s blog is not to have another go at the financial mess; instead I want to turn to another plea for government intervention coming from the States. The so-called ‘Big Three’ carmakers in America: Ford, GM and Chrysler, lobbied congress for over $25 billion of bailout money. This bailout won’t work, it is against the principle of the Free Market and is typical of the governments we have both in America and Britain. Fortunately the bailout has not yet been accepted by congress.

The sign of a strong company is not that I can be profitable in good times, but that it can survive through bad times. If Ford, GM and Chrysler cannot remain economically viable in the current climate, they should not be propped up by a government that claims to be in support of the Free Market. Pumping unconditional funding into companies that are no longer viable gives then no incentive to become viable; if the ‘Big Three’ know they can rely on government bailouts, they will not make as much of an effort to become more efficient. The Bailout may keep these companies in business for a few more months, but it will only delay the inevitable failure of these companies. To say that they should be allowed to fail would be to imply that we have a choice in the matter, we don’t. Unless Ford, GM and Chrysler make an effort to change their business structure to one that will be profitable they cannot survive, any attempt to change that is ultimately doomed to failure.

The reason that they are not able to compete with the Asian based companies like Honda and Toyota is that that are making inferior products. If they made cars better than their rivals, they would be fine because people buy the best that is on offer at the price that they are willing to pay. The basic principle of the free market is that companies succeed or fail depending on the quality of the product produced. To distort this by pumping money into inferior companies is to fly in the face of all the rules of the Free Market. Indeed any government intervention is anti-Free Market.

But why does the government do it? Isn’t the free market a good thing? Many would say that it isn’t, but I disagree. The worlds past adventures into the deep dark realms of Socialism should be more than enough evidence to prove that it doesn’t work. The government intervenes in the Free Market because it thinks its job is to cater for the needs of its citizens. This implies that need is a qualification for rights. It isn’t. The government is constantly providing its citizens with something they don’t deserve; why does anyone have a right to anything they haven’t worked for?

Had the US Government given this bailout to the ‘Big Three’ it would have been protecting the employees of the companies. But protecting them from what? Unemployment? Well yes, but this implies that the employees of the ‘Big Three’ have a right to a job. They don’t, they only have a right to get a job. The reason the bailout fell through was not a sudden realisation that it would be immoral, but the fact that there are plenty of other companies making cars in America who would quickly scoop up the former employees of the ‘Big Three’. Those companies are economically viable; they can replace the ‘Big Three’ very easily and no doubt will.

I think ‘Big Three’ will come crawling back to the government to beg for more money. Let us hope, in the name of the Free Market, that the government sends them packing again.

Sunday, 16 November 2008


It’s November, in case you hadn’t noticed. With the American Election, Fireworks Night, Remembrance Day and it being fucking cold it is a pretty busy month. Because of this it may have escaped your notice that it is also National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, which just sounds retarded). In a short NaNoWriMo is when loads of long-suffering and repressed potential novelists (I use the word in the broadest sense) each try to write a fifty thousand-word novel in a month. Morons.

A cursory glance at their website’s info page will tell you exactly why I think this is a really really really bad idea. Possibly the most worrying statement is the patronising reassurance that ‘it's all about quantity, not quality.’ So I could write 50,000 words of incoherent rubbish and it wouldn’t matter? I think whichever bright spark came up with this idea need to re-evaluate his or her ideas about what makes a good writer. There is no point writing lots unless you actually write with the aim of improving. If you don’t set yourself the aim of improving, you wont become a better writer. You don’t improve as if by magic, it requires grind and effort; you can’t just churn out pages and pages of poorly written prose and awkward dialogue with a strained and underdeveloped plot and cliché, poorly constructed characters and hope that if you do it often enough without actually setting yourself a standard to achieve you will stumble upon the kind of talent that is required to write a good novel. The blitz approach that NaMoWriMo (that sounds more ridiculous every time I write it) is useless for prospective novelists.

Lets look some more prize pieces of wisdom from the info page shall we? Here’s a good one:

‘Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.’

Eugh! Writing loads of crap does not help! Writing loads of crap is futile. You may stumble upon a neat turn of phrase or beautiful metaphor, but that does not indicate progress any more than randomly throwing darts at a dartboard and by chance hitting the bulls-eye does. Purposeless spewing of crap does not achieve anything, if anything it will make you a worse writer; it will get you into bad habits of being satisfied with less that your best. If you forgo quality for quantity you allow yourself to write poorly and so you get into the habit of writing poorly.

Trying to write a novel in a month is an impossible task. It will doubtless cause endless stress, sleepless nights and frantic typing with no regard for whether what you are writing actually makes sense. Now for writing prose, this is not too bad; some very good prose has been written in such conditions, but for constructing a coherent plot it is disastrous. Any novel needs a massive amount of planning; the plot needs to be decided upon before the first words are even written. That is not to say that the plot cannot be tweaked as you go along, but the basic outline has to be there. Just as you plan an essay before you write it, you have to plan a novel before you write it. It is especially important for a novel because it is so much longer than an essay; how can you hope to write 50,000 words (which is only about 175 pages by the way) and stay coherent without planning what you’re going to write before hand? If I were attempting to write a novel (which I don’t plan on doing) I would spend a long time before I started writing in the planning stage, which is simply not possible in a month.

Some of you may be wondering at this point why I am complaining about this? If people want to kill their creativity then let them, right? Sure, I just think that it is a terrible idea. If you seriously want to write a novel, or even be a good writer, their method of blitz and hope is a terrible one. It maybe entertaining if you are a masochist, but it is a short cut to creative ruin.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Quantum of Solace (contains spoilers)

Until last night I had been looking forward with a mixture of excitement and apprehension about the Quantum of Solace; it’d had mixed review from people who had seen. Nonetheless it is a Bond film so I was kinda hoping it would at least be half decent; I mean with an established format and a very good actor as the main character, how far wrong could they go? Answer: very. But I suppose every cloud, no matter how black has a silver lining; I now get to spew bile about it here.

The Quantum of Solace is little more than a series of shitty expositions leading into progressively more gratuitously unlikely actions scenes, vaguely held together by what could be described as a plot is we were being very generous. This is no more a film than a heap of metal is a car.

We are used to rather absurd car chases in Bond films, so I wont criticise the opening scene too much, it did seem even more unlikely than most chase scenes we see in Bond film though. Instead of just the one, maybe two high speed chases that we normally get as part of the Bond package we had no less than three, in order; a car chase, a boat chase in which Bond kicked the arses of two top of the range motorboats with a fucking metal fishing boat, and a plane chase in which Bond managed to outmanoeuvre a fighter plane in a big fuck off carrier plane. The car chase was acceptable, the boat chase less so and I almost walked out in the middle of the plane chase. Whichever prick at Bond HQ who decided that the more ridiculous and unlikely the chase the better deserves to be taken outside, put against a wall and shot by a firing squad and point blank range.

The high-speed chases were not the only actions scenes however; we also had a couple of chases on foot and a lot of rather unlikely fight scenes. The second action scene in the film is a chase across the rooftops of a foreign and not very well-off city, deja vu anyone? Just because at worked in Casino Royal does not mean that it’ll work again; this time it just felt like they’d already run out of ideas for chase scenes and so decided to reuse some; I would not be surprised if they had even used some of the footage from Casino Royal; there didn’t seem to be much, if any difference. However, in terms of sheer lunacy, the final action scene takes the bacon. Bond running through a burning building with beams and staircases collapsing without getting more than just a couple of scratches and very sweaty? Come on guy, lets try to at least flirt with Realism for a bit, you don’t have to sleep with her, just talk for a while, look at her, sitting on that table alone and neglected in the corner of the action/adventure nightclub. No wait, she’s not alone, you seem to have left Plot sitting crying in the corner as well you asshole. Ok, this metaphor has gone far enough.

In the first paragraph I said that Bond has an accepted formula; there are certain stereotypes and catch phrases that we associate with the films. This is not a bad thing. Someone at Bond HQ seems to think it is. I don’t remember hearing in the words ‘Dry Martini, shaken not stirred’ or ‘Bond, James Bond’ during the entire film. ‘Bond always get the girl’; is one of the fundamental tenant of any Bond film. Any reason why Bond didn’t get the girl this time? The answer of course is that some twat wants to try to move Bond away from its accepted formula. Why? Because if we don’t change things from time to time, they get stale. Bullshit. The ‘Bond Formula’ is not broken; it works, it is accepted by Bond fans worldwide, why the fuck change it? As ever, when you try to fix something that works perfectly well already, you end up cocking it up. Thank you whoever you are for cocking Bond up.

I know hard-arse bastards and action films go together like sweating panting paedophiles and children’s play areas, but, as the analogy suggests, this is not necessarily a good thing. Now I’m no expert, but I’m sure that characters that seem to show some element of humanness are easier to connect to than fucking robots that never change facial expressions. In fact, come to think of it, the robots in ‘I Robot’ showed more emotion than Daniel Craig did in the Quantum of Solace. I know Bond is meant to be really good at not showing emotion, but it might make it easier for the audience to connect to him if he did. Even when he was throwing himself around in all those horrific action sequences he didn’t show any pain bar a few grunts here and there. No matter what happened he carried on going like a fucking machine. Some might say this shows his great strength, I would argue that Realism has now stormed out of the nightclub in disgust. I think she’s gone to drink herself into a stupor so that she can forget that everyone is ignoring her.

The other characters in the film were actually quite good, or would have been if they’d had more than a few minutes worth of half-hearted characterisation. At no point in the film did I feel that I knew the characters. I walked out of the cinema wondering what the motives of the villain were, who the hell the fucking love interest actually was (apart from than pretty hot) and how they were actually connected. It seemed like the writers were just going through the motions of characterisation so that they could get to another action sequence. Parts of the plot that did not allow for another action sequence were rushed through and most of them just provided more excuses for Bond to go somewhere and therefore set up another exposition for another action sequence. Because of the sheer weight of action sequences, the film felt rushed. As per usual with the film industry, it was squeezed into well under two hours, although the performance was over two hours because of the stupid number of adverts at the beginning and the annoying long opening credits (which is one thing I would like Bond films to do away with). There is no reason to shorten films like this; if you need longer to actually tell the story they take it, you don’t have TV schedules to fit into, just don’t bloody well rush through it for fuck sake.

The most disappointing thing was that the film had potential; the plot actually vaguely serviceable as far as the genre goes, the characters could have been pretty good as well. If they’d actually tried to allow the plot and characters to fully develop instead of wasting their budget on shitty actions sequences, the film could have been pretty good. Instead the monkey who was running the show decided that the accepted methods of film making; such as a focus on the story and the characters within it no longer applied. It seems that most filmmakers these days are under the delusion that special effects and high adrenaline action sequences with more explosions and villains with questionable aim than you can fire and AK47 at can act as a replacement for plot, or characterisation. The truth is that they can only supplement these key features of any story, no matter what the medium. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious twat: movies are still a form of art; they require certain key features that give it some sort of structure. A plot line is not something upon which to hang gaudy actions sequences; it is the core of any film. The actions sequences add to the entertainment, but they are just padding, they cannot replace plot. The whole point of art is to provide entertainment, bad art is bad entertainment and Quantum of Solace is just that; bad entertainment.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Questionable Content and other, non-Bond things

I mentioned last week that I would be watching the new Bond film today and then reviewing it tomorrow or Monday. Unfortunately a combination of sporting commitments, awkward train timings, living in the middle of fucking nowhere and my friends all living in Birmingham (50 minutes train journey away) has meant that I will be spending this fine Saturday evening doing nothing as per fucking usual.

I will watch the bond film at some point, I haven’t set a date yet, but I will get round to it, and when I do, it will be reviewed here. To distract you from the lack of a Bond review I shall tell you about some of the interesting stuff I did this week. A bet you’re looking forward to that aren’t you?

This week I have been on holiday, which for me involves sitting on my arse either watching TV or fucking around on the Internet trying to find some source of entertainment to fill the long lonesome hours. As you can probably gather I don’t really socialise, mostly because I can’t be arsed with the hassle of going into Birmingham to find any friends to socialise with, and because I’m an antisocial git.

So, this week, while surfing the Internet for something to do I came across a pretty looking webcomic. Without realising that it was comic number 1260, I clicked first and started reading. Several hours later I was totally addicted to this webcomic and three days later I was up to date. The webcomic is called Questionable Content and is drawn by the very talented Jeph Jacques, who has a funny name.

The theme is fairly unoriginal; a young adult male (who is probably based on the author) with no luck with women meets a nice girl with whom he falls in love. Another girl then appears; who complicates the issues blah blah blah you know the rest. One hell of a lot of amusing incidence and plot complications later and you are at over 1000 comics with a really strong readership. The same theme can be found in most story-based webcomics out there; sexually repressed nerds tend to write about their fantasies. The thing that sets this comic out from others (mentioning no names – C.A.D) is that the delivery is AWESOME. This guy knows how to tell a joke and still allow a semi-serious slightly parody-based storyline flow. While I admit that some of the jokes are rather predictable, not all that amusing and ever so slightly lost on people who don’t listen to astonishing amounts of Indie music (like the jokes on webcomics based on videogames that are lost on everyone who does not play Xbox for days on end), it was interesting enough to keep this unforgiving cynic reading for 1260 odd strips. Ok so I didn’t exactly have a lot to do with my week, but hell, it kept me entertained.

There are a few rather more interesting and original features of this webcomic, which must be commented on because most webcomics floating the sea of raw sewage that is the Internet has not a scrap of originality and would be best be represented in the aforementioned metaphor as massively oversized shits floating through the semi-viscous gunk with an even more oversized following of flies who buzz around claiming that the shit actually tastes quite good and you should try some. No thanks. Sorry where was I? Ah yes, the original bits of this webcomic. As I have eluded to, instead of banging on about videogames and making very poor gags about them, which generally involve jokes about how applying videogame logic to the real world doesn’t work, with apparently ‘hilarious’ results, Questionable Content is more concerned with various different genres of music and the culture associated with them. It is unclear whether Jeph is as Indie as his lead character, or whether he is parodying the entire thing extremely subtly. I would like to think it is the latter, but I reserve judgment. Another original thing, that occasionally gets a bit strained, is that all of the characters have hopelessly dysfunctional parents who occasionally make appearances to the utter bewilderment of all (me included).

So this week I spent far too much time reading Questionable Content. I also acquired (entirely legally…) the new Metallica album; Death Magnetic, the new Rise Against album; the pretentiously named Appeal to Reason and Rise Against’s previous album; the slightly less pretentiously names The Sufferer and the Witness. While trawling through over 1000 comics I listened to these three, the Rise Against ones because I am seeing them in February and the Metallica one because I wanted to know if it was as good as everyone has been saying, which, much to my surprise, it is.

A few issues with Death Magnetic to start with. Some of the songs are a little samey, they are good to have on in the background, but it does not always stand out to the casual listener. Some songs however very much do stand out, All Nightmare Long, The Unforgiven III and The Judas Kiss for example. One big problem I have with the Unforgiven III is that it sounds nothing like the Unforgiven I and II; the first two, while not being the same song sound very similar, they work when you play number 2 after number 1. Try playing number 3 after the first two and they are clearly different. I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to music, so I cant put my finger on why they sound different, it’s just a different style. While a damn good song in it’s own right, it does not go with the others and so it seems to be misfiled. It smacks to me of an attempt my Metallica to associate themselves with their past music, distancing themselves from St Anger, which is probably a good thing when you think about it.

Now onto the Rise Against albums. If ever an album could be accused of being anonymous, is it Appeal to Reason. Bar some notable exceptions such as Hero of War, actually pretty much just Hero of War, all the songs sound the same. Individually they are pretty good, some are better than others, but together it is hard to see where there is any diversity at all. The same can be said of the Sufferer and the Witness, but to a lesser extent; Roadside and The Approaching Curve both offer some change in tempo and songs like Ready to Fall, Prayer of a Refugee, Drones and The Good Left Undone strand out much more than any track does in Appeal to Reason. One of the major appeals of Rise Against is that they are very political; they have an agenda and are not afraid to plug it. All their songs are written with some meaning behind them, they are not just spewing out lyrics that sound good but have no really meaning or purpose like many bands do these days (like all the ones you see on MTV on the odd occasion when they actually play music these days). This agenda is still there in Appeal to Reason and long may they continue to write meaningful songs, just a bit more diversity in terms of style next time please boys.

In any case I imagine that they will be just as good in February as they were back in June when I saw them at the Download Festival. Oh sorry, did I not mention that I went to the Download festival this year? Well, I guess I’ll have to end this Blog on a smug note then.

Also, welcome to November.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Flat Fucking Earth (eventually)

Yeah I have like no ideas for this week. Seriously I haven’t even been in school since Wednesday (I love half term break) but I haven’t been able to get round to writing anything. Yeah, I’m a mess. Anyways, I though I’d try to write my way into this, maybe come up with some awesome idea while ploughing though this paragraph. In the mean time I suppose I’ll just keep on babbling, trying to waste some time… ah fuck it. I’ll go look for some news story on the BBC website to rant about. Thank fuck for the Internet.

*A few minutes later*

So we are officially approaching a recession. Woohoo. I think I’ve covered that one. Hmm, science and environment, sounds interesting.

*A few minutes later*

Nope. Nothing remotely interesting. Damn our world is fucking boring. Didn’t we pass some law on abortion of something this week? Let’s check health.

*A few minutes later*

Nope. We are boring people. Fuck it. Lets look at some random stories that the BBC can’t manage to categorise, there’s bound to be something bizarre and worth writing about.

*A few minutes later*

Bingo! Flat-Earthers; morons who believe that the earth is flat. Let’s laugh at them for being stupid. Apparently there are people out there who think that the earth being spherical is all just a conspiracy theory. Instead, they say, "the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite - it stretches horizontally forever” according to one Mr Davis, some nondescript computer scientist with an age and estimated IQ of 25 "And it is at least 9,000 kilometres deep" he adds, as if such bewildering detail that he could have made up on the spot is going to convince us. Or maybe it’s a disk. That is the theory James McIntyre, who moderates the Flat Earth Society Discussion Website (it is me or is that a web forum?), advocates. What a fun website that must be! I bet they have some really productive discussions.

Mr nondescript Davis: I think it is clear from the evidence available to us that the earth is in fact horizontally infinite. Anyone who could possibly disagree with this view, given the vast bank of evidence is quite clearly deluded.

James Jobless Moderator McIntyre: I’m sorry to be disrespectful nondescript D (what an awesome nickname), but your evidence is clearly made up by the Society of the Flat Infinite Earth. The arguments in question were famously refuted several years ago by Twat McTwaty on the Disk Earth website. I think you need to get with the times sir.

Mr nondescript Davis: I have read Twat McTwaty’s article and find it to be a load of rubbish. Twat clearly misrepresents the Horizontally Infinite position. His contributions to the debate are very harmful.

*Post deleted by A-Prick. Reason: offensive and unfair comment*

Ok so maybe it is not that polite. Anyway, the idea that there is some debate over how the earth is actually shaped within Flat Earthism is brilliant! While rejecting all available evidence about the shape of the earth, they then go on to invent their own evidence to try to prove their own points of view. Or maybe they don’t, maybe they just make it up as they go along, trying to be as gratuitous as possible. But if that’s the case, I’m sure they could do a much better job of it. Let’s give it a go shall we.

Ok, so the earth is not spherical. It is in the shape of a penis. That’s right; God is that immature that he decided to make the earth in the shape of a penis. The bit that we always see on the photos, is just one of the balls, the rest has never been photographed. The government wants to conceal the true shape of the earth because they think it is indecent. This censorship of the earth must stop. The people must know the true shape of their earth and when they do they will throw of their chains and the penis earth revolution will begin. Men will no longer be shamed of their genitalia and allow them to dangle in full view, declaring; if it’s good enough for the earth it’s good enough for me!

Ah silliness is fun.

Anyways, there is more to the article, so more for me to make fun of!!! Apparently Mr Davis says he is currently creating an "online information repository" to help to bring together local Flat Earth communities into a "global community". Brilliant! So they can all meet and march on parliament, asking for the censorship of the shape of the earth to be lifted! They can send petitions to Ten Downing Street asking that this conspiracy be uncovered! Great! Good luck with that nondescript D. Also note the ‘global community’. More like a ‘horizontally infinite community’ methinks.

Jobless Moderator McIntyre claims “circumnavigation is a case of travelling in a very broad circle across the surface of the Earth." Interesting. So the night sky is weirdly distorted, so that when you think you’re travelling in a straight line you are actually going round in circles. That explains it! The earth is flat after all! How much simpler life is now that I have shaken off the dogma that the earth is spherical and seen the light! Antarctica is not one landmass; it goes around the edge. There is no south pole, anyone who says they have been there is all part of the government conspiracy. Well thank you Jobless Moderator McIntyre, you have opened by eyes.

Amusingly, according to Christine Garwood, author of Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea (I must’ve missed that one when it was on the bestsellers list), the flat earth phenomenon is fairly recent. Ever since the Ancient Greeks (you can always rely on them to be sensible) we have fairly well accepted that the earth was spherical (or an oblate spheroid according to Nick L from Cirencester). It was not until the 19th century that some nutters decided to start saying that the earth was flat in response the scientific rationalism, which was undermining the Bible. That’s progress for you.

So I can only conclude that, in the words of Isaac Newton, these people are either ‘in liquor or insane.’

To take the edge of this rather pathetic and eminently botched blog, I will end by wetting your appetite for next week, which will probably not come to you until Sunday or even Monday. I am going to see the Quantum of Solace next Saturday, so I will review it here. Looking forward to it, like I’m sure you are(n’t).

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Animal Rights and Wrongs.

I’m moving away from my pseudo-political ranting this week and onto something slightly different. I am going to try to take head on the strange combination of militant fanaticism and ultra-fluffy liberalism that is the Animal Rights Movement. It is amazing just how worked up people can get over such a compassion fuelled issue like Animal Rights. It’s like going on a violent terrorist campaign to promote peace and harmony between all of mankind, except this time it’s a violent terrorist campaign (at times) to promote the prevention of cruelty to animals. Seems paradoxical but hey, that’s the fucked up, two-faced, utterly bewildering world we live in!

The thing I, and they, get confused about is what Animal Rights protesters are actually campaigning for. I suppose there is probably a lot of disagreement between activists as to what they actually stand for, some want the complete liberation of all animals, from your pet dog to the cow that you will at some point eat (unless you veggie, in which case you’ll probably just drink the milk, unless you’re also a vegan, in which case you can go fuck yourself you presumptuous twat.), to simply treating the battery chickens with a little more compassion; killing them before boiling the feathers off for example. The latter I sympathise with (obviously, I suppose you would probably stop reading this if I didn’t), but the former and most of the people in between those two extremes tend to get on my tits.

It’s not that I want animals to suffer or anything; I’m not some sort of sadist, I’d just like to think that the human race is slightly more sophisticated than a rat, so our needs should probably override the rat’s. However this is all scratching the surface thus far, what we need to do in order to see why some people think that rats should have the same rights as humans and why I think people who believe that are morons we need to look at the issue deeper. That involves using the grey stuff that sits up in our skulls using a hell of a lot of energy rather than the big muscle that pumps the red stuff (no not wine you alcoholics) round our body.

Ok, this may get a bit conceptual, so brace yourselves (as if that’ll help). The problem as I see it is twofold; one an unclear definition of rights, and secondly a disagreement over what gives us (and/or animals) rights in the first place. In true scatological fashion (by the way, that word doesn’t meant what you think it should mean in this context, for a few extra giggle look up what it actually means. Yes you have to work for your kicks today!) I am going look at the second problem first and the first problem second.

The second problem is a disagreement over what gives us rights. To understand the Animal Rights Movement we have to understand why they believe we have rights and to understand why the Animal Rights Movement repulses me you have to understand the problems with their definition. Right, so the filthy liberal types who think animals have rights base this on the undeniable observation that animals can feel pain. Their argument goes somewhat like this: humans feel pain, humans are animals, humans have rights, therefore animals have rights. Sounds logical doesn’t it? Unfortunately there are several mistakes; primarily the argument assumes that the ability to feel pain is a prerequisite for rights. Wrong. This is completely unfounded and is little more than an assumption. Using pain here is arbitrary, we could replace it with anything and the argument would still work in format and give us some really odd conclusions. Lets play with the idea: Humans can reproduce, humans are living, humans have rights, therefore all living things have rights (including bacteria). Looks like we aren’t going to be able to eat today, because plants have rights too you know.

So, silliness aside (for now), pain, as a prerequisite for rights, makes no sense. But what is the alternative (other than ability to reproduce, which also makes eunuchs fair game by the way)? I would argue (and plan to) that consciousness is a prerequisite for rights (and that does not mean that when you’re asleep you have no rights, a different application of the word conscious, dimwit). Consciousness in this case means the ability to reason and make a conscious decision about our lives and how we should live them. One could argue that this is as arbitrary as pain, but I can actually rationalise it so bare with me. In order to do this however we need to establish a definition for the concept of rights.

According to our old friend Wikipedia (citation needed), a right is a ‘moral entitlement’. So it is fundamentally associated with ethics, which we knew already. We have to understand that (in my view) ethics are a human construct. They concern themselves with human actions and establish how we should and should not treat our fellow man and the world around us (it is to be noted that, just because ethics are a human construct does not mean that there are no absolutes, but that is another blog altogether). If ethics, and therefore rights are a human construct they do not concern animals. Human beings are the only living organism that has the ability to make a conscious choice; we can choose to do what is right or wrong. Animals on the other hand live purely on instincts; there is no choice involved and, because ethics are reliant upon volition, anything that an animal does is entirely amoral (so a dog that mauls a man is not immoral per se). So moral entitlements only apply to beings whose actions can be considered on a moral level, which relies upon it’s ability to choose, which relies upon it’s ability to reason, which in tern relies on it being conscious. So consciousness is a prerequisite for rights. Simple eh?

So what exactly are these rights? We’ve established that human being are entitled to rights, and we’ve established what the definition of ‘rights’ is in the process, but we’ve not touched on what those rights are. Rights are a moral entitlement, so your views are depends upon what moral standard you uphold. Such a question would have to be discussed at length and would take up a lot of space. I do not want to distract from the main thrust of this entry because that would be counter productive. I leave it up to you for now to establish what mankinds moral entitlements are, I may write a sequel entry discussing my own views, but until I do you’ll have to guess them.

I want to round off by discussing the consequences of the Animal Rights Movement. I have touched upon the extremes, and these are extremes; there is plenty of middle ground that most activists occupy. This middle ground is just as dangerous as the extreme however. The fluffy compassionate filthy liberal don’t-hurt-the-poor-chicken extreme is fairly docile (it fails to take the ideas behind the movement to their logical conclusions so nullify their effects) however their seeming harmlessness allows for the fallacious ideas to become acceptable to us, allowing the more extreme (or consistent if you’re being cynical) element to thrive behind a façade of harmlessness. ‘But what harm do they cause?’ I hear you ask in an overdramatic fashion more at home in a Greek Tragedy than my blog. In trying to elevate animals to a level on a par with humans, they actually drag the value of human life down, rather than bring the value of animal life up. While they sound fluffy and compassionate, the consequences of their beliefs are the downgrading of human life from a magnificent achiever, who, while not without its faults, is the most successful creature on the planet, to a ruinous monster that is enslaving animals for it’s own selfish aims with no regards for the animals assumed rights. I don’t know about you but the latter does not sound all that encouraging to me.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the Animal Rights Movement (I’m getting bored of typing that) would have us living in perfect harmony with animals scratching around in the dirt, trying to come up with a basic meal.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

the belated economic mess...

Well this was meant to happen last week, but it didn’t as I explained in my last entry. It may be a week late, but to be honest it doesn’t matter; the situation has not exactly changed! Anyway, enjoy.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year or so you will know that the world economy is not doing so well at the moment, in fact it would probably not be a bad description to say that the economy’s tits are moving firmly in the skyward direction (i.e ‘tits up’ for all the slow ones). It may have also come to your attention last week that the Americans were trying and failing to pass a bill to help bail out the failing banks on Wall’s Street. Fortunately congress came to their senses and passed the bill at the end of the week, although it doesn’t seem to have helped because the world economy is still in freefall.

You have probably guessed that I am for the bail out. The reasons for this are not as clear as one might think, I do not, in principle agree with government control over the economy; because in my experience no government can organise a piss up in a brewery, and if they can the end result is normally an awful lot of corruption. I am in favour of governments stepping in this time because it is a mess that they have created and so they have a moral obligation to try and fix what they have broken.

My limited understanding of the economy tells me that, if the government is going to tell a bank that it is ‘too big to fail’ (in essence giving it a blank cheque), it has to regulate the bank to stop them from taking to many risks. After all it is not the bank taking on the risk; it is the government. In this case the government is giving the ‘blank cheque’ to the banks, but not regulating them enough.

In my opinion giving the banks a black cheque cannot be a good thing; it can result in one of two things, one the situation we land ourselves up in now, which is a load of failing banks who have taken on too much risk and now are relying on the government to help them out when the going gets tough and those risks do not pay off. Or we end up with over-regulated banks that are, in effect, nationalised and, because the government is so incompetent, they will inevitably be poorly run and overly bureaucratic.

The alternative is no ‘blank cheque’ and therefore a high risk that if one big bank fails the entire economy will fall flat on its face. Apparently. Although this line of reasoning seems to ignore the fact that other banks will suffer greatly if one bank collapses and confidence is shattered, so they will try to support a failing bank in order to save their own skins. The government simply does not trust the banks enough to act in their own interests and keep the economy as strong as possible. Maybe it’s time the government realise that the economy will actually regulate itself in order to keep itself strong, everyone gains from a strong economy so it is in his or her interests to keep it strong. Government intervention just distorts the issue by not allowing the economy the freedom to self-regulate.

Another interesting little titbit however is that many of the banks should not even be in any trouble at all. House prices will naturally rise faster than other goods prices (in line with earnings), so they are a very secure investment in the long run. House prices may take a short term hit, but they will recover, so it makes sense to keep money in housing, which is why it is odd that so many banks and building societies that deal mainly with property should be failing. This can be attributed to a change in the way in which banks assets were valued a few years ago. This new way in effect undervalues assets by focusing too much on short-term prospects rather than the long-term value of an asset, which in the case of property is very secure.

This obsession with short-term gains is damaging, not just to the economy, but also to society. Our consumerist society is obsessed with short-term gains and does not plan for the long run enough. Obviously we should not concentrate on long-term issues so much that we loose sight of the here and know, but we surely must be rather more long-sighted than we currently are.

So once again, while also planting considerable blame on the government and some on the economy, I have to conclude that human nature and human stupidity is the greatest danger facing our society. If only we could all smarten up realise that the long-term is just as important as the short-term, then I’m pretty sure that the world would be a more secure and well off place. But I suspect that we’ll be seeing whole squadrons of pigs to aerobatics before that happens.

Sunday, 5 October 2008


Yes I know, it's late, yes I know, it's short, Yes, I know it's not was I was going to give you. I'm sorry!

I was going to have a rant about the economy, I even wrote it up and all... then I forgot to post it and left it on my dad's laptop, which is now with him in Morroco. I'm using my dad's laptop because the computer I use is not connecting to the internet and I can't be arsed to buy my self a laptop. So now I'm using my brother's computer (he's at uni). Anyways, it seems I'll have to edit this weeks intended post for next week!

Sorry my faithful and loyal readerdship (I'll leave it up to you if you take that as sarcasm or not)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The problem with Modern Art

My lashing tongue of cynicism this week turns to ‘art’. About a week ago now – yes I’m slow, I was going to do this last week but I was busy (read last week’s blog to find out why), Damian Hurst made a record amount of money selling his ‘art’ work at auction. Somehow he managed to raise £111 million by selling his ‘art’ work, now I have no innate dislike of people making money, it seems like a perfectly reasonable way to spend ones time, however it seems all Hurst needs to make money is a good taxidermist and a hell of a lot of formaldehyde.

Hurst’s ‘art’ is essentially a bunch of stuffed animals floating in Formaldehyde. He gives them weird names and sells then for six figure sums. Here is an example of the abominable rubbish he puts on sale. Seriously, I could do this and I have no artistic talents at all. I was under the impression that a piece of art had to require some skill to produce. Not any more apparently; any nutter with a too much spare time and a good sales pitch can sell any old crap for ridiculous sums of money.

Now it may seem that I am being critical of Mr Hurst here, which I am to an extent, however he is not the root of the problem; the root of the problem is all the obnoxiously stuck up progressive types who seem to have forgotten what art is. Art is an expression of value and a celebration of talent. The great art works of the past, the Mona Lisa, the roof of the Sistine Chapel, the Virgin on the Rocks; I could go on and on, while you may not like them, clearly take talent to create. They are and expression of the values on the artist and as such and can clearly be seen to have aesthetic quality. A shark in a tank of Formaldehyde does not and cannot match up to the quality of these pieces.

Unless you have not already guessed, I am criticising so called ‘modern art’. From the weird and wonderfully odd pieces of Picasso to Hurst’s stuffed animals, it seems that we have taken our eyes off the ball in terms of art. We want to try to do something different, do something far out that no one has ever tried before. People who want to seem cultured lap up the abominations that we create and so this dubious and tasteless art form has become accepted.

The worst thing is that people are becoming staggeringly rich off the backs of these morons. People try to create as many new and different ideas as they can and the public lap it up. With each innovation we move further and further from art and closer and closer to complete trash. If this trend continues I could do something original to the arrangement of my bed cover and sell it as art, saying that it represented something or other. If it is that easy to do then it is probably not worth doing.

Hurst’s art is aesthetically bankrupt, it has nothing to contribute to art except to show us were it can all go wrong when we reject objective value for art and embrace a sort of relativism that allows anything to be considered art and sold for an extortionate amount.

Let us just hope that postmodernism is on the way out and a new form of art will emerge which is of more worth than stuffed animals and Formaldehyde. 

Friday, 19 September 2008

An Adventure in Humour part 2 and other stuff

Oh my! T.I.R.O.M is early this week! My loss is your gain; I loose my weekend and you get to read my blog early. The reason for the early blog is that I am in Thetford (some hole somewhere in the glorious but frustratingly wet and cold English countryside). The reason for me being in Thetford is my school’s annual dick waving competition otherwise known as Army Expeditions Weekend. Every year, somewhere in a lightly wooded area somewhere in England an assorted bunch of testosterone fuelled pricks run around beating each other up in the pretence of some sort of military training.

I’m sure you are all wondering why exactly I signed up for such an endeavour in dick waving, well the answer is that I didn’t! Instead I joined the Royal Navy section of the school CCF (que hilariously predictable jokes about anal penetration and other ‘things they get up to in the Navy’). For some inexplicable reason us reasonable bunch who prefer Expeditions Weekends in which we get proper food and decent beds, get lumped in with the dick wavers this year.

So I loose my weekend along with my sanity and my sleep. Fortunately for you this means that I decided to post this blog up early!

This week I didn’t have the time/inspiration to write anything new or ranty, so I though I’d let you read the second (and inconclusive) section of the story I wrote a few weeks back, found here. I wont give you a plot update because I cant be bothered, go reread part 1 if you care enough. Note: this section is not as long as the first one!

Marcus watched another beleafed female wondering from one building to another. The wonderful thing about this tribe, as Marcus had discovered, was that the females did not bother to use leaves to cover their upper body, just the lower, leaving their breasts to sag freely and happily bounce around when they broke into a run. This was of course all well and good for the younger and more attractive members of the tribe, and Marcus and not been able to believe his luck when he had first discovered this phenomenon, but it became a progressively less appealing as the age of the woman in question increased. Marcus had seen enough pairs of saggy wrinkly and altogether very unpleasant breast in his short stay.

The woman who was walking provocatively in front of him at this moment however was one of the more attractive of the tribeswomen and he was perfectly free to ogle as her wonderful breasts as much as he wished. The young women of the tribe had found his constant staring quite amusing and were happy to bounce merrily in front of him for the sheer amusement of the look on his face.

It had certainly made his time in the crudely built but remarkably durable cage more interesting. The life of a prisoner was not too bad in this particular tribe; they fed him, gave him water, showed him their ample breasts and generally kept him as content as one could be when you are living in a small cage surrounded by a bunch of savages (although they had not really show any signs of savagery other than capturing him in the first place).

The main problem he faced was withholding the endless attacks of boredom; once he got bored he tended to get into trouble. So far he had been able to quell his boredom by watching the tribe go about their business (and enjoying the nakedness of the better looking females).  Now however the tribe were not doing anything in the communal area of which he was the centrepiece due to the fact that most of them were asleep.

They had spent a good deal of the night partying; apparently the capture of prisoners was a rare occasion so they felt the need to dance round a campfire (boobs and all) and eat, drink and be merry. For the drinking and being merry they had a helping hand in a strange drink that was apparently very alcoholic. Unfortunately Marcus had not been invited to the party thrown in his honour so he had to sit out and watch like some socially repressed Billy-no-mates at a party (a little too close to home for the author come to think of it…). It had still been an amusing night however because drunk, beleafed tribesmen (and women) are hilarious to watch. Clearly the parties did not happen very often because they were not very experienced drinkers and subsequently were twice as funny as drunken people normally are.

When the morning however there was no source of amusement so Marcus would have to amuse himself, which was easier said than done. As he often did when he had nothing else to do, he removed a coin from his pocket and began to roll it over his knuckles, as I’m sure the reader will have see in many a Hollywood film.

One of the tribesmen (not the good-looking, nicely breasted woman of a few paragraphs ago, another, more male tribesman) happened to walk past and notice him playing with his gold coin. His eyes lit up and he raced up to the cage. Taken a little by surprise by this chain of events, Marcus jumped and scurried comically to the back of the small cage. He crept forwards and the startling tribesman looked continuously at his hand, in which his coin was clutched tight. Noticing the rather unsettling intensity of his gaze, Marcus opened his hand and held the simple coin that he had robbed off some unsuspecting drunk in the palm of his hand and under the tribesmen’s nose. He stared at it for a few seconds in which Marcus became increasingly bemused by the shocked look on his face. After a moments ogling (much like the ogling that Marcus himself had been doing earlier), the tribesman fled.

Marcus sat with his hand still outstretched and the gold coin still glinting in the sun upon it. He blinked a couple of times, trying to wake himself up from the bizarre situation that could only be a dream. Once he realised that it had actually happened he smiled, shrugged his shoulders and went back to playing about with his coin and wondering to himself what was happening to Rebecca and Fernando. Which is an excellent writing tool for shifting the action onto another set of characters.

“Ow!” cried Fernando as the tribesman shoved him again. “Gerroff!” The beleafed (that is not actually a word by the way!) tribesman had grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and was practically dragging him along.

Rebecca, who was walking quite calmly beside the tribesman and her brother, rolled her eyes at his struggle. “Shut up Fernando, you might as well go along with him, we probably have a better chance of finding Marcus if we are actually in human contact; he has a habit of getting himself into trouble.”

“But…” Fernando protested ineffectually. “Who knows what they might do to us! They could eat us, these tribesmen do that you know? Eat people that is.” He voice was pleading.

“Fernando, they are not going to eat you, you smell far to horrible to be eaten. There isn’t enough meat on you to make a good meal anyway, it would be a waste of effort.” Fernando did not reply; he was too stupid to think of a witty retort.

After another half an hour or so of walking (or shoving), they arrived in a rickety assortment of mud brick buildings, most of which were poorly built and looked about to fall down. Clearly this tribe were not master builders. Although, looking around the grassland, there were not many building materials with which to build a decent house.

The thing that both Fernando and Rebecca noticed very soon after arriving in the village was that none of the tribeswomen wore any leaves to cover their breasts. Fernando could only let out a breathy ‘wow’ and stare unsubtly, almost forgetting how to walk in the process. Rebecca only sighed, rolled her eyes and loosened the bosom of her dress some more (if that was possible), slightly envious that she had been outdone by these people.

They were led by the triumphant tribesman through the village, clearly they were arousing quite a lot of attention because they had a large following of semi-naked tribes people, at which point Fernando realised the downside of the female’s nakedness. He was suddenly breathing rather very heavily and averting his eyes. He looked as though he was about to throw up.

When they arrived at the centre of the village Rebecca was shocked be the sight of Marcus sitting on a throne on a very flimsy looking dais. He was dressed in more leaves than the rest of the tribes, which was a good thing given that his pale, flesh body was not the most pleasant of sights. He also had two rather attractive women, wearing very few leaves, sitting next to him pampering him. She only got a short look because she was thrown face first into the dirt at his feet as soon as they were close to him.

“Well, well, well…” he said in the most cliché way imaginable. “How did you two find me?”

Rebecca stood up, dusting herself off. “I have a feeling we had a little bit of help from artistic licence.”

“So did you fail the test too then?”

“Yeah, Fernando couldn’t shoot an arrow to save his life. What about you though? You look as though you’ve done well for yourself.” (yeah, I’m not very good at storytelling through dialogue!)

“Um… They seem to think I’m some god of some sort. They all started bowing down to me a while ago, very amusing, shame the reader was off reading about you guys.”

“How by all that is unholy and evil did you mange to convince them that you were a God?”

“They seem to think that gold is a godly thing, I happened to have some gold coins to they assumed I must be a god.” He removed a gold coin from his pocket and tossed it in the air. The tribesmen’s eyes followed the coin intently.

Rebecca shook her head and crossed her arms

Fernando, who had remained mercifully silent throughout the entire exchange, spoke up. “But you’re not a god! That isn’t fair.” Rebecca glowered at him.

“No, it isn’t fair Fernando, but when have I ever been fair?” (I was about to insert a rant about how society is not fair and how the only way to get ahead in that sort of society is by being unfair, but I thought I’d spare you it! You only need to read every other blog on the Internet for your fill of that sort of tripe.)

at which point I ran out of dialogue ideas. Enjoy your weekend, I certainly wont. Spare a thought for me as you drift of to sleep on Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

We're not dead after all.

Yes, we have reached the weekend without dieing, as if there was more of a chance of us dieing this week than any other week. I am of course referring to the Large Hadron Collider (lovingly known as the LHC) a few hundred miles under the Alps at CERN (which is an acronym for something French).

After however many months/years in the pipeline (or should I say accelerator tube haha...), the LHC was finally turned on for the first time on Wednesday, which you already known unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, or maybe in Wales. The LHC fires 2 streams of tiny particles opposite ways round the accelerator, colliding them at super high speeds (which just sounds like a excuse to cause a big explosion to me. All in the name of science eh?)

For some odd reason every person on their dogs got it into their heads that the LHC was going to caused some apocalyptic Black Hole that would suck us all down into the depths of nothingness. Apparently the result of these collisions will (the scientists hope) be a detection of a particle called the ‘Higgs Boson’ without which our current model about the universe will not work (one would have thought that they would have tried to find this particle before arriving at theory that depended upon it, but that may be my pathetic little philosopher/historian’s brain talking). However some people seem to think that a micro Black Hole will be created as a result of the collisions. Obviously this didn’t happen, and was never likely too.

This did not stop all the brilliant comedians from here to Azerbaijan making doubtlessly hilarious jokes about the end of the world. For some reason these peoples decided that, like wine, jokes get better with age. Unfortunately these people are deluding themselves, because after the first time a few months ago when we thought the LHC was being turned on (but it was delayed because, predictably, a technical problem) the joke lost its limited wit.

This fit of absurd hysteria had a rather more sinister (although still rather amusing) outcome. In India one woman decided that, because the world was about to end she might as well commit suicide… a Darwin Award is due methinks. In a slightly less tragic event, most of India (and I suspect the rest of the unenlightened, and most of the enlightened world) decided to flock to any holy place they could think of to pray madly to ‘im upstairs in the home that he could prevent the impending apocalypse. Doubtless all the begging prevented the apocalypse, further proving that it works.

The most ironic thing about the hilarious display of human stupidity was that the clever men at CERN did not even collide any thing this time around. All they did was to send one stream of particles, one way round the accelerator at a fraction of the speed that they could attain. They will not start colliding for a few months yet, and when they do the world will end. We’ll all be sucked into the inevitable black hole caused by the senseless and absurd barrage of jokes about the world ending.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Election Woes

Well after last week’s dive into the world of fiction, we bring you back slowly to the merry world of reality! I have just this week started my A-levels, so I may not be able to publish this every week, although I have a few things sitting on my hard drive that I suppose I could let you read if I’m feeling nice. Anyway something in the news has been getting my metaphorical hackles up this week and that is the US election, or at least a certain aspect of it. Yes, like the vast minority of people in this country who actually listen to the news occasionally I have been forced to listen to endless features on how the Americans are doing in choosing their new president. At first I was quite interested; I was curious as to how the system works and who will be the next leader of the most powerful country on the planet. My interest as gone in inverse proportion to the amount of time they seem to be taking over it!

I was, by this point, only mildly interested in whom the respective candidates would choose to put on their ticket as vice president. My interest was captured once again when one Sarah Palin was announced as McCain’s running mate. Ok I tell a lie, at first I couldn’t have cared less, but the more I heard about this bright-eyed Alaskan unknown, the more I got interested and the more as feeling of dread crept into my mind like a seedy paedophile creeping into your bed at night (I think I’ll compile a list of these fucked analogies and get you to vote on your favourite!).

So if you did not already know, Sarah Palin is a Fundamentalist Christian who believes that the bible is the absolute and infallible word of God. She does not accept the theory of Evolution and believed that the world was created six thousand years ago. She does not believe that ‘global warming’ is a man-made phenomenon, rejects the rights of homosexuals to marry, does not believe in stem cell research and believes that abortion should be banned in all circumstances except when the mother’s life is put in danger.

In short this woman is not the sort of person any of the outside world wants to be the second in line to the one and only world superpower. You may not know this, but if McCain does get elected and is forced out of office in the next 4 years, this woman will automatically take over control of America.

Need I remind you that Senator McCain is 72 years old?

The most absurd thing is that Senator McCain supports stem cell research, does not out and out reject the rights of homosexuals and believes that global warming is a serious issue and is caused by man. Although religion and politics are intertwined in his view, he is considered a religious liberal.

As you can see, they have very contrasting views on some key issues. When you look at their beliefs, it seems that these two are far too mutually exclusive to be running mates, so why has McCain chosen her, a complete unknown with very different political beliefs from his?

The answer lies in these facts. McCain is 72, male, and has vast experience. He can appeal to the independents, but fails to grip the Conservative core of the Republican Party, most significantly the Christian Right. So who better to choose as a running mate that a 44 year old (relatively young in political terms), female who is fresh faced and can appeal to the Christian Right with her fundamentalist beliefs?

McCain has only chosen Palin because she balances his ticket. Once she is in the Whitehouse she will sit behind a desk looking pretty and get wheeled out for special occasions for four years. In the meantime we had better hope that McCain doesn’t get run over by a bus. Or that the American people have enough collective sense to see through the thin veneer of credibility that fails to cover this cynical act and vote Obama.