28 February 2007

Clarke/Milburn: zero-zero vision

The Labour leadership "contest" slid from the sublime to the ridiculous today. The only MPs with the bottle to openly challenge Gordon Brown so far have been hard-left stalwarts John McDonnell and Michael Meacher - both great guys, but both unlikely to stand a cat in hell's chance of winning a leadership battle since about 1981.

So what do you do in response to this vaccuum if you are a washed-up has-been Blairite like Charles Clarke or Alan Milburn?

Easy: you launch the most lame-ass political website in UK history. Zero-zero vision has a picture of a woman with binoculars, presumably scanning the landscape for the Labour party's only Milburn supporter (the man himself?)

This site is so devoid of political content it makes Progress look like Compass. Under the banner 'Mission statement for the zero-zero vision', we get to read scintillating contributions from such cutting-edge thinkers (ahem) as Frank Field MP:

Last Friday the Birkenhead Labour Party came alive discussing the need for a real debate on the future of the party like no other occasion since we ridded ourselves of the Trots.

Tony Blair's favourite left-wing Iraq war apologist, Ann Clywd MP:

I am sorry that I cannot be at the launch meeting today.

and 1987's greatest moustache, Peter Mandelson:

I welcome the discussion on policies and the drive towards remodernising. The more new ideas and directions we have the better.

Yeah right Mandy, what about... any direction except yours?

There are a few worthwhile posts: a 'Madasafish' made the very reasonable point:

Perhaps in debating policies you might consider debating the key issues in a democracy:
Why are so few voting?
Why do people hold us (politicans) in contempt?
What can we do about it?

Judging by some of the professional politicians comments on this thread I hold little hope of this being published, answered sensibly or acted upon.

And good old Guido Fawkes provides the most honest post:

I welcome this development and hope it provides me with useful information.

Best wishes


As Fawkes points out on his site, the amusing thing about 0-0 vision is what it doesn't say. If either Milburn or Clarke had even a small piece of intestine between them, they would launch a formal anti-Brown campaign, on the grounds that they think Brown can't appeal to 'swing' voters, he can't win in the south-east, etc. etc. Although I think only a moron or a Tory diehard would believe that the Tories are really going to have a 13% lead at the next election (which recent polls suggest is the current margin), there is enough doubt among Labour MPs about Brown's electability next time round to make a contest viable, given a suitable alternative candidate.

But of course Clarke/Milburn don't have a suitable alternative candidate... They have Fungus the Bogeyman and Bryan Ferry. "MicroBlair", aka David Miliband, is a viable alternative, and I had some faith in him myself a year or so ago; however, since then, he's pissed all over my shoes, figuratively speaking, by developing a "macro-ego", dropping t's from the back of words like Blair, generally trying to sound as right wing and business friendly as possible, and behaving like a pompous twat at every function I've seen him at. Why would MicroBlair want to go in with Clarke and Milburn? It would be like the Arctic Monkeys signing to a record label run by Chris Rea and... Bryan Ferry.

So, DZV (DoubleZeroVision): Zero debate, zero clue, zero fashion sense. Well done guys, for making Gordon Brown seem like the best option.

27 February 2007

"Free London Lame?" (incorporating Hal's blog review #17)

I've been meaning to write this post for about three months and I've finally got round to it as I'm feeling a bit more energetic this week (for reasons unknown - I keep checking to see whether I have an illuminated orange ring round me like the Ready Brek kid from the old 70s adverts, but now that we are into March it is light by the time I get out in the mornings and I can't see any illumination, sadly). Anyway, back to the bloody point... if you work in central London you'll have seen various people in funny (sometimes purple, but not Barney the dinosaur) outfits handing out free papers. The evenings are worst. I walk from the Tottenham Court Road area to Liverpool Street most evenings after work, a journey of around 40 minutes, and I must see at least 20 of these people en route. The two evening papers being given out are:

(a) 'London Lite', which is derived from the Evening Standard in the same way that Dairylea processed cheese is derived from milk; chuck out all the good stuff, intensify the crap that's left into a glutinous mess and then hard-press it into bite-size pieces; and

(b) 'thelondonpaper', which is Rupert Murdoch's take on the same thing. (For an easy guide to what one of the contributors to giroscope thinks of Mr Murdoch, look at the picture with the red cross here and please ignore the religious information. I mean, respect going out to Glen A. Larson, creator of the original Battlestar Galactica, but I'm not a Mormon. I just thought it would confuse their stats a bit).

Both these evening free papers have enough celebrity tit-tat, Sudoku quizzes, and 10-second interviews with Ken Livingstone to fill column centimetres aplenty... and therein lies the problem. If this was just a daily email or txt sent to millions of Londoners it'd be a pain in the arse but we could just all delete the f***er or add it to our spam and you are Robbie's nephew. But paper is a scarce resource and these damn things are being given away, paid for by advertising revenue or even as a lossleader for Murdochville. It's a litter hazard and a waste of paper which could be used to print something that people might actually want to, god forbid, actually pay for? And some of the dispensers (you can't call them sellers as they don't actually sell anything) are pretty insistent in their pitch to get you to actually grab one of these damn things. I see people with armfuls of them, even more so in the morning, when there are yet more lame wares available - Metro, City A.M. (are we really paying City Executives 6 or 7 figure salaries so they can get their news from a free paper? HELP!!!), and some sport one which is so duff I can't even remember the name of it.

Anyway, capitalism throws up some odd anomalies a lot of the time - and this free paper war is one of the oddest - but the remedy is this: Do NOT under any circumstances accept one of these papers. Better still, if you see one on the ground, pick it up and either shove it into one of the racks that the Metro is put in in the mornings, or even better, give it back to the people in purple suits handing them out. Be subversive - give a thelondonpaper seller a London Lite or even a City A.M. Find one several days, or weeks, old, if you can. Let's beat the system by treating it like a goddamn MORON!! That's what it's doing to us.

(With thanks to The Ecologist magazine, which, as so often, published a very good article on this very topic months before I got round to finishing my little rant on it. Actually what a good name for a blog - 'My Little Rant' - has anyone grabbed it yet? Yes! But with only one post, dated 23 Dec 04, it's a tragic waste. The only blog I've seen where the 'about me' column is longer than the blog itself!)

26 February 2007

Barney on Barney

Barney Ruddle back here again after a long layoff, and I'd like to say something about Barney. Not myself, but Barney the purple dinosaur, whom I've been a big fan of ever since my ex-flatmate Woolly-Woolly came down one day, switched on the TV (which I think was on UK Living) and said, "what's this shit"?

Most of you will know that Barney is a kid's TV icon and also a likely US presidential candidate in 2008, wowing the primaries with his simple, repetitive style and "mad cow" eyes. George W Bush took a lot of leaves out of the Barney handbook in his two campaigns, except that George has difficulty pronouncing a lot of the simple words which Barney helps the kids with. A Microsoft interactive version, released about 10 years ago to eat America's young, is being groomed as an ideal running mate for the Vice-Presidential ticket (with the emphasis on vice).

Anyway, the latest news on Barney is that Lyons Partnership, the owners of Barney, have agreed to withdraw their legal threats against a website publisher, Stuart Frankel, who has a Barney parody website and to compensate Frankel for fees expended in defending himself. Amen to that, but how absolutely extraordinary that a pisstake of a kid's TV character could face legal action in this way. How long before humour becomes a crime?

I must ask Woolly-Woolly if he ever followed up on his idea of putting Microsoft Interactive Barney in the microwave, pressing "start", and filming the results. That would be a good one for Youtube.

20 February 2007

Emotional Feedback on A Timeless Wavelength

Sorry to have been out of action so long... I've been struck down with a mystery viral infection, which I thought was flu, but it hasn't lasted long enough, fortunately. A bit like the Conservative party under Iain Duncan Smith.

After around what felt like 48 hours solid in bed my recovery was finally aided by hearing Rush's 'Spirit of Radio' playing on the Chris Evans show on Radio 2. My wife claims this may the worst commercially successful single of all time (it made no. 11 in 1980), but it's hard to argue with lyrics like:

Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength...

Vocals are provided by Geddy Lee, who was once mentioned in a Pavement song, and has a fairly unique sound. The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979 edition) described him as 'sounding like a cross between Robert Plant and Donald Duck' and indeed if you have some old Led Zeppelin LPs on vinyl and play them at 45 you'll discover much of the Rush back catalogue. Try it.

Meanwhile, lyrics were provided by the drummer (is this ever a good sign?) Neil Peart, who was apparently influenced by extreme libertarian novelist Ayn Rand (well someone had to be, I suppose), but on this particular track the lexicography is more along the lines of what happened on Yes's album 'Drama' (also from 1980), where future ABC producer and ex-Buggles lead vocalist Trevor Horn was having fun pretending to be Jon Anderson. Well, at least it didn't sound like Phil Collins.

Rush's finest moment remains the 1975 track 'I Think I'm Going Bald' - if I eventually do go bald, at least I have the consolation of playing this track very loudly, all day. But I don't think we'll hear it on Chris Evans on Radio 2. Ever.

Anyway, I'm feeling much recovered now so once I'm back on the case, and can locate Seth and Barney, we'll get some more posts up here pronto. Thanks for your patience.

p.s. sorry for including no links in this post, but I couldn't think of anyone who would want to link to any info about Rush or Yes? Unless they were already acquainted with such 70s prog-metal, in which case it would be pointless.

10 February 2007

Hal's Blog Review #16 - Grupo 11 - Scout para el Primer Contacto

I've dropped the 'Friday evening' qualifier from these blog reviews for now, as it's been a while since one of them was actually done on Friday evening (for example, it's now Saturday evening.)

This is a slightly unusual blog review as the blog is in Spanish, which my knowledge of is rather rudimentary. Having said that you don't need much Spanish to translate 'Group 11 - Scout for the First Contact'. I'm always up for discussion of the possibility of aliens, ever since a very odd conversation with a good mate of mine, 'Foley', who argued that extraterrestrial visitation was most unlikely because

"Why would they choose to manifest themselves in such a bizarre manner - floating off the coast of Lowestoft?"

This itself was a reference to an incident in Pakefield (near Lowestoft, Suffolk) in the early 1990s when another mate of mine and sometime contributor to the giroscope comments section, Benny Voller, saw a strange green light out in the North Sea that appeared to be very far away and then very close to the shore only a moment later. Foley's comment has become a classic of its kind and one can almost imagine the government vets during the Lowestoft bird flu outbreak last week:

"Why would the first UK bird flu outbreak manifest itself in such a bizarre manner - on a farm in Lowestoft?"

The lesson being, if Lowestoft's good enough for bird flu (and The Darkness), it's good enough for aliens.

My inability to translate most of 'scout para el primer contacto' makes it all the more intriguing. References to 'la Federación Galáctica' and 'El Pentágono manipuló información para apoyar la invasión de Irak' whet the appetite. Luckily for this reviewer, much of the content is actually translations from English-language websites - for example the latest post, MENSAJE DE SA-LU-SA, is a translation from a site called treeofthegoldenlight.com 'channelled' by a guy called Mike Quisney - English version here. Unfortunately a detailed read of this article reveals that Grupo 11 is about the more new-agey bullshit factory strain of alien contact rather than a more hard scientific approach, or even the post-X Files "alien conspiracy" tradition which forms a bridge between UFO watching and the kind of space which more political conspiracy theorists inhabit.

Incidentally, just to round off today, I saw a trailer for a new BBC series called The Conspiracy Files or something like that... it showed footage of the 9/11 World Trade Centre disaster with a voice-over from Alex Jones saying that '9/11 was an inside job'. Should be interesting, at least...

05 February 2007

Please release us, Anthony Milhous Nixon-Blair


Please stand down.

We've had enough.

It's come to something when I find myself reading the Daily Telegraph front page and agreeing with almost every word.

That was on Friday, when their leader said, "Blair losing his grip on his party and reality." He lost his grip on the Labour party months, if not years ago; reality has followed closely behind.

The Torygraph was at it again on Saturday, with a story entitled "Blair Revolt Gathers Pace." I even agreed with part of a Simon Heffer article on Blair, for perhaps the first time ever (and you really do have to start worrying if you agree with Simon Heffer on anything at all. Seriously, visit your GP. Now Eric Heffer (RIP), maybe...)

To tell you the truth, the cash-for-honours thing bores me stiff. Blair may well have broken the law, or he might have stayed inside the law - we don't know yet. But it's pretty small fry compared to Iraq. Tony Blair is like someone who's got away with armed robbery a few years back, but is currently being questioned by police over a minor traffic offence. A few months ago I was going round saying that the only place Blair should be going after he leaves office is into custody to face trial for war crimes. That was half in jest - although More4 actually filmed it as the Trial of Tony Blair, which I haven't seen yet, but I have it recorded and I will get round to it.

Number 10 right now probably feels very like the White House in the summer of 1974, just before Nixon's resignation. On an historical comparison, Nixon probably comes off better. He went down for Watergate and rightly so, but at least he managed to extricate the US from a foreign policy disaster that was started under his predecessors, Kennedy and Johnson. Whereas Blair is the sole architect of Iraq (on this side of the Atlantic) and must take the blame - NOW. I still harbour many doubts about Gordon Brown, but he does benefit simply from not being Tony Blair. To be honest, Michael Winner would make a better Prime Minister than this twat.

Right to the end, the arrogance and sanctimoniousness of Blair shines through - witness his ridiculous appearance on Today on Friday, where he basically said "I've got to stay on for the sake of democracy." What, after Labour secured 35% of the vote on a 60% turnout, and in a democratic system where the voters don't even directly choose the leader? Come on.

And then just when they were about to nail the bugger... bird flu comes along and kills us all off (potentially.) This guy is one lucky bastard.