Alrigty here's my rendition of the farewelling to the year 2007, just in time too.
Best film I saw at the cinema in 2007:
The Science of Sleep
Best film I saw (for the first time) on DVD in 2007:
Haven't a clue (that's not a film, I just don't know), although the Bladerunner 5 disc box set is great
Best TV show that I saw for the first time in 2007:
Best single of the year:
I don't do singles, chart music sucks
Most annoying song of the year:
Everything that has ever been in the charts, mildly unfair but I don't care
Best artist I started listening to this year:
(I think I started listening to her in 2007)
(runner up: My Brightest Diamond)
Best live show I saw this year:
(the only live show I saw but it was on a DVD, but otherwise I wouldn't have an answer, although I think I got it for my birthday last year and watched it last year, so I don't think this counts, damn.)
Best game I played of 2007:
(runner up: Bioshock)
Most time wasted this year:
(wasted so much of my life)
(runner up:gamespot, Xbox 360 - although it's technically not wasted time)
Monday, 31 December 2007
Alrigty here's my rendition of the farewelling to the year 2007, just in time too.
Sunday, 30 December 2007
I've just read through Empire's list of their top 25 films of 2007 (chosen by their writing staff as opposed ot a public vote or something else). I just thought I'd make a few comments whilst the list is fresh in my mind...
I've only seen six out of the twenty-five, which I consider fairly pathetic. I've also never heard of several of them, which took me by surprise. I consider myself a film fan but this list from a mainstream film magazine has shown up my failings as a viewer. I intend in the year ahead to try and remedy this as much as possible. That said, lots of them did take my fancy just from the brief note on each film provided in the list, so hopefully this will give me lots of films to watch should I ever feel stuck for choice.
The list is by no means infallible however. Omissions which surprised me include American Gangster and 300, whilst films which I've seen such as Knocked Up (which was good but didn't strike me as outstanding), Superbad (which I didn't rate highly at all) and Ratatouille (which I seem to be in the minority in thinking is at best average compared to previous Disney/Pixar outings) have been included. There are films in there that I totally agree with however (Notes On A Scandal and Hot Fuzz are both superb). It just goes to show that even when looking at professional film reviewers' ratings, it all boils down ultimately to opinion. It may also signify that, although there have been smatterings of excellence, 2007 hasn't been a cinematically stellar year. Once again however, that pretty much comes down to opinion.
An interesting list to read (I won't reveal what's number one), if only to inspire reflection on your own opinions on films.
As with Telf's original post, I'll probably edit and update this entry over the next few days and weeks as things come to mind.
Best film I saw at the cinema in 2007:
Best film I saw (for the first time) on DVD in 2007:
(honourable mention: The Good Shepherd)
Best TV show that I saw for the first time in 2007:
(honourable mention: Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip)
Best singles of the year:
Pendulum - Granite
Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse - Valerie
Best albums of the year:
The Go! Team - Proof Of Youth
High Contrast - Tough Guys Don't Dance
Beastie Boys - The Mix-Up
Most annoying song of the year:
The Fratellis - Chelsea Dagger
Best artist I started listening to this year:
Best live show I saw this year:
(honourable mention: Ricky Gervais)
Live show I wish I'd seen this year:
Most time wasted this year:
(honourable mention: www.stumbleupon.com)
I want to do some kind of record of the stuff I've seen/done this year, but can't really think of a good way of doing it, so I'm just going to stick a load of things down as 'favourites' in various categories. Feel free to suggest other categories, or do your own, or whatever, either way, I reserve the right to add to/alter this over the next few days/weeks:
Best film I saw at the cinema in 2007:
(runners up: 300, The Bourne Ultimatum, This is England)
300 and the third Bourne film were both hugely entertaining films, exciting and adrenaline-fueled throughout, but I enjoyed the twisting storyline of Michael Clayton even more. George Clooney impresses me more and more with his willingness to produce and act in some really interesting and complex films.
Best film I saw (for the first time) on DVD in 2007:
Children of Men
(runners up: The Believer, Big Fish, Crash)
Can't believe I waited this long to see Crash and Big Fish, both of which are excellent. The Believer is much less well known (it seems) than it should be, but is brilliantly dark and has a fantastic performance from Ryan Gosling in the title role. Children of Men gets my vote, overall, though for providing an incredibly gritty view of future Britain, awesome cinematography, and an exciting, dark, story.
Best DVD extras I experienced in 2007:
Sin City (Recut and Extended).
Great mini-documentaries, two commentaries, all three stories in full, the original film without post-processing and the mandatory 10-minute cooking school. Plus a paper copy of The Hard Goodbye.
Best TV show that I saw for the first time in 2007:
The Wire (season 1)
(runners up: Robot Chicken (s1-3), Frisky Dingo (s1-2), Long way round (and Long Way Down))
Robot Chicken is the funniest programme, Frisky Dingo the most interesting programme and Long Way Round the best documentary I saw this year, but the Wire gets the overall choice. Despite its potentially fast-paced setting, it is willing to take its time and make you care about the characters on both sides of the case. The slow build up over several episodes makes it feel like a real police investigation, and it's not afraid to get its hands dirty in the darker side of the story too. Looking forward to seeing season 2.
Best single of the year (even though I know nothing about music):
Grace Kelly - Mika
(runner up: About you now - Sugababes, Shine - Take That)
Yeah, I'm a sucker for catchy pop tunes. I've really liked pretty much everything Mika has come out with so far, though, which is unusual for me and any one artist.
Most annoying song of the year:
Beautiful girls - Sean Kingston
Two girls played it repeatedly at full volume on a mobile phone on the back seat of a bus for 45 minutes. Like, no break, no change in song, just that one over and over and over again...
Best artist I started listening to this year:
They Might Be Giants
Weird, catchy alt-rock, that defies categorisation thanks to its variety. Perfect music to have on while travelling, less good for working, because it's so distracting. 'Istanbul (not Constantinople)', 'Doctor Worm' and 'Birdhouse in your soul' are probably my faves atm.
Best live show I saw this year:
Also the only live show I saw this year, but that shouldn't detract from it's clear dominance over this field. Was amazing to see him in such a small venue, and, though he didn't have a huge amount of new material, his old stuff got more than a good reception. Unnecessary surgery dude...
Best game I played this year:
(runner up: Half Life 2: Episode 2, TF2) (Technically the Orange Box was the only game I bought this year, so choices were restricted).
Incredibly funny for a game with such a simple concept to it. Worth it for the credits song alone. Yahtzee got it spot on here, so I don't need to say any more. The developer's commentary is brilliant as ever - Valve clearly think a huge amount about every step of the design process, and it shows.
Most time wasted this year:
(runner up: facebook)
Best podcast I started listening to this year:
Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews
Best blog I started reading this year:
Worse than Failure
(runner up: Awkward things I say to girls)
Special mention for best RSS feed that's not really a blog:
(runner up: The Superest)
Friday, 28 December 2007
As a follow-up to the previous superest-style post a week or so ago, I present this week's special double-page edition (again, with translation):
The Sleeping Policeman: Letting crime come to him.
The razor-wheeled cow of crime: "Moo-ve or get slashed".
The Concrete Abbateur: Has a heart (and everything else) of stone.
The Vegetarian Wrecking Ball: "You meat-eatin' bastards gonna pay!"
The Rabboteur: "Eh, blown-up, doc".
The ferocious, fiery, fear-frenzied, frumpy, fox-in-a-box
Foxhunter Seuss: I will defeat you sam-I-am.
Raging Rowling: Destroying children's literature of the past with tales of boyhood satanism.
Warm-front Will: Bringing calm (and hugs).
The secretly satanic huggy bear.
Angelic Starsky and Hutch: Answering your prayers from the 70s.
The Eighties Atheist: Cancelling out the values of the seventies through stocks and shares.
Incorrect-racist-Robinson-Crusoe (with Black Wednesday).
P.C Revisionist: Correcting those bits of literature that never really existed.
Tippex Tex: Blottin' out whatever he feels like, Goldarnit!.
Inca (Inker): Writes things in your entrails.
Gutless Conquistador: Makes up what he lacks in courage with a hatred of indigenous peoples.
Dutch Courage: Making even the most cowardly people as brave as Holland.
Tea Totaller: -12e^(i*pi) steps to sobriety.
Evil Stephen Hawking: No mathematical problem can defeat him, unless it's upstairs.
who, with beautiful symmetry, could be beaten by The Sleeping Policeman.
Thursday, 27 December 2007
There was a story on the BBC website last week about the Christmas message from the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan (full transcript can be found here) in which he rails against 'atheistic fundamentalism'.
I think I would agree with him when he says that fundamentalism of any kind is dangerous, but I would certainly disagree on his point that atheistic fundamentalism is comparable to religious fundamentalism in either occurrence or danger. He lists a number of perceived instances of atheistic fundamentalism, many of which are well known myths (addressed nicely by Oliver Burkeman here) or else simply smaller incidents blown out of proportion (such as the BA uniform controversy). In these smaller incidents, such as the BA situation and a couple of those mentioned in Burkeman's article, the decision or policy was reversed or amended in response to the situation, but this is rarely reported when the incident is brought up later by the media.
I mentioned in an earlier post about Mark Prichard's comments that I thought a lot of the instances of 'Christianophobia' that he mentioned were simply caused by changing social norms and increasing multiculturalism, and I think that the same point stands here. To take the BA example, as the company took on more and more Sikh and Muslim workers, there was bound to come a point when it would need to address its uniform policy on religious garments, and this is what happened. The problem is that the incident is not remembered as the point that BA was prompted to amend one of its employee clothing regulations, it is remembered as the point that a Christian employee was suspended from work for being a Christian.
Dr Morgan says: "To have a coherent and rational debate about the tenets of the Christianity is perfectly natural. To have a virulent, almost irrational attack upon it claiming that what is being said is self evidently true is dangerous". I think I agree with this point, but I think also that it is a point that could be applied to any religious position. I don't believe that he has provided any examples in his address of anyone (particularly anyone expressly atheistic) exhibiting "virulent, almost irrational attack[s]" on Christianity (or, indeed, any religious position), while at the same time, anyone who has heard a sermon in Church has heard a religious leader "claiming that what is being said is self evidently true".
I suspect that there are people out there who fit Dr. Morgan's criteria for a 'fundamentalist atheist', I just don't believe that there exist any in a position of power or influence comparable to those positions held by fundamentalists from other religious views.
The rest of his address does not seem to really touch on atheistic fundamentalism again, since he begins to talk about "the language of expulsion and exclusivity, of extremism and polarisation, and the claim that because God is on our side, He is not on yours". This clearly doesn't make sense with regards to atheistic fundamentalism, and neither does his use of the story of the reaction to Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry: "The God they want is a far more tribal figure, a God made in their own image, a God whom they can control and manipulate and manage", since the atheistic fundamentalist would have no desires at all about the attributes of something non-existent.
Monday, 24 December 2007
... are two things that will once again have zero involvement in my Christmas celebrations.
Between Christmas and New Year I might try to do some 'best of 2007' type posts, or some kind of 'looking forward to 2008' type posts, but in case I don't, I thought I'd say something now.
Thanks to everyone who has posted on and everyone who has read this blog over the five months or so that it has been running. Hopefully we will continue to have varied and exciting content being produced into next year, along with an ever increasing number of contributors.
I've started tracking some data about people accessing the site, so hopefully after a few months I'll be able to come up with some trends and averages and whatnot. I can safely say that the vast majority of the traffic to the site comes from the UK (and probably from people who are actually posting stuff too), but there have been visitors from North America and mainland Europe too. So hopefully we will see more external (ie. not authors) and more international visitors too.
In either case, Merry Christmas to all, and I hope everyone enjoys some aspect of the holiday season.
Friday, 21 December 2007
Ok, last post for today, I promise.
Over the last couple of weeks, we've been playing a 'The Superest' style game after the quiz, and I felt that the (vaguely Christmas themed...) one we came up with last night was good enough to exhibit on here. So...
You should be able to zoom in on those to read them, but (for completeness, and because of our slightly dodgy handwriting...):
Santa "The Pimp" Claus: Ruling the world with his army of ho ho ho's
The Christmas Crabs: Taking the safe out of unsafe-sex.
The Festive Falcon: (image of dropping the crab on a rock).
Old "Poacher" Scrooge: Wings it with his Lee-Enfield, then drains all its Christmas spirit
The Ghosts of Gun-Victims Past: Bringing down the NRA one high-school massacre at a time.
The Holy Hitman: Striking the dead back to whence they came.
The "Altar Boy" Angler: No priest can resist the deep-sea innocence it promises.
The Therapist: Always dredging up things from the deep.
The Psycho Whore: She's insane, but she's also cheap.
which, with beautiful symmetry, could be beaten by Pimp Santa.
Just a couple of links:
Nick Clegg answers 'no' to 'do you believe in God?'. - I would have said this might have dealt his chances of becoming Prime Minister a blow, if he hadn't already ruined them by being leader of the Lib Dems. Glad to see a non-religious party leader, though - possibly the first one this country has had (can anyone confirm or deny that?). In any case, there was no indication whether his religious views would have any effect on his policies, and in reality it's just good to see that outright belief is not required to achieve (potential, if not likely) political power.
Anyone else find the overuse of quotation marks on the BBC website annoying? In the title of that article, 'does not believe in God' is in quotes for, as far as I can see, no good reason. It is not a direct quote, so why has the BBC decided to highlight it like this?
Radio 1 backs down over Pogues censorship - Reminded me of Bambi's post from earlier this month. My general anti-censorship attitude makes me glad of the eventual outcome, although I was confused by the quote from Andy Parfitt: "In the context of this song, I do not feel that there is any negative intent behind the use of the words". This seems odd, because, as far as I can tell, the words are absolutely being used with negative intent within the context of the song. I certainly can't imaging that Kirsty MacColl's character is referring to Shane MacGowan as a bundle of sticks when she calls him a 'faggot'. She is using an insulting and negative term, and the real question is whether people listening to the song are able to distinguish between terms used in a song-based argument by fictional alcoholics and words that are reasonable to use in a public context. I would like to think that this is the case, but who knows.
Lastly, I have finally got around to getting some glasses (technically a Christmas present from my parents), so my driving and cinema-watching experiences should hopefully now improve markedly, although I am hugely self-conscious about wearing them. :s
...of a different kind. See my blog for details about this marvellous occurrence.
I thought I'd post it in my blog, then link to it from here, instead of wasting space on this blog. (why isn't blog in the Firefox dictionary? or Firefox for that matter).
I realise that you can't see that both blog and firefox are underlined with red to show that they're not properly spelt / not a real word.
So it looks like Putin's worth 40bn (seen in this morning's guardian). Not bad for government work, as they say.
When i read things like this about people I always wonder, why don't you just retire. Surely there's some figure where you think 'that's probably enough for me'. If I had 40bn, I'd be off on my island with large comfy home cinema and spend my days cruising around, playing games and watching films.
But i guess the fact I would do this is probably why I'll never make 40bn, and the fact Putin will keep busy till he dies is the reason he is.
Thursday, 20 December 2007
I'm not suggesting you go around biting 20% out of the food in stations, more that by signing up for a Bite card you can get 20% off at a good number of the food outlets in stations across England and the card itself costs nothing (probably because it literally is a bit of card).
The BiTE card is useful if you spend a good amount of time travelling on trains and hate that you are forced to pay high prices for the food as you're stuck in the station waiting for your next train and neglected to bring a packed breakfast/lunch/dinner. 20% is almost enough to make the prices seem more respectable so no more feeling too hard done to when trying to satiate your hunger on a journey.
I haven't used mine that often (in fact, possibly never, but I did lend it to a friend once) but then I haven't been able to afford to travel anywhere recently.
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
As promised this morning, these are the films I saw at the cinema in 2007 in approximately the order I saw them. I used this list to construct them, and the final set seems strangely small, so it's possible I have missed some out. Let me know if you spot any and I'll add them in.
The films are all listed as having had their UK cinema release in 2007, but two of them I technically saw on DVD. I tried to keep the comment under 25 words for each one, and think I pulled it off pretty well:
I probably missed something through not having seen the other films, but this never felt exciting or interesting. 4/10
Leo is great and apart from a couple of silly action scenes, the whole thing hangs together well. 9/10
Good but not great. Some funny moments, but loses something by having an accomplished protagonist. 6/10
Entertaining story: more down-to-earth than the Prestige, but without the darkness of that film. 7/10
Brilliant comic-book epic. Allow yourself along for the ride and it's exhilarating stuff. 9/10
Blades Of Glory
Sub-par Ferrell vehicle. Some good jokes, but I just didn't care about any of the characters. 4/10
Wahlberg is great, and the first hour is slick and exciting. Then Danny Glover comes along. 3/10
This Is England
Dark and gritty - Stephen Graham is brilliant and its an interesting take on the issues involved. 8/10
Disappointingly unfocused. Doesn't know whether it's trying to be slapstick or dark.
Great visuals, but I just don't care about wise-cracking robots falling over. 4/10
Conversations With Other Women
Funny and touching. Very original presentation pulled off well. A nice package that doesn't stretch itself. 8/10
Distressingly unfunny. They can do so much better and it hurts to see them fail. 3/10
Great moody and oppressive thriller. Lags towards the end, but just about keeps us interested. 8/10
Pirates Of The Caribbean 3: At World's End
Depp is great. Most of the rest is forgettable. Too much random mythology pulled out of nowhere. 5/10
Shrek The Third
Terrible in comparison to its forebears. Has some funny moments, but no focus. 4/10
Die Hard 4.0
Enjoyable in a brain-switched-off kind of way. Less about the personalities and more about the effects, which is a pity. 5/10
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
The Simpsons Movie
Very funny. Expansive storyline and the return of Hank Scorpio (in all but name). 8/10
The Bourne Ultimatum
Fantastically taut thriller. Great set-pieces and manages to stay the right side of believeable. Just. 9/10
Funny, and at least tries to do more than just feed the audience one liners. 7/10
Great acting and a very moving story thoroughly well told. 9/10
Run, Fat Boy, Run
Sappy and stupid. Has one funny scene, and spends the rest of the time firmly on the rom-com-rails. 3/10
Great thriller. George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson are excellent and the script manages to guide us easily through a complex story. 9/10
Day Watch (Dnevnoi Dozor)
Exciting and strange. Made me want to read the books. 7/10
Slow, but with a great script. Makes you question whether you could do the right thing. 8/10
Dark story with twists that come together really well. Makes you question whether you could do the right thing. 8/10
Lions For Lambs
Slow moving but rewarding. Glossy rather than passionate. Makes you question whether there even is a right thing to do. 8/10
Interesting biopic with great action scenes. Ending feels rushed, but lead performances are great. 8/10
Let down by poor special effects and cringeworthy ending, but the whole middle section is brilliantly done. 7/10
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Very slow, but builds tension brilliantly. Affleck almost outshines Pitt, and the attention to detail sells it. 9/10
We Own The Night
Good in patches, but loses its way. There's a dark, interesting film there somewhere, but it's not on the screen. 6/10
I am Legend
Not an awful premise, but neither psychological nor horrifying, and hence not really interesting or exciting. 6/10
And, for completeness, the ones I wanted to see but never got around to:
Apocalypto, The Last King Of Scotland, The Pursuit of Happyness, Smokin' Aces, Babel, The Good Shepherd, Letters From Iwo Jima, The Number 23, Amazing Grace, Sunshine, Alpha Dog,
Fracture, Fast Food Nation, 28 Weeks Later, Ocean's Thirteen, Seraphim Falls, Breach, 3:10 To Yuma, Shoot 'Em Up, The Brave One, Control, The Kingdom, Stardust, Eastern Promises, Sicko, The Lookout, Bug, Into The Wild, The Darjeeling Limited, Sleuth, The Golden Compass, The Killing of John Lennon, Youth Without Youth.
And one that failed to come out altogether:
(But that's a rant for another day...)
Just a quick post to link to this awesome list of upcoming films. I'd heard of most of the major releases, but a large number of the ones I hadn't heard of sound very exciting. At some point I want to try and do a round up of quick one-line reviews of 2007 films, assuming I can remember a large enough list of the ones I've seen to make it worthwhile. Anyway, enjoy the link.
Monday, 17 December 2007
There's a lot of stuff about traditions that annoys me. Not in a huge, stressed-out, ranty way, but just in a way that needles me occasionally, and this time of year has a lot of traditions wrapped around it.
A colleague of mine at work told me last year that him and his wife don't give each other Christmas presents or birthday presents, and even asked people not to give them wedding presents when they got married. Instead, they try to give each other surprise presents throughout the year. There is no pressure to try and think of something for someone else as a particular date approaches, but when that perfect idea comes along, there's no need to store it away for months and hope that it's still relevant later in the year.
Clearly this kind of approach would be difficult to integrate into society (I'm not sure it would work as an explanation as to why you failed to bring a present to a friend's wedding), but as a guiding principle, it seems to me to be much more practical and interesting than the current social norm. In general, I don't mind the whole present-giving side of Christmas (and, indeed, birthdays), since the next best thing to people giving each other presents spontaneously (you know, out of kindness) is to force them to do it through social blackmail. However, I do find the whole process of wrapping and presenting gifts to be thoroughly annoying.
For children, I can accept, it probably increases the excitement on the day to have a huge pile of mysteries to sift through, each with a cryptic label on to be deciphered, but in other situations, as we grow older, I find the whole business to be bizarre and annoying. I see no reason why it helps anyone for me to spend time and money wrapping up presents five minutes before they're going to be opened. If it is the desire to keep the item a mystery, then I'm quite happy to hide it beforehand, and do a little introduction for it, or present it in a bag or pretty much anything that doesn't cause me to spend ever increasing amounts on gaudy paper that will be torn up and never be used again. If it comes down to building excitement about a present, though I feel like that's the wrong way to go with the whole thing. If the present is a good one, something the person will appreciate and cherish, then no decorative packaging is needed, and if it is not something the person particularly wants, then hiding it away in a promising looking package is just a recipe for disappointment. Ultimately, I would much rather a friend quietly gave me something that they had spotted and thought I would appreciate than sit in a circle with any number of distant family members, unwrapping socks and library books and whatever DVD was being particularly well marketed at the time.
Cards get me in a similar way - I have nothing against them in principal, as long as the person sending them has thought about what they are doing and why they are doing it. Nothing seems more bizarre to me than a huge number of people sending identical cards to everyone in their phone book with their names at the bottom and the recipient's at the top. Maybe there will be a variation in the picture or the pre-printed message inside, but there's no real thought or care put into it. If you really do want to communicate with someone, then send them a letter or call them and arrange to meet up, and if you don't really want to communicate with them, then don't send anything. It seems as though Christmas card lists are like the social networking 'friends lists' of the pre-internet age. It doesn't matter that you haven't spoken to these people for 7 years and that you never have any contact with them other than through the annual charity-shop card; they need to be on your list and you on theirs, almost as a surreptitious ego-boosting exercise, as though your presence on people's card lists is required evidence that you are not an outcast.
I think most of the above translates pretty well on to birthday cards too - I see no real point in giving someone a birthday card unless you have something interesting to say in it. I have received (and given) a large number of cards over the years that have simply been the recipient's name, my name and a short generic greeting. Looking back on them, I don't begrudge the people who gave me these cards, and I don't regret giving out my own, but ultimately, it is as though those cards hadn't been given. I don't remember them (except in a general sense) and I haven't kept them, so there really is nothing to say that they ever existed. What I do have is a (by no means exhaustive) collection of letters and cards that I kept because I felt that real effort had been put into them, and I would look back on them in the future as something valuable. And in general, this has been the case. I wish I had kept more, but the ones that I have kept have given me a lot of happiness when I re-read them.
I feel I should clarify a little bit - I don't think that people are idiots for sending cards out, and I know people feel pride and happiness when they see a wall full of cards wishing them a happy birthday or Christmas. But I am suggesting that I think there are more meaningful things you can send to people you care about, and that perhaps you shouldn't be sending cards to people you don't care about. Not because they don't deserve that happiness, but because in reality, your card is at best a momentary distraction and at worst a dishonest message.
I compared Christmas card lists to social networking friend lists above, and in some ways there are parallels with birthday cards. If someone I know on facebook has a birthday, I feel odd just posting 'Happy Birthday' on their wall. If it is someone I count as a friend, then that feels too little, and I'll try and post something longer, or write them a message or give them a text or a ring and try and start a conversation. If I don't really know them that well (an old friend from school, or a mutual acquaintance) then I will tend not to send anything. Not because I don't hope they have a happy birthday (that, presumably, should be a given), but because I don't have anything more interesting to say, and it feels weird to simply present this public appearance of a closeness that is clearly not there.
Facebook communication (and social network communication in general) is a whole other post for a whole other time, however, so I think I'll leave it there, as I've rambled on for far too long already. There are other tradition-type things that annoy me, though, so tune in next week to hear me complain about decorations, Christmas dinner and Jesus.
Sunday, 16 December 2007
You just don't get jokes of that calibre these days (thank goodness).
I made a rather long post on my blog a while ago covering issues which I feel are important, such as being ethically minded and more ecologically friendly, here's a link, and this site links to that nicely.
I've only recently discovered this site, through TV.com which is a marginally strange place to find stuff like that, but smartplanet seems like a good way to find out about ways of being more green and ethical, I personally have it as an RSS feed of Firefox, which I've come love as it means you don't have to go to a specific site to see if any new stuff has appeared (especially useful with blogs).
Thursday, 13 December 2007
I've been kinda busy for a couple of days, so haven't posted anything. Which is not to say I haven't wanted to - leaving the new boy out on his own like we have is kinda cruel, but he's doing a fine job so far.
I thought, in lieu of a longer, more rambling, more interesting, post, I'd briefly put down the highlights of the last week or so of my del.icio.us links:
This is funny, and nicely context-free.
This is very sad news, though taken very well by him.
This is pretty interesting, and should probably be taken with a pinch of salt.
This is some awesome-stylish art.
This is a great web-security article. Pretty long, though.
I want to do an article about user generated content at some point, and start doing some movie reviews. But not now. For now, I must go to the quiz. Wish me luck.
I've been looking for a way to move the target for the My Document folders (ie. my Pictures etc.) for years, I don't know why but I just don't like using them, actually I do know why, they where stuck on your C drive and when you only have 2GBs to use (the case when I first built my computer) you tend not to want to stick all your documents on it, but now it's more because I have most of my files separate from my C drive so XP has a whole HDD to play with.
Anyway due to my keyboard being lame and not wanting to link to other folders when I press the "My Pictures" button on it I decided to have another look for the solution to this problem so I could just have the My Pictures folder open when I press it (don't know why it didn't like normal shorcuts), and here's what I found on asktheadmin.com
Annoyingly simple really, but it does mean that all the My Whatever folders now link onto my M or D drives (Max (Maxtor drive) and Dog (big 180GB HDD (well big when I got it) also geeky reference to Half-Life 2), I give names to all my HDDs, the C drive is called Sea (it's a Seagate HDD))instead of the C, hurrah. (well that was a bit confusing, too many brackets).
I thought this was a reasonably sensible and useful thing to post here, I may have been wrong, but who can tell.
Oh and by the way my computer's called Mermal, don't ask me why, but it is important to know these things.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
I feel like I have been given the keys to my parents car and I'm a little scared to get in and start the engine in case I do anything stupid like crash it and ruin their trust in me, but I'll try and get over that and just get on with it (although I can't actually drive so doing so could be classed as marginally stupid).
That strange metaphor (or is it simile) was to do with being given the privilege of posting on this collaborative blog(which I can probably class as research for my dissertation, which is on web 2.0, so I don't feel to guilty about not doing some real work). Hopefully I'll not make Patrick regret giving me access.
I thought I'd post a quick intro about me for anyone wondering who on earth I am and why you should read what I have to say (which, to be honest, it's probably better if you don't) and also so that my addition to this blog isn't a complete waste of time. So here it is:
Hi I'm Andy, I'm a Christian and a third year student at Salford University studying Professional Sound & Video Technology. I know Patrick through Joe Davison (who I've known since high school) so I used that connection to procure a spot here venting some of my less obscure notions (The more obscure ones going on my own blog).
Well that's about it for the moment, the next few days will be pretty hectic for me as I've got to create 9 pages worth of info about what I've done in my dissertation so far (which isn't a great deal) and then present it on Friday, so I'll probably not have much time to do or find anything that I think other people may be interested in.
Saturday, 8 December 2007
Just a quick note about a couple of blog-related changes. Firstly, over on the right hand side there, I've added some new links to my 'blogroll'. I've also gone through and tagged all my posts so far, so let me know if you reckon I've missed or mis-applied any tags. If nothing else it's useful for me to keep track of what I have and haven't written stuff about recently. And right at the bottom there's an RSS feed of my del.icio.us links, so the number of plain 'links' posts I make should decrease, and they'll appear there instead.
Lastly, but not leastly, I'm going to start asking more people to join the blog as writers. Since adding two new people a month or so ago resulted in zero more posts, I figure a more drastic increase in writing staff is needed. There is the slight worry that since there is no theme to the blog, people will be confused and reticent about what to write, but I'm hopeful that people will feel free to just post whatever comes to mind.
So I'll probably be asking a few more people over the next couple of weeks, and if you aren't able to post yet, let me know and I'll consider adding you. I think my only restriction is going to be that I know you, other than that, I'm pretty happy for anyone to start writing stuffs.
And if you're a writer on this blog and haven't written anything, get off your arse and write something.
Friday, 7 December 2007
In response to Bambi's post (a phrase I feared I would not be writing again), I have a couple of points to add. First, I would like to thank him for introducing me to the word tmesis, which I feel would be an excellent addition to anyone's vocabulary despite the fact that I have no idea how to pronounce it and no clue as to how I would ever use it.
On the issue of using the word 'gay', my feeling has always been that, as with anything I could say, it should be the intention and the context that define someone's reaction, not just the words involved. I agree with Bambi that the meaning of the word 'gay' has changed pretty much within our lifetime, since I can certainly remember it being used as a sexual insult in primary school, and I think it is interesting that it has come to mean something undesirable.
It is as though successive years of children kept using it as an insult (having picked it up from older generations) while the society around them moved to somewhere where simply calling someone a homosexual was no longer actually insulting. Hence the word used as a negative term almost seems to mean 'I feel about this the same way as people once felt about homosexuality'. Or, given modern styles of communication, 'I'm pretending to feel about this the same way as people once felt about homosexuality in order to be funny'. I am neither an etymologist nor an expert on gay issues, so take the above analysis with all the necessary pinches of salt.
On the more general topic of offensive words, I don't like the fact that certain words are seen as unusable, since I think it gives them a power that they should not have. I make a point of trying not to restrict what I say with people, because I think that talking freely is a good sign of trust, and that a society that accepts words as simply words and looks to make judgements on context and meaning is a more open and a better society.
Having said that, I clearly obey a large number of social norms. For example I might feel uncomfortable using the word 'damn' in front of a friend's parents, but not my own. I try and avoid using the word 'shit' in front of my parents, but not my workmates. I tend to avoid the word 'fuck' with workmates, but not with friends I meet socially, and I save the word 'cunt' for friends I feel I know well or very well. I don't believe I have ever used the word 'nigger' out loud.
Make of that what you will.
This post may be a little rambling, as I have no idea where I'm going to go with it seeing as it's fairly English geeky in nature, concerning my fascination with words and what they do. And it starts with Facebook. Stay with me.
I started a group a while ago called "I Still Use Slang From The 1990s". As part of this group I've built up a list of '90s slang terms and their meanings, adding many that are suggested by the members of the group. However, I found myself faultering when one member suggested the word "gaylord" as a '90s insult. I was torn. On the one hand, "gaylord" comes from a blatant homophobic etymology. On the other, I knew the person suggesting it almost certainly had absolutely no sexual meaning in the word. I logically also considered the inclusion of "gay" as a slang term, but with much the same problem. So I did what I almost always do when I want to find out more about something: I looked on Wikipedia.
And here's what Wikipedia had to say. This I found incredibly intriguing, as not only does it give what I think of as the "playground" usage of the word a technical name ("pejorative non-sexualised"), but it cites a fairly recent example from the media of where the use of "gay" in this sense was called into question and the usage was defended. Not defended by any old fly-by-night organisation either - defended by the BBC no less.
I was gripped at this point. I felt like I was witnessing etymology as it happened. Very few words in my lifetime have undergone such a radical addition to their accepted meanings (and, as The Times article states at the end, a meaning almost the opposite to that which the word had originally). However, with Wikipedia being a less-than-credible source for information, and one news article seeming fairly flimsy, I turned to the big kahuna: the Oxford English Dictionary. And here's what I found:
"gay, adj., adv., and n. slang (chiefly U.S.). Foolish, stupid, socially inappropriate or disapproved of; ‘lame’."
It's in the OED. A draft addition admittedly, but one with several examples and that is actually being considered, which taking into account how many words are rejected from the OED is a fairly substantial backing for the pejorative non-sexual meaning.
So, how do I feel about all this. Moving past my English graduate geekiness about watching words transform, I don't really have a huge problem with this becoming an accepted meaning of "gay". I try to refrain from using it as I think there are better words to use, but then I do that with a large amount of words. Also, there are people who, when talking to them, I would avoid using the word "gay" like that as I know they wouldn't like it being used. Again, there is a large collection of other words that I do that with too.
But in terms of the actual meaning, I have no problem at all. For a start, it's a slang term that is clearly in common use, and that's how meanings and words are created and always have been - by being used. In terms of looking at it with historical examples, there's an obvious candidate word: "fuck".
Again, good old Wikipedia gives a decent grounding on this word's background. And, like "gay", it's in the OED. "Fuck" is a very old word, most likely coming from Anglo-Saxon, and has a fascinating history that would take hours to do justice to. But like many words now considered offensive, "fuck" began as merely a word to describe something - in this case, the act of having sex. Over the centuries it was regarded as more offensive, until receiving taboo status that was lifted only relatively recently. But "fuck" began with only one meaning as a verb. It's now arguably one of the most versatile slang words in English. It can be a verb and a noun, an adjective and an adverb - it can even be used in tmesis to add emphasis to a polysyllabic word ("abso-fucking-lutely"). "Fuck" is a word that originally did not offend, gained offensive meaning, and has developed in its various meanings.
So why should "gay" be any different? Yes, I'm sure it will offend some people, but there are a great many of those words around already. Who are we to state that "gay" can't join them? If we stopped everything that offended someone, the world would be incredibly bland. I'd like to know how "gay" is used in a hundred years, or even less. Its transformation is something I find extremely interesting.
And if you're wondering, "gaylord" and "gay" both made it into the Facebook group word list, albeit with disclaimers.
The BBC had an article on Tuesday about MP Mark Pritchard calling for a parliamentary debate on the subject of 'Christianophobia'. The transcript of the debate can be found here, for anyone who enjoys an evening spent reading Hansard. Andy also produced a post on the dilution of Christmas. When I see two articles talking about similar things, I do like to connect them on here, so thought I should at least comment.
Mark Pritchard cites a number of examples of Christianophobia in modern society: the difficulty in finding religious cards and advent calenders and the creeping disappearance of Nativity plays from schools. He wonders why these things are disappearing from our society when he has "never met a single Muslim, Jew, Sikh or Buddhist, or person of any other faith, who has told me that they object to Christians celebrating Christmas". He then describes the idea that anyone might be offended by "Christians celebrating Christmas" as a "false, secular-driven proposition".
I think that I would put the change more down to the changing make up of our society. As we become a more multicultural nation, as more and more people grow up as non-Christian citizens of this country, the socially anchored Christian traditions begin to look more and more out of place. Should a school get children to take part in a Nativity play because it reflects the traditions of the country, or should they be free to do something that the children will be able to relate to more easily. Should greeting cards companies and manufacturers of other seasonal cardboard merchandise be condemned for selling cards that appeal to the widest range of potential consumers? Religious Christmas cards are still available, but, as with many other specialist goods, you may have to go to a more specialist supplier. Luckily, with the internet, such a search can take less than a second.
The point is that it is not a secular plot to stop Christians from celebrating Christmas, it is the reaction of the market (in the case of cards and calendars) and society (in the case of nativity plays) to the changes brought about by multiculturalism.
Mark Pritchard is also concerned about the disparate levels of government funding and attention given to minority religious festivals. He says "The Department for Transport has admitted sending staff to minority religious events, but did not “officially” participate in Christmas celebrations. At the Foreign Office [...] Muslim and Chinese religious events are marked with VIP receptions. I have no objection to that, or to the Home Office celebrating Muslim and Hindu festivals, but why is Easter completely ignored?". I fear that any government involvement in Christmas or Easter would be lost in the huge tidal wave of commercial attention both holidays get from the private sector. Ultimately, the government is giving a boost to minority festivals on the understanding that Christmas and Easter don't need extra funding or support to get their message out. If you are the biggest kid in the class, it's only natural for people to assume that you can stand up for yourself.
He goes on to say: "Today, many people from the Christian tradition feel that any religious allegiance is permissible as long as it is not the Christian tradition, and that everything is tolerated except a Christian world view". This seems like a pretty bizarre claim. In a country where the monarchy, the prime minister, most of the cabinet and 70% of the population ostensibly hold your world view, it is a little rich to come out and claim that your beliefs are not being tolerated.
He ties all of his points together by appealing to the government not to let the Christian heritage that has built and shaped this country be lost, and I would agree that we should not lose sight of where this country has come from. However, it is also vital that we do not try and stifle the changes that are happening in society because they conflict with tradition. We have a strong Christian tradition that has done much good for this country, and that continues to do so. What we should not do is allow the rose-tinted view of that heritage to prevent us from doing the best thing for the future of our nation and our society.
So, how do I feel about Christmas? I have no problem using the word to describe the day, the time of year or the holiday. I have no problem with other people wishing me a happy Christmas and I have no problem with all of the religious overtones of a lot of what goes on. I participate in the religious side of the holiday for as much as I need to in order to see my friends and family, in order to enjoy the time of year with the people I love, and in order to best fill the time I have off from work.
Ultimately, my participation in Christmas and Easter is driven almost entirely by social tradition. We have four public holidays split across the two events, and so I base my seasonal time-off around them, as everyone did when we were at school. If the religious aspect of the celebration was moved to a different date, I wouldn't change when I celebrated or what I did, but if the bank holidays changed, I may alter the way I spent this time of year.
I am happy for people to celebrate Jesus' birth as long as they are happy for me to celebrate being allowed a lie in for a couple of weeks.
This actually took me ages to write, which was surprising as it's the kind of thing I find usually comes pretty easily. I'm not entirely happy with the way I structured it and don't think I included everything I wanted to, but I think I've exhausted my creativity for today, so I'll have to leave it there.
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Monday, 3 December 2007
This is a multi-purpose post. Firstly, it's to get me back into posting here. Secondly, it's to make amends with Telf for not posting here for a while (apologies once again dude). Thirdly, it's so I can share something that made me laugh a lot.
I've already shown this to quite a few people, but I wanted to put it up here too. It struck a chord with me when I first saw it as a significant proportion of PowerPoint-based lectures I've had during my PGCE so far have been reminiscent of this style. I just think that if you're actually saying things like "I realise the text is far too small for people to read" about your slides, you need to rethink how you're putting together your lectures. Anyway, here we go.
I do have a couple of "real" posts I've been meaning to make for a little while now, but it's far too late to do either of them now, so hopefully this entry will get the ball rolling again for me and I'll post a bit more frequently.
It's frustrating that the point of this blog is being so ironically compromised. When I was writing a blog on my own, it was difficult to motivate myself to post on a semi-regular basis, and I was glad that I felt more motivated about posting here when there was more than just my own content going up. However, no one other than me has posted since the end of October, and despite forcing myself to write some fairly extended pieces (and pieces that I'm on the whole pretty happy with), I can feel myself slipping back into my old habits and looking at the 'create post' page as a duty rather than a creative outlet.
I understand that people are busy, and this is not a rant against my fellow posters here (yet), just an update on how I feel things are going.
On a more flash-based, and less angsty note, many many addictive games (with leaderboards and secrets and awards and all that other jazz that is much more fun than actual work).
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
When the guys from Penny Arcade announced that they were taking time off from reviewing games in order to create one, game publishers of the world began to sharpen their knives for the sweetest revenge of all.
However, with their game not out yet, we have a vaguely similar, if a zero-budget, pixelated and sardonic one in Art of Theft.
With the game coming from the keyboard of 'Yahtzee', he of the Zero Punctuation reviews, it was only a matter of time before a parody review appeared. It doesn't have his Yahtzee's accent going for it, but matches him for wit and humour, as well as doing a good job actually reviewing the game.
Monday, 26 November 2007
I think my politics sensor is broken.
In almost every situation where I read an article or opinion about politics (in the sense of actual government, rather than political theory), I mentally side with the government. One reason for this could be that when I was growing up, I regularly had the message "Labour good, Conservatives bad" drilled into me. Not because my parents (mostly my mum) were trying to brainwash me, but because they were passing on what they believed. I remember in particular going to meet David Mellor at a prize giving at my primary school, and being told to spit on his feet by my mum. I didn't, incidentally, but being exposed to very one sided political debate for most of my childhood left a clear mark on me.
Hence whenever I hear a piece of political commentary that paints the Conservatives in a good light and Labour in a bad one, my brain throws up an error - "Wait, this can't be true, Labour are the good guys". I generally have to consciously overrule this part of my brain in order to try and think impartially about politics, which is annoying. I have no problem in general arguing left wing points, because I feel on much more solid ground with abstract ideas, but when the issue of the present government comes up, my brain starts to get into too many arguments with itself for me to make consistent arguments.
Another possible reason for my government-leaning tenancies would just be that I don't like the way the media tends to tear over-enthusiastically into people doing a very difficult job. I don't like the fact that the business of running the country has become one of trying to avoid too much bad press, rather than actually, well, governing. So it might be that my brain is naturally sympathetic towards those in power, rather than the Labour party in particular.
I have nothing to compare this with, since my interest in, and exposure to, politics probably started when staying up to watch the election coverage in 1997. In this sense, then, I would be interested to see the Conservatives come into power (my stomach actually tightened while writing that), if only so that I could work out whether my natural bias is with Labour or with the party in power.
Going back to my previous point about the business of spin and media relations getting in the way of governing, I find it pretty ludicrous that there are people calling for the Chancellor to step down over an issue that he can have had no control over. People pointed to the example of Paul Gray taking responsibility and stepping down as head of HMRC as being the right attitude, and implied that the chancellor and even the Prime Minister should follow suit.
It firstly seems ludicrous that the failure to follow government procedures by a junior official should be in any way the responsibility of two of the highest ranked public servants in the country. As you go up the government ladder, the general responsibility for the actions of those below you increases, but the responsibility for any individual failing surely decreases. The fact that Paul Gray decided to step down should surely be the end of the issue. There is no need for either Darling or Brown to take responsibility, because Gray has already done so.
However, the media know that they will have a bigger impact and generate more public interest by, for want of a better term, shit-stirring. Maybe people don't believe whatever the media tells them day to day, but they probably absorb some of it, and when the media is constantly banging on about government spin, hypocrisy, cover-ups and resignations, it can be very difficult to pick out those situations in which the terms are appropriate from those in which there is no real scandal, but which would get no public attention if reported in context.
The problem forms a vicious cycle, because officials are so desperate to avoid even the smallest situation being blown out of proportion (causing the inevitable resignation calls), that they are willing to stretch the truth, leave out facts and even outright lie to the media. When these lies eventually come out (as they almost always do), this then fuels the media's obsession that all politicians are slimy, corrupt, lying bastards, that there is no reason to trust anything that they say, and that the other lot would be much better.
The trouble is that no government will be able to look good for any extended period of time because at the first sign of a mistake (you know, the kind made by humans), the media start to wave their P45s and shout for an election.
I don't necessarily think that it would work, but I would like to see a government, a party, or even a politician make a sincere effort to avoid spin. Yes, there are going to be situations where for reasons of security or dignity, there are things you can't reveal, but I think that the majority of government should be transparent, and able to be examined as such.
Rather than having the ridiculous situation of two parties arguing over who thought of a policy idea first, they should be celebrating the fact that they both want to implement the same idea. Since when did getting one over on the other side of the house with a witty comeback in a debate take the place of doing your best for the electorate?
The fact that Members of Parliament have to be forced to vote with the government because they don't agree with the law being passed is surely ignoring the whole point of having a representative democracy. "Oh, I was going to represent the views of my constituents in this vote, but then my party leader said I couldn't". Whither democracy then?
Equally, if you don't want the public (and/or the media) to know why you are financing something, investigating something or pushing for legislation then you are doing something wrong as a government. Either you are not representing the views of the electorate, or you haven't explained your position well enough.
And this is where it becomes a two-way thing, because in order for a government that actually didn't spin anything to work, the media would also have to avoid spinning. Rather than looking at a statement from the press office and thinking 'what are they trying to hide?', the media could take the chance to explain both sides of the argument to the public and letting the government getting on with actually making the decision.
Clearly a media that simply repeats what the government says is the mark of a less-than-free press, but I would argue that we have swung too far the other way, and that our dictatorial press is making for a less-than-free government.
The only way you are going to get rid of the culture of lies that apparently is destroying our political system is to have an electable politician that actually tells the truth without spin, and with the current media, I'm not sure that's possible.
As usual, that was pretty rambling, and probably inaccurate. For a much better insight into politics and the media (you know, from someone who actually knows what they're talking about) try this blog (listed over there on the right along with a ton of other good ones). In particular the post about lying to reporters that inspired whatever this was.
Friday, 23 November 2007
Saturday, 17 November 2007
I have been intending to write something long, rambling and uninteresting about gay marriage on here for a while, but Jabberwock has put down pretty much exactly what I would have said, so you may as well read that.
Also, looking back at this particularly embarrassing post, I realised that I missed a great opportunity to plug 'awkward things I say to girls', which is linked over there on the right, but hasn't been mentioned explicitly on here before. It's a great series of stories about situations this guy has got into while talking to girls. I can definately relate to his description of his mental processes and stumbling attempts at humour, and his writing style is brilliant and regularly very beautiful. As well as being hilarious. It's not updated very often any more, but read through the archives - it's well worth it.
Since I've been posting a fair number of link-based posts on here, I thought I'd try out del.icio.us, a social bookmarking program that, again, I had been intending to start using for ages. I'll put anything that requires comment on here, but I'll probably link a lot of stuff on there that'll never make it onto here, too, at least until I can work out how to automatically feed my updates through.
And, as if in some kind of web 2.0 frenzy, I have also finally got a flickr account. I had previously resisted this because the photos that I took tended to be more of the mates-getting-pissed variety than the artistic variety. With my early Christmas present (from me to me) of a new and slightly less amateur camera, though, I've decided to at least try and do something a bit different photography-wise. I'm no expert, but hopefully I'll improve, so check out my account every so often to see what I've added.
Any artistic merit those photos have comes pretty much entirely from the intelligent stuff the camera is doing with focus, exposure etc, btw...
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
From the BBC's Have Your Say section on controlling binge drinking, particularly in young people:
"Why the hell should I be punished by extortionate price hikes due to some peoples lack of control?!Contrast with this story also on the BBC. Clearly not exactly the worlds most thorough investigation of a story, but I think that it shows the flaw in the blanket statement from Have Your Say. The parents are going to be the ones least able to control the behaviour of their children once they get into their teens. Hopefully they've passed on the proper lessons at an early age, but once a child starts to rebel, there's really very little a parent can do. If there are childen out there drinking, and there are, they are going to be more of an influence on their peers than their peers' parents can ever hope to be at that age.
The report states teenagers/children drinking - hello? Isn't it against the law for them to do this?
When the little darlings end up in hospital to have their stomachs pumped/injuries attended to then arrest their parents.
It's nothing short of neglect. Do not try and justify their disgusting behaviour by saying you can't control them 24/7. Yes you can, that is your job as a parent!!"
The vast majority of the commenters were outraged by the government proposing a tax hike on alcohol, and rolled out all the old 'nanny state' arguments. When it was pointed out the the organisation that produced this report was not a government body, but a seperate group of health organisations, the response was that it was typical that this government was 'hiding behind' lobby groups.
"There ought to be a tax on busybody organisations that continuously poke their noses into other people's business."While I don't necessarily agree that a tax rise would be the best solutions (clearly there are more complex factors at work than just cheap booze), but the organisation that has come up with these statistics is not saying that drinking alcohol is wrong or should be banned, but is putting forward a suggestion that could reduce alcohol deaths. Maybe I'm being naive, and maybe these organisations are looking to snare a big chunk of government money as a result of this survey, but I would certainly not describe any of the organisations involved as 'poking their noses into other people's business'. As charities, research groups and political pressure groups, the role of these organisations in our politics is job is to produce data and present it to both the government and the public, and that is what they have done. The fact that a 10% tax increase was one of several suggestions wasn't really picked up, because the word tax was mentioned, so everyone wheels out their penny-pinching-Gordon-Brown pens straight away. It's this kind of knee jerk reaction to (ultimately fairly dry) stories that I hate, blowing them out of proportion and picking out the elements that will get the biggest response, but it's the kind of thing that seems to happen more and more in both journalism and public opinion.
The final thing that both annoyed me and came up a number of times in the comments, features in the middle of this post:
"Putting 10%, as I've heard proposed by some groups, on the price of Alcohol is absolutely ridiculous. Do you really think putting that sort of measley [sic] amount on the price of a drink will put off people who want to drink. All the extra taxes will achieve is to give the government more money to squander on beaurocracy [sic] and useless 'studies' and irritate the majority of responsible drinkers whilst doing nothing to put off hardened drinkers."The comment itself is not necessarily unreasonable; I agree that a higher tax will probably not have the effect that the study groups hope, and that young people who can get enough money together to afford (probably supermarket) alcohol at the moment will be unlikely to be put off by a small increase in that cost. However, I don't like the tone of the message - treating the studies and suggestions with scorn, while not even suggesting at any kind of alternative solution.
It also annoys me that the poster says that all the taxes will do is 'give the government money to squander on bureaucracy'. Maybe he is speaking in exaggerated tones for effect, but I think that his point is still unhelpful. I agree that the level of bureaucracy in government could probably be reduced, but I also believe that the government appreciates this. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to try and keep track of the vast budgets that the government has to deal with, and I don't like the implication of a blasé government throwing tax money around without a care for the effect on the poor workers from whom the money has been cruelly taken.
Again, I'm straying into naive woolly liberal territory again, but I genuinely don't think that the people in and working for the government are just in it for the quick gain. I don't like the way that modern politics forces people to play games rather than govern (but that's another story for another time), and I think that the people who work hard to get elected and into positions of responsibility do it because they want to make a positive difference to the country. This is why it frustrates and annoys me when I see black-and-white, one-sided, over-simplified analyses of the government as a money grabbing behemoth that doesn't care about the man on the street. The government may be a huge entity, but it is made up of individuals that all want to do their best for Britain as a country, whichever party they belong to.
Penultimately, a particularly helpful view of the Labour party from one comment:
"Labour Party CommandmentsDoes the person who wrote that really believe that that is what the Labour government are trying to do? Presumably not. But why try and understand what someone is trying to do when you can just stand to one side and ridicule them.
- Work hard to support the idle, MPs, criminals and government employees pensions.
- Accept higher taxes and bills without complaint
- Accept that we're watching your every move
- Use the bus/train to travel to work
- Not smoke or drink
- Not drive/fly
- Eat only organic food
- Accept that the law is on the side of the criminal
- Accept that your are second class citizens in what was your country
- Remember we know best what's good for you"
Apologies for the any of the above that was rambling, poorly thought out, or just naive liberal bilge, but I think most of it at least vaguely represents my points of view on the topics involved, so I'm not going to attempt to rewrite any more of it at this hour.
And finally, quite a sweet story about a cat.
Clearly I should have posted this yesterday, but I didn't realise until today: My first ever post on my first ever blog was made on the 12th of November 2002, making yesterday my 5th blog-versary. Or something.
There have been large gaps (my total post-count is only about 265 according to Blogger), and I have at one time or another posted on at least 5 seperate blogs.
While this record identifies me as an inconsistent and unreliable blogger, I feel a certain amount of pride that I'm still posting after 5 years, and raise a glass to the next five.
Monday, 12 November 2007
Browsing through the BBC website today, I came across this list of forms that the police have to fill in during an investigation. I've read a fair amount of the archives on coppersblog over the last couple of months, and this is the one main thing that the writers there complain about too.
The thing that strikes me most about the list of paperwork is not the volume of it (though that is clearly a factor), but the number of different mediums in which data is stored. Some information is kept in handwritten logs, some is on numbered forms, some is entered into a national database and some of it is on a local computer system, not to mention the storage of copies of video evidence, photos and audio tapes from interviews. That's a huge amount of information that may need to be recalled at any time, and which will all be stored in different formats and different places.
The problem is that none of this information-gathering is easily disposed of. If any of it was obviously redundant, then it could be removed, but it seems from the descriptions that all of the steps in the chain are recording reasonable information, either to help lead towards a conviction, or to cover the police in case of a mistreatment lawsuit brought by the arrested party. If we assume that there is no redundant information being collected (something which may not be true, but on which I can't really comment), then the only way to reduce the amount of time spent on paperwork is to reduce the amount of time filling in the existing paperwork, and minimising the occasions on which the paperwork has to be filled in.
On the former point, there must be some way of streamlining the existing systems for logging crimes and criminals into a single computerised structure. Even the time saved by having the system automatically timestamp and number everything would surely be useful. In addition, there would be time and resources saved by the reduction in paper forms. Further expansion into a national database (or at least remote access to regional databases) would be possible, to allow co-ordination between separate forces.
All of this is clearly a massive job, but looking at the BBC link above, it was the first thing that came to mind, probably at least partly because my current job involves writing software to do almost exactly this for the NHS, and I could all too easily see how much it could help in the police service.
The second point above, on minimising occasions on which this mass of information needs to be collected is another major theme that comes out of the procedural posts on coppersblog - that there is a huge amount of time lost recording and investigating crimes that are not going anywhere. Front line officers are given no room to judge for themselves what to investigate and what to leave. Clearly the police should not be ignoring crimes, but if the officer knows from experience that there is no chance of a conviction, or even a charge, shouldn't he be within his right to say so. And then to get on with investigating a case that may have a useful outcome. Is it not analogous to allowing your doctor to tell you the best course of action. If your GP says "It's nothing to worry about, leave it for a couple of days and it'll clear up", would you respond "No, give me pills, now." or "No. Refer me to a hospital. Now."? Sadly, maybe this kind of response to medical advice is becoming more common nowadays, but I would suggest that allowing the police to exercise their professional judgement in the same way as doctors is vital to avoid the justice system being clogged up with family arguments, kids fighting, and pub brawls.
As a personal example, when I was 13 or so, I was beaten up in an alley while coming home from school by a guy much older than me. When the police came round to interview me that evening, I told them as much as I could, and gave them a description of my attacker, and they said "It's really pretty unlikely that anything is going to come of this". I never heard anything else from them, and to me, that's fine. I would hate to think that they had to spend any longer than it would take to give me a crime number and record a brief description of my case on it, since, clearly, there was no way they were going to catch the guy. Even if they somehow came across him, it would be my word against his, and there would be no chance of a conviction.
I was going to talk more about government targets here, but I'll have to save that for a later post, as it's getting late and I'm starting to ramble a bit. Either way, if you consider the worst aspects of targets and paperwork, then think how far we've come from these principles, particularly the last one.