Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More fun at the expense of the bespectacled

My mother could have told you this. Note: No mention (as yet) of the phrase "you'll have somebody's eye out with that thing." And we are awaiting the numbers on injuries related to pole-vaulting out of windows.

Spiked will probably have a rebuttal for this scare-story shortly.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Who are you? Who are you?

Mick Hume says that football is...

"...the home ground of the id, where we can let rip with all of the feelings that we keep buttoned up in the civilised world outside. Hating other English teams, and revelling in their setbacks, has always been an important part of our primitive pastime."

One of the most boring things about going to a Forest match is the endless droning on about how much we all hate Derby. The only thing more irritating lately has been the actual matches themselves.



Never Again. Posted by Hello

Friday, May 27, 2005

Raging against the machine with angry little fists

Meaders reports:

As Thierry, an activist in the independent SUD trade union, told Socialist
Worker on Saturday, the strength of the campaign comes from its link with the
movement against privatisation and other attacks — “If the no campaign is
victorious it will put the idea in people’s heads that the neo-liberal machine
can be stopped.”...

Nothing could sum up, better than this, the other-worldliness of the lumpen intelligentsia that makes up the new left. A 'NON' vote may put the idea in people's heads that the neo-liberal machine can be stopped, but in reality, a rejection of a common European stand in defence of history's most successful and progressive social model (the one found throughout most of the EU currently) may prove to be one of the most serious mistakes.

As exhaustively demonstrated by Phil Edwards excellent round-up.

Crazy Frog v Coldplay

As one bunch of crazy Frogs rush headlong over the cliff, the UK is transfixed by a real contest. In one corner, a tedious dirge and an irritating singer. In the other corner, Crazy Frog.

Everyone may be the loser if the predictions of a French ‘NON’ come true, but at least our own big contest has had the right outcome.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pyloniaphilia


Ivan has more pylons on his site - and a link to even more of them.







Ivan is - in his own way - a bit of a work of art. I say this because he is (to my knowledge) the only person to have taken an RSS feed of my blog so far. He's really into feeds. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bootlegging

I saw a good book at London's ICA bookshop yesterday - Thurston Moore on the artform that is the compilation cassette. Some of the best music I've heard was given to me either on a well-meaning mix-tape, or a whole-show recording of Andy Kershaw or John Peel's shows.

Some of the real gems were tracks that weren't 'first-listen-standouts.' Some of the best music of the last few decades didn't get the audience it deserved because it lacked an immediate impact.

Another artform was the ubiquitous 'bootleg' cassette from Camden Market in the '80s. Of course we should remember that home taping is killing music. So don't visit this bootleg site, do you hear?

Obviously, I didn't buy the book. I photocopied it instead.

Political Journalism

The Guardian's Jackie Ashley reviewing Armando Iannucci's new comedy, 'In the thick of it' comes out with one of the year's understatements. She says (of the character that appears to be based upon Alistair Campbell) ....

"...he bawled and manipulated only because he was struggling with a venomous media that this show lets off too lightly."
Anyone who has had much contact with political journalists will tell you that (with a few exceptions) they are all cynical, manipulative and mendacious. The exceptions are the just habitual liars.

Ask yourself this. If you were a government minister being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on the BBC Newsnight programme, would you ...

a) offer a frank and thoughtful discussion of the issue, acknowledging the weaknesses of your arguments, the validity opposing views, and the reasons that you have reached your conclusions
b) be as argumentative and as opaque as possible.

If your answer is a), you are - by definition - not a government minister. You wouldn't last five minutes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ascii movie

The Matrix as ascii. Takes a while to load but hang in there.

Hat tip: Slave to the 11c

And after you've watched it, don't try to tell me that you didn't wonder what ascii-porn would look like.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Chiropractors and Homeopaths

Bob Piper is right to recommend alternative therapy to his political enemies. A homeopath offered me treatment for an unshakeable chest-infection a few years ago. He gave me a small bottle of water to hold in each hand, then he tried to prise each of them in turn out of my fists.

The one that was the hardest to wrest from me was - apparently - bound to be the appropriate cure.

Apparently hand-strength is largely a result of wrist-strength. I'm proud to say that my left hand put up the most resistance. I hope that silences a few of my critics.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More reasons to avoid mob rule

Now that West Ham are through to the Championship play-off finals, the whole country should rally to their cause - if only to confound the Hammers fans who've spent the whole season phoning up The Man the BBC Should Sack on his 606 show, moaning that they had 'sold the spine of the England team.'

If WHU had hung on to Lampard, Jinky JC or Rio F, they would have been relegated and would have made their own pretty girls cry at the end of this season (assuming they hadn't bankrupted themselves first). Instead, they sold them, got rid of expensive long-term contracts, and have built a sustainable platform that may allow them to hang in there if they do get promoted.

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I only posted this item to make a tedious political point. As Albert Camus said, "All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football" (quote nicked from the Philosophy Football 'Camus' goalkeeper shirt).

Representative democracy is a good thing and direct democracy is bad. I know West Ham aren't technically a democratic state (yet), but I think they provide a useful parable.

And I know that you - dear reader - know all about how bad direct democracy is, but I never cease to be amazed by the number of people who believe that democracy is failing because they believe that DD is 'real democracy.'

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Does this new Internet thingy mean we can finally talk to Sir Humphrey?

From Potlach:
"Administration is not inherently placeless and Kafkaesque, any more than local communities are inherently humane and vibrant. E-government needs to rediscover e-democracy, transactional services require a participative dimension. This is by no means straight forward, but the reality of e-government never is."

Local metrics?

Just come across BowBlog - what a fantastic blog - he's right about everything! He's v.pro-BBC, he reads NTK, he's pro-Labour and clearly knows what agit-pop is. In a recent posting, he asks if there is a metric by which businesses that contribute to the local business ecology can be judged. There should be.

Dear reader, you are privileged to be on the weblog of he who manages his local Arts Council website (comments please - on the actual site, not the conceit herein). Over the coming months, I want to use my blog to build up a 'how to' guide to building a local arts website, because I reckon that this is another important 'metric'. An area with a good local arts scene is probably a good place to live.

I remember seeing reports that proved this from an economist's perspective. If I come across them again, I'll refer to them here in due course.

Other important metrics (IMHO):
  • A good Credit Union
  • A Labour MP (ideally an awkward one), and a Labour Council (or failing that, no Tories in either office)
  • A few fields nearby to walk in
  • A good non-multiplex cinema
  • Lots of local shops and no dominant superstore
  • A half-decent local football team
  • An active local Labour Party
  • Good local schools but no outstanding ones that fill up with snobs and leech all of the local resources
  • Few big roads that divide the place up
  • A few non-chain pubs with personable landlords - and some decent restaurants as well
  • A diverse ethnic mix
  • Not a hippy to be found anywhere
  • A total absence of Posh People (because they are all bastards)
  • A local by-law that allows practitioners of most alternative therapies to be pelted with rubbish

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Time to start saving up

If reports are true, the Glazier family takeover at Manchester Utd could be a prelude to the most audacious milking of Football fans in history. I bet United fans will stump up the necessary - one way or another - to stop their club turning into the Tampa Bay Rednecks.

The only complaint I've had so far about my brilliant idea was from someone who said that this scheme would help Man Utd more than any other club and they were against that on principle.

Alienation

The reason that we are not voting (according to Chartist), and not working hard enough is because we are alienated. There is definately something to said for The Blessed Christina Odone's definition of socialism, but I'm not sure it covers yer actual structural reasons for so much misery.

At least, that's what the bloke who cleans the New Statesman thinks...

Pyramid Marketing Scheme

Another insight into why public sector websites are all so bloody awful. The University of Wolverhampton have published an ad in Computer Weekly advertising the fact that they wished to invite tenders for a Content Management System. Anyone interested had to apply BY FAX.

So I sent off the fax. A day later, they reply (by fax) that "the University is charging £30 administration fee for tender documentation. Please forward your cheque ..." etc etc.

This is a fantastic idea. There are loads of different kinds of Content Management Systems - so you have to pay £30 to find out whether yours is eligible! If this is standard practice (they assure me it is) then about 40 get-rich-quick schemes have already occured to me.

The £30 covers the cost of print and paper apparently. When I phoned to find out if this were a joke, Wolverhampton University purchasing officer, a Mr Porter, said "We will not send out these documents by e-mail."

That means that the tender will be massive and there will be no option to fill it out electronically. More and more appealing! I bet that all of the best suppliers will be falling over each other for this bit of business!

So, they will not get the best Content Management System on the market. They will get the company that is prepared to take the risk of filling out a massive paper applicaton form full of the usual risk-aversion bollocks (most public sector tender documents I fill out barely mention what it is they want - most of it concentrates on ruling out the types of suppliers that they won't work with).

They will spend public money on what will almost certainly be an unsuitable system.

Nominations for the most backward University in the UK anyone?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Class, Charm, etc.

Ex New Statesman deputy editor Christine Odone says that the recently-deposed editor, Peter Wilby, took no trouble to charm the Dalek of Downing Street, speaking to him in the same way as he addressed the Statesman's cleaner (a bloke called Louis - tats, cockney accent etc).

"This, I decided, was true socialism" she concludes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Paxman v The Pope


For everyone who enjoyed Paxman v Galloway, gorgeous George is not alone. This clipping taken from the fantastic Portadown News website. With a bit of luck, Newton Emerson will not get all litigious about me pinching a bit of his site, especially as I'm urging everyone to buy his brilliant book.

By the way, writing this entry exposed another Prod Conspiracy that Newt may be interested in. The blogger.com spellcheck suggests 'partition' as a replacement for Portadown. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More on non-voting

Norman Geras puts non-voting nicely in perspective. It turns out that they all really meant to vote Labour after all. Excellent!

It has occurred to the chattering classes that PR would be a good idea again. Funny that. Charter 88 was launched shortly after the third Tory election victory when the forces of darkness looked unassailable. Perhaps we will get a new non-aligned movement for constitutional reform. Or perhaps not. In 1988, the majority of voters really wanted to get rid of the Tories. In contrast, I’m not even sure that the Tories wanted to win this time.

But why has no-one picked up that PR in this parliamentary session is quite achievable? Make the Upper House (formerly known as the Lords) 100% elected in a proportional manner, as Billy Bragg has proposed, and reduce the powers of the Commons to acknowledge the increased legitimacy of ‘the other place’. Labour are committed to a free-vote after all.

Time to start lobbying your MP perhaps?

PS: Farewell Tory Trouble! Thanks for everything.

BOFH - Never Trust a Geek

Every weblog in the world should have a link to BOFH.

That's all. Carry on with what you were doing.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Careful with that axe Paulie...

Paul Anderson’s ‘Gauche’ blog has quite convinced me to calm down and put the flame thrower away. He’s been very busy on his blog, and there are too many good postings to link to here, but have a look at his various comments between the 5th and the 9th May for good news on the terminal condition of the Conservatives.

My furious postings at the end of last week were an allergic reaction to seeing all of those blue 'Con Gain' screens coming up on the TV throughout the night. Imagine you were a Nottingham Forest supporter and you'd been in a coma since August. You are revived and someone gives you a blow-by-blow story of the season from the start.

It seemed almost as bad as that in the early hours of Friday morning. But it turns out that it’s alright after all.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not a bit worried that the Lib-Dems may have duped a lot of people into providing short-term electoral succor – AND a possible way back to power for the Conservative Party.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Tossers

I'm still gearing up to starting full-scale recriminations against those who betrayed the cause during this election. Watch this space.

But - as an inital fusilade, I'd like to start with all of the tossers who have spent recent months saying that there is very little difference between any of the main parties and that the election would be boring and pointless.

Let's start with an idiot's guide to the strategy that the centre-left has adopted in the UK over the past decade (read my version, or the ex-New Statesman diarist Mat Coward's version in the Independent letters page last week)

In this election, we wanted to win a majority similar to the last one. This would have demolished any remaining credibility that the Conservatives had as an electoral force. It may even have caused them to fragment.

New Labour has always been clear that it's defining feature is it's ability to win elections. This means being able to defend it's flanks against it's most credible rival.

If a centre-right rival is neutralised, it follows that the Labour Party would be freer to adopt some of the policies that it's core supporters would support rather than the policies foisted on it by the necessity of beating the Tories.

This is a credible strategy designed to bring some meaning back to a system that (for us,in the Labour Party) was completely meaningless during the 18 years of Conservative Government.

Of course, this strategy has suffered a major setback now that loads of middle class dweebs chose a vanity-vote for the lib-dems to show that the Iraq was was prosecuted 'not in their name'. If these poor didums had been able to bring themselves to hold their quivering aqualine noses in the polling booth and vote Labour, the result would have been remarkably similar to 2001. John Cryer, Oona King and Callum MacDonald (to name but a few) would still be MPs and the Tories would have been scratching around for yet another leader.

There has always been a fairly vocal minority in the Labour Party (John Harris is the latest example) who haven't understood the need for patience, but the tens-of-thousands of activists who have spent recent weeks knocking on doors are not among them.

I'm not even close to finessing this rant yet. More l8r.

Not apathetic.... just pathetic

I should collect my thoughts before I post anything about the election here. I may say something I regret.

In the meantime, it seems that those nice people at mySociety have built a site dedicated to creating an encounter group where whingers, whiners and wankers can unburden themselves of their self-loathing. They can explain how disillusioned, alienated and betrayed they feel.

Modesty forbids me from revealing the real identity of the Paul Evans who made the perceptive interventions on the site here and here which can be summaried as an injunction to f***ing grow up and stop being such a bunch of smelly little crypto-fascists.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Political Survey

I'm revising my advice about interactive sites that tell us about our politics. I saw this survey on Stephen Pollard's blog. He said it must be all wrong because it identified him as the most right-wing man in the Country.

I've met Stephen a few times and he's very personable and sincere (at least he seemed so to me). But I can't help smiling at the insight into himself that this survey may have given him.

I thought I'd check his suspicions by doing the survey myself - to calibrate it myself. Bill Thompson once told me that I was the most left-wing person he'd ever met (though he had a disrespectful look on his face when he said it). On that basis, I may be good for calibrating the survey.

Wherever there is a dawn, darkness falls somewhere else

Today may be the bright dawn of post-Conservative England (post-Con Britain started years ago). But in these moments of optimism (hubris?), I feel like Smokey Robinson's clown.

Don't let this glad expression give you the wrong impression. Baby, I'm sad.

It's taken me nearly a week to acknowledge this but it's time to seek help.

The collapse has been so huge. Some years ago, I regularly stood among crowds of 30,000+. We sang (to the tune of Auld Lang Syne) "we're proud of you, we're proud of you, we're proud of you, we're proud!" to a small band of men who probably didn't realise the enormity of their achievements at the time.

Their successors today have made no-one proud. Their only achievement has been to make this pretty girl cry.

A 'Vote Labour' wristband


A 'Vote Labour' wristband Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More on Councillor websites

Michael Cross has returned to the issue of local Councillors managing websites in his Guardian column this week.

He covered the legal issues last week and he returns to it briefly again. But he also touches on the issue that I think is the most important one:


"....members' websites should be clearly signposted on council home pages, rather than several pages down.

The fact that so few authorities do even this suggests that the real problem is not legal but attitudinal. In the modern consensual world of customer-centric local government, feisty politics can be an embarrassment. A web team promoting Market Snodsbury as Britain's finest holiday spot is not inclined to give space to a tirade about teenagers urinating in bus shelters. But if that is important to Market Snodsbury's elected representatives, they should be given e-space to say it."

Personally, I usually find political cynicism a bit wearing, but Michael's observations are extremely astute here - and it reinforces the notion that 'it doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always gets in'.

Cllr Mary Reid (who is working on the National E-Democracy project) argues here that trust in politics can be rebuilt partly by building trust in individual politicians. I think she's right. But I think that political parties are not usually eager to have their messages qualified and complicated by individual elected representatives. When I worked for one of them (guess which one!), I never heard anyone saying "what we need is a few more articulate independendly-minded Councillors to get people more engaged in local government."

And finally, I've found that many Councillors only have an abstract view of how a website can help them in their work. In a lot of cases, they don't fully grasp the ways that managing a site can improve the way they work .... until they start managing a site. For this reason, I think that one of the biggest changes that can be made to local democracy is for as many people as possible to work on coaxing individual Councillors to put their toes in the water for the first time.

Blogging as wonkery

Given the amount of navel-gazing of the blogeoisie (c) Bill Thompson, I'm sure someone has found examples of blogs that have proved to be a catalyst for a change in public policy. I just haven't come across any such examples yet.

One example deserves such a fate. Here is a way that we could all save time when we park our cars. This suggestion should be picked up and publicised widely. Once upon a time, there used to be public information broadcasts that advised us all on bits of commonsense wisdom. For instance, one infomercial advised us not to park cars on corners (a man used to instantly transform into in clown when he got out of his badly-parked car) because this blocked the view of drivers who were trying to pull out of a side-street.

Geoff deserves one of these broadcasts to state his case. The BBC should be alerted to this gap in it's Public Service Broadcasting remit forthwith.

At this point, modesty should forbid me from publicising the first of many bloody good ideas on that have appeared on this site. I'd be interested to see if anyone has ever taken a similar posting and turned it into a mainstream discussion.

Kilroy: Mr Tangerine Man

Another election animation to add to your collection.

http://eclectech.co.uk/kilroysilk.php