30 Jun 2009

Today

Mad Admin Skillz recommends the Crimethinc Collective.

29 Jun 2009

Have You Ever Noticed...

...how Kevin Eldon:


Looks like Nick Cave?


27 Jun 2009

Narration: A Study

I hate Sex and the City with a passion. There's far too many reasons to list here, but it probably has a lot to do with class, ethnicity, values, and my own sense of humour that is incapable of enjoying it.

Another thing that I can't reconcile is Carrie's narration over the top of the programme. Its a fucking lazy device that excuses poor writing in my view. Lets have a look:



Its cringeworthy. I don't expect you to have watched all of that clip, and I didn't want my YouTube profile to constantly suggest shrieky crap to me so this was the first example I could find, without looking too hard.

Another reason I don't like it is because whenever this narration pops in to fill in the gaps that the screenplay doesn't, I can't help but imagine I'm watching a post-op, post-lobotomy version of The Wonder Years in the future, where Fred Savage has got so sick of his inner old-man dialogue, that he's moved to New York to enjoy being shallow:



Thanks to me writing this, this blog may well be the first result when the masses start googling (or Bing-ing*) the names of these shows together. Cos that's what's gonna happen.


*Give it up Microsoft, no-one's going to change now.

22 Jun 2009

This Size: 10/6

Remember when sugar was bad?

Well, quite often our food manufacturers try and avoid basic sugar by using High-Fructose Corn Syrups (HFCS) instead. The reasons for this are plenty: Fructose is 30% sweeter than regular sugar, and the glucose used in the past had to be kept at a relatively high temperature to prevent crystallisation, which would make your processed food less pleasant. HFCS is "twice as soluble as glucose at low temperatures so a 50% conversion of glucose to fructose provides a stable syrup that is as sweet as a sucrose solution of the same concentration" (Martin Chaplin, London South Bank University, 2004).

Another possible reason for the increased use of HFCS (also called isoglucose) in the EU is that many of our big brands have parent companies based in the United States. HFCS is derived from 'corn' and US growers have received around $40bn in subsidies from the Federal Government since the mid-1990's (NY Times, 2003). HFCS also has a much higher calorific value than most other sweeteners, so one could say that the US government has inadvertantly contributed to their own obesity problems - thanks lobbyists!

It gets worse: during the processing of the syrup in parts of the United States, there have been allegations of 'trace' levels of mercury from the ley, and we know from the Mad Hatter that mercury is not a life-giving health food. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) commissioned research on this and found that one third of products made with HCFS contained mercury, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) very helpfully decided to cancel further research into the issue, like you would of course. You can read the IATP's report here.

In the EU, we're a little more protective, as there are production quotas in places, so somewhat bizarrely, we actually consume more actual sugar than the yanks, although we must remember the power of our lobbyists as well (the sugar people that is). Its worth noting that the mercury scare has only so far been linked with HFCS production in the US, mainly due to use of caustic soda and hydrochloric acid - I'm not a chemist, so perhaps someone else can explain exactly why.

Mercury is not the only issue, studies have shown that HFCS is linked with diabetes, and you can read more from dry journals such as this one.

Eat fruit (that's quite good) or if you want a friendly natural version of HFCS, eat some honey!

18 Jun 2009

Swimming and Competitive Behaviour

Because of my polio arms, I've taken up swimming before work.

Originally, I planned twice a week, but it can be hard work getting up early enough in order to get to the little municipal pool in time. I like this little pool because its also the place where I learned to swim under the stewardship of a Julie Chipchase (fantastic name). After my lessons there, I would always eat these horrible synthetic sour sweets, and later in life, I ended up attending the school next door to the pool. As a theme, sour sweets continue to this day.

I must admit, I do feel the benefit of doing 30 odd lengths (cue jokes about '30 lengths' fnar), but its one of the few things where I am actually competitive, albeit against the old and infirm.

The other people that swim there at that time of morning are generally people in their 40s and 50s but I can't help but swim as fast as I can. The thing that interests me is that usually I am resolutely against competitive behaviour. I don't even like playing computer games. This competition even includes cycling to work - I cannot cycle any other way apart from as fast as I can, and if someone is in front of me I must pass them - a similar thing happens when walking also.

A combination of nervous energy and misanthropy I reckon.

16 Jun 2009

Books eh?

Arnold Schwarzenegger has described books as "antiquated and heavy".

Weird, that's how I would describe him.

14 Jun 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu is a Massive Arse

What a fantastic deal he's offered for the Palestinians:

-Israel can continue colonising using settlements (it is colonising, despite what Benny calls it)
-A Palestinian state can have no standing army or control of its air space, and essentially limited control over its borders

Palestine remains a prison. Whoopee.

13 Jun 2009

Took Some Pictures of Bees, Dinni?


They never fucking stay still. Bastard things.


Hairy bugger.


Waiting for my piano man, I didn't have much to do except hang out laundry and perve on some bees.

Iran

The BBC calls the street protests 'worst seen in Tehran in a decade', whilst Al Jazeera calls it the biggest unrest since the 1979 revolution. This could be interesting.

11 Jun 2009

Hurrah for Letters

My letter that I wrote recently was published, and its on The Star website here.

10 Jun 2009

Office Flood

video
It rained. My office flooded. I had to evacuate everything. It was fun.

Some lady students seemed surprised that I was in good cheer and whistling whilst I moved everything out, but I explained "its all in a days work". Man I'm big-headed.

Voting Systems

Need to get to sleep? Then read on...

Its been widely reported that the government is considering changing the voting system, and one thing I am particularly geeky about is knowing about voting systems.

Gordon Brown is said to favour the Alternative Vote, or Alternative Vote Plus systems (a form of the latter (AMS) is used in Scotland and Wales for their parliament and assembly elections although without the preferential bit, and the former is used in Australia). Despite much reporting to the contrary, these are NOT proportional systems of voting but rather preferential systems, in that the voters state their desires in order of preference, rather than picking one candidate (1 for your favourite, then 2, 3 etc). Alternative Vote Plus is the same, but you also vote for one candidate from a regional list (like in the EU elections) and these 'proportionally' return 'top-up' MPs.

Why This Blows

When Tony Blair won in 1997, he won around 66% of seats in the commons with around 44% percent of the vote. It is suggested that if this election used the AV system, he would have won with an even larger (and unrepresentative) majority. This is not cool in my book - there would have been even less dissent in the years that followed.

My problem with AV+ is twofold:

1. In the regional lists, voters must vote for a party rather than a candidate, severing the link between the electorate and the representatives, and putting power into the hands of party apparatchiks (which I thought we were trying to avoid).
2. Having some MP's elected on one system, and other on a different one creates a two-tier system. The Top-UP MPs would argue that they are more representative of the will of the people, whilst the others would argue that at least the electorate chose them directly.

Its a crappy system with too many compromises. The UK already uses a good form of PR, and this has not been mentioned in much of the media coverage.

In Northern Ireland (and historically, twice in England in the 19th century) the system is the Single Transferable Vote (STV). The country is divided into multi-member consituencies (usually between 5 and 10 members - the more members, the more proportional). The electorate chooses candidates in order of preference (1. 2, 3 etc or just 1 if you only wish to choose one), and then the seats are divided using a formula that I won't go into here. Basically, it comes down to counting the first preference votes, then if a candidate gets over 50% they are elected. If not, you then add up the second preference votes, then the third etc until they reach the magic 50% mark (and until all the seats are filled).

Critics of this system say that it is slow - well, considering we don't get to vote very often and its kinda important, I'd rather it take a bit of time. Also I don't dig this argument about how great it is to have majority governments. I don't think politics would suffer from politicians co-operating more and learning how to be a bit more humble. STV is also the favoured system of the Electral Reform Society, and if you're as nerdy as me about these things, you can get a better explanation from their website.

Snore zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

8 Jun 2009

I Found Some Old Bits Of Paper

I was tidying the other day and found these scraps of paper...



And next to it was this response:

6 Jun 2009

Right To Reply

A while ago, I wrote about Obits' album, and its always my intention never to slate things, but perhaps give an interpretation on how things appear to me.

Browsing through comments on this blog, I completely missed this comment from a member of Obits, clarifying a few points. As even I missed it (and its my blog) I feel it necessary to offer them a right of reply over my comments. You can read my original post here:

Hey Silince,

I just came across your post from nearly a month ago and wanted to clarify something.

Many folks, including you, seem to have latched onto Rick's quote about innovation and interpreted it in rather severe ways.

I understand the appeal of looking for something more barbed to react to, but I don't believe that was ever Rick's intent.

Our point is that in 2009 there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The voice of a rock'n'roll band should come naturally, without some absurd pretense of being the "new shoegaze" or the "new lo-fi" or whatever hyphenated shortcut is being used to describe some variation on essentially a very familiar idiom.

It's not that we revel in being anachronistic, it's that we see ourselves as part of the same primitive blueprint that has been the backbone of everything from Eddie Cochran to The Standells to Neu! to Wire to Minutemen and so on.

What hopefully makes us different is what we collectively bring to our interpretation and execution of the rock'n'roll formula.

And, as Rick pointed out, that's not something we have much control over. It kind of is what it is.

Undoubtedly this won't make our record sound any better to you, but perhaps it'll keep it out of the recycling bin for at least one more spin.

We'll be in the UK this September, so please come to a show if you can. I'll buy you a beer and you can tell me if we still seem like a bunch of old toads in a tired blues band.

Cheers,
-Sohrab/Obits.

I would like to thank Sohrab for sticking his neck above the parapet and answering my concerns - its always a risky thing to do and I truly admire him for it. In the off-chance he's reading this, I'd like to say that I really like the latest single on Sub Pop and I would urge readers to purchase it.

*As a side point, I see 6 followers on here - how many of you are hidden? Leave a comment if you one of them, or if you're a little scared, don't.*

5 Jun 2009

These things always happen.

In my local small supermarket, I am pretty much always asked for ID when purchasing alcohol. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for someone just shy of 27, as it bodes well for my 30s. This time however. I felt a little frustration considering it was the same till-monkey who has served me countless times.

In these situations, my calm demeanour occasionally cracks, I sigh loudly, reach for my passport and declare that "I'm nearly 27 y'know".

I didn't help the situation today by having no beard (consequently looking about 12 years of age) and I ended up expressing some dislike of having to carry my passport. Till-monkey asked about a driving licence - I said "I don't drive" and that I expressed "no interest in learning".

"What about a provisional one?"

This stumped me somewhat, so I continued packing my shopping.

"I like your badge" she says, and temporarily I'm heartened by this compliment, and then I realise that my badge is a 'No To ID' badge. Part of me really really wants this girl to have a deep distrust of the increasing authoritarianism of our government's plans to introduce said cards, but gradually I started to realise that she thought I was some vehement anti-booze ID activist who has a MASSIVE PROBLEM with being asked (I don't).

"Oh yeah" I force a laugh "I didn't realise the irony of the situation". She stares, and it dawns on me that she may or may not know what 'irony' means. Despite this being her loss, for some reason, it makes the situation even worse, and the only thing left to do is wish her a good weekend and slink off.

One to file under anxiety and social awkwardness I feel.

Its CAAT time again

This is a letter I wrote to a few papers this morning:


Dear Sir/Madam,

Whilst this is a turbulent period
nationally and locally for our political system and economy, and taxpayers supporting financial institutions for their ineptitude, I feel it worth pointing out that the UK government (specifically UK Trade and Industry) plans on lending its support to the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) arms fair, one of the world's largest.

Despite a majority of the population objecting to arms sales, the government subsidises the arms trade with approximately £850m a year. This is during in a period where unemployment is rising along with a growing national debt.

Arms companies maintain that their industry is vital for the economy's well-being, however arms sales make up just 1.5% of total exports, and employ just 0.2% of the workforce. Not only this, but the trade damages Britain's reputation abroad. BAE Systems is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for their dealings in several countries.

When the opportunity arises for us to choose our MP once more (and this seems increasingly likely), I would urge voters to question their candidates on their policies associated with this. If we can make it an issue now, we might be able to save lives in the future.

Yours...

3 Jun 2009

oops

I meant Ed Milliband \/

Prepare for my Wrongness

£1 sez Gordon Brown resigns on Saturday (Lots of resignations+Bad election results)

Next Labour Party leader:

David Miliband 5/1
Harriet Harman 8/1

2 Jun 2009

Bubba's Back!



Once again, cheeky Bubba 2000 has some words about permit parking. In order to express his rebellion this time, he comically uses the 1980's Grange Hill 'Just Say No' anti-drugs slogan.

Bubba like retro.

I'm Going To Put This Up Before You Do, Jen.


Summer days are made for going out on one's tricycle with a six-pack.

1 Jun 2009

Too Late Mr O.

Despite an appeal to keep more Abu Graib abuse photos under wraps, the Australian network SBS released all 60, not even that recently. If you want to understand the full story, watch their report here.

At the time of writing, not a single US news network has published the pictures.