Friday, May 27, 2005

Bouquets and Brickbats

I'm still not sure where the idea for bouquets and brickbats originates from, but frankly I can't be arsed to look it up now, it being the hottest day of the year (so far) and all. Anyway, here goes.

A brickbat to a certain American newswire agency, for their slapdash approach to advertising job vacancies. I'm all in favour of modern technology, and I send more emails per day than I care to admit, but realistically, we are not yet at the stage where everyone has easy access to a scanner. So when you ask people to send in some writing samples alongside their CV, don't just give them an email address! And when one of them decides to take the initiative and email you asking for a postal address, for the love of God answer them! How hard can it be? Because you know what will happen if you don't? You will cause poor people - because that's what journalists are - to trudge down to Kinko's and spend 18 pounds on scanning four lousy sheets of paper onto a CD-ROM. Not cool, Agency X, not cool at all (Agency X will remain nameless until they've appointed someone to the job, as I don't want to ruin my chances. Oh what the hell, it's AP).

A bouquet to Harry's Place, for making blogging what it should be and creating a community that not only supports each other on the web, but out in the 'real world' as well. A case in point was last night at UCL, where Francis Wheen and Christopher Hitchens hosted a debate on Love, Poetry and War. Harry's Place, which has become the de facto online centre for the London media left, had managed to arrange for a discount on the entry fee for anyone who mentioned his blog on arrival. And lo and behold, the place was a sellout. Jam-packed from the word go, and undoubtedly due to Harry spreading the word online. Call me crazy, but I find it hard to believe the talk would have enjoyed as much success without the online backing, despite the high-calibre speakers. Several members of the blogosphere (cringe) were in attendance, including Norm Geras of Normblog.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Kicked out the kitchen

I know it's not the best time to be asking the BBC for a snappier service, given its current woes, but someone should really update the website's Profile pages for the main political players in the Northern Ireland conflict, especially on a day when they've published a story entitled IRA is 'still recruiting members' (although realistically, it's hardly the most shocking of news).

Still, though. Check out the first few lines of the David Trimble profile, last updated on, erm, July 22nd 2003. Given the outcome of the general election three weeks ago, it makes for interesting, almost eerie time-capsule reading:

David Trimble is known by many commentators as the Harry Houdini of Northern Ireland politics.

The Ulster Unionist leader has survived so many challenges to his leadership and his policy that most observers are beginning to lose count.

Mr Trimble appears to thrive under pressure.

When he faced down hardliners in his own Upper Bann constituency, he quoted the former US President Harry S. Truman's advice that: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Mr Trimble added pointedly: "I'm in the kitchen, and I'm staying in the kitchen."

But the voters begged to differ...

Incidentally, was there something in the water in 2003? Between Trimble's "heat" (eww), IDS "turning up the volume" and Paul Bremer's infamous "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him" (sorry, "we gaddem"), it did seem to be the year of hackneyed political catchphrases. Although I suppose the same can be said for most other years as well.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Nazi outsourcing

Well well, it seems that Germany's far-right 'National Democratic Party' (NPD) sends its newspaper Deutsche Stimme to Poland for printing. Which would be fine (or indeed not, given the contents), were it not for the fact that the party has recently decried the concept of wage-dumping, whereby "German jobs" are given to Eastern Europeans who are willing to work for less money. Whoops!

Apparently their leader says that nobody in Germany is willing to print the paper. Isn't that a shame...

Full story here.

You go, girl!

Who says Canadian politics are boring? There's a fiery and frank quality to political banter in Ottawa that you just don't get on Capitol Hill (as proven by the "genteel" US Senate's shock at George Galloway's tirade on Tuesday). It's honest, refreshing, but mostly downright hilarious. Take the following quote by independent MP Carolyn Parrish, for instance:
"Come hell or high water, there's no frigging way I'm going to let one ovary bring the government down."
You go, girl! FYI, Ms Parrish has also caused a storm over the past couple of years with her apparent anti-US outbursts, variously referring to Americans as "bastards" or "idiots".

Quick backgrounder: Due to a media sponsorship scandal, the ruling Liberal Party has grown increasingly unpopular with Canadians, leading the opposition Conservative Party to join with the Bloc Quebecois (unthinkable!) in forcing a confidence vote on Prime Minister Paul Martin. This took place yesterday, and Martin won by a nose (153 votes to 152). However, the Liberals are a minority government, and it took all their votes to win it, plus two from the NDP and two independents - Parrish being one of them. Parrish is seriously ill, presumably with cancer, but insisted on coming in to vote anyway, resulting in the colourful quote above.

Popbitch update

Looks like somebody at Popbitch must have read my last entry (yeah right), because the latest installment finally arrived in my inbox in the wee hours of this morning. Excellent! Consider me sated.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Pop goes the world

Let's see, in the past three weeks we've had a general election, a grenade thrown at Dubya in Georgia, Kylie's breast cancer announcement, Galloway storming the US Senate, Uzbek massacres, the impending Eurovision circus, Cannes 2005, Ron Jeremy and Flavor Flav appearing on The Farm, Abi "£100k minimum" Titmuss and Rebecca Loos appearing in yet another lame-duck reality show AND Manchester United being taken over by Florida multi-millionaire Malcolm Glazer.

But in the meantime, where the hell is Popbitch? Just when things are starting to get interesting, my weekly dose of gossip, alt. news and, well, fiction disappears! And it's not just me, several fellow subscribers have reported similar erratic delivery, or even a lack of delivery altogether. Come on Popbitch, get it together. My inbox is lonely without you, and I need a reason to look forward to Thursdays. It's not much fun getting all your news from the BBC.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Glamorous World of... Monty Don

The first in what I hope will be a series of throroughly uninspiring facts on a string of unsuspecting journos and media figures. Remember kids, you saw it here first!

We start this week with Monty Don who, according to a long-suffering BBC underling (whose sister works at my office), regularly runs his staff into the ground for his programme Gardeners' World. While Monty's busy hawking the lens, his minions are rushing out to Somerset to buy exotic (and often heavy) plants, which they then have to transport all the way back up to Stratford, where the TV garden is actually based. Not so surprising perhaps, but then wouldn't you expect a flagship programme like Gardeners' World and a big organisation like the BBC to be able to arrange for things to be delivered?

It also turns out that Monty's flair for exotic flora has translated into an equally adventurous taste in food... not. When it comes to lunch, our mole says that without fail, Mr. Don always orders either a greasy cheese and tomato sandwich or a whopping great jacket potato filled with chilli. Nice. No sign of those organically grown radishes or what have you that he keeps foisting on the rest of us, then...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Aaronovitch has left the building

David Aaronovitch's final column for the Guardian appeared in G2 today. Fairly predictably, I suppose, he used the opportunity to defend his particular brand of pro-war leftist thought, and in the process manged to smash the hypocrisy of a great swathe of the anti-war movement in one fell swoop. No mean feat, and love him or hate him, his ability to make people sit up and take notice will be sorely missed.

No official word as yet on who - if anyone - his replacement will be, but if the Grauniad knows what's best, it won't fall back on its comfortable cushion of organic food and poorly-typed media recyc; what the man himself terms as being "on the left while paying nothing for the privilege" (actually he said that in reference to swing voters who went Lib Dem, but it works here too).

What the paper needs is another shit-stirrer, someone with the capacity to make people huddle together over coffee and say "Have you read this? He's lost it." Not a reactionary Littlejohn or Kilroy-Silk, but a comfortable, experienced lefty who is confident and intelligent enough to dare to venture out from the fold and put forward opinions that don't conform with what the majority may feel is right.

But who is this person, and where can he or she be found? Well, the person I'd personally like to see given the spot has himself already hinted that he is interested, albeit during the course of a heavy pub session. His journalist and lefty credentials are impeccable, he has a loyal blog following, his opinions are strong and unconventional, and - judging from past experience - he will galvanise the Guardian's letter-writing faithful into generating torrents of abuse faster than you can say "ummm, errrr." Come on, you know who it is.



Had a minor shock yesterday when an ex-boyfriend got back in touch after nearly two years, during which time I thought he'd safely moved out of the country. Turns out he's now back in London, gaining work experience in the film industry. Continuing with the Guardian theme, I mentioned to him that I'd tried out for a few jobs there, and he said how much he hated the paper. Fair enough - but then get this: he says "It's shit, it's like a middle-class tabloid." And then: "You should read the Telegraph."

Ha! Ahahahahaaa! Never ever attempt a relationship with a man picked up at the Walkabout.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Vive le Q!

I had completely forgotten how much fun Quebecers can be. Was out with a few of them last night, and you'll forgive me for being partisan, but I think they're quite possibly the coolest people on the planet. Think about it: they've got all the joie de vivre and the chain-smoking insouciance of the French, but without being snobbish or stuck up. They can knock back the pints with the best (or worst, depending on how you see it) of the English, but are liberated from the all-pervading class consciousness that divides people for no apparent reason. If I ever feel the need to pack up and move back to Montreal, at least I know I'll be in good company. I think the real problem with the place is the Anglo Quebecers. Bunch of uptight killjoys. No wonder the pékistes want to separate.

All together now: Vive le Québec.... Vive le Québec libre!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Bitch is Back

Sadie the guide dog, that is, not her master David Blunkett. But I have to say, it is kind of good to see the old dog himself back in the Cabinet as well, blunt and uncompromising as ever. On Breakfast With Frost this morning, when asked how he would be greeting George Galloway - the new Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow - when they would meet in the Commons, he said: "I don't think I shall be greeting him at all. The people of Bethnal Green voted for him. They're welcome to him." Stick it to the man, Dave!

That said, I'm extremely glad the ID-card issue has now been removed from his remit. Hopefully the whole issue will melt into obscurity now. I think Blunkett's hard-man approach will be put to better use as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, an area where we need serious help, and soon.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Indefatigability starts here.

Not too bad a result, all in all. Labour are still in with a fighting chance and a "historic third term" (how sick of hearing it are you already?), and the voters have given Blair enough of a bloody nose to make him sit up and take notice. Finding backing over thorny issues such as ID cards certainly won't be easy now.

The big issue now, of course, is Respect. Or more precisely, George Galloway. I can see why it took over seven hours to proclaim the final result in Bethnal Green & Bow; after the tense stand-off and ensuing shenanigans of the past few weeks. But there it is, George is in and Oona's out. And I can't say I'm all that surprised. For all his faults, Galloway isn't stupid and he chose an area where he knew there would be huge opposition to the war in Iraq, and thus an open forum for an aggressively persuasive campaigner like him to swoop in and claim the seat. In the end, the difference between 1st and 2nd place in Bethnal Green was a paltry 823 votes.

Galloway seems so slippery to me as an individual that it's impossible to tell when he's being sincere and when he's not. As I said, he can be very, very persuasive, in a way that makes you feel stupid for being wrong and not seeing that he is right. If there is to be any sort of real opposition to him, it will need to be bursting with the same amount of "indefatigability" as the man himself. Although perhaps it won't be necessary, as from what I hear he seems to spend more time as a talking-head media darling than he does on actual constituency work. Time will tell. Four years is a long time in politics.

I would have given anything to be down Brick Lane last night.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Short shorts and all sorts

Before I pack up and go home, I have to give official props to tha Rizzla for her sparkling début last Friday at Tales of the Decongested, a short story competition for young writers across London. The last Friday of every month, six of the best entries are selected and are read aloud by their creators in the gallery space at Foyles. The variety of readers and stories kept us all hooked, and it was a fantastic and very inspiring way to spend an evening for very little money. Actor Christopher Simpson of White Teeth and Bend It Like Beckham fame was spotted in the audience, and I am told he gave a nod of approval to Ms. R as she took to the mic.

More please!

Playa Hatas

Continuing with the election for a bit (hey, everyone else is), I can't say I'm too impressed with The Grauniad's nosepeg campaign. As someone said to me yesterday, it's things like this that make a lot of people hate The Guardian. Apparently Polly Toynbee will be voting Labour, but only out of necessity, to prevent the Tories coming to power. In protest at being "misled" into the war on Iraq, she has constructed an "ingenious" nosepeg, which she intends to wear on Election Day as she goes to cast her vote. Well la-di-da Ms Toynbee, aren't you just the picture of middle-class rebellion.

But wait! In case you were feeling left out, you too can join in the fun, by e-mailing Polly and requesting a shiny new peg emblazoned with "Vote Labour" all of your very own. Readers are encouraged to send in pictures of themselves wearing the pegs outside their local polling stations on May 5, upon which the paper will publish them all, and what a jolly good wheeze it will be.

Sorry, I didn't realise we were all still in university. I know it's all in good fun and I can see the logic behind it (as always, she argues her point eloquently), but there's something about this caper that comes off as snobby and childish, and frankly it doesn't help anybody, least of all the Guardian. They're obviously trying to muscle in on The Sun's clique-y approach to electioneering, but realistically, we are talking about two different kinds of audiences, and I can't see too many Guardian readers going for it. And if they do, well...they'll end up looking like posh schoolkids sulking over an unpopular teacher.

So remember kids, don't playa hate. Playa appreciate!

This season, I will mostly be voting...

...Labour. Okay, so it's not the biggest shock ever. But seeing as this will be my first time voting in this country, I have been trying my hardest to make a genuienly informed choice instead of just following the herd. And for a while there, I had a serious flirtation going with the Lib Dems.

Still, after seeing Tone-Dawg himself (to quote Steve Bell) defending his position on everything from the NHS to immigration to Iraq during a grilling by Jonathan Dimbleby and various members of "the public" (who were all suspiciously well-spoken) last night, I'm more convinced than ever that voting Labour is the only real option. I won't get into all the ins and outs, as there are far better blogs out there that can tell you why it makes sense. But for me it's got something to do with experience, a little to do with socialism, and a lot to do with generally being able to improve difficult problem areas of the country better than any other party.

At the same time, spying the official policy advisor for Number 10 at The Crown on Clerkenwell Green yesterday - in jeans and t-shirt, running races through the churchyard with his two boys in the late afternoon sunshine - might have appealed to my cuddly side just enough to tip the balance in their favour as well. Awww.

But word to the PM, though. Once Thursday has been and gone, for the love of god, go get yourself a Reiki massage or something, or get Cherie to book you a trip to a health spa. I've rarely seen Blair look so tense and strung out as he did on TV yesterday. True, he did have a lot of explaining to do, but it wasn't pretty seeing him doggedly repeating the same explanations in five or six different ways, until even Dimbleby couldn't think of any other way to advance the programme. A change of leader midway through the next term looks more and more to be the likely - and necessary - option.