Friday, September 29, 2006

Help (those who mock) the aged

My company's HR department has just sent round an e-mail outlining the new age discrimination policies and how they will affect us. It ends with:

"Of course, employees should avoid using any age-related comments that may be negatively interpreted."

Working in the new media industry, most of us are in our 20s and 30s anyway, so there's not really much scope to make age-related comments to begin with. But even so, "comments that may be negatively interpreted"??! God, that's like telling men to stop complimenting female co-workers on their nice boobs in case they take offence, or to stop photocopying their backsides during Christmas parties in case they decide to sue the company! It's Political Correctness Gone MadTM!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tesco's world domination plans hit snag

Is this some kind of joke? I thought, as the headline Thailand's military leaders could restrict expansion of Tesco and other retailers flashed across the ticker on the front page of the BBC website. But no, this frankly bizarre choice of front-page news is all too true. The military say they have imposed a 30-day suspension on the expansion plans for Tesco, Boots and other multinationals operating in Thailand so that they can determine how best to protect the interests of the owners of smaller local shops.

Still, the whole thing is just too reminiscent of this clip from Armando Ianucci's excellent
Time Trumpet series for me to pass up.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Charting success

The Daily Mail copying the Guardian is something I never thought I'd see. Still, getting the Tube in to work this morning, there it was - as if it wasn't disturbing enough seeing three [middle-aged white men in suits] sitting in a row and all reading the Daily Mail, their papers all bore an advert for a brightly coloured poster available free with today's mail: a wall chart with drawings of British butterflies. Obviously this is a rip-off of the Grauniad's ongoing nature wall charts, which seem more aimed at "kidults" than real kids (drawings?! What, no 3D graphics or glow-in-the-dark? I smell a nostalgia fest). But even worse is the fact that the Mail has deliberately used a font that is either identical or at least very similar to the chunky Egyptian font that has come to characterise the new Berliner-format Guardian as well as its posters. Funny what things are considered worth replicating.

What's the most original place you've seen one of the Guardian's wall charts? I think my favourite so far has got to be the Freshwater Fish poster tacked up on the wall of my local chippie.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Bullshit, Mom!

Not to make light of another country's political woes or anything, but some of the quotes from Hungarian PM Ferenc Gyurcsany's leaked tape recording have been pretty hilarious.

I particularly like this one:

Since they know my mother's name [Katus Gyurcsány] in Pápa [hometown], she receives better service, damn it! She did not understand what was happening. Has the healthcare system been mended, my son? I tell her: Bullshit, Mom! The truth is that now your family name rings a bell. That's scandalous.

(As an aside, I also love how Gyurcsany used to be "Sports Minister". I just find there's something very Soviet-sounding about it. Conjures up all sorts of images of ping-pong, weight-lifting and gymnasts called Yuri spinning around on dusty old parallel bars with no mats underneath. And yes, I know Britain has a similar position, but "Minister for Sport" sounds much more English than Gyurcsany's old title.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I'm as guilty as the next person of not doing enough to raise awareness and call for UN action in Darfur. My excuse for not attending Sunday's Day for Darfur protest rally in London? I was at work, finishing up a report. There are worse excuses, but it's still pretty lame.

Coverage of the event itself is here and here. And lots of other places I'm sure. The point is, there was virtually nobody there. A friend who did go estimated attendance of around 1,000 people. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands who attended the anti-war demo in Trafalgar Square in February 2003 and it's pretty embarrassing. Plus, of course, it leads to certain uncomfortable questions. Why were there so few people at the Darfur rally? Where were the unions? According to my spy, not a single flag or banner from any recognisable trade union was present outside the Sudanese Embassy. A handful of Euston Manifesto signatories were seen. Most disappointing of all? Zero presence from the so-called Stop the War Coalition. Concentrate your efforts on Iraq all you want, guys, but an organisation with your name and stature should at the very least show some solidarity with like-minded organisations. But maybe that's hard for you to do if you think that only certain wars are worth trying to prevent, and that only some populations deserve to be saved.

Not that it makes a difference in the long run, really, because by the time anything gets done - if anything gets done - most of the Darfur refugees will be dead anyway. A pretty radical way to get rid of the problem, wouldn't you say?

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Legacy

On a day when much of the Western world will be thinking back to the human tragedy that was September 11, 2001, there comes an indication of just how much the world has changed since that day. It has emerged today that Denmark's exports to Muslim countries have fallen by 15.5% between February and June 2006, with the loss attributed to the fallout from the Danish cartoons fiasco in January. That might not seems like a huge percentage, but when it's measured in million or even billions of euros, it's critical. Who's responsible for trade? Not a fringe group of extremists, not the clergy, but businessmen and government. The Establishment. I despair. Is this how countries conduct business in the 21st century? When those towers came down, it seems that an era of rationality and progressive thought went with them.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My boyfriend's back, and you're gonna be in trouble

Hey la, hey laaa, my boyfriend's back.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Meltdown (updated)

It begins...

  • Tom Watson MP has resigned from government.
  • A memo has been leaked outlining plans for Tony Blair to step down in one last blaze of PR glory.
  • 17 MPs have signed a letter calling for him to step down.
  • The Sun, Mirror, Mail et al have gone mad trying to see who can use the biggest font in spelling out "May 31st".

It's all very sad.

However, I'm enjoying reading Rob Newman's take on all of this, as a Labour Party member, and as a student Labour leader. It's a good insight into what effect the uncertainty is having on Labour's next generation.

* * *

UPDATE: Blair has finally confirmed that he will be leaving... but not before September 2007. He's still refusing to name an exact date, although to be honest I really can't see why he needs to give one. Given that the summer recess will occur before next September, for all intents and purposes he will have stopped governing before September is actually reached. For the love of god, give it a rest. I sometimes wonder if the Labour party even wants to win the next election. The way they're going about thing, it doesn't look like it.

* * *

UPDATE (2): Noooo! That's the first time I've seen Michael Howard on TV in months. Everyone wants to be in at the kill,it seems. Bloody CNN plasma screens clamped to our office walls... There is no escape!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


A shocking news report on ITV last night once again exposed the horrific and appalling conditions that pervade orphanages in Romania, over 15 years after the first Western TV cameras were allowed in. Truly nothing changes without money, especially the unofficial policy of concealing the truth from the outside world.

However, the gist of the report seemed to be that Romania shouldn't be permitted to join the European Union while it still has this shameful secret lurking behind closed doors. I'm not sure that I agree. Doesn't it make more sense to let the benefits of EU cash go toward improving facilities and hiring trained child-minders? Isn't there a way that a certain proportion of EU funding could be guaranteed to reach these institutions?

The EU isn't a charity, I hear you say. And the value of the euro will plummet if we keep letting in poor countries like Romania. Well... quite. But doesn't it make long-term financial sense to invest in countries with bad economies and then build them up into growth economies? The EU has done it before, to great success.

I'm not an expert on EU spending policy by any means, so send me your thoughts.

Monday, September 04, 2006

RIP Steve Irwin

I have to say I'm really quite cut up about this. A lovely man.

The makings of a terrorist

Last night's instalment of BBC 2 documentary Al Qaeda: Time to Talk?, hosted by Peter Taylor, made for some compelling if depressing viewing. Most of those profiled by the programme were men in their early 20s, angry for a variety of reasons, but all united by their resolve to embrace "radical Islam", go to Iraq and become martyrs "for the cause".

But that's where the similarities ended. Asked to describe what "the cause" actually was, most said retribution for Anglo-American foreign policy, namely the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which virtually all Muslims are said to consider illegal. And yet it seemed to me that a number of them had been convinced instead that going to Iraq and blowing themselves up was the only way to prevent themselves from falling into a downward spiral of mortal sin, which was the inevitable conclusion of living as a law-abiding citizen in the UK. In other words, becoming a suicide bomber wasn't a response to the individual jihadist recruit's hatred of a Western military presence in Iraq, it was complying with the instructions of radical imams and others, who basically brainwashed them.

What is even more tragic is that many of these foreign jihadi recruits often end up roped into killing other Iraqis - an example in the documentary is of Raed Elbana, a young Jordanian lawyer who spent some time living in the United States before returning home to Jordan and being "radicalised" on the idea of fighting a holy war against Americans. But is this what he did? No, Raed gained his "martyrdom" by blowing himself up outside a Shia clinic in Iraq, killing 118 Shia Iraqis in the process.

Interestingly, though, Taylor chose not to point out this opportunism by Sunni extremists, choosing instead to lump it in with the other terrorist atrocities as being driven purely by the U.S.-led occupation.

Taylor stops short of saying that the creation of British-born terrorists is reason enough to pull all troops out of Iraq. And yet, he consistently repeats that UK foreign policy towards Iraq is driving these people to become radicalised. That's fair enough, but as Norm recently pointed out, in response to this article by Inayat Bunglawala:

If terrorism motivated by anger over British foreign policy isn't - ever - justified, should the government in some way yield to this anger
nonetheless? What exactly, to put it otherwise, is Inayat Bunglawala asking for in asking that the government 'acknowledge' the causal influence of foreign policy on murderous anger, and in emphasizing that it should not be 'left unconsidered'? One has to presume that this isn't merely a demand for a thought process to occur or for some sort of acknowledging public statement. It's an argument for a change of policy.

Well quite, and I'm pretty sure that Taylor is echoing Bunglawala's argument.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Silence is golden

Out of necessity, I found myself battling the crowds of Oxford Street this afternoon - the first time since the unceremonious turfing out of "Sinner Winner Man", aka Philip Howard, from his megaphone vantage point smack dab in the middle of Oxford Circus.

A week or so ago, I read with amusement of an online campaign that has been set up to banish Sinner Winner Man from his new preaching post in Piccadilly Circus. A surprising amount of people stood up for Sinner Winner Man, saying that he was "part of our culture", that it would be just that little bit duller without him, that he was good for keeping the tourists away, etc etc. "Awww," I thought, "Londoners can be a cuddly bunch when they want."

Then I went shopping for boots on Oxford Street today; a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon, with a Spanish festival over on Regent's Street ensuring even larger crowds than usual. And you know what? I was only slightly put out by the experience. Considering that I normally leave the place with a raging headache and an urge to snatch one of those Golf Sale signposts and use it as a battering ram to clear my way to the tube station, this was a significant improvement. One that I attribute to not being informed repeatedly and at high volume that I was a miserable robotic drone who had no purpose in life but to spend, spend, spend (even though I was only there because I hadn't bought new boots in such a long time that my old ones had massive holes in them).

"Christian propaganda" isn't the problem with Sinner Winner Man, it's the options he gives us. Who wants to be his version of a winner if he makes us all feel like complete and utter losers in the interim? The old PR skills could do with a bit of a brush-up, je pense.

So good riddance, says I, if it makes the grinding shuffle through London's busiest shopping street any less excruciating. Now, if only the powers that be would enforce the use of a pedestrian fast lane, the Oxford Street experience would be bordering on enjoyable.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fame at last

To my profound surprise and delight, I was recently asked to be the subject of a Friday Profile over at Normblog. Published today, my efforts are now up for all to see here, and for sheer vanity's sake I have also included a permanent link to it in the "About Me" box on the right-hand side of this page.