Friday 30 May 2008

Two funny things.

Even by his usual standards, DumbJon is on superb form here:

Forget all this talk of time limits, medical necessity and the like, I have the answer right here: we simply pass a law asserting that all women have the right to 'reasonable termination'.


Once they've dug up enough dirt, the police will carry out a series of interviews in which the suspect is asked questions like 'I notice you have "Silence of the Lambs" on DVD, do you like films with killing in them?'. Or maybe 'I've heard you used to hang out with a couple of feminists, I bet you girls had a few laughs talking about how you'd like to abort a kid, right?'.

And a good post from Gary led me to find this gem:

Mr. Cameron told cheering supporters in Crewe that the victory was a watershed moment in Britain's march towards becoming a Russian-style plutocracy, ruled by two clans of indistinguishable, public school-educated management drones who intermittently trade power while each pushing near-identical Thatcher-lite policies.

"Today marks the beginning of the end for New Labour," he said. "Britain is tired of Labour's faceless, bureaucratic, authoritarian government, and the people are recognising the Conservatives' brand of faceless, bureaucratic authoritarianism as the way forward."

Thank you.

Winning and losing.

So we lost Eurovision again, unsurprisingly. And, apparently, this is bad news for some reason.

The Great British Public's attitude towards the Eurovision Song Contest is a thing that baffles me. Firstly, we seem to be obsessed with winning the damn thing. Why? Why are we so determined to beat those colossi of popular music, Latvia, Hungary, and [cough] France, in this one pan-European pop music contest that happens on just one day every year, when we totally wipe the floor with them and every other country in the world bar one in that other international pop music contest, called "sales", every single day, and have done for the last fifty years? All these people that, on Eurovision night, vote for the Croation entry over the British one, when they're actually in a record shop deciding what to buy with their hard-earned cash, what music they'd actually like to own so that they can listen to it again and again and again, they don't buy Croation records. They buy British. We know this. They know this. So why on Earth do we give a damn about how they vote on the one night every year when their decision costs them, and means, nothing?

However, given that, for reasons that escape me, we do give a damn, why don't we try a bit harder? When we consistently produce some of the finest popular musicians in the world, and certainly the best in Europe, why, every year, do we dredge the country for the worst amateur pap on offer? Wouldn't it be nice, one year, to see the looks on the other contestants' faces when the hosts announce "And now, with the British entry, The Rolling Stones!"?

No, I didn't watch it.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Was in a car crash this morning.

Don't worry, I'm fine. Just a bit shaken and tense and angry, but it wasn't even hard enough to set off my airbag or give me whiplash. It's the situation that's pissing me off.

I won't give any precise details of the location or the make of car in case any of this ends up in court or something, but I'll describe the crash itself because I'm genuinely interested to hear what people think about the liability for this one.

It's dual carriageway; the limit's 60 usually, but there are roadworks bringing the limit down to 40; so I reckon most people in the rush-hour traffic are doing about 50. So arrest them all, already. I'm approaching a point where the two lanes get divided by bollards on the cat's-eyes. The brake lights of the car in front of me come on, so I slow down, but the traffic is still moving quite fast. I then go through that excruciating and very quick series of — why are they slowing down? — brake a bit more — why are they still slowing down? — brake a bit more — oh shit — and I realise just too late that this car has inexplicably come to a complete stop and I can't swerve into the hard shoulder because it's full of a bloody great roadworks sign that I'd rather not have through my windscreen and head and I hit the back of the car.

My first thought was to wonder how I could have been so amazingly stupid not to have seen a tailback. But then I looked and saw that there wasn't a tailback. It was just this one car that had stopped.

The problem wasn't my stopping distance — I had plenty of that. The problem was that I didn't use it to stop. In fast-moving traffic, on a dual carriageway, with no junctions or traffic lights or obstructions or anything, I interpret brake-lights to mean "slowing down", not "stationary". I think most other drivers do the same. This, of course, is why so many drivers — me included — flick their hazard lights on at the first sign of a stoppage on a motorway: brake-lights alone aren't a strong enough signal in that context.

Now, I reckon I'm partly to blame for this. No matter what else, I am responsible for not driving into the car in front of me. But I don't think I'm mostly responsible. I know that you can fail your driving test for taking evasive action to avoid hitting a dog or cat, precisely because unpredictable driving makes the road more dangerous for every other driver on it and their lives are more important than an animal's, so I'm pretty sure that coming to a complete stop on a dual carriageway for no apparent reason would be an instant fail too. The other driver claimed afterwards that she had stopped because she suspected, but wasn't sure, that the car to her right might be trying to change lanes. This is another thing that was drummed into me in my driving lessons: never give way — again, because traffic is safe when it's predictable, and giving way when you don't have to makes it unpredictable and therefore unsafe for every other driver on the road.

What annoys me is that, as the law stands, absent witnesses to say otherwise, the person behind in a tail-ender is 100% to blame, no matter what. This instance strikes me as a little more complicated than that — and, to be fair, the other driver didn't seem to think she was blameless either. Trouble is, since she was in front, no matter what she thinks, her insurers will deny all liability, because they can. My insurers were quite reasonable and honest: they said that, if she's come to a complete stop on a dual carriageway, then she's largely to blame for the accident, and I stand no chance whatsoever of having the official record reflect that.

I only have third-party insurance. I was going to be selling the car in a couple of weeks anyway, and it's hardly worth my while getting it repaired just to sell it on. It's a few hundred quid down the drain for me either way. Oh well.

The master of disguise.

It's great when they screw up.

Looks like Al Qaeda have a new tactic: find the stupidest people in the world, and recruit their friends.

Locals claimed that the 22-year-old changed his name to Mohammed Rasheed last year ....

He repeatedly watched video footage of the September 11 attacks and had a poster of the burning Twin Towers on his wall, friends claimed.

They said that he was “naive and easily lead” and had attempted to commit suicide several times.


Friend Alli Turner, 17, said Reilly would watch videos of the New York terrorist attacks and tried to kill himself several times.

He said: ... “He always used to say that he had been told you will get a better life when you die if you are a Muslim.

“He was on his computer all the time and he changed his wallpaper on his computer to a picture of the Twin Towers.

“He once said he goes to 'secret meetings’ when no-one is allowed if they are not a Muslim. ...”

That's certainly a tricky jigsaw. What kind of a man could ever put such pieces together?

Well, not this one.

“Everyone thought it was weird and something was going on but I didn’t think it was anything as serious as terrorism.”

No, could've been anything.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Taste and purity.

Beck's beer have been running their "Only four ingredients" ad campaign for a while now. Don't get it, myself: I mean, Diet Coke's got hundreds of ingedients, and it tastes great. But it appears to have triggered some competition: there's a Stella Artois poster gone up in my street boasting that they, too, only use four ingredients. (Are Evian going to go down this route, I wonder? "Only one ingredient"? Come to think of it, Shredded Wheat have been running that one for a couple of years now: "Nothing but absolutely nothing but one hundred percent whole wheat, because reading ingredients labels is just too damn complicated and the only food you can really trust is stuff with nothing else in it." For some reason, these ads are always followed immediately by "And why not try our new Shredded Wheat Bitesize with fruit and sugar and loads of other stuff added?" Go figure.)

Anyway, the thing that struck me about the Stella Artois poster was, well, this:

Only four ingredients.

Hops. Malted barley. Maize. Water.

Is there some brewing-industry technicality that means that that isn't five ingredients? Or are they just hoping that no-one notices?

Friday 2 May 2008

Absolutely right. And wrong.

This is from a couple of months ago. (So sue me. I'm busy raising a kid here.)

The second-rate comedian Marcus Brigstocke is off on a trip to the Arctic to show how awful Global Warming is. Chances of his mentioning that the Earth hasn't warmed for years and is predicted not to warm for years are, of course, zero.

He clearly likes to think of himself as an environmentalist, as all affluent Guardian-reading jet-setting media-class types do. So I was pleasantly surprised to read this:

I don't much care if you don't agree that global warming is caused by human activity. It is quite possible that you are sick of the entire eco movement and that phrases like 'Carbon Footprint', 'Reduce Re-use Recycle' and 'offsetting your' this, that or the other make you want to scream or bury your head in the sand.

It doesn't matter. The Arctic is melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West in an outdoor bath with the shower on in the rain, so whether it's our fault or not may not be that relevant. Whether or not we can change it certainly is.

Apart from the lame Oz joke, I couldn't agree more. If the Arctic is melting, then the question is not "Was the melting caused by humans?" The question is "Can we humans cause the melting to stop, and do we want to?" Absolutely the best reason to save polar bears is because we like them.

Thing is, though, that position is pretty much the polar opposite of environmentalism. I wonder if Brigstocke knows.