Friday, 29 July 2011

The BBC / Sky split of F1 broadcasting is a farce

As of this morning next year's Formula 1 broadcasts will be split between the BBC and Sky. I guess this will be kind of like when both the BBC and ITV show the World Cup final and we can basically choose our commentry team.

What's that you say? That's not the case at all? Really? So one of them will show one race weekend, and then the other will show the next race? That's shit! I don't want to pay for Sky just t.......I'm sorry what? They're not doing that either? Then, erm, okay you've got me, what other options are left then?

Sky will show Practice, Qualifying and all the Races, and then the BBC will show half of that as well, thus successfully canibalising thier own audience figures, and turning the BBC into little more than a glorified advert for Sky Sports. Surely that's got to be breaking their customer charter. Christ, it's practically a concious attempt to be as deliberately insulting to the fans as is humanly possible.

Just to clarify, I'm obviously an F1 fan. I couldn't care less about other sports, and I sure as hell don't need to watch a few over paid prima donnas being cheered on by the barely literate in the Pampers Premiership. So why the hell would I want a contract to pay in excess of £30 a month to watch an average of 2 hours of F1, for 9 months a year? I didn't walk into anywhere near enough glass doors as a kid to think that's a good idea.

Apparently though, this glorious display of intellect makes great commercial sense. Presumably that's defined by the fact that once we've all finished channel hopping to find the damn thing, made ourselves comfortable, and left ourselves a voicemail for James Murdoch to thank him personally for the broadcast, then for half the season we'll also get to be interrupted with commercials throughout the race, and pay for the privelege.

Finally according to Sky this is "fantastic news for F1 fans". Really? Where the hell did you find one dumb enough to say that?

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Chastising Chuggers

I work in central London, I choose to do this, like I choose to go out and get my lunch, or go for a walk, or nip to the shops in my lunch break. At no point in this do I walk along so desperate for social interaction that I want some professional irritant leaping in front of me with a fake smile and a sob story.

Chuggers are one of the worst things about living in any modern city. I can't even go out for lunch these days without some idiot in a left over Shell-suit trying to convince me that I could single handedly raise Africa out of poverty, cure cancer, save all the children, and populate a small aircraft carrier's worth of Air Ambulances.

At their best Chuggers are blatantly lying to you. They work on the assumption that people think they're volunteers doing it for charity, and that you're doing a good thing by signing up. Bollocks. All Chuggers are paid just like any other job, and pimped out as glorified contractors to the charities. They're not working for those charities, they've just been given that colour jacket for the day and a sob story to go along with it.

But here's the real kick, on average, the typical monthly donation to a charity via a Chugger will take approximately a whole year before you've even paid for the Chugger! That's an entire year of your donations and good will going to help precisely NO ONE. And I'm pretty damn sure that that's not what you signed up for.

The proof of this, straight from the horses mouth, is here here. My personal favourite is the line "Across the entire campaign, a charity can expect to break even (i.e. recoup the whole cost it spent on fundraising) in about 26-28 months." Do we really need a better reason to ban them than in excess of 2 years worth of helping nobody? If I donate a few hundred quid to charity I want to feel good about doing it. I don't want some clipboard warrior spending it all in Starbucks at the end of a hard days work pissing people off. I give money to help people, I do this reasonably regularly, I give none of this money so you can buy hair gel and fake tan. All this is before the spectacuarly arrogant statement that they genuinely believe that you're not entitled to walk down the street without someone stopping you. Apparently personal privacy and the right to go about your day without interruptions doesn't exist.

A friend of mine even had a Chugger for the Red Cross shout at her down the street "People will die because of you!" purely because she wanted to go about her business rather than waste her time talking to these filth.

So do yourself a favour, donating to charity is a great thing, so do it directly, don't give these professional irritants the time of day.

And if you are a Chugger, crying with outrage after managing to convince yourself that you're actually a worthwhile member of society? Here's an idea, why don't you go out and get a real job, then donate everything you earn over and above your Chugging wage to charity, and let's see how committed you really are to this. The charities will get a lot more money, waste a lot less, and for once you might be able to find out what it feels like to know that if you got hit by a bus, someone might actually stop and help you out for a change.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Peons on the Peasent Wagon

One of the benefits of recently becoming a North Londoner as that I can just hop on the bus to work, and not have to cram myself onto a tube carriage that's too small for anyone who continued to grow past their 10th birthday, and save some cash in the process.

One of the bad things about doing this is the number of window lickers you have to endure on a daily basis. Over the years I've all gotten used to the arrogant types who seem to think that because everyone else has paid to get on TFL must have loads of money, so why the hell shouldn't the driver let them on for free. I mean after all, they've been standing there shouting about it for long enough, surely that's going to have won someone over?

But they're not the most disturbing people you get on Buses, oh no, more often than not that get's saved for me.

I've long since considered myself to be something of a Mecca for the unhinged, so on the way home last night it was no big shock that once we'd extracted the afore mentioned hitch-hikers that life decided to serve me up with a new best friend to keep me company for the rest of the journey.

What followed for the rest of my journey was a short and concise lesson as to why people in London generally want nothing to do with each other.

Once my new mate clambered up onto the bus and dug around in what I'm relatively sure was a spare shoe to find his Oyster card, he turned to find and seat with that glorious almost vacant expression that inspires the universal prayer of public transport, as we all simultaneously reached out to the nearest convenient deity and said to ourselves, "oh for the love of God, don't sit next to me!"

Sadly being a card carrying Atheist, science doesn't pay much attention to the stray thoughts of a wayward Londoner, and as I'd clearly forgotten to remove the sign around my neck that said "Hi, I'm friendly and love meeting new and interesting people, it'd be awfully jolly if you came and started talking at me!" I had no option but to accept my fate as he came staggering towards me.

So, just as I was finishing up my mental calculations of exactly how long this pleasure was likely to last, and accepted that by having a huge box with me getting up and moving wasn't going to happen without throwing a hoover at someone, my new friend reached that magical final foot away from me.

And it was there, at the kind of distance where you've usually had to pay a lot of money to get someone in to, that I was greeted with the sight of an unwashed, unclothed groin, complete with dirt marks and overhanging stomach staggering towards my face. You see, while this guy had worked out the complexities of an Oyster card, and the concept of Buses, basic personal hygiene and the ability to complete the dressing process weren't apparently running a close second on his list of lifetime achievements.

Immediately after that fleshy wake up call he parked his thankfully mildly more clothed backside down next to me and started ranting.

It was a this point that I thought to myself, "Aha! I've got you on this one, that hairy groin stunt might have been a new one on me, but this talking bollocks insessently until I react will get you nowhere, for I've come readily equipped with ear phones and an iPod, so I can't hear you." At which point the album I was listening to immediately finished.

This however allowed me a few precious seconds to hear what the hell he was saying though, and it turns out I was having a mildly better time of it than whoever  he was speaking to, as he was talking utter nonsense at them and doing things like repeating the bloody place names that the automated announcement system was sayi..hang on, he's not repeating them, he's.....talking to them. He's sat there hiding his man parts under a t-shirt that looks like it was turned down by any self respecting tramp, and having a conversation with the sodding automated announcements that tell you what the next stop is. How the hell does these people get allowed out!

Fortunately for me that's when I got to my stop, got up, and made a hastey exit. Then I wrote about my horror, and at least some of you laughed at it. You bastards.

Finally some of you are mentally shouting at me for being a heartless dick as he clearly had mental issues. Well, you're right, he clearly did. Incidentally, the opposite seat to me on the bus had a girl who looked like she was about 7 years old sitting on it on her way back from school. Perhaps the reality isn't just that I might be using this guy for comic effect, but that it's also a damn good job he sat next to me and not her. I'm used to dealing with this kind of shit, that could have scared the living hell out of her.

Transformers 3: Review

Seeing as I'm trying to start using this properly now, and that it still remains devoid of any purpose other than me ranting unintelligible nonsense about whatever takes my fancy. Let's write a movie review!

So, Transformers 3. The film opens with a know what, screw it, giant robots from your childhood have a fight and stuff gets destroyed in an impressive manner, it doesn't exactly need a plot does it. Oh, hang on, apparently it does. Apparently it should have a plot involving a love story, jealousy, a young man desperately trying to find his way in the world, double crossing government agencies getting in the way, know, let's just cut to the chase; Transformers 3 is so bad that it might be worth buying the Blu Ray just to see Michael Bay begging for forgiveness for 90 minutes in the extras. Seriously, I created better story lines as a toddler playing with the toys with nothing but upturned dustbin and a curios cat for a backdrop than Michael Bay managed in 2.5 life shortening hours. Nobody, anywhere, ever, has gone to see a Transformers movie and sat there thinking "you know, giant robots destroying stuff is all well and good, but I came here for a damn love story!"

We've now reached the point where the phrase "a Michael Bay film" appearing at the end of a trailer isn't an endorsement, it's just Hollywood shorthand for "Oh for the love of God don't watch this! Please, bleach your eyes, bathe in acid, spend an evening replying to 'you may already have won' letters, do anything, but don't watch this film!"

And while I'm here, stop making films in sodding 3D. It adds N-O-T-H-I-N-G, it's not even amusing to see people sat there in all seriousness wearing comedy glasses anymore.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Olympic Underground, a point for common sense

So, in a fit of alarming common sense the 2012 Olympic crowd think it will be a good idea to have volunteers working at Tube Stations across London to help point the lost masses in the right direction. This, somewhat obviously, is a good move. It'd be a better move if they found volunteers who spoke additional languages to just English, but this is London, so they'd probably just refuse to speak anything else anyway. But it's still a good idea none the less. After all, every Londoner knows that tourists are a monolithic pain in the arse at the best of times, and that for reasons known only to themselves, the rest of the world seems to think that blocking an escalator, ticket barrier, or doorway to read a map in the middle of rush hour is a display of abject genius. So having someone standing under a big sign miles away from an escalator saying 'Tourist Info' is a big win. It'll be like Moths to a flame.

Unless of course you're Bob Crow and the RMT. They apparently think it's an enormous safety risk for anyone other than their highly trained staff to even speak in a tube station, let alone go so far as to offer to help someone. But then these are the same people who think that crowding London's roads with cars, and delaying the emergency services by going on strike is an acceptable means of promoting safety. Interesting concept isn't it. Incidentally, here's a much better blog post about what happens to the emergency services when LU decides to call a unilateral public holiday: Nee Naw Ambulance Service Blog

Of course what the RMT are really worried about here though isn't passenger safety, it never has been, otherwise the Nee Naw blog link wouldn't exist. They're worried that by allowing volunteers to help people by providing directions and info people will come to expect something that passes for useful information on the tube. That means that standards will be raised to an alarmingly mediocre level, and the general public will be presented with the reality of just how replaceable the majority of staff are on the Underground.

They're worried that when untrained volunteers turn out to be more useful than their "highly trained" staff, that people will realise that perhaps paying for people to stand next to a ticket barrier all day ignoring passengers isn't really an acceptable use of public money. And that the services they do offer could essentially be performed by a 4 year old with rudimentary reading and writing skills, and the ability to formulate something not entirely dissimilar to a sentence.

They're worried that when people realise that LU staff are essentially getting paid decent sums of money and offering us little more than 3rd rate transport network famous across the globe for its over inflated prices and unreliability, and that they then spend half the year on strike that the last threads of sympathy and legitimacy for the RMT's 'arguments' will evaporate over night. And if that happens who'll stand up for Tube Drivers who get fired for endangering the lives of all their passengers by driving a train while drunk?

So bring on the volunteers, and help wave goodbye to the RMT and it's institutionalized delusions.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Social Experiments, with Swords

Every Monday I engage in something of a social experiment on route to the London Longsword Academy at the Barbican. I make my way through London with my (nylon plastic) training sword in plain view of every Tom, Dick and Harry who happens to pass by.

Naturally I get even more odd looks than normal (measured by the fact that I actually notice them) as people stare wondering what the hell I'm holding. Which is of course the problem. As every Monday what I'm actually doing is experiencing just how deluded people are.

Now, they don't know it's a sword, I deliberately remove the cross guard so it looks less scary, and it's White, and it's not made of metal, and I'm holding it by the "blade". Making it pretty obvious that it's either not sharp, or I'm an utter moron and desperately trying to relieve myself of a limb. But gradually it tends to dawn on most people what it is.

This however, just doesn't compute for the average Londoner. People will literally stare at it as though there's something deeply weird and odd about a man holding a long plastic thing. Turn up at midday Gothed up for the night with spikes all over your clothes and it's unlikely anyone in London will notice, rock up at the end of the day with a training sword and some sports gear and they think you're about to embark on a one man crusade down the Victoria Line. The point of course is simple; the other day I sat next to a guy on the tube with a bag of Golf Clubs. No one batted an eyelid, the same goes for Tennis Rackets and other sports kit. Sit there with a guy wearing his army gear on the way home and nobody cares that he's been well trained in various forms of armed and unarmed combat. Someone walks on wearing clothes that marks them out as a martial artist and nobody minds. But sit there with a plastic sword and they think you're mental, and you can see them weighing up the options about calling the Police.

So for those of you who get scared by that, here's a quick lesson. Practically everything is a weapon in the wrong hands. Sports gear, your weekly shopping, a rolled up magazine, a mobile phone, jewellery, literally anything. And lets not forget the afore mentioned martial arts crowd (who NEVER get questioned at airport security by the way). So, the point is, if you want to give me worried looks on a weekly basis fine, but you might want to contemplate if it's ever worth leaving the house again afterwards as well. Because if what you can see in plain sight scares you, then the stuff you can't see clearly must keep you awake at night.

Anyone who wants to know more about European Martial Arts / Sword Fighting in London, please point yourselves in this direction:

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Read all about it

Watching the News of the World story these past few days has been little more than watching a train wreck in motion.

Let's get one thing clear from the off. I think the News of the World was shit. It was gutter journalism that did nothing but seek out scandal and embarass valueless celebrities to fuel what can only be described as the most embarassing part of British society. It's target audience was the type of person who has to use velcro instead of laces if they ever want to leave the house every day, and I wont for a single second miss it. The same incedentally goes for the likes of the Sun as well, but that's beside the point. The events that followed though are a reflection of everything that's wrong with the western world. The Murdochs' response was so arrogant as to have the nerve to claim that they were impressed by Rebekah Brooks integrity and morals, and to be able to say that and keep a straight face was unbelieveable. So while I'm happy to see the News of the World off the shelves, and let's face it, nobody was ever going to buy it or advertise in it again, the approach of sacking the staff who are there now, and ignoring the cause of the problem is insulting to the intelligence of everyone.

We don't need time to analyse Brooks' excuses that she was on holiday every time someone hacked a phone, it's akin to being told the dog ate the kids' homework. Nobody alive with an education that prevents them from trying to walk through panes of glass is going to believe that, but it all points back to the same thing. Arrogance. News International seem to genuinely believe that they can do whatever they want with no consequences. It's the most glaringly obvious display of absolute power in the modern world that anyone's ever seen. As I type an ex-NotW Journo is tweeting while Rebekah Brooks announces she won't be leaving, and we discover that apparently Rupert Murdoch is angry with David Cameron for having the nerve to investigate him. Who the hell is allowed enough power that they can criticise a Prime Minister for launching an investigation into the continually illgeal and immoral actions of their own organisation? And don't forget when Murdoch's not happy with the PM that's the same as threatening to bring down a government.

The best thing to come from this week hasn't been the death of the NotW though, it's been the example that Twitter has set for showing the likes of Murdoch and Brooks, and countless others who are no doubt bricking it at the moment that it's the people who ultimately get to be the judge. The days of media giants dictating what the world sees and thinks are coming to an end. The citizen journalists are providing warts and all opinions and evidence of anything that the powers that be don't like, and are begining to realise just how much they can do. We're seeing this in Athens with footage of incredible Police violence that makes the Ian Tomlinson case look like a playground scrap, and we're seeing this in the UK with the forced humiliation of the Murdochs and Brooks (regardless of what happens with their jobs). Yes, the likes of Twitter and YouTube are in their early days at this, and mistakes and lynch mobs are making mistakes, but weeks like this have shown us that there is still a light at the end of the tunnel, and with luck that light will be showing us the end of the likes of Rebekah Brooks by the time the weekend is over.