Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barton Think

Joey Barton reflects:

The first day's the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in, hand you your uniform and force you to pose for the photographer while loads of fat, tattooed, skinheads shout at you. That's when you know it's for real. A whole life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it. That's when it hits home. That's when you realise you've signed for Newcastle.

Sparks flying

When I stopped writing about telly and telly-making technology I unsubscribed from all kinds of magazines and press release lists and moved on. I still get one called Prompt from a bloke called David Sparks, which I really enjoy and wouldn't want to unsubscribe to. I was never close friends with David or anything and his old magazine was far too technical for me, but he always provided an incredible function in gluing this particular business community together. Here's a flavour in this month's intro:

Apologies - its publication is a little later than scheduled. I have been distracted, not least by an extraordinary event last Friday. My local pub - 'The Thatchers' - hosted the wake of a well-respected local Hell's Angel.
He died in a crash on the M4 motorway earlier in the week. Over 150 bikers from Chapters all over the UK (and Holland, Germany and South Africa) made a procession through Reading, from the Church to the Crematorium, and then headed for the pub. A sad event - but nevertheless amazing. Those immaculate, but amazingly loud, big bikes! The Angels, mainly seven foot tall and sporting multiple tattoos and long grey beards, were some of the most polite and courteous people I have ever met. I salute them!

Top chap that he is, David still publishes the lists of all the press conferences at trade shows like IBC and NAB even though I get the impression he doesn't go any more.

I must admit I don't even have a passing curiosity about what Quantel and Avid Technology are exhibiting at IBC, but I always look out for David's jokes, obituary notes and wise fables, like this:

An unemployed man applies for a job with Microsoft as a cleaner. The manager there arranges for him to take an aptitude test. Afterwards, The manager says, "You will be employed as a cleaner at the minimum wage. Give me your e-mail address so I can send you a form to complete before you start."

The applicant admits he has neither an e-mail address nor a computer.

The manager replies that there is little hope of him ever starting work there as, in reality, he doesn't exist.

The jobseeker leaves and with his last $10 note buys some tomatoes which he sells in the market at 100% profit.

Repeating the process, he ends the day with $100 in his pocket.

It dawns on him he could make a living selling tomatoes. Long days mean his profits multiply rapidly. A pick-up truck multiplies his profits and, two years later, he is the owner of a multimillion dollar enterprise with a fleet of trucks, all transporting and selling tomatoes.

Planning for the future, he decides to buy some life assurance. His adviser picks a suitable plan and asks for an e-mail address to send the final documents electronically.

When the man replies that he has no e-mail address, the adviser is stunned.

"What! No e-mail?", he says. "How on earth have you managed to amass such wealth without the internet, e-mail and e-commerce? Just imagine where you'd be now if you had been connected to the internet from the very start."

"Well," replies the tomato millionaire, "I'd be a cleaner at Microsoft!"

Keep it up Sparky!

Book review - Counter Knowledge by Damian Thompson

I get irritated very easily by lazy conspiracy theories and quack medicine. This book provides some decent sociological context to all the mumbo jumbo health stories in the Daily Mail, creationism, pseudo history (ie Dan Brown) and holocaust denial. It's not as fun to read as Francis Wheen's How Mumbo Jumbo Changed the World, but as an intro to a rational stemming of this tidal wave of nonsense, it's alright. Corresponding website is here. 6/10.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


As telly as rubbish at the moment we've been back on the boxed set merry go-round, catching up on The Wire, which passed me by first time round. There's no point me adding to the tsunami of praise for this excellent series, whoops, just did.

Liked this spoof news story on it. Hat tip: Voices from the Below.

Gruesome attack in Marple

I hope this kind of thing isn't catching on in Marple.

The last time it happened in Marple, 14 years and 6 days ago it led to more mayhem. There's a chapter in this very thorough, very detailed, very violent book. Link is here.

He's dancing to the words

There's a snappy piece here on the average word count of a song. Kevin Roberts reports that "during the sixties and seventies was 176 words. Last year it exploded to 436 words. Do we really have so much more to say?"

Partly, the average is pushed up by the proliferation of rap, but also by the power of major recording artists to let rip without interference.

Since I started guitar lessons I've been much more tuned in to riffs and chords than just the words, which obviously is still raw with me as I remember Terry Christian's verdict on this.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Public vote will kill C-charge - ten thoughts as to why

The announcement yesterday that the Greater Manchester authorities backed Trafford Council's call for a referendum will probably sound the death knell for the controversial deal to unlock money for tram extensions and bus lanes in return for a congestion charge. The poll will require 7 of the 10 council areas to back the plan, and that's a tall order. Our calculations reckon only Oldham and Tameside will come close to voting for it, because they reckon they'll get a tram system out of it. The rest will give it a big no. Ten thoughts on it are below:

  1. Stockport, where the good people of Marple will be casting their vote, will deliver a crushing no to the plan - because there is so little in it for them. The outer charging ring cuts through Stockport and will affect school runs, tradesmen, commuters from one part of Stockport to another.
  2. The plans outlined in the GMPTE "consultation brochure" that every house has recieved, aren't well put. Anyone with local knowledge will already have torn great holes in what's on offer. It also reads like glib propaganda that treats the public like fools.
  3. Local knowledge trumps all, and I've heard similar complaints on phone-ins and message boards (I know, nutters, but local nutters) from angry of Leigh, Gatley, Lostock and, yes, Marple. You drill into what's been bashed together in an office in Manchester and you ask where there's supposed to be an extension to the park and ride at Romiley? There's no land to do it. Again, there will be CCTV at Rose Hill. How much will that cost? Buttons. Surely that's out of operational budgets anyway. There is nothing in the current plan about better services.
  4. There's supposed to be a planned interchange at Stockport - again, where? That can only reduce parking spaces, and Stockport station car park is very crowded as it is. Crowded, by the way, with park and riders - going to London on business, mostly.
  5. There will be bigger and longer trains on the Marple line. How? The train companies control the size and type of trains and they don't invest anything like enough in rolling stock. The Department of Transport have said they will fund this, so why is it parcelled into the TIF bid? And even if they did, the delivery schedules are way off. This is not currently within the brief of GMPTE, so how can they claim they can deliver it as part of TIF?
  6. You look at the TIF map that tries to look like a London tube map and there are big thick green lines heading out to Bolton and Leigh. These are for bus lanes. The people of Bolton and Wigan will not vote for a congestion charge to get into Manchester if all they are getting is a bus lane.
  7. TIF is supposed to address congestion where it occurs. It doesn't. The people of Stockport and parts of Tameside do experience congestion, but these are on roads that will be outside of the outer ring - the A6 from Hazel Grove through to Stockport, the M57, the A34 at Gatley.
  8. A peak time congestion charge will raise the money to fund the transport plans. It is predicated on a deal. At a time when trust in government is at such a low ebb, when this government has reneged on investment in the regions so often, why should the voters here trust in another deal.
  9. People also think, there is a congestion charge, it's called fuel at £1.30 a litre. They plan their journeys differently.
  10. And do you know what? Part of me really wants to support this. I really applaud the bravery of a city region authority that wants better trains and trams so badly it is prepared to bet everything on a complex and forward looking plan. I do think too that congestion charging will become a reality in most British cities and that Manchester, by getting in early, WON'T lose a competitive advantage by introducing one now. But these nit picky details I've outlined here reflect what individual people will be doing all over Greater Manchester, and for that reason they will vote no. And when the gravestone is erected over these plans the inscription will read: "we promised them bus lanes to Bolton".

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In an urban scrotey garden

It was nice to see that Rice in Piccadilly Gardens was busy today. Less pleasant is the ever present aggressive blight on Manchester that is the scrote. Three of them occupied an outside table at the front, yet didn't buy anything from the cafe they occupied. As they compared snide Timberland and Lacoste hoodies and drank pound shop cola, whilst smoking and playing horrible music on their mobile phones, the manager had a word with them pointing out that they were putting off his customers. But they didn't move, they just glared at him and continued to leer at passers by.

The prawn pad thai was very good though.

In an English Country Garden

Went to Tatton on Tuesday night for a very pleasant tour and a RHS President's Dinner just before the Flower Show opened the next day. I don't think I have ever been in a room with so many posh people before. The table plan for about 120 people included at least 20 double-barrels, 10 Lords and Ladies, four retired senior military officers (including a General) and several very posh de Montfords and the like. And Bryan Gray.

My Rachel and Becky Dewhirst were the youngest there. And as early 40 somethings me and my pal Simon Edwards (our host) can't have been far behind. Still, this isn't a complaint, but an observation. We had a great night. The gardens are fantastic this year, they all seem very practical and sustainable, the kind of gardens you could be inspired to do in your own back yard.

Three years ago Insider hosted a business breakfast at the event and we were committed to a long term plan to work with the RHS to encourage corporate hospitality at the show. We were bumped off as a partner, and it gives me no satisfaction whatsoever to say that the show still has no discernable presence on the corporate calendar. Hey ho.

Out at sea

The Midland Hotel at Morecambe gets some scrutiny from Phil Griffin.

A flavour is here:

The Urban Splash Midland Hotel might have felt more appropriate in the centre of a city. Five metres from the beach, it feels out at sea. If ever a building would have welcomed well chosen expensive period classic furniture and even the odd well placed 20th century antique, it is Oliver Hill’s Midland Hotel Morecambe. Walk through the ill-fitting front door – that must surely be a temporary measure – and see if you can find an atmosphere to drink in.

The full link is here.

I'm clearly more easily impressed by it than Phil, but then he makes his living from caring about such things.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A good year for the roses

Over the last week in the national media, I've seen things about four people I knew reasonably well at Manchester University in the late 1980s. It was an extraordinary time and there have been loads of people who've done well for themselves. I thought it could kick off a decent list of famous ish people from our era, starting with the ones in the news, but I've only included people I knew quite well, as opposed to me being some kind of creepy stalker with access to the alumni book.

- Derek Draper has been drawn back into the Labour Party spin machine.

- Ben Gale has been made controller of Channel 5 and he was in the Guardian's Media 100.

- Tracy Oberman has been on Radio 4 talking about a new play.

- Ian King, business editor of The Sun, was on a doc about Northern Rock. A man doing a job he was always destined for.

You can then add the following old pals who are on the telly all the time:

- Shobi Gulati actress and activist. I can't believe the papers never picked up on the fact that her and Tracy knew each other at Manchester and were leading women in rival soaps for a few years. Maybe they did.

- BBC news presenter Sophie Raworth.

Then there are a few musical bods as well.

- Pete Heller, who my pal Andrew McIntyre maintains got him into house music amidst much resistance and pro-hip hop posturing. Another dance music guru is...

- Justin Robertson, when I first saw him after we'd left, working in Eastern Bloc records with a degree in something clever I thought what a waste, but the boy has done good.

- Louise Wener, who we used to call Pat Benatar even then, as she would breeze into a Sociology of Literature, Art and Music tutorial in a fog of leopard print, lipstick and henna.

All that said, there are four lads I shared a house with who are all masters of their own particular universes, but that's a different story.

Nathan Bateman goes to Glastonbury...and Cannes

John Niven's Kill Your Friends is a hilarious, withering and thoroughly cynical portrait of the 90s music business and a rattling good read. It has some brilliantly well-observed anecdotes that provide a raucous backdrop for a story of depravity and ambition. John Niven, who used to work in the industry, has created a totally foul character, the morally barren Steven Stelfox, who swims with the sharks of the A and R world. Stelfox's awfulness owes more than a nod in the direction of Charlie Brooker's grotesque Nathan Barley (from TV Go Home), even using some of the same phrases (startling payload), and the darkly sadistic scenes are right out of American Psycho. But it's a rattling read. I really liked the references to rubbish bands and the soliloquy on how the music business works for newly signed bands. It's also fun trying to work out who is really who - the council estate Spice Girls (Saints Aloud), the angry rapper Rage (Goldie?). Not much difference either between MIDEM and the gigs in Cannes I've been to - MIPCOM and MIPIM. I couldn't put it down, very funny and one for Roger Cashman.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Redemption Song - reviewed in a lift

A posthumous biography of the Clash front man Joe Strummer (after whom my eldest is named, sort of) is detailed and passionate, but says very little about the actual music. The human tragedy running through the whole story is that of the relationship between Strummer and Mick Jones. They're like a couple that got married too young, had a wild few years, split up, but never fell out of love for one another. If you care about the The Clash, and if you get to the end of this long book, then you must do, then the tale at the very end about how Mick and Joe finally appeared on stage together, will bring a lump to your throat. When you read that it was five weeks before Joe's death, there'll be tears in your eyes.

Cover version update: Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash did Bob Marley's Redemption song. You can't get it on iTunes, but there's a clip on You Tube, here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Conservatives, motherhood and apple pie

There's an interview with David Cameron in the Graun today. It's easy to see how he's got this incredible momentum, but all he's actually peddling is positive sentiment. Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is displaying political and managerial incompetence, and negativity.

Take anything Cameron says and attempt to argue the opposite point of view. There isn't one.

Absent Dad's shouldn't be involved in bringing up kids.
You shouldn't recycle domestic waste.
Standards in schools should be worse.
Foreign criminals should be allowed to stay here.
Business should be ensnared in red tape.

I could go on. Basically, Labour have given up. The problems of crime, waste, hopelessness and poverty are the same. But they have no passion, no energy and no idea what to do. They meddle. The Tories are up for it. But that's pretty much the only difference.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I got my first real six string

And last night I had my first guitar lesson at Riffs in Chadkirk, which were both fantastic birthday presents from Rachel. I have a long way to go, but I genuinely want to learn something new every year. I've never had any musical tutoring and it probably showed. I am probably completely tuneless as well - as Terry Christian said when I did the Y Factor last year, when he was a judge - "look at him. He's dancing to the words."

I promise to update.

Cover versions - top ten

Blimey, I've never been hassled into doing something on this blog by readers, but two of you have given me a nudge about getting round to doing the top ten cover versions I thought about a couple of weeks ago.

I was tempted to include a couple of Oasis songs which are more derivatives - Shakermaker and Don't Look Back in Anger - and chose not to include Neil Diamond written songs because you get into that grey area about whether it's a song written FOR the writer or for others to perform. By the same token, one of my favourites from the Bruce Springsteen concert was Because The Night, which I first knew as a Patti Smith song, but it's not strictly a cover as they co-wrote it. I've also gone for songs that meet two essential criteria, they sound great irrespective of their origin, and the original was great too.

Here goes, in reverse order:

Valerie - Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse step up the Zutons
Where the Street Have No Name - Pet Shop Boys camp up U2
Always on my Mind - Pet Shop Boys then do the same to Elvis
Temptation - Moby strips back New Order
I Fought the Law - Clash squat a Bobby Fuller classic and make it their own anthem
Knockin' on Heavens Door - Guns N Roses power up Dylan
Could it be Magic - Take That double the BPM on Barry Manilow
Man who Sold the World - Nirvana unplugged and upstage David Bowie
One - Johnny Cash makes this U2 tune actually sound sincere

And the greatest cover ever is this:

Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley performs the perfect song, as originally performed and written by Leonard Cohen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Five simple rules to be happy

Thanks to Natalia Escola-Fogg for this:

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, shaved and with his hair fashionably coifed, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

As he manoeuvred his walker to the elevator, the nurse provided a visual description of his tiny room. 'I love it,' he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

'Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait.'

'That doesn't have anything to do with it,' he replied.

'Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. 'It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away. Just for this time in my life.

Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from it what you've put in.

So, deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my memory bank. I am still depositing. Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Where did the weekend go?

I've been doing this all weekend, and am worn out. My role was running the score tent and filling in results on white boards. The whole event was a great success for Marple Athletic JFC and a terrific weekend for Marple.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Italian Job

I know naff all about cars, but the new Fiat Cinquecento has caught my eye. Matt's godparents popped in last night and they've just got one.

I always thought Fiat have been one of the few Italian brands to be devoid of Italian style, just becoming yet another bog standard car model with no point. The Fiat people carrier we hired last year was just the same as our Citroen C8.

This new retro runabout looks very stylish. Whether it drives well I don't know, but you can get a lot further on a full tank than you can in my MLCC.

There's a functional review here and a more colourful one here, an endorsement of sorts from everybody's favourite school bully.

A Question of Thought

Rachel has a stopwatch set whenever BBC's Question Time starts on Thursday nights. It is usually a matter of minutes before I shout "muppet" or "idiot" or worse at the screen. Last night it two minutes into the programme before I was grumping at Lib Dem MP Julia Goldsworthy who wriggled around like an imbecile, getting all giddy at the chance to make cheap political points. She failed to make a single coherant and genuine argument all night, and was outshone by the schoolboy next to her.

It's also a fact that there's always a guest that comes across better than you ever remember them. Last night it was Iain Duncan Smith, the quiet man, who I always remember by his initials - In Deep Sh*t. IDS was very good on QT, but then he always is. The most disastrous leader the Tories have ever had is a man who has found his place. Never a party leader, his work on the broken society and poverty is clear headed and wise. I genuinely can't remember a single thing Douglas Alexander said, but then he's one of the young Labour gimps keeping his head down at the moment.

Saira Khan, the token celebrity, managed to make middle of the road opinions seem hysterical and witless. There's this from Holy Moly, which sums her up.

She also made the ludicrous claim that all black characters in TV dramas are gangsters and rapists. Off the top of my head I thought of him, him and him. If there is a black male stereotype on TV it's of a wholesome but neurotic outsider with a slightly posh accent. Idiot.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Wilkinson theory

Someone I know - who I won't name - has a theory that the larger the Wilkinson's store in a location, the rougher the area. This has obviously been torn in tatters now that Hyde boasts a 10,000 sq ft shop which Ricky Hatton opened yesterday. Here's the story from the MEN.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Dead rock stars

Thanks to my Mum for getting me a subscription the Word magazine for my birthday. The current cover story features 12 dead rocks stars, yet another subjective list that is as enthralling for all it excludes as much as the content within. I've heard of most of them and would applaud the choices - Ian Curtis, Freddie Mercury, George Harrison, Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash - but not all.

Not included were many obvious candidates, including Kurt Cobain. I watched the Nirvana Unplugged concert on telly on Friday night. Their version of David Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World is going to be in the list of ten best cover versions I may get round to doing this week. But the watching the whole video is a very unsettling experience. Cobain is haunted and spaced out and staring into the distance. The performance is faultless, but it is doing nothing for him. Five months later he was dead. I don't think he's any kind of hero at all, but he made great music.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hope for the best

Barely a month since the Midland Hotel at Morecambe opened for business, the sniping has started. I knew it would, Lancaster and Morecambe people can be very cynical. Some of the criticism is fair. Urban Splash are new to hotels and the fine ambition of hiring young kids with no experience has been haphazard. Plenty have been sacked, apparently. Including four bar lads who took customer service to a new level after the RIBA event in June, much to the annoyance of the husband of one randy female guest.

I'm here at the Midland for the official relaunch, almost 75 years since the original launch in July 1933. It's been a lovely night, with tales of daring do and bravery - and excellent service from the team at the hotel as well. I was lucky enough to be sat with Jon Falkingham from Urban Splash, Geraldine Smith, the Labour MP for Morecambe and David Taylor - a man who knows a thing or two about urban renewal as the chairman of Hull Citybuild and a big hitter in these parts too.

Our table was missing two guests; Councillor Evelyn Archer and her husband, who didn't show. She's quoted in the Morecambe Visitor as being against plans for the next phase of the development of Morecambe's central promenade, despite two years of consultation and an open competition. She's reported as supporting comments by Wayne Hemingway, who's plans failed in a blind competition, and who described the plans as like "selling the crown jewels". I think the tragedy here is that the outcry is all too late and aimed in the wrong direction. Where were they when someone decided to turn the train station into a pub and stop the track 400 yards further back, or when the Morrisons and Burger King (now boarded up) became the main attractions? Morecambe prom has a retail parade where Hitchens is the most upmarket shop. There is no view obscured by the plans for "a bit of resi" in the vacant plot that is now on central promenade. The plans may need a lot more public sector backing, but it would be investment, not subsidy and everyone in Morecambe should support it.

Urban Splash don't want to have to do everything in Morecambe. I, for one, reiterated my ambition to open Mick's Grill, purveyors of quality Lancashire Nosh. And I, like everyone else at the party tonight, equally look forward to supporting Hemingway's own hotel project.

Kids who don't listen

I often tease the kids about how little they tell me about what they're thinking and doing. Forgetting of course that I never used to tell my parents anything, nor would I even feign interest in what they did, or what they told me. Yesterday this hit me like a train. My Dad was telling me a story about when him and his Dad went down to White Hart Lane to see Spurs against Benfica in 1962 in the European Cup semi final, how they went with Grandad's friend Ted Smith, the landlord of a pub in Skerton, Lancaster, who used to manage Benfica from 1948 to 1952.

*screech of brakes*

Er, rewind please. How come I've never heard any of this before? A namedropper like me? My Dad used to make real efforts to take me to European games at Anfield and Wrexham, when I was about 11 and upwards - we were never going to see European football at Ewood, were we? - in so doing, he must have told me the details of that story many times before, but I won't have listened. Sure, I took in the detail that he'd only been to London once, but nothing about the magic of European nights. They even met the Benfica team and the captain Aguas, who Ted had brought over from Angola, and who hugged him like a son in the reception of the Park Lane Hotel.

I've been hunting down some information about Ted Smith, who must have been a pioneer and an adventurer to have done what he did, coaching the best club side in Europe at the time, winning the Latin Cup, before the European Cup was launched. This is our history and it's right in front of us. Blink, and you miss it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Friends like these

I note from Toby Young's column in the Spectator this week that his best mate Sean Langan has been freed from kidnappers in Taleban controlled Pakistan. His thoughtful and measured column about it is here. It's clearly been difficult for him to keep quiet about, but he has.

Cow economics

I first came across the cow economics about 8 years ago. There's a thing on Wikipedia about it here. Here are some with a few more we've invented. Ten in fact, it is Friday...

CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

CITY OF LONDON CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell three of them to a new shell company listed on the Alternative Investment Market, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at a bank on the Isle of Man, then execute a debt / equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows and transferring the ownership of the initial equity to a children’s charity. You get a CBE for services to sick kiddies. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who takes out a securitised debt package on the rights to all seven cows' milk and sells them back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because they crapped on your Maserati.

PRIVATE EQUITY CAPITALISM: You’ve bought two cows. Take out a massive structured debt package calculated on ten times the amount of milk they can ever possibly produce in a lifetime. Then hack one cow to bits. Sell off the milk, the meat, the bones, the blood. Squeeze as much milk as you can from the other one, then sell it to one of your mates for twice what you paid for the pair. Pay off the bank. Go skiing.

ENVIRONMENTALISM: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

GORDON BROWN ECONOMICS: You have two cows. The government introduces a new "straw tax" calculated on how much straw the cows eat. When the price of straw becomes too high and the cows can't produce any more milk, a new tax on unused cows is introduced. You give up and try to sell the cows, but the new tax on buying second hand cows means it's not worth it and there's no market. The government launches a task force into cow development.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: You are associated with (the concept of "ownership" is a symbol of the phallo-centric, war-mongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non-specified gender.

SURREALISM: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair "Cowgate".

BRITISH DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. You feed them sheeps' brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything. The cows then get flu and the government burns them.

EUROPEAN BUREAUCRACY: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

Lost in music

I've become spooked by the random shuffle function on my iPod. This week it has played two Prefab Sprout album tracks consecutively from the timeless classic Swoon. It has also managed to play The Message by Grandmaster Flash, just after Overpowered by Funk by The Clash, which both have references to Futura 2000 a New York grafitti artist. I'm getting quite giddy about what it might throw up for the journey home. It is a glorious way to rediscover music.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Book review in a lift - Jim White

Yes, there is still a football embargo on this blog, this month, but this book is not about football, it's about being a father to a son. It is a vivid and often shockingly real account of Jim White's time running a junior football team. I see so many of the grotesque stereotypes that he writes about at the tournaments and matches I go to. Not to mention the committee politics. It's a warm and happy book with some great stories and anecdotes from the author's chats with various managers and coaches and some lovely bits about his own moments with his son. But one very important line in the book stands out. It is the question that defines kids' football at every level. Through every coaching session, every committee meeting, every dispute about the links on the website. It is the question that should be asked by every manager who leaves a kid as an unused sub, and every parent who screams at a referee. And the question is this: "Who is it for?"

Straight Outta Compstall

The wonders of my new iPod and in-car device and the nice weather meant I had some fine tunes playing on the way in to work today and had the top down on the MLCC. I like the nice surprises that random shuffle throws up when I've stuck so much music on there. Like this, this and even a camp classic like this. Trouble is, as I pulled up next to a bus on London Road it was blaring out this. I must have looked a right tw*t. Whitey in his suit trying to get down wiv the bruvvas.

Ryan Giggs and me

I went to a business lunch at the Lowry Hotel today. I had to nip out half way through, and took a wrong turn into the other half of the banqueting room. I interrupted Ryan Giggs having his photo taken. There's no particular moral to this story, it was just a strange thing to happen. I'm sure he looked at me and thought, wasn't that the bloke I saw at Faro Airport last year? Or maybe not?