The Obscurer

Month: March, 2007

Double Or Quits

Well, I’d hoped that by now we would know for certain where the nation’s single “supercasino” was to be situated, but last night’s vote in the Lords means this whole malarkey is going to rumble on for a while yet. How very disappointing.

Should there be a supercasino? Should there be more than one? Where should they be placed? I don’t care. I’m more interested in the way my local TV news has tied itself up in knots over the issue.

Normally it would be pretty easy for the BBC’s North West Tonight, or Granada Reports. If it were London challenging Manchester’s award of the casino we would be hearing about the capital’s domination of all things in the country, and how the respected panel that initially chose Manchester had made the correct and legitimate decision. If Leeds had been awarded the casino in the first place then we would have heard nothing but criticism of both the Leeds bid and the process itself, along with endless propaganda pushing Blackpool’s case. Sadly, for the BBC and Granada, as both Blackpool and Manchester are in their region, they have had to tread a fine line and actually report fairly, no doubt leaving the Manchester Evening News and Blackpool Gazette to fill the vacuum.

What a pain. It must be one of the joys of working on a local news programme that, when in doubt, you can simply indulge in the purely parochial. Why bother to look into the rights and wrongs of all sorts of issues when you can just bang the drum for the local interest above and beyond any common sense? Who cares if somewhere outside your region has a better claim for government revenue or private investment; they are, by definition, outside your region, and therefore damned.

But my favourite quote on the casino matter came from MP Joan Humble. She was interviewed yesterday on News North West about how she would be voting in the Commons, and was then asked which way she thought the impending vote would go; to the latter question she replied that said she wasn’t sure and wouldn’t like to guess as she’s “not a betting person”. Not a betting person? Yet she thought she had the requisite knowledge on the subject of gambling to go and vote against the bill in the hope of favouring a Blackpool bid?

What was it, I wonder, within or without, that had persuaded her which way to vote? Was there a particularly clinching argument that made Blackpool the clear choice? Was is down to evidence that the panel had been negligent in some aspect when originally awarding Manchester the casino? Or was it simply because Joan Humble is the MP for Blackpool North and Fleetwood? I wouldn’t dream of speculating; but should she ever lose her seat, no doubt a career in local journalism beckons.

PostScript: Incidentally, I know you needn’t be a gambler to have have an opinion about if or where the casino should be built, and in favouring her local area Joan Humble only did that any MP would do. This isn’t really about her but about mindless local bias in general, in both the media and in politics. But to say you’re “not a betting person” in this context seemed a particularly unfortunate thing to say, and it caught my ear. Hence this post.


Who Moved My Cheese?

Change is for the better, except when it makes things worse. Blogger recently forced me to migrate this blog from the old platform to New Blogger. The most obvious “improvement” is that all the permalinks for the posts written since I moved are broken if you use Firefox, as I know many of you do. As a result, Firefox users are currently unable to leave comments here; not a major problem I’m sure, but a pain in the arse all the same.

So. For the time being, if you want to leave a comment, either use Internet Explorer or in Firefox, click on the permalink, add “.html” after the URL in the address field and hit “go”, and you should end up at the right place. I think. Failing that, send me an email.

I’ll update you when I have resolved the problem by whatever means necessary.

The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This

I haven’t written about Iraq in a while; I think I’ve pretty much said all I want to say on the subject, and anyway events have moved on. We can still argue about whether or not the war was right or wrong, but that seems secondary these days to what we should actually do now. To surge or not to surge? I just don’t know the answer to that question, and although I weakly favour the former I think the question is best left to military strategists.

Anyway, despite all that, I did somehow manage to watch more of Question Time last night than I’d intended. It was an Iraq special, and it was annoying. Depending on your viewpoint certain bits would no doubt stand out as being more annoying than others, but for me the performance of John Bolton deserves comment. The Bush administration’s former ambassador to the United Nations, and a staunch supporter of the Iraq war, he spent the majority of the programme despairing of other people; he was by turns astonished, depressed, or plain old disturbed that there appeared to be a large number of people out there who disagreed with him. This suggested a life so sheltered as to make him wholly unsuited for – but probably representative of – high office. But it was when summing up, when reflecting on the lessons of the Iraq war in general and the policy of pre-emption in particular, that he came up with this peerless gem.

You have to take action against these threats before they become real. It’s no solace to the victims that you can retaliate after. There’s no consequence that can bring back the people who have been killed by these weapons of mass destruction, or the consequence of what happens living under the threat of their use by people like Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad of Iran, Kim Jong Il of North Korea.

Well said, Sir! How ridiculous it is to expect us to just sit around waiting in case some dictator perhaps invades a neighbour, to idly daydream while he may sponsor havoc abroad, to patiently ignore that fact that he might be planning an attack and that innocent people could be killed. No thank you! Much better to remove such uncertainties, to ensure that people are killed, and to guarantee there are is a war, but a war fought on our terms, at a time of our choosing, to at least make sure that the first wave of people killed are either citizens of other nations or merely our own armed forces (that is their job); so we can be certain that those initial victims are at least blown to smithereens by our own sweet bombs of liberty. That’s the way.

By the by, I believe that if you lost 5 inches off the top of John Bolton’s heid it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

I Meme Mine

There are a few memes doing the rounds at the moment. This one, via Bloggerheads, suggests republishing the post you wrote 4 years ago when the Iraq war started; or at least the post written nearest to that date. So here is my effort.

Welcome to my Blog. Who knows where we will go from here. It may be funny, it may be serious, it may by entirely devoted to football. It may never get much further than this welcome message. Watch this space and find out.

And believe you me, no one is more surprised than me that here I am still plugging away at this thing, albeit only every so often, when I can be bothered. Unfortunately, as the beady-eyed amongst you may have noticed, that post, while being the first I wrote after the invasion, is clearly also the first one I ever wrote, and is only 2½ years old. On the day war was declared I was busy getting gradually more and more drunk at my sister-in-law’s wedding, and still a good 17 months off starting this blog. For this reason, I am disqualified from taking part in this meme; well that and the fact I haven’t been tagged in the first place.

Nothing new there; I never am, like the last person to be picked for games (who, incidentally, also tended to be me). The other meme I haven’t been volunteered for is that of the “thinking blogger”, or if you will, Thogger. So I am indebted to sbalb for showing the way forward, for declaring that you needn’t be tagged to take up a meme, and that in doing so you can actually subvert and perhaps even gum-up the whole system. Inspired stuff indeed. Sadly, as even sbalb hasn’t tagged me for the Thogger meme, I just don’t feel comfortable in participating in that one either. Rules is rules, after all.

Mmm, I really don’t know where I’m going with this post. I’ve got a horrible feeling that this is just another excuse to write a post with a title that combines a pun with a song, my weapons of choice. To make matters worse, without going to Google, I bet I am far from the first person to have thought “I Meme Mine” was clever and unique and titled a post accordingly. Mind you, it could be worse; I’ll wager “Meme Myself And I” is even more ubiquitous. You know, what with De La Soul being more popular than The Beatles and all.

Rebellion (Lies)

I’ve said before that I think Harry Hill’s TV Burp is just about the only thing worth watching on ITV these days. Do you watch it? Only wondering, you see, because it seems that the advertising agencies of the nation can’t think anyone does. Over the weekend the ad-break for TV Burp consisted entirely of promotions for other ITV programmes; plenty of Dancing On Ice and Jane Austen, even Elton John’s Birthday Party FFS, but nothing about soap powder or even tea bags. I find it bizarre; when even the lamest programme at any hour on Ftn seems able to fill its breaks with proper adverts I can’t figure out why the best programme on the most popular commercial channel can’t pay its way. Whether it is down to ITV, the advertising agencies, or the lumpen skulls of the great British public I cannot tell.

Presumably Harry Hill has hitherto been subsidised by other areas of ITV’s programming, such as the profits from ITV Play; in which case I think I have found the only reason to lament the station’s demise following the recent scandals over faked phone-ins on TV. If the removal of the channel does coincide with TV Burp’s demise then I may have to rethink my attitude to crap like The Mint.

It is a strange business this whole palaver over the phone-in competitions. I don’t actually see much of a problem with the ITV Play / Quiz Call type of phone-in; calling in for such shows seems such a transparent waste of money that with perhaps a tweak or two I don’t see why they can’t continue to offer a service to those people with more money than sense who really should know better but apparently don’t. On the other hand the Richard & Judy / Saturday Kitchen type incidents, where people were asked to phone in for quizzes they had no chance of winning, is a different matter altogether; words fail, although a word called “fraud” will probably do.

The Blue Peter incident, I think, is especially telling. In that instance, when faced with a technical fault on the competition’s phone lines, the producer continued to allow calls to be accepted and charged for and roped in a child who was on a studio visit to pretend to phone in and so “win” the prize, maintaining the appearance of a genuine phone-in. Astonishing behaviour indeed; you or I, if put in the producer’s shoes, would no doubt just apologise for the fault and cancel the phone-in. That the real life TV producers didn’t do this, and that they seemingly didn’t consider there to be anything wrong and/or illegal in taking the action they took, I think shows how so much of television is artifice in the first place; that producers and programme makers so routinely twist and bend the dull truth into a convenient and palatable reality that it didn’t occur to them that they were overstepping the line on this occasion.

But I think the real shocker here is that this is not the first of Blue Peter’s deceptions. On a news story last week it was revealed that in the ‘sixties the original pet dog Petra died after a few days and was secretly replaced with another puppy without informing the viewers. This came as a body blow to me. I remember that when Petra (or should that be the replacement Petra) died Blue Peter informed viewers that they could send off for a free colour photograph of the dog, and for some reason my parents insisted I write in. Eventually we received our photo, only it was in black and white, not colour, and with a note attached apologising and explaining that they had run out of colour prints. Run out? How odd it seems in this day and age; when digital photos can be printed on demand it sounds a poor excuse to say you just “ran out” of colour photos. But even at the time; what happened to the original colour negative? Did someone stand on it? Did they just print a load off and chuck the negative in the bin? Surely they could have gone down to SupaSnaps and got a few more printed off, even in the ‘seventies? But apparently not.

Anyway, I can now clearly see that the upshot of the whole tawdry affair is that I ended up with a substandard photo of an impostor I didn’t even care for in the first place. I liked Shep.