The Obscurer

Month: September, 2007

A Bit On The Side

As promised when I moved this blog over from Blogger to WordPress, I have done plenty of “tinkering and fiddle-faddling” with this website since, adding wee plug-ins and the like here and there that you probably haven’t noticed, and which I am happy to leave you to find for yourselves, and to make use of if they are of any use. But in lieu of having anything original to write about, and because I know many (many?) of you just read this via a feedreader, I’d like to just draw your attention to the new Recent Browsing section in the sidebar. In short it is a list of the last 10 posts or articles on other blogs or websites that I have added to my new thingy, and which I think may be of interest.

Dominating the list at the moment are three posts regarding the Craig Murray / Alisher Usmanov affair; if you don’t know what it is all about then Chicken Yoghurt is the best place to start, detailing the way the man hitherto known as “that fat Russian bloke who wants to buy Arsenal” has forced down a number of websites that were making allegations against him. In brief, rather than trying to defend his reputation, Usmanov’s lawyers, Schillings, have sought to crush dissent just by threatening legal action and without making any attempt to clear Usmanov’s name, a (apparently failed) strategy to starve their opponents’ allegations of the oxygen of publicity, which they boast of having used previously on their website, and which should be of concern to anyone with a vague interest in that old bauble “freedom of speech”. In addition to Chicken Yoghurt, I have linked to Unity’s post at Ministry of Truth regarding some tactics on how to deal with the UK libel laws (he is also excellent here on Schillings’ philosophy), and to Tim Ireland’s temporary Bloggerheads site (the original one being a casualty of the action) which details a timeline of what has happened, and what is going to happen next.

The rest of the links are a bit of a mish-mash; from the deadly serious (a link to a petition supporting the Burmese protesters, via Nosemonkey) to the hilarious (Andrew Collins showing a toe-curling corporate video for the free magazine ShortList); from more “old media” absurdity (Digital Spy report that UKTV G2 is being renamed Dave. Yes, Dave! How did that get past market research? Who do they speak to?) to “new media” brilliance (SBALB on being head hunted), I like to think that there is a little something for everyone there. There’s even a feed for my links to subscribe to if you want, but I know you don’t.

For how long I bother to continue updating the list only time will tell, but it is certainly a neat way of putting new content on the blog while expending next to no effort on my part. Whether anyone bothers to read it is another matter entirely, but it’s there for now anyway; check it out, ignore it, the choice is very much yours to make.


Only A Northern Rock

You can keep that one. It’s free. Well, it’s got to be better than “Between a Northern Rock and a hard place” and all the other similar, equally obvious and unimaginative headlines recently. But to be honest, I don’t want to talk about the current turmoil in the financial markets. I mean honestly; pensioners being criticised for being naïve as they take their life savings out of Northern Rock, while city institutions do the same thing with their money but without censure; laissez-faire, capitalism-red-in-tooth-and-claw-government-should-just-get-out-of-the-way free-marketeer types squealing for state intervention; it all seems beyond parody to me, but then fortunately I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

No, far better to simply announce, albeit late in the day, that we still have a few minutes left of…

International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Quick quick, me hearties, there be not much time to go!

Generation Game?

So Jim Davidson is the latest casualty of reality TV, pushed before he could jump from the current incarnation of Hell’s Kitchen because he made offensive remarks to a fellow contestant. I’ve never been a fan of the man personally, but incredibly he managed to fall short of the very low standards I already expected of him.

Jim’s response has been entirely predictable. There were double standards because apparently people were also offensive to him on the show, though examples were not forthcoming, because they don’t exist. He said that the pressures of the show made him “play up to the worst of my perceived image”; this is known as the “Chubby Brown defence”, and was bollocks when he originally came out with it to differentiate his “stage persona” from the “real him”, when they’re essentially the same. He was appalled that now it appeared that he had become the victim, as if this were some terrible, unjust reverse contrary to the laws of nature. If he was now a victim, then he wondered where all the other “heterosexual, white, normal” people like him should go now; oblivious to the fact that he could have stayed put as long as he stopped acting the dick, but that even if he had to move on his specific demographic doesn’t appear to be struggling overall so he has plenty of options. He was of an earlier generation he said (“before racism was bad”, as that line in The Office had it?) as if there were a time when rudeness was once in fashion. In the end, of course, Jim complained that this was all down to “politically correctness”, of which he knows nothing.

But I think we should give thanks to Jim Davidson for his foray into the debate on political correctness, because it has helped me in my understanding of what it actually means. There are some egregious examples of PC “gone mad” – often more urban myth than reality, in my experience – but at its heart I believe that to be political correct simply means that you don’t use terms that other people find offensive, and that you treat others with respect. It is about politeness and decency, and Jim’s behaviour has confirmed me in this opinion. Regarding the specific incident that resulted in Jim Davidson’s expulsion, it should be obvious to all that it is less than courteous to refer to other people as “shirt-lifters”, and pretty stupid to do so while in the presence of a gay man; that when said gay man admits that he finds the term offensive, apologising is generally preferred to saying “I don’t care” and accusing him of “playing the homophobic card” as that is unlikely to calm the situation; still less is it recommended to then call him a “fucking disgrace”, as that term is typically frowned upon in polite society, and absent from most good books on etiquette. This is all common sense, the basic principles of human engagement that we really should learn at our mother’s knee, rather than have battered into us on some Diversity course or other.

ITV, in sacking Davidson as he was walking out of the door, was probably trying to earn easy brownie points while avoiding the kind of furore Channel 4 was embroiled in during the last series of Celebrity Big Brother. There was no need to fire him, and to do so seems an overreaction in my opinion; but from the (admittedly) little I saw of Hell’s Kitchen, by my definition of political correctness Jim Davidson certainly failed the test, but not because on one occasion he used an offensive and homophobic term. The problem was that he came across as a picky, condescending and arrogant character who didn’t appear to understand anyone else, his fellow white middle-aged male contestants being as baffled by his behaviour as anybody; in fact he cut such a sad, confused and misanthropic figure that you could almost feel sorry for him, were he not acting the twat, all the time. It was his shitty attitude and lack of respect towards other people in general that was the problem; the supposedly PC-specific complaints such as the hateful misogyny that appeared so entwined and intrinsic to his being, and the thoughtless, casual homophobia that he brushed off, only seemed to come with the territory.


I bet he’s furious. After three long years he finally psyches himself up to do his first television address in ages, intoning his beautifully crafted and meticulously rehearsed prose, so to spread fear and unease in the hearts of the infidels and apostates; and what is the reaction? No one even has the common decency to listen to the content and power of his words and delivery, all anyone does is to talk about how much older he looks nowadays, and hasn’t he dyed and trimmed his beard?

Osama Bin Laden has every right to feel aggrieved: We’ve all aged over the last three years, he would argue, even you. You just try keeping on top of a thorough skin-care regime when you live in this cave; it’s not exactly awash with pentapeptides you know, whatever they are, if they even exist beyond an advertiser’s imagination. Listen, I’m up here. Thank you. And there’s nothing in the Koran that forbids dying your beard either; or if there is it must be somewhere towards the back and I’ve skipped it. Anyway, I’ve had this look for months now; it’s only new to you because you haven’t seen me recently. When you get used to it you’ll realise that it suits me. I cringe now when I look back at those old videos, I really do. Now, where were we? But we wouldn’t take any of this in, so distracted would we be by his facial hair the shade of black Kiwi boot polish.

Osama will not be replacing Natalie Imbruglia as the new face of L’Oreal, and he shouldn’t expect that call from Grecian 2000 either. But this does all highlight the perils of being a terrorist mastermind in these superficial, celebrity-obsessed and ageist times. Bin Laden must feel like giving up, throwing in the towel, and who could blame him? How he must wish he was of a different, more deferential time, fifty years ago perhaps, some imagined golden age, when evil mass-murderers were afforded the unconditional awe and dread they so deserve.

(Llandud) No Clouds

In my wildest dreams. Picture courtesy of the never-reliable “Camera Obscurer.”