Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 Predictions Results

2011 was all about the Arab Spring, Japans earthquake, Anders Breivik, the Libyan War, Amy Winehouse dying and the London Riots. Fair enough, all major events i agree but 2011 was so much more than overthrowing Arab leaders and teenagers stealing trainers from JJB so it's that time again, where we need to look back at what we were told to expect in 2011 and how the predictors fared.

I don't recall any bookies offering odds on Charlie Sheen losing the plot and locking a prostitute in a cupboard but the bookies did make a lot of predictions about other stuff.

The ones they got correct were New Zealand to win the rugby World Cup, Barcelona to win the Champions league, Manchester United to win the Premier League, Sebastian Vettel to take the Formula 1 Championship. They also got right that Beyonce would announce her pregnancy, Michael Higgins would win the Irish election, the Icelandic volcano Grimsvotn will erupt and The King's Speech would win the best picture oscar and Colin Firth would pick up the best actor gong.

What they got completely wrong was Manchester City to bring home the Europa League Cup, Wolves to be relegated, Ralph Nadal to win both the US Tennis Open and Wimbledon with the New England Patriots bringing home the Superbowl. They also incorrectly predicted the winners of the Bulgarian and Danish elections and the the UK Government didn't fold. They also got wrong the colour of the Queens hat
at Will & Kates wedding and Annette Bening did not pick up the best actress Oscar.

Call me picky but it seems they go the big ones right but i think we could have guessed the big prizes going to New Zealand, Barcelona, Manchester United and Kings Speech.

Not a great return , i was expecting a few more hits so it's back to the psychics for the 2012 predictions.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Don't Come Back Thierry

Everyone has a secret singer or band that they listen to when they think nobody else is around although would never admit to being a fan unless they were having their toenails removed with pliers.
I came out as a Billy Joel fan a while back, a legacy of having parents who would continually play the Piano Mans albums on a permanent loop in my formative years.
One of my favourite Billy Joel songs is 'Scenes from an Italian Restaurant', mainly because halfway through it changes to a completely different song and then ends up back where it started and the two in one songs always seem to appeal to me. A decent psychiatrist would probably be able to explain what that means but in this particular Billy Joel song about Brenda and Eddie in the summer of '75, there is a line about you never being able to go back again and if i could somehow get a song into Thierry Henry's head, it would be this one with that particular line repeated over and over again.
When Thierry left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007 he was a legend, the club's top goal-scorer of all time and top of the Arsenal greatest players poll.
Now 4 years later and aged 34 Thierry is considering a two month loan spell with Arsenal while on a end of season break with MLS side New York Red Bulls.
As much as i would love to see Thierry Henry in an Arsenal kit again, i really wish he would decline the offer and keep his legend status intact.
Some Arsenal fans may disagree with me but the Thierry Henry of 2011/12 is very much different to the prolific Thierry Henry that we remember marauding down the left wing before cutting inside and curling the ball beyond the reach of the goalie.
I want to remember the Theirry Henry running the length of the pitch before tiptoeing through the Tottenham defence and almost taking the net off the goal-frame or the Henry flicking up and volleying the ball into the Manchester United goal from the edge of the box.
What i don't want to see is the Thierry Henry spend January and February with half the pace he once had struggling in games that he would have dominated in his pomp which will taint his image amongst Arsenal fans who have already seem to have the Thierry Henry rose tinted glasses on.
It is a lose-lose situation for you Thierry, all you can do is diminish your perfect reputation amongst Arsenal fans so please take the hint from Billy Joel and don't go back as you belong with Bergkamp, Ljungberg, Petit and Viera in another era and that time is passed.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

NHS Disappearing Under Tories

Not for nothing are the Conservative Party known as the nasty party and as expected, they are living up to their reputation of hacking away at everything good and then selling it off to their friends.
Remember the pre-election pledge that the NHS was safe in their hands, Cameron even used his disabled son as proof that the NHS would be safe in his hands, well that was 19 months ago and their pledge immedialty fell by the wayside as the Government forced tens of billions of NHS cuts which closed hospitals, made nurses redundant and closed support facilities.
A recent Guardian poll shows that 79% of Health Professionals state that NHS cuts have had a detrimental affect on patient care and many see this as a taste of things to come as the NHS gets run down, sliced and diced and then the most financially profitable bits privatised just like the Prison Health Contract.
This was once supplied by the NHS, then its £53m contract was awarded to Care UK, a private health company who it later emerged had made a £200,000 donation to the Tories before the election, including £21,000 to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the very man in charge of awarding the Prison Health contracts.
Now Mr Lansley's latest wheeze is to let the NHS raise up to 49% of their money from private work, meaning even longer waiting times as those who have paid for their operations take priority in the allocation of beds.
A two-tier system with those who can afford to pay being given priority over those less well off but nobody can pretend to be surprised that the Tories are back to their bad old ways of privatising everything and using the cover of austerity measures to achieve it. They even tried selling off the forests a while back until a public backlash forced them to rethink the strategy.
The National Health Service was always the big one and Cameron and his buddies were always going to find a way to cut off the good bits and sell it off to their pals and donors.
Just hope that public outrage forces the Conservatives on another U-Turn but that's unlikely as this is the holy grail of Tory ideology, an American style health system where your ability to pay decides the treatment, if any, that you receive.
Any ring-fencing has been around the banks and not the NHS, Cameron even jeopardised our future in Europe to avoid any regulation of them, which should be enough to go on for any sane voter at the next election.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Sanitising The Image Of The Military

The UK Christmas Number One this year was 'Wherever You Are' by the Military Wives, a feat that the brainchild Gareth Malone said showed that 'The support of the British military has been fantastic' but to me shows just another step in the unhealthy propaganda to normalise the view our military and their ill-advised adventures.
Recently there are soldiers everywhere in the media, on talent shows, being paraded before football matches, being squeezed and fawned over by celebrities in photo opportunities and rattling Help for Heroes collection buckets at us in town centres.
I have always felt a bit uneasy with the term 'Hero' when it comes to describing the military, victims always seemed more appropriate because there was nothing heroic about the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and the soldiers being killed and maimed are victims of the politicians decisions to send them into wars they had no place in being involved in.
When the Iraq War first began, there was an attempt by the more war hungry around us make anyone who criticised the war to appear somehow unpatriotic and paint all our brave boys as heroes.
It didn't work then but gradually the military has become part of our everyday life and as the duplicity and lies of the inception of the wars fade further into memory, an acceptance has evolved that what we did in Iraq and are still doing in Afghanistan is a good and decent thing.
The Afghanistan War has been going on for so long that i have teenagers who were mere toddlers at the time of the Wars outbreak asking me what it was all about. They are told to blindly support the troops but have no idea why.
The reasons behind the wars are no longer discussed, nor the reason why we continue to be there, just the propaganda that we must blindly support the troops who are there for our benefit defending our freedoms and protecting our way of life which is jingoistic nonsense.
The integration of the military into our everyday lives is a cynical ploy by the government and sectors of the media to sentimentalise the military, cast us as the good guys and stop us questioning the real issues of why we are there.
To read a newspaper today or watch a news broadcast, you wouldn't know that we were currently at war so maybe what we need are a few more reminders of the violence, death and destruction of War and to not allow a sanitised image of what the military do, and what our politicians did, to take hold in the public eye.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Joyeux Noel

Almost Christmas Eve and tomorrow i will be busy making sure bells are jingled and dongs dinged merrily so will be unable to get near the computer so i wish to echo glam rocker and professional sideburn wearer extraordinaire Noddy Holder in saying Merry Christmas Everybody!
Hope everyone has a great Christmas and see you all the other side of Boxing Day and remember fella's, KEEP THE RECEIPT!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Banning Suarez

The reaction from Liverpool to Luis Suarez's eight match ban for 'using insulting words about the colour of Manchester United's black defender Patrice Evra' is a confusion of mixed messages.
In a statement, they say that they are 'disappointed' with the 'extraordinary decision' to find Suarez guilty of aiming racist abuse at black player Patrice Evra. Manager Kenny Dalglish even tweeted that Suarez would get his full support while stating that Liverpool stand against any form of discrimination.
Suarez's defence was that he calle Evra 'negrito', Uruguayan for 'little black man' and that in Uruguay, it is not offensive.
Maybe if he had been in Uruguay when he said it he might have a defence but he was in England, where it is deeply offensive to call someone anything which may be interpreted in a racist way and it is never for the speaker to deem what is racist or not, that is dependent on the hearer and how they interpret it.
His claim that it was aimed at Evra in a friendly, amicable way further strains credibility as it came during the heat of battle between two fierce footballing rivals.
Facts are, despite what Kenny Dalglish and all the bone headed Liverpool fans are saying on the news boards, Suarez DID use insulting words about the colour of another player and admitted it himself so he is fully deserving of an eight match ban. To try and justify it or explain it away with cultural differences is nonsense and Dalglish is taking a risk in defending Suarez so vigorously and so frequently especially as he has now been found guilty of racist abuse.
If they, and Suarez, are serious about their claims they'll launch a civil case against Evra for defamation and slander and if not, then shut up, and stop backing someone who whispers racial slurs to black players on the football pitch. If he appeals, i hope it's extended.
Talking of which, I wonder how another premiership footballer is feeling on hearing this verdict. If Suarez got an eight match man when the only evidence you used racist language is one person's word, he must wonder what he is in for when the whole world has clearly seen you shouting it especially as 'I have many black friends so i can't be racist' is his latest defence.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Kim Jong Il now Kim Jong Dead

Amused me no end that on the death of Kim Jong Il, all everyone wanted to do was talk about him being ronery and making jokes about Kim Jong il now being Kim Jong dead.
It almost seems fitting that one of Kim Jong Il's final rantings was to threaten to shoot at the South Korean tower that was shaped like a Christmas Tree.
He may well have left nuclear armed North Korea diplomatically isolated and economically broken but when it comes to evil masterminds, this guy was a gift that kept on giving.
A tyrant he may have been but the safari suit, huge geek glasses and platform shoes condemned him to never being taken seriously although he had the capability to wipe out most of the countries around him.
Now his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, has taken up the reins and the heavily militarised country has been left in the hands of what looks like a pudgy 12-year-old.
It is not known if Kim the younger has inherited his fathers golfing skills who once shot 11 holes-in-one in a single round on a North Korean golf course in 1994, a feat witnessed by his 17 security guards who verified the accomplishment so it must be true.
The World may have one less evil tyrant polluting it and some will concentrate on his human rights abuses while others will want to discuss the possible implications and uncertainties of a transfer of power to his son but most of us will just be humming the 'I'm So Ronery' song.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Bye Chris

There were many things to admire about Christopher Hitchens, his sharp mind and even sharper writing skills were as good as anything i have ever seen in journalism, but it was his mile wide maverick streak that i found most compelling.
To go from a hard left Trotskyist to a right wing George W Bush admirer is not an easy trip to make but if you could overlook the betrayal, he was always a great read and one of the most provocative, arrogant and entertaining intellectuals of his generation.
Whether you disliked his brash and smug personality, disagreed with his beliefs or found his fondness for attempting to obliterate his opponents vulgar, the loss of such a cerebral speaker is a loss for us all in today's dumbed down society.
I agreed with his views on religion and the Palestinians, cringed at the way he pandered to the Bush administration and bristled at his support for America's wars but never did i turn off a show that he was appearing on.
The right wing were right not to embrace him too firmly because he was always liable to turn on his own, his strong criticism of the rights darling Ronald Reagan and the onslaught against religion proved that.
Stephen Fry probably summed it up when he said 'Goodbye, Christopher Hitchens. You were envied, feared, adored, reviled and loved. Never ignored. Never bested. A great and marvellous man'.
A magnificent bastard indeed.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Time Got It Right

Time magazine has named The Protester as its person of the year for 2011 which is probably a decent choice considering the amount of protests there have been around the World this year.
The Arab Spring should be singled out as the most far reaching with a posthumous mention for Mohamed Bouazizi who was the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire for having his fruit cart confiscated by the authorities which acted as the catalyst for the Tunisian revolution and the wider Arab spring.
So if Time got it right and pretty much everyone i asked has agreed, and the protesters are a clear winner for the person the of the year, maybe we should be looking for a villain of the year and 2011 gave us a good choice of candidates.
Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers hacking of dead and missing children's phones was a particular low point but Colonel Gaddafi was much maligned and then much murdered this year so he must be in with a shout.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been shooting protesters since April and Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik took his right wing politics to a youth camp and then opened fire on the unarmed adolescents present, killing 69.
All bad guys but in keeping with the Time award of handing the award to a group rather than an individual, the villains of the year must go to the 1% for contributing so little to keeping this World ticking over so peacefully and fairly.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Obama Rewriting History

The Iraq war is over Barack Obama has declared with Americans troops leaving behind 'a solid, stable, representative Iraq. The greatest fighting force in the world was leaving Iraq with its head held high.'
The election campaign is swinging into action and this is exactly what is needed, a nice healthy dose of drivel to obscure the fact that the whole thing has been a disaster.
Maybe Obama didn't get to hear of the car bombs going off yesterday in Tal Afar or the shootings in Baghdad and Mosul or, more likely, he conveniently overlooked them. Democracy is messy as Donald Rumsfeld told us and so is this attempt to rewrite history.
The truth is to those of us who remember the events of 2003, the Iraq Invasion was folly from start to finish and how Obama can boast of success is insulting and shows just what little value the man who we foolishly thought was bringing change, puts on the lives of people in Iraq, that he can even think of claiming success in the wake of so many lives lost but then we have seen in Afghanistan just what Obama is about when it comes to the deaths of non-Americans.
This disastrous war may be over but the one in Afghanistan continues and there are others in the pipeline against Iran and possibly Syria.
Rather than holding it's head up high and attempting to whitewash history, the American military, just as the UK military did, is slinking off with it's tails between its legs after yet another calamitous military intervention under its belt and no amount of deluded cheer leading from the under-pressure Commander in Chief will disguise it.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Die Hard: Not An Xmas Film

Las Ketchup had a song out in the summer of 2002 which was forever on the music video stations and a few years later, in the best Christmas tradition, they threw a few jingle bells into it, reshot the video in winter and called it a Christmas song.
Now a few jingle bells does not a Christmas song make, especially not one that you last heard while sweltering in 32C heat with your face covered in after-sun and the same goes for Christmas films.
When i think of Christmas films, my mind turns to the like of A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life. Feel good films with a happy ending and the vital ingredient of being Christmassy and not people with machine guns throwing other people from the top floor of a building.
Possibly in the directors cut of Wonderful Life, a heavily armed George Bailey runs amok in Bedford Falls after international terrorists take over the Savings and Loan, but its unlikely so how does Die Hard qualify as a Christmas film in most Top Christmas Films Google searches?
I concede that it is set on Christmas Eve and at one point a dead terrorist turns up in an elevator wearing a Santa Hat but a Christmas film? Nah.
Most importantly, it came out in July and I don't need to check my Cagney & Lacey calendar from 1988 to know that even back then July was not generally associated with Christmas.
Adding a jingle bell to a song does not make a song a Christmas song as tagging Dean Martin warbling about letting it snow at the end of the film does not make it into a Christmas film. Yippie Ki Yay Mother Christmas.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Ode To Poets Everywhere

For some strange reason, there seems to be an outbreak of poetry on blogs lately so not one to miss out on a fad, i have composed my own poem entitled 'Ode to Poets Everywhere'.

To poetry writers everywhere
You may find this post unfair
Your cloud may wander lonely in the air
But for your writing i just don't care

I don't want to be misunderstood
Just I don't think poetry is very good

This art form once had a romantic air
Elaborate men with passion and flare
If, The Raven, a wonderful pair
But now decent poems are very rare

I don't call all poets unexciting
Just your chosen form of writing

It's adolescents with floppy hair
With broken hearts they must repair
Their deepest thoughts that they must bare
With rhyming couplets laden with despair

I am not mocking lovers dismay
Just write things in a normal way

So to bloggers to make you aware
This recent outbreak of poetic fare
Is pretentious and a little bit square
And not a practise that i will share

We all get passionate about things some time
Just we don't make it into a bloody Rhyme!

As Poe once said from his reclining chair
His nerves all shredded and his whitening hair
It wasn't the Raven that gave him the scare
T'was the thought of a poet standing there

So take a lesson from the Raven on Poe's Door
And make words rhyme..'Nevermore'

Thank you

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mithra & Jesus Story Just A Coincidence

The mince pies are out and there is the smell of Christmas in the air.
That time of the year when we sing carols and give and receive presents in memory of the small child born on the 25th December to a virgin and wrapped in cloth and placed in a manger with only shepherds in attendance.
The young baby who grew up to perform miracles and lead 12 disciples before sacrificing his life for the benefit of mankind with Sunday being his sacred day.
Yes, good old Mithra who was one of the religions of the Roman Empire which was derived from the ancient Persian god of light and wisdom.
You thought i was talking about who? Oh, the virgin, manger, shepherds, 12 disciples and dying for the peace of mankind bit. I understand now.
No, this is Mithra who pre-dated Jesus by centuries.
Yes, all the similarities are a remarkable coincidence i suppose and Mithraism was around a long time before Christianity so that makes it all the more remarkable that the two stories are almost identical.
No, i'm sure the early Christians never and just embellished it. Just enjoy your mince pie and don't think about it.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Has Cameron Doomed Us?

In the words of the Sun, David Cameron has told Europe to shove it and walked out of any plans to save the Euro and it seems nobody knows what to think of that.
The anti-European right wing press are lauding him for his actions while the left wing press are scolding him for isolating us and turning our backs on our Europe brothers and sisters.
My own sympathies are somewhere in the middle and i'm uncertain what Cameron has done is a good thing or not.
If we had signed up to what the French and Germans are demanding, then it would have cost us tens of billions for countries that are not going to be able to claw there way back from the brink they are balanced precariously on.
Harsh to say but the PIIGS are doomed and further bail outs are futile, not that we could afford to dig out Spain or Italy without bankrupting us all anyway so i'm with Cameron on that score.
Where i think Cameron fell down was setting his face against Europe and going in with a list of demands and threatening to walk out if he didn't get them. No negotiation, this is what we want and we will take our ball home with us if we don't get them.
Now he has done that, we are on the outside with no input into how the European system evolves, a European system that we are heavily reliant upon for our own survival. France and Germany now get to make all the calls and mould it into the system they want and we have to just go with the flow.
I have always maintained that what we have is a halfway Europe, with everyone looking out for their own interests and that is never going to work. It needs to be all or nothing along the lines of the US model, an United States of Europe with one person calling the shots rather than 27 separate leaders squabbling.
Now we are outside and in the immediate term, you could argue that Cameron has saved us a fortune but in the long term, we have managed to remove ourselves from the decision making process of a system that we are eventually going to have to join with if we are ever going to have an influence on the World Stage.
The future is China, USA and the EU, Britain on it's own will be sidelined and ignored so it's a case of Cameron saving us a few pound today but we will sure be paying dearly for it tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Anarchy, The Only Way To Be

If you travel up from France and take a right at Calais, you end up in Belgium or to give the country it's full name, 'that place that nobody can name 3 famous people that hail from it without resorting to Google'.
Belgium has always been a bit of a strange country, known as boring and flat, it gained it's independence from the Dutch after an uprising followed an opera which is not the most obvious of sparks but it literally was over for the Dutch when the fat lady sung.
Thanks to stubborn politicians refusing to agree on how to form a coalition, Belgium had been without a government since June 2010 and in a state of anarchy in the original meaning of no government.
No government!? Well then there has obviously been massive riots, chaos, lawlessness, buildings on fire, or any of the other apocalyptic scare scenarios of a state of anarchy, only there hasn't been.
Daily life continued almost the same as before with everything still functioning except with one notable exception.
Without a government, none of the stuff all the other governments around the World have been doing could go on so no cuts, redundancies or austerity packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is tootling along much as it always has and much to everyones surprise, the Belgian economy is experiencing slightly healthier growth than most of it's European neighbours.
In the second quarter of 2011, Belgium grew at a meagre 0.7% but that beats the 0.1% growth for Germany, 0.2% for Britain and the disastrous 0.0% for France.
The country appears to be benefiting from its accidental immunity to the austerity fever that’s sweeping Europe so from the economic point of view, a country with no government is doing better than those with a government.
Alas, the heady times of Anarchy have now come to an end as the Belgian politicians have finally sorted out their difference and from today a Belgian Prime Minister has his hands back on the rudder again but boring little Belgium has left us with an interesting thought that won't be promoted by any Government anytime soon.
During hard times, could the best form of Government be no Government at all? Johnny Rotten may have been onto something all those years ago.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Cheer Up, It's Nearly Christmas

It seems that every year the amount of people complaining about Christmas being an excuse to pump consumers into buying a lot of crap grows.
Miserable buggers are only one step short of the Scrooge refrain of boiling in their own pudding and burying them with a stake of holly through his heart anyone who has the words Merry Christmas' on their lips.
Bah Humbug to the lot of them because I'm with Andy Williams in declaring It's the most wonderful time of the year.
To a Christian it is about the birth of Jesus, to an atheist which to be honest is the vast majority of us, then Christmas is whatever you want it to be.
If you don't like the commercial side of it then no-one is forcing you to spend a fortune in the shops and if all you are going to do is moan throughout the whole period then you only going to be grumpy and a pain to be around anyway.
Christmas, to me anyway, is about the decorations, the carol singers, advent calendars, Christmas films, the school nativity play, holiday from work, Christmas pop records and the general feeling of goodwill that builds as the days in December get crossed off the calendar.
If you are one of those people who use Scrooge as a template for celebrating Christmas then as the nephew said to his uncle Ebeneezer, 'Christmas is as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.'
Now shove a mince pie in your miserable face and get some Christmas spirit

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Career Change

I have been considering a career change for some time now and after some thought, i have decided to apply for the position of manager at Sunderland AFC.
Not that i am particularly a Sunderland fan but a couple of seasons playing football manager 2011 has shown i have a natural talent for running a football team as steering Reading from a mid-table Championship side to second place in the Premier League and successful negotiation of the group stages in the Champions League has shown. Flushed with this recent success, i have emailed Sunderland with my application as follows:

re: The Sunderland manager vacancy

Please can i be considered for the current managerial vacancy at your football club.

I have successfully steered Reading from the Championship to 2nd in the Premier League and to the group stages of the European Champions League on Football Manager 11 and feel i could repeat this feat with Sunderland. Admittedly i did use the editor to move Messi and Xavi to my team but they were both injured a lot and did not really contribute.

Thank you for your consideration


I know i face stiff competition from Mark Hughes and Martin O'Neil and the fact that i cheated by making use of the Editor beforehand which may go against me but Hughes going mad and paying £20m for the hapless Brazilian striker Jo should discount him and Martin O'Neil's £120 million spending spree during his time at Aston Villa should suitably put the willies up the club owners in these austere times.
Up the Black Cats and while they are considering my application, i will be in training for my second choice career move as God with some Civilization 4.

Reply from Sunderland AFC

Dear Lucy

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the vacant managerial role at Sunderland.

I’m sure you will understand that the calibre of candidates for the role has been very high and we will therefore unfortunately be unable to progress your application further.

Thank you for your interest in Sunderland AFC and may we take this opportunity to wish you every success in your career in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Sunderland AFC