Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Prison Break

It's getting quite exciting isn't it? This, incidentally, is what all the cool people are watching - not that shit heap, moron magnet, Hollyoakes-on-a-desert-island, beautiful-people-in-mild-peril, make-it-up-as-we-go-along, implausodrama known as Lost.

And that 'T-bag' - oooh, he's a bayyd, bayyd maaayyyn.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pouting Newsreaders

Is it just me or, of late, have ITN and BBC News started to employ female newsreaders of a certain type only? The doe-eyed, arched-eyebrowed, pouting, collagen-lipped type? I've just been watching ITN News and I swear that Nina Hossain's main role is not newsreading so much as it is the important business of pouting at the camera while raising her left eyebrow from time to time. It's not just her. There are so many Nina Hossainalikes - Kaplinsky, Katie Derham, Kirsty Young (perhaps) and, of course, Fiona Bruce (so well parodied by Jan Ravens in Dead Ringers - 'I'm Fiona Bruce; breaking news, breaking hearts...puurrrrr'). I wonder if there's some kind of newsreaders' training school these presenters have to attend. I imagine that in the first week they learn how to keep a slightly self-satisfied, half-smile on their face, even when recounting the details of some atrocity. In the second week they perfect the art of making come-hither, doe eyes at the camera. In the third week, it's out of the classroom for a week of cat shadowing in order to get those feline mannerisms down pat, and in the fourth week it's 7 gruelling days of intensive eyebrow lift weight training.

Of course, the reason why female newsreaders seem, more and more, to conform to a certain type, is almost certainly because the people who make the recruiting decisions are men. I'm not suggesting that any of the above newsreaders are not intelligent or not good journalists - I just rather suspect that they got the presenting job, in large part, because of their male viewer friendly looks. Why can't we have normal looking news readers? You know, ones who look like 99% of the rest of the population and not some cross between a porn star and a particularly languid cat. It's noticeable, of course, that the same kind of rules don't seem to apply for male applicants for the position of newsreader - you don't see Huw Edwards or Peter Sissons doing an awful lot of smouldering and I can't see any of them getting a Pantene Pro-V contract.

Perhaps it's always been like this - and of course, the media has always been a bastion of sexism. But I can't help thinking that the rise of the pouting newsreader reflects the continuing headlong plunge of the increasingly corporate UK media into a US broadcasting style, dumbed down, infotainment, celebtastic, 10-second-attention-span, intelligent comment free zone. How long can it be, before it's no longer possible to draw a hard and fast distinction between the world of 'serious news' and Heat magazine? I suspect there have already been several Kaplinsky related features in that particular publication.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Classless Britain

I was rather amused to see, in a characteristically dry post by the Cumudgeon, that the British Chief of Defence Staff, goes by the name of Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup. Jock Stirrup?! Jock Stirrup??!! I thought this must be a curmudgeonly joke. But no - the Chief of Defence Staff really is called Jock Stirrup (sorry, Sir Jock Stirrup). The creators of Blackadder could not have come up with a more ridiculous ruling class name.

A little research reveals that the young Jock Stirrup attended Merchant Taylor's School - current fees £2292 per term.

What of out other military leaders and senior civil servants? Alas, most of them don't have quite such silly names. They do have rather silly titles however - and, of course, public school backgrounds.

The chief of the army is General Sir Mike Jackson (ow! Shaamon muthafucker!) - or, to give him his preferred title General Sir Mike Jackson (ow! Shaamon muthafucker!) MBE CBE KCB DSO ADC Gen. The young Mike Jackson (ow! Shaamon muthafucker!) attended Stamford School - current fees for day pupils, £9564 per annum and for boarders, £17940.

The chief of the navy is First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band KCB ADC. As a nipper the First Sea Lord attended the rather charming sounding Brambletye and Haileybury schools. Current day rates at Haileybury are £16515, while boarding rates are £21990.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to track down school background of the RAF chief, Air Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy CBE DSO BSc (Eng), FRAeS. He's an engineer by trade and, furthermore, the RAF has always been a little downmarket - the toffs prefer the Army and 'Senior Service', so there's a good chance that Glenn... sorry... Sir Glenn was a grammar school boy - though I somewhat doubt that he attended a city comp.

The head civil servant at the FCO is Sir Michael Jay KCMG. Little Michael attended Winchester College - current day fees, £22325 and boarding fees £23500.

The head civil servant at the Home Office is Sir David Normington KCB. Unfortunately, I can't find out where Dave went to school, but his predecessor (replaced this year), Sir John Gieve, attended Charterhouse - day rates £19803, boarding rates £23955.

The Chief Constable of the Met is, of course, Sir Ian 'head-shot' Blair. Little Ian attended Wrekin College - current boarding fees £16170-18585, day rates £9294-11235.

I could go on...

Incidentally, a lot of these military chappies seem to be earning a pretty penny or two on the side as public speakers at business functions. Apparently, all these Sir Whatsits are quite happy to associate themselves with various brands and to help flog stuff - military stuff no doubt. See here for a list of carpet baggers (under 'Defence/Defense' - clearly they're quite happy to help both American and Brit arms dealers). You can also find a list of public school chappies who've moved effortlessly between the upper echelons of the state and various arms manufacturing and mercenary outfits here (Campaign Against the Arms Trade).

Friday, May 26, 2006

I'm an Unpatriotic Scoundrel I am.

I know I shouldn't really laugh, but I found Charlie Brooker's piece on St George's Cross flag wavers/wearers very funny:

Rejoice! Thanks to the national obsession with football, the cross of St George has finally been reclaimed from the racists. Nowadays, when you see an England flag on a car, sprawled across a T-shirt, or flapping from a novelty hat, you no longer assume the owner is a dot-brained xenophobe. Instead you assume he's just an idiot. And you're right. He is.

Brooker goes on to call this popular sporting of the English flag a 'berk demarcation scheme'. Arf arf.

And yes, before anyone says it, I know that my amusement here suggests a certain snobbery and condescension on my part. Very sorry about that. But please don't make this a class issue - I'm sure that this tendency to stick a flag on your car window and to display it on your chest is pretty evenly spread across the income scale. Goodness knows there are lots of England tops on York University campus at the moment which is not exactly known as a 'sink estate'.

Just one small niggle with Brooker's wording - these numbskulls are not always a 'he'. Plenty of women sporting them too. Patriotic idiocy's not the sole preserve of the male sex you know - although admittedly, they probably are the main offenders.

I'm taking a big step, this World Cup time. I'd usually support England, you know. I think, however, that I might just find myself able to leave that football nationalism stuff behind this time though. I found the experience of hoping for Daz Monkeyboy Shitface to do extremely badly at the Eurovision very, very easy - surprisingly so, perhaps (or then again, perhaps not, since the guy was such a tosser). I'm regarding that experience, now, as a useful warm up for the biggie. I'm prepared now, I think, not to support Beckham's lot. I think I shall support France or Spain - somewhere fairly hip and glamorous. I'm not really doing this out of principle - I've said before that the whole 'anyone but England as a tool of socialist politics' idea is completely laughable. I'm just doing it to annoy people. Sheer devilment. A few months ago I cheered when Poland (I think) scored in a friendly against England (I can't remember now - it was a foreign team against an English team - perhaps it wasn't the national side - doesn't matter) and really wound up two of my then housemates. Clearly, I'm going to be careful about this - it's probably best not to walk into a pub full of squaddies and shout 'allez la France!' However, a few well placed anti-patriotisms should provide some considerable source of amusement.

I'm going to need some steel though. I hope that some of my visitors here will keep checking up on me to ensure that I've not reverted to England-supportery. It might not be easy. I am weak.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Spring Cleaning

I've removed a few links from the sidebar on this site. I've removed links that don't work (Historical fricking Materialism nnnggghhh!), altered others and also removed a few blog links which seem not to have been updated for several months. I am fricking ruthless. Thought it was probably nettiquette to point this out. So there you are.

Also, I've been a bit slow to catch on to the new improved Socialist Register site, where you can now freely download all articles from 1964 up until 2000. It's a veritable treasure trove. I must remember to pick out some of my favourite articles some time.

You may have noticed that I've also added some bands that I like to the bottom of the links section. This is simply to make myself look a bit more hip. And anyway, one must have roses with one's bread or something.

Note to self - you have started to use the word 'fricking' over and over again. Stop it. It makes you look like a dick.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lecturers' Union 'Left Current'

Just seen this at the S.U.N. website. There's going to be a conference to launch a 'left current' in the new, merged UCU lecturers' union in London, later this month. Unfortunately I can't go, cos I is too poor (pity me!) - but I thought I might as well point it out on the site here. I see Tony Benn, Sheila Rowbotham and Hilary Wainwright amongst others are all down to address the conference - looks like this current might well have some clout.

Would be nice to see something about Graduate Teaching Assistants there, though. Some of us are really suffering this term since we can usually rely on a certain amount of income from invigilation and examination marking in the summer term. With the strike on, this money is not available for those who don't want to cross picket lines. For those who don't get a research grant, this income can mean the difference between being able to pay the rent and not being able to pay it. (Self pity).

Newsnight: Socialism Makes You Happy.

It was reported on Newsnight, last night, that some body or another has identified 5 policies which would make people happier. Here they are:

1. Promote employment
2. Reduce conspicuous inequalities
3. Promote/improve direct democracy
4. Abolish aspirational advertising
5. Cut out government corruption and incompetence

Employment is central to people's well being - even more so than money and spending power. Apparently, in terms of happiness levels, it would take something like 25k a month (from memory) to compensate someone for the loss of their job. People like to work, like to be busy and enjoy the social camaraderie that goes with employment. Clear inequalities of wealth and life chances also damages people's happiness - the conspicuous consumption of the very rich, especially, makes those less fortunate feel worthless and anxious. Improved democracy and direct grassroots control of representatives helps to make people feel more in control of society and of their own lives. Aspirational advertising continuously functions to increase people's dissatisfaction with their own lives - we are constantly fed images of happy, pretty, rich-looking people, consuming whatever commodity it is that the advertisers are trying to flog. These ads are, of course, deliberately designed, to make us feel anxious about ourselves and to feel that, unless we purchase these particular commodities, we'll be missing out on what those other happy people in the ads have. Of course, this anxiety is never disspelled, and our manufactured desires never sated, since there's always something else to flog. Finally, government corruption and incompetence, apparently, makes us all unhappy - lack of control over representatives.

What's striking about these suggested policies (with the possible exception of 5, which is rather more politically neutral than the others) is just how fricking socialist they are. Socialism makes you happy - it's official - Newsnight said it.

My satisfaction with this piece was increased all the more, by the fact that this report came as part of a segment on the Cameron New Model Tory party's latest PR offensive. Cameron wants to make us all happier and the Conservatives are now convinced, apparently, that there is more to life than making money (hallelujah!). So I'll be expecting to see Nick Soames, Ken Clarke, Zac Goldsmith and so on giving away their enormous fortunes some time soon then.

Talking of the Tories, does anyone else find Adam Rickett's inclusion on the Conservative 'A-list' enormously funny? I saw that A-lister Louise Bagshawe ('chick lit' author and literary intellectual) on the Newsnight sofa last night. Impressively aristocratic name that - Bagshawe. Still, she really seemed like a breath of fresh air, what with her public school accent and her diatribe about the unions 'running the country' in the 1970s.

Squeeze 'em 'til the Pips Squeak!

George Monbiot on form today.

I would like to see the ownership of second homes become prohibitively expensive, wherever they might be. It remains cheaper to own a second house than to own a first one. The government has reduced the rebate on council tax for ghost homes from 50% to 10%, but it still seems outrageous that there should be a discount of any size. Worse, as a letter to the Guardian pointed out yesterday, people are buying up weekend homes as fake holiday lets and setting these "loss-making business" against tax. Plainly this loophole needs to be closed. But why not a 500% council tax for all second homes, which local authorities are obliged to hypothecate: to use, in other words, for new social housing? It won't stop the richest people from buying extra houses, but at least the people at the bottom of the ladder get something back.

As Monbiot points out there's a snowball's chance in hell that this government will do anything about this since large numbers of them own several properties - a measure of just how corrupt (from a leftwing perspective - and, after all, the Labour party is supposed to be a party of labour) New Labour has become. Monbiot refers, for example, to luvvie Labour MP, Barbara Follett, "who owns a £2m house in her constituency (in Stevenage), a flat in Soho and homes in Antigua and Cape Town, has claimed £76,357 in Commons expenses over the past four years for her London pad. " Who do these people represent? Who?

Monday, May 22, 2006


Just been over at 'Comment is Free' at the Graun. It never ceases to amaze me just how many very very right wing people post in the comments boxes there. Bunting's latest on Turkish membership of the EU seems to have attracted some really unpleasant types. Many of the arguments against Turkish membership seem to revolve around the half-articulated racist fantasy of dark muslim hordes waiting to sweep across Christendom. It centres on the idea that Turks are 'non-European' and this argument is backed up by reference to Europe's 'racial heritage' (ancient Germanic tribes, Goths and so on) as opposed to those sinister dark tribes from which the Turks sprang. Sounds rather familiar - no mention of the 'Aryan race' of course, but we're in that territory. Seems to be underpinned by mad, romantic, racist fantasies of blonde haired Christian warriors holding off the Ottoman hordes. The Lord of the Rings has a lot to answer for.

There are, of course, obligatory references to threatened floods of immigrants, to the propensity for Turkish people 'to have very large families' (gasp) and to Eastern foreigners desperate to sponge off Western Europe. One commenter seeking to argue with them is asked 'do you like doner kebabs?' Nasty stuff. Why does the Guardian attract such people? Surely the Daily Express has a suitable webspace for them?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rock Hallelujah!

I was overjoyed at Finland's magnificent victory last night. They really were the deserved winners simply because they dared to break the Eurovision mould with such gusto. I'm sure they won such a high proportion of the vote because voting viewers found them interesting - they certainly stood out amongst the usual cod Oirish ballads, formulaic Europop, grinning bare-armed boy pin-ups and identikit glossy haired, leggy women.

I was also very very pleased at the poor performance of that wanker, Daz whatsisname, from the UK. Shit song, shit 'rapping' (ahem) and, in my opinion, the paedophilic schoolgirl fantasy backing singers/dancers angle isn't very wise. Also, didn't it occur to anyone that having a 35 yr old man performing a song about 'teenage life' and boring teachers (they're always telling us what to do, it's just so unfair innit) would be, simply, cringe worthy?

My second favourites, after the Finnish horror rockers, were the German country and western singers complete with stetsons, banjo and Tammy Winnette look alike. Pure genius. This year there was a good amount of bizarre and random dancing, too, which is always good to see. A couple of very odd ballet dancers performed during the Spanish entry (awful song though), there was a ballet dancing piano during the Russian perfomance and, best of all, a crap puppet robot was made to do a moon walk during the (acapella) Latvian entry.

A good night all round then. The only problem is that Eurovision entries tend to ape the style of the previous year's winner. Will we see hordes of international mock rockers in monster face masks and wielding axes next year? It would be an improvement on the usual stuff perhaps, but we'd soon get tired of it. I'd like to see a lot more moonwalking crap puppet robots in future though.

Friday, May 19, 2006


I'm completely shattered. I got back from my bruv's wedding on Sunday and had to start preparing to move house 3 days later - boxes of papers to sort through, crap to chuck out, bags to pack and so on. I hired a car and moved house on Wednesday with much help from the girlfriend (who turns out to be rather good at disassembling MFI tables and computer stands). Moving the stuff took all day. On Thursday I had to clean out the car before returning it to Sixt Kenning and then went back to the old house to clean it out properly before handing it back to the landlord. It took 12 hrs of vacuuming, bin bag filling, shelf clearing and kitchen and bathroom cleaning before I finally left the house. I've spent most of today re-assembling bookshelves and tables and sorting out my new room in my new house. I feel completely drained.

Clearing out the old house yesterday was the worst job. It was a shared house and I had the misfortune of being the last tenant left there - so the task of cleaning the place up fell to me. I thought it would take 3 or 4 hours, but I was there from 10.30 am to 10.30 pm. I must have filled over 15 bin bags with assorted junk and left-overs (not very environmentally sound I know). A few of these bags were filled with old print outs, papers and old notes and so on - I'm a compulsive hoarder when it comes to paper for some reason. Many of them, however, were filled with mouldering junk from the shed and ancient food, jars and bottles in the kitchen - most of which was not mine. I found many unspeakable things in dark cupboards, on top of high shelves and dumped in boxes. I came across at least 2 huge spiders. If I said that they were as big as a man's hand I'd be exaggerating - but only a little. They were as big as a small man's, or large child's, hand. I scraped and scrubbed two fridges (jam and pesto stains mostly), vacuumed beneath beds and sofas (found many things - some interesting, some strange, some disgusting), gathered very old barbeque rubbish from the back yard (unpleasant) and made 2 toilets safe for human use again. I cleaned and vacuumed a rather filthy and litter strewn bedroom floor (not mine) and even cleaned dirt marks off the walls there. I chucked out at least 10 bottles of aftershave from a bathroom cupboard (made the rubbish smell nice for the neighbours). At least I ended the day £1.50 up, after picking up all the lost coins from under sofas and beds. Most of these coins were coppers or 5ps - the ones you can't be bothered to stoop down to pick up when you drop them on the floor. Still £1.50 is £1.50. Well worth it I thought. Plus, we might even get our deposit back now.

It was dark by the time I had finished. It's a very strange feeling, when you are alone in a more or less empty house where you have lived for a while and which you are about to leave. The house feels both familiar and terribly strange. You recognise it, of course - you know the layout of the rooms, you know the carpets and the windows and so on - but it doesn't feel quite like your home anymore. It's a rather disconcerting experience. The place feels haunted too. You remember it as an inhabited and homely place full of familiar possessions and comforts, and so to see it empty feels very wrong somehow. An empty, familiar house is also a desperately lonely place. I didn't like being there any longer than I had to be - especially as it was dark by the time I was almost ready to leave. I actually felt highly uncomfortable when I checked each room for the last time, switching off the lights. The house simply felt wrong - a little threatening even. I had a shower just before I left (since I was covered in cleaning muck) and whilst I was drying myself off and dressing in my old and now empty room I felt a dreadful sense of anxiety. It seemed to me that the house was now an unfriendly place and that I had to get out of it as soon as possible. Completely irrational of course, but it was a very powerful feeling. It's difficult to explain, though I'm sure I'm not the only one to have experienced such a thing.

I was told that there is a romantic story, somewhere, which asserts that empty and uninhabited houses cry. They are meant for human inhabitation and so they pine for their inhabitants when abandoned. I suppose it goes without saying that it is probably best not to ascribe human attributes to inanimate objects - it is fetishism after all, which we all know is generally a bad thing. However, I think that the odd bit of anthropomorphism every now and again can't hurt. In fact, like all good metaphors, a good anthropomorphic description can sometimes help to convey real human experiences more effectively than a straight forward account. The idea of empty houses crying really strikes a chord with me - empty houses are sorrowful places. I felt quite down leaving the house for the last time. However, I went straight to the supermarket on my way back to my new home and got a 2 ltr bottle of cheapo cider (well, I was £1.50 up). Soon felt better. Cider makes everything better.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Great Responsibility

I'm writing a best man speech for my brother's wedding on Saturday. It's bloody funny. A ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, I'm cracking myself up. I must stop.

I must say that the interwebs turns out to be very handy indeed, should you need assistance in the construction of a wedding speech. Of course, I'm not using any of those sites. It's all my own work.

I'm not entirely sure what my duties are - as far as I know I just turn up on the day in a suit, offer some words of mild encouragement to the groom ('come on now', 'have a nice cup of tea', 'you look ok' - that sort of thing), proffer the ring to somebody at the correct moment (this requires a certain amount of timing apparently- but is not too onerous), make a speech, sit down again, shake hands with people and smile and stuff like that.

Thankfully my brother is not going in for all that morning suits and top hats business, and it's not going to be very formal. Unfortunately there will be no alcohol at the dinner, so no Dutch courage will be available for the speech - and neither can I rely on the audience being so tipsy that they'd laugh at anything. Perhaps I need to work on the speech a bit more.

Any Old Iron

Call me a philistine if you like, but I'm rather pissed off, at the moment, about York University's propensity to place ugly, twisted hulks of rust-coloured metal on otherwise attractive stretches of grassy, tree-covered land. These monstrosities are, apparently, sculptures. Now, I rather like to see artwork on display in public spaces and I'm certainly not the sort of person who thinks that only portraits, realist landscape paintings and busts of famous figures are properly considered works of art. I do, however, prefer to see patches of green, sub-woodland type land, without huge lumps of iron dumped in the middle of them. Call me old-fashioned.

On my way to my place of work today, I saw that a rather pleasant grassy, flower-covered little hill where the geese like to sit in the evenings is now covered in scaffolding poles and mechanical pulleys of some sort and I have an awful feeling that the university authorities have decided that what this pretty hill really needs is another sculpture resembling the innards of some kind of smashed-up, burnt-out, monster-truck.

My pet hate, at the moment, is a sculpture called 'Beyond and Within' which sits smack in the middle of a lawn outside one of the colleges. To call it 'imposing' would be something of an understatement. If you want to see pictures of it you can find some here (scroll down). It looks like a cross between a massive ear-trumpet and a jumbo jet engine - in fact, one could be forgiven for thinking, on approaching this college for the first time, that an overflying Boeing 747 must have shed one of its engines over the building, Donnie Darko style.

Forgive me if I sneer a little here, but the university describe the sculpture thus: 'It makes an excellent, and dramatic piece outside the main building, evoking movement, space and light'.

No it doesn't. It is a huge rust-coloured piece of scrap metal sitting on an otherwise pleasant little lawn. Why can't people just leave patches of greenery alone?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Geek Heaven

I didn't really think of myself as a science-fiction sort until recently. Then I discovered Iain Banks' 'Culture' novels. I was feeling rather bored one day and happened to pick up a copy of Consider Phlebas which happened to be lying around, started to read it and then spent the next couple of days glued to it, stopping only for coffee and wee wees. I've only read that particular culture novel all the way through (I've skimmed the first part of a later one in the series) - the reason being that I need to finish my writing and can't risk getting hooked into another non-essential book. I'm planning, however, once I've finished my work, to buy the whole lot of Bank's sci-fi and read the whole series. It'll be my little reward to myself. I suppose I shall have to get a job as well, but I can probably manage to fit a job search around a Banksathon, somehow.

I discovered a whole load of info on Banks' sci-fi onWikipedia the other day - it's almost terrifyingly extensive and intricate. There are several pages of it. Perhaps the most interesting is this info on 'the Culture' - Banks' wonderfully well imagined futuristic society. 'The Culture' is recognisably socialist (which is, possibly, why Banks' sci-fi is so popular with lefties). Banks is himself a socialist (apparently he campaigned for the SSP) - but it's one of his strengths as an intelligent writer that, although his general sympathies clearly lie with 'the Culture', he does not depict it in a wholly positive light. There is something a little ambiguous in Banks' presentation of this egalitarian society - it is both hugely attractive and yet, slightly worrying at the same time. The key question that Banks seems to raise is this - in a society of plenty, where most causes of suffering have been overcome, where all major discoveries have been made, where there are no more heroic struggles to be waged, where humans have complete control over their own bodies and environment, where production has been almost completely automised and labour abolished... what then?

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dear Grauniad

Dear Editors

I should like to enquire about the possibility of employment at the Grauniad as a 'lifestyle' columnist.

I have noticed that you employ several airheaded, half-educated morons whose job appears to be to produce the occasional self-regarding, chattering column about nothing very much. Lucy Mangan and Tim Dowling in particular seem, to me, the finest examples here - surpassing even the Indie's Janet Street-Porter in the business of bashing out feebleminded, middle-of-the-road, platitudinous, self-satisfied pap.

I realise that such columns are essential in most newspapers - since you must often find yourself with awkward gaps left to fill after all the intelligent stuff has been placed. I wonder, however, if it is necessary for you to employ filler spewers at the rate of pay you currently dish out to them. I would be more than happy to produce banal drivel for you at a fraction of the salary you currently pay to Mangan and Dowling.

If you would like to look at my website [supplied], you will see that I am quite capable of churning out meaningless and mildly amusing shite to rival anything Mangan has ever written - and, what is more, I currently produce this stuff without any financial incentive. Think about what I might be capable of if salaried and given my own office and other Grauniad employee perks. I refer you, in particular, to my recent piece about trouser shopping - a piece which, I'm sure you'll agree, would not look at all out of place on one of the back pages of G2.

I am quite willing to learn about house prices, expensive restaurants and to pretend that I have posh friend in PR named Trinny, so that I can produce amusing anecdotes about her singleton thirty-something search for romance in the big city.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Agony of Trouser Shopping

Just returned from a trouser shopping run in the city centre. I hate trouser shopping. Unlike T-shirts, shirts, jumpers, shoes, trainers, socks, pants and negligees I can never find a pair of trousers that I like and which fit me. The shops I go to never have my size readily available (36 long since you ask) - you'd think that they would have hundreds of pairs in this size. I'm not some sort of freak am I? They have racks and racks of trousers in 28 medium and 30 short but never anything in my size. I'm often astounded at this - I mean, how many men are there out there with size 28 waists - size flipping 28!! These super slinky size 28 waisted blokes must be on a diet of air and water or something. I always have to ask a shop assistant to go and look in the stock room for me for a vaguely normal sized pair of trousers.

And that's not the end of it. Trousers, in my experience are either far too baggy, or horribly tapered. If there's one thing I can't stand in a trouser it's a taper. For this reason I normally settle for a baggyish kind of trouser (at least when buying jeans) - the kind which make you look like you've shit yourself, but the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. Tapered trousers just look stupid. They make you look like you're wearing clown's shoes - great big, whopping canoes which extend from the ankle hugging opening of your tapered trouser leg. I refuse to do it. I have my pride.

Unfortunately, I didn't really have an option today. I'm going for a semi-formal interview tomorrow (for a supply teaching agency - yes, things have got that bad) and need some trousers to go with a shirt and tie. Unfortunately, for reasons too complicated to go into, my suit is at my parents' house at the moment and so are my only pair of black shoes. I had to go and get some new trousers to go with a pair of brown shoes.

I decided to go mental and get some chinos.

You'd think that, in the entire city of York, some shop, somewhere, would stock a pair of chinos in size 36 long which are neither teenage skater-boy baggy or tapered like something from 1987. A pair with a bootcut flare at the end would have been nice. But no. Of course not. The choice, once the assistants had scoured the stockrooms of York, came down to a rather baggy pair of Chinos, too wide in the waist, but with a nice wide opening at the bottom on the one hand, or, on the other, a pair which fitted quite nicely around the waist, but which narrow at the very bottom to give you that 'I've got really massive feet' look. I had to get the tapered ones.

Fuck you, trousers retailers. Fuck you all.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Immigrant Workers on Strike in US

Marvellous stuff for Labor day in the USA. Millions of Immigrant workers in the US are expected to withold their labour today and will be joined by supporters in rallies in major US cities. The demonstrators are protesting about proposed immigration law reforms. The impact of the demonstrations should be significant - as one march organiser puts it,

"You can expect L.A. to be at a standstill almost totally. You will not have truckers. You will not have taxi drivers, garment workers, hotel workers, restaurant workers -- half of the teacher force will not be going to school."

I remember speaking to a Left friend a few months ago who was convinced that the major hope for the Left internationally lies with poor Latino immigrants in the USA. She could be right. According to the BBC the Immigrant protests have been compared to the 60s civil rights movement. Who knows, maybe the Democrats will find a backbone?

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