Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Guardian on China

Oh, the horseshit one reads in The Guardian sometimes. I'm accustomed to disagreeing with the majority of their columnists these days and I've long found their editorial stance antithetical to my own on many issues. But I can't recall seeing such a blatant example of editorialisation in one of their news stories as this one today, concerning the arrival of Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, to the USA for a four day state visit. Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps this is an opinion piece - but it isn't marked as such. I have only read this online but it looks like it would form part of their overall news coverage of the event, perhaps even as a front page piece.

There were two standout segments for me. Firstly this little peach:
In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion and the global economic recession, the US democratic-capitalist model no longer appears to be such an inevitable global template.
Really? That's a bold and sweeping statement to make. Who thinks this exactly? The authors, clearly. And, I suspect, a fair few of the paper's staff and readers, but that's someway short of being the collective view of the entire world. I love the way they have conflated two entirely unrelated events to make their point, which seems to be: the US model is in decline - yay!

Then another beauty:
China's inferiority in "hard power", meanwhile, has turned to Beijing's advantage. It is benefiting from being the country that did not invade Iraq, and is not currently bogged down in Afghanistan. After the Bush experiment in exporting democracy militarily, China's mantra of non-interference in the affairs of other states seems benign by comparison, particularly in the developing world, where Chinese "soft power" has expanded dramatically.
There's Iraq again (and Afghanistan), chucked in for good effect. Good old China, eh? Stayed well away from those hot potatoes - for selfless reasons, no doubt, principled nation that it is. I'm sure their motives for non-involvement were pure. "Non-interference"? "Benign by comparison"? China? Amazing.

Yet again, a blatant train of thought that is anti-Western and anti-American leads The Guardian by the nose and to some absurd conclusions. Anyone with an IQ above 35 could quickly Google some of the actions of China of late (both internally and where it has projected its power beyond its borders) and deduce that it is far from being a "benign" force in the world. But, being The Guardian, it's only bad when the USA exercises its influence.

I genuinely wonder why I continue to read or buy this paper anymore. Other than habit (coming up to twenty years of dipping in now) I think it must be only to see what lazy, half-arsed, blinkered nonsense passes for thought these days on the so-called 'liberal left'.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Cringe, Hollywood, cringe

Could anything be more sickening than a Hollywood awards ceremony? An arena full of pampered, self-congratulating TV and film folk all slapping each other on the back and sniffing each other's bottoms, telling themselves how wonderful they all are and handing out little trophies. Best Film. Best Actor. Best Director. Best Lighting. Best Trousers. Best Smell. Best Use Of A Windmill. How thunderingly dull.

So I say bravo to Ricky Gervais in his role as host of the Golden Globes for shaking this self-satisfied collective up a little bit. Which is exactly what he was hired to do, of course. Having Gervais as your host then acting affronted when he tells jokes that skirt around the borders of comfortability is a bit silly; like inviting Pope Benedict round then saying "Ooh, he's a bit more Catholic than we were hoping....."

Gervais's turn seems to have split the audience, with many thinking he has "gone too far". For me, it was a welcome return of a comedian who has slipped a little too much into the comfortable world of Hollywood for my liking, become a little bit too chummy with celebrity. This is back to the sort of humour at which he excels: making us uncomfortable, blurring the line between laughing and cringing. And who were his targets? Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr, Bruce Willis, "gay Scientologist actors" (can't think he who means), Mel Gibson and others. All fair game if you ask me - these people are, for the most part, ridiculous and thoroughly deserving of the wisecracks.

Well done Mr Gervais. I approve.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Hugo Chavez - champion of the people

Ah, Hugo Chavez, hero of the people. A socialist stalwart, standing up to US hegemony, a beacon of virtue in a corrupt capitalist world. Beloved by so many of the left, prepared as they are to hero worship any authoritarian figure as long as he's on their side of the ideological fence. Here he is with his good friend (and fellow champion of democracy) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:



Touching.

Here he is with another principled leftist, Alexander Lukashenko, the President of the socialist utopia that is Belarus:



Truly, you can judge a man by the company he keeps. Oh, speaking of judges, Mr Chavez - as part of his continual onslaught of the concept of the rule of law - has imprisoned one for delivering a verdict that he did not personally agree with. Judge MarĂ­a Lourdes Afiuni has been in jail for a year (with, it would seem, another 29 to go) for sanctioning the release of another prisoner who had been in a cell for three years without having been charged with anything. Chavez, man of the people, would appear to have personally ordered this himself. Will anyone on the left denounce him? Nah.

Hugo Chavez. He's a champion of the people! He stands up to US hegemony! He's abolished the rule of law! He's president for life! Rejoice!

(HT to Carl Packman for sending the photo links.)

Friday, 7 January 2011

Friday, Friday, Friday

Rejoice! It's Friday. Week one of January is already gone. Soon we will get a whiff of February, before you know it March will be striding towards us, bold as brass. That's progress.

Now, to sleep, perchance to wake up on Saturday, full of weekendiness.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

EastEnders in implausible storyline shock

It is beyond my comprehension why anyone would subject themselves to the relentless tsunami of misery that is EastEnders. Yet millions of people do, four times a week. I don't think I have watched an episode voluntarily since the 1990s, but when I have been unfortunate enough to catch a segment of this utterly dreary and ridiculous programme I have found myself incredulous that the BBC continues to pour enormous resources into making such utter drivel. I'm a staunch defender of the BBC and the licence fee, but EastEnders tests my faith. TV Go Home, the legendary spoof TV listings page written by Charlie Brooker, perfectly summed up the show by describing it as a "Soap opera so transparently fictitious it might as well be set on the fucking Moon". And that was in 1999; there's been another 12 years of this bollocks since then.

The show has been at the centre of a significant controversy of late due to its current storyline which, as I understand it, goes something like this: two characters both gave birth to baby boys on the same day. One of the babies dies from SIDS (or Cot Death). Grieving mother of the deceased baby switches it with the other woman's baby when no one is looking.

Jesus.

So far over 6,000 people have complained to either the BBC or Ofcom, enough to prompt a rethink by the producers of the show about how long they are going to drag this story out for.

Viewers should be complaining about the contempt the makers of the show clearly have for their intelligence. Leaving aside the upsetting nature of the subject matter itself, are people expected to believe that new parents wouldn't notice that their baby had been switched? It is simply beyond the bounds of plausibility (even for a soap opera). I can tell you now, my son's facial features would have been instantly recognisable to me if I had only seen him for a few seconds after the birth. If he had been replaced with another new born baby it wouldn't have gone unnoticed. Yes, you could argue that new borns all look a bit similar, but not to their mum and dad. It's a biological thing, you see: the baby looking like its parents.

What a risible pile of old toss.

Why am I writing about this, you might ask? Why am I spending my time engaging in the debate about the credibility of a soap opera story line? That's a good question. I have no answer to that. I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The latest Zionist threat

Just weeks after an Egyptian official suggested that Mossad could be behind a spate of shark attacks at a popular tourist resort comes an even greater threat from the state of Israel: Zionist vultures.

Good night everyone.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Holidays are over, now get back to work

And then, just like that, the holiday season came to an end. As always the rich potential of ten days off work ahead of you becomes a "What? Was that it? Where did the time go?" moment in what seems like no time at all. The good times of the season are behind us, as we stare down the twin barrels of January and February ("Helluary"), the grimmest, dullest most depressing months of the year. Cheers everyone. Now get back to work and atone for the sins of December.

Actually the only thing keeping me from being engulfed in back-to-work despair is the fact that I am starting a new job tomorrow. It's at the same company, but in a different department and, for the first time in my working life, I will not be based in the City. I will be working....locally. Which is an entirely new experience for me given that I have worked in the Square Mile ever since my first temping job at Barclays Bank way back in February 1997 when I was just a fresh-faced 22 year old, still wet behind the ears. Of course I had no intention of this being a permanent thing, I was just taking some work to make some money, there was no way I would still be doing this in a couple of years.... funny how things work out. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" as John Lennon is credited with saying.

Not that I have any regrets, I count myself to have been rather fortunate in my working life. I make a comfortable enough living and I have never laboured under any delusions that what I do is important in any way, it's just a job. I shall be sad to leave the City in many ways: I have a lot of memories of some good times there and met a lot of good people. Then again, there were also some bloody awful times and having to deal with people that I would not wish to see again unless it were through the target of a sniper's rifle. It's been a mixed bag, all things considered.

So tomorrow I embark on another new road in my career, ideally one that delivers a much better work/life balance - the chief driver of my decision to change jobs. I have got more important things to do with my time than spend ridiculously long hours working in an office or travelling to and from it. Principally that means having more time to spend with Mrs Sane and Baby Sane (and soon: Baby Sane II). It will also allow me, I hope, to continue to devote regular time to writing this old blog.

So, I suppose I had better get some sleep. Big day tomorrow. Good night.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The importance of a good cup of tea

I've come full circle on my attitude to tea. Until relatively recently I was a hardened coffee fiend, addicted to the taste, smell, sensation and caffeine rush of a very strong cup of coffee. While I still love that naughty bean and the beverages that can be concocted, it has of late given way to a resurgent appreciation of the infusion of hot water with the cheeky leaf. Ultimately I grew weary of the caffeine lows brought on by hardened coffee drinking: it giveth, but it taketh away. Tea, on the other hand, is both refreshing and invigorating and is now the drink of choice at breakfast time in the Sane household (for Mrs Sane it always was), while coffee is reserved for weekday mornings to kickstart the working day.

The process of making tea, of course, is very important. It must be made correctly to be properly enjoyed. No less a figure than George Orwell wrote an authoritative article on the correct process back in 1946, which was in turn the subject of an article by The Hitch this week. This stuff matters. I wouldn't necessarily agree with every one of Orwell's points: I take one brown sugar in mine, for example, and never bother to warm the pot beforehand (what's the point, when it's about to be filled to the top with boiling water anyway? You don't pre-heat the bath tub before you fill it with hot water do you?) and I drink from a decent sized mug, not fine China cups. But on the basic principles I agree: tea should be strong, made in a pot and the milk (not too much) should be added last. These are the basic tenets of good tea-making.

Tea: it's too important to be left to amateurs.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Intentions versus reality

I was tinkering with the idea of writing a summary of the biggest stories of 2010, seeing as I wasn't blogging for much of it. In another life I would have done. In this life I'd have dearly liked to. But that sort of thing takes time, something I don't have much of, not to mention concentration - another commodity in short supply at this time of the year.

And coming up in ten minutes on Channel 4: Father Ted Night, an evening schedule dedicated to one of the best comedies ever made. Marvellous. I'm going to pour another glass of Malbec, put my feet up (slippers on) and enjoy. Not a bad start to 2011 so far.