Monday, March 31, 2008

Birthday Presents

Books, books and still more books: Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes, Gunter Grass and Peter Mayne. A vintage Czechoslovakia top (when all I really wanted was a Dukla Prague away kit), and a box of chocolates from a student that I scoffed, quickly, in between last minute preparation for tomorrow's exams.

Things have been better.
Things have been worse.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ground 99: Whitley Bay

"Four-nil up, soon be five," sang the knot of Lowestoft Town fans up at the back of the corrugated-iron stand. Below, we pushed left to try and get under a corner of the roof; every time the wind changed direction the rain dropped through a hole directly overhead.

Ten minutes in Bay were two-nil up, the second a 25-yard screamer that looped over the keeper's flailing right hand and dipped just inches under the bar. Within half an hour, it was three.

Somehow, you just knew there wasn't going to be a fourth...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Football: The Death Throes

The thoughts of John Batchelor (or John B&Q, as he used to be called), an ex-toilet roll salesman previously best known for screwing York City:

"I want a football club, preferably one in the league. The ONLY reason that I want it is to make money. This would be MY club, if you like what you see come and watch, if you don't, then stay away. I am not even interested in discussing it with "fans", however, I will talk to customers anytime."

Step one: rename the club Harchester United, after a made-up team from a children's telly show. Seriously, it's enough to make you weep.

Friday, March 28, 2008


I've started growing a lemon tree.


How We Speak Today

I came across this while I was hunting around for something to use in my super exciting, all-day-Sunday discourse analysis assignment.

That saves one job, anyway.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

White Easter

Forward Planning

Newcastle need five new players "better than what they already have" to challenge for a UEFA Cup spot (which as some of you might recall used to be the minimum requirement) next year, thinks Bobby Robson.

I'm not so sure. Improving on the current bunch of wasters should be easy enough, but it'll take a whole new team (minus Beye, Milner, the goalkeepers and possibly Martins) before we get anywhere near mid-table again, never mind the top six.

Hold on tight. This could be a bumpy ride.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Northwards Bound

For the next few days I'll be here and here.

And in pubs thereabouts.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five Years On

"The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary and it is just," says George Bush.

It is necessary because we needed a cheap source of oil, a pliant state to feed our cars.

It is just because the people who bankrolled his presidential campaigns got first dibs on the liberated oilfields.

It is noble because Saddam was uniquely evil (and no more use to us).

Civil war, four thousand soldiers shipped home in bits, eighty-two thousand innocent Iraqis dead (and that's only the least worst estimate). Was all this noble, just and necessary, too?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Inspector Calls

Up one place from last time out, I bagged top spot in this year's inspection (OFSTED certified outstanding, the badge is in the post). My lesson, apparently, crackled - which I think has a similar meaning to sparkled, only worse.

On a roll, I knocked off all 1,800 words of Assignment 8.2 - Teaching Basic Literacy. For the non-ESOLese speakers, it goes something like this:

Blahdy blahdy blah.
Blahdy blahdy blah.
Blahdy blah.


Monday, March 17, 2008

More Good News

Travel cards used to track your movements.

Spy on them all.


The Proverbial Six Pointer

Tonight's not a must-win game exactly, more a must not lose or we're in deep deep shit game, a very subtle but important difference. I can't pretend I'm not worried, though - our attacking threat begins and ends with a man now on crutches, the press have Keegan marked out as the next managerial carrion, and even when we were good we usually managed to cock things up royally at St Andrew's.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ten Days To War


Fear Little Children

Under 10s who exhibit signs of future criminality should be DNA swabbed, thinks the new spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO):

"If we have a primary means of identifying people before they offend, then in the long-term the benefits of targeting younger people are extremely large. You could argue the younger the better. Criminologists say some people will grow out of crime; others won't. We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to society."

If this sounds like the stuff of science fiction, it's not: since 2004 anyone under the age of 18 has been sampled on arrest, and their details logged permanently regardless of whether they're ever charged. By next year there will be 1.5 million children on the DNA database. Singling out potential deviants at childhood has been tried by every repressive state in history. The only thing that changes is the technology - and the excuse.

The Continuing Adventures of Silvio Banana

Women! Need money? Then marry a millionaire. Friend of newspaper owning fascists and gun-totting gangsters (allegedly), the man who would be king shows he's still got the common touch.

For Berlusconi, it pays to be an idiot.

Garden Checklist

Plant out sweet peas. Check

Sow French Marigolds. Check

Stick Rhubarb into hole and cover with compost. Check

Make cheap propogator out of a croissant box and plastic peach cartons. Check

Uproot weeds, shovel catshit and pull grass out of borders. Check

Fill up dustbin with soil. Chit potatoes. Check

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Free Tibet

Many people think Tibet was a paradise before the Chinese arrived. It wasn't. It was a state run on serfs, where a few rich landowners lived on the back of tithes, slave labour and the penury of the rest.

But that doesn't give a country the right to replace one form of repression with another.

For Tibet, read Burma. For Burma, read Tibet.

The only difference is money.

And that's no difference at all.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Eleven Years On

Illegal wars UP!

Inequality UP!

State surveillance UP!

Privatisation fiascoes UP! UP! UP!

And what, oh joyful democracy, is the alternative?

The Lablibtories - the same three shades of shite.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Garden Stuff

In my garden are things called flowers. They look like this:

Like this:

And sometimes like this:

But they all feed on this (and that):

Which is handy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No End In Sight

First Eliot Spitzer, now George Bush! (From Stump Lane)

The Ogre Lives On

After her latest near-brush with death Maggie Thatcher's "in real danger of becoming a national treasure," reckons Charles Moore. Not where I live she isn't - Thatcher was to north-east England what Colonel Paul Tibbets was to the city of Hiroshima.

Tax rise or no tax rise, on the day she kicks the bucket I'm betting alcohol sales go through the fucking roof.

Budgetary Constraints

With beer sales down and four pubs closing every day what better time to stick another 4p on a pint? It's not a tax - it's for health reasons (Doctors welcome alcohol tax rises? Make them work the same hours as the rest of us and watch how fast they turn to drink).

And then there's the 14p on a bottle of wine to help cut binge drinking, Jacob's Creek being the plonk of choice for all the teenage boozers I know (in my experience, older alkies go for Gallo's and fruity Chilean red). As many of you will know, you can't get moved in bus shelters these days for used corkscrews, smashed-up wine flutes and bottle-neck wrappers. And will the extra 55p on spirits see homeless Glaswegians turning back to Tennent's Super, just months after ditching it for 12-year old bottles of Glendiffich, aged in oak?

But while most of us had the squeeze put on our one remaining pleasure, there was better news for billionaire tax dodgers: £30,000 down and nothing more to pay for the next six years.

Because New Labour cares.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Moro Affair

Finally, we know: it was a crisis manager and the Honourable Cossiga who did it. Aldo Moro died so Italy could be fre..stable.

Sciascia was right all along.

The New Democrats

Coal-fired power stations are GOOD for the environment. Billionaires paying less tax than toilet attendants are GOOD for Britain. We can end child poverty by letting the rich get richer: GOOD news from retro-Blair clone John Hutton, the minister for fatcats, fuck-ups and fallacies.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown celebrates his government's assault on "underperformance in welfare," and the ex-Attorney General unveils plans to force kids to salute the flag and accept state power, unthinkingly (Isn't that what they do in countries run by generals and thugs? Oh, and in America, too).

Fear not, Britain. Your government is in control.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Two Tribes

One new settlement for every dead student, vows Dani Dayan, spokesman for Israel's far-right land snatch movement.

It sounds a whole lot better than the Swiss-cheese peace they were offering before: for each innocent victim, you get to build one new town anywhere you want on the other side's land (with treble points for tanks on children).

Grab it now before it's gone.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Schadenfreude Backfire

Please let anyone but Portsmouth win the FA Cup. Please let them be patronised to death, their fifteen minutes spoilt by preening hacks saying the big boys didn't care. I can put up with the pain of supporting Newcastle United only as long as the Big Four win everything in sight - and their self-pitying, jester-hatted fans have the contemptible grace to never give a shit.

What we need is a breakaway league for basketcase clubs - the sides with no trophies; the teams who fuck up when it's easier to win. No title winners ever. Second place for all.

And still we'd come third.

The Database State

And why we should no longer have any faith in this data-junkie, freedom-stripping, surveillance-structure government.

Vote New Labour - the party that knows what voters want (and where they go, how they get there, who they speak to and what they think about it...)

Workers, unite! We have nothing to lose but our biometric identities.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

On The Brink

Well that was fun, wasn't it? I watched the match on three corners of The Westoe's big screen; a luminous jacket and the bouncer's neck blocked out the bottom half of the pitch. Some of us went to the toilet at nil-nil and got back to find we were two-nothing down. After half-time no-one paid attention any more. And that was just on the pitch.

Pasty-magnet Mark Lawrenson thinks the club is “poorly run from the top and the men in charge are taking the piss”.

Mark Lawrenson's a tool. But he's mostly right.

Shepherd and Hall. So much to answer for.

Asahi Super Dry

From the brewery with a turd on top - and you can't get more ecologically friendly than that, I suppose. Personally, though, I was always more of a Sapporo guzzler.

A contrary drunk, that's me.

Coming Soon

Is there a sensible reason for ID cards? asks the Telegraph's Sam Leitch. The answer, surprisingly, is no.

And then there's this one, too - the 'NIS Delivery Strategy - Aligning Strategy and Delivery' - or how we're going to screw you into a police state, whether you like it or not. First up, foreigners and children.

Because never let it be said that we don't learn from history...

Friday, March 07, 2008

The End of the Week Feeling

Some days felt longer than other days. Some days felt like two whole days. Unfortunately those days were never weekend days.

So says the unnamed narrator of Then we Came to the End, all 383-pages of which I managed to read this week in hurried snatches while scrolling down e-registers, marking data verification sheets, and pretending to pay attention in Scheme of Learning quality meetings. Some days I like my job. Occasionally, when it all clicks together in the classroom, I love it. More often than not, though, I just about endure the whole charade.

Japan. In September. Just let me teach.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hitting the Heights

Gordon Brown's position on global warming is "absolutely pathetic" and "nothing short of embarrassing," says the not-at-all-bitter Charles Clarke.

He's not wrong - I just can't believe I missed the improvement...

Obama Obama

Glazed eyes, utter subservience, acting so bad it shames Thunderbird Hillary Clinton, and a mind-dulling mantra repeated over and over until it replaces all sense of independent thought: slightly creepy, in a Patti Hearst-goes-to-Pyongyang-kind-of-way.

But the big question in the Democratic race remains this: In an emergency, whose arm would you like to see reaching for the phone at 3 o'clock in the morning? Married to a serial philanderer, I'm guessing Hillary shades this one on experience.

The Idiocracy

"Nobody will be forced to carry ID cards," says Jacqui Smith, New Labour's propagandist-in-chief. So what, precisely, is the point?

The real news, though, lies just below the soundbite: from 2011, everyone applying for a passport will automatically be fingerprinted and stuck on the ID database. Which is a bit like tying someone's foot to the accelerator pedal while telling them they don't have to speed up.

UPDATE: Not even Jacqui Smith could spin her way out of this one. So now ID cards will be consumer-led (I think that means you still have to pay for them).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Difference Of Opinion

There is, I admit, something to be said for the kind of forward who runs from defender to defender, hustling and harrying but never quite reaching the ball. On a park pitch. In a game of five-a-side. When you're ten years old.

See, some of my friends accuse me of being oh so slightly unfair on Alan Smith. Ok, he's gone twenty-nine games without a goal, but half of those he spent clamped to the edge of our own penalty area, giving the ball away and mistiming tackles, or stuck out on the right, giving the ball away and mistiming... And at least he cares: he cried his eyes out ON THE PITCH when Leeds went down, then waited two whole weeks before clearing off to Manchester United.

Other of my friends, less forgiving souls, think he's just another in the long, long line of slouch-paced, faintly-talented, fantastically-paid Big Four rejects that litter our dressing room in lieu of trophies. A forward who can't score, a midfielder who can't tackle - along with the likes of Duff, Babayaro and Geremi, tragically indicative of everything that's rotten with Newcastle United Football Club.

What we need here is a consensus. And a goal.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

One Step Beyond

While all about them lose their heads, well done little Whitley Bay, now just two games from Wembley in the FA Vase.

Ground 99 - Hillheads Park, March 29th.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

That Sinking Feeling

Three points off relegation, no win since December, and three of our next four games are away, starting at Liverpool.

This is not looking good. In fact, this is not looking good at all.

Let's assume we need 40 points to stay up. Even if we beat Fulham, scrape past Reading and tonk the mackems at home - please, please, please - that leaves us stuck on 37, and with a rotten goal difference, too. So where are the other three points going to come from? The first game of next season, probably. At home to Hull.

A Beginner's Guide to Geordie Lexis

I was researching an essay on discourse analysis before I got distracted by this. Very interesting, though it doesn't begin to make up for nicking the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Dead on our Feet

Freddy Shepherd: incompetent bungler, useless fucker, greedy bastard or grasping fool?

Same Old, Same Old

In the new improved totalitarian Russia, democracy means the freedom to vote for whoever the government tells you to, in big enough numbers...or else.

Democracy, gas supply, democracy, gas supply.

Flat Earthers

In some parts of the world, this winter has been the coldest in decades. In America it even snowed! Proof positive, says Melanie Phillips, that global warming is a big fat myth.

Other things she's absolutely sure about: that MMR causes autism, Jimmy Carter is the "kept creature of the Arab world," the Church of England, in cahoots with Iran, is preparing a second Holocaust, the Israeli army is not an occupying force, Evolution is only a theory, Saddam Hussein had WMD all the time - buried in the sand, then smuggled into Syria, global warming is the greatest scam of the modern age, the sun revolves around the earth, gravity can be turned on and off like electricity...