Thursday, September 30, 2004

The reality of reality

Exhausted from mothering triplets, ravaged by years of low self esteem and married to a hopelessly dispassionate man, Sara thrust herself into the willing arms of Trinny and Susannah on What Not to Wear. The rejuvenating process was humiliating; they were uncompromising in their criticism highlighting her sagging TITS and at one point forcibly removing her knickers in a public changing room. Exercising, one assumes, some clause in the sexual assault laws which excuses attacks made on make-over TV shows.

Eventually she broke down and sobbed “But you’re fashion experts and I’m from York”.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Izzy or isn't she?

This blog is exactly the same age as Sophie, my niece; in fact one of my first posts announced her arrival. So I suppose it’s remiss of me not to mention the arrival of my second niece, Izzy, or Isabella Catherine, or if Sophie gets her way, Fizzy Bella La La.

Izzy’s arrival hasn’t really had the same fanfare that Sophie’s did. Kirsty has controlled the inevitable flood of visitors to the flat, Izzy didn’t put up much of a fight, arriving as she did after a few hours of labour (much shorter than Sophie’s [gulp] 23 hours). She’s an altogether quieter more chilled baby, which is probably the result of nine months of listening to her sister’s bonkers ways – who is JTT (Just Turned Two).

Last week, after running around, shouting, screaming and laughing for half an hour, Sophie finally spotted Izzy asleep in the corner of the room. At this point she turned to me wide eyed and concerned to inform me knowingly “The baby’s asleep, shhh, we have to be quiet or she might cry”.

It may be my imagination but I’m sure in response Izzy opened one eye and said “has she gone yet?”

Friday, September 24, 2004

The SKY's the limit

A week or so ago after England beat Poland the England team refused to talk to the media about the performance. The action was in response to fierce and personal criticism aimed at David James and David Beckham after the draw against Austria.

The response from the media has been a huge backlash against these ‘spoilt petulant millionaires’ because, apparently, they have a responsibility to the fans who pay their salaries (or more specifically, they have a responsibility to the media who, they claim, have put them where they are.)

The world’s hairiest sports presenter, Sky’s Richard Keys was apoplectic. He claimed on the night that the reason the players wouldn’t talk to Sky was because their quotes would have been used by the printed press – who were obviously the true villains – thus defeating the objective of the players’ protest.

Sky’s coverage of the game lasted for five hours; take out the game itself, leaves three and a half hours of airtime to fill. They had six goals from the other home nations’ games to show (which were all shown live on other Sky channels earlier in the evening), but apart from that they had to fill it with what they like to call ‘build up’ and ‘analysis’. This is the banal interviews with players, scrutinising and passing opinion on the minutiae of games and offering the same groundless critiquing the England players were protesting about in the first place. The idea that Sky are somehow different to the rest of the media is a joke, every night they show You’re On Sky Sports! (NB sensationalising exclamation mark) which is as bad as any tabloid.

What Keys knows as well as anyone is that TV programmes are simply the things that you make to put in between adverts. Stretching a programme about an hour and a half football match over five hours simply means more advert breaks and more money. Not only do they need players to speak to them to fill the time available, they also need to talk a heap of crap themselves to fill the space.

Sky were unrelenting. Prior to the following Sunday’s underwhelming live fixture between Spurs and Norwich they skirted around Wednesday’s lovers tiff by creating their own version of history (something they have done ever since they bought football ten years ago). Needing a hook when there really wasn’t one; Paul Robinson and Jermaine Defoe two stars of Wednesday night became the focus. But how could they reconcile their fawning over Defoe and Robinson, both of whom were party to the boycott that drew their vitriol? Well, according to Sky, they were victims of the more senior England players’ militancy, both were desperate to talk to the press, but they weren’t allowed.

Sky presenter Rob McCaffrey even claimed that the squad had “obviously been badly advised”. Obviously? So obvious that respected ex-pros like Gordon Strachan and Mark Lawrenson were clearly supportive, so obvious that a BBC poll did come out overwhelmingly in support of the players, so obvious that callers to Five Live’s 606 phone were in favour of their actions.

Sky seem to have forgotten that people are far more interested in the game than the media hullabaloo that surrounds it. If that circus didn’t exist, football would continue. Sky needs football much more than football needs Sky (this is different to the relationship between Sky and the Premiership; who do need each other). In fact the most intelligent analysis of David James’ performance against Austria (the thing that kicked it all off) came from David James himself. Asked about his terrible mistake on the second goal he simply responded “I’m an international goalkeeper, I should have saved it, and I didn’t”.

Nobody’s reading this are they?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Semite illiterate

It’s strange how easy it is to get wrapped up in the safety of your own social norms. The code of practice you assume everyone, by and large, follows to make a harmonious and peaceful community.

This week I’ve heard a woman talk about “The bin Laden’s in our street” referring to Asian families who have all built brick out-houses at the end of their gardens to “Keep their families in”. I’ve also heard someone talk, openly about “Those Paki asylum seekers” without any consideration that they may be going well over the edge of social acceptability (or indeed the presence of an Asian student working for us in the next room).

Last night, on a work do, we were talking about a particularly cerebral manager at work. He has a slightly nervous disposition and will never use three words when two paragraphs will do. He’s the only person I know who regularly uses “productive social discourse” to describe a conversation.

Suddenly one of the women at the table piped up “He reminds me of those Jews in films”. “Those Jews in films?” I said wanting to protest without rocking the boat “Yeah he rubs his hands like one of them Jewboys”. A quick poll around the table of those who share a more liberal mind about such things revealed that the key Jews In Films were Oscar Schindler, Mel Brookes and Jesus of Nazareth. If anyone has any other suggestions, I'll gladly add it to the list to try and find out what she was on about.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Ruffles guide to installing your iPod

1. See iPod Mini in Dixons Duty Free at Gatwick airport but decide against buying it on a whim
2. Decide after boarding the plane that actually you wanted it in the first place
3. Return from holiday and scope out iPods on Amazon
4. Employ rampant scope creep and move from possibly fancying a iPod Mini on a whim to desperately wanting iPod 20GB
5. Order iPod, receive it from Amazon
6. Install iTunes onto laptop
7. Find that iTunes can’t see the CD in the CD tray
8. Test CD tray, play CD through Windows Media Player
9. Install iTunes onto Emma’s laptop
10. Find that iTunes can see the CD in the CD tray of Emma’s laptop (woo hoo)
11. Plug in iPod to Emma’s laptop
12. Find that Emma’s USB is a slow 1.1 port rather than the required 2.0 port
13. Find that Ruffles’ laptop has a 2.0 port (but iTunes still can’t see the CD)
14. Gain advice from Spankee – Spankee tests all connections using MP3’s from King of the Boots –all works fine
15. Fill iPod up with hundreds of tunes from King of the Boots – mostly the rubbish ones
16. Gain advice from Spankee – download WinAmp to do the ‘ripping’
17. Decide not to wait until Monday to use company internet connection to download WinAmp
18. Decide instead to rip a few tunes from Emma’s laptop, put them onto CD and install them onto Ruffles’ laptop then onto iPod
19. Save 3 albums onto disk put them into laptop
20. Find that the 3 albums haven’t saved for some reason but that the files have deleted from Emma’s laptop
21. Repeat actions 19 and 20 again
22. Twice
23. Get into a mess and reset iPod to factory settings
24. Go to work and download WinAmp as suggested
25. Get home, rip four albums using WinAmp
26. Find that you’ve simply recorded over the same files four times
27. Start ripping with WinAmp again renaming each folder in turn ensuring there is no repeats of action 24
28. Plug in iPod, download tunes
29. Unplug iPod for hours of endless fun

Monday, September 06, 2004

Eternal dalmation

Stew. When we said we were going to Croatia on holiday some said we’d only be able to eat stew. Some questioned whether we’d be safe, after all hadn’t it been bombed to hell? Some read that it was the new cool place to go on holiday. Nobody actually knew what it would be like.

Dubrovnik was shelled into little pieces by Bosnian forces in 1991, apparently more to break the Croatian spirit than for any strategic reason. Despite months of siege, Dubrovnik didn’t fall, and when the war finished they embarked on an expensive rebuilding programme, which spiralled the country into debt, but revitalised the soul of its people.

Where most cities are in constant evolution, or in Vegas’ case; revolution, Dubrovnik is as complete a town as you could hope to see. The continuation of a seven hundred year old planning strategy means that even the most modern buildings use the same materials and are built in the same style of the rest of the town. The limestone streets have been polished to a shine over the years. The result is that the town always looks finished. Altogether it gives the place a magical feel, particularly at night. You can see why it is supposed to encapsulate the essence of the country.

Walking the city walls, or passing the [sigh] Irish pub, or talking to the sophisticated, cool, cosmopolitan Croats you forget its recent past. Anyone over the age of twelve was actually a victim, or even participant of the war. This was my first visit to anywhere that was a warzone in my lifetime (apart from the time I got lost in Manchester and skirted the edge of Mosside), I’m looking forward to a fortnight in Basra in a couple of years.

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