21 November 2006

Do they want them to fail?

Just watching the news this morning, and I see that there is some controversy surrounding the preparations for the London Olympic games in 2012.

The BBC commentator raised the point that these were likely to be the most expensive games in the tournaments history, and will top over £8bn. What's the word I am looking for here? Oh, that's right: d'uh! Now, basic maths and economics may be beyond some reporters but costs will always rise as inflation is a fact of life.

The Sydney Olympics cost £2bn to stage, Athens cost over £4bn and Beijing is expected to cost over £6bn. Spotting a trend here? If London manages to keep costs below £9bn, I personally believe they will be doing well.

I have more concerns regarding the completion of the Olympic village, as the last major sporting venue redevelopment that involved the Government was Wembley Stadium. I really don't think the IOC would be willing to relocate to the Millenium Stadium quite so easily.

20 November 2006

Turmoil on ITV

No, it's not a new programme. ITV has been subject to some speculation that it was going to be acquired. First potential suiter was a merger with NTL, followed up not long after by the German company RTL. On Friday however, BSkyB bought nearly an 18% of the shares - just 2% under the maximum stake it is allowed to own, under current rules. NTL (and Richard Branson) have immediately called foul on BSkyB's behaviour, claiming it is anti-competitive. BSkyB responded with a comment that NTL thinks they have the "right" to acquire ITV.

Having lived in a country where all media outlets are locked up by two companies (and seen the damage that does to viewer choice), I believe BSkyB's behaviour needs to be assessed. Also keep in mind that BSkyB is owned by News International who in turn own Fox, the fine purveyor of junk TV.

There is far too much junk on tv at the moment: "reality" tv programmes, ADD-inducing sketch shows and lack-of-talent programmes. Putting more control into the News International group, I am sure will do nothing but increase this nonsense. Plus as a major shareholder, I am sure BSkyB will be happy to derail future bids by ITV for sporting events such as the F1, European Champions league, etc. This may sound far-fetched, but football in Australia is in a still-born state partially due to live games solely being available on Foxtel, the BSkyB equivalent down-under and 50% owned by News International.

I wonder who Johnathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies was meant to be?

19 November 2006

Oooh... This will be fun

Heather and I were sorting out our holiday photos last night, and I had been exploring MyPixmania as a place to get them printed (as low as 3p each!). Heather however insisted on more of a coffee-table style picture book, something that MyPixmania no longer supports (that I can find).

After a bit of a hunt with Google, I found this interesting website. The great thing about it is that you download an application and design your photobook, before uploading (or sending it via CD) and they print it for you. The prices although they sound steep, seem to be pretty reasonable: £80 for a 144 page book, about A4 size.

Therefore instead of sorting out the house and preparing for our housewarming party, I am going to be playing with this. Much better than housework :)

17 November 2006

Junk food advertising

It was announced today that Ofcom (the regulator of the communication companies) has announced measure to prevent the screening of junk food advertisements during times when children would most likely be watching. Specifically, these are:
  • All pre-school children's programmes
  • All programmes on mainstream channels aimed at children
  • All cable and satellite children's channels
  • Programmes aimed at young people, such as music shows
  • General entertainment programmes which would appeal to a "higher than average" number of under-16s.
Like my comments about increasing the duty on alcopops, this will not make any difference. Kids will still want their Big Mucks when they are out with their parents on a Saturday afternoon, gaudiness of the "restaurants" are designed to attract the impressionable mind. Likewise, crisps and soft drinks are still going to be consumed at school break times, they are convenience foods and kids are too keen to be doing other things than eating.

In moderation, all these foods are fine and it is better that the message is spread by the junk food companies that moderation and exercise are necessary. An example junk food ad might be:

At the moment, there is no incentive for the companies to clean up their message. Ofcom had the opportunity to make a difference, but instead took the easy way out by the blanket banning. Government agencies, policy makers, etc have to realise that people will continue to do those things that are bad for them. Telling them not to do something is a sure enough way of making people want to do it. Be realistic and educate people, its the best option for improvement.

While Ofcom are at it, could they create an index for how moronic advertisements are? An advertisement with a high index rating (for example the Phones4U campaign) should be automatically banned, the video tapes destroyed by incineration and the person that thought of it sterilised to prevent them from infecting the gene pool any further.

16 November 2006

Post Game Review

Well, England played their game against Holland last night in the Amsterdam Arena. Allegedly, they played with a 4-3-3 formation, with Joe Cole, Rooney and Johnson up front. In my opinion, if they are going to be playing 3 up front, it would have been better to play a striker there rather than an out of place midfielder. I think combination of say Crouch, Rooney and Johnson would have been quite interesting to have seen.

Nevertheless, I think England played a reasonably good game and were probably deserved a win, rather than draw. The goal they conceded however smacked of poor defending that is untypical of the back four, the scoring player having been unmarked at the time. Not too sure who you can blame: Terry, Ferdinand or Ashley Cole. That being said Micah Richards had an impressive debut for an 18 year old, with no signs of stage fright and a good shot on target. How nice would it have been to score on your England debut as a right-back?

Steve McLaren's email to fans was pretty upbeat about the performance, however England are now in the position of having to win just about every remaining game in their qualifying group to get through to the tournamenet. I hope they can do it, but we still have to face Croatia again and two legs with Russia and Israel (both of whom I would not write off as easy to beat). I think that we may not make Euro 2008.

My other concern, is that England have found their position in Europe: mid-table fodder unable to throw of the shackles of Sweden or Holland and rise above them. I include Portugal in that group, who constantly are found wanting against strong opposition.

13 November 2006

Can the man not think for himself?

After the Republicans suffered probably their worst defeat in twelve years, old GW decided that may be things in Iraq were not actually going to plan and it was time to think about new options.

In a totally unsuprising move, our Ovine Prime Minister has come out a few days later and said the very same thing. This is just under a month after he stated that troops were there indefinetly. However, because George Bush has changed his mind, so must Blair.

In a show of some originality, Blair did entertain the idea of Iran and Syria. However as these are the very countries that form part of Bush's famed "Axis of Evil", I think the chances of this ever happening are slim to non-existent. And not solely for that reason.

Blair is missing one of the fundemental precepts that is causing the problems in Iraq: the Balkan war happened fundementally because the stabilising force (Tito) was no longer in power (actually he was dead) and Communism in the area was taking it's last breaths. The tribes were therefore free to start causing mayhem by extracting revenge on each other after years of oppression. Fast-forward a few years, and you have a similar situation to how it was in the Balkan states now in Iraq. The violence in Iraq is predominantly sectarian (Shi'a muslim vs. Sunni muslim), even though the numbers of security force personnel injured seems to be rising daily.

Finally, factor in that Syria is 75% Sunni muslim (like Saddam is) and Iran is about 85% Shi'a muslim, I don't think that Iraq will be peaceful anytime soon.

10 November 2006

Will this squad do it?

So Stevie Mac has announced his squad for the international friendly on Wednesday night, which can be found here. Unfortunately, I am not that impressed.

It's good to see Joe Cole back in a 3 Lions jersey so we have something on the left, and I assume Frank Lampard is going to hog his spot in the centre and push Gerrard out to the right wing. Gerrard hates playing there, and everyone can see his best form comes when he has freedom in the centre. Lamps has had a poor run of form recently, but seems to be returning to his normal ways for Chelsea - can he continue like that for England though? Personally, I would have Lamps on the subs bench, the lack of certainty over a starting position may help him find some form.

Up front, there is not a lot to shout about. Rooney has seen his form improve recently, although he missed a sitter on Saturday, Crouch is Crouch; he can have a brilliant night or an absolute pudding of one, once he figures out how to prevent the puddings, then he'll be consistently dangerous. I'm undecided about Johnson, his club form is great but he hasn't sparked in the England jersey. And as for Defoe, lets just hope he eats well before the match!!

The defence is as solid as ever, no complaints there at all. I am intrigued to see how new boy Micah Richards performs though. I guess every friendly squad needs a Theo though.

09 November 2006

He's at it again...

I see Graham Poll is getting himself in the papers, again. After a dismal World Cup performance, and his alleged behaviour on Saturday refereeing Chelsea vs. Spurs, the ego in black red-carded Everton player James McFadden last night in the Carling Cup match against Arsenal. The reason he was red-carded? Abusing an official.

Now, I have no problems with referees trying to put some discipline in to the game. It is something that needs to be addressed, but likewise swearing happens all the time and to start making random sending offs for it is going to lead to nothing but controversy.

Still, if the FA decide that Poll's ego has become too much for the game, they could demote him to the Championship League or expel him all together. Here's hoping it's the latter...

08 November 2006

The tide's turning...

But will things change?

Well, the results of the US mid-term are just about in, and it looks as if GW and his party have suffered a bit of a bloody nose. The loss of the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years, along with the anticipated change in the Senate, means that the Republicans are on the back foot and at first analysis it looks as if things are going to improve, however a brief look at the facts here can dispel that notion.

Quite surprisingly for the Telegraph, they have a blog posting "revealing" media bias during the mid-term's campaigning, as if it was an untoward occurrence. Wake up and smell the roses! All media companies have an agenda, normally instigated by their Chairman or equivalent, to paint a picture that matches their own colour on the political spectrum. Although the BBC often gets a lot of abusive from the right for its bias, the real issue is the News International brand of newspapers as whomever the Sun has backed to win the UK general election has ultimately won. This shows the power that the media can have over parts of the population.

In the ideal world, all media would be like Switzerland - neutral and good at making chocolate.

Crikey, it's been a while

Well, I had a week off posting not because I lost interest but because I was slightly busy.

The house is a complete bomb site at the moment as I try to assemble furniture (Lewisham council's recycling truck must be overloaded with cardboard waste from me) and we had my sister and her partner's wedding over the weekend. Plus there were interviews for that elusive job.

But I am back now, although with a strained back from lifting heavy furniture incorrectly. Remember people, bend the knees not the back!

05 November 2006

My political leanings

I will be honest, I have been worried about some of the political thoughts that I have been having recently. They were quite novel for me, what with environmentalism and what-not filling it. I therefore decided to checkout the Political Compass to see where I stood.

This site poses a series of statements to which you then have to say how strongly you agree or disagree. To prevent fence-sitters, there is no neutral box so you are forced to have an opinion either way. The results are then plotted on an x-y graph, where the x-axis is how left- or right-leaning your economic views are. The vertical axis represents how authoritarian you are, the higher up the scale, the more of a bossy boots you are.

Two examples cited on the website are Maggie Thatcher who was quite far to the economic right and quite authoritative (based on her assumed scores) and Adolf Hitler, who was naturally nearly through the roof when it comes to authority, but was way to the economic left. Anyone with an understanding of pre-WW2 Germany, will agree that is a true assessment.

So without further waffling, my results:

As I expected, I am slightly to the economic right - after all a free market means free people*. What was suprising though, was that I was totally neutral. I had expected me to be tending towards the authoritative side. A bit of a revelation.

* Except in China, where the free market has not meant the people are freed, however in reality the markets there are not truly free, so the mantra sticks.

01 November 2006

Your voice is needed!

The FA is conducting a survey to determine the future of grassroots football accross England. Anyone that completes not only has a say in how the sport is run in the country but also gets into a draw to win various prizes (I am hoping for friendly tickets myself).

The way I see it, the future of English football is to get kids at young age having the fantastic balls skills as seen on South American and certain European sides. England for years has produced players that are "hard", they push around the opposition and when they go down, they get right up again and keep running. The problem is, ball skills are sometimes left behind so that anyone that is slightly above normal skill is labelled a wonderkid.

Not that I want to see anything like this mind.