A liberal dose of the old actualitay, eh what?
Monday, January 21, 2008
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Winter Gigging in the Land of the Banned
I am half of a gigging duo, playing pub-gigs and parties etc. Pay the piper and we'll do two hours' entertainment at the event of your choice. I've been doing this for a few years now, so am in a position to comment on the impact of the smoking-ban.
I have heard not one landlord express support for the ban. Comments are more along the lines of "it's killing us". They also resent being forced to police the legislation under duress of a £2,500 fine for non-compliance.
My own experience is that numbers are definitely down, especially in the wintry weather. People who are out tend to be younger. There is still no shortage of vomit on the pavements of Oxford at midnight of a weekend evening and no shortage of police-sirens.
One city-centre pub we play quite frequently has a "no glasses outside" rule, meaning folks can't drink and smoke at the same time. Drinks must be left inside, with the attendant risk of spiking. It is also a complete pain in the arse.
The pubs stink of urine, sweat and flatulence. No wonder some are reportedly piping in artificial chemical tobacco fragrance to mask the pong.
There is more trouble. More fights. With the constant comings and goings, there are rather more opportunities for spilled-drinks etc. It is a less settled dynamic.
Any upsides? Well, smokers are forced together outside to huddle and conspire. Apparently the flirting-opportunities are improved but, to date, I have benefitted from this rather less than had been anticipated.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
You there! Don't do that! Stop it! Stop it now!
In time to catch dispossessed pub-goers, soon to be chucked out on the street follwing nu-labor's prissy and vindictive little smoking ban, the Beeb are now informing us that our beloved Home Office are to spend half a million quid of the money Comrade Gordo's ripped from the poorest, so as to have the Surveillance Cameras fitted with the ability to bark orders at us through loudspeakers.
You couldn't make it up? Well, you can, and Orwell did. And Joe Stalin'd be mighty proud, too. But the history lesson I'm drawing on with relation to the antics of this vile We Know Best government is that of the Third Reich. For, in a twist, the Beeb's story tells us that councils will be holding little competitions for schoolkids to be the Voice of Correction for the day.
How apt for a busybody government drunk on getting away with justifying their repressions of adult civil liberties by playing the Child Card to be attempting now to enforce "acceptable" standards of behaviour through the mouthpiece of the "pure". It's a coercion by guilt: "Don't do that! Jemima Rabbit doesn't like it."
Once again, I am reminded of that famous quote from Mr. Hitler:
"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation."
And the only dignified response to The Voice would probably get you done on some soon-to-be-trumped-up charge of Corrupting a Minor.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Catnapz for Tessa
Now, I know Rosie Winterton's ain't gonna be the most entertaining voice in da house, but you'd think, wouldn't you, that "popular" Ms. Jowell [© BBC] might just want to hear about closure of A&E at the Maudsley Hospital? I mean the Dulwich and Norwood constituents whose interests she's paid to represent use it. She's gonna need something to tell them, right?
Although really, as she only bothers to respond to a little over a third of the letters she receives from the Ordinarys, she probably won't have to make any special effort here. I'm fairly confident "Dear Ms. Jowell, I think you're doing an inspiring job for Women In Politics, keep up the good work" is more likely to elicit a signed-photo than "Dear Ms. Jowell, Please account for why you broke the Ministerial Code up to 2003, only declaring your husband's financial interests in the ILTC Group on the very day the Observer asked for a statement".
Going... ".... and in so rationalising the frontline delivery of core services into a streamlined delivery model appropriate to core demands of the twenty-first century macroeconomic agenda and in so doing achieve a performance-criteria renewal threshold target of 98.7% set against recyclable asset re-optimisation opportunities to be blah blah, drone waffle, hector, blah...."
Going... " ... achievement of PFI funding through our Preferred Partnerships Scheme, so enabling utilisation of a goodwill-backlog, resourced at local-government level and targetted at maximising opportunities for growth across several key sectors, notably in the building and construction industries, whilst providing greater value-added value to recipients of the former service who will no longer have to finance it's operation. In the meantime, alternative A&E Cover will be available nearby to those applicants deemed by NHS Direct to be in greatest need."
Gone "...and by further blue-sky networking across intergovernmental department budgets, we will achieve our transient reform quota in line with projections across this week's target for radical change, as extemporised by ministerial sub-commitee in a luncheon-meeting with colleagues at the independent think-tank, IPPR. We had cake."
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Smoking Bans : California Dreamtime for ASH
THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CALABASAS, CALIFORNIA DOES ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS: [source: pdf]
WHEREAS we've told big porky pies about passive smoking, citing that EPA report thrown out by the judge but never mind that little detail, we've kept on using it anyway to guilt-trip you dumbos into submission and it's only gone and worked! Ha ha! We keep the Grade A carcinogen lie going, and you lot fucking believe it. Woo-Hoo!! No smoking fucking anywhere, punk! Except maybe your own home, if you really must and just so long as you don't live in a flat, or within twenty feet of a non-smoker's house and just so long as no child ever sees your disgusting activity, as they may associate it with normal behaviour.
WHEREAS you'll do as you're jolly well told, and if you light up on the sidewalk, any passer-by can SUE YOUR ASS and RUIN YOUR MISERABLE LIFE. Woo-Hoo!!
WHEREAS the oil-industry gets away scot-free and no-one's particularly chastised for driving a 12 MPG Ford Fossilfucker, despite all those pesky chemicals being poured into the city air, hanging around and giving ground-level commuters cancer. We'll blame smoking instead! Even though we've fucking banned it! Woo-Hoo!!
457,000 WHEREAS's, provisions and counter-provisions and several THEREFORE's later, we learn of a gracious exclusion. You may have a guarded ciggy if you are located in: "Any outdoor area in which no non-smoker is Present and, due to the time of day or other factors, it is not reasonable to expect another person to arrive."
Gee, thanks. But you're not allowed to smoke at all, ever, in public parks, on sidewalks, plazas, within 20' of a passing bullfrog etc. etc. A key aim of this astounding piece of oppression [yup, it's me talking again] is summed up by the following direct quote. This objective will be:
"reducing the potential for children to associate smoking and tobacco with a healthy lifestyle; by protecting the public from smoking and tobacco-related litter and pollution; and by affirming and promoting the family-friendly atmosphere of the City’s public places."
And don't go putting any ashtrays out! You'll be aiding and abetting the act of illegal smoking!
"No person shall dispose of Smoking waste or place or maintain a receptacle for Smoking waste in an area in which Smoking is prohibited by this chapter or other law, including within any Reasonable Distance required by this chapter."
Download a petition against the English Smoking Bans and distribute. These self-righteous crypto-fascist bastards haven't fucking won yet.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Smoking Ban: rural pubs will close.
Despite the BBC's constant portrayal of Dublin and NY's smoke-free legislation as a triumph of the moral majority over those selfish smokers, with business booming in the trendy Dublin tourist bar always chosen to represent the successful regeneration of an entire way of life, the reality is that there's very few winners and plenty of losers. When a pub closes because trade has become seasonal and they haven't got space for gas-fuelled patio-heaters, everyone loses.
From the Vintners Association of Ireland , who represent many rural publicans:
"Although this ban isn't just about pubs, it is rural pubs that have been worst affected. Nationwide, turnover in pubs is down up to 20-30%. In County Clare alone, 26 pubs have closed in the last 12 months. An estimated 170 licences have been lost in Cork City and County. Many rural publicans now choose not to open until the evening time, cutting off a vital social link for many customers living in isolated areas. According to recent CSO figures, 7,600 jobs were lost in the hospitality sector in 2004 - while increases were experienced in every other sector."
I'm not a frequent pub-goer, but I happened to be in a village boozer the other evening, enjoying my fag an' a pint [It's An Englishman's Right] and taking special notice of the smoking arrangements. The pub was divided into a smoking Public Bar and a non-smoking Lounge Bar; a popular arrangement. Of the ten people in the pub, all were in the smoking section and six or seven were smoking. Ducking to enter the low-ceilinged timber-framed building, the first smell to hit me was the delicious waft of charcoal from the remnants of a log on the fire. Considering that a wood-burning stove puts out many of the same scary-sounding but, in these kinda doses, utterly frickin' BENIGN chemicals as tobacco smoke, should not Auntie Patsy Hewitt also declare this small pleasure a similar hazard to our precious health?
Saturday, January 21, 2006
NHS Promotes Coffee
Waiting outside the doctor's surgery yesterday and trying not to breathe in all the coughs and sneezes, I scanned the leaflet rack in search of some amusement. Amongst all the breastfeeding stuff and the many NHS Stop Smoking pamphlets, my eyes alighted on an ochre-hued A5 foldout entitled "Coffee And Your Health". Now, I'm very fond of a black coffee with my smoke and have been for as long as I can remember. Further, the prospect of getting up at the crack of noon without the dark aroma of something Columbian to stir me into consciousness remains unthinkable. This caffeine fix though, is one addiction I've been forced to keep in check of late...
A few years back, I had cause to be ambulanced into hospital a number of times, suffering unbearable abdominal pains. These turned out to be caused by nothing more serious than gallstones but, even so, these episodes showed me some of the worst physical pain I've ever endured: a cramping, doubled-up agony of knife-twisting, nerve-jangling, screaming pain [oh, yes!] with severe nausea and vomiting and spread over ten hours or more each time. One year, two C.T. scans and an endoscopy* later, I was given the all-clear with regard to the scary stuff but warned that I have a predisposition for building up these mineral deposits around the kidneys and that each time they cause a blockage, there is risk of kidney damage. My lifestyle was analysed and the culprits soon identified, in that caffeinated coffee and Coca-Cola were forming over two-thirds of my daily fluid intake. In particular, I was advised to cap my caffeinated drink consumption at less than 50% of my overall fluid intake. Sticking to this advice, I weaned myself off Coca Cola [harder than you may think, but worth it] and substituted orange juice for some of the coffee. Five years later, I'm happy to report that I'm fighting fit and pissing like a horse. [Oh, and the ear-infection's clearing up nicely, thanks.]
So what did I expect from an NHS leaflet about coffee? To be honest, I think I wanted a nostalgia trip and a bit of flattery. A restatement of the risks of over-consumption, a warning about the addictiveness of caffeine, a description in print of the pain I had suffered to back up one very sympathetic doctor's assessment of the mobile gallstone as being "one of the most acute pains it is possible to experience".
What I did not expect to be reading in the section "Facts About Coffee" were a load of industry statistics about it taking 42 beans to make an espresso and about the 85% of UK consumers' preference for adding milk.
"The aim of this leaflet" runs the introduction "is to provide factual information about coffee, caffeine and your health." "... there can often be confusion about whether coffee and caffeine is healthy and people sometimes worry about how many cups can be drunk a day and how it affects the body. In fact, there is no need to worry about drinking coffee, as long as you stick to the daily amounts recommended by experts." [my emphasis] "It may even have some benefits on your health." We are informed that, "for the majority of people", this safe moderate consumption is 4 to 5 cups per day. Beyond pregnant women or "those trying to conceive" being advised to cut this back to "3 or 4 cups per day", there is no mention of who else may belong to that minority for whom a daily 400mg of caffeine could cause problems and not the tinkliest inkling of just what these problems may actually entail.
Reading on, I find that the British Dietetic Association and the British Nutritional Foundation both agree coffee can count towards the "6 to 8 cups of assorted fluids you should drink every day to keep your body hydrated". Oh, really? A 75% intake of caffeinated fluid's okay then, is it? "Although caffeine is a mild diuretic..." I looked up, wondering if there was anyone in the waiting room likely to know what "diuretic" meant. Hazarding the correct guess of "it makes you go", I carried on: "Although caffeine is a mild diuretic, drinking a moderate amount of coffee daily is unlikely to have a diuretic effect on the body." Oh, that's cool then.
Smelling a starbuck, I went to the small print and found this leaflet to be the work of the "British Coffee Association". So no surprise then, that the penultimate pane is entitled "Coffee and Health Benefits". It comprises such gems as "Studies have implied that coffee contains high levels of antioxidants..." Studies have implied, indeed! Oh, and "Some research has suggested..." [two walloping great caveats for the price of none] that regular coffee consumption "...could help protect against diseases including liver cancer, type 11 [two?] diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease."
Alzheimer's and Parkinson's? Surely not, for these are the very two deadly degenerative diseases which some studies have suggested are considerably rarer in smokers than in non-smokers. Actually, the evidence here is stronger than just a suggestion of a protective effect; some studies demonstrated a 50% lowering of risk for smokers. And some suggestion of knock-on benefits for their passive-smoking dependents as well, but I won't dwell on those.
It would be interesting to know which studies are being quoted and interpreted by the B.C.A., but they're not telling. I'd like to know if the studies' methodology checked the smoking habits of the sample and how the stats stack up when tobacco consumption is excluded. You know, credit where credit's due and all that, an' I don't think it's moral for the burgeoning coffee capitalists to steal health-benefits from an increasingly hard-pressed tobacco industry.
Is it right for the NHS to take money from and promote the products of a not-exactly-blameless industry selling an addictive product at a high price and where habitual consumption of the product has, at best, mixed health implications?
*endoscopy A visual examination probing the innards of the bladder. The bad news for a chap is that the roving camera's port of entry has to be the penile tube. What's more, the bladder must be kept inflated during the examination and this is achieved by forcing water out of the hose carrying the camera. Not to worry, I thought, in the weeks preceding the event; the white heat of technology will have created something of such fibre-optically filigree'd slenderness, I'll barely notice it going in. Look at the flashing lights and white coats instead and don't think about what may or may not be going on, you know, ...down there. Think of England.
"This might sting a bit".
I was quite calm until I saw it. Fibre-optics? Try garage-airline with a mini-maglite on the end. And it's foaming.
But it went in okay with a dab of gel.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Christmas is crap. It can fuck off. The only thing crapper than Christmas is the cringesome fest of alco-hedonism which is New Year.
But Christmas is done, gone, past. Today, we are at peace. Tesco will open in the normal fashion. Today is but an ordinary day. Today, it is Tuesday.
So please extinguish all your hideous light-polluting tat housebling forthwith. There's limits to my libertarianism, y'know... I mean, Up the Smokers and all that, but there do exist crimes, generally violations of my own antiquated interpretation as to what constitutes Good Taste, for the punishment of which I favour the reinstatement of public flogging.
Why do they have to fucking FLASH? All fucking night? With all the subtle Christmas Magic of a looped fucking air-horn rendition of Jingle Bells? Relentless, mechanical patterns of the Morse Code for "Oh look at me, I've been down B and fucking Q and spent £14.99 on something I'm only going to fucking GLANCE at on my way from the car to the front-door, thinking "ooh, pretty", before absorbing myself in fucking Sky TV until it bores me to sleep, whereas you lot have to just DEAL WITH IT because it's all JUST A BIT OF FUN for the kiddies."
And for charity of course. With Cancer charities being top of the donation-pile. The same cocksure organisations who operate in shadowy cabals with the reprehensible ASH, simpering at their nu-labor chums to persecute smokers on their behalf just because they've got a tick about the smell and, who, tellingly, on the Beeb the other week, wouldn't take on board the demonstrable fact that a Border-Collie could sniff out early cancers well ahead of any test yet devised by medical science.
Eww, well, it's not very hygenic, is it? I mean, they sniff each other's behinds you know.