Wednesday, June 29, 2005

newspaper facilities: an update

well, well, well. here is the promised update on the daily mail offices.

first of all, the mail will have none of this cost-saving, let's put our newspaper in the arse end of nowhere business. the offices are slap bang in the middle of high street kensington, seconds away from the tube and right next to M&S. It's the only newspaper office I've ever been in that made a proper attempt at security - my bag was checked and I had to go through a metal detector. (My sneaking suspicion is that this is because the Mail makes a better class of enemy than the Indy).

As I went up the escalators, it began to dawn on me that these were seriously swish offices. You come out onto a central atrium, all glass and whizzy lifts and real yukka plants and people drinking coffee. I don't know what I had expected (hundreds of gibbering monkeys at keyboards, being whipped regularly?) but this wasn't it. It even managed to have a waterfall without the whole place smelling like a municipal swimming pool (News International, take note).

Damn, I thought. If these are the wages of sin, show me the stock options and the pension plan.

(One last thing: the entire place is divided up into numbered rooms according to floor, so second floor rooms go 201, 202 etc. Looking for the toilet, as I always do, I saw a door: Room 101. What horrors might lurk in the Daily Mail's room 101 - unmarried mothers, bogus asylum seekers, perhaps the ever-elusive PC brigade? Sadly, it was catering supplies.)

Friday, June 24, 2005

My, that mad Stephen Green from Christian Voice has been busy, hasn't he?

The background is that the Co-op bank recently refused its services to the fundamentalist group, citing their rabid homophobia. Lovely Mr Green, who can in no way be described as a sexually-insecure sociopath, replied:

"The decision from the Co-operative Bank fits a pattern where politically-correct bully-boys try to attack Christian organisations, Christian symbols, the Bible, and in the case of Jerry Springer the Opera and BBC2, even the person of our Saviour."

Well, this is shocking, isn't it? CV's argument is that the bank is 'hypocritical', because it embraces freedom of sexual orientation, but not freedom to be a religious bigot. Of course, this is the kind of fuzzy, comparing apples with pears logic you'd expect from someone who really, really believes that the Old Testament is true. Christian Voice are calling for homosexuality to be, if not outlawed, at least repressed and ostracised. Homosexuals, on the other hand, are not exercising their presumably reciprocal right to have religion outlawed - so who sounds more reasonable?

The indisputable fact is that no bank is obliged to provide custom, just as bars and clubs can refuse admission if they don't like your shoes, or your face. If Co-op were the only bank in the world, then there would be an argument that it was unfair to refuse CV an account, but they are not; and there are plenty of banks around who'll take money off pretty much anyone.
So well done ethical bankers!

This all links in to my continuing watch of the Government's proposed ban on "stirring up religious hatred' (see posts passim). There was a very good piece by Nicholas Hytner on 'The Week' (now with 10 per cent more Andrew Neil). He put it something like this: "I have a right to say your religion is stupid; you have a right to tell me that I'm going to burn in hell." What neither person should be able to do is use this as the basis to harm the other.

One of my favourite moments was the Government (who introduced the bill mainly to appease the anti-war Muslim vote) realised they had inadvertantly provided protection for Satanists, and indeed any other weird cult with enough members.
Richard Dawkins uses Bertrand Russell's example of a floating teapot, which orbits the Moon, to illustrate the weirdness of religious belief - "I have no proof that there is a teapot, I can never have proof - but I believe, and you have no proof it's untrue. Therefore it's true."

The problem is that if you can convince a hundred, even a thousand other people of your particular daft theory, then it surely must count as a religion, and be protected by the law. Interestingly, the modification community tried a wheeze a few years back to set up a "Church of Body Modification" in the US. It fell apart amid accusations of financial chicanery and overbearing leadership, but the idea was that you could argue your spirituality was enhanced by having a nose piercing, in the same way Sikhs wear turbans, or some Muslims wear the hijab. It was certainly an interesting idea.

I seem to have strayed off the point somewhat, and it was this: that there can be no complete protection in law for your beliefs. Neither should there be, because there will always be those whose beliefs, both powerful, are contradictory.

Invoking the idea of some unprovable God shouldn't be a kind of 'get out of argument free' card either. If the government wants to make a law concerning belief, it should be that no-one is allowed to venture their opinion without some kind of evidence to back it up. So if you hate gay people, you can't abdicate responsibility by blaming it on some God who hates gays too. If you think one race is inferior, then whip out the proof, don;t be shy, we'd all be interested to see it. If you think women are dirty, lesser humans who lead men into sin.... don't bother reading this blog.

Monday, June 20, 2005

tom cruise in sense of humour failure shock

this article from today's Guardian about the channel 4 film crew who squirted tom cruise with a water pistol really made me angry. they're going to be charged with assault? ASSAULT? i can see ways in which it's possible to assault someone with a water pistol, but they'd be a lot more hands on and pretty difficuly to accomplish in public.

Friday, June 17, 2005

wanton conjecture

i dispatch this from the foreign desk at a Newspaper That Cannot Be Named. Without really trying, i seem to have effected a one-woman take over of the British press, working at no less than four national newspapers in a fortnight, doing plus restaurant reviews for Square Meal, and having a job interview at another one.

this week i've been working on the foreign desk, and so have been forced to contain my excitement over the Cruise/Holmes engagement, in favour of tracking the presidential elections in Iran (my tip's for a surprise Moin victory, obviously I will edit this post if i am wrong).

Continuing my terse posts of late, that's it for now, except to recommend you make yourself aware of John McCain. He's not only the acceptable face of Republicanism, he's been damn funny on The Daily Show, and he's a proper war hero. And he's going to be the next President of the United States.

go on, bet you a fiver.

PS. Is the most pointless quote from a spokesperson ever?

"The 24-year-old England defender has been dating Tweedy, 21, for nine months.
Her spokesman said: “Ashley and Cheryl are engaged. He proposed in Dubai and
she accepted straight away. Everyone is very happy for them.”"

No shit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

capitalist company, communist ethos.

proof that Microsoft executives have no souls.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


this cheered me immensely. it makes my dissertation on 18th century lesbian communities look positively establishment.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

super fusc.

this weekend i made several japanese couples, and even some americans, very happy.

sometimes it seems that oxford university specifically designed its rituals as a money-spinner for the tourist industry, and graduation was no exception. the mental scars of taking exams in 'sub fusc' (latin for 'show off') have barely faded, particularly the incident before my last exam when a group of french schoolchildren pursued me across Christ Church meadow shouting, "Arry Potter! Arry Potter!" There have been calls to drop the dress code for exams - surely a cause which will gird the loins of Damonline, scourge of the London club shoe nazi. The university says that students like the tradition, but we all know that having flocks of fresh-faced students roaming the streets in white tie and gowns (during the summer, no less) provides incalculably valuable free publicity.

So on Saturday we processed to the sheldonian theatre, dressed as prats, and took part in a ceremony that was dominated by a costume change into the furrier upgrade gown you get as a BA. So that's it, I'm untouchable. It will never matter if my degree was the result of a clerical error, they can't take it back.

And I suppose that makes the daft costume worth it. It was also very bizarre to see my friends from college, but very welcome. There was even a half-readable article in the Cherwell, which is a first, and the Isis interviewed Andre 3000.

In other news, I've decided to write a novel. It will be crap, but that's the point. If I can purge all the nauseatingly adolescent prose I have stored up, I may one day write something good. More likely I will be the new Julie Burchill.

PS. Talking of novels, may I recommend The Princess Bride by William Goldman? If you've seen the film, it's still worthwhile reading the book, to an extent I'm toying with the upsetting compound word "unputdownable" to describe it.

PPS. Has anyone seen Sin City? Was it good?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

food glorious food

hold onto your hats, for i have a revelation. today was a good day to be a journalist.

i went with a colleague to a press lunch at the blue elephant in fulham. by god, it was good. even though i was ridiculously out of my depth in conversation with bankers, PRs and other grown-ups, i still found time to appreciate the food and the wine.

ah, the wine. i've never really 'got' wine. sure, i can tell the difference between a shocking wine and a drinkable plonk, but the allure of the truly top notch has (between you and me) always eluded me. yes, champagne is nice - but is a £75 bottle three times better than a £25 bottle?

well, my doubts have now been removed, and i have another unaffordable luxury to pine over. we had some rieslings with the food today, and they were just stunning. you know when you're a teenager, and fall for someone and the words of songs all make sense (ok, so you're embarrassed about it now). that's what happened with the wine. all those adjectives that wine writers use -aromatic, oaky, woody (admittedly not leathery, which i seem to recall was jilly goolden's favourite) - suddenly made sense.

i've fallen in love with a grape. and it's a german.

in other news, top gear fans will already know there are some stupidly named ministers about (darling and ladyman the best examples). i have now spotted on sky news that there is a home office minister called Paul Goggins. I wonder if he's any relation to Mrs Goggins in Postman Pat? we can only hope.

there's also a brilliant comment piece in the guardian tomorrow from St Polly of Toynbee, called "My right to offend a fool", discussing the proposed new legislation on inciting religious hatred. she rightly points out that if inciting religious hatred is to be a crime, the bible should be banned. Perhaps they could just have the fruity bits about 'false gods' removed...

i have never wanted to be an idle millionaire more- i would love to mount a campaign to do this. let's ban the qu'ran while we're about it, and hoist the religious campaigners firmly on their own petard.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

tiny ginger beard.

it's been an odd week. since coming back from oxford and worcester, i feel like i've achieved a watershed, time to shrug off old worries and attitudes and embrace... well, new worries.

the project is going ok, I went to Borough food market for research, and came back with trotters. here's the rough draft of that bit:

"Having bought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s love letter to animal farming, The River Cottage Meat Book, I went to Borough recently and bought two pig’s trotters for just 40 pence. Taking them out of the wrapper felt like a scene from a mafia movie. They just didn’t look like something you’d eat: the ankle still flexed a little, and as the bones were still in, they were heavy in my hand. I felt almost prurient prising apart the toes to inspect the dark, hairy web between them.

Opening the book, my heart sank further, as I read the introduction to the recipe for Chinese-style spare ribs and pig’s trotters: “Make sure that you remove all the hairs from the trotters – shave them with a razor if necessary.”. That was it. Food with toenails was bad enough – but food you have to shave first?"

they're still sitting in my fridge, like the sawn-off pig's legs they are.

went to the first night of derren brown's new tour, which was extremely exciting. if i'm honest, the first half was a little slow to get going. he also cocked up one of the tricks when he guessed the wrong person was telling the truth. at least we know they're not stooges, i guess.

in the second half he did some stuff which apparently he can't do on telly. it started with the old nail-in-the-nose trick. Sideshow bores like me can tell you that the trick utilises the secondary nasal cavity, which goes back into the head well below the brain. Still, nicely done, to music. He also did a classic "Human Blockhead" trick involving broken glass which made me wince, even though I should have known he wasn't going to slice himself open. Hopefully, if we continues the classic sideshow thing, we will see him on TV eating roadkill, bugs and so on like a Geek.

Talking of human variation, it cheered me to see on Jonathan Ross' chat show that Motley Crue have dwarves on stage with them on their latest tour. I think more rock stars should make an effort like this. Let's face it, you want to look at a music star and think, 'wow! imagine how much fun it must be to have that much money, and just piss it all away!'. it does me no good to see chris martin looking like a bulldog chewing a wasp when he's got pots of cash, a film star wife, a child and a permanent parking space on the moral high ground. cheer up, you think, it has actually happened!

anyway, i'm sure there are other blogs which can express right-thinking people's hatred of chris martin better than i can. back to the trotters.