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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Ballache

This the face of what passes for a 'Ballboy' in South Wales ....

Old 'Ballboy' Practising His 'Simulation' Moves ......

Apart from the fact that he's aged 17, around 5'10'' in height, and shaves .... no problem, until he's then accused of trying to time waste in an important cup match, gets involved in a tussle with a member of the opposition team over possession of the football, allegedly gets 'kicked' (I say 'allegedly' as I don't think he got touched, but hey what do I know), then rolls around clutching his sides like a Taliban sniper has hit him. He then has a miracle cure and is OK, afterwards  .......

All this led to the opposition player involved being harshly being sent off by the referee, gained the 'Ballboy's' team a decided advantage, and brought the 'boy' much worldwide notoriety.

All this fun and games does however raise some issues that the game is trying to duck:

(a) Should 'Ballboys' have some sort of age limit - over 18 or under16?
(b) Should they be provided from the home teams youth academies or reserves or be neutral?
(c) If the 'Ballboys' indulge in gamesmanship, time wasting or other underhand tricks, should the referee be able to add time, report the club to the FA for a fine, or points docked or even a forced replay of the match?

All the rolling around on the ground like a fairy that the 'boy' went through, leads me to suspect that the 'Ballboy' is in fact a member of the Swansea football youth academy, and he's learnt his lessons on 'simulation' well.

Little good that he apologised afterwards, the opposition player will miss at least 3 matches, a manager could lose his job as a result, and the time wasting worked, as his team got to the final .... who says 'cheaters never prosper'?

Friday, 25 January 2013

Cash Point

The myth and legend of the US singer Johnny Cash still makes waves after his death .... it seems that as a vocal defender of 'prisoners rights' in the US, his voice was listened to by the authorities, not so much for his high profile (there were other campaigners who were singers etc), but because there was an 'urban legend' then doing the rounds, that like the words of one of his songs, he had 'shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die'.

Johnny Cash Prison Performer and Prisoner Rights Campaigner

In fact, apart from a few nights in various 'drunk tanks' across America, the nearest he had spent to 'hard time', was when he held prison concerts such as those concerts and recordings from Folsom and San Quentin Prisons.

Johnny Cash - Drunk Tank Mugshot

Just goes to show that its often the 'legend' or 'myth', that people prefer to believe in, rather than the plain old truth.

No Business like Mafiosa Business

We in this blog have touched on this story in other posts because it seems that in Italy, as well as the usual government Department of Trade and Industry, which looks to try and support mainstream businesses, there is also a special Government Department, which has to take over businesses that have been set up by organised crime aka the 'Mafia' or 'Camorra', usually in order to launder hot money, or even just to give 'legal' jobs to members of the mobsters families.

San Marcellino-Based 'Euromilk' Was A Mafia Business

What makes this interesting is that, because so many of these businesses fail when the state takes them over, with just a few exceptions able to stand on their own feet (such as the San Marcellino-based 'Euromilk'), that it actually breeds resentment amongst the local populations, where there is an expression "The state fires people, while the Camorra gives jobs" .... it would be funny really, if it wasn't so deadly.

Its on little things like this, that the success of attempts to eradicate organised crime in Italy may hang ....

Torch Song

Your never too late to learn something new, and I have to admit I have heard of few French singers, 'Maurice Chevalier', 'Johnny Hallyday', 'Sasha Distel 'and 'Edith Piaf' and that's about it, so the name 'Barbara' (which was her stage name) or 'Monique Serf' which was her birth name, was a new one to me.

Barbara aka Monique Serf

Apparently, outside the confines of the English speaking world, she was something of a continental superstar in both France and Germany until her recent death ..... she was mainly lauded for her role in helping the French and German nations to start the process of reconciliation after the second world war, by renditions of her French / German songs, particularly her songs about a German town called Göttingen which she visited soon after the war and loved.

What made this all the more remarkable was that as a French Jew, she had been forced to flee from the Nazis, and had to hide from them throughout the war years, with certain death her fate if they caught her family ......... now there's a street (Barbarastraße) named after her. Here's her singing on YouTube.


See, bet you weren't expecting to learn about a new singer when you came here today.

Puppy Love

It appears from recent studies that dogs may have been tamed because wolves just couldn't ignore human bins ..... a bit like toilets really. The stink of human offal pits, seem to have have had a fatal attraction to a certain type of lazy wolf who found the 'free' food on offer just too tempting. They hung around near humans and scavenged, rather than tackling Aurochs, or Woolly Rhinos etc.

How A Wolf Becomes A Dog

And looking at Auroch's who can blame them?

But it seems that this attraction was what led to puppies being domesticated, and then successively culled to eradicate undesirable traits such as eating their owners .... of course this means that most dogs, even the most aggressive are still more puppy like than any of their ancestors, and basically lazy to boot.

Lazy Dog

.... although a lot of 'Posties' would tell you otherwise.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Storm In A Teacup

This weekend is the UK's yearly national embarrassment weekend. Every time it comes round, I cringe with shame, as egged on by the UK media, the great British public runs round like headless chickens and shouts "Don't Panic! Don't Panic!"

And the cause of all this? 


Yes, the first snow in England, or more precisely the first snow to hit the South East of England (aka Greater London) .... the UK press don't care about snow in Scotland, or Cumbria.

After just 4 hours you would think that it was the 'Day After Tomorrow', or 'Armageddon' ... I even heard a BBC reporter say breathlessly that a town in Wales was 'nearly cut off' ... what does that mean? They were nearly snowed in forever, and that like in a scene from the movie 'Thirty Days Of Night', a plague of vampires would be roaming the streets? Or maybe he meant that once they were 'cut off' , there would be a run on the supermarkets and cannibalism would then ensue?

Or did he just really mean that for about about half an hour or so, the roads would be closed until the snow ploughs ran again?

Honestly, the scenes of people skiving off work because 'I've just had a text from the wife, its snowing at home' , and the media reporting that the trains and main national airport were in chaos again, should be something that makes us hang our heads in shame. 'Third world' responses, that's all I can say, and what makes it worse is that happens every year like clockwork, and yet nothing is ever done about it.

Annual Heathrow Chaos

Surely, the UK airports like Heathrow could have heated runways ... there are chemical coatings that can be put down that can be caused to warm a little by application of water/snow etc, or de-icing chemicals such as urea and glycol ... there are even methods of using summer tarmac heat to clear snow in the winter.

Its called inter-seasonal heat transfer, which uses a network of fluid-filled pipes laid under the tarmac to collect the heat during the summer months (They can even capture and store the heat produced by an airport’s air conditioning system, adding still more heat to the system), then transfer the energy to subterranean "thermal banks" where the ground insulates stored heat. During the winter, the collected stored energy can be tapped by using heat transfer pumps to bring warm fluids back to the surface.

Heated Runways - Not Impossible

But no, we collapse into mass cancellations and news headlines around the world that portray us as a laughing stock. Reykjavík Airport in Iceland faces conditions like this, and far worse, for a large part of the year, and yet it rarely if ever closes.
 
Isn't it about time this annual shame was ended .....

Friday, 18 January 2013

Candid Photography - Priceless

There are times when new technology bites back.

There you are about to sell your latest designer 'asos yellow skater dress size 10' on eBay .... so while your in your bedroom you whip out the old phone camera, and hanging the dress on the bedroom door, you take a good snap to post on eBay.

You then post it up and wait for the 'kerching' of money arriving in to your bank account ..... 

eBay photo taken

Only with horror do you realise that there's a slight problem, which you only find out about when it starts getting twittered around the world, eventually ending up on a national radio web site, where it goes viral ..... your laughing friends tell you ..... eventually.

Desperately you try to get on the website to remove it and eventually manage to take it down ..... red in faced and heart in your mouth you hope that no one has really noticed .....

No Longer Available
 
Oops, too late. You really should have worn your knickers or checked the mirror view before you posted it on eBay ....... not really revealing (given the camera standard and the masking I've applied to this close up), but careless, very careless.

Priceless .....

Priceless .................

From High Street To Low Street

Are we seeing the death of the high street in the UK?

The recent closures of well known stores such as Jessops, Comet, HMV and Blockbuster videos, all of whom have a footfall on the main shopping streets of the UK, seems to just add to the sense of decay that many of the UK's city centres seems to extrude.

I can from my own experience give an example of the decline ... 10 years ago in my local high street, there was only one or two Charity shops (out of maybe fifty shops), all the rest were commercial concerns selling everything from hardware to fruit and vegetables (with all stops in between), and including two indoor markets.

Now there are around ten charity shops (and more coming), as well as the complete closure of one of the indoor markets. It lends a sense of crisis to the high street when there are nothing but charity shops, betting shops and tanning salons, and its much the same (if not worse) in the local shopping high streets in the neighbouring areas.

Now if you believe in the capitalist spirit, either this is just an inevitable decline, brought about by the rise of Shopping Malls, Superstores, and the impact of the Internet as the new 'high street', and that eventually some entrepreneur will move in and take the now cheap empty shops and start selling products again ... in fact the evidence is that this is not the case this time.

What could you sell in a shop cheaper than on a website or a Superstore with either their low costs or economies of scale? There is nothing apart from builders bricks and items like that, and what's left is sold in the shopping malls, so this may well be a permanent societal change.

Obviously, there are consequences when a high street declines, which are not always just the local economic collapse that this entails but social as well. This blog has discussed the impact of the collapse of the centres of towns before, especially in the US where there has been a number of small towns declared 'bankrupt' as their main employers and productive population move away, often to leave only the unemployables as the sole residents of once prosperous towns.

The question all this raises is, if the empty high streets are just symptom of the general decline of the old shop retail model, or could they also be the trigger even for a more general decline in small cities and towns? In other words could the closure of the high street, and the general local economic decline this might trigger, be the driver of employers and the productive populations moving away?

If the answer to this is yes, then is the UK on the verge of a societal crisis,with these towns abandoned by the middle classes and left to the left wing politicians and the un-working classes. There are examples across the UK as well as the US.

Fleetwood In Lancashire Has Seen Better Times.

I wonder if this is going to be the true post industrialisation legacy in the West .... Rustbelt towns, with no amenities, high crime, and no viable high streets. For every successful main street such as Clyde Ohio, there four or five 'Stockton's' in California, where the collapse was sudden.

Clyde Ohio - Main Street

Possibly time to consider some ways of equalising the advantages of Superstores and Internet to save the high streets and possibly save our towns and cities from collapse as well. Maybe a special purchase tax and tax rebates for physical shops ..... I fear we are sleepwalking in to a social problem that could be averted by action now.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Whose the Football Daddy ?


I can't claim to have had an original thought on this subject ..... and perhaps the phrase "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" covers the subject succinctly, but most fans of most sports, especially the league table based sports, whether it be Association Football (Soccer to US visitors), Cricket, Rugby (either code), Baseball, American Football, or even god help us the 'Basketball' (Sorry US visitors, but this just isn't a sport .... its a lot of physical freaks racking up err, well racking up 'basketball scores' as the saying goes), will have wondered who the greatest team is.

Normally we all then set about discussing this with friends or colleagues (who usually are fellow 'aficionados' of the sport), probably over considerably more beers than actual facts, and pleasurably debated or occasionally (when the aforementioned beer count has exceed ability of some participants to handle), argued over the merits of each team.

Now in most countries, and in some sports, those that can actually even be considered for the title 'the best', or 'the biggest', or the 'most successful' are limited. So for example, in Spanish soccer, there are just two teams under any category looked at, "Real Madrid" or "Barcelona" (It's Real Madrid with 32 titles to 21 in case your wondering), and where you can only look at the merits of the other clubs by excluding these two giants. The same goes for Scotland, where its only the 'auld firm' of Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic (It's Rangers in case your wondering again, with 54 titles to Celtic's 43), who can realistically be considered (even with Rangers exiled to the third division for a couple of seasons).

However in England, such is our rich sporting heritage that, no matter which league determined sport you pick, there are multiple teams available to argue over ...... so its maybe its some surprise that the BBC has only this week, decided to address the question of who is the Premier football Leagues 'Biggest Club' .... and the argument still rages!

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Depending on the criteria you can suggest two or more teams, so for example counting only the total number of cups and leagues won you can argue Liverpool at 41, to Man Utd's 38 makes them the biggest team - but if you exclude the minor domestic cup (we, unusually in Europe, have two, not one, domestic cup competitions), then this becomes Liverpool 33 vrs Man Utd 34 ... and so on and so on.

Other teams are available for discussion, but only by excluding historical records. So for instance if you look only at the period since the formation of the Premier League in 1992/93, a tendency amongst kids brought up only with the Premier League, then Liverpool drop back from first or second place, having to then rely on cup successes (much like Man Utd in the later period of the old first division era), and its firstly Arsenal, then Chelsea, and latterly Manchester City who are Manchester United's main rivals.

The BBC article linked, gives you the various considerations in far more detail .... but the fact that you can make a case for more than just two teams, shows how competitive the top English football league is, and that the argument about 'Whose the Daddy' will not be dead for quite some while yet.

No Country For Englishmen


A recent discussion in the media on the forthcoming devolution debates in Scotland prompted a comment from a member of the audience (presumably 'pro' the independence idea), that 'Scotland is the only stateless nation in the world and its time for it to make a decision on it's own as it chooses'. Now obviously there are many Basques and Catalan's, who would argue with this Scots centric view of 'statelessness', as indeed would the dozen of other putative states in the world such as the Palestinians, or Karen land in Burma, Somaliland, the Kurds across the Middle East, and even the Corsicans, who are all crying out for statehood .... there is even an argument for Crete and Cornwall to have their own states!

But putting aside the fact that there is such a long list of peoples, regions and countries wanting 'independence', the fact is that Scotland has its own Parliament, its own laws and courts, its own education system and a large input into supra national bodies such as the United Kingdom and the European Union.

We Are The English!


No, in fact its the English who are the most downtrodden in this UK arrangement ..... England has,
  • No Sovereign Parliament, 
  • No National Broadcaster and 
  • No elected head of state

... all bodies that represented the English have been subsumed into the greater body of the UK, while the Irish, Scots and Welsh have been allowed to brandish large degrees of 'independence' in the face of the English.

Imagine if these independence siren calls were by the English, wanting to be independent of Scotland and the rest? Who would be shouting 'little Englanders' or even 'racist' the loudest? Why the very same peoples who are currently telling everyone how downtrodden or oppressed they are under the English imperial heel ..... oh and the real architects of Scottish Independence, the Scottish Labour Party.

So by default, if the Scots do leave, then this will provide an opportunity for some of this repressed 'Englishness' to re-emerge .... but our neighbours may not like what develops, these pendulums tend to swing hard when they swing back!

The Wild East Comes To Stay

From the end of 2013, Bulgarians and Romanians will be free to work across the European Union. These countries have substantial populations - about 27 million in all. Many in Britain worry these Bulgarians and Romanians will pour into the UK, while there are those in these countries who believe that either the bulk of the migration has already occurred (to Spain or Italy), others who believe that it will take the form of "circulatory" migration .... a few months away, then bring cash back home.

What they don't reckon with is the British Welfare Benefit system which hinders this process .... whereas in Italy or Spain there are effectively no welfare benefits for East European migrant, in the UK - child benefit and other benefits are offered equally. So at best we can expect many migrant with families in to arrive, claim benefits, then for families to slip quietly back to the East (while the 'worker' stills claims the welfare benefits), and at worst, they arrive, demand housing and welfare, while working in the black economy, begging or involved in criminal activities.

Beggars Banquet

In other words the UK will, via its ever giving 'horn of plenty' (by East EU standards), welfare system, interrupt the "circulatory" migration patterns of the Bulgarians and Romanians .... this means that we will end up paying for new housing in these countries via benefits and not the profits of labour e.g. Child Benefit First child £20.30 pw, and £13.44pw for the rest. So with maybe 6 children (not uncommon in the 'Roma' communities), £87.50 pw x 52 = £4550 pa (approx $6,300 pa), this where the average yearly earnings are normally about $6,800 pa .... the incentive to do this is very clear. They can live better than the average citizen simply by claiming one UK benefit - which by the way we seem to be happy to pay for children who have left the UK and returned to the East.

The Treasury says it is forced to pay for the children of any UK workers who contribute National Insurance under European Union rules (which may exclude some of the Bulgarians, with the end result that the UK tax payer is paying child benefit for more than 40,000 children abroad, mostly in Poland and the East.

The costs of this to the UK taxpayer are probably about £12 million pa (based upon 3 kids), but would be likely to double if we have a large influx of claimants from these new countries (which are poorer than the P oles were ..... All this will simply fuel more xenophobia in the UK. Of course the irony of all this is that its Britain that pushed the EU to expand Eastward in Mitteleuropa and the Balkans, against the advice of the French etc ..... now they are advising that we hold back on Turkish membership of the EU, for much the same reasons (The poverty, the illiteracy, the cultural attitudes - not withstanding the Islamic nature of Turkey), only magnified 3 fold as 74 million Turks are loosed onto Europe.

Maybe this time we will listen to the voices of caution, before the problems we will see from 2014 onwards are just the harbinger of things to come.

Extrajudicial Killings


When the Israeli secret service Mossad, takes out opponents of Israel in other countries then the Turks and other Muslim countries describe them as 'terrorists' but when Turks do the same then, as with the cross border raids and air-strikes, the silence is deafening.

The killing/murder of three Kurdish women activists in Paris (one of them Sakine Cansız, a female ex fighter) by what is thought to be possibly operatives of Turkeys N.I.O (National Intelligence Organization), can't be treated as any more or less 'acceptable' than when Mossad does the same thing.

Sakine Cansız PKK - Ex commander of the women's guerilla movement

However the silence is the key ..... only the French are outraged at this 'intolerable act' .... the Turkish spokesman has said he believes that it was 'utterly wrong', and their spokesman has expressed his 'condolences' and then suggested that it was an internal Kurdish 'feud'.

Of course it hasn't been proved that it was the N.I.O, and it could be other Kurds, as they have just the same murderous tendencies as other groups in that region, still it will be interesting to see how this develops ...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Nefertiti - Eternal Beauty

I, like many people own a small copy of the statue of Nefertiti, the Queen of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten ..... its black, and shows her bust as whole and complete, with her ears and missing eye repaired. You can buy many representations of the original bust, some very gaudy indeed, but the best, are faithful copies, in colour etc, but to my eyes too faithful.

I do not subscribe to the modern trends of not repairing antiques, leaving gold goblets in the crushed state which they left the ground ..... its an affectation brought in by Western archaeologists and means that instead of seeing things as the ancients wanted them seen, we see them as broken and have to rely on artists impressions.

This is rubbish .... anyone seeing the Great Wall of China is impressed .... but in fact its mostly a modern repair of what would otherwise been a ruin, while we have Hadrian's Wall, which is mostly lying in ruins.  Can you imagine the Chinese leaving it, or Stonehenge in ruins, when they could be restored back to life? Stonehenge for example could have all the cap stones put back, and the fallen sentry stones put back upright and would be nearly complete again ..... how magical would that be?

Stonehenge before the Victorian repairs

In fact the Victorians, who were not the lily livered PC ridden society that we are, actually created the version of Stonehenge that we see now .... they just didn't have the technology to complete the task and we have undertaken major repairs in 1919 and 1958

Repairs to Stonehenge in 1919 and 1958

But we just haven't gone the whole hog and completed the task.

Oh and Nefertiti, well I have added the suitable repairs to the original using Paint Shop Pro and now you can see what I mean by Eternal Beauty.

Nefertiti an Eternal Beauty Restored

NB: A side thought, this painted stone is how all statues in the ancient world looked .... yep, that includes all those white marble nudes in the museums, and friezes over doorways such as the Elgin Marbles. The ancient world was a riot of colour and murals, that make our cities look tame.

Cat Burglar

A cat, which we have to name as Raffles (or is that Ruffles), was arrested breaking in to a prison in Brazil ..... he (or she, the sex is not discussed), was carrying contraband goods for prisoners strapped to its body with tape.

Raffles The Brazilian Cat Burglar

Now anyone who has had a cat will know that they are not the easiest of animals to control or train, so one has to applaud the skills of which ever old lag trained the cat to break in (after presumably breaking out), and carry the goods as well. The cat was apprehended crossing the main prison gate, so the only thing the lags forgot to do was teach it how to be sneaky, but at least it turned out to not be a stool pigeon.

A prison spokesperson was quoted by local paper Estado de S. Paulo as saying: "It's tough to find out who's responsible for the action as the cat doesn't speak." ..... statements like that always give you paws for thought .....

Having A Gay Old Time

Ah well, back in the saddle of the blogging lark, and the first thing that comes to my attention is that the ongoing suicide of the Church of England is still progress ...... they have decided today that that they are going to allow gay men in civil partnerships to become bishops, but they must promise to be celibate. In other words they can be 'married' to another man (although not yet in the eyes of the church), and certainly not in a church, but they must not practise sodomy or any other sexual practises that could be construed as not being celibate.

What a laugh, first of all they tried this when they introduced 'gay clergy' .... I can't recall the exact terminology used, but something about not being 'openly practising homosexuals', or some such words, which was very quickly abandoned, as at its best it was a form of words designed to fool no one, and at worst, it was an open lie by the homosexual church wing, who used this pledge, just to start getting their members in to the clergy (so to speak). In any event it soon became a broken pledge as openly practising homosexual clerics were soon entering into the church.

Victorian High Clergy Liked to dress the part ....

These sort of pledges always reminds me of President Bill Clinton's quote on Marijuana usage ..... "didn't like it -- and didn't inhale, and never tried inhaling again" ...... So the Gay Bishops pledge will be that although they are in a civil partnership they "will no longer practise it, won't practise it, and will never try practising again" ..... yeah right!

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A middle aged orange male ... So 'un' PC it's not true....