Monday, April 7, 2008

Layer 3 Making the News

No doubt what was the main news story yesterday. The Olympic torch was carried by a relay of ‘celebrities’ through the streets of snowy London, heavily guarded by a jogging phalanx of security heavies - the British team running through the crowds in well-drilled columns wearing fetching highlighter yellow jackets, the Chinese squad alongside them in heavenly blue. We’re still awaiting the final points score, but commentators seem to think it’s likely to be close, with both sides claiming victory.

Said a spokesman for the Brits, “Our hours of training really paid off - our lads gave the protesters a proper thrashing. We scored heavily on both indigenous and oriental protesters - in knockdowns, hand-offs, handcuffings, arrests, kicks and punches. We even did well on bonus points for duffing up cameramen and journalists. The Chinese fought hard, but we had home advantage and got a real lift from the screams, yells and boos of the crowd.”

The Chinese spokesman, however, remained optimistic that after all the security video has been properly assessed the ‘Blues’ will emerge victorious, and said, “Hua doh chin chang plotesta nok dan kik chop bangup plison ha ha! Doh!” There was even a suggestion that the Chinese had dared to go for a bonus million points for roughing up one of the torch bearers. Maybe two million extra for ‘jostling’ and pissing off ‘Lord’ Sebastian Coe!

Clearly the Chinese repression and subjugation in Tibet has become a cause celebre here and elsewhere, but commentators seem to think that our lads have again shown the world that Britain refuses to bow down to thugs and disruptive elements, and did a great job in demonstrating that democracy rules in our country. Protestors and subversive elements here are allowed to protest without fear of violence or victimisation, and the Olympic spirit of peace, friendship and unity will continue to burn brightly, as indeed will the Olympic flame.

Today it’s the turn of the French, who are aiming to outdo the efforts of the Brits by escorting the Olympic torch through the streets of Paris with gendarmes on cycles, motor cycles and roller blades. Damn those Frogs! Chic indeed, but surely this is going too far - putting style before substance? How do they think they’re going to kick and punch properly whilst encumbered by roller blades or having to grip handlebars? Surely this is just a cover-up for their basic lack of fitness and agility? Hop off you Frogs! If you have the energy that is! Can’t wait to see it on Match of the Day. Come on you Bleus!

Other news stories include the credit crisis and the death of Charlton Heston. Clearly a slow news day. Not that the cultural significance of Charlton Heston should be underestimated - who could ever forget him addressing a mass rally of the gun lobby, raising aloft his favourite bazooka, glaring at the massed ranks of fellow crazies through cold, blue, dead eyes, and yelling, “Over my cold dead hands”. You can’t part a good man and his rifle. Stand by for a TV season of Charlton’s greatest hits, and a reappraisal of the splendid model of manhood he provided for wimps, peaceniks and fags around the world. He’ll be sadly missed.

Interesting news story on the radio today - increasing numbers of people are snooping on their partners, checking out their emails and investigating what they’ve been looking at on their internet browsers. Talk about the surveillance society! Freedom of expression. Freedom of information. Freedom of association. Freedom of communication. Freedom of internet browsing indeed. We’re all becoming activists in the Brain Police.


The guy on Thought for Today wants us to see our divided society in terms of religious believers and secularists. Not, you notice, rich and poor. Well - it’s a thought. I’ll have to get back to you on this.

Labour's Jim Knight and Tory education spokesman Michael Gove were Today debating violence in schools and what should be done about it. An unedifying and tedious discussion. How to deal with the increasing number of violent incidents, parental and pupil accusations, and pressure on schools? How to address the tripling of the numbers of teachers leaving the ‘profession’ or taking early retirement? The conservative viewpoint versus . . . . . the conservative viewpoint.

Not a word, of course, about any measures to address the lack of interest in learning, or the appallingly low levels of emotional, social and spiritual intelligence we find in our schools. And that’s just the staff.

How long will it be before our so-called leaders start talking about the need to change the way in which schools operate and change the curriculum on offer, so that developing EQ and SQ is seen as even more important than developing IQ? How long before they recognise that the least academically able pupils often simply cannot get down to a proper focus on academic achievement and attainment until their issues with emotional, social and spiritual intelligence are properly addressed and provided for?

Oh yes - nearly forgot. (How could I forget this?) Front page news in the Observer yesterday was our Prime Minister’s brilliant idea that the way to address teenage violence and gun crime is - to form army cadet corps in our state schools and give our kids weapons training. Yes - teach them how to shoot! Safely. Forget Scouts and forget Woodcraft Folk - bring on the military drills and the shooters. Out with the dib dib dib! In with Rambo!


My son turned up early yesterday, having negotiated the snowy early-morning streets on his motorbike. On Friday he’d arrived here with shoulders and neck looking quite red with sunburn. Yesterday he was shivering and practically frost-bitten. Damn this global warming. Though from a purely aesthetic point of view I wish we had more really cold, snowy weather in this country. The whole landscape or cityscape is changed so dramatically, turning mundane rooftops, shrubs and trees into stunningly beautiful surfaces, shapes and silhouettes.

Not that I appreciate it quite so much in April, when we should be expecting warm weather. I don’t recall seeing this much snow in April in decades, if ever. Cherry blossoms, magnolias, willows in bright green leaf - looking amazing when dressed with glistening white snow.


I love being in rooms full of books. I just love books. Good books. I could spend days browsing books, immersed in books. I love the stimulation, the brain fodder and the spiritual uplift they provide. Yesterday I came across and had an opportunity to browse books by Pamela Stevenson (on Billy Connelly), by David Gentleman (on the British coastline - surely the inspiration for the TV series?), by the guys who produce QI on TV, and by the Coventry kid, David Icke - all of which I’d love to read were it not for the fact that I’ve already got a pile of 50 books I need to read at home.

Icke is intriguing. I don’t disagree with his thesis that the world is run by sinister right-wing conspiracies, but draw the line at the idea that the key players are shape-shifting reptiles, and that the earth is hollow, with an advanced civilisation living below the surface of our planet. Maybe his book details all the evidence for his fascinating views, but somehow I doubt it. I also doubt the book cover’s claim that this book will change my life.

Nevermind. That’s the title of the Nirvana album I came across yesterday. I've never listened to it, though I do like the song and the video of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I never got into grunge, being too much of an ex-hippy, and therefore too inclined towards idealism and too wary of anything or any ‘youth’ movement rooted in nihilism and despair.

God knows it’s hard to stay positive and idealistic and believe in the possibility of improving society and raising up its members to higher states of consciousness and enlightenment . . . but I still feel somehow that it’s desirable and necessary to at least try. Ex hippy cum would-be bodhisattva cum would-be zen master?

I love browsing friends’ CD and record libraries too. Being a lover of music it’s always stimulating to realise and to remind myself that there’s so much out there to discover and enjoy. I can never understand my own kids’ attitude that they don’t like certain types of music and never want to listen to it. I just want to hear whatever is available and then make up my mind whether I like it and want to play it - whether to bring some new stuff into my current hot hundred and give it some play time.

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