Monday, December 8, 2008

Layer 99 Coming Up Roses

The British Comedy Awards 2008 was so dire I need to comment on how bad the whole thing was. The only good things about it were that awards went deservedly to Russell Brand, Harry Hill, the wonderful Geoffrey Perkins, and the Gavin & Stacey team.

The most interesting thing about the entire programme was the fact that the real greats of British comedy for the most part didn’t turn up for the event - including Brand, Hill and Ricky Gervais, who was clearly a very unpopular winner of his category with those who were at the awards. Were their jeers professional jealousy, or do they seriously not ‘get’ Ricky’s humour? Or is it now ‘cool’ to dislike and revile him?

Geoffrey Perkins’ daughter made a lovely, warm and touching acceptance speech for her deceased father’s award. Russell’s taped contribution from Hawaii was very funny.

And those were the highlights. The rest was “a fucking smug display of back-slapping wankery”, as Michael Legge puts it in his blog.

The worst part of it for me was the truly awful Angus Deayton, who, as I blogged on Saturday, was nasty, snide, bitchy, irritating, up his own arse and completely unfunny. I read somewhere that Ross was paid £100,000 for hosting this show. I’d hate to think Deayton got anywhere near that. He deserves nothing for his incompetent and badly-judged performance.

It wasn’t witty, it wasn’t clever, and it wasn’t in any way amusing. Brand and Ross have set the standard for this kind of thing, in that people may hate their narcissistic shtick but at least they (or their writers?) are capable of original wit. Deayton may think he’s ‘edgy’, and perhaps sees ‘edginess’ as a requirement in front of an audience of his edgy ‘peers‘, but run-of-the-mill sarcasm and snidery are not the same as edginess. You’d never see Brand stooping to that kind of thing, for instance, as much as he’s capable of putting the boot into those who truly deserve the boot, like George Bush, obviously.

More About Cars

I love bizarre coincidences. Barely 8 hours after posting comments about the dire Morris Marina yesterday there was a feature on Top Gear on the appalling cars produced by the Eastern Bloc countries, which featured a track race between one of them and our very own Morris Marina, as an example of the rubbish our own car industry was capable of producing.

Will Hutton published some interesting thoughts in yesterday’s Observer about the dire state of the American car industry and what needs to happen world-wide to re-think the kinds of vehicles that are needed in the 21st Century. He concludes,

“Detroit is at a crossroads. Car companies need to rethink their mission from scratch, for their own sake and the world's. The car was a symbol of the 20th century.”


Also in The Observer

1. Front Page spread: Mugabe Must Be Toppled Now - Archbishop of York

In an extraordinary and passionate outburst, the Archbishop of York is calling for President Robert Mugabe to be toppled from power and face trial for crimes against humanity. Dr John Sentamu, writing in The Observer, said the world must recognise that the time for talks was over and Mugabe should be forced out. 'The time has come for Robert Mugabe to answer for his crimes against humanity, against his countrymen and women and for justice to be done. The winds of change that once brought hope to Zimbabwe and its neighbours have become a hurricane of destruction, with the outbreak of cholera, destitution, starvation and systemic abuse of power by the state,' he says.

'As a country cries out for justice, we can no longer be inactive to their call. Robert Mugabe and his henchmen must now take their rightful place in The Hague and answer for their actions. The time to remove them from power has come.'


2. Pope attacks tax havens for robbing poor. Hard-hitting Vatican report lays blame for the global financial crisis at door of 'offshore centres'.

It is a message sent from on high to the world's financial and political elite. The Roman Catholic Church is calling for the effective closure of secretive tax havens as a 'necessary first step' to restore the global economy to health.

In a policy paper from the Holy See, Pope Benedict pins the blame for the international financial crisis largely on 'offshore centres', many of which, such as the Channel Islands, are British dependencies.


3. Stay Calm - learning to stay calm while leading with emotion.

The New York Times supplement carries as essay by Kate Zernike in which she considers the importance of emotional intelligence in leaders like Barack Obama.


One of the things that really stands out in Zernike’s essay is the near-universal confusion between feelings and emotions. For example, she says,

“We want our doctors to be calm, but we want them to show emotion and empathy, as well.”

Actually, we don’t want them to show emotion. We want them to be professional and calmly objective, and empathetic. We want them to show they have feelings, but we do NOT want them to have and to show an emotional response to our problems. Personally I never want to see my doctor showing signs of anxiety or anger or resentment or disgust or any other emotion. Professionalism demands that strong personal reactions and emotions do not intrude into professional relationships.

Neither would I want to see President Obama showing uncontained emotions - certainly not panic or hatred or desire for revenge. We had enough of that with Bush and Cheney.

However, Zernike’s main point is well made - it is possible to become emotionally and spiritually intelligent and to learn how to behave calmly in a crisis. These qualities are not just something we either do or don’t inherit through our genes.


The Rose Review

Which leads on to today’s news that Sir Jim Rose has published his interim report on the English & Welsh Primary school curriculum, and that it’s overwhelmingly intelligent and enlightened, particularly in its proposals to ensure that a major part of the curriculum centres on developing children’s capacity for social, emotional and spiritual intelligence. It also recommends getting rid of the disintegrated curriculum and organising the curriculum into cross-curricular themes or topics, along the lines of the Scottish ‘curriculum for excellence’. More about this tomorrow, no doubt.


Children at Risk

Jenni Russell has another excellent column in today’s Guardian - on the subject of social services departments failing to protect vulnerable children. She writes,

One in eight children - 1.5 million - are thought to be growing up in a situation where they may be at risk. Only about 25,000, though, are on the equivalent of the at-risk register.

Worst of all is the effect of government targets. Councils that assess a lot of children quickly score more highly. But there's a correlation between speed and the danger of superficiality. Councils also score worse in performance indicators if there is a rise in the number of children taken into care.

They lose points again if they keep children on the equivalent of the at-risk register for more than two years. All the pressure is to get children off the system and to downgrade their needs.

All of this, of course, in order to achieve government targets, and to placate Ofsted. The whole system is perverse and wicked.

It was reported today that Haringey’s director of children’s services has been dismissed from her post.


The Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors

reports as follows:

The overwhelming majority of adults believe school exams do not reflect their true abilities or predict their future success, according to a new report published today. As many as 77 per cent feel that formal testing fails to measure their real intelligence, yet the exam results are used to scrutinise them through their academic careers and when applying for jobs.

The study, by the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), found that for a majority of people (62 per cent) the feeling they most associated with taking an exam was 'butterflies in the stomach'. More extreme reactions to exam situations included headaches, insomnia and vomiting. Just three out of 10 people associated exams with 'a sense of pride', according to the study based on responses from 2,000 adults.

Pupils in England sit an average of 70 formal examinations. According to a recent report from Cambridge University, English primary school children are now subjected to more tests than their international counterparts. Yet, claims the CIEA, 60 per cent of teachers who responded to a separate online poll said they did not think exams were necessarily the best indicators of a pupil's ability and were not reflective of their future success in a job. Amid reports accusing schools of 'teaching to test', the CIEA said the survey pointed to the need for a more well-rounded form of assessment.

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