Tuesday, 29 July 2008

BP's profits

BP have just announced a huge increase in their profits over the last three months. According to today's BBC news report, they ascribe this to the rise in the 'wholesale' oil price, which is determined by 'market forces' that, by implication, they are unable to control or influence.
Hang on, BP. Leaving aside your disingenuous depiction of yourselves as hapless victims of this putative global or celestial invisible hand (you are in fact your own wholesale supplier, aren't you? otherwise what's all this Russian business about?) by your own analysis the maths don't add up. If your supplier puts up his price, you have two choices - either you pass this on to your consumer, resulting in unchanged profits, or you absorb it, resulting in decreased profits. There's no way that your profit can increase. Simple arithmetic.
I know that they will come up with a megaton of accountancy to explain how an increase in corporate profits is in no way related to a price increase to their ultimate customers (you and me): I say 'weasels'. They're ripping us off.

PS Sorry, did I say 'Ultimate'? That's BP's brand name for a new kind of slightly different petrol which was, a year ago, being marketed as saving me money at the pump. Really?

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Sadly, not a fishing village on the Moray Firth, but an observation from our Leader's appearance at the Great British Bishops Protest March today (where were the fuzz, for G*d's sake?)

Seems he's had a facial expression makeover. That curious, oddly insecure sucking in of the lower lip whenever he needs to take breath has almost vanished (at least in the presence of Bishops), replaced by a faux-Churchillian jutting chin and firmly clamped jaws at the end of every sentence. Is this an image shift, or is he just getting ready for a fortnight in Southwold? Or a year on the stump?

Monday, 21 July 2008


Or Flog, as my mate Toni sometimes calls it.
I'm about to take it up again after a 3 year absence. First refresher lesson tomorrow, thanks Georgie. Meanwhile, to get my eye in, I watched about seven hours (over three days, c'mon) of the Open. So, from my expert perspective, a couple of insights:

What makes this game unique is that there is no 'level playing field'. Every course is different, which sets an infinite range of demands. Even within the same course, the difference between two blades of grass can make a difference, each of which calls in a slightly different skill set. Not to mention the wind. (Obviously, I'm not quite operating at this level just yet, this is theory, y'understand).

Luck comes into it too - but it's hard to slice the boundary between luck and skill. Harrington's second shot at the seventeenth on Sunday. The Beeb commentators were perplexed-what club's that? a fairway wood? what's he up to, should be playing safe at this point? then he hits it up onto the mound on the left, it pauses, making its mind up, then trickles down the hill to the green, hangs a left and brakes up about three feet from the hole ... Break down the skill/luck mix there for me please (if you haven't seen it, a) I'm sure you can Google it and b) you missed a great sporting finale - gawd, never thought I'd find myself writing that about Golf.)

Thursday, 10 July 2008


These should be as nearly original, or at least unattributable, as possible. No overt filth please!

Here's a starter, wholly original to me I think, because I actually dreamt it, a few years ago:

Having had a minor invasion of mice, I bought a tin of rat poison, and read the instructions on the label. At the bottom, in small print, it said 'Rat Not Included.'

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


Dontcha just hate em?

My state of the art colour photo-quality Epson great big chunk of plastic refuses, under extreme duress, to print out a simple black and white email, on the grounds that it's run out of something called light cyan. The option of asking it to just use the black ink has apparently been withdrawn, or at least I can't find it in the murky depths of the menus.

Tomorrow, I'm off to PC World to find a disposable printer which only requires black ink, at let's say £5 a barrel ...

Monday, 7 July 2008

Intellectual vs Physical Property

I bought the much-vaunted new CD, Floating Point, by guitar hero John McLaughlin,so an instant revue - it's crap. Self-indulgent tuneless meanderings, with hyperactive percussion, and at all costs make your guitar sound like an electric piano or an alto sax or, well, anything but a guitar - doesn't he understand that if I want to hear Herbie Hancock or Wayne Shorter, I'll buy their records; what we want from guitarists is blasting unmistakeable guitar! Listen to your 1970s Mahavishvu stuff, John.

Anyway, end of rant. What triggered this post was a note on the (almost illegible) sleeve notes: 'This CD is the property of Mediastarz, Monaco and protected under International Copyright Laws'

No, sorry guys, this CD is the property of me. I gave HMV £12.99 for it - that gives me total rights and control over this chunk of variegated plastic. I think this also gives me the right to use it as I choose - scare birds, park my G&T on it, etc etc. Even listen to the music it contains ...

Which raises the real issue. If, as the undisputed owner of this object, I choose to allow other people to hear its content (not that I would, I like my friends), does this constitute breach of copyright? It's got to be 'no', hasn't it? I mean, someone happens to walk through the door while it's playing? I know that the rules have been written to allow for this kind of 'private' use of copyright material - but what if that person happens to walk through a virtual door 500 or 5,000 miles away, and happens to be accessing my iPhone (onto which I misguidedly downloaded this CD) at the time, and therefore happens to end up listening to whatever I am ...?

I've no idea whether that scenario is yet technologically possible (though if it isn't, it probably will be in about 45 minutes time); the point is that the idea that you can distinguish between 'intellectual property' and physical possession of the medium containing it is antiquated and doomed to destruction.

So, Mediastarz, come and collect your property, if you can find it, and if you dare.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Our National Theatre

Last night I went with friends to the Cottesloe at the National Theatre on the South Bank, to see a delightful school competition-winning production, by my mate Pete, of a lovely little play called 'Peach Baby'. This isn't a review of the play, but of the venue.

What a squalid place! Finding the way in, from the stinking carpark through brutalist concrete walkways with virtually no signposting, was bad enough. Once we actually stumbled into the foyer of what should be #3 on the nation's list of theatrical pride (after the Olivier and the Lyttelton), it felt a bit like being back in the car park, plus a tacky overpriced pay bar and toilets which (I was told), made users nostalgic for the car park.

I saw a picture in the paper today of China's Grand National Theatre in Beijing, which has apparently been heavily criticised for its architecture. Obviously I haven't been there so can't directly compare (and the fact that its architect also did CdG airport in Paris doesn't entirely inspire confidence) - but nevertheless I can't help feeling I wouldn't mind doing a swap ...

London is currently, I'm told, the theatre capital of the world. Beijing is of course the current Olympic capital of the world. Compare and contrast in five years' time?

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Town Wardens in Worthing

You may have missed this one from BBC South Today, 6.30 today. A group of activists wandered around the town centre, taking photos of CCTV cameras to establish just how much of this stuff there was. A newly appointed (by the local council), bunch of thuggish looking blokes, called 'Town Wardens', set upon them, physically assaulted them and tried to confiscate their personal possessions (a megaphone, since you ask). A council official, subsequently interviewed, stated that this activity was because (I paraphrase), 'they have a right not to be photographed in public against their will'.

I'm not one to labour irony, so I'll cut to the more important chase - what exactly is a 'Town Warden', and what does he see as his powers, and by whom and under what auspices have these supposed powers been conferred? They looked just like urban vigilantes in threatening uniforms to me.

I don't live in Worthing (thank the Lord), but am nevertheless worried.