Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Rooney Is A Paedophile

I may be outspoken on this topic, but what I like most about an impending England bid to become the FIFA World Cup winners every four years is guessing which player will be the scapegoat for our inevitable failure. When it got to the point a pizza advert featured our "failures" in a campaign to boost sales I knew footie was no longer that important to us as a money-spending nation. Then there's Beckham's lazily youthful prone kick, and... well... there's examples aplenty, right?

We love a scapegoat. Spacegoats extend beyond the media sales buzz agenda for future revivalists in the "Remember The [insert decade here]'s" clip/analysis shows.

What's great about the imminent South Africa 2010 tournament is that our wonderfully free and democratic British journalists have moved one step ahead of the game. Not content with rooting out which of our players is having an extra-marital affair, entertaining hookers, lining up the Columbian marching powder, betting on the Argies, mainlining heroin, shooting peasants, baiting badgers, plotting nuclear annihilation, taking it up the Wenger, posing nude for Out magazine, eating vegan food, eating fast food, voting for the BNP, or being revealed to be an Al Qaeda sleeper cell operative, our beloved "free press" has now decided what's really needed is the sabotaging of our chances of hosting a future World Cup tourney, should the world still exist as we know it after 2012.

You may want to read this first. Whether or you do or not, the fact is that there's at least the potential that an English newspaper published details of the private conversation of an English ambassador-to-the-game making an inappropriate remark about rival bids. In the sneaky world of financially motivated journalism there's no guarantee it might not have ended up in Spain, serving to doom us forever rather than set us back somewhat...

...But a British newspaper, whichever way you look at it, has pissed towards the candle of our nation presiding over the inevitable lack of repeating its own 52-year long exile from surprise and arguably shocking world stage success. A British newspaper has at least temporarily eased a cancerous burden that could have annihilated us closer to decision time. The news now is that "this may affect England's bid, prematurely" according to Radio Four, earlier. And don't get me started on the woman who sold the tape.

Right about now I'd be expecting the Daily Mail (and indeed all their scumbag ilk) to be luring Lampard into a honey trap or tempting Terry to, well, be John Fucking Terry, if we're honest about things. Because recent history has proven that if there is something that can screw up England's chances of winning anything it will be our hopeless "free press", in their misguided modern belief that The Public Have The Right To Know.

No, we don't. "Careless Talk Cost Lives" is something we were once taught. Well now lives aren't really on the line with what concerns us, how about our broadsheets and tabloids suddenly realised that "Careless Talk Costs Games"? Because I'm sure there's nothing worse, from the perspective of the England Team dressing room, than travelling past a newsagent to Wembley to be greeted with "SUN REVEALS ROONEY BUMS KIDS" on the board outside. I mean, I assume it's not true. But nevertheless, you people who have just read it have found it a little unsettling, I'm sure. And since you've read this far into the blog I assume you're smart people who can guess I'm going somewhere with this, and not someone who asserts that England's strongest strike threat is nothing more than a Catholic priest in shorts.

Rooney doesn't - at the time of going to publish - have a track record akin to Michael Jackson. Although their skin tone and grasp of social convention hasn't been dissimilar over the years, based on my findings in TV programs featuring articles from The Sun and The Daily Mail.

It's time for me to do my bit for blatant, testosterone driven national pride.

I want to see England win the World Cup in 2010. So I beseech of thee, as a right good user of proper; English with no typoes or owt, that you, the grand English public of North, east, south and west to go and kick the head in of any journalist you've ever heard of in the UK. It doesn't matter if it's Richard Hammond: he's had head injuries before, he can handle it. It doesn't really matter who it is, trust me. The basic instinct of a journalist is to "get a scoop". It doesn't have to be the man from the Mail or the woman from the Wormwood Weekly, it could just as easily be someone from Heat magazine. In fact, why not target Heat magazine journalists just because it's Heat magazine?

Seriously folks: silence these media soundbite whores, no matter who they be, or their agenda. Be it a "major feature push" or a cheap laugh at the expense of Frank Lampard's lisp, John Terry's obviously small penis, Steven Gerrard's deranged squint, David James inevitable stupid hairstyle or Peter Crouch's face, there will be something. They must be stopped!

Just take this as legally binding gospel: if you hear a card-carrying journalist say "Rooney is a paedophile" before we've got the World Cup on the coach home and rammed it up Ashley Cole's obviously willing arse, everything that might possibly go wrong is a direct result of modern media. Not on-pitch skill. Not diving South Americans. Not boring Germany. Not even misplaced words uttered to a traitor.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Team That Bob Built

In the past I have been quite heavily criticised on the topic of my passion for the Montreal Canadiens. On the one hand, here in England, people think it's ridiculous that I can be so obsessive about a team in a city 3000 miles away that is characteristically anti-English in many ways. On the other hand, my over-the-pond perspective on the team I love has infuriated many a Quebec-based Habs fan.

I don't think the whole team should be made up of French Canadiens. I don't think it's important that key role-players on the team are bilingual. I don't think it's essential that key characters from our glorious history play key roles in the development of the team and our ambition to with a 25th Stanley Cup. I don't think the club's history in a 6-team league has any bearing on our future in a 30-team league. It seems I'm quite outspoken on these topics, and as a result I am "not a proper fan".

When Guy Carbonneau was fired as team coach, I was annoyed. I loved the guy as a player, but it did plague my thoughts that his initial successes as coach went along with my opinion of what's required to be competitive in the NHL. The fact he was fired by Bob Gainey and replaced by Bob Gainey with Bob Gainey actually sent me further down this path when we were humiliated in the playoffs by the Boston Bruins. A team, I might add, coached by another Gainey firing. It resulted in me joining a facebook group delicately titled "F**k Bob Gainey!" that called for his head.

It had over 10,000 members.

As the Habs stumbled through the 09-10 season without ever looking like a cohesive team of ambition, coached by an ex-Senators head coach who'd failed to win a Cup with arguably the strongest bunch of skilled players in the league at the time, my hopes of anything good coming from the season diminished further. So when Gainey resigned, I nodded confidently that a new GM might soon be able to build us a core of guys who could, at some future point, get us past the 1st round of the playoffs. Certainly someone who could provide us with a team that would make the playoffs - as we didn't seem like we were going to.

When we scraped into the 8th seed by virtue of the failings of other teams I was perversely satisfied with that as a final outcome. This ramshackle team of injury-prone underachievers, odd free agent selections and dubious trade acquisitions were to face the might of the #1 ranked Washington Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin and a whole bunch of other guys with the skill and finesse to tear our defense apart and easily make last season's centenary humiliation by the Bruins seem like a quality performance.

They did tear our defense apart. Thankfully we had a ninth round draft selection (by Gainey) goalie between the pipes. Jaroslav Halak: an instant hero. We took the Caps to game 7 from a 3-1 deficit, and did the unthinkable. We beat them. A team ranked 8th had never come back from 3-1 down against a #1 team in NHL history. I like us making history.

So, as I write, we have just done the unthinkable again. We took Sidney Crosby's Penguins to seven games, and not only did Halak shine once again, but our defense was solid, and we completely took them apart in the seventh game in Pittsburgh. We looked like a team that not only belonged in the playoffs, but a team that could actually... win... Okay, I'm not going to get ahead of myself here!

The simple fact of all this is that this team that has surprised everyone is the very same team that Bob Gainey - a 6 time Staney Cup winner - has put together over the last few seasons. Eyebrows were raised when he got rid of the likes of Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev, Alex Tanguay and Mike Komisarek. They were raised when he hired Jacques Martin as coach. They were raised when he signed "small" players like Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta to replace them. My own eyebrows were raised so much that they ended up at the back of my neck.

Travis Moen. Glen Metropolit. Matthieu Darche. Dominic Moore. Marc Andre Bergeron. All names that, if you look at them on paper and judge them by their (if any) draft selection and scoring history don't constitute much in the way of a good team. But they're all Bob Gainey acquisitions for the team. They all have their role to play, and their point to prove, and they do it game after game after game in this year's playoffs, against teams expected not only to dominate them, but annihilate them.

This is the team that Bob built. Bob is gone, for personal reasons, in a regular season that was as unremarkable as it was unrewarding for fans to watch. But this is the playoffs, and the playoffs are a bit special. Often for personal reasons. I suspect that half the battle we have fought here so far is a lot of people who didn't do their job very well for 82 games thinking to themselves "Wow, we kinda let a legend down, didn't we?" and have realised that not only do they have a point to prove, but that they're involved in something so fanatical, so proud, and so historic that the driving force behind their stellar play goes well beyond actual ability and desire.

This is the team that Bob built. This is the team that has brought superstars to their knees. This is the team that may not win its 25th Stanley Cup this season, but it nevertheless made a grand statement about what is required to win, what your draft ranking really means in the big scheme of things, and what playing for the Montreal Canadiens - whichever city you were born in - is really all about: looking up to the rafters and seeing those cup banners and those retired jerseys, and knowing what it means. And perhaps paying particular attention to jersey #23.

I'm sorry I doubted you, Mr. Gainey. You rock.

GO HABS GO!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Bored of Electioneering... Here's MY Manifesto!

I don't know about anyone else, but quite a lot of the policies of the "three main parties" are seemingly interchangeable. Quite a lot of them are vague enough to be the kind of impossible rhetoric that lead us to believe that all politicians do is lie their way into office and then never carry out the plans so fervently detailed in their manifesto.

So here's mine, since I'm not going to be getting into office and they'll therefore never happen. Some of them might seem a bit extreme or even contrary, but compared to some of what we have as rules and laws as of now, I'm not so sure they really are.

1) Taxation.

A) 50% Income tax only on earnings over £250,000pa: I know there's a threshold at 50% that's lower than this now, but I mean a flat 50% with no scope for scamming the tax system. You earn that much in a year and you owe the nation half of it. Because if you can't live on £125,000 a year there's something seriously wrong with you.

B) All tax collected from sportsmen and women to be spent specifically on the benefits system, so the average joe need never complain about "supporting dole bludgers" ever again. Because, as I've blogged before, that seems to be the working public's main problem with the state benefits system: the insane belief that it's your own personal PAYE that goes directly into the pockets of those either less fortunate than you, or those that maybe are playing the system for a fool.

C) Do away with road tax: Instead reintroduce toll roads on all motorways and major in-roads to towns and cities. The technology's there, and toll-roads work fine worldwide. Plus, tollbooths create jobs, and while it might not be a glamorous job, it's a job.

D) HALVE the amount of income tax that commuters pay if they can prove they use public services instead of their own cars: Okay, this is as much an environmental policy as a tax, but let's be honest about traveling in to work. Out of 100 cars you can count in a traffic jam at 8.45am, about 95% of them will be someone solo, and maybe 2-3% will have two people in.

2) Environment.

A) The introduction of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes into and out of all major cities: In Britain this would only really work if the existing bus lanes were used as HOV lanes, but I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that the basic infrastructure is in place already with those bus lanes. If you really want to get in to work quicker, use either public transport or ferry in some colleagues or neighbours.

B) Tax breaks for all businesses that agree to turn off all lighting during dark hours: No one needs to see office lights on and billboards lit up. No one is going to worry if the big golden "M" doesn't alert you to fast food at 3am when it's shut. But in every town and city you can see a multitude of them all over the place, from small businesses under the impression that lighting the place up internally somehow deters burglars through to the giant corporations who can easily swallow a massive utility bill from month to month.

3) Crime.

A) The abolition of the drink/drug driving laws. There will be no fines for driving under the influence. The law will simply change to make a road vehicle the same as any offensive weapon in the event of someone being killed or injured. You can drink and drive as much as you see fit. But you'll be tried and convicted as someone in possession of a deadly weapon with intent to cause injury/death if anything happens. Sounds unfeasable? Think about it: there are any number of people out there that can easily have four or five beers and be as conscious of what's happening on the road as if they were completely sober. Likewise there are people that think they're okay to drive on a couple of alcopops who quite simply aren't. So think about it some more: would you chance driving with alcohol in your blood if you knew you might end up being tried as a murderer?

B) No prison sentences for people convicted of committing repeat assaults: Instead you join the army. The army needs people prepared to kill and injure. Our streets do not. Okay, many of us have been in a fight for one reason or another, and some of us even in our defence have ended up at Her Majesty's leisure just because the protagonist of the fight ended up in a worse state. But there are plenty of folks out there that are out there mainly for the trouble. It's this social ethic that needs removing from a night out, and I reckon this is a better option than the one offered by people I know who remember National Service saying "all youngsters could do with a bit of National Service in 'em". Not all youngsters. Just the idiot pissheads and violent morons.

C) Time Relevant Speed Limits: We've got technology enough that speeds on roads could be automatically matched to conditions and time. e.g A long, wide straight road through an area with industrial units and a school could easily be a 50mph zone between 9pm and 6am, then 30mph from 6am to 9pm with a 10mph reduction during school in/out hours. The same technology could be applied to rain/ice/fog. There's plenty of roads around the UK we all know where we wonder why the speed limit's so ridiculously low, and I think it's fair to suggest that many of these aren't for safety reasons but as revenue generators. Time-based speed limits would mean you could leave speed cameras in place for those who genuinely take the piss.

4) Community & Utilities

A) Fair use policies for all: We're always being told to stop leaving our phone chargers plugged in, stop the tap running when we brush our teeth, or stick a sweater on instead of jacking up the gas central heating, but the reality is we're creatures of convenience who don't like being told what to do. So why not give people an incentive to be a bit greener? We have "fair use" policies for how our internet usage is metered, so with meter systems already in place for gas, electricity, and water, why not introduce the same fairness for those?

I don't imagine it would be tough to work out what a sensible amount of these services a basic UK household uses, based on occupancy. So it wouldn't be difficult to introduce a flat rate system of charging for them. This way, the households that are using excessive amounts would get charged for excess use of our mutual energy and resources without those of us that do keep a tight rein on how we use our services footing the bill.

B) Protection of agrarian land: It's all very well being aware that a nation needs growth (as politicans are always harping on about) but with growth comes the expansion of population. Already in a worldwide market economy, you can go to any supermarket in the land and see vegetables and meat products shipped in cheaply from overseas. Many of these are commonplace items that could be produced effectively here if it wasn't such an attractive proposition for land owners to sell off growing space to make way for yet more housing. I'd like to see people encouraged back into agriculture (and remember how important it was known to be to our war efforts not that long ago!) as a means of getting Britain back to excelling at something that provides jobs, ecological benefits, and food for our population without relying on imports.

C) Shaping the future by understanding our heritage: I think a lot of what breeds racism and poor community spirit in our times is the fact that people don't understand how this tiny island has been slowly but surely integrating other cultures pretty much since the creation of the boat. The problem now is that people don't really understand that immigrants have become a part of British society for aeons, and they should. I mean this in terms of the Pakistani or Albanian who does't understand why people can't understand his culture as much I do the British born white man who's aggrieved that his suburb is now largely an Asian community.

What's needed is to educate people (both as children and adults, either native or immigrant) as to what has made Britain the nation it became, it's place throughout history for both good and bad, and to instil in everyone that becoming part of the people that made Britain Great is far more noble than the actions that made it so. Because this is a great country, and that's evidenced by the fact that people have been wanting to come here for thousands of years.

D) Social responsibility: Everyone seems to "know their rights" these days, but the reality is that with having certain rights comes having responsibilities to suit. Part of what makes that difficult to get across is the stupid idea of having these rights come at different points in life, like having sex at 16, driving at 17, and voting at 18. Let's just made it so you're an adult at 16.

I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that a lot of 16-year olds can already make social decisions a lot more reasonably than many over-18s can, and let's not forget that the hazy concept of "teenager" is a late 20th century invention that's clearly not helped society progress. It might seem trivial, but I genuinely believe that just having a single target marker of when you're an adult would help youngsters better understand what's expected of them, particularly in two manners: one, that they're educated to know the responsibilities that come with adulthood, and two, that they and their families will be in a world of shit if they get caught doing the adult classification of life before they hit 16. No more being supported by the state if you have a baby at 14. Mummy and Daddy takes responsibility, not the state.

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I could go on, but I'd be very surprised if anyone's read this far. If you have, thanks for taking the time to peruse my ideas.