All entries for February 2007

February 18, 2007

Fact Or Opinion On Wikipedia

It’s not good Wikipedia practise but I found this on the entry belonging to Ashley ‘Extras/Ugly Betty’ Jensen and found it hilarious.

Click on the pic for a better view.


It was accurate as it turned out.

February 12, 2007

Work Hours

A serious Boar column, in that I was really genuinely concerned about what I was writing about. I was reliably informed by someone earlier that they don’t read my serious ones because the funny ones are better. However this does have a funny comment in it. You’ve just got to find it. Nyer.

I don’t really know at what point I started doing it, but recently I’ve started branching out in my conversations about employment. As a postgrad, I find a lot if my friends are now in jobs, or at the very least applying for as many as they can. I’ve never taken much interest in the whole thing, to the extent that whenever it came up in conversation I would activate autopilot and ask the right questions whilst my brain occupied itself with more important things like whether Didier Drogba’s recent dip in form was a good enough reason to offload him from my fantasy football team. Invariably the right questions were “Where is it based?” and “What’s the starting salary?”. But now, possibly because the day of getting a job looms closer and closer, I’ve started to pay attention and care. And I know because I’ve started asking a new question – “What are the working hours?”

We don’t get the work/life balance concept in this country. When we hear Europeans get shorter working weeks or more bank holidays we grumble, our reflexive reaction to any hint that Europeans might get a better deal. But we don’t seem to take it all in. We don’t consider that we might genuinely be working too hard. The Japanese have recognised that they do. They even have a word – karoshi – to describe death from overwork, the heart attacks and strokes suffered by people decades younger than the normal heart attack or stroke sufferer. It’s not encouraging to ask a load of recent graduates what their typical working day is only to hear “It’s meant to be 9 to 6 but it’s usually more like 8.30 to 6.30, 7”. And then there’s those City jobs which can take you late into the night in search of bonuses. Is it any wonder a phd is looking more and more attractive?

The problem is I work ten hour days during the holidays, have done for several years, and don’t really want that fulltime. It’s perfectly fine to do minimum 50 hours weeks for the four weeks of a university holiday, but every week for years on end? What for? Extra money? What you gonna spend it on? You’re in work all the bloody time, and when you’re not, you’re probably physically and emotionally drained. It would be nice if the graduate recruiters were a bit more upfront about working hours, but they’re selling themselves and the news that you’ll be wallowing in five hours sleep five nights a week isn’t really a big seller to a section of the population renowned for its ability to sleep up to 14 hours or through a fullscale fire alarm, probably with actual flames and burning buildings.

This is not to advocate some idealistic hippy land where we all live on a commune and grow our own food. Hell, I grew up next to the countryside and if there’s one group who work long hours it’s farmers. No, I just want a job which doesn’t eat up my entire life, one hour at a time. I know you’re probably feeling cheated that this column isn’t as amusing as it sometimes is, but this time I don’t think what I’m writing about is funny (unlike government scandal or nuclear war, which I’ve already proved I find hilarious). You know when your mates can’t even come over for dinner because they’ve worn themselves out from leaving too much work to do that day? Imagine that happening every day. Capitalism should be here to serve the people, not the other way around. And people wonder why I don’t want to get a job – I do want to have a job, I just want to have a life at the same time.

February 11, 2007

No, I Don't Understand The Democracy Here Either

What the hell happened? Let this be a lesson to me… no money will always lead to unusual adventures.

How much of Union politics is decided on the basis of personality and friendship groups? How many sabbatical officers have risen to power purely because they could get their faces into as many minds as possible? It’s such a closed environment that it’s impossible to view our Union elections as anything vaguely like real life, real world elections… even the smallest council seat would be contested by a less enclosed electorate, even if they are smaller in numbers than the electorate at Warwick. Does Union politics and elections teach us anything about the real world? A slight appearance of competence and a good number of contacts should be enough to establish victory – hell, if that’s all it took I could have run and won.

No ego polishing here citizens, I don’t want to be told I should have run to put my money (which I have rather little of) where my mouth is. You didn’t see my essay last week.

I don’t know if the people who voted now for the winners will be the ones complaining about them vigourously in nine months time. Probably not, but possibly so, the massive hypocrisy of the complainer who didn’t do enough to check what they were getting. In amongst the myriad complaints about Kat Stark there were voices noting that she laid most of her cards on the table from the outset but people still hated some (or all) of what she did. Makes me feel a little freakish for having done my homework and knowing what she stood for.

But when faced with the limited repetoire of sabb issues, students just implode with indifference and vote for the face, slogan or friend of a friend who seemed like the quickest choice on the voting form. Some of these people had as few as three issues. Those voters are going to find themselves in trouble when faced with ‘real’ politics with its millions of policies and candidates. People don’t care enough, and we all know this but the problem is we don’t care enough to do anything about it. Or we can’t.

I don’t know what the answer is, I can’t even tell if there’s anything depressing about this. Large scale indifference mostly means that we are more vulnerable to extremists on all sides but most of the time these get batted aside when they stray too far from a cosy centre ground. Witness how Damian King (lefty) and Bill Rees (righty) didn’t get anywhere. Even by having a political allegiance they were dooming themselves to defeat. So for Warwick as for the real world where most people regard Nick Griffin and George Galloway with suspicion even as they seem to grow stronger. People need a shock to be motivated. And Warwick is too simplistic a system, too obvious a routine, too content to just drink purple, to ever have the shock which would generate full on thought in these elections. And that’s why they are a popularity contest.

Now why oh why did strange things happen every time I lost my coursemates? Oh this will make even less sense tomorrow…

February 10, 2007

Tesco Has Come For Your Soul

Un column de la Boar. Even I felt educated after reading this (I forgot I wrote it).

Are you ready for your Amazingly Dull Fact of the week™? No? Tough. The Amazingly Dull Fact of the Week™ is that there are only four postcodes in Britain which do not have a Tesco. Three make sense if you adopt a sort of “let’s leave out those weird people who paint themselves blue and charge around led by Mel Gibson” attitude which only those too enraptured by London to notice the rest of the nation has moved into the twenty first century can really achieve. These people probably think the Outer Hebrides, the Shetlands, and Orkney are firms of City lawyers or accountants. Go to their stall at the Careers Fair. In fact, judging by the size of modern Tescos the chances are that these small clumps of island are just too small to fit one on, especially as each Tesco must come with a carpark the size of Epping Forest and no signage to indicate which area you have parked your car in. Yes, everyone loves a good game of Find My Car whilst carrying eighteen tonnes of shopping. It’s good for the shoulder muscles.

The fourth postcode was a little more surprising. From the mountainous regions of Wales, to the snootiest plains of Buckinghamshire, to Devon where the locals seem to get most of their goods from shipwrecks, all postcodes were endowed with a way to acquire starchy mush (or Tesco value rice as it claims to be). The exception is Harrogate. For those of you who don’t know, Harrogate is in Yorkshire. It was Britain in Bloom champion in 2003 and hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982 from which we can conclude that they clearly like bright colours and lots of them. It’s a spa town but unlike Leamington does not seem to feel the need to show off about it, although unlike Leamington, it’s not Royal which probably irks it somewhat considering how well it fits the idea of quaint olde Englande. Charles Dickens called it “the queerest place, with the strangest people leading the oddest lives”. When you think about it, this was a remarkably astute prediction of the coming of the Eurovision Song Contest from someone born during the Napoleonic War when the possibility that Europe might settle its seething tensions through the medium of voting on camp costumes and terrible songs seemed remote to say the least. Although Eurovision would be funny if it featured more nineteenth century cannon fire.

What would Napoleon make of Tesco’s amazing progress in taking over the entirety of the country he so wished to pummel into submission with cannon and bayonet? It has managed to become the bogeyman to a lot of people who see it steamrollering local shops and businesses and bullying farmers into dropping their prices. But still we shop there. For campus denizens it has the advantage of a captive audience whose main alternative is Costcutter, a shop whose name lies and whose food products range in quality from “Meh” to “Argh! My tastebuds! My stomach!”. So students trudge their way over to Tesco’s then come back to play an amusing game of Find My Hall Of Residence whilst carrying eighteen tonnes of booze and getting their weekly exercise in the form of a shoulder workout. Every penny spent at that Tesco is going into a giant pot which will one day be used to buy campus itself and turn it into a carpark.

February 09, 2007

So–so–so–so Scandalous

Yes, a Boar column, and yes I have used a line from a Misteeq song as the title. What you gonna do about that?

I’ve got to say, once more New Labour are letting me down. They’ve done it before, turning out all sorts of lame brained right wing policies dressed in left wing clothing (like a student in a Che teeshirt at an internship talk by an accountancy firm) or generally reacting hysterically to a newspaper article about EU immigration, forgetting that by this time tomorrow said headline will be subsumed in people’s minds by the latest gigantic diplomatic incident with a fellow nuclear power over a reality TV show. But today’s topic for disappointment is the cash for honours affair a.k.a. the least interesting massive scandal of all time.

The latest development roared onto our 24 hour news screens this week. And by “roared” I mean “weakly mewed like a tiny kitten trapped under a newspaper”. Some woman was arrested and released. This woman, Ruth Turner, is apparently some major part of the government’s apparatus of power and control and manipulation. Or at least she was if you read the papers, most of which had her pegged down as the sort of bad guy symbol of all that is a little wrong with the political world. Naturally I was hoping she would be some sort of power suited political dominatrix, pure evil incarnate but a feminist, equal opportunities pure evil of the sort which would at least leave me feeling that New Labour still had some semblance of leftist attempts to include previously excluded groups. She might well be, but the pictures the media used made her look more like that really sweet natured girl in your seminar group who never says very much about the topic but is determined to get you to come out for drinks with the rest of your coursemates because it’s nice to bond. Possibly she wants to do this so she can get you drunk and steal your ideas to use in the next New Labour manifesto, so beware.

It’s just the latest anti-climax. This scandal has rolled on for so long that I need to be reminded what it’s actually about every time something happens. Calling it the cash for honours affair helps, but too many of the details escape me, too many are tedious, petty and boring. One of the 24 hour news channels (ok, it was BBC News 24; Sky News makes me want to bash my TV in with a rock) compared it to the Watergate scandal of Richard Nixon. No chance. That one was interesting. It had opposition offices being broken into and bugged, journalists engaged in indepth investigations with secret sources, and Nixon resigning with his back to the wall. Cash for honours has none of these amazingly cool plot twists. No spies were involved which is an instant bucket of cold water for most people, especially after the awesome new Bond film. No decent investigative journalism has been done, just a lot of correspondents standing around in those ridiculously high winds outside Downing Street trying to look like they were reporting on history. Theoretically what we have here could force Tony Blair to resign but such is the slowness of the police investigation that even Blair’s most determined efforts to hang onto power and piss off Gordon Brown (and everyone else in the country) will have come to an end by the time anything vaguely juicy happens. Going after ex-prime ministers isn’t as exciting. Ask the Irish. Or the French.

You may find it churlish of me to complain about the quality of scandals. Maybe you’re one of those people who would rather have a boring but effective government. I bet you’d also like Bolton to win the Premiership. Or Snow Patrol to win best album at the Brit Awards. Well it’s not going to happen (apart from the Snow Patrol one which remains a high possibility) and if we must have scandals they should at least be fast moving, diverting and contain news reports about events which inspire mental images you just don’t want to think about, probably involving the idea of John Major having sex. It sure beats sitting in a corner, in your Che teeshirt, wondering when the Indians are going to exercise their right to nuke the Big Brother house.

February 08, 2007

Tax My Book

More Boar columns you say? Why yes, I did write some more, forcing them from my brain in such a way as to cleanse it of good ideas. This is why there’s been so few good blog entries recently. I’m as distressed as you are I’m sure. This column is a bad one in this context as I’ve already blogged about part of it before. Sorry. Consider yourselves to have been privileged to see the earlier (better and expanded) version.

There’s a rather dubious definition of culture in this country. Not all that surprisingly, it’s a legal one, stemming from the same tax system which caused a court case to decide whether jaffa cakes are cakes or biscuits (legally they are cakes). But in this country you pay VAT on CDs but not books and reading material. The latter is an item of cultural value and thus exempt. By this logic a CD of Beethoven isn’t an item of cultural value, but FHM is, although how that counts as an item of reading material is something which a reader will have to inform me about.

The message is loud and clear – books make you cultural. A book turns you into something above the rest of the plebeian hordes, snuffling around in their CD collections for the latest slice of shite from whoever dredged their corpse successfully through X Factor. A book was written with a pen and a pen is mightier than the sword which is why you should go around chasing members of LARPS with biros. A book makes you clever and intriguing to the opposite sex. Or the same sex if you are reading ‘Brokeback Mountain’/’The Well Of Loneliness’. This is why I am considered to be pure, unadulterated scum. I am not a major book person. Ok, I am, but they’re not the right sort of book.

See, not all books are equal. Reading Jane Austen is considered more classy than reading Bridget Jones even though they are just the same apart from one being a couple of centuries older and the other having more wine shared between only half the number of characters. Reading something which has been made into a major film does not give as many culture points. And at the bottom of the heap are history books, possibly due to a snobbishness stemming from the fact that people assume writing history takes less imagination because you’re not making it up. Combine my historical tendencies with my massive collection of VAT-tastic CDs (the government is running a small NHS trust off what they get from my music habit) and you have the least cultured masters student on campus despite not a single of mine CD having even a trace of an X Factor winner on it (Girls Aloud didn’t win X Factor, ok?!).

I did read one book recently. I read Orlando by Virginia Woolf. There’s a lot of people who should read it. In part this is because it is a good book, albeit one where the main character doesn’t really age and changes gender halfway through for no other reason than Woolf was clearly a bit stuck for plot twists and, having already made the character virtually immortal, it was clear than the only option was to be even more surreal. Woolf was, after all, a good writer and thus this is art and challenging, not a blatant cop out. Anyway, Orlando, when not having to buy a new wardrobe to accommodate unexpected gender swaps, obsesses for most of the novel about writing a poem which will be remembered for all time and bring fame. He/she repeatedly fails until she gives up on eternal fame, at which point she writes a poem which makes her famous and important. Moral being that people should stop trying to get their place in history and just do something honest. It makes sense today. If we all read Orlando we’d have fewer CDs from fame hungry X Factor wannabes to avoid. And Tony Blair would be less obsessed with getting into the history books by invading every country he can find which looks a tiny bit dodgy. Why he wants this is a mystery, didn’t anyone tell him history books don’t get you culture points?

February 2007

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