Archive for the ‘rants and rambles’ Category

No Good Can Come Of Ed Balls

April 28, 2013

At 4.16pm on the 28th April 2013 Ed Balls nervously looks at his watch. He has decided to commit himself to the garden on this Sunday afternoon, so as to avoid the internet.
At 4.20pm over 20,000 people tweet and retweet the words ‘Ed Balls’.
“Oh mate, you’re trending on Twitter!” reads a text from Andy Burnham to Ed Balls. The Shadow Chancellor remains bewildered by the affair, but knows he is powerless to stop it. He picks up a trowel.

The following day, a meeting commences within the production company behind weekly smash UK sketch show, Satire-day Night Live.
“Jamie showed me this brilliant thing this morning!” exclaims the producer, pointing at one of the researchers as he loads up the projector to display a Storify page containing the best of ‘Ed Balls’ tweets, including those from John Prescott, Jeff Stelling and the man from the Snickers adverts of whom Joan Collins plays the diva version.
“Who is this Ed Balls? We need him to host the show this week!”
“Steve, I’m not sure that the number of people who understand an internet meme equals even a fraction of our audience. Is that really a good idea?” replies a worried looking production co-ordinator. The producer calls her a past-it square and encourages the team to laugh at her correct pronunciation of the word ‘meme’, as he has never heard it said aloud before.

Ed Balls receives a relatively one-sided phonecall two hours later. He wonders why he has been asked to host an episode of a popular Saturday night entertainment programme, before deciding that his involvement in the Fabian Society’s annual pantomime must be the reason. He accepts.
“Sorry, I can’t make your Britain’s Got Talent party this weekend after all, Chief, something’s come up.” Balls begins his email to Miliband. He smiles as he types a modest description of what he has been asked to do.

Saturday night.
Five minutes to air.
Balls waits backstage, nervously flicking his cue-cards against his left hand in anticipation of being guided to the wings. This moment arrives after what feels like a lifetime and as he is ushered towards the stage where he rehearsed just hours earlier, he can hear the audience laughing and cheering at a game the warm-up comedian has them playing.

The theme music starts up and the audience are led to clap and show appreciation. Balls is gently pushed onto the stage. Bright lights and dry ice. The noise dies down.
“Hello, I’m your host for the evening, Ed Balls.”
There is a polite round of applause followed by an uproarious cheer when the words ‘Ed Balls’ flash onsceen behind him.
“Ed Balls!” He joyously shouts again, struggling to be heard over the crowd, and claps his hands together, “And this is Satire-day Night Live!”

An hour passes, along with an opening monologue, a musical number and a sketch parodying 1999 film Being John Malkovich, in which Ed Balls travels through a tiny door that takes him inside his own brain. The culmination of the evening is Balls, exhilerated, bowing with his fellow cast members onstage to thunderous applause and standing ovations.

Twitter goes mad. Lee Mack’s management post to his account that Ed Balls is a comedy genius. Tom Daley dubs Balls “a total legend”. Blogs erupt from all corners of Britain and the Sunday papers spew gushing reviews of his debut performance, “Ed Balls: The New Adrian Edmondson?”
“Balls To The Wall: Shadow Chancellor Slays Primetime Audience”
“We Are All Ed Balls”

Miliband is not pleased. His phone rings continuously with questions from journalists about his colleague’s charismatic television appearance and hinting towards his leadership qualities. Meanwhile, Balls takes Monday off work to appear on This Morning and Channel 4’s ‘What’s Cooking?’.

The offers roll in for months and months on end, 95% of which are graciously accepted. In early September, Balls agrees to host six episodes of a new panel show based around the Twitter accounts of celebrities. In the final episode, Justin Bieber appears via satellite link-up to poke fun at his own gaffe from two weeks earlier where he tweeted about a meeting “UK Prime Minister, Ed Cameron”.
At this point, Miliband has been in a good mood for a fortnight due to taking the Canadian teen idol’s online Freudian slip as a victory for himself. He purposely misses the television show and, as a result, is blissfully unaware of Bieber telling Balls and the panel that he posted the wrong name due to believing that Ed Balls was actually in charge of the country. Andy Burnham texts Miliband with a simple “LOL.”
When questioned as to what’s so funny, he responds, “Ed, I think you’d better watch Channel4+1 in an hour, mate.”
Miliband is not pleased.

This, along with his brilliance being pointed out to him on a daily basis, plants a seed in the head of Ed Balls. In the months that follow, interest and faith in Miliband decreases and rumour that Balls is due to take over as Leader of the Opposition spread fast. Miliband eventually steps down as leader of the Labour Party due to three health scares as a result of his now sky-high blood pressure. Ed Balls steps up.

The support for Labour in the 2015 general election is overwhelming.

Ed Balls is now your Prime Minister.

What have you done?


Operation: Styles

February 28, 2013

I have heard of One Direction. They write catchy pop songs that are mainly enjoyed by girls in the 12-14 age range. My personal experience with their track ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ is a limited one, but still it gets stuck in my head a baffling number of times per week. In fact, the only occasions I can think of actually taking the time to put it on have been whenever I ask, “What should we listen to?” and my boyfriend replies “Slayer”. I’ll start playing ‘Raining Blood’ on Spotify, then secretly line up ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ on Youtube to fade it up at inappropriate points during the RIFFS, whilst shouting “IT’S A BLOODY MASH-UP!”.
Anyway, I have nothing against One Direction, but it does amaze me that boy-bands are still a thing. It’s bewildering, but I have accepted it.

I saw them on TV a while ago and out of curiosity I wondered how old they were. I am not a sex-criminal, I swear it was just curiosity and the belief that none of them could be older than me. I was correct. This is a regular thing that happens now and it’s depressing. Nothing I will ever do can be impressive now, I am in my early-20s and am over-the-hill.
At present, the oldest member of One Direction is 21 and the youngest just turned 19. The newly 19 year old is Harry Styles, a name I had heard thrown about for a while, but didn’t actually know it meant until last October or thereabouts. It felt good to learn. I love learning things. I’ve got a yearnin’ for learnin’. Please don’t ask me the names of the others because I don’t know. Again: not a sex-criminal.

I put this new-found Styles knowledge out of my head and didn’t think of him again until the end of last year when I was alerted to the Twitter feed Harry, My Cat Died, which I have since come to love more than I will ever will any of my children. The noble, brave and mysterious figure behind the account makes it their duty to retweet inane things that fangirls post to Styles. Well, that’s the way it started at least. For reasons unknown, many One Direction fans like to inform Harry of the tragic death of their pets to try and get him to follow them or retweet them or just reply. Like that age-old tradition of writing a letter to Santa and hoping that he follows or tweets you back.
As time wore on, though, our hero started uncovering some darker messages directed at Styles. Many were presumably retweeted on the premise that they had to be total bullshit, for example, people claiming their parents had died that day and that a follow from Harry would cheer them up, despite a look at their timeline showing no mention of dead parents. Then one day at the start of December, it became clear that things had gone batshit mental when HMCD retweeted a message for Harry Styles about the grandmother of the sender who had apparently died a few days previous… followed by a picture of the dead grandmother being kissed on the forehead by a grieving relative. Since then, the account has gone above and beyond in terms of finding really bizarre tweets and I am now holding HMCD wholly responsible for this strange new fascination I have with not only with Styles, but mainly with his fans. This is how they get you.

Inspired by the crazy Twitter feed, I wondered just how possible it would be to actually get Harry Styles to follow you on that website and decided that it could be a REALLY FUN CHALLENGE that I could DEFINITELY DO. I boldly announced my mission on Twitter and asked if anyone else wanted to try so we could maybe have a little competition. The first One Direction ambivalent person to get Harry Styles to follow them would win. How hard could it be? I strapped myself in and began to think of tactics, then checked his profile, saw that he had 8 million followers and immediately realised that I had made a foolish, foolish error. At present, this figure has risen to over 11 million. Oh.
The few people interested in participating asked what the rules should be and I decided that there should be none. I did think that one might be “No blatantly asking him to follow you”, but judging how few times that seems to have worked, I say if you want to try that, go for it… idiot.

So, step one was to decide on how to make first contact with Styles. A lot was riding on this first comment I was going to send to him and I decided that I’d have to make my debut special. I vowed to never ask him directly to follow me and would only use my wonderful charm. Imagine if I managed to snare him with just one tweet? Could this be A NEW CHALLENGE?! No. I was around eight minutes into this one and had already lost the will to continue, upon noticing that anybody Styles followed was immediately pounced upon and followed by thousands of One Direction fans. Nobody needs that. BUT I continued and had a look through the list of people he was following. On the whole, they seemed to have very unique, personal and original usernames, normally things like “1Dfan” or “styles4evz” or “directioner456”. This whole bland username thing has always confused me on internet forums, but it has reached Twitter too. Many One Direction fans appear to change their display names to ‘Harry Styles’ and their profile pictures to shots of Harry Styles and never talk about anything except Harry Styles, but still desperately want Harry Styles to follow them. Wouldn’t it be better if they had a bit of their own personality on their page somewhere? If you really want someone (not even necessarily someone famous, but maybe even just a fellow fan) to follow you and become your friend so much, would you not want them to actually follow YOU and become YOUR friend, rather than that of a generic username and picture combination? Sorry for this brief interlude, but this is the kind of shit that keeps me up at night. It is genuinely so bizarre.

I started to consider the possibility that Styles’ following pattern was perhaps totally random and just based on the few begging tweets he actually happened to see on the rare occasion where he’d check his replies, but that couldn’t be right. I mean, each and every one of the, at time of writing, 1428 accounts he follows seems totally worthwhile and I am 100% certain that he keeps track of every single person on that list. I imagine he is so aware of the fascinating posts by each of them that in a pub quiz or on Mastermind, he would totally nail the question “On what date did Twitter user ‘LiamsAntiSpoons’ post the words ‘Do you ever feel like stabbing yourself in the eyes because you see faggots on your timeline but you can’t unfollow bc rude’?”

I’ll be honest with you, blog, the fact that Twitter is totally pointless for people like Styles, who have millions of followers, kind of took the fun out of the challenge. I thought that his replies must move so fast that if he does read them, anything me or my competitors said would be drowned out almost instantly.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 17.12.37

Look at that! In under a minute, so many people had favourited or retweeted a picture of a banana just because Harry Styles posted it. That screengrab is from November, but it’s usually into a couple of thousand doing each thing nowadays.
This put me off the challenge even more than my initial scepticism, and I had the perfect excuse to give up on it for a while over December when I was working six days a week. I told myself I’d reconvene in the new year.

New year came and went and I planned on finishing this entry (I started it in November and just returned to it yesterday, 27th February), but again put it off by writing another post that was actually important, followed by three that were not so much. Fortunately, at the end of January, due to being unemployed, easily amused and still fascinated by Styles’ fans on Twitter, I managed to sort of get a rumour about him off the ground. It was a social experiment, really, but did remind me that Twitter can be hilarious fun. The whole story is here, please read it for an example of how crazy and emotional some One Direction fans can be. I know fangirls have always been this crazy and that it’s only because sites like Twitter exist that those previously blissfully unaware are now enlightened, but it doesn’t make it any less terrifying. The majority of them don’t even proof-read. Crying shame.

I have decided that now is the time for Operation: Styles to commence. Mainly because, forgetting that the plan was to perfectly and carefully craft my first contact with him, I absent-mindedly sent him a message. Admittedly, though, it was a good one.
Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 17.20.31
See? Gold! And true too. If I was the entire readership of the NME I think I probably would have nominated for Ian Watkins, formerly of Lostprophets, as Villain Of The Year, rather than lazily putting forward an inoffensive 19 year old who actually seems like he might be a nice person.
You heard it here first: NME readers are alleged-paedophile apologists.

If you plan on joining in, let me know and we’ll make this ridiculous and FUN.
Let the games begin!

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December 2, 2010

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The Man Who Sold The World

May 25, 2010

[Picture courtesy of olaf141 on Flickr]

May continues to be a disappointment. I’m becoming even more disillusioned by things than I had been previously and feel so let down by what I can’t control.
This latest installment of ‘No. Way… What the hell?’ deals with the Aberdeen-centric issue of Union Terrace Gardens. It’s quite difficult knowing where to start with this one…

Union Terrace Gardens (recently more commonly referred to as UTG) is the only green space in the centre of Aberdeen. It was opened in 1879 and is situated below street level, as can be seen from the picture above, and covers one hectare of ground. As it is so far from the road, this allows it to be reasonably quiet and an immensely pleasant place to hang out, especially in the sunshine. It is located next to a railway line, but trains passing by are so infrequent that they cause little disturbance. There are some spectacular views from the garden, for example the above of His Majesty’s Theatre. This being said, as lovely as it is, it could do with a bit more care to it. It has been a while since any proper maintenance jobs have been done on it and there’s always room for improvement; it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close.

Now, in late 2008, Aberdeen City Council began to review plans for a new centre to be put into place in the gardens. Peacock Visual Arts looked set to get the go-ahead to open a contemporary arts centre within the park, securing £9.5million of funding, £3m of which from the council and everyone was happy.
That was until February 2009 when Ian Wood of the Wood Group got involved.

He proposed a new scheme in which the gardens would be transformed into a city square, costing £140m with £50m coming from his own pocket, as opposed to Peacock’s £13m plan with their £9.5m already secured.
Now, as far as I’m aware, this was the first we’d heard of Wood’s interest in the gardens, or more specifically his interest in destroying the gardens. This was quite a blow for Peacock, who up until this point, had been assured that their plans for the gardens would go ahead. It appeared that from out of nowhere, the Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (ACSEF) committee were to look into this plan also.

Wood’s plans were vague, but appeared certain of one thing; the gardens would inexplicably be made to street level, leaving Aberdeen with yet another ‘civic square’ as opposed to a one-off beautiful garden. At first, Peacock seemed justifiably bewildered but remained positive and even held a ‘What If?’ exhibition, the details of which can be found here. Soon, however, they realised that they would have to fight for their centre and for the gardens to be saved. The battle began.

Initially, a vote was held to find out what the people (that’s us) wanted. The majority of 55% voted against plans for the concrete square to go ahead. This, coupled with the fact that Peacock already had their plans approved and had 75% of funding, seemed a positive thing for all those who wished to save the gardens. Yet just five days ago, plans for Wood’s ridiculous scheme were okayed by Aberdeen City Council after much debate. Democracy lost out that day and these plans will almost certainly see Aberdeen become a shadow of its former self.
The following extract is taken from David Officer’s well-written and coherent blog entry. You should definitely read the whole thing, but here were some facts taken from it that I found interesting. It highlights the incredible injustice that will be suffered by the people of Aberdeen and the lies that have been told by the capitalists.

It took a marthon debating session and a series of bizarre votes to kill off a wonderful proposal in favour of a bloody awful one.  The point at which the Peacock proposal was killed was a 14-14 split vote with the casting vote from Lord Provost Stephen tipping in ACSEFS favour.  The news reports stating that Peacock were defeated 20-7 are wrong, that was for the final vote as to which version of City Square the council would approve.  They went for the one which would cost us all a lot of money and in doing so have sold out democracy in the north-east, made us a laughing stock nationally and lost all trust they may have had with the creative community here in Aberdeenshire.  The Lord Provost even had the gall to turn up at the Aberdeen Artists do the next night, before retreating after having the error of his ways pointed out to him.

The council meeting was a sham.  Again we were accused of being an orchestrated campaign, spreading misinformation and behaving inappropriatly.  A disgusting tactic from our business and civic leaders.  ACSEF, the Council and Sir Ian Wood are liars, continually saying whatever they can just to gain favour with the public:

  • We are currently being told that there was always a plan for a contemporary arts centre within City Square – LIE! ACSEF took out an advert in the Press and Journal attacking Peacock when they launched the consultation and Sir Ian Wood went on record to say no one was interested in Art, they had no intention of considering an arts centre till they realised people actually wanted it.
  • We were told during the consultation that City Square would be funded by Scottish Government Capital funding – LIE!  They are now looking at changing the law so that they can take out a big loan based on future increases in business rates, which the council would pay the interest on(a mere £150 million over 25 years, if it’s on budget).  So, that’ll be small businesses down the tubes then as well as the council.
  • We were told that the consultation would be open and transparent – LIE!  The question “Do you support City Square Project?” was preanswered with a ‘Yes’ which many people missed.  So those who had left comments clearly opposed to CSP were recorded as a ‘Yes’ vote.  Sneaky eh?
  • We were told that the CSP wouldn’t be a car park or have shops – LIE!  The ACSEF commissioned feasability study states that the underground area would be used for a car park and have retail outlets to complement existing shopping centres.  Sir Ian Wood himself stated the CSP would be like Covent Garden, that popular shopping arcade in London.
  • We were told Sir Ian would walk away if the public did not back his plan – LIE!  55% of the public voted against City Square in a consultation that was heavily weighted towards voting for it, yet he still didn’t take the hint  Instead he took it to council, and they let us down.
  • We have been told that those who oppose CSP have spread misinformation – LIE!  Oddly enough, they’re never too keen to give a specific example because when they do we point out that we got it from their own feasability study.  See their moans about us talking about a concrete square, car parks, shops and the fact it would be bigger than Red Square in Moscow.
  • ACSEF and Sir Ian told us the gardens were dangerous – LIE!  A pro-UTG campaigner obtained the crime statistics for Union Terrace Gardens and found that not one violent crime had been reported there and they were statistically the safest place in the city centre, amazing what you can find out just by actually checking!
  • The gardens are underused – LIE!  They were underused during the consultation, but then so was any outdoor space during the harshest winter we’ve had for years.  It’s a different story this week as temperatures nudge the mid-20’s and sun starved Aberdonians rush to the gardens.

All these lies were reitirated at the full council meeting, by members of ACSEF and councillors.  The Lord Provost himself read out a letter from the head of Oil and Gas UK which repeated the other big lie of the CSP campaign, that Aberdeen is doomed if it doesn’t build City Square.  This kind of scaremongering and emotional blackmail should have no place in a council meeting and to be read out by the Lord Provost himself was disgraceful.

It makes me ashamed to live in a city where the people in charge will ignore democracy and side with those who only wish to make money, rather than those who want to make plans that benefit the city as a whole.

On Saturday, a day that turned out to be one of the hottest of the year so far, I went down to the gardens and was joined by various friends throughout the afternoon. The park was packed with all sorts of people like us who just wanted to enjoy the sunshine in a relaxing and safe environment.

I just cannot see these scenes ever happening on a concrete square, but I am disgusted and terrified that we appear to be losing this war. What happens now?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2010

No, I don’t get it either.

Last Sunday we were, perhaps unwisely, left in charge of putting together a Valentine’s display. We had to pick the books that went on the shelves and write review cards for them. During the week, Matt and Chris had added a few books of their choosing to the bay, including…


because, as we know, nothing says “I love you” quite like the biographies of a woman from West Lothian and a man who used to hit people until they fell over.

We left the majority of books in because we couldn’t think of nice things to replace them with. So, the top shelf consisted of collections of love poems and a guide to romantic European getaways.
We had to write generic reviews for these, so I didn’t bother taking pictures of them. However, as I am a sad fuck, I took some of the ones that I liked.

Unsure of what to include, Shane came up with the brilliant idea of taking up a whole shelf with recipe books: one book representing one course of a romantic meal. Figuring out what such a meal might involve was far too much fun. I was insistent on the dessert book being the one pictured for the name alone. Valentinesy!
The photos are a bit unclear, but they should be clickable to make them biggerer…

Shane wanted to include ‘Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry’ by Leanne Shapton despite it being about the breakdown of a relationship on Valentine’s day so we thought we’d throw it in and see if anybody noticed.
It was when I tried to think of a novel I’d read that had a lovely story, I realised I couldn’t actually do it. Then I thought of ‘A Handful of Dust’ so grabbed it. I read the blurb, where it was described as “One of the most chilling and bitter novels of the twentieth century”, and remembered it was all about divorce and betrayal and child-death. Oh…
We’d just have to make an Anti-Valentine’s shelf!

“Valentines isn’t for everyone!
This clever work of fiction traces the demise of a relationship through the possessions the couple shared.”

“This is TECHNICALLY a love story.
Romance! Death! Betrayal! Tragedy!
…and what more could you possibly want?
Jungle-based adventures? Why yes, sir/madam, it even has that too…”

“Put down the Ben and Jerry’s and turn off that rubbish Meg Ryan film. He’s not worth all the trouble you’ve put into stalking him these past 3 months.” – Shane, thou art a genius!

“Turn to page 136 and you’ll see you’re already halfway there!”
I’m intrigued, Shane, what could possibly be on page 136?

How to pick up the laydeez in a bookstore! Smooooth!

Iain insisted that we put in some little gifts, so we did. The passion one contained ‘flavoured motion lotion’. Shudder. I wasn’t gonna let that go unmentioned…

“If it’s flavoured “motion lotion” you’re after, the Passion Box is for you…
If that’s not your cup of tea, then the Love Fortune Cookie is perfect for slipping your other half a romantic message.”
Did that sound sincere, guys? I think they nearly bought it… Sadly, not literally.

And now for some works of fiction that are perhaps more appropriate, but with the jaded spin of Pete…

“An entire bloody war fought over Achilles’ love for Helen and the strop he gets himself in when she’s abducted. Something we can all relate to, eh?”
[Scott has pointed out the flaw in this one, however, as Achilles wasn’t involved. He wasn’t even there, guy, he don’t know nuffink!]

“Not exactly the conventional love related read but one to help you remember that we’re all a little confused when the hysteria kicks in.”

Life lessons, all.

And that’s what it takes to be a bookseller: boredom, too much time on your hands and an unhealthily cynical outlook on life.