Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tombstones

I had reason recently to talk of Alfred Nobel. Yep, him of the prizes. What's less well known about him is that he also invented dynamite. And more remarkable than that is the fact that two are linked.

Alfred Nobel had the (not unique, but unusual) chance to read his own obituary - a newspaper thought that he had died and published it. It named him "Le marchand de la mort" The merchant of death for his invention of dynamite. He went on the leave his great fortune as a legacy to establish the Nobel Prizes. He did this, for the very understandable reason that he wanted a better obituary.

Tombstone inscriptions fascinate me as how can you possibly sum up a life in so few words? But also because I think it may capture something very important.

In will come as no shock to any of you (I hope) that you're all gonna die someday. Given that fact, I would argue that a vitally important question is what do you want your life to count for? What do you want to do with your life?

I think that thinking about one's own epitaph is a helpful way to approach this question.

So, what do you want written on your tombstone?

I doubt anyone will beat the excellent Spike Milligan's choice "I told you I was ill..."

Paul Eddington's "He did very little harm" has always intrigued me.

So what would I choose? The honest answer is I'm not sure but here's a couple of possibilities:

"He found himself ridiculous"
"He was caring, thoughtful and just a little bonkers"

AFZ

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I Hate Liberal Democrats at the moment

Ever since I began to form my own political thoughts, I have been a Labour supporter. Over most of my lifetime, I have found natural allies amongst LibDem supporters. We tended to believe in similar things and have similar values. We are the broad church that makes up the left in British politics.

Throughout the New-Labour years, many of my LibDem friends maintained a kind of moral superiority. Noting the Iraq war, the poor civil-liberties record, treatment of asylum seekers and the closeness of the government to big business as reasons why New Labour weren’t really a left-of-centre party. How they were the true-believers if you will, not willing to compromise principal in order to gain power.

I suspect I am not alone in tolerating this superiority complex in my LibDem friends because I knew they were right. I have however remained a Labour supporter because of many things that I believe in and because I knew that the Tories would be so much worse. Here are a few of the reasons; The minimum wage, the Human Rights Act, systematic use of tax and benefits to arrest (though, sadly not reverse) the widening inequality in our society, Kosova, massive investment in our NHS which has made a real and tangible difference…

So, after 13 years of accusing Labour of selling-out in order to get power, what has happened since May? Well, on the basis of ‘stopping Britain becoming Greece’ they have abandoned most of their pre-election policies in forming a coalition with the Tories.

It’s not the coalition per-se that I object to - although I do wonder how things would be if Cameron was leading a minority government - it’s the full-throated, unflinching, shameless defence of blatantly unfair policies.

It is clear that the Tories need to create a narrative that ignores the international banking crisis and blames all the country’s woes on Labour and the public sector, in order to carry out an ideologically-driven program of destruction of the public sector. That’s what post-Thatcher conservatism is all about, except that the LibDems are helping them to do it.

It is entirely true that Labour did not live up to all I hoped they would but I have never been ashamed of voting for them, because on balance I think it was the right choice and we on the left are appalling at celebrating our successes. However I am profoundly glad that I didn’t vote LibDem in May (I nearly did as a tactical vote): The smug, patronising, hypocrisy of Nick Clegg and his merry supporters is unbearable.

AFZ

P.S. I may actually lose it next time I hear someone compare our national economy to a house-hold budget.

Cameron and Clegg insist on doing so. They are either stupid or attempting to mislead.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sorry...

My apologies to my avid readers (both of you) for not writing anything for a while. The reason for this is a mixture of general busy-ness and a tendency to be writing elsewhere.

As, my personal information says, this blog is very much about me, and my need to say somethings. I think this is the reason most blogs exist really. Having found other outlets, I haven't felt the need to write here so much.

If you're interested, I wrote this for Liberalconspiracy.org on medical care for asylum seekers and I am an occasional contributor to AngryMob, a Daily Mail watch website. You can catch all of my little articles here.

AFZ

Monday, March 29, 2010

A little bit of politics


Now, you know I'd never be one to blow my own trumpet, but someone called 'alienfromzog' currently has the top poster on the brilliant mydavidcameron.com website why not take a look?

AFZ

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ways to improve football.

Just after new-year a national radio station did a phone in on ‘how would you improve football?’ I have been thinking about this anyway for a little while and whilst I didn’t phone the show, it did provoke me to crystalise my thoughts a little. So, here is how I would improve football – if I had the power! (Wahahahahaha etc.)

1. Respect
The FA seem to be entirely weak on this. Entirely weak to the point of damaging the game. The many ill-informed comments of high-profile managers and the constant challenging and attempted influence on referees by players whilst on the field cause much dismay to those of us who love the game. I think the solution to this problem is actually very straight forward.
The FA needs to do two things – one is within its power the other would need to be an international move by FIFA. Firstly, managers who publically criticise officials need to be actually punished and not given what can only be described as ‘token-fines’ at best – and often nothing at all. If the punishment is real, managers will stop making the comments, especially as many are not ‘heat-of-the-moment’ but carefully crafted words. The other change – that has been suggested from many quarters – is to simply not allow any player other than the captain to talk to the referee during the game. Say anything to any official and it should be a yellow card. No debate, no question, just a yellow card. There is no doubt that the first few weeks after this law was brought in would be chaos. There would be a very large number of bookings and far too many red cards. And then everyone would get used to it and things would settle down, just like when the back-pass rule was brought in, nearly twenty years ago. This would change the culture of football subtly and yet profoundly. It would not be possible to back-chat referees. I do think that the standard of officiating needs to be improved but that is no excuse for the appalling behaviour displayed by many on the football field towards officials. If FIFA were really smart, they would remove the pointless rule that removing one’s shirt when celebrating a goal is an automatic yellow card. (Not that I have any idea why players do this)

2. Timings
The control of time in football and the amount of stoppage time is a cause for much debate in the game and often, in my view, is a cause of unnecessary argument. I am trying very hard here not to make too many comparisons with rugby union but this is one parallel I think is worth drawing.
In rugby union, the timing is controlled by the referee, but independently. Once the ref starts the game the clock runs down, unless he calls ‘time off.’ There is no such thing as stoppage time because the clock stops for stoppages – that is injuries, discussions with players etc. (not every time the ball goes dead). Once the time is up, the next time the ball goes dead – except for penalties or try conversions – is the end of the game. Simple and clear.
Football could easily adopt this policy. Referees would merely have to signal ‘time off’ for major injuries or substitutions. There would be no room for arguing that refs had allowed too much or too little because it would be unarguable. Once 45 minutes were up – and in professional games this would be publically displayed on the scoreboard - the half would end next time the ball went dead, except for freekicks, penalties and corners.
Simple.

3. The use of technology.
Eventually football needs to realise that as the world’s biggest and most significant sport, it is laughable that it is so far behind every other major sport in terms of technology. Which technologies are used and for what I think remains an open question – but that something needs to used is, in my view totally clear. Imaging Formula 1 still relying on stopwatches!
There is one piece technology I would like to see used and then we can look at the others and decide. There are many decisions in football that require judgement but whether the ball has crossed a line or not is entirely objective. I think the idea of goal-line cameras is flawed but a microchip in the ball that would indicate whether it has crossed, not only the goal-line but also the touchlines if brilliant in its simplicity. I understand that the technology is not yet perfected but I have no doubt that is FIFA said it wanted to use it in all top level games then it would be made ready in a very short space of time.
The linesman (my apologies; assistant referees) would still need to indicate who the ball game off for throw-ins and corners but they’d have no doubt that the line had been crossed. Probably the easiest way would be a ear-piece with a sound for the linesmen. Or maybe like ice hockey, a light that goes on when a goal is scored.
Once working, I could see the next step being the put microchips in the player’s shirts in order to aid off-side decisions – but that’s a potential future development, whereas I think a chip in the ball is long overdue.

4. Money
The money-related problems in football are many and numerous. In part it stems from a trend to concentrate the wealth with a small number of already wealthy clubs. That is what the various re-incarnations of the European Cup as the Champion’s League is all about.
It the long term this kind of thing will kill the game. The so-called G14 have a lot to answer for.
The solutions to this problem are many and complex but there is one very simple change that I think would be a very good start.
Up until the early 80’s all gate-receipts from matches were split between both teams. This still happens for FA cup games. Currently the home club keeps 100% of the income from the gate. Naturally that gives a massive income advantage to the big clubs. Simply reversing this stupid decision would do a lot to improve the income of the smaller clubs in each league.

The FA
So come on Football Association, save our beautiful game!