Archive for September, 2007

Find me a nice cardboard box

You know the house I found in London that I really really liked? I didn’t get it. The existing inhabitants gave the spare room to a friend of theirs, which is fair enough. I’d have done the same, in all honesty. Strange, somewhat grumpy man with predication for bad puns versus someone I know. No contest.

However, this leaves me in the rather unenviable situation of being technically homeless in two weeks time. I’ve got a back-up, which should see me through but how many more days of admiring bad soft furnishings can a man take? And how will my cactus cope? Ok, so I never water my cactus. That’s not the point.

Watching Heroes last night, one possible solution struck me. I could become Christopher Eccleston and turn invisible. But that plan has three flaws.

1. I’m not Christopher Eccleston and am unlikely to become so.

2. I can’t turn invisible.

3. Where does his character, Claude, stay? I mean, surely it’d be a bit awkward if you found a nice comfy bed then then owner gets in a few hours into your kip.

Sometimes I think I may be confusing TV with reality too much. I’m also very concerned about my possibly metamorphosis into not Christopher Eccleston but Zach Braff who, while generally good, is no Christopher Eccleston and is a lot more neurotic.

The Doctor wouldn’t have stood for all this. But then he has a blimmin’ great Tardis.

Libel laws

You know in my last post I said I’d like to go into greater depth on Britain’s libel laws but didn’t have the time.

Well, here’s a man who has got the time. If you’re interested in libel laws in relation to the internet (there’s some background into the Godfrey V Demon case that I wasn’t aware of there) then have a read.

For those of you expecting the usual misanthropy or poo jokes, sorry. I’m one of those strange individuals who finds media law quite interesting.

The blogger, the billionaire and the football club

As many others, a few days late on this but…

Football fans may have noticed in the last few weeks another Russian tycoon has been upping his stake in a British football club. In this case, Alisher Usmanov and Arsenal.

Blogging affectionardos may have noticed notable blogger Tim Ireland’s site along with that of former Uzbek ambassador Craig Murray disappeared.

Political affectionardos may have also noticed Boris Johnson’s site vanished for a bit.

The reason can be found at Tim Ireland’s temporary site. For those who want a brief condensed version…

When Usmanov kept upping his stake in the Gunners, Murray, who knows a bit about the old Soviet Union posted an article about the oligarch alleging the reasons behind Usmanov’s jailing in Russia in the 1980s (Usmanov claims he was a political prisoner. Murray begs to differ).

The oil tycoon’s law firm, Shillings, which had already been warning UK newspapers and Arsenal bloggers about mentioning Murray’s allegations, or generally making allegations about Murray, then made contact with Murray’s web host made a serious of demands, with the net result Fasthosts closed the entire account used to hostMurray and Ireland’s site, which happened to include Boris’s site.

Boris hadn’t mentioned Usmanov and was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire. His response sums things up pretty well:

“This is London, not Uzbekistan. It is unbelievable that a website can be wiped out on the say-so of some tycoon. We live in a world where internet communication is increasingly vital, and this is a serious erosion of free speech.”

Justin McKeating’s been keeping tabs of those bloggers who’ve come out in support of Murray and Ireland. It’s a varied list.

Nosemonkey has a good piece on the libel laws surrounding this.

I’ve been saying for ages that, whatever your opinion on Britain’s libel laws (and mine are they are both daft and overly draconian) they’ve needed a drastic overhaul to take into account of the internet for some time.

My knowledge of the exact ins and outs of internet libel could probably do with a refresher course, but broadly it takes into account existing libel principle applied to the media has a couple of test cases which have resulted in a somewhat piecemeal case law. But basically (I think) the courts take a dim view of those who don’t remove the offending material when asked.

(Those whose legal knowledge is slightly sharper than mine in this area please feel free to comment and add/put me right).

This puts the internet somewhat at odds with print and broadcast media. Granted, they have deeper pockets than your average blogger (although that doesn’t necessarily say they’re overly fond of being sued for millions) but their principal is largely one of weighing up the risks and them deciding whether or not to publish and be damned. That allegation is then judged to be laid down in permanent form and should the claimant decide to sue, it’s up to the media organisation to prove the allegations are false.

Interestingly, any defence of public interest is reasonably recent to the world of libel (that is, the allegations may not be true but at the time of publishing, were considered to be important enough to air and, after due diligence, believed to be true) and is known as The Reynolds Defence (I think this is the latest Reynolds development).

Now, even assuming Usamov took out an injunction, I reckon any UK publication that published Murray’s allegations would have been able to have a decent stab at concocting a defence. I’m also not entirely sure whether Usamov would want the matter to get to court, given what might come out. But, as Dan Hardie notes, papers seem reluctant to go after football club owners (note: contains some of Murray’s original text)

And that is where the libel laws with the internet differ. Usamov doesn’t like it, issues a writ, poof, server capitulates and it saves the tedious problem of things like extra lawyers fees, court appearances, bad publicity and freedom of speech.

If the internet is genuinely part of our media, then it should be treated as such and the same laws should apply. If the matter is of genuine public interest and concern, and I’d say Murray’s article most definitely fulfils that, then the bloggers or internet publisher should be allowed to publish. It’s a basic tenet of free speech in this country. If this was an investigative piece written by and investigative journalist and published in a national newspaper then you wouldn’t expect every single issue ever printed of that paper to be pulped. Because that’s essentially the equivalent here.

(I’m deliberately skirting around the bigger issue of libel laws in general. I’d be here all night otherwise).

The one upside of this is so many people have got royally pissed off by Usamov and Shilling’s bully-boy tactics and have either reprinted, linked to or blogged around the issue that more people than were originally aware of Murray’s accusations have a fair idea of what’s going on. And taking down the site of a high-profile figure such as Boris Johnson was just dumb.

On a slight tangent, the Usamov affair is one that adds to my general depression over Premiership football. It provides a great spectacle, but I’d rather people like Usamov and Thaksin Shinawatra weren’t allowed to get involved.

The trouble is money and success talks. There were more than the usual rumblings and questions when Shinawatra took over (more so than Ambranovich) but as soon as the season kicked off and City started winning, it seems the fans forgot and the press moved onto Sven’s men’s success on the pitch.

No matter what the atrocity, no matter how dubious and repulsive the person, if they’ve got money there will be a, usually large, section of the fans who will turn a blind eye because it’s for the good of the club and the media will add to the complicity because, well, football should transcend politics or some other bobbins. Most probably if Peter Sutcliffe suddenly became a multi-billionaire and decided to buy, say, Middlesborough, he’d probably get in without a murmur.

It makes me glad we only had a couple of incompetent fraudsters in charge of Exeter City for a year.

So please, sign the petition and blog about it. In honesty, it probably won’t make a lot of difference but the more people there are, the more pressure there is and… well, hopefully some good will come of it. Most likely, in a couple of year’s time, Alisher will get a football club, they’ll win the league and everybody will forget just what he got up to B.P.P. (Before Premiership Purchase)

Honestly, it’s not that interesting

Like having ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife, I’ve had several ideas for vaguely sensible posts. However, as ever, real life predicates against me being able to have the time to write anything. So instead here’s another update as to why I’ve been too busy to blog, at which point everybody reading this leaves to play scrabble on Facebook. If Alanis Morrisette could have fitted that into her MOR lyrics, I’m sure she would have. She’d have also been able to tell the future, and may have been burnt at the stake as a result. You can’t have it all, I suppose.

The reason for inactivity here is London. You know, that big place I’m moving to in a few weeks time and don’t have anywhere to live yet? Well, I’ve been attempting to rectify that. Spare moments are spent desperately scouring websites for spare rooms, flats, houses or cardboard boxes. Having a list of a dozen potential sites isn’t enough. You always need one more just to be on the safe side. Truly, moveflat.com is the equivalent of a very large hit of opium for househunters. Soon people will find me rocking in a corner, eyes rolling, muttering the words: “But it has NO TUMBLE DRYER.”

This weekend I attempted my first, and hopefully last, traipse of rooms in London. I say traipse. It’s more like a job interview, which the difference that at least if I don’t get the job, I still have an existing one to fall back on. If I don’t get a house, I better find a darn sturdy cardboard box. The interview can be imagined something like this:

“So, Mr. Andrews. We see you’re looking for a flat or house. Why do you want this particular one?”

“Well, I’m moving up to London soon and I really don’t like the idea of being homeless. Can I have this one?”

“Not yet. We have more questions for you. What will you bring to the house?”

“Well, I can cook. And I’m reasonably quiet. And tidy. But I’m not a hermit. At least I don’t think I am. I like normal things like sports, doing down the pub, watching TV and films and other things. I’m like the Danny Murphy of the flatmate world. Not spectacular, but average and largely trouble free, and I won’t hanker after a move to Chelsea because, frankly, I’m not good enough for there. They all wear their jumpers over their shoulders and I could never carry that look off.”

“I see. We’ll be in touch. Maybe.”

Anyway, I’ve seen all kinds of houses. Big houses, small houses, flats above shops, flat-pack furniture, mould-infested houses, so-neat-if-your-breathe-they’ll-whip-out-the-disinfectant houses. And one really lovely house that would be absolutely perfect, with housemates who seem lovely.

I was called back for a ‘second’ interview last night, during which I completely forgot to mention my Olympic-class tea brewing skills, which I’m hoping hasn’t counted against me. But I like the house, I like the people and hopefully they think I’m lovely enough to join their house. And I am lovely. Well, mostly. If a bit misanthropic at times. Essentially I’m a stuffed toy version of Charlie Brooker.

So, time will be spent fretting, and brewing Olympic-class tea, and praying to all the Gods of Housing that I get the place until I get the phone call, or email. Although I’d happy buy them all champagne dinners or even hack off my left arm (face it, I’m majorly right handed and useless in goal, so it wouldn’t be a great loss) for this place, I didn’t say that. Because then I’d appear like I was a try-hard. And nobody likes a try hard.

Like Gum to a Tree

Dr. Matthew occasionally diagnoses mass idiocy on the internet. His Gumtree Dating Adventure Prank may possibly be the best thing he’s ever done [1]

I’ve been flipping onto Gumtree occasionally to look at the house adverts for the Big London Move. There appears to be a ratio of Idiots to Normal People to about 10:1. I may be somewhat generous to the idiots here.

While I’m on the subject of very strange things somebody found this blog yesterday by searching for “mating 1 year old snake is it advisable.” I’m proud and disturbed in equal measures.

Sadly, I’ve no idea if they were trying to mate with a one year old snake, or just trying to get it to mate. In either case, I’d say no. I went to London Zoo recently and there were some huge snakes there. I’m not as scared of snakes as I am of flying and Linda Barker, but I’d say anything that increases their numbers probably is a bad idea.

[1] Aside, of course, from his turbo dictionary, his email to Paul Daniels, the adventures of Michael the Hedge Sentinel, and his enquiries to Kit Kat and Rizla. In fact just read his whole blog. It’s a bit good.

Venture, capital

So, I’m moving.

No, not this blog. I’m quite happy where it is, even if it is occasionally neglected, like a semi-feral cat.

Anyway, yeah, I’m moving. Not today, mind, or tomorrow. Actually, in about a month. But moving nonetheless.

Let’s start again. I’m not being particularly clear or coherent here. Much like Hugh Grant appearing in any film pre-About a Boy.

I’m moving (we’ve established that) to London (not established) in roughly about a month to start a new job.

Yes, you heard me correct. London. Y’know, that big place inside the M25 where the streets are apparently paved with gold. I thought I saw some gold on the street when I was up there at the weekend. It turned out to be yellow chewing gum.

Yes, you heard me correct. London. The place the 21-year-old me declared emphatically, and with no uncertainly in his voice, that I could never see the appeal to and would never move to under any circumstance. That may also be a reason why I’m not particularly good at answering the question: “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” [1].

Fortunately this question didn’t come up, and I made no suggestions about having a sex change and giving birth to emphasise with our audience as I have done in the past. That place still gave me the job though. Mea culpa on both sides, perhaps.

So, anyway. London. I appear to have got a bit distracted from that. Sorry. See, that was only in five minutes. Imagine how much my mind would change in five years. That’s what its there for, though.

Sorry. LONDON. It’s big. There are still things I don’t quite understand about it, but then I said the same about the 3-5-2 system and that does work on occasions. And I did understand Mulholland Drive. I think.

But, yes, London. I’m excited. You can probably tell. When I got the job, I literally danced my way across Waterloo Station concourse.  Well, not literally. That would have been a bit daft. But I understand why Gene Kelly felt the need to hug a lamp post now.

Anyway, London. In one month’s time I’ll be on the verge of moving there and starting the new job, and I’ll try not to get shot inbetween moving in and going to work on the first day, but I can’t guarantee it.

I’m going to miss a lot of things about Exeter. Not least my current residency, five minutes walk from the hallowed turf of St. James’ Park, which means I could sleep in to half two on a Saturday afternoon if I wanted and STILL make the game. Not that I’ve done that, it would just be plain lazy.

I’ll also miss my current housemates who are just the right mixture between wonderful and strange and understand that Simon Pegg may just be a genius and there’s nothing wrong trying to inadvertently re-enact the entirety of Spaced in your mid-twenties, when you all have jobs, and careers and by all rights should be spending Saturdays in IKEA.

Then I’ll also miss the others who make Exeter such a wonderful place, and I’ll miss being close to family, and cats and the fact I have a gym almost literally, but not quite, next to my house, which has meant I’ve not GOT FAT during the 12 months I’ve lived here.

But it is London. And it is big. And I may not quite understand it. But I’m excited. And can’t wait. And will probably still fail to comprehend things, and still ask random questions like: “How many dogs would it take to take down an elephant?” But then some things never change, and some things do and I’m sure London and myself will come to a mutually beneficial agreement of sorts.

Anyway, London. It’s exciting. I’m moving there. All I need now is a room. Or a house. Or, even better, a room in a house.

Don’t suppose you have one, do you? I can cook good lasagne.

[1] Note to self, and others with social tendencies bordering on the inept. “In a mirror,” as an answer will not win you employment. 

What sixteen-year-olds really need is a good traipse up a hill

When the Devil’s Kitchen (courtesy of The Namless One) and Sunny Hundal are in broad agreement, you just know the idea’s not so much half-baked but hasn’t even made it into the oven.

In this case, David Cameron’s clearly suffering from sunstroke when he launches the somewhat odd idea that 16-year-olds should spend their summer doing patriotic national service. Apparently this will fix our broken society.

So, the solution to stop teenagers on council estates getting into gangs is to carry old ladies shopping, sending them up a hill for a week, putting them into the military or sending them abroad to help third world countries. Note to Dave: This may be great for Channel 4 reality shows. However, C4 reality shows do not make government policy maketh.

As this is a voluntary scheme, I can see it appealing to parents who read the Daily Mail as a way to keep the kids occupied over the summer. Anybody else will probably do what any normal 16-year-old will do over the summer: go to the beach, get a poorly-paid summer job and drink cider in parks.

Back over to the Kitchen:

“Yeah, that is going to make teenagers feel better. Losing their summer holidays to take part in utter shite like a triathlon or walking on arsing hills. They’re going to think Britain is great because Britain has made them do something with their whole summer holidays. And they are going to be set a great example at such a formative age on how to live their lives – not choosing what you should do, but rather doing it because the government expects it.”

And again, on the idea it’ll divert some teens from a life of crime:

“Why? Through tramping on the hills? By doing a twatting triathlon? By playing at soldiers? And since when have those about to turn to crime volunteered for fucking anything? Unless he is going to force them to attend, in which case I would love to see what happens to the self confidence of the bookish swot and the drifter grow when faced with the fledgling criminal.”

Near where I live there’s a pretty decent set of activities to keep kids entertained over the summer (it actually seems to be something the majority of local councils do well, as South Somerset did quite a lot in outdoor learning and entertainment activities). I would link to it, but after scouring the relevant websites, I can’t find a mention of it, which suggests it needs some funding and publicity. But I remember the activities on offer were a mixture of the entertaining and useful and something I’d actually want to do when I was 16.

For the record, the summer after my GCSEs was part-spent walking up and down hills around Pembrokeshire, along with exploring various beaches. But then, having grown up in Devon, I like walking up hills. Mainly because you don’t get any choice about climbing hills. Devon is full of them, you just have to get over it. Literally. But just because I like hills, doesn’t mean everyone else will. And I’d rather chose what I did on the hill, thanks very much.

If somebody told me I’d HAVE to spend my summer walking up hills to make be a better, more patriotic person, I’d have probably run straight into the city and spent the summer flipping burgers instead. Cameron’s suggestion sounds to me much like CCF at school. I hated that and it taught me nothing useful, other than I really don’t like heights. I would imagine Dave’s proposals would have had much the same effect on me if I was 16 today.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com