Solar Queen

The Los Angeles Times reports that  the International Contemporary Furniture Fair has just occurred  at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. Probably the most important work to be unveiled was the Solar Queen. This is a model of the British Queen Elizabeth II from Kikkerland with a waving hand powered by a miniature solar panel atop her black handbag. This is not to be confused with the Solar Queen Series of Science Fiction novels by Andre Norton.

solar queen

solar queen

Champagne to bankruptcy – Thanks Tony

The TV is burbling about how the ex-Treasury Secretary, Labour’s Liam Byrne, left a note for his sucessor which said: ‘Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.”

Apparently this is in contrast to the previous Tory leader, John Major, who left a note for the incoming Prime Minister, Tony Blair, along with a bottle of champagne.

Champagne to bankruptcy. That about sum up the past 13 years!

Chinese train that never stops

Thanks to Mik Brown for bringing to our attention a Chinese idea for a train that does not stop at any stations?

A good idea? The Chinese think so and have created a video presentation demonstrating the idea. It is not a daft as it sounds. The idea basically is that the passnegers board a separate “connector cabin” which is picked up as the train passes. Simultaneously, passnegers who wish to get off board a connector cabin which is left behind at the station.

My view is that this drive dor efficiency is pointless. Making travel easier, quicker and cheaper merely means that we travel further. Many years ago a person might have walked an hour or so to their their place o work.
Today we travel by car or train and work 50 miles or more from home.

I can’t see the point of commuting when I can plug myself into the net from home.

Still, it’s a clever idea and perhaps it will be used until the inevitable accident where the connector car slams into the front of an oncoming train.

Why do I like what I hear?

New Routemaster

New Routemaster

Oh dear. I am finding myself agreeing with the way that the UK is going.

I heard today that the plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport have been scrapped. Good, all cheap air travel does is allow more people to travel to the other side of the world to see that the environment there has been ruined by things such as airports.

I heard that Nick Clegg is saying there will be tighter regulation on CCTV. Good, the UK is the most spied on society in the world. A free society is not one when the government watches everything you do.

I heard that they are designing a new Routemaster bus with an open back so that you can hop on and off. Good, this is a British classic and far more convenient than the curent buses.

A cynic would say that the Con / Libs are just announcing the good news first to make a good first impression. However, at the least they have some good news which is more than can be said for the ghastly burbling drivel spouted by Ed Balls this week when interviewed by Eddie Mayer on Radio 4’s PM. Mr. Balls waffle was staggering. This is a man who is standing for leadership of one of the UK’s great political parties. A potential future Prime Minister. Yet he could not think of a single thing to say.

Oops, there I go again attacking New Labour. I have this fear that the people of the UK will awake together and find we were dreaming. Pinch me someone. Is the New Labour nightmare really over?

Warsaw 2010

Warsaw

Warsaw

Last week I visited Warsaw, staying at the Sheraton on Bolesława Prusa. A good hotel with plenty of marble. One evening I took a short walk north past the Charles de Gaulle statue onto a street named Nowy Swiat. Here can be found many restaurants and bars, probably frequented by the wealthy along with ex-patriots. After an excellent Indian at the Bhuda restaurant I took coffee at the Cafe Colombia while listening to an elderly American explaining to a couple young Poles how he admired the Russians because they had launched a military attack on a Russian cargo ship which had been commandeered by Sudanese pirates. “They picked on the wrong country!” he exclaimed many times.

On the aeroplane I had chatted to a Pole who had picked strawberries in Kent one summer in his youth. Sleeping in tents they had travelled from farm to farm. Now he was a business man travelling throughout Europe but he thought that perhaps he had enjoyed strawberry picking more.

The Russians will discuss World War 2 at the drop of a hat and he told me that when Hitler’s attention turned from attacking the UK to invading Russia this had been because the Russians had been massing an army on Germany’s eastern border. Proof of this, he said, were the thousands of Russian troops taken prisoner in the first few months.

Rondo Charles de Gaulle

Rondo Charles de Gaulle

This had never occurred to me. Like many Brits my knowledge of Eastern Europe during World War 2 is scanty and I had been taught that Hitler was a bit unstable and had invaded Russia merely because he wanted to take over the world. Of course this is Rubbish. With Great Britain at bay Hitler had turned his attention to a pre-emptive strike which, he must have hoped, would disable Russia.

Walking back from Nowy Swiat as the light faded I thought that Warsaw is in fact a great place to live. The public transport seems excellent and the buildings, though often blocky, are interesting and nature seems hell bent on tacking back the city with trees and grass growing everywhere. Almost as ubiquitous as the grass are the statues. I remarked on this to a Pole and was told cynically that the Russians love their statues. I got the impression that the former communist regime would throw up a statue at every intersection and I guess that after a while they must have run out of anything relevant and started building monuments to every petty bureaucrat. No offence intended to Charles de Gaulle who I’m sure played a great part in the history of Nowy Swiat.

I liked the mixture of the old and the new. The modern trams contrasting with those from the old soviet era; though noisy and drafty they have charm from having been designed before the obsession with efficiency ironed out every crease of character. I was reminded of the old open backed Route Master buses in London and how they rattled and shook.

Tram

Tram

Warsaw appears to have embraced capitalism and commercialism for it’s promise of a better future. It seems a city with a destination firmly in mind. Though not yet as rampantly commercialised as London, in some ways it is more advanced with taxis having TV screens in the headrest to beam advertising at the helpless passenger.

Unlike London, Warsaw has not yet choked on the obsession with materialism and the false individualism of choice.

Once the old trams are gone they will be missed.

Labour lost, it’s called democracy – get over it

Labour lost - get over it

Supporters of Labour in the United Kingdom appear incensed that they are no longer the party of government and are condemning the Liberal Democrats for forming a coalition with the Conservatives. Words such as despicable, treachery and deceit have been used.

Labour suffered a massive drop in support and polled far fewer votes than the Conservatives. The Labour party, Gordon Brown and the rag tag bunch of nobodies that formed the last cabinet are widely disliked throughout the country yet they now behave as if they have been cheated of power.

“I fear the lady doth protest too much”! Their allegations of betrayal and despicable conduct should be directed at their own leadership. Gordon Brown’s decision to bring the twice disgraced Peter Mandelson back into government placed the Brown premiership firmly in the “spin over substance” camp of Tony Blair.

Let’s just list the reasons why they are out of power:

  • No party gained an overall majority.
  • All parties are free to negotiate alliances as they see fit. The Liberals Democrats are an independent party and are not obliged to side with Labour.
  • A Labour / Liberal Democrat coalition would not have achieved a majority and would therefore have no more right to govern than the Conservatives alone.

Labour lost, it’s called democracy – get over it.

Ice Sculpture and a happy egg – Brighton festival 2010

New Road

Ice Sculpture on Hove Promenade

Ice Sculpture on Hove Promenade

Have been a little remiss and not seen much of Brighton Festival so far. However, I walked into town on Saturday and saw an ice sculpture on Hove Promenade. About the size of a large washing machine the block of ice had been embdeded with various items. As the ice slowly melted the item were revealed. Roses, some post cards and shells were in evidence. A note on the ground proclaimed: “This is a place to contemplate the passing of time as this giant block of ice melts to reveal the secrets that are hidden within it.” The work appeared to be a group named Beyond.

The Happy Egg - The Myst

The Happy Egg - The Myst

Further along was The Happy Egg. Your corespondent understands that as part of The Brighton Festival The Myst band will be living inside a 14ft egg on Brighton Seafront for a week. The egg had been surrounded with tree branches and attached to the branches were wishes written on luggage tags. Most wishes were for peace but one I saw was for The Myst to go all the way to the top.

Low interest rates to blame for financial crises – The Economist

“It would, though, be simplistic to blame the crisis solely, or even mainly, on sloppy risk managers or wild-eyed quants. Cheap money led to the wholesale underpricing of risk; America ran negative real interest rates in 2002-05, even though consumer-price inflation was quiescent. Plenty of economists disagree with the recent assertion by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, that the crisis had more to do with lax regulation of mortgage products than loose monetary policy.” – The Economist, 13th May 2010

Roy Van Winkle

Roy Van Winkle

Roy seems to have slept through the lost years of New Labour

Roy Hattersley revealed himself as a rank hypocrite on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions on Friday evening. He continually accused the Liberal Democrats of dishonour and betraying their principles. At one point he said “what’s most important about a member of parliament is believing in something.”

This stands in stark contrast to Mr. Hattersley’s deafening silence during the lost years of New Labour when the media men took the reins of power. It was not just Mr. Hattersely, of course, the entire Labour party signed up to the idea that principles were no good if you did not have power. Tony Blair invited Margaret Thatcher to Number 10 while Mandelson and Campbell set about butchering party policy to imitate the conservatives. They cozied up to big business and made waffle the newspeak of government. Let us not forget that at the height of New Labour’s tenure in office John Prescott was pushing through the idea of build super casinos! One has to wonder what could have driven Two Jags to such stupidity? – It certainly was not principle.

Though I listen to Radio 4 a lot I find the audiences to many programs to be completely objectionable. They clap sycophantically after every word from the panel yet roar like football hooligans when they think they smell blood. Radio 4 is a predominantly middle class institution and I believe it reveals the underlying yobbish vacuity of many people who rank themselves among the British middle class. Radio 4’s Any Questions is one of the few occasions when when a sufficient number of them herd together to create a critical mass. The bigoted opinions of each one reinforces the bigoted opinions of the other and as a result they bay like animals at the Liberals for compromising and joining a coalition yet roared their support for the Green candidate, whom none of them voted for, ignoring the fact that the Green’s only real chance at government in the future is likely to be a coalition.

Kvetch at The Brighton Media Centre

Kvetch

Kvetch

On Saturday night I saw a play at the Brighton Media Centre. The play was Kvetch, by Steven Berkoff and was part of the Brighton Festival Fringe. It was a scream. The venue was a small room and the seating did not allow very good visibility. However, this did not prevent enjoyment of a very good play.

The story revolves round a salesman and his wife who are almost paralysed by their fear of what other people may think. The play opens with the salesman heartily inviting his work colleague home for dinner whilst internally dreading the idea that the man might accept.

The stage has a bright green background which appeared to be the same colour as cinematographers use when they overlay images on backgrounds. This gave the experience a very telly visual feel and this was heightened by the internal reverie’s of each character taking place while the other characters freeze framed.

The play explores the timid fears that we have of venturing outside our mundane existence. The fear of society and the fear that if we are true to ourselves then we might lose the material and social possessions that we have grown to reply on. Perhaps even the fear of death.

A fantastic production that had the audience laughing from the very start.

KVETCH by Steven Berkoff
Directed by Britt Forsberg
Brighton Media Centre Studio
6, 7 and 8 May 8.00-10.00 pm

Baa Baa Bradshaw

Baa Baa Bradshaw

Baa Baa Bradshaw

I heard John Humphrys interview Ben Bradshaw on BBC Radio 4’s Today program yesterday. Mr. Bradshaw said “Get Real”. I think I first heard this term used by politicians recently when  Gordon Brown used it during one of the televised leaders debates. Since then every Tom Dick and Harry politicians seems to be using it.

I’ve noticed this before. One of the leading politicians would use the phrase and suddenly all the second raters pick it up.

With Blair it even seemed to happen with his accent. All his little clique suddenly started speaking Estuary English.

I find it amazing that even MPs who are supposed to be leaders behave like sheep.

The other term they are all been using is “progressive”. They are all progressives now apparently. I have no idea in what way they think they are progressive unless it is in changing what Ben Bradshaw, out of nowhere, termed “our broken and completely discredited electoral system”. If the electoral system is such an issue for Labour then it is strange that they did not think to change it before they went to the country.

The truth is that New Labour are doing what they have always done which to compromise their principles in order to stay in power. I recall that when Tony Blair was inventing New Labour the argument was that if they did not change then they would never regain power. That the Labour party went along with this argument shows how they were more interested in power than they were in their principles. On the other hand perhaps this was a triumph for democracy. If each party merely conducts polls on the popularity of various policies and then adjust their manifesto to fit then the population will get what they want no matter who they vote for.

I suspect that the new “progressive” agenda is no more than more Mandelson spin. Like “Get Real” it is a phrase that the sheep have been instructed to use as often as possible in an attempt to fool us into thinking their is subtance where there is none.

UK Election Results 2010

So the results are in fro the UK General Election 2010 and no party has a clear majority. Not only that but the two parties which are generally considered to be left leaning, Labour and Liberal Democrat, cannot combine to form a majority. The pie chart below shows the problems. The number of seats are split straight down the middle with LIB/LAB on one side and CON on the other. In the middle are a handful of tiny parties.

UK Election Results 2010

UK Election Results 2010

However, what is even more interesting, is to see that the people who are  eligible to vote but did not vote are the real majority. These are people could easily have swung the election one way or the other if they’d got off their arses. – Hey ho.

Apathetic

Apathetic

Party Seats Votes
Conservative 306 10,706,647
Labour 258 8,604,358
Liberal Democrat 57 6,827,938
Democratic Unionist Party 8 168,216
Scottish National Party 6 491,386
Sinn Fein 5 171,942
Plaid Cymru 3 165,394
Social Democratic & Labour Party 3 110,970
Green 1 285,616
Alliance Party 1 42,762
UK Independence Party 0 917,832
British National Party 0 563,743
Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force 0 102,361
English Democrats 0 64,826
Respect-Unity Coalition 0 33,251
Traditional Unionist Voice 0 26,300
Christian Party 0 18,623
Independent Community and Health Concern 0 16,150
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 0 12,275
Scottish Socialist Party 0 3,157
Others 1 319,891
Eligible to vote but did not 0 16,346,362
Turnout 29,653,638
Total eligible to vote 46,000,000

Data thanks to the BBC and Politics.co.uk

Currently the UK uses the First-past-the-post voting system for electing members to the House of Commons. Labour have expressed interest in moving toward a Single Transferable Vote system and the Liberal Democrats want Proportional Representation. Please vote and state which system you would prefer.