Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Help Me Vince I'm Confused

Vincent Cable, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary this afternoon delivered a conference speech to his adoring fellow travellers. It's sounds like rather good stuff (full text at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11390365) but I'm a simple soul and there are things I don't understand in amongst all this righteous indignation.

It may surprise some who have doubted my sensitivity that I have no problem with his reference to 'spivs and gamblers' in the banking sector who have strutted away with obscene bonus payments. He's spot on. There's some real low-lifes in the City who have the moral code of rabid jackals. But this is a human problem. Bankers (some of them) earn ludicrously more than is good for them. But so do footballers. In defence of footballers at least they seem to be reinvesting in small British businesses, albeit those of budding prostitutes. But what are we to do - make merchant banking (still one of the best pieces of rhyming slang that) and football illegal? Impose a wage cap? I can feel the lawyer in me salivating at the juicy litigation that will engender - what price Wayne Rooney's human rights anyone? My guess is about eight hundred quid an hour although my instinct on that score is probably out of date by now. But what I am really getting at is this - you cannot legislate to compel human decency. People have to behave humanely because they want to and for want of a better description I'm afraid we'll have to call this a spiritual issue. Which means Richard Dawkins can sling his hook as well. For years I was accustomed to people politely (well mostly) calling me a parasite and I agreed with them but I had to point out that parasites cannot thrive without a host. The host of the lawyer is human rottenness and do you know what, the number of lawyers per head of population just keeps on going up. Wouldn't it be rather wonderful if suddenly we were all redundant? Don't hold your breath.

And back to the sainted Vince. Let's consider an example, let's call him Dave. He's worked hard over the years and has never earned a dishonest crust. He's always paid his taxes in spite of the use to which they are put. Dave has a wife (we'll just call her bloody marvellous) who is a true example of the working class hero if ever such a thing existed. They give to charities but don't make a song and dance about it. They think they're passably good people. Everything they own has been paid for out of taxed income, everything. So quite how, Vince, is it right to seek to tax them again on the value of assets they may have chosen to buy with what the government of the day deigned to let them keep? If Dave wasn't such a model citizen he might well tell you to piss off Vince.

Ooh that's better. By the way I saw the Pope on Sunday which was intriguingly uplifting. I then had a kilo of excellent mussels at Cafe Rouge which was also elevating. As Dave Allen so wisely used to say - 'May your god go with you.'    

Sunday, 12 September 2010

No Bearer Of Burdens Can Bear The Burden Of Another

At King's College London I was tutored in various subjects by a charismatic (too charisamtic for some tastes) New Zealander called Alan Beaven. I liked him and he gave me the first and last high mark I achieved in my ill-starred legal scholarship - there is no false modesty in this, my first degree was a high-water-mark of mediocrity. He will not have remembered me but yesterday he came to my mind. His name rolled up the screeen at the end of United 93 the film about the 9/11 flight retaken from the hijackers by its passengers. Alan was one of those passengers. Take a look at http://www.unitedheroes.com/Alan-Beaven.html While you are there click on some of the links to pages about the other passsengers. Try Mark Bingham the gay rugby player from San Francisco. These were the representatives of the Great Satan who died that day. Try to get a handle on all of this. Try this as a starting point http://ics.leeds.ac.uk/papers/vp01.cfm?outfit=pmt&folder=10&paper=540

And here's another little personal memory of that day. It was rekindled when I watched a documentary last night, 9/11 State of Emergency. Don't worry if you missed it because it's bound to be on next year on the 10th anniversary. The chief air traffic controller spoke of the confusion which reigned, of the thousands of planes aloft above America. A crowded radar confusion of dots was shown. Noone knew which flights were at risk. And I remember that one of those dots on 9/11 contained my wife, flying American Airlines into Chicago. Sharon went off our radar until late that night when the wife of another passenger phoned me to say she was safe, diverted to Canada. My caller's husband had been kind enough to take a list of numbers from his fellow travellers and communicated the list to her to make the happy calls. I sat at home with two bewildered young daughters and my terrified father-in-law as we became very temporary participants in world affairs. By Al Qaeda's reckoning we were none of us innocents and were therefore fair game in their holy war. An Americanism is apt - go figure.  

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Vile Bodies

For the benefit of our regular readers who wonder if Big Fat Pig ever actually does any work when his training regime and general dossing allow, we are delighted to announce that our sister blog The Staging of Vile Bodies now has its first post. Go to http://thestagingofvilebodies.blogspot.com/ and find out more. Or don't. Suit yourself.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Geriatric Wanker's Weekly

This was the nomenclature favoured by Auberon Waugh when referring to that odious organ The News of the World. Their current favoured modus operandi is to gull the witless and vulnerable in the name of under-cover journalism. So we have an eighteen year old Pakistani cricket prodigy entrapped into deliberately bowling a no-ball to aid a supposed betting scam based on a premiss that no sentient bookie would buy in a month of Sundays. Stupid boy of course but it doesn't exactly make you proud to be British does it.

The Piers Principle

For evidence that a talentless preening gobshite can rise and rise; for evidence that there is much wrong with the United States of America; please see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-11234671

Acupuncture III ... And Training ... And Drinking

There are two great ways of enjoying sport. Best of all you play and then socialise with your teammates and opponents. As an alternative you can watch someone else perform in the company of friends and then socialise (by which I have to be honest I mean drink) anyway. This is generally not as good as playing - thrills are best had non-vicariously. But occasionally you hit upon a truly uplifting dose of spectating as I did last weekend. England - 10 New Zealand - 13, final of the Women's Rugby World Cup. The Black Ferns were enviably controlled and efficient, deserved winners despite three yellow cards justly imposed on them. England were ferociously brave and endearing to the large crowd at the Stoop. We wandered onto the pitch at the end and spoke to the England coach. Gary was disappointed but proud of how the team had played. Too bloody right he was. The whole tournament has been a breath of fresh air and got me looking forward to the new season.

Which brings me to acupuncture. I submitted to some more yesterday and I am going to chance my dodgy calf muscles this weekend having had to cry off last week. My selection of vibrant shirts, two watches, two whistles and yellow and red cards (unused last year) are packed and ready. The Big Fat Ref is back. Actually not quite so fat any more. The training regime has continued on the bike and in the gym and the wobble has diminished. My first remedial swimming lesson beckons on Saturday as a warm-up for the afternoon refereeing. God I wish I were twenty, no make that twenty-five years younger. If I'd known then what I know now I might have been a player not to mention a better husband, father and lawyer. Oh well, shit happens as the personal injury lawyers never say.

Where was I? Oh yes good company. The Overgraduate  thanks  JS, TW, BM and GL who made it such a memorable weekend in that London. Thanks as well to the staff and the beer selection at The Prince of Wales Feathers which is now officially my local when I am in London. It serves beer with breakfast which strikes me as rather civilised for those of us who can handle such things, what one might term morally distressed gentlefolk.   

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Heaven's Gate

I'd had this monumental turkey saved up for ages and finally watched it at the tail-end of my cinemania week. Just how did something so unaccomplished get to be made? It has a reputation for having brought United Artists to its knees. That version of studio history is something of an urban myth but it does make a fitting epitaph for a movie which manifestly got completely out of control. And yet. And yet. There is a kernel of an epic here, lost beyond resurrection thanks to a shameless outbreak of directorial self-indulgence. Somebody had evidently told Michael Cimino that The Deer Hunter was the great American film (it wasn't) and then given him licence to make the even greater American film, the western to cap all westerns. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What we get is a stupefying and  uncontrolled mess. Following the example of The Deer Hunter we have a lengthy establishing coda which bears no narrative relation we can discern to the main plot. John Hurt is a major figure in this opening and this we can tell is somehow 'significant', except that Hurt then disappears from any meaningful participation  bar a couple of unworthy drunk scenes.

It gets worse. Shots are lovingly composed so that you can't see what is going on. The sound goes to Altmanesque extremes to make dialogue inaudible, but Altman's ability to carry it off is missing in action. Having got himself a classical French actress Cimino decides that what he should do with Isabelle Huppert is have her strip off as regularly as possible. But,but,but,but,but it is watchable, like some magnificent slow motion train crash. The possibilities of cinema are all there but none is actually deployed.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A Godless And Infidel College On Gower Street

This was how the founders of my own alma mater King's College London described the secular den of iniquity that is University College London. The colleges remain amicable but implacable rivals. Yesterday my daughter Helen formally became a graduate of UCL and the university put on a bloody good show. In fact this graduate of King's felt compelled to admit that the founding fathers of UCL were right and that it is King's which has had to move to become an acceptable modern institution.

Graduation ceremonies are rather more for parents than the graduates themselves. In that monumental potboiler Roots, the father of Kunta Kinte holds his son up to the god moon and cries 'Behold the only thing greater than yourself.' That is how I feel about my offspring. Nothing in the annals of creation can equal them. I hope all parents feel the same.