Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Role models?

So Miley Cyrus has had pictures taken for Vanity Fair which some claim to be shocking and sexualising the teen star. Time and again commentators berate the girl for being a "poor role model", seeming to think that this picture is going to cause a global wave of evil, with young girls wanting to put on make-up and wear bedsheets. One blogger has been described the picture as looking like a "freshly f*cked slut". Apart from the obvious question about how this seemingly moral blogger knows what a "freshly f*cked slut" looks like, the whole furore shows how modern society is increasingly unhinged, and that looking to celebrities to act as role models for one's kids is an act of parental irresponsibility.

When I was in the States last summer I saw the Hannah Montana show on TV a couple of times, and frankly speaking I would find the image of the teen schoolgirl's pop star alter ego more disturbing than the pictures by Annie Leibovitz. Disney protrays itself as the guardian of family values in the US, and yet here is a clearly pre-pubescent girl prancing around a stage in a tiny skirt, pop socks and belly revealing top - if that isn't sexualising the teen star then I really don't what is. Or is it a case that people like their role models as "innocent" fantasies rather than womanly fantasties?

If something offends, don't bang on about it relentlessly, turn off the TV and provide your kids with a different role model - you could even try being one yourself.

Yes the media is pervasive, yes celebrities are everywhere, yes the TV has an off switch.

Friday, April 25, 2008


On the building next to where I live, someone has sprayed "Art or crime?" on the wall.

In a city as graffiti strewn as Prague, this question is particularly poignant - can graffiti ever be considered art? I guess that depends on your concept of art, as well as your concept of graffiti - personally I find the mindless tagging of buildings with a signature to be as far from art as it is possible to get, however I am prepared to allow that there are talented artists out there creating street art with the very same tools as the mindless taggers.

So when done properly, graffiti can be art, but mostly it is a crime.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Riise's goal last night did somewhat take the wind from my sails - but the more I think about it the more I am convinced that Liverpool have the firepower to get a goal at Stamford Bridge, which would turn the game into winner takes all.

Fernando Torres has had a phenomenal first season at Anfield, and hopefully that will continue next Wednesday, but first up is Birmingham City - and I for one would give a few reserves a run out. In light of the injury to Fabio Aurelio (how unfortunate can that guy get?), I think it would be time to give Insua a run in the team until the end of the season. I would also love to see Nemeth get a couple of turns on the bench. Resting the big players is an option for this weekend's game, so I would expect a recurrence of Gerrard's neck injury, and maybe even a hangnail for Mascherano, allowing Plessis another opportunity to impress.

Despite the gloom of an away goal at Anfield, and the constant bickering of the owners, and DIC waiting in the wings let the hangman, the future is still bright for Liverpool, as long as Rafa stays of course.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Solutions, solutions

Everywhere in the business world there are solutions, every company is pushing their latest product not as something to buy but as something which provides a "solution".

Businesses no longer provide machinery or equipment, they provide "total solutions", or a favourite of mine "complex solutions" - cleaning companies in particular love to provide "complex cleaning solutions". How complex can soap and water be?

Products are no longer things to make life easier, more enjoyable or even more bearable, products are today part of your lifestyle choice, they give you an "experience". Why marketing people think this kind of language is impressed consumers is beyond me.

What I find most interesting though is the fact that nobody is stating the problem which these solutions purport to solve.

Champions League again

So tomorrow is another Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, and already I am nervous and a little distracted by it all.

Two more tight and nervy games, a hoarse throat on Wednesday for sure and hopefully at the end of it a final in Moscow against Barcelona.

Friday, April 18, 2008

National NIMBYism

I was watching the news the other day in Marks and Spencer - they have a little seating section with a tv, I guess designed for men waiting for their lady folk to emerge from the changing rooms. On the box was a political discussion programme talking about the US missile defence system, the radar for which is planned to be in the Czech Republic.

During an interview with a Green Party MP a comment was made that it was wrong to have foreign soldiers based on Czech soil . This got me thinking:

The Czech Republic is part of NATO and as such has responsibilities toward the organisation and the allies that form that organisation. In return the Czech Republic has the might of the USA and other allies in the event of an attack - however, seemingly unlikely. The missile defence scheme is not just about protecting the USA from attack, but also provides coverage for the majority of NATO members.

Inevitably the installation of an American military base will bring benefits to wherever it is located. I don't mean in terms of money spent by the military in local shops, unfortunately it would seem that many US service people don't interact much with local communities when stationed there. However it will provide jobs and a boost to the economy. Let's not forget that outside of Prague there are plenty of areas with high unemployment. Such a base would inevitably help the local economy:

People with jobs have more money
People with more money, spend money
People with money to spend need places to spend
The places where people with money spend money become more profitable
Profitable companies can expand and create more jobs.

And so the cycle goes on.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Going to Berlin

Yesterday we bought tickets for the train from Prague to Berlin. Ash has a friend who has moved there and we are going up for a long weekend in May. May 8th is a holiday in the Czech Republic, VE Day (thank goodness some people still remember that), and this year it is a Thursday. The company I work for decided that instead of a measly 20 days holiday a year we should have 25, however there was a condition - we had to use these days on the 2nd May (1st is a holiday here - two 3 day weeks!), 9th May and December 29/30/31.

I have never been to Berlin before, especially as when we lived in West Germany it was firmly ensconced in the old Democratic Republic of Germany. So I am very excited about going up there. Hopefully we will be going to a Bundesliga match while we are there, Hertha Berlin are playing F.C. Nurnberg and tickets are insanely cheap by British standards (even by Czech standards they are reasonable). About 12 GBP to sit behind the goal at the Olympic Stadium!

Also on the list of things to see and do are of course the Brandenburg Gate and the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall. Of course this wouldn't be an Al trip if there wasn't planned some beer drinking and I have found a few micro-brewery type places to visit.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Italian political circus

So once again Italy has a new goverment - which makes it more than 60 governments since the Second World War. Once again proving the Proportional Representation is a flawed political system which creates instability and stasis. A political system which does not provide stability and leadership does not allow a government to implement its plans and improve the lives of citizens.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Foreign and Commonwealth Office dealings

Today I went to the British Embassy here in Prague and I think they achieved the quite remarkable feat of infuriating every single person they dealt with.

I have come not to expect great things from the Prague embassy - this is after all the people who employed a former StB (Czechoslovak version of the KGB) agent just after the Velvet Revolution - hurray for the vetting process.

All I needed to do was post a Notice of Marriage and get an apostille for my birth certificate. The Notice of Marriage was simplicity in itself, but the apostille turned out to be something of a nightmare. By getting the Embassy to organise it it was going to cost 3000 CZK (approximately 100 GBP), of which 30 GBP was the actual fee and the rest to get it sent by diplomatic post. They told me at the embassy that this process would take 7 weeks! But if I posted it myself, along with payment details and so on, it would take 4 weeks and I save myself 70 GBP. So I rang the FCO in London to make sure that everything was correct - having been recommended by the embassy to "check with them because they know better" - and low and behold I get an automated phone system.

Is it any wonder that people feel disconnected from politics and dealing with governments when those very same bodies have disconnected themselves from us by hiding behind automated phone services? I just want to spend two minutes on the phone clarifying a couple of things, but for my "convenience" I have to listen to a useless recorded message, and when finally forwarded to an operator, I get an answering machine which just hangs up.

So my total paperwork costs for the wedding are around 150 GBP, compared to my fiancee paying about 60 GBP for the very same documents - she is American, America looks after its people, while it seems Britain hoses its for money.

Surely in this day and age with technology as it is, it is hardly rocket science for an embassy to do apostilles in situ - or is it just Britain that likes to makes life difficult for its people?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A third blog

Yes I have decided to create yet another blog, and I intend to be very strict with myself about writing on them.

I have allocated an hour every day after work to draft articles for each of my two other blogs:

Diamonds and Rust - dealing with my spiritual and religious conflicts
Fuggled - dedicated to my love of beer and my impending journey in homebrew.

This blog will be a general waffling stop, and will no doubt focus on the upcoming changes in my life, namely getting married and moving the South Carolina in 2009.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Weddings and things

Well yes I am getting married.

Most people that I know will already know that, but just in case there are some lovely ladies with forlorn hopes, then I am afraid I must dash them.

July 4th is possibly the most ironic date for a Brit to marry a Yank, but to be honest I can't wait. In fact I would rather just elope and get it done with.

I have decided as well to start a new blog dealing with religious and spiritual stuff that fills my head to a worrying degree at times. I haven't decided on a name for it yet but I will post it here when I have it up and running.