Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Rugby Union - The Great Game

The story goes that while playing soccer at Rugby School in 1823, William Webb Ellis picked up the ball in his hands and ran with it. Well, that's the story I grew up with, and the myth has stood the test of time His name is revered enough to have had the Rugby World Cup trophy named after him, and it is the story most people are familiar with.

However, it does seem that games similar to rugby had been played many years, if not centuries prior to 1823.

At that time he was in Rugby School, Webb Ellis' father was stationed in Ireland with the Dragoons turning good Catholics into terrorists (you would have thought we would have learnt by now), and where, it is said, he would have witnessed the native game of Caid (Cad). Could it be that he may have passed details of this game on to his son? All branches of the Celtic race played Caid. There were two basic forms, Cross-country cad and field cad. The word 'Caid' means scrotum of the bull.

The Welsh say that Caid was just a derivative of their sport of Criapan. The Cornish called it "hurling to goales" which dates back to the bronze age, the West country called it "hurling over country", East Anglians "Campball", the French "La Soule" or "Chole" (a rough-and-tumble cross-country game). In fact, there had been traditions of ball-in-hand sports games for centuries before Webb Ellis' was born.

However, a more formalised game was played at Rugby School which appears to have led to the creation of the game we recognise today. Cambridge University immediately adopted the game, popularised it and made local rules. The game grew more popular and in 1871, ten years after the common rules of soccer were set, the first Rugby Union was founded in London and firm rules of the game were established.

However, in 1895 rugby clubs in northern England called for compensation of lost wages for players. The Rugby League was founded as a result and a 13-player game with altered rules were created for professionals. The history of Rugby League is something I will perhaps return to in the future. But for now, I will concentrate on Rugby Union, - perhaps the most noble and greatest game in the world.

The Mother Of All Games

Rugby spread across the globe and competition emerged between countries. In the United States, the game emerged primarily on the West Coast.

The lack of precise rules, ambiguities in the game and complexity of the sport drew a lot of United States players away from the game and major changes were invoked. In 1880 the scrum was replaced by a line of scrimmage, drawing emphasis from the free-running characteristic of the game. The game continued to play with rugby rules until 1905 where the publication of photographs of a harsh game between Sarthmore and Pennsylvania created a stir. President Theodore Roosevelt insisted on reform of the game to lower the brutality with threat of abolishing the game by edict. In 1906 the forward pass was introduced to the United States game. The rules of rugby died and the game of American football was born.

Australian Rules Football can also trace its origin to Rugby School. In 1857, Tom Wills, one of the founders of Australian Football, returned to Australia after schooling in England where he was football captain of Rugby School and a brilliant cricketer and where he would have played the 'new', game of rugby. Initially, he advocated the winter game of football as a way of keeping cricketers fit during off-season.

The Objective Of The Game

The objective of the game is to gain more points than the opposing team within the allotted time of play. A tie is called if the scores are equal at the end of play. A try is scored when a player places the ball on the ground in the opposition's goal area. It is counted as 5 points and can be converted to an additional 2 points with a successful place kick made from a line perpendicular to the point at which the ball was scored over the goal cross-bar and between the uprights. A goal can also be scored through a penalty with a free kick or a drop kick from the field of play in a similar fashion. A goal counts as 3 points. The game is played in halves, with no stoppages or time outs. Play is continuous, and is only halted when a team has scored or a law has been infringed. At which point, a set play is commenced to start the game off again. A really good and in-depth, but straight-forward breakdown of the Laws of Rugby (rugby doesn't have rules) can be found here.

Why have I written this blog, and spent a long time explaining something about the game? Those of you who remember me going nuts during the summer when England beat Australia at cricket to win the "Ashes" might have thought that Cricket was "my" game. But no. My first love is rugby. When younger, I played it on a regular basis, - I have the broken nose as proof, and I have always followed it, and this weekend marks the annual start of an international rugbyfest. - the 6 Nations. I will talk about that in a future post later this week.

Monday, January 30, 2006

I Should Have Known - We Were Also Involved!

In my post about the CIA's use of a Predator drone plane, illegally deployed on a "targeted assassination" operation in Pakistan that has led to the death of over 20 innocent men, women and children, and of course those militant cattle too numerous to count, I wrote from a slightly superior position that we in Britain wouldn't be a part of such a thing.

What a fool! What an absolute wazzock! Of course we were involved. It now turns out that a company in England provides the "brain" of the Predator drone, allowing it to fly and find it's target. Without that "brain", the outrage in Pakistan would not have happened. Instead, police and troops would have had to be dispatched to the village and check out each person. Unfortunately, this would have probably not led to any loss of life, which would have upset the neo-cons, who have this homophobic need to show their machismo.

But that is not all! The US Base at RAF Molesworth is apparently the place where these drones send back their pictures. Our Defence Secretary said that it was a matter for the Americans who are using one of our bases, so he couldn't comment!

I believe that we in Britain should not be supplying any technology that can be adapted to military use to countries that state sponsor international terrorism such as the USA (and of course we shouldn't be selling to ourselves either)>

You can read the entire story here.

In answer to web_loafer and others who claimed that it had been successful and had in fact, killed up to three high ranking terrorists, I'm afraid you are going to be disappointed. In actual fact, this had been claimed by Pakistan president, General Musharraf, and that the attack had killed al Qaeda chemicals expert, Abu Khabab, based on the information the CIA had supplied, but it turns out that the picture the CIA was using, and had been using for one and a half years on their "wanted" poster was of the wrong person! A CIA spokesman admitted that it was down to "human error"!

Again, that story here.

It's an ill wind.... Part 2

Energy giants on both sides of the Atlantic are poised to announce record profits, - running into billions of pounds! Apparantly Exxon Mobile and Shell have been raking it in on the back of soaring oil prices in 2005.

Exxon is set to reveal that it made a profit of £18billion and, Shell will report earnings of £13billion.

This will no-doubt please the 1.5 million people in Britain, according to official figures, who live in fuel poverty, - unable to afford the the fuel to keep themselves warm. This year's proposed 15% rise in gas prices is likely to drive up the figure to something like 2.3 million people. Fuel poverty is defined as households that have to spend more than a tenth of its income on heating.

But come on, let's not be churlish, those poor, hard-working executives need to live too. There's probably a new Ferrarri to buy and burn fossil fuels in. The shiverring poor need to be a bit more enlightened, and allow these people their profit.

Craig Bennett of Friends Of The Earth, said, "Shell and Exxon are making money out of climate change, by flogging ever more fossil fuels, ever more expensively."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I Am A Bloglord

I have now embarked on my new career that is going to make me rich in blogger credits beyond my wildest dreams.

As you can see I have rented my blog to a truely remarkable bipolar blogger, Jane. Her blog is a regular stop for me in my daily trip around blogland. I can promise you, dear reader, that you will find something of interest in her writing.

For me, she comes across as an extremely caring, loving person, whose knowledge of all things blogging far exceeds my own. Jane shares her life with Tarzan and Cheeta, - a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig! There is no way you can pigeon-hole Jane. She writes what she thinks, - and with a real passion. When you visit, please let her know that you came from me, thanks.

To my other bidders, please return as I did find your blogs interesting, and I would love to have you on my site.

Jane, you are very welcome. Look after the place. Don't leave your washing up and please take out the rubbish.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Do I Hate Bush

On a previous post of mine, another blogger left a comment on it and said: "I know you hate Bush."

The first thing I need to say is that this blogger doesn't know me personally, so therefore he can't know whether I hate Bush or not, but to address that directly, for me to hate somebody, I would need to know that person personally. I don't know George W. Bush, so therefore I don't hate him.

I dislike intensely, everything the George Bush appears to stand for, I also despise his weakness, I have no respect for those who practice the politics of exclusion, and finally, I do hate his lies which have cost so many their lives.

Lets just look at some of those lies. All these come from one speech he made in 2003, one of the most important constitutional occasions in the US political calendar, - The State of the Union Address to Congress. Right there, in the political heart of the country, he stood up and told lie, after lie after lie.
  • "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent." Not True; not a drop of chemical weapons have been found in Iraq.
  • "US intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents." Not True; Not a single chemical weapon's munition has been found in Iraq.
  • "We have also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas." Not True; Not a single aerial vehicle capable of dispersing chemical or biological weapons have been found in Iraq.
  • "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaida." Not True; To date, not a shred of evidence connecting Hussein with al Qaida or any other known terrorist organisations have been revealed.

There were other lies and mistakes and omissions told in that Address. Another lie on the Iraq war came in a press conference on the 14th July 2003:

  • "We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." Not True; UN inspectors went into Iraq to search for possible weapons violations from December 2002 to March 2003. (Pretty short memory!).

As if that wasn't enough, he gets others to lie on his behalf. Who will forget the discomfort shown by Colin Powell at the UN in March 2003 where he tried to convince the world that Iraq, against all the odds, had managed to build up a mighty war chest of missiles, chemicals, biologicals and even nuclear weapons, - his speech coming straight after Hans Blitz's statement that he had found no weapons of mass destruction, and wanted more time to complete his investigation, - time that Bush and his cronies were not prepared to give him. Lets face it, there was money to be made!

Who will ever forget the sight of Bush just sitting there with a blank expression on his face after having been told that the World Trade Centre had just been hit by an aircraft. And when he did move, it was to spend, courageously, the next 24 hours flying around in his plane.

Then we have Hurricane Katrina. Bush said that "...no-one could have predicted what happened to New Orleans." He lied. When Katrina was building itself up in the Caribbean, he was past an assessment on what would happen to the city if Katrina went big and hit. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that the defenses would be breached, - and he did nothing. Of course, he was on holiday at the time, so I suppose one shouldn't expect to much.

I'm sure that true, patriotic Americans who love the constitution, could write pages more, but I wanted to answer the question; Do I hate Bush? No, I don't know the person. In some ways I feel sorry for him as he is just the product of his environment and he should never have been used in the way he has. If push comes to shove, and I do have to use the word, then I do hate what he has done, and the decisions he has taken. He has made my world a lot more dangerous, and already, my freedoms have been eroded as a result.

Clinton lied, and a dress got stained, Bush lied and people have died.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blog Renting

As you can see, I've now decided to try my hand at blog renting. This is a totally new venture for me, I want to know what the world of Blog Estate is like, and whether I can make it to be a blogionaire.

Anyway, my rent is very low (approved by the fair rent commission) as I want lively, interesting tenants that will help to make me look cool! So if you are one of those, it'll only cost you 10 credits.

I believe I will be a fair and kind bloglord, and will ensure that my blog is maintained in a good state of repair. I look forward to offers, and if I miss you first time round, then please re-apply.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm Tagged Off

Some kind Blogger "friend" decided that I was worthy to be tagged. This tag requires me to list 8 points about my perfect partner (without it resulting in the divorce courts) and tagging 8 more people. To those friends who I tag, please will you do the same, - and may I say how sorry I am for this intrusion, but Jay made me do it! Please visit his blog and vent your anger at him.

Target Partner: Female

  1. Patient
  2. Caring
  3. Thoughtful
  4. Honest
  5. Understands me (because I don't)
  6. Enjoys life
  7. Shares experiences
  8. Is a good cuddle

I will now relinquish this responsibility and pass it forward to the following:

Jackie, Barb, Eddie, Sande, Dave, Bonnie, Julie, and Shellbug

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Burns' Night


Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Tomorrow night, 25th January, is Burns' Night, - the night when Scotland celebrate its most famous bard. There is a lot of tradition bound up with this night and the entire story (and complete works) can be found here, - including the menu for a proper Burns supper. If nothing else, raise a glass to someone who loved life and reflected life so well and died so young.


Some hae meat an' canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat an' we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit.

And if it please thee heavenly guide
May never worse be sent
But granted or denied
Lord bless us with content.


By Robert Burns

Monday, January 23, 2006

Is Bush Fighting The Right War?

Web_loafer, you can find his blog here, left a comment on my post about America's unprovoked attack on Pakistan the other day and a couple of things struck me from what he said, that have given me some food for thought over the weekend. One was where he said "I know you hate Bush", and I will address that statement in a future blog.

I was more concerned about his heartfelt plea: "I too long for peaceful times in America....", and it is this statement I want to talk about here.

Why has George W. Bush gone out of his way to make, clearly, loyal patriotic people like Web_loafer so frightened? Why has terrorism become such a major issue in American politics that grown men are almost hiding under the bed in fear? Why is it that these people generally accept that it is Muslims that are terrorists, and need to be dealt with without recourse to the rule of law?

I'm sorry, but the facts just do not stack up. There are no hoards of Muslim terrorists ready to attack, rape and pillage the infidel America, as the administration would have you believe, and on the back of that, I see no need for America to act, as it presently does, illegally and foolishly at the cost of international respect.

Lets look at a some undisputed facts.
  1. In the four years since al-Qaida launched its war in earnest, fewer than 5,000 people have lost their lives in terrorist attacks - throughout the world! (That is less than double the number of US troops who have died in the illegal and, as far as the West is concerned, unnecessary war in Iraq).
  2. In 2002 alone, there were 30,242 gun deaths in just the USA!
  3. Comparison of U.S. gun homicides to other industrialised countries: In 1998 (the most recent year for which this data has been compiled), handguns murdered:
    373 people in Germany
    151 people in Canada
    57 people in Australia
    19 people in Japan
    54 people in England and Wales, and
    11,789 people in the United States
  4. Taxpayers in America pay more than 85% of the medical cost for treatment of firearm-related injuries.

The above is just an abstract from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence which contains further facts that would shock and sicken most people.

So, Web_loafer, perhaps you should not be railing against those who have seen through the vail of lies that your administration puts out, but start asking Bush to declare war on the real danger to you and your fellowAmericans, - guns.

One final point that imerges out from what Web_loafer said, and in particular, the way he said certain things. Now, I'm sure Web_loafer is not a rasict, but there is an under current of racism when he talks about terrorists, and I think that has come directly from the way those, who should know better, talk about the subject of terrorists. The sad fact is that, internationally, the Stars and Stripes is being seen by an increasing number of Muslims, in the same way that Jews regarded the swastika. Americans may see this war as some honourable, but ill-defined "war on terror", but for a good quarter to a third of the world's population, Bush is conducting a "war on faith", - the Muslim faith.

If honest, but understandably frightened people like web_loafer are so fearful of terrorists that they allow Bush to dismantle freedom and justice in America without question, then I believe it is time for Bush to go and to vote in a President that deals in hope, not fear.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Our First Bike Ride Of 2006

Today, we did our first bike ride of 2006. We did about 12 miles of muddy hell along the towpath of the Leeds Liverpool canal from Hindley to Adlington and back.

Conclusion: we are not fit!

The weather was pretty good, the sun was out most of the time, and there was a gentle North-westerly that wasn't too cold. Unfortunately, the mud was heavy, - a bit like cycling through molasses, and of course we got pretty filthy as we don't have mud guards on our bikes.

You can see the full set of pictures here.

We also took a couple of videos. The first one is at the girls favourite spot on the canal, and the second is at the Kirkless Hall pub, - which ends up being more of an advert. Anyway, enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them.

Share Video at DropShots.com

Share Video at DropShots.com

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fourteen 14

If you like your gossip with an edge, then please visit this site. Fourteen is an artist who illustrates and charicatures celebrities. She has the happy knack of capturing the person appropriately.

With all due respect and regard to Fourteen, I reproduce a couple of her pictures. There is a lot more on her site to enjoy.

Click on them to see them full size.

Click here for Fourteen 14's site.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

If You're Going To Cheat, Ditch The Parrot

A story I spotted in today's newspaper which made me chuckle.

Chris Taylor's suspicions about his girlfriend, Suzy Collins' fidelity were first aroused when his pet parrot, Ziggy, an eight-year-old African Grey Parrot, screeched "Hiya Gary" every time Suzy's mobile phone rang. The parrot also made long, slurpy kissing sounds whenever he heard the name Gary mentioned on TV or radio.

Things finally came to a head when Chris cuddled up to his girlfriend, and Ziggy blurted out "I love you, Gary" in her voice! Miss Collins then broke down in tears and admitted to having a 4-month affair with someone called Gary. Needless to say, the relationship is now ended, but the distress for Mr Taylor did not end there. He also had to give away Ziggy, because the bird would not stop saying Gary's name.

Miss Collins said, "Chris and I had talked about splitting up - it was inevitable. But I'm surprised he's got rid of that bloody bird - he spent more time talking to it than he did to me!"

Finally, when browsing the internet to try and find a picture of an African Grey Parrot, I came across this site: Dandy, the African Grey Parrot which contains a diary, written by Dandy, from when he was 5 weeks old through to today.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Is There Any Intelligence in American Intelligence Services

You would have thought that with America's appalling relationship with all things Muslim, they would ensure that they stood on solid ground before taking unprovoked and precipitous action.

You would have thought that after the disastrous invasion of Iraq sovereign territory on the back of extremely flaky, and wrong intelligence, they would not do anything again that would smack of incompetence or without being 100% sure.

But no.

This weekend saw the CIA launch an unprovoked attack on Pakistani territory in an attempt to kill the "second-in-charge" of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri. Apparently the attack was extremely accurate only killing 18 innocent men, women and children in Damadola along with a lot of cattle, - the village's main source of income, - just one problem, unfortunately, their main target, al-Zawahri, wasn't there.

The reason the attack was launched was because the CIA had "intelligence" that al-Zawahri would be at a meal in the village. That "intelligence" as with a lot of other "intelligence" gathered by the CIA was wrong.

But hey! It's OK because US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it's OK. OK! Ms Rice said tough tactics are necessary in the fight against al-Qaeda. "We'll continue to work with the Pakistanis and we'll try to address their concerns," she said on Monday. Describing the country as an ally in the "war on terror", she said al-Qaeda and its supporters "are not people who can be dealt with lightly". She said she could not comment on any specific circumstances, of course.

This "working with the Pakistanis" term is intriguing as the impression I have is that the Pakistani Government were not told or involved in this illegal action on foreign sovereign soil. However, the effect of the attack has been to pull more people into the terrorist camp, and even more people, if that was possible, now hate the sight and sound of the USA. Praising Zawahiri as a soldier of Islam, local Islamic militant commander and fugitive, Maulana Faqir Mohammad reportedly said: "I am a small man with few resources but I would offer him refuge if he made a request".

"America raised the bogey of Zawahri to provide justification for this attack," Meraj ul-Huda, an opposition leader, told a rally in the city of Karachi.

So all in all, a pretty successful weekend for the top brass in the US. I presume that both the political and executive heads of the CIA will immediately tender their resignations after yet another bungled operation.

One telling comment came from Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Speaking on the eve of a visit to the US, where he plans to discuss the economy and security issues, Mr Aziz said Friday's incident, though "regrettable", did not take away "from the fact that Pakistan needs investment". So he's going to be pretty tough with the Bush administration when he sees them!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Fine Day Out

Just come back from a day out with the girls. This has given me an opportunity to play with my new toy, - my digital camera. You can find the set of pictures taken on my site at Flickr and a movie I made here. You will need Quick Time to play it. Do enjoy the pictures, we had great fun taking them.

Also, I've now tried the beer I talked about in this blog and was very intrigued by the taste. It certainly has character and a distinctive flavour, but I'm not sure it is one I could drink on a regular basis. But it is well worth finding and having a go.

I'm now going to slob out and dream of more pictures tomorrow!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Do Republicans Ever Obey The Law

It now appears that the most senior politician and role model in California, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, did not have a valid motorcycle licence when he crashed it over the weekend, injuring himself and his 12 year-old son. Apparantly, he never applied for one when he arrived in the US in 1968.

Now there's a man to look up to!

A Good Uplifting Story

This is the story of the beer that was brewed to be thrown away, - until someone tasted it!

It all starts with whisky company William Grant & Sons who decided to make a whiskey matured in old beer casks called Ale Cask Reserve. The beer was brewed to treat the casks after which it was thrown away!

One day, Dougal Sharp, Innis & Gunn's managing director, got a call from the brewery to say that "The guys on the shop floor were raving about this beer". Sharp put together a taste panel from among the brewers who gave it nine out of nine! Sharp then decided to brew it commercially. He got hold of old sherry and bourbon oak casks in which the beer matured for 30 days after which the beer was transferred to a 'marrying tun' that allowed all the subtle flavours picked up from the casks to blend and smooth together in perfect balance. The beer stays in this vat for 47 days. That's a total of 77 days maturation for this beer.

The beer, Oak Aged Beer comes in 2 strengths; 6.6 ABV and 7.7 per cent. And of course, as is the case with all good British beer, it is designed to be drunk at or above room temperature which would make it a winter warmer alternative to mulled wine. I'm going to get myself some of this for the weekend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I've Gone Digital!

Finally, after a number of years thinking about it, and a Christmas without film for the camera, I've splashed out and bought a digital camera.

It's an Olympus MJU 800 compact digital which seems to be so packed with features, I'll be learning about it for the next six-months.

While I still have great affection for my old film SLR, this camera is going to be a lot more convenient, - and lighter, to carry on bike rides and walking, so hopefully it will encourage me to get out even more.

These are the very first photos off the camera, but clearly they will not be the last. I will be attacking Flickr a lot more now I don't have to wait for processing.

Clearly, from the first few shots I've taken, I've got a bit of learning to do, but it's something I'm looking forward to.

Sorry about the kite flying yesterday, just my little way, but I was pretty excited about doing this blog, - so that part was true!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jayne's Birthday

Yesterday saw the end of the official 3-day festivities to celebrate Jayne's 9th birthday.

Saturday was her birthday party to which invites went out to 20 plus little girls and boys. In the end, 20 turned up which meant that Jayne had a shed-load of pressies! Fortunately, I was at work. You can imagine how cut up I was about missing that bun-fest! Even Bethen managed to avoid it by making arrangements to go ice-skating with one of her friends.

Sunday, the Grandparents turned up for Sunday lunch, - of course, carrying more presents! It was a full meal of home-made tomato soup, roast lunch and pavlova to follow, rounded off with cheese and port (my father and I finished off the Stilton, - one of the smelliest and tastiest of the blue cheeses). I, of course, had got some beer in for Dad and myself. Badger Champion Ale to start off with, concluding with a shared bottle of McEwan's Champion Ale, - which at 7.3% is almost as strong as wine. It was a lovely family occasion.

Finally, it was Jayne's actual birthday yesterday, which turned out to be the quietest of the three. All in all, I think she had a great time.

Tomorrow, 11th January, I am hoping to publish a first and unique blog. Needless to say, I am very excited and look forward to the post with great anticipation. I hope it will be as fulfilling for you, dear reader, as I know it should be for me.

I noticed today that Califonia Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has had an accident on his motorcycle. What is it with Republicans and 2-wheeled vehicles? Clearly they are not balanced!

Finally, on Saturday, me and the kids are across to my Dad's to try and set up his PC for broadband. Could be fun!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Charles Kennedy Resigns

At 3:00pm today, Charles Kennedy announced that he was resigning from his position as Leader and would not be standing as a candidate in the forth-coming election. The full story can be read here.

I think this has to be the correct decision both for him and the party, though I'm sure, and hope, we haven't heard the last of him. I wish him all the best for the future, and that he finds a way to get his life in balance.

Good luck to Menzies Campbell as he leads the party over the next 3 to 4 months. He is certainly a safe pair of hands, and well respected generally. My one wish is that the contest is not fought in the same acrimonious way similar contests happen in the other main parties. Liberal Democrats are different, and even in internal crisis, they must show the world that difference.

Transcript of his resignation statement here.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Charles Kennedy

Last night, Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats, gave a press conference where he admitted that he was suffering from a drink problem. Effectively, he was declaring, in public, that he is an alcoholic and is receiving treatment for this condition.

Charles Kennedy took the seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye in 1983 at the tender age of 23, - one of the youngest MP's ever. Moreover, he took it from the then Government Minister, Hamish Gray at a time when the Thatcher Tory government was at its height. At the time he was standing for the newly formed Social and Democratic Party (SDP). When the SDP merged with the Liberals in 1988 to form the Liberal Democrats, he continued to hold a series of frontbench posts. In 1999, when Paddy Ashdown stood down, he won the ensuing contest to become leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Charles Kennedy then set about uncoupling the party from the close ties it had with Labour, and had the courage to develop a distinctive set of policies, - on Europe, civil liberties, the environment, tax and the Iraq war, - that have set the party apart. The 2001 General Election saw the party increase its share of the vote to 19% and had 52 MP's elected and in May 2005 saw that increase to 62, - the highest number of MP's for the Liberals for more than three-quarters of a century. At the same time, the Liberals have gone from strength to strength in local elections, now running many of our towns, as well as a couple of our cities and counties. He has been an impressive leader and a beacon for us liberals to guide our ships by. I feel proud to have supported the party led by Charles Kennedy.

One thing of note about Charles was that he was the only political leader in the UK to have the courage to oppose the war in Iraq in 2003. He claimed that there were no evidence to support a call for war, that it would give out all the wrong messages and that American adventurism would end up in a disastrous quagmire. He was certainly right about all that! On the whole, he has been very good for the Liberal Democrats and given us liberals some hope for the future.

Why, then, am I writing this review in the past tense? Have I written off Charles Kennedy as a positive force for liberalism in this country? Am I displaying a bigotry and discrimination towards someone who has an illness and who is receiving treatment? I hope not. I have got a great deal of respect for Charles as a person and as the leader of the party I support. He is going through tough times, and, as is typical of the man, he refuses to be beaten. There is even an argument to say that remove him from the leadership could make his problem worse as he descends into despondency and despair.

However, I believe the man needs time to pull his life together. He has a wife and baby who, I'm sure , will be a tower of strength for him. He needs time away from the public gaze and a rest from the stress of leadership. No matter how noble people's intentions are, he will now always be synonymous with drink and alcohol which, in the long run, could do serious damage to the one party that can provide the country with hope. He needs true friends who will be with him through the dark days ahead, and I am sure they will be there.

Charles, I deeply respect you, but, for your own sake, and the sake of the party we both love, please resign. Your legacy will live on, and there is much time for you to return to a more front-line position, but for now, you need to rest and get yourself better.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Black Dog Pub, Belmont, Lancashire

Black Dog Pub, Belmont, Lancashire, originally uploaded by Mark.

A number of people have commented about my change of profile photo. The reason for the change was that I simply didn't like the previous picture. It was taken when I was in full self-opinionated flight and ended up a very much 'in-your-face' sort of shot!

The present profile photo was taken from a picture taken by my daughter at the end of a decent walk across the moors, and shows me in more relaxed mode indulging in one of my favourite pastimes, - real ale! All credit to my daughter, she captured all the essential elements: the pub name, the brewer, me, my pint, my stomach....

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

It's Just A Film!

Robert Knight (strong, manly name or what), director of the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women of America (a not so manly-sounding workplace) has really got his nickers in a twist. "I think this shows Hollywood can pervert anything! Part of the enduring appeal of westerns is the display of brotherhood, unhindered by sexualisation." He goes on in an article on Salon.com, "The western was a morality tale, so to make immorality the heart of this western is to violate the code of westerns." Of course, the film he is getting upset about, and I suspect he hasn't seen is Brokeback Mountain, a western that includes a story about 2 cowboys who meet while shepherding and who develop a sexual relationship with each other.

Lets start with the genre first. The western is wholly a Hollywood invention and it has always been loaded with homoeroticism. The western was/is a device by which a simple storys of "right and wrong" could be shown. The morality displayed was manufactured. Please tell me, what is moral about displaying men gunning down men in cold blood, robbing stages, trains and banks, or massacring Indians by the tribe. Are murderous land, railroad or cattle barons moral figures. Is it moral to display women as helpless virgins (schoolmarms), mouthy, opinionated geriatrics or as prostitutes (showgirls). The central story of the classic film, Stagecoach, is the idealised love affair between wanted criminal John Wayne and outcast whore Claire Trevor that leads to their mutual redemption. No mention of the victims of John Wayne's banditry or the servere medical conditions that Claire Trevor's job would have inflicted! No, it was alright because he was a man and she a woman and they fell in love!

What about the main tool for the cowboy, - the pistol? That long, hard rigid tube that ejects powerful projectiles that induces an orgasmic reaction within the person (generally another man) it enters! Talk about a phallic symbol! Next time someone stands up and defends the freedom to carry guns, have a close look at him (it will generally be a man, - women generally have more sense). Do you detect gay mannerisms and inflections? Do his eyes glaze over when talking about shooting? What about the scene in Howard Hawks' Red River when gunfighters Monty Clift and John Ireland check out each other's pistols, - "My, that's a big one!" in the most lascivious manner imaginable. Cowboys are supposed to be straight shooters, - oh yea?

Whenever men found themselves in a womanless environment, - jail, armed services or the prairie, they would turn to each other for comfort, and never say a word about it thereafter. To some extents, it still happens today, - particularly in prison. Westerns, along with the 'Buddy-Buddy' and road movies that came after, attempted to display these complex relationships that can and did exist in real life between men without women (and some extent women without men) to the degree that was acceptable to the viewing public at the time. It is just that Brokeback Mountain is merely the first mainstream movie to centre on homosexuality on the range, and it wouldn't be in the least controversial were America not unimaginably neurotic and puritanical, - if not tyrannical, about sex, straight or gay, in the first place.