We are governed by thin skinned wankers

Unable to cope with their constant failures being reported, Tory ministers are stoking the culture wars against the BBC again.

The BBC is far from perfect, and studies have shown it’s more likely to side with the establishment. But what the Tories want is to force it to be a propaganda machine paid for by the people it tells their lies to.

The Museum of Classic Sci-Fi

The drive from Penrith to Allendale was an adventure in itself, and the Museum of Classic Sci-Fi was one of those surprising, eccentric gems you find in the oddest of places.

It’s fitting that a museum with a lot of Dr Who memorabilia should pack so much into a relatively tiny space. This is just a sample of what they’ve got, and doesn’t include any of the promotional announcements by Davros!

If your in the Allendale area, you should definitely drop in. Check opening times though.

Alyson Hannigan’s Feet

Way back in the early noughties, when Spinneyhead was only a few years old, Alyson Hannigan’s Feet was one of the search terms used to find the site which stuck in the memory. So much so, that it became one of the rotating taglines at the top of the page.

Well, now there is an even better resource for people looking for images of Alyson Hannigan's Feet, and those of many other celebrities. It’s called wikiFeet, and “wikiFeet is a collaborative site for sharing, rating and discussing celebrity feet pictures and videos.”

Off you go, all you celebrity foot fetishists.

BBC News – How Danger Mouse became king of the TV ratings

Thirty years ago children’s cartoon Danger Mouse topped the TV ratings, beating even Coronation Street. But what happened to the legendary Manchester animation house Cosgrove Hall Films, which created the rodent secret agent?

Voiced by Only Fools And Horses star David Jason, Danger Mouse was the flagship of Cosgrove Hall Films, based in a quirky studio in the Manchester suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

via BBC News – How Danger Mouse became king of the TV ratings.

Hear This Now- The People’s Songs 1

The People’s Songs is one of those quintessentially BBC projects. Using 50 songs as springboards, it’s a musical and cultural history of Britain since the Second World War. As the name suggests, it’s all about how they affected ordinary people, rather than academics or celebrities. It’s fascinating stuff, narrated with his usual wordplay by Stuart Maconie.

You can listen to The People’s Songs on iPlayer.

John Redwood is still wrong

I followed John Redwood’s blog before the last election and found his arguments repetetive and dumb. I haven’t visited much since then, but thought I’d go back and have a look again. He’s still making dumb arguments.

In a post titled Rebalancing the Economy Redwood laments the lack of growth of UK industry. Amongst the reasons he cites for this happening is

Industry needs cheap energy in abundance. The UK is taxing and testing high energy using industries by its dear energy policies, partly required by its consent to EU carbon dioxide policies.

Because Europe’s industrial powerhouse, Germany, didn’t get where it is today by consenting to EU carbon dioxide policies. It did it by exceeding the targets, and building a world leading renewable energy industry to do it.

The Vulcan grinds out his climate change denial nonsense in Open Letter to the new DG of the BBC, pretending to be all high minded and scientific with the non-argument that science is always finding out new stuff so we shouldn’t act on what we already know in case we know other stuff in the future. He also whines that deniers don’t get as much time on air as people who know what they’re talking about. In reality, the “skeptics” probably get more time- relative to their credibility- than they deserve.

If Redwood really cares as much as he claims about energy poverty and rebuilding the country’s industrial base he should put aside the denial dogma and take a leaf out of Germany’s book, or give some support to his deputy leader’s old idea of rejuvenating old shipyards to build wind turbines.

But he won’t do that, will he.

Update And just when I thought Redwood couldn’t make himself look any dumber I found his reply to a comment

There are also problems with Darwin’s theory that need further work. If life came from the primeval slime, why can’t we make it from slime ourselves?

It would appear the Vulcan is a Creationist too, or so stupid he’s swallowed their nonsense. I admit I didn’t have much respect for him before, but if this guy was once held up as the great intellectual of the Tory party you can see how we got this deep in the shit.

The Girl on the Bridge- Work in progress sample 1

Note- The Girl on the Bridge is the other Garth Owen story I’m working on at the moment, first in a series called Adam and the Ghost. I wrote some time ago about how it was inspired by a manga called Itoshi No Kana. Other sources of inspiration include Buffy, of course, and I’m going to be investigating British beasties for some of the tales. Here’s the opening of the first tale-

The sky was still and blue and a heat haze distorted the tarmac of the bike path, but Adam had just walked through Arctic cold air. He had come to a stunned halt then taken a swift step back before the chill froze his joints. Now the hot, heavy air of a record heatwave raised a quick sweat and made it hard to breathe.

Adam reached out to touch the shaft of frigid air. His fingers tingled with freezer burn, but it only went print deep. He pushed, and imagined he felt a little give, like material, or even skin. The ends of his fingers were going numb from the cold, or whatever he was pressing was warming to his touch. He shoved the resisting air until he felt it give and move. He imagined he heard the scuffling of something moving along the ground.

The tips of Adam’s fingers stung now. He stared at them, as if that would give him an answer, then something stroked his forearm.

It wasn’t as cold as the invisible obstruction had been, but it still felt wrong. It was like being caressed by an insistent and very localised wind. The wind asked, very quietly, “Can you see me?” Then it grasped his right wrist. It was a light hold, and not as cold as previously. As what felt like the fingers and thumbs of two small hands held him they warmed up to almost skin temperature. Adam reached down with his left hand and drew his phone from his jeans pocket. With barely a glance at it and practised moves he opened the camera, held the phone in front of him and took a picture.

As soon as the phone made its fake shutter closing noise the grip on Adam’s wrist was released. He almost staggered back at this new shock, then reached out with his now free right hand to feel for the cold air. Which was no longer there.

Adam was on an old cast iron footbridge over a long abandoned, and recently re-purposed, railway cutting. He had set off on a wander to get a little lost on the South-east edge of Manchester. It hadn’t happened yet, he still knew this bit of Levenshulme, and now he was suffering from hallucinations because of heat stroke. He leant against the parapet, a tetanus nightmare of green paint held in place by rust, and looked around.

Below the bridge the cutting was overgrown, with one meandering hard packed path weaving between the would-be copses of willow. For this section of the path the tarmacked cycle path had risen to meet the end of the bridge and allow access to a mini wilderness beyond it.

Adam looked back at the street, running along the end of numerous terraces, he’d come from then at the trees and scrub on the far side of the bridge. He reached out and swung his hand back and forth. Nothing. He took a step forward and tried again. Still nothing. If anyone was watching he must look like the world’s worst mime. He gave up and headed back the way he had come.

It was only when he was off the bridge that Adam remembered his phone. He hadn’t known why taking a photo had suddenly become so important, and he didn’t expect it to reveal anything. He held the phone up and looked at it. And felt a chill deeper and more horrifying than any he had just experienced.

The Professionals 2

I’m currently working my way through The Professionals on dvd, courtesy of Lovefilm. I’m surprised how many of the episodes I’ve already seen, I’m almost at the end of the second series and there’s only been one episode I’d never seen any part of before. This was the Klansmen episode, which never aired in the UK, supposedly because of some fairly racist language (as the story was about racism).

But the question that bugs me in every episode is- what’s that clip in the title sequence of the car smashing through a window from? So far it’s definitely not from any of the episodes. I have the weirdest feeling it’s from something Sweeney related.

Top Gear must die

I’m still a fan of Top Gear, despite everything, but watching it is beginning to feel more and more like something I do out of duty than anything else. Another series came to an end last week and I’d be perfectly happy if it was the last one ever.

There are a number of things wrong with the show, which interlock to an extent and mean that it can’t just be tinkered with. Top Gear has to be put out of its misery and replaced by something different. I have some suggestions of what the replacement could be, but lets start with a list of the programme’s problems.

1. Its presenters

It’s too easy to dismiss Clarkson as an ignorant buffoon. I think he’s a very intelligent man who has found a persona which earns him a lot of money and then spent years honing it. It’s possible even he has begun to think the persona is the real him. Hammond seems to be setting himself up as a chirpy mini-me to the Clarkson character, which is a shame, because he’s capable of interesting stuff. May is the one of the three I have the most hope for away from Top Gear, but he should get out soon.

In a few years time, students will be writing theses on early twenty-first century man’s mid-life crises and citing the antics of the Top Gear presenters as examples. Their meltdowns have a bigger budget than most, so they actually get to do the sorts of things 40 and 50 somethings wish they could to reclaim their youth. However, it’s getting to the point where the antics are less cathartic and more embarrassing. There’s enough material available for dozens of doctorates, no need for more.

2. It’s got a small penis

The programme is obsessed with big expensive cars which go fast. It’s like it’s desperate to impress us and convince us it isn’t lacking in the trouser department.

3. It’s predictable

If a car is being reviewed it’s unlikely to have fewer than eight cylinders or cost less than six figures. There will be tyre smoke. The car will go sideways. They’ll lay that filter over the shots which darkens the top third of the screen and makes the sky appear grim and foreboding. Then they’ll give it to a man in white leather to record a lap time. (Has anyone else noticed that the times recorded by the tame racing driver in expensive compensation devices are, at best, about thirty seconds faster than those of untrained celebrities in the reasonably priced car. What’s the point of these stupid vehicles anyway?)

If the boys are doing a challenge in the UK they will be staggeringly incompetent. May will say “Cock”, Hammond will squeak and be useless, Clarkson will grump and be useless. A caravan will be destroyed, often by fire.

If the challenge is abroad then Hammond will complain about the food, Clarkson will be a bit racist, May will say “Cock” and they will do something culturally insensitive.

The script is no longer original. It’s really tatty. They should have admitted defeat when, in possibly the least artificial of their “car vs ….” races, they proved that bikes, buses and boats were all better suited to urban transport than cars.

4. It’s conservative

There are a huge number of motoring subcultures. Every weekend during the summer months there is at least one show dedicated to a particular marque or style of car. You wouldn’t know this from watching Top Gear. If it isn’t marketed to footballers then a car doesn’t exist in Top Gear’s world.

It would be neat to see, for instance, a piece about the ingenuity and obsession that goes into building a hot rod. Line up a bunch of Fords of the same vintage, one original and the others customised in different ways and tell the stories of how they were built. Or take a look at the update and upgrade ethic of my favourite car mag- Retro Cars. Or any number of other odd creations.

“Boring” old Top Gear could do the occasional piece on a unique and eccentric vehicle-

5. It’s propaganda

The defence that keeps getting rolled out is that Top Gear is an entertainment show. But it peppers the nonsense in amongst news items and the reviews, so the difference between information, taking the piss and telling people what you want them to hear gets a bit blurred. And some people want the bullshit to be true.

Earlier this year Clarkson came out with the old nonsense about cyclists not paying “Road Tax” so not deserving space on the road. The producer may tell us it’s entertainment, that Clarkson was just joking and everyone knows it. But cyclists are attacked by idiots who believe that they have paid to use the road whilst the two wheeled menaces haven’t. does a great job of rebutting the all too frequent examples of this meme and has its own response to Clarkson’s comment.

More recently, in the last episode of the most recent series, Clarkson and May did an allegedly sensible and serious piece about electric cars. To do this they didn’t drive the cars around town, simulating the sort of short trips electric cars are perfect for (and which constitute around a third of all car journeys). No, they took the sort of journey only an idiot would think was right for an electric car. And they let some fool run down the batteries before hand so they could conveniently run out of juice in a town with no recharging points. All so they could come to their pre-existing conclusion that electric cars aren’t any good.

There are numerous other examples. I’d be here for days if I tried to recount them all.

Top Gear promotes the message that only cars- preferably petrol powered ones with lots of cylinders- deserve to use the road. I don’t think the licence fee should be paying to spread that lie. (Full disclosure- I don’t have a television, so I don’t pay the licence fee. I watch what little TV I’m interested in on iPlayer and the other channels’ equivalents.)

6. It’s got no counterpoint

Channel Five has Fifth Gear, which is a bit more sensible as a car programme. However I can think of no programme on British television which could be considered an antidote to Top Gear and a dose of the Clarksons. I don’t mean some staid, stop-this-silliness sort of thing, but a show given just as much free rein to present an alternative view just as irreverently. Maybe if there was a programme which had segments where presenters mocked drivers for not knowing the Highway Code or that suggested that soft roaders are so useless they can’t even traverse speed bumps then TG’s fast and loose relationship to facts wouldn’t seem so bad.

So, what shoud we replace Top Gear with, seeing as we’re going to kill it?

As a cyclist I obviously have to suggest a show about bikes. I know that a show called Freewheel (or similar) wouldn’t be able to replace Top Gear or get the same sort of viewer numbers straight away. But, with bike use ramping up and more bikes than cars in the City, it’s time one of the TV channels looked at giving us more coverage. If any of the broadcasters want some ideas for how a bike show might look, I have a few.

Top Gear is a magazine show, it has regular features and special stories. We need to see some programmes with a similar format but a far wider remit. Get guests in to do features on stuff that interests them, give them some challenges (build a gravity racer, canoe from one side of the country to the other, get Danny MacAskill to ride across a city without touching tarmac, do a piece outside London without coming across as patronising and insular etc.) Top Gear needs to be replaced by a bigger, better, more inclusive version of Top Gear. I don’t think we’ll be able to call it Good Shit.

Watch this now- Made in Britain

This interesting documentary takes a look at the state of manufacturing in Britain and concludes that it’s not all as bad as some people make out. Whilst we may import more than we export, the UK is still in the top ten industrial nations. The more obvious and intensive industries- the ones which we kicked the revolution off with- have moved abroad, but we’ve developed more specialist and higher value products.

Plus, any television programme which features Bromptons in a skate park is automatically cool.

The BBC iPlayer will let you watch this programme until July 12th.