Last night I watched the competition for the UK entry to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Most of the entries were pretty lame but I thought that the last song by Joe and Jake stood out as being by far the best. Fortunately the British voting public agreed and Joe and Jake won!
You can hear their performance of “You’re Not Alone” here:
After a long break from writing I feel that it is time to resume blogging again!
Readers will know that I like to write about a range of subjects covering political and economic matters, defence issues, world affairs, and other general thoughts and musings. Whilst I don’t intend to write as often, I do intend to post occasional updates which I hope will be of interest.
This year’s season of Britain’s Got Talent got off to a flying start tonight with some fantastic acts. The two that impressed me the most were:
Roll on next week!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 50,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 19 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me in the last couple weeks to ask why I have not been writing recently and asking if I am OK. It is good to know that people do continue to read this blog and notice when I don’t post for a while! Interestingly my readership figures have held up pretty well despite me not posting for several weeks.
The truth is that I have been rather busy both at work and working on a couple of projects which will form a part of the next local elections and possibly the General Election campaign. However, I expect to be back to posting several times a week as before. There is a lot happening in politics at present and we are in interesting political times.
The opinion polls have been jumping around with Labour leads between 0 and 9% recently. Until the party conference season is over it is unwise to draw any firm conclusions but Labour’s lurch to the left last week has sown the seeds of problems for the party closer to the General Election.
Suppose that once a week, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this..
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18
And the tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.
So, that’s what they decided to do.
The ten men drank in the bar every week and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until, one day, the owner caused them a little problem.
“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your weekly beer by £20.” Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free but what about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realized that £20 divided by six is £3.33 but if they subtracted that from everybody’s share then not only would the first four men still be drinking for free but the fifth and sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fairer to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage. They decided to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (a 100% saving).
The sixth man now paid £2 instead of £3 (a 33% saving).
The seventh man now paid £5 instead of £7 (a 28% saving).
The eighth man now paid £9 instead of £12 (a 25% saving).
The ninth man now paid £14 instead of £18 (a 22% saving).
And the tenth man now paid £49 instead of £59 (a 16% saving).
Each of the last six was better off than before with the first four continuing to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings,
“I only got £1 out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got £10” “Yes, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man.
“I only saved £1 too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me”
“That’s true” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back, when I only got £2? The wealthy get all the breaks”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor” The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next week the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important – they didn’t have enough money between all of them to pay for even half of the bill.
And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy and they just might not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
I will be travelling to see my parents and wider family in Cumbria for a couple of days and later visiting family and friends in Bournemouth. For me this is one of the great thinks about Christmas that families come together to create a magical time for children of all ages!
This year presents were bought and wrapped in good time but I have been less efficient with the Christmas cards. So some friends overseas will be getting their cards in the new year. Oh well! My Christmas tree was up and decorated at the start of December and I have no intention of taking it down until the end of the festive season. Fortunately I have three weeks off work over Christmas and New Year following a summer in which Jubilee and Olympics meant that I couldn’t take any meaningful leave. So I have plenty of time to do all those domestic jobs that I have been meaning to do for ages. I may even have time to do some more family tree research, which I have been doing on and off for about 20 years.
Whatever your plans this Christmas I hope that you have a great time and enjoy spending time with those who mean most to you. Please also spare a thought and a few pounds for those less fortunate than us.
I am a massive fan of the works of JRR Tolkien. A long time before the Peter Jackson films were released I had read the Lord of the Rings from cover to cover several times. When it was announced that the films were to be made in three parts I was delighted and I now own the extended versions on DVD. However, it was not until a few years ago that I read The Hobbit and the Silmarillion.
The Hobbit is written in a very different style from the Lord of the Rings and I wondered if it would ever be made into a film but am pleased that it has and that it has been done by Peter Jackson, who did such a great job with the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy. The Hobbit is set in the period 60 years before the Lord of the Rings when a younger Bilbo Baggins finds the ring of power and encounters Golum/Smeagol.
However, the film begins with Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) in the Shire with the older Bilbo starting to write the account of his adventures. The film then jumps back to the day when Gandalf arranges for a group of dwarves to meet at the younger Bilbo’s (Martin Freeman) house to begin their epic adventure. On their journey the dwarves (plus Bilbo) encounter orcs, trolls, elves and wizards.
It was good to see such great actors reprising their roles from the original LOTR films. There are the sweeping landscapes of New Zealand, from rocky plains to snow capped mountains, all of which our band of adventurers have to cross. There are also the beautifully created CGI images of cities above and below ground. One of the best moments for me was the company’s visit to Rivendell where they meet Lord Elrond, Lady Galadriel and Saruman (who is not yet turned to the dark side). The CGI vistas of waterfalls and elvish architecture are stunning.
The 3D effects were less noticeable than I had expected. I am not sure if Vue Cinema, Reading were showing it in 24 frames per second or 48. Perhaps I am just becoming more used to 3D but there were some great opportunities for superb 3D effects, such as the flying eagles and the battles in the orc kingdom which did not seem to have a great impact.
I was not completely persuaded by the constant ability of the dwarves to navigate huge armies of orcs and trolls virtually unscathed. Their escape from the clutches of the orcs in their underground kingdom stretched even my credulity beyond its flexible limits. The orcs are so inept and the heroes so continually lucky in their falls and fights that it had more of the feel of a video game than a Tolkien narrative. I will have to re-read The Hobbit but I do not remember much of the content of the film being in the book. There are some very modern sections of dialogue and joking which felt out of place to me. The musical numbers also felt a little out of place on occasion. However, none of this detracted from a superb film which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Overall this is a ‘must see’ for any Tolkien fan or anyone who just enjoyed the LOTR films. The story hung together well throughout and the almost three hours passed all too soon for me. With two more instalments to come it will add up to a marathon session when all the extended DVDs are available to watch at home!
The film is rated as a 12A.
On Friday night I went to Vue Cinema in Reading to see the new movie Prometheus in 3D. I deliberately hadn’t read up on the film, having just seen the trailers and been very impressed. I therefore didn’t have any particular expectations or preconceptions.
The main plot is set in the future but the film begins with an alien humanoid on Earth drinking a fluid which kills him and decomposes his body which falls into a river and the DNA recombines to form the beginnings of life on Earth. The narrative switches to an archaeological expedition in Scotland finding a pre-historic cave painting which includes a crude star map of the same constellation as others found across the world from other civilisations.
The main element of the story is an expedition launched in the space ship Prometheus to find the destination shown in the star map. The crew comprises artificial life-form “David” played by Michael Fassbender, archaeologists Dr Elizabeth Shaw played by Noomi Rapace and Dr Charlie Holloway played by Logan Marshall-Green, and ship’s captain Janek played by Idris Elba. Guy Pearce makes an appearance in heavy prosthetic make up as billionaire businessman Peter Weyland, sponsor of the expedition. His seach for a means to extend his life leads him to seek out the destination shown in the star map.
On arrival at the planet the crew finds an apparently non-natural feature which they explore with the expected lack of caution in this genre of film. Their attempts to understand what they have found are aided by what appear to be holographic replays of some of the events of the aliens who inhabited the planet. David clearly seems to have more knowledge than the rest of the crew and he discovers some chambers on his own, one of which contains one of the aliens shown at the start of the film, still alive in stasis.
Most of the crew meet grisly ends but one does manage to escape the planet to continue the search for what are know as the “engineers” who were the original source of life on Earth.
I won’t go too much into the plot or some of the surprises as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. It is an utterly captivating film from beginning to end. It avoids the pitfalls of so many sci-fi films of unbelievable sets and weak scripts. For those fans of the Alien series of films it links in well and answers some questions whilst posing new ones.
The effects are superb and the whole experience had me on the edge of my seat. I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the Alien series or films or similar sci-fi films. I will be going back to see it again!
Regular readers may recall that I was blown away by two acts in the initial auditions of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent. I blogged about them here. This year has undoubtedly been the best ever for the range and quality of the talent on offer. Nu Skool and the Loveable Rogues were fantastic as were The Mend and Ryan O’Shaughnessy but I still felt that either Only Boys Aloud or Jonathan and Charlotte should win.
The winner in the end was Ashleigh and her adorable dog Pudsey and I wish them all the best. My two preferred acts came in second and third; not bad as I picked them from the very start!
This year’s series of the reality TV show Britain’s Got Talent started last weekend. Last year I felt that many of the wannabe’s were pretty average and no-one particularly stood out for me. This year could not be different. I was really impressed with several of the acts putting themselves forward last weekend.
Two acts however really stood out. The first was the amazing Welsh boy choir “Only Boys Aloud”. They performed “Calon Lan” in Welsh:
The second act was not one which caught anyone’s eye to start with. The programme showed audience members dismissing the act by their appearance and Simon Cowell making a dismissive remark. I really thought that people would have learned from the shock that people got when Susan Boyle opened her mouth and began to sing. Anyway see what you think:
Amazing or what?
It seems that “Only Boys Aloud” have been going for some time and I found this promotional clip from them which you may enjoy:
2011 was a difficult year in so many ways. The new Coalition government was getting to grips with the problems left by the previous Labour administration, only to then have the troubles in the Eurozone added to the picture.
Here in Reading we had the local elections which saw the collapse of our Lib Dem coalition partners and then the Greens allowing Labour back into control of the town through the back door! We barely had time to understand the problems locally before we had to hand back the reins. Yes we made some mistakes but I think the general thrust of what we were doing was what was wanted locally. The Lib Dems who were in the Cabinet were good and sensible partners in administration but their lives were complicated by some internal difficulties in their Group.
Within my portfolio of Strategic Planning and Transport, we secured the £10.6m for Reading Station, implemented the biggest changes in the town centre in living memory, completed the Junction 11 upgrade, started the process of removing unnecessary existing traffic lights, stopped the planned removal of the roundabouts at TGI’s and Caversham Bridge, cancelled the closure of Chatham Street slip roads and the planned new traffic lights on the IDR next to Broad Street Mall, froze most car park charges, implemented a new tree strategy and planted dozens of new trees, made the S106 system more transparent and properly recorded, reviewed and revised the residents’ parking zones and rules. Not bad for one year! And that was despite spending a disproportionate amount of time on the Shinfield Road scheme that Labour left me.
It is my biggest regret that I could not find a way to stop it or at least reverse its most damaging elements. It was impossible to do so when Labour and the Council’s transport officers were so wedded to the scheme’s implementation. Taking a proposal to Cabinet which did not have technical endorsement from the professional transport planners would have been impossible and would certainly not have passed. That is why the Transport Research Lab report was so important, as it gave a second opinion and Officers agreed to accept its findings. Whilst it is the case that the report did not recommend removal of the lights, it did state that the there was no real difference between the lights and the roundabouts in safety terms. Labour could use that important finding to justify to Cabinet removing at least one sets of the lights – something I would have done had the coalition still been in control.
Anyway 2012 should prove to be an interesting year! There will be local elections in Reading in May, in which the Lib Dems will probably again lose all the seats they are defending. Labour will also probably lose the third seat in Park to the Greens. We will fight hard to stop Labour gaining any more ground in Church ward, with the long serving and very local Councillor Azam Janjua.
In London Boris Johnson will be fighting to retain the Mayoralty against a Ken Livingstone who is now very much past his prime. It should be a win for Boris. There will then be the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June, swiftly followed by the London Olympic Games. Both events will ensure that the world will be focussed on the UK for the period and should lift the spirits of a nation still suffering the hangover of Labour’s economic mismanagement.
Internationally there will be elections in France and the US, both of which will be important to the UK. The Euro crisis will rumble on unless the major nations in the Eurozone get a grip. There is a real danger that Greece could end up suffering a military coup if domestic discontent is not well managed. Russia is set for a Presidential election which Vladimir Putin hopes will put him back into the top role. Widespread protests in Russia are unlikely to derail his plans but could act as a check on his ability to get his own way.
I can say with some sense of certainty that the world will not come to an end in December 2012 but much will have changed by the end of the year.
Will Ed Miliband still be Labour leader?
Will the Conservatives continue to defy political gravity and be level pegging with or ahead of Labour in the polls?
Will the “Arab Spring” continue to unseat autocratic leaders as it rumbles across the Middle East and North Africa?
Will Obama prove to be a one-term President like Jimmy Carter was?
Feel free to post your thoughts for 2012 below.
I would like to wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas. This year it seems that we are destined for a very mild Christmas unlike the previous two years. As a result the homeless and those in fuel poverty will find the season a little more bearable. If you do have an elderly neighbour please do drop them a card or find out if they need anything. This year I have sent far fewer cards and have instead made a donation to a charity which works with those who find Christmas more of a struggle.
At this time of peace and goodwill to all men, normal hostilities are suspended and when I have collected together the Christmas cracker jokes I will post them, as I have done in some previous years.
Anyway have a great Christmas and here’s hoping for a happy and successful 2012!