Saturday, 21 May 2011

Apocalypse? No.

I'm happy to steal USA Today's excellent headline for my title, after yet another loon, in this case one Harold Camping in the States, disappointingly finds that his 'Bible guaranteed' end of the world has not come to pass.

I always wonder, when things like this happen, in the case of cults or whatever, those that don't kill themselves en masse anyway (such as the Branch Davidians, or those in Kampala in 2000, or the Heaven's Gate cult in 1997), what happens in the first few minutes, the first few seconds, after their promised Rapture fails to happen? How long do they give it? A few seconds, a few minutes? Just in case your watch wasn't set right or something? Do they open their eyes, tentatively at first, to see if the sun's still in the sky and their bodies still very much bound to Earth?

Mr Camping especially may have some explaining to do. He said the apocalypse would come not only on a specific date, but at a specific time - namely, 6pm 'wherever you are'. So, for example, if it hits 6pm in the westernmost part of the planet according to the dateline, was he expecting this Rapture to to start there and then sweep round the planet like the day/night terminator, sticking strictly to a pre-determined timescale? "Can't take these people up yet, it's only five to."

The main problem with this nonsense is not, of course, with Mr Camping himself - he's just one more nutcase who finds himself disappointed to go on living, and can take his place in infamy until the next one inevitably comes along. It's with the poor, deluded souls who swallow it and basically prepare for the end of their lives. There may possibly be some vulnerable people in that group, who have had a genuinely held belief completely shattered and must now somehow just pick themselves up and get on with it. As usual with these things, the people least needing such disappointments are likely to be among those suffering them.

All is not bad news, though. This magnificently entrepreneurial organisation has sprung up in the States to show the world that, hey, not only are we atheists happy to leave you to your belief systems, we're animal lovers too.

What larks. Given their 'unprescedented (sic) demand' lately, I wonder if they'll now be deluged with phone calls from disappointed and slightly embarrassed clients wondering if there's a discount on offer now the Rapture hasn't happened?

My best friend's wedding

I believe this was the title of a rom-com some years back. I haven't seen it, but any film made in that name cannot possibly have come anywhere close to conveying the experience my friends, family and I had over the last couple of days at my best mate's wedding. The reality of the expressions of joy, love and happiness and the depth of feeling for both G and R, and for G's late mum, were far more real, far more moving and far more genuine than any film, no matter how well made, how well written, can possibly hope to communicate.

What an absolute joy it is to spend time with such a crowd, to gather for a wedding of two people I humbly suggest are made of the very, very finest stuff, and to pay tribute to the parents, those still with us and those not, who brought those two up. I don't think anybody takes their friends and family for granted if they have any sense in them, but it's not often that we're gifted the chance to show those dear to us just how much they mean to us, to say it out loud, without sounding like we're pissed and maudlin.

This one had it all. A beautiful venue, full of character, sitting in a glorious spot in the most beautiful county in the country, in my humble and admittedly biased opinion. A day of bright sun, blue skies and cooling breeze, just as you'd order it if you could do any such thing, for an outdoor wedding. Staff and suppliers at the venue who worked bloody hard, cheerfully and flexibly, to help make it go off successfully. A band you should think yourself accursed if you've never seen, with a rapper who'd come from New Zealand, New Zealand mind you, for this.

A heart-stoppingly beautiful bride, a groom loved and respected so very much by everybody there, who spoke so sincerely and so movingly, and a crowd of friends and family of the very finest character. Oh and a sing-song round the piano at the bottom of a grand staircase to round it all off. There was even some booze.

It did, truth be told, at times, feel a bit like we were in a film, though a script writer trying to pitch it may have had it rejected as being a bit too feel-good. Any studio would be right to reject it, of course - it would only make for a pale imitation of the fun of the real thing, and how the hell would you cast Chris M? You could never accurately bring his musical stylings and bonhomie to the screen. Oh, and I seem to be the only person at the gathering who can play neither guitar nor piano. A constant stream of talent lining up to entertain everybody just coz they can and they want to. I was quite humbled by all of you.

To anybody reading this who was there, I don't know about you, but I had a bloody great time. It was fun, eh? Congratulations to both G and R. Have a great honeymoon. I look forward to seeing you two grow old together happily. Or older in your case, G. ;o)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Imogen Thomas has a strange idea of what constitutes a reputation

No doubt you're aware of the less than edifying case just heard in the High Court in which former Big Brother 'star' (surprise surprise - can there be a more depressing phrase in our modern culture?) Imogen Thomas tried to have a gagging order lifted which had been imposed by a judge at the behest of a top-flight footballer with whom she'd allegedly had a six-month affair. The judge in this particular judgement ruled that the footballer's privacy was guarded under Human Rights legislation. So far so modern day Britain.

But outside the court after the ruling, Ms Thomas complained that her reputation had been 'trashed', and that she'd been 'thrown to the lions'. Well, I've got a few problems with her point of view, frankly. Firstly, she'd probably gone to the Sun with her story, as according to the judge, she had been identified by the newspaper 'probably with her consent'. This is not the action of somebody too desperate to protect their reputation - all you've got to do is keep your mouth shut about your indiscretions. Hiring Max Clifford, as she'd done, doesn't do a great deal for any reputation you may have for a desire to protect your good name either.

Secondly, the judge said there was 'strong evidence to suggest' that she'd tried to blackmail the bloke for £100,000, as he is a family man and she told him she was going to sell her story. (Sound like the 'love' she professed for him so far? No - I didn't think so either). The judge also said that there was evidence the footballer had been 'set up' for meetings at hotels, at which he'd be photographed with her. Thrown to the lions? She'd doused herself in zebra blood, draped a string of impala cutlets around her neck and chucked herself into the den with gusto, if you ask me. She has got exactly what she deserved. And a nice legal bill, hopefully.

A word on the people protected by the privacy injunction in the first place, too. I don't condone or have any sympathy for the man himself, whoever he may be - it's not difficult to find out who it is by looking on the internet, if you care. I don't, frankly. I don't give a damn about who footballers are or are not sleeping with, I really couldn't care less and don't know why people read such stuff. If you have a high profile and you misbehave you know the risk of exposure and public scorn that you face. But his wife and kids are entirely innocent in all this, and an injunction protects, up to a point, their privacy. They do deserve the protection of the law - if Ms Thomas did in fact give a damn about anything but herself, she may have given that some thought.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Lib Dems reaping what they sowed.

Vote Lib Dem, get Tories, wasn't that what Labour said? How little the Lib Dems could have suspected they'd have been covered in quite so much blue when they did the deed, and got into bed with the Conservatives. Having become almost indistinguishable in the eyes of voters from the Tories whose laps they appear to be sleeping in, they were viciously punished by those same voters in the local elections on Thursday.

To entirely alienate your own support is political suicide, but that's what they seem to have been intent on doing since May. Their profile has been sufficiently low that they appear to be simply rolling over and becoming silent, nodding patsies, willing accomplices to the spreading of a virulent strain of neo-Thatcherism. What must have at first seemed to them a chance at a say, a hand in running things, power, could turn into a disaster which will push them further from that power than they've been in generations.

The AV vote turned into a disaster as well, with Clegg ending up being the unwitting standard bearer for the 'No' campaign. And their leader in Scotland has quit in what's been a disastrous week for them. You have to wonder if they're wishing they'd either done a deal with Labour or refused altogether and potentially forced another election. Thing is, in many ways they've got what they craved - a share of power, the referendum - and it's potentially killed them as a political force. Just a reminder that you have to be careful what you wish for. And what you vote for.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Bin Laden's demise not a cause for celebration

These things seem to follow a pattern now, don't they? Every major news event in the world seems to be presented to us as part of a template, both inside and outside the media itself. Broadly, it runs something like: media frenzy in the first couple of days, in this case swamping even the royal wedding, generally accompanied by the first jokes to be circulated around the world in a matter of hours. Then comes the endless round of repeats of the same footage, the same questions, the same information, analysis and speculation from a media that clearly feels it has to extract every drop, out of a story which drops in their laps as this one does, while they can.

Then, of course, come conspiracy theories. He's not dead really - they've got him in a cell somewhere. He's been dead for years. He's actually in the employ of the US as a handy bogeyman to pin their anti-terror efforts against. He's got sick of it, approached the US with an agreement to stop his terrorism and disappear forever if they 'appear' to have killed him. All bollocks, I suspect - what possible motive would the US have to announce anything other than that they'd killed him, if they've done so? Quite apart from anything else it will quench the US public's apparent thirst for justice (revenge?) for the supposed brains behind the 9/11 atrocity.

The slaking of that thirst, however powerful it was, has manifested itself in Americans celebrating at Ground Zero and the White House. While I completely understand that there must have been a powerful desire to get this man, this leaves a slightly unpleasant taste in the mouth. It has horrible echoes of the scenes of some people in some anti-American parts of the Arabic world celebrating the Twin Towers deaths, which quite rightly outraged and appalled people around the world, America in particular. The outrage which greeted those scenes will not be repeated here of course, but it's still people celebrating the deaths of strangers to them. It may be an odd thing to focus on, given the years, resources and lives spent hunting this man, and what his organisation has done all over the world, but for me it's a most interesting human element of the whole story.

Relief that he's gone? Yes. A sense of justification, vindication, even vengeance? Yes. Fair enough, particularly in New York perhaps. But celebration? It just doesn't seem right to me. And what's going to happen now, what further killing, what further atrocities will be committed in the name of vengeance for his death? Another turn of this macabre wheel, another list of innocent names read out perhaps. A cause for celebration it most certainly isn't.