May 12th 2011
First off, the BBC has issued a slightly different version of the video I showed you last time, so if you want to see a bit more Only Fools and Horses and a bit less Shaun the Sheep, check it out. In other news, it won't have escaped your notice that Osama Bin Laden was killed at the start of last week, nearly a decade after the atrocities of September 11th 2001. This is pretty much being perceived as a Good Thing, and in many ways it's difficult to disagree - Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands, and his continued presence as the head of al-Qaeda was effectively two fingers stuck up at the rest of the world. Despite this, most people regarded the triumphalism of certain Americans - and others - as rather distasteful, and a particular quotation (mistakenly attributed to Martin Luther King) winged its way around the internet: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." So far, so good. The consensus was that Bin Laden's death was a good thing, but not a cause for celebration. And I suppose that I agree, but I would go a little further. Dr Rowan Williams said the following last week:
“The killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done in those circumstances. I think it is also true that the different versions of events which have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help people. When we are faced with someone who is manifestly a war criminal, it is important that justice is seen to be done.”
As ever, the Archbishop has spoken with great care and thoughtfulness - not to mention intelligence - and I think he's hit the nail on the head. The original story was that Bin Laden had a gun, and killing him was the only way to avoid being shot; the story has changed a couple of times, and it turns out that Bin Laden was unarmed after all. Killing him, it seems, was a decision deliberately taken for the simple reason that the powers that be didn't want him taken alive. In an editorial shortly after the fact, The Times applauded this decision, suggesting that a quick death was preferable to a trial because the latter would provide Bin Laden with a 'platform'. This is an astonishing position to take. I believe firmly in the principles of justice, and that "Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done", and my idea of justice is not an illegal attack and murder (for, however desirable this outcome was, it doesn't seem particularly lawful). If a trial provides Bin Laden with a platform, then that is a price worth paying for maintaining a system of law where a man faces justice only when he is definitely shown to be guilty. And, despite the best efforts of legal profession, it surely wouldn't have been too difficult to prove Bin Laden's guilt. In the long run, the world may have become a safer place after the death of Osama Bin Laden. But it's also become a world that is slightly less worth defending.
On this day in 2006... So it seems that, following in the footsteps of my 'radio voice' father, I'm going to be on Warwick Radio tomorrow.
May 17th 2011
I've had a very social couple of weekends, with Anthony, Becca and Rob coming to visit last weekend, and then Jason, James and Steve this weekend. Hot on the heels of that came Ben and some quizzing yesterday, and Matt swung by having locked himself out this evening. Soon I'm off to home group, and for the rest of the week I'll be at my parents' house (and, of course, Sherpa's) to say hello. It was Becca's first visit to Bristol, I believe, so we took her to see the 'world famous' suspension bridge (she'd never heard of it) and the slightly less famous, though rather more yummy, Bombay Spice (Clifton's best curry place). There was also some playing of Articulate and Labyrinth, and a good time was had by all. After the Clohesies returned to Rowington, Rob and I played some squash, and I was well and truly thrashed, losing 4-0 (although the first 3 games were all very close), which shows that I need to get a bit more practice in. This last weekend was a fairly manly affair (and I ain't talking about Gerald Hopkins. Who's with me?) with lots of Fifa, some more curry and more beer than is usually consumed within these four walls. We also watched a few football matches, including the FA Cup final, and quite a bit of Eurovision. Personally my favourite was the Swedish entry, which I believe came in third, rather ahead of our entrants, Blue. This is probably the first time that I've actually heard of the people representing our country on the Eurovision stage, but the fact that Blue are a so-so boy band specially reformed for the occasion demonstrates that we still don't take it particularly seriously. There is good reason for this: firstly, it's a load of rubbish (if you saw the Bosnia & Hz entry, which finished fairly high up, you'll know what I mean), and secondly, it would be embarrassing if the people that are touted as talented by the music industry (say, for example, Leona Lewis) finished in mid-table. Which they probably would. Anyways, in this excitingly chronogical journey through my last week and a bit, the next stop is yesterday. Ben and I played a great deal of Fifa (this involved deciding the Premier League relegation battle, which ended up with Wigan and Blackpool joining West Ham in the Championship) and we joined his wife and fellow housemates Ben & Katy in participating in the Deco quiz. We did all right (fifth place), and I was glad to see an Art & Lit round - since Literature is generally my best round - and we duly scored full marks on that one. We did less well on the sports round, and in the general knowledge round didn't know the former capital of West Germany. Well, I expect I'll be back on my regular team (against whom we were competing, and who scored more highly than us) next week. Wish us luck.
On this day in 2010... If anything is proof that twins are not clones, it's Virginia Woolf. Or Steve Bull.
May 23rd 2011
Rejoice, rejoice! For, after one of the craziest and most nerve-wracking days of sport I can remember, Wolves remain a Premiership team. It's difficult to explain just how mad yesterday afternoon was, and how many times my emotions changed in just a couple of hours. For those who weren't paying attention, the day began with West Ham relegated, and five other teams - including Wolves - fighting it out to avoid being one of the two other teams who would head down to the Championship. Three of those teams (Wigan, Blackpool and Birmingham) started the day on 39 points, and two (Wolves and Blackburn, who were playing each other) on 40 points. In some ways, it was quite simple: if we beat Blackburn, we would stay up. If - as seemed likely - Blackpool lost to Man Utd and Birmingham lost to Spurs, we would stay up. In other ways, it was ridiculously complicated: our goal difference was one better than Birmingham's, two better than Blackpool's and three better than Wigan's; we'd scored more goals than Birmingham and Wigan but fewer than Blackpool. If two teams finish level on points, it goes to goal difference; if that's the same too, then it goes to goals scored. As teams switched places repeatedly over the course of the 90 minutes, that proved vitally important, and in more ways than I was expecting at the start of play. I can't do credit to all the twists and turns in mere words, so I knocked together a graph to explain how things changed. While West Ham remained rooted to the bottom of the division and Blackburn were unmoved in 15th, the rest of us jumped around like it was going out of fashion - Wolves changed position seven times during the game, for example. Click on the picture for a larger, more understandable, version. Anyways, I watched the action unfold in Clifton's Roo Bar, which had two games showing simultaneously - Man Utd vs Blackpool and Spurs vs Birmingham; for some reason Sky decided not to show the Wolves match - with updates coming in from Stoke vs Wigan and Wolves vs Blackburn, usually a few seconds after people found out about them on their iPhones. It was a reasonably good start for us, as Blackpool conceded first, but things quickly became horrible as Blackburn stormed into a 3-0 half-time lead against us, with Blackpool equalising just before we conceded the third. With the other games remaining at 0-0, we went into half-time in 18th place, otherwise known as the relegation zone - at that point, all four of us (Wolves, Wigan, Blackpool and Birmingham) were on 40 points, but our newly-diminished goal difference put us below Blackpool and Birmingham. It struck me at this point that a very possible scenario would see us relegated after a 4-0 defeat, when losing 3-0 would have kept us up... the half-time break was not a pleasant one, but shortly after the restart Spurs went ahead to plunge Birmingham beneath us and lift us out of the relegation zone - but a goal from any one of Blackburn, Birmingham or Wigan would put us straight back there. Meanwhile, Blackpool and Manchester United was getting interesting, with a goal for either side to put it at 2-2. Then it got really crazy. In the 73rd minute we got a goal back, pulling our goal difference above Wigan's and level with Blackpool's and Birmingham's. A minute later, Man Utd scored to put Blackpool back into the relegation zone, and we were lifted to 16th. Less than five minutes later Wigan went ahead, and a minute after that Birmingham pulled level. Two horrendous goals that pulled us back into the relegation zone and temporarily silenced the Molineux crowd, before chants of "We only need one goal" rang out - vital chants, which let the players (who, of course, couldn't keep up with scores at other matches) know what was needed. But, heading into the 87th minute, we were going down. And then Stephen Hunt scored what could be - and I hope you'll forgive me for a little hyperbole - the most important goal ever scored by a player in gold and black. Yes, we were still losing. But, critically, we were only losing by a single goal, which put us level on goal difference with Birmingham and ahead of them on goals scored. By such narrow margins are hearts broken. The message went out to the Birmingham players that a 1-1 draw with Spurs was no longer good enough, and that they'd need to score again. If they did, we were gone - the Wolves players had clearly settled for what they'd got, allowing Blackburn defenders to pass the ball around unchallenged (for the second consecutive game). As Birmingham threw players forward, including their goalkeeper for one corner, they left themselves exposed at the back and Roman Pavlyuchenko scored his second in stoppage time to give Spurs a 2-1 win that guaranteed our safety. And I shouted quite a bit and grinned and shook my head and probably thought what a funny old game it was. And when I was walking home in my Wolves shirt and a stranger coming out of a pub told me that I was a lucky b*****d, I couldn't disagree.
On this day in 2010... Yesterday was the first of Steve's stag dos, and a merry time was had by all. We played 7 a side football (just about).
May 25th 2011
I've been off work for a week and a half now, because I needed a break - it is perhaps unusual to take holiday without journeying anywhere (I visited my parents in rural Somerset, but didn't venture into any more exotic climes) but I've enjoyed having the world's most prolonged weekend. I used some of the time when I wasn't sleeping or reading the paper to create a new video, which is a compliation of my ten favourite endings to films (from DVDs that I own and haven't lent to Jay. I'm not sure if The Passion of the Christ would have made the cut, but it's a great ending and would have come close). I must warn you of spoilers in the video, but there's not much in the way of crazy twists that will ruin any films for you. Sadly, due to the film clips included, the video that I uploaded to Youtube is blocked worldwide. That's some impressive blocking - the best I'd managed previously was to be blocked in Germany. That video was the one of me revising and listening to The Who, so the Germans aren't missing much. Anyways, Facebook has no such qualms, so I've uploaded it there instead:
On this day in 2004... Mrs. Hearle thought she'd sign off with a timed essay, but unfortunately told us beforehand, so only about six people turned up (including, amazingly, Bucky - he insisted that he had remembered that there was an essay, but nobody really believes him).